Jolene

The Uninvited by Cat Winters

The Uninvited: A Novel - Cat Winters

Ivy's ability to see ghost has always been a curse. She knows if she sees a ghost, a death is coming. Unfortunately, it's 1918 and the flu pandemic is in full swing. Ivy falls victim to the flu and barely has the strength to leave her house when she learns her father and brother murdered a local German man. 

 

Once Ivy finds lodging with a young widow, May, she starts taking charge of her life. When she lived at home, she was expected to be the dutiful daughter her violent father wanted her to be. Now free, she can put her nurses training to use. During 1918, that is a 24 hour job. She spends few hours a day she gets to herself trying to make amends for the murder her father and brother committed. Added on to everything she'd dealing with, the ghost, her Uninvited, are coming more and more frequently.

 

I have to admit I was a little disappointed with this title. I read In the Shadow of Blackbirds and absolutely loved it. I was expecting nothing less from The Uninvited. The balance didn't work for me. There isn't really a whole lot of paranormal happening in the title. I don't think it has enough to be considered  a true paranormal title. Yet, it is there, so you can't call it just historical fiction. The pacing was a little to stop and go for my taste and the ending was predictable around the half way mark. Even with the issues I had with The Uninvited, I'm glad I read it. If nothing else, I truly enjoyed the characters.

 

**Thank you William Morrow and Edelweiss for providing this in exchange for an honest review**

Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray

Lair of Dreams - Libba Bray
Lair of Dreams picks up a short time after The Diviners end. Evie is know known as the Sweetheart Seer and has her own radio show. Sam and Jericho are doing everything they can to keep the museum open while dealing with their own Diviner issues. Henry finds out there is at least one other Dream walker out there. Theta worries her nightmares from the past may burn her future.
 
Lair of Dreams was somehow even better then The Diviners. One or two new characters are introduced and fit right in with the already existing ones. I really didn't care for Evie's character for most of this book. Towards the end, you see a glimpse of the old Evie and you get why she acts the way she does for most of the beginning. I still didn't care much for her thoughtlessness, but at least there is a explanation. I'm glad she wasn't the main focus in this title. There wasn't really a main character in Lair of Dreams and I absolutely loved that. Each character has a equal amount of time. This allows each character the time they really needed to grow. The writing and the story are absolutely superb. I liked the ghost story a lot more then Naughty John. I really, really hope it doesn't take another three years for the next Diviners title. 
 
**Thank you Little, Brown Books for Young Readers and Netgalley for providing this in exchange for an honest review**

Frog by Mo Yan

Frog - Mo Yan, Howard Goldblatt

I'm officially calling it quits with this one. I've been piking it up and putting it back down for over four months now. I think it's just a case of the author's writing style not fitting with my taste. The description grabbed my attention right away. I love historical fiction featuring strong woman who make it even when all the odds are staked against them. I knew we'd hear Gugu's story through her nephew, but I thought her story would be the bulk of the book. Up to 37% (where I'm DNFing), we do get to see parts of Gugu story. However, once you really start getting into it, Tadpole will take over again. I already own another book or two by Mo Yan, but now I'm not sure I'll read them. 

 

**Thank you PENGUIN GROUP Viking for providing this in exchange for an honest review**

China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan

China Rich Girlfriend: A Novel - Kevin Kwan

There really are too many storylines for me to write a coherent description. When I requested this, I didn't realize it was a second in a series. If you haven't read Crazy Rich Asians yet, go and read it before starting this. If you don't you'll be completely lost. I went back and read CRA, loved it, and was very happy to already have this on hand. 

 

China Rich Girlfriend picks up the stories right where CRA ends and introduces a few new characters. Kwan's writing style and characters are enjoyable. These books do technically have main characters, but most of the POVs get equal time. Kwan was able to make each characters distinctive and unique. In a book with so many characters, that had to have been quite a challenge. Do you watch K or J Dramas? If so, you'll be used to the over the top corniness and drama that unfolds in this book. I think that's why I loved it so much. This isn't my normal genre, but it sounded just like a K-Drama in book form, and it did not disappoint. 

