Review: The Diviners

The Diviners, Libba Bray (The Diviners #1)

Hardcover, 592 pages

Published September 18th 2012 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Source: Chicago Public Library

7728889

From Goodreads

Evie O’Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City—and she is pos-i-tute-ly ecstatic. It’s 1926, and New York is filled with speakeasies, Ziegfeld girls, and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is that she has to live with her uncle Will and his unhealthy obsession with the occult.

Evie worries he’ll discover her darkest secret: a supernatural power that has only brought her trouble so far. But when the police find a murdered girl branded with a cryptic symbol and Will is called to the scene, Evie realizes her gift could help catch a serial killer.

As Evie jumps headlong into a dance with a murderer, other stories unfold in the city that never sleeps. A young man named Memphis is caught between two worlds. A chorus girl named Theta is running from her past. A student named Jericho hides a shocking secret. And unknown to all, something dark and evil has awakened.

This was my first Libba Bray book but it pos-i-tute-ly will not be my last.  Yes, it did take me a bit to get used to the Roaring Twenties language here, but I really enjoyed this book in the end.  Evie O’Neill is easy to adore.  Our Evie is sent in disgrace from her hometown in Ohio to live with her Uncle Will in New York City. Will runs the “Museum of the Creepy Crawlies” and is an expert on the occult.  Thank goodness he is, because the ultimate in dark creepy crawlies is murdering New Yorkers and trying to take over the world. Evie has a secret gift, but up until this time she’s really only used it for entertainment.  Will, his assistant Jericho, and her friend Mabel make Evie realize she can do some good in the world and still play the part of a New York City socialite.  

This book is loooong – but in the end it felt definitely worth the time reading because Bray has it packed with characters running all over New York.  Aside from Jericho and Mabel, Evie falls in with a Ziegfeld dancer, Theta and her roommate Henry; Memphis, a Harlem numbers runner; and Sam – who begins by pickpocketing Evie and ends up working at the Museum with a hidden agenda of his own.  Evie is definitely the star of the show – and as I said she is a fantastic character.  She grows up as the book goes on, but never loses her sense of adventure and eagerness to experience the world.  She’s much more than the good time girl she appears to be.  

I loved the completely different sides of New York City that Bray takes the reader to.  I really felt I was there in the 20’s – in a speakeasy, on the docks, in Grand Central Station.  The Diviners will scare you – not just with the murders, but with the talk of eugenics – I was completely creeped out at times.  Then there are the Diviners themselves!  I loved how every character that we meet with a magical talent is different.  How will they work together?  Or will they not work together at all?   I cannot wait to see where this series goes!  

So we have murder, we have magic, we have romance and we have the Roaring 20’s – all in one book.  If any of these appeal to you get to reading!

4 stars!

Next on my list is to review the sequel Lair of Dreams which is out tomorrow!

Advertisements

Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses

A Court of Thorns and Roses (A Court of Thorns and Roses #1), Sarah J. Maas

Amanda

Publication: May 5th 2015 by Bloomsbury Children’s

Hardcover, 416 pages

Source- Galley from ALA MW meeting

16096824

From Goodreads…

When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she’s been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.

A Court of Thorns and Roses was described to me as a retelling of Beauty & the Beast with fairy elements.  This was not your Disney version of Beauty & the Beast!  Feyre and her family are starving.  They live in hovel and she hunts to get what little food she can.  She points her bow at a wolf in the woods with the knowledge she could be killing a fairy – but she is so full of hate towards the fae that she does not care.  In the world Maas has created the fairies are the former slave masters to the human race and it took a war for the humans to be freed.  They live with the knowledge the fairies can really return at any time and slaughter them.  When Feyre learns she did indeed kill a fairy she must pay the price- to be killed or to give up her life in another way by returning to the fairy lands with Tamlin.  She goes, but plans to try to escape as soon as possible.

Feyre is not a quiet Beauty that goes to her Beast.  In fact, something that struck me while reading this is how long it takes before any suggestion of Feyre’s appearance even comes up.  Yes, she becomes beautiful but at the beginning of her story she is not a beauty inside or out.  She has a lot to learn about herself, her own family and the world she moves into.   Maas builds beautiful worlds when she writes – if you’re a fan of fantasy and not reading her Throne of Glass series you’re missing out!  She creates hard and sometimes cruel worlds for sure, but as a reader you are immersed where she wants you to be.   Feyre is accustomed to being responsible for her own survival so by her constant questioning of Tamlin and his court she learns a mysterious sickness is plaguing the fairy lands and putting her human world at risk.

