Book Review: One of Us Is Lying

Book Review:  One of Us Is LyingOne of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus
three-half-stars
Published by Delacorte Press on May 30th 2017
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Young Adult Fiction
Pages: 361
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads

MY REVIEW:

Karen McManus’ debut novel One of Us is Lying has been advertised as part Pretty Little Liars and part The Breakfast Club.  I’d say those comparisons are spot on, but I’d also add in a dash of Gossip Girl to give a more complete picture of what this book is about.

As the novel begins, it is immediately reminiscent of The Breakfast Club.  Five high school students who don’t typically hang out or know each other all that well end up in after school detention together.  There’s Addy, the beautiful homecoming princess-type; Cooper, the superstar athlete; Bronwyn, the Yale-bound goodie two shoes; Nate, a delinquent who is already on probation for dealing drugs; and finally there’s Simon, who is somewhat of an outcast but also the creator of a gossip app that all of their fellow students are obsessed with (Cue the Gossip Girl comparison). No one was sure how he did it, but Simon always managed to dig up the juiciest bits of gossip about his fellow classmates and made it his business to expose anyone and everyone.

Where the comparison to The Breakfast Club basically ends is that instead of this “Breakfast Club” ending up with these seemingly different students bonding and becoming friends, this detention ends up in death.  Something happens and Simon dies in the classroom.  At first it appears to be a tragic accident, but once the police start investigating, it becomes clear that Simon’s death was not an accident.  An as yet-unpublished draft for his gossip app indicates that Simon was about to post some seriously juicy gossip about Addy, Bronwyn, Nate, and Cooper, which bumps them up to the top of the list of prime suspects.  The central question at this point becomes: How far will someone go to protect their secret? Murder?  (And cue up the Pretty Little Liars comparison).

LIKES

Okay, so I have to admit that both Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars are guilty pleasure shows for me.  I binge watched both of them and am disappointed that both series have ended. So when I heard about this book, I knew I just had to read it.  I love a good thriller/mystery anyway, but this just sounded perfect for me.

I think what I enjoyed the most about the novel was exactly what I loved about those two shows – the thrilling pace,  the endless twists and turns, and  never knowing from one moment to the next who’s going to be on the hot seat. What do I mean?  Well, let’s just say there’s someone out there behind the scenes who is pulling the strings of the investigation and making each one of the main suspects look guilty as hell. Everyone’s heads are spinning, including mine, trying to figure out if one of the four students who were in detention are actually guilty or if they are just pawns in a sick game and the real murderer is still out there somewhere.  I was already thoroughly engrossed in the story as soon as it was revealed that Simon was dead, but the added tension of someone possibly trying to frame these kids for murder made it so I literally could not put this book down until I knew the truth about what had happened.

Although this book is mainly about solving the mystery, there is some great character development in it.  Of the four main suspects, Addy was by far my favorite character.  At first she’s just this pretty shell of a girl who dresses the way her boyfriend wants her to, goes where he wants her to, and is more of an extension of him than she is her own person.  Simon’s death, the ensuing investigation, and all that comes out really changes her though and she becomes downright badass by about the midway point of the book.  When the police investigation just seems to keep going in circles that are being drawn by the puppet master behind the scenes, Addy is one of the main ones to take matters into her own hands to try figure out who the real killer is.

DISLIKES/ISSUES:

My biggest issue with One of Us is Lying is that there’s not enough distinction between the different characters’ voices. The story unfolds from the viewpoint of the four accused teens and is told in alternating chapters from each of them.  However, no matter whose perspective a chapter was coming from, I found myself having to flip back and see whose name was at the beginning of the chapter.  And that wasn’t just happening early on in the book as I was getting to know the characters. It happened pretty consistently throughout the book and was a little frustrating since I wanted to plow through the book to find out who was responsible for Simon’s death and didn’t want to keep backtracking.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I think whether or not you would enjoy this book depends on how much you enjoy entertainment along the lines of Pretty Little Liars and Gossip Girl since One of Us is Lying does play on so many of the same themes and types of characters and contains similar drama.  If those aren’t your cup of tea, this book may not be for you.

RATING:  3.5 STARS

 

 

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS

One of Us Is Lying is the story of what happens when five strangers walk into detention and only four walk out alive. Everyone is a suspect, and everyone has something to hide.

Pay close attention and you might solve this.

On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.

Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.

Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.

Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.

Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.

And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.

Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose?

Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.

three-half-stars

About Karen M. McManus

Karen M. McManus earned her BA in English from the College of the Holy Cross and her MA in journalism from Northeastern University. Her debut young adult novel, ONE OF US IS LYING, will be released from Delacorte Press/Random House on May 30, 2017. It will also be published internationally in 18 territories including the United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, The Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Indonesia, Brazil, Turkey, Russia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Romania, Serbia, and Slovakia.

Weekly Recap #11: Week of 7/23 – 7/29

 

Hey everyone!  It’s time for another weekly recap post of all things happening on and off the blog. This week I’ll be linking to the Sunday Post, which is hosted by Caffeinated Book Reviewer and to Stacking the Shelves, which is hosted by Tynga’s Reviews.

