Book List 2018

Review: Bygone Badass Broads by Mackenzi Lee

Title: Bygone Badass Broads – 52 Forgotten Women Who Changed the World35888416

Author: Mackenzi Lee

Genre: Badass non-fiction

Summary:

Based on Mackenzi Lee’s popular weekly Twitter series of the same name, Bygone Badass Broads features 52 remarkable and forgotten trailblazing women from all over the world.

With tales of heroism and cunning, in-depth bios and witty storytelling, Bygone Badass Broads gives new life to these historic female pioneers.

Starting in the fifth century BC and continuing to the present, the book takes a closer look at bold and inspiring women who dared to step outside the traditional gender roles of their time.

Coupled with riveting illustrations and Lee’s humorous and conversational storytelling style, this book is an outright celebration of the badass women who paved the way for the rest of us.

Review:

This book is everything.

I needed this book when I was growing up, unsure of myself and what being a girl meant, what becoming a woman would mean.

I need this book now when everything seems so confusing and women are still being degraded, and treated as something less, or disrespected for speaking out, for speaking their minds.

These women are badass. Not were. They are. Their legends should loom large and be researched and passed on from generation to generation, inspiring more women like them. Inspiring future generations to have fight in them, to have rebellion and be able to say what’s what and do what’s right.

Mackenzi Lee writes about these women in a way that makes them seem so relatable. It makes it seem like she’s talking about a friend of a friend instead of someone who has long passed through history.  At this point I am thinking that basically if Mackenzi Lee has written something, I am definitely going to be reading it.

I would recommend this book to everyone. I would also recommend having a notebook in hand because as you’re reading you’re going to want to find out as much about these people as you can, because they were definitely badass. 

They’ll also leave you thinking, “Hey, maybe I can be badass too.”

And you can. You absolutely can.

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Book List 2018

Review: Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi

36101070
Gorgeous cover art.

Title: Emergency Contact

Author: Mary H.K. Choi

Genre: YA

Release Date: 27 March, 2018

Summary: 

For Penny Lee high school was a total nonevent. Her friends were okay, her grades were fine, and while she somehow managed to land a boyfriend, he doesn’t actually know anything about her. When Penny heads to college in Austin, Texas, to learn how to become a writer, it’s seventy-nine miles and a zillion light years away from everything she can’t wait to leave behind.

Sam’s stuck. Literally, figuratively, emotionally, financially. He works at a café and sleeps there too, on a mattress on the floor of an empty storage room upstairs. He knows that this is the god-awful chapter of his life that will serve as inspiration for when he’s a famous movie director but right this second the seventeen bucks in his checking account and his dying laptop are really testing him. 

When Sam and Penny cross paths it’s less meet-cute and more a collision of unbearable awkwardness. Still, they swap numbers and stay in touch—via text—and soon become digitally inseparable, sharing their deepest anxieties and secret dreams without the humiliating weirdness of having to see each other.

Review: 

The verdict is in after much deliberation and I’ve decided I like this book quite a lot. It just took me a while while reading to come around to doing so, and I hate myself for the reason why.

I found it awkward to have a male character who wore his emotions on his sleeve so much, who felt so deeply that he couldn’t help but let it show.

I want you to know, people or persons reading this, that this is not a statement of something wrong with the book but rather a statement of what I have become as a reader, and as someone who didn’t even realize they bought into society’s shitty ideals of what people should be.

So thank you, author, for reminding me that there is nothing wrong at all with anyone of any gender who feels so deeply that it shows. In fact it is downright refreshing, as was much of this book.

It’s not your run of the mill oh let’s meet and fall in love kind of book. It is awkward, as romance can be awkward. It is angsty, and in some ways it hurts, but when it’s going good, it’s going extremely well. This book felt good to read. So good in fact that I read it twice.

Once I realized that I suck, the book got better. It’s a challenge in a way, and I’m not sure the author intended that but I would like to thank Mary H.K. Choi nonetheless because she re-opened my heart in a way, and I think that’s really all I can ask for.

