Book Reviews · Reading Challenges

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah Review

the-great-alone-kristin-hannahGoodreads Summary:  Alaska, 1974.
Unpredictable. Unforgiving. Untamed.
For a family in crisis, the ultimate test of survival.

Ernt Allbright, a former POW, comes home from the Vietnam war a changed and volatile man. When he loses yet another job, he makes an impulsive decision: he will move his family north, to Alaska, where they will live off the grid in America’s last true frontier.

Thirteen-year-old Leni, a girl coming of age in a tumultuous time, caught in the riptide of her parents’ passionate, stormy relationship, dares to hope that a new land will lead to a better future for her family. She is desperate for a place to belong. Her mother, Cora, will do anything and go anywhere for the man she loves, even if it means following him into the unknown

At first, Alaska seems to be the answer to their prayers. In a wild, remote corner of the state, they find a fiercely independent community of strong men and even stronger women. The long, sunlit days and the generosity of the locals make up for the Allbrights’ lack of preparation and dwindling resources.

But as winter approaches and darkness descends on Alaska, Ernt’s fragile mental state deteriorates and the family begins to fracture. Soon the perils outside pale in comparison to threats from within. In their small cabin, covered in snow, blanketed in eighteen hours of night, Leni and her mother learn the terrible truth: they are on their own. In the wild, there is no one to save them but themselves.

In this unforgettable portrait of human frailty and resilience, Kristin Hannah reveals the indomitable character of the modern American pioneer and the spirit of a vanishing Alaska―a place of incomparable beauty and danger. The Great Alone is a daring, beautiful, stay-up-all-night story about love and loss, the fight for survival, and the wildness that lives in both man and nature.

My Thoughts: She does it again.  This book is fabulous.  I went into it having no idea what to expect, other than that I have loved every other book by Kristin Hannah.  I was captivated by the premise, and as soon as they made it to Alaska, I was hooked. The way Hannah has of creating real and flawed characters that burrow their way into your heart is unparalleled for me.  I immediately connected with Leni and her family, and felt for their struggles.  I think her mother, Cora, was my favorite.  She was so complex, and I really think that Hannah did an amazing job in creating a vessel for this extremely complicated and difficult subject matter.  All of the characters were wonderfully vivid and unique, and helped to establish the vibrancy of Alaska, which might as well have been a character itself.  The setting was so beautifully fleshed out in great detail and it felt alive.  The time period played such a huge role in the development of the story, from the small pop culture references to the bigger issues, like a woman not being able to get a credit card without her father or husband to sign off on it, or the lack of diagnosis for PTSD.  In another time, the story would have played out very differently.  There was a deep intensity and an underlying sense of foreboding throughout the entire book, and it kept me riveted all the way to the final page, where I was sobbing like a little baby (as her books tend to make me do).  So thank you Kristin Hannah for once again grabbing  hold of my heart and pulling it into your story, where I feel a part of it still is.

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Book Reviews · Reading Challenges

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell Review

23734628Goodreads Summary: Simon Snow is the worst Chosen One who’s ever been chosen.

That’s what his roommate, Baz, says. And Baz might be evil and a vampire and a complete git, but he’s probably right.

Half the time, Simon can’t even make his wand work, and the other half, he starts something on fire. His mentor’s avoiding him, his girlfriend broke up with him, and there’s a magic-eating monster running around, wearing Simon’s face. Baz would be having a field day with all this, if he were here — it’s their last year at the Watford School of Magicks, and Simon’s infuriating nemesis didn’t even bother to show up.

Carry On – The Rise and Fall of Simon Snow is a ghost story, a love story and a mystery. It has just as much kissing and talking as you’d expect from a Rainbow Rowell story – but far, far more monsters.