This week was kind of an up and down week on the blog.  Thanks to the library not allowing me to renew two books that other people had placed holds on, I had to switch up what I had originally planned to read so Caraval got pushed back to this week and I read  Words in Deep Blue and When Dimple Met Rishi instead.  I guess I could have just turned the library books back in unread, but I had waited so long to get my hands on them in the first place,  I just figured it was best to get through them and get them off my TBR.  Caraval will happen this week though. I’m determined, lol!

Girl in Snow, another book I planned to read this past week unfortunately ended up being a DNF.  I didn’t get far enough into it to do a full review on the blog, but it just wasn’t for me.  It was supposed to be a murder mystery, but the pacing was just so slow that I kept losing interest.  I also didn’t particularly like either of the main characters, which didn’t help matters.

Off the blog, it was a fairly quiet week.  Work has been hectic because we’re currently short-staffed, but I did finally put in for a week of vacation. I can’t decide if I’m going to travel or just relax and make it a stay-cation, but either way, I’m excited to have some time off before my son goes back to work.  I also started a new low-carb diet this week, which has been pure hell, because carbs are my life.  Hopefully I’ll adjust to the diet soon because right now I’m the epitome of the word ‘Hangry.’ I also spent way too much time online looking for easy-to-make low-carb recipes.  So many of the recipes I see are too complicate or too time-consuming to make, or they’re just so overloaded with ingredients that I don’t even want to think about what my grocery bill would look like if I bought all of them.  A little frustrating to say the least.

Oh well, that’s pretty much it for me.  Have a great week, everyone!

 

WHAT I POSTED LAST WEEK

 

 

WHAT I’M READING THIS WEEK

 

    

UPCOMING REVIEWS

 

      
 

 

STACKING THE SHELVES

 

    

TOTALLY RANDOM

Book Review: Illuminae

Book Review:  IlluminaeIlluminae (The Illuminae Files, #1) by Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff
four-stars
Series: The Illuminae Files, #1
Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers on October 20th 2015
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult Fiction
Pages: 608
Source: Purchased
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads

MY REVIEW:

Illuminae is a book that has been on my To-Be-Read list forever.  Even though I thought it sounded like it would be a great read, there was so much hype surrounding it that I was hesitant, having been burned by a lot of overhyped books last year. Last week, however, I finally decided I had put off reading it long enough and dove in….Wow, what a wild and intense ride!  I won’t say that Illuminae is without its faults, but it’s such a unique reading experience and such an action-packed adrenaline rush that its faults are barely noticeable.

Equal parts science fiction and horror, Illuminae centers on Kady Grant, a high school student who thinks she’s having a rough day because she just had to break up with her long-time boyfriend Ezra Mason.  Her day gets a whole lot worse, however, when her planet is attacked without warning and people start dying all around her.  With everything in chaos and ruins around them, Kady and a few other survivors, including ex-boyfriend Ezra, are able to make their way on to an evacuating fleet of ships.  The fleet, which has sustained some damage in the assault, takes off but is immediately pursued by an enemy warship.  It becomes a race to see if they can make it to safety before they are taken out by those who attacked their planet.

Because so many perished on the planet, the ships are running with skeleton crews and so everyone aboard is recruited in some fashion, either to be conscripted into the military and trained for combat, which is what happens to Ezra, or if they are deemed to have other skill sets, they are trained accordingly.  Kady, it is determined, has a knack for computers, in particular, hacking, and so that becomes her area of expertise.  It’s all hands on deck to get the ships back up to full operating capacity so they can get to safety that much faster.

As if that isn’t enough, people on one of the ships are getting sick.  It turns out that a biological weapon of some sort was released during the attack and some of the survivors who made it onto the fleet are infected.  And to say they become sick is to put it mildly.  While initial symptoms are chills, sweating, and fever, they quickly morph into something much more deadly.  Those infected basically become violent zombies running around trying to kill their fellow passengers.  Needless to say, it’s pretty violent and horrific.

In the midst of all of this chaos, Kady starts to get the feeling that their leaders aren’t being 100% honest and so she decides to use her computer hacking skills to see if she can find out the truth about what’s really going on.  When she realizes she can’t trust anyone else, she turns to the one person she knows she can, her ex.  Ezra is on one of the other ships, but with her excellent hacking skills, Kady is able to contact him and start unraveling the mystery.

LIKES

What appealed to me most about Illuminae is that, first and foremost, it’s a survival story:  “First, survive.  Then tell the truth.” This tagline from the cover of the book says it all. I was engaged as soon as I read that and my brain immediately went into overdrive trying to decide what it meant – “Survive what?  Tell the truth about what?  What happens to the truth if no one survives?  Is this some kind of cover up?”  I loved all of the tension that this created throughout the story and of course the action-packed scenes as those aboard the fleet were doing everything they could to survive and make it to safety.

I also really loved Kady.  She is such a badass.  Fierce, feisty, incredibly skilled with computers, Kady is absolutely determined to find out the truth, even if she has to sacrifice herself to do it.  I also love that in a reversal of the usual stereotype, she saves her ex-boyfriend’s life when their planet comes under attack, rather than the other way around.

