Review: Down Among the Sticks and Bones (Wayward Children #2) by Seanan McGuire

Down Among the Sticks and Bones (Wayward Children, #2)Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

THAT ENDING!!!

Hello, darkness, my old friend…

My goodness I am glad I gave this one a second chance. I started this last summer, put it down to participate in a readathon and just kept forgetting to pick it back up.

Now that I have completed it, I have such a strong urge to go back and read the 1st book again. This explains so much.

Jack and Jill.
Born Jacqueline and Jillian.
Jacqueline the perfect princess, prim and proper just as her mother wants.
Jillian, a tomboy, a diamond in the rough just as her father desires.
Their parents = deplorable.

Jack and Jill are 12-years old when the descend down the staircase to the Moors. Once there, they realize they each have a chance to reinvent themselves. They can live their lives as they see fit.

To live as the people they identify as. This is in complete opposition to who their parents wanted them to be; forced them to be.

One with a vampire, one with a mad scientist, what could go wrong? A lot but the truth is, the girls really enjoy their new lives and are beginning to find comfort in their true selves. Eventually tragedy strikes and they are forced back together and out of the Moors.

This story offers some great commentary on gender roles and societal expectations of children. Also, how much early parenting can affect a child’s feelings of self worth and identity.

I really enjoyed the lyrical quality to the writing and definitely plan to continue on with the series. I have a strong feeling that this story will continue to be my favorite. The world of the Moors, how it functioned and how it was described are just so totally my aesthetic. I loved it!

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Review: The Last Life of Prince Alastor by Alexandra Bracken

The Last Life of Prince Alastor (The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding #2)The Last Life of Prince Alastor by Alexandra Bracken
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

A beautiful conclusion to a delightful and deliciously wicked tale!

Picking up right where The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding left off, this stunning sequel takes us deep into Alastor’s world, the Downstairs. What on earth is the Downstairs, you may ask? Just think a goblin market meets The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Prosper is on a mission to save his sister, Prue, from the clutches of the Queen of the Fiends, who also happens to be Alastor’s sister, Pyra. Siblings versus siblings but whose side is Alastor really on?

This is an epic adventure through a dark and dangerous world. We learn so much more in this book about Alastor, his original deal with Prosper’s ancestor, Honor, and the world of the Fiends. We also meet new characters and get introduced to new and complex forms of magic.

Bracken’s signature descriptive style is on full display throughout this story. I was absolutely transported to this world. It was DARK and I loved every moment of it! There were a few areas in the beginning that I felt the pace dragged a little bit but by the mid-point, all traces of that were gone.

As with the first book, there is a light humor to this dark tale, and I did laugh out loud numerous times at Alastor and his musings. There are also some important lessons woven throughout this story that were nicely incorporated into this Middle Grade storyline.

*Please note, although this is technically Middle Grade, this book most definitely can be enjoyed by readers of all ages!

I loved the overall feeling of this book touching on topics such as: striving to do the ‘right thing’ regardless of obstacles or an easier way out; the value of strong friendships and familial connections; the idea that it is okay to fail at something as long as you learn and grow from it, and that traditions should not stand if the roots of them are not worth upholding.

I won’t lie. The end of this brought tears to my eyes. I have grown so attached to Prosper and Alastor over the course of these two books. Watching them both grow and evolve has been such a great thing to take part in. Although that isn’t a very eloquent way to describe it, I am at a loss for words to describe how much feeling I got out of this story. What seems like such a fun and uncomplicated story of a demon inhabiting a boy is really so much more than that.

If you haven’t yet picked up this story, I highly recommend it. They are short and quick to get through and an absolutely delightful reading experience. Two thumbs way up!!!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Disney-Hyperion, for providing me with a copy of this book to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity and had a wonderful time finishing this up.

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Review: The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding by Alexandra Bracken

The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding (The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding #1)The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding by Alexandra Bracken
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Prosper Redding has always felt out of place within his family.
They are all exceptional and he is just, not.
He feels like a disappointment, overlooked and misunderstood.

One night however, he discovers something very interesting about himself. He has a demon living inside him.

