Friday, December 30, 2016

A Monster Calls~Patrick Ness | Review

Title: A Monster Calls
Author: Patrick Ness
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary/Fantasy
Length: 206 Pages (Hardcover)
Release: September 2011

I am somewhat conflicted about this book. It's the type of book you need to read with little background knowledge. Otherwise the experience is spoiled for you. The story just wasn't as hard hitting as I had hoped. 

This is a well written story, with an interesting premise. I expected it to be a little scarier or unsettling than it was. For me personally there wasn't really an element of fear associated with the monster, even in the beginning. 

The novel touches on some very difficult subjects and overall I think they are handled in a very believable way. The ending was somewhat too abrupt for me. I would have liked a little more information about certain characters and how our main character Conor was learning to cope with his situation, instead we just got hints of what could happen. 

What disappointed me most about the novel was that it didn't make me feel as much as I had hoped it would. I wanted a story that would break my heart and for me this wasn't it. I found it relatable and heart wrenching, I just didn't find it has emotional as I was hoping for. 

Overall this was an enjoyable and well written story. After seeing a preview for the film I am very excited to see it. It appears to be a very well done adaptation. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Crush Dilemma~Susan Hatler | Review

Title: The Crush Dilemma (Dear Aubrey #1)
Author: Susan Hatler
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Length: 198 Pages
Release: July 2016

I received a copy of this novel through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

This book follows Poppy, a high school junior who starts an anonymous advice column as both a way to speak her mind--without facing the consequences--and as an experiment to add to her college applications. What she doesn't know starting out, is how much of an impact this is going to have on her daily life. 

For the most part this was an enjoyable read. The main downfall was that it tried to tackle too much. Poppy had some self confidence issues, that she was trying to deal with by using Aubrey as her alter ego. There were boy issues--of course--with Poppy being torn between her long time crush and the new boy in town who actually seems to notice her. Friendship turmoil as Poppy and her two best friends are tested when they discover that they things they've always taken for granted about each other aren't the full reality. Then there is the family dynamic that we see behind the scenes of Poppy's life, where she struggles to make her single mom happy while her little brother seems to do no wrong. And don't forget the fact that she has a bully for a teacher and worries about her grade. And that is saying nothing of the that ensues because of her column, or the bullying that begins in relation to that drama. 

So this was enjoyable, and any of those things would be fine for a book on their own or in small clusters, but all of them at once was a bit overwhelming and left me feeling less than satisfied with the conclusion, which was rather abrupt. This is the first in a planned series, meaning that some of this could have spanned into the next book and made things smoother. 

The only other novels I have read by Susan Hatler are her Better Date than Never series and some of her Kissed by the Bay series, all of which are fairly self contained stories and geared more toward a grown up rather than teenage audience. So maybe the downfalls in this were the fact that the author is used to a one book story as well as writing for a different demographic. 

This was well written and I really enjoyed the premise. I will likely continue the series when book two is released, to see how it improves and where Poppy ends up in future installments. Overall it was an enjoyable read, I just wasn't wowed by it. Also, the cover is pretty great. 

Monday, December 26, 2016

Fall of Hades~Richard Paul Evans | Review

Title: Fall of Hades (Michael Vey #6)
Author: Richard Paul Evans
Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction
Length: 328 Pages (Hardcover)
Release: September 2016
My Rating: 3/5 Stars

I was somewhat rusty on the details from the previous books, since I haven't read one since the release of book five in 2015, but I did find this one quite enjoyable. The main plot seemed to be furthered much more than it has been in the previous couple of installments, which I felt were mostly filler. Everything was not all great, however.

There was some teen romance angst that I found very annoying. It really did nothing for the character or plot progression, which would have been the only real reason to include it in the first place. Taylor was also very jealous throughout, which was very irksome. And why does everyone need to have a boyfriend or girlfriend? They are all like fifteen. 

The ending was fairly interesting and brought a ton of new questions, but somehow it still lacked something for me. Book seven will be released fall of 2017, and I do look forward to finishing the series, but I would have liked a little more from this book. Still, there are questions to be answered and I look forward to seeing the final outcome of Electroclan versus Hatch. 

Friday, December 23, 2016

Catalyst~S J Kincaid | Review

Title: Catalyst (Insignia #3)
Author: S J Kincaid
Genre: YA Science Fiction
Length: 419 Pages (Paperback)
Release: October 2014
My Rating: 5/5 Stars

This final installment in the Insignia trilogy was even better than the first two, which is saying something. I honestly haven't been able to stop thinking about this book since I finished it at the beginning of the month. The term "book hangover" definitely applies here. 

Going into this I was worried that Kincaid would not be able to adequately wrap things up, because so much was left open at the end of Vortex. My fears were needless, however, because it was brilliant

This final book was 400+ pages of action, humor, heartache, and insane revelations. It made me absolutely love characters I had been unsure of, understand the twisted motivations that were driving characters, and fall in love with the world more fully. Tom is how I imagine I would have been had I been born a boy. Well, he's what I would have wanted to be. He grew so much in these final chapters of his journey. Everything he went through made me laugh out loud, cry, and just smile like a crazy person. 

Blackburn is one of the best characters through the series just for the sheer fact that he's so morally gray. You learn a lot more about him in this book, but you have to judge for yourself if it makes him a hero or not. He's done a lot of questionable things. But he's fascinating. And I, for one, loved him. 

Kincaid has created a world that I will visit again and again. It has vivid and distinct characters that are brought to life with descriptive and active writing. This is by far my favorite of the trilogy. The conclusion left me completely satisfied, but also wishing that I could live in this world with these characters for much longer. Definitely one of the highlights of my reading year.   

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Knife of Dreams~Robert Jordan | Review

Title: Knife of Dreams (Wheel of Time #11)
Author: Robert Jordan
Genre: High Fantasy
Length: 860 Pages (Paperback)
Release: October 2005
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

This was the last Wheel of Time book written by the original author and I am happy to say that he went out on a high note. I don't know that this was my favorite to this point, but it is definitely among the top three or four. The action that was somewhat lacking in the previous few installments has returned and things are progressing toward the Last Battle. 

Throughout the series I have never been able to become completely invested in any single character, which is hard for me because I love character driven stories. Perrin was my favorite character in the beginning of the series, unfortunately he has only gone down hill in the later books. His progression is definitely not one that has kept me interested. The relationship he has with Faile kind of makes me ill. It's bordering on abusive and is definitely obsessive. 

Mat is the character that has surprised me the most. He was my least favorite at the start and while there are still things that I don't particularly like about his character, I have grown to enjoy his portions of the story. They are generally more exciting than the others and right now progress the story more than anything else seems to. 

