Tag Archive | 4.5 star

Review: The Girl Who Remembered Horses — by Linda Benson

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Cover image and summary from goodreads.com

Title: The Girl Who Remembered Horses

Author: Linda Benson 

Rating:  ★★★★★ (4.5 of 5)

Genre/Pages: Dystopian / 214

Summary: “In a world that has forgotten the ancient bond between horses and humans, can one girl’s dreams make people remember?

Sahara travels with her clan in a future, barren environment where recyclables are bartered for sustenance, and few remember horses or their connection to humans. But Sahara has recurring dreams of riding astride on magnificent animals that run like the wind. At the Gardener’s Camp, she discovers a valuable book and learns that her visions are real. But how can she persuade others of the ancient bond between horses and humans, when she is labeled just a foolish girl?

When Sahara discovers a helpless young horse, she must use both her courage and inborn knowledge to keep the animal safe, convince others of the true worth of horses, and learn the secret of her real identity.”

Cover Review: It’s pretty, but I wish it was artwork. It’s a very nice picture, though. I dislike the fact that it’s so completely unrelated to the book. The horse doesn’t look like the horse in the book (if I’m remembering right) and overall, the cover gives a contemporary feel to the novel. I really think this book could benefit from having a cover that actually portrayed the dystopian nature of this book.

My Review: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. If memory serves, I actually requested this book from the author, because the premise fascinated me so much. I’ve read plenty of equestrian fiction over the years, but equestrian dystopian? That’s completely new to me. It was a really fun book!

Characters: The characters were possibly my favorite thing about this story. The main cast of characters was good-sized, but they were all very well-developed and fascinating. They were flawed and independent and believable. I especially loved the character’s dynamics and interactions with each other — that, I think, is really where Linda Benson’s skill in writing shines the brightest. I loved each and every one of these characters, even the not-so-lovable ones, and that can be a very difficult thing for a lot of books to achieve. But The Girl Who Remembered Horses had a cast of characters that makes me desperately wish to return to the world in a sequel to learn more about them. I especially loved Sahara, who was worthy of an entire set of American Girl Doll books and merch.

Plot: The plot was really moving and emotional. It kinda felt like a Dystopian Little House on the Prairie, if that makes any sense. Thinking back on what I said about Sahara being like an AG doll, my feelings towards this book make a lot more sense. That’s exactly what this book felt like! It was a story of heart, of love, and of determination. Sahara is the American Girl Doll of the dystopian future, and her action-packed and heartwarming story illustrates that beautifully.

Content Advisory: Talk of death and butchering animals. An elderly person dies in sleep.

To Sum It Up: This is the perfect book to read with your pre-teen and teenage daughters. Who am I kidding? It’s perfect for all ages — middle grade to adult! This was a really fun and worthwhile book. It’s one of those books that I want to read to my own children one day. I highly recommend this book for readers ages 7 and up.

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Review: Illusionarium – by Heather Dixon

 

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Cover image and summary from goodreads.com.

Title: Illusionarium

Author: Heather Dixon

Rating: ★★☆ (4.5 of 5)

Genre / Pages: Steampunk / 361

Summary: What if the world holds more dangers—and more wonders—than we have ever known? And what if there is more than one world? From Heather Dixon, author of the acclaimed Entwined, comes a brilliantly conceived adventure that sweeps us from the inner workings of our souls to the far reaches of our imaginations.

Jonathan is perfectly ordinary. But then—as every good adventure begins—the king swoops into port, and Jonathan and his father are enlisted to find the cure to a deadly plague. Jonathan discovers that he’s a prodigy at working with a new chemical called fantillium, which creates shared hallucinations—or illusions. And just like that, Jonathan is knocked off his path. Through richly developed parallel worlds, vivid action, a healthy dose of humor, and gorgeous writing, Heather Dixon spins a story that calls to mind The Night Circus and Pixar movies, but is wholly its own.

