Thursday, June 20, 2013

REVIEW: The Elite by Kiera Cass

The Elite
Author: Kiera Cass
Publisher: Harper Teen
Series: The Selection #2
Format: Audible audiobook
Narrated by: Amy Rubinate
Length:  7 Hrs, 42 Mins
Genre: Young Adult, Fiction, Dystopian, Science Fiction, Adventure
Release Date: April 23, 2013

Thirty-five girls came to the palace to compete in the Selection. All but six have been sent home. And only one will get to marry Prince Maxon and be crowned princess of Illea.

America still isn’t sure where her heart lies. When she’s with Maxon, she’s swept up in their new and breathless romance, and can’t dream of being with anyone else. But whenever she sees Aspen standing guard around the palace, and is overcome with memories of the life they planned to share. With the group narrowed down to the Elite, the other girls are even more determined to win Maxon over—and time is running out for America to decide.

Just when America is sure she’s made her choice, a devastating loss makes her question everything again. And while she’s struggling to imagine her future, the violent rebels that are determined to overthrow the monarchy are growing stronger and their plans could destroy her chance at any kind of happy ending.
My Thoughts

OMG!!! I have to start by saying I am thrilled with this series so far, and I cannot WAIT for The One next 
Spring. Congrats to Kiera Cass on being all around awesome.  I love these books and these characters! This world is so intriguing and detailed.  I love the history of it and how we're gradually learning more of it throughout the series. I love how Mrs. Cass makes me feel like it's a real setting, that this world is somewhere in our country's future.  The United States of China is a prospect, while interesting, that is all too terrifying. I love the language used and I love the creativity of the caste system. How I've not read of something similar yet is astonishing to me. 

I love America! I feel like all her characteristics echo those that the USA was created with.  I always felt that she represented the innocence that a "girl-next door" should, but she knows what she wants, and when she doesn't, she is contemplative. She doesn't let others choose her path for her. Until this second book.  In this volume of the series, she doesn't allow her responses to be be swayed by those around her, but I think, with the exception of a few moments where I gasped out loud, it worked in her favor. I feel like she acted the way I think I would have, because of our similarities in stubbornness and really wanting the right thing to be done regardless of politics.  So even when she was wrong, I loved her!  

Then there is Maxon, and the one thing I wanted to slap him over was his lack of communication with America!  Of course, she is just as guilty, but he is the prince!  He has unlimited access to her, and it doesn't quite work the other way around. There are able to make it work, but it came at the expense of my tears because I'm a big ol' sap!  Kiera Cass just gets my emotions!  She knows what's going to trigger the water works and man, she uses it.  And I am not complaining!  I love a book that makes me feel and I adore America (and Maxon) for those same reasons.      

Aspen needs to kick rocks!  He's improved his caste, he feels like he has purpose now as a soldier, so leave America alone!  You let her go, and that's the mistake you live with!  You pushed her to do this and you don't just get to have her back! Give her a chance to be happy! In this book, he messes with America's head too much, even though I love how that resolves. 

I do not trust Aspen, AT ALL.  I don't think he would do anything to hurt America, but I believe he's not really aware of how close she is to actually becoming a royal, and that he may be the ruin of it all in some way or another. I also do not trust that he is not involved with the rebels, either northern or southern, in some way, or that the rebels aren't working with one another now. It's very obvious the king is hiding something too, and I feel like he could use Maxon, and possibly even America, as an ally, but he underestimates them and their thoughts on Illea.  Illea's history plays a huge role in this, but not enough has been given away yet for me to figure it out :P

America had her moments in this book where she is the type of self-depreciating that we allll hate.  She went all Bella on us for a second guys, but give her a chance.  Don't worry, she fixes it! When America is dealing with the king, I wish she would just play nice and resolve to affect the change in these things later because he terrifies me!   The queen obviously likes her, and Maxon of course, but she needs to play her hand wisely or she's going to lose it all and not have a leg to stand on, at court or back home. I loved America's parents and sister!  They are sweet and supportive and doting, knowing when to stand in and when to sit down.  Her brother is a dweeb, totally power hungry and manipulative.  I like that she doesn't react to him. 