While I am not enthralled by the world that Jordan created it does fascinate me. The level of commitment and dedication that had to go into writing these novels is astounding. I am sure that I would not be able to keep track of everything. 

This was a solid installment in the series and I look forward to finishing out the final three books which were written by my favorite author Brandon Sanderson.

Monday, December 19, 2016

A Christmas Kiss~Susan Hatler | Review

Title: A Christmas Kiss (Kissed by the Bay #5)
Author: Susan Hatler
Genre: Romance
Length: 137 Pages
Release: November 2016
My Rating: 3/5 Stars

I received a copy of this novel through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Susan Hatler has a talent for creating fun and sweet romances that you can read in one or two sittings. This was definitely no exception. And one of the best things about her books is that even though most of them are a part of a series, you don't really have to read them in order. In the Kissed by the Bay series each story focuses on a different character, so it's not like you lose much by jumping around. 

Harper was a likable main character and easy to relate with. She was hurt in the past and thought that second chances were too good to be true. As a divorce attorney she was committed to helping people end hurtful relationships. 

Harper ends up stuck in a cabin over the Christmas holiday with the opposing attorney in her current divorce case. It was nice to see her thaw around him. He was really sweet and had never given her any reason to dislike him, but she was always wary of men, afraid that she would get her heard broken again. 

The romance in this was really cute (as usual), but it was a bit too faced paced for me. The entire story takes place over five days, which to me is not enough time to develop this type of a relationship. Sure the characters had met in the past, but other than a few interactions they didn't really know each other. I would have been more ok with it had they known each other on a more personal level to begin with. As is it was really cute and sweet, just not as deep as I would have liked. 

Another great thing about these is how clean they are. I am not a fan of romance novels in general because they seem heavy on sex and light on actual story. With these you get a sweet love story that focuses more on the characters getting to know each other. And of course some sweet kisses. Rarely is there anything more than that. And for me that is perfect. I really am not interested in reading explicit romance. It's just not something I want to do. So these are the perfect thing for when I want a love story because they give me that without everything else I typically associate with the romance genre. 

This was a really fun and sweet story that I very much enjoyed reading. I look forward to reading more of the books in the series in the future. 

Friday, December 16, 2016

Alterations~Stephanie Scott | Review

Title: Alterations
Author: Stephanie Scott
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Length: 237 Pages
Release: December 2016
My Rating: 3/5 Stars

I received a copy of this novel through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

There were certain things about this story that I really liked. While I am personally not a designer or into fashion, I appreciated the fact that Amelia was gifted and passionate about this. Her internship and what we got to see of her classes and experiences were a lot of fun. It was good to see a story that focused around someone furthering their talents. 

In the beginning Amelia goes to an internship in New York to study fashion and design. While I really enjoyed this aspect of the novel (and would have liked more of it, honestly), all of the lies Amelia tells were very frustrating. It started out innocently, but then progressed into a mess that I did not enjoy. I wanted to like her relationships that were developing in this new atmosphere, but until those lies were cleared away (which didn't happen for a long time), I had a hard time investing. 

The rest of the story revolved around Amelia being a fashion consultant to the girl dating the guy she had always been crushing on and helping Liam (said guy's twin) with a fashion app. With reality TV crews and confused emotions, things were bound to get out of control. 

Liam was a really likable character, but I wish he had been more confident. It seems like all computer geeks in fiction are shy or insecure, so I was hoping for a little more conviction here. Even so, he was mostly likable. I didn't feel like we got to know him all that well though. 

Amelia's conviction to take charge of her own life and not let obsessions rule her was nice and for the most part it panned out well. There were some times of relapse, but nothing overly cringe worthy. Once she realized how silly she had been for so long (and trust me, that was realistic. Many of us have been there), she started trying to figure out what she actually wanted. 

The ending to this is where I was bothered the most while reading. Everything in the last few chapters and epilogue was very rushed. There wasn't much resolution for a lot of the conflict, you didn't get to see much interaction between the characters once everything was out in the open, and it was just a little messy. I think it could have been stretched and explored a little more toward the end. 

Overall I had a lot of fun reading this and I thought it was quite well written. I will definitely consider reading any future novels from Stephanie. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Hello Me, It's You~Hannah Todd | Review

Title: Hello me, it's You
Editor: Hannah Todd
Genre: Nonfiction/Self Help/Mental Health
Length: 112 Pages
Release: October 2016
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

I received a copy of this book through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Hello me, it's you

Right now you're sixteen, it's nearly Christmas, and you probably feel more alone than you ever have before. You feel lost, like there is a deep chasm in your heart that can not be crossed. And you're making everyone listen to really angsty music, when all they really want to do is listen to all the happy Christmas stuff.

But don't let me get you down. I'm you. But I'm twenty-five now. Crazy to think it's been nearly ten years! There is so much you have accomplished in that time, even with the drastic lows and the medium highs caused by your depression. Oh, and don't forget the constant lip picking. Unfortunately that's not something you've overcome--yet.

Right now you're feeling low. The only really bright thing in your life are the horses, hold onto that. Cherish it. Joe is one of the best things that ever happened to you. And soon you will have a new horse who will help you grow even more.

You think that everyone feels the way you do, that everyone suffers from the exact same issues and that you should just get over it already but that's not true. Depression runs in our family, which you know now and will learn even more. But that doesn't mean that the whole family feels this way, or that everyone else feels this way. People will try to make you think that this is just normal "teenage" behavior or feelings. It's not. Don't let them convince you otherwise.

In the past 9.5 years, you've graduated college (a degree in math! Who would have thought it, right?), written a few more novels (though you haven't tried to publish yet), become even more obsessed with reading (and found your two all time favorite authors--listen to mom when she talks about killer clowns, you won't regret it), seen David Cook in concert (four times!), traveled to London (I know, I know. I still freak out about this one.), and made some amazing friends both near and far.

But things aren't completely wonderful. The depression still hits, though it never overcomes you quite like it did before. Trust me when I say you should go to church. Right now it seems like just another place to pretend, but it will help. I promise. You've suffered some great losses, too. I won't tell you exactly what or when, but even now you blame yourself, to a certain extent. There is always that pesky what if lurking in your thoughts. Bur you're making peace with that.

Oh, and on top of depression you now have anxiety. It manifests itself in weird ways. I guess it was always there--you'll see it in the pattern of you're life when you look back, woven in and out of those depressive episodes so smoothly you can barely differentiate the two. But you're working on it. Sometimes it threatens to consume, drag you under to depths you will not be able to escape. But it can only do that if you give it the power. So stay strong.

