Review: Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson

AllegedlyAllegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Allegedly was Tiffany D. Jackson’s debut novel. I am still reeling from this book. I finished it last week and have been thinking about it ever since. It is hard for me to wrap my head around this being her first book. I have already purchased Monday’s Not Coming and am really looking forward to reading that as well.

This novel follows, Mary Addison, after being released from ‘baby jail’, she is living in a group home and trying to get her life on track. Mary was sent to ‘baby jail’ for killing a baby that she was helping her Mom take care of. Allegedly. The majority of the book is stream of consciousness narrative which can be very hit or miss for me. This is how it should be done.

It was incredibly moving to hear Mary’s remembrances of various parts of her childhood, her challenging relationship with her mentally ill mother, and of her ‘crime’. The rest of the book cleverly fills in the blanks with an excellent assortment of mixed media sources such as police interviews and court transcripts. I thought the blending of these two styles together was executed perfectly to reveal the ‘truth’ behind the story.

The thing I appreciated most about this book was the way it reflected upon the juvenile justice system and the hopelessness and desperation these kids are experiencing; the problems with that and the systematic failures put forth onto hundreds to thousands of kids. Behind every case number, inmate number, statistic, is a story. This is just one. Of Mary Addison, a smart, mixed race girl, who struggles with feeling self worth and who never really had a chance. Her codependency with her mother and her mental illness was so raw and real. I felt for this girl. I was drawn into her story. It was such a struggle to get through some sections but worth it. It was so well done that at times, I would be so wrapped up, I had to remind myself…this is FICTION. But for a lot of kids out there, too many kids, this story would be all too real.

I did listen to the audiobook for this and DAMN, Bahni Turpin can make you feel all the feels. She is so talented and truly brought the story to life for me. I was listening to Mary as far as I was concerned. I could not recommend this audiobook more highly. Loved it, loved it, loved it!

Previously: Chills. That ending was a complete surprise – not at all what I expected but in the brief time I have had to reflect on it, I think it is actually perfect. Anything else maybe would have seemed false – too good a conclusion or too bad…I do need to think more on this one before I write my final review. Tiffany D. Jackson is one hell of a writer – I will leave it at that for now.

Original: Starting this audio tomorrow for Contemporary-A-Thon! This will be counting for my dark book, as it is definitely not a light-and-fluffy contemporary, and my non-traditional format book ( = Audio )! I could also count it as a diverse book but I have another one I think I will use for that challenge.

🤓📚🤓

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Review: Priest of Bones by Peter McLean

Priest of Bones (War for the Rose Throne #1)Priest of Bones by Peter McLean
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Priest of Bones by Peter McLean is the start to a new adult grimdark fantasy series. Gritty, violent and highly addictive this book kept me glued to the pages until the very end. The story begins with our badass MC, Tomas Piety, returning to his hometown after fighting in a long, brutal war. He brings with him a hodgepodge group of men, including his righthand ‘man’ Bloody Anne, and the mysterious child, Billy the Boy. Not far behind comes his younger brother, Jochan, with some of his men, returning as well. The two groups band together and set out to reclaim the territory and businesses previously owned by Piety that have been pirated during his absence.

This story has everything I am looking for when I open a grimdark fantasy. I want dirt. Lots of it. Dirt, grime, blood, stink, cussing, fighting and no mercy. Just me?

This book had all of those things in spades but it also had a lot more. It deals with some heavier topics that I think were handled really well; rather impressively in fact. For example, a lot of the men returning from war struggle with PTSD – I believe they call it battle sickness in the book – and it didn’t gloss over that fact; it discussed it, showed what that meant amongst the men and how they helped one another. It also examined the aftermath of childhood sexual abuse – the effects that has as an individual is growing into an adult. There are issues with grief, with guilt, and sexual identity. This is by no means an exhaustive list, just a few that I noticed and appreciated. That is pretty much all I want to say on the plot, as I don’t want to reveal anything else that may spoil the paced reveal of the story to anyone.

“All you want is more blood, and more fucking death, and it’s never enough for you, is it? You’ve become a fucking priest of bones!”