Apparently, Prosper’s great- great- great- great- whoever, made a pact with this demon to ensure success for his family for generations to come. Somehow, he ended up tricking the demon to get out of the contract and now the demon, Prince Alastor, is set on revenge on the Reddings, with Prosper as his vessel.

I know. It seems like a strange premise but this wacky Middle Grade novel is such a fun ride. Granted, there were moments, I didn’t know what the hell was going on and honestly, I am still not sure that I am explaining it properly.

The majority of the novel takes place in Salem, Massachusetts which is a town I know very well and love with my whole heart. The atmosphere of this is Halloween all the way. Thus, it would be the perfect read for October. Replete with all sorts of monsters, creatures, haunted houses, cemeteries and malevolent spirits going bump in the night.

There is mystery to this as Prosper struggles to understand the truth behind his family’s secrets and the demon living inside him.

Speaking of the demon, let’s talk about Alastor for a moment. I love him. His is fiendish and delightful and speaks in such a snarky, old-fashioned way. Ahhhh, what a treat. I laughed out loud on multiple occasions reading his banter back and forth with Prosper.

I thought at times there was possibly too much description. That would be my one, albeit minor, issue with the book and perhaps why I think I may have missed some of the finer plot details. I was so caught up with the descriptive goodness of Halloween that plot points apparently went in one ear and out the other.

But seriously, there was a cat-bat! A cat-bat, people. I WANT one!!!

Overall, this was a super fun, atmospheric tale perfect for Middle Grade readers who like a little bit of darkness in their stories. I am currently reading the second book and it is fantastic!!! The dread and despair continues…

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Review: The Witch of Willow Hall by Hester Fox

The Witch of Willow HallThe Witch of Willow Hall by Hester Fox
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

Forced to flee Boston in the wake of scandalous rumors, the Montrose Family, moves into their summer estate, Willow Hall, in New Oldbury, Massachusetts. The three sisters – Catherine, Lydia & Emeline – take the move as well as can be expected and before too long are settling into their new life with only minor complaints.

The setting and language of this novel are absolutely beautiful. I was surprised to learn this is a debut as the writing seems so experienced. I loved the gothic vibes that extend throughout the story. There is always an underlining feeling of menace just under the surface. In regards to witchcraft, it is subtle in nature, and I felt very well portrayed. It is by no means the bulk of the story but hints of it are sprinkled throughout with it becoming a more prominent feature in the second half.

The interactions between the sisters, particularly Catherine and Lydia, reminded me so much of Downton Abbey with Mary and Edith. It is not a warm and fuzzy sisterly relationship by any means and in fact, their constant battling provides most of the drama in the book.

There is also quite a bit of romance. I am so exhausted by the courtship patterns of this time period. I just cannot even imagine dealing with all that formality. No one ever seems to say what they feel. GAHHHHHHH. Honestly, it’s a wonder anyone ended up with the person they wanted to be with!

Overall, I was very impressed with the book. It was a pleasure to read. All the drama, the overarching feeling of suspense, the subtle supernatural undertones, the hauntings, the domestic drama – soooo fun!

I did take off a half a star just because there were moments where I felt the drama was repetitive and could have been shortened up a bit but that is very slight and 100% my opinion. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who loves historical fiction, especially if you enjoy things with a gothic atmosphere.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Graydon House Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I very much appreciate the opportunity and and am kicking myself for not having picked this up in October as I had originally planned. I cannot wait to see what Ms. Fox comes up with next!

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Review: The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw

The Wicked DeepThe Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Wicked Deep is by far the most eerily beautiful book I have read in a long, long time. I finished this over a week ago and I have been trying to come up with a way to express how this book made me feel. I still can’t quite put my finger on it but damn, whatever it is, I likey and I want more. This will probably be a story I revisit in October for years to come. I’m like…

This book has received a lot of buzz. In this case, I feel it is well deserved. Going in, I wanted one thing out of it =
ATMOSPHERE.

The author delivered that in spades. Her descriptions of the small seaside town of Sparrow, Oregon, of the island, the weather, the tourists, it was 100% relatable to me. I live on a small island myself, one that is a tourist destination and at times can feel exploited because of that, and I can tell you, I could feel the wind, the mist, the fog, the influx of outsiders – the weight of it – it is palatable and I thought that Ernshaw really brought that feeling to life in this book.