You aren't over the depression or anxiety or paranoia, if these are things that can ever really be overcome. But you aren't consumed by them either. There is so much to live for. Talk to people. It really does help. Even when you don't think they are listening, they are. Also, don't ignore your talents. There is so much you can learn and do that will help you and others if you just keep practicing. It's hard, but it's possible.

There is beauty in the world. I know you don't see it right now, but it's there, waiting to be discovered. And you're on your way there. And so am I. So don't give up. You've got this. Look for the miraculous in the small things.  


The above is my quick attempt at recreating a piece of this book, which is a compilation of letters written by young adults to their sixteen year old selves. Each of these young adults has suffered from some mental health issue. And each one of them has found a way to work on it. Each person is in their own stage of the path. No one is "cured," they all tell you about the struggles they still have. But they share some words of wisdom with their younger selves. And those can be quite inspiring.

One thing that I think is great about this collection is the fact that everything is left so real. It hasn't been compiled into a narrative story, it's just the letters. And it showcases how different each person is. Some of these individuals have similar struggles, some drastically different. Just because you aren't the same as everyone else does not mean that you don't matter. That is essentially the message here.

This book also does a good job of showcasing how writing can be therapeutic. Each of these individuals seem to discover something about themselves in writing these letters. In that letter I've written to myself above I've discovered things about myself that I've had a hard time seeing before. So whether you write to your past self or your future self (something I want to do), writing helps.

It's ok to suffer with mental health issues, whatever they may be. Don't be ashamed to talk about your problems. Be real.

I would recommend this to anyone who either suffers from a mental health disorder or wants to learn more about it. This isn't a textbook that will give you details on all the things mentioned, but it is the thoughts of those who are going through it, which can be even more informative. It might sound depressing, when you hear what this is about, but it's definitely not. Instead it's inspiring, because all of these people have found hope somewhere.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Vortex~S J Kincaid | Review

Title: Vortex (Insignia #2)
Author: S J Kincaid
Genre: YA Science Fiction
Length: 390 Pages (Paperback)
Release: July 2013
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

This is the stunning follow-up to Insignia. This series definitely does not suffer from middle book syndrome.

Tom and his friends are still in training at the Pentagonal Spire and now have to try and schmooze there way into the good graces of the top tier of society-the organization directors. But of course this proves difficult for Tom, who doesn't like to bend for anyone.

In this installment we see Tom, Vik, Wyatt, and Yuri's relationship tested as it never has been before. You see them grow apart, grow together, and grow up. Sometimes it's painful, but it's all worth it. There's also new information on Blackburn, a character who lives between morally gray lines.

The world in this is frightening and fascinating at once. It's really well crafted and pulls you right in. All of the simulations that Tom and his friends go through are thrilling. You never know when something crazy is going to happen or in what form it will appear.

More information about Medusa is made known, rounding her character out more fully. And yes, you find out her real name! There are some great moments between her and Tom. And some terrible ones. It all depends on perspective.

This book made me laugh and it nearly made me cry. It was extremely powerful. And that ending was absolutely amazing. I highly recommend this to anyone who likes sci-fi for young adults that focuses around computers and a society ruled by technology.

Friday, December 9, 2016

The One Dollar Horse~Lauren St John | Review

Title: The One Dollar Horse (The One Dollar Horse #1)
Author: Lauren St John
Genre: YA Contemporary/Equestrian
Length: 326 Pages (Paperback)
Release: 2012
My Rating: 3/5 Stars

I picked this book up earlier this year when I was in London. Being an equestrian, I'm always interested in trying out horse novels. And I had just been to cross country day at Badminton, so that was an extra encouragement for me to read this.

While I really enjoyed the overall flow of the story, I found it too unbelievable to really be pulled in. It had a very fairy tale vibe that I think it would have benefited without. Yes, it's possible this one dollar horse could become a champion, it's even possible that Casey could be the rider to get him there. It was more the amount of time and lack of experience leading up to this event that I found unrealistic. They just didn't have enough time or training to improve that much. I know everything doesn't have to be realistic, and generally I'm fine with that, I just would have liked a little more realism from this.

The characters were somewhat lacking in development. I found Casey's father completely infuriating and he never grew on me. After some of the things he did, I don't think I could have forgiven him. But maybe Casey is just a better person than I am. Casey and the rest of the characters were also lacking though. Although we followed Casey's story and spent a lot of time with her, I never really felt like I got to know her. It seemed like a strange dream that I was watching from a distance.

While this definitely had it's faults, I did enjoy it overall. The horsey descriptions were quite good and I felt like I was in the moment at times. It often reminded me of the bonds I've had with my horses over the years, which was nice. The underdog story is always a fun one to follow, so it was nice to see Storm and Casey come out on top, even if I didn't think the journey was the best.

The story does have some romance, but it's very minor. It almost reads like a middle grade book. I think it's targeted for young adults and adults, but would work for a younger reader. None of the romance or criminal activity is ever explored in too great a detail to be unsuitable for a nine or ten year old.

Enjoyable and overall well written story. I don't think I will continue the series, but I'm sure that if you like horses and equestrian competition you would enjoy this read.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets~J K Rowling | Review

Title: The Chamber of Secrets (Harry Potter #2)
Author: J K Rowling
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Length: 341 Pages (Hardback)
Release: July 1998
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

I first read this book when I was ten years old. My parents gave me the first two books for Christmas right after the movie came out. I don't remember my initial thoughts on first reading it, though I remember not enjoying it nearly as much as the first or third books, which I read just before and just after this one.

Over the years I've read this book four or five times and each time it's somewhat of a chore to get through. For some reason it has always been my least favorite of the series, though I can't place my finger on exactly why. This time I had no problem getting through it and really enjoyed finally reading this again, since my last read was probably ten years ago.

Fred and George continue to be my favorite characters. We only really ever get glimpses of them throughout the books, but they are genuinely good people. I don't know that I really appreciated them as much when I was younger, though I found them very funny.

This one was a lot spookier than I remembered, but not in a bad way. All of the dealings with the chamber of secrets and the writings on the wall were eerie and I could see how it would be an unsettling read for a young audience, though it wasn't for me at ten.

While I really enjoy this series and the overall world building for the books, I don't find the characters that well developed. For the most part they all seem somewhat flat to me. Harry, Ron, and Hermione have some character development, but it never really feels like you get to know them. The narrative style seems too removed from them personally, or emotionally, for me to really connect.

One thing that I find excellent in this volume (and likely in the ones to follow), is the foreshadowing. So many things are laid out for us here, if only we stop to look. I definitely noticed more things this time around.

Lockhart was a difficult character to read about, though he did add a lot of comic relief to the story. The ending was somewhat abrupt, without a lot of action or real resolution. Everything seemed to just be tied up in a couple of chapters.