So this cynic would like you all to read this book. Please. With an open mind.

Received an early copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

 

Book List 2018

Review: A Study in Honor by Claire O’Dell

36502081Title: A Study in Honor

Author: Claire O’Dell

Genre: Dystopian, Holmesian, Mystery

Set in a near future Washington, D.C., a clever, incisive, and fresh feminist twist on a classic literary icon—Sherlock Holmes—in which Dr. Janet Watson and covert agent Sara Holmes will use espionage, advanced technology, and the power of deduction to unmask a murderer targeting Civil War veterans.

Dr. Janet Watson knows firsthand the horrifying cost of a divided nation. While treating broken soldiers on the battlefields of the New Civil War, a sniper’s bullet shattered her arm and ended her career. Honorably discharged and struggling with the semi-functional mechanical arm that replaced the limb she lost, she returns to the nation’s capital, a bleak, edgy city in the throes of a fraught presidential election. Homeless and jobless, Watson is uncertain of the future when she meets another black and queer woman, Sara Holmes, a mysterious yet playfully challenging covert agent who offers the doctor a place to stay.

Watson’s readjustment to civilian life is complicated by the infuriating antics of her strange new roommate. But the tensions between them dissolve when Watson discovers that soldiers from the New Civil War have begun dying one by one—and that the deaths may be the tip of something far more dangerous, involving the pharmaceutical industry and even the looming election. Joining forces, Watson and Holmes embark on a thrilling investigation to solve the mystery—and secure justice for these fallen soldiers.

Review: 

This is a futuristic sci-fi/dystopia genderbent and relatively awesome book.

Watson is more cynical than ever within this book, and if possible even tougher than in the originals. She is a woman who is near broken but still refuses to give up. She’s got gumption, shall we say.

Holmes is a little more…blase in this novel than in other Holmes novels or reiterations. I did wish that more of her was seen in this book as I did not really get attached to her in any way in this novel because to be honest she wasn’t in it too often.

That being said I don’t think this book lacks because of the lack of Holmes, as Watson’s introspection, and the characterization of her is enough to satiate me as a reader.

The nature of this book is woven in mystery and questions, and not all of them get answered, but not in a bad way, just in a way that definitely made me want more of this book so I do hope it may be the beginning of a series.

Received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Book List 2018

Review: City of the Lost by Kelley Armstrong

city of the lostTitle: City of the Lost

Author: Kelley Armstrong

Genre: Suspense, Thriller, Mystery

Summary: Casey Duncan once killed a man and got away with it. But that’s not why she’s on the run. Her best friend’s ex has found Diana again, despite all Casey has done to protect her. And Diana has decided the only way she’ll ever be safe is if she finds the mythical town she’s heard of where people like her can go to hide. Turns out the town really exists, and will take Diana, but only if Casey, a talented young police detective, comes too.

Imagine a hidden town, isolated in the Yukon wilderness, where everyone is pretending to be someone they’re not. Even good people can get up to some very bad stuff. The laconic town sheriff dispenses his own frontier justice, but he’s more accustomed to sobering up drunks in the horse trough, than attempting to solve the series of brutal murders that has rocked the town. As much as he hates it, he needs Casey. As for Casey, coming to the far North may have started out as a sacrifice she was willing to make for her best friend. But maybe, just maybe, she needs Rockton as much as the town needs her.

Reviews:

This is my third time reading this book. I still “Oh my god” and flail at the right times, or attempt to hide from what’s going on even though I’m holding the book in hand which is quite a feat as I’m sure you can imagine.

Kelley Armstrong has never done me wrong, and this series is no different. It is electric, fresh, and so well written I wish she would lend me just a tiny bit of her writing mojo so that I could write something just half as good as this.

This book has characters who are all entirely independent and different from each other, but share a very human commonality; they are in situations beyond their control and trying in spite of it. Their vulnerability does not become weakness, instead it becomes something that gives them strength.

I could gush for hours about Casey, and Dalton, but frankly, I think you would get sick of it. But I love them so much. And Anders.

