Monday, July 22, 2019

A Dark and Creepy Comparison - Here There Are Monsters vs. Never-Contented Things

How frustrating is it when you go into a book with high expectations and then find yourself utterly disappointed? How amazing is it when you start a book not really hoping to enjoy it and then find yourself immediately sucked in?

I had both of those experiences in the last few months and with two books that were seemingly similar and so I thought it would be fun to compare them.

Never-Contented Things
by Sarah Porter
The first book was Never-Contented Things by Sarah Porter. (Borrowed from my Local Library)

Prince and his fairy courtiers are staggeringly beautiful, unrelentingly cruel, and exhausted by the tedium of the centuries ― until they meet foster-siblings Josh and Ksenia. Drawn in by their vivid emotions, undying love for each other, and passion for life, Prince will stop at nothing to possess them.

First seduced and then entrapped by the fairies, Josh and Ksenia learn that the fairies' otherworldly gifts come at a terrible price ― and they must risk everything in order to reclaim their freedom.

I read this one back in April and marked it as a 2 star read.  I have to admit that I got sucked in by the premise and the stunningly creepy cover. I love dark fae stories so I thought this was going to be right up my alley... and it should have been.  All the elements were there.  Creepy, mean fae.  Humans making sacrifices to save themselves and each other. Walking between the realms.  BUT... although I loved the premise, something about the execution just didn't work for me.  Neither main character was totally likeable (in fact Josh was downright aggravating) but that can work if done well (think The Cruel Prince by Holly Black) and the Fae weren't very well fleshed out.  I was way more interested in the introspective journey Ksenia has to take that is largely self-directed, than the "punishments" or cruelties of the fae. I found myself anxious for the book to just BE OVER about two-thirds of the way through, and I powered through to the end since it was a shorter novel, but I didn't even find the end totally satisfying.  I'd had high hopes for this one and sadly the reality fell very short. 

Here There are Monsters
by Amelinda Berube
Book two was Here There Are Monsters by Amelinda Berube. (ARC received from Sourcebooks after the Book Expo - publishes on August 1, 2019)

I devoured this one last night.  I sat down to read at about 7:30 p.m. and finished it just before 10:30 p.m. A one-sitting read! I gave this book a 4.5 star rating.

Sixteen-year-old Skye is done playing the knight in shining armor for her insufferable younger sister, Deirdre. Moving across the country seems like the perfect chance to start over.

In their isolated new neighborhood, Skye manages to fit in, but Deirdre withdraws from everyone, becoming fixated on the swampy woods behind their house and building monstrous sculptures out of sticks and bones.

Then Deirdre disappears. And when something awful comes scratching at Skye's window in the middle of the night, claiming she's the only one who can save Deirdre, Skye knows she will stop at nothing to bring her sister home.

Now, this, THIS is what I'd been hoping for with the first book! This book held my attention from start to finish. It doled out backstory in dribs and drabs... just enough to keep whetting my appetite to read.  I felt sympathy for both Skye and Deirdre...until I didn't... and even then, I could feel how trapped they both felt.  This book explored their relationship to each other and everyone else in a brilliant way.  And this dark fantasy had the perfect blend of goose-bump inducing setting and creepy creatures that made me shiver.  

There was a gritty realism that I felt was missing in the first book, possibly because this one takes place in our world, while the other skips into a blend of ours and the fae, without truly committing to either.  The resolution of Here There Are Monsters left me slightly heartbroken and perfectly satisfied which was exactly what I'd hoped for as the book went on.  I hadn't been sure what to expect after reading the other book, and this type of slightly "horror" novel isn't my usual fare, but I really, truly enjoyed this book and I know I'll be recommending it to others in the future!! 

Friday, July 12, 2019

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman
Published July 2019 by Berkley Books

Physical ARC received in exhange for an honest review

Description from Goodreads:
The only child of a single mother, Nina has her life just as she wants it: a job in a bookstore, a kick-butt trivia team, a world-class planner and a cat named Phil. If she sometimes suspects there might be more to life than reading, she just shrugs and picks up a new book.

When the father Nina never knew existed suddenly dies, leaving behind innumerable sisters, brothers, nieces, and nephews, Nina is horrified. They all live close by! They're all—or mostly all—excited to meet her! She'll have to Speak. To. Strangers. It's a disaster! And as if that wasn't enough, Tom, her trivia nemesis, has turned out to be cute, funny, and deeply interested in getting to know her. Doesn't he realize what a terrible idea that is?

Nina considers her options.

1. Completely change her name and appearance. (Too drastic, plus she likes her hair.)
2. Flee to a deserted island. (Hard pass, see: coffee).
3. Hide in a corner of her apartment and rock back and forth. (Already doing it.)

It's time for Nina to come out of her comfortable shell, but she isn't convinced real life could ever live up to fiction. It's going to take a brand-new family, a persistent suitor, and the combined effects of ice cream and trivia to make her turn her own fresh page.

My review: 
So, I've discovered lately that there are a lot of really GREAT romantic comedies being published right now.  They are fun, easy to read, and yet still completely heartfelt.  This book is most definitely a prime example of the genre. I LOVED this book. I shared quotes with friends. I cried, just a little, and I hugged the book when I was done.  

Abbi Waxman did an excellent job building a believable book worm.  Nina is an introvert, who also leads a competative trivia team.  She is excellent at reader's advisory, and also has a wry sense of humor.  She completely fits the book nerd mold, while at the same time breaking it wide open.  I felt so much kinship with this character it made my heart go a little fuzzy.

The storylines of Nina trying to both navigate a newly discovered, LARGE family that rocks her world's foundations and a love interest kept me rooting for her each step along the way.  The way the author dealt with anxiety felt completely real.  The interactions between characters felt genuine and believable.

In short, I devoured this book, want to read it again, and kinda hope that Abbi Waxman might write a follow-up that somehow involves these characters again.  I miss Nina, her family and friends already.
Highly recommended for anyone that wants a great beach read, a romantic comedy with heart, or just needs a funny book to take on a commute to and from work!! 

Monday, July 1, 2019

YA Book of the Month Club!!

Hey Booklovers!
I'm now an affiliate for the Book of the Month YA program!!

It's a fantastic opportunity to get a hot new YA hardcover (or two or three!) each month at a less than bookstore price from a list of curated titles. What does that really mean?

Each month, you would receive a list of hot new YA titles that are coming out and you can pick which ones off the list you'd like and then they're delivered straight to your door!! No more having to browse through hundreds of titles online wondering if they might actually be something you want to read... no more having to wander the aisles in the bookstore overwhelmed. (Unless that's your happy place, then this can just be an amazing add-on to that experience!)

That's right, this list is CURATED each month to make sure they're all exceptional reads and there's a book to everyone's taste! And all you have to do is pick which ones you want and then *poof* they show up at your front door. Such an awesome program. 

Click on the link HERE for more information!