The characters in this world and their stories make me want to sing and praise it to everyone I meet!  You can't not fall in love with this series! 

I'm rating The Elite 4 Stars because The One just has to bE 5 Stars and I need room to go up! 

REVIEW: Reached by Ally Condie

Author: Ally Condie
Publisher: Dutton Childrens
Series: Matched #3
Format: Kindle ebook
Length:  512 Pages
Genre: Young Adult, Fiction, Dystopian, Science Fiction, Adventure
Release Date: November 13, 2012

After leaving Society to desperately seek The Rising, and each other, Cassia and Ky have found what they were looking for, but at the cost of losing each other yet again. Cassia is assigned undercover in Central city, Ky outside the borders, an airship pilot with Indie. Xander is a medic, with a secret. All too soon, everything shifts again.
My Thoughts

I tried to like it, I really did. I finished it, and I didn't hate it as much as I thought I would, but each book just got further and further from my taste. The world Condie created was so promising, but the characters, ugh the characters. I didn't dislike the characters, I disliked their stories, except for Cassia.  Cassia is weak.  She's whiny and I feel like she doesn't make up her own mind, it seems like she always have to have someone push her in the right direction.  She was the only character I didn't feel really developed, even after she started working with the archivists. The red, green, blue pill concept was creative, but in the third book it just went haywire. And the whole Pilot thing was ridiculous and disappointing.

My main qualm with the romance was the dumb love triangle. I like Ky, I do, but seriously, and I feel like he is a victim of circumstance, but why did he have to get in the middle of Cassia and Xander! I wanted them to be together and happy, regardless of the Society mess around them. I'm glad that Xander ended up being happy, but ugggh Cassia, the world is so much bigger than you and Ky.

I really read this book out of obligation to finish the series, and be done with the trilogy.  This is not a very good review, but it's hard to go on and on about a book I didn't enjoy reading, and I don't want to bash it.  That's just cruel.  Plus, I think it's a matter of preference. When Ally Condie puts forth another book or series, I will definitely still give it a try.

I'm rating Reached 2 stars for creative setting and Xander's character development :)

Thanks for joining me today! Time to get caught up on reviews ;)

Good News!

I took my Kindle back to Best Buy, where it was purchased and found out my father-in-law purchased the protection plan for it! They no longer carried my first edition, so the price equivalent was the new 16G Kindle Fire HD!  I scored big time!  So now I'm trying to get caught up on reviews & reading.

That being said, I owe a big thanks to my father-in-law and Best Buy customer service! Also, thank you to my friend Kim Baker who lent me her extra kindle to try to catch up!  I never quite got there, but i appreciate it!

Stick around for upcoming reviews!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

REVIEW: Forgotten by Cat Patrick

Author: Cat Patrick
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Series: Standalone
Format: Hardcover
Length:  304 Pages
Genre: Young Adult, Fiction, Contemporary
Release Date: June 7, 2011

Each night at precisely 4:33 am, while sixteen-year-old London Lane is asleep, her memory of that day is erased. In the morning, all she can "remember" are events from her future. London is used to relying on reminder notes and a trusted friend to get through the day, but things get complicated when a new boy at school enters the picture. Luke Henry is not someone you'd easily forget, yet try as she might, London can't find him in her memories of things to come. 
When London starts experiencing disturbing flashbacks, or flash-forwards, as the case may be, she realizes it's time to learn about the past she keeps forgetting-before it destroys her future.
My Thoughts

I couldn't help but love London from the very beginning of this story.  She seemed average, and kind, loyal, the type of girl you'd want to be your best friend. She's different, but unless she told you why, I don't think you'd be able to tell how.  I liked that she was oblivious to her integrity and good character; she just wanted to do the right thing. She's humble and seems to be pretty level-headed, acknowledging her weakness and trying to logically compensate for it. She has a good heart and she's not easily influenced by the actions of her friends, who she loves even though she sometimes hates their behavior. She's everything I hope people will one day say I am! 

