Review Archive

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Splash Into Summer Giveaway Hop!

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Summer is here!! Well at my house it is, anyway! 
So to celebrate the start of summer I am joining with
I Am A Reader, Not Writer & Page Turners Blog 
and giving away one of these awesome May releases.
I have read one of these, own one other, and covet them all!
So the rules are simple:

  • this giveaway is US only
  • you must be 13 years or older to enter
  • the only required entry is that you follow my blog by GFC, RSS, Email Subscription or Linky. Check out my right sidebar to do any of these.
  • there will be extra entries available for anyone interested
That’s it! Just fill out the rafflecopter form below and good luck! Have a great summer:))
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Book Review: Cold Fury by T.M. Goeglein

12849229Cold Fury 
by T. M. Goeglein
Putnam Juvenile
July 13, 2012
313 pages
Source: Library Thing 
Early Reviewers Program

Synopsis
Jason Bourne meets The Sopranos in this breathtaking adventure

Sara Jane Rispoli is a normal sixteen-year-old coping with school and a budding romance–until her parents and brother are kidnapped and she discovers her family is deeply embedded in the Chicago Outfit (aka the mob).

Now on the run from a masked assassin, rogue cops and her turncoat uncle, Sara Jane is chased and attacked at every turn, fighting back with cold fury as she searches for her family. It’s a quest that takes her through concealed doors and forgotten speakeasies–a city hiding in plain sight. Though armed with a .45 and 96K in cash, an old tattered notebook might be her best defense–hidden in its pages the secret to “ultimate power.” It’s why she’s being pursued, why her family was taken, and could be the key to saving all of their lives.

Action packed, with fresh, cinematic writing, Cold Fury is a riveting and imaginative adventure readers will devour.(Taken from Goodreads.)

Opening Line

My name is Sara Jane Rispoli.

My Take On It

A little about me: I’m the girl who will always sit down and watch the AMC marathon showings of The Godfather (I AND II). I’m a sucker for The Sopranos, Good Fellas, Donnie Brasco, Casino, The Untouchables, heck, I even liked Married to the Mob. I’m a total History Channel nerd and I love any kind of mob related documentaries. So trust me when I say that if you, like me, are a fan of anything mafiaesque in nature, you are going to love Cold Fury. And if you are a fan of a kick ass heroine, then you are going to love Cold Fury. If you are a fan of non stop action in your reads, you are going to love Cold Fury. If you have ever lived in, visited, or just had a general fascination with the city of Chicago, you too are going to love Cold Fury. If you like fast paced thrillers interlaced with a supernatural vibe, YOU are going to love Cold Fury. And if you like hints of romance with the potential for more, then yes, you are going to love Cold Fury as well.

So let’s start with characters. I think Sara Jane Rispoli might be one of the most likable protagonists I have encountered. On the one hand she is very much the typical teenage girl. She stresses about school. She worries over her appearance. She wonders if she’ll ever fall in love. She feels lonely and isolated at times. She wants to go to her high school dance. On the other hand, Sara Jane has been living a lie. Her very close knit family is harboring a secret, one that breaks wide open when her mom, dad and little brother are abducted. Luckily she’s equipped to handle it because our girl Sara Jane, for all her vulnerability and self doubt, is one serious bad ass. First off, she’s a fighter. As in she has trained as a boxer. Guys, I LOVE this part of Sara Jane, and the scenes where she trains with Willy (who is just one of many cool characters in Cold Fury) and the scenes where she actually puts that training to use, are beyond awesome. I’ve seen heroines with sword skills and martial art skills but I think this may be the first book I’ve read with a heroine who boxes. It’s pretty clear that the author knows a thing or two about this sport and it was fun to read. And Sara Jane has got an awesome sense of humor to boot.There are loads of memorable lines in Cold Fury. 
Alongside Sara Jane are a cast of colorful characters. I’ve mentioned Willy, her trainer, but there is also her friend Doug who reminds me a bit of a toned down version of Tiny Cooper from Will Grayson, Will Grayson (that’s a HUGE compliment in case you are wondering.) There is Max Kissberg (aw, love that name!), Sara Jane’ potential love interest. And by the way, while there are hints of future romance in Cold Fury, it definitely takes a backseat to other aspects of the book. I’m a romantic, I like it in my reads, but in this case, I was okay with the minor role it played because I can tell that there will be more in upcoming installments.
There’s also Sara Jane’s family. Though already kidnapped by the time of the story’s start, we meet her dad, mom and her brother Lou through flashback scenes. We also encounter her Uncle Buddy and his detestable wife Greta. But Sara Jane has an extended family as well, the family that comprises The Outfit, and these are some of my favorite characters in the story. We meet Knuckles, head of The Outfit’s muscle, I know he’s supposed to be scary, and he is a bit, but mostly I found him to be a hoot. And there is a brief glimpse of a character who I think is sure to play a larger role in upcoming books: Tyler Strozzini, head of the Money division of The Outfit. There are scores of other memorable players at work in Cold Fury that I loved, Billy, aka Bully the Kid, from Sara Jane’s school, Police Detective Smelt, and of course the bat-shit crazy psychopath who is hunting Sara Jane down. This guy is UBER creepy for a variety of reasons. I can’t go into too much detail here but I will say that all of these characters are unique and well developed. Goeglein does an impressive job of juggling a large cast of players without confusing the reader in the slightest.

