Friday, December 18, 2015

Winter Reading Recommendations

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Since it's that time of year where the weather prevents most people going outside except for maybe the occasional snow angel, I decided to put together a list of 7 books of different genres and styles for a  good winter reading recommendation list. Some of these books I have read, some are new and some are series continuations, but all of them have some sort of winter-y feel to them. It could be the cover that looks like winter, or maybe the setting is snowy or it could be the story just makes me feel cold inside. But enough about me, just grab your hot chocolate and fuzzy socks and let's get started!

*I am an Amazon Affiliate, so if you click on the links and purchase a book, I will receive a small commission.


The Winter Horses by Philip Kerr

Author: Philip Kerr
Publisher: Knopf Books For Young Readers
Publication Date: March 25, 2014
Genre: Young Adult Historical Fiction
Page: 290

This book is a Young Adult Historical Fiction novel following a young Jewish girl during World War II. The story is actually a retelling of a Ukrainian folk tale about a girl named Kalinka that escapes into the forest after the Nazis murder her parents. There she discovers the last two Przewalski's Horses left on Earth. She realizes they are in danger from being captured by the Nazi's and decides to do her best to save them from certain extinction. It becomes her mission to keep them, her dog and herself alive in the freezing Ukrainian forest.

Isn't this cover beautiful? It makes me want to wrap up in front of a fireplace to read it. Obviously, this book takes place during winter, in one of the coldest places on the planet. But I am really excited to read this because Kerr takes some liberties by giving these horses some anthropomorphic characteristics that make this story seem more legend than historic. It's rated pretty high on Goodreads and Amazon so I bought it, but let me know below if you have read this and what you thought.





Author: Claire Legrand
Publisher: Simon and Schuester
Publication Date: September 30, 2014
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Page: 465
Winterspell by Claire Legrand

Can we just talk about this cover? Ugh so beautiful! I actually know very little about this book but I saw it on Bookoutlet and couldn't resist. This blurb on Amazon really sold it for me, "Darkly romantic and entirely enchanting, this reimagining of The Nutcracker by Claire Legrand brims with magic love and intrigue- "includes a Victorian mob princess/warrior heroine, and alternate New York City, steampunk faeries and an epic multi-generational battle." (Kirkus Reviews)

I mean you had me at steampunk Nutcracker. What a better book to read than one based off the beloved Christmas ballet, The Nutcracker? And just steampunk faeries, need I say more? I just don't think you can go wrong with this book in winter. Plus, I am excited to see how Legrand has transformed this ballet into a young adult fantasy novel. I haven't seen anyone on BookTube or Booklr reviewing this and I am kind of surprised by that since it is the beginning of a series. It has pretty good ratings on Goodreads and Amazon, but the written reviews look like you either love it or hate it. There is no in between. Since this one seems so polarizing I will for sure being doing a full review.


Beloved by Toni Morrison

Author: Toni Morrison
Publisher: Vintage Reprint
Publication Date: July 24, 2007 (reprint)
Genre: Literary Fiction, Classics
Page: 291
 Okay, so this book doesn't really have much to do with winter. But I have attempted this book twice now and both times were in the summer and I have failed to finish. I think it's because the material is so dark and heavy that reading it on a bright beautiful day just doesn't seem right to me. Maybe this book requires a little bit of seasonal depression or just a few gloomy days to help me get through to the end.

With that being said, this book is a Pulitzer Prize winning literary fiction classic. It's about a freed slave that is struggling to deal with her past and the loss of her baby. It flashbacks to her horrific time as a slave and just details these moments in her life that make it seem impossible that she would survive. Trigger Warning: if you are sensitive to scenes of rape, abuse and mutilation, do not read this book.

This book is as realistic as it gets. If you really want to understand what it was like to be a female slave, Sethe is the perfect character. It's a very powerful book that is hard to read, but, I think, would be worth it in the end.





Author: Ethan Rarick
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication Date: January 4, 2008
Genre: Non-Fiction
Pages: 305
Desperate Passage by Ethan Rarick

So I picked this non-fiction book to be apart of this list because when else are you going to read an account of the Donner party? Right? If you don't know about the Donner Party you are in for the shock of your life. This book reads more like a novel than normal non-fiction book so it is really heart wrenching to read about these families getting trapped in the Sierra Nevada Mountains with their wagon train and basically freezing and starving to death. Only a few survived the winter and it is absolutely horrible what they had to do to make it.

