Monday, July 31, 2017

Ash and Quill by Rachel Caine

Ash and Quill (The Great Library #3) by Rachel Caine. Berkley, 2017. Hardcover. 386 pages.

I've been reading this trilogy-turned-series since the first book, Ink and Bone, was available on NetGalley. After reading Ash and Quill, the third installment, I have found this series to be really growing in its potential. Paper and Fire was the second book in this series, and if you read my last review, you know that it didn't really hit home with me. However, where Caine seemed to falter a bit in the second one regarding too much action, not enough plot development, and a lack of intrigue, Ash and Quill seems to pick up and leap forward stronger than ever.

I was already skeptical going into Ash and Quill for reasons mentioned above, and I also didn't really remember a lot of specifics from Paper and Fire, so suffice to say I was really unsure if I'd be able to get into this book and enjoy it as much as I hoped I would. Although there were definitely a few things that I needed a refresher on, for the most part the events of this book helped me remember the more important plot points from previous books (for once in my life, I actually wanted an author to do the annoying recap at the beginning of a book), and I found myself enjoying this book from the very start.

From that start, I was pretty much hooked throughout the entire book. It seems that Caine has hit her stride with the characters and the where she wants to go with this series, and both of those elements made this book a really enjoyable ride. Caine has a great writing style that balances efficient, concise prose with emotional, more elaborate prose in a perfect way. She adds page breaks or chapter changes at the most proper moments with great finesse, something that I often find myself frustrated with in some books when new chapters are added too often or at odd times.

(Note: If you have not read the first two books and you plan to, this section might have some discussion that would potentially spoil plot points from the first two books.)

The new setting of Philadelphia with the Burners was a big departure from their previous location, and I think she handled the entire situation really well. I think the Burners themselves are fascinating because of how controversial their opinions and viewpoints are. Because of that, I was glad to have a good portion of this book devoted to being in the midst of the Burners and the regular citizens living in Philadelphia with them. This section did drag on a lot, however, and I did eventually want to speed things up a bit.

Another thing that I have always appreciated in this series, and that I continued to like in this book, is that Caine keeps the entire world in focus. She mentions a huge array of countries from all over the world, which really keeps things in perspective. I feel like a lot of books with this dystopian-feel seem to center on only one or two main continents and leave others out, so I appreciated hearing about what was going on in other places.

I'd also like to point out how much I enjoy Caine's diverse cast of characters! I am absolutely not an expert on the matter, and I'd love to see the opinions of others who have more experience, but I felt that she had good representations of LGBTQ characters, religiously diverse characters, and ethnically diverse characters. It's something that is so effortlessly blended into this book that it comes across incredibly natural, and I love it.

Regarding specific characters... look, I'm still on the fence about Jess. I don't know what it is, but he's just really not someone that I can really seem to like. He's just... not that interesting. This doesn't bother me too much because the rest of the character are all fantastic, and that brings me to something I noticed. I don't know if this how other people feel, but Ash and Quill seemed to really highlight the other characters' strengths and journeys a lot more than Jess', and I really, really liked it. It was especially neat to me that, although Jess is a pivotal character in this series and has his own strengths, the rest of the characters are just as important. Thomas is the main man with the power to create the most important object in this book, Morgan has strong magical abilities that puts her at great important, Khalila is incredibly talented and the most social adept of the group, and Dario is just... well, Dario in all of the best ways possible; he's definitely grown on me. Glain was sort of put in the backseat - she was mentioned so rarely that I often forgot about her. Wolf and Santi are, as always, amazing and I love them. Also, I've found myself oddly intrigued with Jess' brother, Brendan, who provides such a foil to Jess' character while also remaining something innately familial about them that it's fascinating.

Overall, Ash and Quill was a great read and I am looking forward to the next installments in this series. Four stars from me!

*I received an ARC of Ash and Quill courtesy of NetGalley and Berkley books. This has no effect on my rating/review of the book!*

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Friday, July 28, 2017

Anticipated August 2017 Releases!

August is almost here, which means new releases!
Personally, the arrival of August means that I'm trying not to freak out about how close we are to September when I move, so instead I'm trying to focus all of my nervous energy on books - has to be healthy, right? There are some fantastic new releases in August, and I can't wait to dive into some of these!