But what about the plot? One word: amazing. And inventive. Oh, that’s two words. But you guys, this story is so chock full of twists and turns, PLENTY of “Ah ha!” moments abound and even more “Whoa, didn’t see that coming” moments as well. Other than the first few chapters, where Sara Jane relays the past events leading up to the present, the story moves along at a very brisk pace. Boredom was definitely not a issue. And did I mention  that I love mafia history and documentaries? Well T.M. Goeglein has definitely done his research. There is so much history written into this story, it felt like a crash course on mob lore, and I totally, totally LOVED every minute of it. Whether it was  the details of Al Capone and other Chicago mob bosses, or the glimpses of speakeasy’s and tales of Prohibition, or the mysterious Capone Doors spread throughout the city, I gobbled it all up. After finishing the book I was immediately on my computer looking everything up just to see what was truth and what was fiction. I dare you to read this book and not find yourself curious to learn more about this part of America’s history.

And then there is the setting. I’ve never been to Chicago but it is very, very clear that Goeglein loves this city. I think it rocks when an author can take a setting and craft it so carefully, so lovingly, that it becomes a character unto itself. Stephanie Perkins does this with Paris in Anna and the French Kiss, Laini Taylor does this with Prague in Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Beth Kephart does it with Barcelona in Small Damages, and T.M. Goeglein definitely accomplishes the same with Chicago in Cold Fury. I felt like I had walked those streets, sat in those diners and smoky bars, and rode to the top of the skyscrapers right along side Sara Jane.

Perhaps one of the biggest surprises to me was that Cold Fury has a definite supernatural element to it. This part of the story is very subtle but that’s not to say it’s unimportant. Again, I don’t want to give too much away, but it’s a really cool, unique inclusion, and it adds that extra ‘oomph’ to the plot itself. I enjoyed this part of the book, and it’s definitely one of the things I look forward to reading more about. In fact there are many occurrences in Cold Fury that screamed FORESHADOWING to me, which is all sorts of cool in my opinion. Every time I came across something that set those alarms off  in my head I jotted it down in a notebook. Guys, that book is full!  And this supernatural aspect reminded me of another mafiaesque series I adore: Holly Black’s Curse Workers series. If you are a fan of those books you should definitely give Cold Fury a try.

So in conclusion, Cold Fury was a wild ride. I love the people, I love the storyline and the history behind it and I love the action and kick butt heroine. I thoroughly enjoyed it’s unique premise and all the surprise elements that were included. And I appreciated the cleverness of the story and the seamless writing style of the author. I can’t wait to see where T.M. Goeglein takes us next.

4.5/5 Stars

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Back from baseball and My Top Ten Jail Bait Book Boyfriends

I’m back from my son’s baseball tournament and ready to roll with a Top Ten Tuesday post! It’s been a few weeks since I’ve participated in one of these and since this week was a freebie, I thought I’d feature a topic near and dear to my heart: Swoon Worthy Book Boys!

This week’s Top Ten was inspired by a post I saw recently on one of my favorite blogs, Cuddlebuggery. The post,  10 YA Love Interests I’m Probably Too Old to Swoon Over, which was featured on June 9, 2012, got me thinking about my favorite YA book boyfriends who are WAY too young for me to obsess over, but of course I do anyway:)

I should probably say that there might be some spoilers ahead, so if you haven’t read the books below, you may want to proceed with caution. Ok, let’s go!

10.  Four from Divergent by Veronica Roth

I remember reading Divergent last year and positively falling for Four (I REFUSE to call him Tobias, even after he was referred to that throughout the entirety of Insurgent.) I love those strong and silent types, especially when they are mysterious, bold, brave, seemingly fearless, smart as all get out and appear to be nothing but cold, hard and logical but in reality are super duper passionate and sensitive. Sigh. Love you, Four.

9. Rowan from Wanderlove  by Kirsten Hubbard (Click for my review:)


What’s better than a bad boy, ladies? A reformed bad boy. Meet Rowan: adventurous, world traveler extraordinaire and the perfect match to Bria Sandoval, a gal in dire need of a change. So I have a monumental weakness for bohemian backpack boys. I dated a few back in the day, and there is something so appealing about a wandering soul who lives totally in the now. If I was in my twenties again I would hunt Rowan down and follow him to the ends of the earth.