This is another solid book in the series and I am really excited for my reread of book three. It's fun to see what my adult self thinks of the series so many years later.

Monday, December 5, 2016

The Boy Who Runs~John Brant | Review

Title: The Boy Who Runs
Author: Julius Achon and John Brant
Genre: Nonfiction/Biography
Length: 272 Pages
Release: August 2016
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

I received a copy of this novel through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I don't read a lot of nonfiction, but I've been wanting to broaden my reading in that regard so when I came across this on Netgalley I decided to request it. I don't know if I had ever heard of Julius Achon, but his story sounded inspiring and important.

This book goes through Julius's life, from when he was a small child in the village of Awake, to his adult life running a nonprofit organization to help the people of Uganda. He faced a lot of opposition through his life and I am sure continues to face it today. He was kidnapped as a young child and forced into a rebel army, he escaped and became a world class runner, he competed in two Olympic Games, and through all of this he felt a responsibility to his family in Uganda.

Julius has an inspiring story and I would love to learn more about the work he is doing to better the lives of his countrymen. This book was definitely eye opening about the things that have happened in Uganda in recent history. Julius Achon is only around forty years old right now, he was made a boy soldier only a few years before I was born. This information would be shocking to a lot of the people who live near me. So many people are blind to the happenings around the world; I know I am not nearly has informed as I could be. We live in a world information, where you can find out almost anything at the click of a button, but until someone points you toward it, there are lots of things you would probably overlook. For that reason alone this is a good book. It gives you an honest view of what life in Uganda was like for Julius, what it is like for his family.

One of the best things about this book is the style in which it is presented. It reads more like a novel than a textbook, which I think is important. It presents the facts but formatted into a story, sometimes jumping backward and forward in time to connect certain events, instead of being dry and a chore to read. And this does not lessen its impact or message in the slightest.

This is an important book and I think a lot of people would benefit from reading it. The Achon Uganda Children's Fund (the organization that Julius started alongside his close friends) seems to be a very helpful and inspiring organization. And having the background of where Julius came from, why he wanted to start the organization in the first place, and how it came to be makes it that much more powerful. It's something that I am looking forward to researching more.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

My Absence

You may have noticed that my appearance on this blog has dwindled over the past few weeks. While I was away at Yallfest earlier this month my computer, unfortunately, decided he didn't want to function any longer. And so I am now computer hunting. And writing blog posts on a tablet or phone is murder on my wrists. Plus, it's a pain getting images to work.

I should be acquiring another computer shortly and be back to regular book reviews and posts very soon. If you have any recommendations on a good laptop, feel free to comment and let me know!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Insignia~S J Kincaid

Title: Insignia (Insignia #1)
Author: S J Kincaid
Genre: YA Sciene fiction
Length: 446 Pages (Paperback)
Release: July 2012
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Insignia has been on my reading list for years, probably since it was released in 2012. And it's one of those books that I am mad at myself for not picking up sooner. It has the same feel as several other YA sci-if books that I've read, but I always enjoy them, even with their similarities. And this was no different. 

Tom was a likable main character that it was easy to relate with. He lives in a society where technology is used for everything, including warfare. WWIII is underway in the beginning, but instead of being fought on land with human casualties, the war is fought in space. And instead of being nation against nation, it's corporation against corporation. Tom is a skilled gamer and is recruited to train for a top secret military position controlling the battleships used to fight. For Tom, who has no friends and moves from casino to casino with his father, trying to win just one more time, this is a dream come true. And this is where the real story begins.

The cast of characters in this was so much fun. Tom is cocky at times but also not perfect. He makes mistakes, isn't the smartest among his group of friends, and has flaws that make him human. Vic, Wyat, and Yuri, the friends he makes when he starts training are all a lot of fun. Each of them brings something different to the group. And watching their bonds form is great. 

The story has a lot of action and plenty of room for expansion. There are corrupt rulers and corporation executives. A lot of computer lingo and fun programming debacles. There are moments that made me shiver, considering what it would be like to potentially have someone else with the power to control me in their hands. 

This society and story are excellent. S J Kincaid is a skilled story teller and I look forward to continuing Tom's journey with him. I would highly recommend this book to those who enjoy YA sci-fi. It's not read enough and she really deserves more of an audience for her work. So do yourself a favor and pick this up.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The Last Ever After~Soman Chainani | Review

Title: The Last Ever After (The School for Good and Evil #3)
Author: Soman Chainani
Genre: YA Fantasy/Fairytale
Length: 655 Pages (Hardback)
Release: July 2015
My Rating: 2/5 Stars

I had a very hard time with this series, unfortunately. The first book was very enjoyable and had some interesting and different concepts. After that I was really excited for the two books following, expecting more of the same fun and twist on fairy tales. Unfortunately, for me, that was not the case. 

The Last Ever After picks up where book two left off. Agatha and Tedros are constantly fighting, hardly able to stand each other as they share a house with Agatha's mother. Of course they end up going back into the woods to rescue Sophie and all sorts of crazy things ensue. Because the woods are very different now. Even more than they were the last time. 

One thing that really bothers me about this series is the fact that there is almost no character development. Particularly where Sophie is concerned. She's a taker and never a giver. That doesn't change, no matter how many chances she has. All that books two and three in this series do is recycle all of the old issues that were had with these characters, making them cycle back and forth, never really progressing. 

The ending was not particularly satisfying. Some of the characters made sudden decisions that didn't really seem to fit. Some of the revelations made seemed too convenient, too put together. And there was still no hint of development with certain characters. 

Agatha was my favorite throughout the books, but even she became annoying. She was a giver and never a taker, opposite of Sophie. And she just continued to let people walk all over her. 

The Agatha/Tedros relationship had some cute moments, but they were vastly overshadowed by the amount of annoying angst surrounding them. And Tedros, who could have been such an interesting character, was reduced to just another silly boy who wants people to think more of them than they do but never gives them a reason to do so. 

Dot, Anadil, and Hester were the high point in the series. They were more complex than any other characters, with both good and evil in them. And unlike everyone else, there was some development that happened with these three. 

This series is targeted at a middle grade audience, but I wouldn't personally classify it for that age range. It's written as if it's middle grade, as far as conflict resolution and overall structure, but there was too much of a focus on romance for it to really fit that age range. I definitely wouldn't recommend this to my niece and nephew who fall in that age range. 

This is unfortunately a series that I would recommend. It had a few good points but was overall a disappointment. 

