The Scar Boys

Scar BoysTitle: The Scar Boys

Author: Len Vlahos

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary

Source: ARC

Reviewer: Emily Bedwell

Summary from Goodreads: A severely burned teenager. A guitar. Punk rock. The chords of a rock ‘n’ roll road trip in a coming-of-age novel that is a must-read story about finding your place in the world…even if you carry scars inside and out.

In attempting to describe himself in his college application essay–help us to become acquainted with you beyond your courses, grades, and test scores–Harbinger (Harry) Jones goes way beyond the 250-word limit and gives a full account of his life.

My Thoughts:

This is not my typical book. I received the ARC from a friend and thought I’d give it a chance. There were several things I loved about it: the narrator is a flawed, angry, frustrated teen who has had a rough life. He’s been bullied and burned and has very few friends. Through a series of events, he finds a good friend and a love for music.

A band, The Scar Boys, is founded and actually finds some success. Their road to a summer tour felt forced and a little made up, but I was able to give this first time author the benefit of the doubt. Overall, the book was entertaining and a strong debut. Harry Jones is a sweet kid who has been given a hard life. He lived in relative anonymity for years, trying to avoid the bullies and stay out of eyesight of anyone and everyone. Suddenly, he is in a band, and, eventually, leading the band.

“The Scar Boys” is a fun, fast read. I read it in a morning while waiting to visit the doctor! I would recommend it to people who loved books like “Wonder” or movies like “Powder.” If you’re a lover of underdogs and good music, this is the book for you!

My Rating:

Three out of Five bookmarks. A solid, easy read. It probably won’t change your life, but it’s still an entertaining story!

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Review of The Damsel and the Daggerman

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Title: The Damsel and The Daggerman

Author: Delilah S. Dawson

Series: Blud 2.5

Genre: Carniepunk e-novella

Source: Galley received from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Reviewer: Kristen R.

Summary (From Goodreads):

“Bad boy knife-thrower Marco Taresque is the hottest and most dangerous performer in the caravan. He keeps to himself until a pesky female journalist arrives, anxious to interview him about his checkered past—his last assistant disappeared under mysterious and bloody circumstances, earning him the nickname “The Deadly Daggerman.”

Unsinkable journalist and adventurer Jacinda Harville doesn’t take no for an answer, and she’s determined to wear down Marco no matter how threatening—or incredibly desirable—he might appear. He agrees to an interview—but only if she’ll let him strap her to a spinning table and throw knives at her body. How can she say no? And how can she resist him when he leans close for a kiss that strikes her more sharply than any blade? It’s the first time she’s let a man get the better of her, and she’s determined it will be the last…”

My review:

The Blud series has been enjoyable to read from the start and this novella is no exception. We are brought back to Criminy’s Clockwork Carnival after the last book took us away to other parts of the world of Sang. We get to see Criminy and Tish once more (Wicked as they Come), as well as Madam Morpho and Mr. Murdoch from an earlier novella (The Mysterious Madam Morpho). There is something special about being with the caravan again and it gives us a chance to learn more about its cast of characters and their interesting culture.

Dawson once again comes through with unique and colorful characters for this story.  There is the independent and strong-willed reporter Jacinda.  She has her eye on the mysterious and deadly Daggerman, Marco. Will Marco reveal the truth to Jacinda as to whether he murdered his assistant? Jacinda is willing to do almost anything to get him to tell her what really happened and finds herself caught in a game of cat and mouse.

As always, there is a nice balance of steampunk flavor mixed with paranormal romance and set in a fascinating world. There are clockwork animals and vampires (Bludmen), as well as other supernatural creatures.  Due to the length of the story the reader only gets a taste of what the world of Sang is like, but there is certainly enough information to enjoy the story and what is revealed will entice first time readers to seek out the other titles.  

The relationship between Marco and Jacinda was a little too much about power to be completely appealing to me as a story element, though I know it can be a very appealing to others. Despite the fact that this element was not quite for me I could appreciate it because the interactions between the two characters were expertly done. Jacinda is headstrong and determined and  will do almost anything to get her story but is challenged by the feelings that Marco brings out in her when he is in control. Dawson is wonderful at creating complex characters with complicated backgrounds and putting them together with interesting results.       

 My rating:

4 out of 5 bookmarks.  This is a wonderful novella that can be enjoyed even without having read the earlier stories, though they are highly recommended.  If you like romance with a paranormal or steampunk twist you will like this novella.

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Review: Something More than Night

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Title: Something More than Night

Author: Ian Tregillis

Genre: “… a Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler inspired murder mystery set in Thomas Aquinas’s vision of Heaven.”

Source: Galley received from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Reviewer: Kristen R.

Summary:

The angel Gabriel is dead and the Jericho Trumpet has gone missing. Why was Gabriel killed and by whom? What connection does his death have with a possibly crooked priest, the recipients of a plenary indulgence and body-mutilating penitentes?

