Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Release Day Review: Vanguard (Razorland, #4) by Ann Aguirre

Title: Vanguard (Razorland, #4) 
Author: Ann Aguirre 
Source: Publisher 
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends 
Published: July 25th, 2017 
Purchase: Amazon | B&N 

Summary: The Razorland saga continues. Since the war ended, Tegan has dreamed of an epic journey, so when she has the opportunity to sign on as ship's doctor, she can't wait. It's past time to chart her course. Millie Faraday, the kindest girl in the free territories, also yearns to outrun her reputation, and warrior-poet James Morrow would follow Tegan to the ends of the earth.

Their company seems set, but fate brings one more to their number. Tegan will battle incredible odds while aiding Szarok, the Uroch vanguard, who has ventured forth to save his people. Szarok is strange and beautiful, like a flower that blooms only in the dark. She shouldn't allow him close, as such a relationship is both alien and forbidden. But through stormy seas and strange lands, she will become stronger than she ever knew.


This review is spoiler-free not only for Vanguard but also for the three books that come before it, so I will refrain from identifying particular characters by name and will be stingy with certain details. 

I have loved this trilogy since the first book, Enclave, and watching this series and its characters grow into something so exquisite has been magical. Reading the summaries of these books, you see words like plague, apocalypse, and war… so how is it that these stories are such a thing of beauty? Because Ann Aguirre is a brilliant wordsmith, and she has filled the pages with characters who have so much heart and hopefulness that you can’t help but be inspired and fall deeply in love. 

Horde, the third and what I thought was the final book in the trilogy, was everything a final book should be. It contained an epilogue that is still one of my most favorite epilogues of all time. I thought all of my favorite characters had closure… but I forgot a few. One of those being an essential character in the trilogy – Tegan. I loved Tegan, but I realize now that she had been overshadowed by the main characters of the series. I was much like Millie and many of the villagers who had a case of hero worship with those two characters, and I failed to realize that Tegan was still carrying the pain of her past that she had yet to unburden herself of. Tegan’s story was just beginning. So taking place exactly ten months after the War of the River, the next part of her adventure opens. With Millie by her side, she begins a quest that pairs them with the reluctant Szarok, who is on a mission of his own. And what an adventure they all have! Tegan absolutely shines in this story! Going in, I could not wait to be reunited with two characters from the previous books; and once that happened, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I only had eyes for Tegan. I certainly enjoyed seeing old friends; but when Tegan parted from their company, I was more than happy to follow. That says so much about the author, the plot, and a character who I once considered secondary but who has grown so much into this lead role. She is an amazing heroine and her courage and determination unmatched. 

“I always get up again. That’s what you learn from falling.” 

Szarok. There is so much I want to say about him, and yet I want everyone to discover his attributes on their own. An exceptional character and one that I admit… crept up on me. I am forever grateful for the opportunity to “learn” him. 

“I will be home and shelter for you. I will be an island where the water never rises.” 

Vanguard is a perfect companion novel, one that thrills and delights, that answers any questions left over from the trilogy, and (this is important to me)… one that doesn’t take away or change a thing from that amazing epilogue of book three. It ties in so perfectly – it’s the novel that was there all along just waiting to be discovered. I will always be open to more from these characters because they are fictional family and friends, but I love that this gives such closure and resolution to everyone that played a role in the saga. Brilliant, exciting, and beautiful, this is a series I want all my friends to have on their shelves. 

 “So each time my heart beats and yours answers, our song is complete.” 

Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. Quotes are taken from the ARC and are subject to change. 
© at A Belle's Tales


Monday, July 24, 2017

Review: Every Last Lie by Mary Kubica

Title: Every Last Lie 
Author: Mary Kubica 
Source: Publisher 
Publisher: Park Row Books 
Published: June 27th, 2017 
Purchase: Amazon | B&N 

Summary: Clara Solberg's world shatters when her husband and their four-year-old daughter are in a car crash, killing Nick while Maisie is remarkably unharmed. The crash is ruled an accident…until the coming days, when Maisie starts having night terrors that make Clara question what really happened on that fateful afternoon. 