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Crossroads of Twilight~Robert Jordan | Review

Title: Crossroads of Twilight (Wheel of Time #10)
Author: Robert Jordan
Genre: High Fantasy
Length: 847 Pages (Paperback)
Release: December 2003
My Rating: 3/5 Stars

I was really worried going into this book. I've already invested a lot of time in the series by this point, but this is the one that I've heard the worst things about. Everyone tells me they are disappointed with it. So I had low expectations and expected it to be a drag. Luckily, I did not find this to be the case. 

In the beginning of the series, Mat was my least favorite character. Now he might possibly be my favorite. He's grown more interesting while so many of the others have remained stagnant. Perrin was my favorite at the start, but I am not really a fan of what has been done with his character. Some of it I understand, but overall I don't like the direction he was taken. 

While book 9 had a lot of plot progression, this one does go back to the stagnant story lines of books 7 and 8. Plot wise, not much happens. But I still found that it flowed better than I had expected and was enjoyable to read. 

It's hard for me to connect with the characters in this series, which I don't like. Characters are the most important part for me and I don't like that I don't really care for them. Jordan's character development is very lacking for me, and is particularly bad with women (though it's really not much better with men). Almost all of the women are the exact same, which is not realistic. 

Another thing that continues to annoy me with these series are lines like these: "she folded her arms under her breasts." Really, we get it. Women have breasts and more often than not, when folding arms they do fold them under their breasts. But you don't have to point this out every single time a woman folds her arms. This would honestly cut out a few hundred pages if you went through and removed this.  

Overall this was an enjoyable read. The plot was not progressed much, but there was some interesting character exploration in portions. I am hopeful that book 11 will be an improvement.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Diabolic~S J Kincaid | Review

Title: The Diabolic
Author: S J Kincaid
Genre: YA Science Fiction
Length: 416 Pages
Release: November 2016
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

I received a copy of this novel through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I've wanted to read an S J Kincaid novel for a long time and for some reason have never picked one up. When I found this on Netgallye the premise was so promising that I had to request it. And I am very glad that I did. 

From the blurb I was not entirely sure what I would get in picking this up. In a lot of ways this exceeded my expectations greatly. Nemesis, the main character who is a Diabolic--a special type of humanoid creature created to act as a body guard for a certain individual--was a very compelling main character. She was created and taught that she could only love one person, that she could not feel regular human emotions, that she was a thing rather than a person. It was a fantastic journey as she grew and faced who she was, what she was, and who she wanted to be. 

The writing style, while not overly complex, was utterly compelling. Nemesis was forced to charade as Donia, the only person that mattered in her world, in the clutches of the society's evil emperor. The way her journey was constructed and presented was beautifully done. You could feel what she felt as she tried to come to terms with the emotions that she was never supposed to have. 

There was some romance in this, but I really liked the way it was done. It wasn't forced or overly dramatic. It was real in a way that is completely skipped over by so many novels I read these days. 

There is violence, political intrigue, and manipulation. But none of it is over the top. And it reads so seamlessly and quickly. The beginning is somewhat slow and a few things were not explained/explored as I would have liked, but that was easily trumped by all of the things that I did like. 

The ending was wonderful. It was so open. There are so many different ways that things could be interpreted and so many things that could have happened after the novel ended, some good, some bad. And I loved that about it. This was a very solid read and I look forward to reading more by S J Kincaid in the future. 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Unblemished~Sara Ella | Review

Title: Unblemished (Unblemished #1)
Author: Sara Ella
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Length: 362 Pages (Hardback)
Release: October 2016
My Rating: 3/5 Stars

I received a copy of this novel through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
*I would also like to thank the publisher for the physical copy of this novel that I won through their giveaway on goodreads.*

This is a book that I've been looking forward to reading for around a year now. Sara Ella is a booktube friend and when she announced her debut novel I was extremely excited for her. And I must say that she did an excellent job with this. 

Urban fantasy tends not to be a genre that I reach for all that often. I prefer high fantasy stories and find most urban fantasy disappointing. I am happy to say that I was pleasantly surprised by this book. I wanted to enjoy it, was worried I wouldn't, and still did enjoy it a lot. The genre is not one that I often reach for, but the story of the fight between good and evil is a classic plot line that I almost always enjoy. And it was presented very well here. 

The writing in this was really good. There were some stylistic decisions that I was not particularly fond of, but overall I found the writing very beautiful and easily read. The story is filled with great pop culture references and superb musical metaphors that made it a lot of fun to read. 

Sara Ella's world building was great. There are some things that I found slightly lacking in clarity, but overall the world created was vivid and complex. In the beginning it was a bit difficult to keep track of everything that was rapidly introduced, but it does become easier as the story progresses. The fight between Verity and the Void, the Talents, the idea of the various Reflections, it all comes together to create something fascinating. So while I still have some questions and clarifications I am waiting for, I did really enjoy what I got in the world building aspect of things. 

The characters were a bit difficult for me to connect with. Even Eliyana, our first person narrator, was a bit difficult for me to really understand at times. The only issues I really had with the writing were through her inner dialogue, which I found rather clumsy at times. Until around the halfway point I didn't really feel like I knew anything about the characters. Toward the end it was made clear why that was done and necessary, but it didn't work for me in a lot of ways. I need to be invested in the characters to be invested in the story and it was hard to begin with. Particularly with Joshua (who I still don't love). 

I am not a fan of love triangles in general, so the one in here was somewhat frustrating. It was more that I felt Eliyana was too obsessive over Joshua in the beginning. This got better as the story progressed, but without any of the details behind their relationship it was a point of annoyance for a majority of the book. Ky, the other love interest, was an interesting and likable character. I found him much easier to relate to and understand. 

The ending was exciting, but some of the events were a little jumbled and left me with questions. The outcome was also slightly different than I was hoping it would be. Luckily there is a second book coming out next summer, so I have hope that many of my questions will be answered. This was a very solid debut and Sara Ella has showcased that she is a very talented and creative writer. I am very excited to see where this story goes and how Sara grows as an author.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Tuesday Talks | Halloween Reads

Tuesday Talks is a goodreads discussion group created by Janie and Janelle for booktubers and bloggers to discuss book related topics.

This week's topic is all about books to read for Halloween. Personally I am not really into horror books nor do I have certain books that I read for specific holidays every year, but I would like to recommend a trilogy that I think would be perfect Halloween reads.

The Jasper Dent trilogy by Barry Lyga is a trilogy of young adult novels that I read in 2014. It surrounds Jazz, our titular main character, as he struggles to determine if his upbringing will determine his future, or if that's in his control.

It's a somewhat dark read, but not overly gory or anything. Jazz's father is a serial killer and in an effort to distance himself from that image and use his knowledge for good, Jazz starts investigating a string of murders and aiding the police. Things get twisty and crazy along the way and it spirals into a longer connection with people that Jazz never expected.

