Review: The Light Between Worlds

The Light Between WorldsThe Light Between Worlds by Laura E. Weymouth
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Light Between Worlds is a much more complicated story than I anticipated. There’s a lot to unpack here.

If you’re expecting a light YA portal Fantasy, you’re wrong. This is a deep dive into codependency, mental health, guilt and trauma.

Broken into two distinct sections, this book follows sisters, Evelyn and Phillipa, and their complex, codependent relationship.

During WWII, the girls, along with their brother, Jamie, cowered in a London bomb shelter during a ferocious air raid. Somehow, whilst there, they are able to flee the shelter through a portal into a fantasy world known as the Woodlands.

They remain in this new world for five years, living amongst the creatures of myth and legend.

Ultimately they return to their world, where no time has passed at all. Jamie and Phillipa are ready to be back, but Evelyn, whose heart belongs to the Woodlands, finds it close to impossible to adjust.

Every day is a struggle for her. All she wants is to return to the Woodlands, which she considers her true home.

The first half of the book follows Evelyn’s perspective exclusively. We get present day portions, as well as various flashbacks to the children’s time in the Woodlands.

Through Evelyn, we learn more about her sister, Phillipa, who has since moved to America for University.

Evelyn is clearly struggling with Phillipa’s departure. She’s like a boat set adrift. She spends a lot of her time at her private school, Saint Agatha’s, exploring the woods on her own, hoping to find the portal to return to the Woodlands.

During Evelyn’s portion of the book, I developed one opinion on who Phillipa was as a character. I had the impression that Phillipa would be meek and mild, that she was scared to live in the Woodlands and that by going to America, she was running away.

Then the second half of the book is told solely from Phillipa’s point of view. It was a true perspective shift indeed.

It quite took me by surprise. What I thought I knew was flipped on its head.

The first half of the book seems choppy and random, although beautifully written, I found it a little disjointed and confusing. However, upon reflection, I believe that was intentional to set up the state of Evelyn’s mental health.

As we meet Phillipa, we discover she is bold and steady. Not at all how I expected. Evelyn is the one who is scared. She is afraid to live in the real world, where she suffered so much trauma, and was actually escaping into the fantastical world of theĀ Woodlands.

When Phillipa receives a call from her brother, Jamie, she knows it is not going to be good news. She has been so worried about Evelyn, having cut herself off from her, and indeed, the news does concern her sister.

It appears Evelyn has gone missing and Phillipa must return to aid in the search.

Y’all this is a heart-breaking story. Once it starts to evolve, it’s so compelling. I couldn’t put this down once I figured out where it was going and what it was really about.

Please read the content warnings at the bottom of the synopsis before you pick this up. It certainly was much deeper, and more intricate, than I ever would have guessed in regards to trauma, PTSD, depression, and suicidal ideation.

I felt the relationship between Evelyn and Phillipa was incredibly crafted. Their codependent relationship was one of the best I have ever read. It definitely reminded me mildly of The Wicker King. If you enjoyed that book, you would probably also really enjoy this.

This is one of those books that the longer I sit with it, the more I gain an appreciation for how well-written it actually is. Weymouth made some very clever choices with how she told this story.

The Light Between Worlds is so much more than your run of the mill, YA Fantasy, so if you like stories with a bit of depth and real world bite to them, you should absolutely give this one a go.

Just keep in mind, though the writing is beautiful, this story is very heavy. Be prepared.

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Review: Fountain Dead by Theresa Braun

Fountain DeadFountain Dead by Theresa Braun
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When Mark and his family move to an old Victorian house, he can feel right away that something is off.

There is a fountain in the courtyard that he has seen before in a dream. It wasn’t a good dream.

When odd things begin happening around the house, his suspicions are confirmed. This house is haunted as hell.

Unfortunately he seems to be the only one to notice it.

Like moving away from his old life wasn’t bad enough, now he has evil spirits to content with.

Same house, 1862, Emma is living with her sadistic father and pyscho brother. Things do not go well.

That’s correct. This novel follows two alternating timelines. One in 1988, following Mark and his family. The other in 1862, following Emma and hers.

Eventually, it is exposed how the earlier timeline begins to influence the later.