The setting is a Canadian one, but a Canada unfamiliar to someone like me. It is wilderness, and beauty and danger all rolled into one. It is solitude and isolation. This world is an adventure, rife with adversity and yes, in this case, murder.

The wild awakens something in people that might not have been there before in this novel, or was it always there? And it just needed a push? That is the ultimate question.

Do yourself a favour, and pick this book up. You won’t regret it.

Book List 2018

Review: Almost Midnight by Rainbow Rowell

almost midnightTitle: Almost Midnight

Author: Rainbow Rowell

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance

Summary: Midnights is the story of Noel and Mags, who meet at the same New Year’s Eve party every year and fall a little more in love each time . . .

Kindred Spirits is about Elena, who decides to queue to see the new Star Wars movie and meets Gabe, a fellow fan.

Midnights was previously published as part of the My True Love Gave to Me anthology, edited by Stephanie Perkins and Kindred Spirits was previously published as a World Book Day title.

Review: 

Midnights is a beautifully written story, spanning many years, and all the same characters as they change throughout time. But some things, such as love, definitely stay the same, even flourish.

It is heart-warming, and wonderfully written by one of my favourite authors. Rainbow Rowell is a master when it comes to language, and making her readers feel something. This is sweet, cute, and to the point with a hint of nostalgia.

Kindred Spirits is a tribute to fandom, to the people that follow it, and love it, sometimes to their own sleepy detriment.

It is also a tribute to Star Wars, and what that franchise, and its characters has come to mean for the fans. It was sweet, and well written with just the slightest bit of conflict.

To me it was very Breakfast Clubesque, but with some awesome fandom references.

 

Contributor: Luke Black

Guest Blogger Review: The Martian

MartianReview

Title: The Martian
Author: Andy Weir
Genre: Science Fiction
Summary: Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.

Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive.

Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first.

But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

Stars: ★★★★★

Review:

What an amazing book! I will admit, I heard about the movie first, but I decided to read the book before I saw the movie. Yes, yes, I know both are several years old at this point. What can I say, I’m slow.

Anyway, I loved the book! Talk about edge of your seat action. Mark Watney was a nerdy, quippy guy, and yeah, I saw a review that complained about everybody trying to write like Joss Whedon with witty one-liners, but I mean, I think Andy Weir pulled it off pretty damn well. I snorted aloud several times. I didn’t even get the Whedonesque vibe.

I’ve heard the science in this novel is pretty sound. I’m no scientist, so I can’t comment on that but wow, this book really has you rooting for Watney.

I also like the format that it was written. It swapped between telling the story through Watney in first person log entries to third person exposition of things back on Earth. Plus some third person scenes of Watney on Mars. It was different but I really liked it.

I would recommend this book to anyone who had even the slightest bit of interest in space travel to Mars or science or even space in general. Great, great read.

Book List 2018

Review: Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore

wild beauty.jpgTitle: Wild Beauty

Author: Anna-Marie McLemore

Genre: Fantasy

Summary: For nearly a century, the Nomeolvides women have tended the grounds of La Pradera, the lush estate gardens that enchant guests from around the world. They’ve also hidden a tragic legacy: if they fall in love too deeply, their lovers vanish. But then, after generations of vanishings, a strange boy appears in the gardens.

The boy is a mystery to Estrella, the Nomeolvides girl who finds him, and to her family, but he’s even more a mystery to himself; he knows nothing more about who he is or where he came from than his first name. As Estrella tries to help Fel piece together his unknown past, La Pradera leads them to secrets as dangerous as they are magical in this stunning exploration of love, loss, and family.

Favourite Quotes: 

“Even in its first faint traces, love could alter a landscape. It wrote unimagined stories and made the most beautiful, forbidding places.”

“As though their daughters loving men and women meant they wanted all of them in the world. There was no way to tell their mothers the truth and make them believe it, that hearts that loved boys and girls were no more reckless or easily won than any other heart. They loved who they loved. They broke how they broke.”

