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Review: The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman

Posted May 17, 2017 by Lily B in Reviews / 21 Comments

Review:  The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi WaxmanThe Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman
Series: standalone
Published by Berkley Books on May 2nd 2017
Genres: Womens Fiction, Chick-Lit
Pages: 368
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Heat:one-flame

Lilian Girvan has been a single mother for three years—ever since her husband died in a car accident. One mental breakdown and some random suicidal thoughts later, she’s just starting to get the hang of this widow thing. She can now get her two girls to school, show up to work, and watch TV like a pro. The only problem is she’s becoming overwhelmed with being underwhelmed.
At least her textbook illustrating job has some perks—like actually being called upon to draw whale genitalia. Oh, and there’s that vegetable-gardening class her boss signed her up for. Apparently being the chosen illustrator for a series of boutique vegetable guides means getting your hands dirty, literally. Wallowing around in compost on a Saturday morning can’t be much worse than wallowing around in pajamas and self-pity.
After recruiting her kids and insanely supportive sister to join her, Lilian shows up at the Los Angeles Botanical Garden feeling out of her element. But what she’ll soon discover—with the help of a patient instructor and a quirky group of gardeners—is that into every life a little sun must shine, whether you want it to or not…

I really needed something different and fun in my reading life, so when dear Heidi over at Rainy Day Ramblings personally recommended this book, I jumped at the chance to read it.

Guys, I cannot express how much I adored this book. It did exactly what I need it to do. It pulled me out of my reading slump and offered me a book with so much fun, laughter and a lot of heart.

Lilian Girvan is a widow. Her husband died a couple of years ago in a car collision right outside of their house and left Lilian with two little girls. Lilian had a hard time recovering from his death at first and actually had to be admitted to a hospital. Her sister Rachel provided a huge support network not only helping Lilian get past her husband’s death, but also in taking care of the kids.

Now Lilian is working as an illustrator and her company is hired to illustrate a gardening book. They only have one request. Lilian must take a gardening class. So after recruiting her sister and her daughters to join her in the class on weekends, Lilian’s world opens up to the great group of gardeners that might be just what the doctor ordered.

This book was fantastic. The writing was super great, super fun and I adored Waxman’s humor, it was just my kind of cup of tea. I was super surprised that this was her debut novel and also a bit disappointed because I so want more of the author’s writing. I cannot wait for her next book to come out, it is definitely going on my auto buy list.

This book is just great for the spring and summer alike. As a gardener myself. I adored the gardening aspect of the story. I also love the quirky gardening guides between the chapter breaks, they had me rolling with laughter.

All the characters were wonderful and endearing. I adored’ Lilian and her daughters. I love the interactions between Lilian and the characters – especially her two little girls. I also loved the strong sister bond between Lilian and Rachel. Really, I just loved everything about this book. The supporting extra characters in this book also just really added both heart and depth to this story.

The only thing that made this a little frustrating was the open ending. I kind of wanted to know a little more and not just where Lilian’s character was going, but also Rachel’s. I guess I could almost understand why the author wrapped it up the way she did, but I still found that I really did want that closure.

Overall, I am looking forward to more of Waxman’s writing. If you are looking to add to your summer book read, I highly recommend this one.

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Review: Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel

Posted May 6, 2017 by Lily B in Reviews / 10 Comments

Review:  Sleeping Giants by Sylvain NeuvelSleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel
Published by Del Rey on April 26th 2016
Genres: Science Fiction
Pages: 304
Format: Hardcover, Audiobook, Kindle Edition
Source: Library, Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 4 Stars

I received this book for free from Library, Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

A girl named Rose is riding her new bike near her home in Deadwood, South Dakota, when she falls through the earth. She wakes up at the bottom of a square hole, its walls glowing with intricate carvings. But the firemen who come to save her peer down upon something even stranger: a little girl in the palm of a giant metal hand.
Seventeen years later, the mystery of the bizarre artifact remains unsolved—its origins, architects, and purpose unknown. Its carbon dating defies belief; military reports are redacted; theories are floated, then rejected.
But some can never stop searching for answers.
Rose Franklin is now a highly trained physicist leading a top secret team to crack the hand’s code. And along with her colleagues, she is being interviewed by a nameless interrogator whose power and purview are as enigmatic as the provenance of the relic. What’s clear is that Rose and her compatriots are on the edge of unraveling history’s most perplexing discovery—and figuring out what it portends for humanity. But once the pieces of the puzzle are in place, will the result prove to be an instrument of lasting peace or a weapon of mass destruction?
An inventive debut in the tradition of World War Z and The Martian, told in interviews, journal entries, transcripts, and news articles, Sleeping Giants is a thriller fueled by a quest for truth—and a fight for control of earthshaking power.

