Thursday, March 30, 2017

Review: Hunted

By Meagan Spooner
Published: March 14, 2017

Beauty knows the Beast's forest in her bones--and in her blood. 

Though Yeva grew up with the city's highest aristocrats, far from her father's old lodge, she knows that the forest holds secrets and that her father is the only hunter who's ever come close to discovering them.

So when her father loses his fortune and moves Yeva and her sisters back to the outskirts of town, Yeva is secretly relieved. Out in the wilderness, there's no pressure to make idle chatter with vapid baronessas...or to submit to marrying a wealthy gentleman. But Yeva's father's misfortune may have cost him his mind, and when he goes missing in the woods, Yeva sets her sights on one prey: the creature he'd been obsessively tracking just before his disappearance.

Deaf to her sisters' protests, Yeva hunts this strange Beast back into his own territory--a cursed valley, a ruined castle, and a world of creatures that Yeva's only heard about in fairy tales. A world that can bring her ruin or salvation. Who will survive: the Beauty, or the Beast?

My review:

This creative retelling of Beauty and the Beast incorporates other folktales like that of the firebird and the setting is an alternate fantasy version of Russia. It features a heroine that is skilled in hunting and prefers spending time outdoors rather than life at court. Yeva doesn't fit in at court though she has captured the eye of Solmir, a future baron. Her oldest sister is engaged but her middle sister is in love with Solmir herself though she knows her injured foot will likely not lead to any suitors offering for her hand. Their father had given up the life of a hunter that he loved for the sake of their mother and instead he became a successful merchant. Unfortunately disaster happens when their caravans are attacked and they lose everything. While her father heads back to the woods to make money by trapping and hunting, Yeva looks after her sisters but when he fails to return one day, she decides to go after him. 

The Beast is interested in Yeva because he sees her gifts in hunting as his ticket to freedom. He takes her prisoner and forces her to practice her hunting skills. She hates him and secretly plans to kill him when given the chance. Gradually she realizes that he is under an enchantment and cannot tell her why he needs her skills or what he needs her to hunt. All Yeva cares about is getting back to her family but as she explores the castle she starts to see that there is more to her situation and more to the Beast than she previously thought.

The romance is very gradual because of some major obstacles and the fact that Yeva understandably hates the Beast for much of the book. He is initially more beast than man but as they spend time together he starts to become more humanized. There are no enchanted singing tea pots, etc. like in the Disney version though the Beast has some magical abilities from the curse. 

The different take on a familiar fairy tale is interesting. The romance was not very heavy which is good. Yeva doesn't immediately fall in love with the Beast which makes complete sense under the circumstances. I liked Yeva and her strength and determination to survive and get back to her sisters. She is devoted to them and they are devoted to her as well. I also liked how both Yeva and the Beast had to learn some important lessons about themselves. In the Disney version, Belle is pretty much perfect as is and it is only the Beast that needs to make changes in his life. There are some other differences I appreciated as well. Overall I enjoyed this retelling of Beauty and the Beast and I think fans of fairy tales retold would like it too.

Note: I received an ARC for review purposes courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Sunday Post (84) / It's Monday, What Are You Reading

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimberly @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a post to recap the past week, showcase books and things we have received and share news about what is coming up on our blog for the week ahead. It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a fun weekly meme now hosted by Kathryn at Book Date, where we share what we've read and reviewed over the past week and what we plan to read next.

It's been an electric week. Or rather a week with lots of electrical outages. :) At work on Wednesday just as story time was about to start, the power went out--but we still had partial power in part of the library like the meeting rooms where story time is held. Upstairs I lost power at my desk but the computers at the Help Desk were still working. The lights were off in the stacks so patrons couldn't find books. Worst of all, kids heading down to story time got stuck in the elevator. Thankfully one adult was there and she took charge of the other family's kid as well as her own. My director was able to get everyone out of the elevator in short order but it made for a traumatic story time. We were partially without power for a few hours so the library closed and then the electricians came and we had to shut down power completely for an hour while they worked. I'd hoped we'd get to leave but we hung out and took our breaks and then the power came back on for the last two hours of the day. Then this weekend at my parents' house we've lost power twice. Fortunately they have a small generator so we had running water and a couple of outlets we could use. We lost power Friday night and then again Saturday afternoon, luckily after we had lunch. My sister and her husband came over to celebrate my dad's birthday. We had just had cake when the power went out. Now it is back on and hopefully won't go out again. I'm starting to think I must be the cause. Power outages wherever I go!