Review:

This book is just as beautiful as it’s cover, and filled with so much emotion that it was palpable. McLemore has a style that is all her own, mixing a contemporary writing style with that of all the classic fairy tales.

It runs the gamut of emotions, from happiness, to grief, and everything in between, but within it all is a thread of hope. It will make you feel for the characters within, and make you want to wrap your arms around them and hold them to make it a little better, if you can.

This is also a really good introduction to magical realism for those who might not have been interested in the genre before, as it is written in a way that gently guides you into the journey that these characters are going to, without seeming too overtly strange or otherworldly.

The characters are individual, and their struggles are painful, agonizing, really, and they are written so realistically. This book is just awesome.

 

Book List 2018

Review: All These Beautiful Strangers by Elizabeth Klehfoth

all these beautiful strangersTitle: All These Beautiful Strangers

Author: Elizabeth Klehfoth

Genre: Suspense, Mystery, Scandal

Release Date: July 10th, 2018

Summary:

In the last day of summer, Grace Fairchild, the beautiful young wife of real estate mogul Allister Calloway, vanished from the family’s lake house without a trace, leaving behind her seven-year old daughter, Charlie, and a slew of unanswered questions.

Years later, seventeen-year-old Charlie still struggles with the dark legacy of her family name and the mystery surrounding her mother. Determined to finally let go of the past, she throws herself into life at Knollwood, the prestigious New Englandschool she attends. Charlie quickly becomes friends with Knollwood’s “it” crowd.

Charlie has also been tapped by the A’s—the school’s elite secret society well known for terrorizing the faculty, administration, and their enemies. To become a member of the A’s, Charlie must play The Game, a semester-long, diabolical high-stakes scavenger hunt that will jeopardize her friendships, her reputation, even her place at Knollwood.

As the dark events of past and present converge, Charlie begins to fear that she may not survive the terrible truth about her family, her school, and her own life.

Review:

This book was awesome. I delved into the pages, and the plot and the history of the story. The imagery that surrounded me was at times muted, and sepia toned, old memories brought to the forefront in the in between chapters; at other times it was vivid, and vibrant filled with fear and excitement.

The plot is a strong one, a mystery woven together eloquently, pulling the reader in and making them wish to stay to just learn a little bit more. There is scandal, and controversy and wonderment.

The characters are flawed, and spoiled and rich, but not unchanging. They grow between the words, and flourish, but aren’t without their shame.

Overall this is a book that is meant to draw you in and keep you there.

It is good for fans of YA fiction, of mystery, of suspense. It is cerebral in its intensity.

My only question remained: What happened to Dalton?

Received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

Book List 2018

Review: Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson

truly devious.jpgTitle: Truly Devious

Author: Maureen Johnson

Genre: YA, Mystery

Summary: 

Ellingham Academy is a famous private school in Vermont for the brightest thinkers, inventors, and artists. It was founded by Albert Ellingham, an early twentieth century tycoon, who wanted to make a wonderful place full of riddles, twisting pathways, and gardens. “A place,” he said, “where learning is a game.”

Shortly after the school opened, his wife and daughter were kidnapped. The only real clue was a mocking riddle listing methods of murder, signed with the frightening pseudonym “Truly, Devious.” It became one of the great unsolved crimes of American history.

True-crime aficionado Stevie Bell is set to begin her first year at Ellingham Academy, and she has an ambitious plan: She will solve this cold case. That is, she will solve the case when she gets a grip on her demanding new school life and her housemates: the inventor, the novelist, the actor, the artist, and the jokester. But something strange is happening. Truly Devious makes a surprise return, and death revisits Ellingham Academy. The past has crawled out of its grave. Someone has gotten away with murder. 

The two interwoven mysteries of this first book in the Truly Devious series dovetail brilliantly, and Stevie Bell will continue her relentless quest for the murderers in books two and three.

Review:

Love it. Love it. LOVE IT.

This is not my first Maureen Johnson book, and though I was initially sad about not getting another Shades of London book in early 2018 I am certainly not disappointed.