The Half-Drowned KingReincarnation BluesSipThe ArsonistThe Grip of It: A NovelThe ListSee What I Have DoneThe Tiger's Watch (Ashes of Gold, #1)The Heart's Invisible FuriesGolden Age and Other StoriesThe WoodThe Cosmic Machine: The Science That Runs Our Universe and the Story Behind It
Bibliomysteries: Stories of Crime in the World of Books and BookstoresSpellbook of the Lost and FoundThe Sworn VirginMask of Shadows (Untitled, #1)

The Half-Drowned King by Linnea Hartsuyker || August 1st
Reincarnation Blues by Michael Poore || August 22nd
Sip by Brian Allen Carr || August 29th
The Arsonist by Stephanie Oakes || August 22nd
The Grip of It by Jac Jemc || August 1st
The List by Patricia Forde || August 8th
See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt || August 1st
The Tiger's Watch by Julia Ember || August 22nd (ARC review coming soon!)
The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne || August 22nd (ARC review coming soon!)
Golden Age and Other Stories by Naomi Novik || August 31st
The Wood by Chelsea Bobulski || August 1st
The Cosmic Machine by Scott Bebenek || August 15th
Bibiomysteries: Short Tales about Deadly Books by Otto Penzler || August 8th
Spellbook of the Lost and Found by Moira Fowley-Doyle || August 8th
The Sworn Virgin by Kristopher Dukes || August 8th
Mask of Shadows By Linsey Miller || August 9th

What are your anticipated August releases?

Thursday, July 27, 2017

TBR Thursday: The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne

TBR Thursdays is hosted by Kim @ Kimberly Faye Reads! This feature was created with the intent of spotlighting a title from your shelf that you planning on reading in order to discuss why you want to read it, as well to discuss the book with others! If you'd like to join, feel free to use the banner created by Kimberley (or your own), and stop by her page to participate.

This week I've decided to share with you The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne! This ARC showed up at my door only about a month or two ago and I had never heard of it, but I'm certainly intrigued now and really hope to get to it soon. This sounds like some great literary fiction and I'm particularly interested Ireland being the main setting. 

The Heart's Invisible Furies
Synopsis from Goodreads:

"From the beloved New York Times bestselling author of The Boy In the Striped Pajamas, a sweeping, heartfelt saga about the course of one man's life, beginning and ending in post-war Ireland

Cyril Avery is not a real Avery -- or at least, that's what his adoptive parents tell him. And he never will be. But if he isn't a real Avery, then who is he? 

Born out of wedlock to a teenage girl cast out from her rural Irish community and adopted by a well-to-do if eccentric Dublin couple via the intervention of a hunchbacked Redemptorist nun, Cyril is adrift in the world, anchored only tenuously by his heartfelt friendship with the infinitely more glamourous and dangerous Julian Woodbead. At the mercy of fortune and coincidence, he will spend a lifetime coming to know himself and where he came from and over his many years will struggle to discover an identity, a home, a country, and much more. 

In this, Boyne's most transcendent work to date, we are shown the story of Ireland from the 1940s to today through the eyes of one ordinary man. The Heart's Invisible Furies is a novel to make you laugh and cry while reminding us all of the redemptive power of the human spirit."

Are you interested in reading this book? What books are on your TBR?

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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday: A Beautiful Poison by Lydia Kang

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights exciting upcoming releases that we can't wait to be released!

This week's upcoming book spotlight is:
A Beautiful Poison by Lydia Kang
Publication Date: August 1st, 2017
Lake Union Publishing
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

From Goodreads:

A Beautiful Poison
"Just beyond the Gilded Age, in the mist-covered streets of New York, the deadly Spanish influenza ripples through the city. But with so many victims in her close circle, young socialite Allene questions if the flu is really to blame. All appear to have been poisoned—and every death was accompanied by a mysterious note.

Desperate for answers and dreading her own engagement to a wealthy gentleman, Allene returns to her passion for scientific discovery and recruits her long-lost friends, Jasper and Birdie, for help. The investigation brings her closer to Jasper, an apprentice medical examiner at Bellevue Hospital who still holds her heart, and offers the delicate Birdie a last-ditch chance to find a safe haven before her fragile health fails.

As more of their friends and family die, alliances shift, lives become entangled, and the three begin to suspect everyone—even each other. As they race to find the culprit, Allene, Birdie, and Jasper must once again trust each other, before one of them becomes the next victim."