Luke was just adorable!  I thought his secret was sweet and not something that London should have been upset about, but I think I may have felt differently about it had I been in her shoes.  He's the kind of boy you want to bring home to meet your parents, or that you hope your kinds will bring home to meet you.  

I really enjoyed Cat Patrick's writing.  It seemed so natural and effortless, clean and simple without being boring. Forgotten had just the right amount of detail without being overwhelming or forced.  I will definitely read more of her stories. It did make me emotional in a few parts, but I wasn't like, horrifically sobbing. There are just some parts that are so sad.  

This was the kind of story that I appreciate after reading something very intense and heavy because you don't have to process a ginormous amount of information but you can enjoy the story and the characters.  It's light, but unique and keeps you interested.  I just loved London's strange life and I loved finding out how she got that way and what was coming next. 

I'm rating Forgotten 3 STARS.  

Cat Patrick gives us all the pieces of the puzzle, making for a different and entertaining read. I loved that she took a girl with a "disability" and made it an asset, and essentially made her a hero, whether she or the people she helped realize it. London's a good girl, and I love that.  I also love her name!

Thank you for stopping by today!  I hope, if you haven't already that you'll give Cat Patrick's books a try.  I can't wait to read more of them!

REVIEW: Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare

Clockwork Princess
Author: Cassandra Clare
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderberry Books
Series: The Infernal Devices #3
Format: Hardcover
Length:  568 Pages
Genre: Young Adult, Fiction, Nephilim, Romance 
Release Date: March 19, 2013

Danger and betrayal, secrets and enchantment in the breathtaking conclusion to the Infernal Devices trilogy

Tessa Gray should be happy - aren't all brides happy?
Yet as she prepares for her wedding, a net of shadows begins to tighten around the Shadowhunters of the London Institute.
A new demon appears, one linked by blood and secrecy to Mortmain, the man who plans to use his army of pitiless automatons, the Infernal Devices, to destroy the Shadowhunters. Mortmain needs only one last item to complete his plan. He needs Tessa. And Jem and Will, the boys who lay equal claim to Tessa's heart, will do anything to save her.
My Thoughts

Cassandra Clare just keeps getting better, pulling me deeper and deeper into the world she has created.  Even though I started reading her books with The Mortal Instruments series, The Infernal Devices quickly made it's way to my top 3 in favorite series.  The characters are bewitching, they keep you guessing constantly and evoke such deep empathy and emotion. I feel as though my personal character is developed and better for having read Tessa, Jem & Will's story. 

Cassie wrapped up this series beautifully.  It was, emotionally, a difficult read, and I spent most of the book in tears.  I just couldn't help myself. I love these characters so much, even Sophie, who some may say is a very inconsequential character.  I have learned in the 3 years I've been reading Mrs. Clare's books that no character is inconsequential, and each detail and fact is deliberate and placed in the absolute perfect place, so that not only will it perfect the stories in this series, it will resonate throughout her other Shadowhunter stories.  She is a master at her craft and I'm so glad that this generation has her!

Clockwork Princess is beautiful, honest and heartbreaking.  The reality of this story is that it's sad-tragic really, in many ways, but there is hope and rebirth even, in some sense.  This story delves into what some of our favorite characters experience due to their very nature of being: immortality. Immortality is, at it's very core, bittersweet and we absolutely see those effects in this final book.  It's a subject that Cassie has touched on in every one of her Shadowhunter books, but here we really allow it to break us, rebuild us and break us again.  I love that ID is interwoven with TMI because it helps me to feel like I'll never lose those characters; they'll always be there because of the family connections and the character connections.

Jem is more devoting and darling and kind than ever. Will is still wonderfully funny, and despite the darker tone most of the book has, his wit and heart bring light to the scene.  Will is also probably more reasonable than we have ever seen him, and for a valid reason (from Clockwork Prince).  I just wish keeping their secrets from one another didn't hurt their hearts so badly.

There are some facts and relationships in this book that help us understand some events that have already happened in the TMI series and that Cassie has led us to believe will help us understand the conclusion of that series with City of Heavenly Fire. Cassie shared with us that Clockwork Princess actually ends after City of Heavenly Fire does.  You'll see this when you read it, but I don't know if it's very obvious information, so pay attention to dates.  I'm not sure if I would have figured that out without Cassie telling me.