Also, some people say don’t judge a book by a cover, and I try not to but can we take a moment to just stare at the eye catching cover of this book, because it is gorgeous. The blue drew me right in.

I also ended my supposed book buying ban for this book. I decided I needed it that much.

It was definitely worth the money and then some. In fact I bought it as an eBook and I have already decided I need a physical copy so I can lend it to everyone right this moment.

Ellingham Academy is attractive to someone who likes mysteries like me, and I guess Stevie. A supposedly solved but not really solved mystery? Is there anything better in this world.

(Well, I guess a world without killers would be good actually. Like…optimal…)

Stevie is a character I can identify with. While I appear normal, I am often the most awkward human in the room, with some really odd interests.

The other characters in this novel, without giving too much away are also interesting in their own right, each with their own uniquely defined personalities. And some of them don’t seem like they should be trusted.

This book has three mysteries within it, and one of them doesn’t even seem mysterious at first. I was wrong in thinking that, and was rather delightfully surprised. That’s nice for me because I can be downright cynical.

Maureen Johnson is masterful in how the plot of the past case, and the new are woven in, connected to each other and drawing the reader into the novel.

Definitely a good read. I cannot wait for the next book.

Contributor: Luke Black

Guest Blogger Review: The Preacher’s Son by Lisa Henry and J.A Rock

PinehurstOkay, so it’s been AGES since Ashley so kindly introduced me as a guest poster on her blog, and I dropped the ball on posting. Today, I bring to you my first review! (Big thanks to Ashley for letting me post on her blog. Love you, babe.)

I did participate in an instagram tour, and you can find my post here. (It’s my personal account, yes.)

Title: The Preacher’s Son
Authors: Lisa Henry & J.A. Rock
Genre: LGBTQ+ romance
Summary: Jason Banning is a wreck. His leg’s been blown to hell in Afghanistan, his boyfriend just left him and took the dog, and now he’s back in his hometown of Pinehurst, Washington, a place that holds nothing but wretched memories…and Nathan Tull. Nathan Tull, whose life Jason ruined. Nathan Tull, who will never believe Jason did what he did for a greater good. Nathan Tull, whose reverend father runs a gay conversion therapy camp that Jason once sought to bring down—at any cost.

Nathan Tull is trying to live a quiet life. Four years ago, when Nate was a prospective student visiting UW Tacoma, his world collapsed when senior Jason Bannon slept with him, filmed it, and put the footage online. A painful public outing and a crisis of faith later, Nate has finally begun to heal. Cured of the “phantoms” that plagued him for years, he now has a girlfriend, a counselor job at his dad’s camp, and the constant, loving support of his father.

But when he learns Jason is back in town, his carefully constructed identity begins to crumble. As desperate to reconcile his love for God with his attraction to men as Jason is to make sense of the damage he’s done, Nate finds himself walking a dangerous line. On one side lies the righteous life he committed himself to in the wake of his public humiliation. On the other is the sin he committed with Jason Banning, and the phantoms that won’t let him be. But is there a path that can bridge those two worlds—where his faith and his identity as a gay man aren’t mutually exclusive?

And can he walk that path with the man who betrayed him?

Review:
I knew ahead of time from reading the summary that one of the themes of the book was gay conversion therapy camps. What I did not anticipate was how much it would affect me in a negative, impactful way. I’ve been against these types of camps since I first heard of them, but even more so now. It made me deeply uncomfortable and outright angry.

But that’s not the purpose of this review, I’m just putting that out there. The book had promise. I did emphasize with Nathan. I’ve never been overly religious but I have had that self-doubt of wondering if what I am is wrong.

I wanted to smack Reverand Tull several times. I did root for Nathan to overcome his struggle with his inner conflict of reconciling his religion with his sexuality. I couldn’t decide whether I really liked that Nathan gave Jason a second chance but Jason did at least regret what he’d done.

I did emphasize with Jason on some of his beliefs and convictions. I think he could’ve just gone a different way about them.

I was given an ARC in exchange for an honest review.