Review – Omens (Cainsville #1) by Kelley Armstrong

 

Omens (Cainsville #1)

By Kelley Armstrong

Summary: Twenty-four-year-old Olivia Taylor Jones has the perfect life. The only daughter of a wealthy, prominent Chicago family, she has an Ivy League education, pursues volunteerism and philanthropy, and is engaged to a handsome young tech firm CEO with political ambitions.

But Olivia’s world is shattered when she learns that she’s adopted. Her real parents? Todd and Pamela Larsen, notorious serial killers serving a life sentence. When the news brings a maelstrom of unwanted publicity to her adopted family and fiancé, Olivia decides to find out the truth about the Larsens.

Olivia ends up in the small town of Cainsville, Illinois, an old and cloistered community that takes a particular interest in both Olivia and her efforts to uncover her birth parents’ past.

Aided by her mother’s former lawyer, Gabriel Walsh, Olivia focuses on the Larsens’ last crime, the one her birth mother swears will prove their innocence. But as she and Gabriel start investigating the case, Olivia finds herself drawing on abilities that have remained hidden since her childhood, gifts that make her both a valuable addition to Cainsville and deeply vulnerable to unknown enemies. Because there are darker secrets behind her new home and powers lurking in the shadows that have their own plans for her.

Source: I purchased a hardcover

Review:

I loved Omens. It was not at all what I expected, yet it felt very similar to the urban fantasy style that I’m used to. It was more of a supernatural mystery than an urban fantasy, not focused on romance or supernatural creatures at all. The book was set in a normal world, but Cainsville itself was a strange town that Olivia ended up in. She could also read omens, but didn’t really know why. 

Olivia thought she knew who she was, but she discovered she was adopted and her real parents were convicted serial killers. Her adopted father passed away and Olivia really only connected with him in her family, so the news was shocking and it left her feeling like she had nowhere to go. Her life was turned upside down, so she decided to find out more about her real parents.

Gabriel is one of my favorite characters. He was weird, untrustworthy, icy, and incredibly interesting. Olivia and Gabriel began this weird working friendship in which he assisted her, but they both clearly wanted something from each other and it was the only reason Olivia chose to work with him. It was strange, but I was drawn to their relationship. 

Omens didn’t really contain any romance, but I could sense a slow burn between Gabriel and Olivia and I loved watching their friendship unfold. There also seemed to be people in the town of Cainsville rooting for their friendship, which was also interesting. The town itself was supernatural, I think, but couldn’t be sure. The rest of the book seemed like a regular mystery, so I liked the underlying weirdness that set it apart from regular mysteries and urban fantasies because it straddled the line. 

I definitely recommend Omens, especially if you like urban fantasies, but want something different. 

Star 4

 

 

Review – Disappearance at Devil’s Rock by Paul Tremblay

 

Disappearance at Devil’s Rock

By Paul Tremblay

SummaryA family is shaken to its core after the mysterious disappearance of a teenage boy in this eerie tale, a blend of literary fiction, psychological suspense, and supernatural horror from the author of A Head Full of Ghosts.

Late one summer night, Elizabeth Sanderson receives the devastating news that every mother fears: her fourteen-year-old son, Tommy, has vanished without a trace in the woods of a local park.

The search isn’t yielding any answers, and Elizabeth and her young daughter, Kate, struggle to comprehend his disappearance. Feeling helpless and alone, their sorrow is compounded by anger and frustration. The local and state police haven’t uncovered any leads. Josh and Luis, the friends who were with Tommy last, may not be telling the whole truth about that night in Borderland State Park, when they were supposedly hanging out at a landmark the local teens have renamed Devil’s Rock— rumored to be cursed. 

Living in an all-too-real nightmare, riddled with worry, pain, and guilt, Elizabeth is wholly unprepared for the strange series of events that follow. She believes a ghostly shadow of Tommy materializes in her bedroom, while Kate and other local residents claim to see a shadow peering through their own windows in the dead of night. Then, random pages torn from Tommy’s journal begin to mysteriously appear—entries that reveal an introverted teenager obsessed with the phantasmagoric; the loss of his father, killed in a drunk-driving accident a decade earlier; a folktale involving the devil and the woods of Borderland; and a horrific incident that Tommy believed connected them all and changes everything. 