This sounds like it could be a lot of fun and a great thrilling read! I like how the overall concept seems somewhat familiar, but the details of the story itself seem very unique -- this sounds like one to keep my eye on. :) Also, that cover! And I have an ARC of Quackery by Kang that I am dying to get to - maybe I'll just have Lydia Kang mini-marathon!

What do you think about this upcoming release? What are your anticipated upcoming releases?

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Tell Me Something Tuesday: Were You Hesitant to Give Low Ratings When You First Started Blogging?

Tell Me Something Tuesday is a weekly discussion post hosted by Rainy Day Ramblings where a wide range of topics from books to blogging are discussed. Weigh in and join the conversation by adding your thoughts in the comments. If you want to do your own post, grab the question and answer it on your blog.

This week's discussion question is:

My answer: I definitely was! To be honest, I still am in some ways. I always want to give books the benefit of the doubt, but sometimes I can't help but dislike them. When I first started blogging, I made a promise to myself that I would always be completely honest in my reviews, no matter how much I may have disliked -- or even hated -- a book.

I don't like giving low ratings. I know that authors work incredibly hard to create their books, and I also realize the impact of knowing that my review may or may not sway someone from reading their book. Because of that, and because I don't think it's right, I don't ever trash an author or their book. I'm not afraid to say what I really disliked about a book, but I will always try to do it respectfully. I also like to point that hey, just because I hated something in a book, it doesn't mean that everyone will.

The most difficult times I've had with low reviews is when it is for a book that an author specifically reached out to me with for review. I don't want to negate their hard work, but I am also tied to my own honest values and I'm not going to shelter my words or feelings. One thing that I have learned is that if my review is three-stars or lower I will not post a link on Twitter or tag the author or publisher. It's not exactly fun to receive a notification to a review that hates your book, and I've heard many authors on Twitter voice their desire not to be tagged in negative reviews, and I want to respect that.

Despite the fact that I do still hesitate a little, I will say that I have become less hesitant over time. I've spoken with authors about this before and they often tell me that although it might hurt a little to have a poor review, a review is still a review and it is (usually) appreciated all the same. Other bloggers have also helped me to feel more confident as I see other low ratings and reactions to my own low ratings. I feel much more comfortable and confident overall.

So yes, I was still hesitant, and sometimes I still am, but I know that honesty is incredibly important in reviews and I don't want to lie about how I feel about a book.

So now I pose the same question to you: Do you hesitate to give low ratings? Have your feelings ever changed?

Monday, July 24, 2017

Gather the Daughters by Jennie Melamed

*Gather the Daughters is available Tuesday, July 25th!*

Gather the Daughters by Jennie Melamed. Little, Brown and Company, 2017. Hardcover. 352 pages. 

This book was insane. Insane in the sense that the cult in this book is unbelievable yet completely believable and terrifying all at the same time. I may be at risk of repeating myself, but the  best word to describe this book is simply haunting. As much as I try to shy away from comparing books to other books, I will say that if you like The Handmaid's Tale on account of the basic themes and ideas it espouses, then I'm almost positive that you will like this one. Honestly, I like this book way more than The Handmaid's Tale.

Gather the Daughters is about a cult living on an island separated from any other place. A full synopsis can be found on Goodreads, but the basic notion is that the daughters of all the men on this island essentially have one function: to be wives and have children. The men in charge essentially have free reign, and the customs that occur between men and their children, and between men and their future wives, are a bit... disconcerting.

Melamed herself is a psychiatric nurse practitioner who specializes in child trauma, and her vast knowledge of this topic plays very much into the contents of this book. She knows what she is doing, and I think that she handles these terrible circumstances and events in a deft, thoughtful, and realistic manner.

The four main women that this story focuses on are Vanessa, Caitlin, Janey, and Amanda. Each girl brings a unique perspective to the story as each one begins to question just how far one should go to question the traditions and norms of a culture. Should one even do so? Each one of these girls seems to question this notion in their own way, and each one carries out these feelings to varying degrees. Janey is a strong-willed girl who tries to have as much control over her own life and body as she can in this society -- which, sadly, isn't much. She refuses to become a woman and thus tries to stave it off by refusing to eat and preventing her body from going through puberty. She tries to enlighten the other girls to realize what is happening and that maybe they can change it. Caitlin is quiet, but vital. Vanessa is obedient overall, but she isn't afraid to push buttons and try to find out more about the goings-on of the island. And then there's Amanda, who knows something is off but doesn't know what and slowly begins to develop her own conclusions, which are vehemently opposed by those (the men) in charge.

