Saturday, August 20, 2016

Review - The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

Nothing living is safe. Nothing dead is to be trusted.

For years, Gansey has been on a quest to find a lost king. One by one, he’s drawn others into this quest: Ronan, who steals from dreams; Adam, whose life is no longer his own; Noah, whose life is no longer a lie; and Blue, who loves Gansey… and is certain she is destined to kill him.

Now the endgame has begun. Dreams and nightmares are converging. Love and loss are inseparable. And the quest refuses to be pinned to a path.

So, I was stuck flying during the whole Delta debacle when the computers went down and flights were delayed and cancelled and everything was just ridiculous. Luckily, I'd brought some books. And luckily, one of those books happened to be The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater. The Raven King, book 4 in The Raven Cycle, is one of the most beautifully written stories that I think I've ever read. While I have come to expect nothing less from Maggie Stiefvater, this one went above and beyond anything else I've picked up by her.

Everything was just so magically descriptive and fantastical that I couldn't manage to put it down. It really did save my trip up to Maine to pick up my daughter. Flights and accommodations were significantly less than stellar so it helped to have something that could completely remove me from the situation I was in and transport me somewhere else completely. The book was terrifying and haunting and heartbreakingly sad and beautiful all at the same time.

It was nice to be able to come back to Fox Way and see Maura and The Grey Man again. To be able to follow Ronan and Adam and Gansey and Blue around one more time. Learning more about Blue's father was a bit shocking, but seemed absolutely fitting considering Blue. There were also some other great plot twists that perhaps I should have seen coming but didn't, i.e. Cabeswater.

I loved the inclusion of Henry and his bee. Henry, someone who had been on the outside and absent for 90% of the story telling played such a wonderful part in this last story. I loved that I got to see Ronan for who he really was. Not just some jerk who liked to fight and piss people off. But someone who loved, and who wanted to BE loved. Who wanted to protect and to fight FOR people... not just fight people. Maybe he was that way the whole time, but the development of a certain relationship in this final installment of the story just made him so much more... Ronan... to me.


That's really all I can say to sum up how good this book was. Well, fantastic and wonderful and beautiful and all of the other synonyms of all the words. If you've read the rest of the series, please finish it out and pick this one up. If you haven't, then start. The story and the journey they go on will amaze you.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Review - Splintered by A.G. Howard

This stunning debut captures the grotesque madness of a mystical under-land, as well as a girl’s pangs of first love and independence.

Alyssa Gardner hears the whispers of bugs and flowers—precisely the affliction that landed her mother in a mental hospital years before. This family curse stretches back to her ancestor Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alyssa might be crazy, but she manages to keep it together. For now.

When her mother’s mental health takes a turn for the worse, Alyssa learns that what she thought was fiction is based in terrifying reality. The real Wonderland is a place far darker and more twisted than Lewis Carroll ever let on. There, Alyssa must pass a series of tests, including draining an ocean of Alice’s tears, waking the slumbering tea party, and subduing a vicious bandersnatch, to fix Alice’s mistakes and save her family. She must also decide whom to trust: Jeb, her gorgeous best friend and secret crush, or the sexy but suspicious Morpheus, her guide through Wonderland, who may have dark motives of his own.

Yay for book birthday presents! Splintered by A.G. Howard is a book that I've been wanting to buy for a long time but for some reason kept putting it off. Until my birthday last month. Thank you to my husband for buying it for me.

First of all, the cover art is absolutely stunning. And I probably would have gotten it based on that alone (yeah I know you're not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but I can't help it), but the premise of the story was pretty interesting as well. I don't need to say much in summary since the book blurb thingy pretty much sums it up.

Alyssa is kind of morbid. But for good reason when you find out that she hears bugs and plants talking to her. Her mother is in a mental facility and she really doesn't want to end up there too so in an effort to silence the voices she turns bugs into art. She's got a pretty groovy sense of style. From synthetic dreads to tutu-like skirts to ass-kicking boots, but all of it is to try and squash any resemblance to her mother. She's got a lot of internal battles going on and, in this story, definitely a lot of external foes to fight as well, but she is courageous and strong and is determined to fix things her great-great-great grandmother messed up to free herself and her mother from the curse she believes she's inherited.

