February 20, 2017

Review: The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

Title: The Woman in Cabin 10
Author: Ruth Ware
Publisher: Gallery/Scout Press
Published: July 19, 2016
Hardcover: 340 pgs

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In this tightly wound story, Lo Blacklock, a journalist who writes for a travel magazine, has just been given the assignment of a lifetime: a week on a luxury cruise with only a handful of cabins. At first, Lo’s stay is nothing but pleasant: the cabins are plush, the dinner parties are sparkling, and the guests are elegant. But as the week wears on, frigid winds whip the deck, gray skies fall, and Lo witnesses what she can only describe as a nightmare: a woman being thrown overboard. The problem? All passengers remain accounted for—and so, the ship sails on as if nothing has happened, despite Lo’s desperate attempts to convey that something (or someone) has gone terribly, terribly wrong… With surprising twists and a setting that proves as uncomfortably claustrophobic as it is eerily beautiful, Ruth Ware offers up another intense read.

This is one of the first books I've read that was not recommended to me by someone I know and trust. I was in the library one day, saw this novel on one of their "Read Now!" shelves, and was hooked by the description. Who doesn't love a good mystery? Who wouldn't love an intriguing story with a cast of characters stuck on a cruise ship?

The only problem: there wasn't a great cast of characters. Now, don't get me wrong, there were a bunch of folks on the ship, but I feel like they weren't given any justice. When you're reading a great mystery (especially one that some reviews have compared to Agatha Christie's), you want to feel like every single person is a suspect. You want to get thrown off your game time and time again. Unfortunately, that's not what happened here. We met all of the characters, but there were really only two or three that stood out as actual suspects. I wish the author would have taken the time to flesh out the characters' stories more -- to make me believe they were the guilty ones.

Overall, the book had a good concept, but I don't think it was executed well. The mystery's resolution (which I won't tell you) was just unbelievable to me. I didn't actually believe that what happened in this book could actually occur in real life.

And finally, I'm all for flawed protagonists, but come on. Our main character, Lo, is jam packed with flaws. There are just so many that I feel like, in real life, if everything that happened in the book happened to her in real life, she'd be huddled in a corner crying. Not the kind of heroine I'm looking for.

This book has gotten rave reviews, and I'm sorry to be one of the few dissenters. But did you read the book? What did you think?

2 out of 5 stars.

Blog Tour Interview & Giveaway: TRAVELER by L.E. DeLano!

Traveler by L.E. DeLano
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Publication: February 7, 2017 by Swoon Reads

Jessa has spent her life dreaming of other worlds and writing down stories more interesting than her own, until the day her favorite character, Finn, suddenly shows up and invites her out for coffee. After the requisite nervous breakdown, Jessa learns that she and Finn are Travelers, born with the ability to slide through reflections and dreams into alternate realities. But it’s not all steampunk pirates and fantasy lifestyles…Jessa is dying over and over again, in every reality, and Finn is determined that this time, he’s going to stop it… this Jessa is going to live.


About the Author

L.E. DeLano is a YA novelist rep’d by Barry Goldblatt Literary, author of the upcoming Traveler (Swoon Reads/MacMillan 2017) and lifelong writer.

Probably best known under her alternate moniker, Ellie DeLano, she has blogged for both Woman’s Day and Mom’s Magazine, and runs her own blog on parenting and autism at SingleMomtism.com.

She lives in Pennsylvania with two very adventurous kids and two very ridiculous cats. In her spare time, she writes (of course) and binge-watches way too much Netflix.

WebsiteFacebook | Twitter | Instagram | Tumblr

Interview with the Author

1.       Tell us a little about yourself and your latest/upcoming release.
I’m a lifelong writer and nerdgirl, an autism advocate, mother of two hilarious kids and I binge watch Netflix wayyyy too much. My debut YA fantasy novel is TRAVELER, the story of a girl who can step through mirrors into alternate realities, and into alternate versions of herself.

2.       When did you realize that you wanted to become a writer? What was the very first thing you ever wrote?
Whenever someone asks me how long I’ve been writing I always answer “I’ve never not.” That’s the truth – I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing. As for the first thing I wrote – I do recall writing plays for my stuffed animals to act in, and I even wrote Star Trek fanfiction before fanfiction was even a thing.

3.      Do you read reviews of your books? What do you do when you read a not-so-nice one?
Of course I read my reviews! And everyone gets a bad review every now and then. I’ve been lucky so far – nothing really scathing – but I always try to see where my readers are coming from and learn what I can from every bit of criticism in a review. It’s really easy to get blind to your own writer faults and miss the common traps you’re falling into. Reading your criticism helps you see a broader picture.

4.      Do you have a book in your house that's just destroyed because you've read it so much?
For me, that would be a paperback copy of The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury. I’ve had it since I was eight (I stole it from my older brother) and I still love it and reread it to this day. No one could paint with words like Ray Bradbury.

