Format: Hardcover

Stars Above by Marissa Meyer | Book Review

Posted July 11, 2017 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult Fiction / 1 Comment

Stars Above by Marissa Meyer | Book ReviewStars Above by Marissa Meyer
Series: The Lunar Chronicles #4.5
Published by Feiwel and Friends on February 2, 2016
Genres: Dystopia, Retelling, Romance, Science Fiction
Pages: 369
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
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5 Stars

The enchantment continues....

The universe of the Lunar Chronicles holds stories—and secrets—that are wondrous, vicious, and romantic. How did Cinder first arrive in New Beijing? How did the brooding soldier Wolf transform from young man to killer? When did Princess Winter and the palace guard Jacin realize their destinies?

With nine stories—five of which have never before been published—and an exclusive never-before-seen excerpt from Marissa Meyer’s upcoming novel, Heartless, about the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland, Stars Above is essential for fans of the bestselling and beloved Lunar Chronicles.
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The Little Android: A retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid,” set in the world of The Lunar Chronicles.
Glitches: In this prequel to Cinder, we see the results of the plague play out, and the emotional toll it takes on Cinder. Something that may, or may not, be a glitch….
The Queen’s Army: In this prequel to Scarlet, we’re introduced to the army Queen Levana is building, and one soldier in particular who will do anything to keep from becoming the monster they want him to be.
Carswell’s Guide to Being Lucky: Thirteen-year-old Carswell Thorne has big plans involving a Rampion spaceship and a no-return trip out of Los Angeles.
The Keeper: A prequel to the Lunar Chronicles, showing a young Scarlet and how Princess Selene came into the care of Michelle Benoit.
After Sunshine Passes By: In this prequel to Cress, we see how a nine-year-old Cress ended up alone on a satellite, spying on Earth for Luna.
The Princess and the Guard: In this prequel to Winter, we see a game called The Princess.
The Mechanic: In this prequel to Cinder, we see Kai and Cinder’s first meeting from Kai’s perspective.
Something Old, Something New: In this epilogue to Winter, friends gather for the wedding of the century...

I’ve never been a huge fan of the novellas that accompany full length novels. I rarely, rarely read them unless I love the world and the characters so much that I absolutely cannot let a story of theirs go unread. This was the case for Stars Above. I love The Lunar Chronicles so much that I wanted to know everything about everyone in them. The more info, the better! I knew about all the novellas as they were released, and I even got some of them on Kindle. I was never full motivated to read them, though, until I found out they were all being released together in a hardback bundle. It was then that I knew things were getting serious. I was also super heartbroken that the series was ending, so having another set of stories to anticipate helped me recover after finishing Winter, which I loved so much. Some of these stories really shine, whereas others were just ok for me.

My favorite story was Something Old, Something New, which is the epilogue to Winter. There’s a wedding of one of my favorite couples from the series, and oh the feels. I loved it. I also liked seeing Cinder and Kai’s first meeting in The Mechanic. And I love Thorne so much, so obviously I loved seeing a teenaged Thorne dream of his future in Carswell’s Guide to Being Lucky. Oh, and I loved The Keeper! I loved learning about Cinder’s and Scarlet’s beginnings and Michelle’s part in all this. Several of the stories were quite sad, including Glitches and The Queen’s Army. They always say that heroes gain heroism by channeling their heartbreaking pasts, and that is clearly evident through these stories.

Really, I just loved the small snapshots into the pasts and side stories of the characters I’ve grown to love so much. This entire book, but mostly the epilogue, was a really special way to say goodbye to my favorite crew in the sky. I finished the series in January of last year, and read this book last summer, but I still can’t stop thinking about and missing these crazies and their shenanigans and intense love for one another. I think I need to re-read the entire series soon. I need to go back to the happy place that is the universe of the Lunar Chronicles.

How do you feel about companion novellas in series like this one?
If you’ve read these ones, which was your favorite?