I appreciated how smart Feyre was – and she recognized her own weaknesses.  She knows she can fight and she can hunt, but she knows her odds against the fairies especially in their own lands are not good.   She soaks up information to try to find her way home.  This was definitely a story of hate to love — but it was a slow development.  I was glad Feyre didn’t fall quickly head over heels.  I really loved the dynamic between Feyre, Tamlin and his emissary Lucien as well.  The banter and the action was great.  Feyre is really a sad character at first – she’s lonely, she’s bitter and she needs someone to love her.  I was really glad she started with finding friends, even if she didn’t trust them fully.  And back to the love to hate- wow.  This romance gets HOT.

I really can’t think of why you shouldn’t read A Court of Thorns and Roses!  Kick-ass heroine, deadly villains, mysterious blights to fairies, great friendships, and a sexy “Beast”.  I am really excited to see where Book 2 goes and I hope to learn more about the other lands and about the history of the fairy courts.

Other than my slight obsession with Seanan McGuire and her October Daye series I don’t really read a lot of books about the fae.  No matter how much I love the books I always feel a little lost in the mythology- and I felt the same while reading A Court of Thorns and Roses.  I think that’s going to be my homework while we wait for both of Maas’ next books.  Any suggestions out there where I can about the Tam Lin?  Or things like puca and the other fairies out there?  Maybe that will get me ready for whatever awaits Feyre and Tamlin!

5 stars!

Thank you Bloomsbury for this advance copy in exchange for an honest review!

Review: Hawley Book of the Dead

The Hawley Book of the Dead, Chrysler Szarlan

Amanda

Hardcover, 352 pages

Published September 23rd 2014 by Ballantine Books

Source: e-ARC from NetGalley

20342498

From the Publisher:

An old house surrounded by acres of forest.

A place of secrets, mysteries and magic.

This is where Reve Dyer hopes to keep herself and her children safe.

But a mysterious figure has haunted Reve for over a decade. And now Reve knows that this person is on her trail again.

In Hawley, where the magic of her ancestors reigns, Reve must unlock the secrets of the Hawley Book of the Dead before it’s too late…

It’s not often that you find yourself actively rooting for a character who has shot her loving husband, but Revelation Dyer is a different story.  Reve and her husband are Las Vegas illusionists working together when he is tragically killed during a show.  While living under police scrutiny in the aftermath, Reve remembers the childhood story her grandmother told her of the Fetch who chased her ancestors to their deaths.  Reve fears her own Fetch is onto her and spirits her family out of Las Vegas to family property at Hawley Five Corners, Massachusetts.

Reve’s magic is more than mere illusion you learn, as is that of her youngest daughter.  This magic goes back generations through the women in her family-women who lived in Hawley Five Corners before all of the townspeople disappeared one day.  Just poof! Disappeared.  So yes, after Reve’s husband is murdered she moves her kids to an uninhabited town in the middle of the woods.  Creepy.  Spooky as it sounds, this was Reve’s safe place as a child and her family is all nearby, so she believes they can stay hidden from the Fetch.  In this house in the middle of the woods Reve finds a book that has belonged to all of the Revelations before her and tries to turn to it for help.  I loved the creepy setting which surprised me as I don’t usually love scary things.  I loved digging into the story of what had happened in Hawley and how Reve’s family factored into that.

The Hawley Book of the Dead had my name all over it.  Generations of strong women, magic- not a ton but just enough to keep things interesting, and a mystery to solve.  However, I liked this book, but I just couldn’t love it.  The book jumps a bit from Reve’s perspective to that of her Fetch, as well as jumping back in time to the events that set him on her path. I liked this way of getting the path of the history across, but I still feel like somehow I missed something that would have made me love this more.  While the book read quickly for me in the beginning it slowed down in the second half – maybe due to all that jumping?  I also really didn’t like that her childhood love was thrown into the story – great that he shows up as a friend, but complicating things with a possible love connection did not work for me.  I think she could have dealt with the Fetch without that complication.

I am going to have to reread this one and see if I feel more into it. I see that Szarlan is working on another Revelation book and I would absolutely read it.  The stories of the other women in her family sound have a ton of potential.

3 stars!

Thank you Ballantine Books and NetGalley for this advance copy in exchange for an honest opinion!