Her writing is enchanting and she uses breathtaking descriptions to weave her tale. It read like a modern day fairytale – full of witches, magic, curses, revenge, mystery, love – it checked all of the boxes for a whimsical narrative. I loved how she gave us insights into the times of the Swan sisters as well. That was a neat little twist I wasn’t expecting. The modern and historical were woven together seamlessly and it gave such depth to the story and the characters.

“Love is an enchantress – devious and wild. It sneaks up behind you, soft and gentle and quiet, just before it slits your throat.”

When love stories are combined with ghost stories, I find them so haunting. One of my favorites for bringing these two elements together is Stephen King’s, Bag of Bones. While they are completely different animals, that one being heavily adult and this one very YA, I feel they both combined those two elements to create a spooky and memorable ghost story. Ones that truly get under your skin and sit there; that make you simultaneously warm and cold. I am actually glad this is going to be adapted as I feel it could translate well into more visual media.

Now, the characters…the characters were great! The present day story mainly follows local girl, Penny Talbot. She lives out on Lumiere Island tending the lighthouse with her mother, who isn’t well. Penny is likable, if a bit aloof, but definitely someone you can get behind and cheer for. When a new guy Bo arrives in town, she ends up giving him a job out on the island helping with the lighthouse and other tasks gone to pot since her father disappeared. I enjoyed her relationship with Bo; watching its evolution felt mysterious; that more was hidden right under the surface. The big reveal for me was bloody fantastic! I did not see it coming. I didn’t, maybe I am an idiot but regardless, I felt it was really well done.

My favorite character, of course, was Marguerite Swan. I got strong Slytherin vibes from her. Described as ‘ vengeful & clever…single-minded in her hatred for the town…’ Yep, I dig that. Getting the perspectives on the Swan sisters, as I mentioned above, was a real treat. This story could have been done without that historical element but I am glad that Ernshaw chose to write it this way. Reading and understanding the motivations for ghosts or spirits haunting a person, place or thing, is not something you see a lot of. I really, really enjoyed it.

Overall, I absolutely adored this story. I cannot praise it enough and will absolutely be reading it again! Cheers~

Original: Take my breath away. ((fans self))

I’m utterly heartsick over how beautiful this book is. The magical atmosphere has delved deep into my bones. I definitely need some time to gather my thoughts on this. An absolutely stunning read.

Full review to come…stay tuned!

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Review: The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware

The Death of Mrs. WestawayThe Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

The Death of Mrs. Westaway is a twisted tale of long buried secrets and newly developed deceptions. Mostly set at a decrepit old estate property where the coldness gets under your skin, I think I enjoyed the setting most of all. I went into this hoping for a gothic atmosphere that would pull me into the story and that’s exactly what I got.

Our main character, Harriet ‘Hal’ Westaway, is a very young woman down on her luck since the unfortunate hit-and-run death of her beloved mother. One day as she is believing she has hit rock bottom, she receives a letter in the mail announcing that her Grandmother, Hester Westaway, has passed and that she is due to the solicitor’s office to attend the reading of the will as she is named a beneficiary. Harriet, knowing there must be some sort of mistake as her Grandparents died years ago, decides to test her luck and go pretend to be the Harriet Westaway named in the letter. At most she is expecting a small financial payout that will allow her to pay off some debt and perhaps live a little more comfortably. Never in her wildest dreams could she have imagined what would take place once she entered into this dangerous game.

I don’t want to say too much more regarding the plot as I feel it is best to go into it knowing as little as possible. I will say that the family she meets upon traveling to the Westaway estate, Trepassen House, is very interesting indeed and it was a ton of fun watching the truth unfold. Again, to me the setting and atmosphere of this were fantastic. I could picture the cold, the snow, the eerie lake, the attic room with the bars on the windows; the estate was brought to life within the pages. I live for that in a story. At times, I felt I knew the answer to the mystery and I was correct on parts of it, but it was so twisted it was hard to tell until the final reveal whether I was on the right track or not. Truly a lot of fun to read.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes some gothic vibes weaved throughout their mystery/thrillers. My only slight criticism was that the beginning was a little slow. I had this same feeling while reading, The Woman in Cabin 10, another one of Ruth Ware’s books but luckily, for me, the introductory portion of this story didn’t drag quite as much as that one.