5 Stars

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson | Mini Book Review

Posted July 3, 2017 by Jana in Book Review, Graphic Novel, Young Adult Fiction / 1 Comment

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson | Mini Book ReviewNimona by Noelle Stevenson
Published by HarperCollins on May 12, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Graphic Novel
Pages: 272
Format: Hardcover
Source: Gift
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5 Stars

Nemeses! Dragons! Science! Symbolism! All these and more await in this brilliantly subversive, sharply irreverent epic from Noelle Stevenson. Featuring an exclusive epilogue not seen in the web comic, along with bonus conceptual sketches and revised pages throughout, this gorgeous full-color graphic novel is perfect for the legions of fans of the web comic and is sure to win Noelle many new ones.

Nimona is an impulsive young shapeshifter with a knack for villainy. Lord Ballister Blackheart is a villain with a vendetta. As sidekick and supervillain, Nimona and Lord Blackheart are about to wreak some serious havoc. Their mission: prove to the kingdom that Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and his buddies at the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren't the heroes everyone thinks they are.

But as small acts of mischief escalate into a vicious battle, Lord Blackheart realizes that Nimona's powers are as murky and mysterious as her past. And her unpredictable wild side might be more dangerous than he is willing to admit.

I’d never ever been interested in graphic novels. Sadly, I fell prey to the assumptions that come with the word “graphic”. Instead of pictorial representations of stories, I was thinking “graphic” in the negative context, so I never felt inclined to pick one up. I was also convinced that there was no way I’d be reading an actual story with any depth to it. I’ve always assumed that stories took back seats to the illustrations as far as graphic novels are concerned. I’d been seeing so many friends fall in love with spunky heroine Nimona, however, that I decided I’d trust them and give it a go!  Nimona may have been my first graphic novel, but it certainly will not be my last!

Nimona was a fast and entertaining read. I really liked the illustrations for the most part, and Nimona’s snarky, take-no-crap attitude was very refreshing and also hilarious. I liked her a lot. The story, which centers on villainous shenanigans, was deep enough that I felt like it was an actual story and not a series of pow!s, bam!s, and zap!s, but not so deep that it was too complicated to illustrate. You can’t expect the amount of depth from a graphic novel that you can from a 500-page fantasy, but I did feel like this story had enough meat to it that it will stick with me.

I’m so glad I gave Nimona a try! I can tell that I will never prefer graphic novels to traditional novels, but it’s so nice to add some variety to my to-be-read list. Sometimes I like something a little fluffier or something that can distract me for a day, and that’s why I’ve come to appreciate graphic novels. It also helps that I’m artsy. lol. I think Nimona was a great gateway graphic novel for me. I enjoyed the characters, the story, the storytelling, the illustrations, and the kind of book I could read very quickly and enjoy over the course of a few hours. It reminded me of watching a movie, and that was very fun for me.

5 Stars

Heart’s Blood by Juliet Marillier | Book Review

Posted March 17, 2017 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 5 Comments

Heart’s Blood by Juliet Marillier | Book ReviewHeart's Blood by Juliet Marillier
Published by Roc on October 2, 2009
Genres: Fairy Tale, Fantasy, Retelling, Romance
Pages: 402
Format: Hardcover
Source: Gift
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5 Stars

Whistling Tor is a place of secrets and mystery. Surrounded by a wooded hill, and unknown presences, the crumbling fortress is owned by a chieftain whose name is spoken throughout the district in tones of revulsion and bitterness. A curse lies over Anluan's family and his people; those woods hold a perilous force whose every whisper threatens doom.

For young scribe Caitrin it is a safe haven. This place where nobody else is prepared to go seems exactly what she needs, for Caitrin is fleeing her own demons. As Caitrin comes to know Anluan and his home in more depth she realizes that it is only through her love and determination that the curse can be broken and Anluan and his people set free.

When Bonnie found out that I love Beauty and the Beast, she sent me a beautiful hardcover of Heart’s Blood and told me I MUST read it because it’s an amazing retelling of one of my favorite fairytales. Of course I’d been hearing wonderful things about Juliet Marillier, and how her books are the makings of dreams and happiness and stardust, so I was very excited to dive in! As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. I was hooked from the very beginning because Marillier’s writing is so smooth and lyrical. She also really knows how to set the stage for a story. I loved the atmosphere and mystery she created. Things felt very ominous as well as romantic, and even though the book reads a bit slower that the books I usually love I really found Heart’s Blood to be so captivating and magical.

