Review: The Wishing Thread by Lisa Van Allen

The Wishing Thread

The Wishing Thread by Lisa Van Allen
Read: September 17, 2013
Advance reading copy.

Many thanks to Net-Galley and Random House Publishing (Ballantine) for providing me with this advance reading copy!

Goodreads Book Blurb: The Van Ripper women have been the talk of Tarrytown, New York, for centuries. Some say they’re angels; some say they’re crooks. In their tumbledown “Stitchery,” not far from the stomping grounds of the legendary Headless Horseman, the Van Ripper sisters—Aubrey, Bitty, and Meggie—are said to knit people’s most ardent wishes into beautiful scarves and mittens, granting them health, success, or even a blossoming romance. But for the magic to work, sacrifices must be made—and no one knows that better than the Van Rippers.
When the Stitchery matriarch, Mariah, dies, she leaves the yarn shop to her three nieces. Aubrey, shy and reliable, has dedicated her life to weaving spells for the community, though her sisters have long stayed away. Bitty, pragmatic and persistent, has always been skeptical of magic and wants her children to have a normal, nonmagical life. Meggie, restless and free-spirited, follows her own set of rules. Now, after Mariah’s death forces a reunion, the sisters must reassess the state of their lives even as they decide the fate of the Stitchery. But their relationships with one another—and their beliefs in magic—are put to the test. Will the threads hold?

My Opinion: I really enjoyed this book, as evident by the fact that I read it in its 400 page entirety in one day. It reminded me a lot of Sarah Addison Allen, and I actually thought the two authors might be related.

This book is a delightful romp through Tarrytown, New York steeped in magical realism and knitting. We follow three sisters and are immersed in their relationships with each other and those around them. I really loved how multi-faceted the sisters were, and their relationships reminded me a bit of the sisters in Practical Magic. (The movie. I haven’t read the book yet)

One thing about the characters is that because we spent so much time learning about the different characters, I didn’t feel particularly drawn to any one of the sisters. Another thing plot-wise was that I didn’t find myself caring much about the town council plot line. I wanted to know more about The Stitchery and the sisters.

The prose was well written, but light. I think this really helped the story, since it is such a light and warm story. Pretentious or purple prose would have ruined it beyond repair.

Bottom Line: I feel bad because I read this book long enough ago that I don’t remember everything I loved about it. But I remember that I liked it a lot.

Review: When Stars Die by Amber Skye Forbes

When Stars Die

When Stars Die by Amber Skye Forbes
Read: September 7 – September 9, 2013
Advance reading copy.

Many thanks to Amber Skye Forbes, whom I follow on Tumblr. She provided this review copy in exchange for an honest review. I don’t normally review Amazon-only books, but I did this time, as Amber is something of a friend.

Publication Date: October 22, 2013
Price: $3.99
Format: Amazon e-book

Goodreads Book Blurb:  “Yet, even when stars die, they leave a lasting impact through their light, their diamond brilliance as they scatter their material to form new stars. When people die, they leave the same impact with the footprints they leave on people’s hearts. Even the ones who feel insignificant go out, leaving behind dust that can nourish the world anew.”

Amelia Gareth’s brother is a witch and the only way to save her family from the taint in his blood is to become a professed nun at Cathedral Reims. However, in order to become professed, she must endure trials that all nuns must face.

Surviving these trials is not easy, especially for Amelia, who is being stalked by shadowy beings only she can see. They’re searching for people they can physically touch, because only those they can touch can see them. Amelia soon learns why she is being stalked when she accidentally harms her best friend with fire during the third trial. Fire is a witch’s signature. The shadows are after witches.

Amelia must decide what to do: should she continue on her path to profession knowing there is no redemption, or should she give up on her dream and turn away from Cathedral Reims in order to stop the shadows who plan to destroy everything she loves?

My Opinion: Ok, I really agonized over writing this review. Amber is, as I mentioned, something of a friend. We were following each others’ personal Tumblrs long before she was working on releasing When Stars Die. I read the book, and then I was confronted with a very serious concern. How do you tell a friend that you didn’t like their book?

I offered not to publish the review, but Amber, being an awesome person and very reasonable author, recognized that not all of her reviews would be positive and encouraged me to go ahead. And then I got really sick and in a bit of a blog slump, so I am only NOW writing the review. I am SO sorry it took so long, but here we go.

