Journey with me into London Below | Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. I absolutely LOVE the way he writes. I’d been meaning to read this book for a while and only got around to it when it was picked for my book club. I’m so happy I finally read it!

Our main character, Richard Mayhew, is so unspectacularly normal and all of these unbelievable things happen to him. I thought he was such a well-written character. Even though he’s super basic, he has a hidden depth to him and in the end, the reader really wants things to work out for him. Something about him being such a beige person made the colorful world of London Below that much more brilliant.

I loved the relationship between Richard, Door, Hunter, and the Marquis. When Richard, Door, and Hunter got to the Friars and found out that Richard had to do the third task, I literally laughed out loud and Door and Hunter’s reactions. While the Marquis was a pretty sketchy character, he was also delightful and was a wonderful Puck-ish contrast to Door. The Marquis is the embodiment of what London Below is. If you haven’t read the short story How the Marquis Got His Coat Back, I highly recommend it as it gives another perspective on who the Marquis is.

Another fun aspect of this book is that our protagonist is not the story’s “hero”. Door is clearly the hero in this story as she tries to avenge her family and Richard is a mildly doofy sidekick whose most important job proves to be getting Door curry at the market.

Circling back to Gaiman’s writing, I love how his humor is scattered throughout the book as it only serves to enhance the reading experience. I love the different locations that our group visits and how Gaiman takes each name literally. Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar are seriously creepy individuals, but with Gaiman’s writing, they almost seem harmless. It’s an interesting contrast because on paper, the reader knows how terrifying they are, but the humorous way in which they’re written waters them down a bit–but not in a bad way.

I would highly recommend this book for anyone who already loves Neil Gaiman or anyone who wants a fantasy escape.

Overall Rating: 5
Language: Moderate
Violence: Heavy
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: Moderate

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Cartoon Strips and Wedding Disasters | Save the Date by Morgan Matson

Save the Date

The Grant siblings are all about to be in the same place for the first time in what feels like forever and Charlie can’t wait. She loves her siblings and they’ll all be together for her older sister’s wedding. What could go wrong?

TL;DR – Wedding planning/shenanigans/disasters, comic strip characters come to life, and a random dog. If these things sound good to you, you will like this book.

I am a big fan of Morgan Matson in general and this was another solid showing. I loved the premise of the main character’s mom being a cartoonist with a strip based on the family. I grew up reading Calvin and Hobbes, Garfield, Foxtrot, etc. and Grant Central Station felt really nostalgic to me. Another small thing I liked was the premise of the cartoon characters aging with the actual family members–I always did wonder how that was supposed to work with Foxtrot.

Charlie is a typical Matson main character. She’s a little quiet and wants to be helpful to other members of her family. I loved her devotion to her family, though. While I thought the drama this caused between her and her best friend was a bit unnecessary, I loved the FAMILY theme of this book.

There is a bit of a mystery hanging over the reader throughout the book. What exactly happened between Charlie’s brother and her mom? For the record, I do believe that Charlie’s mom was in the wrong here but…that’s just my opinion. There are so many fun little things throughout the book. I love the cameos of course, I love seeing the strips scattered throughout, I love the relationship between siblings, I love the little quirks that the characters have like the way JJ says “Scoff”. It feels like a real family.

The ending is…sad, but realistic and hopeful at the same time. I feel like the ending is much more realistic than a lot of other contemporary YA novels and I appreciated that. While this isn’t my favorite Matson novel, I would definitely still recommend it.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: Moderate
Violence: None
Sexual Content: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate

BLOG TOUR: Ace of Shades by Amanda Foody [GIVEAWAY]

Ace of ShadesAce of Shades
by Amanda Foody
Release Date: April 10, 2018
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy

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SYNOPSIS: Welcome to the City of Sin, where casino families reign, gangs infest the streets…and secrets hide in every shadow.

Enne Salta was raised as a proper young lady, and no lady would willingly visit New Reynes, the so-called City of Sin. But when her mother goes missing, Enne must leave her finishing school—and her reputation—behind to follow her mother’s trail to the city where no one survives uncorrupted.

Frightened and alone, her only lead is a name: Levi Glaisyer. Unfortunately, Levi is not the gentleman she expected—he’s a street lord and a con man. Levi is also only one payment away from cleaning up a rapidly unraveling investment scam, so he doesn’t have time to investigate a woman leading a dangerous double life. Enne’s offer of compensation, however, could be the solution to all his problems.

Their search for clues leads them through glamorous casinos, illicit cabarets and into the clutches of a ruthless mafia donna. As Enne unearths an impossible secret about her past, Levi’s enemies catch up to them, ensnaring him in a vicious execution game where the players always lose. To save him, Enne will need to surrender herself to the city…

And she’ll need to play.