2. The Tor is a mysterious, mystical place. I loved the descriptions of the castle and the landscape. The Tor is not just home to Anluan and his staff, but also beings who are caught in limbo between life and death–tethered to the Tor by dark magic that nobody understands how to undo. Caitrin is the first glimmer of hope the residents of the Tor have seen in a very long time, and as she works to discover the root of all these secrets some support her efforts and some try to stop her. Who do you trust?

3. I loved all the characters. They are so dynamic and flawed, and really made me feel like they were real. They are all broken in some way: Anuluan, Caitrin, Magnus, Eichri, Rioghan… all of them, and they pick up their pieces together and lean on each other for support. Muirne is creepy, not to mention the spirit child who grows very attached to Caitrin but is also dangerous if she gets mad. I LOVED Fianchu, the huge, lovable, loyal dog that never leaves the side of those he protects. Everyone grows and changes drastically from beginning to end.

4. So. Many Feelings. Throughout the second half of the book the beings that live on the Tor really wiggled their way into my heart. When they suffered, I suffered.

5. The romance was so sweet and my heart broke as I worried what everyone’s fate was going to be.

6. There’s some sad things that happen that I was not prepared for. I was ok, though, and only cried a little so I consider that a win.

Heart’s Blood was my first book by Juliet Marillier, and it will surely not be my last. I love her beautiful writing and her amazing storytelling. I highly recommend this to anyone who loves Beauty and the Beast, unique settings, heartwarming characters, and triumph.

 

 

5 Stars

The Dragon Prince: A Chinese Beauty & the Beast Tale by Laurence Yep | Children’s Book Review

Posted March 16, 2017 by Jana in Children's Book Review, Inner Child / 5 Comments

The Dragon Prince: A Chinese Beauty & the Beast Tale by Laurence Yep | Children’s Book ReviewThe Dragon Prince: A Chinese Beauty & the Beast Tale by Laurence Yep
Published by HarperCollins on January 9, 1999
Genres: Classic Novel, Fairy Tale, Retelling
Pages: 32
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
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5 Stars

When a poor farmer falls into the clutches of a dragon, only Seven, his youngest daughter, will save him—by marrying the beast.

Publishers Weekly praised "Yep's elegant, carefully crafted storytelling" and Mak's "skillfully and radiantly rendered illustrations" in this captivating and luminous Chinese variation of the beauty and the beast tale.

The Dragon Prince by Laurence Yep is the Chinese version of Beauty and the Beast, and is so rich in culture. Inside the book the author includes his source notes, explaining that this tale is a Southern Chinese version of the classic. He also thanks Truly Shay for helping him translate several tales for him. Immediately, I felt confident that this book would be of very high quality because of the proof of research.

This tale is written in a way that sounds natural when read aloud, and the text is very traditional and stylistically magical. The story includes cultural elements that seem true to the area in which it takes place, including the fact that it’s about a rice farmer and his daughters, a serpent for a beast (that becomes a dragon), the term bride prince is used, and the palace is located in an underwater garden under the ocean’s surface. The story takes an interesting spin, and Seven’s (the Beauty equivalent) sister attempts to drown her and take her place. The prince can tell, though, and searches to find his lost Seven. They live happily ever after.

Elegant silk robes, jade cups, and gold plates are illustrated. The illustrations themselves are reminiscent of Chinese style, with bright colors, Chinese architecture and clothing, and a stylized dragon. The prince speaks of the traditional Chinese custom of brides visiting their families after their wedding.

 

Oh my goodness, I love this version of Beauty and the Beast so much. The Chinese culture, colors, and design influences make it not only entertaining, but a rich, educational, vibrant tale that anyone would love. I highly recommend it to anyone who loves China, Beauty and the Beast, beautiful illustrations, and learning about other cultures!

5 Stars

Beauty and the Beast by Marianna Mayer | Children’s Book Review

Posted March 15, 2017 by Jana in Children's Book Review, Inner Child / 2 Comments

Beauty and the Beast by Marianna Mayer | Children’s Book ReviewBeauty and the Beast by Marianna Mayer
Published by Aladdin Paperbacks on September 1978
Genres: Classic Novel, Fairy Tale
Pages: 48
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
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5 Stars

Generations of children have been fascinated by the story of the girl named Beauty, who grows to love a fearsome beast by learning to see and cherish his kindness, generosity, and intelligence. In this acclaimed, best-selling version of the classic tale, first published in 1978, Marianna Mayer's evocative imagery and Mercer Mayer's exquisite paintings transport readers into a world of pure magic and mystery.

