Monday, August 31, 2020

Review: The Fiery Heart by Richelle Mead

 


Goodreads Overview:

Sydney Sage is an Alchemist, one of a group of humans who dabble in magic and serve to bridge the worlds of humans and vampires. They protect vampire secrets and human lives. In The Indigo Spell, Sydney was torn between the Alchemist way of life and what her heart and gut were telling her to do. And in one breathtaking moment that Richelle Mead fans will never forget, she made a decision that shocked even her. . . . But the struggle isn't over for Sydney. As she navigates the aftermath of her life-changing decision, she still finds herself pulled in too many directions at once. Her sister Zoe has arrived, and while Sydney longs to grow closer to her, there's still so much she must keep secret. Working with Marcus has changed the way she views the Alchemists, and Sydney must tread a careful path as she harnesses her profound magical ability to undermine the way of life she was raised to defend. Consumed by passion and vengeance, Sydney struggles to keep her secret life under wraps as the threat of exposure and re-education looms larger than ever. Pulses will race throughout this thrilling fourth installment in the New York Times bestselling Bloodlines series, where no secret is safe.

Review:

This is the fourth book in the Bloodlines series and was an excellent addition. This time around things are finally heating up between Sydney and Adrian. Zoe's sister joining the group was quite problematic, but they begin to work things out. Zoe has the same mindset that Sydney had when she first started working directly with the Moroi and Dhampirs. She believes they are evil and any unnecessary interactions should be kept to a minimum. She does begin to loosen up the more she gets to know them, but she is still following the strict beliefs of the Alchemists. 

Adrian uses an extreme amount of spirit to help find a way to prevent others from being turned strigoi. As a result, he decides he needs to try some mood stabilizers to get his life under control and prevent the damaging effects of spirit. He is able to control his mood swings and is finally in a happy place, but he is concerned about what will happen now that he has lost his connection to spirit. 

Sydney is equally busy trying to discover a way to negate the controlling effects of the Alchemist's tattoo. Marcus has been performing this procedure for a while now, but he needs to travel all the way to Mexico to get the necessary ingredients. In addition, his tattoo is quite conspicuous and immediately marks the person as a traitor to the Alchemists. Sydney is convinced there has to be a better method.

There was a CRAZY twist at the end of this book that I can't believe happened. I don't want to give anything away, but Richelle left readers completely hanging in suspense. I can't imagine the agony readers went through waiting for the next installment in this series if they read this shortly after its release. Fortunately for me, the entire series is available and I can move onto Silver Shadows as soon as I finish up a few other books I am already reading. 

If you were a fan of Adrian in the Vampire Academy series, you will absolutely love the Bloodlines series. 

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Review: Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

 


Review:

Eat, Pray, Love is about Elizabeth Gilbert's personal journey after a bitter divorce. At the age of thirty she seemingly had it all. A husband, loving family, great job, and a beautiful home in New York. Everyone, including her husband, felt the logical progression was for them to start a family. Liz was not content and wanted the freedom to live and explore life on her own terms. She spent her evenings crying on the bathroom floor until she built up the courage to leave her husband. 

Once the divorce was finalized, she quit her job and spent a year traveling. She received an advance from her publisher to write this book and used the money to fund her yearlong trip to Italy, India, and Bali. In Rome she "studied the art of pleasure." She had always wanted to learn Italian, so she registered for classes and joined conversational groups to improve her skills. She also enjoyed the culture and indulged in the local food. She met some interesting people and shared some entertaining stories about her time in Italy.

Her next stop was India, where she spent several months at an ashram following the teachings of her guru. She spent a lot of time learning to meditate, which I couldn't even imagine. They spent hours a day meditating, chanting, and doing chores to earn their keep. While this destination did not appeal to me in the least, Liz did learn a considerable amount from a number of unique individuals while she was there. Richard from Texas gave her a lot of tough love and advise that she definitely needed to hear. She had been holding onto a lot of baggage from prior relationships that she needed to let go of if she was ever going to achieve happiness. She also met a poet that shared some meaningful insight and provided a means for her to let go of the feelings and attachments that were holding her back. 