I also actually enjoyed the romantic angle of the story as well.  I liked the tension between Kady and Ezra because of their history, and I liked their banter. At times they were snarky and sarcastic, but it was also pretty clear they still had intense feelings for one another, broken up or not.  And I don’t know, maybe it was just because of the sci-fi setting or maybe it was the snarky banter, but I almost get a Han/Leia vibe from them, which being a Star Wars fans, I of course liked.  It would not have surprised me at all if they had popped up with an:  “I love you/I know” exchange the more dangerous the situation around them got.

The book’s unique structure.  The structure was just fabulous, like nothing I’ve ever read before.  Instead of just being a straightforward novel, Illuminae is structured as a series of interview transcripts, video surveillance, classified files, instant messages, computer readouts, and more.  It’s as if you’re reading all of the accumulated data from an actual investigation of what happened from the time of the attack through the fleet’s escape and all of the ensuing action.  While it did make for a somewhat slow read early on as I was getting acclimated to the format, once I got used to it, I devoured the book and was fascinated each time I turned the page and saw a new type of document.  Illuminae definitely gets bonus points for creativity here.

AIDAN.  It’s hard to talk about Aidan without giving away too many spoilery details, so I’m just going to say that Aidan was my absolute favorite part of this book.  Aidan is the artificial intelligence system that controls the lead fleet ship.  He’s initially super pragmatic as one would expect from an AI, but then Aidan starts doing unexpected things and it appears that he is out of control. But is there more to it than that?  I don’t want to give anything away but I was left wondering “Is it possible for an AI to have a coming of age moment?”

DISLIKES/ISSUES

For the most part, I really loved this book.  However, I was not 100% sold on all of the artsy pages that were randomly inserted throughout the story.  Some of them were cool and complemented the actual story, but there were a few that just felt unnecessary, especially for a book that is already nearly 600 pages long. It started to feel a bit gimmicky to me, especially the ones with the words shaped like ships.  It’s one of those bookish quirks of mine where when a book starts getting really long, I start questioning everything that feels like fluff or filler.  Does it really need to be there?

FINAL THOUGHTS

If you’re looking for an action-packed survival story that has a touch of romance, as well as a truly unique format, I’d say give Illuminae a try.  In my mind, I’m thinking it’s a great sci fi story for readers who don’t even usually enjoy sci fi.

RATING:  4 STARS

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS

This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do. This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.

BRIEFING NOTE: Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.

four-stars

About Amie Kaufman

Amie Kaufman is the New York Times bestselling co-author of Illuminae (with Jay Kristoff) and These Broken Stars, This Shattered World, and Their Fractured Light (with Meagan Spooner.) She writes science fiction and fantasy for teens, and her favourite procrastination techniques involve chocolate, baking, sailing, excellent books and TV, plotting and executing overseas travel, and napping.

She lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband, their rescue dog, and her considerable library. She is represented by Tracey Adams of Adams Literary.

About Jay Kristoff

Jay Kristoff is the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of THE NEVERNIGHT CHRONICLE, THE ILLUMINAE FILES and THE LOTUS WAR. He is the winner of four Aurealis Awards, an ABIA, nominee for the David Gemmell Morningstar and Legend awards, named multiple times in the Kirkus and Amazon Best Teen Books list and published in over thirty countries, most of which he has never visited. He is as surprised about all of this as you are. He is 6’7 and has approximately 13030 days to live. He abides in Melbourne with his secret agent kung-fu assassin wife, and the world’s laziest Jack Russell.

He does not believe in happy endings.

Book Review: Scrappy Little Nobody

Book Review:  Scrappy Little NobodyScrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick
three-stars
Published by Touchstone Books on January 1st 1970
Genres: Nonfiction, Autobiography
Pages: 275
Source: Purchased
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads

MY REVIEW:

I went into Scrappy Little Nobody really hoping to love it because I am a big fan of Anna Kendrick’s.  I think she’s a great actress and I also love her wry sense of humor in interviews and on social media.  Overall, I have to say I liked it well enough, but didn’t love it.  The book is structured as a collection of humorous autobiographical essays on a variety of random topics, ranging from her childhood days to her entry into show business, her early attempts at romantic relationships, attending award shows, and even a random essay about themed parties she would love to throw.  It was all very random, quirky, and still somehow pretty insightful and therefore made for a fun read overall.

 

LIKES

As I mentioned, I love Anna’s sense of humor so that was probably the biggest plus for me as I was reading.  She is effortlessly humorous and each essay is filled with colorful anecdotes to show just how much of a “scrappy little nobody” she really is.

I especially enjoyed the stories from early on in her career, seeing how she got her start on Broadway while still in middle school, and then what it was like for her to move from the East Coast out to L.A. and into her first very modest apartment.

And of course, any mention of her films that I’m familiar with like Up in the Air, Into the Woods, and especially Pitch Perfect were highlights.

I also liked that even though the series of essays is seemingly quite random, they still move forward in a somewhat chronological manner – with a few detours – and show Anna figuring out how to live and function as a young, independent, professional woman even if she does she feel like a clueless kid.

