BOOK REVIEW: Seanan McGuire “Every Heart a Doorway”

51QNWyKjJAL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Title: Every Heart a Doorway

Author: Seanan McGuire

Genre: Fantasy/Mystery

My Rating: 2.5/5 stars

 

Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere… else.

But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.

Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced… they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world.

But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of the matter.

No matter the cost.

Goodreads Synopsis

My thoughts:

Every Heart a Doorway ended up being not at all what I expected. I thought this was going to be a light, atmospheric fantasy, but instead ended up being altogether darker and heavier than I would have imagined.

Now obviously, I can’t blame my expectations on the book and I was able to set them aside after the initial jarring reaction. Still, I’m not sure I would have read this if I had known because I was not in the right frame of mind for this.

The story follows the children living in Eleanor West’s home for “troubled” teenagers, but this isn’t exactly true. This is what Eleanor allows the parents to believe, who would never understand the truth: that their children had visited another world and had come back very different.

“… You know, I read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland when I was a kid, and I never thought about what it would be like for Alice when she went back to where she’d started. I figured she’d just shrug and get over it. But I can’t do that. Every time I close my eyes, I’m back in my real bed, in my real room, and all of this is a dream.”

Eleanor West provides these children with a safe place for them to come to terms with their current situation, and the entire experience is treated like therapy. There are two kinds of homes for children who have visited other worlds: one for children who wish to forget, and one for children who wish to go back. Nancy, our main character, wishes to go back.

The book is beautifully written and extremely quotable, I will definitely give it that. I loved the whole idea of it and loved hearing about the worlds that each child had visited, for they were all wildly different. I wanted to hear more about this, but instead, the story shifted into a murder mystery about halfway through the book.

Suddenly, students started turning up dead under very mysterious circumstances, and it’s obvious that there is a murderer loose in the school. Under normal circumstances, I would think that the administrator would decide that the student’s lives are more important than anything else and have them sent away until the problem is dealt with. That is not how Eleanor West handles the situation.

To a certain extent, I understand why. Part of the reason that many of the children are staying in the home to begin with is because they come from toxic households that would not make for good healing environments for the children. However, I think in this case the choice is simple: either stay at the school and potentially die a horrible death, or go home for a short time while the murderer is tracked down. Or don’t even send the children home, just get them somewhere safe? But no, after every murder, Eleanor pleads with the children not to alert the outside world to the murder problem so the school doesn’t get shut down. This was very frustrating to me and I felt it selfish to value a “safe place” over the lives of the children.

Not only that, I felt the reader wasn’t given enough time to connect with any of the characters before people start getting murdered, so I couldn’t even bother to care if any of them died. I wasn’t invested in the story and overall, I wish this had taken a different direction.

Don’t get me wrong, I still adore the idea and I definitely plan to at least read the second book before deciding if this series is a lost cause. I hope that Down Among the Sticks and Bones is an improvement on this book and focuses more on the worlds that the children visit and their journeys to recovery.

 

Seanan McGuire: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

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BOOK REVIEW: Tricia Levenseller “Daughter of the Pirate King”

33643994Title: Daughter of the Pirate King

Author: Tricia Levenseller

Genre: Fantasy/Action Adventure

My Rating: 3/5 stars

 

Sent on a mission to retrieve an ancient hidden map—the key to a legendary treasure trove—seventeen-year-old pirate captain Alosa deliberately allows herself to be captured by her enemies, giving her the perfect opportunity to search their ship.

More than a match for the ruthless pirate crew, Alosa has only one thing standing between her and the map: her captor, the unexpectedly clever and unfairly attractive first mate, Riden. But not to worry, for Alosa has a few tricks up her sleeve, and no lone pirate can stop the Daughter of the Pirate King.

Goodreads Synopsis

My thoughts:

This had all the makings of an entertaining, action-packed read: snarky female character, swoony love interest and unique magical elements. Instead, all I felt was frustration throughout this entire reading process.

Alosa is, as the title mentions, the pirate king’s daughter. This makes her incredibly well-trained, smart and quick, so her father sends Alosa on a mission to steal a piece of a map which is hidden on board an enemy ship. To do this, she purposely allows the ship’s captain to take her prisoner so that she can then escape and search for the map piece. At any point, Alosa could supposedly easily escape if she wanted to, except she obviously wants to stay on board until she completes her mission.

See, but here’s the thing: if she could so easily escape undetected, why is it that every time she broke out of her cell to search the ship, she ends up getting caught? If she’s so dang good, why does she continue to be found out? Every time someone finds her out of her cell, she makes some half-hearted attempt to escape so that the crew continues to think that she truly doesn’t want to be there. Yet after the third, fourth, fifth time, it just became pathetic.