Her final stop was Bali where she intended to meet up with a medicine man she met on a previous trip. The old man had invited her to come back and stay with his family, but when she arrived, he didn't remember her at first. He eventually put it all together and they spent hours a day sharing stories and enjoying each other's company. While in Bali, Liz makes a few friends and eventually attends a party where she meets someone. She told herself before the trip that this was going to be a year for just herself. She was not planning on having any romantic relationships, but a Brazilian man eventually stole her heart. 

Elizabeth comes full circle in this story, but it isn't a journey for everyone. I personally would have enjoyed a few months in Italy, but the rest of the trip wouldn't have been for me. Liz is far more spiritually dedicated than the vast majority of society. I enjoyed learning about the different cultures and felt her story could be very inspiring to people who may find themselves in a similar situation. Not everyone has the means to quit their job and spend a year traveling while they try to find themselves, but it was inspiring to see her take charge of her own life and find happiness.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Review: Witch's Pyre by Josephine Angelini

 


Goodreads Overview:

Lily Proctor has come a long way from the weak, sickly girl she used to be. She has gained power as a witch and a leader, found her way home, chosen to face battle again, and (after losing her first love and being betrayed by her new love) she has learned more about loss and grief than she ever wanted to know.

Thrust once again into a society different from anything they have ever seen, Lily and her coven are determined to find answers―to find a new path to victory, a way to defeat the monstrous Woven without resorting to nuclear weapons or becoming a tyrannical mass murderer like her alternate self, Lillian. But sometimes winning requires sacrifices . . . and when the only clear path to victory lies at Lillian's side, what price will Lily be willing to pay?

Review:

Overall, I thought this was an entertaining series, but it wasn't nearly as good as Angelini's Starcrossed series. 

In this final installment, Lily and her coven discover a secret city on the west coast that none of the eastern cities knew existed. It is essentially a perfect society. There is no crime, everyone is wealthy, the city is pristine, and it appears that aging and illness have been completely eliminated. This may sound like a magical place to live, but perfection may cost more than Lily and her friends are willing to give up. 

Once Lily discovers the source of the city's power and wealth she is determined to defeat their leader. Lily and Lillian must gather a huge army and work together if they are going to have a prayer of a chance of victory. They know the odds are not in their favor, but the world as they know it could be in danger if they don't act.

The story is action packed and I enjoyed the magical elements contained throughout the series. I did find some of the concepts to be far fetched and difficult to relate to at times. For example, the fact that Lily could transport thousands of people in and out of danger at will. Yes...It was convenient for the story, but I prefer some amount of plausibility even within fantasy/fiction. 

Also...It seemed like the drama between Lily and Rowan went on for WAY too long. For two people who can use mindspeak to read each others thoughts, feelings, and emotions, you would have thought they could have gotten to the truth behind their dilemma a lot sooner than they did.

This was a 3 star series for me from start to finish. I was expecting a bit more from Angelini after reading her Starcrossed series which I gave 4 stars, 5 stars, 5 stars respectively. Helen, Lucas, and the rest of the characters in the Starcrossed series captivated my attention from start to finish. I simply couldn't get enough of that series. In this case, I was interested in the story and wanted to see how it ended, but I never felt compelled to stay up reading "just one more chapter."

Monday, August 17, 2020

Review: Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins

 


Goodreads Overview:

Three years ago, Sophie Mercer discovered that she was a witch. It's gotten her into a few scrapes. Her non-gifted mother has been as supportive as possible, consulting Sophie's estranged father—an elusive European warlock—only when necessary. But when Sophie attracts too much human attention for a prom-night spell gone horribly wrong, it's her dad who decides her punishment: exile to Hex Hall, an isolated reform school for wayward Prodigium, a.k.a. witches, faeries, and shapeshifters.

By the end of her first day among fellow freak-teens, Sophie has quite a scorecard: three powerful enemies who look like supermodels, a futile crush on a gorgeous warlock, a creepy tag-along ghost, and a new roommate who happens to be the most hated person and only vampire student on campus. Worse, Sophie soon learns that a mysterious predator has been attacking students, and her only friend is the number-one suspect.

As a series of blood-curdling mysteries starts to converge, Sophie prepares for the biggest threat of all: an ancient secret society determined to destroy all Prodigium, especially her.