As the search grows more desperate, and the implications of what happened becomes more haunting and sinister, no one is prepared for the shocking truth about that night and Tommy’s disappearance at Devil’s Rock.

Source: I purchased a paperback

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Review:

Disappearance at Devil’s Rock was a somewhat creepy and engaging book about a missing boy, a shadow, and secrets between a group of boys. 

Paul Tremblay is someone who understands the horror genre. It’s correct to put his books in horror, but they don’t scare me in the same way that other horror novels do, but I’m not upset about it. This book and his other, A Head Full of Ghosts, remind me of Jennifer McMahon novels where it’s more about the secrets between people, the lies we tell ourselves, and the fact that the truth is so hard to uncover. Those things combined with the small essence of supernatural possibility had me looking over my shoulder at home and trying not to see things out of the corner of my eye. 

I loved Disappearance at Devil’s Rock. I wanted to know what happened to Tommy and why, but I was also interested in the aftermath, like the relationship between Elizabeth and her daughter, the other boys Tommy was friends with, and the town itself. I devoured Tommy’s journal pages because they felt so realistic. 

I definitely recommend the book and I’m definitely on the lookout for more of his books because I sense some real talent and amazing storytellings from Tremblay. I felt like the story was so plausible, despite how insanely far fetched some of it was, but that’s just part of being a kid and being drawn to the stories about the landmarks in your town, eager to get some sort of supernatural vibe from things. I will caution anyone that the book isn’t your typical bump in the night horror, but it does a great job of creating the atmosphere and keeping you on your toes, eager to see what other clues there are. It was well written and explored/was inspired by a lot of different elements of horror.

 

Star 4

Review – The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

 

The Sun is Also a Star

By Nicola Yoon

SummaryNatasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.

Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.

The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?

Source: I received a signed hardcover in an Uppercase.

Uppercase_November_Unboxing.jpeg

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Review:

The Sun is Also a Star was a beautiful story. It was about love, chance, science, poetry, and those little moments that turn into big ones. It’s been on my shelf for months because I just didn’t know if it was the kind of contemporary for me since I’m so picky, but I’m glad I read it.

The Sun is Also a Star was what I wanted The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith to be. Natasha and Daniel met in this weird twist of fate one afternoon in New York City and somehow ended up spending the day together while they both worried about their futures. In one day, so much changed for both characters.

Natasha was a Jamaican immigrant and her family was being deported the following day. She was the kind of person who used to be full of dreams and turned away from them in favor of cold hard science. She was being deported because her dad, who never made it big as an actor, got a DUI and drew attention to his illegal status. Daniel was a Korean-American getting ready for his college admission interview. He loved poetry, but his family was extremely focused on his career path. He had to become a doctor and he had to go to a good college. The two characters were as opposite as they could possibly be, but they somehow met and crossed paths throughout the day, mostly due to Daniel’s persistence. 

I loved the format of the book. It bounced from Natasha’s point of view to Daniel’s, but also included brief POVs from other people, like their parents, a person they just crossed paths with, or a brief description about a word or a scientific process that was relevant to the story. It worked really well and made the story more of an experience for me. I feel like I learned a lot about both the Korean and Jamaican cultures and some of that was because the story stepped out of Natasha and Daniel’s shoes for a minute to describe something or go on a tangent about a cultural thing. 

I teared up multiple times because I felt so connected to the characters. I felt very invested in their story. The whole time I was reading, I just kept thinking that this was a story I wanted, the reason I bought The Geography of You and Me, and I had it sitting on my shelf this whole time! The only reason I didn’t rate it five stars was because of the abruptness of the ending. We spent all this time with the characters and then it just sort of glossed over everything after the day they spent together and didn’t explore what happened next quite as much as I’d hoped. But I kind of liked the way it ended at the same time. My conflicted feelings just lead me to rate it 4 stars for now. 