I would highly recommend this to anyone who likes grimdark fantasy; particularly people who may like stories like, The Song of Ice and Fire series, that have a lot of political intrigue in them and complex relationships. This story left off in the perfect place for the second book to start and trust me, I cannot wait to get my hands on it. Well done, Peter McLean, well done!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkeley Publishing Group, for providing me with a copy of this book to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity and look forward to hearing what other readers think of this incredibly dark and delicious story!

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Review: One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus

One of Us Is LyingOne of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

5 kids. 1 asshat teacher. 1 room. 1 mysterious death.

Whodunit?

This type of set up is one of my all time favorite mystery tropes. It is so nostalgic for me, bringing back memories of family games of Clue, watching Murder, She Wrote with my Mom and reading Agatha Christie books on summer vacation. Add in the fact that this cast of characters is very similar to the stereotypical characters in the Breakfast Club and you have an equation for the perfect book for Meg!

I listened to the audiobook for this and it had different narrators for the main characters. They all did a wonderful job and I flew through this book. Even though I predicted the ‘whodunit’ portion less than halfway through it was just a hunch and I did not deplete my enjoyment of this at all. I could have easily been wrong but I am glad I wasn’t because it was such a great twist to a classic tale. Getting to the conclusion was pure fun and I never got bored or felt that it was dragging.

Each chapter is from the perspective of one of the suspects – one of the four kids left alive after detention – and each chapter ended in sort of incriminating new facts related to that character. It was really well done and a ton of fun to read! I think this is easily the best YA-mystery that I have ever read and my first Karen McManus book – I am so excited for her next book to be released. If it is anything like this one, it is going to be a heck of a good time!

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Review: The Storm Runner by J.C. Cervantes

The Storm Runner (The Storm Runner #1)The Storm Runner by J.C. Cervantes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Prepare for a gush fest people because I LOVED this book!

The Storm Runner is a new middle grade fantasy novel that is being published through the Rick Riordan Presents imprint. If you aren’t aware, sort of the purpose of this imprint is to provide a stage for diverse voices to tell stories based upon myths and folklore from various cultures around the world. This book is based upon Mayan Mythology and is full of angry gods, magic, mythological creatures and a ton of action and adventure.

Our main character, Zane Obispo, is a kid who has struggled a bit in his social life due to a limp caused by the fact that one of his legs is a little bit shorter than the other. Throughout school, Zane has had to deal with bullies and the feelings of inadequacy that can come when you feel like people are only seeing your faults, as opposed to the rest of you. Despite this, Zane is a sweet baby cinnamon roll who is full of good humor, love for his family and respect for his elders.

I truly fell in love with Zane’s character. I think he is an incredible role model for young readers and, heck, even adult readers. Not only is Zane a great character but he is surrounded by a whole flock of amazing side characters who bring humor, love, depth and drama to this adventurous tale. After witnessing a demon crash a plane into a volcano near his house, Zane ends up heading out on a quest to save the world with his new friend, Brooks (who also happens to be a shape-shifter) and his lovable Uncle, Hondo. Together these three battle scary enemies and plot incredible schemes to save all of humanity. Through his travels with his Uncle and friends, Zane discovers who he truly is and how powerful he can be.

There was so much action in this book. Literally, scene after scene of edge of your seat moments that keep you glued to the pages long after ‘lights out’ time has come! I would highly recommend this book to anyone who loves middle grade stories and/or books based upon mythology. Additionally, I think this would be a great book for parents or guardians to read with the kids in their life. I think there are a lot of great discussions to be drawn from this book and a lot of fun that can be shared as well. Overall, this is a fantastic story that will leave you feeling like magic is not only possible, but real.

Thank you so much to Rick Riordan Presents and Disney Hyperion for providing me with a copy of this book to read and review. It was such a wonderful experience, one I will be thinking about and dreaming about for some time to come. I really appreciate the opportunity and hope that this series is a big success and continues on!

Initial Review: YEEESSSSSS! ARC received – this story sounds amazing – I cannot wait to dive in!

