Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Review of The Virals Series, Book Three: Code by Kathy Reichs

I know I've been reading and posting a lot of Kathy Reichs' books recently, but I was so excited that she was coming to Ann Arbor for a book signing that I just couldn't help it! While she was here, she gave a short presentation about some of her books and the real life cases they were based on as well as what the actual tasks of a forensic anthropologist are. After her talk, there was a big table of her books for sale and a book signing! So I waited in line for quite some time and got a copy of Virals and a season of Bones signed. It was so exciting! 
Here are a few of my pictures: 

I had gone through about two thirds of the line at this point waiting to get things signed. 

And this is me meeting Kathy Reichs!



Here are my signed copies of Virals and Bones!

So in the spirit of Kathy Reichs coming to town, I decided that it was appropriate to review another one of her books. 
.......................................................................................................................

Title: Code
Authors: Kathy Reichs
Pages: 408
Publication Date: March 7, 2013
Source: Ann Arbor District Library

Quick Summary
The Virals are at it again when they discover a geocache buried on Loggerhead that contains an intricate puzzle box. They decode the message left inside and find tantalizingly cryptic clues left by someone called The Gamemaster. Unfortunately, the game turns dark when they find the next cache and a bomb waiting for them! With more clues, an iPad that plays creepy clown music, and the knowledge that their every move is being watched, the group gets sucked into The Gamemaster's real plot. More bombs are out there, and the pack must find them by solving the puzzles and clues before time runs out... Or The Gamemaster will wreak havoc on their beloved Charleston.



Opening Line
"The reel screeched, nearly jerked the pole from my fingers."

My Thoughts
This book was highly entertaining and definitely amped up the suspense factor. The main characters only had a certain amount of time to solve each clue, or they would be putting innocent people's lives at risk. That made this book even more suspenseful than searching for pirate treasure! Crazy, huh? It was a great mystery, and I really didn't see the end coming (which, as you know, is what makes a mystery good in my book!). 

The characters really began to take on more dimensions as well. The romantic interest that I predicted between Ben and Tory comes to light in this novel and messes with the group dynamics. Fights between Ben and Jason, Tory's other romantic interest, break out and Tory seems clueless as to why Ben is so protective even though it's pretty obvious to everyone else, including the reader. She does finally confront Ben about his actions, and he admits that he wants more than friendship... but that's where the book leaves off. Will Tory take the bait and date Ben? Or will there be an awkwardness that influences the closeness of their pack? I guess we will have to wait and see! One thing that I did appreciate about Reichs' approach to this budding romance was that it wasn't just an afterthought. It really does lead to some pretty big plot twists and has a big effect on the pack's investigation. I love that she ties it in and makes it mesh with the rest of the story. It's not just made up of little love scenes that don't belong in the wider plot, which made the romance seem more legitimate to me and less like high school drama. 

I liked the villain in this book as well. We don't know much about him, but we get glimpses here and there throughout. He remains one step ahead of the pack for the vast majority of the book, which helps make the pack (and especially Tory) feel a bit more like human high schoolers. However, one thing that I wish would have been explained was the clown motif. In the book, the caches and clues that they find usually are covered in creepy clown stickers or faces. This never really ties back to the villain. It seems like if Reichs' was going to add that detail, which admittedly makes the villain seem super creepy, she needed to make it tie back in somehow and it doesn't. But other than that, I had few complaints. 

The last thing that I really liked was that Chance, a super rich and popular boy that helps the pack out with previous cases, begins to get suspicious of the Virals and their powers. Up until this point, no one has questioned them about their powers except Karston, the man running the original experiment on the wolf dog, and he is dead. Chance has seen the Virals' powers in every book. After the first book, where the pack saved his life, he was committed to a mental facility. In the second book, the pack breaks him out of that facility because they need his help finding the pirate treasure. Tory manages to convince him that what he saw of the Virals' powers was just part of his mental breakdown. But in this book, he teams up with Madison, a popular girl that Tory scared with her glowing wolf eyes to get her to stop her bullying. Now that he has another witness, Chance gets even more suspicious and actively starts trying to discover what makes the Virals tick. This is a plot point that I think will definitely be prevalent in the next book. 