This has a great cast of characters and an interesting concept. It would be perfect for someone to read over Halloween, particularly if they want something with a bit of suspense and horror without it being terrifying.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Favorite Reads | July-September 2016

Here are some of the books that were my favorite during the third quarter of 2016. I was able to get quite a lot of reading done and read some great books. I would love to know what your favorites were during this quarter.

Graphic novels can be difficult for me to read, including one adapted from the writing of Brandon Sanderson. There's a lot of sensory input and it often gives me headaches. Once I figured out what worked best for me while read, however, I was hooked. White Sand introduces a new magic system and a fascinating cast of characters into Sanderson's Cosmere universe. It lacks some of the development that his full novels have, but for a graphic novel I thought it was excellent.

Emery Lord and The Start of Me and You took me completely by surprise. I absolutely adored it. It has excellent familial relationships, stellar friendships, and the cutest slow burn romance. It's one of my absolute favorite books of the year thus far and I look forward to reading it again and again.

This follow up to Stay the Distance was excellent. It has all of the horsey goodness I've come to expect from Mara as well as complicated family dynamics, unsteady romances, and some solid friendships. All Heart has more of everything you love about Stay the Distance and leaves enough open for the next installment. If you like horse related books, Thoroughbred racing, or young adult contemporary/romances in general, this is a series for you.

S J Kincaid has been an author on my reading list for years now. And I can finally say that I have read one of her novels and it was great. The Diabolic was different than I expected, but in all the best ways. Nemesis was learning to feel and accept emotions that she never thought she could have. It's set in space. Tyrus was a genius. This is a fast-paced exciting young adult novel and I am exited to read more from Kincaid in the future.

This conclusion to Sanderson's middle grade series is fast-paced, humorous, and exciting. The Dark Talent is darker than the previous books in the series, but has a fair amount of humor as well. And what an ending. Have we seen the last of Alcatraz and company? Only time will tell.

 If you want an honest look at mental illness that doesn't sugar coat but also doesn't shove things in your face, Challenger Deep is the book for you. It's a stunning look at what mental illness looks like, how its treated, what happens when love and medicine aren't enough, and has a realistic ending that is often shied away from in young adult literature. This was an extremely powerful read and I know I will be adding it to my collection.

While not as powerful as Six of Crows, Crooked Kingdom was a solid follow up to that book. And also an excellent conclusion to the duology. There was further exploration of the characters, new developments in relationships, insane odds and impossible feats, and hints at what may still be to come in the Grishaverse. Leigh Bardugo has such a beautiful writing style and it comes alive through Kaz and his crew of misfit thieves.

This is a novel that I read after a recommendation from my mother. Uncle Petros and Goldbach's Conjecture deals with a mathematician who became obsessed with proving the conjecture mentioned in the title. The narrative style was so cleverly used and compelling. It blends these fictional characters in seamlessly with real mathematicians during their time among the greats.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Fever at Dawn~Peter Gardos | Review

Title: Fever at Dawn
Author: Peter Gardos
Genre: Historical/WWII Fiction
Length: 224 Pages
Release: April 2016 (First published 2010)
My Rating: 3/5 Stars

I received a copy of this novel through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

This is a novelization of the story of the author's parents, Miklos and Lili, who were both survivors of the Holocaust. Miklos wrote to over 100 Hungarian girls after the war, hoping to find love. And thus began his correspondence with Lili.

In the beginning I wasn't sure I would enjoy this. They first 50 or so pages were very difficult for me to connect with. I had a hard time really connecting with the characters, although I did feel for them. Once I got past this first part I enjoyed the story much more. 

One of the things that worked best was the epistolary style. It was not an entirely epistolary novel, but included many letters (or fragments of letters) throughout. This gave more of a connection with the two central characters and their emotions. This was the aspect of the novel that I thought worked best. 

The focus of the novel was not the horrors that the characters faced during their time in Concentration Camps, but this did have an impact on the story. It is always heartbreaking to hear about the things that people have endured during wars, but it can also be inspirational to see how they survive and what they do afterward. 

The novel follows the events after that first letter and how Miklos and Lili fall in love. It's often quite sweet and has some bitter moments as they each face issues with health and friends. Not everyone is as thrilled with their love as they are, quietly working to sabotage their chances. 

This was a translation so I don't know if that has anything to do with the aspects of the writing style that didn't work for me. The main thing that held me back from enjoying this even more than I did was the way the narrator (or author) interjected himself into the story. This worked well to introduce the reader to the fact that the story was about his parents, and at the end to wrap up their story, but I found it pulled me out of Miklos and Lili's story when the narrator referred to himself in the first person. 

Overall I found this to be a very enjoyable novel. There were sweet moments as well as sad, love found and love lost. I would recommend this to those interested in stories involving Holocaust survivors, WWII, or the epistolary form.

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Moon and More~Sarah Dessen | Review

Title: The Moon and More
Author: Sarah Dessen
Genre: YA Contemporary/Romance
Length: 435 Pages (Hardcover)
Release: June 2013
My Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

While not my favorite of Dessen's novels, I did really enjoy this one. Emaline was a likable main character, though she made some decisions that had me quite angry with her at times. A lot of her insecurities were understandable. So let me tell you about the things I did and didn't like.

The family dynamic. Emaline had a strong family with her mother, dad, and two sisters. But she also had her biological father who things were not so great with. This was done so well. It was great to see her strong relationship with the family she grew up with, but also her desire to have some form of connection with the father who was never around. She wasn't trying to downgrade her dad or push away her sisters, she just wanted love from the man that should have taken care of her in the beginning. Her half-brother Benji was also great. There relationship was so sweet.

The friendships. Emaline's best friend Morris was such a great character. And her other best friend Daisy was great too. They were just genuinely good people. And you could see them and their relationship with Emaline growing and morphing as the novel progressed. I just wish this had been more of a focus, these two didn't get the attention they deserved. I also really liked Luke, Emaline's boyfriend in the beginning of the novel.

The ending. The conclusion to this was extremely satisfying. Emaline grew up a lot, made some great connections, made new friends, learned from her mistakes, and the possibility of her working out a relationship in the future was left open and possible, without being forced. It was rather different from a lot of Dessen's endings, but for this one in particular it really worked.

There's really only two main dislikes: Emaline's father and Theo. These two characters were extremely bothersome. Theo seemed sweet enough and cute in the beginning, but the more you got to know him the more you realized how much of a user he was. He was really only out for his own interests and expected everyone else to follow his lead. Particularly Emaline, who he saw as an unrefined country girl. And her father was very similar. He couldn't see what his children (particularly Benji) needed because he was too busy thinking about what he needed and wanted. It was ridiculous.