Star 4

Top Ten Tuesday – Getting Around To It

toptentuesday

Top Ten Tuesday

Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

 

Top Ten Series I’ve Been Meaning to Start But I Haven’t Yet

 

1. Jurassic Park and The Lost World by Michael Crichton

2. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

3. The Shades of Magic series by V.E. Schwab

4. The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

5. Midnight, Texas Series by Charlaine Harris

 

 

6. Temeraire series by Naomi Novik

7. His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman

8. The Georgina Kincaid series by Richelle Mead

9. The Night Huntress series by Jeaniene Frost

10. The Hollows series by Kim Harrison

Review – The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis

The Female of the Species

By Mindy McGinnis

SummaryAlex Craft knows how to kill someone. And she doesn’t feel bad about it. When her older sister, Anna, was murdered three years ago and the killer walked free, Alex uncaged the language she knows best. The language of violence.

While her crime goes unpunished, Alex knows she can’t be trusted among other people, even in her small hometown. She relegates herself to the shadows, a girl who goes unseen in plain sight, unremarkable in the high school hallways.

But Jack Fisher sees her. He’s the guy all other guys want to be: the star athlete gunning for valedictorian with the prom queen on his arm. Guilt over the role he played the night Anna’s body was discovered hasn’t let him forget Alex over the years, and now her green eyes amid a constellation of freckles have his attention. He doesn’t want to only see Alex Craft; he wants to know her.

So does Peekay, the preacher’s kid, a girl whose identity is entangled with her dad’s job, though that does not stop her from knowing the taste of beer or missing the touch of her ex-boyfriend. When Peekay and Alex start working together at the animal shelter, a friendship forms and Alex’s protective nature extends to more than just the dogs and cats they care for.

Circumstances bring Alex, Jack, and Peekay together as their senior year unfolds. While partying one night, Alex’s darker nature breaks out, setting the teens on a collision course that will change their lives forever. 

Source: I borrowed a Kindle copy from the library

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Review:

WHY aren’t more people talking about this book?!

The Female of the Species looks like your average contemporary with the bright cover and quirky title. But underneath, it was a brutal and fierce book that pushes the ugliness of rape culture in your face. It’s full of cussing, screwed up situations, and violence, but it was a sucker punch I think we all need. 

On second thought, I’m actually glad that since it’s not the book everyone is raving about, at least it’s not in the spotlight of public outrage about what is appropriate in YA. I feel like there’s a big issue with people scrutinizing what is okay for YA fiction and if too much language or sex or violence is counterproductive or even triggering. I’ve always been in the camp that reading stories like this one SHOULD be uncomfortable to some degree because teens are cussing, drinking having sex, and dealing with a lot of issues that no one, including their parents, ever seem to talk about. Let’s talk about it and be real. There is even a scene that talks about talking about stuff like that and being In-Your-Face about it to get people’s attention. Tiptoeing around an issue won’t help people truly understand it.

I think the synopsis makes it sound like some romance between Jack and Alex, making me expect a much more run of the mill contemporary romance, but that was not what the book was at all. Alex was a brutal person who decided she had enough of behaviors and people slipping through the cracks. While Jack and Alex had a connection and ended up attempting to explore it, the story was more about the small town, groups of friends, and Alex’s place in an ugly and unfair world.

I loved Peekay. She was my favorite character because she had spunk and she treated Alex like something other than the girl with the dead sister. 

The Female of the Species is a 100% necessary book. It talked about rape culture, the way that girls are treated differently, the fact that no one ever seems to want to deal with sexual assault or talk about it. It also dealt with stereotypes and I absolutely LOVED that it didn’t vilify the promiscuous girl and instead asked why it mattered whether she got around or not. Maybe half the rumors about her aren’t true, but so what if they are? It was a book about the awfulness of people and the goodness in them, too.

The book is NOT for those sensitive to violence, sexual assault, or animal cruelty. None of those behaviors are excused in the book, but they do occur. 

