Review of The Graces by Laure Eve

TheGracesThe Graces
By: Laure Eve
Release Date: September 6th 2016
Publisher: Amulet Books
Format: Print ARC
Source: Publisher

My Rating:
star

Summary:
In The Graces, the first rule of witchcraft states that if you want something badly enough, you can get it . . . no matter who has to pay.

Everyone loves the Graces. Fenrin, Thalia, and Summer Grace are captivating, wealthy, and glamorous. They’ve managed to cast a spell over not just their high school but also their entire town—and they’re rumored to have powerful connections all over the world. If you’re not in love with one of them, you want to be them. Especially River: the loner, new girl at school. She’s different from her peers, who both revere and fear the Grace family. She wants to be a Grace more than anything. And what the Graces don’t know is that River’s presence in town is no accident.

My Thoughts:
Wow, this is going to be a difficult review to write because I’m not totally certain of how I feel about this book. Upon first starting it I got a very strong Twilight vibe- girl in new school enthralled with a family of beautiful, mysterious siblings that everyone admires and fears. It all felt a bit familiar but it was pretty clear from the start that the main character was no Bella.

Our MC had malicious intent…or so I felt from the start. I never once trusted her narrative or felt any semblance of positive regard for her. For some reason her thoughts and motivations seemed so ick to me. She seemed only out to befriend the Graces to help further her own self interests along. I typically prefer to enjoy and connect to the main character. I understand that not every book has this and I don’t count (or try not to) it against the book or my reading experience. But, I’ll admit, it does make the getting into the book a tad harder.

A little ways in though I became captivated by watching this train wreck of a book. I could feel things building up and I couldn’t imagine the outcome would be pretty. There were moments of friendship and lighthearted movie nights but always underneath I felt trepidation as to what was around the next page.

The further I read the more and more certain I became that there wouldn’t be a happy ending. I had some suspicions and was pretty pleased with myself that I called it all fairly accurately. This book was very readable to me and I had no problems breezing through it in a day. Though it was a fast read there were some sluggish moments and overall it was not a feel good read. I felt the book cast a pall over me- my mood somewhat changed and a bit clouded over.

I’ll give it to the author- her writing was obviously strong to be able to have an emotional impact on my mood. As far as the story went-things were not overly predictable and I felt that it moved at a steady pace though the very ending was a tad disappointing. I can’t go deeper into it due to spoilers but one character didn’t really get what, I thought, they deserved…but I think we’ll get more in the sequel.

TheGracesPic

Final Thoughts:
The Graces played on some typical young adult tropes but the author put her own original spin on things and I felt overall this was a unique read. I found it to be captivating though it wasn’t a feel good read and not one I’ll be rereading any time soon. The way things left off there will be a sequel and I will be curious as to how the story will continue.

Thank you Jon at Bookish Antics for the lovely conversation we had after I finished reading this one. That is one of my favorite aspects of reading a book- discussing it after with a friend.

Review of The Steep and Thorny Way by Cat Winters

SteepandThornyWayThe Steep and Thorny Way
By: Cat Winters
Release Date: March 8th 2016
Publisher: Amulet Books
Format: Print ARC
Source: Publisher

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

My Rating:
star

Summary:
1920s Oregon is not a welcoming place for Hanalee Denney, the daughter of a white woman and an African-American man. She has almost no rights by law, and the Ku Klux Klan breeds fear and hatred in even Hanalee’s oldest friendships. Plus, her father, Hank Denney, died a year ago, hit by a drunk-driving teenager. Now her father’s killer is out of jail and back in town, and he claims that Hanalee’s father wasn’t killed by the accident at all but, instead, was poisoned by the doctor who looked after him—who happens to be Hanalee’s new stepfather.

The only way for Hanalee to get the answers she needs is to ask Hank himself, a “haint” wandering the roads at night.

My Thoughts:
If you’ve followed my blog for a while you’ll know that I adore Cat Winters’ writing style and each of her books really resonates and impacts me emotionally. This one was no different.

I wasn’t all that sure what to expect about this book going in because I honestly didn’t read the summary prior to requesting it. All I needed to know was that Winters wrote it. I was surprised and impressed with the social issues that were looked into and the way that, though immense emotion was present, the novel didn’t feel like it was telling me how to believe. It was an honest character study in a period of time rife with prejudice and judgment.

