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review 2018-03-08 02:30
A historical fairy tale that has gone straight on to my favorites list, and I’m not usually big on fairy tales OR mermaids! Christina Henry has written something special here
The Mermaid - Christina Henry

'The Mermaid' has immediately gone onto my favorites list, so I can tell you right away that this book is an absolute treat.
When I grabbed my early copy of it at Emerald City Con at the weekend, I hadn't heard it was coming out, so I certainly didn't harbor any expectations for it, and to be honest, I'm not even a big fan of fairytale retellings. Plus I had to dispel any recent images of killer mermaids I still had in my head after reading 'Into the Drowning Deep’ by Mira Grant, and I thought this would be the perfect way to do that.

'The Mermaid' is a historical fairy tale about a mermaid who wasn't content enough with life in the ocean so she decided that life on land, with a man called Jack, who she feels is the love of her life, was where she needed to be. Amelia was able to come and go from the sea as she pleased, and it seemed as though her life was everything she needed it to be...until Jack grew old (and she didn't). She was then discovered by the great P.T. Barnum. The same P.T. Barnum of Barnum & Bailey Circus Company, who is famous for coining the phrase "There's a sucker born every minute."

That's where Amelia's life completely changed, and the story of the mermaid becomes loosely based off the 'Feejee Mermaid' hoax that Barnum orchestrated. Author Christina Henry obviously did a lot of research to include details about Joice Heth and Tom Thumb (reading the novel will make this all clear!); I found all of this, and all Barnum's various 'humbugs' to be absolutely fascinating (and shocking).

Through the eyes of Amelia, who is essentially a stranger, 'an alien' to this foreign modern world that is New York circa 1840, she questions all sorts of things: why wear all the silly trappings of clothes, why are women not afforded the same rights as men, why are animals treated so poorly, why are people who are not white or Christian 'savages', and so on. And she dares to question her new 'employer' Barnum*, who basically is raking in the dough with her mermaid exhibit.
*I have no idea what to make of P.T.Barnum as a person or character, but Henry does say this rendition is the one that suits her story.

There is so much to love about this book: the wonderful characters who fit within the actual mold that was cast, but who now have been brought to life, the writing of Henry's that seems to flow so beautifully and seems so befitting of the time, and all the questions and ideas that spring off the pages through the character of the mermaid Amelia.
And then there's the idea of the mermaid herself, something we think we have an idea about, and here it is done again; I felt like what I was reading was subtle and ethereal, and in the way that that Amelia was trying to show her reality within the book to others, I was being made to believe it too. There are also themes of sadness, loss, and longing, new love, and acceptance, in the book, and I felt those emotions from the characters clearly. It was wonderful to read all of that and move along with the feelings like waves.

Absolutely wonderful book. I already want to own whatever special edition is made. And the Funko Pop.

I received free books from Penguin Random House in exchange for this review. Thank you!

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review 2018-03-01 09:29
Tragic, and poignant, this beautifully-written book blew me away; the gun debate will rage on at the back of your mind, and your heart will break for the lead character
Gun Love - Jennifer Clement

This amazing, tragic, beautiful book completely blew me away. The gawdy pink and yellow cover and a title that can only imply a tale that’s going to leave you with something unforgettable, immediately made me want to read this, even though I will unashamedly say I detest firearms...and yes, there are a lot of guns in this book.
This poetically-written novel drew me in right away, as it’s really a tale about a young girl called Pearl who has spent her short life of 14 years living with her mom in a car parked at a trailer park, in Central Florida. The novel is written in three parts, and told from Pearl’s perspective, as if she were telling someone her story, her absolutely heart-wrenching story; it is told with the naivety of someone who is even younger because she has seen so little, yet this is also a little girl who has had to come to terms with not knowing who her father is, has her ‘wardrobe’ in the trunk of the car, and has smoked cigarettes since she was 10.
Huge issues come up in this pretty short book, and my heart broke over and over again, at the same time my head was screaming on about the gun debate (there’s no coincidence that this is set in Florida, but it comes at a time where recent incidents make this novel all the more poignant, regardless of the specific story contained within). It’s hard not to connect thoughts and feelings with current events when reading this. It’s also very hard to read this without a lump in your throat.
I’ve not read any of author Jennifer Clement’s work before but this is spectacular. I can’t give too much away regarding the full storyline, but the way Jennifer weaves words together is just magic, and I couldn’t take my eyes away from the page. This is one of the best things I’ve read so far this year and I won’t forget ‘Gun Love’ any time soon, especially given the sad tale within, and the tragedies brought on by firearms in the real world. Absolutely masterful and poignant.

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review 2018-02-26 12:51
Skitter by Ezekiel Boone
Skitter - Ezekiel Boone

This review can also be found at Carole's Random Life in Books.

I am really enjoying this series. I have had a copy of this book for a long time. I had planned to read it around the publication date but for some reason it didn't happen. I am glad that I was able to get to it now because it really is a great story. This is the second book in the Hatching series which is a series that really does need to be read in order since this is a continuation of the story from the first book. I ended up enjoying this book just as much as the first book.

I really like the way that this story is told. I don't think it would work for every book but it does work well with this story. We get to see the outbreak from a lot of different points of view instead of following only a handful of characters. Sometimes we get a point of view and never encounter that character again. Other times, we get to see a point of view at various points in the story. All of these points of view helps to really paint a picture of the outbreak across the globe.

The spider outbreak in the first book was bad and many had hoped that would get better. It looks like it might be getting better. The spiders seem to have died off a bit and the pods are being taken care of. Unfortunately, things can get worse. Much worse. The spider outbreak takes a turn that is truly frightening and it was really interesting to see how things were developing and how the key characters would deal with it.

