Monday, February 29, 2016

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld Review

Author: Scott Westerfeld
Series: Uglies Series
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: February 8, 2005
Genre: YA Dystopian
Pages: 425
Buy it on Amazon
Scott Westerfeld is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. His writing style is so simplistic and easy to read, yet extremely vivid and powerful. The theme in Uglies that questions the validity of beauty with out individualism or free will is an important one for young adults, especially. What would you be willing to give up to look perfect?

"The flowers were so beautiful, so delicate and unthreatening, but they choked everything around them."

Tally is a 15 year-old greatly anticipating her up coming birthday, because this year she gets to have the surgery that will make her pretty. Her best friend has already had the surgery and moved to the pretty side of town, where they carelessly sleep all day and party all night. Then Tally meets a girl named Shay, who isn't sure she wants to be pretty. Shay takes Tally outside the city where she discovers there are others that are against the institutionalization of plastic surgery and the way the government seems to be keeping secrets from those inside the city walls. Tally is forced to question her entire existence and choose whether she wants the surgery to be pretty or remain herself as an ugly.

"What you do, the way you think, makes you beautiful."

This book is so fantastic. I love how Tally grows throughout the novel. She starts out a follower just like everyone else, but her spunky personality allows her to be open to new ideas. She's intrigued by Shay's information that there is a community out in the wilderness that opposes the cities regulations. And when she finally meets those in the community, she begins to appreciate their point of view and starts to see herself for who she really is and what she has to offer the world; not what she looks like. I think it is so great how Westerfeld is able to capture one of the most plaguing detriments to our society, vanity, is such an interesting and unique way. I think it's really a powerful message for young adults when they are bombarded daily with images that are geared to make them think they aren't good enough and the only way to be happy is to look a certain way. It makes me happy that this book is being taught in schools these days.


The only problem I really had with the story was the lack of back story on how the world came to be. It's made clear that this is our world in the future, and some vague information on technology advancements is given. But no real story emerges about what exactly transpired to make the city the way it is and why it is so closed off to the rest of world. I am assuming that this information will appear in one of the sequel novels; Pretties, Specials, and Extras. And I can't wait to find out how Tally's story ends.

All in all, I really cannot recommend this book enough. I think it deserves to be in the middle school and high school literary cannon much the way The Giver, and The Hunger Games have been brought in. Any books that make the reader question the world and expands their point of view is alright in my book. 4.5 stars!

Series Order: Uglies, Pretties, Specials, Extras

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Weekly Book Roundup February 21-27, 2016

After a week of everything in my house just catastrophically failing around me, I thought maybe I should give you all some updates on everything great going on in my little book world in the past week. I mean because books, even bad ones, can never really fail you quite like a furnace or dishwasher plumbing or porous basement walls. Sigh.

Books Finished This Week:

The Horse Diaries #1 Elska by Catherine Hapka

Currently Reading:

Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson

Up Next On the TBR Pile:

Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin

Red Moon by Benjamin Percy 

Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier

New Reviews This Week:

*Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld- YA Contemporary/Paranormal

Book News:

Featured Teacher Product: A Midsummer Night's Dream PowerPoint & Materials $6.50

*Unpopular Opinions: Beloved Characters I Hate

*Top 5 Tuesday: Favorite Classics

*BookTuber Shout Out For TheBookArcher, who inspired my new Unpopular Opinions segment with her awesome Unpopular Opinions Tag.

Exciting New Releases This Week:

A Gathering of Shadows (Shades of Magic #2) by V.E. Schwab- YA Fantasy

Firstlife (An Everlife Novel) by Gena Showalter- YA Fantasy

The Illegal by Lawrence Hill- Literary Fiction

She's Not There by Joy Fielding- Mystery/Thriller

While the World is Still Asleep (Book 1) By Petra Durst-Benning- Historical Fiction

 E-book Downloads This Week:

Hyde by Lauren Stewart- Urban Fantasy

After the Fire by Kathryn Shay- Contemporary

Crushed by Kasi Blake- YA Paranormal

Secondhand Smoke by Patty Friedmann- Dark Comedy

Bloody Lessons by M. Louisa Locke- Historical Mystery

Cicada Spring by Christian Galacar- Thriller

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Friday, February 26, 2016

Review: Looking for Alaska by John Green

Author: John Green
Series: None
Publisher: Speak (Reprint ed.)
Publication Date: December 26, 2006
Genre: YA Contemporary
Pages: 221
Buy it on Amazon
Looking For Alaska was my first experience with John Green and it was definitely my favorite. I felt like Pudge, Alaska and the others were much more gritty and real than say Hazel and Augustus in TFiOS. Hazel and Augustus were just so... so wholesome. Not that they weren't great in their own right, but Pudge and Alaska were much more my style.