Jeb is, at first, the annoyingly intrusive but protective big brother to Alyssa. Butting in to her life and conspiring with her father to keep her "safe" and look out for her. Which is what big brothers are supposed to do. But he's something much different to Alyssa and is seemingly completely ignorant of it until their journey through the looking glass and in to Wonderland. Although, his appearance there is quite by accident. He's chivalrous and charming and everything you think a strong protector would be. He's prepared to sacrifice everything for Alyssa, even though she doesn't need him (or want him) to.

Morpheous was hard to pin down for me. The mysterious childhood friend of Alyssa's is both seductive and enticing while being suspicious and conniving at the same time. Dangerous combinations. His stated motives for bringing Alyssa to Wonderland and his actual motives are not exactly in line with each other, something Alyssa finds out too late. But while his intentions aren't exactly pure, he does care for Alyssa. So, there's a bit of redemption for him in that at least.

This story was kind of Tim Burton-esque for me. It was more like what I imagined his movie version of Alice in Wonderland should have been. The creatures were absolutely hideous and grotesquely wonderful and seeing all the characters in true form (the "Mad Hatter" was one of my favorite) was lovely. Nostalgic and yet... not. Old friends but complete strangers at the same time. We find out that the descriptions given by Carroll of Alice's adventures in Wonderland was very skewed and incredibly tame compared to the actual inhabitants of that world.

I loved the book. And I can't wait to read the next one. If you like "re-tellings" (although this wasn't a re-telling per se, it was more a modern day continuation), you should definitely grab this and give it a read!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Review - Four: A Divergent Story Collection by Veronica Roth

Two years before Beatrice Prior made her choice, the sixteen-year-old son of Abnegation’s faction leader did the same. Tobias’s transfer to Dauntless is a chance to begin again. Here, he will not be called the name his parents gave him. Here, he will not let fear turn him into a cowering child.

Newly christened “Four,” he discovers during initiation that he will succeed in Dauntless. Initiation is only the beginning, though; Four must claim his place in the Dauntless hierarchy. His decisions will affect future initiates as well as uncover secrets that could threaten his own future—and the future of the entire faction system.

Two years later, Four is poised to take action, but the course is still unclear. The first new initiate who jumps into the net might change all that. With her, the way to righting their world might become clear. With her, it might become possible to be Tobias once again.

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Veronica Roth comes a companion volume to the worldwide bestselling DIVERGENT series, told from the per-spective of the immensely popular character Tobias. The four pieces included here—THE TRANSFER, THE INITIATE, THE SON, and THE TRAITOR—plus three additional exclusive scenes, give readers an electrifying glimpse into the history and heart of Tobias, and set the stage for the epic saga of the DIVERGENT trilogy.
My 13 year old daughter bought me Four by Veronica Roth from her school book fair for Christmas. It was a super thoughtful gift because she knows how much I loved the original set of novels. I know that I'm a bit behind the times, since this debuted in 2014, but hey, better late than never right?

I'll keep this short and sweet. I loved the story. It was from Four's/Tobias's perspective and it was pretty awesome to be able to read everything from his point of view. We get his back story and a look in to the feelings he has and the things he's experiencing even before Divergent takes place. It was fun to see Tris through Four's eyes. To see their journey together. To see the kind of battle going on in his head when it came to his feelings for her.

We got a better look at Marcus and what a waste of breathable air he is. And kind of an extra sneak peak in to things between Four and his mother.

I really wish that we could see the entire series through Four's point of view. This novel brought back the excitement and the thrill of reading the first 3 books and I kind of wish it didn't have to go away. It made me rewatch the movies and since I hadn't JUST read the books when I watched them the second go around, I was able to enjoy them more.

So, if you liked Divergent, Insurgent, and Allegiant, you should definitely read this one too!

Monday, February 29, 2016

Review- Pimpernel by Sheralyn Pratt

For centuries, the elite of the world have sought the Pimpernel everywhere. Some want to kill him, others want to hire him, but Jack Cavanaugh knows that the love/hate relationship comes with the job title.

At present, Jack is trying to dismantle an investment scheme centered in Las Vegas, but "trying" is the operative word. It's been a month since he put the face of the scheme behind bars, yet the scam is still going strong. As Jack tries to uncover who has stepped in as the new head, what miniscule evidence there is all seems to point him back to Claire Ramsey, an introverted PhD student studying at UNLV.