I really, really loved this beautifully illustrated version of the classic Beauty and the Beast tale. I can’t believe it’s out of print because I would LOVE to own a copy for my personal library. Anyway, this book was actually the very first time I read what the traditional tale was like rather than the Disney version. I felt that it was nicely simplified into a storybook for young children, although it might be a bit too long for the tiny littles to focus on. The story starts off with the words, “There once was a…”, reflecting traditional oral storytelling style. There are repeated refrains in this story of the beast pleading Beauty to marry him, and her refusing. There are also repeated story elements of Beauty having various dreams. The words are traditional in nature, and are not like how people speak today, so even though it’s a picture book I think readers of all ages would be drawn to it for one reason or another.

What really set this book apart for me, though, were the illustrations. I can’t believe the same person who wrote and illustrated the Little Critter books also illustrated this one! Mercer Mayer is truly a chameleon. The illustrations are very detailed and ornate, and match the colorful vocabulary and magical tone of the writing. Here are a few of my favorites. It was hard to not share more!

All in all, I loved this version of the story! I found the text to be more enjoyable than the original French tale, and the illustrations made for a very enjoyable reading experience. I’d definitely recommend this to fans of Beauty and the Beast, both young and old. It’s a lovely edition that I’m sure any collector would love to own as well.

5 Stars

Who Wins?: 100 Historical Figures Go Head-to-Head and You Decide the Winner! By Clay Swartz | Book Review

Posted September 28, 2016 by Jana in Book Review / 0 Comments

Who Wins?: 100 Historical Figures Go Head-to-Head and You Decide the Winner! By Clay Swartz | Book ReviewWho Wins?: 100 Historical Figures Go Head-to-Head and You Decide the Winner! by Clay Swartz
Published by Workman on July 12, 2016
Genres: Activity Book
Pages: 104
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher (Mail)
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5 Stars

Who would rock the mic at karaoke night? Abraham “The Great Emancipator” Lincoln or Jane “Lady Persuasion” Austen? How about a hot dog eating contest between Harry “Mr. Magic” Houdini and Mary “Mother of Frankenstein” Shelley? What about a pie contest? A staring contest? And who has a better chance of sneaking into Area 51, Isaac “Gravity Guy” Newton or Sacagawea aka “The Pathfinder”?

In Who Wins?: History, you decide the winner in over 50 head-to-head challenges between 100 of history’s most illustrious characters. But choosing the victor isn’t arbitrary. Readers must justify their answers using each of the historical figures’ six 0-10 category rankings in bravery, leadership, artistry, wealth, wisdom, and fitness; as well as facts from short biographies.

As funny as it is informative, the book is uniquely formatted so readers can match up each and every character in any of the head-to-head battles. History has never been so much fun!

This interactive, educational book is seriously so much fun! And it’s so unique! I’ve never seen anything quite like this before. I thought that posting a picture of one of the inside spreads would be the easiest way to review this book, so look:

whowinsspread

 

Ok, so here we have Napoleon and Thomas Jefferson. Above their pictures is all the information you need to know about each of them, including the years they were alive, their lives growing up, the parts they played in history, and some little known facts. Basically, everything you need to know to make an informed decision as to which of them would be more successful at stopping a runaway train. The middle flap at the top prompts you with some things to consider during your decision-making process. Their skills are rated on a scale of 1-10. After getting to know them well, you make your decision. There’s no right or wrong answer. If you’re alone, you win! If you have friends, family, or classmates with you then the debate begins. Perhaps one of the other players will convince you to change your mind or you might just stand your ground. Then you move on to the next round. You can continue the face-off between these two guys and flip up the middle flap to give them a new battle (like sneaking into Area 51 or winning the talent show) or you can flip up the people flaps and pick new opponents.

There are so many possible combinations of opponents and battles that it will take forever to get through them all. You know what would make it even more fun? Get a dice and roll it three times. The first number will tell you how many pages to flip the first flap, the second number will tell you how many times to flip the second flap, and the third number will tell you how many times to flip the third flap. Then it’s all completely random and feels like a game.