My Thoughts: This book was everything I wanted and more.  I had heard great things about it, but it surpassed my expectations.  I started reading it late at night before bed which was a huge mistake, because I could not stop reading.  I loved how it poked fun at Harry Potter, and almost seemed like fan-fiction, but in the best way.  The world of magic was so creative, clever, and hilarious, and everything was incredibly developed and fresh.  It made so much sense to me and was really realistic.  (Words have power. DUH!)  It was interesting to join them in their final year at school, instead of in the beginning like most other stories.  Learning about everything that had happened up to that point was fun and surprising, and added so much character development.  I fell in love with the characters, Baz especially, and each of their voices in narration were specific, witty, and just plain enjoyable.  The different points of view worked really well in moving the story along.  The plot was addicting, and I sped through to find out what was going to happen to my favorite characters.  I could gush about this book forever.  The minute it was over I wanted to re-read it.  It was funny, sweet, exciting and magical in every possible way.

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Book Reviews

Nature of the Witch by Helen T. Norwood Blog Tour

Nature of the Witch.png

Nature Of The Witch AMAZON LARGESummary: Many years ago, magic prevailed in Britain. It was a time when chosen women followed a path forged by Mother Nature herself; a time of witchcraft, of the brotherhood of the Gwithiaz and of the terrifying Creatures.

This has all passed from memory a long time ago. But now, magic has returned. Kiera is the first witch the world has seen in centuries, while Jack must learn the ways of the Gwithiaz. They must not only master their crafts, but also overcome their differences and work together if they are to survive the dark enemy that lurks in the shadows.

In the rugged Cornish landscape where it first began, the two face the dreaded Kasadow: an ancient evil that has awakened and is ready to destroy them, and their magic, once and for all.

*I received a copy of this book in turn for an honest review*

My Thoughts: I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  It starts off with a strong prologue, which does exactly what a prologue is supposed to do.  It gave us necessary information we needed to set up the story without oversharing for no reason, which I greatly appreciated.  The structure of the whole story is fast-paced, organized, and well thought out, but everything was a bit surface level.  However; I didn’t really mind.  We were always given enough information for everything to feel developed, I just wanted more.  I was fascinated by the concept of the witches and their Gwithiaz, and would have loved to really get into it, and their magic, with more detail.  The relationships didn’t feel super deep, but with the magic connection they were supposed to have, and the passing of time in the book, I bought it.  The plot was super engaging, and the ending killed me.  I thought I knew what was going to happen, but I was blind-sided like I haven’t been in a long time.  There came a point towards the end where I could not stop reading, and ended with my jaw on the floor.  I was torn on what star rating to give this one, but because the ending was so good I’m bumping it up to 4 stars.  I would definitely read on in this series, and am excited to see where it goes!

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Purchase Nature of the Witch

Win a signed copy of Nature of the Witch! (UK ONLY)

About the Author: Helen T. Norwood

Nature of the Witch - Author Pic (1)Helen lives in the UK with her husband, two children and one diva-like cat called Tiger. Helen, like many others, was captivated in her childhood by books from the likes of Roald Dahl and Enid Blyton and any books which took her to new worlds and showed her places of magic and mystery. She has enjoyed writing and creating her own magical worlds from a young age. She is currently writing the second book in the ‘Nature of the Witch’ trilogy which will be out soon.

Twitter: @ThinkFitFoodFam    Goodreads: Helen T. Norwood

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Thanks to Rachel’s Random Resources and Helen T. Norwood for including me in this Blog Tour! I had a blast, and can’t wait to see what is next for Kiera and Jack! Make sure you check out the rest of the tour and see what these other amazing bloggers have to share!

Book Reviews

The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O’Neill Review

30201327Goodreads Summary: With echoes of The Night Circus, a spellbinding story about two gifted orphans in love with each other since they can remember whose childhood talents allow them to rewrite their future.

The Lonely Hearts Hotel is a love story with the power of legend. An unparalleled tale of charismatic pianos, invisible dance partners, radicalized chorus girls, drug-addicted musicians, brooding clowns, and an underworld whose economy hinges on the price of a kiss. In a landscape like this, it takes great creative gifts to thwart one’s origins. It might also take true love.