Tormented by grief and her obsession that Nick's death was far more than just an accident, Clara is plunged into a desperate hunt for the truth. Who would have wanted Nick dead? And, more important, why? Clara will stop at nothing to find out—and the truth is only the beginning of this twisted tale of secrets and deceit. 

Told in the alternating perspectives of Clara's investigation and Nick's last months leading up to the crash, master of suspense Mary Kubica weaves her most chilling thriller to date—one that explores the dark recesses of a mind plagued by grief and shows that some secrets might be better left buried.

Mary Kubica writes books that keep me reading all night and leave me pondering them days after I’ve finished. Every Last Lie was no exception. I naively thought I would read a bit of the first chapter when I turned in for bed… and ended up turning the last page at 6 am. I regret nothing.

Clara Solberg is at home with her four-day-old son while her husband Nick takes their little girl Maisie to ballet practice. Clara is sleep-deprived, sore, and desperately in need of a shower. When Nick calls right before he and Maisie head home, he tells Clara he’ll pick up dinner and they will be back soon so she can get some rest. He asks, “Chinese or Mexican?” Clara replies, “Chinese.” And those are the last words the two will ever exchange.

Clara’s world crumbles the minute the officer knocks on her door and informs her that there has been an accident. She struggles to take care of her two young children and face all the day-to-day responsibilities without her beloved husband; but when Maisie’s nightmares begin and she cries out, "The bad man, Daddy. The bad man is after us," Clara starts to question if Nick’s accident was truly an accident after all.

Told in the incredible dual POVs of Clara’s present and Nick’s past, it is gradually revealed exactly what happened on that fateful day as well as every last lie between them and surrounding them. This book is first and foremost a mystery, with Clara obsessed with finding the person responsible for her husband’s death. The author gives Clara, as well as the reader, many suspects to choose from. But aside from that mystery, Mary Kubica does what she does best; and that’s to tell a suspenseful story that is also thought-provoking, poignant, and full of so much heart. Every Last Lie is a must for Kubica fans and a book I would recommend to all my fellow readers regardless of their genre preference.

Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
© at A Belle's Tales


Thursday, July 20, 2017

Review: Antisocial by Jillian Blake

Title: Antisocial 
Author: Jillian Blake 
Publisher: Delacorte 
Source: Publisher 
Published: May 16th, 2017 
Purchase: Amazon | B&N 

Summary: Alexandria Prep is hacked in this whodunit set in the age of social media and the cloud.

Senior spring at Alexandria Prep was supposed to be for sleeping through class and partying with friends. But for Anna Soler, it’s going to be a lonely road. She’s just been dumped by her gorgeous basketball star boyfriend—with no explanation. Anna’s closest friends, the real ones she abandoned while dating him, are ignoring her. The endearing boy she’s always had a complicated friendship with is almost too sympathetic.

But suddenly Anna isn’t the only one whose life has been upended. Someone is determined to knock the kings and queens of the school off their thrones: one by one, their phones get hacked and their personal messages and photos are leaked. At first it’s funny—people love watching the dirty private lives of those they envy become all too public. 

Then the hacks escalate. Dark secrets are exposed, and lives are shattered. Chaos erupts at school. As Anna tries to save those she cares about most and to protect her own secrets, she begins to understand the reality of our always-connected lives: 

Sometimes we share too much.

One of my favorite things about reading is when a book proves me and my first impression completely wrong. When I first started Antisocial, I wasn't sure if it was my kind of read. Don't get me wrong, I'm always open to trying something new when it comes to books, especially with a premise as intriguing as this one. But lately I’ve been reading more adult books, usually fantasy or mystery or paranormal or things of that sort. Realistic fiction, especially those set in high school, aren't my typical reads as of late. But I am incredibly grateful that I picked this one up. It's another one of those books that proves that genre isn't everything. Antisocial has so much more to offer than just a high school story. It's full of heart and mystery and humor and, most importantly, incredibly lovable characters.