How fun is this? I can see this being taken on road trips, played in social studies or history classes (divide the class in two, put the book up on the projector, and have the teams discuss before sending representatives to the front to argue their case), or added to the family game night rotation. The images are bright, colorful, and fun to look at. The book is well-constructed and easy to flip through. The information provided is written in an easy to read and understand way, so it’s great for kids and adults of all ages. I seriously do not have one complaint in the world about this book, and just love it to pieces. Run out and grab yourself a copy right now!

5 Stars

Rebellion by J.A. Souders | Blog Tour Book Review (+ Giveaway)

Posted July 15, 2016 by Jana in Blog Tour, Book Review, Giveaway, Young Adult Fiction / 8 Comments

Rebellion by J.A. Souders | Blog Tour Book Review (+ Giveaway)Rebellion by J.A. Souders
Series: Elysium Chronicles #3
Published by Tor Teen on July 12, 2016
Genres: Dystopia, Romance, Science Fiction
Pages: 288
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher (Mail)
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3.5 Stars

The thrilling conclusion to J. A. Souders’s riveting SF psychological thriller series for teens

In this conclusion to J. A. Souders’s thrilling, twist-filled Elysium Chronicles series, Evie Winters and Gavin Hunter return to the isolated, dangerous underwater city that they fought so hard to escape.

Back in Elysium at last, Evie has finally found her true self hidden under layers and layers of false memories implanted by the woman she knew as Mother. Thanks to the intervention of her father, she knows the horrible truth about Mother and her insidious plans for her city. With the help of the love of her life, Gavin, and her best friend, Asher St. James, she’s determined to free her people from the cruel dictatorship of Mother’s laws. But how do you free people who don’t know they need rescuing?

Working with the growing Underground rebellion, Evie tries to remove Mother from her position by force—with disastrous results. As the body count rises, Evie must find a way to save Elysium before Mother destroys them all.

Welcome to my stop along the official blog tour for Rebellion by J.A. Souders! Rebellion (released on July 12, 2016) is the final book in the Elysium Chronicles, which is a trilogy I absolutely LOVE (see my reviews for the first two books here and here). This concluding story has been a long time coming, and I’m excited to share my thoughts with you today! I’m going to keep things as spoiler free as possible, which is why my review will be shorter than some, but please be aware of the fact that my review might end up spoiling parts of the first two books in the trilogy.

Many of my points in my reviews for Renegade and Revelations apply to Rebellion as well. The city of Elysium is amazing, and we get to experience more of it in this book. I was really happy to be back here, rather than in the Outlands (which was the dangerous stretch of land Gavin and Evie crossed in Revelations). I just love cities beneath the surface of the ocean. Souders does a wonderful job of describing the setting and the scenery.

Again, the story is written in dual perspectives from Evie and Gavin. I really enjoyed reading both their thoughts, and felt it enriched my reading experience. Our beloved characters have gone through some changes, and it was fun to see them grow. Evie, who started out as a naive, brainwashed, lightweight of a girl has transformed into a stubborn, kick-butt heroine who essentially holds the world of Elysium in her hands as she leads the rebellion against Mother. Gavin is the same old knight-in-shining armor I fell in love with in the first book, and will stop at nothing to make sure Evie is safe. Asher is still the sweet older brother figure, and Mother has reached new levels of insanity. We even meet some new people along the way.

The action is non-stop, heart-pumping, and ends in a way I’m not sure anyone will see coming. Rebellion is a strong conclusion to an even stronger series, and I will miss this world and the characters I’ve enjoyed so much. I definitely recommend this trilogy to anyone looking for a unique sci-fi reading experience. I’m excited to see where J.A. Souders takes us next.

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Tour Schedule

July 11 – Chapter by Chapter
July 12 – Seeing Double in Neverland
July 13 – Short n Sweet Reviews
July 14 – Gizmo’s Reviews
July 15 – That Artsy Reader Girl
July 16 – The Nocturnal Library

3.5 Stars

438 Days: An Extraordinary True Story of Survival at Sea by Jonathan Franklin | Book Review

Posted January 30, 2016 by Jana in Adult Non-Fiction, Book Review / 2 Comments

438 Days: An Extraordinary True Story of Survival at Sea by Jonathan Franklin | Book Review438 Days: An Extraordinary True Story of Survival by Jonathan Franklin
Published by Atria Books on November 17, 2015
Genres: Memoir, Survival
Pages: 288
Format: Hardcover
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5 Stars

438 Days is the miraculous account of the man who survived alone and adrift at sea longer than anyone in recorded history—as told to journalist Jonathan Franklin in dozens of exclusive interviews.