I wasn’t crazy about this format, if I’m being honest. It just didn’t work for me.

I preferred the 1988 timeline a lot more and found myself rushing through the 1862 sections in order to get back to it. Therefore, the pace for me was off. The more modern portions were much more exciting, in my opinion.

Additionally, I found some of the supernatural portions at the end to be rushed and confusing. It seemed to take a long time to get to a conclusion and then, BAM, it was done.

This is a good book, just uneven for me. I know a lot of people have really enjoyed this, so please do not let my less than stellar reaction sway you from picking it up. There is a reader for every book and book for every reader!

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Review: The Hunger by Alma Katsu

The HungerThe Hunger by Alma Katsu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

Reimagining the true life events of the infamous Donner Party, Alma Katsu brings mega atmosphere to this Historical Horror novel.

I must say, the atmosphere was my favorite part of this story. The circumstances the wagon train found themselves in were dangerous and you could feel that.

It was like watching a movie that is dark for a large portion of the time. It leaves you squinting, trying to figure out what is coming next.

After a series of unfortunate events, rations become depleted, the weather is getting progressively worse and tempers flare.

Looking for someone to blame, whispers begin to circulate that a witch may be among them.

Tamsen Donner is used to being blamed and misunderstood. It certainly doesn’t stop her from going about her business; she’s a pro at ignoring others opinions.

Going into this, you know this party is doomed, but what will the ending bring?

I thought this was interesting, if a little slow. I wasn’t blown away by anything, but it was a solid book. I am happy to have crossed it off my TBR list.

I seriously do not have much more to say about it, I wish it di. It was good. I could have done with a bit more of the supernatural elements, but it was fine.

My biggest take away, regardless of what was lurking in the mountains, the biggest threats came from within the traveling party itself. Proving once again, man is the most dangerous monster of all.

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Review: The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu

The Kingdom of BackThe Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

In the Author’s Note to this enchanting tale, Marie Lu tells of her real-life inspiration for the story. A book over a decade in the making, you can tell that she has poured her heart and soul onto the pages.

Lu, known for her complex and forward-thinking YA science-fiction, takes a sharp turn with The Kingdom of Back, a dark fantasy with lyrical prose.

Even though this is not the typical story for her, I think it shines a bright, bright light on the level of her skill as a writer.

I am the first to admit that I am a big sucker for any story involving music or musicians, particularly classical musicians.

Growing up, I played classical violin, piano and dappled with the clarinet. I was in multiple orchestras, yes, first chair violin, and I think that world always remains a part of your soul.

Lu mentions that she too was a musician in her early life and after reading a biography of Mozart developed the idea for this story.

Unlike my normal reviews, I am not really going to give details as to what this story is about. I feel strongly that it is best if you go into this not knowing what to expect.

Mainly following Mozart’s unknown sister, Nannerl, this story quickly transforms from a historical fiction account of the Mozart family’s life to a dark fantasy with a portal to another world.

In addition to the fantastical elements of the story, there is also a great examination of the role of women in this time period and the affect that society’s expectations had on their productivity and spirit.

If you do pick up this book, I implore you to please, please, please read the Author’s Note at the end. Hearing Lu’s words and thoughts on this story and why she wrote it, bumped this up from a 4, to a 5-star read for me.

I was so impressed with this story. It was a dark, delicious delightful read and further solidifies my belief that Marie Lu is an absolute treasure!

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Review: Blood Countess by Lana Popovic

Blood Countess (Lady Slayers #1)Blood Countess by Lana Popović
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When Anna Darvulia, daughter of a peasant midwife, gets summoned in the night to attend to the Countess Elizabeth Bathory, she learns a secret that she promises to keep.

In turn, she earns the favor of the Countess, a woman she greatly admires. Although Countess Bathory seems a tad dangerous, she is also glamorous and powerful. A combination young Anna is in awe of.

Before too long, due to her strong first impression, Anna is summoned by the Countess again. This time to go and live in the castle as one of her scullery maids.

Once there, Anna’s relationship with Elizabeth continues to grow. Ultimately, she is selected to be her chambermaid, a huge step up in position and responsibility.

As the relationship turns romantic in nature, Anna begins to be swayed to do things for Elizabeth that she would have never guessed herself capable of.