At the library (aside from power outages) I've been busy working on the Peeps diorama contest. I made an example diorama to help advertise the program and decided to hold a Peeps diorama workshop to encourage people to participate. I'm hoping we'll get some kids to make dioramas anyway. Some of my coworkers have said they'll participate so we should have a few. My finished diorama, Jurassic Peeps, is inspired by Jurassic Park (I found the idea online from another diorama someone did). I am also working on a Narnia inspired diorama. I found a lamp post and wanted to recreate the scene where Lucy meets Mr. Tumnus. Unfortunately my attempts at portraying Mr. Tumnus were not successful. I was trying to give the Peep fur and I cut up a light brown pom pom and glued it to the bottom half of the Peep. Then I glued part of it to his head. The result looked less like Mr. Tumnus and more like I was portraying Donald Trump in a fluffy brown tutu. I still want to make the diorama but I have to rethink how I'm going to depict Mr. Tumnus. Maybe I'll try brown yarn instead.

I didn't get to read as much as I'd hoped this week. I have some library books I want to get to as well as review books to catch up on. Maybe I'll have more time this week. I am super excited for the spring weather we are supposed to get. Hopefully it won't all be rain. It will be nice to get a break from sweaters and my winter coat. 

Last week on my blog:

Never Let You Go by Chevy Stevens (review)

Books read:

Duels & Deception by Cindy Anstey

I struggled with this book at times. The characters made me feel so impatient and irritated. They just prattled on and on and I wanted to yell "Get to the point!". Thankfully the plot got better as the book went on and I was able to finish it but I was gritting my teeth for awhile.

Books listened to:

A Street Cat Named Bob by James Bowen

This was a sweet and inspiring story. I love Bob and I'm so glad that he and James Bowen found each other.

Currently reading:

It Happens All the Time by Amy Hatvany

I am reading an ARC of this book. The plot deals with a character who is raped by her best friend and both characters' points of view are presented. In an author's note at the beginning of the book, she explains why she wrote the book that way and about her own experience as a survivor of rape. That helped me as I read the book but it is still hard to read the chapters from Tyler's POV.

Currently listening to:

The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan (reread)

It's funny how listening to a book can sometimes be a different experience from reading the print version. I was a little disappointed when I first read this book last year. I decided to listen to the audio because it was available through Overdrive and I wasn't sure if I wanted to read the sequel so I thought rereading The Hidden Oracle would help me figure that out. So far I am really enjoying the audio book to my surprise. Perhaps I will listen to the audio version of The Dark Prophecy instead of reading the Kindle version.

On my TBR list:

Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett

I think this will be the perfect book to read next. I''m sure I'll be in the mood for something more lighthearted than my current read.

A Twist in Time by Julie McElwain

I really liked the first book in this time travel suspense series and I'm hopeful the sequel will be just as good. I was tempted to reread A Murder in Time first but I don't usually reread suspense novels. We'll see if I remember the characters.

The Orphan's Tale by Pam Jenoff

New books received:

Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer (for review)

The Whole Town's Talking by Fannie Flagg (library book)

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (library book)

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Review: Never Let You Go

Never Let You Go
By Chevy Stevens
Published: March 14, 2017

Eleven years ago, Lindsey Nash escaped into the night with her young daughter and left an abusive relationship. Her ex-husband, Andrew, was sent to jail and Lindsey started over with a new life.
Now, Lindsey is older and wiser, with her own business and a teenage daughter who needs her more than ever. When Andrew is finally released from prison, Lindsey believes she has cut all ties and left the past behind her. But she gets the sense that someone is watching her, tracking her every move. Her new boyfriend is threatened. Her home is invaded, and her daughter is shadowed. Lindsey is convinced it’s her ex-husband, even though he claims he’s a different person. But has he really changed? Is the one who wants her dead closer to home than she thought?
With Never Let You Go, Chevy Stevens delivers a chilling, twisting thriller that crackles with suspense as it explores the darkest heart of love and obsession.

My review:

Never Let You Go is a fast paced suspense novel with some unexpected twists but it didn't have much in the way of character development and I had one major issue with it. My review contains minor spoilers that have nothing to do with the main plot of the story but are relevant to my thoughts on the book.

The story alternates between the past, showing Lindsey's early relationship and marriage to Andrew as well as the present. It is written initially from the viewpoint of Lindsey but later adds her daughter Sophie's voice to the narrative. Sophie was still a young child when her dad went to prison and that is reflected in the way she views him. Her mom sees Andrew as a threat while Sophie wants to give him a chance. Andrew may have been a nightmare to Lindsey but he was loving to Sophie and that affects her memories of him which could be frustrating.

I felt bad for Lindsey during her marriage to Andrew and was glad she'd found a way out and was doing well with her business but I did have some issues with her behavior regarding a romantic relationship where she was very trusting. Given what was happening with Andrew being out of prison and the escalating strange incidents, it was weird that she was so trusting. In contrast she was not so trusting of Sophie's love interest. While I enjoyed the page turning action of the book and wanted to know what would happen next, I was annoyed by Sophie's behavior at times--how bratty she could be and the decisions she made regarding her father. 