If ever there as an unlikely head of an investment scheme, Claire's it. She has a genius IQ, but from all Jack has seen, Claire’s intelligence is as much a blessing as a curse when paired up with her acute OCD. Claire can barely make conversation with the cute guy down the hall, which makes it hard to believe she could be the charismatic salesperson who is getting international businessmen to invest $5—50 million a pop.

So what is Jack missing? What is the real story behind Claire Ramsey? And once Jack learns it, will he be able to walk away?

I am a huge fan of the 1930s movie version of The Scarlet Pimpernel. I will admit, I have not read the original book, but the movie is one of my favorites. You can imagine, then, that I was super excited when I saw Pimpernel by Sheralyn Pratt was available for review.

Claire is obsessive compulsive. But in a way that is needed at the beginning of the book. She's been forced in to defrauding millionaires out of their money because she thinks it is the only way to keep her mentor, and the man she thinks she loves, alive while he's in jail for a crime he can't possibly have committed.

At the risk of spoiling the book, I won't say too much on the plot. But Claire has definitely bitten off more than she chew when it comes to her mentor. She finds herself pulled in to a world of theft and trickery and manipulation.

I liked Claire. As OCD as she was, it served a purpose in the story and gave her incredible dimension. She's quiet and shy and kind of pathetic when we first see her but she transforms throughout the story in to someone incredible.

Jack, Margot, and Ren are great characters. Each with their own specific specialties and quirks and faults. They mesh well together and they've always got each other's backs. It was incredibly refreshing to read a story with characters who made promises and did everything they possibly could to make sure they were kept. I wish we had seen more of Margot's and Ren's back stories, but it was fascinating to learn Jack's.

I will definitely say that there were no lulls in this story. It was action packed and fast paced and exciting. The characters were written well and everything flowed really nicely. Now, with that being said, and this may be because I've only seen the movie and not read the book, I was kind of disappointed that I didn't really see any mention of or correlation to the Pimpernel until preeeetttty far in to the book. I don't think it detracted from the story really, but I just expected.... More.

However, I really enjoyed this one. A lot. You really feel for the characters and their heartaches and frustrations. And you'll be totally impressed by their operations and how they manage to pull off what they do. If you're looking for an exciting story I would definitely recommend this one.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Review - Promise Lodge by Charlotte Hubbard

It's a better life, a fresh start--and a heaven-sent second chance. Founded by three Amish sisters determined to put misfortune behind them, Promise Lodge is a colony where faith's abiding promise can be fulfilled--and love can make all things new…

Energetic widow Mattie Bender Schwartz is working day and night to get Promise Lodge going. She's also hoping the change will help her son Noah's heart to heal after his broken engagement. But his former fiancée, Deborah, is looking for a fresh start too. Filled with regret, and cast out by her dat for a reason she can't yet reveal, Deborah can only pray Noah will forgive her foolishness.

Deborah is the last person Noah expected to show up at Promise Lodge. But with her cruel words still ringing in his head, he's reluctant to accept her apology--even if the Old Order ways demand he try. If only he could obey Christ's most important commandment: love one another. But one thing is certain--his mother and aunts, and their beloved Preacher Amos, will do their best to help him get there.

I was so excited to get a chance to review Promise Lodge by Charlotte Hubbard. I am a huge fan of her other series, of all of her characters from Willow Ridge and Cedar Creek. I've read so much of those that I wasn't sure how I'd feel about the characters from Promise Lodge, but just as with the other books, the people in this story felt like instant friends.

Since this is a brand new book, I will try not to give too much away.

Rosetta, Mattie, and Christine have left Coldstream, along with Preacher Amos and their children, to start fresh at Promise Lodge. Their former Bishop's son is causing all sorts of problems back home and his inability or unwillingness to hold him accountable for his behavior has definitely overturned some apple carts. On top of that, all 3 sisters are single or widowed and are just looking for somewhere peaceful and serene to reside. They're also looking to make a place for other women like themselves AND create a new colony for anyone likeminded who might come along after them.

Deborah has been sent away from Coldstream by her father but is hesitant to tell everyone all the details. The only problem is that her ex fiancé lives in the very place she's run away to. She'd do anything to mend fences and repair their relationship but it doesn't seem that he'll be having it. His heart is still broken and he doesn't trust that Deborah won't just up and break it again.