5.      What was your inspiration for the book?
I once watched an old version of “Alice Through The Looking Glass” on TV as a kid (it was the 1974 version, which was really creepy). I happened to pass a mirror afterward and thought it would be cool if there was another ‘me’ on the other side. I stared at my reflection for a long time until - I swear to you - I saw the other me blink. Scared me a lot to the point that I still get the creeps if I catch my reflection out of the corner of my eye.

6.      What do you normally like to read when not writing?
Young adult, Sci-Fi and steamy romance. I am a sucker for flirting and attraction and any kind of magical element or world.

7.      How much of the characters are based on your traits or someone you know personally?
Jessa (my protagonist) is an odd mix of me and my daughter. She’s nerdy and a writer like me, but fierce as hell and protective of her sibling like my daughter. She’s like the best of us both. Danny (Jessa’s brother) is my son, all grown up. Every bit of him, including his autism. Finn is a conglomeration of lots of people, but Pirate Finn (from another reality) was somewhat influenced by a certain TV pirate on a certain primetime fairytale show that I’ve been obsessing over. He’s a real chip off the old block.

8.      What scene was your favorite to write?
The steampunk ball that Jessa attends in another reality. It was such fun to write, and involved one of the more intense romantic scenes – I just love how it came out.

9.      How different would you say the final version of TRAVELER is from the first draft?
Hmmm. Very. And not. There were a lot of changes – the removal of two major subplots and one smaller, but very hard to relinquish subplot, and an overall change to how the entire series would end that had some ramifications on the rewrites of TRAVELER. But all in all, the characters stayed true to who they were, almost all my dialogue survived intact, and all the major scenes that were the “meat” of the story stayed. My book emerged as a much more cohesive, much more dynamic story for it, too.

10.   If you could bring one of your characters to life, who would it be? And why?
Pirate Finn, in a heartbeat. Who doesn’t love a dashing, flirty pirate with an Irish accent?

This is or That 
Cat or Dog?  Grew up with dogs, now have cats, so both.
Ice cream or Sorbet?  Both!
Heels or flats?  Flats. Life’s too short to walk in painful shoes.
Knives or sword?  Sword.
Coffee or Tea?  Tea. Most definitely.
Iced tea or hot tea? Yes to both!
Snow or rain? You don’t have to shovel rain. And it’s romantic.
Movies at home or Movie Theater? Both! And in the same day!
Soda or Juice? I am a Diet Dr. Pepper addict.
Twitter or Facebook? I do both but I love Twitter.
Actual book or eReader? Both.
Actual book or Audiobook? Actual book.
Spring or Summer? Summer! Get me to a beach!
Fall or winter? Fall – my favorite season of all!
Long Sleeves or Short Sleeves? Depends on the season
Young Adult or New Adult? Both!
Vampires or Werewolves? Werewolves
Ghost or Zombies? Ghosts. History is always romantic.
Action movies or Chick flicks? Action.
Horror movies or Mystery movies? Horror.
Mountain views or Ocean views? Ocean views – for the rest of my life, if I could work it.

We would like to thank L.E. for stopping by an answering our questions! :)


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February 17, 2017

Review: The Freemason's Daughter by Shelley Sackier

The Freemason's Daughter
Shelley Sackier
Hardcover, 384 pages
Expected publication: April 11th 2017
by HarperTeen

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The Outlander series for the YA audience—a debut, full of romance and intrigue, set in early eighteenth-century Scotland.

Saying good-bye to Scotland is the hardest thing that Jenna MacDuff has had to do—until she meets Lord Pembroke. Jenna’s small clan has risked their lives traveling the countryside as masons, secretly drumming up support and arms for the exiled King James Stuart to retake the British throne. But their next job brings them into enemy territory: England.

Jenna’s father repeatedly warns her to trust no one, but when the Duke of Keswick hires the clan to build a garrison on his estate, it seems she cannot hide her capable mind from the duke’s inquisitive son, Lord Alex Pembroke—nor mask her growing attraction to him. But there’s a covert plan behind the building of the garrison, and soon Jenna must struggle not only to keep her newfound friendship with Alex from her father, but also to keep her father’s treason from Alex.

Will Jenna decide to keep her family’s mutinous secrets and assist her clan’s cause, or protect the life of the young noble she’s falling for?

In Shelley Sackier’s lush, vivid historical debut, someone will pay a deadly price no matter which choice Jenna makes.

I really liked this story. I was in a slump for a while and couldn’t really get into anything new, but this one managed to pull me in. The writing was great and I felt the story moved at a great pace. It did take a while to really get into the drama of things, but I feel there was enough suspense and build up to keep me entertained. The romance was also a bit slow, but I was okay with that. You really get to know Jenna and Alex.