Bayliss is an angel and a hard-boiled detective, complete with the dialogue to accompany the roll.  When he kills Molly, a human, and turns her into a fellow angel, he fills the hole left by Gabriel’s murder and keeps order in the universe. Bayliss is a poor mentor and Molly causes havoc due to her lack of knowledge and her human way of thinking. The pair is roughed up by angels who do not like the questions they are asking about Gabriel and this causes them to push harder for the truth, if only to preserve themselves.

My review:

This story presents an interesting take on the manner of the universe. The heavens, angels, and reality are not the typical sort that one usually imagines. This is in no way the common Christian idea of the angels and heaven.  There are no souls of the faithful departed amongst the heavenly Choir, nor are the angels at all concerned with the affairs of humans (who they call “monkeys”). The universe is held together by a disinterested Choir of angels who live in the Plemora, the wilderness where most angels make their home.

Complex prose and complex concepts. Due to the nature of the story there are many philosophical themes and explanations. There were times in which there was so much technical description going on that it was hard to follow.  However, because I found it confusing I was able to understand how confusing all of these concepts were for Molly.

The world building is smoothly integrated into the story.  This is not quite the Earth of today.  We are sometime in the future, sometime that has different technology and a slightly different culture.  Tregallis interweaves these details lightly and delicately throughout the narrative and the reader is fed little bits of this information as the story progresses.  Nicely done.

My rating:

4 out of 5 bookmarks.  Beautiful and engaging prose. I recommend this book for someone looking for a mystery with philosophical underpinnings. This is not for everyone, but is certainly great prose and an interesting premise.

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Review: Just One Year

just one year cover

Title: Just One Year

Author: Gayle Forman

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary

Source: Library

Reviewer: Emily Bedwell

Summary via Goodreads:

When he opens his eyes, Willem doesn’t know where in the world he is—Prague or Dubrovnik or back in Amsterdam. All he knows is that he is once again alone, and that he needs to find a girl named Lulu. They shared one magical day in Paris, and something about that day—that girl—makes Willem wonder if they aren’t fated to be together. He travels all over the world, from Mexico to India, hoping to reconnect with her. But as months go by and Lulu remains elusive, Willem starts to question if the hand of fate is as strong as he’d thought. . .

My Review:

Author Gayle Forman has created powerful characters and stories with If I Stay, Where She Went and Just One Day. Because I enjoyed all those books, I really wanted to love Just One Year. In fact, I was so excited when this book came out that I looked everywhere for it on vacation, to no avail. That said, I’m not disappointed that I didn’t find it. I liked this book fine, but didn’t find Willem’s story nearly as exciting as Allyson/Lulu’s story last year. After 24 hours in Paris with the girl of his dreams, Willem goes to get breakfast, gets attacked and never makes it back to her. He spends the next year wandering the world, never quite finding his place and hoping to figure out who she was and where she is now. Along the way, he finds himself in a Bollywood movie, being distracted by a few other girls, understudying for a real Shakespeare company, playing a lead role, and, eventually discovering a little more about who he is and his place in the world in the process.

Just One Year has the same strong characters and writing as Forman’s other books, but somehow just lacked the pizazz of Forman’s other works. Maybe it was because we didn’t really get a chance to know Willem in Just One Day, but I found it harder to keep interested in this story.

My Rating:

3/5 Bookmarks. Still a good book, but not my favorite.

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Review: The Girl You Left Behind

the girl you left behind coer

Title: The Girl You Left Behind

Author: JoJo Moyes

Genre: Adult Fiction/Historical Fiction

Source: Library

Reviewer: Emily Bedwell

Summary via Goodreads:

In 1916, French artist Edouard Lefevre leaves his wife Sophie to fight at the Front. When her town falls into German hands, his portrait of Sophie stirs the heart of the local Kommandant and causes her to risk everything – her family, reputation and life – in the hope of seeing her true love one last time.

Nearly a century later and Sophie’s portrait is given to Liv by her young husband shortly before his sudden death. Its beauty speaks of their short life together, but when the painting’s dark and passion-torn history is revealed, Liv discovers that the first spark of love she has felt since she lost him is threatened…

My Review:

I first read JoJo Moyes over the summer when someone at the library introduced me to her via Me Before You. I loved that book and had high expectations for The Girl You Left Behind. The two books, in reality, couldn’t be more different, but they are both beautiful in their own ways.

The Girl You Left Behind takes place in two different timelines; the early 1900s and the early 2000s. The girl in question is both a real person Sophie LeFevre, and a painting made of her that endures past the first war, second war and into the 21st century. Their stories are woven together as both Sophie and her painting continue to impact the world.

Masterfully told, The Girl You Left Behind is part historical fiction and part adult contemporary. The historical part of the book is wrought with the pain and sorrow and struggle of a woman trying to survive to see her husband again through a dark war. Sophie is weak and strong at the same time and willing to do whatever it takes to keep her family alive. The dark moments of the German occupation are written to evoke the fear of the time period.