I think this is one of those books I have a hard time reviewing. I got the book from the library, saw the format and went to look for an audiobook. Despite the fact that it took me a very long time to finish the audiobook, I was absolutely right in picking it up. The audiobook, was amazing. If you like audiobooks with multiple narratives and a story that listens and feels like an old radio show, this was fantastic for that. I thought the actors in this audiobook did a great job with it and I was never really bored.

The format of the book itself is done in interviews. The basis of the story is about a giant hand that get’s found by a little girl named Rose, who falls through the Earth and lands onto its palm. She then grows up and basically dedicates her entire life on this project trying to figure out where the hand came from and is put in charge of putting this thing together as they uncover more pieces around the world.
I thought this was so interesting. I know a lot of people have an issue with the fact that the book is done as an interview so they felt like the book lacked something. I personally had a lot of fun with this and I felt like I was listening to these people tell a real story of their experience and the actors did a great job with portraying emotions through it. It felt personal and kind of real.

The book has a lot going for it. It’s a science fiction, but it almost doesn’t read like it. A lot of this book focuses on finding this giant robot and the political effects of it, since the robot is found in places outside of the USA. So there’s government conspiracy, political power struggle, and the possibility of a giant alien robot and who might have made this and why is it being uncovered now.

I found it interesting, exciting, I liked the format, it was super easy to get into and it’s one of those science fiction books that does not deal with a lot of science fiction jargon I guess, so it wasn’t hard to follow. The characters because of the interview style really grew on me and for that I will be continuing the next book in audio format as well.

This is the first book I completed in audiobook, but I did follow along with a physical book as well a lot of times to keep my mind from drifting. Also, if I missed something it was just easier to reread it in the book. I don’t typically like audiobooks, but I found that I just really liked this one, especially with the multiple narratives.

 

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Review: Walk of Shame by Lauren Layne

Posted April 25, 2017 by Lily B in Reviews / 18 Comments

Review:  Walk of Shame by Lauren LayneWalk of Shame by Lauren Layne
Series: Love Unexpectedly #4
Published by Loveswept on April 18th 2017
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 218
Format: Kindle Edition
Source: Bought
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 4 Stars
Heat:three-flames

Sparks fly between a misunderstood New York socialite and a cynical divorce lawyer in this lively standalone rom-com from the USA Today bestselling author of Blurred Lines and Love Story.
Pampered heiress Georgianna Watkins has a party-girl image to maintain, but all the shopping and clubbing is starting to feel a little bit hollow—and a whole lot lonely. Though Georgie would never admit it, the highlights of her week are the mornings when she comes home at the same time as her uptight, workaholic neighbor is leaving to hit the gym and put in a long day at the office. Teasing him is the most fun Georgie’s had in years—and the fuel for all her naughtiest daydreams.
Celebrity divorce attorney Andrew Mulroney doesn’t have much time for women, especially spoiled tabloid princesses who spend more time on Page Six than at an actual job. Although Georgie’s drop-dead gorgeous, she’s also everything Andrew resents: the type of girl who inherited her penthouse instead of earning it. But after Andrew caps one of their predawn sparring sessions with a surprise kiss—a kiss that’s caught on camera—all of Manhattan is gossiping about whether they’re a real couple. And nobody’s more surprised than Andrew to find that the answer just might be yes.

This was my very first Lauren Layne book and I am happy to say it will not be my last.

After seeing this show up on my goodreads feed over and over again, I decided to finally give it a shot. I was looking for a fun new romance and Walk of Shame delivered, boy did it deliver! It was fun, sassy, flirty and filled with banter, exactly what I was in the mood for.

Georgie is a socialite, who has never had to work for money in her life and spends most of her nights partying. Andrew is a cynical top of his crop, extremely smart divorce attorney her happens to live in her building. The two clash a lot, but it doesn’t stop Georgie from showing up at 5 am in the morning for a good banter fix that has been going on between her and Andrew.