Mrs. Clare is, plain and simple, a master storyteller! Her books are detailed, rich and dramatic, yet so heartfelt and believable; it's fiction in it's most vulnerable and moving state.  Clockwork Princess is no exception.  I could read about her Shadowhunters forever, and I hope I'll get the chance to do so for most of my life. These are stories I hope my children will read, so they can experience adventures and excitement in the literary world, and develop the ability to lose themselves for just a few hours in faraway, expressive worlds.  The ability to allow yourself to be transported to another place through story or song is a beautiful gift and I want them to have that. I also feel that Cassie's stories teach that not every story is wrapped up with a perfectly happy ending and pretty bow.

The family tree on the back of the dust jacket was awesome! I forced myself, painstakingly, to wait until I'd finished the book to go over it. If I could pick someone to write my life and create the world I'd live in, I'd choose Cassandra Clare. She is so brilliant at her craft!

I'm rating Clockwork Princess 5 STARS and would give it 20 times that if my scale went that high.  I beyond loved it and I'm so sad it's over! I can't wait to have City of Heavenly Fire in my hands and see how Clockwork Princess ties in even further to the conclusion of that series!          

Thank you so much for catching up with me here today! See you soon for my review of Forgotten by Cat Patrick :) Til then!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Haunted at 17

Nova Ren Suma’s new novel, 17 & Gone, comes out tomorrow, March 21, and to mark the release of this story about a 17-year-old girl haunted by the missing, she’s asked some authors she knows & her readers to join her in answering this question… What haunted YOU at 17? 

(Part of my class on 1 stop of our senior trip
Top row: MJ, Me, Richard (with Jonas, our class advisor's son on his shoulders),
Bottom row: Jenn (class advisor's wife), Wesley, my biffle Michelle, and Edson)

When I Was 17, I was haunted by the thought of venturing into the world on my own.  I was both terrified and motivated by the thought I'd get stuck in my small town forever (the same small town I appreciate & adore the history of now;) (hashtag, irony!)

I was (and still am in many ways) the typical over-achiever.  I was the principal’s student aide, student body president, class president, MVP of the volleyball team and might have been of the basketball team had I not quit (that's another story, which also still haunts me, even though I learned something valuable-but, that's for another day).

I was getting college acceptance letters left and right.  I shouldn't have been so afraid. It was the financial aspect of the whole thing that frightened me. My parents didn't have the money to help me with school or the credit to help me with a student loan, and more than anything, I didn't know how to go about acquiring all the help that is out there for students (grants and specialized scholarships, etc.) As my graduation day loomed over me, I had decisions to make:  which school to choose, how to pay for it and how I was going to physically travel there (I didn't get my license until I was 19!).
But it worked out for me in an amazing way: I received an email one day in November of my junior year that CHANGED my life. It was from my sister, who I had been separated from for 14 years. In the email my sister asked me if I remembered her (heartbreaking!), and if I would want to see her and meet her family, my brother-in-law, 4 year old nephew and 7 year old niece (Of course!).

Our separation wasn't my choice; my mom, although I left home at 15 and lived with my best friend and her family (also, another story), tried to continue to control the contact I had with my siblings (I’m the baby of 5).  She didn't get along with my two sisters and used to call them names when I would ask about them or if I could see them.  Despite her negative responses, I maintained the desire to find them one day, have interactions with them and form my own opinions.  Now that I am a mom, I have a hard time understanding how she could say those things and keep me from them. These memories are also haunting, because I don’t understand them.
I was raised as an only child; I’d never met any of my ten plus aunts and uncles, or their children, and I can’t begin to explain how badly I wanted to have cousins to play, take pictures, and celebrate birthdays and holidays with.  All of my friends had these experiences and I couldn't relate to that; it was lonely. I wanted to know my family, and the chance to do that came at a critical time in my life. 
During spring break I flew to Florida (where they lived) to see my sister and meet the rest of her family.  My brother-in-law surprised us and had our other sister fly in from Chicago.  It was vindicating to be surrounded by my family, because I knew that family had value, and as independent as I was, it was nice to not have to be on my own all the time. I had people that loved me, that I actually shared blood with, that wanted me to be a part of their life too.   I’ll be the first person to tell you that blood doesn't make family, and I have the “family” to prove it.  This was just something I had longed for throughout my entire childhood.  I had always ached to have my sisters to share experiences with, vent to and cry with when a boy breaks my heart.