REVIEW: This book was giving me major Six of Crows vibes with a little bit of Caraval mixed in. It was honestly kind of hard for me to give up the Six of Crows comparisons which I think took a little away from the enjoyment of the book for me. I kept trying to compare Levi to Kaz and he was just not measuring up. I wanted Levi to be harder and more ruthless, but I can also kind of see why he wasn’t written that way.

Enne as a character was so hard for me to deal with at first. She’s scared of her own shadow, but at the same time she gets mad at Levi when he tells her that she’s going to get robbed or killed if she acts a certain way/goes to a certain part of the city. Sorry Enne, but the guy lives there and I’d believe him. I’m so tired of female protags trying to insist that they know better than the guy who is acting as their guide in a new city. This is something that I feel happens ALL THE TIME and it’s aggravating. After a while, though, I actually did start to really like Enne and I’m definitely on the Enne-train now. The Levi/Enne ship though? Not quite as on board. I’m just not convinced.

Secondary characters were interesting even if we didn’t get very much time with them. I feel like some of them could have been more developed, but the story is told from Enne and Levi’s perspectives so I understand why they weren’t. I hope in future books we get to know them a little bit more though.

The overall world building was pretty good. I was a little confused about some things because they have cars and pay phones? But then they pay for things with what’s called “volts” which are kept in these glass orbs. I just wasn’t exactly sure what kind of technology existed in this world. I feel like the reader needed to learn a little bit more about the world’s history than we were actually given. I really liked the concept of “talents”, though, being passed down by blood and how you can tell what someone’s talent is by their name.

Lastly, I thought the plot was good and well-paced. The hunt for Lourdes lasted an appropriate amount of time and I thought the characters were portrayed as realistically looking for her while also taking the time to do their normal every day duties like, you know, working and sleeping. I especially thought the ending was well-paced. A lot of times I get to the end of the book and I feel like 50 million things happen within two chapters. That did not happen in this book. I thought the Shadow Game was SO INTERESTING and felt like it was given the appropriate amount of time.

Overall, I think I would have liked this book a little more if I hadn’t already read Six of Crows, but I still quite liked it. I’m not sure what direction this series is going to take (seems like it might dive into the world’s politics?) but I’ll definitely be in line for the next book.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: None
Violence: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: Moderate

Ace of Shades Blog Tour

 

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Amanda FoodyABOUT THE AUTHOR: 
Amanda Foody has always considered imagination to be our best attempt at magic. After spending her childhood longing to attend Hogwarts, she now loves to write about immersive settings and characters grappling with insurmountable destinies. She holds a Masters in Accountancy from Villanova University, and a Bachelors of Arts in English Literature from the College of William and Mary. Currently, she works as a tax accountant in Philadelphia, PA, surrounded by her many siblings and many books.

DAUGHTER OF THE BURNING CITY is her first novel. Her second, ACE OF SHADES, will follow in April 2018.

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Fantastic Flying Book Club 2

Note: I received this book free from the author/blog tour in exchange for an honest review.

It’s cheesy, but like in a good way | Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett

Alex, ApproximatelyBailey has just moved across the country to live with her dad. The fact that her online penpal lives in the same city had nothing to do with the decision. Well, almost nothing. She doesn’t even know for sure if Alex likes her and what if he ends up being a total creep anyway? That’s why she’s not telling him that she moved. She’ll scope out the situation, see if she can find him, and then if he’s normal it’ll be a big “surprise!” and they’ll ride off into the sunset. If only this annoying guy from work would leave her alone, she could really concentrate on finding Alex. But Porter seems intent on getting a rise from her every time they’re together and it’s becoming quite distracting.

TL;DR – This is a fun beach romance that has a surprising amount of depth. The predictability of the plot does not make the book any less enjoyable.

First off all, I had my doubts about this book. I mean, I kept hearing everyone else saying that they loved it, etc., but to me it sounded extremely predictable. Now, there’s a time and a place for predictability, especially in romance, but for some reason this just sounded like it might be really boring to me. Well, I was proved wrong. Yes, the book is extremely predictable. We know from the beginning that Porter is actually Alex. While that fact didn’t necessarily create tension within the book, I think it did make it so the reader had this really interesting view and opinion of Porter that Bailey did not initially share.

