Review: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Title: The Raven Boys
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Series: The Raven Cycle
Rating:
★★★★★

So here’s the thing. For the first part of The Raven Boys, I was completely ready to share my disappointment in the book. I didn’t feel like anything was happening and it was just going to be a bunch of different stories that somehow connected. And then something happened. I’m not entire sure when things shifted, or how, but all of a sudden I couldn’t put it down. Any disappointment or confusion I felt at the beginning vanished.

There are several different stories being told in The Raven Boys. Blue, Gansey, and Adam are the main perspectives, but there are a few others as well. I think this is why I wasn’t sure where the story was headed in the beginning. The characters all seemed so different, and on different paths, that I wasn’t sure how they would end up together. I should have put more trust in Stiefvater because she brought everything together perfectly.

Blue’s family and home is filled with physics, but she has no real power. She amplifies things for everyone else, but she doesn’t have visions or powers of her own. She’s always felt a little left out, so when she sees a soul of a boy set to die in the next year, she is shocked. There are only two reasons why she would be able to see him and neither is comforting. He is either her true love or she is going to kill him. Unfortunately for Blue, her kiss is fated to kill her one true love.

Gansey, Adam, Ronan, and Noah are a group of friends that go to the prestigious all-boys school of Aglionby. They’re known as the raven boys. Blue has sworn off all boys, but especially raven boys. However, the quest the boys are on draws Blue in, despite her attempts to remain distant. Adam is the boy who brings her into the fold, but she forms a friendship with all of them and for the first time, she feels useful instead of just used. With Blue added to their group of adventurers, things begin to happen for the group.

I don’t want to give too much of the plot away because you really need to experience the entire thing without prior knowledge, but I will say the plot fascinates me. The tie to Earth’s energy and ancient history is something I’ve come across before and find incredibly interesting. I really can’t wait to see what more Stiefvater does with this concept.

The Raven Boys came out of nowhere and hit me hard. I went from being extremely meh about it, to absolutely in love with it. There is so much more story to tell and my only regret is that I can’t go forward in time to get my hands on the remaining novels. This is a beautiful start to the series and I can’t wait to read more.

If The Raven Boys sounds like your kind of novel, you can purchase it here:
Amazon
Audible
Barnes and Noble
IndieBound

Review: The Last Camellia by Sarah Jio

Title: The Last Camellia
Author: Sarah Jio
Rating: ★★★★★

Yet another fantastic Jio novel, this time with a bit of a serial killer mystery thrown in. It was worth staying up late to read. There’s always coffee for the morning after a good book.

The Last Camellia takes place at a manor house in England as World War II encroaches on their doorstep as well as more than half a century later. In the ’40s, it is Flora’s story we are following as she works as a nanny, all the while being blackmailed into searching for a rare, one-of-a-kind camellia tree. She doesn’t expect to love the children she’s taking care of, or to fall in love while at the manor house, but she can’t help it. More than half a century later, Addison and her husband take up residence for the summer as Addison tries to escape her past without letting it ruin her future.

The murder mystery is fantastic. I had my suspicions, but the reveal was dramatic and wonderful. It was amazing to see all these clues fall together in one pivotal moment. And the parallels between the past and the present lined up, leaving me on the edge of my seat and forgoing sleep just to finish. I cared so much for what happened to Flora and Addison that I couldn’t put the book down, even as my eyes fought to close.

Flora wants so much to be the good, helpful daughter who solves her parents’ problems. Her desires are played on and she is sent to England to pose as a nanny while working for a flower thief ring. She’s only supposed to gain the family’s trust, find the camellia, and report back. She soon finds herself enjoying taking care of the children and seeing them come alive. She makes friends in the house staff. She falls in love with the eldest son. But the con man she’s working for is always looming in the background, threatening her family if she doesn’t cooperate. On top of that, her appearance falls right in the middle of a serial killer’s rein, when girls are disappearing and no one knows who is behind it, even though they all have their suspicions.

Addison has been trying to escape what happened 15 years ago ever since the night it happened. She’s burdened by what happened in one night and someone won’t let her forget. She tries escaping to England, thinking getting away from the scene of the crime will give her a reprieve and a chance to come clean to her husband. The opportunity rarely presents itself, however, and she’s left feeling more confused than ever. She’s helping her husband write his novel, feeling inspired by the manor house they are living in. Even as everything looks like it’s falling into place, the truth starts to pop up and she can’t escape it this time.