Cover Art Expectations: I started this book with a specific set of expectations from the cover art (Because let’s be real here, who DOESN’T judge a book by its cover???):

  • Female protagonist (Definitely not true)
  • Steampunk (True)
  • Fairytale (Nope, not this one)
  • Romance (erm, not really. I mean, kinda. But it’s not a romance novel)

Prior to reading the book I probably would have given the cover 4 stars. The  character artwork is nice, the backdrop is gorgeous and mysterious, and the gear border brings to mind the steampunk genre. However, my expectation score was 1.5 out of 4 correct, bringing the cover art rating down to 3 starsI think it’s important that a cover properly represents the book’s contents. Cover art rating: ★★★☆☆

My Review: First off, there is nothing intrinsically fairytale-esque about this book. (That expectation came from the author’s other works, and the cover art) I must admit, I was very confused when I realized that the protagonist was a teenage boy. Nothing wrong with that, but that was definitely not what I was expecting. Aside from those two things, I absolutely adored this book! I think I read it in about 2 or 3 sittings.

Hero/Heroine: Jonathan: This was the odd part. I’m not sure if this came from my prior expectation, or from the author’s actual writing, but it took me a good 5 or 6 chapters before I stopped having to remind myself that the protagonist was NOT a teenage girl. My mother had the exact same problem with this book. Jonathan’s voice was very confusing at times. Once I got over that block, I was able to truly enjoy and become invested in Jonathan’s character. His loyalty to his sister was one of my favorite aspects of his character. And that plot twist at the end? Pure. Gold.

Plot: Parallel worlds, addictive hallucinatory drugs with devastating consequences, alternate personalities, Science Magic (it’s a thing, y’all. Admit it.), high stakes, a deadly virus, a ticking clock, and some good ol’ fashioned gladiator style violence… Illusionarium has a little bit of everything! The finished product is entrancing, intriguing, and lots of fun. I thought I knew what was going to happen… but there were plenty of beautiful plot twists that kept me guessing. Fantastic plot, and an even more fantastic world. I think the world was my favorite aspect of this book.

Content Advisory: Some violence, death, and disturbing content, but nothing excessively graphic. 

To Sum It up: The world building is really what makes Illusionarium. It’s insanely cool, and thought provoking to boot. It reminded me of an episode of the sci-fi TV show Sliders. Refreshingly unique and spectacularly creative, this steampunk novel is fun for everybody over the age of 12.

Review: North of Nowhere — by Liz Kessler

Summary and cover image from goodreads.com. Image links to amazon page

Summary and cover image from goodreads.com. Image links to amazon page

Title: North of Nowhere

Author: Liz Kessler

Rating: ★★★★☆

Pages/Genre: 272 / Fantasy

Summary: The sleepy seaside village of Porthaven hides a mystery: Mia’s grandad has vanished, and nobody knows why. When Mia and her mom rush to Porthaven to help her grandmother, Mia imagines long dreary days with no one to talk to except for the old-time fisherman at her grandparents’ pub. But that’s before Mia finds a diary on an empty, docked fishing boat and starts exchanging notes with a local girl named Dee, a girl who seems much like her. Mia is excited about having a new friend, but why do their plans to meet each other never materialize? And why does Dee claim to be stuck at home due to violent storms when Mia sees only sunny skies? Will Mia be able to solve the mystery of where — and when — her grandfather and friend might be before time and tide forever wash away their futures?

My Review: I adore Liz Kessler, so, obviously, I was psyched when I heard about this book. But then I read the synopsis and *YAWN* instant boredom. Even for a middle grade reader. So I expected to hate this book. I thought it was gonna be your stereotypical girl goes to live with grandparents for vacation, she’s absolutely distraught, because the place doesn’t have internet, coming of age, stupid romance, yada yada yada. But it was LIZ KESSLER. So I had to read it.

Boy, was I glad I did! Everything I listed above? Despite the first chapter, it’s not like that — not at all. It was a mystery. But a fun one. The clues slowly appeared (at first, so subtley that it wasn’t until later you realized they had been there), and throughout the book you’re slowly putting pieces together, until… BAM! MIND. BLOWN.

Content Advisory: It’s a middle grade novel written by an acclaimed middle grade author. Nothing inappropriate at all.