 

A few of the POVs were left with a unfinished feel to them, and that is what keeps me from giving this four stars. If a third book or novella comes out to tie up the few loose ends, I will definitely come back and up my rating for this title.

 

 

**Thank you Doubleday Books and Netgalley for providing this in exchange for an honest review**

Raise money for RAINN, laugh at Theodore Beale

Reblogged from Dor Does Books:

You may or may not be familiar with the name Theodore Beale. He is also known as Vox Day. Tl;dr version: he's not keen on women's rights and was kicked out of the SFWA for calling N.K Jemisin 'an educated, but ignorant half-savage'. 

 

Blogger Natalie Luhrs has a copy of one of his books. For every $5 raised for RAINN (or, as she mentions in the comments of her blog, for your own local charity doing similar work) she will livetweet one page using the hashtag #readingVD. If she raises $2000, she'll read the whole. damn. thing.

 

Her blog post with details of how to register your donation to the official count is here. Her Twitter is here.

 

She's already up to $825. The read has BEGUN.

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Uprooted - Naomi Novik

Every ten years the Dragon, a powerful wizard, takes a girl to his tower. No one really knows for sure what the girls go through while they're there, but everyone has their own ideas. It's time for the Dragon to choose a new girl. Everyone knows he'll choose Kasia. She has always been perfect in every way. Kasia's mother came to terms with this a long time ago and has been training her daughter to be the Dragon's companion since she was a little girl. Kasia's best friend, Agnieszka, is still struggling to accept she'll lose Kasia forever. Even though Kasia will be released in ten years, she'll never live in the valley again. None of the Dragon's girls do. As upset as Agnieszka is about losing Kasia, deep down she's thankful she'll never be chosen. She's the complete opposite of the girls the Dragon chooses. Or so she thought....

 

I can understand why there are five star reviews everywhere for this book. It really was amazing. The mix of Fantasy and Fairy Tale was perfect. The characters, both primary and secondary, are well developed, unique, and likable. The world building was great. The first 25% or so did drag quite a bit for my taste, but after that the story pace picked up and kept on going to the end

 

**Thank you Del Rey and Edelweiss for providing this in exchange for an honest review**

The Walled City by Ryan Graudin

The Walled City - Ryan Graudin

 

Mei Yee was sold into the sex trade by her drunken father. She is kept separate from the other girls.  The only person she sees besides the girls who take care of her room and Mama-san is her exclusive customer, the Ambassador.  Mei Yee is expected to accept this is how it’s going to be the rest of her life. Mei Yee still has hope, though. She dreams of finding her sister again. She pictures them by the ocean. A place they’re never seen, but one that still gives her a safe place feeling.

 

Her younger sister, Jin, has run off to find her. In order to survive the murders, gangs, and thieves of the Walled city, Jin has to live as a boy. She has been nimble in body and mind since a young age due to her father’s rages.  Her quick thinking and speed have kept her alive, but they are not enough. The city is huge and full of brothels.  She has been able to check out most of them on her own, but now she needs help. She believes she may have finally found where her sister is being kept. There’s only one problem. It’s run by the deadliest gang in the city, The Brotherhood.

 

Dai is in the city due to Reasons.  These Reasons call for him to get in with the Brotherhood. He has a plan, but in order to work, he is going to need a partner. Someone fast and who can think on their feet. He’s just met Jin and thinks “he” may be perfect.

 

The Walled City is told in three alternating POVs.   Mei Yee and Jin both held my attention better the Dai. His character had an artificial feel while Mei Yee and Jin felt natural. The world building was hit and miss, but overall not bad. It was the story itself that brought my rating down. It took me over a month and a half to finish this book. The story was never exciting enough to hold my attention for more then ten to fifteen minutes at a time. If this hadn’t been an ARC it would have been a DNF.

