ARC Review: The Tombs by Deborah Schaumberg

a title here(8)description

New York, 1882. A dark, forbidding city, and no place for a girl with unexplainable powers.

Sixteen-year-old Avery Kohl pines for the life she had before her mother was taken. She fears the mysterious men in crow masks who locked her mother in the Tombs asylum for being able to see what others couldn’t. Avery denies the signs in herself, focusing instead on her shifts at the ironworks factory and keeping her inventor father out of trouble. Other than secondhand tales of adventure from her best friend, Khan, an ex-slave, and caring for her falcon, Seraphine, Avery spends her days struggling to survive.

Like her mother’s, Avery’s powers refuse to be contained. When she causes a bizarre explosion at the factory, she has no choice but to run from her lies, straight into the darkest corners of the city. Avery must embrace her abilities and learn to wield their power—or join her mother in the cavernous horrors of the Tombs. And the Tombs has secrets of its own: strange experiments are being performed on “patients”…and no one knows why.

review

**** Huge thank you to HarperTeen for approving me for this eARC in exchange for an honest review! ****

I have to say I’m a little confused about my feelings for this book, because it started out excellent and then for some reason dragged at the end and the story got really jumbled up. I think it had a lot of potential but that ending just made everything fall really flat for me.


(I’m going to do this review a bit differently, I recently ran a poll on my Twitter asking if you guys prefer my normal method of reviewing or if you’d like a list. It was close but the list style ended up winning so I want to give it a try! Please, please let me know what you think and if you’d like more reviews in this style!)


What I Liked:

  • Avery Kohl, our main character, is a fantastic protagonist. She’s very loyal, kind, and doesn’t like to stick to the 1880’s views on women and race. Avery is a welder and honestly it’s pretty badass because the work is hard, she’s looked down on for being female and in this position but toughs it out, and she does it all to help provide for herself and her father. She also watches over the other boys in her crew and is very protective of them, it’s adorable!
  • The setting of this book is extremely unique as it’s set during the Second Industrial Revolution in 1880’s New York. I don’t know about you guys but that’s not exactly a setting I see very often especially in YA! From what little I know about this time period I still thought Schaumberg did an excellent job with this setting.
  • I also really enjoyed the paranormal/psychic bits of the story, the powers that Avery has are interesting and some other characters possessed powers as well. However, I felt like the powers could have been explored a lot more and it would have made things a lot more interesting.
  • The side characters were really great and had their own unique personalities, sometimes they just don’t get enough development but these characters had it! There were a few characters that really endeared themselves to me.
  • Avery also has a pet falcon named Seraphine, it’s awesome.
  • The pacing at the beginning of the book is very fast and I was pulled in right from the start, the story was intriguing and I wanted to know what was going on with Avery’s powers!
  • There is some romance present in this book and I love that it didn’t take over the plot. I did like the love interests overall as well and could easily see why Avery liked them both. It was nice that no one ever had a big spat over who was going to end up with who though.
  • Diversity! We have African-American characters, Romany characters, and an Italian character. Of course there were others as well and I liked that we were shown what a “melting pot” New York City is.
  • I also really liked that the racism shown towards characters is challenged especially considering the time period the book is set in. Avery and her father both actively disregard the public’s views of other races and are close friends with different people of color.
  • The cover is gorgeous!

What I Didn’t Like:

  • Half way through the story the pacing slows down significantly and really starts to drag. I ended up skimming a bit right at the ending because I just wanted it to be over.
  • The overall plot made sense from the start but as with the pacing, it just got really messy and confusing towards the end. I can’t even really tell you what the heck was happening by the end! The beginning was strong but the end not so much.
  • The main antagonist was incredibly cheesy, we are talking classic mustache twirling villain. I had a hard time taking him seriously at all let alone as a threat. And his “grand scheme” was laughably terrible.
  • There’s a love triangle and while I liked both love interests, what was the point? Especially the second love interest! He came out of nowhere I felt like!
  • As I already kind of mentioned, I wish everyone’s “powers” were explained and explored a lot more. For such an important part of the story I felt it was barely present.