Overall, I enjoyed this one. I liked the characters a lot. It’s a quick easy read and entertaining enough to read till the end. I was happy with the ending and the way everything turned out.

4 Stars!


February 16, 2017

Review: Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Title: Caraval
Author: Stephanie Garber
Publisher: Gallery/Scout Press
Published: January 31, 2017
Hardcover: 407 pages

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Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever.

Caraval is already at the top of my favorites list…of all time! This book was my most highly anticipated read of 2017 and it did NOT disappoint. I was shouting its praises before I had even finished reading it! I’ve not been able to fully convey my immense love for this book properly. It’s so magical that I immediately wanted to reread it after turning the last page.

This book is rich with whimsy, mystery and magic. There’s romance and so many twists and turns, just when you think you are certain you have it all figured out, Stephanie takes you down a path you never saw coming! While there is romance, the main theme of this book is the love and bond between two sisters. I immensely enjoyed the fact that it was, indeed, the main focus throughout the book and how that bond unfolded throughout the story. The romantic relationship brewed slowly and felt natural, not forced on you.

The best way for me to describe Stephanie Garber’s writing is to say it is like a painting; so vividly detailed it’s as if you are standing in a museum and the art is telling the story through movement and color. Her writing is fresh and animated. To sum it up in one word, picturesque. I was enthralled in Scarlett’s adventure and felt as if I were playing the game with her. Within the game of Caraval, reality and illusion become difficult to decipher.

In the end, this book left me in a state of awe and with a new appreciation of descriptive writing. The ending of the book is phenomenal and is sure to leave you craving the next. This story is a true work of art. It is one of those extraordinary books that come along every so often that bewitches you from page one. This lavish world built on magic, mystery, love and fantasy is a true testament to a new and creative voice in the book world.

5 Magical STARS!

Here are some of my favorite quotes (and this was really hard to narrow down to just a few):

“The hazy glow of a lantern caught the metallic edges of the paper, making them blaze a shimmery gold, the color of magic and wishes and promises of things to come.”

“Occasionally people confuse fantasy with reality. Accidents sometimes result. It rarely happens,” Rupert added.”

“Wishes were things of wonder that took a certain amount of faith, and Julian seemed the type to trust only what he saw.”

“A second in Caraval seemed richer than an ordinary second, like that moment on the cusp of sunset, when all the colors of the sky coalesce into magic.” 

February 13, 2017

Review: What the Dead Want by Norah Olson

Title: What the Dead Want
Author: Norah Olson
Publisher: HarperCollins
Published: July 26, 2016
Hardcover: 320 pgs

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16 -year-old Gretchen takes photographs to understand the world around her, a passion her mother Mona fostered and encouraged when she was still around. Since her mom disappeared years ago, Gretchen and her dad have lived on their own in New York City, haunted by Mona’s absence. When Gretchen’s great aunt Esther calls unexpectedly to tell her that she has inherited the pre-Civil War mansion on her mother’s side of the family in upstate New York, Gretchen understands nothing except that her aunt needs her help. But what she finds there is beyond her imagination. The house is crumbling apart, filled with stacks of papers and journals from decades, even centuries past, and it’s crawling with rodents. It’s also full of secrets and a legacy of racism and violence so reprehensible that the ghosts of the past are exacting revenge on the living. Somehow the mystery of Mona’s disappearance and the atrocities that happened on the land during the Civil War are inextricably intertwined, and it’s up to Gretchen to figure out how…before even more lives are lost.

I don't like being torn. When it comes to most novels, I like to be able to say that I definitely love or hate it either way. But this novel tears me up. There are aspects that I enjoyed, and many that I did not. I won't tell you whether you should read the book -- I'll just give you the facts and let you decide :)

First off, I enjoyed the artistic aspect of this book. The photographs are described in great detail, and I like the idea of capturing more than just meets the eye. There aren't many main characters that care so deeply about photography, and this made Gretchen unique.

I also enjoyed the historical backstory within the book. The letters that go back and forth between characters long gone. The racial tension, the unexpected romances...I think I enjoyed the dead characters more than the living ones.

What I didn't like was the predictability of it all. I felt like I could see what was coming before I got there, which made the book so hard to get through. There were a few twists, but not many.

I also didn't like not knowing exactly where this book fit. At times, it seemed to be trying so hard to be funny and young. Other times, it felt like it was trying to be a horror story (more gory than scary). And other times, the violence was so intense that I thought it shouldn't even be considered YA. The tone of the novel just changed so often that I didn't enjoy it as much as I would have otherwise.

Overall, the book felt unbelievable (the characters, not the ghosts) and too far-fetched to be enjoyed. I liked the history and the backstory, but not much else.

2 out of 5 stars.