I ended up going to school in Florida that semester so I could be close to my family.  I played volleyball at UWF, and I lived out a few of other dreams: I got out of my small town and proved (to myself) that I could do it! I moved someplace "better" than where I came from, and I lived on the beach! With family (until school started), then by family! I only stayed in Florida for a year, and it didn't go the way I'd planned it out it my mind, but it was great, and it got me started in the right direction, placing the right people in my life.

More than anything, the things that haunted me were distant thoughts. I think I was blessed by timing and circumstance in this instance, because someone was watching out for me. My ghosts were irrelevant at this point because I had supportive family and friends who acted as my own personal ghost hunters. Knowing the fear and uncertainty I felt then, it's great to look back and know that the memories surrounding that time are of cherished times with great people.

***I would be remiss not to mention another thing that haunted me that summer:  Dumbledore's death in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Wicked ending that book has, and I finished reading it on the drive home from Pensacola to Fort Walton Beach.  My brother-in-law was driving and my sobbing startled him so badly  he asked me, with the most concerned look on his face, if he should pull over. He has no idea that I was crying because of the book (because it's so unheard of ;) except with me!) Potterheadness at it's best :) 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Literary Tragedy!

Dear Readers,

My Kindle will not charge!  I can't read any of my books on it and gosh my brain is crashing!  It's not like I don't have a bookshelf full of unread books, but the ones I wanted right at this moment are on my Kindle and my heart is broken. Bear with me. *sigh* Looks like I'll be reading the books I bought three years ago and never got to... ;)

Happy Monday!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

REVIEW: The Goddess Inheritance by Aimee Carter

The Goddess Inheritance
Author: Aimee Carter
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Series: The Goddess Test #3
Format: E-Galley courtesy of Net Galley
Length:  384 Pages
Genre: Young Adult, Fiction, Mythology 
Release Date: February 26, 2013

Love or life.
Henry or their child.
The end of her family or the end of the world.
Kate must choose.

During nine months of captivity, Kate Winters has survived a jealous goddess, a vengeful Titan and a pregnancy she never asked for. Now the Queen of the Gods wants her unborn child, and Kate can't stop her--until Cronus offers a deal.

In exchange for her loyalty and devotion, the King of the Titans will spare humanity and let Kate keep her child. Yet even if Kate agrees, he'll destroy Henry, her mother and the rest of the council. And if she refuses, Cronus will tear the world apart until every last god and mortal is dead.

With the fate of everyone she loves resting on her shoulders, Kate must do the impossible: find a way to defeat the most powerful being in existence, even if it costs her everything.

Even if it costs her eternity
My Thoughts

Wow.  Just wow.  There were so many times during this book where I thought “HOW ARE THEY GOING TO GET OUT OF THIS!?!?!?!” and I simultaneously began to tic out of fear and anxiety.  This story could have been so much longer if they’d wanted, but kudos to Aimee Carter and her editor for cutting in what I feel like were the right places because I feel like I have the answers needed for my little book-loving soul to be at peace.

Henry is my ALL-TIME FAVORITE male love interest character. He's perfect! He's traditional, loving, even if he is guarded (particularly at the beginning of the series.) Henry is so diplomatic and he listens and works with Kate so well, even when she's trying to go off the grid and sacrifice herself. He's a woman's dream! I feel like I really got to know Henry and what to expect from him during this series.  I really, really love when I feel that about a character.  I had that with Kate too, though so many times my eyes teared up and I thought (dramatically, I might add) “Oh Kate!  How are we going to get out of this and get back to Henry and the baby!?”

