Month: September 2014

Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo | Book Review

Posted September 29, 2014 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult Fiction / 4 Comments

Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo | Book ReviewRuin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo
Series: The Grisha #3
Published by Henry Holt and Co. on June 17, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 417
Format: Hardcover
Source: Gift
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5 Stars

The capital has fallen. The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne.

Now the nation's fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army.

Deep in an ancient network of tunnels and caverns, a weakened Alina must submit to the dubious protection of the Apparat and the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Yet her plans lie elsewhere, with the hunt for the elusive firebird and the hope that an outlaw prince still survives.

Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova's amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling's secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction—and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she’s fighting for.

Oh MY gosh. Ruin and Rising is here!!!! Right!? Don’t worry, I read this right when it came out. It has just taken me this long to figure out how to write a review for it. Leigh Bardugo is my hero. Now, I can’t guarantee there won’t be spoilers for the first two books. And I can’t guarantee this review will be anything but a bunch of fangirling with no real point. But either way, here are my thoughts. As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. Before I even begin, can we all just have a moment of silence for the end of the Grisha trilogy? I am SO sad it’s over.

2. This book broke my heart and then put it back together again. I mean, oh wow. The Darkling. Mal. Sturmhond/Nikolai. I just can’t.

3. I will take Nikolai for myself and not let you have him. He is just so perfect. I have grown to love him so much through each book.

4. Everything I said I loved about the first two books, Shadow and Bone and Siege and Storm, are still valid. Plus I love these things MORE.

5. Leigh Bardugo made some very brave and almost rebellious decisions with how everything turned out and how everyone ended up. People die. And you’ll care about it. Since Leigh owned these decisions, though, they WORKED. She did not go about this halfway. She jumped in the middle of a dark and deep pit of sharks with a bloody paper cut on her thumb and said, “Bring it on.” This lady has GUTS.

6. The writing just slayed me. Oh, the beauty and the dynamism. If Leigh re-wrote the dictionary, I would read it.

7. There was so much action and excitement, and ALL my questions were answered. And the ending was amazing.

I wish I had been more emotionally equipped to write a more thorough review, but we all know that doesn’t happen often with the end of a trilogy. I loved it, bottom line. You need to read this trilogy. And, chances are, you already have since you’re being brave and reading my review. But if you haven’t or if you haven’t finished it yet, just DO it. It’s amazing and wonderful and definitely my favorite trilogy ever.

5 Stars

The Caged Graves by Dianne K. Salerni | Mini Book Review

Posted September 15, 2014 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult Fiction / 5 Comments

The Caged Graves by Dianne K. Salerni | Mini Book ReviewThe Caged Graves by Dianne K. Salerni
Published by Clarion Books on May 14, 2013
Genres: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 329
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
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5 Stars

17-year-old Verity Boone expects a warm homecoming when she returns to Catawissa, Pennsylvania, in 1867, pledged to marry a man she has never met. Instead, she finds a father she barely knows and a future husband with whom she apparently has nothing in common. One truly horrifying surprise awaits her: the graves of her mother and aunt are enclosed in iron cages outside the local cemetery. Nobody in town will explain why, but Verity hears rumors of buried treasure and witchcraft. Perhaps the cages were built to keep grave robbers out . . . or to keep the women in. Determined to understand, Verity finds herself in a life-and-death struggle with people she trusted.

Inspired by a pair of real caged graves in present-day Catawissa, this historical YA novel weaves mystery, romance, and action into a suspenseful drama with human greed and passion at its core.

One of my friends recommended The Caged Graves to me after loving it so much. I’ll be honest, I was worried it would not be my thing. At the same time, though, I was very intrigued by the story, which was inspired by the author’s discovery of a pair of caged graves in Catawissa, Pennsylvania. Dianne K. Salerni could not find the answer to why these graves were caged, so she wrote the story she imagined might have happened. I decided to give this book a try, and I ended up really loving it. The Caged Graves did not hit me like a ton of bricks in the beginning. It was only AFTER I finished, and realized that I was thinking about it days later, that I discovered how much I enjoyed it.

I really love Gothic literature that incorporates mystery, history, and romance. The Caged Graves combines all of these things with a little suspense and hints of the paranormal. Ever since I read The Crucible by Arthur Miller I’ve been very intrigued by the history of witches that were heard of in the Northeastern states. This is a pretty substantial theme in The Caged Graves, which gave me yet another reason to pick it up. I quickly began to discover all these elements I so love reading about, and grew more and more excited with each page turn.