This is a book that has ended up on my favorites list not because it was necessarily fun to read, but because I was completely engrossed with it and it will stick with me. This is a book that will grab you and haunt you and stay with you. I had the hardest time putting this book down, despite how alarmed I was at some of the things that happened. The ideas and cult itself in this book are a bit scary and really make you think. What does it take to end with a cult-like society like this? Just how easy is it truly to brainwash others? It teaches you to be self-aware, to question, to be ready to take a stand, even though the result of that stand might not turn out to have positive consequences.

Despite how terrifying and preposterous some of the norms in this book are, what makes it so gripping and captivating is how conceivable it actually could be. Do I actually think something like this could happen? Not necessarily in general society, but I don't doubt for a second that there are people capable of this. I know that women have often been perceived as having little worth other than for childbearing or being the 'dutiful wife.' And that's what is so captivating about this story. It's real.

Melamed's writing is also very gripping, beautiful and haunting at the same time. She crafts her words so carefully. It's a calm, subtle prose, but one that moves by so quickly and paints the scenes so effortlessly that you feel as if you are right there in the story, part of the horrors that are everyday life there. There was also something oddly poetic about the POV changes Melamed used. Sometimes there would be three chapters in a row of the same characters, sometimes it would switch consistently. It was almost like she knew when I would want to keep reading about one characters and when I wanted to try others.

Overall, Gather the Daughters get five stars from me!

Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository

*I received a physical ARC of Gather the Daughters courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This is no way impacts my enjoyment of the book.*

Friday, July 21, 2017

Book Recommendations: It's Hot Outside! Part Two

A couple weeks ago I created a post inspired by the hot weather that featured books in which large bodies of water played some sort of role in the story. My second post inspired by the hot weather is for books set in -- you guessed it -- hot weather!

What Is the What

What is the What by Dave Eggers: This is the story of Achak Deng, a young boy (now a refugee in the United States) who sets out to escape from the civil war in Sudan. To do this, he walks through hot African deserts to Ethiopia. This book will leave you both parched and wanting to help out other war refugees who have suffered like this. (Review)

The Dragon’s Legacy (The Dragon's Legacy, #1)

The Dragon's Legacy by Deborah A. Wolf: If you'd like some epic fantasy to celebrate the summer heat, then you should give The Dragon's legacy a shot! The heat isn't the most prominent aspect in this novel, but the fact that this is set in a large desert-like setting really gives it that desert-like atmosphere. (Review)

Dune (Dune #1)

Dune by Frank Herbert: Okay, confession: I don't even like Dune - please don't throw things at me! I've tried, I honestly have. Three times I've tried to read this book. And three times I've given up. However, this is still a perfect desert book (you know, since it is set on the desert planet Arrakis and all) and it is a sci-fi classic for a reason, so I still want to recommend it to people who do love sci-fi, because most people seem to love it. It would have been remiss of me to leave it out.

Girl in Pieces

Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow: If you need something contemporary, here's one for you! This was one of the few contemporary books I read last year (I'm really not a huge fan of contemporary YA most of the time) and guess where it's set? That's right, the hot summer of Arizona. Get your water ready. (Review)

Walk on Earth a Stranger  (The Gold Seer Trilogy, #1)

Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson: This is set during the time of the Gold Rush and tells the story of a young girl named Lee who embarks on a journey to California. Needless to say, the sun and dirt are main characters. The second book in this trilogy, Like A River Glorious, has a similar hot setting! (Review)

Holes (Holes, #1)

Holes by Louis Sachar: I've saved the best for last. If you still feel like you need something to really make you sweat, Holes is your book. I mean, it's digging holes in the desert. What more do you need? The movie version is also fantastic and I will always love it.

What are some of your favorite books with hot settings? Have you read any of these?

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Black and Blue: Inside the Divide Between The Police and Black America by Jeff Pegues

Black and Blue: Inside the Divide Between The Police and Black America by Jeff Pegues. Prometheus Books, 2017. Hardcover, 279 pages.