8. Dimitri from The Vampire Academy Series by Richelle Mead


Oh, Dimitri Belicov. I loved you when you were good and I loved when you were despicably bad. Honorable, loyal, determined, protective, and a total bad ass, Dimitri is the epitome of the big, powerful, alpha male romantic lead. Plus he’s Russian, which is totally hot, and he speaks with an accent when he says “Roza”. Swoon.
7. Cole St. Clair from The Wolves of Mercy Falls Series by Maggie Stiefvater

Say hello to Cole St. Clair, the first of several bad boys on my list and an archetype I will never, ever tire of. I said it once and I’ll say it again: “Got to love a bad boy.” So what makes Cole stand out in a sea of book bad boys? Well, he’s a bonafide ROCK STAR for one. Musician bad boys are the BEST, people. And even though he is cocky, sarcastic, and addict, and a total man whore, he’s also a freaking genius, like, Mensa smart. When he starts going into all this molecular, genetic scientific jargon I swear my knees turn to jelly. Rock star + genius + bad boy =smoking hot!

6. Alex Fuentes from Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles.
Why Alex from the Perfect Chemistry? Is it because he is the perfect bad boy, arrogant and sarcastic and totally passionate?  Or is it because this is a Romeo and Juliet/ West Side Story retelling? Or perhaps is it because even though he runs with a gang, he’s totally dedicated to his family and and his friends? Or maybe because he rides a motorcycle (double swoon…)? It could be all of those, but the thing that puts Alex Fuentes at #6 on my list is because he is ‘muy caliente.’ Holy crap, if Alex Fuentes called me ‘chica’ I would be putty in his hands. He, and this book, is hot. Like pants on fire hot.

5. Travis from Something Like Normal by Trish Doller.
This is the first entry on my list in which the swoon worthy guy is actually the narrator of the book. And what a difference that can make! If I wasn’t front and center in Travis’ head while reading this book, he may not have made such an impression on me. But, oh, how he did. Of all the guys on my list, Travis seems the most REAL. He could be the boy next door to me, you, anyone. He’s not only sexy as hell, he has some irresistible qualities. First, he loves his mama. This is a pretty attractive quality in my opinion, it’s right up there with liking kids. And second: he wants to be a better man. He knows he’s done some pretty stupid things in his past, and he’s ready to make some positive changes. Maturity is a big turn on. Oh, and he’s a marine. Yeah, guys in uniforms are definitely hot.

4. Etienne St. Clair from Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins AND Augustus Waters from The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.

You didn’t really think that this list would be only 10 boys, did you? C’mon, narrowing it down to 10 is HARD. Youknow I am going to cheat a little here and there. Case in point: #4 is a tie between Etienne St. Clair and Augustus Waters.

Why Etienne? Well, first off he’s French AND British. So he has the double whammy of sexy accents. He calls her “Ah-na”, swoon! I love Etienne because he’s such a genuinely good guy. Sure, he’s pretty indecisive (enough to make me want to pull my hair out sometimes) and he’s a terrible flirt, but oh, my gosh, when he looks at Anna, he reallylooks at her. Stares in fact. DEEPLY. And I love that he and Anna are friends first. Taking it slow and letting it all build up can be the most delicious torture! He’s short and a nail biter yet I still fall for him every time. He’s perfect in his imperfection. Plus, never underestimate the power of good hair:)

Why Augustus? Uh, have you read The Fault in Our Stars? Could there be a more profound, sensitive, honest, ROMANTIC, soul of a poet, live-life-to-it’s-fullest-and-never-look-back, person than Augustus Waters?? What’s so awesome about Gus is that he doesn’t have time to play silly games, he says what he feels every time.  You guys, I think he might be one of the most beautifully written characters in all of literature. LOVE HIM. Period.

3. Kaleb from The Hourglass Series by Myra McEntire

K to the LEB! Hello, let me introduce myself. I’m Heather and I am the self appointed president of the Kaleb Ballard Fan Club. So of all the bad boys on my list, Kaleb is my fave. Like Travis, we get a first hand account of all of Kaleb’s awesomeness because he is the narrator of Timepiece. And like the rest of the bad boys on my list, Kaleb has all the typical qualities: he’s cocky and arrogant, he’s sarcastic and snarky, he’s a total man whore, and like Cole he’s got some issues with addiction. Plus he is a total pretty boy, in a ripped, tattooed and pierced kind of way:)  But Kaleb, as an empath, is also super sensitive and selfless. I fell in love with Kaleb in Hourglass, that bad boy vibe he was working was irresistible. But in Timepiece Kaleb begins the transformation to reformed bad boy, which is also damn sexy because he’s now got the whole ‘trying to be a better man’ vibe working for for him too.  I love everything about him. Oh, and he cooks! And he wears an apron that says “Kiss the Cook.” Damn, he’s fine.