 

DISLIKES/ISSUES

My biggest issue with Scrappy Little Nobody was that I wanted a lot more behind-the-scenes looks at Anna’s most well known films, in particular, Pitch Perfect.  While there were a few nuggets here and there, her more recent works seem to be largely ignored so that was a bummer for me.

I also had a few issues where I had difficulty gauging Anna’s tone. Is she being funny here since most of this is meant to be humorous, or is she trying to be more serious?  I think my issue was because I was reading the print version of the book and for that reason I wish I had done the audio version instead. I think hearing Anna tell her stories and share her insights would have helped a lot because there would have been no guesswork as far as what’s meant to be funny and what’s meant to be taken more seriously.

One final issue I had was that sometimes it felt like Anna was trying a little too hard to prove that she’s just like us regular folks even though she’s a famous movie star.  Most of the time I thought the stories about her being awkward and not knowing what to do were cute and relatable, but after a few of them, I got to the point where I was like “Okay, I get it. You’re awkward. Let’s move on to a new topic.”  It’s probably not something that would bother too many people, but I tend to get irritated if I feel like someone’s hammering home a point too hard.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

Even though I had a few issues with Scrappy Little Nobody, I still think it’s a solid and entertaining read overall.  I think Anna Kendrick fans will certainly enjoy getting a little more insight into her personality.  I definitely recommend trying to get the audio version if possible though. I think hearing Anna’s words will give you the most optimal reading experience.

 

RATING:  3 STARS

 

 

 

 

 

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS

A collection of humorous autobiographical essays by the Academy Award-nominated actress and star of Up in the Air and Pitch Perfect.

Even before she made a name for herself on the silver screen starring in films like Pitch PerfectUp in the AirTwilight, and Into the Woods, Anna Kendrick was unusually small, weird, and “10 percent defiant.”

At the ripe age of thirteen, she had already resolved to “keep the crazy inside my head where it belonged. Forever. But here’s the thing about crazy: It. Wants. Out.” In Scrappy Little Nobody, she invites readers inside her brain, sharing extraordinary and charmingly ordinary stories with candor and winningly wry observations.

With her razor-sharp wit, Anna recounts the absurdities she’s experienced on her way to and from the heart of pop culture as only she can—from her unusual path to the performing arts (Vanilla Ice and baggy neon pants may have played a role) to her double life as a middle-school student who also starred on Broadway to her initial “dating experiments” (including only liking boys who didn’t like her back) to reviewing a binder full of butt doubles to her struggle to live like an adult woman instead of a perpetual “man-child.”

Enter Anna’s world and follow her rise from “scrappy little nobody” to somebody who dazzles on the stage, the screen, and now the page—with an electric, singular voice, at once familiar and surprising, sharp and sweet, funny and serious (well, not that serious). 

 

three-stars

About Anna Kendrick

Anna Kendrick is an American actress and singer, born and raised in Portland, Maine. She is widely known for her roles in The Twilight Saga, Up in the Air, and Pitch Perfect. Throughout her acting career, Kendrick has received various awards and nominations.

Waiting On / Can’t Wait Wednesday – Spotlight on Speak Easy, Speak Love

New WoW

“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, which encourages fellow bloggers to spotlight upcoming releases that we’re excited about.  This week I’ll also be linking to Can’t Wait Wednesday, hosted by Tressa.

My selection for this week is Speak Easy, Speak Love by McKelle George.  This one first caught my eye because of that stunning cover, but then when I read the synopsis, wow!  A retelling of one of my favorite Shakespearean plays Much Ado About Nothing, with a 1920’s twist? Sounds absolutely perfect to me!  Just thinking about the witty banter between Shakespeare’s Benedict and Beatrice makes me smile so I can’t wait to see what McKelle George does with this retelling.

 

SPEAK EASY, SPEAK LOVE by McKelle George

Publication Date:  September 19, 2017

 

From mckellegeorge.com:

Beatrice planned on a quiet summer, studying for her medical school entrance exams at her uncle’s home on Long Island. Little did she know her cousin Hero has been running a failing speakeasy out of the basement with the help of a handsome bartender, a talented blues singer, and a strangely enticing novelist.

Daring car chases, underhanded dealing with seedy crooks, and lavish parties are daily occurrences in the reckless underground world of 1920’s prohibition. And with a rival gang gunning for them and the cops close on their heels, it’ll be the most dangerous summer of their lives.

But there’s always time for a little romance…

This sparkling retelling of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing is an uproarious battle of wits with a 1920’s twist.

* * * * *

I’d love to hear what upcoming book releases you’re waiting on this Wednesday? Leave me your link in the comments below and I’ll stop by and check out your WoW selection for this week. 🙂

Judging Books By Their Covers – My Top 10 Favorite Book Covers

 

On Tuesdays I usually participate in the popular Top Ten Tuesday meme, which is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  However, they are officially on hiatus until August, so while waiting for their return, I decided to take the opportunity to go back through their archives to see if any of the topics they had covered prior to my joining were of interest.  I had never given much thought to what my favorite book covers are so I thought that would be a fun topic to explore this week.