On November 17, 2012, Salvador Alvarenga left the coast of Mexico for a two-day fishing trip. A vicious storm killed his engine and the current dragged his boat out to sea. The storm picked up and blasted him west. When he washed ashore on January 29, 2014, he had arrived in the Marshall Islands, 9,000 miles away—equivalent to traveling from New York to Moscow round trip.

For fourteen months, Alvarenga survived constant shark attacks. He learned to catch fish with his bare hands. He built a fish net from a pair of empty plastic bottles. Taking apart the outboard motor, he fashioned a huge fishhook. Using fish vertebrae as needles, he stitched together his own clothes.

He considered suicide on multiple occasions—including offering himself up to a pack of sharks. But Alvarenga never failed to invent an alternative reality. He imagined a method of survival that kept his body and mind intact long enough for the Pacific Ocean to toss him up on a remote palm-studded island, where he was saved by a local couple living alone in their own Pacific Island paradise.

Based on dozens of hours of interviews with Alvarenga and interviews with his colleagues, search and rescue officials, the medical team that saved his life and the remote islanders who nursed him back to health, this is an epic tale of survival, an all-true version of the fictional Life of Pi. With illustrations, maps, and photographs throughout, 438 Days is a study of the resilience, will, ingenuity, and determination required for one man to survive fourteen months, lost at sea.

First of all, happy two year rescue anniversary to Salvador Alvarenga! It was exactly two years ago today that Alvarenga washed up onto a little island and was taken in by a generous local couple who helped nurse him back to health. This man’s story is unfathomable, and inspiring. There are really no words that can accurately describe what he went through. And I really want to just sit you down and tell you everything, but that would just spoil everything. I’m so happy that I got the opportunity to read his story and learn more about the man we heard about in the news.

438 Days took a little while to grab me. The first 60-70 pages talk about his life before he was stranded at sea. He was a party boy. He loved his drugs and his alcohol. I was a little bored with this section because I was more interested in reading about his survival story than his background. Once he became stranded, he began a radical internal change. He cared about his daughter and he cared about being a better person. I loved seeing how this event impacted him for the better. Once the book moved in to his survival story, I became very invested and flew through the pages. Interestingly enough, I also got very depressed while reading. I already knew the outcome, and I knew he would be ok, but I was still very mopey as I read about his emotionally and mentally taxing experiences. This is part of why I read so quickly. I needed to read that he was ok.

The writing style also took a little while for me to get used to. The author of this book, Franklin, is a news reporter for multiple publications, and I could tell from his writing style. The entire story was written like a newspaper article, and it lacked the flowing, narrative style I’m used to in books. I did get used to it, though, and I grew to enjoy it at times.

The book has a map on the endpapers that plots the course Alvarenga took. I loved looking at this map, and seeing where he was during each part of his journey. So much detail is used to describe his day-to-day activities, the weather, his surroundings, etc. that I felt like I was there. There’s a particular few days where Alvarenga makes a friend in a very large whale shark, who drifts along with him. A few days later, a baby whale shark shows up. What an amazing thing to experience. There are other special moments that the author recounts, and I’m so happy to know that Alvarenga was able to experience some good during his miserable time at sea. He saw some amazing things.

Alvarenga grew to be a true survivalist. The ingenuity and creativity he developed helped him find food and water. He was able to entertain himself to pass the time. He was able to fight off the insanity that was bubbling to the surface. He continued to amaze me throughout the entire story. I honestly have no idea how he was able to survive for so long drinking turtle blood and eating raw birds and fish. Every time I think of this man, the words “amazing” and “miraculous” come to mind.