Two babies are abandoned in a Montreal orphanage in the winter of 1910. Before long, their talents emerge: Pierrot is a piano prodigy; Rose lights up even the dreariest room with her dancing and comedy. As they travel around the city performing clown routines, the children fall in love with each other and dream up a plan for the most extraordinary and seductive circus show the world has ever seen.

Separated as teenagers, sent off to work as servants during the Great Depression, both descend into the city’s underworld, dabbling in sex, drugs and theft in order to survive. But when Rose and Pierrot finally reunite beneath the snowflakes after years of searching and desperate poverty the possibilities of their childhood dreams are renewed, and they’ll go to extreme lengths to make them come true. Soon, Rose, Pierrot and their troupe of clowns and chorus girls have hit New York, commanding the stage as well as the alleys, and neither the theater nor the underworld will ever look the same.

With her musical language and extravagantly realized world, Heather O’Neill enchants us with a novel so magical there is no escaping its spell.

My Thoughts:  This book was so different than I expected, and I still don’t really understand how I feel about it.  Right away, I loved the prose.  It was stunningly beautiful and poetic, but also very blunt, which I thought was such an interesting mixture.  I definitely understand the comparison to Night Circus.  They were completely different in content, but the vibe was similar.  Speaking of content… I was warned that this book was sexually explicit and usually that never bothers me at all, but I was not prepared for the large quantity of explicitness.  It almost felt like the entire story was sexual, or put into sexual terms, and a lot of the time I felt like it was in there for shock value.  I understand why it was included, and the importance of it to the character’s development, but I didn’t feel like it was necessary all the time.  I started to get annoyed with the frequency of it and it kind of turned me off to reading the book.  I felt like it overshadowed the rest of the story, which was very heart wrenching and beautiful.  The characters were extremely flawed, which I absolutely loved.  Rose in particular was a great character.  I loved her strength and resourcefulness, and also how unapologetically weird she was.  I didn’t like Pierrot as much, and often just pitied him, but it worked in context of their relationship.  The whole story is really tragic, but it’s also hopeful, even in its darkest moments, and that is what still haunts me.  While reading this book, I wasn’t even sure if I was enjoying it, but when it was over my heart hurt so much that I knew it had affected me more than I thought. I was torn between 3 and 4 stars for this one, but after the way I felt when it was over, I bumped it up to 4.

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Book Reviews

The Oathing Stone by J.Z.N. McCauley ARC Review

31351222Goodreads Summary: Book Two of The Rituals Trilogy—Fire magic wraps around her bones and strengthens them, but if the fire touches another, it does more than burn.

After a year blissfully hidden together in a small village on Ireland’s lush green, Catherine and Bowen are ready to tie the knot. The joining of an ancient druid doctor and a woman blessed with druid magic from the sacred oak tree calls for nothing less than a traditional Celtic ceremony. For this, to connect them to their ancestors and the sacred place where they marry, a key item must be chosen for the ritual, the oathing stone.

Their need for discretion allows for only a gathering of Catherine’s closest friends and family. But after the couple’s first night together, strange and sudden events unfold. Blood mingles with fire, and Catherine’s magic becomes unstable.

Meanwhile, the mysterious Faerie Kings send a Fae spy to witness Catherine’s magic which disrupts not only her life but her best friend Bella’s when she becomes his sudden obsession. Just after Bella goes missing, it is up to Catherine to get her back, but it is only the beginning of their problems as she finds they’re embroiled in the middle of a Faerie civil war

*I was sent an ARC of this book from Book Review 22 in return for an honest review*

