Book Review – Crossing Ebenezer Creek

IMG_20170319_182043_174Happy Publication Day to Crossing Ebenezer Creek by Tonya Bolden! I’ve been sitting on this review for a while, but I wanted to wait until it was officially released so that anyone who was interested after reading my review could read it right away! It definitely makes my recommendation list, and if you keep reading, you’ll find out why!

Crossing Ebenezer Creek by Tonya Bolden is based on a tragic, true event that took place near the end of the American Civil War, an event that I never knew about (despite spending years in school being taught U.S. history). It begins as the main character, Mariah, and a number of other slaves (including her brother Zeke) flee alongside a group of Union soldiers after they ransack the plantation where she was enslaved. As the story unfolds, Mariah meets Caleb, a free man responsible for driving a wagon for the Union soldiers. Their relationship matches pace with the story, allowing it to develop at a realistic pace amongst the chaos as the troops march south.

This narrative focuses on the plight of the newly freed Blacks, many of which are dealing with both physical and emotional trauma from their past life. Reading the harrowing accounts of abusive treatment suffered by these people, I felt every word Bolden wrote. Bolden’s contrast between the evils of slavery and the boundless hope of freedom seems effortless (but I expect the writing process was anything but). It’s obvious a great amount of effort went into researching and writing this book, and I’d say it paid off as I was hooked from the very beginning.

This is not a story where freedom is the end of the slaves’ worries. Even after being freed, the newly freed Blacks must deal with the hardships of the trek south, fight demons from their past, and deal with people who might be fighting for their freedom but don’t necessarily think they belong on equal footing. And when they reach Ebenezer Creek, a wide tributary roughly 20 miles from Savannah, Georgia…well, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows.

Overall, I thought this book was well-written and an interesting read, definitely worth reading if you get the chance! It’s authors like Tonya Bolden and books like Crossing Ebenezer Creek that will help shine a light on events so often kept in the shadows and help knit a divide in our country that is centuries in the making.

4 out of 5 flowers!

***I received an Advanced Reader Copy of this book from the book’s publisher via NetGalley. Receiving a free copy of a book in no way affects the honesty of my reviews!

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Book Review – The Circus

IMG_20170302_112053_414Sometimes I randomly go on Goodreads and look at all of the current giveaways, entering the ones that seem interesting. So far, I’ve won exactly one of the giveaways I’ve entered. And the book I won was, you guessed it, The Circus by Olivia Levez. I received an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC), but The Circus was officially released on May 4, 2017 in the UK. It has an expected release date of June 13, 2017 for the US!

The Circus tells the story of Willow, a sixteen-year-old girl who runs away from what many people would think is a great life. She has a beautiful home, owns a prized horse, and goes to a great school. But Willow thinks her father doesn’t really care about her and the fact that he’s about to marry a woman half his age just seems to make things worse. So, Willow does the only thing she can think to do: she destroys her soon-to-be-stepmother’s dress and runs away to join the circus.

Honestly, for the majority of the story I didn’t find Willow to be a hugely sympathetic protagonist. But, as Willow’s dreams of becoming a glamorous circus performer clash with her new reality of the grit and grime of living on the streets, Willow’s character develops in a way that left me feeling like she would do things differently the next time she was confronted with a problem. Her friendship with Suze definitely aids in her growth, and I’m happy that the author created at least one truly complex secondary character.

The synopsis provides more than enough information about the book, so I don’t feel like giving another summary of the story. But I will say this, the end of the book is a little too fairy tale-esque for me, but I know people love that kind of stuff, so I’m not too mad about it.

Overall, I’d give this book 3.5 out of 5 flowers!

Book Review – Heartless

IMG_20170301_220400_621.jpgI know, I know. I said I’d be back to my scheduled posts this week, but that obviously didn’t happen. My brother graduated from university today, and I forgot how much my family loves to spend time together. This is literally my first moment alone since I woke up this morning (well, not counting my morning shower!). So, I’m a bit behind with my posts, and I’m hoping to play catch-up over the next couple of days. Up first, a book review!


Heartless is the first book I’ve read by Marissa Meyer, but this book has inspired me to add her other work to my ever-growing tbr list!

The story is basically the origin story of the Queen of Hearts, a story of love and loss, promises made and broken, friendship, and betrayal. . Catherine dreams of opening a bakery with her dear friend, but fate does not seem to favor young Cath. Nor does her mother, who wants Catherine to be Queen, and her mother is quick to point out it’s not seemly for a queen to spend her days covered in flour, even if her lemon tarts are the best in Wonderland. Her delectable delicacies (and the not-so-subtle dealings of her mother) draw the attention of the King. Not that Cath wants anything to do with the King, especially after she meets Jest, and he introduces her to a world she’s never before experienced.