I think at this point it’s safe to say Jio is one of my favorite authors. She has such a way with words, of blending the past and the present. Her novels show that everything is connected, even through time. What affects one person years ago can still have the power to affect people today. The stories are never easily confused, with each story having clear characters and plot, but as the novel carries on, the weaves and braids start to show themselves and it’s wonderful every time.

The Last Camellia is a superb story spanning decades that will have your heart in your throat, hands clutching the pages, needing to read just one more page. It grabs you right away and doesn’t let go until long after you’ve read the last word. This is a must read book.

If The Last Camellia sounds like your kind of novel, you can purchase it here:
Amazon
Audible
Barnes and Noble
IndieBound

Review: Once We Were by Kat Zhang

Title: Once We Were
Author: Kat Zhang
Series: The Hybrid Chronicles series
Rating: ★★★★

What’s Left of Me introduced me to a different world. In this world, people are only supposed to have one soul, and yet some bodies keep both souls they were born with. It’s almost like a survival of the fittest, but in individual form. It was something I had never read before and even though there was potential for confusion, Zhang pulled it off wonderfully. So when I was given an advanced copy of Once We Were, I was excited and ready to read. There is so much potential in the world Zhang has created that I couldn’t wait to get started.

Once We Were follows the ending of What’s Left of Me right away. We’re introduced to the new world Addie and Eva live in, after breaking out of Nornand, the hybrid correctional facility. They have to hide away from the world out of fear of being recognized. They want to help rescue other children facing a horrible fate of surgeries and possible death. They want to be alone, but don’t know how to live without each other.

Addie and Eva are part of a resistance group, but they feel like they aren’t doing enough. So when the opportunity to make an impact presents itself, Eva jumps on it. As they get pulled further into the band of fugitives, the divide between Eva and Addie grows. They want to do good and help, but at what cost? What are they willing to do in order to show what is really being done to the hybrid children?

Not only are Eva and Addie divided when it comes to how to deal with being a fugitive, but their hearts are going in different directions as well. As Eva falls for Ryan, Addie develops feelings of her own. Neither soul enjoys being a background participant in these relationships, so Addie and Eva begin to disappear for greater lengths of time so one soul can have her private time. Even this causes problems, though. The only thing they can rely on is their trust in each other, but there are moments this is put to the test. Disappearing from your body only to reappear hours later without knowing what happened in between has great potential for problems.

The action in this novel was perfect. I can see the struggle Eva and Addie are going through, trying to decide what is right and what is wrong, as well as how to deal with the mounting pressures around them. They are two entirely different people, living two different lives, and yet they are one in the same. I find this struggle amazing to read. It could easily be confusing and frustrating to read, but Zhang has a way of making everything clear, while still making you feel frustrated. You feel for these characters and the fact that for years, one soul was considered less than, but now there’s a way to be equal again. It’s simply fascinating to read.

Once We Were is a fantastic sequel that doesn’t fall off the Cliff of No Point, like so many other middle novels have done. It moves the story along, but it has its own growth and plot. It takes the feelings from the first novel and magnifies them to a point where they can’t be ignored. Everything about this novel has me anxious and ready for the final novel. The story of Eva and Addie still has so much to be told and I can’t wait to read what comes next.

If Once We Were  sounds like your kind of novel, you can purchase it here:
Amazon
Barnes and Noble
IndieBound

Thank you to Edelwiess and HarperCollins for providing an advanced copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Dead Silence by Kimberly Derting

Title: Dead Silence
Author: Kimberly Derting
Series: The Body Finder series
Rating: ★★★★

The end of The Last Echo was the perfect set-up for Dead Silence. The little bit of a cliffhanger had me so anxious to read what came next that I picked up the book and didn’t put it down until I had finished, only a few hours later. Everything from the previous books had been building until it finally came to a head in Dead Silence.

Violet is being blackmailed into staying with the group run by Sara. She’s having trouble balancing her normal life with her paranormal life. Things between Violet and Jay are getting messy because she doesn’t understand where to turn when she needs help. The secrets she’s held her entire life are starting to weigh her down and she’s not sure where she can turn. Things in her life are getting messy and she can’t figure out how to clean them up.

The relationship between Violet and Jay is one of the most realistic portrayals of a healthy relationship I’ve read in a while. They love each other, but still have so much to work around before they can be a true couple. Violet may trust Jay with her secret, but she finds it hard to trust him with information related to what she does. She wants to protect him, but she does so by keeping him out of the loop, something Jay doesn’t want to put up with. There really isn’t any outside threat to their relationship, but everything comes from within their relationship. They have issues they need to work through before their relationship can mature and it was refreshing to read something that real.