Elizabeth is cruel and hot headed, but Anna sometimes has a hard time recognizing those flaws within her. In her search for the key to vitality however, she goes too far, and Anna finally sees her for who, or what, she truly is.

This book was good, but it was not what I expected it to be. While I feel I was pitched an historical YA horror novel, what I actually got was straight YA historical fiction with a hint of romance.

I definitely would not classify this as a horror story, so if that is what you are looking for you may want to look elsewhere.

The writing was pleasing, but it was very, very slow. I kept waiting for something big to happen and it just never did. There was nothing mysterious, suspenseful or haunting about this.

It felt like a love story gone wrong. Anna fell in love with the wrong person, end of story. Of course we all know Elizabeth Bathory was insane, so really nothing surprising there.

I don’t know. I think if I had gone into this, thinking gothic historical fiction, as opposed to horror , I may have been less disappointed.

It’s not a bad book. It’s a good story, it just read slow for me and I sort of lost interest. I think this would be a great place for younger readers to start who are looking to get into darker works of fiction however.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Amulet Books, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity!

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Review: The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner

The Last Year of the WarThe Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

If you are looking to have your soul crushed in a beautiful way anytime soon, pick this book up!

In 1943, when Elise Sontag is just 14-years old, her Father is arrested under suspicion of being a Nazi sympathizer.

A neighborhood boy, in their small Iowa town, claimed that Mr. Sontag told him he was ‘making a bomb’. A completely baseless accusation.

Sadly, that was all it took for the FBI to show up on the Sontag doorstep. The lives of the family would never be the same.

Ultimately, they, along with numerous other Japanese, German and Italian families were sent to an internment camp in rural-Texas, only taking with them what they could easily carry.

Their lives before nothing but a distant memory.

As a teen, Elise didn’t fully understand what was happening to them. She tries to take it one day at a time and just make the best of it. That’s a hard task for anyone, let alone a kid.

Early on, she meets a fellow internee, Mariko Inoue, a Japanese-American girl from L.A., and the two become fast friends, bonding over their shared experience.

This story follows them through their time at the camp and beyond into adulthood. Told by an elderly Elise, I found this story heartbreaking.

Although this is purely a work of fiction, this situation did in fact happen to many, many families. That is a humbling thing to think about.

The strength of spirit it would take to overcome what the families in this story went through. I can’t even imagine. I really enjoy when historical fiction is able to bring the past to life in such a palpable and touching way.

It was overwhelming for me at times. Particularly the moments told by present day Elise, as she struggles with her pending memory loss and slide into the grips of Alzheimer’s. That hit very close to home for me and was hard to read.

I thought, as always, Meissner tackled each of the topics explored in here with care and grace. She has a beautiful storytelling ability and I was definitely swept away in Elise’s tale.

There were a few minor details that I wasn’t crazy about, some descriptions that I thought were a little odd, but overall, this was a wonderful book and I know a lot of people will enjoy it!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkley Publishing Group, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I apologize for taking so long to get to it and am kicking myself for not picking it up earlier!

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Review: Keeping Lucy by T. Greenwood

Keeping LucyKeeping Lucy by T. Greenwood
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

When Ginny Richardson’s second child, a girl named Lucy, is born with Down Syndrome, the baby is quickly whisked away from her. Not just to be placed in the NICU or given special care, literally taken away from her.

Her husband, Ab’s, wealthy family decides immediately the child would be best dealt with by shipping it away to a ‘special school’ never to be thought of, or discussed, again.

Unfortunately, Ginny’s in such a drug-induced state at the hospital, she doesn’t even realize what is happening until it’s too late.

With her baby gone, Ginny is forced to try to go forth like nothing ever happened, like there never was a baby.

For the next two years she goes on this way. In a deep state of depression, she feels like she is in a fog, with no idea of what to do to make her situation better.

When her best friend brings some newspaper articles to her attention that feature the ‘school’ at which Lucy has been committed, she cannot believe what she is seeing.

According to the journalist responsible for the expose, Willowridge is not a good place. It is as bad as can be with serious issues of neglect and even abuse; basically a hell on Earth.

Along with her friend, Marcia, Ginny decides to go see Lucy, to take her out for a visit, to judge for herself.

