Children of Blood and Bone (Tomi Adeyemi)

Yes. I’m leading with the cover on this one, because look at it. Stunning.

When magic disappeared from Orïsha, Zélie lost not only her mother to the hate of the ruthless King Saran, but all hope, as well. Now, in a twist of fate Zélie has the chance to bring magic back to her people with the help of a runaway princess and her own non-magical brother. Will they be able to navigate the many dangers and escape from the crown prince who hunts them single-mindedly?

This is a book that I had been anticipating for quite awhile, along with, I suspect a ridiculous number of other people. I read a few other reviews of Children and Blood and Bone after I finished the book, and found I did not agree with them. They were critical of it for being unoriginal and overlong. I can’t totally speak for the unoriginal critique, as I’m not familiar with The Last Airbender, which was apparently a strong inspiration. I could see some of the parallels with Ember in the Ashes, but overall, it felt original to me. As to it being overlong, well, I love really long books. Most of the chapters were quite short, so that helped keep the pace up for me.

Overall, I thought it was wonderful. I finished it and immediately had to look online to see if there were going to be more books. While I loved Zélie, I particularly enjoyed Amari. It was fantastic seeing her grow from fearful and damaged into someone much stronger. I’m also just desperate to see what happens with Inan in the next book. There is so much potential here and I’m super excited to see where it’s all going.

YA and Wine

If you’ve been following for awhile, then you know I enjoy pairing books and booze. And if there are two things I’m particularly passionate about, it’s young adult novels and a decent glass of wine. I can’t honestly claim to be an expert on either, but I can’t think of many things that would go better together. It’s likely that I’ve mentioned some of these series before on other lists, however, they are certainly worth mentioning again.

 

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

This is a series I have definitely mentioned before, probably paired with a cocktail. I stand by that, but I feel like it would pair equally well with a good mead. I know, typically it would be something better suited to a more medieval setting, but bear with me here. Southerners like their tea sweet, right? Why not their wine too? Being that Beautiful Creatures is very Southern, it just makes sense to me. And mead feels a little more “grown up” to me than most other sweet wines. Any mead will obviously do, but my absolute favorite is actually local for me, from just down the highway in Hermann, MO, an orange blossom mead.

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

This is a series I only recently finally picked up. It’s still ongoing, with the third book in the series coming out this May. While there is definitely hope to be found, they are still pretty dark, so I endorse something dark (and pretty strong). Sip on a nice port. It’s certainly a wine that can stand on it’s own feet, like Laia.

The Selection by Kiera Cass

This is another series I’ve only recently given a shot, but quite surprised myself by enjoying. I’ve only read the first book so far, but I plan on picking up the rest of the series. It’s a little bit like The Bachelor meets The Hunger Games, but with better fashion. It’s not all pretty dresses and wooing a prince, but it still feels like it needs something pretty and a little decadent. I would suggest a nice, dry, sparkling rosé.

The Thousandth Floor by Katherine McGee

I’ll be honest, I initially picked up this book because I thought the cover was pretty. I really wasn’t sure what it was about, but I really ended up enjoying it. Pretend like you are rich and perfect enough to live in the penthouse of The Tower and dive in with a nice (but cheap) champagne.

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

I’ve previously reviewed this book here, but if you haven’t checked that out, I cannot stress enough how fun it is. It seems fitting that the wine I chose to pair with it is a little old fashioned; pretty much every 18th century and Regency set novel I’ve ever read has gentlemen drinking claret. It’s not a wine you see much these days, but Coppola Winery has a particularly nice one. I can’t normally recommend a specific wine, but this is the only time I can remember seeing a claret and it’s definitely well worth it if you can track it down.

Do you have any wine and YA pairings you’d like to recommend? Share them with me below!

The Case for Jamie (Brittany Cavallaro)

Holmes and Watson are back- not only Charlotte and Jamie, but Leander and James, as well.

It’s been a year since Jamie Watson (or anyone else, for that matter) has seen Charlotte Holmes. After the events that lead to the death of August Moriarty, Jamie has been going through the motions, trying to finish his final year at school. When strange things start to happen, he can’t help but wonder if it’s his imagination running wild, or if Lucien Moriarty could be behind it all.

This third installment in the Charlotte Holmes series is definitely chock full of teenage angst, but what might have been cloying, works here. The chapters rotate between narration from Jamie and Charlotte. While it would be easy to write Jamie’s affection for Holmes off as misguided, her chapters help add a layer of insight into why she is the way she is. Removed from Watson’s pedestal, she’s more human. Damaged, absolutely, but far more like the rest of us than she ever previously seemed. Hearing from Charlotte herself was one of the things I really enjoyed in the last book, and I was pleased to see it employed more here.