I couldn't decide at first if I was really connecting with Anna. I liked her, I related to her, she was a very enjoyable character to me from the start; but it wasn't one of those immediate, obvious connections. But when I closed the book, I missed her. It made me realize that sometimes you don't have to connect with a character on every level or agree with everything they say and do. Sometimes certain characters are just good company, they're like friends. And that's what Anna was to me. Anna was such an interesting character and one that I couldn't help but root for and relate to. Her anxiety is a big part of the story, and I am so grateful that the author didn't shy away from it. I liked that Anna's anxiety was written in a light of acceptance and of healing and that, through her anxiety, she was able to understand and attempt to help someone else. I really appreciate when authors touch on mental health and spread awareness not just about the problem itself but also about the fact that it doesn't have to define us. Anna, with the help of her loved ones, took care of herself and used her situation in a positive way later in the story. This is something that made me like Anna from the beginning and made me extremely proud of her and of the author's portrayal of her. I also feel the need to defend Anna a bit, however. As much as I like her and feel for her, I can admit that she did make mistakes. As did almost everyone at some point among the pages of this book. But a couple of my fellow reading friends (who are okay with my mentioning them in this review – hi, guys) were particularly hard on Anna for how she treated her friends, calling her vapid or self-centered. It's true that what Anna did was wrong; and if she had never admitted that or apologized for it or tried to make things right, I would completely agree that she was vapid and cruel and not a very good person or friend. But the thing is she did admit it. She even knew deep down at the time that it was wrong, but she was in a strange place at the time and was blinded by what she thought was first love. Those aren't excuses, and Anna doesn't use them as such; but considering she did apologize and own up to it, I think she deserves a little more forgiveness from the reader. And as far as her being self-centered, Anna did have to think about herself at times, but I don't believe that makes her self-centered. It makes her human. She makes unbelievable effort to do right by those around her, by her friends, and to make up for the mistakes she made. She's not perfect, but she tries. And to me, that's the most important thing a person can do.

Another character that I feel very strongly about is Jethro. He, like Anna, made mistakes and was not perfect. But Jethro has such a big heart and cares so much for those around him, especially Anna; and we all know what it's like to have the best intentions and completely go about them the wrong way, so I felt for Jethro and I'm really happy with how things ended between him and Anna, though some readers may want a bit more closure. But I'm content with having my own opinion of how things played out after the last page. The author did a great job establishing Anna and Jethro's relationship and how much they mean to each other, so I enjoyed some things being left up to the reader and not all wrapped up in a neat, perfect happily ever after. I also felt that it was a fitting end to the story itself, a reminder that not everything always has a perfect, pretty ending. Our lives don't come to a perfect close after one story, they're full of stories, one after the other, and this was just one of Anna and Jethro's.

There were plenty of other supporting characters to love in this book, such as Nikki and Haven and even Palmer. I felt he was misunderstood and deserved so much more; he broke my heart, and I truly came to love his character. A certain part in the book involving him absolutely gutted me and left me shocked. I commend the author for that amazing yet devastating twist; I never saw it coming. This entire story is full of intrigue and mystery, though with a much lighter tone than what I've been used to lately. But it really worked; I was never bored or unsatisfied with the action, and I couldn't wait to see what happened next. All in all, I truly enjoyed this book and am beyond impressed that it is Jillian Blake's debut. There were so many moving parts and so many things and people to suspect; the concept of this story was amazing, and it was executed wonderfully. I also adored the ending; the message of this book is incredibly important, and I'm so glad that I read this one. I highly recommend Antisocial to fans of teen/YA suspense and any reader that enjoys books that make you stop and think. I know I'll be thinking about this one for a long time.

A huge thank-you to the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. 