Review:

This was a free ebook that I downloaded quite some time ago. When I was on vacation, I finished the book I was reading and scrolled through my unread books and decided to read this one. It was a really cute story and I loved all of the characters. Most of the Prodigium grew up in magical families and were well aware of the history and dangers to their kind. Sophie grew up with her human mother and has never met her magical father. She has spoken to him on the phone, but she has lived a pretty normal life up until recently.

When her magic starts drawing unwanted attentions she is sent to a boarding school for Prodigium where she will stay until her 18th birthday. Hopefully she will learn to use her powers in a more controlled and discreet manner and come to understand her magical history. At first, Sophie considers it a prison sentence, but she soon meets some interesting students and quickly learns the real dangers this school can protect her from.  

Archer Cross is an attractive warlock that immediately catches Sophie's attention, but his girlfriend is the beautiful and snobbish ringleader of a coven of witches named Elodie. When Sophie refuses to join the coven, Elodie takes her anger out on Sophie in a variety of ways. The two spar back and forth through a number of magical pranks.

The most interesting part of this book was the mystery behind who was viciously attacking students on campus. The school is protected by magical wards, so it is assumed it has to be another student or staff member. All signs pointed to Sophie's roommate, the only vampire attending the school. She is deemed guilty until proven innocent, so Sophie sets out to prove who is really behind the attacks. 

I was shocked by several of the twists at the end of this book. There were several characters that were not what they seemed and Sophie is left contemplating leaving the magical world forever. I don't think she will actually go through with it, so I look forward to reading the next book in the series to see what will happen next.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Review: Starlight Nights by Stacey Kade


Goodreads Overview:

At twenty-three, Calista Beckett is trying to overcome her early fame and fortune. The former savior of the world on Starlight is now a freshman at college--miles away from L.A. and her former existence. She sees it as her start to a new life, a normal life, one where she won't make the same mistakes she made before--a brush with heroin addiction and losing her freedom to her controlling mother, thanks to a court order.

Eric Stone played her older brother, Byron, on Starlight. But she's been in love with him pretty much since they kissed--her first kiss--while auditioning. When Eric shows up on campus out of the blue asking her to return to California for a role, Calista's struck immediately by two things: first, in spite of everything that's happened, she still feels something dangerous for him, and second, she's absolutely determined not to let him ruin her life again.

Only Eric's not giving up so easily.

Review:

Starlight Nights is a companion novel to Stacey's 738 Days.  You don't need to read 738 Days to appreciate this story, but there is some overlap of the characters and the timeline is several years in the future. I loved seeing how Chase and Amanda are doing now, but they are definitely secondary characters this time around.

Calista's mother is her manager and has been using her as the family's primary revenue source for as long as Calista can remember. Now that her career has been derailed, she is taking a much needed break from the spotlight and trying to be a normal college student. Unfortunately, she is the biggest thing to hit her small school in the middle of nowhere and doesn't exactly fit in. 

Eric's father is a famous producer, so Eric is viewed as the privileged son who can get away with anything. He has made some mistakes, but he is trying to turn his life around and is putting all of his own money into starting a production company of his own. He wants to prove himself, but his father is determined to sabotage everything he does.

Eric buys the rights to a book that Calista loved when they were working on Starlight Nights together. He will stop at nothing to get her to star in it with him to capitalize on their existing fan base, but that isn't his only motivation. He feels guilty about how things ended between them and is determined to help her get her life back on track. 

Eric and Calista have a long and complicated history together, but they both still have feelings for each other. It takes them a while to regain the trust and friendship they once had and to see what the real problems have always been in their relationship. They need to take control of their own lives if they are ever going to be happy.

This was a highly entertaining romance. The content is adult compared to Stacey's Ghost and the Goth or Project Paper Doll series, which is great for us older readers, but I wouldn't recommend it for younger teens. I have a 15 year old that I still try to keep him in the PG13 range, which this book definitely exceeds. I can only imagine the expression on my son's face if he read a few of the scenes, LOL.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Review: The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu


Goodreads Overview:

Two siblings. Two brilliant talents. But only one Mozart.