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Review: Brother by Ania Ahlborn

BrotherBrother by Ania Ahlborn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Rebel raised an eyebrow in approval. “Good idea,” he said. “A party ain’t a party without a splash of red.


Brother is my first Ania Ahlborn book. I cannot tell you how much it pleases me to have a new horror writer to obsess over! This book, set in the heart of Appalachia, is deeply disturbing. If you aren’t disturbed in some way by this, I’m not sure we can be friends…for real. One of the most disturbing aspects of this book is, it’s so realistic. At least the writing makes it seem so realistic. Why couldn’t this happen? It could totally happen. It is horrible and dreadful but it could happen. Nothing is scarier than mankind and their capacity to harm one another. At least not to me.

This book follows the Morrow Family, but in particular Michael Morrow, the 2nd son and the one who doesn’t seem to belong. Michael was adopted into this family but he has been well conditioned in their ways; bringing to mind the whole nature versus nurture argument. The skill of Ahlborn’s writing was on full display in the intricacies of the familial relationships. The relationship between Michael and his sister, Misty, was heartbreaking and that between Michael and his brother, Reb, the most disturbing and dysfunctional of all. I loved to watch the evolution of the relationships and the way Michael’s outlook begins to change when he befriends someone from outside the home. Even after this happens though, loyalty to the family remains one of the most important themes in his world.

His conscience wouldn’t let him abandon them. His mind wouldn’t ever let him disconnect.

I really became attached to Michael as a character. As morally grey as he was he seemed like the one shining light in this gloomy, hostile world. I wanted him to be free, to escape from the clutches of his grim reality. I wanted to help him. It’s weird to me how a character, by no means a perfect person, can become so loved, instilling such heavy feelings of empathy in a reader. This to me is a sign of exceptional character writing. I definitely plan to read more of Ahlborn’s books. If you have read any of her books, let me know in the comments what your favorite(s) are because I definitely want to put them on by tbr!

Also, just a side note, loved the references to The Shining in this one! I always love to see King references in other fiction – it makes my heart happy!

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One of the best memoirs I have ever read…

The Milk Lady of Bangalore: An Unexpected AdventureThe Milk Lady of Bangalore: An Unexpected Adventure by Shoba Narayan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I adored this book! As memoirs go – top, top notch – super interesting and engaging!

The Milk Lady of Bangalore took me completely by surprise. I had no idea what this was going to be like and within the first few pages I was hooked. Narayan, a journalist by trade, writes in such a pleasing way. To me, it flows like you are sitting for coffee with a friend and she is telling you a very detailed story. I couldn’t put this one down and ended up reading it in three days.

This is a memoir – one of the best I have EVER read – but it is truly so much more than that. The basic gist is that Narayan decides with her husband to move back to their native-India after living for 20-years in the United States. They both have parents who are getting older and as they have two children, they want their children to know their grandparents and experience their culture. They move into a large apartment building in Bangalore and on move in day, Narayan, by chance, meets Sarala, the milk lady. This is how it all begins.

This book is a beautiful examination of culture, friendship, life, love, loss and growth. I laughed and I cried. You know you have found a special book when one brings out such a wide range of emotions – in my opinion anyway. It was interesting to read about Narayan really learning about her own culture for a second time. I could absolutely relate with a lot of her feelings having moved away from the area I grew up in, and being away for many years, going back, you see things with fresh eyes. You can appreciate how much culture varies from area to area and that can really bring forth a lot of self reflection about ones own beliefs, traditions, goals, wants, needs and really where one feels like they belong.

Now, COWS:

In this book you will also learn so much about cows – magnificent animals, they really are. This book felt to me like a microhistory of cows and their role/significance in India culture, particularly through different Hindu beliefs and customs. I absolutely adored that aspect of the book. If you are someone who enjoys that type of book, you will love this. Also, if you are a foodie, you will probably love this and should definitely read it. There is a lot in here about milk, the different types / properties of milk. I am telling you, fascinating.