So in this barely 300-page book, Alosa spends practically the first 225 pages escaping, unsuccessfully searching for the map piece, getting caught and being thrown back in her cell. Over and over and over again. It just became so old and repetitive that it took away much of the enjoyment for me.

Otherwise, I feel I would have loved this. Alosa and Riden (the captain’s brother and first mate) exchanged some hilarious flirtatious banter that made me laugh out loud several times. I loved the siren abilities that Alosa is eventually revealed to have later in the book; her ability to see people’s emotions as colors in her siren vision and the things she was able to do with her song was so cool.

Things finally started to pick up and start happening in the last 75 pages or so of the book, but by then I was so done that I couldn’t bring myself to care. It’s really unfortunate that I didn’t like this more. However, I’m fully planning to read the sequel, Daughter of the Siren Queen, because I have hopes that it will be a significant improvement on the first book. Hopefully Levenseller focuses more on Alosa’s abilities and on creating a more engaging plot. For now though, this remains an unsatisfactory debut.

 

Tricia Levenseller: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

BOOK REVIEW: Morgan Matson “The Unexpected Everything”

17838528Title: The Unexpected Everything

Author: Morgan Matson

Genre: Contemporary/Romance

My Rating: 3.5/5 stars

 

Andie had it all planned out. When you are a politician’s daughter who’s pretty much raised yourself, you learn everything can be planned or spun, or both. Especially your future. Important internship? Check. Amazing friends? Check. Guys? Check (as long as we’re talking no more than three weeks).

But that was before the scandal. Before having to be in the same house with her dad. Before walking an insane number of dogs. That was before Clark and those few months that might change her whole life. Because here’s the thing—if everything’s planned out, you can never find the unexpected. And where’s the fun in that?

*Summary provided by Goodreads.

My thoughts:

I’ve been a fan of Morgan Matson for a while. I think her writing is sweet yet moving, and I fell in love with the first book I ever read by her: Since You’ve Been Gone. Since then, I’ve read every other book written by her, yet sadly have found nothing that has quite met up to SYBG standards. I hoped The Unexpected Everything could do the trick, but I was mistaken.

That’s not to say this was a bad book in the slightest; just that I have yet to read another Matson book that I thought was as good as the first.

This book had a lot going for it: estranged father/daughter relationship and the struggles associated, strong, realistic female friendships and an adorable love interest. Everything should have fallen into place for me, yet there was something missing: a liking for the main character.

For the life of me, I couldn’t get behind Andie’s character. She did frustratingly stupid things and made frustratingly stupid mistakes. I also couldn’t personally connect with her: she’s this girl who desires physical affection from boys yet is unwilling to make attachments or open herself up, causing her relationships to last never more than three weeks. And she was perfectly okay with it. Obviously, The Unexpected Everything is about Andie finding the kind of love that’s worth being vulnerable for and she eventually does open herself up; however, I found that before this point in the book, I couldn’t understand any of the decisions she made and it was a struggle.

Besides this very significant bump, I did enjoy this book. I loved seeing the healing for Andie and her father’s broken relationship and the importance of family over career. I loved the interactions between the female friends and even loved the eventual falling out between two of them. It was so good to see the realistic side of friendship: that just like a romantic relationship, friends can fall apart and not always fall back together. It’s a heartbreaking reality but one I was happy to see represented here because we have all gone through this.

I looooved Clark. He’s one of my favorite love interests that I’ve seen in YA in a long time. He was an ex-homeschooler, full-time author and totally swoon-worthy. Honestly kind of mad because he could have done way better than Andie, but whatever.

Overall, I hate when characters lie because you know that it’s going to end badly, and I hate watching the horribleness that they brought upon themselves unfold. It’s cringey and annoying and I don’t have any sympathy for characters that get themselves into messes because of their own stupidity. I’ve never enjoyed this trope and I never will. I hope that Matson’s next release exceeds all of my wildest expectations.

 

Morgan Matson: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

BOOK REVIEW: Ernest Cline “Ready Player One”

ready-player-one-book-GalleyCatTitle: Ready Player One

Author: Ernest Cline

Genre: Science Fiction

My Rating: 4.5/5 stars

 

In the year 2045, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. When Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win—and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.

*Summary provided by Goodreads.