"Imagining the future is a kind of nostalgia. (...) You spend your whole life stuck in the labyrinth thinking about how you will escape it one day, and how awesome it will be, and imagining that future keeps you going, but you never do it. You just use the future to escape the present." 

Miles makes the decision to attend a boarding school his junior year of high school in hopes of finding some kind of experience to remember. Once there he meets his new group of friends and Alaska. Alaska is moody and thoughtful. She is different from everyone he ever met. He begins to idealize her as the group begins to prank the teachers and other students at the school. Miles thinks Alaska has everything figured out, when in reality she is hiding some deep dark secrets that are tearing her apart.

First of all, this book makes me question the validity of my lowly public school education because these 16 and 17 seventeen year olds talk like philosophy majors at a smoke filled coffee shop in Brooklyn. Not at a high school in Alabama. Anyway, I loved this book. I thought it was funny and truthful. I love how John Green takes Alaska and starts her on the path of the ManicPixieDreamGirl for Miles and then rips it out from under the reader in such a heartbreaking way. Green seems to be showing us how we can become infatuated with someone without really knowing them. We idealize who we think they should be and become heartbroken when they falter and cannot live up to the idealized version we have created. Alaska has problems. Miles and their friends refuse to see that she is teetering on the edge because she is their "dream girl." John Green handles these tough issues with humor, grace and understanding that teens just don't have the life experience to be able to help someone with issues like Alaska's. Miles wanted an experience and Alaska gave him one that he wasn't expecting but would never forget.

All in all, this book is poignant and entertaining. If you haven't read it yet, I would suggest it for pretty much anyone but especially if you love YA or Adult Contemporary. It's one of my favorites so I give it 5 stars!

Get you copy here!

Let me know what you thought of Looking for Alaska, and which John Green book is your favorite?

Unpopular Opinions: Beloved Characters that I Hate

I have a problem. I seriously dislike book characters sometimes. And sometimes those characters are from some of my favorite books or some of the most beloved stories of all time. All though we all love to hate the villains or antagonists, I have chosen some main characters, love interests and even protagonists. BUT I would like to say that often times characters just don't make an impression on me at all, so it is a testament to all of the these authors' ability to create 3D, realistic, and wonderfully flawed characters. Characters that make us feel something, good or bad, means that the author has created a character that matters to literature and deserves appreciation. **SPOILERS AHEAD PROCEED WITH CAUTION!**

Mr. Rochester from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte 

Mr. Rochester is supposed to be some kind of dreamboat on a similar level with Mr. Darcy from Pride & Prejudice. But to me, his romance with Jane is just plain creepy. First of all,**SPOILERS** he is married!!! And not only, that he probably drove his wife to insanity. If that isn't slimy enough, how about the fact that Jane is a teenager and he is old enough to be her father? Maybe because I read  Jane Eyre as an adult rather than a lovesick teen, but no, Mr. Rochester did not do it for me. I mean after all his lies, deceptions, abuses, and secrets why would Jane even want to be with him? Oh that's right, money. He has money. Give it 10 years Jane, you'll be living in the attic talking to a sock puppet, while he's out finding the next young housemaid.

Edward Cullen from Twilight Saga by Stephanie Meyer

Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
And I am not team Jacob either. Edward, while I see his appeal, he was just too moody for my taste. He was always just so.... so emo that it got weird. Yes, you're an immortal vampire that wants to eat your true love. But good lord man, get over it, you could be dead. I just wish Bella would have slapped him across the face and told him to snap out of it. And he needed a good punch in the eye for watching her while she slept. So creepy. I don't really know where brooding male teens came into vogue, but I blame Edward Cullen.