Something I liked more than I thought I would was the incorporation of Violet’s “normal” friends with her paranormal ones. I knew that she could keep them separate for so long before they would collide, but I wasn’t sure how the collision would be handled. Derting was able to mix the two worlds without giving one or the other extra emphasis, making sure they stayed on level ground as Violet tried to figure out how to mix the two in her personal life.

The killer in this novel was something else. I got chills from the killer in The Last Echo, but this was something else entirely. There was something about how sane his little pieces seemed to be, even as I could tell he was losing touch with reality, that made him all the more evil. I also liked that he wasn’t after Violet specifically; he was just evil because he could be. He thought he was being the good guy, though, and that’s what made him especially villainous.

Dead Silence closes the door on a fantastic series while still leaving a window open for more. Things are wrapped up and taken care of, but it’s easy to picture life going on for Violet, Jay, Rafe, and everyone else. You know the story doesn’t end here, yet there was closure. The Body Finder series has been one of the most interesting and well-written paranormal stories I’ve read, striking the perfect balance between all its elements. This is definitely a must read series.

If Dead Silence sounds like your kind of novel, you can purchase it here:
Amazon
Audible
Barnes and Noble
IndieBound

Review: The Last Echo by Kimberly Derting

Title: The Last Echo
Author: Kimberly Derting
Series: The Body Finder series
Rating: ★★★★

Derting has an amazing ability to make each story unique and yet tie together perfectly. The Body Finder, Desires of the Dead and The Last Echo are all individual books that bleed together to create an amazingly suspenseful story that kept me turning page after page.

Violet has discovered a group of people with unique abilities and she doesn’t feel so strange when she’s around them. Soon, that side of her starts to take over and her old friendships and life begin to suffer. She’s struggling to find the balance between her paranormal abilities and being a regular teen. Derting doesn’t gloss over this struggle, but uses Violet’s friendships as a way to highlight the two halves of Violet. The one tie between everything is still Jay, the best friend turned boyfriend who keeps her centered in reality.

The Last Echo goes back to the serial killer idea, but there’s something especially creepy about this novel. The glimpses into the mind of the killer are chilling and disturbing and I couldn’t get enough of them. Violet doesn’t mean to enter the killer’s radar, but once she does, you know it can’t end well. Each novel has been building on the deaths of the previous novels, with Violet learning more about herself and her ability each time. She’s tired of relying on others to save her, so when she’s faced with evil and she’s the only one who can fight; she must step up and take control. I’m glad Derting waited until this novel to have Violet find herself. It felt real and I could tell the slow build is exactly what Violet needed to find her strength.

I’m extremely interested to see how Derting handles the relationships going into the final novel. Violet’s friendships with her “normal” friends are starting to suffer and the relationships she’s formed with the teens like her take a hit as well. There’s a not-really-a-love triangle that Violet needs to deal with along with her relationship with Jay. She has to deal with a shift in the family dynamic as her parents start to take more control over her life, creating conflict between what Violet feels is right and what her parents feel is safe.

The Last Echo had me on the edge of my seat the entire time I was reading. The mind of the killer is just insane enough to be chilling and knowing that Violet will somehow end up tangled with him had me frantically reading. The build-up from the previous two novels is starting to peak and the set-up for the final novel gave me chills. Derting is proving to be an amazing paranormal series author, finding just the right balance between the normal and the paranormal. The Last Echo makes the Body Finder series a must read and I can’t wait to see how this series is wrapped up. If this book is any indication, it’s going to be a fantastic ride.

If The Last Echo sounds like your kind of novel, you can purchase it here:
Amazon
Audible
Barnes and Noble
IndieBound

Review: Desires of the Dead by Kimberly Derting

Title: Desires of the Dead
Author: Kimberly Derting
Series: The Body Finder series
Rating: ★★★★

I’m finding myself really loving Derting’s way of writing. It’s not over packed with information, the pacing is wonderful, and she writes characters and situations I can’t help but be drawn into. Desires of the Dead is no different. After being introduced to Violet in The Body Finder, Desires takes the story a step further.

Desires of the Dead doesn’t have the serial killer storyline of the first book, but there is just as much searching for Violet. She’s trying to figure out how to deal with her abilities and keep the people she cares about safe. She doesn’t know how much to share about herself with her family and with Jay. Things have changed now, and she sees how easily her ability can harm those she loves. On top of that, she’s been contacted by someone connected to the FBI about her possible special abilities.

The relationship between Violet and Jay is interesting and real. It’s so easy to see that they are friends who became more, but aren’t quite sure how to handle this new part of their relationship. They don’t want things to change in their friendship, but they want things to change in their romantic relationship. Part of the “normal” conflict in this book is Violet and Jay trying to figure them out and I enjoyed that. Derting didn’t just write the perfect couple and pass it off as coming from their friendship. She’s added in teen challenges that make the book feel like it could have been written about anyone in my own high school.