Verity is not your typical 19th Century girl, who sits by submissively as men plan out her life and tells her what to do. She’s got this modernized personality that was so refreshing to read about. She does not take no for an answer, she does not sit idly by and wonder, and she is far above the cattiness that frequently surfaces among southern belles in literature that covers this time period. She is stubborn and brave, and will not hesitate to put her nose in things others wish she would leave well enough alone. She’s not always prim and proper, and I love that about her. I’m pretty sure I’d be a lot like her if I lived in 19th Century America.

Nate, Verity’s husband-to-be, is your typical Southern gentleman. He’s sweet and chivalrous, and always seems to say the right things. That’s why I was not especially fond of him at first, though. I felt like he said everything he said because he felt it was the right thing to say, not necessarily because he wanted to say it. He did grow on me because I realized that that was how he was brought up. And he’s so NOT the smooth talking romantic. I laughed as he tripped over himself. I much preferred Hadley, the blunt doctor who had no problems going outside the societal norms, much like Verity. His concern and friendship towards Hadley in a town where everyone gave her odd glances and spoke to each other in hushed tones when she was around, was very endearing. As much as this situation sounds like a love triangle, it was a very realistic one. So often, today’s love triangles are self-inflicted either because the heroine can’t choose who she likes better, one of the heroes can’t accept that the heroine is taken, or vice versa. This love triangle is understandable, though, as Verity is torn between who she should like (because her dad wants her to) and who she wants to like.

I liked quite a few of the secondary characters as well, including Verity’s father who has no idea how to raise a teenage girl but is trying really hard to, as well as Beulah, Verity’s crotchety housemaid. Each character was very well written and stood apart from the rest. There’s a couple sweet moments where the idea of segregation dissolves and African Americans and whites come together to help and look out for one another. I was so happy to see this, especially during a time where racism was rampant.

The romance is very sweet and tender, yet understated. It was certainly not the entirety of the plot. I loved that it played a side role to Verity’s quest for learning the truth about her mother’s past. I liked that this book was not riddle with historical facts. There was just enough to allow me a sense of the time, but not so much that I felt bogged down by a history lesson. I really, really loved this story and would recommend it to anyone looking for something outside the normal equation of young adult literature. The Caged Graves reads like adult fiction but is centered around young people, making it a book that transcends age groups and can be enjoyed by all.

5 Stars

When Do You Decide to DNF?

Posted September 11, 2014 by Jana in Discussion / 38 Comments

 

So, I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately. A LOT more than usual. And I’ve been reading books I worried I might not like. I do my best to request books that I think I will love, but so often I only have a small summary to go off of and no reviews from my trusted friends. And then the reviews start to roll in and I begin to regret requesting. But since I did, I feel I owe it to the publisher and the author to give the book a fair shot regardless of what I’ve read about it. You know what it’s like. They spent money on me to send me a book, fully expecting that it would benefit them. Unless I read something super extreme about a book (like it contained brutal violence, lots of swear words, or animal cruelty), I will do my best to give it the shot it deserves.

So often, my book lover’s intuition is correct and I know pretty quickly that I’m reading a book that will ultimately end in DNF. Once I feel that way, I’m pretty positive that reading 20-50 more pages will not change my mind. I’ve been known to DNF as early as 20 pages in. And I feel like that’s fair. I read until I knew I would not be finishing it. In doing this, I can end a happy person instead of an annoyed person who wasted their time. I’ve seen, though, that some people mention in their review policies that they will read a book until they are halfway through, no matter what. And I wonder why they torture themselves. So I figured I’d ask you to weigh in on this.

Do you have a DNF policy? If so, what is it? When do you feel it’s ok to quit reading a book and move on?


Every Time I Think of You by Tracey Garvis-Graves | Book Review

Posted September 9, 2014 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 3 Comments

Every Time I Think of You by Tracey Garvis-Graves | Book ReviewEvery Time I Think of You by Tracey Garvis Graves
Published by Self on September 16, 2014
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Mystery, Romance, Suspense, Thriller
Pages: 360
Format: eARC
Source: Author
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5 Stars

Thirty-year-old Daisy DiStefano has two people she holds dear: the grandmother who raised her, and her three-year-old son, Elliott. But when Daisy’s grandmother is killed in a seemingly random act of violence, Daisy must take steps to protect herself and her child.

Despite a thriving career in San Francisco, thirty-six-year-old Brooks McClain has returned home to spend what little time his mother has left before she succumbs to the deadly disease that is ravaging her. The seasoned investigative reporter has taken a position with the local newspaper and been on the job less than twenty-four hours when he’s summoned to cover the death of Pauline Thorpe.

Brooks is all business, but the more time he spends with Daisy DiStefano, the more invested he becomes; there’s something about a single mother, a defenseless child, and an unsolved crime that has stirred Brooks’s protective instincts like nothing ever has before.