To Sum It Up: Time travel. Never thought it could be accomplished in a way that left me satisfied and without questions. But it was. It was amazing. Fantastic. Thoroughly enjoyable cover-to-cover. A fun, light, read, I recommend North of Nowhere for anyone ages 6+.

Review: Harry Potter and the Art of Spying – by Lynn Boughey and Peter Earnest

 

Cover image from goodreads.com. Click on image to go to goodreads book page.

Cover image from goodreads.com. Click on image to go to goodreads book page.

 Title: Harry Potter and the Art of Spying

Author: Lynn M. Boughey and Peter Earnest

This review is of an ARC. Purchase the book September 15th at these links:

Amazon. The International Spy Museum (Available now!). Itasca Books. Hooray for Books. Red Lodge Books.

Goodreads. Official Website.

Summary: The Harry Potter series is more than just a story about a young wizard who saves the world from He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. The seven-book saga is an excellent primer on spying, intelligence, and politics. Join spy novelist Lynn Boughey and thirty-six-year CIA veteran and executive director of the International Spy Museum Peter Earnest as they review the spy craft employed and celebrated in J.K. Rowling’s bestselling books. From the invisibility cloak to house passwords to Fred and George Weasley’s Extendable Ears, “Harry Potter & the Art of Spying” is full of spy lessons for the secret-agent-in-training in the Muggle realm. Learn how to break secret codes, gather intelligence, read character’s motives, and why Severus Snape is the best double agent ever.

Genre/Pages: Fantasy Analysis/Espionage non-fiction/632

Rating: ★★★★ (4.5 of 5)

A Quote: “Severus Snape was perhaps the best spy ever portrayed in literature. But we must remember that there are real spies out there, spies who take all the risks, perhaps more than Snape did. The World is full of risk. It is a very dangerous place. Only through information can our leaders make the right decisions.

And information is hard to come by.

Countries hide what they are doing. Leaders make statements that are intentionally false. And informants are often untrustworthy or just plain wrong.

It is spies — and intelligence analysts — who derive truth from a blurry world.” ~pg 541 of Harry Potter and the Art of Spying.

My Review:  When I first heard about this book I was sitting on my bed listening to Alohomora! I knew as soon as I heard authors Lynn Boughey and Peter Earnest analyzing Harry Potter with the Pros (read: The Alohomora! cast), that I HAD to read this book. It was a given. I had to get my hands on a copy of this book. Weeks later, after many, MANY delays and mail mix ups I finally got to hold a copy of this wondrous book in my hands. I was overjoyed. I cannot possibly fully express my thanks to Lynn, Peter, and all of the other amazing people who helped me to get an ARC of this book for review. Y’all are the best! All of this aside, however, I do consider this an unbiased review.

The first half of this book is a play-by-play analysis of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. At first I was nervous. Was there REALLY enough information in OotP to create a full-on chapter-by-chapter, line-by-line, espionage analysis? Believe me, there is. Lynn and Peter will bring up points and theories I had never even considered.

The second half of this book is a series’ analysis from an espionage perspective. It focuses on the specifics of character motivation, different types of spies throughout the series, Wizard security, Magical (and muggle) means of tracking and spying, personal espionage experiences from the authors, and so much more. This was probably in some ways my favorite part of the book. Not only did you get HARRY POTTER, but you also will be absolutely astonished by how much you learn about how Muggle world spying works. It’s fascinating!

So, at this point I’m typically writing about my thoughts on the hero/heroine. Well… As you’ve probably deducted by now, there isn’t one. So I’m going to split these next two sections (Usually Hero/Heroine and Plot) into the two main focuses of the book: Harry Potter Analysis, and real life Espionage.