In the end, I am so happy that I picked this one up and I will definitely continue reading Ware’s books in future. If this one is any sign, it’s that her works are getting stronger and stronger!

Original: Spookathon Book #2 (read a thriller) – switching up my initial TBR (as I ALWAYS do) and starting this before it’s due back at the library! Excited to start!

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Review: The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel by Alyssa Palombo

The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel: A Story of Sleepy HollowThe Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel: A Story of Sleepy Hollow by Alyssa Palombo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel is best summed up as a retelling of Washington Irving’s, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow from Katrina Van Tassel’s perspective. This may seem obvious to many by the title but for those less familiar with Irving’s original story, Katrina Van Tassel, is pretty much the only female ‘real’ character we have in that story. In that tale she is sort of the beautiful, sweet, yet most likely brainless, love interest of Ichabod Crane and Brom Bones.

As soon as I discovered that this book was happening, I knew I needed to get my hands on it as soon as I could. Growing up in New England, I can attest to the fact that there is literally no better place to be that New England in Autumn. That is my honest opinion. It’s just magical and crisp and awesome and just a slight bit ominous and creepy. Combine this with the fact that The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is one of my favorite stories and this sounded like the perfect book for me to get my hands on this Fall.

While this book did start out slow for me, hence the 4-star rating rather than 5, I was completely enamored with Palombo’s ability to create the feel of time and the place of Sleepy Hollow. I felt the atmosphere was richly developed and I had no trouble picturing it all in my mind, from the Van Tassel farm, to the little town, to the woods surrounding the Hudson River, everything was as it should be. I loved the development of Katrina’s character and the strong friendship that was displayed between her and her best friend, Charlotte. I always enjoy a book with strong female friendships and this one was particularly beautiful for anyone else who may enjoy that sort of thing.

The secret courtship between Katrina & Ichabod was definitely a slow burn but once lit…it was on fire. Be prepared for sexy times – I was a little surprised by the sexy times – so, if you aren’t into that, beware, it’s here. If you love that stuff, this is the book for you.

As this love was developing, the first half of the book, I was really getting anxious for my spooky stuff. Where is the headless horseman? I wondered on more than one occasion. Then it happens, one night, All Hallows Eve, of course, that will change Katrina’s life forever. Her world is shattered and through the help of her BFF, Charlotte, and her long-time friend/domestic help, Nancy, she does her best to rebuild herself and to find out what happened that night after her parent’s Halloween party.

I cannot say too much more about the plot without giving things away. I understand this is a story many of us know but I think being told from a different perspective, the author was able to bring a lot of new life and details into this well loved tale. I was impressed with this, the second half of the book really kept me engaged and I loved the way it wrapped up.

Thank you so much to the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity and am excited to see what other readers think of this one. Great job with release date as well – October is the PERFECT month to read this book!

Original: Y’all know I love a retelling and a retelling of such a classic piece of gothic literature is a must for me! Very happy to be starting this one and to get Katrina’s POV. My #1 hope = good atmosphere. I am all about that in my Fall reads.

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Review: The Broken Girls by Simone St. James

Publication Date: March 20, 2018     |     Rating: 5-STARS!!!

The Broken Girls by Simone St. James is pretty much perfection in my opinion. This book exceeded my expectations in every way possible. I went into this book knowing two things: prep school for girls/mystery. This book is so much more than that. The novel is replete with a gothic atmosphere that transports you in time and place into the storyline. It is the perfect blend of mystery/thriller with extra special paranormal goodness sprinkled the whole way through!

The main portion of the story alternates back and forth between 1950 and 2014, following different girls/women in and around Barrens, Vermont, and more importantly Idlewilde Hall. I do not want to say too much about the story itself, as I wouldn’t want to risk giving anything away to potential readers. Just know this – I put off reading this book for many months. I don’t know why – I can’t explain it – it just kept getting shuffled down the ole’ tbr. Now, I can say, I am physically distraught at not having read this as soon as I got it. Okay – that may be taking it a little far but I do wish I would have picked it up immediately. I honestly do not have even one constructive criticism of this. Because of that this will be a very short review: This book is incredible. This book wants you to read it. This book will keep you up nights after…read it!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkley Publishing Group, for providing me with a copy to review. I apologize to you, as well as to myself, that I didn’t get to it until now. I am even going to run out and buy myself a copy so that I may read it again and share it with others – I love it that much!

