Book Reviews

Wild Orchid by Cameron Dokey | Book Review

Wild Orchid by Cameron Dokey. Once Upon a Time, #15.

My copy: Simon Pulse (Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division), February 2012. Paperback, 199 pages. [From Once omnibus.]

Source: Library.

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Synopsis:

Wielding a sword as deftly as an embroidery needle, Mulan is unlike any other girl in China. When the emperor summons a great army, each family must send a male to fight, tom-boyish Mulan is determined to spare her aging father and bring her family honor, so she disguises herself and answers the call.

But Mulan never expects to find a friend, let alone a soul mate, in the commander of her division, Prince Jian. For all of Mulan’s courage with a bow and arrow, is she brave enough to share her true identity and feelings with Prince Jian?


Thoughts on Wild Orchid:

It’s so short. I wanted this to be longer! 200 pages for a Mulan telling just was NOT enough.

As in <200 pages short. I really appreciated the long set-up so that we could learn about Mulan as a person and see the relationships she had with her family and friends. But because of the lengthy introduction, the story began very slow — and then it felt like the actual war story was super condensed. Mulan doesn’t leave for war until more than 100 pages in! And then the romance felt very rushed and insta-lovey and thin, even if it was sweet.

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Book Reviews

Serpentine by Cindy Pon | Book Review

Serpentine by Cindy Pon. Serpentine, #1.

My copy: Month9Books, September 2015. Hardcover, 274 pages.

Source: Library.

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Synopsis:

Inspired by the rich history of Chinese mythology, this sweeping fantasy is set in the ancient Kingdom of Xia and tells the coming of age story of Skybright, a young girl who worries about her growing otherness. As she turns 16, Skybright notices troubling changes. By day, she is a companion and handmaid to the youngest daughter of a very wealthy family. But nighttime brings with it a darkness that not even daybreak can quell. When her plight can no longer be denied, Skybright learns that despite a dark destiny, she must struggle to retain her sense of self – even as she falls in love for the first time.


Friendship. Skybright, the heroine of the story, is best friends, practically sisters, with Zhen Ni, who she helps as a handmaiden. The girls share an incredibly strong bond, having grown up together. It’s a friendship full of love in a totally platonic way. They’re just two girls who would fight the world and the underworld for each other. They do have their bumps and rough patches, especially when another girl comes into the picture, but I loved how much they genuinely cared about each other, and how they valued each other’s opinions. The only thing I didn’t like was the fact that Skybright didn’t feel secure enough to trust Zhen Ni with her big secret. I really believe Zhen Ni would have stood by Skybright’s side through all of her confusion regarding her serpent form, and I couldn’t believe that Skybright never confided in Zhen Ni.

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Book Reviews

Dirty Little Secrets by Liliana Hart | Book Review

Dirty Little Secrets by Liliana Hart. J.J. Graves Mystery, #1.

My copy: Createspace, July 2011. Paperback, 307 pages.

Source: Own

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Synopsis:

J.J. Graves has seen a lot of dead bodies in her line of work…

She’s not only in the mortuary business, but she’s also the coroner for King George County, Virginia. When a grisly murder is discovered in the small town of Bloody Mary, it’s up to J.J. and her best friend, Detective Jack Lawson, to bring the victim justice.

The murders are piling up…

The residents of Blood Mary are dropping like flies, and when a popular mystery writer shows up on J.J.’s doorstep with plans of writing his new book about the Bloody Mary Serial Killer, J.J. has to decide if he might be going above and beyond the call of duty to create the spine tinglers he’s so well known for. It only clouds the issue and puts her reputation on the line when the attraction between them spirals out of control.

And passions are rising…

J.J and Jack are in a race against time. They discover each victim had a shocking secret, and the very foundation of J.J.’s life is in danger of crumbling when it turns out she’s harboring secrets of her own—secrets that make her the perfect victim in a deadly game.


Dirty Little Secrets started off as a small town who-dun-it mystery, which I wish it’d kept more to. Instead, we got lots of love triangle angst and frequent steamy scenes (nothing gratuitous, but I was like, hey, aren’t you supposed to be solving a murder?) and I wondered if I was reading a mystery or a romance at times. Which wasn’t a bad thing at all. I just wasn’t expecting the romance. I suppose I prefer my mysteries purely focused on the mystery.

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Book Reviews

Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones | Book Review

Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones.

My copy: Thomas Dunne Books (St. Martin’s Griffin), February 2017. Hardcover, 436 pages.

Source: Library.

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Synopsis:

Dark, romantic, and unforgettable, Wintersong is an enchanting coming-of-age story for fans of Labyrinth and The Beauty and the Beast.