Normally I’d say if the “liked” bits outweigh the “not liked” bits then I enjoyed the book but here it’s just not the case. I enjoyed myself at the beginning of the book but by the end I was so bored and confused that I just can’t give this book a better rating. It was too much of a mess by the end.

my page divider

Links: Goodreads / Book Depository / Amazon / Barnes & Noble

Follow Me Elsewhere: Twitter * Instagram * Goodreads

The Sassy

Advertisements

ARC Review: The Queen’s Rising by Rebecca Ross

a title here (23)description

When her seventeenth summer solstice arrives, Brienna desires only two things: to master her passion and to be chosen by a patron.

Growing up in the southern Kingdom of Valenia at the renowned Magnalia House should have prepared her for such a life. While some are born with an innate talent for one of the five passions—art, music, dramatics, wit, and knowledge—Brienna struggled to find hers until she belatedly chose to study knowledge. However, despite all her preparations, Brienna’s greatest fear comes true—the solstice does not go according to plan and she is left without a patron.

Months later, her life takes an unexpected turn when a disgraced lord offers her patronage. Suspicious of his intent, and with no other choices, she accepts. But there is much more to his story, and Brienna soon discovers that he has sought her out for his own vengeful gain. For there is a dangerous plot being planned to overthrow the king of Maevana—the archrival kingdom of Valenia—and restore the rightful queen, and her magic, to the northern throne. And others are involved—some closer to Brienna than she realizes.

With war brewing between the two lands, Brienna must choose whose side she will remain loyal to—passion or blood. Because a queen is destined to rise and lead the battle to reclaim the crown. The ultimate decision Brienna must determine is: Who will be that queen? 

review

**** Huge thank you to HarperTeen for sending me an ARC via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review ****

This was kind of disappointing because I felt it had a lot of potential to be amazing but it was just….extremely slow. It wasn’t terrible by any means but I just felt it was boring.

PLOT

Essentially the plot revolves around Brienna who is studying to be a passion of knowledge at Magnalia house with 5 other girls who are studying each passion as well-arts, drama, music, wit, and knowledge. She is left without a patron though and is swept up in a plot to overthrow a king! That’s the story! There’s also a kind of subplot where we are left wondering who Brienna’s father/family history is the entire book too, but this is literally given away by the family tree at the beginning of the book! Why would they do this? You want us to sit in suspense and make it a big mystery throughout the story and yet reveal it in the family tree at the beginning of the book? Needless to say I DO NOT recommend reading those before you read the book.

The plot was extremely slow paced and at times very boring. Brienna’s time at Magnalia house is spent gossiping with the other girls and they talk about their passions and such. It was tedious, so very tedious. From there I usually love the whole “rebellion” side of plots but this was very underwhelming, it completely lacked any action or twists. What twists there were, were completely predictable and in no way surprised me. That was probably one of the things that disappointed me the most since it took away any suspense from the story for me.

I also felt a lot of things were a little too convenient in order to move the plot forward and the ending felt rushed.

I DID like the family dynamics and lineages though, they were fun to keep track of especially with all of the political intrigue.

Also I really loved the idea of the passions and what little world building there was, was really interesting. However, I felt that there could have been a lot more world building and what there was could have been expanded on. I liked the magic system too, in which magic passes woman to woman and not to men whatsoever. Very feminist, which I loved.

The writing did flow well and was very descriptive, I think it’s one of the few reasons I managed to push through the entire 464 pages.

characters

Overall the characters were kind of “meh”, they were all likable enough but I definitely felt like they could have used a little more complexity.

Brienna was an okay protagonist, I didn’t love her and I didn’t hate her. I did like that she was very brave and bound and determined to help aid the “rebels” and that she didn’t make a bunch of stupid decisions either.

There were quite a few side characters such as Brienna’s peers who were all fine, but I really liked the rebel characters the most such as Alderic, Luc, and Yseult. But as I already mentioned I thought everyone could have been developed a bit more.

romance

The romance was definitely my least favorite thing about “The Queen’s Rising” right up there next to the painfully slow pacing. There is a developing romance throughout the book between Brienna and her teacher, Master Cartier. It was extremely awkward, lacked chemistry, and not to mention completely inappropriate. Sorry but I do not enjoy teacher/student relationships and that’s just my opinion.

