Book Review: The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

“Where do all these things start? Once upon a time. And you just . . . go from there.”

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert, Chapter 26

The beautiful cover of The Hazel Wood caught my attention, but the story by author Melissa Albert is what kept me captive.

The book falls into the young adult category with its 17-year old main character Alice. She’s lived a unique life with her mother Ella, never staying in one place for too long—the shadows of misfortune haunting each step and often the reason they must pick up and move on. Ella’s mother is Althea Proserpine, an author who’s only book is an out-of-print collection of odd fairy tales. Alice has never met her grandmother and her mother won’t let her read the book with its stories about the Hinterland.

Alice’s journey is dark and at times terrifying. She’ll lose her mother, her only friend, and even her life. Author Melissa Albert creates dark twists and turns throughout the world as we think we know it and the one just beyond, where the stories pulse with their own life.

I found The Hazel Wood to be immersive, imaginative, and a book I’d recommend to anyone who enjoys the darker side to fairy tales. There is plenty of intrigue and mystery, and while the pace isn’t breakneck, the story kept me turning pages long after my eyes begged for sleep.

You can find out more about The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert here: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250147905

The sequel to The Hazel Wood is The Night Country, and it releases January 7, 2020.

Book Review: Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

“Where were you when the dead were following me home?”

Alex Stern. “Ninth House” by Leigh Bardugo (Chapter 6)

Her name is Galaxy Stern but she goes by Alex. A California native, Alex dropped out of school and left her hippie mom’s home to run with her sketchy drug dealer boyfriend. By the age of twenty, Alex has seen it all. Then things go from bad to worse—she becomes the only survivor of a brutal murder. And the killer is still out there. But she receives a special visit during her hospital stay, a benefactor that offers to take her away from L.A. It’s a chance for a new beginning, far from her old life. Of course there’s a catch.

Alex arrives in New Have to begin a new life at Yale. She’s been enrolled as a freshman, but her benefactors have also given her a job. Alex now is part of a mysterious secret society. Yale is home to eight of these active and highly-secret societies who regularly perform rituals of magic to satisfy their wants and needs. Her job is to work with the others of Lethe House to “police” the societies and make sure protocols are followed and campus and New Haven stay safe.

When a town girl is murdered, Alex finds herself on the hunt for the killer. She fights ghosts, powerful magic, and more as she tries to unravel this mystery of this murder as well as one that happened decades earlier. Everything in New Haven is connected. She also has to face the truth about her own past and special abilities.

I enjoyed reading Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo. It is atmospheric and a suspenseful thriller with enough mystery that kept me turning pages. Alex may be flawed, but Bardugo had me rooting for her. Alex’s evolution throughout the story was nicely rounded and believable. There really was a lot to Ninth House and it’s well worth picking up. For me, it was a different look at ghosts and how they may interact with the living. I especially like the Bridegroom; as I don’t do spoilers, just take my word, he has his merits.

Ninth House had plenty of twists and turns, a couple that surprised me and that was fun. While the ending was satisfying, I do like that it’s obvious that this is the start of a series and I look forward to reading the next book.

You can read more about Ninth House at Leigh Bardugo’s website.

Book Review: The Daybreak Bond by Megan Frazer Blakemore

“Maybe fate and superstition were just our brains’ way of making sense of the world around us, creating a story to explain events.”

The Daybreak Bond by Megan Frazer Blakemore (Chapt. 5, page 34)

The Daybreak Bond by Megan Frazer Blakemore is the sequel to The Firefly Code, a middle-grade science fiction story set in the future. I love a sequel, especially when the first book captivated me with its story and characters.

Everyone is back in book two, Mori and her closest friends from Firefly Lane in Old Harmonie, the community run by KritaCorp. By the end of book one, we know new girl Ilana is a form of AI and the scientists from KritaCorp have decided to disassemble her. The kids decide to intervene and run away from Old Harmonie with Ilana on a mission to save her life. The Daybreak Bond opens with the Firefly Five outside Old Harmonie and on their own trying to make their way to Cambridge and the campus of MIT. At MIT, they hope to find Dr. Varden, the one scientist that may be able to help keep Ilana alive. 