Jamie’s girlfriend Elizabeth proved to be an interesting character, as well. While I know she was in the first book in the series, A Study in Charlotte, she’s a complete blank for me. Here, she proved something of a surprise, not only for me, but for Jamie Watson, as well.

A Case for Jamie provides all the twists and turns that one should expect from a Holmesian novel. There is plenty of action and more than a few surprises tempered by emotions, but all in all, it strikes a good balance. While I have enjoyed all the books in the series so far, this one might be my favorite. The Last of August (see my review of that one here) got a little hard to follow at times. I like complex mysteries, but I don’t like to be left in the dust.

If you are a fan of Sherlock Holmes, I really feel like this series is a do not miss. Same if you are a fan of YA.

The Thirteenth Gate (Kat Ross)

Sorry that there has been a bit of a delay on posts. I spent last month working on another book related project that I might be sharing some time in the future. Anyway, on to The Thirteenth Gate.

Last year, you may recall I review Kat Ross’s The Daemoniac (catch up on that review here). That book was a prequel to this one, which is the first in the Dominion Mysteries series. While The Daemoniac ends just shortly before the Jack the Ripper murders, this one picks up shortly after they ended.

Here we met Vivienne Cumberland and her companion, Alec Lawrence, on their way to the Greymoor Lunatic Asylum in the dead of a rainy night. Really, can a book begin in a better way? Initially, I was a little disappointed. I was hoping to have more adventures with Harry and John. They do show up and play a major role, but not until a little ways into the book.

That disappointment did not last long. This book somehow managed to delve even further into the supernatural, but still managed to maintain the mystery element that was particularly fun in the previous book.

It did lead me even further down the rabbit hole, however. Now, having been introduced to Vivienne and Alec, I wanted to know more. I knew Kat Ross had other books that had a connection to this series, but I had not yet sought them out. As it turns out, Midnight Sea is available to read for free. It was, of course, amazing. I picked up the entire trilogy and devoured them. She is also two books in to another connected series. I haven’t yet gotten my hands on those yet, but I will and I definitely recommend you do to.

So, if you feel like losing yourself for awhile, you really can’t go wrong with a little Kat Ross.

Scavenger Girl: Season of Atchem (Jennifer Arntson)

I received a free copy of Scavenger Girl in exchange for an honest review. This did not change my opinion of the book.

In Ashlund, Una and her family are Scavengers: forced to live on the fringes of society and scrounge out a life where they can. While their family bond runs deep, it becomes more clear that there are also secrets that threaten to tear them apart. Soon, Una will be forced to choose between the life she knows and a life of privilege that rejects much of what she holds dear.

Where should I begin? Overall, I’m intrigued by this book. It is the first book in a series and the world that Jennifer Arntson has built is a very interesting one. It’s dark and the issues Una is taking on are difficult ones. It’s does have a few things I didn’t like, but overall, it was nothing so egregious I couldn’t overlook it.

Initially, I was a little irritated with Una. When things got rough, she fell apart. More than once. However, I thought about it. Would I have really handled the situations any differently? Merely because she didn’t deal with some admittedly pretty nasty situations with the typical dystopian heroine’s hard-ass attitude was no reason to discount her. Deep down, Una is tough, and she does make some decisions that, in all honesty,  are very mature and probably not the ones I would have made myself. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

This book does get pretty intense. I certainly didn’t finish it as quickly as I normally would. I had to step away every once in awhile just to give my emotions a break. One scene in particular was difficult to get through. When things go wrong in Ashlund, they go very, very wrong.

Scavenger Girl is definitely a different take on young adult dystopian fiction. If that’s something you are interested in, it’s worth your time. I, for one, am very interested to see where things go in the rest of the series.

One Dark Throne (Kendare Blake)

I know. Some of you are completely floored that I am finally getting around to actually posting something substantial. I really am sorry. You know that I always have the best of intentions, but life gets in the way sometimes. And boy, let me tell you, life has certainly made its presence known these last few months. Breakup, family death, sick pets, car troubles… to say it’s been nuts would be an understatement. But, I’m trying to get back into the swing. Bear with me.

Back to my book this week: Kendare Blake‘s sequel to Three Dark Crowns: One Dark Throne. When I initially read Three Dark Crowns a few months ago, I enjoyed it, but wasn’t totally in love with it.  The twist at the end was enough to bring me to the second book and I am glad I decided to stick with it. This might not make much sense to you if you haven’t read the first book, and… well, you should. Just go read it. I’ll wait.

ANYWAY. We catch up to our three sister queens of Fennbirn with the Ascension year well underway. Queen Katherine, once considered the weakest is now stronger than ever; Queen Arsinoe is grappling with how to make her newly discovered secret gift work to her advantage; Queen Mirabella, once the certain choice to be Queen Crowned faces fights that put those she loves in danger.