My Thoughts: This series looked so promising.  I’m a huge fantasy nut, so anything with magic, fairies, and Ireland sounds fantastic to me, and I couldn’t wait to read to read the first book, Oak and Mistletoe. It kills me to say that I was very disappointed, and had I not been asked to review book 2 in the trilogy, I probably would have DNF’d it.  Luckily, it was very fast paced and I was able to power through.  The plot was convoluted, I felt no connection to the characters whatsoever, and everything just felt underdeveloped.  Needless to say, I was not looking forward to reading The Oathing Stone.  While I still wasn’t the biggest fan, I was pleasantly surprised that the second book was a lot better than the first.  The plot actually made sense, and was able to hold my attention.  Things moved and escalated very quickly with a lot of ups and downs.  Being mostly set in the Fae realm, I felt like the author used their magic so that “anything goes,” without actually setting any rules to establish the system of magic.  I liked that we got to read from a few different perspectives, and I thought that they were handled well in advancing the plot.  The ending was a little strange, but exciting, and ends on a cliff hanger.  My biggest problem with this book, and the series in general so far, is that I feel nothing for the characters.  The situations they are put in are interesting, but the characters and relationships are very one dimensional and underdeveloped.  Catherine and Bowen are supposed to have such a great love, but there was no basis for it.  I really wanted to like this trilogy, but I just can’t get on board.

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Book Reviews · Reading Challenges

Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman Review

22896Goodreads Summary: The Owens sisters confront the challenges of life and love in this bewitching novel from New York Times bestselling author Alice Hoffman.

For more than two hundred years, the Owens women have been blamed for everything that has gone wrong in their Massachusetts town. Gillian and Sally have endured that fate as well: as children, the sisters were forever outsiders, taunted, talked about, pointed at. Their elderly aunts almost seemed to encourage the whispers of witchery, with their musty house and their exotic concoctions and their crowd of black cats. But all Gillian and Sally wanted was to escape.

One will do so by marrying, the other by running away. But the bonds they share will bring them back—almost as if by magic…

My Thoughts:  I have wanted to read Practical Magic  for FOREVER.  I’ve always loved the movie, and when I found out it was based on a book, I immediately added it to my TBR.  I have to say that it was not at all what I was expecting.  It is very different from the film, which I figured it would be, but I was surprised at how much, and how difficult it was for me to let the film go.  Not only in the plot and characters, but in the atmosphere as well.  There aren’t chapters, more like sections, which at first was kind of strange to adjust to.  It kind of felt like a run-on sentence, but it was a really quick read.  The style is very exaggerated and satirical, which I surprisingly liked a lot.  There wasn’t that much magic either.  It was more of an underlying secret hum instead of a main focus.  I really did love the characters, Gillian especially, and their relationships.  The plot is more character-focused than action-based, with everyone being larger than life, and felt more like a narration of these people’s lives than a story.  Somehow, it was still engaging and worked.  I think I like the movie more than I liked the book, but they’re so different it almost isn’t a fair comparison.  If you’re looking for a great fantasy novel or the story of the movie, this isn’t it, but if you’re looking for a story about love, family, and growing up, Practical Magic is just the ticket.

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Book Reviews · Reading Challenges

Fracture by Nina Walker Review

36118876Amazon Summary: Broken by magic and murder, he’ll risk everything for revenge.

Prince Lucas is falling to pieces. He couldn’t save his mother, and now his father is hesitant to execute the man responsible for her death. Lucas only has Jessa, the last shred of light left in his dark world. But she’s conflicted.

What if he loses her too?

Jessa made a commitment. Her family, the resistance, even her own country is counting on her to succeed. She must be initiated and gain the trust of the king. She jumps headfirst into her alchemy trials, determined to impress the court. She knew the tests would be dangerous, but never expected they might reveal her secrets.

And what happened to her friend, Sasha, anyway?

The Color Alchemist Series continues with book two of four. An Amazon number one new release, Prism has captivated fans with its unique magic and swoon-worthy romance. Don’t stop the adventure, read Fracture today.