 

**Thank you Little, Brown Books for Young Readers and Netgalley for providing this in exchange far an honest review**

A Breath of Frost by Alyxandra Harvey

A Breath of Frost - Alyxandra Harvey

I really should put off reviewing this until after I reread it, but I'm going through and doing reviews now and this one is next up on my list. Maybe I'll do a better review later, but for now, this'll have to do.

 

I borrowed this from the library last year and loved it enough to buy my own copy. I do believe this was my second favorite YA read of last year (the second book in this series was my favorite). The world building, characters, and magic system were all spot on. The story held my attention right from the get go. I devoured this 400 odd page book in less then a day. All three of the girls had distinct personalities that complimented each other. While Emma was the "main character" in this book, she wasn't a "Chosen One" cliche. The thing I loved the most about this story was the bond between Emma, Gretchen, and Penelope. So many YA titles, no matter the genre, are always pitting girls against each other. Even if a group of females are fighting for the same team, they're still fighting each other. Each of these girls are willing to admit another girl might be stronger then her in one way or another.

 

The second book in the series, Whisper the Dead, was even better then this title. Gretchen is the main focus in Whisper and I really look forward to spending more time with Penelope when the third title comes out

The Mammoth Book of Tasteless and Outrageous Lists by Karl Shaw

The Mammoth Book of Tasteless and Outrageous Lists (Mammoth Books) - Karl Shaw

I love List books. They are the perfect "genre" for me to read in bed. I've read and enjoyed a few books by Shaw in the past. I enjoyed this one, but found my self skipping huge chunks. Many of the topics in this book are repeats you see in many other list books. This was a little disappointing as far as list books go, but Shaw's writing and humor are both strong. Don't think I'll reread this one, but I'm still glad I bought it

Red: A Short Story by Kathryn OHalloran

Red: A Short Story (Japan Stories) - Kathryn O'Halloran

I ended up DNFing this about 40% in. I just couldn't connect with the main character. I do have to say the world building was excellent. It was the only reason I made it as far as I did with this story

Re Jane: A Novel by Patricia Park

Re Jane: A Novel - Patricia Park

Jane has lived in Flushing, Queens her entire life. After she was orphaned as a baby, her grandfather sent her from South Korea to live with her Uncle in America. She was always told it was for her own good due to the fact that her father was an American G.I. During that time, many Koreans were still racist towards biracial people. Jane doesn't see how growing up in Korea could have been any worse then the life she has in Flushing. She felt the same prejudices in America. She was, if not shunned, then kept at a distance by her peers. At home, she feels she is treated no better then an indentured servant. When she is offered the chance to work as a au pair for the Mazer-Farley family, she jumps at the chance. The Mazer-Farleys may be a little odd, but they treat her well and Jane absolutely loves their daughter, Devon. Things are great at first, then two things happen. She starts to fall in the with her employer, Ed, and there is a sudden death in her family that will send her rushing to Korea. Jane will find out the Korea of today is very different then the Korea she has heard about her entire life. It might even be the perfect place for her.

 

This was without a doubt the best retelling of Jane Eyre I have ever read. Park's writing is pure magic. The story never felt rushed or felt dragging at any point. The changes she made to the original story, in order to make it work for the early 2000s setting , felt right. All the characters were unique with their own distinct personalities. The American and Korean story-lines worked really well together. The only real problem I had with the book was Ed. It seems he is supposed to come of as loving and nurturing. Just a guy who had things turn out differently then plan. To me, though, he came off as manipulative and controlling. He was definitely no Mr. Rochester.

 

I will definitely keep an eye out for future titles by Park.

 

**Thank you Pamela Dorman Books/PENGUIN GROUP Viking and Netgalley for providing this in exchange for an honest review**

Jackaby by William Ritter

Jackaby - William Ritter
Abigail has spent her whole life hearing about exciting digs her father goes on. He works in the fields of Anthropology and Paleontology and never would have guessed the sense of adventure he was installing in his daughter. She knows if she stays where she is the only only adventures she'll have are vicariously through others. When she sees the chance to have her own adventure, she jumps at it before anyone can stop her. After a few fails she ends up in New England. She is in need of f a job, hopefully one with room and board. By chance, she happens to run into a detective, Jackaby. Jackaby works on cases that deal with otherworldly beings, and luckily for Abigail, he is in need of an assistant. He tries to send her on her way, but when things heat up with Jackaby's latest case, she decides she wants in on it and no one is going to stop her.
 