Review: Shadowsong by S. Jae-Jones

Publication Date: February 6, 2018   |    Rating: 3.5-stars

Dark and lyrical, Shadowsong, brings to a conclusion the story of Liesl and her Goblin King. This second book in the Wintersong duology picks up a few months after the conclusion of Wintersong. Although I selected 3-stars, I would actually give this a 3.5-star rating if given the option. This is a tough book to describe and I definitely don’t feel it is for everyone. For me, it works; I love S. Jae-Jones writing style. She has a way of weaving together an eerie tale where you struggle to piece together reality and unreality.

Our MC, Liesl, is not really a likable character but somehow I still found myself caring about her. I wanted to shake her out of her funk multiple times but I know, with depression and other mental health issues, it is not that easy. She really struggles in this one, more so than the first, with her decisions, her past, her family relations. She is moody and brooding and honestly, kind of a dark cloud over the whole story, but in a way that contributes to the overall story line, in my opinion. I would say trigger warning for suicidal thoughts and ideation.

I love the atmosphere of this book. In Wintersong, we were pretty sedentary in our action; you were either at the Inn owned by Liesl’s family, or in the Underground. Here, our characters travel from home to find their brother Josef, who resides in Vienna. The city life is quite a change for Liesl and being far from the Goblin Grove certainly doesn’t enhance her mood any. After a swift turn of events at a masked ball, Liesl and Josef, are swept away to Snovin Hall. Their relationship has been under extreme duress and they do begin to form a reconnection of a sort whilst at Snovin.

I loved Snovin Hall – the gothic vibes were a plenty and some of the scenes written while our characters were there gave me chills. Joseph playing in the mirrored ballroom…it still gives me the heebie jeebies just thinking about it! However, this aspect of the story did get a little confusing in places. There is a fine line between being intriguing and being confusing and this one swayed into the confusion zone more than once. That being said, the overall feel of the book was dark and creepy enough for me to enjoy and keep me invested. The last 15 or 20 pages were excellent – I enjoyed the ending and felt that S. Jae-Jones wrapped up a complicated story quite fluidly.

Thank you so much to St. Martin’s Press for providing me with a copy of this book for review. It is greatly appreciated!

Review: Sitting Murder by A.J. Wright

Publication Date: 10/12/2017

Good morning bookworms!  Well, I finished Sitting Murder last night!  (after staying up way past my bedtime in order to do so – I regret nothing!)

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, Endeavor Press, in exchange for an honest review. The first thing that drew me to this book was the cover – it’s beautiful! Luckily, this book is a lot more than a pretty cover. When I started this book I was not aware that this is actually book #4 of a currently 4 book series. I didn’t realize that until about a quarter way in – I loved the writing and thought, why have I never heard of this author before? This is really good. I look it up on Goodreads and that is when I discovered it is actually a full series. I did not feel that not having read the first three books I was missing any information – I think you could easily read this as a stand-alone story or read the earlier ones out of order. I definitely plan on seeking out the other books in this series.

The setting is in a small village in Victorian times which is quite gothic -something I love. You can almost feel the cold streets, the flickering candlelight and the hardships of the characters. There is a girl acting as medium, seances, a murder – what is not to love about all that? This was a completely enthralling mystery, classic in the sense of Christie or Sayers, complete with strong, smart detectives cracking the case. My only slight criticism would be that I wish there had been a bit more character development for some of the main characters, particularly Brennan and Jaggery; that is but a minor thing however and perhaps that is something that was taken care of in the earlier books. I am genuinely happy that I had the opportunity to read this book – thank you to Endeavor Press – I would definitely recommend Sitting Murder to anyone who loves a good mystery!

What are your favorite mystery writers?  I am always looking to discover new series in this genre – there is so much to love about them!