Once she sees the conditions of the school first hand, she knows there is no way she can ever bring Lucy back there.

What happens next is a road trip adventure spanning from Western Massachusetts all the way to Florida, with her best friend, her young son and the daughter she doesn’t even know. At times touching, at times infuriating, this story dragged me in and wouldn’t let go.

Wonderfully told, this captivating historical fiction novel, will have you wanting justice for Baby Lucy. This was my first book by T. Greenwood and I was definitely impressed. I look forward to picking up more books from her.

Thank you so much to the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I think this is an important story and I know a lot of readers will get so much from it. Well done.

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BLOG TOUR: New Release, The Widow of Pale Harbor by Hester Fox

The Widow of Pale HarborThe Widow of Pale Harbor by Hester Fox
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**


A town gripped by fear.
A woman accused of witchcraft.
Who can save Pale Harbor from itself?


Welcome to Pale Harbor, Maine, 1846, where a young widow, Sophronia Carver, haunts the halls of her mansion by the sea. Her home, Castle Carver, goes unvisited by the locals as they believe Sophronia to be a witch suspected of killing her husband, magazine magnate, Nathaniel Carver.

Shunned and mistreated by those in town, Sophronia shuts herself off from the rest of society. Having inherited her husband’s magazine upon his death, she spends her days reading submissions, drinking tea and taking short walks on the cliffs of her property.

Sophronia’s only company, her loyal domestic staff made up of one lady’s maid, a serving girl and a groundskeeper. Her maid, Helen, is more than just a maid however, she is a trusted companion who takes her task of caring for Sophronia quite seriously.

When a new transcendentalist minister, Gabriel Stone, a widower himself, arrives in the sleepy town, he takes an interest in the case of the secluded woman. After visiting with her, he finds her to be quite charming and quickly becomes smitten.

Soon dark events push the two of them further together and things really begin to take off. Someone is out to get Sophronia, leaving cryptic messages and dead things for her to find.

The clues all relate to different poems and stories by Edgar Allen Poe. When the cryptic messages turn to murder and Sophronia is a suspect, she and Gabriel team up to investigate the crimes on their own.

With equal parts Mystery and Romance, this Historical Fiction novel is steeped in the gothic atmosphere that I love. Set on the rocky coast of Maine, this is a perfect book to pick up during this most wonderful season of the year, AUTUMN.

I really enjoyed Sophronia as a character. She was not dealt an easy hand but took all that was thrown at her with a grace that truly set her apart from those around her. She was sweet and caring and although misunderstood and mistreated by the townsfolk, she never became jaded or vengeful.

Gabriel, as well, was a great. Although a bit mysterious, and perhaps not exactly what he was purporting to be, he was strong and caring. I loved watching him and Sophronia learn to confide in each other and trust one another. They both really needed someone on their side and as a duo, they paired quite nicely.

As the pace is picking up, we also have an old friend of Gabriel’s arrive for a visit, Tom. He was fantastic. He brought a flirty good humor to the story that was much needed at that point as the action was getting dark. Gabriel and Tom had such a strong friendship, it was great to see that on page between two grown men. Very well done indeed.

I also appreciated the complex relationship between Sophronia and Helen. I don’t want to get into this too much as it could be a bit of a spoiler but let’s just say that, in truth, it was not the most healthy of relationship. Dedicated, to be sure, but also quite codependent. Helen was great to read. She is surrounded in mystery and quite creepy. She definitely adds a lot to the story!

Overall, I adored this book. While it did start out a little slow, once it picked up the pace was incredible. I always appreciate a slow burn and this one would certainly fall into that category. I would have enjoyed a bit more atmosphere, particularly surrounding Castle Carver itself, but that is definitely a personal taste issue and no reflection on the actual story.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Graydon House Books, for providing me with an early copy of this book to read and review. This was one of my most anticipated books of the year and it did not disappoint.

In my opinion, Hester Fox is an absolute blessing and this book helped cement her status as an auto-buy author for me. I cannot wait to see what she comes up with next!!!

This lovely gothic tale releases tomorrow, Tuesday, September 17, 2019.Ā Don’t miss out, be sure to pick up a copy to add to your Spooktober TBR. You won’t regret it!