It was an enjoyable read, I only wish the pacing were a little bit better, and sometimes I think the descriptions were overdone/drawn-out. That might just be a personal preference, though!

Overall, I give this book 3.5/5 flowers, and I look forward to reading more by Marissa Meyer in the future!

Book Review – Heartborn

 

I know, it’s Sunday, and I said I’d be posting reviews on Tuesdays and Saturdays, but I fell asleep before I could post this yesterday. It’s only a day late!


Heartborn by Terry Maggert is a book about love, sacrifice, and family, filled with unique characters, an interesting plot, and enough intrigue to keep you engaged from beginning to end. The amount of head-hopping done as the story is told is a bit difficult to keep up with at first, but once I found the rhythm of the story, I was hooked.

The story is split between two main settings, Earth (or some alternate version of it), and the realm of angels, angels that are power-hungry and scheming, warriors of the sky. Kieron, a young Heartborn angel, falls to Earth where he meets Livvy, a teenager with a defective heart. He knows he is destined to save her, but she knows nothing of the great destiny that awaits her.

The first book in a series, the author spends a significant amount of time describing this realm of angels, the different factions, and the brewing war. And while I liked reading about the blooming relationship between Kieron and Livvy, I really looked forward to the chapters when the story was back with the angels, reading about how Kieron’s family was forced to deal with his departure. The social dynamics, scheming, history, and battle were definitely the parts I enjoyed most.

The ending was a little rushed, but I think that had to do with it being told mostly from Livvy’s POV, and I don’t want to give anything away, but let’s just say she had no idea what was going on either. Overall, I really enjoyed this book, and I would recommend it to fantasy fans who want to read a captivating, well-written story.

4 out of 5 flowers!

*** I received a free advanced reader copy (ARC) of this e-book from the publisher through NetGalley for review consideration. Receiving a free copy of a book in no way affects the honesty of my reviews.

Book Review – The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett

IMG_20170319_234528_263When there’s lag time between reading a book and reviewing it, I’ve noticed it makes it easier to differentiate between the truly noteworthy novels and the books that aren’t memorable. The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett falls into the latter category, unfortunately. When I sat down to write this review, I honestly couldn’t even remember the protagonist’s name. I did remember thinking the book was not what I expected, and I wasn’t really sure how i felt about it. Nearly two months later, I think the fact that I could barely remember what it was about is indicative of my feelings (or lack thereof).

The story is narrated by Hawthorn, a seventeen-year-old girl who labels herself a “misfit.” And, she’s definitely weird. But, it stretches past being a good thing and takes a turn into crazy town. I mean, she becomes obsessed with the disappearance of a young woman (Lizzie Lovett), and her main theory (one she fully believes in) is that [spoiler] Lizzie is a werewolf. And on her quest to prove her theory, Hawthorn becomes employed at Lizzie’s place of work, begins dating Lizzie’s boyfriend (who is twenty-five), and, through her own actions, alienates herself from her best friend and family members. It was really hard to like her. But I think that was intentional because many of the other characters in the story call Hawthorn out on her behavior and refuse to coddle her when she makes a mess of things (which happens fairly often).

I had high hopes for this novel, but, in the end, it was just okay. There was nothing wrong with the writing, but the plot…the supernatural aspect surprised me, not really in a good way, and the whole romance with Lizzie’s ex-boyfriend left me feeling sort of gross. I think it comes down to what I expected versus what I got. The title and blurb made me think I’d get a mystery rife with suspense,  but it was basically just a unique take on a coming-of-age story with a splash of romance and a pinch of intrigue.

Overall, I’d give it 3 out of 5 flowers!

Book Review – Of Fire and Stars

img_20170219_165918_556It was hard for me to rate Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst. Honestly, I think what I liked most about the story was its potential. I kept hoping it would get better, which meant that I kept reading, refusing to stop because I needed to find what I hoped was hidden beneath the extremely shallow surface.

I really wanted to love this book. But I just can’t. I’m at borderline like, maybe.

I think the biggest issue I had was with the characters. They lacked the complexity and depth I’ve come to expect from the books I read, and even the main characters showed little development over the course of the story. The story is told through the perspectives of Mare (short for Amaranthine) and Denna (Dennaleia), complete opposites who form an unlikely bond that turns into more than either ever expected. Their relationship was the only thing I truly found interesting about this story, and I still wasn’t 100% sold on it because it read like a love triangle, even though Denna never really loved the prince (Mare’s brother). I’m not a huge fan of love triangles (even though they are super common in YA novels).

