Sunday, December 29, 2013

Challenge complete!

I made it with two days to spare.  52 books in 52 weeks!  And this doesn't count all of the picture books and children's novels I read with my students at school.  With all my kids activities plus working, I really wasn't sure I was going to make it until this past few weeks but I am so glad I did.  I'm hoping to reach this goal next year too as well as participate in a few other reading challenges.

Happy New Year!

Review: The Night Circus

The circus arrives without warning... this is the first sentence of a story that, in my opinion, was one of the best I read this year.  The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern was a perfect blend of mystery, history, paranormal, and romance.  I must admit that I started this book thinking would be a fun, yet predictable YA novel but I was completely mistaken.  This book is for adults as well as the younger set. I had not even an inkling about how it would end until the last few chapters of the story.  I was enchanted throughout the entire book and quite satisfied with the ending.

Synopsis from Barnes and Noble:
The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des RĂªves, and it is only open at night.
But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway: a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them both, this is a game in which only one can be left standing. Despite the high stakes, Celia and Marco soon tumble headfirst into love, setting off a domino effect of dangerous consequences, and leaving the lives of everyone, from the performers to the patrons, hanging in the balance.
The book is told in a clever mixture of flash backs and flash forwards with a smattering of stand alone chapters that capture the essence of the circus tent exhibits.  The exhibits are enthralling, unique, exotic, and astounding. Only certain members inside and outside of the circus are privy to the real magic involved in keeping the circus running. That the circus itself was created to be a venue for a game, a challenge between two people, Celia and Marco, who are bound to play the game until there is only one winner.  This seems like it isn't such a big deal until they realize they are in love and that the winner lives and the loser dies.  Celia is determined to find a way to change the ending so that they can be together and so the circus can continue. 
The circus theme is all black and white but the splashes of color in the story are chosen carefully.  Celia's dress, the deep red scarves worn by the circus followers, the bright red hair of the twins, Poppet and Widget.  These colors seem meant to pop out at you in the story against the black and white background, and they do.  
All of the characters in the book are wonderfully mysterious.  I loved them, even the crueler characters had a fascination about them.  My favorites aside from Celia and Marco were probably Poppet and Widget, the twins. Poppet could see the future and Widget could read the past on people.  These two end up playing a much larger role in the story than I originally thought they would.  And then there was Bailey, the outsider and yet so important to the story.  I couldn't help but think about Barnum and Bailey and wonder if this character's name was chosen purposefully even though there is no evident connection.
I could go on forever about this book and I will probably read it again because it is the type of book where you can probably find something new every time you read it.  It was truly a unique and wonderful read.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane

I had only once before picked up a Neil Gaiman novel.  Looking for a new read aloud for my students, I had read the first few pages of The Graveyard Book.  It wasn't appropriate for fourth graders because it was a bit disturbing at the beginning so I put it back on the shelf.  The Ocean at The End of the Lane caught my eye because I recognized the author's name and because I found the cover to be absolutely gorgeous.  I loved the color theme and the girl under the water peaked my curiosity.  I find it hard to resist an attractive cover.

The story begins with our narrator, a middle aged man whose name we never know, attending a funeral. This man decides to take a drive and ends up near the area where he grew up.  He recognizes a farmhouse and since it has been decades, he expects to find no one living there.  Instead, he finds old Mrs. Hempstock. But wait... it can't be, because she looks exactly the same as she did forty years ago.  As they sit down together, he reminisces about his childhood and we are teleported back as he tells a story of friendship, sacrifice, magic, mayhem, and things that go bump in the night.

This isn't a long story.  In fact, in the acknowledgements at the end of the book, the author states that it was originally meant to be a short story but then turned into a novel.  That being said, I worried that maybe the characters wouldn't be developed enough.  Not an issue.  I connected to the narrator as the seven year old boy he was throughout most of the book.  I felt his pain, his fear, his love and his yearning for things to go back to the way they were before the evil got in.  The reader is aware of the evil in the story pretty quickly and it is clear that our young narrator can't fight it on his own.  Enter Lettie Hempstock, the youngest of the Hempstock women, who brings him home to her mother and grandmother and helps him deal with this evil. His friendship with Lettie Hempstock was brief but profound and his trust in her was unconditional.  She was all he had and I loved how, even being so young, he was ready to sacrifice himself for the world, and she was ready to sacrifice herself for him.