Harry Potter Analysis: A word about Harry Potter Analysis: HARRY POTTER ANALYSIS. (Oh, all right, that was three words!) << Did you see what I did there??? There are quite a few running jokes throughout the book, but it wasn’t annoying, actually. It was more like a smile and eyeroll type of running gags. They were legitimately amusing. Anyway, I digress. The blow-by-blow analyzing got a little bit slow at times, since I already know the series (and particularly OotP) so well, but I understand that it was necessary for the points they were trying to make. This book had many laugh out loud moments, some due to the genius of J.K. Rowling, and some to the genius of Lynn and Peter. This form of analysis, however, fully immersed you into the world and you were able to have many Ah-ha! moments of realization. No matter how many times I read the books, listen to the podcasts, or read books like this, I can ALWAYS learn new things about Harry Potter, and new mind-blowing JKR things. This is my OGM for the day. (Obligatory Genius Moment to JKR). Some might think that the book recap would get boring, but it honestly stayed pretty intriguing. In fact, I’m even more desperate to go back and re-read OotP AFTER reading this book. I love getting to see my favorite books from the eyes of someone else, and what better way to get a new perspective on my all-time-favorite book than through the eyes of a CIA veteran and a spy novelist?

Espionage: A word about Espionage: ESPIONAGE! This was absolutely fascinating  — I read it in no time! The depth and detail was enthralling! You learned immense amounts about the intricate functioning of the Order of the Phoenix, the Ministry of Magic, Dumbledore’s Army, and much more. This book merely expanded upon the genius that is the world of Harry Potter, and made you understand JUST how great it REALLY is.  In addition to that, with many personal stories and real-life events, you get to learn how the muggle world of espionage works, as well! It was a very enlightening read on many levels. Peter and Lynn did a fantastic job with the formatting and layout of this spectacular novel.

Content Advisory: Ummm….Nothing. Absolutely nothing inappropriate. 

To Sum it Up: It’s not what I’d call an EASY read, but if you love Harry Potter, then you will love this book. If you’re intrigued  by spy stories, then you will love this book. If you’re interested in the political and social themes of the Harry Potter novels, you will love this book. Written in an easy to read format, with plenty of side notes, digressions, and personal stories, you will not regret reading this book. I HIGHLY recommend this book to all Die-Hard Potterheads.

Have you heard of this book before? Have you read it? Did you like it? 

ARC Review: The Break-Up Artist – by Philip Siegel

 

Cover image and summary from goodreads.com. Image links to goodreads book page.

Cover image and summary from goodreads.com. Image links to goodreads book page.

Title: The Break-Up Artist

The Break-Up Artist will be released May 1st. It will be available for purchase via Amazon HERE in one month! Make sure to buy it! :)

Author: Philip Siegel

Summary: Some sixteen-year-olds babysit for extra cash. Some work at the Gap. Becca Williamson breaks up couples. 



After watching her sister get left at the altar, Becca knows the true damage that comes when people utter the dreaded L-word. For just $100 via paypal, she can trick and manipulate any couple into smithereens. With relationship zombies overrunning her school, and treating single girls like second class citizens, business is unfortunately booming. Even her best friend Val has resorted to outright lies to snag a boyfriend.

One night, she receives a mysterious offer to break up the homecoming king and queen, the one zombie couple to rule them all: Steve and Huxley. They are a JFK and Jackie O in training, masters of sweeping faux-mantic gestures, but if Becca can split them up, then school will be safe again for singletons. To succeed, she’ll have to plan her most elaborate scheme to date and wiggle her way back into her former BFF Huxley’s life – not to mention start a few rumors, sabotage some cell phones, break into a car, and fend off the inappropriate feelings she’s having about Val’s new boyfriend. All while avoiding a past victim out to expose her true identity.

No one said being the Break-Up Artist was easy.

Genre/Pages: Fiction/319

Rating: ★★ (4.5 of 5)

My Review:  

First Paragraph: Couples are made to be broken. That’s what my sister, Diane, told em when I started my business, and she knows better than anyone. “Don’t get duped like I did, Becca,” she said almost a year ago, as she shoved her wedding dress into a garbage bag. She’d had it designed to look like Kate Middleton’s, lace sleeves and everything. It’s a shame nobody saw her wear it.