Black and Blue centers on the tough, complex issue of the conflicts between the black community and police in America, and I commend Jeff Pegues for the in-depth and extremely careful work he has done with this book. Frankly, I was a bit worried before diving into this book: would this be objective? would it be fair? is it legitimate? From what I've read, the answer to all of these questions is 'yes,' along with the fact that this is an extremely well-written book. Pegues presents his research in a flowing, gripping manner that is highly engaging and readable.

Pegues is a CBS News Justice and Homeland Security Correspondent with many years of experience as a reporter, skills which he has used to construct an informative, staggering account of a major problem in the United States. Pegues really did an exemplary job providing fact and statistics regarding those in law enforcement, the black community, and issues of violence and conflict that occur. His many observations and facts regarding conversations he has with those involved in these issues were plentiful and thorough, which I feel provided much invaluable information and insight into why and how this issue has only seemed to have gotten worse over the years.

I greatly appreciated that Pegues presents arguments from both sides, which leads to a broad understanding of the struggles that exist on both of those sides and even how there are not even enough resources available to help tackle some of these issues. He describes how many law enforcement areas do not receive adequate funds to properly train police officers, which leads to many issues. Officers then do not have the ability -- or do not realize the need -- to get to know the community they police in. In addition, he expands on the fact that there is also an extreme lack of discipline among many law enforcement agencies, and much too much leniency regarding the bad cops.

One of the most important points that Pegues notes, however, is the fact that black communities are often neglected and left to fend for themselves, creating a bad cycle of poverty and inability to reach the opportunities and lifestyles of other communities.

This is a hard, frankly depressing read. What I really liked about Pegues' presentation was that although he did provide necessary commentary to bring ideas together, he also largely presented his conversations with people and observations in a manner that really lets the reader draw their own conclusions and understandings (which should be fairly obvious). Pegues was incredibly thorough, touching on every detail that he could think of. The only downside to this was that certain things felt a bit repetitive at times, but hey, I'd rather have repetition than a lack of information. There is no real conclusion that I can deduce from this as far as how to overcome these issues, however.

This book is definitely an eye-opener; even if you, like me, think that you know quite about this situation, there is a lot more to learn and be aware of. Overall, I've given Black and Blue  four stars!

*I received a copy of Black and Blue in exchange for an honest review. This has no bearing on my sentiments towards the book itself.*

You might also like:
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
What is the What by Dave Eggers

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday: The Clockwork Dynasty by Daniel H. Wilson

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights exciting upcoming releases that we can't wait to be released!

This week's upcoming book spotlight is:
The Clockwork Dynasty by Daniel H. Wilson
Publication Date: August 1st, 2017

From Goodreads:

The Clockwork Dynasty
"An ingenious new thriller that weaves a path through history, following a race of human-like machines that have been hiding among us for untold centuries, written by the New York Times bestselling author of Robopocalypse.

Present day: When a young anthropologist specializing in ancient technology uncovers a terrible secret concealed in the workings of a three-hundred-year-old mechanical doll, she is thrown into a hidden world that lurks just under the surface of our own. With her career and her life at stake, June Stefanov will ally with a remarkable traveler who exposes her to a reality she never imagined, as they embark on an around-the-world adventure and discover breathtaking secrets of the past...

Russia, 1725: In the depths of the Kremlin, the tsar's loyal mechanician brings to life two astonishingly humanlike mechanical beings. Peter and Elena are a brother and sister fallen out of time, possessed with uncanny power, and destined to serve great empires. Struggling to blend into pre-Victorian society, they are pulled into a legendary war that has raged for centuries.

The Clockwork Dynasty seamlessly interweaves past and present, exploring a race of beings designed to live by ironclad principles, yet constantly searching for meaning. As June plunges deeper into their world, her choices will ultimately determine their survival or extermination. Richly-imagined and heart-pounding, Daniel H. Wilson's novel expertly draws on his robotics and science background, combining exquisitely drawn characters with visionary technology--and riveting action."

This book sounds so unique and I really have no idea what to expect from it, but I'm pretty excited to read it! It sounds like there is a lot going on, and I love how mysterious it sounds -- especially since  history and and secrets are involved!

What do you think about this upcoming release? What are your anticipated upcoming releases?

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Tell Me Something Tuesday: Is It Easier to Read and Review Books That You Picked Up Yourself?

Tell Me Something Tuesday is a weekly discussion post hosted by Rainy Day Ramblings where a wide range of topics from books to blogging are discussed. Weigh in and join the conversation by adding your thoughts in the comments. If you want to do your own post, grab the question and answer it on your blog.