What really bothered me though was a scene of what could be considered rape between two of the characters that was never dealt with. The characters in question were inebriated and high and there was no consent given. She isn't sure of what she wants but she is too out of it to say anything and afterwards she thinks "I guess I must have wanted it, but I don't remember." Later she is upset by what happened but puts all the blame on herself because she was drunk. I thought the way it was described really muddied the waters regarding consent. Note: No other reviews I've read on Goodreads or Amazon mentioned this so maybe I'm just being sensitive but according to RAINN, consent does not look like "Someone being incapacitated because of drugs or alcohol".

I also wished for more depth to the characters. I didn't feel like I got to know Lindsey or see her change in any way. I found it difficult to connect with the characters. Even the villain was one dimensional. In some ways this is the book equivalent of an action movie/popcorn flick. I liked that I didn't anticipate everything that happened  and I thought it was suitably suspenseful but the story was problematic and could have delivered more on character development.

Note: I received an ARC for review courtesy of the publisher and Netgalley

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Sunday Post (83) / It's Monday, What Are You Reading

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimberly @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a post to recap the past week, showcase books and things we have received and share news about what is coming up on our blog for the week ahead. It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a fun weekly meme now hosted by Kathryn at Book Date, where we share what we've read and reviewed over the past week and what we plan to read next.

It's hard to believe that spring is almost here. It certainly doesn't seem that way according to the weather!

Not much happened this past week though my library had an Irish music concert for St. Patrick's Day at a local coffee shop. This week should be pretty quiet and this coming weekend I'll be visiting my parents. My sister and her husband will also be there Saturday for lunch. I haven't seen them since Christmas so that will be nice.

Last week on my blog:

Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller (review)

Books read:

Hunted by Meagan Spooner

I liked this creative retelling of Beauty and the Beast. I will hopefully have my review written soon.

Never Let You Go by Chevy Stevens

I don't usually read suspense (I prefer mystery) and while I kind of guessed some of what was going on, I still found it to be a really gripping read and at the most suspenseful point I wanted to put my Kindle in the freezer (I didn't--though I did wait for daylight to finish the book). 

The Tumbling Turner Sisters by Juliette Fay

I really enjoyed this book and look forward to hearing what the other book group members thought of it. It kind of reminded me of Water for Elephants but instead of focusing on life in the circus, it was all about vaudeville. Fascinating stuff and there is even a cameo appearance by a young Cary Grant though I didn't catch it till after I finished reading and read the author's notes.

Currently reading:

Duels & Deception by Cindy Anstey

Currently listening to:

A Street Cat Named Bob by James Bowen

On my TBR pile:

It Happens All the Time by Amy Hatvany

This sounds like a pretty dark book but I have read some positive reviews and I liked one of her other novels so I thought I'd give it a try.

Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett

I am really looking forward to reading this as it is inspired by You've Got Mail, one of my favorite romantic comedies.

Starfall by Melissa Landers

I loved Starflight but I'm a little worried that this won't be as good because of mixed reviews I've seen as well as the fact that Cassia and Kane are the main characters instead of Solara and Doran.

The Orphan's Tale by Pam Jenoff

New books received:

The Mother's Promise by Sally Hepworth (library book)

The Dressmaker's Dowry by Meredith Jaeger (library book)

The Nearness of You by Amanda Eyre Ward (library book)

Beauty and the Beast: Lost in a Book by Jennifer Donnelly (library book)

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Review: Daughter of the Pirate King

Daughter of the Pirate King
By Tricia Levenseller
Published: February 28, 2017

There will be plenty of time for me to beat him soundly once I’ve gotten what I came for.

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.

My review:

I am a fan of the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie (though I've also watched the later films) and I've enjoyed some of the other YA pirate fiction I've read so I was eager to give this a try and it didn't disappoint.

Alosa is the daughter of the self proclaimed "pirate king" but she is a pirate in her own right with her own ship and a nearly all-female crew of trusted friends. When her dad gives her the task of infiltrating a rival pirate's ship to get a piece of a treasure map, she lets herself get caught so she can find the map. She figures it will be an easy task though she has to hide her real skills from her captors. What she wasn't planning on is Riden, the first mate and loyal younger brother of the captain, who suspects she is up to something. 

Alosa is intelligent and brave and a good leader. She is also perhaps a little too loyal to her father who doesn't sound like the greatest dad. Alosa is a confident and skilled pirate but she struggles with her heritage and she wants to prove herself to her dad. Riden is also a capable but unusually kind pirate (he doesn't enjoy killing) and more than a match for Alosa's antics. I liked the development of their relationship as the story progressed. The secondary characters are also interesting though I wanted to know more about Alosa's crew than the glimpses that we got. I think that will change in the second book.