I don’t know that there’s any rhyme or reason to covers that I fall in love with.  I tried to determine if there was any kind of pattern and aside from seeing a lot of covers with blue and/or red in them, they all seem to be pretty different from one another.  You’ll also notice an absence of covers with faces on them.  I really don’t know why but book covers that feature close-ups of people’s faces always seem to bother me.  Silhouettes are cool, as are profiles of people, but no giant heads please.  If I ever make a list of my bookish quirks to share, this one will surely make an appearance, lol.

Anyway….on to the covers that I love!

 

Judging Books By Their Covers – My Top 10 Favorite Book Covers

 

1. THE BEAR AND THE NIGHTINGALE by Katherine Arden

 

Both versions of this book’s cover are so gorgeous that I can’t even begin to choose a favorite.  I love the atmospheric quality of the first one, which I think really complements the story itself, but I also love the whimsical quality of the second cover.

* * * * *

2. THE BOOK THIEF by Markus Zusak

 

I much prefer this cover to the one with dominoes on it that I typically see on the bookstore shelves here.  There’s just something about seeing the figure of Death on the cover that really packs a punch for me.

* * * * *

3.  THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald

This is probably one of the most recognizable book covers out there and it’s pretty unforgettable as well.  All someone has to do is make even just a vague reference to Gatsby and my mind immediately conjures up this striking image.

* * * * *

4. THE SNOW CHILD by Eowyn Ivey

 

This is another book where both versions of the cover are so beautiful, I can’t choose a favorite.  Each is lovely in its simplicity and I think each conveys the subtle magic that can be found within the pages of this book.

* * * * *

5. A TALE FOR THE TIME BEING by Ruth Ozeki

I love both the vibrant colors and the unique look of this cover.  I think this is a wonderful story but will freely admit that it was this gorgeous cover that first enticed me to pick up this book at the bookstore.

* * * * *

6. LIFE OF PI by Yann Martel

Life of Pi is a fantastic book, but yet another that I was first attracted to because of its cover.  I have a thing for water-themed colors anyway, but throw in a man and a tiger in a boat together and a school of exotic looking fish, and this cover is just irresistible to me.

 

* * * * *

7. SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA by Becky Albertalli

You have to admit that a body with no head is eye-catching.  Throw in that bright red background and a thought bubble where the missing head should be and you’ve got yourself a pretty cool cover.   And that’s not even considering when you flip over to the back of the cover and find Oreos back there.  I love whimsical covers and this one is just perfect.

* * * * *

8. DOROTHY MUST DIE by Danielle Page

I haven’t even read this book yet but had to buy it as soon as I saw this cover.  It’s similar in style to the Simon cover (bold colors, missing face, etc.), so I guess you could say this is a style I find pretty appealing.  I actually tend to hate actual faces on covers anyway (no idea why so don’t even ask, lol), so it amuses me a bit to constantly find myself attracted to covers that have no face at all on them.

 

* * * * *

9. SHADES OF MAGIC series by V.E. Schwab

    
How fabulous are these covers?  The figures on each cover are just too fabulous for words and I love the use of the red and black.  Heck, I even love the font that was used.  Judge these books by their covers and you won’t be disappointed because the stories inside are just as magical as the covers.

* * * * *

10. FLAME IN THE MIST by Renee Ahdieh

Flame in the Mist is another book that I haven’t read yet but it has an absolutely stunning cover that catches my eye every time I see it.  I love the colors used and the flowers, and the flaming phoenix imagery.  It’s just such a gorgeous combination.

* * * * *

Question: What are some of your all time favorite book covers?  Do we share any favorites?

Book Review: Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Book Review:  Strange the Dreamer by Laini TaylorStrange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
five-stars
Series: Strange the Dreamer, #1
on March 28th 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction
Pages: 532
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads

MY REVIEW:

I finished reading Strange the Dreamer last weekend and have been trying to think of some way to eloquently explain just how much I adored this book.  There’s something so special about this story that words fail me every time I try to write this review.  Everything I write sounds inadequate when it comes to conveying just how much this story completely captivated me. All I can really say, and it doesn’t feel like nearly enough, is that Strange the Dreamer is one of the most beautiful and unique stories that I’ve ever read.

It grabbed my attention from those first harrowing moments where, seemingly out of nowhere, a girl with blue-tinted skin plummets to her death. Who is this mysterious blue-skinned girl, where has she fallen from, and why did she fall?  If that’s not an immediate attention getter, I don’t know what is!  The mystery of finding out what happened to this girl immediately had me flying through the pages.

Rather than delving directly into her story though, we instead begin following the journey of another character, Lazlo Strange.  Lazlo is an orphan who was raised by monks and later becomes a junior librarian.  This is the perfect job for young Lazlo, because you see, Lazlo is a big dreamer and for a dreamer who likely cannot afford to actually go anywhere and make his dreams come true, the next best thing is to immerse himself in books and escape to his dreams that way. Lazlo’s dreams primarily center on one thing, a lost, mythical city.  Lazlo has been nearly obsessed with finding this city for most of his life.  According to legend, something happened there 200 years ago and, when Lazlo was a young boy, the name of the city was somehow stolen from the minds of everyone who had known it, Lazlo included.  He actually remembers feeling the name of the city disappear from his memory, and all that is left behind is the name Weep in its place.  Lazlo devoted himself to figuring out what happened to Weep and spends every free moment in the library researching everything he can about his now unnamed city.  His coworkers and many others in his town think he’s foolish to waste his time following what is now mostly a myth, but Lazlo can’t stop. He’s determined that one day he will set out on his own and try to find Weep.

