Review: To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before (TATBILB #1) – Jenny Han

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before (TATBILB #1) by Jenny Han

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (April 15, 2014)

Print Length: 355 pages

Audiobook Length: 8 hrs and 22 mins

Narrator: Laura Knight Keating

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the story of Lara Jean, who has never openly admitted her crushes, but instead wrote each boy a letter about how she felt, sealed it, and hid it in a box under her bed. But one day Lara Jean discovers that somehow her secret box of letters has been mailed, causing all her crushes from her past to confront her about the letters: her first kiss, the boy from summer camp, even her sister’s ex-boyfriend, Josh. As she learns to deal with her past loves face to face, Lara Jean discovers that something good may come out of these letters after all.

The Review

To All The Boy’s I’ve Loved Before is a quick, quaint contemporary YA read that aims to leave its reader with a sense of ease once the book is finished.

A light and easy read, To All The Boy’s I’ve Loved Before follows sixteen-year-old Lara Jean Covey, as she navigates high school, crushes, and her most personal thoughts getting out to the boys who have stolen her heart. Quick paced and a rather easy read, there isn’t a lot wrong with Han’s writing. If you’ve been following my blog for a while you know that I very rarely review contemporary novels, but Han is the exception. She is one of the only contemporary authors I both follow on social media and eagerly anticipate new publications from. Han brings something rare to the genre, and if you haven’t picked a book of hers up yet, what are you doing?

Lara Jean is a wonderful protagonist to read about. She’s as real of a character as one of fiction can be. She goes through things actual sixteen-year-old’s go through including but not limited to: first love, family, bullying, and societal expectations. While she can be immature at times, what sixteen-year-old can go through pretending to date someone after love letters are sent around, falling for the someone she’s fake dating, dealing with changing family dynamics, and the worries that come along with being a high school student without being a bit whiny at times.

I enjoyed the romance, as well as the love triangle, which is a rarity for me. To be honest, I think I would have been happy regardless of whether Lara Jean picked Peter or Josh, and can’t wait to see the aftermath of the love letter getting to John Ambrose.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

Purchase Links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indigo

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And those are my thoughts on To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before (TATBILB #1) by Jenny Han. Have any YA contemporary recommendations you think I should check out? Leave them as a comment below and help my TBR grow.

Review: Six Women of Salem, The Untold Story of the Accused and Their Accusers in the Salem Witch Trials – Marilynne K. Roach

Six Women of Salem: The Untold Story of the Accused and Their Accusers in the Salem Witch Trials by Marilynne K. Roach

Publisher: Da Capo Press (September 3, 2013)

Print Length: 445 pages

Audiobook Length: 17 hrs and 8 mins

Narrator: Kate Reading

Six Women of Salem is the first work to use the lives of a select number of representative women as a microcosm to illuminate the larger crisis of the Salem witch trials. By the end of the trials, beyond the twenty who were executed and the five who perished in prison, 207 individuals had been accused, 74 had been “afflicted”, 32 had officially accused their fellow neighbors, and 255 ordinary people had been inexorably drawn into that ruinous and murderous vortex, and this doesn’t include the religious, judicial, and governmental leaders. All this adds up to what the Rev. Cotton Mather called “a desolation of names.”

The individuals involved are too often reduced to stock characters and stereotypes when accuracy is sacrificed to indignation. And although the flood of names and detail in the history of an extraordinary event like the Salem witch trials can swamp the individual lives involved, individuals still deserve to be remembered and, in remembering specific lives, modern readers can benefit from such historical intimacy. By examining the lives of six specific women, Marilynne Roach shows readers what it was like to be present throughout this horrific time and how it was impossible to live through it unchanged.

The Review

While a unique take on the saturated subject of the Salem Witch Trials, Six Women of Salem: The Untold Story of the Accused and Their Accusers in the Salem Witch Trials by Marilynne K. Roach gets it wrong when the author chooses to sprinkle in as fact.

Roach made many great choices when it came to putting together Six Women of Salem, one of which being the way in which she structured the book. A book told in three parts, Six Women of Salem is told by looking at the history of the women, what happened to them during the trials, and what became of them once the hysteria had died down. This structure made the 445 page book more accessible, and allowed for a much cleaner narrative for each of the six women. It also allowed Roach the ability to introduce theories of why and how something like the witch trials could have occurred that I hadn’t really though of in my previous introductions with the subject.

