Monday, August 25, 2014

Sinner

Sinner is a YA paranormal contemporary companion novel to the Shiver trilogy by Maggie Stiefvater.

As a companion novel, I personally recommend that all readers of Sinner first read Shiver, Linger and Forever first. You can click on the titles to read my reviews.

I’m trusting that you’re only still reading this review as a bookworm who has previously read the prior books…

Cole St. Clair is a werewolf in L.A.

He’s going to make a new record, star in a short reality show and fan the flames of his past superstardom.

But that’s not why he’s in L.A.

He came for Isabel.

Isabel left her and Cole’s bruised, fragmented relationship mess and decided to try and make a life for herself in California.

She’s just as unhappy here as she was in Mercy Falls. It’s not working.

Cole and Isabel both have demons and could be a disaster together – yet they can’t seem to let go…

Maggie Stiefvater is one of my favorite authors now – especially after The Scorpio Races and The Raven Boys series. The Shiver trilogy is what introduced me to her, however.

Just as in the Shiver trilogy, Stiefvater writes a story with Sinner that has the fact that Cole’s a werewolf as a secondary, almost side story. In fact, it takes more a form of an addiction than anything else. Another struggle of Cole’s to heal himself – to refrain from the desire to stop being human, to stop feeling the pain of being human. Extraordinary.

Here we get raw emotion mixed in with the magical realism that is Maggie Stiefvater. We’re presented with real, flawed, damaged people – people that aren’t always very likable, but who we recognize an agonizing desire to be better – to be happy.

The attraction between Isabel and Cole is very readable, very palpable – but is also something deeper. There’s an understanding between them – a recognition of self-loathing, of a lost life and a desire for a new one.

Sinner, like the Shiver trilogy, faces the darker aspects of humanity and tosses in just enough of the paranormal to make it not a flat-out contemporary novel. It manages to highlight both genres, but primarily focuses on the human – the truth.

This isn’t a book with easy answers and I can’t say that I felt wholly satisfied with the end – but I appreciated it. Sinner was an excellent read written by a phenomenal writer.

Read it!

Friday, August 22, 2014

We Were Liars

We Were Liars is a YA contemporary suspense novel by E. Lockhart.

Wealthy. Beautiful. Distinguished.

They are the Sinclair family.

Every summer of Cady’s life has been spent on “their” private island.

Every summer has been spent with the Liars – her two cousins of close age and Gat.

Until summer fifteen changes everything.

Cady’s fractured mind cannot piece together what happened but she is left a broken shell of her former self.

She will figure out the puzzle.

She will be whole again.

Vague? Yes.

Necessarily so? Absolutely.

We Were Liars is, at its core, a mystery. But one that is rooted in secrets that reveal damaged, flawed people, as well. That rare sort of contemporary novel that packs a lot of punch in few pages.

It’s shocking, startling and disarming writing. I loved it. E. Lockhart grabbed me and pulled me along for a absorbing, hypnotic, drenched in the unknown, strangely gorgeous story.

As I read We Were Liars I felt sort of obsessed in knowing what happened in summer fifteen. I was truly and wholly in the novel’s grip.

And with each disquieting revelation the raw pain and shock of We Were Liars sinks in and settles in the mind with that weight of a story well told.

Impactful. Memorable. Meaningful.

You will get no hint of spoilers from me!!

We Were Liars was quite the book – and I think you should read it.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Curses and Smoke: A Novel of Pompeii

Curses and Smoke: A Novel of Pompeii is a YA historical fiction novel by Vicky Alvear Shecter.

Lucia, the daughter of a man who runs a gladiator school, is being married to a man who could be her grandfather – and whose reputation is not favorable. He’ll supply her father’s school with much needed funds by receiving her hand – so she’s expected to follow the command to marry him.

Tag, recently returned from medical training, is a slave in Lucia’s household and holds secrets that have kept him alive – barely. He is not pleased to be back under the roof of such a hateful man but is determined to become a gladiator so he can try to win his freedom.