Not only are the “normal” parts of this book well written, the paranormal parts are, too. That can be a little difficult to find, sometimes. Either the normal aspects take over and the paranormal suffers, or the paranormal is fantastic while the relationships suffer. Derting has found a perfect balance between the two. The paranormal bleeds into the normal, but doesn’t take control. Every once in a while, Derting throws in something that shakes up the normal and reminds you that there is a mystery behind every word. There isn’t the serial killer, like in the first novel, but there is death and echoes. Violet has to figure out different deaths that put her in harms way.

Desires of the Dead is a fantastic follow-up to The Body Finder and sets things up for a wonderful series. It has a little bit of everything I love in a book and leaves me wanting more. I know there’s much more to Violet’s story and after finishing Desires of the Dead I can’t wait to keep reading.

If Desires of the Dead sounds like your kind of book, you can purchase it here:
Amazon
Audible
Barnes and Noble
IndieBound

Review: The One I Left Behind by Jennifer McMahon

Title: The One I Left Behind
Author: Jennifer McMahon
Rating: ★★★★

I love a good thriller. Something that makes my skin crawl, my thoughts get muddled, and the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I love it when a book leaves me confused and worried and tense. The One I Left Behind is one of those books.

Reggie was only 13 when Neptune, the serial killer haunting her town, took her mother. He removes the right hand of his victims on day one, and leaves their bodies on day five. But when Reggie’s mother is taken, her hand is found, but her body never surfaces. Just as this happens, Reggie’s friendships are being put to the test, and she needs someone to be there to help her through it all.

25 years later, Reggie has found a way to live beyond her past, becoming a renowned architect. The past still plagues her though. She doesn’t trust people enough to form solid relationships; she keeps people at a distance. When her mother is brought to a hospital, diagnosed with cancer, Reggie must head home to face the past she wishes would just stay away.

The story is told in the present and 25 years ago, through the eyes of 13-year-old Reggie. As an adult, she is starting to see that everything she thought her childhood was maybe wasn’t exactly as she remembered it. She’s having to face things she never thought would come up again and she learns truths she had never questioned as a child. Her mother is dying and still faces the demons of her past, now a shadow of the woman she used to be.

As a 13 year old, Reggie didn’t see the truth of her mother; she saw what her mother told her. Her aunt was trying to protect her, but all Reggie saw was an aunt who despised her mother. Reggie knew her mother was flighty, but she didn’t see the seedier side of her life. When the murders begin, she isn’t prepared for the toll they will take on her relationships, both with her family and friends. She’s trying to grow up, confused as to how to do so, and no one is there to help her.

In the present, all those old insecurities and problems arise once her mother is brought home. She must face the past and confront it head on in order to find a way to move forward with her life.

I must say, this book had me guessing the entire way through. I had a hunch, and while my hunch was correct, I was wholly unprepared for the reveal. I tried to figure everything out, look at all the little clues, but I didn’t see how they fit together until the very end. I was wrapped up in the mystery, trying to figure out Neptune’s reasons for what he did, wondering if understanding his head would help me see who he was. I felt a little like a detective as I read and I really appreciate a book that can make me feel that.

The One I Left Behind is about more than a serial killer. It’s about growing up, confronting the past, and learning that what you see isn’t always the truth. It gave me shivers and had me guessing on the identity of Neptune until the very end. If you’re looking for a good thriller, this is your book.

If The One I Left Behind sounds like your kind of novel, you can purchase it here:
Amazon
Audible
Barnes and Noble
IndieBound

Review: Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley

Title: Shadowy Horses
Author: Susanna Kearsley
Rating: ★★★★★

I read The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley because it was a kindle daily deal. I read Shadowy Horses because I loved Kearsley’s writing. She seems like the kind of person I could sit down with over a cup of coffee and just talk about all the interesting facets of history. She brings the old in with the new and blends them so well, it’s hard to imagine the two worlds not overlapping.

In Shadowy Horses, Verity has been hired on as part of an archaeological dig for a vanished Roman army troop. The dig is occurring under strange circumstances. The financier and leader or the group is supposedly a little crazy, Verity dated on of the guys working on the dig and is attracted to the other, and the granddaughter of the leader is an apathetic 20 year old who holds a little resentment towards her grandfather. In addition to the digging group, there’s the family that lives in the caretakers cottage: the cook, the groundskeeper, the fisherman, and the young psychic boy. Everything the dig is looking for is based not in fact, but in feelings.