Harry Potter by JK Rowling
Professor Snape from Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling

RIP Alan Rickman but Professor Snape was a piece of work. **SPOILER** Even though he does end up saving Harry in the end, he sure made Harry's time at Hogwarts a living hell. And why? Because Harry's father married his mother 20 years earlier. Really Snape? You torture a child for years because his mother didn't pick you? Wow. You may need some therapy or maybe at least a profile on because it's time to move on. Try to smile, you do have some redeeming qualities.

Prim Everdeen from The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
I will say by Mockingjay, I began to appreciate Prim much more as she learned about medicine. She was just so weak in the first two books that I couldn't tolerate her. I understand that Katniss took care of her and she was only 12, but wait a minute, there are ample examples of characters that are willing and able to fight at age 12; take Harry Potter and Hermione Granger for example. Prim just always ran and hid and let Katniss deal with everything. At 12, I believed I was basically a small adult, I would never have let my sister take my place in the games. Even if I couldn't have stopped her, I wouldn't have just stood there and let it happen. Grow a pair Prim.

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

Jace Wayland from The Mortal Instruments Series by Cassandra Clare

So, the cocky bad-boy thing just doesn't do it for me anymore. Maybe when I was younger I would have been into Jace, but holy-moly does he need knocked down a peg or seven. Personally, I think Simon would have been a much better choice for Clary in the first book. But some how we are supposed to fall in love with Jace because he is a knight-in-shining-armor wrapped in a tattoo coated jerk shell rather than the best friend that is kind and loving. Sorry Jace, I'm over it. Plus the whole is he or isn't her her brother thing... gross.

Jo March from Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Oh man, Jo March is probably the moodiest character ever written.**SPOILERS* One minute she loves you (aka Laurie) then the next minute she's giving you the finger. Then she has the audacity to be pissy when Laurie finds someone else after she blatantly smashed his heart into a million pieces and then stomped on the pieces into the mud with the heal of her boot. (Can you tell this was my first experience reading about break ups?) But dang it Jo. There were so many better choices and Laurie would have waited for you. Maybe you should take some deep breaths before making any other life altering decisions.

Tris Prior from the Divergent Series by Veronica Roth

Divergent by Veronica Roth
Tris is just too freaking perfect. She embodies all things good; strength, humility, determination, selflessness, generosity... etc. I mean her big "flaw" is that she shot a friend who was going to kill her first. How are we supposed to relate to someone who is better at EVERYTHING than we are and knows it? If Divergent were a high school, Tris would win Prom Queen every year while ridding white unicorns that poop rainbows. Give me a character that cries when she gets shot or at least has spinach in her teeth. I mean, come on.

Alaska Young from Looking for Alaska by John Green

Looking for Alaska by John Green
I think Alaska is the worst ManicPixieDreamGirl ever. I mean like ever. You know, when I want a ManicPixieDreamGirl to aspire to, I want her to be the unobtainable. She needs to be hot, says the right things at the right time, gets the angsty male to do the unexpected, and of course, smokes cigarettes without getting bad breath and teeth stains. But Alaska falls short of this dream girl no matter how hard Pudge tries to put her there. She seems to actually have a history, demons, baggage much the way a real person would. So, whatever Alaska, I'll go get my dose of ManicPixieDreamGirl-ness from Kate Hudson in Almost Famous.

Romeo & Juliet from Romeo & Juliet by William Shakespeare

I'm putting these two together because they are just both idiots. **SPOILERS** What middle-schoolers  do you know that get married after knowing each other only a few days? I mean what in the heck do you know about someone after three days? Sure they have a romantic meeting and encounter on the balcony. But dang, dude could be sewing human skin suits in his basement for all you know. And if you shouldn't marry someone after three days, you probably shouldn't fake your own death over him getting punished for killing your cousin. And if you are Romeo you should probably check for a pulse before drinking the poison. I'm just saying.

Tell me some characters you love to hate.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Review: Love Beyond Time by Bethany Claire

Author: Bethany Claire
Series: Morna's Legacy Series
Publisher: Bethany Claire Books
Publication Date: November 16, 2013
Genre: Historical Fiction/ Romance
Pages: 290
Buy it on Amazon
I saw Love Beyond Time book on sale at BookBub and was intrigued by the gorgeous cover and the fact that it was the first of seven in a Scottish, time travel, romance book. I mean ancient Scotland? Time Travel? What could go wrong? Right? Wrong.