And when the unthinkable happens, Brooks will do whatever it takes to clear the name of the woman he’s fallen for and the child he’ll protect at any cost.

Romantic and suspenseful, Every Time I Think of You shows how far two people will go to fight for the ones they love, and the life they’ve always imagined.

I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again. I will read anything Tracey writes, and I was extremely excited when I heard she was writing a romantic suspense novel! As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. I think I’ve mentioned this point in every review I’ve written for Tracey’s books, but I just love her characters. She is so good at writing about people you can find common ground with. I’ve never been in Daisy’s position. I’m not a single mom, I did not go through a nasty divorce, nobody in my family has been murdered, and I have never been as alone as she has. But I could still identify with her feelings of inadequacy, her worry that she had failed, her concerns for the future, and her desire to tear down the walls she has built around herself.

Likewise, I have never been in Brook’s situation. I’ve never had to give up a career to move home and take care of my parents, I do not have an immediate family member battling a tragic disease, and I never tried my hardest to get out of the town I grew up in. But I identified with his deep love for his family, his worries that he was not strong enough to go through things that were thrown his way, and his fears for the future as well. Tracey writes characters you become invested in and care about. You can tell these people are real to her, and she cares for them too. We learn so much about both Daisy’s and Brooks’s pasts, and I think that is just one of the many reasons readers will care about them.

2. I really enjoyed the realistic timeline of Daisy and Brooks’s relationship. It began as a simple reporter/victim relationship, but turned into Brooks worrying about her safety, into Brooks caring about her happiness, into Daisy recognizing how nice it is to have him around, into friendship, until it finally blossomed into something that seemed sweet and meaningful. Everything developed out of a mutual, supportive friendship and genuine need of one another. You feel like they have a chance.

3. I also enjoyed how Daisy and Brooks handled their feelings. Regardless of how they felt about each other, their families came first. Daisy was constantly putting the needs of Elliot ahead of her own, and Brooks did everything in his power to help his dad and comfort his mom through her illness. It was so refreshing to read about a mature, adult relationship that was both give and take on both ends. They both have so much at stake, so they proceed with caution rather than lustful feelings. And they both have to make a lot of difficult decisions.

4. I learned a lot about ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), and I appreciated that Tracey used her book to raise awareness for a disease that does not get a lot of recognition, especially in books where cancer is usually the culprit. She treats the disease with sensitivity, and the emotions she conveys really send a message about what this disease does to a person and their family. For me, it was much more effective the reading medical jargon.

5. The mystery aspect of the story was very intriguing, and I was constantly trying to figure out the reasoning behind Daisy’s grandmother’s murder. Again, it was real. This could happen to me! And that made things even creepier. The suspense was a little less than I was hoping for, but definitely enough to keep me flipping pages as fast as I could. The climax is a doozy.

6. The romance, while slow-burning, is so romantic and wonderful. I’m going to say flat-out that Brooks is a guy who will make you swoon. He’s the perfectly flawed hero that leaves you hopeful that there’s someone like him out there for you.

7. Tracey’s writing is flawless. She has me hanging on her every word every time. She never forgets to write you, the reader, right in to her stories, leaving a part of you there when it’s all over.

Basically, Tracey has done it again! I always worry that someday she will write something I won’t love, but it has not happened yet and I’m pretty sure it never will. I wholeheartedly recommend that you go and get yourself a copy of Every Time I Think of You. It has a little something for everyone, and it will leave you even more excited for what she has in store for us next!

5 Stars

Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson | Book Review

Posted September 5, 2014 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 9 Comments

Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson | Book ReviewBefore I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson
Published by Harper on June 14, 2011
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
Pages: 359
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
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3 Stars

'As I sleep, my mind will erase everything I did today. I will wake up tomorrow as I did this morning. Thinking I'm still a child. Thinking I have a whole lifetime of choice ahead of me...'

Memories define us. So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep? Your name, your identity, your past, even the people you love — all forgotten overnight. And the one person you trust may only be telling you half the story.

Welcome to Christine's life.

Every once in a while I have a hankering for a really great mystery or psychological thriller. I had seen Before I Go to Sleep popping up around the Internet, and was very intrigued by the concept of a woman who wakes up every morning with no idea who she is, where she is, what year it is, and who is sleeping next to her in bed. How scary would that be? I dove right in, and turned the pages as quickly as I could! As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. This book is CREEPY. Christine is at the complete mercy of others. She has to decide whether or not to believe Ben, the man who tells her every morning that he is her husband. He has this routine he goes through, where he tells her the basics of her life so that she understands what she is going through. She is also secretly seeing a doctor on the side who is trying to help her regain her memories and her ability to remember memories. Every morning he calls her on a cell phone she had no idea she had so that he can remind her of things Ben is not telling her.