My Thoughts:  I am so in love with this series.  When I rejoined the world of The Color Alchemists with book two, it felt like coming home.  I didn’t realize how much I had missed these characters.  I am so invested in their lives, and Walker does a great job of developing them even more in this book.  Their relationships feel real and complicated, and gave me such a huge range of emotions.  I literally screamed at my book at one point.  We get the addition of Sasha’s perspective in this book, which was set up really well in the ending of the last one.  I loved learning more about the resistance and the rest of the world (Hey female American president!), and her love interests were really great.  There was a ton of action throughout, and the whole story was engaging and exciting.  Jessa and Lucas’s dynamic is both heart warming and frustrating at the same time.  Their relationship goes through a lot in this book, and I am anxious to see where it is going to go from here.  The more I learn about color magic, the more I love it.  I think it is a totally brilliant idea, is really well done, and continues to develop into a deeper system of magic.  I think I enjoyed Fracture even more than Prism… I cannot wait for book 3!

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Book Reviews

The Hazel Wood ARC by Melissa Albert

cover115302-mediumGoodreads Summary: Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: her mother is stolen away―by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother’s stories are set. Alice’s only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.”

Alice has long steered clear of her grandmother’s cultish fans. But now she has no choice but to ally with classmate Ellery Finch, a Hinterland superfan who may have his own reasons for wanting to help her. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother’s tales began―and where she might find out how her own story went so wrong.

*I received this ARC from Netgalley in return for an honest review!*

Release Date: January 30th, 2018

My Thoughts: After seeing a million glowing reviews for this book, I could not wait to read it.  The day I started it I read about 40% of the book.  Right away I was drawn into Alice’s life and story.  The mystery of Althea Proserpine and her book of fairy tales was perfectly captivating and creepy, and I thought it was paced very well.  My favorite thing about this book was the language.  Alice’s funny and sarcastic voice felt very real and relatable, and I loved all of the specific real world references (the Harry Potter references being my favorite for obvious reasons).  The mix of reality and fantasy really enhanced the world and made the fantasy aspects more believable.  I also loved the language of the fairy tale stories themselves.  They were creepy, dark, and absolutely beautiful.  I wish I could read all of the Tales of the Hinterland, in addition to the few we got to experience within the story.  I loved all of the characters.  I adored Alice and Finch, and was pleasantly surprised at their relationship throughout the book.  It was really refreshing, different, and quite bittersweet.  I also loved all of “The Stories” from the Hinterland.  It was such a clever concept, and it was fun seeing them both in and out of their world.  All of Albert’s characters were very unique and specific, and I had very clear pictures of them in my mind.  While I was thoroughly engaged in the plot and the characters, I expected a lot more when they finally got to the Hinterland.  There was so much build up to this final destination, but the story went by so fast.  I would have loved to see more of it, and find out more details about how everything worked.  Not revealing everything about the Hinterland might have been an attempt to create a more mysterious atmosphere, but parts of it felt underdeveloped.  I really liked everything we were given, I just wanted more.  More time and more detail, especially with the ending.  It all seemed a little too easy.  I loved the idea, but it felt rushed through and could have been expanded.  I was engaged enough for it to go on a bit longer, and I wish we could have seen more of a fight.  This book started out really strong but kind of drifted away for me towards the end.  I was still hooked on the story, but after all the hype, my expectations were really high and I was left feeling a little underwhelmed.

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Book Reviews

King’s Cage by Victoria Aveyard Review

30226723In this breathless third installment to Victoria Aveyard’s bestselling Red Queen series, allegiances are tested on every side. And when the Lightning Girl’s spark is gone, who will light the way for the rebellion?

Mare Barrow is a prisoner, powerless without her lightning, tormented by her lethal mistakes. She lives at the mercy of a boy she once loved, a boy made of lies and betrayal. Now a king, Maven Calore continues weaving his dead mother’s web in an attempt to maintain control over his country—and his prisoner.

As Mare bears the weight of Silent Stone in the palace, her once-ragtag band of newbloods and Reds continue organizing, training, and expanding. They prepare for war, no longer able to linger in the shadows. And Cal, the exiled prince with his own claim on Mare’s heart, will stop at nothing to bring her back.