Overall I really enjoyed this and thought the story arc was satisfying. There are some things I would have liked to see more of or done differently, but it was enjoyable and had some great relationships and life lessons.      

Friday, October 14, 2016

Uncle Petros and Goldbach's Conjecture~Apostolos Doxiadis | Review

Title: Uncle Petros & Goldbach's Conjecture
Author: Apostolos Doxiadis
Genre: Historical Fiction
Length: 224 Pages
Release: 1992
My Rating: 5/5 Stars

I read Uncle Petros and Goldbach's Conjecture after it was referred to me by my mother. We both enjoy studying mathematics (it's what I have my degree in) and she enjoyed this historical account of a man obsessed with solving Goldbach's Conjecture, one of the most famous unsolved mathematical statements. 

What makes this novel great is not the mathematical genius that it delivers. In fact, if you're worried that you wouldn't enjoy it because it might be too "mathy," you would be mistaken. While math problems are discussed and the main characters are mathematicians, this is not an overly technical book. No, what makes it great is the writing style. It's a very compelling and readable story. It's just so cleverly put together. 

The name of the first person narrator is never mentioned. All you know is that he is the nephew of Uncle Petros. You know the names of several other people in his family, his college roommate, but his own name is never of importance to the story that he is relating. Because it's Petros' story. Not his. I am not sure that I have ever read a book constructed quite like this one, but I very much enjoyed it. 

This is a historical novel, so it weaves together actual events and people. Famous mathematicians make appearances. And all of it is blended so smoothly together. Doxiadis obviously did his research. 

The novel is very much a novel of mathematical obsession. Petros, a brilliant young mathematician, became obsessed with solving one of the great problems so that his name would be always remembered by mathematicians, not cast aside because he only contributed minor proofs. And so he tackled Goldbach's Conjecture. The progression of this obsession and what it did to his life was very interesting to follow.

Having an appreciation for mathematics would probably give readers more enjoyment while reading this book, but I don't think it's strictly necessary. The writing and story construction stand on their own very well.  

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Crooked Kingdom~Leigh Bardugo | Review

Title: Crooked Kingdom (The Dregs #2)
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Genre: YA Fantasy
Length: 546 Pages (Hardcover)
Release: September 2016
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

This was one of my most anticipated reads of the year. Six of Crows was one of my favorite reads last year and I reread it in preparation for this conclusion. I liked it even better the second time around. 

Crooked Kingdom picks up where the previous installment left off, with Kaz and crew trying to salvage their job and get their money. This one has more focus on action that the first novel, which I enjoyed but also found rather frustrating. One things that makes Six of Crows such a stand out is the exploration of the characters, which I found somewhat lacking here. 

The character focus for this one is more centered around Jesper and Wylan than anyone else, since they didn't get as much attention in the first book. It was nice to see some of their history, but I missed learning about Kaz and Inej. Nina and Matthias probably got about the same amount of attention in this one. 

There were a lot of moments that I really appreciated in this. Overall it was an extremely satisfying conclusion. There was action, character development, beautiful writing, great friendships, and some really powerful messages. Bardugo's writing is stunning.

Near the end there was an event that I found rather disappointing and unnecessary. I feel that it was there because Bardugo felt she had to do something of the sort and not actually because she wanted to. Perhaps that's just me, I just got really irritated with this one thing. While the beginning was less captivating than I had hoped, it was this one thing that really knocked off that one star on my rating. 

Overall the ending was very satisfying. We knew where each of our main characters were headed and it was mostly filled with hope. There is definitely room open for more exploration in this world with these characters and I very much hope that we get more with them in the future.  

Monday, October 10, 2016

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone~ J K Rowling | Review

Title: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Harry Potter #1)
Author: J K Rowling
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Length: 309 Pages (Paperback)
Release: June 1997
My Rating: 5/5 Stars

I read this novel for the first time almost fifteen years ago. While I have read it a few other times since then, this is the first time I've read it in around ten years. I was a bit worried that I would not enjoy it as much now that I'm an adult, but luckily that was not the case. 

Rowling has a very nice and easy to follow writing style. The style of the narrative is not my favorite style, and the writing is not the most captivating I have ever read, but she is a very talented writer with a great story to tell. 

There were a few things that I reacted to differently as an adult than I did as a child. A few events toward the end of the novel were less believable for me now, but still very much enjoyed. I just found it hard to believe that these seemingly brilliant professors would put their students in so much danger, often knowingly. 

The friendship between Harry, Ron, and Hermione has such a real beginning that I found believable and greatly enjoyed. They are all very different from each other (particularly Hermione), but their friendship works really well. 

For a middle grade novel the pacing is just about perfect. Everything is explained with enough detail without being overly wordy or descriptive. And for being so short and fast paced the writing and scenes are very vivid. 

The cast of characters is great and I am really looking forward to rereading the rest of this series. This is a childhood favorite and I think it will continue to be a favorite for a very long time.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Life Expectancy~Dean Koontz | Review

Title: Life Expectancy
Author: Dean Koontz
Genre: Thriller
Length: 335 Pages (Hardcover)
Release: 2004
My Rating: 5/5 Stars

I started reading Dean Koontz when I took a semester off of college five years ago. While searching my house for something to read I found my mother's copy of Life Expectancy and immediately started reading it. This initial reading started what would become my "Koontz" phase. I read around 19 of his novels from September-November of 2011 and I have been a fan ever since. 

All of that just tells you that I have read this book before and that I absolutely adored it. Perhaps adore doesn't seem like an appropriate word to describe my feelings for a thriller/horror novel, but adore it I do. There is just something magical about Jimmy Tock and his "five terrible days." There is something special about the closeness of his family, the descriptions of food, the exploration of what it means to be good and what it means to be evil. This book delivers

The novel is split into several sections that outline what happens to Jimmy on the "five terrible days" his grandfather predicts are in store for him. The events span just over 30 years, from Jimmy's birth to the final of his terrible days. And there is a lot of terror within those days. 

One thing that I appreciate most about reading Koontz is the humor, and this book has more than perhaps any other that I have read. There are moments of laugh out loud worthy dialogue, even in the most dire of circumstances. This, more than anything, is what keeps the horror at bay. To lose your sense of humor is to lose a crucial part of what makes you you.  

To delve into the specifics of the story would be taking away the chance that you (whoever might be reading this), will lose the the magic that it has to offer. Just know these things: clowns can be scary, a beautiful face does not make a beautiful person, family is more than blood, nothing is lost as long as there's cake, and laughter can brighten the darkest of days. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Truthwitch~Susan Dennard | Review

Title: Truthwitch (The Witchlands #1)
Author: Susan Dennard
Genre: YA Fantasy
Length: 416 Pages Hardcover
Release: January 2016
My Rating: 3/5 Stars

I went into Truthwitch with a mix of expectations, not necessarily high or low expectations. I was hoping for a fun read and it was, I was expecting an epic female friendship and don't feel that it really delivered.