I love Kate too, even though she is the absolute definition of a martyr. But now, her willingness to sacrifice herself is reasonable (in my mind, at least): she's a mother! This serious was already emotionally charged, but through in the feelings of a mother protecting her child and her husband, a couple defending their family and holy blamo! You'd better have a box of tissues handy!  The possibility, even the vague suggestion that Henry & Kate would not get to be together is horrifying and it literally made me sick to my stomach.  Having a physical reaction to a book is such a great experience.  It cements that book (in this case the whole series) in your mind and stores it so you can recall your favorite parts and hopefully, share them with others.  I can’t wait for my friends to read this third installment.  I've been goading them about it all week and they can hardly contain themselves (since it doesn't come out for another week). 

I read the first part of this book on my Kindle (until my battery died & WOULDN'T CHARGE! (Oh the despair! #firstworldproblems) and the first 33% of it, I spent teary-eyed and blubbery.  I’m so glad my husband wasn't home.  He already thinks my book obsession is out of control, he has little room left in his man brain to comprehend why I would expel real, tangible emotion over words on a page.  But alas, I love him, despite how his man-brain works.

This entire third book feels like that moment right before everything explodes & you don't know what to expect. It's tense and wonderful and a terrific read. I love the pacing. It only makes me love Henry and Kate more to see what their struggles are and how they decide to face them together, even though they may not have actual opportunities to communicate with each other because of Calliope and Cronus.  I loved when they were separated how, even though it was difficult for them, Kate especially (since we read the book through her POV mostly), there was a trust there that didn't need to be communicated, even thought there were tiny clouds of doubt hovering and threatening to intrude on their love like the Queen of the Gods and the King of the Titans did. Kate tried to push the bad out of her mind to keep the hope and the faith that Henry would do what he needed to in order to protect their baby and help get back to Kate.  

This story broke my heart in places but when I finished I totally see how it was necessary.  I learned things as Kate did and experienced them as Kate did (which is my favorite type of storytelling, btw) so I related to her even though her story is practically unrelatable, what with the mythology and all.  That’s why when I got to page 195-on my electronic edition- I was so sick to my stomach and by page 201; I was sobbing like a fool, fyi.

I love it!   I’m rating The Goddess Inheritance 5 STARS

I loved this conclusion to The Goddess Test! At the end of the book it says, that this is the end-for now. That excites me something fierce!!!  I’m hoping we will see more of the Gods and Goddesses from Aimee Carter, she has me captivated by their stories, particularly Kate, Henry and their baby’s, hook, line & sinker!  I focus on their story in this review, but there are other subplots that are great in this book too!  I’m just so excited about this book that I’m gushing because I just finished it… (sorry not sorry) We find out who Kate’s dad is!

Thank you for sticking around for this review, please pick up Aimee Carter’s books if you haven’t started them yet!  They are so fun and are usually quick reads.  

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

REVIEW: The Opposite of Hallelujah by Anna Jarzab

The Opposite of Hallelujah
Author: Anna Jarzab
Publisher: Delacourte Books for Young Readers
Series: Standalone
Format: E-Galley courtesy of Net Galley
 464 Pages
Genre: Young Adult, Fiction, Contemporary
Release Date: October 9, 2012

Caro Mitchell considers herself an only child—and she likes it that way. After all, her much older sister, Hannah, left home eight years ago, and Caro barely remembers her. So when Caro’s parents drop the bombshell news that Hannah is returning to live with them, Caro feels as if an interloper is crashing her family. To her, Hannah’s a total stranger, someone who haunts their home with her meek and withdrawn presence, and who refuses to talk about her life and why she went away. Caro can’t understand why her parents cut her sister so much slack, and why they’re not pushing for answers.

Unable to understand Hannah, Caro resorts to telling lies about her mysterious reappearance. But when those lies alienate Caro’s new boyfriend and put her on the outs with her friends and her parents, she seeks solace from an unexpected source. And when she unearths a clue about Hannah’s past—one that could save Hannah from the dark secret that possesses her. Caro begins to see her sister in a whole new light.
My Thoughts

There is a special bond between sisters that can only be denied for so long, and this book is the story of that. I encourage anyone with a sister, whether you’re close or not, to read this book.  It discovers faith in different ways, and what it means to different people, and absolutely explores grief and the ways we try to cope and how we try to hide it when we think others are looking.  For a book concerning religion and the question of God’s existence, it was never preachy and it never read like a sermon. 