What choice of Roach’s that I didn’t very much care for was her interjection of fiction in conjunction with the facts. She chooses to divulge into what these women could have been thinking via imaginary dialog, which I felt was incredibly confusing. You can tell that Roach is interested in the subject matter she writes about, and that a great deal of research went into the development of the book, so to then bog it down with ‘what if’s’ felt like taking away from how much work went into composing such a definitive history.

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

Purchase Links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indigo

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And those are my thoughts on  Six Women of Salem: The Untold Story of the Accused and Their Accusers in the Salem Witch Trials by Marilynne K. Roach. Have any non-fiction recommendations you think I should check out? Leave them as a comment below and help my TBR grow.

Review: The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth and Other Curiosities from the History of Medicine – Thomas Morris

The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth and Other curiosities from the History of Medicine by Thomas Morris

Publisher: Bantam Press (October 18, 2018)

Print Length: 400 pages

Audiobook Length: 9 hrs and 7 mins

Narrator: Thomas Morris, Ruper Farley

A mysterious epidemic of dental explosions, a teenage boy who got his wick stuck in a candlestick. A remarkable woman who, like a human fountain, spurted urine from virtually every orifice.

These are just a few of the anecdotal gems that have until now lain undiscovered in medical journals for centuries. This fascinating collection of historical curiosities explores some of the strangest cases that have perplexed doctors across the world.

From seventeenth-century Holland to Tsarist Russia, from rural Canada to a whaler in the Pacific, many are monuments to human stupidity – such as the sailor who swallowed dozens of penknives to amuse his shipmates, or the chemistry student who in 1850 arrived at a hospital in New York with his penis trapped inside a bottle, having unwisely decided to relieve himself into a vessel containing highly reactive potassium. Others demonstrate exceptional surgical ingenuity long before the advent of anaesthesia – such as a daring nineteenth-century operation to remove a metal fragment from beneath a conscious patient’s heart. We also hear of the weird, often hilarious remedies employed by physicians of yore – from crow’s vomit to port-wine enemas – the hazards of such everyday objects as cucumbers and false teeth, and miraculous recovery from apparently terminal injuries.

The Review

While The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth and Other Curiosities from the History of Medicine has all the makings of a bizarrely entertaining foray into the history of medicine, the too quick chapters and repetitive nature brought down the experience.

Before we get into the things that I didn’t like about The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth and Other Curiosities from the History of Medicine, we should first talk about the things I did like. I enjoyed many of the medical stories Morris chose to include. Considering I am an avid listener of This Podcast Will Kill You, as well as a procurer of non-fiction books depicting the more zany side of history, I enjoyed finding more cases that I hadn’t yet already knew about. I also appreciated Morris’ humorous interjections about said cases. You can tell by reading that he is genuinely enamored by the subject matter he is writing about. Plus, if you listen to the audiobook, he is one of the narrators so you get to hear the inflections he intended when stringing the book together.

Now, for the reasons I couldn’t rate this book higher. Four hundred pages was just way too long for this anthology. I feel that if Morris chose to narrow the cases featured in The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth and Other Curiosities from the History of Medicine, I would have both found myself learning more while also not finding my mind slipping in and out of the narrative. If this was done it would have also helped with the disorganized nature of the book, bringing some much needed order to a seemingly ‘throwing pasta at the wall’ type of book.

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

Purchase Links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indigo

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And those are my thoughts on The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth and Other Curiosities from the History of Medicine by Thomas Morris. Have any non-fiction recommendations you think I should check out? Leave them as a comment below and help my TBR grow.

Review: The Rules of Magic (Practical Magic #2) – Alice Hoffman

The Rules of Magic (Practical Magic #2) by Alice Hoffman

Publisher: Simon & Schuster (October 10, 2017)

Print Length: 369 pages

Audiobook Length: 10 hrs and 58 mins

Narrator: Marin Ireland

For the Owens family, love is a curse that began in 1620, when Maria Owens was charged with witchery for loving the wrong man.

Hundreds of years later, in New York City at the cusp of the sixties, when the whole world is about to change, Susanna Owens knows that her three children are dangerously unique. Difficult Franny, with skin as pale as milk and blood red hair, shy and beautiful Jet, who can read other people’s thoughts, and charismatic Vincent, who began looking for trouble on the day he could walk.

From the start Susanna sets down rules for her children: No walking in the moonlight, no red shoes, no wearing black, no cats, no crows, no candles, no books about magic. And most importantly, never, ever, fall in love. But when her children visit their Aunt Isabelle, in the small Massachusetts town where the Owens family has been blamed for everything that has ever gone wrong, they uncover family secrets and begin to understand the truth of who they are. Back in New York City each begins a risky journey as they try to escape the family curse.