"I am glad I shall die tonight, lass. For I doona think I could live a day without ye by my side." 

Bri is a kindergarten teacher who accompanies her mother to Scotland on her archaeological dig. Her mother received a grant to excavate the Conall Castle in search of answers to their tragic deaths. Once inside the castle, Bri finds a painting that looks just like her and as she reads the inscription she is transported back to the 1600's. Bri has switched places with Blair MacChristy who is set to marry Eion the head of the Conall Estate. Bri falls in love while trying to prevent the tragedy that she knows is set to happen in a few short months.

To be fair, this book had a lot of tension going for it. As much as I disliked the book, I kept reading because I needed to know if Bri and Eion were able to stop the attack and if Bri was going to stay or go back home to the present. The tension worked for me when everything else didn't. I felt like Claire could have done so many things differently, but her style was effective. Cliff hanger chapter endings and just so many things going wrong that the tension does keep the reader invested in the story.

The major place where this book, and I assume the rest of the series, falters is in the research. There are no major descriptions of the time period other than the women are in corsets and they ride horses. Which those descriptors could be used in roughly 500 years of European history. And all the Scottish characters speak English with a generic accent, and I am betting most people in Scotland at that time would have spoken Gaelic and not English, especially the women, servants and lower classes that wouldn't have been educated. The romance made it feel more like a generic historical romance or bodice-ripper but there really wasn't as much bodice-ripping as there should have been.  Also, the time travel portion of the book was very weak in explanation. Some witch, Morna, set up this curse of time travel, but there is no indication of why or how she did it. If you compare this book to Arlene Radasky's The Fox, which is also a self-published book about magical realism in ancient Scotland, this book falls way short on accuracy, description and uniqueness. I feel like so much more could have been done with this book if the author had developed the richness of 17th century Scotland and focused more on the historical elements rather than the romance portion.

All in all, because the tension in the story forced me to finish the book, I had to give it 2 stars for at least keeping my attention. This book is actually free for Kindle right now, if you are interested in reading it. Just know that you're not getting a historically accurate fiction book. Buy it here. Or get the whole series here.

Let me know if you have read this series and if the rest of it gets any better!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Top 5 Tuesday: Favorite Classics

Classics. Usually we here this term and think "Ugh... boring." This could stem from the forced reading of classic novels in high school and college and having to write papers and take tests on books that you just didn't find interesting. One of those classics for me was Jane Eyre. While I can appreciate the writing, its feminist themes and what not, I just didn't like the story or the characters for that matter. So, this list is going to be comprised of classic novels that were probably not a part of that forced high school reading list and were actually interesting to read.

Buy it on Amazon
Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens

Paul Dombey is a wealthy merchant with a daughter named, Florence. He doesn't see the value in a daughter and thus basically ignores her existence. Florence is very lonely and one day meets a young working class boy that helps her to see her value, only Dombey doesn't approve of the relationship and gets him sent off to America aboard his merchant ship. Only it and his past relationships with his other family members eventually come back to haunt him.

So, I have a huge problem with Charles Dickens' writing. He is too verbose. I mean A Tale of Two Cities gives pages upon pages of description of city blocks and factories that it was literally painful for me to read. So when I was assigned to read Dombey and Son in a Victorian Lit class, I almost cried especially since my copy was close to 1000 pages. But I was surprised. Very surprised actually because this story is much more character driven. There are several plot lines with different characters and the farther along in the story the more connections you see in these seemingly unconnected stories. Sure there are slow sections, but for the most part, Dickens' keeps this story going with secrets and cliff hangers and unique character POVs. He's really commenting on society and how we have changed to capitalist jerks only caring about money instead of caring about people and family. Which is still very relevant today. If you are interested in Dickens, I would check this one out. Its my absolute favorite Victorian work.

Summer by Edith Wharton

Buy in on Amazon

Charity is a young aristocrat brought to live with her uncle in a small town in rural New England. Charity hopes by moving in with her wealthy uncle she will find a husband that will look past her parent's money issues. She ends up meeting a handsome young man who sweeps her off her feet and she falls desperately in love. Doing things she wouldn't normally have done, she winds up in a bad place and the story follows her decent from grace.