Plus the romance became too much of a focus at times and was completely unnecessary.

in conclusion

Overall, this book just fell really short for me and I’m left feeling kind of disappointed with it. I expected a lot more action, suspense, and build up.

What I Loved:

  • Liked keeping track of the families and politics
  • Feminism!
  • World building was okay
  • Writing was good

What I Didn’t Love:

  • Complete lack of tension and suspense
  • No action
  • Extremely slow paced
  • Family tree provided at beginning RUINS a plot twist
  • Plot twists were predictable
  • Characters could have been more complex
  • The romance was unnecessary

RECOMMEND

Sorry, but I can’t really say I recommend this book as it wasn’t anything new to the YA Fantasy genre at all and was slow an predictable.

Links: Goodreads / Amazon / Book Depository / Barnes & Noble

Follow Me Elsewhere: Twitter * Instagram * Goodreads

The Sassy

ARC Review: This Darkness Mine by Mindy McGinnis

a title heredescription

Sasha Stone knows her place—first-chair clarinet, top of her class, and at the side of her oxford-wearing boyfriend. She’s worked her entire life to ensure that her path to Oberlin Conservatory as a star musician is perfectly paved.

But suddenly there’s a fork in the road, in the shape of Isaac Harver. Her body shifts toward him when he walks by, her skin misses his touch even though she’s never known it, and she relishes the smell of him—smoke, beer, and trouble—all the things she’s avoided to get where she is. Even worse, every time he’s near Sasha, her heart stops, literally. Why does he know her so well—too well—and she doesn’t know him at all?

Sasha discovers that her by-the-book life began by ending another’s: the twin sister she absorbed in the womb. But that doesn’t explain the gaps of missing time in her practice schedule or the memories she has of things she certainly never did with Isaac. As Sasha loses her much-cherished control, her life—and heart—become more entangled with Isaac. Armed with the knowledge that her heart might not be hers alone, Sasha must decide what she’s willing to do—and who she’s willing to hurt—to take it back.

review

**** Big thank you to Katherine Tegen Books for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review! ****

Trigger Warnings: Graphic description of injuries, medical procedures, and health issues.

I really don’t know how to rate this book because while it was still interesting I’m left feeling a little disappointed with it. I also just had some very personal issues with some of the content (which I will go into detail about below) so I’m left giving it a rating of 2.5 because I neither strongly liked or strongly disliked this book.

PLOT

I’d like to first go out on a limb and say this book really, really wasn’t what I was expecting at all. I was expecting something with a little more suspense and thriller style twists to it, but what I got was a pretty predictable plot line and a very unlikable main character. There is a bit of a twist half way through and the story takes a turn but it wasn’t very shocking and I really disliked the second half of the story because it was super slow.

The pacing was pretty even throughout the beginning of the book and I kept reading wanting to know more about Sasha’s situation but as I mentioned previously there’s a twist half way through that made the story take a bit of a dive as far as pacing goes. I thought it was considerably slower and even pretty boring all the way through to the end.

There’s hardly any plot twists which was really disappointing for a mystery/thriller and the big plot twist that makes up the entire story is very predictable and not at all a surprise. Also disappointing. I was expecting there to be a lot more shockers than that. PLUS a lot of stuff is given away in the synopsis! I hate that!

I do really like unreliable narrators and in this case the story was pretty good since Sasha is a very unreliable narrator. She actually makes the story very dark as her character flaws come to the light and we don’t know what to believe. That’s part of why I enjoyed the story and was able to finish it.

However, as much as I love an unreliable narrator and a dark plot the book actually got really, really…….weird. Usually I love weird but with this I just felt super confused and I finished the book thinking “What the hell did I just read?” and not really in a good way. I enjoy a good open ended book but with this ending I felt like a bit more explanation or plot development would have done it a lot of good. The only comprehensible thought I have on the ending of this book is it’s WEIRD.

The writing was really great though and I found it to be extremely readable, honestly it was probably one of the reasons I was able to read this through to the end. I will definitely be checking out McGinnis’ other books just for more of her writing.