Review: Trigger Warning: Short Stories and Disturbances

Trigger Warning: Short Stories and Disturbances, Neil Gaiman

Amanda

To Be Published: February 3rd 2015 by William Morrow

Hardcover 352 pages

Source: e-ARC from Edelweiss

22500611

From Goodreads….

Trigger Warning explores the masks we all wear and the people we are beneath them to reveal our vulnerabilities and our truest selves. Here is a rich cornucopia of horror and ghosts stories, science fiction and fairy tales, fabulism and poetry that explore the realm of experience and emotion.

I’ll be honest and say that Neil Gaiman could publish his grocery list and I’d read it.  American Gods is pretty much my favorite book in the world.  I reread it once a year and I always find something new. So I basically stood up and danced around my office when I received an early copy of these short stories.  I know I just said last week I don’t really do short stories, but people, it’s Neil Gaiman.  I would rather have a full length novel, but I really enjoyed these overall.

To begin, I actually loved the lengthy prologue.  Gaiman goes through each story and describes why it was written or who it was written for.  I really liked that extra personal touch and I felt it made for richer reading-despite the short format.  I loved the female pirate in “A Calendar of Tales” and “The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury” touched my heart.  There’s even a story of an igloo built of books-what booklover wouldn’t be drawn to that?  “The Sleeper and the Spindle” was a fantastic fairy tale twist and definitely gave me the shivers while I was reading.  “Click-Clack the Rattlebag” was deliciously creepy.

My issue often times with short story anthologies is the tie-ins to other books or series that I might not have read.  Two stories in Trigger Warning reflect two of Gaiman’s own books, American Gods and The Ocean at the End of the Lane.  “The Case of Death and Honey” is Gaiman’s Sherlock Holmes story but also with a nod to Laurie King’s Mary Russell and Holmes series.  Though that series is still on my lengthy to be read list, I still found that story to be one of my favorites.  I’ve never read a Doctor Who book, despite the fact that I’ve been watching the show since I was 3.  While I doubt I’ll seek out a full length book, I did still like “Nothing O’clock”, the story featuring the Doctor.

In the past when I’ve read short stories I find my mind wandering trying to figure out how much is left-because its not usually enough.  The best praise I can give Trigger Warning is to say that I was completely immersed in most of the stories.  I was intrigued, entertained and even a bit rattled by Gaiman’s words.

4 stars!

Thank you William Morrow and Edelweiss for this advance copy in exchange for an honest opinion!

Review: Salt & Storm

Salt & Storm, Kendall Kulper

Amanda

September 23rd 2014 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

ebook, 416 pgs

Source: NetGalley

18302133

From Goodreads…

Sixteen-year-old Avery Roe wants only to take her rightful place as the witch of Prince Island, making the charms that keep the island’s whalers safe at sea, but her mother has forced her into a magic-free world of proper manners and respectability. When Avery dreams she’s to be murdered, she knows time is running out to unlock her magic and save herself.

Avery finds an unexpected ally in a tattooed harpoon boy named Tane–a sailor with magic of his own, who moves Avery in ways she never expected. Becoming a witch might stop her murder and save her island from ruin, but Avery discovers her magic requires a sacrifice she never prepared for.

Avery Roe and her family are definitely tough chicks! Avery’s grandmother is the Roe Witch on Prince Island off the coast of Massachusetts.  She is responsible for charms for safety for the islands’ whalers, for fidelity from their wives and even at times for their deaths at sea.  The Roe Witch is each replaced by her daughter-they only have daughters- who let’s go of her individuality to just become the next Roe Witch.  Avery’s mother has chosen to leave that path and leaves Avery behind with her grandmother.   Avery is waiting for her destiny, when suddenly her mother swoops back into her life and pulls her into a “normal” home.  We meet Avery when she’s living with her mother again who is trying to groom Avery into a nothing more than a marriageable young woman.  Avery cannot access her own magic, with the important exception of telling fortunes based on dreams, and her mother has cursed her so that she cannot return to her grandmother’s cottage.

