And The Trees Crept In ~ By Dawn Kurtagich – 2.5 Stars

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Thanks to Edelweiss and Little, Brown Books for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Release Date: September 6th, 2016

352 pages

Synopsis: When Silla and Nori arrive at their aunt’s home, it’s immediately clear that the “blood manor” is cursed. The creaking of the house and the stillness of the woods surrounding them would be enough of a sign, but there are secrets too–the questions that Silla can’t ignore: Who is the beautiful boy that’s appeared from the woods? Who is the man that her little sister sees, but no one els? And why does it seem that, ever since they arrived, the trees have been creeping closer?

And The Trees Crept In has been one of my most highly anticipated books of 2016. I absolutely LOVED Dawn Kurtagich’s 2015 Dead House and thought it was a wonderful example of YA Horror at its best. So, to say I’m disappointed with her latest book is putting it mildly. Maybe it’s because my expectations were too high. I will say the setting was definitely creepy, and Dawn Kurtagich’s writing is beautiful and hauntingly descriptive just like it was in her previous book, but the beginning was unbelievably slow and it seemed to take forever to get to the heart of the story. My other issue was with Silla. I tried so hard to like her and feel empathy for her plight, but I just couldn’t. I found her to be a cold, uncaring character, even at times with her younger sister Nori, who she supposedly loved more than anything else in the world. The “big reveal” near the end was not a surprise to me as I had already guessed what was happening midway through the book. The ending did explain why Silla acted as she did, but for me, it was too little too late. I do want to say I am definitely in the minority in regards to my feelings about this book. There are many 4-5 star reviews on Goodreads. If you’d like to read a more positive viewpoint, please check out Lekeisha’s excellent review at:

http://lekeishathebooknerd.wordpress.com/2016/07/01/and-the-trees-crept-in-by-dawn-kurtagich/ 

Although And The Trees Crept In wasn’t for me, I’m still a fan of Dawn Kurtagich and I’m looking forward to her next book. 

Girl In Pieces ~ By Kathleen Glasgow – 5.0 Stars

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Thanks to NetGalley and Delacorte Press for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review. 

Release Date: August 30th, 2016

416 Pages

Synopsis: Charlotte Davis is in pieces. At seventeen she’s already lost more than most people lose in a lifetime. The broken glass washes away the sorrow until there is nothing but calm. You don’t have to think about your father and the river. Your best friend, who is gone forever. Or your mother, who has nothing left to give you. 

Every new scar hardens Charlie’s heart just a little more, yet it still hurts so much. It hurts enough to not care anymore, which is sometimes what has to happen before you can find your way back from the edge.

I have to be honest and say that books like this don’t usually appeal to me. Too, dark, too painful, too depressing. But there was just something about this that kept bringing me back to it, so I finally took the plunge and requested it. And I’m quite glad I did. Charlie Davis represents a lot of teens–and for that matter adults–who have traumatic pasts and have been pretty much discarded by society. This story follows her difficult journey out of the darkness that haunts her and into the light. Be warned, it’s a story that’s difficult to read, and I found myself having to put it down several times. But Charlie is the type of character who you’ll become so attached to that you’ll keep reading, desperately wishing for a happy, or at the very least, hopeful ending. Her voice is incredibly raw and hurt, and filled with so much unhappiness, but there are also plenty of moments where her humor and inner strength shine through. Kathleen Glasgow’s writing is simply breathtaking. While some of the passages are extremely difficult to read, there is always an underlying sense of beauty and hope that come through, even in Charlie’s ugliest thoughts. In the end, Charlie is a survivor and she’s someone you’ll never forget. I certainly won’t. I truly believe that this is a book that under the right circumstances, could change lives. It’s a gorgeously written, heartbreaking debut, and I highly recommend it to anyone who works with teens or is a parent. 

 

Nemesis ~ By Anna Banks – 4.0 Stars

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Thanks to NetGalley and Feiwel & Friends for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Release Date: October 4th, 2016

Synopsis: Princess Sepora is the last Forger in all the five kingdoms. The spectorium she creates provides energy for all, but now her father has found a way to weapinize it, but now her father has found a way to weaponize it, and his intentions to incite war force her to flee from his grasp. She escapes across enemy lines into the kingdom of Theoria, but her plans to hide are thwarted when she is captured and placed in the young king’s servitude.

Tarik has just taken over rulership of Theoria, and must now face a new plague sweeping through his kingdom and killing his citizens. The last thing he needs is a troublesome servant vying for his attention. But mistress Sepora will not be ignored. When the two finally meet face-to-face, they form an unlikely bond that complicates life in ways neither could have imagined.