The last night of the year. Now the days of winter begin and the Goblin King rides abroad, searching for his bride…

All her life, Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, dangerous Goblin King. They’ve enraptured her mind, her spirit, and inspired her musical compositions. Now eighteen and helping to run her family’s inn, Liesl can’t help but feel that her musical dreams and childhood fantasies are slipping away.

But when her own sister is taken by the Goblin King, Liesl has no choice but to journey to the Underground to save her. Drawn to the strange, captivating world she finds—and the mysterious man who rules it—she soon faces an impossible decision. And with time and the old laws working against her, Liesl must discover who she truly is before her fate is sealed.

Rich with music and magic, S. Jae-Jones’s Wintersong will sweep you away into a world you won’t soon forget.


Liesl, a gifted composer, has always lived in the shadow of her younger siblings. Her brother, Josef, is a violin virtuoso. Her sister, Kathe, is an absolute beauty. However, the three siblings all care deeply about one another, and when Kathe is captured by the Goblin King, Liesl embarks on a journey to bring her sister back to the world of the living.

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Book Reviews

Scorched by Jennifer L. Armentrout | Mini Review

Scorched by Jennifer L. Armentrout. Frigid, #2.

My copy: Spencer Hill Press, June 2015. Paperback, 238 pages.

Source: Library.

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Read my review of Frigid, book #1, here.

Synopsis:

Sometimes life leaves a mark.

Most days, Andrea doesn’t know whether she wants to kiss Tanner or punch him in the gut. He is seriously hot, with legit bedroom eyes and that firefighter body of his, but he’s a major player, and they can’t get along for more than a handful of minutes. Until now.

Tanner knows he and Andrea have had an epic love/hate relationship for as long as he can remember, but he wants more love than hate from her. He wants her. Now. Tomorrow. But the more he gets to know her, the more it becomes obvious that Andrea has a problem. She’s teetering on the edge, and every time he tries to catch her, she slips through his fingers.

Andrea’s life is spiraling out of control, and it doesn’t matter that Tanner wants to save her, because when everything falls apart and she’s speeding toward rock bottom, only she can save herself.

Sometimes life makes you work for that happily ever after…


Andrea and Tanner… these two are exhausting. Super entertaining, but so very tiring. Hot-cold, hot-cold… but it was interesting to read a romance where the characters annoyed the hell out of each other, played hard to get, and basically made it IMPOSSIBLE for the other person to know what the heck was going on. Jennifer L. Armentrout knows how to write romance well, and I love how she always adds something else in there that gives the characters real reasons for their crazy antics or that required “why we can’t be together/poor communication” phase.

Scorched in a companion to Frigid, which featured Sydney and Kyler. I liked Frigid more than Scorched, but I ate Scorched up in one sitting, as I do for all of JLA’s books. It’s fast-paced, sexy, but also down to earth and really touching. If you like New Adult romances and you haven’t read any JLA (or J. Lynn, as she sometimes goes by), give these books a shot. I like JLA’s books because they have real meat to them, usually due to the characters, and I’ve tried other NA books that never left a lasting impression. Scorched is definitely hot, so keep a little hand fan nearby for when the tension heightens. ♦


Have you read Scorched?
If you haven’t, would you be interested to?
What’s a fun romance you read in one sitting?
Comment below letting me know!

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Book Reviews

One by Sarah Crossan & Skyscraping by Cordelia Jensen | Mini Reviews

One by Sarah Crossan.

My copy: Greenwillow Books (Harper Collins Publishers), September 2015. Hardcover, 388 pages.

Source: Library.

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Synopsis:

Grace and Tippi. Tippi and Grace. Two sisters. Two hearts. Two dreams. Two lives. But one body.

Grace and Tippi are conjoined twins, joined at the waist, defying the odds of survival for sixteen years. They share everything, and they are everything to each other. They would never imagine being apart. For them, that would be the real tragedy.

But something is happening to them. Something they hoped would never happen. And Grace doesn’t want to admit it. Not even to Tippi.

How long can they hide from the truth—how long before they must face the most impossible choice of their lives?


Conjoined twins. Sisters Grace and Tippi. Them joining the harsh waters of high school. Falling in love for the first time. These are just the broad topics One touches on. This is a beautiful verse novel about family, friends, and feeling like the world is out to get you because you’re different.

It took me a little while to get into the book’s rhythm, as the poems at first felt sort of plain, as if a paragraph had been written and then the enter button had been hit at the best moments. But once I started to like Grace and Tippi and feel invested in their story, I was a goner and couldn’t read fast enough.

The story is quite predictable, which does make the ending expected but it doesn’t hurt any less. But One is a beautiful, unique, well-researched book that I highly recommend to anyone. I’m so glad I finally read it. It’s memorable and relatable, and I really really enjoyed experiencing Grace and Tippi’s story. ♦


Skyscraping by Cordelia Jensen.