I highly recommend it. I was going to rate it 4 stars at first, but the story has stayed with me for a couple of days and I found myself wishing I knew more readers to recommend it to, so I just had to bump it up to five stars. 

 

Star 5

 

 Quotes:

You see it in all animals – the female of the species is more deadly than the male.

I live in a world where not being molested as a child is considered luck.

Opportunity is what matters, nothing else… I’m telling you… It doesn’t matter. What you were wearing. What you look like. Nothing. Watch the nature channel. Predators go for the easy prey.

But boys will be boys, our favorite phrase that excuses so many things, while the only thing we have for the opposite gender is women, said with disdain and punctuated with an eye roll.

 

 

Review – Beauty of the Beast (Fairy Tale Retellings #1) by Rachel L Demeter

 

Beauty of the Beast (Fairy Tale Retellings #1)

By Rachel L Demeter

SummaryExperience the world’s most enchanting and timeless love story—retold with a dark and realistic twist.

A BEAST LIVING IN THE SHADOW OF HIS PAST

Reclusive and severely scarred Prince Adam Delacroix has remained hidden inside a secluded, decrepit castle ever since he witnessed his family’s brutal massacre. Cloaked in shadow, with only the lamentations of past ghosts for company, he has abandoned all hope, allowing the world to believe he died on that tragic eve twenty-five years ago.

A BEAUTY IN PURSUIT OF A BETTER FUTURE

Caught in a fierce snowstorm, beautiful and strong-willed Isabelle Rose seeks shelter at a castle—unaware that its beastly and disfigured master is much more than he appears to be. When he imprisons her gravely ill and blind father, she bravely offers herself in his place.

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST

Stripped of his emotional defenses, Adam’s humanity reawakens as he encounters a kindred soul in Isabelle. Together they will wade through darkness and discover beauty and passion in the most unlikely of places. But when a monster from Isabelle’s former life threatens their new love, Demrov’s forgotten prince must emerge from his shadows and face the world once more…

Perfect for fans of Beauty and the Beast and The Phantom of the Opera, Beauty of the Beast brings a familiar and well-loved fairy tale to life with a rich setting in the kingdom of Demrov and a captivating, Gothic voice.

* * *

Beauty of the Beast is the first standalone installment in a series of classic fairy tales reimagined with a dark and realistic twist.

Disclaimer: This is an edgy, historical romance retelling of the classic fairy tale. Due to strong sexual content, profanity, and dark subject matter, including an instance of sexual assault committed by the villain, Beauty of the Beast is not intended for readers under the age of 18.

Source: I purchased a kindle copy

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Review:

Despite reading a Beauty and the Beast retelling recently and deciding that they really just aren’t for me, something about this synopsis made me pick the book up. I am drawn to the themes of Beauty and the Beast, so I figured I’d try another retelling. I loved that it also included some Phantom of the Opera themes, promising a haunted Beast, but one that was still human.

Beauty of the Beast was not YA, but it also wasn’t incredibly sexual, either. There were some moments, especially towards the end, but it wasn’t like a smut filled Beauty and the Beast retelling, either. I liked that the story felt like it had some mature characters and less magic involved, especially since Adam was human. 

Prince Adam was a captivating character. He watched his family suffer during a massacre that he survived, but he let the world thing he was dead. His castle was crumbling and cold, as was what was left of his humanity after the event. I could tell he was suffering and wanted to know more. Isabelle was much like the Belle most of us are all familiar with, but her “Gaston” was a much bigger nightmare for her. Her imprisonment in the castle wasn’t necessarily the worst option for her, even when she assumed Adam was the villain. 

I thought both characters came together well and realized how much they had in common. Some of my favorite aspects and scenes from the original tale have a place in the book, but it was different and intriguing because I honestly wasn’t sure what would happen since the book changed the relationship between Belle and her family in many ways. 