Lazlo’s chance to find Weep comes along a lot sooner than expected when a gentleman rides into town, declaring himself from Weep and looking to recruit the services of qualified men and women to help him rebuild his city.  Even though Lazlo has no practical skills that could help rebuild a city, he manages to convey just how much a trip to the mythical Weep would mean to him and demonstrates his passion for the city so thoroughly that the gentleman agrees to let Lazlo journey with him to Weep as well.

The rest of the story richly unfolds as we learn about what really happened to Weep, who the blue-skinned girl is and how she fits into the rest of the story, and most importantly, we learn who Lazlo Strange really is because he is so much more than an orphaned junior librarian and his connection to Weep is much more than just a passionate curiosity.

That honestly just barely scratches the surface of what happens in Strange the Dreamer, but hopefully it’s enough to show how easy it is to get drawn into Lazlo Strange’s world without giving away any major spoilers.  I honestly think the less you know going in, the more magical it is as the story unfolds.  Just know that there’s a little bit of everything: action, adventure, a romance, Gods, a God slayer, ghosts, and there are even God spawn (offspring of Gods and humans).

 

LIKES

Again, I don’t want to give too much away because I think it’s better that way, but here are a few highlights of this book for me:

Lazlo Strange.  I loved everything about this character.  The fact that he comes from such humble beginnings gives him that underdog quality that I always sympathize with, and then don’t even get me started on his love for the library.  A boy after my own heart… What I liked most about Lazlo though was his kind heart and his passion.  He’s just such a precious character and, even though I’m not all that much of a romance fan, it warmed my heart when he unexpectedly found someone that he felt that ultimate connection with after having been so alone for so long.

God spawn.  I can’t say too much about these characters, but I will just say that they are fascinating and complex.  Like Lazlo, they come across as underdogs because of the situation they’re trapped in, but then at the same time, they engage in some problematic behaviors of their own.  In many ways they are victims of a past they had no control over, but they aren’t without their own flaws either.  They also each have unique magical gifts that were fascinating to see in use.

The World Building.  Just…wow.  This is one of those places where I have a hard time coming up with the words to describe my love for what Laini Taylor has created here.  The world of Weep and especially the environment the God spawn live in are so rich, lush, vivid, unique…I really need more words here!  It’s just world building at its best, in part because we’re dealing with not just the physical worlds that these characters are actually in, but also dreamscapes.  One of the God spawn possesses the ability to enter the dreams of anyone she wants to and actually alter them as it suits her.  She often uses her gift to induce fear and horror, but when she enters Lazlo the Dreamer’s dreams, she is blown away by the beauty he creates in his mind while he sleeps.  His dreams are so beautiful that she can’t bear to change them.  She wishes she could stay in them forever and it was easy to see why.  As I was reading, the magical quality of those dreams reminded me of childhood stories like Alice in Wonderland or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Taylor’s writing/storytelling.  This was my first experience reading Laini Taylor’s writing so I wasn’t sure what to expect going in.  What I loved about her writing was that it’s both lyrical and poetic, yet it still flows so smoothly and so naturally.  As rich and complex as the storyline of Strange the Dreamer is, it still reads like a simple bedtime story.  It just has that “Once upon a time in a faraway land….” quality about it that really takes Strange the Dreamer from your average fantasy story up to the next level.

Cliffhanger ending. Wow, what an ending!  Everything leading up to the ending took me by surprise and then the actual cliffhanger just left me sitting there with my mouth hanging open desperately wanting to get my hands on the next book.  I normally hate cliffhangers because I hate having to wait so long to see what happens, but just like with the rest of this story, even the cliffhanger is a unique one, like nothing I’ve ever seen before.  My reaction was pretty much “NOOOOOOO….but you know, if it had to be a cliffhanger, that was a pretty cool one.”

 

DISLIKES

There was literally nothing I disliked about this book.  I know there’s really no such thing as perfect, but this book is about as close to perfection to me as it gets.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

There is no doubt in my mind at this point that Strange the Dreamer will be one of my favorite reads of 2017.  I’ve rated it 5 stars but I feel like 5 stars just isn’t even enough because it’s so special.  It makes me want to go back and lower the ratings of some other books I’ve rated 5 stars because there’s truly no comparison in quality.  If you’re looking for a truly unique read, I highly recommend this gorgeous book.

 

RATING:  5 STARS

 

 

 

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS

The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around—and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance or lose his dream forever.

What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving?

The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries—including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? And if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real?

Welcome to Weep.

five-stars

About Laini Taylor

Laini Taylor is the author of the National Book Award Finalist Lips Touch: Three Times, as well as the novels Blackbringer and Silksinger. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband, illustrator Jim Di Bartolo, and their daughter.