There wasn’t much that I liked about When Stars Die, unfortunately. I really wanted to like the book, but there were just too many things that rubbed me the wrong way, as a reader.

The few things I did like? The setting was every well flushed out. The world had a very interesting premise, if it was a little religiously heavy-handed for my tastes. Amber’s prose, I found, tended to be a little on the purple side. But there were a few phrases that just shimmered and made me think that with more polish and more writing, the prose could be taken from where it is, which for me was a bit of a hot mess, to something elevated.

And now, the things I didn’t like.

Amelia was not a likeable character for me, at all. Her motives change partway through the book. First she wants to stay at Cathedral Reims for her little brother, but then she wants to stay for herself all of a sudden. It would be an OK shift if it didn’t happen in the span of a page or two.

The other big issue for me was that the style and even some of the phrasing was very modern, yet the book is set in the 1800’s. In that time, they wouldn’t have known what happens to stars when they supernova, or that most of the stars in the night sky are actually dead. They wouldn’t be using matches, which weren’t invented until the mid 1800’s in reality, not to mention when they became used widely.

Adding the above two notes to the general unpolished state of the prose, and I had a hard time finishing the book.

Bottom Line: A really great book in theory, but lacking the polish and execution to take it to the necessary level.

Top Ten Tuesday: Bring on 2014!

toptentuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by the fine folks over at The Broke and the Bookish. They totally rock, so check them out!

This week’s topic? The top books I read in 2013. I read a lot of books (127) so I need to figure out which ones I liked the most, and why. This might take a while… As always, in no particular order.

Gone GirlShades of GreyThe Painted GirlsLife DisruptedWool

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn – I totally jumped on the bandwagon by reading this one, but I am glad I did. I loved it. It was a twisty-turny mystery, and I am enjoying other reads by her as well.

Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde – A truly original and imaginative (though believable) dystopian society, reminiscent of The Giver. I loved this book, even though ever time I told someone I was reading it, I had to say “No, not 50 Shades of Gray

The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan – A Canadian author who took my breath away with her stunning historical fiction. I eagerly await more from Miss Buchanan and I think The Painted Girls will be a book I will re-read over and over again.

Life Disrupted by Laurie Edwards – A little more personal, and a non-fiction book to boot. My health has been horrible this year and this book has helped me deal. It is about being chronically ill in your 20’s and how that changes things. Because man, does it change things. I recommend this book to EVERYONE who is struggling with a chronic illness.

Wool, Omnibus Edition by Hugh Howey – Hands down the best dystopian I have read in a long time, and probably the best I will read in a long time. I have the second omnibus, and I am thinking it will be read soon.

Silver Metal LoverLooking for AlaskaJust One DayThe Girl Who CircumnavigatedLies of Locke Lamora

The Silver Metal Lover by Tanith Lee – I normally hate romance stories, because they don’t read true to me. No one writes about the fights, or the stupid little things. But Tanith Lee did. And it is about a romance between a girl and a robot, which is both super odd and really cool.

Looking for Alaska by John Green – While I haven’t read everything by Mr. Green, I have read this and his arguably more popular The Fault In Our Stars. While TFiOS hit me on a “I am sick and I get this” level, I just loved Looking For Alaska more for some reason. It gave me a book hangover. I had to step back and re-evaluate things in my life. I didn’t even cry at the end of TFiOS.

Just One Day by Gayle Forman – OK, while I was reading this, part of me was like “Who goes to Paris with someone she doesn’t even KNOW?!”. And then the other part of my brain bludgeoned the first part with a bat and was taken along for an enjoyable ride. Something in the writing? I don’t even know. All I know is I am desperate to read Just One Year.

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente – I kept trying to describe this book to people. It is hard. It is a kid’s book, but it isn’t. The prose is so achingly beautiful, I kept feeling like it would be lost on children. But then I thought maybe it was actually lost on adults.

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch – Want a snarky hero who is about to step in it? This is the book for you! I loved this book on many levels, from how certain everyone is that Locke is going to screw up in a monumental way to the cast of characters. It is quite a ride, and while it isn’t without some flaws, I heartily recommend it for the fantasy lover who doesn’t mind profanity.

So, what books did you read this year that you just LOVED? Comment below or link me to your top ten!

Happy New Year!