Overall, I applaud Shoba Narayan for her efforts with this and I say, thank you, for sharing this part of your life with the world. It was beautiful! Also, a big thank you to the publisher, Algonquin Books, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I truly appreciate the opportunity and apologize that it has taken me so long to get to this! One of my favorite and most unique reads of 2018 so far!

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Review: Dreams of Gods & Monsters by Laini Taylor

Dreams of Gods & Monsters (Daughter of Smoke & Bone, #3)Dreams of Gods & Monsters by Laini Taylor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After a previous stutter start with this one, I have finally finished it and therefore completed the series! Again, I listened to the audiobook – the narrator is the same for all three and she just did such an incredible job – absolutely no complaints there. The first time I tried listening to this, I kept getting to the same spot and getting stuck and my mind would just be wandering away. This time around, I set out determined, I could do this and you know, I am glad I did. Also happy to be done with this series. I leave so many series unfinished so it feels like an accomplishment.

There’s no denying Laini Taylor is one hell of a writer. Her characters are interesting, the worlds are well constructed, there is humor and action – she is a true wordsmith. My problem I have finally decided was Akiva. I’m just going to say it – I don’t like him. Easy now, put down the pitchfork…

I just could not get into him. He was so bland and boring for me. Now Ziri, that was someone I could get behind. I loved his storyline in this one – he makes my heart sing. Then of course Zuzana and Mik. I adore them and was so happy they were along for the ride in this installment. My favorite addition in this book was the incorporation of the scientists. Adding the human element, what was going on around the globe after the angels arrived was just really, really cool. I loved that part. Eliza was a great addition as a character as well.

Overall, this was a good series. I am not swooning over it or anything but it was good and I’m glad I read it. I am going to read Night of Cake & Puppets for sure, as Mik & Zuz are some of the best side characters ever, IMO. I also will be reading basically anything else Laini Taylor writes because…beauty.

Previously:…trying again…I started this earlier this year and shelved it again after my mind could just not stay focused on it. This series has been a mixed bag for me but I REALLY want to finish it. I have heard that this is the best book of the series so am hoping it will really take off for me!

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Review: Empress Unveiled by Jenna Morland

Empress UnveiledEmpress Unveiled by Jenna Morland
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3.5-stars

Empress Unveiled is a debut YA fantasy novel by Jenna Morland. This is the start to a new series and with that ending…I can’t wait to get the next one! This book was highly addictive. I am not sure what it was about it. When I wasn’t reading it, I was kind of wishing I was…but I was confused about it…I couldn’t put my finger on what exactly was drawing me in.

Morland’s writing style does have a nice flow to it. It was a quick read that set the stage well for a continuation of the series. It left off on quite the cliffhanger actually. I would say as fantasy books go, this is a good beginner fantasy. Please note, that is not shade.

Fantasy is a genre, that to me, can be broken up into different levels: beginner, intermediate and high or advanced. Let’s clear something up, I am OLD. I have been reading fantasy for over 25 years and read a lot of epic fantasy and high fantasy – that is why I am calling this beginner. The concepts were very easy to understand and therefore accessible to younger readers or people who may want to try fantasy but are intimidated by complex magic systems, political systems, etc.

This story follows, Swazyi, a high school girl in ‘our world’ Alaska. When a portal to another world opens, that’s where the magic comes from. The portal leads to the world of Empress, home to many mythical/magical creatures and peoples that we all know and love, such as fae, vampires, witches, werewolves, etc. I think portal fantasy is a good way to introduce magic or magical concepts into an otherwise normal world and in fact, it is quite frequently used.

This story is heavy on your standard YA tropes as well. Most notably: instalove, angsty love triangle and the ‘chosen one’ trope. If any of these is not your bag you may not enjoy this as much. The love triangle was my least favorite aspect of the story but 16-year old me probably would have loved it. There are tropes for everyone, it’s all about finding the right books to tickle your fancy! I had a couple of other small, personal taste, things that weren’t quite for me but as mentioned earlier, I couldn’t stop thinking about it and that’s not a bad thing!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Oftomes Publishing, for providing me with a copy of this book to read and review. I always appreciate the opportunity to read a book early and provide my thoughts. For a debut book, this is solid. I had a lot of fun with it and look forward to continuing with the series. Jenna Morland should be proud of her efforts and I look forward to watching her develop as a writer! The sky is the limit…unless you find a portal to another world in the sky…then there is no limit!