This is another one of those books that just can't be read in the summer! I read it seven years ago and it is just one of those powerful reads that sticks with you. I still think about it from time to time especially in the winter when I am forced to venture out and drive in the snow. It's truly terrifying but I think I might give this another read this year. It is that good. And the reviews on Goodreads and Amazon reflect my feelings, so if you haven't read it and are into non-fiction or even historical fiction, this would be a great one to add to your TBR.


The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons

Author: Paullina Simons
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: March 17, 2009
Genre: Romance, Historical Fiction
Page: 912
Of course I had to include the first installment to this epic romance trilogy. If you haven't heard of this series, you must not watch BookTube because it is everywhere! And the reception has mostly been overwhelmingly positive. It has 4.1 stars on Amazon and readers seem to get emotionally involved in the difficult romance between Tatiana and Alexander. This is a story following a young couple who can't be together struggling to survive the winter of 1941 in Leningrad during the Nazi siege.

Of course the setting and time period makes this novel a perfect choice for winter. But I included it because of the length. It is one of those books you could sit and read for hours on end and not even realize it. Marathoning books seems like a fabulous idea when the weather is not so great, and at a little over 900 pages, this chunk would make the perfect marathon novel. I have not continued the series just yet but let me know if the second and third books of the series are just as good or are a bit of a let down from the first. I'm not sure my heart would survive.





Author: Holly Black
Publisher: Little Brown Books
Publication Date: September 3, 2013
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal
Pages: 440
The Coldest Girl in Cold Town by Holly Black

I just had to include this one because I just bought it and the title is perfect for a winter read even if the title is referring to corpses rather than the weather. This book is a Young Adult Paranormal story about a young girl who passes out at a party and wakes up surrounded by corpses and she must take revenge in the center of the vampire city named Cold Town. So, I'm not into vampires at all, and this sounded so unique with a more dystopian feel rather than paranormal one that I couldn't help myself. Plus, I know Holly Black to have a fantastic writing style, so it was a win-win for me. Or rather a yes-yes.

I don't know too much about this book and I am trying not to spoil it for myself with the reviews, but it has extremely high ratings on both Amazon and Goodreads. It might just be one of those books that I read when it starts getting dark at like 4 in the afternoon just to increase the spook factor. I mean it is a vampire story after all.



The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

Author: Eowyn Ivey
Publisher: Reagan Arthor/ Back Bay Books
Publication Date: November 6, 2012
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 389
If you can't tell by the title and the cover, I couldn't leave this book off a winter reads list. This book is about a childless elderly couple that builds a child out of snow and the next day she comes to life. It's set in the desolate landscape of Alaska which sounds perfect for winter. This book was actually short listed for the Pulitzer, so you know it has to be something special.

So many of the reviews on Amazon state how beautiful and heart wrenching Ivey's writing is in her debut novel. I imagine this story to end in an ugly cry kind of way, so I probably won't read this unless I know I won't be leaving the house for a few days. Puffy eyes is not a good look for me, but I really am looking forward to this book and I will be doing a full review just for you!










So, that's all I have for you today. I actually could keep going but I might need to save some titles for a later post. Let me know what you think of these books if you've read them or are interested in them. And let me know what you would include on your winter reads list.

See you soon,

Jami














   



Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Allegiant by Vernoica Roth- Review

Divergent Series
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Author: Veronica Roth
Series: Divergent Trilogy
Publisher: Katherine Tegan Books
Publication Date: October 22, 2013
Genre: Young Adult Dystopian
Pages: 526 (first edition)
Okay, so I have had Allegiant by Veronica Roth sitting on my shelf since the first week it came out. That was over two years ago. I have started and stopped this book 4 times and I finally forced myself to finish it a few weeks ago because I am exhausted just looking at it. To say the least, it was not what I expected to close out the Divergent Series.

Let me first be clear that I loved Divergent and Insurgent. I found Tris and Four to be very complementary characters that weren't struggling through a clich├ęd love triangle. I thought the world was mysterious but also believable even though we didn't know the background behind it. All in all they were fun  and emotional to read. I gave them both 4 out 5 stars on Goodreads.