My Thoughts:

This book was amazing. This was a treasure trove of geeky, 80’s awesomeness and I adored it from start to finish. This was National Treasure inside a vast, limitless virtual world with references to a wide range of classic games, film, music, etc. This was absolutely perfect.

I can’t say enough good things about Ready Player One. The pacing was surprisingly flawless considering the length of the book and the time range/information that this covers. It’s a rags-to-riches story about dedication, quick thinking, clue-solving, etc.

The story starts with the death of James Halliday, creator of the OASIS, a vast and ever-growing virtual world, and lover of all things from the 80’s. He describes in a video made before his passing, a competition: whoever can find the Easter egg that he’s hidden in the OASIS will win his inheritance, which is sizable to say the least. Halliday leaves for the world one clue, and for 5 years, no progress is made in the search for the egg.

Wade Watts, our main character and total underdog, has no real chance of coming out on top. He doesn’t have the money to pay transportation fees to travel through the OASIS, which means he can’t do two things: actively search for the egg or level-up his character. The only world he’s allowed on is the planet where he attends school virtually; sadly, there are no monsters there to kill for experience, and there is nothing to search. All he can do is study everything there is to learn about Halliday, his thousands of obsessions, and master all of the video games he can get his hands on.

Then, by crazy chance, Wade solves the first clue.

What follows is a wild ride through the endless OASIS in a search for the egg. Puzzles must be solved, clues must be cracked, games must be won, and now there’s competition as other players begin to catch up. After 5 years, the game has finally begun, and Wade can now put to use all the facts and knowledge that he has gathered.

It’s impressive how dedicated Wade was to this game. He spent 5 years watching all of Halliday’s favorite movies and TV shows, playing all of his favorite games, listening to all his favorite music, reading all of his favorite books, hoping to find some clue as to the location of the egg. Wade doesn’t just watch/read/play/listen to once; he’s got most of Halliday’s obsessions practically memorized to the point of concern. Like I’m worried that this may have not been super healthy.

I can’t stress enough how incredible this book was. It was interesting and engaging and I didn’t get bored once. I was hooked from beginning to end, and never once did my enjoyment of the story waver.

So a minor complaint: it seemed that Wade had a way of solving clues at, like, the perfect time. He would always be conveniently listening to something or watching something that would jog his memory just the right way to make the answer become clear to him. It seemed a little too perfect, but dang I loved the story so much that I don’t even care.

Another slightly bigger complaint: Ernest Cline was such a tease with that ending! I was not satisfied by it at all; I felt like I needed so much more. I wanted him to give us a “6 months later” bit or something, but instead I felt it was abrupt. I wanted to know what happened after, so I felt let down.

Otherwise, this book is a crazy, wild ride. I’d recommend this to anyone and I think people of all ages can enjoy this, even if you’re not big into gaming or the 80’s. It’s a timeless story with some really awesome features, characters you can root for, and a story that will keep you on the edge of your seat throughout.

 

Ernest Cline: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

BOOK REVIEW: Cate Holahan “The Widower’s Wife”

51nKCFTyz9LTitle: The Widower’s Wife

Author: Cate Holahan

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

My Rating: 3/5 stars

 

Ana Bacon, a young housewife, tumbles off a cruise ship into the dark and deadly waters. But did she take her secrets with her?

Investigator Ryan Monahan is a numbers man. So when his company sends him the Bacon case, which could net a ten-million-dollar payout, Monahan doubts that her death is just a tragic accident. But the husband has a substantial alibi, and a number of witnesses claim to have seen Ana fall. So the official ruling seems substantiated.

Still, the more Monahan uncovers about Ana’s life, the more he realizes how many people would kill to keep her secrets hidden. And the closer he gets to the truth, the greater the odds grow that he, too, will take a fatal fall.

*Summary supplied by the back of the book*

My thoughts:

I definitely struggled with this book. Typically, I love mysteries and thrillers, yet I found nothing intriguing or thrilling about this story. The characters were all flat, and while I sympathized with Ana throughout, it wasn’t enough to carry the plot. The writing was sub-par and the mystery itself wasn’t surprising.

The book alternates between two different points of views in two different timelines: Ana Bacon before her mysterious disappearance and Ryan Monahan a few months after. If done wrong, this could have become confusing. Fortunately, each POV gave up just enough information for the reader to get by.

Monahan’s job is to investigate Ana’s death for signs pointing to suicide. According to their insurance, they don’t have to pay the 5-million-dollar payout if it turns out that she killed herself. So Monahan interviews several people in Ana’s life, looking for signs of depression or any indication that she may commit suicide. Instead, he finds a string a secrets and strange behaviors, and it seems that the case is much more than he bargained for.