The Owens children cannot escape love even if they try, just as they cannot escape the pains of the human heart. The two beautiful sisters will grow up to be the revered, and sometimes feared, aunts in Practical Magic, while Vincent, their beloved brother, will leave an unexpected legacy.

The Review

When I finished reading Practical Magic (Practical Magic #1) in 2017, I wholeheartedly decided that the movie was better than the book. Perhaps it stemmed from the fact that I annually watch the 1998 adaptation, or that I didn’t find the writing to be particularly grasping, but I honestly had no intention to pick up another Hoffman book quite so soon.

And yet, I found that I rather enjoyed reading Practical Magic’s prequel, The Rules of Magic. A quirky, well paced look into Franny, Jet, and their brother Vincent, The Rules of Magic expertly weaves magic and the decades together to show the painful experiences the Owens’ children have to go through at the hands of a curse.

Out of all the children, I think I enjoyed Franny’s story the most. As the eldest, Franny tries to be the model in which her siblings should look up to. That is until Hay, the Owens’ childhood friend, enters the picture. Spanning the sixties and seventies, Franny and Hay’s love affair tests the curse placed on the family by matriarch, Maria Owens, and while it ends much as the reader expects it nevertheless is a beautiful relationship to read about. Equally, I enjoyed learning about Vincent, Franny and Jet’s brother, and how he is a character that didn’t make an appearance in Practical Magic.

I suppose the only reason I couldn’t rate The Rules of Magic higher is because I felt the ending was a tad rushed. To explore the world and the characters created by Hoffman, and to find myself enjoying it, was kind of broken by the fact that the ending came about too fast.

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

Purchase Links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indigo

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And those are my thoughts on The Rules of Magic (Practical Magic #2) by Alice Hoffman. Have any paranormal historical fiction recommendations you think I should check out? Leave them as a comment below and help my TBR grow.

Review: Sherwood – Meagan Spooner

Sherwood by Meagan Spooner

Publisher: HarperTeen (March 19, 2019)

Print Length: 480 pages

Audiobook Length: 13 hrs and 20 mins

Narrator: Fiona Hardingham

Robin of Locksley is dead.

Maid Marian doesn’t know how she’ll go on, but the people of Locksley town, persecuted by the Sheriff of Nottingham, need a protector. And the dreadful Guy of Gisborne, the Sheriff’s right hand, wishes to step into Robin’s shoes as Lord of Locksley and Marian’s fiancé.

Who is there to stop them?

Marian never meant to tread in Robin’s footsteps—never intended to stand as a beacon of hope to those awaiting his triumphant return. But with a sweep of his green cloak and the flash of her sword, Marian makes the choice to become her own hero: Robin Hood.

The Review

A gender bent retelling of the classic Robin Hood, Sherwood is a novel that explores how a person can rise above tragedy, and the morally grey areas they can go in order to succeed.

I have to hand it to Spooner, she writes a great main character. I loved Marian, loved how she went through the stages of grief when she lost Robin, but also that she was able to rise above the loss to do what was right. She was stubborn but also flowed into the expectations of a women of the time period. I also couldn’t get over her relationships with secondary characters.

Marian’s relationship with her father was perfect. He knew his daughter was different, but didn’t turn away when her secret identity threatened his own life. However, Marian’s relationship with her band of merry men was probably my favourite. It was a slow burn in terms of them learning they were following a woman’s lead, but when they all found out they didn’t change the way they treated her, and it was nice to see that none of them tried to take the reigns from her.

With all that said there are two things that didn’t allow me to rate this novel higher. First, the book was far too long for my liking. While I understand that it was a standalone, and that Spooner wanted to put as much detail as possible, but it made the narrative a tad clunky, leading my mind to wander in some of the more droll sections. Second, I did not like the romance. I think this book would have been a 4 or 4.5 if Spooner had concluded the novel with Marian being alone. It was in her being alone that Marian chose to take up the mantel of The Hood. It was in her loneliness that she found whom she could trust, developing real friendships along the way. So to, in the last third of the novel, have Marian begin a relationship with a hate-to-love character cheapened her character development.

Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Purchase Links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indigo

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And those are my thoughts on Sherwood by Meagan Spooner. Have any YA retelling recommendations you think I should check out? Leave them as a comment below and help my TBR grow.