I like stories where the characters/heroes are on a journey and must overcome obstacles, and The Daybreak Code delivers on that. Blakemore gives the reader five kids who leave their “utopian” community to brave the wilds of the countryside and rough cities where they know no one. On the 24-mile journey the face everything from dangerous dogs to electric fences and kids who know how to survive outside a KritaCorp community. Things get rough and not everyone comes through unharmed. However, the Firefly Five meet new friends and learn to trust others outside their group, while choosing to follow their hearts.

The Daybreak Code is a solid sequel to The Firefly Code, effortlessly combining lite sci-fi with dystopian elements and the universal truths of childhood friendships. I definitely recommend both books for middle grade readers and teens. As an adult, I thoroughly enjoyed the stories and as a parent it’s nice to have books that you can enjoy with your kids.

Be sure to visit author Megan Frazer Blakemore’s website for more information about her books.

Book Review: The Tesla Legacy by K. K. Pérez

“The truth was so much more X-Files than Lucy could have imagined.” (pg. 177)

Readers looking for a young adult, sci-fi thriller with mystery and even a bit of romance can find it all and more in The Tesla Legacy by K. K. Pérez. The story follows Lucy Phelps, an intelligent 18 year old in the last few weeks of her senior year of high school and the “shocking” information she uncovers about herself, her family, and the legendary Nikola Tesla.

Lucy has epilepsy, or so she’s been told her entire life. Because of that, she’s been sheltered by her parents shunned other kids, especially when she was younger. A budding and brilliant scientist, Lucy just wants to venture out on her own terms and that means getting away to college. She does have the love and support of her best friend Claudia, but things are a bit rocky with her boyfriend Cole. When Lucy accidentally discovers a hidden message in a photograph of her younger self, it leads her into New York City and an experience that will change her life.

After discovering the hidden Tesla room in New York, Lucy has her hands full. She’s promised Claudia she’d help with the lighting design for prom, there’s issues with her boyfriend, she needs to keep working on her science experiment, and there’s also this little (not!) issue of her newfound abilities that involve her ability to manipulate and control electricity. And let’s not forget the handsome new teaching assistant that’s taken an interest in her as well as the two rival, ancient, alchemical societies that each want Lucy for their own agendas.

I enjoyed The Tesla Legacy immensely. It kept me entertained and engaged, even during its science-y moments. For me, there was a nice balance between sci-fi and action as well as between the sci-fi and romantic elements. Lucy is a likable character and I found myself cheering her on as she takes a stand.

Author K. K. Pérez provides enough twists to keep a reader guessing, but not too many where it becomes tedious. I do like that we’re set up for a sequel and when it’s released, I’ll definitely be adding it to my TBR list.

Please go check out the other books by K. K. Pérez at her website and grab a copy of The Tesla Legacy today.

I Love a Good Hashtag! It’s #MuseMondays

Keep an eye out here and on my Instagram & Twitter accounts for weekly additions to #MuseMondays. I’ll be sharing some of my favorite books, authors, music, movies, and more. Inspirations for both my writing and what I grab to read when I want to escape from the daily mundane.

Today, it’s Josephine Angelini’s “Starcrossed”, a young adult trilogy that I’ve read and re-read multiple times. Add it to your TBR list today; it’s a fun twist on traditional Greek mythology.

The “Starcrossed” trilogy by Josephine Angelini

Weekend Reads: March 2

Reading on the weekend is more than just a way to relax, it’s an essential part of my existence. While some people may look forward to heading out to the movie theater on a Friday or Saturday, I begin anticipating and planning my weekend reading around Tuesday morning (usually after a particularly long session completing a freelance project.)

This weekend I’m getting a late start. Freelance commitments, family life, and writing new words in my own WIP, pushed back my weekend reads until now. In addition, I wavered on which book to begin. I seriously was leaning towards rereading Josephine Angelini’s Starcrossed trilogy. It’s one of my favorite YA trilogies and if you’ve not read it, I highly recommend it. You can check out my review of the first book here. Angelini’s trilogy focuses on Greek mythology and that seems to be what I’m in the mood for. However, I really wanted to read something that is new to me.

Bingo! Rick Riordan’s The Heroes of Olympus series!