All in all, I liked this novel a lot. I thought it was entertaining, fun, and suspenseful. I think the Virals series is only getting better as it goes along! 
My Rating
Overall, I give it a 4 out of 5 hearts. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

BOOK TOUR AND RAFFLECOPTER GIVEAWAY!!!!! Review of Twinkle by S.J. Parkinson



Title: Twinkle
Author: S.J. Parkinson
Pages: 549
Publication Date: July 14, 2014
Source: Virtual Author Book Tours

Quick Summary
The richest man in the world wants to celebrate the July 4th holiday as never before. In a bid to get into the record books, a global fireworks show is staged from orbit. Satellites drop pyrotechnics into the atmosphere, thrilling everyone from the Arctic to the Antarctic with their rich colors and massive explosions in every time zone. The next day, people around the globe begin to lose their sight. Governments crumble, society degenerates, and infrastructure falls into chaos. Humanity finds itself stumbling in the dark and losing all hope. A few fortunate individuals retain their vision. Attempting to deal with the growing despair around them, they come together to discover the true purpose and origin of the affliction. They race to find a cure before the world is subjugated under an invading power.


Opening Lines
"Sir Marcus Brandon, Knight Commander of the Victorian Order, sat in a fabric director's chair before a compact makeup table in a small windowless room. Normally used for storage, the space had been converted into an ad hoc dressing and makeup area for that night." 

My Thoughts
Before I begin, I should note that I've been reading a LOT of YA lit recently. I taught 8th grade for the last few years, and it's a level of literature that I find to be fun, easy to connect with, and beautifully idealistic. S.J. Parkinson's book is the first adult fiction novel I've read in quite awhile. Not because I dislike adult fiction, but mostly because I've had so many other exciting YA lit options on my list! Not through any fault of the author, it took me a little while to make the cross over. 

The most immediate difference that stood out was the sex. In YA lit, the sexiest we really get is some passionate kissing and maybe a touch here or there. The more "scandalous" YA novels will even throw in some implied sex "off screen" so to speak. But adult books talk about it pretty blatantly, and this is something I had forgotten. Now don't get me wrong, I have nothing against sex. I'm married and quite enjoy it actuallybut I don't really feel the need to read about other people doing it. I know that the wider American adult audience would probably disagree with me here, but I kind of like my innocent YA world where sex is barely implied. It makes for idealistic romantic gestures, like late night cuddling and forbidden passionate kisses that we adults often forget about from our youth. Maybe I'm just a sap. That being said, I do appreciate that sex was the one place that Parkinson didn't go into explicit detail. It is there. It's talked about and it is even a very logical place for a few of his characters to end up, but he keeps it pretty PG-13 material for the most part. 

Another difference is that YA lit is very plot and character driven and often doesn't stop to give a lot of detail about the setting, background information, mundane or routine actions of the characters, or any other information that is not directly related to pushing the story along. That's because the general YA audience has a much shorter attention span and can't process that much detail or simply chooses not to. Adult readers can handle a lot of information and not lose the wider story in the mix. Because of this disparity, it took me a bit to get into a story with Parkinson's level of detail, but once I did, I really liked it. Going back to YA lit after this book, I actually found myself missing the kind of detail that you find in a realistic adult interpretation of a book's world. The realism Parkinson is able to bring out in his world is amazing. He has an attention to detail that is phenominal, and it's obvious that he has done his homework. Asterisks and footnotes even give extra information about military, scientific, and medical jargon as well as strategic locations and actual American history. While this book is classified as "science fiction" because of it's somewhat futuristic and apocalyptic feel and its yet to be discovered weaponry, such as "blindness warheads," it is very much based in the realism of our world. This is something that we often don't see in this genre, but I found it somewhat refreshing and new. It gave some boundaries to the otherwise limitless world of sci-fi. 