2. Marcus Flutie from The Jessica Darling Series by Megan McCafferty
Marcus. Flutie. Marcus has it all. All of the aforementioned character traits found on this list. Bad Boy, check. Reformed bad boy, check. Musician, check. Poet, check. Romantic, check. Sensitive, check. Smart, check. Wandering, bohemian soul, check. Plus he’s totally devoted to his woman in every way. He does have the tendency to branch off into the strange and zen like, but I can forgive him that because when Marcus is there, he is THERE. He is totally present and in the moment. He has a maturity and wiseness to him that is unusual to find in a YA read. And it has been SO awesome to get to know him over the course of three books. I have been waiting to read the final two works in the series because I just don’t want my time with Marcus to be rushed, that’s how much I love this boy and am invested in this story! And can I just say that the romance/ love/ sex scenes between Marcus and Jessica are amazing.  Every time I read those three words: You. Yes, you., my heart skips a beat.
 

And my Number One Jail Bait Book Boyfriend is….
1. Joe Fontaine from The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
 
Until very recently my #1 jail bait book boyfriend would have easily been Marcus Flutie. Then I discovered theholyhorsesunfreakingbelievable enigma that is Joe Fontaine. Joe Fontaine is PERFECT. And for as much as I love and revere the bad boy, Joe is as sweet and as nice as they come. So what makes Joe so special that he earned the #1 spot on this prestigious (ha!) list? Why, I’d be happy to tell you!
  • He’s BEAUTIFUL. Long and lanky with miles of legs. He has a mop of silky black curls on his beautiful head (CURLS!) And don’t even get me started on his eyelashes. Bat. Bat. Bat. If you have read the book, you know what I am talking about. And he has this megawatt smile that he is always wearing. Sigh. So. Perfect.
  • He’s a musician. No, scratch that. He’s a musical genius. And not just ONE instrument. He plays the French Horn, clarinet, guitar (sighs loudly) and probably a bunch of other ones I forgot after it is mentioned that he plays GUITAR. And he writes music. Not lyrics. MUSIC. He composes it. He writes a song for Lennie. In two parts. Good golly that’s hot.
  • He’s half FRENCH. He speaks to Lennie in French sometimes. He lived in Paris. Need I even say more?
  • He is SO freaking romantic and passionate. His heart is like an open book. He calls Lennie John Lennon. That sounds weird but when you read it, it ROCKS.
  • He makes an entrance in the darkest of times and encounters the most broken of people, and he has the near magical ability to just lift them up and help them find their way out of it.

 

Reading about Joe took me back to my first love, all those butterflies and giddy feelings, all those feelings just, whoosh! come racing back and it made me feel like a sixteen year old girl all over again. Gah, he is just so amazing, I’m totally and completely joelerious (yes, that is a real term.) Put it this way, after I finished reading The Sky is Everywhere (and the review is coming, I swear) I immediately went online to try and find an image of what I imagined Joe to look like. I know, I know. ‘Quel dork.’
And because 10 11 is just not enough, here are a few Honorable Mentions:
  • Lucas from Easy by Tamara Webber 

I just read this book and it rocked. Lucas is a perfect blend of sexy and sensitive wrapped up in a protective, bad ass package. And he rides a motorcycle:)

  • Jake from Saving June by Hannah Harrington

Jake is a total music snob but gosh, is he uber sexy.

  • Dexter from This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen
Dex is the quintessential geeky musician. He’s adorably dorky yet hip and completely endearing. Favorite Sarah Dessen male lead EVAH:)
That’s it! Congratulations if you managed to swim through this total gush-fest of a Top Ten! Think I left anyone off? Who would make your list? Leave a me a comment below and let me hear your thoughts!
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I Don’t Give a Damn About My Bad Reputation…Why I Love the Bad Girl in YA Literature

Ode to the Bad Girls

This goes out to the bad girls. The girls who were never called ‘sweet’ or ‘nice’, the ones no one ever dreamed of bringing home to meet their parents. The girls who had attitudes, who dressed slutty or punk or different. The girls that dance on tables even if they’re wearing skirts, the girls that go out at night wearing clothes that resemble lingerie, the girls who never had a problem getting into the bars even without an ID. For the girls that drank all the guys under the table without breaking a sweat. 

This is for the girls who slept with guys who had girlfriends, the girls who hooked up with the guy their friend was in love with, the girls who were unashamedly only looking for a fun night with no strings attached. This is for the girls who know how fun men are, but how much more fun it is to mess with them. This is for the girls who flip-flop between being teases and sluts for only reasons they will know, for the girls who dumped a guy because he was ‘nice’.  For the girls that played the field and won the game.