Sepora’s gift could save Tarik’s kingdom from the Quiet Plague. But should she trust her growing feelings for her nemesis, or should she hide her feelings at all costs?

I’m going to start with the cover of Nemesis, because that alone has quite a bit of controversy swirling around it. Some people think it’s hideous and even offensive, likening the cover model wearing silver paint to blackface. While I don’t think the cover is beautiful, I do find it striking and memorable. I also wasn’t offended by the silver paint as its use is thoroughly explained in the book. For people who may be turned off by the cover, please give the book a chance because it’s a solid beginning to what looks to be a great new series. To be honest, the beginning is a little slow but it doesn’t take long for the pace to pick up. I absolutely loved both Sepora and Tarik! They’re both struggling with the responsibilities placed upon their young shoulders. I think out of the two, Sepora has it worse, as her father is a complete psychopath who only care for power. Despite the way she’s been brought up, by a cruel father and indifferent mother, Sepora has a solid sense of morality as well as compassion for others. She has an inner strength and dignity which makes her an extremely appealing character. She’s also feisty and impulsive which leads to some amusing moments, especially when it comes to some of the interactions between her and Tarik who doesn’t know quite what to make of her. Tarik shares many of the same traits as Sepora: compassion, morality, inner strength, and dignity. He’s a new king who wants to do the best for his people. There is no insta-love here, which I was quite happy about. Theirs is a relationship that slowly and believably develops over the course of the story. The world-building is beautifully detailed, and although most of the story takes place in Tarik’s kingdom of Theoria, there are four others that are brought up, including Sepora’s homeland, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of them in future books. The only other issue I had was with the ending. I thought it was a good place to stop, and set things up nicely for the next book, but to me it came across as rather abrupt. For the most part though, I think this Nemesis is a solid beginning to this new series by Anna Banks, and I’m definitely looking forward to the next book. If you like YA fantasy with strong characters and mesmerizing world-building, I urge you to pick this up. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed!

The Ghost Of Buxton Manor ~ By Jonathan L. Ferrara – 5.0 Stars

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Thank you Jonathan for sending me an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Release Date: October 12th, 2016

325 Pages

Synopsis: There is not a single thing I remember about my life. I died nearly a hundred years ago, yet I haven’t the slightest idea to why I died at the young age of seventeen. ALWAYS I’m trapped within Buxton Manor, without any means of traveling beyond my quarters. I spend my time reading and writing. By the way, literature is my only connection to the physical world,must why that is another puzzle I can’t seem to solve. It’s rather lonely here, stuck IN such a grand manor, but I do enjoy rare visitors: Bloody Mary, the Weeping Bride, the Headless Horseboy, and of course, the jolly old ghost, my therapist of the Deceased. They’ve all tried to help me, aiding me in uncovering my unfinished business, but so far they’ve proven ineffective. All that is about to change. A new family is moving in to OUR family estate; the first family in over a a century, including a boy my own age (or at least the age I was at the time of my death). I don’t know what it is about him that I find so fascinating. It seems as though he might have seen me, or at least, dreamt about me, because you see, he’s drawn me. He’s an artist, rather good actually, and he has drawn me since he was a little boy. Aaron, this boy who I thought was a perfect stranger, he helps me remember…NEVERLAND.

The Ghost Of Buxton Manor is one of those books that is going to be difficult to review without letting slip any spoilers, but I’m going to do my best because I honestly think it’s an absolutely lovely and inspirational story that you just have to experience for yourself. I will tell you that it’s based on an unsolved mystery connected to the author JM Barrie, and the Davies family who served as the inspiration for Peter Pan. What makes it especially moving is that it’s also reflective of Jonathan and his husband Aaron’s (who designed the cover as well as the simple yet elegant thumbprint hearts at the beginning of each chapter) own relationship and it makes this an intensely personal story. Rupert, the narrator, is an incredibly sweet character. Despite having spent the last century being completely isolated, he’s funny and self-deprecating. He’s not a ghost who wallows in self-pity or turns angry and bitter at his circumstances. Even as he begins to discover the circumstances surrounding his untimely death, he still views the world and its inhabitants with optimism and an innocence which is lovely to behold. Aaron, his soulmate, is the perfect partner for the lonely Rupert. They just bring out the best in each other. The dialogue between them is at times funny, as well as heart-wrenching, but it’s never boring. The other characters are wonderfully written, particularly Aaron’s parents, and Jonathan’s ghostly friends. They all play important roles in this story, but they never take away from what this book is truly about, Jonathan and Aaron and their amazing journey. The settings are beautifully detailed, both in the present day as well as the past. The mystery is slowly and methodically laid out, and when the true villain is finally unmasked, I can honestly say I was completely shocked. The ending is one of the best I’ve ever read, and not for the first time while reading the book, I found myself tearing up. If you’ve been following me for any length of time, you know that I read many, many, books including some I’ve thought quite outstanding. Every once in a while though, one comes along that is a true treasure, and stays in your mind long after you’ve finished reading. The Ghost Of Buxton Manor is a perfect example of this. It’s a beautiful mix of historical fiction, mystery, ghost story, and most importantly, heart-breaking love story, and it’s obvious that Jonathan poured his heart and soul into it. It’s an inspiring story for older teens as well as adults, and I honestly cannot recommend it enough! I hope the synopsis and this review intrigues you enough that you’re left with an overwhelming need to try this.  If you are interested, I think Jonathan may still be looking for early reviewers, so please go over and take a look at:

https://husbandandhusband.net

In summation, The Ghost Of Buxton Manor is a wonderful gift to give yourself or someone you love. As for me, it’s a book I know I’ll re-read many times in the future.

Vault Of Shadows (Nightsiders #2) ~ By Jonathan Maberry – 4.5 Stars

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Thanks to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

Release Date: August 30th, 2016

464 Pages

Synopsis: After joining forces with the magical Nightsiders and surviving a trip to the enemy Bugs Hive ship, Milo Silk still has a lot to fear. 

The Huntsman has pledged a revenge worse than death on Milo, a group of nefarious fairies are bent on taking back Earth, and zombie-like holo-men are trapping humans for the Bugs to take. Even more unsettling is that the Witch of the World has disappeared and a mysterious boy is haunting Milo’s dreams in her stead. But none of these threats compare to what may happen to the world if the humans and the Nightsiders don’t unite to fight for each other.

Vault of Shadows is the follow-up to last years The Orphan Army, and does a great job at further developing its world and characters, even though it doesn’t do much to actually move the story forward. Eleven-year-old Milo Silk continues to be a character that will appeal to tweens, especially as readers get a personal glimpse into his fears and dreams through his “Dream Diary”. The story is exciting and action-packed, featuring everything from magical beings, to zombies, to holo-men, and alien villains. Underscoring all the excitement are the questions regarding the morality and cost of war, which Milo and his friends grapple with continuously. The importance of books and the powerful effects from reading are also emphasized throughout the story, which adds to its  appeal. Vault of Shadows and its predecessor are must haves for any library collection, and will be particularly helpful to teachers looking for a book that will appeal to reluctant readers. I’m definitely looking forward to the next installment!

 

The Jersey Devil ~ By Hunter Shea – 4.5 Stars

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Thanks to NetGalley and Pinnacle for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Release date: August 30th, 2016

352 Pages

Synopsis: 

THE LEGEND LIVES

Everyone knows the legend of the Jersey Devil. Some believe it’s an abomination of nature, a hybrid winged beast from hell that stalks the Pine Barrens of southern New Jersey searching for prey. Others believe it is a hoax, a campfire story designed to scare children. But one man knows the truth…

THE DEVIL AWAKES

Sixty years ago, Boompa Willet came face to face with the Devil–and lived to tell the tale. Now, the creature’s stomping grounds are alive once again with strange sightings, disappearances, and worse. After all these years, Boompa must return to the Barrens, not to prove the legend is real but to wipe it off the face of the earth…

THE BEAST MUST DIE 

It’ll take more than just courage to defeat the Devil. It will take four generations of the Willet clan, a lifetime of survivalist training, and all the firepower they can carry. But timing is critical. A summer music festival has attracted crowds of teenagers. The woods are filled with tender young prey. But this time, the Devil is not alone. The evil has grown into an unholy horde of mutant monstrosities. And hell has come home to New Jersey…

I had such a great time reading this! From the Willet family who are the most lovable rednecks you could ever find, to the gore fest that ensues, just about everything worked in this story: the build-up which was tantalizing but not too long, the big reveals which were perfectly horrific, and the satisfying ending which tied up all the loose ends. It really has everything that harkens back to classic horror. Building on a legendary monster, and adding in illegal toxic dumping, a clan with a curse over its head, and of course loads of bloody mayhem, Hunter Shea weaves everything together into an action-packed story that will hook horror enthusiasts from the very first page. The only reason why I didn’t give this 5 stars is because I felt there were too many secondary characters, each with their own backstory. Even 3/4 of the way through, new ones were being introduced and at times it made things a little confusing. But overall, The Jersey Devil is good old-school horror at it’s bloodiest best. This is the first book I’ve read by Hunter Shea, but it certainly won’t be my last. I’m going to catch up with his previous books while waiting for any future ones. If you love scary stories that will leave you double checking that your house is locked up tight, I highly recommend this!