My son left the first three books of the series with me several months ago and they’ve sat there in my TBR pile since. I’m excited to begin reading this series, which means this post will not be much longer. The series begins with The Lost Hero, so keep an eye out here for my review of this first book. I’ve got high hopes for it and am ready to dive in.

What are you reading this weekend? Share the titles and/or links in the comments. I’m always looking to add to my TBR list.

Happy reading!

Let’s Talk Book-Inspired Parties!

Book-inspired parties! That’s what is on my mind today. This morning I was working on a project for a client—unfortunately not a plan for a book-inspired party, but it was New Year’s Eve related, so fairly festive. Along the trail of research I had the good fortune to stumble upon the InLiterature.net website. This site has fabulous ideas and information for planning a book-inspired party, everything from recipes to decorations plus crafts and activities for kids’ parties.

The books range from classic literature to favorite children’s stories and everything in between.

unnamed (1)
A few of my copies, some a bit more tattered than others. I’m looking at you, HP. 

Just a few of the books included are:

  • A Christmas Carol
  • Coraline
  • Anna Karenina
  • Divergent
  • Dracula
  • Julie & Julia
  • Jurassic Park
  • Pride and Prejudice
  • Practical Magic
  • Sherlock Holmes
  • The Hobbit

And of course you can find pages on the site for Harry Potter party ideas.

Do you want to learn how to make a paper mache mandrake? Here you go. InLiterature.net has step-by-step directions.

How about whipping up a batch of Fizzing Whizbees to enjoy at your Harry Potter party? They have a three-ingredient recipe for that too. It looks so easy!

Several years ago I worked at a library and hosted the weekly reading programs for kids. It was a blast! For the preschoolers each week, it was always a program theme relating to our book of the week. I would have loved to have had access to a site like this. Now I’m actually considering a theme party somewhere down the road. But which book to choose?

So how about it? Do you have any good ideas for book-inspired parties? Share your ideas or links to cool sites in the comments below.

The Summer of Re-Reads

When I was a kid, I looked forward to the Summer Reading Program at my local library. Each summer it had a theme and kids of all ages were challenged to read as many books as they could. As a voracious reader, making the preset “goal” was never an issue. Let's Talk Summer Reading!Usually we were given a flyer that had space to write down titles read on the back and on the front were spots for the librarians to add a sticker for each book read—the sticker, of course, matched that summer’s theme. I can’t remember how many weeks it lasted, maybe four? But at the end, there were prizes. I even remember winning tickets to Cubs and Sox games (not in the same summer!). I LOVED these programs when I was kid.

As an adult, I worked at a library and had the privilege of helping with the Summer Reading Program. It was a blast! And I miss those days.

So while thinking about all this and feeling nostalgic, I decided I really was in the mood to revisit some of the books from my home library. If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter, you may have already seen a few of my posts about what I’ve christened:

The Summer of Re-Reads. summer books

While I’m not going to ignore new titles, I do plan on re-reading several books/series. These include but are not limited to:

Percy Jackson & the Olympians by Rick Riordan

It’s been a least five years, probably more since I read this series and I’m really looking forward to having adventures with Percy, Annabeth, and Grover again.

The Diviners by Libba Bray

I plan to re-read the first book in the series, The Diviners and book 2, Lair of Dreams this summer. I need to go back and re-immerse into this world because I bought book 3, Before the Devil Breaks You and I’ve not read it yet.

The New Jedi Order (various authors)

It’s a long series—19 books. Yes, I do own them all, just a portion of my Stars Wars book collection. Trust me, the books, way better than any of the new movies (new movies = any Star Wars movie made after the original trilogy). Will I get to read all 19? Hard to say. I’ve already finished Vector Prime by R.A. Salvatore, so keep an eye out on a review coming soon.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Go ahead, roll your eyes. Are you done? Cool. Okay, so here’s the deal. It’s been at least seven years since I read this book. Yes, I’ve read the trilogy back in the day and I love the movies. But honestly, it’s been so long since I read the book that started it all, I’m curious to see if I’ll enjoy it again. I liked it enough the first time that I did read the rest of the series. I was a bit late to the party, only picking up The Hunger Games after Catching Fire came out. I may even review it here. Who knows? It’s summer, anything’s possible.