The plot, again, was super predictable, but I thought the overall tone was nice. It had a really good balance of lighter moments and also really heavy stuff. There were so many parts throughout the books that I just don’t think would have worked or be enjoyable in another story (especially a beachy YA romance), but somehow it all just really works in this book. I did wonder if Bailey was a little too “damaged” as a main character, though. Obviously authors want their characters to be flawed and have baggage, but there are times when I think too much has been added to a character. I feel like Bailey is right there on the edge of being too much.

The romance was nice but I felt that it progressed a little too quickly. I thought there’d be just a little more back and forth before they actually got together. I felt that Porter as a love interest was a little too mature and the overall relationship was a little too serious, but I still cared about both Porter and Bailey and their relationship. One thing I really liked is that after Bailey’s dad and Sergeant Mendoza warn her away from Porter, Bailey actually tells Porter about the conversation instead of just continuing to hurt his feelings. That never happens in YA books! I feel like characters are always keeping things and conversations to themselves when they don’t need to and it creates all of this unnecessary angst. Transparency is key!

Overall, I can’t quite put my finger on why this book was so enjoyable, just that it was. It’s a perfect read for the summer or any time that you wish it were summer, really. It also had a ton of old film references. I don’t have a ton of knowledge in that area myself, so a lot of the references went over my head, but if you are into that I think you’ll enjoy this book.

Overall Rating: 5
Language: Moderate
Violence: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: Moderate

Sibling rivalry is brought to a whole new level | Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

Three Dark CrownsThree queens are born, but only one can survive. Every generation, triplet queens are forced to fight to the death. Whoever survives reigns as the new queen. Arsinoe, Mirabella, and Katherine have known this their whole lives. Unfortunately, both Arsinoe and Katherine are still working to master the gifts that the goddess has given them. Everybody knows that Mirabella is going to end up queen, but Arsinoe, Katherine, and the families that fostered them aren’t willing to go down without a fight.

TL;DR – Great main characters and plot, but the world building could use a little work/additional explanation. Also, get ready to be overloaded by secondary characters.

This book had been sitting on my shelf forever it seems. I finally got around to reading it, and immediately after I finished I made my husband go to Barnes & Noble to pick up the second book. I didn’t really think that I’d like it as much as I did–I think I might have heard a couple of negative reviews about it.

The first thing I noticed is that Blake did a really good job making all three queens likable. I didn’t necessarily have a favorite and I was really torn about which queen I wanted to end up winning. I think it could have been really easy to paint one queen as the hero and the other two as villains, but the whole premise of the book means their relationships and decisions are so complicated. I love how each sister has her own conflicting desires. It really makes you wonder how previous queens felt and reacted.

The overall plot was great and I really liked how politics played so strongly into the story line. I’m really intrigued to see how this series ends and I appreciate that the author is taking her time. I wouldn’t have been surprised if this book had ended with one of the sisters killing another, but it seems like that kind of thing won’t happen until later books. I will say, though, that the ending was very unexpected for me and was part of why I was so eager to get my hands on the second book.

The world building is the only part that I find a little weak. This is a very complicated world and it’s not fully explained. We’re not really given any history or background for how this place came to be or who/why the goddess is, etc. Why triplets? Why don’t queens reign longer? Who reigns while the triplets are growing up? How does the queen know what gifts the babies have? Why do people live in groups based on ability? Is it possible for a poisoner to be born to elementals? What would happen to them? Just so many questions.

My last little issue is that there were SO MANY secondary characters. Seriously. I only started to figure out who everyone was after about 2/3 or 3/4 of the book. Other than that, though, I really enjoyed this book and am also enjoying the second book so far. I would definitely recommend.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: None
Violence: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: Moderate (a couple of scenes, no explicit descriptions)

This book was so Jake | The Diviners by Libba Bray

The DivinersAfter a careless night of drinking and partying, Evie is being sent to live with her uncle in New York. New York of the 1920s doesn’t seem like such a punishment to Evie especially when she gets there and finds out that her uncle runs a museum based on the occult and all things supernatural. Her uncle seems pretty cool but his assistant, Jericho, is a total wet blanket. Evie plans to just have a good time in the big city with her friend Mabel and her new friend Theta but that’s brought to a screeching halt when a serial killer is discovered. That alone is scary enough, but this killer seems to have ties with the occult and Evie, her uncle, and Jericho soon find themselves in the middle of the investigation.

If you liked this, you should also read: In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters

TL;DR – A great setting and murder mystery were hampered by a slow pace and multiple subplots that don’t add to the main plot (but will probably come into play later in the series).