This doctor has Christine write a journal of her every move and experience so that she can read it the next day and remember more things more quickly. As she continues to write and he continues to call her and tell her where she hid it and that she needs to read it, Christine begins to find this new power that enables her to make her own decisions. She also begins to have flashes of memory. As she remembers she starts to realize how many questions have been left unanswered.

2. I was a little turned off by the bluntness of some situations. Christine discovers the flaws of her older-than-expected body, and I was left uncomfortable by her bodily explorations. I felt very icky when I read about her longings for intimacy, and later the descriptions of her intimate encounters with Ben. Things were just very detailed with nothing left to the imagination and, since I was already creeped out by the story itself, I guess I was just extra sensitive. I mean, she is taking the word of a stranger and sleeping with him because she feels she has to. *shudder*

3. I never felt like I trusted anyone. I was just always on edge, wondering if anyone was telling her the truth. This book really lives up to its description of psychological thriller. My mind was going every which way.

4. There were several slow moments, where I just wanted to get done with the details and learn who the bad person here is! The problem with Christine forgetting everything every night is that every morning she gets up, we have to read about her and her journal-reading and her epiphanies over and over again. I just wanted to move on.

5. Just when you think you’ve figured it all out, you’re given something that makes you question your thinking. The plot is twisted and complicated, and you will really probably just want to jump ahead to the end to put yourself out of your misery. Luckily I was reading on a Kindle, so I could not just jump to the end. Stick with it, though. No peeking! You’ll be happier. The ending is pretty exciting. :)

All in all, Before I Go to Sleep is creepy and intriguing, if not a little slow in places. I’d definitely recommend it to anyone in the mood for a thrill!

 

3 Stars

How to Love by Katie Cotugno | Mini Book Review

Posted September 3, 2014 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult Fiction / 1 Comment

How to Love by Katie Cotugno | Mini Book ReviewHow to Love by Katie Cotugno
Published by Balzer + Bray on October 1, 2013
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Realistic Fiction, Romance
Pages: 389
Format: ARC
Source: Gift
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3 Stars

Before: Reena Montero has loved Sawyer LeGrande for as long as she can remember: as natural as breathing, as endless as time. But he's never seemed to notice that Reena even exists until one day, impossibly, he does. Reena and Sawyer fall in messy, complicated love. But then Sawyer disappears from their humid Florida town without a word, leaving a devastated-and pregnant-Reena behind.

After: Almost three years have passed, and there's a new love in Reena's life: her daughter, Hannah. Reena's gotten used to being without Sawyer, and she's finally getting the hang of this strange, unexpected life. But just as swiftly and suddenly as he disappeared, Sawyer turns up again. Reena doesn't want anything to do with him, though she'd be lying if she said Sawyer's being back wasn't stirring something in her. After everything that's happened, can Reena really let herself love Sawyer LeGrande again?

I was really not expecting to like a book whose focus was on teen pregnancy, so I was pretty surprised by how much I enjoyed How to Love! Katie Cotugno did a great job realistically portraying the situation and aftermath of teen pregnancy,  not to mention she threw in lot of other plot elements that made the story more dynamic and interesting to read. I liked her decision to tell the story from two perspectives: before Sawyer and after Sawyer. We learn all about his and Reena’s tumultuous relationship, and how Reena handled raising a baby alone after Sawyer disappeared from her life.

I had a super hard time liking Sawyer, which is probably why this book did not receive a higher rating from me. He was an absolutely horrible person to Reena during their relationship, and then he just disappeared. It helps that he left without knowing Reena was pregnant, but he could have stepped up more when he found out he had a child. As the years passed he improved his life some, but he just never convinced me that he was a good person.

Reena is a very likeable character, and I think this was because of the maturity she quickly developed when she became a teenage single mom. I love her relationship with her daughter, how she has grown and changed because of this daughter, and how she is level-headed enough to know she made mistakes in the past too.

The writing is also done very well, and was probably the main reason I enjoyed the story. I liked the way Katie Cotugno portrayed the feelings and emotions of the characters, and I enjoyed her account of the encounters that went down between Reena and her family, as well as Reena and Sawyer. While the book did not blow me away like it did some of my blogging friends, I did appreciate such an honest and realistic portrayal of such a sensitive subject not usually tackled in YA literature. I think that many people will be able to relate to Reena’s situation, or at least realize they have felt some of the same feelings in their own familial and romantic relationships. I have a feeling Katie Cotugno is going to quickly become a big name on the young adult scene.

3 Stars