Weekly Recap #10: Week of 7/16 – 7/22

 

Hey everyone!  It’s time for another weekly recap post of all things happening on and off the blog. This week I’ll be linking to the Sunday Post, which is hosted by Caffeinated Book Reviewer and to Stacking the Shelves, which is hosted by Tynga’s Reviews.

This past week was our hottest week of the summer thus far, so needless to say, this bookworm stayed inside all week because I don’t do 100+ degree temperatures.  Because I was stuck inside all week, I did manage to get three books read, two of which were for my Summer TBR Wipeout challenge so now I’m making pretty good progress on that.  Where I didn’t do so well this week though was writing reviews.  I actually only posted one last week and have 5 I need to sit down and write.  I’m struggling with a couple of them because even though I loved the books, I’m having a hard time putting into words exactly what it was I loved about them.  Do you ever  experience that?  Anyway, I hope to get a few written today to get back on track.

What else happened this week?  Oh, I FINALLY got to go see Wonder Woman in the theater. OMG, such an incredibly badass movie.  I loved everything about it.  Gal Gadot was perfect for the role, and I was especially blown away by all of the Amazon warrior training scenes at the beginning of the movie.  I loved the movie so much that if I could have, I would have stayed and watched it all over again.  Can’t wait to get that one on DVD and I highly recommend it if you haven’t already seen it!

Well, that’s pretty much it for me.  Have a great week, everyone!

 

WHAT I POSTED LAST WEEK

 

 

WHAT I’M READING THIS WEEK

 

   

UPCOMING REVIEWS

 

     
 

 

STACKING THE SHELVES

 

  

TOTALLY RANDOM

Update Post # 1: Summer TBR Wipeout 2017

It’s time to post my update for the first leg of the Summer TBR Wipeout challenge.  So, how am I doing?  Not too bad actually.  Out of the twelve books I had put on my challenge list, I’ve managed to read three so far.  I started with some of the longest books on my TBR to get those out of the way first, which will hopefully make it a littler easier to make it to the finish line later in the challenge.

 

BOOKS I’VE READ SO FAR…

      

 

Out of these three, Illuminae was definitely my favorite read.  I haven’t written a proper review for it yet, but it was just such an action-packed read. I loved the unique format, the dialogue, and the ultra creepy premise about an AI that tries to take over control of a spaceship from the humans.  I had mixed feelings about about both A Court of Wings and Ruin, which I reviewed yesterday, and Scrappy Little Nobody.  ACOWAR, while a good solid read, just left me a little underwhelmed after the sheer epic nature of the second book in the series.  I rated the first two books in the series 5 stars each, but this one only got 3.5.  Scrappy Little Nobody was a fun read but one that just didn’t have as much substance or behind-the-scenes information as I had hoped it would.  I actually think I probably would have enjoyed it more if I had done the audio version instead of the print.  The writing style is very conversational and I think hearing it in Anna’s voice would have made it more entertaining than trying to read it for myself.

 

CHALLENGE BOOKS I’M PLANNING TO READ NEXT…

 

       

That might be an overly ambitious list since I do have a few ARCs I need to get read by the beginning of August, but we’ll see how it goes.  It’s so hot outside right now and there’s so little on TV that I’m spending nearly all of my free time reading anyway.  Hope everyone else is doing great with their challenge!

Book Review: A Court of Wings and Ruin

Book Review:  A Court of Wings and RuinA Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas
Also by this author: A Court of Thorns and Roses (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #1)
three-half-stars
Series: A Court of Thorns and Roses #3
Published by Bloomsbury Childrens Books on May 2nd 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction
Pages: 699
Also in this series: A Court of Thorns and Roses (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #1)
Source: Purchased
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads

MY REVIEW:

 

A Court of Wings and Ruin is the third book in Sarah J. Maas’ popular A Court of Thorn and Roses series.  Although several more books have been announced for the series, my understanding is that those will be more along the lines of spinoffs and that A Court of Wings and Ruin is pretty much supposed to wrap up Feyre’s storyline.  So, how did it do wrapping things up?  Well, for me there was definitely a lot to love about this book. At the same time, however, I had some issues with it.  I guess my overall feeling is that while I did enjoy it, it didn’t blow me away like I really wanted and expected it to, especially considering how truly incredible the second book in the series was.

LIKES

Feyre’s Growth.  Watching Feyre grow from a young woman who seemed to have minimal self esteem when we first met her into the powerful and confident High Lady of the Night Court has been one of my favorite parts of this series.  She is now courageous and badass and has truly become Rhysand’s equal in every way.  She’s also just as much invested in saving their people as Rhys is and I loved watching her in action and seeing the lengths she would go to in order to save them.  She has grown from what was practically a little girl in that first book into a warrior and a queen by this third book.