This was just so much fun. I wasn’t sure if I would like Georgie. She has no direction in life, she spends most of her time partying and she is a bit too much at times. If I was to meet her in real life, there would be zero chances that her and I would connect. She does have a positive side and that is Andrew. His character seems to ground her as the book goes on and even changes the way she leads her life, even if just a little bit. She is also kind of sweet to the people around her. Georgie is a people person and everyone she meets just tends to gravitate towards her.

The tension and the back and forth relationship between the two was one of my favorite parts. I did love Andrew the most. He is a young attorney, and he is sort of a genius, having graduated from law school at an earlier age. He is also pretty terrible with emotions since he prefers to look at the logical side of things. Georgie kind of tilt’s his perfect world out of balance and in a way she is just what he needs to loosen up a bit.

I did really love Andrew. I thought he was so cute with his emotional awkwardness. At times I felt so bad with him I wanted to wrap him up and protect him.

If you are looking for fun, flirty, antagonistic romance that has great tension and build up before the sexy times – this one is definitely worth a try.

I did take a full star away only because I felt like Georgie’s character could have used more substance. She was just very flighty and had no real purpose in life I feel so at times it felt frustrating. Also, I did not particularly enjoy the scenes where she attempted to slap him, those kind of responses to anger are not my cup of tea. There might be a time and a place for that, but in no way in this case did I find it justifiable.

Overall though, I really, really enjoyed this book and super glad I read it.

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Blog Tour and Review: Prisoner of Ice and Snow by Ruth Lauren

Posted April 14, 2017 by Lily B in Blog Tour, Reviews / 11 Comments

Blog Tour and Review:  Prisoner of Ice and Snow by Ruth LaurenPrisoner of Ice and Snow by Ruth Lauren
Series: standalone
Published by Bloomsbury USA Childrens on April 4th 2017
Genres: Middle Grade, Fantasy
Pages: 288
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 4 Stars

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

In a thrilling fantasy that’s equal parts Prison Break and Frozen, Valor attempts the impossible—breaking her sister out of prison.
When Valor is arrested, she couldn’t be happier. Demidova’s prison for criminal children is exactly where she wants to be. Valor’s sister Sasha is already serving a life sentence for stealing from the royal family and Valor is going to help her escape . . . from the inside.
Never mind that no one has escaped in three hundred years. Valor has a plan and resources most could only dream about. But she didn't count on having to outsmart both the guards and her fellow prisoners. If Valor’s plan is to succeed, she’ll need to make unlikely allies. And if the plan fails, she and Sasha could end up with fates worse than prison.
This fresh and exciting middle-grade debut effortlessly melds an unforgettable protagonist, a breathless plot, and stunning world-building—and is impossible to put down.

When Valor’s sister gets thrown into prison for stealing a music box that was suppose to bring a peace treaty to the land, Valor must do the impossible and try to break her sister out. Only problem is? No one has made it out of the prison in 300 years, but Valor is more than determined.

This was such a great novel. I love the world that Ruth Lauren has created. I could almost feel the cold from setting blanketed in a sheet of snow. The book itself is very character driven, which was awesome because I adored the characters.

Valor was brave and loyal. It was easy for me to like her, especially due to the strong bond she has with her sister Sasha and her determination to put her first and save her.

The book was fun and exciting to follow. Sometimes I forget the age of these kids as they try to find a way to escape the Prison and hopefully reveal the real thief. So as a reader, you have to keep in mind that this is a middle grade fantasy and suspend your disbelief by just jumping in and embracing the story for what it is.

I thought the writing itself was really wonderful and one of the best in Middle Grade books that I have come across. It was just so easy for me to lose myself in the story and it was just so well done. Like I have mentioned, sometimes I would even forget that this is a middle grade book largely due to the authors writing.

The pacing was really fast so I never had a moment where I was bored. I wanted it to last and was a little sad when it was over. It’s a great page turner and it kept me interested.

Overall, this book was a ton of fun and I think it be a great addition to Middle Grade reader’s bookshelf. Not only due to it’s interesting, different setting, but also due to the wonderful cast of characters and writing.

 

 

Guest Post

I am also excited to share Ruth Lauren’s stop on this blog and sharing with us how she built the fantasy world in her book.