I didn’t write that little ditty (here is the source ) but I love it because it perfectly sums up one of my favorite archetypes in literature, especially YA literature: the bad girl. 

We all know about the bad boy, and I love him too, but I have to also admit to being as fond, if not fonder, for his kissing cousin, the bad girl.

Bad girls are not to be confused with the mean girl archetype.

And they are not to be confused with the bad ass/ kick butt heroine girl archetype.

Bad girls are a different animal altogether. I mean, what’s not to love about a bad girl in literature? Bad girls, like their male counterparts, are FUN. They have attitude. They usually have a great sense of humor. They are confident (or are they?) And above all, they are UNAPOLOGETIC about their actions. Who are some of my favorite bad girls from YA literature? Here are a few…

This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen
Remy is the quintessential ‘bad girl.’
She’s snarky, she’s smart, she likes to party.
She’s a serial dater. Remy’s motto?
Love ’em and leave ’em fast.
That way you no one gets hurt.

Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols
Meg is an awesome example of a bad girl.
She looks the part, she’s sorta punk rock,
complete with blue hair.
She has sex for kicks, not for love,
and she has no problems with breaking the law.
Mostly she wants out of her small town life.
Who, she wonders, in their right mind
would want to stay?
The Believing Game by Eileen Corrigan
Greer might just be the baddest of bad girls,
so bad she ends up in a high end reform school.
She’s a kleptomaniac, anorexic,
sex obsessed teen who has hit rock bottom.
Until things get worse.

Stealing Parker by Miranda Kenneally
Parker likes to kiss guys. A lot.
And she doesn’t really have any issues
with letting the world know it.
In fact, she WANTS the world to know it because maybe then they’ll forget
that her mom just came out as a lesbian.

Saving June by Hannah Harrington
Harper’s bad-ness seems to derive from her need to stand apart from her ultra good girl sister, June.
She’s snarky, petulant, and can be kinda fierce.
Then her perfect sister commits perfect suicide
and everything changes.

A Midsummer’s Nightmare by Kody Keplinger

Whitley likes to PART-Y!
She’s got a reputation and that’s all good with her.
She can’t wait for college where she’s sure everyone will be JUST LIKE HER.
But things get a little complicated when her latest boy toy turns out to be more
then the one night stand she had in mind.

It seems to me that the bad girl isn’t as prevalent as the bad boy in many of the books I read, and I often wonder why? When I decided to write this discussion I thought about bringing up the differences in how readers view the bad girl and the bad boy in books. I thought about the double standard that bad girls face. I thought about why most YA bad girls are written as ‘bad’ because something ‘made’ them that way. All the bad girls I mentioned above are ‘bad’ for a reason: family issues, a traumatic event in their life, or a personal loss. But bad boys on the other hand, are often ‘bad’ just because. Just because they CAN. This is definitely NOT a new topic by any means. But being a reader of YA literature, it’s a topic that I think about often because it’s so present in the books I read.

And all that got me thinking about another favorite book and author interview I did recently that had a great bad girl protagonist. One of the author’s answers in particular struck a chord with me.

The Flyleaf Review: One of the things I loved most about Drain You was the character of Quinn Lacey because she is not your typical YA heroine. She’s an unapologetic slacker, she manipulates her parents and friends to serve her own means, and she juggles not one, but three different guys through the course of the book. To me, Quinn is written almost like a stereotypical “bad boy” and I LOVED that. I think her flaws make her character more authentic and that there is a little bit of Quinn in all of us (whether we want to admit to it or not.) When you were writing Drain You did you think about how very different Quinn was in regards to other female leads in today’s YA literature?

M. Beth Bloom: Absolutely. That was in fact my inspiration for the book. Female leads in so much fiction – particularly YA – drive me CRAZY. Women characters aren’t typically allowed to be as three-dimensional as men, and I’m here to change that. Quinn is a total bad boy, not in the rebellious way, but in certain immature and obnoxious ways – just like I feel like I was and many of my friends were. And why is it that men are always the ones stringing women along when that’s usually NOT how it is in adolescence? We’re the far more sketchy gender at that age!

I love that Bloom answered my question that way. And of all the books I’ve mentioned, only Drain You’s protagonist perfectly emulates the prototypical bad boy. Quinn is a bad girl just because she can be. Just because she wants to be. I for one, think that’s pretty darn awesome. I would love to see more female protagonists break through the stereotypes that dictate what’s “appropriate” behavior for girls and boys.

What do you think? Would you like reading more “unapologetic-and-bad-just-because-she-can-be” books? Or do you think that type of female character would be too inaccessible to most readers and someone they would have a hard time connecting to or empathizing with? Not sure? Head over to author Keirsten White’s (Paranormalcy, Supernaturally and Endlessly) 2010 post I’m Hot for Your Stereotype, where she plays around with gender stereotypes. Then come back and tell me your thoughts on the bad girl in YA literature!