As Lucia struggles with the horror and fear of marrying someone grotesque to her, she focuses on the strange natural happenings in her lifetime home of Pompeii. The almost non-stop, gentle shaking of the land, the abnormally hot weather… it peaks her scientifically-inclined mind and chills her – though she doesn’t know why.

When she realizes Tag is back – a slave boy that as a child was her playmate – the two are confronted with an attraction that is both dangerous and forbidden.

As Pompeii’s future hangs in a precarious place, Lucia and Tag face lies that may either continue to keep them both enslaved in their own way – or provide a way to freedom…

I was very impressed with Shecter’s Cleopatra’s Moon – which told the story, from a fictional novelization, of course – of Cleopatra’s daughter, Cleopatra Selene. It was harrowing, enthralling and lovely.

I liked Curses and Smoke – but whereas Cleopatra’s Moon was based off a real person, Curses and Smoke is centered on only a true event of history. All the people in Curses and Smoke are fictional.

That is absolutely fine of course, yet I just didn’t feel the pure rawness of Shecter’s prior book, except for a few moments here and there. It came across to me as more unrealistic.

Sadly, I just was not enamored with these characters – though I didn’t mind them. I lacked the attachment that I needed to care enough about the plot, is the problem.

Curses and Smoke actually has a lot in common with the movie Titanic – as odd as that sounds. Now, I love Titanic – but this Pompeii version, heavy with similarities, just didn’t do it for me.

The end was very, very sad – and I am truly fascinated by the historical subject of the complete decimation of Pompeii – but the fictional drama of Curses and Smoke didn’t grip me like I’d wish it had.

Maybe it will for you!!!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Since Last Summer

Since Last Summer is a companion novel to the YA contemporary Rules of Summer by Joanna Philbin.

As this is a sequel – if you’ve haven’t read Rules of Summer you’ll find yourself spoiled by this review. Do yourself a favor and read the review of the first book here and then read the book itself before this review.

Deal?

After spending the previous summer as an employed errand girl for the affluent Rule household in the Hamptons, Rory now finds herself returned as a guest and girlfriend to golden son Connor.

It’s an adjustment for sure.

Rory and Connor have spent a year dating now – mostly long distance – and she’s looking forward to spending time with him and taking full advantage of her internship at a film festival in the meantime.

Isabel Rule is returning home to the Hamptons after a school year away – and a purposeful dry spell with guys. Following the disastrous aftermath of her passionate relationship with sexy surfer Mike, Isabel is finally ready to step a toe in the water of romance again.

So when cute, nice guy Evan – an aspiring filmmaker and current waiter – shows interest, she jumps.

Yet she still can’t get her mind off of Mike…

As the summer moves forwards, Rory and Isabel find themselves facing new challenges in romance and family.

Since Last Summer is a great, soapy, summertime entertainment read!

With just enough emotional depth and character development to keep Since Last Summer from seeming too fluffy, it confronts dramatic family issues, romance, self-esteem and destructive behavior with a fairly honest point of view.

I really enjoyed reading it and particularly appreciated how Joanna Philbin shows the transformation of relationships and provides a different perspective on characters. No one is perfect, thankfully, in Since Last Summer.

I am definitely ready for more of this series, if there will be any!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

In Perfect Time

In Perfect Time is the third WWII novel in the Wings of the Nightingale trilogy by Sarah Sundin.

Though each novel depicts a story featuring different characters, the characters overlap from book to book. For example, you’re introduced to Kay, the main character in In Perfect Time, in the first book and all the characters we met in the first book are still shown in this final novel.

Because of this, I definitely recommend reading the three books in order for maximum enjoyment. First there’s With Every Letter, then On Distant Shoes and THEN you can read In Perfect Time.

Deal?

Okay then!

Gorgeous, red-headed bombshell flight nurse Lt. Kay Jobson doesn’t hide her penchant for a good time with a boy on every shore. She makes it clear from the get-go that she has a lineup of boyfriends and likes it that way.