For the first few chapters of this in my head I just kept saying "this is kind of silly" which seems strange, since it's a fantasy novel (my favorite genre) and not entirely different from many fantasy novels that I have absolutely adored. There was just nothing about the characters upon introduction or the writing in the beginning that grabbed my attention. Merik was the only character that I actually enjoyed upon first introduction. I found his story quite interesting.

The friendship between Safi and Isuelt was not what I expected. It was probably around the halfway point that I finally started to have any appreciation for this pair. There was little background in the beginning about why they were friends, how they met, what bound them together. They were devoted to each other, which I appreciated, but without much building of that relationship. I wanted more of their history and what made them such a great team.

I found the magic system in this quite compelling. The concept of the various types of witches and how each of them had certain strengths and not all of the same type of witch had the same powers was an interesting concept. But some of it was still not very clear.

The political aspect of this was somewhat lacking for me. There wasn't enough background to explain the political tension. The main characters seemed to distance themselves from the problems of their kingdoms (aside from Merik, of course). It had the foundation for an interesting system and conflict, but didn't really deliver.

There was a great deal of character development as the story progressed, which I did really appreciate. None of the characters were still very captivating to me, but I did grow to appreciate them more. The ending was interesting but didn't leave me very eager for the sequel. It's focus is going to be Merik though, so I may give it a chance since I liked him the best. 

Monday, October 3, 2016

Challenger Deep~Neal Shusterman | Review

Title: Challenger Deep
Author: Neal Shusterman
Genre: YA Contemporary/Mental Health
Length: 308 Pages
Release: April 2015
My Rating: 5/5 Stars

I have yet to read a Neal Shusterman book that I did not enjoy and this is one that I have been wanting to read for a while now. Going into this I didn't really know much about it (which is the way I like it), but it was so much more than I expected.

The main story follows Caden, a boy who suffers from mental illness. It never gives you an exact diagnosis, which I thought was a good thing. I guess you could say he was schizophrenic, but, as discussed in the book, no diagnosis is 100% accurate because no two people are the same. Things manifest in very different ways.

I've read a few other books that deal with mental illness, but I've never read one that I believe portrayed it so well. This was beautifully written and crafted, with a heartbreaking story and characters, but wasn't so over the top that it was too depressing to appreciate what was going on. I think that's where my issues with other books come in. They try to be too hard hitting and in doing so lose a lot of the emotional factor they could have otherwise. But this did not do that.

It's also kind of a mystery as you piece together the various aspects of the story into one "real" story. Which is one of my favorite techniques in writing, though I have never seen it presented quite like this.

There were some extremely emotional moments for me in this book. I've suffered from major depression my entire life and some of this story was so real to me that it was frightening. Watching Caden fall further and further below his obsessive hallucinations and paranoia hit very close to home. And it broke my heart.

This is an extremely honest look at what it's like to suffer from a mental illness. It doesn't turn it into a glamorous thing or give you an easy fix. It just tells it like it is, ugly and beautiful pieces together. And I loved it for that. So if you're looking for a book that will give you an insightful and honest look at mental illness, look no further. Challenger Deep has what you're looking for.   

Friday, September 30, 2016

All Heart~Mara Dabrishus | Review

Title: All Heart (Stay the Distance #2)
Author: Mara Dabrishus
Genre: YA Contemporary/Sports/Equestrian/Romance
Length: 246 Pages
Release: September 2016
My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

I received a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Stay the Distance was one of my favorite reads in 2015, so I was eagerly awaiting the release of this sequel. It was only on my kindle for a matter of hours before I started reading, devouring this in hours. And I was not disappointed. 

There are some frustrating things in this novel, so let me go ahead and tell you about that. July was somewhat frustrating, but so realistic. One of the things that drove me the most crazy about her was her inability to communicate, but I think this really only bothered me because it resonates so deeply with me. Communication is definitely not my strong point. There are also certain relationships that were left with more gray areas than I would have liked (but there is another book coming, so I have hopes that will be resolved). July was also slightly more judgemental than I remember from Stay the Distance, but I think that had more to do with the stress she was dealing with from family, school, horses, and friends. Finding a good balance can be difficult in life, so even though this was frustrating, it made sense.

The thing that I continue to praise about Mara is her ability to write horses and actually make me feel like I'm there with them. So often this doesn't come through well in writing, but in these books it's done beautifully. I always feel like I'm there in the moment, working alongside July and everyone else. That, to me, is magic. Horses are one of my absolute favorite things about life and I want to read about them in a way that makes them live for everyone, not just those of us lucky enough to spend every day in their company. Mara makes them live.    

These books are not just horse books though, so never fear. July has a lot going on with her family. A sister who is there but could disappear at any second. A mother who left only to show up expecting to mend what was so thoroughly broken. A father who sees everything but has just as much trouble communicating as July herself. And then the problem of friends. Bri, the best friend she should be rooming with at college instead of ditching to train horses, who is calling her to come to the city. Beck, her maybe-boyfriend who resides in a world far removed from her own. And of course everything converges at once, making this a memorable few months for July. 

If you wanted more after reading Stay the Distance, then All Heart delivers. More horses. More Lighter and Kali. More family drama. More July and Beck. More pain and more growth. A solid follow-up that I would highly recommend. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Complete Self-Publishing Guide~Hank Quense | Review

Title: The Complete Self-Publishing Guide
Author: Hank Quense
Genre: Self Help, Publishing
Release: October 2016
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

This collection of self-publishing guides is a very valuable resource for those looking to take this route with their own writing. Quense pulls from his own experience as a self-published author to give the best advice that he can. 

This book deals with a variety of topics including how to budget for your project, resources for finding cover designers, editors, etc., marketing, and many other avenues of the process. The author also includes some of his own writing strategies with outlines and other helpful tidbits on his process. 

Quense is very honest about what to expect from your first (maybe even several) self-published project. Going into the process thinking you are going to make a load of money, quit your job, and write for the rest of your life is not a realistic expectation. It might happen for a few people, but the vast majority will have to publish a lot before they begin actually making money from their projects. This reminder comes up a lot throughout the book, but he also encourages you not to become discouraged. Everything takes hard work. Eventually that work can pay off. 

If you are searching for a guide that will help you through the process of self-publishing your first book, this is a great resource. The advice comes from the atuthor's personal experience doing exactly what you're looking to do. The tone of this is a bit of a challenge at times, reading more like a textbook than a guide, but the information presented is very well done and helpful.