Review: Lady Killers: Deadly Women Throughout History – Tori Telfer

Lady Killers: Deadly Women Throughout History by Tori Telfer

Publisher: Harper Perennial (October 10, 2017)

Print Length: 336 pages

Audiobook Length: 9 hrs and 34 mins

Narrator: Sarah Mollo-Christensen

When you think of serial killers throughout history, the names that come to mind are likely Jack the Ripper, John Wayne Gacy, and Ted Bundy. But what about Tillie Klimek, Moulay Hassan, and Kate Bender? The narrative we’re comfortable with is one where women are the victims of violent crime-not the perpetrators. In fact, serial killers are thought to be so universally male that, in 1998, FBI profiler Roy Hazelwood infamously declared that There are no female serial killers. Inspired by Telfer’s Jezebel column of the same name, Lady Killers disputes that claim and offers fourteen gruesome examples as evidence. Although largely forgotten by history, female serial killers rival their male counterparts in cunning, cruelty, and appetite. Each chapter explores the crimes and history of a different female serial killer and then proceeds to unpack her legacy and her portrayal in the media as well as the stereotypes and sexist cliches that inevitably surround her.

The Review

An entertaining foray into the dark world of serial killers, Lady Killers: Deadly Women Throughout History is a quick read meant to inspire its readers to dive deeper into what makes the ‘gentler’ sex commit heinous acts of murder.

Telfer’s choice to focus on female killers of years gone past was one I could wholeheartedly get behind. While some reviewers found the choice one that disconnected them from the information, I found that it allowed me to discover new killers in new time periods and how those killers compared to shifting social and political landscapes.

The reason I have for not rating the book higher is just wanting more information in each chapter. It felt, while reading, that I was only scratching the surface as to why each woman did what they did, and why, compared to their male counterparts, they don’t make the history books.

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

Purchase Links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indigo

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And those are my thoughts on Lady Killers: Deadly Women Throughout History by Tori Telfer. Have any non-fiction recommendations you think I should check out? Leave them as a comment below and help my TBR grow.

July Book Releases

With new books coming out every week and some getting more recognition than others it’s time again to list of book releases that I’m excited about in a particular month.

So, grab a cool beverage and get ready to learn about some of the books I’m looking forward to being released in July 2019.

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The Beckoning Shadow (The Beckoning Shadow #1) by Katharyn Blair

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (July 2, 2019)

Print Length: 480 pages

Vesper Montgomery can summon your worst fear and turn it into a reality—but she’s learned the hard way that it’s an addicting and dangerous power. One wrong move and you could hurt someone you love.

But when she earns a spot in the Tournament of the Unraveling, where competitors battle it out for a chance to rewrite the past, Vesper finally has a shot to reverse the mistakes that have changed her forever. She turns to Sam Hardy, a former MMA fighter who’s also carrying a tragedy he desperately wants to undo. However, helping heal Sam’s heart will mean breaking her own, and the competition forces her to master her powers—powers she has been terrified of since they destroyed her life.

Eight Years to the Moon: The History of the Apollo Missions by Nancy Atkinson

Publisher: Page Street Publishing (July 2, 2019)

Print Length: 240 pages

This incredible account is a keepsake celebrating some of the most important and dramatic events in modern history. Told through over 60 personal interviews and oral histories, as well as personal photographs, this tribute to the men and women who made the Apollo 11 mission a reality chronicles the highs and lows that accompanied the race to the Moon: the devastating flash fire that killed the crew of Apollo 1; the awe of those who saw their years-in-the-making contributions to space exploration blast off from Cape Canaveral; the knuckle-biting descent of Apollo 11 to the lunar surface; a near-catastrophic event on the crew’s flight home; the infectious excitement and jubilation across the world after the astronauts returned safely to Earth.

These little-known stories of the dedicated engineers, mathematicians and scientists in the 1960s reveal the “hows” of the Apollo missions and bring to life the wonder and excitement of humanity’s first steps on the Moon.

The Flight Girls by Noelle Salazar

Publisher: Mira Books (July 2, 2019)

Print Length: 384 pages

1941. Audrey Coltrane has always wanted to fly. It’s why she implored her father to teach her at the little airfield back home in Texas. It’s why she signed up to train military pilots in Hawaii when the war in Europe began. And it’s why she insists she is not interested in any dream-derailing romantic involvements, even with the disarming Lieutenant James Hart, who fast becomes a friend as treasured as the women she flies with. Then one fateful day, she gets caught in the air over Pearl Harbor just as the bombs begin to fall, and suddenly, nowhere feels safe.

To make everything she’s lost count for something, Audrey joins the Women Airforce Service Pilots program. The bonds she forms with her fellow pilots reignite a spark of hope in the face war, and–especially when James goes missing in action–give Audrey the strength to cross the front lines and fight for everything she holds dear.