In short, I’m not usually a fan of non-fiction and memoir. I’ve read a few, but they are not usually what I choose to read. Alvarenga’s story was so interesting to me, though, so I took a gamble and accepted this book for review. I really enjoyed reading it, though, and felt feelings of hope while reading. I felt inspired to do great things. I love it when books have the power to do this to a person, and that’s the beauty of survival stories. I’m going to end my review with a quote from Alvarenga himself, which can be found in the epilogue of the book. The author asks him what motivated him to write this book. His response is a lovely message for people everywhere, and perfectly illustrates that our experiences have the power to change us:

“I suffered so much and for so long. Maybe if people read this they will realize that if I can make it, they can make it. Many people suffer only because of what happens in their head; I was also physically being tortured. I had no food. No water. If I can make it so can you. If one depressed person avoids committing suicide then the book is a success.

Be strong. Think positive. If you start to think to the contrary, you are headed to failure. Your mind has to be relaxed as you think about survival. Don’t think about death. If you think you are going to die, you will die. You have to survive and think about the future of your life, that life is beautiful! How can you imagine taking your own life? There are challenges and punishment in life but you have to fight!”

5 Stars

Winter by Marissa Meyer | Book Review

Posted January 19, 2016 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult Fiction / 6 Comments

Winter by Marissa Meyer | Book ReviewWinter by Marissa Meyer
Series: The Lunar Chronicles #4
Published by Feiwel and Friends on November 10, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Science Fiction, Steampunk
Pages: 832
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
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5 Stars

Princess Winter is admired by the Lunar people for her grace and kindness, and despite the scars that mar her face, her beauty is said to be even more breathtaking than that of her stepmother, Queen Levana.

Winter despises her stepmother, and knows Levana won’t approve of her feelings for her childhood friend—the handsome palace guard, Jacin. But Winter isn’t as weak as Levana believes her to be and she’s been undermining her stepmother’s wishes for years. Together with the cyborg mechanic, Cinder, and her allies, Winter might even have the power to launch a revolution and win a war that’s been raging for far too long.

Can Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter defeat Levana and find their happily ever afters?

I don’t know what to say!!! I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO SAY! I LOVED this conclusion to The Lunar Chronicles. Marissa knew just what I wanted to know and she answered all my questions and tied up all the loose ends. Boy, does she know how to end a series.

Cress and Thorne are so unbelievably cute, I can’t even handle it. Thorne is still my very favorite character in this story. He can make me laugh, he can make me swoon, and he can make me crazy. Scarlet and poor, tortured Wolf go through everything you could possibly think of and I’m amazed at their strength and their ability to push through it all. Their love was written in the stars, and I think they might be my favorite couple ever (but don’t make me choose because I won’t!). Readers are not given as much time to fall in love with Winter and Jacin, but you do anyway. I keep thinking of Buttercup and Wesley and Corey and Topanga when I think of those two. Cinder and Kai are overshadowed by the epic love stories of our other characters, but it’s so good to see them happy. And Iko… Iko, Iko, Iko… she is still hilarious and sweet and tender and flirtatious. No android will ever be able to take her place in my heart. I miss everyone already. How am I going to live without my band of misfits in the sky?

Marissa Meyer has outdone herself, and I’m almost afraid of reading any of her future works because how can she outdo herself again? (Of COURSE I’m going to read everything she writes forever.) This book is LONG, but I needed every page. Every word. I was either swooning over this romance, or screaming at that revelation, or crying over that moment, or flipping out over WHAT JUST HAPPENED?!?!, or cheering because YAY I LOVE THEM THEY RULE. The action is cataclysmic, the suspense unending, and the romance breathtaking. There’s so much of everything you could ever hope for and more. The tension never lets up, and you never feel totally safe until the very end. Can we all drive off into the sunset together?

Bottom line, thanks for reading my review because I have no coherent thoughts.

In summary: Read The Lunar Chronicles. 

5 Stars

Girl Underwater by Claire Kells | Book Review

Posted July 10, 2015 by Jana in Book Review, New Adult / 0 Comments

Girl Underwater by Claire Kells | Book ReviewGirl Underwater by Claire Kells
Published by Dutton Adult on March 31, 2015
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Realistic Fiction, Survival
Pages: 304
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher (Mail)
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4 Stars

An adventurous debut novel that cross cuts between a competitive college swimmer’s harrowing days in the Rocky Mountains after a major airline disaster and her recovery supported by the two men who love her—only one of whom knows what really happened in the wilderness.

