Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Lost Girl of Astor Street: A Book Review

Hey, Guys. Still not a lot of writing news to share, but I have loads of books to share! One of my favorite reads this Winter (so much so that I've been reading it to my mom) was The Lost Girl of Astor Street by Stephanie Morrill. I received this book in the mail in exchange for my honest review.

Lydia has vanished.

Lydia, who’s never broken any rules, except falling in love with the wrong boy. Lydia, who’s been Piper’s best friend since they were children. Lydia, who never even said good-bye.

Convinced the police are looking in all the wrong places, eighteen-year-old Piper Sail begins her own investigation in an attempt to solve the mystery of Lydia’s disappearance. With the reluctant help of a handsome young detective, Piper goes searching for answers in the dark underbelly of 1924 Chicago, determined to find Lydia at any cost.

When Piper discovers those answers might stem from the corruption strangling the city—and quite possibly lead back to the doors of her affluent neighborhood—she must decide how deep she’s willing to dig, how much she should reveal, and if she’s willing to risk her life of privilege for the sake of the truth.

From the glitzy homes of the elite to the mob-run streets of 1920s Chicago, Stephanie Morrill’s jazz-age mystery shows just how far a girl will go to save her friend.

A well-written mystery is a good thing. A well-written mystery in the Jazz Age? Even better.

If you can't tell, I adore the YA genre. Though I'm now twenty-one, I still love to read a well-written young adult novel, often more than their adult counterparts. It may be because I mainly write young adult. Whatever the reason, I'm so excited to see a young adult historical mystery novel. Maybe I'm just missing something, but I haven't seen too many of these in recent years, so that already made me anticipate this novel.

Let's look at the elements of this novel.

The Cover

Maybe I just love all covers (doubtful?), but I do adore this one. Blue and green are some of my favorite colors, so their presence n this covers probably makes it more attractive to my eye. Still, I think this cover is nice. The greenish sky is a nice contrast to the standard sky-blue and Piper's inclusion doesn't feel too staged. I'm rather glad she is seen from a side view. I also like the buildings in the background. A really nice cover.

The Characters

Okay, I'll be honest. These days when I hear the words "strong female character" I often want to roll my eyes. Okay, we get it. The main character is tough, can do big things, and can do it alone if necessary. Maybe that's just how I see it. The strong female character clones often seem to be so similar and unrealistic. 

That's why I love how Piper Sail turns that stereotype on its head. Yes, she is a strong female character, but she is also weak. She is human. She has many strong character traits. She is determined, a wonderful friend, and brave. She also has negative aspects that reveal the utter humanness of her. She can't do everything alone. Sometimes she does foolish things, even if they are for the right reasons. She needs help. And there is nothing wrong with that. Piper is better when she has support, and what can be truer than that?

There were several characters in this book of note aside from her heroine, including the many men in her life. We have her brother, Nick, and her dad. In somewhat larger roles, we have Jeremiah Crane, a suave newspaper man who I sort of adored, as well as Walter, Piper's best friend, the son of the housekeeper. Lastly, we have Cassano, a young police detective who has some obvious chemistry with Piper. (I would argue that Jeremiah also has obvious chemistry, but you should read the book). Each of these characters was unique and well-developed. I loved the supporting cast. The missing Lydia was also an important player, literally affecting almost every part of the story. The characterization was great.


The plot is probably one of my favorite things about this book. At times misleading, at times heartbreaking, at time romantic, the storyline sews everything together quite nicely. There were twists to be found (one big shocker about halfway through the book) but also some calms in the storm involving sweetness. This is Stephanie Morrill's first historical and I think she did such a fine job. I love it and I really really hope we get to see more Piper Sail in the future!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Unblemished: A Book Review

 Okay, so in my old schedule, Tuesday was the day for theatre-related goodness. Now I do the bulk of my theatre fangirling over at The Fangirl Initiative, a site dedicated to all things fandom, which you should check out. Still, I plan to share some of the events going on in my theatre life, but that will have to wait. Today I am going to share another book with you. Unblemished by Sara Ella. I received this book free, but the review containes my thoughts and opinions.

Eliyana can’t bear to look at her own reflection. But what if that were only one Reflection—one world? What if another world exists where her blemish could become her strength?

Eliyana is used to the shadows. With a birthmark covering half her face, she just hopes to graduate high school unscathed. That is, until Joshua hops a fence and changes her perspective. No one, aside from her mother, has ever treated her like he does: normal. Maybe even beautiful. Because of Joshua, Eliyana finally begins to believe she could be loved.

But one night her mother doesn’t come home, and that’s when everything gets weird. Now Joshua is her new, and rather reluctant, legal Guardian. Add a hooded stalker and a Central Park battle to the mix and you’ve gone from weird to otherworldly.

Eliyana soon finds herself in a world much larger and more complicated than she’s ever known. A world enslaved by a powerful and vile man. And Eliyana holds the answer to defeating him. How can an ordinary girl, a blemished girl, become a savior when she can’t even save herself?


I know what you're thinking. Ugh. Another story about dark brooding heroes who have a secret that will change the boring heroine's life. And maybe that's sort of right. But this is not that story.

The Cover:

First, I must take a moment to comment on the cover. The saying about judging a book by its cover is true, but I love a gorgeous cover like this one. Sometimes having a face on a cover is interesting, but I like the sort of lower face approach here. The font, all lowercase, goes well with the ethereal glimmers of white and the pattern swirling about her face is curious and pretty. I also like how the image of the trees and building were included at the bottom. This is a well-designed cover and definitely eye-catching. So A+ as far as covers go.