My heart ached for the struggles these characters had to deal with and the amount of hate directed at them. Though the setting was historical I think we can draw comparisons to our current day. The way Winters approached her characters was so refreshing and lent itself to honest understanding and empathy from the reader.

My favorite aspect of this novel was how strong Hanalee was. And, though I really don’t have an exhaustive knowledge of the time period or what Hanalee was going through, I was able to relate on a deep level.

Winters always impresses me with her ability to delve into a setting, time period and her characters. You can always tell that there has been a lot of research and study going into these books. I felt that Winters portrayed these characters beautifully and really gave them a voice.

Beyond the amazing characters, most of which were truly well rounded, the elements that mirrored Hamlet were very well done. I had to brush up on Hamlet since it had been ages since I’d read it but once I sparked  my memories I was easily able to see how TSaTW took some of these elements and twisted them into the book. Such as, a lonely ghost seeking to explain his death, mixed up identities and motives, and the journey of a child trying to understand her father’s demise.

As with all of Winters’ books the writing was impeccable though I found the pacing in this one to be a tad slower than her other novels. The paranormal elements were also less pronounce but still very present and integral to the storyline.

Final Thoughts:
Once again Cat Winters has written a book that had me thinking about its message long after finishing the novel. The writing, characters and research of the time period and people was impeccable-as always.

Extras:

  • Review of The Uninvited by Cat Winters
  • Review of The Cure for Dreaming by Cat Winters
  • Interview with Cat Winters author of In the Shadow of Blackbirds
  • Review of In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters

Review of The Cure for Dreaming by Cat Winters + International Giveaway

The Cure for DreamingThe Cure for Dreaming
By: Cat Winters
Release Date: October 14th 2014
Publisher: Amulet Books
Format: Print ARC
Source: Publisher

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review

My Rating:
star

Summary:
Olivia Mead is a headstrong, independent girl—a suffragist—in an age that prefers its girls to be docile. It’s 1900 in Oregon, and Olivia’s father, concerned that she’s headed for trouble, convinces a stage mesmerist to try to hypnotize the rebellion out of her. But the hypnotist, an intriguing young man named Henri Reverie, gives her a terrible gift instead: she’s able to see people’s true natures, manifesting as visions of darkness and goodness, while also unable to speak her true thoughts out loud. These supernatural challenges only make Olivia more determined to speak her mind, and so she’s drawn into a dangerous relationship with the hypnotist and his mysterious motives, all while secretly fighting for the rights of women. Winters breathes new life into history once again with an atmospheric, vividly real story, including archival photos and art from the period throughout.

The Story:
Well, this cements it, Cat Winters is one of my favorite authors (really there was no question) and I’ll read anything she writes. The pacing was incredibly fast and I was riveted from the very start. I dropped the other books I was reading and became solely immersed in this one. I wanted nothing more than to have my nose stuck in this book until I finished. Really, that’s what I did.

I wasn’t as drawn to the summary for The Cure for Dreaming as I was her first novel, In the Shadow of Blackbirds, but as soon as I began reading I knew I’d fall in love with this book. Winters’ writing was incredibly powerful, emotional and engaging. There are never slow moments. I was swept into 1900 Oregon and Olivia’s life. Actually, upon finishing I feel that dreaded book hangover. I zipped through the book and now wish I could go back and read it again for the first time.

I’ve not read much about the suffragist movement and had very little to go on but I felt that Winters was able to express the time period and how it felt to be a woman beautifully. I am ashamed that I’ve not spent more time understanding where my right to vote began and feel that I will be looking deeper into it now. This book was encouraging and opened my eyes to how much things have changed in a short amount of time.

Not only does this novel touch upon a historically significant time but we are also introduced to hypnosis. Magic, the occult and hypnosis was very much in style early in American history and I adore that Winters brings up the subjects and incorporates them into her novels. I loved the other worldly quality of this book and felt that though it was fantastical it still felt incredibly realistic and even plausible to some degree. I for one have never encountered a hypnotist so have no experience with the art but I am thoroughly intrigued to learn more.

As with In the Shadow of Blackbirds, photographs either from the time or portraying this time period are scattered throughout. This provides the reader a visual peek into the 1900’s and adds so much to the experience. If anyone can create a historical atmosphere it’s Cat Winters.

The Characters:
Olivia was immediately relatable and likeable. Winters gave her character a beautiful progression from slightly unsure of herself to realizing her inner bravery and strength. Not only was her character outstanding, attention was paid to each of the secondary characters. The interactions and dialog between characters were impeccable.

I especially loved Olivia and Henri’s relationship. I felt that they both brought out the strength in one another and I yearned for them to share scenes together. Truth be told, I could have done with many more moments between the two. Let it be known that I am crossing my fingers for a Cat Winters book that focuses on romance a tad bit heavier than the last two (update– Cat told me that an adult book coming out next year called The Uninvited will have a bit more romance in it!).

Back to Henri, our hypnotist, I adored that he began as a magical being that seemed far removed from Olivia and the reader. As the story progressed we learn about Henri as Olivia does and find that he was flawed and real. I thought that he was a very complex character that I’d love to read more about. I could see so many more stories concerning him and his sister.

Winters excels at creating and breathing life into her cast of characters. Even Olivia’s father, who was despicable and frightening, pulled at my empathy a time or two. I’m somewhat appalled at myself, but I felt for the man in one particular scene.

Final Thoughts:
I think you can tell that I adored this book as well as everything Cat Winters writes. I can’t think of another author that so seamlessly incorporates complex characters, a spooky atmosphere with historical elements. Though this story took place in 1900-elements are still applicable to our current world and resonates with readers today.

The Cure for Dreaming Book Trailer:

Extras:

Giveaway:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Review of In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters

In the Shadow of BlackbirdsIn the Shadow of Blackbirds
By: Cat Winters
Release Date: April 2, 2013
Publisher: Amulet Books

My Rating:
star

Summary (via Goodreads):
In 1918, the world seems on the verge of apocalypse. Americans roam the streets in gauze masks to ward off the deadly Spanish influenza, and the government ships young men to the front lines of a brutal war, creating an atmosphere of fear and confusion. Sixteen-year-old Mary Shelley Black watches as desperate mourners flock to séances and spirit photographers for comfort, but she herself has never believed in ghosts. During her bleakest moment, however, she’s forced to rethink her entire way of looking at life and death, for her first love—a boy who died in battle—returns in spirit form. But what does he want from her?
Featuring haunting archival early-twentieth-century photographs, this is a tense, romantic story set in a past that is eerily like our own time.

The Story:
I learned about the Spanish influenza and World War I in school; reading about the number of people who lost their lives in text books. But, I must admit it never felt real to me- just words that didn’t resonate. While reading In the Shadow of Blackbirds I was able to really grasp the fear and horror of this time period in American history. Winters’ words and descriptions are so powerful I could taste and smell what was being described. I stayed up later than I should reading and then had ghastly nightmares, but it was entirely worth it. It’s one of those rare books that you aren’t the same after you’ve read it. I had to research the Spanish flu and learn more about the time period and the horrible loss of life. While reading I couldn’t help but imagine if this was happening in present day how would things be? I can’t fully grasp the panic and fear. In the Shadow of Blackbirds isn’t a pretty story but it is profound, moving and tragic.

The Characters:
Cat Winters succeeds in creating an atmosphere that pulls you in and enthralls, but her characters are what really drive the novel and wrench your heart. Mary Shelley Black is a strong willed, highly intelligent, scientifically minded 16 year old. She has lost her mother and her father is taken from her for being a traitor. She is flung out of her home and sent to live with her Aunt Eva. Eva has lost her husband and lives alone amidst the horrifying reality of death surrounding her. I think she needs Mary Shelley as much as Mary Shelley needs her.

Lives are not only being lost by the Spanish influenza, soldiers are victims of a raging battle; young boys thrust into trench warfare. Stephen, Mary Shelley’s first love and childhood friend, is the latest victim. Just like Mary Shelley I felt that my time with Stephen was cut horribly short; I mourned his loss with her and looked forward to seeing him in spirit form just as she did. Winters gives depth to all of her characters from Mary Shelley to the people she runs across in her daily life. Winters pulls the reader into the time period, builds scenery, and populates her world with characters that feel real. I understood their motivations, their sadness, their grief.

Final Thoughts:
Quite simply, one of the best books I’ve ever read. In the Shadow of Blackbirds will always be part of me, I’m not likely to ever forget the story Cat Winters told or the characters she created and made real.