Although I liked Jarzab’s first novel, All Unquiet Things, better, I thought the way she approached this book was smart.  She offers contemplative questions, and some character soul-searching, but never shoves an answer down your throat or dismisses a contradicting viewpoint.  She allows her characters to develop themselves without forcing it.  I loved how Caro seemed to seek out Father Bob’s help on her own when her sister’s arrives home (although her parents and the Father himself make him accessible), and the reader is able to see an almost measurable increase in her maturity through the course of the novel.  

I had this feeling of distrust and dislike towards Hannah before the idea in the book of her coming home from the convent ever appeared.  It was strange to me how I almost immediately sympathized with Caro at the very beginning of the story despite knowing nothing of her history, Hannah’s background or what was to come in the book.  I automatically clung to her and, although I don’t know how well I relate to her, I found myself trying and just accepting her, gigantic, apathetic flaws and all. I really didn’t love Hannah until Caro did, which really added to my reading experience.  I felt like I came into everything that Caro was going through with her instead of observing from the outside and the story really took possession of my emotions that way.  I find this a testament to Jarzab’s storytelling ability.

I enjoyed the science vs. religion dynamic that was included, and appreciated that the romantic subplot was just that, a subplot. While I liked the romantic interest, it was a nice change that family relationships and school is what really brought Caro and Pawel together.  Everyone in Caro’s life really seemed to be supportive of her learning and growing through her challenges, and I feel that was what enabled her to be supportive of Hannah when she finally admitted her own struggles to her family.

I’m rating The Opposite of Hallelujah 4 STARS

I think that this novel generally relates that people come to faith in their own way, in their own time, or in God’s own time.  This book was not what I expected.  It’s subtle with a quietly powerful depth.  I hope you will enjoy it if you decide to pick it up, which you should ;)

Thank you for being here today, see you next time for my review of The Goddess Inheritance by Aimee Carter. 

REVIEW: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Anna and the French Kiss
Author: Stephanie Perkins
Publisher: Listening Library 
Narrator: Kim Mai Guest
Series: Not part of a series, 
but it does have companion novels
Format: Audible Audiobook
Length:  10 Hours, 29 Minutes
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Chick Lit, Romance
Release Date: October 11, 20011

Anna was looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. So she's less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris—until she meets Étienne St. Clair. Smart, charming, beautiful, perfect, Étienne has it all ... including a serious girlfriend.

But in the City of Light, wishes have a way of coming true. Will a year of romantic near-misses end with their long-awaited French kiss?
My Thoughts

I thought this was a cute story.  I hate stories about France and how romantic and wonderful Paris is.  It usually makes me want to stay as far away from the City of Light as possible. Now, I would LOVE to go to Paris!  To see the sights and visit the theatres, to stay off the beaten path and explore and love it as Anna learned to.  I think listening to this book versus reading it was what worked for me, because I walked past this book in the stores so many times.  I came across it on Audible and thought I’d give it a chance.  Now I love it and I love Stephanie Perkins (who is a super nice person too, btw). Her writing is sweet and realistic. She builds her settings beautifully. She develops the important characters well and adds enough detail to the supporting characters to keep it relevant and interesting, making you still care about them too. 

I liked Anna’s character; she was much how I hope I was at that age.  She was innocent enough, but not completely naïve.  She gets plucked from Georgia and shipped to a fancy, private American boarding school in Paris and thinks her life is over.  Basically, First World Problems. But she didn't turn into a completely horrible monster of a person, even if she hated her situation. Then, like any girl would do, she falls in love with the most unavailable guy possible, Etienne St. Clair.  Crushes and love confuse us all, so there were moments of inexperience, but other than awkward, they weren’t unbearable. 

The biggest takeaways I have from this book (because books always mirror real life…or not) are COMMUNICATION and DON’T BE SO STUBBORN!  And I loved St. Clair, but there were moments when I was ready to smack him in the face.  Ultimately, I feel he made up for it in the end.  I loved how Anna helped him with his dad and helped him gain freedom in some of the choices he wanted to make.

