Thursday, June 22, 2017

A Cold Coast Werewolf in Lyssia • Macky Reads The Wereworld Series

This series was fun. It was fast paced, and creative in ways where you think the author is going to go for one trope, but then follows up with a totally different one. I appreciate that. Not because I’m snooty about tropes, but because I know how difficult it is to blend just the right elements of plot and story around existing tropes to come up with something unique.

Enter the reluctant hero of our tale, Drew Ferran, destiny looming and very little left to work with as the stakes get higher. I’ve followed enough tales about reluctant heroes to appreciate just where Curtis Jobling took him. Tragedy strikes, friends and allies take sides across a line drawn by enemies and everyone’s destinies unfold in a six part series that takes us basically all over the known world. Much adventure. Such fun.

It’s a lot of your usual “more than meets the eye type hero comes into a power and destiny that stretches back long before he ever came to be mixed up in the whirlwind events that will decide the fate of the known world” type story. But there are a lot of chaotic anti-tropey twists that are surprise enough to any reader invested in Drew’s journey.

Two things draw me in to any story: characters I care about, set against the backdrop of a lush and interesting world. It was either very cheeky or cheesy of the author to name the series Wereworld given that the places, kingdoms, history and peoples in the story are pretty amazing. I mean, yes, it is a medieval world populated by humans and people who can transform into were animals of all sorts. But there are tribes and bloodlines, and legends that are so beautiful and compelling in the context of Drew’s particular journey.

Is Drew my favorite hero or even a character I would want to hang out with? No. But I have grown attached enough to owe it to him to see his tale through to the end of 6 books. I’m notorious for dropping books halfway through the first chapter and yet I found myself devouring the whole series.

Curtis Jobling did what I look for in all the stories I love: he made me care about a bunch of people who are in over their heads while revealing a lush world one layer at a time. So if the concept of werewolves, werebears, werefoxes and even werebirds, werelions and a roguish super handsome pirate prince wereshark interest you? Go post haste to Westland and find Drew in Cold Cost, living in simpler times with his family where our tale begins. Get through the first half of the first book and if by then you find Drew’s tale doesn’t interest you and want to leave, there’s little else I can say outside of…. But you’ll miss the super handsome pirate prince wereshark! #LordVegaForever #lifegoals

Series: Wereworld #1-6
Publisher: Puffin
Publication Dates: September 20, 2011 / June 5, 2012 / October 16, 2012 / January 15, 2013 / May 21, 2013 / October 8, 2013
Source: Paperbacks borrowed from the library
Buy the Books: Book Depository | Amazon | IndieBound

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

I Want Your Ugly • Bad Romance

All Grace wants is to escape – her messed up home life, her small California town, her current circumstances. And when Gavin, talented, sweet, adoring Gavin, shows up, and they fall head over heels in love, things seem to be looking up. But the truth is that Gavin is more dangerous than he seems, and suddenly Grace finds herself trapped in one bad romance. (Major trigger warning for abusive relationships.)

Bad Romance book cover
Plot? While I would necessarily say that I enjoyed reading Bad Romance, the story is compelling. In the way that a train wreck that is happening right in front of your face is, I mean. I knew going into it that things would not go well for Grace, and that she would be a victim in her romance, but it didn’t stop me from turning the pages to find out what would happen next. It didn’t stop me from hoping that things would get better for her, that she would be strong enough to change her circumstances. It is the kind of story that opens a conversation about abusive relationships, particularly the fact that each one has its own subtleties, difficulties and nuances. Powerful and compelling, I couldn’t set it down once I’d gotten hooked on finding out how Grace and Gavin’s story would play out.

Characters? It is easy to empathize with Grace, especially you realize that life has dealt her a pretty shitty hand. She has a terrible home life, and finds herself locked in this toxic relationship that she can’t find her way out of, and her future dreams of being somewhere else and doing something else seem so far away. I wanted her to be able to have the future she dreamt of; I cheered on the supportive older sister and best friends who were trying to encourage her to fight for better treatment and the future she deserved. It was rough to see her fall time and time again, but I couldn’t feel anything but sorrow for her and understanding for why she made the choices she did again and again. Majority of the other characters in this novel were not at all likable (except for her older sister and her best friends), though the reader is exposed to a few of the secondary characters’ vulnerabilities too. 

Writing? It took me a while to get used to the voice that Demetrios uses (a second person POV where it appears that Grace is addressing the entire novel to Gavin). But once it clicked, I couldn’t tear my eyes away from this story. It was oddly compelling despite the difficult subject matter, and it is a testament to Demetrios’ storytelling ability that she was able to get me reading something that’s not necessarily in my comfort zone – and help me to understand just what these characters were feeling whenever they chose to do the things they did.