How I built the book’s fantasy world

The idea for PRISONER OF ICE AND SNOW began when I was watching the TV show Prison Break with my son. The book was later pitched as FROZEN meets PRISON BREAK and although I wasn’t consciously thinking of Frozen when I wrote it, I’d seen Prison Break and I wondered what that sort of story would be like if it was about two young sisters instead.

The Russian inspired fantasy land part of the idea came soon after as I thought about where I could place the sisters to make their escape from prison even more challenging. I imagined a very cold and unforgiving climate and terrain and looked at images on Pinterest. I make boards for every idea that I have and I find it really helps me to visualize the world and individual scenes if can link them to a picture. I wanted a very cold, snowy, frozen world where the elements themselves could cause problems for the characters and bleed through into every part of the planning Valor has to do to try to break her sister out of prison.

Once the setting was fixed in my mind, the details had to reflect the landscape—the animals that inhabit it, the clothes the people need to wear, the food they might be able to access. My editor was brilliant at helping me think about other aspects that add to making the world feel real—like special celebration days in the city, the history of the prison and the geography involved with surrounding lands and how they might impact on the story.

I drew on elements of the Russian landscape and traditional clothing but I also wanted to create a matriarchal world where only women can rule and where they often have positions of power. This book is about girls and for girls (boys and everyone else welcome too!) and I wanted the sisters to

inhabit a world where it would never occur to them that positions of power weren’t open or available to them. They don’t have to struggle or overcome to gain those positions and they see women in every role in the book—from ruler to doctor to prison guard to hunter. Why did I plan that? Because it’s something every child should see reflected in books and in the real world.

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Review: My One True Highlander by Suzanne Enoch

Posted April 9, 2017 by Lily B in Reviews / 11 Comments

This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.
Review:  My One True Highlander by Suzanne EnochMy One True Highlander by Suzanne Enoch
Series: No Ordinary Hero #2
Published by St. Martin's Paperbacks on April 4th 2017
Genres: Historical Romance, Scotland
Pages: 320
Format: Kindle Edition
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 4 Stars
Heat:three-flames

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Rugged highlander Graeme has one thing on his mind—take a stand against the horrible Englishman Lattimer and he will be rewarded with enough money to be set for life. But when his reckless younger brothers take it one step too far and kidnaps a young woman on her way to see Lattimer, Graeme has to intervene. He cannot send the lady back without his kin getting in trouble. And when a damsel this beautiful is dropped into your lap, it’s hard to let her go...
Marjorie should be terrified she’s been captured by highland scoundrels, but it’s hard to live in terror when your captor is a devilishly handsome and sinfully tempting as Graeme is. She cannot stay by his side forever—no matter how her heart may pound at the thought—but Graeme seems to have other plans. This wicked highlander is out to seduce her and doesn’t plan to stop until she’s in his arms...forever...

Lady Marjorie is on her way to the Highlands in order to surprise her older brother and his soon to be wife. What Marjorie did not know was that she was stumbling right into the middle of a clan war, and her brother is involved.

Graeme is a chieftain of clan Maxton. When his chief of Clan Maxton asks him to stand against Lattimer and be rewarded. Graeme finds a lot of trouble on his hands. First, he is unsure if he wants to kill the new Duke, but he is also aware that their money is running low and he has a lot of people relying on him.

Well, when his younger brothers overhear the conversation, they step up in an attempt to help. But, when they kidnap the duke’s sister and dump her under Graeme’s roof, the trio instead, end up causing more trouble for Graeme then good.

This was so much fun. It’s my first book by Enoch and I am super glad I read it. I enjoyed it so much, I really want to go back and read the first book, since the first book kind of sets up the conflict between Lattimer and Maxton.

Graeme and Marjorie were delightful. I love the slow romance that builds between them, despite the conflict that Graeme’s brother’s have caused. But, Graeme was not the one who kidnapped her, nor did he ever intend on doing so. Still, watching the two butt heads was super fun and amusing.

I especially had a fun time when Graeme dug himself such a hole that he had to go out of his way and commit a similar crime by kidnapping Marjorie’s lady companion.

I also loved the family dynamics happening there. Graeme has been taking care of his younger brothers for a long time, on top of taking care of people who live on his land. He is hard working and loyal to a fault. Definitely someone that Marjorie needed by her side, considering his Chief of the clan would love to see her dead in order to get back at her brother.