The other thing I struggled with was the lack of world-building. There was so much hinted at: magic, political intrigue, conflict between nations, etc., but we never really learn the details behind the cursory overview we’re given. What Coulthurst did write about was intriguing, but there wasn’t enough depth to keep me interested. Some people might be okay with not knowing how or why things ended up the way they did, but I can’t read a story without thinking of a hundred questions as I read. And if those questions are never answered, it leaves me feeling unsatisfied and disappointed.

Gosh, I feel like I’m only pointing out flaws in this review, which I kind of feel bad about because it’s not like I hated this story. It was okay. But I do have one last rant to get off my chest; although, it’s not unique to Of Fire and Stars. Why must YA novels portray adults to be complete idiots? This is another common theme amongst YA novels that I really don’t appreciate. I understand that the plot might need the older generation to “not quite get it” in order for the story to move forward, but there’s no need to make all of the adults seem like they wouldn’t be able to differentiate between a horse’s ass and its head.

Like I said in the beginning, this one was a tough book to rate and review. There were parts that I enjoyed but also a lot that I didn’t. Yet some people seriously loved this book, and it’s not like it was poorly written or rife with errors. Again, it was an okay book. I just had some issues with it, and that’s why I can only give it 3 out of 5 flowers. But that’s just my opinion, and you’ll have to read it before making your own!

Book Review – The Sun Is Also A Star

img_20170219_165937_184It’s finally time to review The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon, a book I finished reading in the middle of February [*insert slightly embarrassed emoji*]. To be fair, I was out of town when I finished reading this book, and then it was my birthday, and then I went through that awful reading slump for the better part of March….but enough of the excuses, it’s time for a book review!

What can I say about The Sun Is Also a Star that hasn’t already been said? Not much, probably. But, it was a super cute book about the rush of first love and living in the moment even when you know the moment won’t last.

The story centers on Daniel and Natasha, two teens that share one epic, not-so-perfect day before life gets in the way. Daniel believes in love at first sight, fate, and the magic of the universe, whereas Natasha puts her faith in science and only believes what can be proven. But, opposites attract, or so they say…it’s true for the purposes of this story, at least!

What I most loved about this book was the unique, complex characters that Yoon created to tell her story. Each character was well-written, and Daniel and Natasha had such distinct voices that it was easy to switch between their points of view as the story progressed. And I also appreciate how this novel tackled issues of prejudice and family dysfunction in such an honest and tactful way. Superbly done.

Like my other reviews for romance novels, I don’t want to give away too many of the details because the “falling in love” part is expected, but how the story unfolds is where the fun truly lies. So, I’ll leave you with this: The Sun Is Also a Star is a thought-provoking, emotional, beautifully-written novel that left a warm feeling in my chest for hours after I finished reading it.

Overall, I give this book 4/5 flowers! Definitely a great choice if you’re looking for something to read!

Oh, and one more note: I’ve heard Daniel and Natasha’s “instalove” called unrealistic, but I think that’s a bit harsh. Young love is a totally different breed; it’s easy to fall in love when you’re not yet jaded by life. Just think about how easy it was to become “best friends” with someone when you were little…you start off strangers on the playground and by the end of the afternoon, you were promising to be best friends forever. Life complicates love, but I don’t think you needed me to tell you that!

 

 

Book Review – Duels & Deception

IMG_20170411_200112_032I can’t tell you the number of Regency romances I’ve read over the years – it’s far too many to count – but there’s just something about them that keeps me coming back for more. I’m not actually a big fan of romance novels otherwise. Maybe it’s because one of the first “classic” books I read was Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and that early exposure left a hole yearning to be filled. Or maybe it’s because I get a nice chuckle every time the indecency of an exposed ankle is mentioned!

Whatever the reason for my love of Regency romance, it led me to pick up a copy of Duels & Deception, Cindy Anstey’s latest novel, in which we follow Lydia and Robert (or, as formality requires, Miss Whitfield and Mr. Newton) as they try to fill the roles society expects of them while also forging their own paths and [not-so-spoilery spoiler] fall in love.

Lydia is an heiress who is set to inherit her family’s estate, but must suffer her uncle’s control until she comes of age. In comes Robert, her lawyer’s clerk turned apprentice, who starts off as her ally and becomes so much more. I think Anstey did a wonderful job giving the two main characters unique, distinct voices that really shine as the story alternates between their points of view.

The only real issue I had with this novel is that the third quarter of the story felt a bit slow, but I think it might be because the rest of the novel is rife with intrigue (think: kidnapping, blackmail, duels, etc.) and having several “down moments” back-to-back seemed to drag more than it should have.