The last 50 or so pages were definitely more interesting than the rest of the book (which was a drag) and ultimately saved this from being a total dud. I still didn’t love the big reveal and found it to be a disappointment, but overall was happy about the way things ended up. Justice was served and good won over evil, which is always something I love. Still, I don’t see myself reading anything else from this author in the future.

 

Cate Holahan: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

BOOK REVIEW: Leigh Bardugo “Six of Crows”

Six-of-Crows-Cover

Title: Six of Crows

Author: Leigh Bardugo

Genre: Fantasy

My Rating: 5/5 stars

 

I feel as though it’s almost pointless to include a summary here for Six of Crows seeing as I’m one of the last humans on earth to finally get around to reading it. However, for those who live under a rock, this book can be described as a high-stakes heist story with six main characters told in 5 alternating points of view featuring magic, action, violence, romance and awesomeness. This book is set in the same world as that of the Shadow & Bone trilogy, known as the “Grishaverse”. Grisha are beings that have different types of abilities and are totally cool.

This book has the most incredible, fleshed out characters I have ever seen in literature; Leigh Bardugo truly outdid herself. First we have Kaz, the leader of our mismatched crew: he’s dark, dangerous, calculating and generally unfeeling. He’s also incredibly swoony somehow, despite being such a cold character. He has quite the revenge complex which is what keeps him from being very emotional, but that doesn’t stop him from feeling for Inej, his Wraith. Kaz saved Inej from a life of prostitution when he saw her potential. She’s sneaky, quick, light on her feet, invisible. So she works for Kaz to gather secrets and inform for him.

Then there’s the sharpshooter with a gambling problem, Jesper. So deep in debt, he finds himself working for the Dregs in order to pay back those he owes, all while his father believes him to be away at school. He constantly wonders what would have happened if he had focused on his education rather than wind up in the slums. Jesper forms a reluctant connection with Wylan, a newer member of the dregs. Wylan is the estranged son of a rich mercher, with plenty of secrets and a lot to prove.

There’s also Nina, the charming Grisha Heartrender who is hopelessly in love with Matthias, a Fjerdan. Fjerdans are very prejudiced against Grisha and believe them to be unnatural, so they hunt them, give them trial and put them to death. Matthias is no different and finds Nina to be repulsive… and gorgeous, incredible, etc. He is constantly fighting his feelings for her, struggling between the desires of his heart and remaining faithful to his country and his beliefs.

Together, this band of misfits join together for the most dangerous, impossible heist they can imagine.

Everything about this book deserves an A+. Five thousand stars. Just wow. The characters are so wonderful and Bardugo does an amazing job of giving us backstories to make us even more attached to them. I became immediately invested in each of these characters, their relationships, their livelihoods, their everything. I just want to hug them all and make sure that they’re all happy and healthy and loved. And of course, they’re all so morally grey, but you can’t help but adore them.

The plot had me on the edge of my seat throughout. The writing was phenomenal; so much quotable material! Six of Crows was perfectly paced, perfectly executed, perfectly ended. And it had me dying to read Crooked Kingdom as soon as possible.

Honestly, I can’t believe it took me so long to finally read this book to completion. What an absolutely stunning, incredible read. Leigh Bardugo deserves all the praise in the world. Wow.

 

Leigh Bardugo: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

BOOK REVIEW: Reyna Biddy “A Psalm For Us”

9781449493837_frontcoverTitle: A Psalm For Us

Author: Reyna Biddy

Genre: Poetry

My Rating: 2.5/5 stars

 

A Psalm For Us was my second attempt reading poetry in a row. My first was The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One by Amanda Lovelace, and it was a quick, powerful read. I’ve always been fascinated by poetry but I’ve rarely tried it, which is why I wanted to branch out.

I didn’t dislike this, just like I didn’t dislike TWDBITO. It just wasn’t something I was in the mindset to read right now.

This had some heavy elements to it, content ranging from depression to love and then to heartbreak again, all things I’ve experienced and can connect with. I think this would have made a world of difference to me if I had read it a year or two ago when I was struggling and hurting. There’s something about reading about other’s pain that can be healing in itself, if that’s not weird to say. A Psalm For Us was poignant and beautiful but not at all what I needed to read right now.

Don’t let that pastel, cutesy cover fool you; if you open this book, you’ll face some rough seas. However, I think all in all, it was also a rewarding read, and anyone who has experienced hurt in any form could relate to this collection of poetry.

I received an eARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

 

Reyna Biddy: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads