Friday, September 28, 2018

Blog Tour & Book Sketch: The Lantern's Ember by Colleen Houck

By: Colleen Houck
Published By: Delacorte Press
Release Date: Sept. 11, 2018
Series: None
Pages: 416
Genre: Fantasy
Reading Level: Young Adult
Source: ALA
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads Summary: Welcome to a world where nightmarish creatures reign supreme.

Five hundred years ago, Jack made a deal with the devil. It’s difficult for him to remember much about his mortal days. So, he focuses on fulfilling his sentence as a Lantern—one of the watchmen who guard the portals to the Otherworld, a realm crawling with every nightmarish creature imaginable. Jack has spent centuries jumping from town to town, ensuring that nary a mortal—or not-so-mortal—soul slips past him. That is, until he meets beautiful Ember O’Dare.

Seventeen, stubborn, and a natural-born witch, Ember feels a strong pull to the Otherworld. Undeterred by Jack’s warnings, she crosses into the forbidden plane with the help of a mysterious and debonair vampire—and the chase through a dazzling, dangerous world is on. Jack must do everything in his power to get Ember back where she belongs before both the earthly and unearthly worlds descend into chaos.

First Thought After Finishing: What if the world really worked this way?

I’ve always loved stories about witches—my favorite book as a child was about a group of chimney witches. The cover of this book as well as the fact that it was about a witch made me excited to read this story.

Jack is a Lantern, sworn into service guarding portals to the Otherworld. No souls should slip through his crossroads—but he wasn’t expecting Ember. She’s a witch who feels a pull to the Otherworld, and she’ll do whatever it takes to get there. When a handsome yet mysterious vampire appears and offers her passage, she jumps at the chance. But Ember discovers that as appealing as the Otherworld may be, it holds just as many dangers. And Jack is not about to let Ember slip away from him again.

The world that Colleen Houck is built is fascinating. She pulls from various myths and legends to build a unique world that parallels our own. The various creatures that populate the Otherworld—as well as the mortal world—make me wonder if such things could really exist. In this book, it seems only normal that witches walk among us, that creatures could have guardians, and that all the creatures one only reads about could truly coexist somewhere. The steampunk elements were also quite interesting, making me think about our own technology in new ways.

This book has a bit of everything—a touch of mystery, a bit of adventure required to save the world, and of course a dash of romance. Ember is a headstrong young witch, rushing into action without thinking through the consequences. As for the male characters involved, they certainly have very different personalities, but each have appealing characteristics. Following their adventures through the Otherworld was mostly an interesting journey, though it did take a bit to get into the world, and I never felt quite as attached to the characters as I wanted to. But the beauty of this story is that it’s a standalone and a quick read, good for the beginning of fall or to get into the mood for Halloween.

Most Memorable Aspect: The unique world that could almost be an alternate reality.

~ ~ ~ ABOUT THE AUTHOR ~ ~ ~

New York Times Bestselling author Colleen Houck is a lifelong reader whose literary interests include action, adventure, paranormal, science fiction, and romance. When she’s not busy writing, she likes to spend time chatting on the phone with one of her six siblings, watching plays, and shopping online. Colleen has lived in Arizona, Idaho, Utah, California, and North Carolina and is now permanently settled in Salem, Oregon with her husband and a huge assortment of plush tigers.

Find her online:
Website | Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram


Week One:
9/3/18 - Captivated Reading - Review
9/4/18 - Jrsbookreview - Review
9/5/18 - Two Chicks on Books - Excerpt
9/6/18 - YA Books Central - Interview
9/7/18 - Zach's YA Reviews - Review

Week Two:
9/10/18 - Such a Novel Idea - Review
9/11/18 - Lisa Loves Literature - Review
9/12/18 - Wishful Endings - Interview
9/13/18 - The Bookish Libra - Review
9/14/18 - Here's to Happy Endings - Review

Week Three:
9/17/18 - The Desert Bibliophile - Review
9/18/18 - Smada's Book Smack - Review
9/19/18 - Book-Keeping - Review
9/20/18 - A Dream Within a Dream - Review
9/21/18 - A Court of Coffee and Books - Review

Week Four: 9/24/18 - Do You Dog-Ear? - Review
9/25/18 - Savings in Seconds - Review
9/26/18 - Book Briefs - Review
9/27/18 - Pacific Northwest Bookworm - Review
9/28/18 - Portrait of a Book - Review


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Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Book Sketch: The Other Side of Lost by Jessi Kirby

By: Jessi Kirby
Published By: HarperTeen
Release Date: August 7, 2018
Series: None
Pages: 320
Genre: Contemporary
Reading Level: Young Adult
Source: ALA
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads Summary: Girl Online meets Wild in this emotionally charged story of girl who takes to the wilderness to rediscover herself and escape the superficial persona she created on social media.

Mari Turner’s life is perfect. That is, at least to her thousands of followers who have helped her become an internet starlet. But when she breaks down and posts a video confessing she’s been living a lie—that she isn’t the happy, in-love, inspirational online personality she’s been trying so hard to portray—it goes viral and she receives major backlash. To get away from it all, she makes an impulsive decision: to hike the entire John Muir trail. Mari and her late cousin, Bri, were supposed to do it together, to celebrate their shared eighteenth birthday. But that was before Mari got so wrapped up in her online world that she shut anyone out who questioned its worth—like Bri.

With Bri’s boots and trail diary, a heart full of regret, and a group of strangers that she meets along the way, Mari tries to navigate the difficult terrain of the hike. But the true challenge lies within, as she searches for the way back to the girl she fears may be too lost to find: herself.

First Thought After Finishing: Jessi Kirby has such a way with words!

I really enjoy self-discovery stories and stories set in nature so that I can experience it vicariously. This story gave me a view of the John Muir trail, something I could never hike, but it made me want to go outside and explore. It should come as no surprise that I loved everything about this story.

Mari has spent most of high school cultivating a perfect Instagram life. She even lost contact with her cousin Bri, who always lived life to the fullest. After what should have been their shared eighteenth birthday, Mari starts to rethink her life. She posts an soul-bearing video on social media before deleting her accounts. When Bri’s hiking backpack shows up, she makes a split-second decision to hike the trail both as an escape and in Bri’s honor. Along the way, she had to push herself out of her comfort zone both physically and emotionally. But will she conquer the journey, or will it conquer her?

"It's just what everyone does, I guess. We walk around carrying invisible weights, and doing our best to look like everything is okay even when it may not be...It's easy to do when you have a screen, and filters, and editing abilities standing between you and real life. But when you actually step out into the world, you don't get those options. Life is right there in front of you, and sometimes the only choice is to be real."

I’ll be honest: At the beginning, I thought Mari would annoy me. But giving up social media like she did is no easy feat. Although the adult part of me couldn’t believe that she was going alone (or without training), once she was out on the trail, I couldn’t help but cheer her on. Mari certainly has her work cut out for her on the trail, but she kept pushing herself forward. There’s something to be said about physically moving past a difficult time in life, and even reading about her hike seemed like a cathartic experience.

"Josh nods. 'Most definitely. Anyway,' he says. 'As long as we're beinng philosophical...I don't think that what we came looking for is as important as what we end up finding out here.'

I look at him, then back out at the creek, and think about what I've found so far. What I'm finding, every day I spend on the trail--strength and gratitude and wonder--all of these big things I didn't start out looking for."

Jessi Kirby has a knack for writing friendships and romances that can only happen away from the real world on trips or under the stars. Mari meets another group of teens who become a kind of trail family, and they not only showed her what life was missing but also helped her along the way. Even though I could tell most of the tests their friendship would face, I loved reading about their adventures together. This is the type of friend group that I would want to go road tripping or hiking with (if I actually went hiking, that is).

"Maybe that's the point--not to have figured out life by the end of it, but to have experienced living in an entirely different way. Fully present, and in ourselves, where we have to sit with our faults and find our strengths. One step at a time."

One of my favorite things about this book was the vivid depictions of the scenery along the trail. Jessi always writes scenes that I wish could be captured in paintings, and this book was no exception. I also really enjoyed the snippets from Bri’s journal and the connections formed between different people. It was a good reminder of the importance of living life to the fullest, because there are no guarantees. This book was a wonderful summer read and a groom way to refocus in quiet moments before a hectic school schedule set in. I highly recommend it to anyone!

Most Memorable Aspect: The breathtaking descriptions of nature.

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