NetGalley Review: A Study in Silks by Emma Jane Holloway

Study in SilksA Study in Silks by Emma Jane Holloway
Read: August 24 – September 6, 2013
NetGalley Selection.

Many thanks to Random House Publishing Group/Del Ray for granting me this review copy via NetGalley!

Publication Date: September 24, 2013
ISBN: 9780345537188
Price: $7.99 USD
Format: Mass Market Paperback

Goodreads Book Blurb: Evelina Cooper, the niece of the great Sherlock Holmes, is poised to enjoy her first Season in London’s high society. But there’s a murderer to deal with—not to mention missing automatons, a sorcerer, and a talking mouse.
 
In a Victorian era ruled by a council of ruthless steam barons, mechanical power is the real monarch, and sorcery the demon enemy of the empire. Nevertheless, the most coveted weapon is magic that can run machines—something Evelina has secretly mastered. But rather than making her fortune, her special talents could mean death or an eternity as a guest of Her Majesty’s secret laboratories. What’s a polite young lady to do but mind her manners and pray she’s never found out?
 
But then there’s that murder. As Sherlock’s niece, Evelina should be able to find the answers, but she has a lot to learn. And the first decision she has to make is whether to trust the handsome, clever rake who makes her breath come faster, or the dashing trick rider who would dare anything for her if she would only just ask.

My Opinion: I adored this book! It was shades of Soulless by Gail Carriger all over again. But without the paranormal aspect. Evelina is a plucky heroine, though at times she wasn’t entirely likeable.

One thing Holloway got very right in A Study In Silks is the world building. The London ruled by Steam Barons is very interesting, and the magic was quite unique. That alone was enough to leave me salivating for book two (which won’t be out until October!).

I felt like Evelina could have been someone other than Sherlock Holmes’ niece, and that that little piece of frippery was added as an eye-catcher. It worked for me, but in the grand scheme of things, Mr. Holmes plays such a minimal part that it is the literary equivalent of name dropping.

One thing that really didn’t sit well with me was the romantic aspects. I didn’t believe them from either side. They came across as very plot-devicey.

Unfortunately, this was one of those books that I liked so much I am having trouble articulating my opinions…

Bottom Line: A thoroughly enjoyable steampunk/paranormal blend that could have gone lighter on the romance. I urge you to check it out!

NetGalley Review: Dead Letter Office by Kira Snyder

Dead Letter OfficeDead Letter Office by Kira Snyder
Read: August 18 – August 20, 2013
NetGalley Selection

Many thanks to Coliloquy for sending me a review copy of this book via NetGalley!

Published: January 11, 2012
ISBN: 9781937804022
Price: $4.99 USD
Format: E-book

Goodreads Book Blurb: When Celia’s father is killed in Afghanistan, she moves with her mother to New Orleans, the city where her father grew up. Struggling to adjust and haunted by troubling dreams, Celia finds comfort in new friends like Tilly, a practicing witch, and Donovan, the son of police detective. On Halloween, bizarre supernatural occurrences rock the city. Celia meets the mysterious Luc and finds a letter, over a hundred years old, addressed to her.

The paranormal repercussions continue when Celia learns that Luc is the restless spirit of a young man murdered in 1854, only able to assume solid form at night. And then, to her shock, Celia finds that the letter, which describes the suspected murder of a man in 1870, contains uncanny parallels to the present-day death of Abel Sims, a homeless veteran.

With help from Luc, Tilly, and Donovan, Celia races to solve the murder—and the mystery of the letter—using both magical and forensic clues.

This is an Active Fiction title
“Active fiction” is a new type of e-reading experience that allows the reader and the author to interact with each other and the text in new and different ways.

My Opinion: What really piqued my interest about this book was the “active fiction” label. What is this so-called “active fiction”? It sounded really interesting and cutting-edge. Yeah. “Active fiction”? Choose your own adventure. I have nothing against choose your own adventure books, I used to love them as a kid. But it is not a new concept, and I felt really cheated. Not to mention that the way I chose, there were only (I think) three choices to make. So the whole “active fiction” thing fell really flat for me.

The rest of the book was alright, but not stellar. Case in point: I never felt like I wanted to go back and see what I was “missing” with the choices I didn’t make while choosing my adventure. I didn’t read all the choices, as my copy was running out of time.