Gah this was fabulous. It reminds me how much I love historical romances set in Scotland and feel the need to read more. The book started a bit slow for me, as it took me a few pages to get used to the dialect again. But once I was set, it took off and never really let me go. I really, really enjoyed everything about this – including the writing.

I did feel bad for Graeme. He was put in a bad predicament. He didn’t want to give Marjorie up to his Chief because he knew she would get hurt, but he also couldn’t let her go because he had his brothers to worry about.

I think the only thing I did not like about this was Marjorie being so hung up on London and her belonging there even if she never really did. She is a new heiress and is having trouble fitting in. She is lonely and would need to spend a lot of money and a lot of years trying to get people in that society to care and would likely marry a fortune hunter.

She fits right into Graeme’s household and grew on everyone around here and there, people cared.

Also, the ending felt like it wrapped up a little too perfectly.

But, overall, this was a fun read and I really enjoyed this.

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Review: Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Posted April 3, 2017 by Lily B in Reviews / 17 Comments

Review: Dark Matter by Blake CrouchDark Matter by Blake Crouch
Series: standalone
Published by Crown on July 26th 2016
Genres: Science Fiction, Thriller
Pages: 342
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Heat:one-half-flames

“Are you happy with your life?”
Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious.
Before he awakens to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits.
Before a man Jason’s never met smiles down at him and says, “Welcome back, my friend.”
In this world he’s woken up to, Jason’s life is not the one he knows. His wife is not his wife. His son was never born. And Jason is not an ordinary college physics professor, but a celebrated genius who has achieved something remarkable. Something impossible.
Is it this world or the other that’s the dream? And even if the home he remembers is real, how can Jason possibly make it back to the family he loves? The answers lie in a journey more wondrous and horrifying than anything he could’ve imagined—one that will force him to confront the darkest parts of himself even as he battles a terrifying, seemingly unbeatable foe.
From the author of the bestselling Wayward Pines trilogy, Dark Matter is a brilliantly plotted tale that is at once sweeping and intimate, mind-bendingly strange and profoundly human—a relentlessly surprising science-fiction thriller about choices, paths not taken, and how far we’ll go to claim the lives we dream of.

I can’t believe it took me this long to pick this book up. I actually bought this for my dad about a month ago and after he finished, he told me “Lily, you got to read this.” I was a bit busy, had a lot on my plate, and did not get a chance to. I went to the library and behold, they had a copy available and I snatched it up.

Guys! I could NOT, put this book down. It was…Wow.

What is so great about this? Uh… Everything. It’s a science fiction, but it doesn’t completely read like one. I admit, there had been parts that made my head swim a little, but who cares? Crouch is a fabulous writer. The man knows how to suck you in from the very first page and it just never really lets you go. I lost sleep because of this, for reals. But who needs sleep, right?

This book never had a dull moment for me, I was eating up the pages eager for the end, wanting to know how it all turns out. Quite the roller coaster ride.

Don’t ask me to explain what this is about, I might literally explode. Read the blurb, that is the gist of it, the rest you pretty much have to experience on your own.

This book grabbed me from page one and never really let me go. My eyes are burning me, I am tired, but I am so glad I got to finish this. Crouch is really such a great storyteller.

Does most of this book make sense? No, it’s a science fiction. But, it’s interesting, it’s different, it’s compelling and it’s the first book in over a month that has me so damn giddy. I wasn’t coming into this willing it to make sense. I just wanted fun, excitement, something different.

Different it was. I LOVED the concept, the idea of multiverse. How our lives branch out. How there is a possibility of like everything that we could do in a critical moment in our life. The characters were just so raw, so real, the main character especially. I couldn’t help but feel the connection, I felt his love, pain, his loss and the need to come back home.

It was just so good. Crouch to me is a master in storytelling, he succeeded in everything for me. I felt it. I enjoyed it.

I took away half a star because in the end, I felt the ending to be a little weak. A LITTLE BIT. After everything, I felt like maybe it could have used a few more pages. But I get it. The characters were tired.

It is a bit open ended, it is. BUT, but, you guys in this case, given the structure of the book – it does not annoy me. It felt almost perfect. I couldn’t have asked for anything better. It totally made sense following the events, so, go read it if you have not yet. The science fiction part of it is light, but it’s science fiction, don’t go into it thinking it has to make sense, just be open and enjoy every moment.