Last but not least I’d like to address one of my biggest issues with this book which also happens to be a personal issue of mine. This may or may not affect your reading of this book but I’d like to throw it out there and that has to do with the trigger warning I listed at the start of this review:

I have anxiety and a big part of my anxiety is linked to my health (i.e. hypochondria) and therefore I cannot stand reading about or listening to in depth descriptions of health issues or medical procedures because it triggers my anxiety. “This Darkness Mine” really goes into great description of these things and it becomes a major part of the plot, if I had known this ahead of time I probably wouldn’t have wanted to read the book since reading through this triggered my anxiety to the point where I had to stop reading at times. This is a big part of why I didn’t rate this book higher, it’s a personal issue I understand but one I wanted to warn others about as well.

characters

The characters in this book are another drawback for me, while I liked that Sasha (the MC) was an unreliable narrator making the story a bit more interesting, she was extremely unlikable. We’re talking a downright crappy person and it was frustrating to read through and listen to her say rude things to and about people. I understand that these things were Sasha’s character flaws and were there to drive a point home about her and none of these things were portrayed in a positive way. However, this didn’t make me enjoy her any more.

There were actually quite a few side characters that I liked such as Sasha’s friend Brooke and Isaac who is the love interest. I thought Brooke was hilarious and her bits were worth reading and Isaac was actually such a sweetheart and I feel terrible about some of the things that happen to him.

romance

While I really liked Isaac and I wanted him to be happy I just felt that Sasha treated him like crap, plain and simple. It definitely isn’t a healthy or positive relationship but McGinnis doesn’t glorify this at all which I liked. Neither Isaac nor Sasha are physically or verbally abusive to one another but I just feel like it’s still unhealthy because of the way Sasha negatively treats him at times.

in conclusion

As I said there are a lot of mixed feelings on this book because while some things worked a lot of them didn’t for me.

What I Loved:

  • Unreliable narrator, dark atmosphere
  • Writing
  • Side Characters

What I Didn’t Love:

  • Slow pacing in second half
  • Predictable
  • Plot is given away in synopsis
  • Weird….just downright weird plot
  • Unexplained, confusing ending
  • Trigger Warning Material
  • Unlikable main character
  • Negative romance

RECOMMEND

I’d recommend reading this only if you like unreliable/unlikable main characters, strange plots with open endings, and if you aren’t triggered by anything I mentioned in the warnings. Otherwise I’d steer clear of this one.

Links: Goodreads / Amazon / Book Depository

The Sassy

Book Review: These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly

a title here(27)

description

Jo Montfort is beautiful and rich, and soon—like all the girls in her class—she’ll graduate from finishing school and be married off to a wealthy bachelor. Which is the last thing she wants. Jo secretly dreams of becoming a writer—a newspaper reporter like the trailblazing Nellie Bly.

Wild aspirations aside, Jo’s life seems perfect until tragedy strikes: her father is found dead. Charles Montfort accidentally shot himself while cleaning his revolver. One of New York City’s wealthiest men, he owned a newspaper and was partner in a massive shipping firm, and Jo knows he was far too smart to clean a loaded gun.

The more Jo uncovers about her father’s death, the more her suspicions grow. There are too many secrets. And they all seem to be buried in plain sight. Then she meets Eddie—a young, brash, infuriatingly handsome reporter at her father’s newspaper—and it becomes all too clear how much she stands to lose if she keeps searching for the truth. Only now it might be too late to stop.

The past never stays buried forever. Life is dirtier than Jo Montfort could ever have imagined, and the truth is the dirtiest part of all.

 

review

“If you’re going to bury the past, bury it deep, girl. Shallow graves always give up their dead.”

Let me start off by saying that this is NOT a bad book by any means, it’s actually quite good but definitely not my cup of tea. My relationship with “These Shallow Graves” has a serious case of “it’s not you, it’s me”.  My low opinion on this book seems to be in the minority, it’s an unpopular opinion. Most people LOVED this book, it’s just not for me.

