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Category: Celeste’s Reviews

Book Review: A Time of Courage (Of Blood and Bone, #3)

Book Review: A Time of Courage (Of Blood and Bone, #3)

A Time of Courage
A Time of Courage by John Gwynne
My rating: 6 of 5 stars

“Truth and courage are the banners I live by. Love, loyalty and friendship shall be my guiding light. I will be the bright star in the night sky, the candle in the darkness. The defender of the innocent, protector of the weak. I will bring hope to the lost, give my life for the helpless. With Truth as my shield, and Courage as my sword, I shall stand against the darkness. From this day on, until the time of my death.”
— The Oath of The Order of the Bright Star.

I firmly believe that John Gwynne is one of the most gifted, powerful fantasy authors of our age. In the course of this trilogy and the quartet preceding it, Gwynne was able to create a world that feels as real as our own. The lore he wove into each book was fascinating and completely transportive. He crafted a compendium of characters for whom I cared so deeply that I rejoiced and wept with them as if they were my friends in reality instead of merely fictional. And don’t even get me started on his action-scene prowess. The fact that he can keep a battle going for 200 pages and keep everything in such incredibly clear focus that boredom has no hope of setting in and tension is so well maintained that I never once felt tempted to skim is an incredible accomplishment that I don’t think has been matched by any other author I’ve read outside of Brandon Sanderson. I honestly don’t know that anything about the series as a whole or this book in particular could’ve been improved in any way. In A Time of Courage, Gwynne penned an incredible finale that moved me deeply and left me feeling weepy and exhausted and content.

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Book Review: The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune

Book Review: The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune


The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Change often starts with the smallest of whispers.”

How many books have been written proclaiming that different doesn’t mean wrong? Countless. And yet that message is still just as desperately needed, if not moreso, than it’s every been. We live in a world divided, a world in which diversity is still viewed with suspicion by many fronts. But though we still have a long way to go, inclusion and acceptance of those different than ourselves has come a long way over the course of the past century. While it may seem as though we’ve taken a step back in recent years, we’ve actually come so far that we’re better able to recognize our failings than ever before. Just as waking a sleeping limb is painful but necessary in order for our body to properly function, being able to see the areas in which we’re lacking is painful but necessary if we want to keep moving forward into a world in which people are valued for their souls and dreams instead of cast out for being different. After all, aren’t our differences what make us beautiful? The world would be a boring place if we were all carbon copies of one another. I for one am thankful to live in a world in which uniqueness abounds.

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Book Review: The Shadow of the Wind (The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, #1)

Book Review: The Shadow of the Wind (The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, #1)


The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“There are worse prisons than words.”

The planet lost an incredible talent today. Carlos Ruiz Zafón, the author of this truly magnificent book, lost his battle with cancer, at the age of 55. Zafón had a brilliant, gorgeous way with words, and told stories in a way that sink into your bones and stay with you long after you read the last pages. Though he left the world too soon, he left behind him an amazing legacy in the novels that have touched countless readers across our world, which have been translated into more than 40 languages. I’m so thankful to have read and been touched by The Shadow of the Wind, and I’m grateful to have the rest of his catalogue in my future.

“Well, this is a story about books.”
“About books?”
“About accuse books, about the man who wrote them, about a character who broke out of the pages of a novel so that he could burn it, about ta betrayal and a lost friendship. It’s a story of love, of hatred, and of dreams that live in the shadow of the wind.”

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Book Review: Sea Wife by Amity Gaige

Book Review: Sea Wife by Amity Gaige


Sea Wife by Amity Gaige
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

“Where does a mistake begin?”

This is the opening line of Amity Gaige’s newest novel, Sea Wife. We know from the very beginning that something terrible has happened. We just don’t know the specifics of what or how. The story is told largely from two perspectives: Juliet in the present and her husband, Michael, in the past through the captain’s log he kept during their sailing year. There are a few different mysteries woven through the plot, but I felt that the story largely centers around what makes a marriage, and what ends one. Sea Wife is a deep, beautifully written novel with enough pace to the plot to maintain investment while also discussing timeless topics in fresh ways.

“Tears or sweat—so many stories end in salt water.”