Avery is miserable when we meet her.  As I mentioned Avery tells fortunes from dreams and she has never been wrong.  When she dreams of her own murder she knows that she cannot change her fate, but she also knows that the Roe Witch cannot be murdered.  She can only hope that by becoming the Roe Witch she can change what she has seen.  Her determination to thwart her mother and return to her grandmother rises to a new level.  I was really impressed with Avery at first.  She pushed herself to the point of blackouts trying to get back to the cottage.  She soon realizes how far her mother is willing to go to keep her from becoming a witch and has to reach out to friends for help.  Avery lost me for a bit at this point-granted her mother was awful and I didn’t like her either-but why couldn’t she talk to her rather than act out like my 3 year-old?!

Avery meets Tane, a Pacific islander who brings the magic of his own people to Prince Island.  Tane has been searching for Avery for an agenda of his own and they work out a deal to break her mother’s curse while Avery tells his dream fortunes.  I loved that Kulper brought in the Pacific Islands and touched on how the whaling ships must have both influenced and terrorized their people.  I thought Tane with his island magic brought a really interesting foil to Avery and her female line of witches.  Even though their relationship moved a bit quickly for me, I was still touched by the romance between Avery and Tane and their hopes for each other and the determination to be together.

I loved how the island itself was part of Avery just as much as the history of the Roe women.  Its a harsh life for the whalers and islanders alike and this fit so well with the fight Avery had to put up against her mother and her own fate.  Though this was a book about witches it was much less about magic than it was about love and family, betrayal and sacrifice.  This was about the choices made by mothers and daughters just as much as the fate of the young lovers.  Avery absolutely lives up to her name and her powerful ancestors.  I’m glad this was a standalone book, but I am really excited to read Kulper is writing a prequel.  The Roe women were fascinating and I would love to read more stories about them-though I would definitely not like to be one of those women!  Have you read Salt & Storm?  If so which Roe magical gift would you like?  I’m leaning towards talking in any language to any creature!

3 stars!

Thank you Little Brown and NetGalley for this copy in exchange for an honest opinion!

Review: Froi of the Exiles

Title: Froi of the ExilesFroi

Author: Melina Marchette

Series: The Lumatere Chronicles #2

Published: 2011 by Viking Australia, 593 pages

Reviewed by Holly

Well, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, I have to say – I was not sure about reading this book, Amanda made me do it, and OMG she was right. AGain. And, I will try not to post any spoilers, BUT, this is the second book in the Lumatere Chronicles, the first being Finnikin of the Rock, so the synopsis of this one may ruin some of the magic of that book. Consider yourself warned – but I’ll save the synopsis for the end of this post, and first tell you exactly what was so amazing about it.

I dilly-dallyed on this book for two reasons:

  1. Amanda made me read Divergent, which I loved, and then that series devolved into a hot-mess which I hated. I loved Finnikin, which I read not realizing at first that it was part of a series. I did NOT want this world to turn into something completely silly too.
  2. The title character in this book is Froi, who was introduced to us in Finnikin. You guys, Froi is not a likeable guy. In fact, Froi does something really awful in Finnikin – as in, attempted sexual assault. Ugh. I really could not abide the thought of reading a book with that guy as the main character – I mean, was he supposed to be some kind of hero?

Fast forward to my finishing Froi – I sent Amanda a short text: “Froi. Done. Heart hurts.”

The fact that this book tugged at my heartstrings so much – for Froi, and the people he has come to love, and the people who have come to love him – is a testament to Melina Marchetta’s amazing writing. I am not even sure how to describe what she did – Froi’s actions in Finnkin were not swept under the rug, and they were not merely forgiven and forgotten. From his experiences, he grows and changes and becomes better, but it certainly doesn’t come across as an after-school-special type lesson of finding the silver lining in a terrible situation. Rape is a prevalent theme in this book, but it’s not rape as a plot device (I’m looking at you, George R.R. Martin).

In fact, even if you don’t pick up on the subtleties, Marchetta delivers her point with a heavy-hand:

Men don’t rape women because their women are ugly,” cousin Jostien said, but there was a protest at his words. “That’s what my fa said! He says that inside their hearts and spirits they are nothing but little men who need to feel powerful.

Froi is not let off easy for his transgressions, by those around him and by himself. Froi is afraid of the darkness within himself, and he actually reminds me Dexterat several points of Dexter – you know, America’s favorite serial killer. Dexter (I’ve only watched the show, not the read the books) goes on and on about his ‘dark passenger,’ and Froi carries a dark passenger of his own. Dexter lives by the code of Harry, and Froi lives by the bond he has sworn to his adoptive homeland and family. I have been siding with Dexter for seven seasons now (have not watched #8 yet!), and, at some point in this book, I began to side with Froi, and hope that he could find light amidst his darkness.