Want to read more? My pal Jen has some things to say today about this topic as well! Head over to Jen Ryland/ Ya Romantics’ Bad Girl Post and read all her thoughts on the subject!

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The Monthly Wrap-Up – March Edition (3)

Books Read:

Heather:

Burning by Elana K. Arnold
Maybe Someday by Colleen Hoover
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma
The Fever Series (1-5) by Karen Marie Moning
Darkfever
Bloodfever
Faefever
Dreamfever
Shadowfever
Dreams of Gods & Monsters by Laini Taylor
The Forever Song by Julie Kagawa
The Summer I Found You by Jolene Perry
Something Real by Heather Demetrios
The Ring and the Crown by Melissa de la Cruz
The Chapel Wars by Lindsey Leavitt
The Luckiest Girl by Beverly Cleary
The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Miller

Marlene:

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy
Jewel of the Thames: A Portia Adams Adventure by Angela Misri

Books Reviewed:

Heather:

Lady Thief by A.C. Gaughen
#16thingsithoughtweretrue by Janet Gurtler
The 57 Lives of Alex Wayfare by M.G. Buehrlen
The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutoski
The Ring and the Crown by Melissa de la Cruz
Sekret by Lindsay Smith
Half Bad by Sally Green

Marlene:

Of Beastand Beauty by Stacey Jay
Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy
Jewel ofthe Thames: A Portia Adams Adventure by Angela Misri

Top Book of the Month:

Heather:

Yeah–no way can I go with just one:

The Rosie Project-
This is the ULTIMATE feel good read. Perfect if you have been reading a lot of heavy, angsty, gut-wrenching fiction. I adored it.

Dreams of Gods & Monsters-
I was SO lucky to get an e-ARC of this book–one of my most anticipated of the year. Words to describe it?
Ambitious. Swoony. Unexpected.
That’s all you get until my spoiler free review next week 🙂

Maybe Someday-
I wasn’t even thinking of reading this book to tell you the truth–it only very recently became known to me. Then my friend Lauren read and said although it wasn’t a book for her, she thought it might be for me. It was. But it’s the musical accompaniment by vocalist Griffin Peterson that makes this book so memorable and a top read for me.

Marlene:

Side Effects May Vary is my top read this month! The snarky, self-destructive, selfish, and manipulative Alice won me over somehow. Her complexity demanded attention, and my goodness, she had mine! Alice decides to embrace life when she’s diagnosed with leukemia–by seeking revenge on those who’ve wronged her and enlisting her childhood best friend to help. If this doesn’t sound like the book for you, don’t worry, Alice does some nice things too. Though she’ll infuriate you a lot, this girl is worthy of redemption. You might have to dig a little to see it, but it’s there. What I really enjoyed about Julie Murphy’s debut novel is how it pushes boundaries. We’re given a heroine who carries emotional baggage; someone who doesn’t know who to talk to or how to express her distress in a healthy manner, so naturally, her destructive behavior is messy and offensive. But you know what? This story packs so much truth about how confusing and chaotic life can be and how imperfect humans are, and I enjoyed it. Win!

Leading Character of the Month:

Heather:

Again, no way I’m going with one.
Here are my top three and why I chose them:

Most development and growth in a character: Liraz from Dreams of Gods & Monsters
Most pull at your heartstrings character: Don from The Rosie Project
Most enigmatic character: Jericho Barrons from The Fever Series

Marlene:

Anna Oliphant from Anna and the French Kiss. Can I just say that I want to be Anna’s friend? Because I do! Anna is taken out of her comfort zone and shipped off to Paris to finish off her high school career. At the beginning, Anna is scared and unsure, but she totally rises to the occasion, makes friends, and eventually navigates the streets of Paris on her own! I don’t know if I could ever be so daring, but in this story, we slowly see how independent Anna becomes. She aspires to become a film critic. She has a great sense of humor, is shamelessly clumsy, and is self-aware. Sure, Anna makes a few (romance related) mistakes along the way, but don’t we all? Love is a tricky thing, and sometimes, it takes dating a few frogs before discovering what a prince looks like. Was that cheesy? Yes. Yes it was. But I don’t care. This story is a feel-good kind of story, and Anna makes it all worthwhile. (So does Etienne, but you know, this section is about Anna). 😉

Most Memorable Quote/Excerpt Read This Month:

Heather:

I read a lot of great books with memorable quotes and excerpts but these two from The Chapel Wars are sticking with me:

“Hey Ho.”

“”If looks were America and ugly was Los Angeles, this boy was comfortably Kentucky. West Virginia when he smiled.”

Lindsey Leavitt, The Chapel Wars

Marlene:

I highlighted about 40 passages in Murphy’s novel. I truly enjoyed her writing style, it was both fluid and real.