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Review: Blood & Sand by C.V. Wyk

Blood and Sand (Blood and Sand, #1)Blood and Sand by C.V. Wyk
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

HOLY UNDERRATED BOOK!!

This one took me by surprise.
Gender flipped Spartacus retelling?
I am so here for that!

When Attia, a warrior princess who has lost all of her people to slaughter by the Romans, finds herself handed over as a gift to a champion gladiator, all she can think of is escape. Escape and revenge.

Trained from a young age to fight in hand-to-hand combat, Attia is a force to be reckoned with from the very first pages.

This girl is badass and not afraid to show it. Navigating her captivity, Attia begins to feel out who she can consider an ally and who is an enemy.

Xanthus, the man to whom Attia is gifted, is a prized Gladiator. Known as the best of his kin, he ruthlessly slays down all who come before him. Things are often not as they appear however and overtime you learn Xanthus may not be as ruthless as they would have you believe.

As is often the case, it turns out the rock of a man has a heart of gold, and that’s just how I like them.

Attia and Xanthus become attached to one another in a deep and meaningful way over an admittedly short amount of time. Did I care? No.

If you loathe an instalove trope, you may have some issue with this. Honestly though, the way this is told, you may be too busy dodging the blood and guts to even care.

Ancient Rome was brutal, y’all, and I like that Wyk doesn’t shy away from that. Sure, this is a romance, but it is wrapped in a historical cloak that makes it so much more than that. I found the atmosphere of this vivid and visceral.

There were scenes set in Pompeii that made you feel like you were there. I mean, really the whole book made you feel that way, but I have always been intrigued by the volcano. Fascinating, right!?

Overall, I was really impressed with this. There is a bit of a cliffhanger ending that has left me chomping at the bit. Let’s hope the release happens in 2019!!!

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Review: Daughter of Moloka’i by Alan Brennert

Daughter of Moloka'i (Moloka'i, #2)Daughter of Moloka’i by Alan Brennert
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One moment while I put the pieces of my heart back together…

Daughter of Moloka’i is a follow-up novel to Brennert’s 2004 Book Club sensation, Moloka’i. This is a sequel I never knew I needed, until I did.
After reading it, I cannot imagine not knowing the conclusion to Rachel’s story.

This book.
I have never cried so much while reading a book.
Ever.

It never let up. That may sound like a negative, but it was cathartic, man.

This story follows, Ruth, the girl that Rachel was forced to give up for adoption just hours after she was born. We start with Ruth’s life in a Home For Girls and follow her all the way through into her adulthood. Moving from Hawaii to California with her adoptive Japanese family, Ruth, lives through some challenging times, including her family’s incarceration in a Japanese Interment Camp following the events at Pearl Harbor.

As with other disgraceful pieces of history, this type of atrocious event is not one you find often in modern fiction. I knew these interment camps existed but reading about it from Ruth’s perspective was heart-wrenching. To consider the types of injustices that were suffered upon so many innocent people, it was hard. I applaud Brennert for his research efforts which were evident.

I was asked a while back if you had to read the first book in order to read this one. While I believe that you can read this as a stand-alone, your reading experience can only be enhanced by reading Moloka’i first. Add to this the fact that Moloka’i stands strong as one of the most beautiful books I have ever read, I don’t think you will be disappointed.

If you like sweeping historical fiction that explores what it means to live and the strength of family, both blood and found, this is a duology you do not want to miss. While it broke my heart a million times, I am grateful to have read it.

Thank you so much to the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, for providing me with a copy to read and review. Also, thank you to Alan Brennert for writing such a remarkable story. I will be thinking about Rachel and Ruth for years to come.

Original:

I wanted this ARC sooooo much!

This is the companion novel to Alan Brennert’s 2004 novel, Moloka’i which follows Rachel Kalama, a young Hawaiian girl who is separated from her family and sent to live in a leprosy colony.

This novel follows Rachel’s daughter, Ruth, who as a baby was taken from her care.

Mokoka’i is one of the most beautiful and moving historical fiction novels I have EVER read and I am absolutely beside myself that we are getting a second book in this ‘world’. If it is anything like this first one, I am in for a very special treat! Yayeeeeeeee!!!!

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