Things I Did Not Like:

  • Most of the characters were completely clueless about a lot of things.
  • How predictable a lot of the twists and reveals were.
  • This book was way longer than it should and needed to be.
  • I found the cover and the title to be pretty misleading about what the book is REALLY about.

Things I Liked:

  • The setting was very well presented and researched.
  • Jo was a pretty great protagonist.
  • The secondary characters were awesome.
  • I really enjoyed the ending of the book, seriously that was a great ending.

**** Prepare for a lot of ranting and raving****

PLOT

First off this book is WAY too long for its content, seriously, it’s probably my biggest complaint about the whole thing! There is no way this thing needed to be 500 pages, the plot was majorly stretched out to make it fit. I could rant and rave all day about how unnecessarily long this book is!

When you make a plot longer than it should be it starts to get very repetitive, I felt like Jo was saying and doing the same thing for half the book. Sneaking out, doing things she shouldn’t, and sneaking back in. Over and over and over and over. And for what? An inch of progress in her mystery, that’s what.

Secondly, a mystery is pretty hard to get into if you can guess over half of the twists and reveals chapters before they happen. For some people you might read this and not see it coming and for some other people you might be like me and see most of it coming. Everyone’s different and I respect that. For me though personally, I didn’t think the mystery was all that mysterious.

Reading a 500 page book is pretty damn hard when you guess “whodunnit” within the first several chapters. Did I have proof? No. Did I strongly suspect throughout the entire, excruciating length of the book? Yes.

I didn’t guess every single twist though, therefore keeping it at least somewhat entertaining.

Another thing, the pacing got on the slow side. When I said the story gets repetitive I meant it and thus makes the plot drag on in some parts.

As mentioned earlier, I also found the cover and even the title of this book to be pretty misleading. I makes it look like a very creepy or dark book which it’s not. It’s the polar opposite. There wasn’t a single creepy or scary thing that happened in this story at all, sure there were scenes where you were WORRIED about the characters but never creeped out or honestly scared. Disappointing. We’ve all heard “don’t judge a book by its cover” and with this one it rings more true than usual.

Now on to more positive comments!

I really liked the overall setting of the book, 1890’s New York City is pretty exciting. It was very well executed and Donnelly definitely did her homework on this one.

Everything had a very authentic feel to it, the slang, the language, and the items and places. You have carriages, corsets, newsboys, brothels, and newspapers galore. I loved it and it’s probably my most loved aspect of the entire book. It also showed a lot of the nitty, gritty about poverty as well. Kind of depressing but like I said: authentic.

I also really enjoyed the ending, I didn’t really expect to at all but I was pleasantly surprised. It ended well and with Jo doing what she wants and it did not involve around the romance whatsoever. I loved that the most, I was DREADING some sort of running off into the sunset with the love interest. It’s an ending that I think will please every reader.

characters

Josephine Montfort is our main character, and I have a ton of mixed feelings about her. On one hand I thought she was clueless and kind of annoying, on the other I really liked her strong will and caring personality.

Yes, I understand that her being an upper class girl she wasn’t taught or exposed to certain things. But I thought she was more clueless than normal. If you’re going to go traipsing around New York City at night then you should know some things.

I was on page 110 and it was the 4th time she’d been referred to as a prostitute, at least. Now I don’t like that everyone assumes that just because she’s walking around town at night, but what I really didn’t like was how Jo had zero idea they thought she was a prostitute. Come on, girl! You can’t be that naive!

Then Eddie Gallagher is our other main character and the love interest. Honestly I don’t even really have much to say about him at all. He’s a pretty meh character, to me. Not all that interesting and especially not swoon-worthy.

Actually though my favorite characters were the secondary ones such as Oscar and Fay. I kind of liked them more than Jo or Eddie. Oscar was hilarious and Fay was a badass. They had a lot more personality and were just more likable for me.

romance

I’m pretty sure you all know by now that I am not a romance fan, at all. It takes a lot to thaw this cold heart of mine and after reading 500 pages you would think it would have. Sadly, not the case.

The insta-love is there but not overwhelming and there is no love triangle so I suppose I’ll settle for that.