Previously: So happy to finally be starting this new YA fantasy! Also happy I get to marvel at the beauty of this cover every day whilst doing so… I mean, look at it!!! 😍😍😍

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Review: Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas

Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass, #4)Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow, okay. This. Book.

This was so good. I have been enjoying this series very much up to this point, don’t get me wrong, but in my opinion this one takes it to the stratosphere. Whole new level here. I won’t make this too long as there probably isn’t much that I can say that would be new at this point. I will just let y’all know how this one made me feel and that would be freaking psyched. I am such trash for this series now – fangirling all afternoon long after I finished this. SJM is my Queen and I will read every single word she ever writes.

Seriously though, I felt that this developed the story so incredibly well. I loved the relationship development in this one and I don’t mean that in the romantic sense. For me, it was more the friendships, the loyalties that develop as these characters are basically pitted against the most evil forces in the universe; it was just a gorgeous, gorgeous thing.

Lysandra – my new love. Her story arc is just astounding – to see her strength, which obviously has always been there, but to see it come out and her assert herself and kick some serious ass was just so great to me. I loved hearing her backstory, learning her motivations, discovering her secrets – I can’t wait to see where her story goes in the next book. And of course, Manon, my book-BFF, so fierce and such a powerful bringer of change -I just adore her and pretty much every scene where she was even remotely involved in gave me LIFE!

I am very excited to get to Empire of Storms but I am going to take a one book hiatus before I start it because I do not think I am emotionally ready to move on yet. Still so much to process. I am beyond happy that I gave in and read this series; probably one of the best book choices I have ever made. Highly, highly recommend to all the world!

Original review: Chills. That was incredible! Full review to come. . . Stay tuned!

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Review: Hunted by Meagan Spooner

HuntedHunted by Meagan Spooner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Well, it has now been close to a week since I finished this book and I finally feel like I can put my thoughts down into actual words. Let’s get the main grit out of the way = Hunted is the BEST Beauty and the Beast retelling I have EVER read. Guys, I know I am super late to the party on this one. I think I am probs the only B&B superfan left to read this. Why did I wait this long, you ask? Because I am horrible at life obviously.

I listened to the audiobook of this and I will definitely be buying a hard copy because I absolutely plan to reread this someday. The most impactful aspect of this for me was the atmosphere. It was so well written. Dark, gothic, dangerous – I felt cold, I felt alone, I felt hunted. It was spectacular. The setting is Russia and I definitely felt like it was a nice blend of the classic Beauty and the Beast with Peter and the Wolf. I used to have the record version of the Peter and the Wolf symphony as a child and I listened to it all the time. (I played classic violin, perhaps that makes that fact make more sense…) This book brought back strong memories of listening to that. It is such a feeling.

I loved the twists to Beauty’s character in this as well. That was another really strong aspect for me. I loved how independent, strong, willful and brave she was. She was not a damsel in distress. Nope, not our girl – she was a badass, who though scared, did whatever she had to do for vengeance and that’s the kind of heroine I live for!

Then, of course, we have the Beast. We get his perspective in small parts throughout the book and I found them very interesting. He was absolutely darker than the Beast of the Disney version but no less compelling in my opinion. Along with him, of course, comes the castle fallen into ruin and the hostage situation and the Stockholm Syndrome love trope…and it was so good. I just ate it right up.

I suppose for some this book may seem slow, it is not nonstop action, but for me the flow was absolutely perfect. The pace helped to set up the atmosphere – it contributed to the feeling and I felt it was flawless.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who loves retellings – particularly if you are into dark, gothic or stabby things. More stabby than lovie…than this book is for you!

Original Review: A classic tale of love via Stockholm Syndrome…

Seriously though – this book – my favorite retelling of all time. I was shocked by how much I truly enjoyed it…

Dark, dangerous, replete with myth/folklore – full review to come…stay tuned!

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