The “Family.”  My absolute favorite part of this series continues to be the family dynamic that we witness between Rhys, Feyre, Mor, Cassian, Azriel, and Amren.  I can’t ever seem to get enough of these guys bickering back and forth, sometimes like children, but always like family.  Their banter gives me life.  There was some awkward family drama this time around when Rhys puts Mor in an uncomfortable situation without giving her any kind of head’s up.  Because these characters are so real and so complex, there were hurt feelings and a sense of betrayal, but like a true family, they’re able to put aside their differences and come together when they need to.  This group is so fiercely devoted to each other and any one of them would lay down their life if it meant the others would be saved.

Cassian and Azriel.  I’m not sure if this was supposed to happen, but somehow Cassian and Azriel have risen from the ranks of amazing characters to become my actual favorites from the series.  I can’t even explain specifically what it is about them, but I just adore them both and want them to find love and be happy.  It gutted me every time something bad happened to either of them. I also just love watching each of them in their element.  It was especially thrilling watching Cassian command the Illyrian army.

The World Building.  You wouldn’t think this far into a series there would still be such lush world building going on, but WOW!  I was so excited to finally get to see some of the other Courts and they were just as enchanting as the Spring and Night Courts.  After seeing the polar bears and the cute little vest-wearing foxes(!), I kind of wanted to live in Winter Court, haha.

Fascinating New Characters.  I loved meeting the new characters from the other Courts and lands throughout the kingdom. There were so many interesting dynamics at play as the various High Lords came together to discuss Hybern.  I think Helion intrigued me the most, but I really liked the introduction of Miryam, Drakon, and Vassa.

Lucien.  Lucien remains one of my favorite characters so I was pleased to see that not only were he and Feyre able to re-establish their friendship, but that he also seemed to find a place for himself in the service of the Night Court.  I was a bit disappointed that he got sent off on a mission for a large chunk of ACOWAR, but I LOVED that we were given an incredible backstory for him that I hope will be further explored in future books.

The Bone Carver and the Suriel.  I didn’t really expect to see either of these characters, so I was thrilled to have them turn up again in ACOWAR and to be used in such unexpected yet epic ways.  I especially never expected to shed tears over the Suriel, so kudos to Maas because she totally got me on that one.

Redemption of Tamlin.  Tamlin remains one of the most complicated characters of the series, but if this is the last we see of him, I think overall I’m happy with his ending.  As angry and hurt and betrayed by Feyre as he felt for so much of the series, the idea that his love for her would overcome that in the end is a beautiful thing.  If we do see more of him, I hope that he’ll find his own happiness.

 

DISLIKES/ISSUES

Okay, so…as much as I enjoyed ACOWAR overall, I still had some issues with it.  I honestly thought it was too long and that there were parts that could have been edited out without taking anything away from the overall story.  One of my issues with the length was that so much time was spent talking about what was going to happen in battle.  Yes, I get that they have to plan, strategize, form alliances with the other Courts, etc. as they prepare to battle Hybern, but after so much epic action in the prior books, I felt like I spent too much time with this book sitting around waiting for the excitement.  Once the battle finally began, it was incredible beyond compare, but I just expected more of the book to be devoted to it.

I’ll probably be in the minority on this, but I also thought too much time was spent on Feyre’s sisters.  Nesta was at least interesting, especially when it came to the tensions between her and Cassian and her training under Amren, who seemed to see somewhat of a kindred spirit in her, but nearly everything about Elain unfortunately just bored me.  There were so many other more fascinating characters introduced in this book that I would have rather seen more of, especially those from the other Courts.

Even though I enjoyed the ending overall, I think it would have been more powerful and more realistic if (please don’t hurt me!) SPOILER (mouse over to reveal) – one of the major characters had died.  Not that I wanted anyone to die because I love them all, but the Battle with Hybern was supposed to be the most epic battle ever, the war to end all wars, the possible end of life as they knew it, etc. and yet all of the major players came out okay in the end.  I would have been devastated of course, but I just think it would have packed more of an emotional and realistic punch if someone had made the ultimate sacrifice to save their world

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

While I have to admit I wanted more from A Court of Wings and Ruin, I still can’t deny that it was a pretty solid and satisfying end to Feyre’s journey.  I definitely see myself continuing with the series and I look forward to seeing who the next books will focus on.  Throwing my two cents’ worth in for books that focus on Lucien, Cassian, and/or Azriel!

 

RATING:  3.5 STARS

 

 

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS

A nightmare, I’d told Tamlin. I was the nightmare.

Feyre has returned to the Spring Court, determined to gather information on Tamlin’s maneuverings and the invading king threatening to bring Prythian to its knees. But to do so she must play a deadly game of deceit—and one slip may spell doom not only for Feyre, but for her world as well. As war bears down upon them all, Feyre must decide who to trust amongst the dazzling and lethal High Lords—and hunt for allies in unexpected places.

three-half-stars

About Sarah J. Maas

Sarah J. Maas is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Throne of Glass series and A Court of Thorns and Roses series, as well as a USA Today and international bestselling author. Sarah wrote the first incarnation of the Throne of Glass series when she was just sixteen, and it has now sold in thirty-five languages. A New York native, Sarah currently lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and dog. Empire of Storms, the fifth Throne of Glass novel, released on September 6th, 2016.
She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Hamilton College in 2008 with a degree in Creative Writing and a minor in Religious Studies.