One major thing I didn’t like about Jo’s romance was how easily swayed she was. She’d see or hear something and instantly it was, “OH NO HOW COULD I HAVE EVER LOVED HIM WHEN HE HAS USED ME SO?”.

It was the most annoying thing ever. I couldn’t help but roll my eyes, because she’d take him back and then think he betrayed her AGAIN and decide she was through with him and take him back AGAIN.

The romance was a little too….fluffy for me.

in conclusion

I said it once already and I’ll say it again, it was me and not the book. I just didn’t like it. I had a lot of my own issues with it. I really don’t have any interest in reading anything like “These Shallow Graves” again or really even reading anything else by Jennifer Donnelly. Lots of other people loved this one, I’m just not one of them.

RECOMMEND

I’d recommend this to anybody who likes the historical fiction and romance genres. I definitely don’t recommend this to anybody looking for a good mystery just because I felt it was too predictable and honestly the mystery was second to the romance.

Links: Goodreads / Amazon

The Sassy

Book Review: The Sleeper & The Spindle by Neil Gaiman

a title here(31)

description

A thrillingly reimagined fairy tale from the truly magical combination of author Neil Gaiman and illustrator Chris Riddell – weaving together a sort-of Snow White and an almost Sleeping Beauty with a thread of dark magic, which will hold readers spellbound from start to finish.

On the eve of her wedding, a young queen sets out to rescue a princess from an enchantment. She casts aside her fine wedding clothes, takes her chain mail and her sword and follows her brave dwarf retainers into the tunnels under the mountain towards the sleeping kingdom. This queen will decide her own future – and the princess who needs rescuing is not quite what she seems.

review

“She cursed the babe at birth, such that when the girl was eighteen she would prick her finger and sleep forever.”

This isn’t as great as I thought it was going to be. Yes it was a short fairy tale retelling and yes it was decent, it just didn’t go in the direction I wanted it to. I am a fan of Gaiman’s writing so this wasn’t as bad as it could have ended up being.

PLOT

The story has some very unique twists on the fairy tales of Sleeping Beauty AND Snow White, that were pretty enjoyable. Everyone likes a good twist don’t they? And Gaiman’s twist is no exception, it was quite good but it did lack a little in my opinion. Once the big twist is revealed the story quit being interesting, it depended too much on it.

I’ll also say this ISN’T the lesbian retelling everyone (myself included) was expecting and wanting, which is ultimately a little disappointing but it definitely didn’t ruin anything for me.

characters

This story is only 72 pages so it’s very, VERY short and therefore lacked any sort of complex plot or characters.

Although I will say I adored the Queen who is the main protagonist of this short little fairy tale. Instead of being given a cliched Prince to go save the Princess we get a Queen, a very capable queen.

The villain of the story was actually very run of the mill, all she wanted was youth and power. We’ve heard that a million times haven’t we? Yes we have.

Then we have the princess in need of saving, our Sleeping Beauty. She isn’t in the story really that much to even discuss.

The three dwarves were pretty great also, they’re the supporting characters. They help out the queen and that’s about it. They provided a little bit of comic relief as well and I’m also a fan of the comic relief.

Those Beautiful Illustrations:

Chris Riddell does some fantastic illustrations for this book, and I was unlucky enough to have read this book in Kindle format. I didn’t get to truly appreciate how gorgeous they were in the hardcover copy. Oh well life isn’t fair.

The illustrations depict everything happening in the story every step of the way, I actually relied on them more than the words. Don’t judge me, you would too if you read this with the pretty pictures.

in conclusion

I like Gaiman’s writing style therefore I did enjoy the book, it just wasn’t what I was expecting. Nothing game changing here. It was enjoyable enough though, and with illustrations like those it made it hard for me to be TOO disappointed.

RECOMMEND

Hard to say. If you’re a Gaiman fan then I’d recommend at least reading it, I don’t know if I can really recommend buying it though since it is so short. If you’re a fan of Riddell or books with really great illustrations then I definitely recommend reading it.

However, if you’re expecting a really great retelling with all sorts of unique twists then I’d say pass this one up. Yes there is a twist in this one but it won’t be enough for fans of retellings I wouldn’t think.

Links: Goodreads / Amazon

The Sassy