This book was just romantic and adorable, and it had the perfect amount of funny.  Plus, there was no supernatural element to it so I could breathe for a tiny moment. :) While young love is the focus of the story, it does touch into other relationships, including friendships and familial relationships, bringing up the subjects of loyalty, divorced parents, and long-distance emotions. I loved that Anna was so relatable.  She just wanted to know her place and not be lonely.  Who would want to start their life over again for their senior year in a new school, in a new city, in an entirely new country!?  Okay, well maybe I would, but still. You've built up connections and friendships for three years (sometimes longer), and then poof!  You’re removed from that and thrown into new, new, new and new.  That would cause me anxiety, at least. 

I'm rating Anna and the French Kiss 4 STARS.  

Cute and very pass-onable.  I'd love to gush about this book with my girlfriends.  Definitely a book a husband or boyfriend should gift to their significant other on a special holiday or a sweet, "just because" moment. 

Thanks for being here today! 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

REVIEW: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

The Book Thief
Author: Markus Zusak
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Series: Standalone
Format: Audible Audiobook
Length:  13 Hours, 56 Minutes
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction
Release Date: January 1, 2006

Death has never been busier, and will become busier still. Liesel Meminger's life is changed when, by her brother's graveside, she
picks up an object, partially hidden in the snow. It is The Gravedigger's Handbook, left there by accident, and it is her first act of book thievery. So begins a love affair with books and words, as Liesel, with the help of her foster father, learns to read. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor's wife's library, wherever these books are to be found. But these are dangerous times. When Liesel's foster family hides a Jew in their basement, Liesel's world is both opened up, and closed down.

Narrated by Death, The Book Thief is a story about the power of words and the ability of books to feed the soul.

Award-winning author MARKUS ZUSAK has given us one of the most enduring stories of our time.
My Thoughts

I feel like I give 5 star reviews pretty often.  I think it's because I'm an emotional person.  I have a LOT of feels.  I am moved by anything that makes me feel. This book loaded me up with feels. I loved this book. I have a family history involving WWII and a personal interest in history in general.  I am OBSESSED with European history. This book hit me harder than any other book I've read regarding Nazi Germany and the Holocaust, and I think it's because I've been to Munich and to Dachau.  I had a physical memory of the road that leads to the camp. I relived it in my mind as though I were Max Vandenburg taking that horrible walk, or Liesel watching my friend Max march to certain death.

I loved this book because it didn't sugar coat history. Sure, it's a fictional story, but this story was real for so many.  It’s a tale of when to be bold and when to fall in line, when to go against the grain, when to prepare yourself for the lashes. The foreshadowing is so delicate and so very useful.  It prepares you for the heartbreak you're about to face as you turn the page. The language is used beautifully, creating an almost lyrical prose that contrasts so starkly against the harrowing content it’s describing.  

It shouldn't bode well if Death is the narrator of your story, but Mr. Zusak gives his storyteller an undeniable charm. Though Death is straightforward, he seems to have a heart.  You sympathize that he’s just doing his job, and you wonder what he may have seen throughout the centuries.

Anecdotal, graphic, disquieting, and so terribly and beautifully tragic, I don’t know that it’s possible to not like this book.  Some of the content may be difficult to read, but history is very often ugly.  The thoughts presented in this book are compelling and inquisitive, leaving you contemplating the story and the history behind it, long after the last word has been shared.  It’s so well done and will reach a great breadth of readers, adults should read it to be reminded and teens should read it to understand.

The Book Thief  is absolutely a 5 STAR book. This isn't the kind of book you race through.  It’s detailed and in depth and you’ll find yourself swallowing the words by small spoonfuls as their pouring out their tiny heart to you. You’ll care about the characters and you’ll cry, you’ll feel angst and despair, but there will be happy times, there will be courage and hope and you’ll cherish it.  Your soul will be glad that you opened this book.  

Thank you so much for joining me here today.  I hope you're moved by this book as much as I have been. 

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