I read this short novel in one day. It was that good. AND it didn't feel like a classic, it felt like reading a contemporary. Charity is a very compelling and very flawed character, and her story really begins to tug at your heart because it is a story that could happen to any young girl in love. This story is about the power of lust, hope and also redemption. If you want a classic that is still just as relevant as it was in 1917, I would suggest Summer to top that list.

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Buy it from Amazon
Billy Pilgrim's story starts when he is an elderly man ready to retire from his dental practice. But he keeps returning to the battlefields of World War II where he witnessed and survived some of the most gruesome attacks seen from the Nazis. His experience in war has left him scarred and unable to cope with many other events that occur later in his life. He becomes tired at his retirement party and escapes to his room to uncover the meaning behind these past events.

So this book absolutely blew my freaking mind. There is so much the reader doesn't understand about Billy but it is so vivid and so interesting that there is no way to put it down. You will have to know what happens to Billy; its surreal. Vonnegut wrote this book as a way to explore what happens to the mind after war. Billy is screwed up. That is apparent from the first page, but as the story goes on it gets more outlandish and trippy. Then it dawns on you that Billy is suffering from mental issues stemming from the war. He is the ultimate unreliable narrator because his story is so compelling. I recommend this book for everyone because there are so many messages that can be taken from Billy's story that it is sure to mean something to everyone. It's a book that has stuck with me for years.

Emma by Jane Austen

Buy it on Amazon
Emma Woodhouse is a young socialite excited by the prospect of love and marriage. Only she is interested in other peoples' relationships rather than her own. Emma tries to set up friends with prospective husbands only to make a fool of herself and her friends. She is clueless but her heart is in the right place. The rest follows Emma's attempts to correct her mistakes and eventually find love herself.

This is my favorite Jane Austen novel because it is so cute. Emma is such a lighthearted character that really is just trying to help her friends. This book is much more humorous than Pride and Prejudice, which everyone seems to have deemed Austen's greatest work. I would have to disagree because while Emma is much less romantic in a traditional sense, it speaks more about how society can influence romantic relationships reeking havoc on the lives of the participants. The old adage is "you can't choose who you love" but yet we try to control our feelings and force feelings on people who are not right for us just because society says we should. And the movie Clueless is based on Emma, need I say more? 

As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
Buy it on Amazon

Addie Bundren has died and her family decides she needs to be buried in her hometown several states away. With no money, no food, no lodging and several deep family secrets, the Bundren's set off to bury their mother. Anse Bundren, Addie's widower, is too proud too accept help from many of the passerby characters they encounter on their journey of sadness and regrets. The Bundren's are trying to get through this burial while trying to keep their secrets and their emotions from their family members.

What makes this book so great is the stream of consciousness embedded in the switching POVs. You read from every family member including all of Addie's children, Anse and even Addie herself in the casket. It's incredible to see each character's perspective on the death and how they are trying to hide some devastating secrets. Each character has such a unique voice and the stream of consciousness portion is actually like being inside their heads. Faulkner was a pioneer with this style and the result is pretty much a soap opera on paper. Enjoy it because you won't be able to look away from this train wreck.  

Let me know what your favorite classics are and what you thought of these books!

Monday, February 22, 2016

Review: Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld

Author: Scott Westerfeld
Series: None
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: September 23, 2014
Genre: YA Paranormal/ Contemporary
Pages: 599
Buy it on Amazon
Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld has such a unique concept where the POV switches from the main character, Lizzie, and the author of Lizzie's story, Darcy. Not only do we get to experience Lizzie's unique abilities we also come to understand how Lizzie's story came to be through Darcy's experiences. And 2 thumbs up for the diversity in this book! Well done Scott Westerfeld for stepping out of the YA paranormal box and creating these two fantastic story lines!

"She would find her answers in the words she wrote, in the stories she told, not by asking for permission."