© at A Belle's Tales


Monday, July 17, 2017

Review: Tornado Weather by Deborah E. Kennedy

Title: Tornado Weather 
Author: Deborah E. Kennedy 
Source: Publisher 
Publisher: Flatiron Books 
Published: July 11th, 2017 
Purchase: Amazon | B&N 

Summary: Five-year-old Daisy Gonzalez’s father is always waiting for her at the bus stop. But today, he isn’t. As the bus driver, Fikus, lowers her wheelchair to the ground and looks around, chaos erupts behind him as one child has an accident and the rest begin to scream. When Daisy says her house is right down the road, she’ll be fine, and begins to wheel herself away, Fikus lets her go. And that's the last time she is seen. 

Nearly everyone in town suspects or knows something different about what happened, if they could only put the pieces together. They also know a lot about each other. The immigrants who work in the dairy farm know their employers’ secrets. The manager of the Laundromat knows who laid a curse on the town and why. A soldier daydreaming of his hometown can see it more clearly than the people still there. And the police officer doesn't realize how much he knows. They are all connected, in ways small and profound, open and secret.

By turns unsettling, dark, and wry, the powerful voices bring the town’s rich fabric to life. Tornado Weather is an affecting portrait of a complex and flawed cast of characters striving to find some measure of fulfillment in their lives. Though the characters’ triumphs are often modest, the hope for redemption is real--and Kennedy brilliantly shows that there is nothing average about an average life.

"One dog yelping at nothing will set ten thousand straining at their collars."
– Japanese Proverb, Tornado Weather 

I’m not exactly sure what I anticipated when I began Tornado Weather, but what I got was so much more than what I imagined. Deborah E. Kennedy’s debut is weirdly wonderful, and it’s so different that it is difficult to know just how to categorize it. It’s one of those books that, to me, shouldn’t be pigeonholed into just one genre. There’s mystery, drama, heartache, racism, and bigotry – but also hopefulness, endurance, and even a bit of psychic phenomena. In other words, I couldn’t put it down.

Colliersville is a small rural town in Indiana that is in decline, verging on poverty in some areas. It’s a place where everybody knows what’s going on with their neighbors, though not everyone is aware of things that go on right under their own noses. When little Daisy Gonzales disappears after getting off the school bus one day, everyone suspects someone different, knows something different, saw something different. So many secrets in one small town… and they’re all about to be spilled.

One story told by many voices makes this a character-driven novel with those characters being so fleshed out I felt as though they would step off the page at any moment. I know some readers may balk at the thought of multiple character POVs, but not once did I struggle to keep up with who was who – mainly because in a small town full of gossip, you’ve heard about them before you ever meet them, but also because it reads more like short stories with one main theme. And then it all comes together brilliantly.

Tornado Weather is dark and gritty at times but hopeful and heartwarming at others, with an incredible and unexpected last chapter that left me emotional in the best way. This is an excellent debut from Deborah E. Kennedy, and I very much look forward to more of her unique storytelling.

Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
© at A Belle's Tales


Friday, July 14, 2017

On My Shelf: Strands of Bronze and Gold by Jane Nickerson

On My Shelf is an awesome feature hosted by Teresa at Readers Live A Thousand Lives that anyone can join. The idea is to spotlight a book from your TBR shelf; it's a fun way to discuss books with fellow bloggers and, with their help, decide which books are must-reads... and which ones can wait a while longer.

"Welcome to Wyndriven Abbey. Mississippi, 1855." 

Strands of Bronze and Gold is a YA Gothic retelling of the Bluebeard fairytale set in antebellum Mississippi -- that information along with the stunning cover was enough to make me grab this book as well as the author's next two. Then I read that the author grew up in a small town in Mississippi less than 30 miles from where I grew up, and her books became must-haves. The second book, The Mirk and Midnight Hour, is a companion book taking place in the same universe; it is a haunting story based on the fairytale of "Tam Lin." And the third, A Place of Stone and Shadow, which is more of a sequel to the first book, is a southern Gothic ghost story also set in the same universe. I really hope to get to these this year, but you know how it is when your TBR overfloweth. So I turn to you, my fellow readers and bloggers. Tell me:

Have you read Strands of Bronze and Gold or its successors? What are your thoughts? 
Do I drop everything and start reading -- or put it back on my shelf for later?