As with all of Charlotte Hubbard's novels, I loved this one so much. I absolutely love the sense of community that I always find in her stories... the willingness of everyone to help anyone who comes along. I love how her characters always band together to make the most wonderful things happen. But no matter how fantastic her characters are, they are always human. They make mistakes. They mess up. They jump to conclusions or assume things they shouldn't. They're never made out to be better than anyone else. Sometimes they're wonderful, sometimes they're frustrating, sometimes they're mean. But always human. And no one is ever unredeemable.

Deborah is a wonderful character. Even with the heartache of being cast away from her home and the seemingly unwillingness of Noah to want to have anything to do with her, she makes the best of the bad situation she's found herself in, thanks to her friends, and makes a home at Promise Lodge. She jumps in with both feet to help them ready the apartments and the cabins and offers up her baked goods for them to sell at the produce stand they're looking to make. She's hiding a secret that she's sure will turn everyone sour, but she's strong and she's kind and I just thought she was a beautiful character.

Preacher Amos was a fantastic man. An Amish Preacher who was willing to leave the community he was chosen to preach to, he sold his farm and left with the sisters and their families to seek out the peace of Promise Lodge and the hope that it could be turned in to something magnificent. He never tried to assert the power of his position to his own advantage and he never used the fact that he was a man and a preacher to force the women of Promise Lodge to "obey" him. He was firm in his beliefs and his teachings but he was gentle and he was quick to guide when guidance was needed and a calmer head was required.

At the risk of giving away too much of the story, I will stop with those characters. 

I will say, though, that the concepts of sexual assault and domestic violence in this story hit very close to home for me but I think that they were handled pretty realistically and with care. And I appreciate that very much.

I cannot wait for the next Promise Lodge adventure. Because I'm sure that's what it will be. And I was happy to see at the end that there were recipes from Rosetta's kitchen that I will definitely be trying. These books are always so inspiring. Whether they make me want to crochet more, bake more, try my hand at soap making or some other kind of wonderful craft or trade, they always make me want to DO something. To BE something. They make me long for the kind of community that I read about within the pages and to be the kind of person and neighbor that these characters always are.

Grab a copy and give it a read. It's brand new... just hit shelves. It's a wonderful story and if you liked reading about Willow Ridge and Cedar Creek then you will DEFINITELY like reading about Promise Lodge.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Review - A Healing Spirit (Riverview #2) by Melissa A. Hanson

A freak ski accident brings nineteen-year old Mia Kinney within minutes of death. Hurt and scared, Mia is calmed by the southern drawl and clear green eyes of her rescuer.

Twenty-one year old Dylan Blackburn is one of the first Ski Patrol members on the scene. As his patient is airlifted to the local trauma center, he can’t shake her from his thoughts.

As Mia fights for her life, Dylan, is haunted by the blond hair beauty, and knows he needs to make sure she’s going to be okay.

With a troubled past Dylan has vowed never to completely open himself up to another girl, but Mia continues to knock down every wall he’s constructed. When his past arrives at his front door and threatens once again someone that he loves, will Dylan be able to save Mia yet again? Or will he be too late this time?

A story of love, friendship, and the determination to turn a horrible experience into something worthwhile.

"A Healing Spirit" is book 2 of the Riverview Series, however each is a standalone story.

I don't generally like to review a novel that's not first in a series without having read books before it. But A Healing Spirit by Melissa A. Hanson, book 2 in the Riverview series, is a standalone novel so I didn't have to worry about not being caught up with the story.

The long and short of it is this: Mia is seriously injured and has to be hospitalized and undergoes a few surgeries to try and fix all of her broken bits. Dylan is a member of the Ski Patrol and, along with his friend, saves Mia's life. Mia fights to come back from her accident but she can't get Dylan out of her head. It was his voice that sort of grounded her after her accident, kept her from giving in to the pain, so to speak. And Dylan can't get her out of his head. They kind of fall for each other but Dylan has a past he doesn't want Mia to know about.

I liked the story. It was very sweet. Dylan is a pretty stand up guy and Mia isn't some frail little girl who is begging to be rescued. Her friends are fantastic, even if one of them fancies himself more than a friend. What I liked about that was that it never really became a love triangle. Like a decent person, he realized Mia didn't feel the same way about him and he let her go. What a breath of fresh air.