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Review: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, Siobhan Dowd (Conception), Jim Kay (Illustrator)

Posted April 1, 2017 by Lily B in Reviews / 21 Comments

Review:  A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, Siobhan Dowd (Conception), Jim Kay (Illustrator)A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, Siobhan Dowd, Jim Kay
Series: standalone
Published by Candlewick Press on March 12th 2013
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Magical Realism
Pages: 206
Format: Paperback
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 4 Stars

An unflinching, darkly funny, and deeply moving story of a boy, his seriously ill mother, and an unexpected monstrous visitor.
At seven minutes past midnight, thirteen-year-old Conor wakes to find a monster outside his bedroom window. But it isn't the monster Conor's been expecting-- he's been expecting the one from his nightmare, the nightmare he's had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments. The monster in his backyard is different. It's ancient. And wild. And it wants something from Conor. Something terrible and dangerous. It wants the truth. From the final idea of award-winning author Siobhan Dowd-- whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself-- Patrick Ness has spun a haunting and darkly funny novel of mischief, loss, and monsters both real and imagined.

Guys, I am going to be honest here. I picked this book up because a ton of people asked me if I read it, with the movie out, I finally stumbled upon this book in the library and decided to give it a shot.

I went into this blindly. I never read the blurb or asked people what it was about and stayed away from detailed reviews. I was told when it comes to this book, that was the best way to go about it anyway. So I am having a hard time writing the review. I am going to keep it short and sweet and basically tell you that if you had not read it yet, read it. Don’t just pick up the ebook either. Go to your local library if you have to and get the physical book because the drawing in the book really add to the experience.

The actual idea of this book came from Siobhan Dowd, but it was Patrick Ness, who brought her vision to life after she was taken too soon by cancer. Patrick Ness did a beautiful job bringing her beloved characters to life, leaving us with a book that I will think span generations. When I read the book last night, I was rocked with emotion, but it wasn’t until the day after that I got to sit down, let it sink in and truly experience its effect.

The story is about a boy named Conor and his ill mother. It is haunting, it is beautiful, atmospheric and downright emotional. If you have dealt with loss, it’s grief and pain, I strongly suggest you read this. Even if you haven’t experienced loss yet, I strongly suggest you read this. But I think it’s safe to say most of us did at one point or another and this book just captures most of what we go through so well.

I expect this book will have a different experience and effect on everyone. Which is okay. I believe that’s the whole point anyway, as we each experience the monster and its interpretation differently in the moments of weakness and hopelessness.

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Review: I’m Traveling Alone by Samuel Bjørk

Posted March 17, 2017 by Lily B in Reviews / 10 Comments

This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.
Review:  I’m Traveling Alone by Samuel BjørkI'm Traveling Alone by Samuel Bjørk
Series: Holger Munch & Mia Kruger #1
Published by Penguin Books on March 14th 2017
Genres: Thriller, Mystery, Crime
Pages: 400
Format: Kindle Edition
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 4 Stars

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

International bestseller Samuel Bjork makes his US debut, a chilling and fast-paced thriller in which two detectives must hunt down a vengeful killer--and uncover the secret that ties each of them to the crime A six-year-old girl is found in the Norwegian countryside, hanging lifeless from a tree and dressed in strange doll's clothes. Around her neck is a sign that says "I'm traveling alone." A special homicide unit in Oslo re-opens with veteran police investigator Holger Munch at the helm. Holger's first step is to persuade the brilliant but haunted investigator Mia Kruger, who has been living on an isolated island, overcome by memories of her past. When Mia views a photograph of the crime scene and spots the number "1" carved into the dead girl's fingernail, she knows this is only the beginning. Could this killer have something to do with a missing child, abducted six years ago and never found, or with the reclusive religious community hidden in the nearby woods? Mia returns to duty to track down a revenge-driven and ruthlessly intelligent killer. But when Munch's own six-year-old granddaughter goes missing, Mia realizes that the killer's sinister game is personal, and I'm Traveling Alone races to an explosive--and shocking--conclusion. "From the Hardcover edition.""

As I am sitting here trying to figure out how to write a review for this book, I think I am slowly coming to terms that I am not positive how to word my feelings.