When the book transitions to the contemporary world, it feels a little like the rug has been pulled out from under you. While it is also well written, it didn’t keep my attention quite as much. While I enjoyed learning what happened to the painting, and, in turn, Sophie, I would have enjoyed the story just as much without the modern elements.

My Rating:

3.5/5 bookmarks. Well written and executed, but I didn’t need the parallel stories to feel like it was completed.

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Review: House of Ivy and Sorrow

house of ivy and sorrow cover

Title: House of Ivy & Sorrow

Author: Natalie Whipple

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary

Source: ARC

Reviewer: Emily Bedwell

Summary via Goodreads:

Josephine Hemlock has spent the last 10 years hiding from the Curse that killed her mother. But when a mysterious man arrives at her ivy-covered, magic-fortified home, it’s clear her mother’s killer has finally come to destroy the rest of the Hemlock bloodline. Before Jo can even think about fighting back, she must figure out who she’s fighting in the first place. The more truth Jo uncovers, the deeper she falls into witchcraft darker than she ever imagined. Trapped and running out of time, she begins to wonder if the very Curse that killed her mother is the only way to save everyone she loves.

Review:

Yes, this is only the second book Natalie Whipple has published, but man, I love her as an author. Her characters are beautiful, believable and just plain fun to read. In interviews, Whipple has said that this story is special to her for many reasons, most notably the strong family bonds of her main characters. Josephine Hemlock is one of my absolute favorite characters. She’s spunky, smart and decidedly not perfect.

One of my favorite parts of this book is how Jo just knows who she is – a witch from a family of witches. There is none of the angst and drama of trying to figure out who she is; instead the drama from this story comes from Jo trying to reconcile her life, keep her friends safe, and enjoy the attention and affection of the cutest boy in school.

House of Ivy and Sorrow is a fast-paced, energetic read. Each plot twist is carefully constructed and thought out. Jo finds herself facing the darkest moments of her life as a sinister force tries to not only destroy her family, but also to destroy everyone she holds dear. If her friends find out what she really is, will they stand by her or go running? The fundamental theme behind the magic of this book is that magic requires sacrifice; the bigger the need, the bigger the sacrifice. In scene after beautiful scene, Whipple creates Jo to be a force of good in the world, but always someone who knows that what she can do comes at a price – to her and to those she loves.

Final Thoughts:

House of Ivy and Sorrow is not just fun to read; it takes place in a fantastic world that stays with you long after you turn the final page.

My Rating:

5/5 Bookmarks!

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Review of Sing for the Dead

Sing for the Dead (London Undead, #2)

Title: Sing for the Dead

Author: P.J. Schnyder

Series: London Undead #2

Genre: Paranormal Romance (Adult)

Format: eARC

Reviewer: Kristen Rinaldo

Synopsis:

London is crawling with zombies and nobody knows why. Werewolves and other were-creatures help the human police keep the zombies and stupid zombie hunting humans under control.

Kayden is a were-leopard living in zombie infested London.  Though a loner by nature, he is allied with the London werewolf pack and aids in patrols. Sorcha is the child of a Baen-sidhe and a mortal, cursed to carry the battle rage of her berserker father. She is a half-fae warrior sent by the Court of Light to investigate the danger that the zombies may pose to the fae.

Some of the zombies are moving in coordinated attacks, the likes of which have not been observed before. Sorcha agrees to temporarily team up with the were-creatures, specifically Kayden, to investigate the reason for the new zombie behavior.

Review:

This is book two of the London Undead series. I am the kind of girl who does not like to start reading a book in the middle of a series, so I began with the first story, Bite Me. This was a good investment of my time and money because it gave me a fuller understanding of the setting and I got to read the story of Seth and Maisie, who are great characters.

That being said, this story can easily stand alone.  The author incorporates enough back story so that reading the first book is not necessary, but it is highly suggested because it is well written and enjoyable.

Sorcha’s internal struggle is compelling.  She has berserker tendencies and is ashamed of her lust for violence:

“And that was her shame, wasn’t it? Violence sang through her blood – the mortal part of her heritage surging to the fore at the mere memory of the earlier fight. More.  She needed more.”

With the help of Kayden, who is not ashamed of his own violent tendencies, Sorcha can start to come to terms with who she is.

Schnyder’s writing style is engaging.  Characters each have a unique voice. As the point of view alternates between Kayden and Sorcha the voices are distinct. The descriptions of London and the parks in which some of the action takes place are very well done:

“The trees in Kensington Gardens were bare skeletons this deep into the winter in London—sleeping, but restless, tugging at her heart. Would the trees be too sickened to bring forth new life after the roots had bathed in blood?”

Rating:

4 out of 5 bookmarks. This is an original take on zombies, which was refreshing.  I recommend this book for anyone who is not too bothered by zombies.  This really is more of a horror romance novel, which is just fine with me.  I only wish it was a little longer so that I could spend more time with the characters and their world, though the current length does not make the story seem rushed or incomplete. I hope the author will set a full length novel in this world but I will happily buy another novella length work in this series.

 

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