Strands of Bronze and Gold  The Mirk and Midnight Hour  A Place of Stone and Shadow

Hope everyone has a great weekend! See you next week! 

© at A Belle's Tales


Thursday, July 13, 2017

Thursday Thrillers: The Good Neighbor by A.J. Banner

From Goodreads: From a phenomenal new voice in suspense fiction comes a book that will forever change the way you look at the people closest to you… 

Shadow Cove, Washington, is the kind of town everyone dreams about—quaint streets, lush forests, good neighbors. That’s what Sarah thinks as she settles into life with her new husband, Dr. Johnny McDonald. But all too soon she discovers an undercurrent of deception. And one October evening when Johnny is away, sudden tragedy destroys Sarah’s happiness.

Dazed and stricken with grief, she and Johnny begin to rebuild their shattered lives. As she picks up the pieces of her broken home, Sarah discovers a shocking secret that forces her to doubt everything she thought was true—about her neighbors, her friends, and even her marriage. With each stunning revelation, Sarah must ask herself, Can we ever really know the ones we love? 

The Good Neighbor by A.J. Banner 
Genre: Mystery Thriller | Pages: 206


The Good Neighbor by A.J. Banner is a great little Amazon deal at only $3.99. I received an ARC of it last year, and I go against the flow a bit when it comes to this book as I've read several reviews that find fault with this little mystery. But you know what? I likes what I likes, and I liked this book! Not only was it a super fast read, but it was also a thriller that was on the lighter side, never too dark or unsettling.

Here's my mini-review from 2016:

I really enjoyed this fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat little mystery! I read this book in two hours, and I just adore a fast read that keeps you guessing at who the main culprit is. While the main story tied up nicely, there were a couple of side stories that got no resolution. I would love a spin-off starring Fire Marshal Ryan Greene that could perhaps find room for closure for the side stories in this current installment. I liked the writing style and enjoyed the characters as well as the plot. I’ll definitely read more by this author.

Favorite Quote: 
“Haven’t you heard the saying a woman is like a tea bag, you
never know what she’s made of until you dip her in hot water?”

Bottom line: For only $3.99 at Amazon (B&N only carries the paperback and audio versions at this time), this quick mystery thriller is a great deal. I also have a copy of the author's newest novel, The Twilight Wife; and though I haven't started it yet, this one seems to be more of a crowd-pleaser. I truly believe this is an author to watch.

The Good Neighbor  The Twilight Wife

© at A Belle's Tales


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday #70: Tower of Dawn (Throne of Glass, #6) by Sarah J. Maas

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event, previously hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine,
that showcases our most anticipated upcoming releases.

Title: Tower of Dawn (Throne of Glass, #6) 
Author: Sarah J. Maas 
Publisher: Bloomsbury 
Expected Publication: September 5th, 2017 
Pre-order: Amazon | B&N 

Summary: In the next installment of the New York Times bestselling Throne of Glass series, follow Chaol on his sweeping journey to a distant empire.

Chaol Westfall has always defined himself by his unwavering loyalty, his strength, and his position as the Captain of the Guard. But all of that has changed since the glass castle shattered, since his men were slaughtered, since the King of Adarlan spared him from a killing blow, but left his body broken.

His only shot at recovery lies with the legendary healers of the Torre Cesme in Antica—the stronghold of the southern continent's mighty empire. And with war looming over Dorian and Aelin back home, their survival might lie with Chaol and Nesryn convincing its rulers to ally with them. 

But what they discover in Antica will change them both—and be more vital to saving Erilea than they could have imagined. 

September cannot get here fast enough!

What book are you waiting to get your hands on?

© at A Belle's Tales