I’ll be honest. Going into this book, I thought I’d hate it. Obviously, I didn’t. I mean, really? That cover’s not very good, and the synopsis sounded like every book I’ve ever hated. Your typical “Never-had-a-boyfriend-strong-independent-woman-who-don’t-need-no-man-hates-everyone-with-a-significant-other-thinks-all-men-are-evil” female lead who’s whiny and a jerk to her friends because she has a serious victim complex. Then girl meets boy, hates boy, but gradually falls in love with boy, forbidden love deal, they live happily ever after, boring teenage romance novel. 

But I was wrong. That’s not what it was at all. Even though it felt that way to start, it gets better, I promise. So much better.

I received an ARC via the amazing Literary Lushes in for an honest review.

Hero/Heroine: As I previously stated, you just roll your eyes at every idiotic statement Becca makes in the beginning of the book (and don’t even get me STARTED on her sister!!!), SO cliche. SO boring. SO predictable. Or so I thought. Boy, was I wrong. Becca (and even her sister!) really grows on you. She is a flawed heroine, and at first you assume you know everything about her and her motives. But as the book goes on, you learn that you can’t judge someone based on your immediate assumptions. Becca grows a lot, and learns the consequences of actions. And the “Hero”. I’m not gonna name names, but let’s just say, once more, you can’t judge someone on your immediate assumptions. There’s a lot more to him than meets the eye. Die-hard romantics may not like this book, because it defies all cliches, and flat-out makes fun of your stereotypical YA romance novels.

Plot: This was the best part! It’s what you’d expect of a Gallagher Girl in a public high school. Becca makes a living breaking up couples – secretly. She has to be inconspicious, and unexpected. Her twisted methods of discovering what a person most fears in their significant other, and then making it come to pass our pure GENIUS. Becca is a master of sabotage and slander. Waiting to see what she came up with next was probably my favorite part. But the main romance? Let’s just say (as I’ve said a million times already) this book is NOT your average YA romance. Everything that’s never happened in one of those, happens here. It’s all about girl-empowerment, how you don’t NEED a boyfriend to complete you – but sometimes, just sometimes, true love is possible.  The plot is complex, and completely unexpected, but in the end? Absolute perfection. You are on the edge of your seat, as the plot slowly unravels around you, and everything begins to fit into place…

Content Advisory: Maybe 10 or 15 minor cuss words. BS, the B-word, the S-word, the H-word. Some sexual innuendos. Mention of a condom. Mention of rumored sex. A fair amount of under-age drinking, getting drunk, etc. A lot of kissing, though nothing graphic. Frat party, not very graphic.

To Sum it Up: So far, this review has probably made about zero sense, so here goes: NO CLICHES, everything is unexpected, and yet amazing! Girl empowerment, but you can still have a boyfriend! It teaches real morals for real girls. The plot and character development are amazing! Really? I LOVED THIS BOOK. First YA Fiction Romance I have honestly enjoyed. I highly recommend this book to 13+.

Have you heard of this book before? Have you read it? Did you like it? 

Review: Liberty – By Annie Laurie Cechini

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Cover image and summary from goodreads.com. Image links to goodreads page.

Title: Liberty

Author: Annie Laurie Cechini

Summary:

A STOLEN VIAL

Eternigen is the miracle drug that allows humans to travel in deep space. Seventeen-year-old space captain Tabitha “Dix” Dixon has the only vial of Eternigen in existence.

A RELENTLESS ENEMY

Eira Ninge always gets what she wants. She wants the Eternigen, and she’ll do anything-and kill anyone-to get it.

A DEADLY CURSE

Since Dix stole the vial, everyone she loves seems fated to die. When young resistance messenger Jordan Berrett steals her heart, she has to decide if it’s worth risking his life to let him get close. When Dix is involved, even falling in love can turn deadly.

A CHANCE FOR FREEDOM

If Dix can get her hands on more Eternigen, she and her crew can escape the solar system, leaving her dark past behind. But getting the Eternigen won’t be easy, and the bodies keep piling up. In the end, the cost of freedom may be too high.

Genre/Pages: YA Science Fiction/304

Rating: ★★★ (4.5 of 5)

My Review: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. When I read the synopsis, I got excited, it sounded like a really great book… I wasn’t disappointed. Liberty went above and beyond my expectations. Want to get your own copy of this book? I highly recommend entering the giveaway HERE. It’s completely free, and open until May 12th.