Not only does Kearsley weave together a fantastic story about the archaeological dig and the relationships that form and stretch during the dig, but she also brings the past in and effortlessly weaves it into the story. The ease with which I could see both the past and the present coming together is a testament to Kearsley’s writing abilities. Not everyone can pull off something like that without making it feel cheap, forced, or odd. I can’t imagine this story without the touch of the past and the story that accompanies it; it is what makes this story so brilliant.

I loved the people in this novel, Peter and Granny Nan best. They were such characters that they didn’t even feel like characters in a book. They felt like real people whose words were transcribed for the novel. Everyone, even the more deplorable characters are written so well, you can’t help but like how bad they are.

I don’t want to give too much away, because this is a book you need to let unfold slowly, but I will say that even though I saw the ending coming, I still let out an “awww” when I reached it.

After only reading two of Kearsley’s novels, I know she’s an author I’m going to watch and buy obsessively. She does with history what I wish I could do; bring it into the present and weave it in so masterfully, it’s hard to know where the past ends and the present begins. This is definitely a must read book and a must read author.

If Shadowy Horses sounds like your kind of novel, you can purchase it here:
Amazon
Audible
Barnes and Noble
IndieBound

Review: Don’t Turn Around by Michelle Gagnon

Title: Don’t Turn Around
Author: Michelle Gagnon
Series: PERSEPHoNE series
Rating: ★★★★

Don’t Turn Around sounded like a promising book. It had a different plot, interesting sounding characters and I felt it had the potential to be great. For the most part, it was. The only thing I can fault is not being able to fully connect with the characters, however I’m going to hope that since this is the first in a series, there will more to the next two books.

Noa is a foster kid runaway. She lives off the grid and has found ways of taking care of herself. She’s a genius when it comes to hacking and she’s got a pretty severe attachment to her computer. She wakes up one day on a cold table, an IV in her arm, and a scar down her chest. Right away, we are thrown into the middle of the action.

Don’t Turn Around really packs in the action. Peter and Noa are constantly on the move, running and hiding from the people that cut Noa open. There are very few safe places they can go and they aren’t sure who they can trust. Gagnon writes the action very well. It’s clear enough to picture in your head, but it’s not too simple. It really plays out like an action movie.

I’m glad there wasn’t a full-blown romance in this book. It would have felt a little rushed and possibly a little forced, I think. Instead, there’s a foundation built. There’s clearly something there, but it’s not a love story yet. I like that there’s the potential, but that the focus was kept on the mystery aspect of the plot.

Overall, Don’t Turn Around is a strong start to a promising series. I wish there had been a little more character building, but the base is there and I feel like Gagnon could really do something great with this series. I can’t wait to see what comes next.

If Don’t Turn Around sounds like your kind of book, you can purchase it here:
Amazon
Audible
Barnes and Noble
IndieBound

Review: The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting

Title: The Body Finder
Author: Kimberly Derting
Series: The Body Finder series
Rating: ★★★★

The Body Finder is a book that has been on my radar for a while, but I was always a little worried about reading it. The book description was unique and I was worried it would fall flat and I’d be left feeling a little let down.

The Body Finder does none of this. It is just as good as the description sounds. Both aspects of the novel, the suspense and the romance, are developed well and blend together. It never felt like one was taking a hit so the other could flourish.

This was a page turner. The serial killer parts of the novel were fantastic. There’s a lot of mystery there, and it’s done well. It gives the entire book a creepy feel. I was afraid to look over my shoulder; it felt like the creepiness had oozed of the novel and was standing right behind me. I love it when a book can make me feel that way.

The relationship between Jay and Violet was wonderful. This is the kind of “insta-love” I’m okay with. It’s insta-love in the scope of the novel, but not in the characters’ lives. Sure, Jay and Violet realized their feels early on in the novel, but they had a foundation of friendship to build upon and that’s what made it work. Their relationship works perfectly to balance out the serial killer roaming around town.

The other secondary characters, Violet’s friends, are also well-written. They aren’t placeholders; they actually act and behave like friends. Maybe it’s just the novels I pick to read, but this trait seems to be a little lacking in a lot of Young Adult titles today.

The Body Finder is a fantastic novel. It has just the right mix of creep and love to keep me turning the pages, anxious to find out who the killer is, but to also read more swoon-worthy moments. This is a series I’ll definitely be sticking with. I can’t wait to read more.

If The Body Finder sounds like your kind of book, you can purchase it here:
Amazon
Audible
Barnes and Noble
IndieBound