Overall? As I already said, Bad Romance is an important novel for the way that it starts a conversation about abusive relationships – particularly among teenagers. It is a difficult read, but it is also a powerful one. While I won’t give a general recommendation for this story, I will say that I thought it was worth the time I spent reading it.

Favorite musical theater show? Musical theater has been a part of my life since high school, and it’s even how I met my husband (since we were both involved with a musical theater organization at our university). I love a lot of shows, but I that the one that has stuck with me through the years since I first heard it is Wicked. I loved this creative take on the story of the Wicked Witch, and I think the music is a lot of fun too. I have seen it a few times since, and it’s always been such an incredible, enjoyable production.

Bad Romance by Heather Demetrios
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR) | Publication Date: June 13, 2017
Source: ARC received from the publisher (Thanks!)
Buy the Book: Book Depository | Amazon | IndieBound

Monday, June 19, 2017

Abbreviations #34

It's been too long since I've posted a set of mini-reviews for your perusal! Granted, it's taken me some time to get back into the swing of things when it comes to blogging. But this is progress, right? Anyway, check out my thoughts on a couple of the books that I read from February to May! I hope that you find something new to add to your TBR.

Gilded Cage book cover
Gilded Cage by Vic James
Series: Dark Gifts #1
Publisher: Del Rey Books
Publication Date: February 14, 2017
Source: e-galley downloaded from NetGalley (Thanks!)
Buy the Book: Book Depository | Amazon | IndieBound

In the world of Gilded Cage, the Equals – aristocrats with magical gifts – rule, and all commoners are required to serve them for ten years of their life. Abi and Luke are siblings who are about to make waves in the world the Equals – one by falling in love with a noble and uncovering family secrets, and the other by joining a revolution to overthrow those in power. But there is another player in the shadows, and it remains to be seen which side of the divide he stands on. It makes me sad to tell you that, despite the promising premise, this novel just wasn’t my cup of tea. I’ll admit to finding elements of it intriguing – the societal power structure, mostly – and to being enticed to keep going to find out the answers to plot questions that popped up over the course of the storytelling. But overall, the plot dragged a lot, and the story structure was clunky, and the characters lacked development. It was a great disappointment to discover that I didn’t like this novel, and I will not be continuing with the series.

The Valiant book cover
The Valiant by Lesley Livingston
Series: The Valiant #1
Publisher: Razorbill
Publication Date: February 14, 2017
Source: ARC received from the publisher (Thanks!)
Buy the Book: Book Depository | Amazon | IndieBound
Check out my blog tour post!

Two words that will explain the instant draw that The Valiant had for me? Female. Gladiators. I immediately took the opportunity to read this one early, and I’m pleased to say that it was enjoyable overall. This is the story of Fallon, a Celtic princess who finds herself captured and sold to an elite school for female gladiators – owned by Julius Caesar, her family’s sworn enemy. Beset on all sides by vicious rivalries, complex political plays and deadly showdowns, Fallon must fight for her own survival – in and out of the gladiator ring. There are two things that I didn’t like about this novel: one, the slow build-up of the plot (which I’d surmise is more a personal preference) and two, the character development fell just a little bit short of my expectations. That having been said, it was still entertaining! Readers are given the opportunity to learn about and imagine the world of a female gladiator, as well as presented with a fictionalized account of what Rome might have been like once upon a time. Plus, Fallon is very easy to root for and her adventures are thrilling, particularly after she is sold to a school to begin her gladiator training. I’m glad that this novel was as good a read as I’d hoped, and I’m certainly looking forward to checking out the next one in the series.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo book cover
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication Date: June 13, 2017
Source: ARC won in a Goodreads giveaway (Thanks!)
Buy the Book: Book Depository | Amazon | Indiebound

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you will know that I have read and loved all of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s novels prior to now. So, to say that I was looking forward to reading The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is an understatement. Alas, for the first time ever, I did not enjoy a TJR novel. Before I get into the specifics of why this one wasn’t for me, let me tell you a little bit about it. This is the story of classic film star and bombshell Evelyn Hugo, and the truth behind all seven of her marriages, as told to young writer Monique Grant. It takes the reader from the very beginning of Evelyn’s career to the present day when Evelyn is older and retired from show business. Now, the reason that I read the entirety of this novel is solely because of the writing. In her usual fashion, Reid’s writing is very easy to read. But other than that, there was just nothing about this book that I liked. The characters were unlikeable, and while they were meant to be that way, there was absolutely nothing redeeming about any of them. The plot was so-so, straight out of the pages of gossip rags and tell-alls. The themes felt very much contrived, instead of the organic integration I’ve come to expect from this author. Though it saddens me to say, and even though I admire the fact that Reid was attempting something different, this novel was a disappointment overall.