My only complaint is that the cure for the blindness was found super quickly. Being married to a scientist has given me a glimpse into how long it truly takes to get experiments to do what you want them to, let alone fix a pandemic with no known cure on the first try! Parkinson was pretty good at keeping his story fairly realistic, especially from a military standpoint, but this science failed to convince me. However, in the Author's Afterword, Parkinson explains this as both a fictional cure for a fictional pandemic and a way to move the story along without it being ridiculously long. From this stand point, I totally get it. And I appreciate that Parkinson took the time to explain this to his readers. His research and the personal experiences that fueled the inspiration for this story are pretty amazing. I definitely think this book is a winner. 

I also found the title to be interesting. At first, I was a little taken aback by it: Twinkle. It sounds more like a fairytale picture book than a gripping adult science fiction novel. However, once I got into the story, I realized that "twinkle" actually plays a significant role in the story. It is used as a Twitter hashtag by one of the first characters to see the orbital light show and goes global. #Twinkle not only crashes Twitter's servers, it ensures that a vast majority of the world turns out to see a light show celebrating a distinctly American holiday. It is actually a catalyst for the disaster to follow because it exposes so many people throughout the world to the very thing that takes their sight away. Looking at it from this perspective, the word "twinkle" seems a lot more menacing. 

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and am looking forward to checking out some of Parkinson's  other novels. 

My Rating
I give it a 4 out of 5 hearts. 
About the Author
Mr. Parkinson was an Air Force avionics technician, a decorated veteran of the Persian Gulf War, and several United Nations peacekeeping missions. He has lived overseas in numerous countries and travels extensively. His novels have been praised for their realism and sold in fourteen countries, winning multiple international awards (Three “Outstanding in Genre” Gold Seal awards from Red Adept Publishing and Kindle Book of the Month award Oct 2013 by the People’s Choice Book Awards).

Follow S.J. Parkinson Here: 

If you're interested, you can buy a print or ebook version of Twinkle at Amazon.

RAFFLECOPTER GIVEAWAY!!!
Add a comment and click the link below for a chance 
to win any of S.J. Parkinson's five books!

 


Friday, October 10, 2014

Review of The Virals Series, Book Two: Seizure by Kathy Reichs

Just a reminder, friends: I'm getting to meet Kathy Reichs in a few weeks!! Yay! 
She is coming to the Ann Arbor District Library in mid-October for a book signing. I'm SOOOOOOOOO excited! I will definitely be there, a copy of Virals in one hand and a season of Bones in the other, to hopeful meet her, get things signed, and maybe snap a picture with her! I'll definitely keep you updated, and I'm sure I'll post about it after the fact. 
But, in lieu of her coming to the area, I figured it was appropriate to review another one of her books. So, here's my review of Seizure. 

Title: Seizure
Author: Kathy Reichs
Pages: 492
Publication Date: 2011

Quick Summary
Tory Brennan and her friends stumble upon a legend of an ancient pirate treasure. When the Loggerhead Institute becomes in danger of closing due to a lack of funding, the friends set out to find the treasure and keep their pack together. This book is full of maps, dead ends, pirate history, booby trapped lairs, and phantom gun-toting aggressors following on the pack's heels as they search for Anne Bonny's lost pirate loot. 


Opening Lines
"SNAP. The rush was electric, like grabbing the third rail in a subway tunnel. My blood races, molten lead careening through scorched veins. Pain. Disorientation. Then power. Limitless power. Visceral power." 

My Thoughts
Well, I am pleased to report that I enjoyed this book much more than the first in the series. Kathy Reichs seems to be a little more comfortable with her teenage characters in this novel and has finally figured out how they converse and interact with one another. While some of the scenarios are a little improbable and the high school and debutante events are still a bit cliché, this book definitely had a suspense and mystery appeal that captured my attention - something the first book failed to do. Why the change? 

Two words: pirate treasure. 

Let's be real, who doesn't like a good pirate legend, especially when there is a lost treasure tacked on to the end? Reichs weaves a dramatic legend of pirate love and danger that ensnares both the characters and the reader. Now, the quest they go on is a bit Indiana Jones-like, slinking through tunnels and booby trapped caves all over multiple islands in the Charleston area to follow the clues. But even though it is far fetched and fantastical, it grabs your attention and you can't help but read on! 