I LOVE the 1920s as a time period. Not that I would have wanted to be alive back then, but looking back at that decade is always fun. There’s just so much glitz and glamour. Every day is a party. I know that this is incredibly romanticized, but I can’t help it. This book does a great job of evoking all of those feelings but also showing some of the rougher sides of the 1920s. I especially appreciate the frank depiction of Theta and Memphis’ relationship as an interracial couple. I also feel like Bray did a good job of showing a little bit of what every day life was like in the 1920s–not just the speakeasies. The language seemed super authentic to me and that was something I really enjoyed.

The plot of this book was pretty fantastic but it started off SO SLOW. Honestly, the only reason I kept with it past the first 200 pages is because I know how many people really love this book and series. There was nothing inherently wrong with the beginning of the book, but there wasn’t much that made me want to get back into it after I set it down. Not much was happening and I didn’t find Evie to be a very likable character.

Speaking of Evie…she just wasn’t my favorite. She was immature, selfish, and impulsive. While she did show some growth throughout the book, it wasn’t much (especially not 600 pages worth). She’s pretty much the same character at the end as she is in the beginning. She just doesn’t think things through or think about other people! The rest of the characters were fine and I felt like there was a lot to be explored with them, which will probably happen in future books.

Another issue I had was just with how LONG this book is. I don’t necessarily mind a 600 page book, but not all of the characters and subplots were essential to the story. Obviously the author is setting up the rest of the series, but I just don’t feel like that was necessary to do in the first book. If she had cutout all the extra things about Theta, Memphis, and Henry, then the book probably would have been a much more manageable 300 pages. The whole time, I was expecting a bunch of characters to come together in the end with their special skills to take down the bad guy but…that never happened. So then here I am at the end of the book feeling unfulfilled and not really caring about Theta or Sam Lloyd or Henry DuBois (or the girl from the Chinese restaurant–what does she have to do with anything???).

Overall, I actually did like this book (despite my critiques). I thought the murders were creative and the way the characters solved the mystery seemed logical and was fairly easy to follow. However, while I think I would probably enjoy the rest of the series, I have no drive to actually pick up the next book. I would recommend this book for those who don’t mind a slower pace and are willing to invest for the long haul.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: None
Violence: Heavy (slightly graphic but not too descriptive)
Smoking/Drinking: Heavy
Sexual Content: Moderate

Taxonomies & Tourette Syndrome | A Taxonomy of Love by Rachael Allen [ARC]

A Taxonomy of LoveSpencer has Tourette Syndrome. You know, that thing where people start swearing randomly? Except it’s a lot more than that. He’s learned pretty well how to manage his tics and he also knows which neighborhood boys to avoid (read: all of his older brother Dean’s friends). Then Hope Birdsong moves in next door. They soon become best friends, but when Hope starts dating Dean, it puts a strain on their friendship. But things are still fine until Hope and Dean breakup and Spencer tries to kiss her (whoops). As they progress through high school, Spencer loses himself in wrestling and his new girlfriend Jayla. But he can never quite forget about Hope.

Recommended if you liked: An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
TL;DR – I learned about Tourettes. The characters were moderately deep and had a good developmental arc, but I wasn’t a huge fan of how the author chose to pace the book.

First off, I’ve never read a book with a character who has Tourette Syndrome. To be honest, I knew very little about it before reading this book, but I feel like it does a really good job of treating it in a very frank and honest way while also being extremely respectful. I feel like I’m more prepared now if I were to ever interact with someone who has Tourettes.

I thought that the characters had a pretty good developmental arc throughout the book, but the pacing was a little weird sometimes. I was reading from a digital galley and I think some formatting things were lost in translation because all of the sudden the next chapter had skipped to the next summer and I felt like I had to catch up. I’m sure this is resolved in the final physical copy, but it made it hard for me to enjoy the book at first (I think my copy was just missing some headings or something). The book spans from when Spencer and Hope are around 13 to 19 so there are huge sections of these characters lives that are “left out”. At the same time, it gives a pretty good picture of how people change throughout high school and in response to life events, etc.

This book is less plot-centric than character driven so there isn’t too much to comment on in that area. I will say, it felt a little lazy to me that the author had Spencer and Hope’s friendship rebuilt “off-screen”. We leave them at a tentative truce and then in the next chapter it’s a year later and they’re friends again? I would have liked to have seen more of that develop than just having it be handed to me as a reader.

Overall, I thought this book was pretty good, but not necessarily mind-blowing. I did come out of it feeling more educated than I had been going in, but I had a really hard time adjusting to the pacing and time skips, etc. I would recommend this book to anyone who would like to learn a little more about Tourettes in a casual setting or to anyone who wants a break from the YA female narrator.

Overall Rating: 3
Language: Modereate
Violence: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: Moderate

Note: I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.