Then came Allegiant...

***If you don't want spoilers please stop here!***

The ending was actually the only redeeming quality I found in this book. I thought Roth took a great risk with Tris and it closed out the series nicely for me. If Tris and Four had gone on to live 'happily ever after' I probably would have dumped this book in the trash. Then I would have taken in out, because I can't throw away a book! I'm not a monster! But, I would have been very angry with this series.

I know many people were very unhappy with the ending of this book, but let me explain why I was so unhappy with the beginning and middle. First and foremost, I hated the POV switching. Four and Tris sounded so much alike that I would find myself going back to the chapter heading to find out whose perspective I was reading. It wasn't a necessary change and was awfully reminiscent of Breaking Dawn. At least when Stephanie Meyer did it we could tell a difference between Bella and Jacob's voices. I think much of Four's POV could have been eliminated if Roth would have continued his and Tris' relationship as it had been inside the wall.

What I mean by that is, in the first two books Four and Tris tackled all the problems together as a team. Even when Tris tried to hide what she was planning he always figured it out. But as soon as they found the outside world, it was like they no longer were the same couple. Even though there was plenty of hot and heavy kissy scenes, they didn't communicate any more or even try to work together to solve the problems in the compound. They both went about their business like the other had no stake in their choices. There was no real reason for such a change in my opinion. It seemed more like Roth was preparing the readers for the ending instead of sticking to the relationship patterns of the first two books.

I also did not like the fact that the majority of the book was spent on the compound rather than inside the walls of the city. It felt like an entirely different novel and almost felt like Roth tricked us. I mean none of the first two books were real in a sense because they were being controlled and monitored by the government compound. Sort of like the Great and Powerful Oz pulling all the strings and no one had any real choices. It was all a plan. A novel should not feel planned. It should feel genuine and organic. Plus the genetic stuff was just plain boring to read about and wasn't really necessary. I mean I already accepted that there were different degrees of divergents so why do I need a double explanation on their genetic background.

Now, if I was the editor, I probably would have suggested Roth have Tris and Four find out what's on the outside of the wall. Then have them find out about the genetics in her mom's diary and have them go back to the city to stop the Allegiants and the Factionless from killing each other. I would have liked to see them find out about the compound's plan to erase their memories and have the Factionless and Allegiants come together to fight the government in a climactic battle. I think keeping the story more inside the walls would have left readers much more satisfied by the end of this book, even if Roth still decided to end it the way she did.

In my mind, the book could have been much more interesting in theory and I was sorely let down. However, the ending does close out the series nicely. So, if you enjoyed the first two books I would recommend reading Allegiant for some closure. How did you feel about this series? Was it what you expected or needed? Would you recommend it to a friend and why? Let me know in the comments!

If you purchase the book through this link, I will receive a small commission through Amazon.

MY RATING:
'Til Next Time,

Jami

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Blog Revamp: Books, Books and More Books!

I'm back. *waves (source)
Hello! I'm back, finally. I think I owe you an explanation. You see, I got side tracked writing about writing all the time. I was thinking about writing and writing about writing that I actually didn't have much time or energy to focus on, well, writing. So, I sort of quit the blogging to focus on my novel. Which I did for about a year and basically have scrapped everything at this point. The reason being, I couldn't pin point a brand I wanted to pursue. While many authors can get away with jumping genres, finding and keeping loyal readers is usually what makes you a successful author. My ideas ranged from contemporary to YA fantasy and I just couldn't see building and maintaining a brand with these novels. So, basically I am back to square one. Well, not totally. I didn't scrap all my books. I just revamped them to focus more on YA speculative fiction. For those of you that don't know what it is, it is kind of a realistic dystopian/ science fiction genre. Some of the most popular books from this genre are Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and Uglies by Scott Westerfeld. They are stories that could happen in the real world based on a certain set of factors.

So, because I am starting over on my writing journey, I thought I should revamp my blog as well. I probably will still write about writing occasionally, but I want to focus this blog more on reading and reviewing books. Studying published work is probably the best way to help a writer, aka me. I hope you are ready to talk about books!

If you have any suggestions for me to read and review please to my policy in the contact me section of my blog!

Ta Ta,

Jami