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Book Review: The Mothers by Brit Bennett

Book Review: The Mothers by Brit Bennett


The Mothers by Brit Bennett
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

“The weight of what has been lost is always heavier than what remains.”

The Mothers is a powerful, moving picture of a how a secret can wreak havoc on a person, a family, a church, a community. An action that seems to only effect one person never does. Instead, even the smallest decisions can have far-reaching consequences, small ripples that grow into tidal waves.

“After a secret’s been told, everyone becomes a prophet.”

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Book Review: Hollywood Park by Mikel Jollett

Book Review: Hollywood Park by Mikel Jollett


Hollywood Park by Mikel Jollett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In the past few years, I’ve developed a deep love for any memoir in which someone details their crazy childhood and how they managed to rise above it. While they are radically different, Hollywood Park is joining Educated as one of my favorites in this random subgenre for which I’ve developed such a fondness. Hearing about Mikel Jollett’s earliest years was incredibly illuminating, and was yet another true story that made me so incredibly thankful for the wonderful, easy childhood I had, and how foundational that gilded upbringing was in my becoming the person I am today.

“Those nights I just go blank, like I could tie every bad thing inside me to a balloon and just let it float up into the sky, disappearing beyond the clouds.”

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Book Review: Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner

Book Review: Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner


Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

We all have our insecurities, reasons we sell ourselves short and chicken out on following our dreams. Reasons we don’t think we deserve those dreams. And we’re all wrong. We all, every single one of us, deserve those dreams. And we need to respect ourselves enough to get out of our own way and to at least try. The worst that can happen is that we fail, right? And how is that worse than never trying at all?

Big Summer is a breezy, very current murder mystery. The perspective character, Daphne, is a plus-sized Instagram influencer who is about to be part of the biggest wedding to ever hit social media. But when someone winds up dead, Daphne finds herself trying to track down the murderer instead.

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Book Review: The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix

Book Review: The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix


The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires is billed as “Fried Green Tomatoes and Steel Magnolias meets Dracula.” I have never been as immediately excited by the promise of such a weird marriage. While I didn’t find the book nearly as Southern in tone and setting as the title promised, it was still a fun read. Fun and infuriating and, on occasion, very very gross. I should have remembered how nasty My Best Friend’s Exorcism was in places, but I had evidently blocked that out. This book didn’t reach quite the same level of ick, but there was definitely some ick within these pages.

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Book Review: Ghosts of Harvard by Francesca Serritella

Book Review: Ghosts of Harvard by Francesca Serritella


Ghosts of Harvard by Francesca Serritella
My rating: 6 of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book from the publisher (Random House) and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Ghosts of Harvard completely blew me away. At its core, it houses such a poignant window into mental illness and the victims it leaves behind when those struggling with it take their own lives. The portrayal of grief is brutal and beautiful and real. And yet this story is so much more than that. As she explores the Harvard campus on which her brother took his own life, Cady is faced with a plethora of mysteries. While her brother’s last days consume her from the start, she also finds herself digging into the university’s past as she grapples with fear over her own future. Ghosts of Harvard is a brilliant and seamless bridging of so many ideas and genres. I am in awe of how much research went into the writing of this book, and how Serritella was able to convey so much without a single aspect feeling forced. She struck a perfect balance in so many ways, and she truly gave the world a gift through the publication of this novel.

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Book Review: The Girl and the Stars (Book of the Ice, #1)

Book Review: The Girl and the Stars (Book of the Ice, #1)


The Girl and the Stars by Mark Lawrence
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book from the publisher (Ace) in exchange for an honest review.

“Many babies have killed, but it is very rare that the victim is not their mother.”

So begins Mark Lawrence’s newest novel, The Girl and the Stars. As always, Lawrence knows how to captivate an audience and set the tone for the book all within the first sentence. We know immediately that Yaz of the Ictha, our perspective character, is an uncommon child. On the Ice, difference can be a death sentence. And not just because those differences often render their bearer vulnerable, but because children who are too different, broken in the eyes of their elders, end up being tossed into the Pit. And that is the end that Yaz envisions for herself with a hard clarity. But when the time comes for her to face the push that will send her into the abyss, things go differently that she had always imagined. What she fully expected to be the end of her story turned out to be its true beginning.

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