Born with a gift for music, Nannerl Mozart has just one wish—to be remembered forever. But even as she delights audiences with her masterful playing, she has little hope she'll ever become the acclaimed composer she longs to be. She is a young woman in 18th century Europe, and that means composing is forbidden to her. She will perform only until she reaches a marriageable age—her tyrannical father has made that much clear.

And as Nannerl's hope grows dimmer with each passing year, the talents of her beloved younger brother, Wolfgang, only seem to shine brighter. His brilliance begins to eclipse her own, until one day a mysterious stranger from a magical land appears with an irresistible offer. He has the power to make her wish come true—but his help may cost her everything.

Review:

I have had a number of Marie Lu's books on my TBR list for a long time, but this is the first of her books that I have actually read. As it mentions in the overview, this is her first historical fiction novel. I really enjoyed learning about Mozart and his older sister, who was very talented in her own right. I also wasn't aware of the fragile state of Mozart's health from a young age, which was probably fairly common back in those days. The amount of traveling the children had to do, and the fact that their family's livelihood eventually rested upon their shoulders, is more than any child at that age should have to bear. 

To escape the pressure of their daily lives and to pass the time while they traveled, the Mozart children enjoyed sharing stories about a magical kingdom they thought only existed in their imagination. Nannerl used the world to help perpetuate her hopes of being remembered forever. She begins to notice that events from their stories are beginning to overlap in the real world. Hyacinth, the magical being from their imaginary world, appears to both children and makes a deal with Nannerl she can't refuse. 

Hyacinth reminded me of Morpheus from A.G. Howard's Splintered series. He could be extremely charming, but there was always something sneaky about his motives. Nannerl eventually discovers her bargain with Hyacinth may cost her more than she is willing to give up. She needs to find a way to save the Kingdom and those she loves before it is too late.

The Kingdom of Back was the March Owlcrate selection. Below is a photo of everything that came in the box. Photo credit to Hello Subscription.  I loved this special edition of the book with the silver edges. I also really enjoyed the Owlcrate themed socks and speaker. I did see some reviews from subscribers who said their speaker didn't work, but I haven't had any difficulties. For a small portable speaker I think the sound quality is really good, but I have only used it to listen to audio books. I'm sure it doesn't have the same sound quality as my Bose speakers, but it does a great job for audio books. It was very easy to link up to my phone and is a really cute design with the owl face.

Overall, I really enjoyed the box and the book was another excellent choice that I might not have picked up if it weren't for Owlcrate. I have enjoyed all of the books I have received from them so far and look forward to reading their April book, Bone Criers Moon, which is still in my TBR pile. Book Nerd Flo was shocked that this is the first Marie Lu book that I have read, so I guess I need to bump some of her other books up the TBR list as well to see what I have been missing. So many books....so little time :)

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society


Goodreads Overview:

"I wonder how the book got to Guernsey? Perhaps there is some sort of secret homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers." January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she's never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb...

As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends—and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island—boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all.

Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society's members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds will change her forever.

Written with warmth and humor as a series of letters, this novel is a celebration of the written word in all its guises and of finding connection in the most surprising ways.

Review:

I listened to this book on audio and followed along with the ebook. The story is told through a series of letters between the characters and each character had his or her own narrator for the audio book, which I loved. 

I visited Guernsey last summer and watched the Netflix movie before I went to learn a little bit of the history of the island before I went. The book is historical fiction, but you definitely get more of the history from the book than you do the movie. The descriptions of what life was like during the German occupation were very detailed and gave readers a good idea of the struggles the islanders went through while cut off from the rest of the world. Germany used the island as a base to launch attacks on Britain and the other surrounding regions, so Britain could not deliver supplies. Food was scarce and even things like soap were hard to come by. Communication was cut off, so they had no idea how the war was progressing or if an end was in sight.

The island was very beautiful, but you can still see the bunkers and other military impacts of the occupation. We visited a WW2 museum and were able to see a number of the artifacts that have been collected from this period of time. Below are a few of the pictures from our trip to give you an idea.




This was a very well written book with fascinating characters. I learned a lot about Guernsey and received a different perspective of the war than I have ever read in an American history book. I gave this book 5 stars and would definitely recommend it.