The Child Finder

The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld is an adult suspense novel about a woman whose job it is to locate missing children–dead or alive.

Madison Culver disappeared three years ago–she would be eight now, if she survived. Gone without out a trace in the mountains of Oregon’s Skookum National Forest, very few believe she could possibly be alive. Desperate to know the truth, the Culver’s contact Naomi, a private investigator who specializes in finding children.

Naomi’s reputation precedes her; she is known as The Child Finder and her ability to find these children, dead or alive is uncanny. Whether this ability stems from her past or not, Naomi understands these children because she used to be one of them. Naomi was found running through a field naked when she was a young girl. With no memories of what happened to her, Naomi is taken in my a kindly woman and grows up with a need, an obsession to find children like her. But who is she really hoping to find?

What happened to Madison Culver? Did she freeze to death like many suspect or is she out there somewhere? Will Naomi be able to unravel another story without unraveling herself?

loved Rene Denfeld’s The Enchanted, so I had to pick up The Child Finder and I am glad I did. This won’t be a book for everyone. Some people just can’t handle reading a story about child abduction and the horrible, evil things people do. And that’s OK. But for those who can stomach it, Denfeld does it right. She creates these stories where the bad is portrayed through the glamour of magic or fairy tales, so even though you realize you are reading something awful–you know what’s going on the whole time–there still a filter and one that really does add to the story.

The Child Finder has two primary narratives–Naomi’s past and present and Snowgirl’s, Madison Culver’s. I wondered at first if this fractured narrative, jumping between stories and past and present would detract from the story but it doesn’t at all. It really works. You get invested in Snowgirl’s story and yet you are still craving the who behind Naomi’s past. This story touches upon a very dark world and we get an insight into some of the psychology of abductees without it being overwhelming. We also get a glimpse into the mind of the “villain” and we see how monsters are made and people twisted.

This one gets four stars from me. Not quite as high as The Enchanted but still a really good read and one I think readers would enjoy.

That’s all for now!

-M-

 

Advertisements

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao is the first book in a new fantasy, fairy tale retelling of the Evil Queen from Snow White.

From the moment she was born, eighteen-year-old Xifeng has been told that she was destined for great things. Beautiful beyond measure and raised to be smart and cunning, Xifeng has been waiting for her destiny to begin. She is no longer willing to wait and decides to leave her cruel, broken home and embrace her future.

All her life, Xifen has been raised by her Aunt, a cruel woman who does not spare the cane. She beats Xifen for any little infraction and uses her dark magic to get her way. She was born a peasant, without a Mother or Father and yet her cards say that she is destined to become Empress of Feng Lu. But to do so, she must give up all she holds dear and embrace the darkness that lives within her.

Will Xifen give in to the darkness or will she allow herself to settle for a life of love and happiness? Who is she willing to step on to get her way and how far is she willing to go?

A lot of people gave this one a mediocre to high rating but I just couldn’t do it. I just could not get into the story and Xifeng was probably one of the least relatable characters I’ve ever read — wow that’s harsh but I could not stand her.

You could tell that that author was really trying to make Xifeng seem like she struggled with her decisions and her destiny but this didn’t come off for me at all. She was wishy-washy and I could not believe she never got called out on some of her blatant lies. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good vicious, manipulative female protagonist but Xifeng was too fake for me, she didn’t embrace the darkness like some of my favorite dark females, instead she put on a show. Some of the reviews I’ve read, said that they loved that Xifeng chose ambition over love but she was never going to choose love. From the beginning the lust for power ruled her.

The first half of the book, when Xifeng was travelling to the Imperial City was just so boring and most of her time in the palace was slow as well. The only time the book picked up for me was toward the end when Xifeng’s true character peeks out… for about a second.

Okay, I don’t normally like to bash books so I am going to stop here. This one gets 1.5 maybe 2 stars from me. Not a favorite.

That’s all for now!

-M-

Wild Beauty

Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore is McLemore’s third young adult, magical realism novel.

For more than a hundred year the Nomeolvides women have worked the grounds of La Pradera, creating a lush wonderland of flowers. These gardens are lovely and enchanting and many a rich man will pay dearly for seeds in the hopes that their own gardens will one day bloom as beautifully. But the Nomeolvide women are more than they seem.