When blood turns on blood, and ability on ability, there may be no one left to put out the fire—leaving Norta as Mare knows it to burn all the way down.

My Thoughts: Aveyard does it again! After finishing Glass Sword, I went right on to King’s Cage because I couldn’t wait to find out what happened next.  I literally trust no one in this series and that makes it so exciting.  I loved how a lot of this book focused on Maven.  He is such a complex and complicated villain.  The more we learned about him, the more I just loved his character, even though he is despicable and I hate everything he stands for.  It’s just so refreshing to find an extremely well written villain.  While Mare is busy as Maven’s prisoner, we get some perspective switches in this book, which I thought was interesting since we’ve never had them before in this series.  Although it was nice to see both Mare’s side and what was happening with the Scarlet Guard and the new bloods, I hated Cameron’s perspective.  She was just so negative and whiny, and I wanted to smack her.  It was giving me major flashbacks to book one Mare, and I couldn’t stand her.  She kind of started to come around towards the end, but it took a lot for me to care about her.  Evangeline on the other hand, is my new favorite character.  We got glimpses of her awesomeness in book 2, but I LOVED getting to read her perspective.  She is fierce and fabulous as hell, and I can’t wait to see what happens to her next.  The ending was crazy.  Blindsided once more.  Trust no one.  I did think Mare was being SUPER unfair to Cal, and I wanted her to get off her high horse and think about his side for a second.  It honestly could go ANYWHERE at this point and May 15th can’t come soon enough!

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Book Reviews

Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard Review

23174274Goodreads Summary: If there’s one thing Mare Barrow knows, it’s that she’s different.

Mare Barrow’s blood is red—the color of common folk—but her Silver ability, the power to control lightning, has turned her into a weapon that the royal court tries to control.

The crown calls her an impossibility, a fake, but as she makes her escape from Maven, the prince—the friend—who betrayed her, Mare uncovers something startling: she is not the only one of her kind.

Pursued by Maven, now a vindictive king, Mare sets out to find and recruit other Red-and-Silver fighters to join in the struggle against her oppressors.

But Mare finds herself on a deadly path, at risk of becoming exactly the kind of monster she is trying to defeat.

Will she shatter under the weight of the lives that are the cost of rebellion? Or have treachery and betrayal hardened her forever?

The electrifying next installment in the Red Queen series escalates the struggle between the growing rebel army and the blood-segregated world they’ve always known—and pits Mare against the darkness that has grown in her soul.

My Thoughts: After feeling kind of luke-warm about Red Queen, it took me a while to pick up the second book in this series, but I can safely say that I understand the hype now.  My biggest qualm with the first book was Mare’s lack of involvement in everything that happened to her.  I honestly didn’t really like her and found it hard to find a reason to root for her, except that I knew I was supposed to.  That all changed in Glass Sword.  Mare finally took charge of her situation and I am living for it.  She is more likable, relatable, and real in this book, and I think Aveyard did an amazing job of showing how complicated and dark Mare’s emotional life is after everything that has happened.  It makes sense to me now, after reading the second book, why Mare was how she was in the beginning.  Her journey is a much larger than I had realized.  All of the characters are so much more complicated and well developed in this book, including the tortured and exiled Cal, whom I adore.  I loved the plot with the new-bloods, and finding out about each of their powers was exhilarating.  The immediate action in the first chapter really drew me back into the world, and I appreciated the lack of unnecessary recapping.  The battle scenes were spectacular and gruesome once again, and I was screaming out loud at my book.  They are so incredibly cinematic, and I am dying to see these books on film (and would also die to play Evangeline Samos… hit me up Hollywood).  In addition to all of that, I think my favorite thing about this series is that I have absolutely no idea who to trust, what is going to happen, or how the hell they are going to get out of any of it.  I am so happy that I finally gave this series another shot because I am completely hooked.