Daughter of the Pirate King is a fun historical fantasy/adventure novel on the high seas. I think fans of the Pirates of the Caribbean films and pirate fiction would enjoy this. It is a page turner with humor, romance, a little bit of fantasy and some unexpected twists. I am eagerly looking forward to the sequel.

Note: I received an ARC for review purposes courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Top Ten Books on My Spring TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. There is a new subject each week and this week's theme is "Top Ten Books on My Spring TBR".

These are just a few of the books I'm looking forward to reading this spring. The first two are the ones I'm most excited about.

A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas

The Supremes Sing the Happy Heartache Blues by Edward Kelsey Moore

The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord

Gem & Dixie by Sara Zarr

Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett

Refuge for Masterminds by Kathleen Baldwin

Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh

These Ruthless Deeds by Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas

A Twist in Time by Julie McElwain

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Sunday Post (82) / It's Monday, WAYR

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimberly @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a post to recap the past week, showcase books and things we have received and share news about what is coming up on our blog for the week ahead. It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a fun weekly meme now hosted by Kathryn at Book Date, where we share what we've read and reviewed over the past week and what we plan to read next.

Just when it seemed like spring weather was going to stick around for awhile we are back to winter. Thursday night we got a couple inches of snow and this Monday we are supposed to get 1-3 inches. Thankfully the roads are good and it does look pretty but that wind is so cold. Last Wednesday evening there were some power outages in the town where I work due to wind damage. Both the local Walmart and grocery store didn't have power but operated on a generator (though both stores lost all their produce, frozen and refrigerated products) and several other businesses including fast food chains were closed the next day.  The library lost power after hours on Wednesday night but we had power on Thursday though it did affect some of our technology.

On Friday I attended a programming meeting with librarians from other libraries. I got a few good ideas including a lead on a Star Wars author (nonfiction) for our Comic Con this summer. I hope that will pan out. 

Saturday was supposed to be my first swimming lesson but it was cancelled due to a swim meet. Unfortunately the Y neglected to inform me. I only found out because I called them on Friday evening to confirm the start time of the class. I was not happy but thankfully I didn't pay for the classes yet. They were supposed to call me back to let me know if there would be a makeup class but they didn't. I am not happy with their level of professionalism and we'll see if there is a class next Saturday. The silver lining is that I have been struggling with sinus issues again so maybe it is a good thing to not try swimming right now!

This Friday the library is holding an Irish music concert at our local coffee shop. Hopefully we'll have decent attendance though I found out recently that the town is having a St. Patrick's Day themed pub crawl on the same night.

Last week on my blog:

Close Enough to Touch by Colleen Oakley (review)

Books read:

A Perilous Undertaking by Deanna Raybourn

I ended up liking this one more than the first book. I liked the character development and the mystery wasn't as easy for me to solve. 

The Girl in the Castle by Santa Montefiore

I originally started out listening to the audio book version of this novel but ended up returning it as I felt like I was missing too much of the story while driving. It was the perfect book to read before St. Patrick's Day. I learned more about Irish history during the early 20th century and some of the events were a little familiar to me because of Branson on Downton Abbey. I'm eagerly anticipating the second book. I have to admit that Bridie annoyed me though. 

Currently reading:

Hunted by Meagan Spooner

I am looking forward to watching the new Beauty and the Beast but while I wait, I am enjoying this retelling. I like that it includes Russian folklore. 

On my TBR pile:

Never Let You Go by Chevy Stevens

I started reading this before deciding to pick up Hunted first instead. I liked what I read though I usually don't go for thrillers. My coworkers are huge fans of Chevy Stevens though I don't think I will be.

The Orphan's Tale by Pam Jenoff

I have heard a lot of good things about this book and hopefully I will like it though I know it will be tough subject matter like The Nightingale

The Tumbling Turner Sisters by Juliette Fay

This is my evening book group's selection for March. I am really looking forward to it. A couple of our members have already read it and loved it.

A Street Cat Named Bob by James Bowen

My afternoon book group is reading this for our March book. I really liked the movie (and the real Bob was in it as himself--isn't he cute?) so I'm curious to see how faithful it was to the book.

Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco

I've had this checked out from the library for months and I can't renew it so if I'm going to read it, I have to get to it soon.

New books received:

Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett (for review)

It Happens All the Time by Amy Hatvany (for review)

A Street Cat Named Bob by James Bowen (library book)

Starfall by Melissa Landers (library book)

Always by Sarah Jio (library book)