So, when she meets handsome, prank prone pilot Lt. Roger Cooper and he resists her to-date irresistible charms, why does it bug her? Doesn’t she have enough men lining up for her attention?

Yet the fact that Roger not only seems immune to Kay – but flat out avoiding her – causes Kay to start to think about her life, her past and those childhood memories that compel her to evade her fellow flight nurses, and friends, Mellie and Georgie’s attempts to bring her to the Lord with salvation by believing in Jesus Christ.

As Kay and Roger cross each other’s paths as the war rages around them, going from Italy to France and beyond, Roger seems to begin to thaw a little toward her.

Could it be that Kay could settle on just one man?

If he was the right one?

Sarah Sundin’s With Every Letter and On Distant Shores impressed me – and In Perfect Time did as well. I’ll admit that With Every Letter is still my favorite of the three, yet each of the novels held many excellent themes and plots.

In Perfect Time, without being too heavy handed in my opinion, presents superb Biblical principles while providing characters that are not even close to being perfect, each struggling with their pasts, insecurities, fears and ingrained flaws.

The historical aspect is fresh and makes me yearn for the patriotic days of the 1940s!

Happily, the romance is built slowly – the best way. However, I’ll admit that as the book continued on the love story hits the same wall multiple times, which made that particular aspect of the book rather repetitive.

Overall, In Perfect Time held a ton of wartime suspense, character development, inspiring Christian perspectives and American nostalgia to create a satisfying finale to a winning WWII era trilogy.

*I received a copy of In Perfect Time from the Baker Publishing Group. Their generosity in no way influenced, nor sought to influence, my opinion of the novel.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Allegiant

Allegiant is a YA dystopian sci-fi novel and the third in the Divergent trilogy by Veronica Roth.

You know the drill bibliophiles, don’t read this review unless you’ve already read Divergent and Insurgent. Understood?

Final warning…

Now that Tris has made the message her mother was protecting known to the factions and factionless alike - risking her life, her relationships and her strength in doing so – she now has to face what it means.

Her way of life – the way of life of everyone she’s ever known – has been put into question. Are they all part of an experiment? Have they just been preparing Divergent to save the world??

With the loss of their core understanding, Tris, Tobias and others decide to venture outside of the limits they’ve never passed as the environment around them is shattering anyway. They want to find purpose again…

What’s beyond the limits only creates more uncertainty, however. Tris and the others find themselves faced with truths they do not want to hear and a reality that isn’t ideal.

Yet again, Tris has to face the choice of being courageous enough to face the choices available to her – and take action.

Nothing will ever be the same…

As I started Allegiant I was glued – as normal.

I have to say, I was unsure why we were being given switching viewpoints between Tris and Tobias this time around. I love Tobias but I was comfortable with Tris as my narrator and POV, so this was an adjustment.

Allegiant provides all kinds of new revelations, implications and twists – as well as some pretty serious frustration and irritation with some characters and plots (no details!).

Yet it came back around again, providing a meaningful, thought-provoking, touching, moving, powerful, romantic, upsetting, heartbreaking finale of a book.

Yes, that is a lot of adjectives. Deal with it. You know how it is, book lovers!!

Just like with Mockingjay of The Hunger Games trilogy, I’m torn and have mixed feeling about the end of this story. Did it make me emotional? Absolutely. Did I find beauty in it? You betcha.

Yet I’m still torn and feel a little bruised from the whole experience.

But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Insurgent

Insurgent is a YA dystopian novel, the second in the Divergent trilogy, by Veronica Roth.

If you have not read Divergent – this review will have spoilers for that first book – I strongly advise not reading this review until you’ve read Divergent.

Understood? UNDERSTOOD?!?!?

Okay, I’m trusting only readers of Divergent are continuing on now…

Initiation Day in the Dauntless faction should have been one of joy for Tris – she had finally cemented her place in Dauntless, no longer in fear of becoming factionless - and finding her place among the courageous, free Dauntless is what she’s wanted for so long.