In this book, there is also a bit of a romantic tension developing between Tory and Ben, one of the pack members. It's nothing definitive, mostly that Ben is protective of Tory and jealous of the other boys in her life, but I'm pretty sure there will be more to come in the books that follow. 

My Rating
Overall, I have to give it a 4 of 5 hearts. 
It really was a step up from the last book and was quite entertaining. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Review of The Legend Series, Book Two: Prodigy by Marie Lu

TitleProdigy
Author: Marie Lu
Pages371
Publication Date: Jan. 29, 2013

Quick Summary
June and Day escape from LA only to arrive in Vegas and discover that the Elector Primo has died. His son, Anden, has taken his place and the Republic has begun sliding into chaos. June and Day join up with the Patriots, a group who may have the resources to find Day's brother; however, with the Patriots, nothing is free. Day's brother comes with a price: Day and June must assassinate the new Elector Primo, an act that will change the entire society in which they live. Will their plans work? Will they finally be able to give a voice to an oppressed people and bring freedom to their nation? And, is it worth the price of a human life?


Opening Lines
"Day jolts awake beside me. His brow is covered with sweat, and his cheeks are wet with tears. He's breathing heavily."

My Thoughts
I loved, loved, loved this book!! If you look back at my assessment of Legend, the first book in the series, I mentioned that it was not very unique and was pretty much like every other YA dystopian novel that has come out recently... Well, I am pleased to inform you that once you get to the second book, all of that has changed! It makes the first book SO MUCH BETTER!!! Seriously, check it out. It's definitely worth reading to get to the second one. 

Marie Lu's characters are dynamic and emotional. They act like real human beings under extreme circumstances. Lu does an excellent job of getting at human emotions and motivations in this book. We, as readers, really get to delve into the love, anger, jealousy, patriotism, and fear of these characters as they go through this part of their story. And the ending made me cry. Seriously, I don't tear up over books super often, but this one got me. It's heartrending, yet beautiful. And it's really hard to put into words without giving too much away, so I'll stop there. But trust me! It's awesome. 

The romance between Day and June heats up and develops some complications along the way. Lu added some pretty sexy scenes (especially for a YA novel) that definitely got my blood pumping. One thing that I appreciate about this particular romance is that it is complicated. Both June and Day question its legitimacy throughout this second book. Both characters look to others and wonder if their futures would be better off without each other. It's not easy; it's not simple. It's dynamic. And it adds a depth to both of the main characters without distracting from the main storyline. 

Another thing I really liked about Prodigy was that some of the secondary characters from the first story really grew as well. Tess and Kaede return, and both change and evolve throughout the tale. Thomas and the murder of Metias both take a twist that really makes June (and the reader) think and question what she perceived as black and white. Nothing is as it seems in this book, and the ending truly surprised me, which is actually quite a feat and something I've railed on other books for lately. 

We continue to see the motif of betrayal, but a new motif also emerges: one of lines blurring. Black and white aren't a reality. The world actually works in shades of grey. This is something that many of the characters come to realize over the course of the novel. This book also continues to pay homage to Les Miserables. We see multifaceted rebellion, death of government leaders, a rising of the people, and a realization that the grass isn't always greener on the other side (pardon my use of an extreme cliche, but it fit!). 

Definitely check this book out. It will rock your world. 
What books have made you emotional recently? 
I'm looking for recommendations. 

My Rating
Overall, 5 out of 5 hearts.
Absolutely loved it! 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Review of The Clockwork Three by Matthew J. Kirby

So my parents have been in Ann Arbor visiting Chris and I, which has been really fun! But unfortunately hasn't left me much time for blogging. So, while they are on a short trip to Holland, MI, I decided to write y'all a post. Hope you enjoy! 

TitleThe Clockwork Three
AuthorMatthew J. Kirby
Pages386
Publication Date: Oct. 1, 2010
Source: Purchased myself

Quick Summary
This book is written from three characters' points of view that all converge as the characters meet and discover they can help each other. Giuseppe is a street musician with no way to escape his merciless owner, until he finds a very special green violin. Frederick is an apprentice clockmaker with a repressed past that haunts him as he struggles to build a clockwork man and earn his place in the world. Hannah is a maid in a ritzy hotel working to keep her family alive and well, until she is assigned to a very mysterious and wealthy new guest at the hotel and learns about a hidden treasure. All three of these characters' lives change dramatically as fate brings them together, and the danger and stakes rise. 