Lizzie's story starts in the Dallas Airport during a terrorist attack. Lizzie fakes being dead and accidentally slips in the the Afterworld where she meets Yama who is a psychopomp that guides dead souls to the underworld. Lizzie survives the shooting and begins developing her abilities as a new psychopomp with Yama and other psychopomps' help. She then discovers her mother's childhood friend's ghost has been living with them since her murder 30 years earlier. Lizzie sets it upon herself to seek out the 'bad man' and take out revenge to help Mindy's ghost.

Darcy's story begins with her contract with the publisher for Afterworlds. Darcy wrote the novel in the 30 days following the discovery that her mother had a murdered friend she never mentioned. Once Darcy graduates high school, she decides to move to New York City to work on her rewrites and the sequel  instead of attending college. Once in New York she meets other YA authors that help her gain confidence in her writing and make her see the world in a different way.

I loved this book. I found both stories to be incredibly interesting, but I was particularly partial to Darcy because I am a writer as well. I think her insecurities we real and relevant to most writers. I was so intimidated for her when she was meeting the famous YA authors because I know I would be in the same boat. But I also found her to be inspiring because she just went for it. The fear didn't set in until much later when it was too late for her to turn back. Even though many people think her signing and contract took place much too quickly to be plausible, I think if you look up Leigh Bardugo's background, you'll realize it can happen and it does happen within months rather than years.

Lizzie's story was also really interesting because it involved Hindu mythology rather than your typical Greek/Roman, Egyptian or Norse. Yama's character added some softness to Lizzie's balls-to-the-wall kind of flare. I mean was this girl afraid of anything? She certainly was willing to jump right into the world of the psychopomps floating down the soul river, entering the underworld and even stalking a serial killer. Lizzie's story came full circle and I appreciated how her relationship with Jamie was reflective of what Darcy learned about trust in her relationship with Imogen.

The the few problems I had with this book stemmed from it's layout. Each chapter flipped between Lizzie and Darcy. I found that it was just too easy to put down because I knew there was a break between the action of each individual story line. I think I would have devoured it much quicker if maybe there had been a few chapter groupings, that way I would have been forced to keep reading rather than stopping.

All in all, I think this is a great stand-alone addition to the YA paranormal and contemporary genres. I would recommend this book if you like either of those categories or if you are writer yourself, make sure to check this book out! 4 out of 5 stars. Get your copy here!

Let me know your thoughts on Afterworlds!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray Review

Author: Libba Bray
Series: The Gemma Doyle Trilogy
Publisher: Delacorte Books
Publication Date: December 9, 2003
Genre: YA Paranormal/ Historical Fiction
Pages: 416
Buy it on Amazon
So, Libba Bray can write! I have heard so many great things about Libba Bray and A Great and Terrible Beauty did not disappoint. The Victorian setting was so well researched that it flowed perfectly between the paranormal elements and the every day life of rich boarding school girls. It almost seemed like the magical elements in the story should have been a normal part of our historical understanding of Victorian England. It was woven together seamlessly.

"I'm beginning to understand why those ancient women had to hide in caves. Why our parents and teachers and suitors want us to behave properly and predictably. It's not that they want to protect us; it's that they fear us."

A Great and Terrible Beauty follows a young Gemma Doyle, who is sent to a boarding school just after she witnesses her mother's murder in India through a vision. While at school, Gemma begins to realize that she has some magical powers that allows her to see visions, travel to other realms and control her environment. She discovers a secret diary of a former student who also had the same powers. Gemma and her friends Felicity, Pippa and Ann enjoy using the powers in a secret cave to escape their pre-determined, boring lives. That is until a dark force begins to appear.

So many good things going on in this book. First, Gemma is a flawed, bratty but incredibly smart girl that doesn't fear defying feminine expectations of the Victorian era. She disrupts the natural pecking order at school and is bullied for it; only she doesn't just sit back and take it. She fires back, stands up for their other victims and eventually earns their respect. She has no fear. Sometimes that gets her into trouble, but it also helps her and her group break free from those ridiculous sanctions forced on young women of the time. The feminism is not missed in this book and is actually addressed by the characters rather than just glossed over as part of life. Gemma, Pippa, Felicity and Ann actually take action. Second, the paranormal/ magical realism aspect of this story is fantastically done. It fits naturally into the story and seems like something teenage girls would be interested in learning about. Lastly, the sexuality of the story seems true to life as well. There is experimentation, longing and shame; all feelings that teenagers would experience in real life even today. It makes Gemma much more accessible character since she appears modern in this sense rather than the pure virgin female characters that are expected. Gemma is more real even with magical powers than many other female protagonists in the historical fiction genre.