This was a really exciting story. I couldn't wait to see what would happen next with the spider outbreak and was also eager to find out what the authorities would decide to do to handle things. I couldn't imagine being responsible or having people look to you for answers during a time like this. Whenever I had a guess about how things would go, I would quickly find out that I was wrong so I just kept turning pages to enjoy the story.

I would recommend this series to others. This creepy crawly story was very original and entertaining. I ended up most of the book in a single evening because I had to see how things would work out. I am really excited to start the next book, Zero Day, very soon.

I received an advance reader edition of this book from Atria/Emily Bestler Books via NetGalley.

Initial Thoughts
I love the way this story is laid out. We learn what is going on in the world piece by piece. Some of the characters from the first book play important roles in this book and we meet some new characters. Lots of creepy crawly goodness here. 

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review 2018-02-25 09:17
‘Ash Princess’ brings dark themes of abuse and violence to YA fantasy but it’s wholly absorbing; bring on the Astrean rebellion!
Ash Princess - Laura Sebastian-Coleman

This was admittedly a little slow for me to get into but it had quite a bit to do with me starting it while away on a sunny beach at Amelia Island in Florida (it was in stark contrast to the dark world in the novel, so I had competing worlds in my head).

Nevertheless, once I got into 'Ash Princess' further, I became captivated by the darkness, and contrary to some interpretations of it being a story that is there to shock its readers with the relentless abuse, and of murders of whole populations, I read this book and absorbed this in a very different way. I'll get back to all of that in a moment...
The novel is centered around a young girl, the 'Ash Princess', Theodosia, who is now known as Lady Thora, who is being held captive in the palace that her mother, the Fire Queen was murdered. The cruel and murderous Kaiser, has subsequently enslaved the Astrean people, and now the Kalovaxians rule the land, although there's a rebellion brewing.

Theo's position is complicated to say the least. She has suffered a decade of physical and emotional abuse at the hands of her mother's murderer, but she knows that if she is to survive, she needs to bide by the Kaiser's wishes. Theo's closest friendship is also complex, since she is friends with the daughter of the enemy Theyn, the Kaiser's right-hand man; Crescentia is close with Theo, but looks the other way when things are hard for her friend (namely, her beatings), quite happily will give her the less flattering dress to wear, and doesn't see many things that are right under her nose (luckily).
Another complication: where would a good YA novel be without a little bit of confusion over what boy you like? It's even more complicated when one is supposed to be the enemy, the Prinz (and your best friend hopes to marry them some day), and the other is a long time friend, and orchestrating the plot to escape, amongst other things (*no further spoiling!).

Beyond the walls of the palace, there are also battles fought for more land, in the name of the Kaiser, and in terms of how this comes across to me, is that I liken this to how I see much of European history. I'm not talking about the Kaiser specifically but when I think back to what I know of centuries of history across Europe and all the battles fought, particularly for land, the pillaging of villages, the murdering of its people, these sorts of things happened. I liken what I'm reading to that sort of knowledge I have of history of the way that lands are conquered; even royalty has been imprisoned within their own castle walls. History really has been that cruel, so when I read something like this (or like many other fantasy novels), it really has been played out. What's wonderful in a book like this though, is that the people are waiting for this young woman, Theodosia, to take back the throne again.

So, ultimately I felt like this was a tale of survival in a very harsh world, where Theo has to make hard choices to not only survive, but to try and fulfil what she believes is a destiny expected of her by the Astrean people. It leads her to do some things she doesn't want to do sometimes, and through that, she actually becomes stronger as the novel progresses, but at a cost.

This is not a novel for someone who wants their books about fallen kingdoms to be light and with frequent uplifting turns; this book is pretty heavy, and high on dark content, but if you're willing to fall into a novel where kingdoms don't get taken back easily, and in which many lives are lost in the process, you will be ready for this. There are strong characters in this and I hope they're developed even further in the next book. I'm looking forward to seeing the rebellion of the Astrean people continue!
YA fantasy has ANOTHER amazing author, Laura Sebastian, to pay attention to!

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review 2018-02-20 18:45
Zero Day by Ezekiel Boone
Zero Day: The Hatching Series, Book 3 (Hatching Series, The) - Ezekiel Boone

ZERO DAY was a fun wrap up to the trilogy that started with THE HATCHING.


The narrative is still following all the same people, people who are now facing the fallout from a few nuclear strikes across the U.S., and the previous ones which occurred in various places around the world. The spiders are still continuing to mutate and evolve with the most dangerous of them all appearing in this book.


I enjoyed following the characters around on each of their missions and adventures. What I did not like was the following, (do not click if you don't want to know): 

 where are the dead people? None of the main people die! I wish the story had more guts by sacrificing at least one of the main characters. Having them all live was just playing it too safe for my liking. Of course, I like it when everyone dies, so your mileage may vary.) I rarely felt anyone was in real danger.

(spoiler show)


Additionally, I wanted more spider action. In the previous two books, there was lots of it. They were both your usual quick chapter Creature Features with lots of spiders overcoming people, animals, etc... In this book there is little of that, other than during the denouement, which was disappointing.


As a whole, this series was a ton of fun! Even though I found this entry to be slightly wanting, the trilogy itself was a blast, with a couple of real twists that I enjoyed. And, I have to admit that at times, reading it made me itchy!


If Creature Features are your thing, then I highly recommend you check out this trilogy! I'd just advise you to have lots of lights on, so you can immediately spot any insects heading your way.


*Thanks to Atria and to NetGalley for the e-ARC of this book in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it.*

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