The Architect of Song book cover
The Architect of Song by A.G. Howard
Series: Haunted Hearts Legacy #1
Publisher: Golden Orb Press
Publication Date: August 15, 2016
Source: Paperback purchased from Amazon
Buy the Book: Book Depository | Amazon | IndieBound

I picked up The Architect of Song after Kristin recommended it, and I finally had a chance to read it. It is the tale of a girl who cannot hear, a rich lord who wants her estate and a ghost who appears when the petals of the flower planted at his grave make contact with human skin. Juliet is grieving the loss of her mother, but her life is completely shaken up when she encounters a ghost named Hawk and has to fend off the advances of a lord who wants her estate. Determined to solve the mystery of Hawk's death and protect what is rightfully hers, Juliet embarks on an investigation that just might turn out to be more than she bargained for. This was definitely a pretty decent read. I enjoyed the incorporation of Beauty and the Beast elements a lot! The story proved compelling enough to make me want to find out how it would end. However, I did have a couple of reservations, mostly in the form of eye roll-worthy situations and partially developed characters. But overall, it was imaginative, fun and I certainly will consider checking out the next (companion) novel in this series!

Wires and Nerve book cover
Wires and Nerve, Volume 1 by Marissa Meyer (author) & Douglas Holgate (illustrator)
Series: Wires and Nerve #1
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Publication Date: January 31, 2017
Source: Hardcover received from the publisher (Thanks!)
Buy the Book: Book Depository | Amazon | IndieBound

If you’re a fan of the Lunar Chronicles (like me!) and if you love the Rampion crew as much as I do, well, Wires & Nerve, Volume 1 will be the perfect way to satisfy the hole in your life after you finished reading Winter (or Stars Above, if you’ve read it, which I have yet to do). It basically tells the story of what happens right after Winter but before the epilogue novella in Stars Above, where the Rampion gang is dealing with the aftermath of their confrontation with Levana and how they end up saving the world. There are a lot of political and personal effects of their decisions and new roles, and Meyer explores that with this graphic novel. There is just so much to love about this graphic novel: the illustration style that brings the characters we love to life, the continuation of their respective stories with an exciting new chapter, the consistency of the relationships and character personalities, and the fact that this story is told from Iko’s point of view. It’s a refreshing addition to the series, and I am thrilled to report that I found it utterly enjoyable (and a quick read). I’m really looking forward to finding out what happens in the next volume!

The Geek's Guide to Unrequited Love book cover
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: June 14, 2016
Source: Hardcover gifted to me
Buy the Book: Book Depository | Amazon | IndieBound

If you’re in the market for an adorable contemporary YA to add to your reading list, The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love should be on your radar. Set at New York Comic Con (which is an A+ choice for a fun setting, by the way), it recounts the story of Graham, who is determined to orchestrate the perfect moment at which to reveal his feelings for his best friend Roxy, but who finds that real-life shenanigans keep getting in the way. If you’re thinking to yourself that this sounds like the perfect material for a teen romantic comedy (or a DCOM, really), you’re certainly right about that. It’s a fun premise, and Tash makes it even more enjoyable by weaving just the right amount of humor and heart into the narrative. I flew through the pages of this story, and can assure you that it’s fun and a perfect summer read.

Devil in Spring book cover
Devil in Spring by Lisa Kleypas
Series: The Ravenels #3
Publisher: Avon
Publication Date: February 21, 2017
Source: Paperback bought from Amazon
Buy the Book: Book Depository | Amazon | IndieBound

Let me preface this mini-review by telling you that I’m obsessed with Devil in Winter, a book that is a part of Kleypas’ Wallflower historical romance series. And so, upon discovering that the main male character in this book was the child of the couple in DIW, you can bet that my expectations were sky-high for this novel. Devil in Spring chronicles the romance that brews between headstrong, independent Pandora Ravenel and the charming, sweet Gabriel St. Vincent, which starts in an unlikely way after a chance encounter at a ball. Now, I’ve read quite a few historical romances, and this is one of the most delightfully fluffy ones I’ve read in a while! I liked Pandora’s determination to make her own way in the world using her own cleverness and acute head for business, and to not be held back by the constraints of society. I loved how sweet Gabriel was, and how he clearly loved the people he loved and was willing to do just about anything for them. I also liked their relationship, especially the mutual respect that developed between them and the fact that Gabriel was the first to realize and acknowledge his feelings. And then there’s the additional bonus of the secondary characters, among which there were a lot of familiar faces whose presence had me giddy with delight! All in all, this was a sweet historical romance read… though it’s certainly no Devil in Winter.


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