Instead, it became a living nightmare.

Tris, as a Divergent, was one of the few “awake” Dauntless while she witnessed her faction put under a forced simulation that caused her friends to become murderers – and an entire faction to be wiped out.

When the morning comes, the horror is not over – and the remnants of what Tris had to do haunting her mind and hurting her resolve. War now looms and the time for choosing a side has come. Loyalties have shifted, people have died and their way of life appears to have changed forever.

Amidst grief, guilt and uncertainty, Tris knows she must utilize her dangerous Divergence to its ultimate capabilities.

But when it’s all over – will she recognize her home?

Will she recognize herself?

Well, anyone who read my review of Divergent knows I adored it – and Insurgent takes off right where Divergent left off.

Though, of course, there’s a slight feel of sadness leaving the riveting scenes of Dauntless initiation behind for a broader dystopian war situation – it is still just as suspenseful, romantic and fascinating.

In Insurgent there are more details and passages with different factions, which is mesmerizing in its revelations and originality.

My connection to Tris and Tobias caused a lot of emotional turmoil, as their relationship is not smooth sailing in Insurgent. It bothered me sooooo much – yet that feeling showed me just how much I cared, and felt believable when it comes to the personalities of these two volatile, yet vulnerable, characters.

The results of the end of Divergent cause some issues for Tris that I longed for her to get past, yet her toughness was still there – just a little bit more nuanced and haunted.

Insurgent is full of powerful, memorable scenes and is brutal, frustrating, bloody and thrilling.

Not to mention desperately romantic!!!

Then we get SHOCKERS and a ton of psychological drama, which I love.

Yes, I loved Insurgent.

I just can’t imagine where Allegiant is going to take us!!!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Divergent

Divergent is a YA dystopian thriller and the first in a trilogy written by Veronica Roth - as you probably well know.

Yes, yes. I know word has been out on these books for a while – but cut a girl some slack! There are too many books and too little time, people!!

In a futuristic Chicago, society has been split into factions that define your outlook, beliefs and the loyalties that will define you forever. These factions were originally established to create a peaceful life and to right the wrongs done in the past.

At a predetermined time every year, that year’s sixteen year olds have to choose – choose the faction that they will spend their life in.

It’s a choice that separates family and friends and defines who you are.

When Beatrice makes her choice, it will transform her…

Okay, I did not give away much AT ALL. Because if you, like me, haven’t read it until now the less you know the better!

Because: Divergent is AWESOME.

Immediately Veronica Roth presents an enthralling world with this thought-provoking custom – a custom that started with good intentions but over time has become, like everything in life tends to, distorted.

She provides a layered, strong, flawed, sympathetic, inspiring heroine in Beatrice/Tris. A character that I simply adored to follow.

The plot itself is disturbing, suspenseful and emotional – Divergent is nearly impossible to put down. I was reading the last 100 pages at work and had to keep stopping – end of lunch break, etc., - and oh my gosh I was going CRAZY!

At times Divergent is gory and violent – but with an undercurrent of depth and intimacy. Plus, there’s a slow-building romantic tension that I LOVED. Four – yes there is a character named Four, read the book bibliophile! – is HOT, plain and simple.

I, as I was reading Divergent, wrote the note: loving, loving, LOVING IT!!!

Stunned by the plot twists, pulled along by this gut-wrenching, heartbreaking, exciting, thrill-ride of a novel – by the end I was slightly exhausted!

The morning after I finished Divergent? Yeah, I ordered the next two books in the trilogy. They should be here shortly.

Uh huh – if you haven’t read Divergent, that needs to change - in my opinion.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Meant to Be

Meant to Be is a contemporary YA novel by Lauren Morrill.

Straight-A high school junior Julia has marked her guidebooks and re-read the travel itinerary multiple times – she is ready for this Spring Break school trip to London!

As a literature lover, this is the perfect place for her to go. She’s ready to soak up the history and read Pride & Prejudice for the umpteenth time in a perfect London spot, meanwhile daydreaming about her MTB (Meant to Be) Mark back home, who has yet to really notice her.