This was kind of a hard story to rate. The mystery is pretty slow, and at times flat out boring. I would rate the mystery itself at around 2 Stars. However, I really liked the characters and Ritter's writing style. Even the boring bits weren't too painful because the characters were strong enough to keep me interested. I hope the mystery is stronger in the next installment. I can easily see Abigail and Jackaby carrying another book with a weak story, but one maybe two more books would be it. I look forward to Beastly Bones, which will be released September 2015.
 
**Thank you Algonquin Books and Netgalley for providing this in exchange for and honest review**

The Americans by Chitra Viraraghavan

The Americans - Chitra Viraraghavan

**Thank you HarperCollins/Fourth Estate India and Edelweiss for providing this in exchange for and honest review**

 

Okay, so I'm not really sure how to review this book. Normally I'd start off with a book description involving the plot, then move on with my opinions of the story, setting, and characters.

 

This book doesn't have a single storyline. Its has many mini stories. I just barley hesitate to call it an anthology. If it wasn't for the fact that each POV is continuous through out the book, I'd say that's actually what this is.

 

The Americans is told from 12 different POVs. This book was entirely character driven. Thankfully Viraraghavan's character development was phenomenal. Each voice was unique and distinctive. Each POV was told in 10-20 page sections. I'll admit there was a time or two where I couldn't place a character at first. However just a sentence or two into the section I'd be able to remember everything about them. Not all the characters were likable, but they were very realistic. I felt like I was reading about real human beings.

 

Some of the setting were great, but others not so much. For this particular title, that didn't really bother me. The surroundings that were important to the story were strong. The settings that didn't need to be more then the equivalent of background noise were exactly that.

 

The only thing that really took away any enjoyment for the book was the vague endings. Most of the POVs ended with a unfinished feel to them.

 

I would definitely read more books by this author

 

One thing I want to mention is the Table of Contents list only 11 of the 12 characters in the story. My version is a ARC, so this might be something they change during the editing process.

A Magic Dark and Bright (The Asylum Saga #1) by Jenny Adams Perinovic

A Magic Dark and Bright - Jenny Adams Perinovic
**Thank you Bookish Girl Press and Netgalley for providing this in exchange foe an honest review**
 
Amelia used to be your (almost) average teenager. She was a star on the swim team, had tons of friends, was dating a very cute, popular boy, and occasionally the ghost of a woman hanging around her the back of her house. Then her brother died in an accident and everything changed. She build up walls and kept everyone, but her best friend Leah, at arms length. She stopped seeing the woman in white. A year goes on and another summer rolls around. Amelia's hometown, Asylum, is about to celebrate its 250th anniversary. As head of the Asylum Historical Society, it is Amelia's mother's responsibility to get everything setup for the festival. For Amelia, this means she's about to be busy as free labor. Thankfully, her neighbor's (super cute) grandson has just moved in next door and is willing to help. However, not long after he arrives drowned girls start turning up. Then the woman in white returns. Could her seemingly sweet new neighbor have a dark side no one knows about? Or is there another sinister force taking over Asylum?
 
This was just an okay read for me. The story wasn't bad, but it wasn't really anything special either. It kept my attention just enough to finish it, but just barley. There were a few things I really liked. The book didn't suffer from absent parent syndrome, there wasn't a love triangle, and the love interest is actually a really nice guy. Even though the story was lacking, the character and world development were spot on. I did like the characters. They were all well developed and believable. Asylum was based on a real town and you could tell the author did everything she could to stay true to the town's actual roots while still putting her own spin on it. 
 