 

Last Seen Leaving ~ By Caleb Roehrig – 4.5 Stars

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Thanks to NetGalley and Feiwel & Friends for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Release Date: October 4th, 2016

Synopsis: Flynn’s girlfriend, January, is missing. The cops are asking questions he can’t answer, and her friends are telling stories that don’t add up. All eyes are on Flynn–as January’s boyfriend, he must know something.

But Flynn has a secret of his own. And as he struggles to uncover the truth about January’s disappearance, he must also face the truth about himself.

This book sort of took me by surprise. I thought it looked like a fun YA mystery, which is why I requested it, but I honestly didn’t expect to love it as much as I did. What makes this such a great story is its characters. Fifteen-year-old Flynn is a someone one that readers will like, and teens will relate to. I’m not going to give away any spoilers, but let’s just say he’s dealing with some weighty issues, and that’s before his girlfriend, January, goes missing. He can be stubborn and a bit pig-headed, but he’s also sweet, loyal, and absolutely determined to discover the truth behind January’s disappearance. His relationship with his parents is one of warmth and love, even if they do embarrass him at times. The secondary characters are for the most part wonderfully written and diverse. There were a couple of minor issues I had though. I found January to be extremely unlikable and some of her actions prior to her disappearance were puzzling and there was never an explanation offered. The second problem I had was with her mother and her politician stepfather. The mother was portrayed as an empty-headed trophy wife, and the stepfather as your stereotypical corrupt politician. I wish they had been written with a few more layers to them. The mystery itself, which had more than one twist, wound up not being a huge surprise for me, but that didn’t make the story any less enjoyable. Overall, I found Last Seen Leaving to be a enjoyable mystery which pays equal attention to the importance of friendship and self-acceptance. This is a book that older teens will love as well as adults who enjoy YA fiction and mysteries like Gone Girl. 

The Memory Of Things ~ By Gae Polishner – 5.0 Stars

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Thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Griffin for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Release Date: September 6th, 2016

Synopsis: On the morning of September 11,2001, sixteen-year-old Kyle Donohue watches the first twin tower come down from the window of Stuyvesant High School. Moments later, terrified and fleeing home to safety across the Brooklyn Bridge, he stumbles across a girl perched in the shadows. She is covered in ash and wearing a pair of costume wings. With his mother and sister in California and unable to reach his father, a New York City detective likely on his way to the disaster, Kyle makes the split-second decision to bring the girl home. What follows is their story, told in alternating points of view, as Kyle tries to unravel the mystery of the girl so he can return her to her family. But what if the girl has forgotten everything, even her own name? And what if the more Kyle gets to know her, the less he wants her to go home? 

This is the second YA book I’ve recently read centered around 9/11 and while it stirred up some strong emotions, it’s beautifully told. Gae Polishner’s writing is so elegantly descriptive that the events that I felt as though I was part of the story. The book starts with New Yorkers fleeing across the Brooklyn Bridge and I was immediately swept back to that unbelievable moment of watching residents desperately trying to escape the carnage on the tv. Because of Polishner’s evocative writing, you can feel the confusion and blind panic of that day when dense clouds of smoke, ash and debris seemed to obscure everyone and everything in sight and nowhere seemed to be safe. The story itself is told from both Kyle and this unnamed girl who he rescues and brings home. Their voices are very distinctive from one another and while I loved Kyle, it was the girl’s voice which drew out the most emotional reaction from me. You can’t help but feel her raw pain and confusion as she struggles to remember who she is. Both of them wind up making an immense personal journey in the course of just a few days. In the end, The Memory of Things is a haunting coming-of-age story send against the backdrop of one of the most tragic days in history. I recommend this to anyone who lived through 9/11 as well as today’s teens who were not yet born. If you do read this, please also read the author’s afterward in which she relates how and why she came to write this. Her experience adds even more to the story.

Pottermore Presents

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If you’re  Potterhead like me, you’ve probably heard the news yesterday that on September 6th, there will be three new ebook collections of short stories from JK Rowling.

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My first reaction was:

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and then this:

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I mean, they have lovely covers and all, but didn’t she JUST say that Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was the finale? I’m thinking this is turning into a case of “too much of a good thing.” The good news is that they’re only $2.99 each. But to be honest, I don’t think I want to even shell out that much. I think I’ll probably wait until my library offers them on their Overdrive. In the meantime, even though it’s doubtful she’ll ever read this, I have one piece of advice for Rowling:

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So fellow Potterheads, what do you think? Are you excited about this new development or do you think enough already?

 

 

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