The Merciful Crow (The Merciful Crow #1) by Margaret Owen

Publisher: Henry Holt (July 30, 2019)

Print Length: 384 pages

A future chieftain

Fie abides by one rule: look after your own. Her Crow caste of undertakers and mercy-killers takes more abuse than coin, but when they’re called to collect royal dead, she’s hoping they’ll find the payout of a lifetime.

A fugitive prince

When Crown Prince Jasimir turns out to have faked his death, Fie’s ready to cut her losses—and perhaps his throat. But he offers a wager that she can’t refuse: protect him from a ruthless queen, and he’ll protect the Crows when he reigns.

A too-cunning bodyguard

Hawk warrior Tavin has always put Jas’s life before his, magically assuming the prince’s appearance and shadowing his every step. But what happens when Tavin begins to want something to call his own? 

The Miraculous by Jess Redman

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (July 30, 2019)

Print Length: 320 pages

Eleven-year-old Wunder Ellis is a miracologist. In a journal he calls The Miraculous, he records stories of the inexplicable and the extraordinary. These miracles fill Wunder with the feeling that he is not alone, that the world is magical, that he is part of something brighter than he can imagine.

But then his newborn sister dies, at only eight days old. If that can happen, then miracles don’t exist. So Wunder gets rid of The Miraculous. And he stops believing.

Then Wunder meets Faye—a cape-wearing, outspoken girl with losses of her own. Together, they find an abandoned house by the cemetery and the old woman who lives there—and who might be a witch. The old woman asks for Wunder and Faye’s help. She asks them to go through graveyards and forests, to townhalls and police stations, by bike and by train. She asks them to believe. And together, they go on a journey that leads them to friendship, to healing—and to miracles.

Soul of Stars (Heart of Iron #2) by Ashley Poston

Publisher: Balzer + Bray (July 23, 2019)

Print Length: 400 pages

Once, Ana was an orphaned space outlaw. Then she was the Empress of the Iron Kingdom. Now, thought dead by most of the galaxy after she escaped from the dark AI program called the HIVE, Ana is desperate for a way to save Di from the HIVE’s evil clutches and take back her kingdom.

Ana’s only option is to find Starbright, the one person who has hacked into the HIVE and lived to tell the tale. But when Ana’s desperation costs the crew of the Dossier a terrible price, Ana and her friends are sent spiraling through the most perilous reaches of the Iron Kingdom to stop the true arbiter of evil in her world: an ancient world-ending deity called the Great Dark.

Their journey will take the sharp-witted pilot, Jax, to the home he never wanted to return to, and the dangerous fate he left behind. And when Robb finds out who Jax really is, he must contend with his own feelings for the boy he barely knows, and whether he truly belongs with this group of outcasts.

When facing the worst odds, can Ana and her crew of misfits find a way to stop the Great Dark once and for all? 

The Storm Crow (The Storm Crow #1) by Kalyn Josephson

Publisher: SourcebooksFire (July 9, 2019)

Print Length: 352 pages

In the tropical kingdom of Rhodaire, magical, elemental Crows are part of every aspect of life…until the Illucian empire invades, destroying everything.

That terrible night has thrown Princess Anthia into a deep depression. Her sister Caliza is busy running the kingdom after their mother’s death, but all Thia can do is think of all she has lost.

But when Caliza is forced to agree to a marriage between Thia and the crown prince of Illucia, Thia is finally spurred into action. And after stumbling upon a hidden Crow egg in the rubble of a rookery, she and her sister devise a dangerous plan to hatch the egg in secret and get back what was taken from them.

Wilder Girls by Rory Power

Publisher: Delacorte Press (July 9, 2019)

Print Length: 368 pages

It’s been eighteen months since the Raxter School for Girls was put under quarantine. Since the Tox hit and pulled Hetty’s life out from under her.

It started slow. First the teachers died one by one. Then it began to infect the students, turning their bodies strange and foreign. Now, cut off from the rest of the world and left to fend for themselves on their island home, the girls don’t dare wander outside the school’s fence, where the Tox has made the woods wild and dangerous. They wait for the cure they were promised as the Tox seeps into everything.

But when Byatt goes missing, Hetty will do anything to find her, even if it means breaking quarantine and braving the horrors that lie beyond the fence. And when she does, Hetty learns that there’s more to their story, to their life at Raxter, than she could have ever thought true.

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And those are just some of the books that are being released in July 2019 that I am excited for. Feel like I missed one of your most anticipated July releases? Leave a comment down below and help my TBR grow.