Via Giphy

The only complaint I had of the novel, was the fact that so much information on the magic and the rules of magic were withheld for the first two/thirds of the book. Gemma's mother just kept telling her "no" when she asked to learn more. It kind of felt like a ploy to keep the reader going rather than organic to the story. I think the mother should have given her bits of information throughout the story rather than the info dump that happened at the end. But this does not take away from the wonderful shinning aspects of Bray's character development and prose.

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in Young Adult books with magical realism, paranormal aspects or historical fiction. A Great and Terrible Beauty is the first book in the Gemma Doyle Trilogy. I can't wait to get the next book, Rebel Angels! 4.5 stars!

Get your copy here.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Top 5 Tuesday- Favorite E-Books

E-books and especially self-published e-books are often treated like the red-headed step-child of the publishing world. No one wants to review them. No one wants to recommend them. The main reason is the fact that many self-published books are just not very good. They can be riddled with grammatical errors, formatting problems and unclear story lines. It can be tough to wade through the crap to find something worth while and many reviewers just don't have that kind of time. So, never fear, I have complied a list of five very different e-books that were honest-to-goodness worth the purchase (some are even free!).

The Fox by Arlene Radasky
Buy it on Amazon

This book follows a young girl, Jahna, living in the first century England, and a modern archaeologist excavating the Druid ruins, Aine. Only Jahna has magic powers that allow her to see into the future and guide Aine (without Aine really knowing) into discovering the truth about Jahna's tribe and how the Roman soldiers brutally destroyed their town.

The Fox is so good. The stories are incredibly intertwined and Jahna experiences so much loss that it is just a compelling read. Radasky does a great job in describing the ancient settings and rituals that it is almost mesmerizing. Her descriptions of Aine's excavations are equally well done and accurate according to current archaeological practices. It's just a beautifully well written book. I believe it is self-published so I can't promise there weren't errors, but I don't recall any. And if there were they didn't detract from the story enough for me not to love this book. I would recommend The Fox to any one interested in ancient cultures, time travel, historical fiction, magical realism, and multi-generation stories.
*Trigger warning for rape.

Memoirs Aren't Fairytales by Marni Mann

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This fictional memoir follows 19-year-old Nicole down the dark and dirty path of heroin. Starting out as a recreational drug user who is introduced to heroin after she moves from her home to Boston with a friend. Nicole is soon drug down into a world of theft, prostitution, and death all in the name of chasing that next high.

I marthoned this book over Thanksgiving a few years ago. I could not put it down. It has still stuck with me. If you have ever known anyone that struggles with addiction, particularly heroin, this book will be an eye-opener. It is incredibly hard to read but Nicole is a sympathetic character and you want to believe that she will get out of this cycle, but she continues to repeat old patterns over and over. It's like watching a train wreck, and you can't peel your eyes away. Mann creates the most realistic character I have ever read. I do believe this is the first book in a series, but I will warn you that this is an emotionally draining book that is well worth the time. I recommend Memoirs Aren't Fairytales for any one that enjoys memoirs,  gritty contemporary fiction and adult fiction.
*Trigger warning for rape, pregnancy loss, overdose, extreme drug use, and prostitution.

Hollowland by Amanda Hocking 

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This book follows Remy, who is trying to find her little brother during the zombie apocalypse. Her brother, Max, was evacuated from their shelter before it was over run with zombies and now Remy must cross the barren wasteland with a rag-tag group of survivors and a lion to get to him. Only zombies aren't the scariest part of the zombie apocalypse.

I loved this book. It was so much fun to read, full of excitement and twists I never saw coming. There is a lot of criticism on Amanda Hocking's writing, but I found this book to be so engrossing that the writing style never mattered to me. It was literally a movie in my head. Remy and Lazlo and Harper are so engaging and even funny at times that I could not put this book down. I recommend this book to all my friends looking for a good e-book because it's free AND so good. It also has a sequel novel that will knock your socks off in surprises! I recommend it for people who enjoy YA paranormal, post-apocalyptic, and dystopian novels.