This week's discussion question is:

This is a great question that really made me stop and think. In general, for me the reviews that are easiest to write are those I have the strongest feelings about -- whether good or bad. If a book was mediocre, than I don't usually have as much to say, and it's often more difficult to craft something that conveys my thoughts.

For those reasons, sometimes I think it is easier to read and review books that I choose because I usually have some sort of desire to read that specific book. A majority of the time I do end up liking a book and therefore a review flows from me much easier. At the same time, books that are presented to me as a review request or that show up at my door have also proved to be great books for reviews as well, so I'd say that, overall, the ease of writing a review really just depends on the book itself. Sometimes it's actually harder for me to write a review for a book I've been highly anticipating or really love because it's too intimidating and I don't know how to accurately capture my thoughts.

I will confess, however, that reviews are often not the easiest thing for me to write. I have the hardest time putting my thoughts into words, especially when it's about something as large as a book and I'm trying to avoid spoilers. I try to capture the main aspects of how the book is written and what its strong and/or low points are, and that's easiest to do when I have some idea of what I'm expecting from a book. But then, just to contradict myself, I also try not to have too many expectations about a book before diving in also.

So now I pose the same question to you: Are books easier to review if you chose to pick up? Or do you prefer reviewing books that you have less attachment to?

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Apprentice Witch by James Nicol

*The Apprentice Witch is available Tuesday, July 25th!*

The Apprentice Witch by James Nicol. Chicken House, 2017. Hardcover, 336 Pages.

As most of you probably know by now, my book taste is fairly wide-ranging and I always have my eye out for great middle grate fantasy. Thus, when The Apprentice Witch arrived in the mail one day, I was understandably excited to see this one arrive int he mail. The Apprentice Witch centers on a young girl named Arianwyn who wants nothing more than to pass her exam to become a witch. Unfortunately, things don't quite as planned and she is sent to a remote town called Lull as an apprentice - still.

I think my favorite thing about this book was the setting and the story set-up. I love the little town of Lull, which was a nice small town, but also equally dark, mysterious, and somewhat creepy at times. Everything felt magical and there seemed to be many layers within each spell and creature introduced. The magic system itself was a very unique one that I haven't really seen, consisting of the drawing of glyphs to cast spells. I was somewhat reminded of Brandon Sanderson's The Rithmatist, which uses a similar idea of drawing spells -- this actually made me really excited, largely because I find the entire concept really interesting, and Nicol executed it in a fascinating manner. I really hope that the next book explores this entire notion even further.

I really loved Arianwyn's character. Her youth and inexperience definitely showed, which led her to making some mistakes, and this is also what endeared me to her so much. Arianwyn felt that she had to prove herself (and she sort of did), and thus she had to work extra hard to be mature and take care of both herself and pretty much the entire town from the dangerous spirits and creature the inhabit it.

I also really appreciated Arianwyn and Salle's friendship. It was lovely and felt like an authentic relationship, full of ups and downs and, ultimately, loyalty. I actually found her relationship with all of the character's entertaining. Lull is full of a wide array of people, some of whom are glad to see Arianwyn and some who are not - such as the mayor himself. The way Arianwyn navigates her job and her desires to become a full-fledged witch is a journey that takes the reader through the struggles and insecurities that we all face and strive to overcome. Arianwyn is a wonderfully stubborn girl who, despite the odds often being stacked against, doesn't really let herself every truly give up, and I think that notion is at the core of this book, alone with the importance of friendship and looking out for others.

I'd also like to give a little shout out to Bob, Arianwyn's moon hare, who made me fall in love with it from the moment it appeared in the story.

The only qualms that I had with this book was that I just wanted a bit more in the development area. I wanted more about the magic system, the dark creatures, the history. More character development and narrative. Regardless, I definitely plan to continue with the next book to see what's in store - I feel as though this will only get better.

Overall, I give four stars to The Apprentice Witch!

*I received a physical ARC of The Apprentice Witch courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This is no way impacts my enjoyment of the book.*

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Friday, July 14, 2017

Blog Tour: Review + Giveaway - First We Were IV by Alexandra Sirowy

Hello everyone! I am happy to welcome you to today's stop on the First We Were IV blog tour, hosted by Brittany's Book Rambles! On this stop you will find my review for First We Were IV, along with a giveaway to win a copy of the book and slew of other fun swag - be sure to check it all out and enter the giveaway!
Huge thanks go out to Brittany from Brittany's Book Rambles, Alexandra Sirowy, and Simon and Schuster for allowing me to be a part of this wonderful tour!