However, it’s not long after they get to their destination that she finds out all students have to have a partner – a travel buddy that must be with them at all times outside of the place they’re staying.

And Julia’s happens to be her personal nemesis, class clown and attention-seeker extraordinaire Jason. He tends to bring her accident-prone life into the limelight, which she hates. She much prefers to be under the radar.

Of course, the very first night they’re partnered Jason pulls her to a wild party – in which she manages to get terribly drunk – and the next morning she begins getting flirty texts from someone she can’t place a face to.

Lovely.

Unable to deny that the thought that a guy is actually interested in her – possibly a British guy, at that – excites her a little, she allows Jason to help her find him, but he only does so if she agrees to let him teach her the ways of breaking the rules and having “fun”.

Julia knows she’s probably doomed for disaster, but she decides to take a chance…

I’ve heard of Meant to Be and Lauren Morrill quite a bit. I’ve noticed a lot of high ratings on Goodreads, also. So, I decided it was about time I joined the party!

Meant to Be has some funny moments right from the start and throughout the entire novel there is some pretty hilarious narration by Julia. As a book-loving, rule-following gal, I could relate to her quite a bit.

As the story evolved, I have to say I did not expect the destination it came to. It’s a different sort of romantic comedy and features an ultimate hero that I initially did not see that way AT ALL. Don’t want to say too much and give it away, but I’ll admit this was refreshing – even if I was doubtful at first.

I really liked the more intimate characterizations Meant to Be mixed in with the humor. We see the layers peeled back, more and more, on what might be holding Julia back – and how she deals with her own disillusionment.

For me, Meant to Be has a surprising but satisfying conclusion with some real emotional growth in all the characters. It was sort of like we didn’t know anyone fully at the beginning, that it took time and effort to learn about them in an honest way – just like in real life.

Meant to Be was certainly a fun read, and an unexpected one too. I look forward to reading the next Lauren Morrill book, Being Sloane Jacobs.

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Phantom Tollbooth

The Phantom Tollbooth is a classic children’s/middle-grade fantasy novel by Norton Juster.

How have I never heard of this book until recently???

All I can say is THANK YOU to a bookish bud that told me about the GEM!!!

Have YOU heard of The Phantom Tollbooth? Have YOU read it?

Milo finds little interest in any place he’s at when he’s there or anything he’s doing when he’s doing it.

When Milo finds a tollbooth in his room one day, he decides to go ahead and drive through it in his little electric car – if only because he’s got nothing better to do and this is certainly something different.

For once, though, where he ends up doesn’t have him thinking about leaving.

Milo finds himself in a world that’s very different from his own – meeting the residents of the Doldrums, being at a market of words at Dictionopolis, taking a look over Point of View, jumping to the Island of Conclusions – and much, much more.

As he embarks on an adventure for the ages – involving a daring rescue! – Milo begins to realize…

Life can be far from dull.

Oh my gosh – The Phantom Tollbooth is AWESOME!!!

Are you a fan of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland? I know I am. I love wordy, crafty children’s books with more beyond the fun, silly surface.

That’s what we get here!

The Phantom Tollbooth has smile-inducing cleverness, wordplay and fun writing that made this an absolute delight to read! It’s a truly inventive, creative, original fantasy – and a fantastic book to read out loud.

Among the many, many lines of wit in The Phantom Tollbooth, there is wisdom.

Here we meet a Watch Dog, the Spelling Bee, and a Humbug – among others! Love it!!

This is definitely for fans of charming, fanciful, intelligent books – no age limits here, no way no how!

The Phantom Tollbooth is a tale of paying attention, of caring and not letting time be wasted.

Like I said earlier, a GEM.

Of course, I am likely preaching to the choir here – it appears The Phantom Tollbooth is something of a classic. I was just, apparently, out of the loop.

But if you were too, well – get looped in! The Phantom Tollbooth is one of the books to be reread and savored many days to come!!!