Opening Line
"When Giuseppe found the green violin, he did not think it would help him escape." 

My Thoughts
I actually really, really liked this book! It is the author's breakout novel, and for his first work it's pretty darn good. I am a fan of the steampunk style, and this novel definitely has some steampunk roots. Clockwork, a fancy opera, a medium, a lost treasure, a magic violin... it's all there! This novel definitely made me want to keep reading, and I zipped through it really fast (even for me!). I absolutely loved watching the three points of view slowly converge as the characters' worlds began to collide. It was a very unique writing style that really brought out the best in the characters and the mystery they were investigating. 

The other thing I really liked about the novel is that Kirby based it off of a true story about a young musician in New York City, which Kirby heard about while studying history in college. The young boy was taken from his home in Italy to be a slave playing music on the streets of New York City. He eventually escaped his master and fled to Central Park. The young man even went on to testify in court against his master, freeing and protecting other boys like himself. The story became well known, and Kirby admired the boy's courage and strength and wanted to write about it. 

My only complaint, and the reason I gave this book a four instead of a five, is that the conversations between the characters were a bit stilted and often felt forced. Taking into account that this is Kirby's first novel, I can understand that. Writing dialogue and making it sound genuine and not too scripted is a big challenge that authors face. And I think that as Kirby continues to write novels, his skills with dialogue will improve. I haven't checked to see if he's published since this book, but I sincerely hope he has because I think the guy's got talent! This was a unique and engaging story: something that is easier said than done these days.

My Rating
Overall, I give it 4 out of 5 hearts. 
Really good! 

On a completely different note: 
Kathy Reichs (the author of the Virals series and the producer of the TV show Bones) is coming to the Ann Arbor District Library in mid-October for a book signing!!!!!! I'm SOOOOOOOOO excited! I will definitely be there, a copy of Virals in one hand and a season of Bones in the other, to hopeful meet her, get things signed, and maybe snap a picture with her! I'll definitely keep you updated, and I'm sure I'll post about it after the fact. 
Woot woot! Get excited! 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Review of Virals by Kathy Reichs

People that know me well know that I absolutely LOVE mystery and crime novels... and TV shows and movies and pretty much everything else to do with detectives and mystery solving. When I was little, I really wanted to be a detective just like Nancy Drew. Seriously, you can ask my best friend, she'll tell you. Needless to say, I love the TV show, Bones, which is based off of Kathy Reichs' Temperance Brennan novels. She even produces the show! So when I found out she had written a YA series, I had to check it out. Here's what I found:
Another note: Netflix put up the newest season of Bones this last week!! I might die of happiness. 

TitleVirals
AuthorKathy Reichs
Pages: 454
Publication Date: Nov. 2, 2010
Source: Classroom Library

Quick Summary
Tory has moved to live with her marine biologist father in South Carolina who she's never known. She makes friends with some of the locals who show her the ropes of the island and the Loggerhead Research Institute where their parents work. But something seems off about the Institute to Tory. After rescuing a wolf-dog puppy from a secret lab at the institute and discovering the body of a murder victim on the island, everything begins to change for Tory and her friends. They need to stay alive long enough to catch the murderer, but they are no longer quite human... they have evolved into Virals. 


Opening Lines
"The whole thing started with a dog tag. Well, a monkey with a dog tag. Take your pick. I should have known it would be trouble. Should have sensed it. But I wasn't as perceptive then. I hadn't evolved. Yet." 

My Thoughts
Honestly, I was a little disappointed. Admittedly, I had very high expectations because Bones is such a well-written show with fantastic characters! But I guess that's what I get for comparing two different mediums. Virals was entertaining and I can tell that Reichs' main characters have a lot of spunk, but they weren't as well developed as I would have liked. Especially for a book that is almost 500 pages. A lot of their conversations are stiff and stilted... they just don't feel real. And the high school scene she creates is so cliché it's almost painful. Even to the level of having her main character, Tory Brennan, get stuck attending debutante events that she finds petty and boring. It was just a bit too predictable to be a viable mystery for me. 