This family of females has been gifted with the ability to literally pull flowers out of the ground and if they don’t use their gifts, then their gifts will use them and bloom in sometimes destructive ways, often leaving them with the label: la bruja. But La Pradera has laid claim to them, giving them a home, a safe haven, but also taking from them their ability to leave without deathly consequences. On top of that, the Nomeolvides women are doomed to lose any they love too dearly–their men are taken from them, disappearing like smoke on a wind.

After generations of these vanishings, a strange boy appears out of no where and is a mystery to both the Nomeolvides women and to himself. What does this strange boys sudden arrival mean for the women? And when La Pradera itself is threatened, what will the women do, what will they risk, to learn the truth?

I really love this genre of magical realism; where we are living in this real world setting with real world problems but there is just a sprinkle of something magical thrown in. In the case of Wild Beauty a beautiful ability to grow flowers and a curse on love. It makes you wonder about the world around us and what might or might not be.

Now, I’ve read McLemore’s other magical realism books–The Weight of Feathers and When the Moon Was Ours. I just loved When the Moon Was Ours, it was magical in all the right places, touched on subjects many authors shy away from and was extremely well written. The Weight of Feathers on the other hand, just didn’t hold up. It lacked that pull and the characters weren’t my favorite. So, I figured Wild Beauty would probably lean one way or another and fortunately for me, toward the better.

Wild Beauty was just beautifully written. Much of the prose felt almost poetic, as lovely as the flowers the women grow. The book was romantic without smothering it’s reader. There was also this sense of mystery throughout the book that kept a good pace, where otherwise the story might have lagged.

Ultimately, this was a quick read that met my expectations. This one gets 4 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

 

The Language of Thorns

The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo is a collection of six short stories that takes place in the Grisha-verse. Paired with stunning artwork that transforms with each page, this book takes you inside the sometimes dark and fantastical world of folklore and myth.

I was actually a little hesitant to pick this one up. I kinda felt like I was done with the Grisha-verse and this being a standalone of short stories, I wasn’t overly interested. But I am glad I picked it up. One does not need to be familiar with Bardugo’s Grisha universe to enjoy these fairy tales, although if you are, you will be able to tell from which books these myths stem from.

If you are familiar with myths or folklore at all, then you will be able to spot some of the inspiration for these six tales. The little mermaid, beauty and the beast, the nutcracker and more. It was really neat to re-imagine some of these tales and I really enjoyed the dark, almost gritty spin Bardugo puts on the stories. Even the ones with a happy ending, have this edge to it that I kinda loved.

Ultimately, this book is worth picking up for the illustrations alone. If nothing else, check it out and flip through it. The book is just stunning and the fact that the images that surround the text change and grow as you read, is just another little treat for the reader. I had several people asking me what I was reading while I was flipping through the book at the library one day. Definitely a talking piece.

My one negative comment about this one is that it did take me a long time to read. I tend to find it easy to stop and start short stories; putting them down and picking up something else. This is probably just me though.

This one gets a very high 4 stars from me. Probably would have gotten 4.5 if I read it straight through.

That’s all for now!

-M-

A Poison Dark and Drowning

A Poison Dark and Drowning by Jessica Cluess is the second book in the Kingdom on Fire series.

At the end of book one we leave Henrietta pretending to be the sorcerers chosen one, when in fact she is only half sorcerer, half magician. Henrietta is supposed to be the savior of magic, the one meant to put down the Ancients and stop this brutal war. But Henrietta isn’t the chosen one and pretending to be so has put her and those she loves in terrible danger.

As Henrietta digs into the Ancients past, hoping for a way to defeat them, she stumbles upon terrible secrets and dark truths that upend her world and risk ruining everything she’s fought for. With her friends in tow, Henrietta will risk everything to make things right. Will Henrietta be able to wage a war built on a field of lies? And what will she do when the cards are stacked against her?

Sigh. I have this problem… If I start a series, I have to finish it no matter how lackluster I feel about it. Kingdom on Fire is a prime example of this. It’s not a bad series, I just wasn’t overly interested in the first book and, unfortunately, that feeling has carried into the second. I kind of like the politics of the magicians vs the sorcerers and their fight against the ancients but that’s about it. Again, in no way is this a bad read, I am just not into it.

There are a few things that could make this better for me… First and foremost, the Rook/Henrietta plot line. I hated this doomed relationship in the first book and it did not get better in the second book… at all. I kind of got annoyed every time Rook even showed up. Harsh, I know.

I also don’t know why every male character has to be in love with Henrietta. Even after they agree to be friends… wait! I still love you. And she like has separate, potential love, connections with each of them. If it were me, I’d be like can’t a girl just be friend! Just too much romance drama in this book for me.