I'm not sure if I'll continue with this series or not. The story did end on a cliffhanger, but I'm not really dying to know what happens next. I do know if Perinovic continues to refine her writing skills (this is a debut novel after all), I would definitely pick up future tiles by her.

Sundark: An Elle Black Penny Dread by Elizabeth Watasin

Sundark: An Elle Black Penny Dread - Elizabeth Watasin, JoSelle Vanderhooft
**Thank you A-Girl Studios and Netgalley for providing this in exchange for an honest review**
 
Elle is a clairvoyant, telekinetic, who helps out Prince Albert’s Royal Commission whenever needed. She and her wife, Faedra, live during the same time and place as the Dark Victorian books. Elle receives a letter from a woman asking for her help. The woman, Josefina, works at a hotel called Sundark. Sundark was built by an illusionist for his wife, Abigail. The house was mechanically designer so the rooms could be moved. Abigail was an occultist who worshiped the goddess Hekate. She picked the location of Sundark, and the placement of a few specific towers, for the special powers they held. There was the odd disappearance now and then, but since Abigail herself disappeared, things had quieted down. Now currents guest are starting to disappear. The regular police have been in after every incident and can find no evidence of foul play. At her wits end, Josefina has come to Elle for help.
 
I have to admit, I was really let down with this title. I recently read another book by the author, The Dark Victorian, and really enjoyed it. The characters in Dark Victorian were fun and quirky, but weren't too over the stop. Not the case here. Elle and Feadra are too sickeningly sweet. Most of the characters are pretty generic and flat. The mystery itself bored me. 
 
I will not continue with this series. For those of you who read this and didn't enjoy it, I recommend you try Watasin's Dark Victorian series if you haven't already. The characters, story, and overall atmosphere are all stronger then they were here.

Secret of a Thousand Beauties , by Mingmei Yip

Secret of a Thousand Beauties - Mingmei Yip

**Thank you Kingston Books and Netgalley for providing this in exchange for an honest review**

 

Set in 1930s China, Secret of a Thousand Beauties tells the story of Spring Swallow. An unfortunate girl who is betrothed to a ghost before she is even born. Spring Swallow has been more or less nothing but a maid to the Mean Aunt who raised her. She knows after the official wedding to her Ghost husband, she'll be shipped off to her new mother in law's house to play the same role. But Spring Swallow has other plans. She wants more in life. She doesn't want much. She just wants to be happy. She knows she never will be if things play out as planned, so she starts planning her escape.

 

She'll eventually meet the woman who will set her new life into motion, Purple. Purple is an embroider and agrees to take Spring Swallow home with her to meet her teacher, Aunt Peony. The timing couldn't be better. At the moment, Aunt is extremely busy with embroidering a copy of the Along the River during the Qingming Festival. Aunt agrees to take Spring Swallow on in exchange for cleaning and helping with small embroidery pieces. Spring Swallow must also pledge to follow the rules her new teacher gives her to live by. Most of her time is spent working, but the few hours Spring Swallow does get, she spends up on a mountain. There, its just her and her thoughts. She spends her time drawing out patterns and writing her thoughts on the mountain wall. On one of these visits, she finds someone has responded to her writing. She never could have guest that one message on the mountain was about to send her life off on a new path.

 

I really liked this a lot. I'm a huge fan of Amy Tan and Lisa See. This story read like a lite version of their writing. I don't mean it felt Yip ripped them off. Yip's writing is beautiful and unique, but she wasn't as emotionally draining as Tan or See. Tan and See tend to write books that love nothing more then to rip your heart out and stomp on it repeatedly. While this book has tragedies, they're fewer and far between. Where I need time between Tan and See books, I could (and probably will) pick up another Yip book very soon. Her characters feel like real human beings. I feel like I've met Spring Swallow. The world Yip created was perfect. I could actually see all the setting. Only one thing kind of bugs me about the title. It's something I personally see as a loose end. The author did address it, and I guess most readers would except it as neatly tied up, but it bugs me. I'm honestly surprised I hadn't heard of Yip until recently. Her name really deserves to be as prominent as Tan or See.

 

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