First We Were IV by Alexandra Sirowy
Publication Date: July 25th, 2017
Publisher:Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers 
Goodreads Link:


A group of friends start a secret society in this out-of-control thriller from the author of The Telling and The Creeping that examines the all-consuming love of lifelong friendship—and what someone is capable of when they’re afraid of losing it.

Izzie loves nothing more than her three best friends, Viv, Graham, and Harry, and the bond the four of them share. And she’s terrified of their friendship falling apart next year when they go off to college. To bind them together, she decides to create that will belong only to them, a special thing that they’ll always share between the four of them. And so they dream up the Order of IV, a secret society devoted to mischief that rights wrongs and pays back debts. At first, it works like a charm—but when the Order of IV’s escapades get recognition beyond their wildest expectations, other people start wanting in. And soon, what started as a game of friendship is spiraling into something dangerous and beyond their control—and before it’s over, they’ll pay the ultimate sacrifice.

Buy Links:  Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository 

Author Bio:

Alexandra Sirowy is the author of the young adult thrillers THE CREEPING, the Bram Stoker Award® Nominated THE TELLING, and the upcoming FIRST WE WERE IV. Alexandra attended a women's college as an undergrad and received her graduate degree in International Studies. When she isn't writing, she loves to travel, read, eat, and get into mischief. She lives with her husband in Northern California.

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This book is a fantastic summer thriller. If you are at all interested in secret societies, as the characters in this book actually go about creating their own secret society, and let's just say things get a little... intense. I don't want to go into any plot details in this review because so much of the success of this book lies in the sheer surprise of what is going to happen next. 

The four mains characters are Izzy, who is also our first-person narrator, Viv, Harry, and Graham. They are quite an interesting bunch, very diverse in personality but they fit together extremely well. None of them are particularly likable to me, but I think that that worked really well for the story. There was really no black or white in this story -- everyone is some sort of shade of grey, and it's fascinating.

I found myself frustrated with some of their actions or feeling nervous and uncertain about the morality of things they were planning to do -- and honestly, that only enhanced my enjoyment of this book. This isn't a nice, happy book; this is a book that pushes boundaries, will keep you on the edge of your seat, and will make you think hard about what is right, what is wrong, and what you would truly do if situations were reversed. 

Sirowy's prose is beautifully, devastatingly vivid and descriptive and paints a raw picture of teenage years and all that they include, such as betrayal, bullying, heartbreak, and anger. At times, I felt that the actions of some of the character were overly dramatic, but then I remembered my own teenage age years, my own rage and passions about certain experiences and I realized that it was perfect for the story. These are teenagers who want to not only feel as if they are a part of something bigger than they are, but they want to rectify all the wrongs and evils that have taken place in their life, and I think this book was a heartbreakingly accurate depiction of how this occurs and the consequences that can result.

First We Were IV is a perfect mix of fast-pace and thoughtful, which together form a strikingly sharp and captivating narrative. Overall, I've decided to give it four stars!

1 signed hard cover copy of FIRST WE WERE IV
Fujuifilm instax mini 9 Polaroid camera in smoky white (& film) like the one in the book!
Strand of gold stars
FIRST WE WERE IV swag (temporary tattoos & bookmarks)
Evie Seo Designed Tote Bag

FTC disclaimer: US entires only. No purchase necessary to enter, giveaway items provided by Alexandra Sirowy.

Tour Schedule: 

Week 1
July 10:  Bookish Lifestyles - Review + Tote Design
July 11 Brittany's Book Rambles - Guest Post
July 12 Emily Reads Everything - Review
July 13   Biscotto's Books - Moodboard
July 14 Forever Lost in Literature - Review

Week 2
July 17 My Friends Are Fiction - Guest Post
July 18 Literary Legionnaire - Review
July 19 The Reader and the Chef - Review
July 20:  Novel Novice - Guest Post
July 21:  Dark Faerie Tales - Interview

Week 3
July 24:  YA and Wine - Review + Guest Post
July 25 YA Book Central - Spotlight
July 26 Tales of the Ravenous Reader - Review
July 27:  A Perfection Called Books - Guest Post