Next, I have to point out that this book has a map at the start, which is always a good sign in my opinion. The book is also split into 'acts' which makes my theatre nerd self really happy. Many musical references are written into the prose, which also makes me happy. But onto the actual review...

The Characters:

Understanding a character is imperative to understanding the story. In Unblemished we have a relatively large cast of unique and developed characters. I can't talk about some of the characters without spoilers, so I will do my best to avoid those. We have the heroine Eliyana, a girl struggling with her self-worth. Many people suffer with it, me included at times, Eliyana has a strange red birthmark on her face that mortifies her. With all she goes through during the book, Eliyana is a character that grows a lot and one I liked for the most part. 

Other characters of note include Joshua, Eliyana's guardian just a few years her senior, and Ky, who I would describe as the bad boy to Joshua's nice-guy persona. Both of these characters are well-written and I absolute love how Sara Ella did not write them as tropes, but made them into layered and sympathetic people. They got on my nerves at times, especially one of them, but they are important to the story and a good character will aggravate you at times. Perfect characters are boring!

The villain is pretty chilling. I can't go into why he's so chilling, but trust me. One doesn't want to mess with Jasyn Crow. 

The supporting characters are pretty fabulous as well. In general, this book has a well-rounded cast.

The Story:

Ah. The thing that connects everything and keeps the characters and plot together... Unblemished obviously carries a message of self-acceptance, not a truly rare message, but an important one nonetheless. Self-acceptance is also rarely presented from a Christian perspective, so that's also a good thing here, even if the novel is a fantasy. 

This story does have some tropes in it (which I don't necessarily mind). There's the one where a person goes to another the world, the enduring love triangle, and the chosen one storyline (sort of). These actually all work pretty well into the fabric of this story. The other world is a reflection of our own and Eliyana's journey there is nothing like Lucy's peaceful journey into Narnia. In fact, it's kind of scary and worrisome. Goody. 

The love triangle. I hate love triangles. Okay, I dislike them. Sometimes. I've watched enough Korean dramas that I know my love triangles... The thing about love triangles is this: if they aren't done well, they are the worst. The girl in a love triangle (or guy, if the situation is reversed) is often so indecisive and flaky that the guys should just go find someone else. I found that to be much less promiYonent here. The love triangle had explanations. The reason the main character struggled had an explanation. It wasn't just because she couldn't decide which of the two buff, extremely hot guys she liked more.

Also, I want to note how much I love that looks are not highlighted here. Eliyana has a hideous birthmark. Ky has horrible acne. I just love that not everyone is porcelain skinned or the world's definition of beautiful. Thank you, Sara Ella, for that. 

The story is well-written and exciting. I spent a lot of time that I should have been sleeping during college last semester burning through this book. Yeah, I have no regrets. 

The worldbuilding is excellent. In one book Ella created an expansive universe of sorts full of exciting possibility. 

Also, I shall not spoil it, but there is a bit of a twist that I didn't see coming. As a person who often sees things coming (an annoyance when trying to watch a film), I was pretty surprised.

Unblemished is a great book about embracing who you are and your purpose and the characters go on both literal and figurative journeys that are incredibly engaging. Add to that Sara Ella's beautiful prose and you have a winner for this author's first novel. I can't wait to see what comes next!

You can buy Unblemished here or wherever it is sold.

~ Bethany

Monday, May 8, 2017

King's Blood: A Book Review

Hello friends of the internet. I have just finished up my first semester at an official university and I am aching to write lots of blog posts this summer. So here is my first. A review of King's Blood by Jill Williamson. This book was complimentary and I am giving my honest review. King's Blood is the second book in the Kinsman Chronicles series, so be sure to check out King's Folly first! Welcome back to Book Thursdays!

Image result for king's blood jill williamson

Back cover: The Five Realms have been destroyed. The remnants of the population who escaped now find themselves confined only to several hundred ships adrift at sea. Guided by hope, rumor, and a promise, they sail north into the unknown, desperate to find land that might become their new home.

As the king's illness worsens, Sâr Wilek takes authority over the expedition and struggles to rule the disjointed people, while assassination attempts, vicious serpents, dangerous storms, and dark magic endanger his life and the survival of his people.

One prophecy has come to pass, but another looms dauntingly in the future. Who is the promised Deliverer? And if the Magonians have him, what might that mean for the realm of Armania?

One thing Jill Williamson always does well in / her books is world building. World building is the time an author takes to develop their world, all the intricacies of each culture and the expanse of each world they portray. Each of Williamson's novels has a great level of world building that helps make the story more real for the reader. It is an important skill and one she excels in.

One thing every good story need is a good character (or several). Williamson always crafts remarkable characters. Two of my favorites in this series are Sâr Trevn and Hinkdan Faluk, two young men in some perilous situations. I've so enjoyed reading Hinkdan's character development over the first book and this one. He has become so courageous and I like him very much. Other characters are also lovely, though I disliked Charlon (another main character) more this time around. Other characters were written perfectly to disgust the average reader with a conscious, including Sâr Janek and Sir Kamran DanSâr.

The plot of this novel was quite expansive. The novel is nearly six-hundred pages and covers many characters in a detailed and exciting story. A helpful character appendix at the front of the book will help forgetful readers keep characters and relations straight. The story does not feel rushed. I think the pacing was handled well so that everything moved at a good speed. This is that rare type of book with light moments and parts that will make you sob... at least for me. I finished this book in tears, but still excited for the next installment. So if you prefer stories that only include happiness, then this book is not for you. But if you enjoy the realism of pain, the joy of life, and exciting fantasy, you may just in enjoy this story. It is well worth the time it takes to read (and really, it's so interesting that six-hundred pages aren't anything.)

I recommend this book and if you are interested in reading it, you can find it here or wherever it may be sold.

~ Bethany