Now, that being said, I did like the setting of the tale. It takes place in Charleston, SC. Specifically, on Loggerhead and Morris Island where the main characters' parents live and do scientific research. Loggerhead is an entire island devoted to biology research, including free range monkeys that live on the island and make visiting it challenging at times. I also liked Reichs' idea of a human "wolf pack." The four main characters rescue a wolf-dog pup that is really sick with parvovirus. Normally, this contagion cannot be passed from dogs to humans directly, but this strain was under experimental research on Loggerhead... secret experimental research. The four characters come down with the virus and begin developing wolf-like powers that come on when they are extremely agitated or are very emotional. I liked the powers and the pack mindset. And I thought the virus was a unique way of having the powers manifest. 


Admittedly, it took me a little while to figure out who the villain in the story was, but I did eventually figure it out before it was truly revealed. I always feel a little bit accomplished when this happens, but it also makes me sad that the author couldn't fool me. I want my mystery authors to dazzle me! Is that too much to ask for? 


My Rating
Overall, I give it a 3 out of 5 hearts. 
A few flaws, but worth reading. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Review of Legend by Marie Lu

I would like to start off by saying that electricity is a beautiful thing. And (praise the Lord!) I finally have it back on in my apartment! So just to give you a small idea of what this week looked like, we had a massive storm go through Ann Arbor on Friday night. The power went out. Pretty normal. Usually DTE is pretty good about getting the power back in a relatively decent amount of time. Not so this week, my friends! Chris and I didn't have power until Tuesday afternoon. That's right, all of our food went bad in the fridge and freezer (and smelled up my entire apartment!), the little internet we had from our backup battery charger went to Chris' grad school studies, and none of our kitchen appliances worked (including but not limited to the coffee maker, toaster, microwave, blender, stove, oven, and garbage disposal) so I couldn't even heat up pop tarts or Ramen noodles. #firstworldprobs 
It's been an expensive week. Needless to say, come Tuesday morning, I wanted to kill things! So I packed a backpack, biked to Barnes and Noble for some coffee and a decent wifi connection, and wrote you a post to get my mind off of it. So here's a review! 

UPDATE: Sorry this post hasn't gone up until now. I had already written the post about Between Shades of Gray and wanted to get that out there first. So when the above tidbit says "this week," it actually means "last week." 

TitleLegend
AuthorMarie Lu
Pages: 305
Publication Date: April 16, 2013
Source: Purchased myself

Quick Summary
This book takes place in a dystopian, post-American society, where the wealthily live well and the poor scrounge for food and shelter and try desperately to avoid catching the plague. June is a military prodigy who was born into a very wealthy family. When her brother is killed, she makes it her mission to hunt down his killer and dispense justice. Unfortunately that killer is Day, the Republic's most notorious criminal. He is agile and smart and has outthought the authorities time and time again. But can he outthink a prodigy and keep his family alive and anonymous? As the plot unfolds, both characters discover what is really going on in their society and the lengths to which their country will go to keep the status quo. 


Opening Lines
"My mother thinks I'm dead. Obviously I'm not dead, but it's safer for her to think so." 

My Thoughts 
It seems that ever since The Hunger Games became popular there has been a flood of dystopian young adult lit that has surfaced. It (sadly) reminds me of the not so distant Twilight debacle where everyone and their uncle decided to write vampire and werewolf novels... most of which were subpar at best. That being said, I really enjoyed Legend, but in the sea of recent dystopian fiction it doesn't really stand out. It is very well written, and I like the author's voice and the characters a lot; however, struggling against an oppressive government and trying to keep your family alive in a plague-ridden and poor post-American society has kind of been done. A lot. Now, this is one of the better YA dystopian novels I have  read recently. It definitely ranks high above the Matched series by Ally Condie and even Delirium by Lauren Oliver, but it's got nothing on The Hunger Games