I’m Traveling Alone is a US debut novel by a Norwegian novelist about two detectives who are in a fight against time to track down a vengeful killer coming after six year old girls. To say that I breezed through this book would be a lie, but not for completely negative reasons.

This book was good. The writing was amazing. Samuel Bjørk is an excellent, creative writer that knows how to pull you in and tell an interesting story that will really pull you right out of your comfort zone.

With the victims in this book being six year old girls, this book was NOT an easy read. It was heart-wrenching, dark and uncomfortable. So even thought the book was completely engrossing, well crafted and a page-turner – I couldn’t finish it in one sitting. I had to take a step back and read something easy in between because being a mother, at times the story was truly terrifying.

I really liked the two main detectives in this story. Mia and Holger grew on me quick and I found myself rooting for them until the very end. Mia comes with a dark past and at the beginning of the book, Mia is in a really dark place. There is mention of alcohol and drug abuse, which can potentially be a bit triggy for some people (thus the content warning). I got to see how being bought back to work on this case with the only other person she cares in the world, pulls Mia back out of this haze she lives in.

There is just so much going on in this book, so much. The killer leaves puzzles for the detectives and it was interesting to see how Mia’s mind works in uncovering these puzzles. It was just so cleverly crafted, which made this book so hard to put down at times – even thought I had to. There are also other storylines that we get a glimpse into and how they end up merging and connecting with the case. There is a church, that’s like a cult and we get to see where that is relevant. It was just so much, but so good and there was just never really a dull moment. The story ran at a steady pace and completely enthralling when not dark and scary. It really did pull me out of my comfort zone as I find stories with children as victims absolutely hard to read. I wasn’t sure if I would like it or would be able to finish it – but I did and I enjoyed it.

My only gripe was I did not understand how Mia came to the conclusion the way she did about the killer. I have to admit, I did not know whodunit. The story follows so much that it could have been any of the people mentioned. Once unveiled, though, I think it was even more frightening. Also the fact that psychopaths like that can exist just really makes you shudder.

Oh, also the writer is Norwegian so the story takes place in Norway, which I think was the best part of this whole experience. I love when books take place outside of the states

Overall, it was gripping, it was intense and compelling. I am glad I read it. These characters really grew on me and I am looking forward to see what’s in store for them next, because they have issues with their own inner demons that they are still battling.

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Review: Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller

Posted March 15, 2017 by Lily B in Reviews / 18 Comments

Review:  Swimming Lessons by Claire FullerSwimming Lessons by Claire Fuller
Series: standalone
Published by Tin House Books on February 7th 2017
Genres: Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 350
Format: Hardcover
Source: Borrowed
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 3 Stars
Heat:one-half-flames

Ingrid Coleman writes letters to her husband, Gil, about the truth of their marriage, but instead of giving them to him, she hides them in the thousands of books he has collected over the years. When Ingrid has written her final letter she disappears from a Dorset beach, leaving behind her beautiful but dilapidated house by the sea, her husband, and her two daughters, Flora and Nan.
Twelve years later, Gil thinks he sees Ingrid from a bookshop window, but he’s getting older and this unlikely sighting is chalked up to senility. Flora, who has never believed her mother drowned, returns home to care for her father and to try to finally discover what happened to Ingrid. But what Flora doesn’t realize is that the answers to her questions are hidden in the books that surround her. Scandalous and whip-smart, Swimming Lessons holds the Coleman family up to the light, exposing the mysterious truths of a passionate and troubled marriage. 

I really wanted something different from my current reads and Swimming Lessons took care of that.

The book was written in an interesting style that I found I enjoyed.

It follows a family whose mother disappeared a couple of years ago and no one knows why. Well, the mother, Ingrid left for them clues in the form of letters scattered throughout the books in the house. So when her daughters come home due to their father’s accident, we get to find out through the letters what happened to the mother and what caused her disappearance.

It was interesting, like I have mentioned, I really enjoyed the format of the story. We got the current events in one chapter and we get to read Ingrid’s letters the next chapter and as it progressed, we kind of get the sense of what has happened.

The book in itself was okay. Nan and Flora kind of felt one dimensional because I outside of Ingrid mentioning them in the letters, we only get to see them at this specific point in time and I never felt there was much character growth. Flora felt like an absolute disaster at times and Nan was the more mature one who seemed to try hard to keep everything from falling apart. I was also very confused about how Flora has managed to cloud her memories and she remembers things differently than they really were in reality and that pisses Nan off.