The Rockstar's Daughter by Caitlyn Duffy

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This book follows 15-year-old Taylor, the summer her mother suddenly dies. She is then whisked away by her famous, but absentee father, on his band's glamorous summer tour. Taylor doesn't know her father, step-mother or little sister very well, but is forced to adapt to this new and heart-wrenching lifestyle.

Taylor actually surprised me. As in I loved this character so much. Normally, I don't really feel connected to YA contemporary characters but Taylor was an exception. She was so fleshed out and acted the way a 15-year-old would in circumstances of peer-pressure, family scandal and even in grief. I could really see my 15-year-old self in her. There was no cheesiness to this story. Taylor faces some difficult situations and has to deal with some tough consequences for her actions. However, she really grows throughout the novel and you will be rooting for her by the end. I believe this book is part of series that follows other characters that all attend Taylor's boarding school. I would recommend this book if you like YA contemporary.

Pushed Too Far by Ann Voss Peterson
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This book follows Det. Val Ryker after the body of previously solved murder case victim is found under the ice of a frozen pond. An innocent man must be in jail while a serial killer has run loose in their small Wisconsin town for the past two years. Val must retrace her steps in the previous murder case to find out who the original victim was, and who killed them both.

There are so many twists in this book that it is hard to put down. The book is inspired by the murder case surrounding Steven Avery from the Netflix hit documentary Making a Murderer. But Val is what makes this book so compelling. She doesn't like the fact that she messed up when the first case seemed so cut and dry. She's determined to right her wrongs. I'm not much for police drama books, but Val is so fleshed out that it doesn't feel like your typical cliched cop show. It's much more interesting. I would recommend this to anyone that likes thrillers, police procedural and mysteries.

Let me know what you thought of these e-books or if you have any recommendations!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell Review

Author: Rainbow Rowell
Series: none
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Publication Date: February 26, 2013
Genre: YA Contemporary
Pages: 335
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Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell is the only Rainbow Rowell book I have read, and I am already a huge fan. I just recently completed this book and I honestly don't know what took me so long read her work. It's mainly because I don't read young adult contemporary fiction very often because I find so many predictable plot lines, cheesy dialog and one-dimensional characters stuck in an unhealthy romance in this genre. But this is not the case in  Eleanor and Park, and Rainbow Rowell certainly knows how to write well crafted and interesting characters. This was one of the best books I read in 2015.

"Eleanor was right. She never looked nice. She looked like art, and art wasn't supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something."

It centers around two high school kids, Eleanor and Park (obviously), and their unlikely and strange romantic relationship that starts by passing comic books to each other on the bus. It focuses a lot on the differences between their family lives. Park lives with his mother and father, who have an over-the-top loving relationship. And Eleanor who just moved back in with her mother and abusive step-father after spending a few years in foster care. The stark differences in their lives drive the story as they both try to hide things about their families from each other, only to later learn so much about themselves by experiencing a something the other one has to offer. I have read that this book is partially inspired by Rainbow's life, which makes this novel pull at your heart strings even more.

Like I said, this book is amazing. The characters are so fleshed out they seem like real people. It feels like you are watching a movie as the chapters jump back and forth between Eleanor and Park's perspectives. You learn so much about what it's like to grow up poor but also what it is like to grow up in a loving family. I love the contrasting settings so much because it really makes both characters much more sympathetic and relatable. This is the type of book that sticks with you because of the feelings and attachment you feel for the characters. Despite all that what I love most about them is their witty dialog and banter. They are so funny but also very introspective and poignant. Reading this book is like a sociology assignment stepping into the lives of poverty and high school in the 1980's. It's an amazing teaching tool that would be effective for high schoolers all over the country to read and understand. It covers not only topics on poverty and foster care but also bullying, abuse, depression, overcoming obstacles, and hope. You just can't help but love what Rainbow Rowell has done in this novel.

I highly recommend that you pick this one up immediately. And let me know what you think about this one. Do you like Rainbow Rowell as much as John Green? I love John but she gives him a run for his money on the top YA Contemporary novelist, in my opinion!  I give Eleanor and Park 5 stars.

Get your copy here!