I didn’t want the easy kind of love, I wanted the crazy love, the kind of love that created and destroyed all at the same time. – Anna

Julie Murphy, Side Effects May Vary

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Book Review: Dreams of Gods & Monsters by Laini Taylor

13618440Dreams of Gods & Monsters
(Smoke & Bone, #3)
by Laini Taylor
April 8, 2014
Little, Brown & Company
528 pages
Source: An ARC was provided courtesy of the publisher for review purposes.
Thank you, Little, Brown!

Synopsis

By way of a staggering deception, Karou has taken control of the chimaera rebellion and is intent on steering its course away from dead-end vengeance. The future rests on her, if there can even be a future for the chimaera in war-ravaged Eretz.

Common enemy, common cause.

When Jael’s brutal seraph army trespasses into the human world, the unthinkable becomes essential, and Karou and Akiva must ally their enemy armies against the threat. It is a twisted version of their long-ago dream, and they begin to hope that it might forge a way forward for their people.

And, perhaps, for themselves. Toward a new way of living, and maybe even love.

But there are bigger threats than Jael in the offing. A vicious queen is hunting Akiva, and, in the skies of Eretz … something is happening. Massive stains are spreading like bruises from horizon to horizon; the great winged stormhunters are gathering as if summoned, ceaselessly circling, and a deep sense of wrong pervades the world.

What power can bruise the sky?

From the streets of Rome to the caves of the Kirin and beyond, humans, chimaera and seraphim will fight, strive, love, and die in an epic theater that transcends good and evil, right and wrong, friend and enemy.

At the very barriers of space and time, what do gods and monsters dream of? And does anything else matter? (Goodreads Summary.)

*This is an ARC review. *

**WARNING! 
This is a review for the third book in a series, it is spoiler free but 
there will be spoilers for the previous two books in the series. 
You have been warned**

My Take On It

It’s been a tumultuous year for readers of some of YA’s favorite series, hasn’t it? Readers have encountered  heroes and heroines dying,  favorite love interests getting the shaft over another and open endings with no real resolution, among others. I know that I am not the only one who goes into the final books of some of these series with just as much trepidation in my heart as excitement. And so it was with Laini Taylor’s Dreams of Gods & Monsters, the final chapter in her stunning Smoke & Bone trilogy.

First off I want to give a giant thanks to Little, Brown for allowing me access to this book before publication. I know there were a limited numbers of ARCS for bloggers so thank you so much for selecting me to be one of the chosen few.

So, how to write a proper review for Dreams of Gods & Monsters without spoiling? Tricky, tricky. I had a lot of feeling and emotions while reading–and let me tell you–they run the gamut. I had highs and I had lows. There are things I very much liked about this book–and there were some things that didn’t sit as well with me. But overall, if I had to describe Dreams of Gods & Monsters in two words they would be: ambitious and unexpected.

So, here is what you can expect to find in Dreams of Gods & Monsters.

  • A continuation of the main story arc regarding the Chimera and the Seraphs.
  • Continued use of the multiple POV narration
  • Returning faces such as Akiva and Karou (OBVIOUSLY) Mik, Zuzanna, Ziri, Liraz, Isa, Jael, Razgut, and the Stelians we met in Days of Blood & Starlight
  • New faces: More of the Stelians, a human named Eliza and some of the people in her world, some new seraphs including Eldyon, new Chimera, Stormhunters, and a human named Esther
  • More of the Stelian storyline
  • Battles and skirmishes
  • Lies and betrayals
  • Swoony moments
  • Tearful and joyful moments
  • More insight into Akiva’s “gifts”
  • Angels returning to Earth
  • More on the history of the Seraph race
  • And for this reader at least–the question of will there be more stories written featuring this world?

Now on to the technicals: Dreams of Gods & Monsters kicks off in an interesting way. Remember the epilogue in Days of Blood and Starlight, when Akiva and Karou make eye contact across the Kirin caves where the remaining Chimera and Misbegotten have gathered? Well, Dreams of Gods & Monsters actually backtracks and begins not there but slightly before–when Akiva and Karou are forming strategy on just HOW to get the two groups of people, long enemies, to agree to come together and fight a common foe, Jael who has crossed through the portal to earth causing everyone in that world to think the apocalypse has come.

Actually, I have to backtrack even more. Dreams of Gods & Monsters actually starts with the narration of one of the new faces: Eliza, a PhD candidate living in Washington DC. Our first glimpse of Jael’s return and the reaction it causes on earth is seen through Eliza’s eyes.

Now I rather liked how the book begun–but I also listened to the audiobook of Days of Blood & Starlight immediately prior to starting Dreams for recap purposes. And if it’s been awhile since you were immersed in this world and story (like I was prior to the audiobook re-read) you might want to consider re-reading or re-acquainting yourself with that second book before you start. You don’t have to of course, but it certainly made it easier on me as I read Dreams. I’m not sure I would have remembered all the finer points and details of Days–and in a book like this ALL the details, great or small, matter.