Nineteen-year-old Avery Delacorte loves the water. Growing up in Brookline, Massachusetts, she took swim lessons at her community pool and captained the local team; in high school, she raced across bays and sprawling North American lakes. Now a sophomore on her university’s nationally ranked team, she struggles under the weight of new expectations but life is otherwise pretty good. Perfect, really.

That all changes when Avery’s red-eye home for Thanksgiving makes a ditch landing in a mountain lake in the Colorado Rockies. She is one of only five survivors, which includes three little boys and Colin Shea, who happens to be her teammate. Colin is also the only person in Avery’s college life who challenged her to swim her own events, to be her own person—something she refused to do. Instead she’s avoided him since the first day of freshman year. But now, faced with sub-zero temperatures, minimal supplies, and the dangers of a forbidding nowhere, Avery and Colin must rely on each other in ways they never could’ve imagined.

In the wilderness, the concept of survival is clear-cut. Simple. In the real world, it’s anything but.

I love survival books and plane crash books (wow… does that sound insensitive!? Haha!). I love the excitement and survival instincts they bring out in our characters. Girl Underwater had been on my radar for quite some time, so I jumped on it as soon as I could. While it was not what I expected, I ended up really enjoying it anyway! As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. I know this has nothing to do with the story or the author, but Tracey Garvis-Graves, my favorite author ever, blurbed this book. She wrote the ultimate survival love story of our time (On the Island), so if she thinks that Girl Underwater is, “a powerful love story embedded in an action-packed tale of survival” then I’m going to be all over it. Her endorsement is a huge selling point for me.

2. I felt a little disconnected from the story. The plane crash and the beginning really hooked me, and then the story alternates back and forth between the snowy dangers of the Rocky Mountains and the realities that occurred after Avery’s rescue. I was disappointed in the fact that we knew right from chapter two that Avery makes it home. It kind of took away feelings of suspense or discomfort, and I was not on the edge of my seat as often as I could have been. I also hated being ripped out of the mountains to read about her life after her rescue. I wanted most of the book to take place on that mountain, with maybe some of the aftermath in the ending chapters or an epilogue. That’s what I mean when I say the book was not expecting. But once I got passed the fact that my expectations were inaccurate, I was able to enjoy the book for what it was.

3. I was expecting a survival story, but what I ended up getting was what happens in the aftermath of surviving. It’s a story about surviving life after you survive a disaster. We read a lot about Avery’s attempts to deal with her PTSD and her efforts to pick up where she left off the moment her plane went down. It was a very powerful, yet sometimes depressing, portrayal of someone who has gone through the unthinkable. You do not get this in books (or news stories) often, so I did appreciate the added details that are usually left behind the scenes.

4. I really loved the characters. Avery is strong in the mountains, and she is strong after she returns home. She was strong in two different ways, though. On the mountain she was strong for Colin and the three little boys she was stranded with. She did everything in her power for them, even if it meant risking her life. When she was back at home, she finally had to focus on herself. She had to be strong for herself, and that is oftentimes the hardest thing to do. I loved Colin so much. He’s the typical gentleman, who was concerned. He was also so swoony to me the way he treated those little boys. And the boys were very sweet and lovable.

5. There were so many feelings and emotions. It was quite a roller coaster, but I ended up really loving and appreciating that about the book. Girl Underwater acted as more than entertainment. I learned a lot about what goes through the mind of a PTSD victim, and I got to see what I think was a very accurate portrayal of what it’s like to be recognized in public for something you’d like to forget ever happened to you. I really felt for Avery. Moving on is hard when the media and your friends keep pulling you back to such a painful event.

6. I loved watching Avery learn to cope. And I loved watching her come to terms with her life and embrace the good parts of it, even if they make her remember the bad times. She never gave up on herself.

7. The romance was not the focus of the book by any means, but it was an underlying factor. I couldn’t help but hope for the best, and I was very happy with how things turned out for everyone involved. It was real, not ideal. And it was beautiful.

Overall, this book reminded me of how much I love reviewing books. I went into this wanting one thing, and the author gave me something I needed instead. I really loved reading about Avery’s and Colin’s stories, and I loved watching their lives change shapes as a result of what happened to them. I think this book would appeal to anyone. It definitely has young adult/new adult/adult crossover appeal, and it has a little but of everything for everyone. Highly recommended.

4 Stars