I am not a fan of love triangles, and Dead Letter Office has one. There were other stereotypes. The father killed in Afghanistan was kind of pointless, from a reader standpoint. The popular girl versus the weird witch was very cliché. While none of it was exceptionally badly written, it was still there, and that was bad enough.

I read this book a while ago, and nothing really stuck with me to today when I am writing the review.

Bottom Line: A mediocre middle-grade choose your own adventure book riddled with cliché.

NetGalley Review: A Thousand Perfect Things by Kay Kenyon

A Thousand Perfect ThingsA Thousand Perfect Things by Kay Kenyon
Read: August 11 – August 18, 2013
NetGalley selection.

Many thanks to Premier Digital Publishing for sending me a review copy of this book via NetGalley!

Goodreads Book Blurb: In this epic new work, the award-winning Kenyon creates an alternate 19th century with two warring continents on an alternate earth: the scientific Anglica (England) and magical Bharata (India). Emboldened by her grandfather’s final whispered secret of a magical lotus, Tori Harding, a young Victorian woman and aspiring botanist, must journey to Bharata, with its magics, intrigues and ghosts, to claim her fate. There she will face a choice between two suitors and two irreconcilable realms. 

In a magic-infused world of silver tigers, demon birds and enduring gods, as a great native mutiny sweeps up the continent, Tori will find the thing she most desires, less perfect than she had hoped and stranger than she could have dreamed.

My Opinion: Where do I even start with this book? Well, let’s go with the beginning. Everything in Anglica was really cool. I followed it, and I enjoyed it. I like steampunk alternate settings. And the bridge was a really neat idea, though I got tangled in imagining our world as it is. No bridge would connect England and India in our world, as there are continents in between. But apparently not in this world.

This was the second book I read recently that made me wonder about constructed patriarchies. This one, being alternate history, probably had a little less wiggle room, but it still had some. And why is it that every time a woman wants to be her own woman she has to not want to get married? I am married, and I am still my own woman!

However, feminism is one of the lesser things that Kenyon tackles in A Thousand Perfect Things. Once the characters find themselves in Bharata, we are confronted with the heavy subject matter of cultural appropriation, which is rampant in today’s society. While I feel like this book was a decent staging ground for the battle, I found it bogged down the prose at times.

To be completely honest, most of what happened in Bharata was completely confusing to me. I think it got to a point where it was just… silly almost. By the end of the book I was skimming.

Tori was likeable enough in that she knew what she wanted, but I really hated her club foot. It was a crutch, both to make her imperfect and to give her something that needed healing. As someone with disabilities, I found this very unnerving.

Kenyon has a gift for description, and the scenery of A Thousand Perfect Things came alive for me… but that was pretty much it.

Bottom Line: I was lost after the characters left Anglica, and Kenyon began speaking of cultural appropriation and religion. It was too much for me, and bogged down the story.

Top Ten Tuesday – September 10

toptentuesday

It’s that time again! Top Ten Tuesday!
(Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by the awesome folks over at The Broke and the Bookish. You should totally check them out!)

This week’s top ten? Top ten books I would like to see made into movies or TV shows. (Assuming this is a perfect world and they don’t get butchered all to heck and back again!)

The Name of the WindeotwNeverwhereThe Night CircusFeed

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
Do I need to say anything other than YES, PLEASE!

The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan (and later, Brandon Sanderson)
I have been working on a dream cast for this magnificent series for years.

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
I would love to see this.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
OK, words cannot describe how much I want this.

Feed by Mira Grant
If I had the money, I would fund this myself. I have multiple dream casts going of this one, too.

CinderReady Player One by Ernest ClineRedshirtsLies of Locke LamoraFionavar

The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer
Another YES, PLEASE!

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
This one might be tough with so many pop culture references, but I think it would be cool.

Redshirts by John Scalzi
Please? So much cheek in this one, I’d love to see a TV show that breaks the fourth wall so thoroughly.

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
Really enjoyed it as a book, and I think it would make a good movie. Or maybe like, a three-part mini series. Three long parts.

The Fionavar Tapestry by Guy Gavriel Kay
So much win in these books, would love to see them on-screen.

And now, some of the books to movie/TV adaptations I am SO EXCITED for:

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

How about you? What books would you want to see on the screen in a perfect world? What are you excited for? Link me to your TTT!

**Please note I have a specialist appointment today, so I may take some time to respond to comments and to visit your TTT, but I will get there I promise!**