I don’t really want to give any of the plot details away because, like most romance novels, you know how the story is going to end, and the excitement comes from how you get there. But, I will say that Duels & Deception is a classic romance for the contemporary reader, perfect for anyone who loves an entertaining, intriguing historical romance.

3.5 out of 5 flowers!

Duels & Deceptions is available for purchase as of today, April 11, 2017 (Happy Publication Day!). If you want to know more, make sure to check out the book’s synopsis on Goodreads or Amazon (or any other site where books are sold) and maybe buy a copy while you’re at it!

***I received a free advanced reader copy (ARC) of this book from the publisher through NetGalley for review consideration. Receiving a free copy of a book in no way influences the honesty of my reviews!

Book Review – Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda

img_20170219_170009_617I wasn’t exactly sure what I was getting myself into when I began reading Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli. Honestly, I didn’t really know much about it when I bought it. But, one of my book buddies had recommended it, so I went out and found a copy, adding it to my ever-increasing “to-be-read” list.

I’m normally not one for contemporary YA romances, but I took a chance on this book, and I’m glad I did! The story was entertaining, sweet, and surprisingly uplifting for a book that begins with blackmail.

The book follows Simon, a not-quite-out gay teenager as he navigates the perks and perils of teenage life. While dealing with the shifting dynamics of his relationships with his friends and family, Simon must also juggle extracurricular activities (e.g., the school play), an online “friendship” with a guy whose identity is unknown to Simon, and a blackmailer (who knows Simon’s secret). Reading this story was a roller-coaster of emotions, and Simon’s coming-of-age story is one that I won’t soon forget!

Albertalli did a wonderful job crafting a complex, relatable main character, and I appreciate that Simon is equally as flawed as he is lovable. Simon’s not-so-perfect friends and family were just as well-written. And a special shout-out for supportive, competent adult characters…something that often seems lacking in YA novels!

On top of a delightful cast, the dialogue flowed effortlessly, and the story offered a genuine portrayal of young love in today’s society. And, what I liked most about this novel was the way it made me think about my definition of “normal” and how that can affect my view of the world. I wasn’t expecting to face such a harsh truth while reading this novel, but Albertalli wrapped it up in the warm, fuzzy blanket that is Simon’s budding romance with Blue, softening the delivery.  It was less of a slap in the face and more of a firm nudge in the right direction.

While this wasn’t the most riveting story I’ve read this year, I did quite enjoy the novel, and I took away more than I thought I would. Overall, I would definitely recommend it to others!

4 out of 5 flowers!

Book Review – Quest of the Kings

img_20170226_180847_901Quest of the Kings by Robert Evert had so much potential, but it lacked the depth needed to make it a great novel. The world-building was limited, the writing was overly simple (for my taste), and the main character grated on my nerves from the first page until pretty much the last. However, the plot was intriguing, and some of the supporting characters had compelling stories, enough to keep me reading until I had finished the book.

In this novel, we follow Natalie, a headstrong, stubborn teenage girl, living in a medieval-esque society that treats women as lesser beings, especially if they aren’t nobility. And Natalie, a peasant, isn’t a fan of this social hierarchy, a fact she makes perfectly clear throughout the entire novel, complaining every chance she has about how awful her life is in comparison to everyone else around her. And since this book was written from a limited third person point of view, Natalie’s whining is front and center for a majority of the novel.

The main reason I wanted to read Quest of the Kings was because the summary boasted a tale of adventure and intrigue, as a teenage girl takes control of her life and uses her strength and wit to prove that women can be adventurers too. That’s not the book I read. I think it was there, hidden beneath all the whining and not-so-subtle sexism, but you really have to be looking for it.

I will say this, Natalie started to show improvement in the last few chapters of the book, and I know this is supposed to be the first book in a trilogy, so maybe Natalie’s character growth was meant to be extremely slow in the beginning so that it could stretch across the entire series.

I think I would’ve enjoyed this book more if Natalie’s point of view wasn’t the only lens through which the story was told. Because, again, the plot had potential. And I know there will be readers out there who absolutely love this story because they aren’t as concerned with world-building or the holes easily poked into the plot. If you’re the type of person who can read a book without questioning everything, than you’ll probably find this book enjoyable.

Overall, I give it 2.5 out of 5 flowers.

Quest of the Kings will be released on March 14, 2017. You can read the summary on Goodreads, where you can also find links to pre-order the book!

I received a free advanced reader copy (ARC) of this e-book from the publisher through NetGalley for review consideration.