Katherine was a particular favorite in this book. It was fascinating to watch her slip further and further into darkness, becoming more and more unstable. While Arsinoe and Mirabella each grew, as well, let’s be honest, sometimes it’s just more fun to watch a villain develop than it is to watch a hero.

There was plenty of time spent with the supporting characters as well, but there were times when I felt they were in my way. I know supporting characters are necessary. However, the three queen’s are so satisfying to read, that sometimes it was hard to let them share the stage.

There also seemed to be a heftier dose of teen angst going on here than in the previous book. Or maybe I’m just getting old and just noticing it more than I did before. Who knows?

Overall, One Dark Throne was enjoyable and full of enough twists I’m going to keep going with the series. (Apparently, this was originally going to be a duology, but it was popular enough she decided to expand to four books.) For all my fellow YA fantasy lovers out there, it is certainly not one to miss.

I Know a Secret (Tess Gerritsen)

I recieved a free copy of I Know a Secret in exchange for an honest review. This did not change my opinion of the book.

Boston police detective Jane Rizzoli and medical examiner Maura Isles return after a horror movie director is found in a startlingly staged murder with an unknown cause of death. Together, they struggle to find the truth filled with symbols of martyred saints and a decades old scandal that is still far from over.

Tess Gerritsen is one of the few mystery writers that hasn’t managed to completely disappoint me over the last several years. Not only is I Know a Secret at least as good as previous stories in the series, it might be better. Part of it is a great mystery, maybe not as interesting as others (I really loved The Mephisto Club), but part of it definitely has to do with the fact that I am invested in these characters now. They are flawed, but understandably so. There is another series that I won’t name where I keep reading even though I want to punch the characters in the face. Not so here. Do Jane and Maura make choices in their life that I don’t agree with? Sure. But they are choices that seem to fit them and I can understand it.

Strangely enough, I also enjoyed the fact that, although the mystery is solved, it is not wrapped up perfectly neatly. I actually loved that ambiguity. She could return to this story again (as she has with others in the past) or not. Either way, it works. Tess Gerritsen also has a magical way of adding something truly chilling in each of her books. Most mysteries have something unsettling in them, it’s just their nature, but hers often have something particular that makes you look over your shoulder. I love it.

If you have not previously read any of the Rizzoli and Isles books, you would probably be alright starting here, but I really think you would be better off starting at the beginning of the series. It’s well worth the time and for me, they go quickly because I usually have to know what happens.

End of July Roundup

I know. I’ve been distant lately.

But truly, it’s not you, it’s me.

Writing a book is hard. I sort of suspected it might be, since I had never just written one before, but the reality is harder than I could have guessed. The good news is, things are still moving along well with the book, despite several stalls over the course of the month. I’ve just begun chapter 10, which is more or less the halfway point in my story. This journey has been excited and made me really proud of what I can accomplish, but it’s also been incredibly stressful. I second guess myself all the time. I’ve thought about giving up, because there is no way anyone would want to read this garbage.

But, I’ve kept going. I don’t write everyday, but I do most days, even if it’s only a paragraph or two. I’m not yet one of the super disciplined writers who can sit down and churn out several thousand words a day. Aside from discipline, I don’t really have the time. The book will get done, but it may take some time.

I’ve also been reading lots. Since reading is helpful in dealing with my stress and I’ve been VERY stressed out lately, it has helped make the month tolerable. I’ll have full reviews coming up on some of what I’ve read, which I’ll note, but otherwise, I wanted to summarize my reading list and maybe give you some ideas for your summer reading.

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

I’m late to the Grishaverse. I ordered Six of Crows several months ago looking for books with amoral protagonists and it languished on my TBR piled for quite awhile before I finally picked it up last month. I order Crooked Kingdom well before I ever finished the first book. The world Leigh Bardugo has built is rich and engrossing and the characters were fascinating. I will definitely be reading more from her in the future.

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

I’ve always had a soft spot for fairy tale retellings, so this seemed like it would be right up my alley. It was definitely well written and creative, but overall the story didn’t appeal to me. I didn’t expect a happy ending, and certainly didn’t get one, but I sort of hoped for something less bleak.

What the Raven Brings by John Owen Theobald and Spectacle by Rachel Vincent

Each of these books is, respectively, the second books in their series. You might recall I reviewed the first books (These Dark Wings and Menagerie) last year. I finally kicked myself into gear to read these. Look for full reviews of each in the next month.

Mycroft Holmes by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Anna Waterhouse

I was surprised as anyone to find out the legendary basketball player was not only writing books, but fiction books. With a soft spot for Sherlock and a great deal on Kindle, I decided it was worth trying. It was actually pretty good, occasionally bordering on a little stuffy, but hey, this is Mycroft we’re talking about. Definitely a worthwhile read if your into all things Holmes.

Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy– Cassandra Clare, Sarah Rees Brennan, Maureen Johnson, Robin Wasserman

This has seriously been collecting dust on my TBR since November. Which is weird for me, particularly since I usually gulp down anything Shadowhunter related pretty fast. Once I started, this one was no exception. Despite 600+ pages, I read it in an entire day. It was enjoyable and certainly helped fill in a few gaps between the Mortal Instruments and The Dark Artifices.

Dragon Unbound by Katie MacAlister

The usual Katie MacAlister Dragon craziness, distilled down to novella size. Here, we finally get a little more with the First Dragon. Of course I loved it. I always do.

Dream World by Erin A Jensen

I had many of the same issues with Dream World as I did with the first book, Dream Waters, which I reviewed awhile back. It wasn’t a bad book, I’m intrigued enough to keep going, but it wasn’t great.  The switching between perspectives got a little confusing and I’ve seriously never seen so many variations on ‘pissing oneself’ in my life. This made it hard for me to read for long periods of time without having to step away. But, I’ll stick around and see what the next book holds.

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Ok, so technically I read this one last month, but I’m including it anyway. This was one I picked up at the same time as Six of Crows and it waited in the TBR pile for awhile. I really loved this one, guys. It had moments where things got a little confusing, but I chalked that up to the atmosphere of Caraval. It was dark and magical. Cannot wait to read more.

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue (Mackenzi Lee)

As Henry “Monty” Montague prepares to set out on his Grand Tour with his best friend (and secret crush) Percy, he fears his days of pleasure are fast approaching an end. He is expected to return from the trip more mature and ready to learn how to take over the family estate. On his trip Monty’s father expects him to be on his best behavior or disinheritance looms. Monty has different ideas and plans to drink, party and flirt with Percy the whole way across Europe. When their trip takes a sudden dangerous turn, Monty will find himself calling everything about his life into question.

I first discovered The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue a few months ago. One of the many bookish sites I follow on Facebook was advertising the first four chapters of a new YA novel. Why not? I thought to myself. I was in love before I finished the first chapter and the next several months of waiting were absolute torture.

Completely worth it. Mackenzi Lee certainly did not disappoint. This book was fresh, fun, fabulous and full of heart. It’s not often that I can say a book genuinely had me laughing out loud at points, tense with anticipation at others and in tears at the end. When it first arrived I was surprised at it’s length and was a little worried about finishing it within the deadline I set for myself. Turns out, there was no need to be concerned. I finished it in just slightly over 24 hours. It would have been faster, but I still have to go to work.

If there is anything I like in a historical fiction book, it’s a rakehell, and I was not left wanting. Monty is the lovable kind of rake that warms my heart. Percy is dreamy and sweet while Monty’s sister Felicity is sharp and sarcastic. All in all, a group that suits each other and the story well.

The 18th century has long held my interest (I have a BA in art history with a focus in 18th century painting, super useful, but that’s another story…). Art related to the Grand Tour was definitely something I studied, but it was honestly a little dry. This brought it to full, dramatic life. While Monty, Percy and Felicity’s Tour was certainly out of the ordinary and full of danger, it was still a fun romp through 18th century Europe.

I can’t recommend this book enough. I finished it less than an hour before writing this and I already am looking forward to reading it again. Read it. Read it now. It’s witty and fast-paced, certainly a book to devour.

 

A Singular Baptism (Carlos J. Server)

I received a free copy of A Singular Baptism in exchange for an honest review. This did not change my opinion of the book.

Calling Lucía’s family unusual would be an understatement.  With all of them gathered on the beautiful island of El Hierro for the baptism of her son, Agrimiro, she has her hands full. Between juggling not only her own family, but her husband’s, Lucía also must try to figure out if her suspicions about her son’s paternity are real or just a misunderstanding. It all adds up to a weekend that is destined to be unforgettable.

As with his previous novel, A Lucky Day (see my review here), Carlos J. Server once again delivers a cast of fun, quirky characters in somewhat unusual situations. While they were definitely fun to read about, I was certainly left thinking that at least my family isn’t that nuts. Well… most of the time.

While there were a few times where it veered close to just flat crazy, overall it was a lighthearted take on a stressful situation. Think of your favorite rom-com, but less sappy. One particularly notable scene introduced me to a barraquito. This is something I’m going to have to try very soon. Googling “barraquito” also led me down the rabbit hole where I discovered the Spanish really seem to have this coffee thing down. I need to research more in person. Someday. But I digress…

A Singular Baptism, is, as it’s title suggests, unusual and definitely great fun. If you have wacky relatives of your own, you are sure to find yourself right at home among Lucía’s family. As we are entering the sweltering days of summer, it is the perfect book to kick back in the AC, pour a drink and imagine yourself on the gorgeous El Hierro… with or without your family.