My copy: Philomel Books (Penguin Group), June 2015. Hardcover, 341 pages.

Source: Library.

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Synopsis:

A heartrending, bold novel in verse about family, identity, and forgiveness

Mira is just beginning her senior year of high school when she discovers her father with his male lover. Her world–and everything she thought she knew about her family–is shattered instantly. Unable to comprehend the lies, betrayal, and secrets that–unbeknownst to Mira–have come to define and keep intact her family’s existence, Mira distances herself from her sister and closest friends as a means of coping. But her father’s sexual orientation isn’t all he’s kept hidden. A shocking health scare brings to light his battle with HIV. As Mira struggles to make sense of the many fractures in her family’s fabric and redefine her wavering sense of self, she must find a way to reconnect with her dad–while there is still time.
Told in raw, exposed free verse, Skyscraping reminds us that there is no one way to be a family.


I was perusing the shelves at my library when the title caught my eye: Skyscraping. So I picked it up and flipped it open — and was excited to see it was a verse novel, a book told in free verse poetry! Skyscraping ended up being a terrific read I took a chance on, having never heard of it before — and because I rarely read blurbs, let’s be real here, I go into 95% of the books I read blind. Skyscraping is a hidden gem, a gorgeous but sad story about a girl growing up in New York City whose father falls ill with AIDS.

I loved how relatable Mira was. I grew up in New York City, and it wasn’t too long ago that I was also applying to colleges and not knowing what I wanted to do with my life. What a really loved about this book was its excellent and realistic portrayals of relationships, and how you can love someone but you don’t always show it or think they show it. Skyscraping is a memorable book that I totally recommend if you can handle the emotions that are sure to eat away at you. ♦


Have you read One?
How about Skyscraping?
If you haven’t, would you be interested to?
What is a good verse novel you’ve read?
Comment below letting me know!

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Book Reviews

The Hidden Oracle and The Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan | Mini Reviews

The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan. The Trials of Apollo, #1.

My copy: Disney Hyperion, May 2016. Hardcover, 361 pages.

Source: Library.

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Synopsis:

How do you punish an immortal?

By making him human.

After angering his father Zeus, the god Apollo is cast down from Olympus. Weak and disorientated, he lands in New York City as a regular teenage boy. Now, without his godly powers, the four-thousand-year-old deity must learn to survive in the modern world until he can somehow find a way to regain Zeus’s favour.

But Apollo has many enemies—gods, monsters and mortals who would love to see the former Olympian permanently destroyed. Apollo needs help, and he can think of only one place to go… an enclave of modern demigods known as Camp Half-Blood.


Thoughts on The Hidden Oracle:

  • We get an Apollo haiku every chapter. I can die happy, because Apollo haikus are so atrocious they’re brilliant.
  • Apollo is hilarious. He’s a mighty god stuck in the form of a flabby, pimply teenage boy. The stuff he spews out of his mouth is gold sometimes. He’s so gloriously full of himself, but not in a “want to smack you upside the head” kind of way.
  • I wish that Meg was a little bit older, 12 seemed kind of young, but she was a trip.
  • I loved all the references to characters and past events from Rick’s other two Greek and Roman series. Also there was a sweet reference to the Magnus Chase series.
  • I couldn’t keep up with all the Camp Half-Blood campers. Everyone had a name but I never really felt that attached to the minor characters when something happened, because there were just too many. (Also, how is everyone not dead?)
  • I appreciate the diversity in Rick’s books. People of all backgrounds are represented, and even Apollo is bisexual!
  • The story is still formulaic as ever, but it works, and I love seeing how Rick incorporates myths and gods he hasn’t written about yet.
  • But really, Camp Half-Blood seems to be located in the worst possible place EVER.
  • The return of Percy! I like how Percy is in The Trials of Apollo and Annabeth is in Magnus Chase.
  • Will + Nico = ❤
  • PEACHES! ♦


The Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan. Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, #2.

My copy: Disney Hyperion, October 2016. Hardcover, 459 pages.

Source: Library.

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Read my review of The Sword of Summer, book #1, here.

Synopsis:

Thor’s hammer is missing again. The thunder god has a disturbing habit of misplacing his weapon–the mightiest force in the Nine Worlds. But this time the hammer isn’t just lost, it has fallen into enemy hands. If Magnus Chase and his friends can’t retrieve the hammer quickly, the mortal worlds will be defenseless against an onslaught of giants. Ragnarok will begin. The Nine Worlds will burn. Unfortunately, the only person who can broker a deal for the hammer’s return is the gods’ worst enemy, Loki–and the price he wants is very high.