Let’s start off with the plot. At first I was dubious. A miracle drug that can take you to deep space? I wasn’t sure how that was all going to play out, but I shouldn’t have worried. The plot was great! Fast paced without getting in the way of the story. Debut novel by self published author Annie Laurie Cechini, Liberty was very engaging, and I quickly got pulled into the story, which means a lot. When I get ‘pulled into a story’, what I mean is ‘freaking-out-yelling-at-the-characters-oh-my-gosh-I-can’t-believe-what-just-happened-crying-my-eyes-out’. That is what happens when I get pulled into a story.

All that said, however, it wasn’t a perfect story. There were some scenes that just completely threw me off, that I just couldn’t understand the point of. That said, however, I still absolutely loved this book. The characters were strong, and you really get attached to them. It was really great getting to see the  character development of Dix, she was a really believable character, and one I could totally relate too.  And, oh my gosh, the ending! I can’t say anything, but… Wow.  So amazing.

Content Advisory: There was a fair amount of fake swearing. Multiple deaths, but nothing graphic.

To Sum it up: A great new story, full of action, comedy, excitement, strong morals, and just a touch of romance. Liberty is an emotional rollercoaster, that I would HIGHLY recommend to anyone over the age of 11.

All the views and opinions contained here are my own. Feel free to disagree with them! Comment, and let me know what you thought of the book, good or bad, so long as you keep it polite. I try my best to respond to every comment. Thank you!

Review: The Runaway King – By Jennifer A. Nielson

Cover image and summary from goodreads.com. Image links to goodreads book page.

Cover image and summary from goodreads.com. Image links to goodreads book page.

Title: The Runaway King (The Ascendance Trilogy, #2)

Author: Jennifer A. Nielson

Summary: A kingdom teetering on the brink of destruction. A king gone missing. Who will survive? Find out in the highly anticipated sequel to Jennifer A. Nielsen’s blockbuster THE FALSE PRINCE!

Just weeks after Jaron has taken the throne, an assassination attempt forces him into a deadly situation. Rumors of a coming war are winding their way between the castle walls, and Jaron feels the pressure quietly mounting within Carthya. Soon, it becomes clear that deserting the kingdom may be his only hope of saving it. But the further Jaron is forced to run from his identity, the more he wonders if it is possible to go too far. Will he ever be able to return home again? Or will he have to sacrifice his own life in order to save his kingdom?

Genre/Pages: YA Fantasy/352

Rating: ★★★ (6 of 5)

My Review: Oh, my gosh, this book was SO amazing! Where do I even start? With the first book, I suppose. The False Prince was breathtaking-ly amazing, and, I must admit, when I heard there was a sequel, I wasn’t happy. How could anyone, anyone, create a sequel to do justice to that book? I didn’t think it was possible.

I shouldn’t have worried. The Runaway King went above and beyond my expectations, and I loved it even more than The False Prince, if that’s at all possible. Everything about this book was just… perfect. The story, for one thing. It always kept me guessing. It was fast-paced, suspenseful, and heart-wrenching. After a while my family just gave up on wondering why I was screaming and gasping and laughing so much.

The characters, (ohmygosh, the characters!) were just brilliant.  They were so deep and complex, and…perfect. Especially Sage. Sage kept me laughing, even when I was on the brink of tears. He is the definition of sassy, and I love it. They were all such awesome characters, and so realistic. They made mistakes, they messed up, and yet, they were so perfect.

Content Advisory: Umm… I can’t think of anything, really. The whole story is pretty intense, but that’s about it.

To Sum it up: Heart-stopping action, incredible characters, the perfect amount of suspense and adventure, and just a touch of romance, I would recommend The Runaway King to anyone, especially fans of the Ranger’s Apprentice series, over the age 10+.

All the views and opinions contained here are my own. Feel free to disagree with them! Comment, and let me know what you thought of the book, good or bad, so long as you keep it polite. I try my best to respond to every comment. Thank you!