June and Day are compelling characters. They are likable, even when they don't always do what you want them to. And I think their physical descriptions are interesting. It's refreshing to have two main characters that are not just white Americans. Both June and Day have Asian/Mongolian features, but Day has long, white-blonde hair and startling blue eyes. These physical features do make them stand out and (in my head at least) make them quite an interesting pair. They also come from very different economic sectors in their society, June being prominent and rich and Day being homeless and poor. Because the book is written from alternating points of view (between June and Day), we get to see all sides of the society in which they live and both sides of the conflict they have with each other. It allows us to see the characters' motivations for their actions and understand both sides of the problem... thus making it a little difficult to choose who to side with! I do appreciate that dynamic and think that Marie Lu is a very good writer. I like the sense of visual awareness in her book. I myself am a visual learner and can't help but picture what goes on in books. I like details. Having an author who thinks similarly and writes to that type of reader is refreshing. 


There is also a motif of betrayal throughout the entire book. Betrayal of friends, family, country, commanding officers, strongly held beliefs, justice, and humanity. It is a concept that returns again and again, folding and changing and expanding on the previous betrayals. It creates a very strange perception of what is true and what is not. And begs us to ask the questions: How do we know what is true? And how do we know the powers that be are telling us the truth or have the correct intentions? Did they ever? 


One last thing I found to be notable about this book is the author's comment that she thought up the idea while watching Les Miserables. Now, those of you that know me are aware that this is my favorite play/musical of all time. I absolutely love it. And I could probably go on all day about the similarities and connections between these two works that I've drawn since gaining this knowledge (this was an author's comment in the back of the book that I didn't notice until I'd already finished reading!). But looking at this book through the lens of a Les Miserables fan makes me like it all the more. And I feel the strange urge to write an academic paper comparing the two... Scholars, feel free to steal that idea. But I'd love to read your findings once you do!

My Rating
Overall, I give it 4 out of 5 hearts. 
Really good! 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Exciting News!!!

So friends, I am finally getting to be a part of a Book Tour and Giveaway next month (Oct. 16)! Yay! I feel like a big girl blogger. :) 
I just wanted to give you a heads up that it's coming and to post a preview of the book in case you thought the concept was as interesting as I did. 
It's called Twinkle by S.J. Parkinson.
 I haven't read it yet, but I love me some sci-fi so I'm optimistic! 



Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Review of Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

So last week I had to go to the dentist to get a few cavities filled, something I haven't had done since baby teeth were a thing. Let's all agree, cavities = not very fun. And I, being the extremely intelligent human being that I am, decided to run errands after the appointment. I had obviously forgotten that my mouth would be anesthetized and that speaking in general was going to be a difficult task, let alone picking up a library book on hold, filling a prescription at CVS, and trying to navigate JoAnn's for a very specific type of marker. Needless to say, it was quite hilarious. And after I had accomplished my goals without too much drooling, I sat down to blog - a way of speaking and telling stories without actually having to use a mouth that feels like it's been stuffed full of cotton balls. So, just for you: a review!

UPDATE: I would like to note that I wrote this post while still on quite a bit of medication (last week) and then went back and edited (today). In the words of a famous author, "Write drunk (read medicated). Edit sober!"

TitleBetween Shades of Gray
AuthorRuta Sepetys
Pages: 339
Publication Date: March 22, 2011
Source: Purchased myself

Quick Summary
During World War II, Stalin is having his NKVD soldiers grab prominent figures and their families as possible rebels across Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Finland. Lina is a young girl with very promising artistic abilities from Lithuania. In the middle of the night, she is taken by the NKVD with her mother and younger brother, stuffed into cattle cars on a train with thousands of others, and shipped off to Siberia. Lina tries to get clues to her father and other Lithuanians through her drawings, hoping someone will come and find them. Meanwhile, they work in a labor camp amidst horrific weather conditions, disease, frequent beatings, and near starvation. Lina fights to keep her family alive and together, while documenting the whole experience through art. 