The Paranormalcy series by Kiersten White

This is a trilogy that debuted with Paranormalcy back in 2010. I own all three, have read them several times, but it’s been at least four years. I actually finished the first book, Paranormalcy the other day and have up my revised Goodreads review. I’m going to wait until after I read all three, and then I’ll put together a series review for here.

What are you reading this summer?

Book Review: The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey

“That’s the lesson they taught us, Razor. What matters and what doesn’t. The one truth at the center of all the lies.”

(The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey, Chapter 82, page 292)

Starting off the New Year by finishing The Infinite Sea, the second book in Rick Yancey’s The 5th Wave series. The opportunity to tuck in with a good book for some quality reading time during the hectic holiday season has been pure bliss. I received the boxed set of The 5th Wave series for Christmas and have been making my way through this action-packed, end-of-the-world trilogy that combines just the right amount of YA angst with gritty fight scenes, layers of lies, and relatable characters.

Infinite Sea

The Infinite Sea continues the story of Cassie and Sam Sullivan, Ben “Zombie” Parish, Evan Walker, and the Others who’ve decimated the human the race in five distinct waves. The 5th Wave (book one) ends after the destruction of Camp Haven. Book two picks up shortly after with Cassie, Zombie, Sam, Ringer, Poundcake, Dumbo, and Teacup regrouping, healing, and coming to terms with the revelations they’ve uncovered regarding the Others.

While The Infinite Sea continues along with the storylines for Cassie and Zombie, it also gives readers more Ringer—and believe me, that’s a very good thing. Ringer’s story in book two was my favorite. Loved the insight into her background and Yancey’s development of her character was interesting, riveting, and revealing. In addition to Ringer’s backstory, we also get a deeper look at Poundcake and since I won’t do spoilers I will only say, Poundcake now has to rate as one of my favorite characters of the story.

New characters also are introduced, including Razor. I’m still making up my mind if I like him or not. I think Ringer may still be trying to make up her mind as well. Or not. Hard to say.

What I will say is that there’s a lot to contemplate in this book. Who are the Others really? Why the five waves? Why not just drop a big-ass rock on the planet and be done with it?

Like any good second installment of a trilogy, The Infinite Sea not only moves the story along, but it also leaves it with unresolved conflict and a questions that must be answered in book three.

Overall, I like The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey and I’m anxious to begin book three The Last Star.

Goodreads 2017 Reading Challenge: How’d You Do?

Goodreads 2017 Reading Challenge By the Numbers:

Participants—3,064,552

Books pledged—138,755,909

Books finished (as of 12/10/17)—42,456,838

Average books pledged—45

Challenges completed (as of 12/10/17)—14,675

i-love-books

The Goodreads 2017 Reading Challenge has just 21 days left (as of this writing).

Never heard of the Goodreads annual Reading Challenge? No worries. It’s pretty simple. It’s free and open to all Goodreads members. All you do is choose or “pledge” how many books you want to read for the year. It can be any amount.

According to the Goodreads Reading Challenge statistics, which I’ve posted above, the average number of books pledge is  45 or a little less than one book a week.

Seems doable, right? For many readers, absolutely!

For others, myself included. I opt for a lower number. And I feel no shame. Pledge whatever you want. Slow reader? Make your challenge 5 or 10 books for the year. If you make that easily, then increase the number in the next year.

My 2017 Goodreads Reading Challenge was 25 books. I completed my challenge on November 30. You can see my list of completed books and their reviews here.

In looking over the list, I’ve been trying to decide which one would be my favorite read of the year. There are so many books that I read in the last year that I really, really liked. I’d have to say my absolute favorite on this list is “Silver Stars” by Michael Grant. It’s book two in his Front Lines series.

I also read a middle-grade series written by A.L. Tait, The Mapmaker Chronicles—all three of those books appear in my Goodreads Reading Challenge list. Loved this series and highly recommend it for your young readers.

So what am I reading right now? Well, I’m still working my way through the Harry Potter series. I’m on book two but am first going to finish up reading the new Nora Roberts book “Year One”. As soon as I have “Year One” finished, I’ll post a review—but I’ll tell you right now, I’m LOVING it!

Did you do the Goodreads 2017 Reading Challenge?

How many books did you pledge?

Did you make your goals or are you still in a race to finish before the clock chimes midnight on December 31?