The letters part, I enjoyed, for the most part. It was at times hard to read because of the situation that unfolded. I was very confused why Ingrid stayed in the situation she was in with her marriage. I also never really felt the connection between her and her husband Gil. He was twenty years her senior. Ingrid never wanted children, but apparently did not know how birth control works? She gave up so much for this man. Her life, her dreams, her education and instead did everything she hated including having children – that she never really felt any connection to.

Gil, her husband has done some really horrible things. The story was heartbreaking with the amount of stuff Ingrid had to endure, but I also felt like it was her own fault. She was warned and yet she put herself in that kind of situation. Did she deserve any of it? No, but she knew. I get that the time period it was set that she might not have been able to walk away as easily, but there was always that choice… So… I don’t know… The story felt weird at times.

Overall, it was okay. Nothing amazing. It was page turning, it was kind of a cozy read. It was a bit emotional, but I mostly really felt anger. I don’t think I projected the emotion that the author wanted from me, and that was maybe anger at Ingrids situation and pity or sorrow? I couldn’t relate. I felt she basically built her own misfortunate.

The writing was good, I don’t think I ever felt bored.

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Review: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Posted March 14, 2017 by Lily B in Reviews / 21 Comments

Review:  A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. SchwabA Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab, Victoria Schwab
Series: Shades of Magic #1
Published by Tor Books on February 24th 2015
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 400
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 4 Stars
Heat:one-flame

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Kell is one of the last travelers--magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel universes connected by one magical city.
There's Grey London, dirty and boring, without any magic, and with one mad King--George III. Red London, where life and magic are revered--and where Kell was raised alongside Rhy Maresh, the roguish heir to a flourishing empire. White London--a place where people fight to control magic and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. And once upon a time, there was Black London. But no one speaks of that now.
Officially, Kell is the Red traveler, ambassador of the Maresh empire, carrying the monthly correspondences between the royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they'll never see. It's a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.
Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.
Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they'll first need to stay alive.

Well guys, I finally did it. I finally read, A Darker Shade of Magic. It’s kind of embarrassing really. I had this book sitting on my shelf since 2015 and I have not picked it up due to the cover. It’s a terrible thing to judge a book by its cover, but this was one of those instances that I did. But, I was watching a ton of book wrap ups on youtube and this book kept appearing and it just had so many glowing reviews from booktubers, that I decided that I was going to go and give it a chance.

So this story follows Kell, who lives in Red London and is one of a very rare and dying breed of magic user (as far as he could tell). Kell can travel through doors into other Londons, or as he calls them, Gray, White and Red Londons. There is a mention of Black London, but due to its complicated history – no one travels there.

Kell likes to smuggle and collect objects from other Londons, so when he accidentally accepts a job and smuggles something he shouldn’t into Red London, he brings danger right into his back yard.

The story also follows Laila, a cross dressing girl who wants something more out of her life. She wants a ship and she wants an adventure. So when she stumbled into Kell and steals a black stone from him, she ends up attaching herself to him and the danger in hopes of finding something more to her purpose in life.

This book was actually pretty good. It was an interesting read. As far as fantasy books go this was was easy, cozy, page turning and not at all intimidating. If you are the type of person who wants to try fantasy, but find it a bit intimidating I feel like this book is for you. It really was just an easy read.

I liked Kell. I liked him even if he had that special factor to him, but he was just a really good character. He wasn’t perfect, which made me happy and his love for his brother – Rhys just go so deep, it’s fantastic.

I didn’t find myself as attached to it as I wanted to. I didn’t love it. I liked it well enough, but I didn’t love it. It was a good book for me to read, while reading some of the other things that I wasn’t necessarily into. I didn’t read it in one sitting, it did take me a couple of days to get through. I liked the fact that it mostly follows just two people, so your head isn’t swimming with too much information and the author gave us just enough for it to have great world building and great character building. The book was very creative, I really enjoyed the world a lot. There is obviously a lot more that we are still waiting to discover, but book one is solid, the writing was really good and I am looking forward to reading book two – hopefully soon.

I do totally recommend this book because I believe there are people that will love it and I do find it a must read if you like great writing, interesting characters and worlds.

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