Dylan is a wonderful, chivalrous, knight in shining armor without being completely egotistical about it. And instead of curling up in a ball and letting what happened to Mia overcome her, she's determined to try and use her experience to make a difference in the lives and safety of other people. I don't see that combo a lot in the stories I read. It made this story different and new.

Their families (well, part of Dylan's at least) are wonderful and accepting and friendly. There are no boyfriend/girlfriend/hateful family conflicts like I see a lot. Our main characters are pretty likeable so, in turn, everyone likes them. Yes, Dylan holds back a part of his life that inevitably puts a few lives in danger (the part of his life, not that he holds it back....) but he does everything he can to make it right, and Mia doesn't hold it against him.

The story seems extremely real. Not like it's a story. More like it's a narrative of things that are really happening. Completely believable. It even switches perspective quite a bit so we get to see inside a lot of the characters, rather than just the main 2. Everyone plays a part in the story so everyone gets a chance to tell part of the story. I was worried that switching back and forth and all over would get confusing, but it didn't. And it's loosely based on a true story.

I would definitely recommend this book to just about anyone. It's romantic, but not heavy. It's sweet but intense at times. And it's a pretty quick read because you get sucked in to the story from the word go. So check it out!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Review - Promises Kept by Scarlett Dunn

Lady of marriageable age with two young boys, in need of husband.

I am a good cook and hard worker.
Victoria Eastman grew up in a Texas saloon—an experience that made her tough, resourceful, and determined to forge a new life. So she places an ad in a gentleman's newspaper... and soon finds herself a suitable arrangement on a farm in Promise, Wyoming. Only problem is that her would-be husband turns up dead the day she arrives.

Rancher Colt McBride is known for his true grit and business smarts. Yet when it comes to his new neighbor, Victoria, he's stumped: Who is she, really? She's lovely to look at, of course, and has proven herself a gentle soul. She's even causing him to question his staunch bachelorhood. But any kind of future may be shattered when a stranger reveals a secret about Victoria's past—one that could destroy them both. Unless, together, they can take a leap of faith—right into each other's arms...

I love Historical Romances like Promises Kept by Scarlett Dunn. I love being able to see how things used to be even if through the eyes of a fictional romance. It's fun and it lets me forget the kind of world we're in now for just a little bit.

Victoria Eastman is a strong woman. For much of the book it seems like she doesn't even fathom just how strong she is. And to be honest, while I love the cover, according to the descriptions of her in the book it does her no justice. So here we have this gorgeous woman who tries like hell to hold her own and provide for her boys. She's willing to go so far as to advertise her need/want of a husband. Someone who can help take care of her and the kids.

Colt McBride is the dreamy sort of cowboy that every woman, or at least a lot of them, fantasize about at least once in their lives. The kind that will step in and defend you. The kind that will take care of you. The kind that will treat you with the utmost respect. And the kind that will make you melt like a popsicle on the pavement in July. He's a hard worker and he's a good, kind man. He takes care of people and they love him for it.

But both of them are stubborn as hell. And it gets frustrating at times. Victoria has sworn off cowboys all together and Colt swears that he's never going to get married. Ever. Haven't fictional characters figured out yet that they shouldn't do that sort of thing? I suppose it's good that they did, or else we'd not have fantastic stories like this to read.

Not everything is biscuits and gravy though. There's a man in town who wants the land that was left to Victoria, and all of the land around it, and has decided he will stop at nothing until he owns it all. This includes stealing and killing off cattle... and people. He even goes so far as to try and "court" Victoria but things turn sour and she's not sure how to save herself, or her boys.

I loved this book. I think I may have mentioned that already. I love period novels. Just love them to death. Promises Kept delivers the window in to history along with the romance and the suspense all rolled up together. There are a lot of wonderful characters that we get to meet and see fleshed out quite a lot. Even if they seem like they're just background, they're not. No one is just a "bit part". I think that's wonderful. Lots of well rounded people to love and read about.

If you love historical romances, this is definitely the book for you. If you love Christian or inspirational fiction, this is the book for you. Even if you don't, this is still a wonderful story to read because it's not an overwhelming aspect of the book at all.

I am definitely looking forward to reading others in this series!


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