And Blackwood! He was actually one of the characters I really liked and I was sort of rooting for him and Henrietta to get together because they were friends and have a bond and their wasn’t this wish-y wash-y-ness about their relationship. But his character does a complete 180 after about the first 50 pages or so. This almost irked me as much as Rook.

Sorry if it seems like I am bashing this series. It just isn’t my cup of tea. I gotta give it 2.5 stars. Better then the first book but not by much.

That’s all for now!

-M-

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan is an adult fiction novel that would probably be considered a thriller or whodunit.

No one in Lydia’s life knows much about her past and that is just the way she likes it. Lydia has spent her whole adult life running from a violent childhood horror. She has carefully crafted this life of books and acquaintances and has cut out all other reminders of her past, including her father.

When Lydia finds one of the bookstore’s eccentric regulars, hanging dead from the the bookstore’s ceiling, she finds herself caught up in the mystery of his death. Drawn into the deceased Joey’s life, Lydia finds a photograph of herself as a child in his pocket and her carefully crafted life starts to unraveled.

Now Lydia must uncover clues about Joey’s life by unraveling secret messages left for her in cut up books bequeathed to her upon his death. But the clues only lead to more questions. Why did Joey commit suicide? What does he know about Lydia’s childhood? And what ghosts from her past will Lydia have to face in uncovering the truth?

This was one I picked up solely because it had the word bookstore in the title. Yup, I can’t help myself–take note publishers. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the book was actually a bit of a thriller, not my usual genre but one I like to get to occasionally.

First, can I randomly gripe about a few things… What type of bookstore–thriving in this day and age, that is not a chain–is open past midnight, has multiple floors, and has a staff of what seems like it is in the double digits? And in Denver, Colorado to-boot. I know I am being picky but I’d love to know if the author based the bookstore off of a real one.

Now that I am done with that, this wasn’t a bad read. I wasn’t overly invested in the characters but it did keep me guessing until about halfway through the book, which I generally consider a successful thriller. I thought the ending was a bit abrupt and I wondered about what became of some of our side characters but for the most part the loose ends were tied up.

I did really like this idea of the BookFrogs; bookstore regulars who aren’t necessarily homeless but are regulars and fixtures in the store, each with their own eccentricities. I would have loved to glimpsed a few more of them throughout the story, as they were each unique and wonderful.

This book was fairly middle of the road for me. I would recommend it to my patrons but it was neither great nor a bad read. This one gets 3.5 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

Warcross

Warcross by Marie Lu is a futuristic–but not too futuristic–young adult novel for all the gamers–and non-gamers–out there. <<how’d you like that description 🙂

Millions of people across the globe log into their Warcross accounts every day. Warcross isn’t just a video game, it’s virtual/augmented reality that is literally hooked up to almost all aspects of life. People make a living off Warcross–playing the game, selling items and in the case of teenage Emika Chen, as a bounty hunter.

Emika works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. But bounty hunting isn’t easy and desperate and in need of some quick cash, Emika risks hacking into the opening ceremony of the international Warcross Championships and after accidentally glitching herself into the game, becomes an overnight sensation.

Thinking she is going to be arrested, Emika is shocked to be offered a job by the Warcross creator, Hideo Tanaka. Now Emika is working undercover as a player in the Warcross Championships, searching for a dangerous hacker known only as: Zero.

Can Emika catch Zero without being caught herself? And what will she do when Emika learns that this final bounty comes with real life risks and complications that she wasn’t prepared for?

I really liked this one. Talk about taking virtual reality to the next level. Warcross takes place in a world where virtual reality has basically taken over everything. The world looks normal without your Warcross glasses but with them on, everything is augmented–signs are animated, you can get data about buildings and people, you just get more. I pretty much compare it to living life without glasses and then one day putting them on to find out that that green blob was actually a tree.

Warcross is techie without being intimidating and could easily be read by both digital natives and digital immigrants. There was just this perfect balance between the gamer/hacker side of things and the characters themselves. And even though our main character is female, I think this is a book boys and girls would enjoy equally.

There’s a little something for everyone in this book. A bit of romance, fighting and action sequences, suspense, puzzles, assassination attempts and at one point there is even an explosion. There is also so much to build upon, what with the Warcross underground and the conflict introduced at the end. Also, Emika is just a cool character.

This was just a unique and really entertaining read. I give this one a very high 4.5 stars.

That’s all for now!

-M-