Go read Finnikin, and then read Froi! There’s a third too- Quintana of Charyn, and you better believe that one is near the top of my to-read pile.

Parting Words:

“I fear that I will do something to bring harm to those I love,” Froi said. “So I will follow their rules to ensure that I won’t.”

“But what if you bring harm or fail to protect those you don’t know? Or don’t love? Will you care as much?”

“Probably not.”

“Then choose another bond. One written by yourself. Because it is what you do for strangers that counts in the end.”

Five Stars

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Three years after the curse on Lumatere was lifted, Froi has found his home… Or so he believes…

Fiercely loyal to the Queen and Finnikin, Froi has been trained roughly and lovingly by the Guard sworn to protect the royal family, and has learned to control his quick temper. But when he is sent on a secretive mission to the kingdom of Charyn, nothing could have prepared him for what he finds. Here he encounters a damaged people who are not who they seem, and must unravel both the dark bonds of kinship and the mysteries of a half-mad Princess.

And in this barren and mysterious place, he will discover that there is a song sleeping in his blood, and though Froi would rather not, the time has come to listen.

Review: The Enchanted

The Enchanted, Rene Denfeld

Amanda

Published: By Harper on March 5, 2014

256 pages.

17936636

From Goodreads…

A wondrous and redemptive debut novel, set in a stark world where evil and magic coincide, The Enchanted combines the empathy and lyricism of Alice Sebold with the dark, imaginative power of Stephen King

“This is an enchanted place. Others don’t see it, but I do.”

The enchanted place is an ancient stone prison, viewed through the eyes of a death row inmate who finds escape in his books and in re-imagining life around him, weaving a fantastical story of the people he observes and the world he inhabits. Fearful and reclusive, he senses what others cannot. Though bars confine him every minute of every day, he marries magical visions of golden horses running beneath the prison, heat flowing like molten metal from their backs, with the devastating violence of prison life.

Two outsiders venture here: a fallen priest, and the Lady, an investigator who searches for buried information from prisoners’ pasts that can save those soon-to-be-executed. Digging into the background of a killer named York, she uncovers wrenching truths that challenge familiar notions of victim and criminal, innocence and guilt, honor and corruption-ultimately revealing shocking secrets of her own.

Beautiful and transcendent, The Enchanted reminds us of how our humanity connects us all, and how beauty and love exist even amidst the most nightmarish reality.

I was shocked when I finished this book.  Shocked that a book about the harsh reality of prison could be so beautiful.  This book is haunting me in a way I cannot remember another touching me right now.  I hope I have the right words to describe how I felt because I feel completely inadequate.

“This is an enchanted place. Others don’t see it, but I do.”

Our narrator is an unnamed Death Row inmate. He doesn’t speak and does everything he can to keep from being seen by the other inmates and the guards, as well as the Fallen Priest and the Lady who work on the Row.  He only interacts with the Warden, and that is as little as possible.  He does not leave his cell, yet he sees so much more than just the walls around him.

The Lady visits Death Row as an investigator into cases coming up for execution.  An inmate named York has requested to die so she begins looking into York himself and how he came to the Row-not the crimes that he is absolutely guilty of.

We’re watching the Lady discover this heartbreaking childhood, while we know she’s also the product of her own equally disturbing experiences.  What makes the difference from becoming York and becoming the Lady?  What should she do with her findings when this man wants to die, and she knows that given the chance to leave prison he won’t stop the same heinous crimes he has already committed?

We meet the Warden and the White Haired Boy and my heart broke for both of them.  I found the Fallen Priest to be pitiable, but he also gave me hope, because despite his feelings of despair, he still had hope.

This book makes you consider the worst of humanity, and they are not just the prisoners.  Yet despite the horrors both explicit and those hinted at in the story,  The Enchanted is hopeful and there is beauty in the magic inside the prison. There is beauty in our prisoner, and so he can see the golden horses and find the enchantment, even though he is capable of horrors never fully explained.  There is still good in the individuals that might be lost to the prison and some find their way out.   While I found myself cringing in anticipation while reading some scenes of this book and moved by the sadness, I was ultimately enchanted and hopeful when I finished.

The Enchanted will be released by Harper on March 5, 2014-read it, think about it and let me know if you were as moved as I have been.

5 stars

Thank you to Harper for this advanced copy for review.