Thoughts on The Hammer of Thor:

  • Ah, I love how convoluted Norse mythology is. (I mean, all mythology is pretty convoluted, but Norse mythology can be pretty complicated.) It felt good to be back.
  • Jack the sword killed me. Talking weapons are my new favorite thing.
  • Hooray for more diversity! Not only do we have persons of color, but also an elf who is deaf, and Alex the gender-fluid child of Loki. The crew is pretty awesome.
  • Book 2 was kind of a chore at times. There was so just much side-tracking. I know this is Rick’s formula for quests and stuff (“we have to go to A to pick up this thing B needs in order to tell us how to get to C but our ultimate goal is like G”), but at times it did get pretty ridiculous.
  • The pop culture references are very funny, but in the future this book will be very dated.
  • Sam is one strong gal. Total bad-ass, but also very vulnerable. Respect. ♦


Have you read The Hidden Oracle?
How about The Hammer of Thor?
If you haven’t, would you be interested to?
What’s a world mythology you’d love to read a new series about?
Comment below letting me know!

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Book Reviews

Teddy & Co. by Cynthia Voigt | Book Review

Teddy & Co. by Cynthia Voigt, illustrations by Paola Zakimi.

My copy: Knopf Books for Young Readers, November 2016. ARC (review copy), 179 pages.

Source: Courtesy of my local bookstore.

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Synopsis:

Teddy is a thinking kind of bear. Of all his friends, he does the most wondering. He lives with a ragtag group of lost toys—a very hungry snake, an elephant who likes to bake, two charmingly silly pigs, and a reclusive penguin—and they all bump along happily together. But their peaceful world gets shaken up when new toys arrive—first a rabbit, who is not as soft and floppy as he looks, and then a beautiful doll with royal ambitions. Will the newcomers learn to fit into the community? Or will the community be forever changed by them? As Teddy the philosopher would answer: Yes.


Teddy is a stuffed bear without legs whose mode of transportation is a red wagon his elephant friend pulls around. Hooray for the representation of disabled characters in books for young people.

This book is a cute little tale about a bunch of toys and their day to day adventures when two new toys show up unexpectedly: a douche-y rabbit and a bratty doll who decides she’s going to be Queen of everything.

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Book Reviews

Zodiac by Sam Wilson | Book Review

Zodiac by Sam Wilson.

My copy: Pegasus Crime, February 7th, 2017. ARC (review copy), 446 pages.

Source: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you, Pegasus Books!

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Synopsis:

A starting new thriller with one of the most original concepts in years, where the line between a life of luxury and an existence of poverty can be determined by the stroke of midnight.

In San Celeste, a series of uniquely brutal murders targets victims from totally different walks of life. In a society divided according to Zodiac signs, those differences are cast at birth and binding for life. All eyes are on detective Jerome Burton and astrological profiler Lindi Childs—divided in their beliefs over whether the answer is written in the stars, but united in their conviction that there is an ingenious serial killer executing a grand plan.

Together, they will unravel a dark tale of betrayal, lost love, broken promises and a devastating truth with the power to tear their world apart…


I haven’t read a good thriller in a while. I forgot how much I enjoy the tension, action, and fast pace. Zodiac sometimes meanders, but everything is there for a reason. The chapters are short and snappy, and the information given is all fascinating. It’s a mind game to find a murderer, and while the victims seem pretty random at first — they couldn’t be more darkly connected.

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Book Reviews

Splintered by A.G. Howard | Book Review

Splintered by A.G. Howard. Splintered, #1.

My copy: Amulet Books (ABRAMS), January 2013. Hardcover, 371 pages.

Source: Library.

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Synopsis:

This stunning debut captures the grotesque madness of a mystical under-land, as well as a girl’s pangs of first love and independence.

Alyssa Gardner hears the whispers of bugs and flowers—precisely the affliction that landed her mother in a mental hospital years before. This family curse stretches back to her ancestor Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alyssa might be crazy, but she manages to keep it together. For now.

When her mother’s mental health takes a turn for the worse, Alyssa learns that what she thought was fiction is based in terrifying reality. The real Wonderland is a place far darker and more twisted than Lewis Carroll ever let on. There, Alyssa must pass a series of tests, including draining an ocean of Alice’s tears, waking the slumbering tea party, and subduing a vicious bandersnatch, to fix Alice’s mistakes and save her family. She must also decide whom to trust: Jeb, her gorgeous best friend and secret crush, or the sexy but suspicious Morpheus, her guide through Wonderland, who may have dark motives of his own.


Thoughts on Splintered:

Pros:

How deliciously fantastical and twisted Wonderland is. It’s everything we all love about Lewis Carroll’s colorful world plus more. Lots more. It’s mad and overwhelming and always exciting.

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