I loved that the story kind of did what Beastly did, but in a better way to get the message across. In Beastly, it was a form of magic and punishment disfiguring the “beast” and it was about learning to see past beauty (which was cool, but somehow ruined the message when the guy gets to be hot again after learning a lesson). But in this one, the beast truly was scarred by the massacre of his childhood, marring much of his body. He didn’t think he was worthy of being in society or love, giving into baser instincts. Isabelle found beauty within him and truly saw him as beautiful in the end because of who he was. There was no magic “ta-da” suddenly he’s super hunky with no scars and I LOVED that aspect. It felt more real.

If you are a fan of Beauty and the Beast retellings, I definitely recommend this one. It was one of the few I actually enjoyed more than I thought I would.

Star 4

Review – A Court of Wings and Ruin (A Court of Thorns and Roses #3) by Sarah J. Maas

 

A Court of Wings and Ruin (A Court of Thorns and Roses #3)

By Sarah J Maas

SummaryLooming war threatens all Feyre holds dear in the third volume of the #1 New York Times bestselling A Court of Thorns and Roses series.

Feyre has returned to the Spring Court, determined to gather information on Tamlin’s maneuverings and the invading king threatening to bring Prythian to its knees. But to do so she must play a deadly game of deceit-and one slip may spell doom not only for Feyre, but for her world as well.

As war bears down upon them all, Feyre must decide who to trust amongst the dazzling and lethal High Lords-and hunt for allies in unexpected places. 

In this thrilling third book in the #1 New York Times bestselling series from Sarah J. Maas, the earth will be painted red as mighty armies grapple for power over the one thing that could destroy them all.

Source: I purchased a hardcover

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Review:

I absolutely love this series. And Sarah J. Maas. This was another brilliant five star book that had me twisted into a ball of emotions the whole time. I was on the edge of my seat with so much hanging in the balance. There were alliances, court scheming, plots, betrayals, quests, romance, adventure. I think ACOWAR is even more complex than the second book with the political plots and bargains and favors. 

I love how Maas creates characters that end up growing and changing. Comparing ANY of the characters in ACOTAR to the ones in ACOWAR would show just how much they’ve all been affected by the events of the world. Feyre did a lot of her growth in ACOMAF, but in ACOWAR, we got to see her strut her stuff as High Lady of the Night Court and truly flaunt her power. I will always love the romance between her and Rhys because they just believe in each other, lean on each other in times of need, and never let their worry stop them from letting each other do what needs to be done. I love villainous and terrifying love interests, but I melt even more when they treat their romantic leads as equals and believe in them. And it really doesn’t happen as often as it should in romance, so I can’t get enough of Rhys and Feyre. They are both so full of compassion and yet rippling with terrifying power. 

But while ACOMAF was more focused on the romantic tension between Rhys and Feyre to some degree, ACOWAR was definitely more about introducing more of the rest of the characters and their stories along with the threat of war, and so there was a lot going on. For anyone who was sticking through it just to get more romance, while I think ACOWAR has a lot of great romantic moments, it definitely wasn’t quite the same kind of story. This book wasn’t just the two of them soaring through the night and stealing moments, but of them covered in blood and sweat and leaning on each other because they just couldn’t stomach the battle without each other. Which was better to me, but might not satisfy people who crave romantic tension. 

I don’t know what to say without spoiling the many twists and turns in the plot. The story started in such a different place than it ended, with a host of various schemes and problems along the way. But I LOVE this series so much. It brings real fantasy elements and real character growth to YA that I just don’t see often enough in other books. It is rare that books touch upon the strength it takes to recover from traumatic events, the love that is real and makes us better people, the friendship between people who are good to each other, and the complexities of the Fae world. There are layers upon layers to everything in the series and none of it feels contrived or lazy or predictable. The characters are amazing and I just loved every second. 

I can’t wait to see where the series will go after this, but I’m also glad to get some closure, too, which is what I have not yet gotten from the Throne of Glass series. 

I highly recommend the series and this book was as good, if not better, than the second in the series, so it did not disappoint. I truly cannot comprehend anyone not loving this series if they are into fantasy and Fae lore at all, unless it has to do with the more mature violence and romance being off putting for people who stick to YA for the cleanliness. This series is definitely mature, but not quite as graphic as adult romance. I highly recommend it.

Star 5