Opening Lines
"They took me in my nightgown. Thinking back, the signs were there - family photos burned in the fireplace, Mother sewing her best silver and jewelry into the lining of her coat late at night, and Papa not returning from work." 

My Thoughts
I loved this book. It was very deep and compelling for a YA novel. We, as Americans, concentrate so much on Hilter and his atrocities during WWII that we often forget how truly horrific the Soviet leaders were at the time. Sure, we needed them to defeat Hitler, but did we even blink as they committed acts just as devastating? I feel like this was a part of history class that I somehow missed. I know some of the basics, but what about the detail we see in our history lessons about WWII and the Nazis? It is estimated that Stalin killed up to twenty million people during his reign! How do we just forget about that??? Needless to say, I feel like Stalin's rule was a bit overlooked in my education, and I'm grateful to Ruta Sepetys for calling attention to that. 

Sepetys is the daughter of a Lithuanian refugee and did some very extensive research before writing this story. It is a novel, and thus fiction, but it is based on real accounts and real experiences, some of which are even a part of her family's story. She is very blunt and even graphic at times in her description of the characters, the torture, and the deaths that occur. She didn't sugar coat it, even with her audience being YA readers, and I think that takes both guts and skill. This is an absolutely fantastic book, and it would be a great counterpart to a history or literature class (*hint hint* all of you teachers out there!). There is so much to be learned about these people that we seem to have forgotten or written off as unimportant. Sepetys weaves her story full of sections that will make you cry and laugh and swoon and curse. It is beautifully written and comes very highly recommended (by me!). 

My Rating
Overall, 5 out of 5 hearts. 
Absolutely loved it! 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Review of Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh

TitleHyperbole and a Half
AuthorAllie Brosh
Pages369
Publication Date: Oct. 29, 2013
Source: Birthday present (Thanks, Mom!)


Hey book-loving friends! I've got a new review to share about a book recently released by one of my favorite bloggers: Allie Brosh a.k.a. Hyperbole and a Half. As any fan of hers would know, she took a break from blogging to publish a book of her tales of "unfortunate situations, flawed coping mechanisms, mayhem, and other things that happened" as she calls them. She has a very unique style and a beautiful way with words that will leave you laughing hysterically on a public bus all by yourself with nothing but the strange looks from others to keep you company... Yes, I have firsthand knowledge. Her book is made up of short anecdotes from her life coupled with pictures that she creates in Paint on the computer. For using the application Paint, the girl's got talent. Her simplistic characters evoke great emotion and really seem to capture the essence of humanity, while poking fun at it in the process. If you can't tell by the words of praise, I really liked this book. It's a very quick read because there are so many pictures, but Brosh has a singular sense of humor and a way of showing a very realistic side of humanity.

My favorite vignette is actually one of her more serious ones. Yes, it has plenty of comic relief, but the topic itself is more serious than many of her other stories: depression
As someone who has struggled with depression myself, her way of describing the emotions, feelings, thoughts, and motives for her actions were the best I've heard yet. No one I've ever talked to has been able to put depression into words like she has. My husband even said that reading that portion of the book gave him some insight into helping me cope with my own struggles. If this is something you've never experienced, praise the Lord because you're lucky! And then think about reading this section of Brosh's book, even if you read nothing else. People who have never had depression usually don't know how to deal with people who do have it, which Brosh points out. 
I think she puts depression and the thought processes that depressed people experience into words and emotions that are accessible to everyone. Until this book, I had such a hard time verbalizing what it was like to my friends, my husband, my parents, even my counselor. This section of Brosh's book is gold. 
(Check out Depression Part One and Part Two on her blog by clicking the links.) 

My one complaint is that she used a lot of her previous blog posts for sections of the book. Now, I understand that her book is reaching a wider viewership, where many of the people haven't read her blog, and that the stories she repeated were some of her best. However, I was slightly peeved that she took so much time off of blogging when half of the book was already written! I'm sure the publishing process is much more involved than I am giving her credit for, but I know that she lost a lot of her hardcore fans in her time off. I'm hoping that won't hurt her blog and book career overall because I really do love her work! 

My Rating
I loved it! Overall, I give it 5 out of 5 hearts. 

 
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