As with Days, Dreams jumps between narratives so that the first part of the book has readers following Eliza on Earth–who is somewhat of a mystery from the start- and then jumps to Eretz and Akiva and Karou’s narrations. All in all there are at least 13 different voices that narrate in Dreams–give or take a few. Guys, that’s a lot. But I really never was confused about WHO was narrating while reading. However, with so many perspectives it did make me feel a little scattered as I read.

There are many of the same themes in Dreams as in the other books in this series with vengeance and redemption being the largest. Akiva and Liraz’s lust for vengeance against Jael and his role in the death of Hazael. Karou’s  need for vengeance for the loss of Brimstone. But there is redemption too. The Serpahs and Chimeras forgiveness of each other. A smaller yet no less powerful tale of redemption between Liraz and one of the Chimera. Redemption for Ziri and all that he sacrificed when assuming the role (and body) of Thiago.  So, many of the smaller stories and plot threads do indeed come full circle in Dreams of Gods and Monsters and I loved that.

But the scope of this book, as well as the pacing, is something that I have to mention too. When I said this book is ambitious, I mean it. There is SO much going on in Dreams. Karou/Madrigal’s and Akiva’s longtime hope to reunite the people of Eretz, which has always been the main focus of this series, is just one part of this book. As early as a third of the way in to Dreams–I began to understand how much broader in scope this book was turning out to be. To be honest I feel that there is really too much in this book–I’m thankful for the continuation of the main story arc but Taylor adds some additional plot threads that, while interesting, didn’t feel right for this book. Not only does it feel like some of these things would have been better explored earlier in the series, if they are to be explored at all, it also feels like they detracted from the main conflict at hand.

As far as pacing–it’s off. The first part of the book moves slowly as plans and strategies are made to bring Jael back to Eretz minus the weapons he hopes to acquire and wage war with. The second part of the book chronicles the result of these plans. But wait–there’s more. Because just when I thought that would be it–Taylor hits readers with a whole other storyline involving the Stelians and their Queen (this is no spoiler, the above summary says as much) and it’s that line that takes the book to it’s conclusion.

Remember the second word I used above to describe this book is unexpected.  Here’s the thing, I’m not opposed to this Stelian storyline that Dreams devolves into during the final chapters. It’s an interesting story and I think it has serious potential to be developed into something awesome. But the fact that it was put into play so late in the game–it literally is unveiled in the last 15% of the book–is troubling to me. As I said, it’s a interesting inclusion–and something I would love to read more about–say in a companion book or series. But if that is not what Taylor has planned than I think that introducing this into the final pages of the last book of a trilogy may not have been the best move. Just my opinion, folks.

I guess you could say that after reading I still have a lot of questions. Many of my questions were answered in this final book. But there were so many more questions brought up–most brought up at the very end of the book–that leave me wondering if this is really the last book that Taylor plans to write featuring this world and these characters. Although I have seen NOTHING online to indicate that Taylor plans to write more, I  just can’t help but feel as if we readers have only reached the very tip of the iceberg in this story. If there is to be more I welcome it, it will ease my mind about where things are left lying at the end of Dreams. But if there is not to be more–well–let’s just say that I hope there will be and leave  it at that.

I don’t want you to think that I didn’t enjoy this book though. The amazing world and characters that Taylor has crafted in this series takes my breath away. I’m a huge fan of secondary characters and in Dreams, they rivaled the main characters in my affection. Ziri: you have my heart always. Liraz: you take the prize for best growth and development of a character I’ve read this year. Mik and Zuzanna–your ability to add humor to this brutal and emotionally draining story is to be commended. And Jael, you horrible, vile man, you take the prize as one of the most despicable villains around.

I also have to give Taylor major props for creating such an inspiring and relevant story. The parallels between our world and that of Eretz are obvious and I love that Taylor created such a gorgeous tale of two lovers fighting to change the fate of their world through love and compassion instead of war and death. That is such a simple yet striking message and one that Taylor conveys to the reader in the most beautiful, lyrical, and magical way.

It’s hard to say much more without divulging too much about this book–I had chance to discuss it in great detail with my friend Lauren,and it’s definitely a book that invites discussion–A LOT OF IT. I am so curious to see how others readers will react and I’m doubly curious to see if many of my burning, unanswered question about whether this is truly the end of the road for this world and characters (that sounds dire doesn’t it? It’s not meant to!) or if Taylor has secret plans to write more one day. One thing is for sure: I haven’t read very many books that have swept me up with their world building and blown my mind with their beautiful prose, memorable characters, and swoony romance as Taylor’s Smoke and Bone series has. So it’s a certainty that I would read more and will read more of her work in the future.