I'm still not sure exactly what the Hempstock women were.  It seems to me they were almost guardians of some sort, protecting the world from other beings with a magic that seems similar to witchcraft, yet we are told in the story that witchcraft is not their source of power.  The story is original and unique and hard to put down once you start reading because it is not predictable in any way.  There are a few revelations at the end but the reader still doesn't have all of the answers when they get to the final pages.  I felt however, that it came to enough of a conclusion that it felt finished and I was satisfied.  I thought about the story for a long time after I closed it.  I may even go back in a few months and read it again.  If I were to rate this story on a five star system, It would get a 4.5.  I definitely recommend it.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Stacking the Shelves

Stacking The Shelves is hosted by Tynga's Reviews and is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!

 These are my most recent purchases.  Mariana and The Night Circus have been on my TBR for a long time.  I kept seeing The Ocean at the End of the Lane on other people's lists so I figured I would try it. Graveminder I fell across by accident and I really liked the sound of it.  I'm really looking forward to each and every one of them!  Happy reading!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Review: Clockwork Prince

Synopsis from Barnes and Noble: 
True love is shrouded in secrets and lies in the #1 New York Times bestselling second book of the Infernal Devices trilogy.
In the magical underworld of Victorian London, Tessa Gray has found safety with the Shadowhunters. But that safety proves fleeting when it becomes clear that the mysterious Magister will stop at nothing to use Tessa’s powers for his own dark ends.
With the help of the handsome, tortured Will and the devoted Jem, Tessa discovers that the Magister’s war on the Shadowhunters is deeply personal and fueled by revenge. To unravel the secrets of the past, the trio journeys from mist-shrouded Yorkshire to a manor house that holds untold horrors. When they encounter a clockwork demon bearing a warning for Will, they realize that the Magister knows their every move—and that one of their own has betrayed them.
Tessa is drawn more and more to Jem, though her longing for Will continues to unsettle her. But something is changing in Will. Could finding the Magister free Will from his secrets and give Tessa answers about who she really is? As their search leads to deadly peril, Tessa learns that secrets and lies can corrupt even the purest heart.
Winner of the 2012 Children's Choice Book Award for Teen Book of the Year
My Review:
Well, this book was just as good as the first, if not better.  There was a lot of action and just as much romance, although not so much with the two people I wanted the romance to happen with.  I'm completely team Will and I do not get my way in the second book.  I'm hoping things will change in the final book.  While on the topic of romance, I just love the blossoming romance between Gideon and Sophie.  Although it hasn't quite happened yet, I'm also hoping that these two get together.  She deserves him but she needs to get over the fact that she is a servant and stop thinking that this means they cannot be together.
My favorite character in this book (aside from Will of course) was Jessamine.  Yes... she was impossible. Yes...she was selfish.  Yes...she was kind of stupid too.  I felt sad for her.  She never got over the death of her parents and the life that she lost.  She dreamed of a life she could not have and although her choices were usually bad ones, she just wanted to be normal and leave the life of downworlders and shadowhunters behind.  I hated her sometimes as I was reading but I also understood where she was coming from.  She did not end up in a good place at the end of this book but I'm still hoping to see more of her in the third book.
Jem got on my nerves in this book.  Too sappy.  I do feel bad that he is dying but I go a bit tired of his puppy dog eyes and declarations of love.  Other than that, I loved every piece of this story.  We still don't know for sure why Mortmain wants Tessa but I wonder, since his father was a warlock, if her wants her to change in the hopes that his father will return from the dead and she will be lost forever... just a thought. 
My dreams for the third book?  I don't want Jem to die but I don't want him with Tessa either.  I want Will and Tessa together, Gideon an Sophie together, Jessamine to somehow redeem herself and find what she is looking for, and an epic battle where Mortmain is defeated, leaving our shadowhunter heroes to live in peace.  Sounds perfect... I've only to open the next book and begin to read. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Best of the Bunch: November

Best of the Bunch

Best of the Bunch is a monthly blog hop at the end of each month, where we can share which books we have read or reviewed in that month, decide on our personal favourite and give that book our Best of the Bunch award. Set up and previously hosted at Lyrical Reviews, it is now hosted on the last day of each month at Always Lost in Stories.

To join in simply write your blog post telling us which books you have read or reviewed over the month, (and which book gets your Best of the Bunch award for that month), and then stop back here to add your link to the Mr. Linky. Visit the other blogs in the links to get some awesome new book recommendations.
Books I reviewed in November:
1.  The House of Hades by Rick Riordan
2.  Allegiant by Veronica Roth
3.  The Night is Alive by Heather Graham
4.  The Night is Forever by Heather Graham
5.  Truly, Madly by Heather Webber
6.  Deeply, Desperately by Heather Webber
7.  Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare
and my Best of the Bunch for November is...
Although I enjoyed all of the books I read this month, I enjoyed this one the most.  I basically devoured it and loved every moment... even more I think than the Mortal Instruments series by the same author.  I thought the characters were well written, the historical setting of 1800's London was interesting, and the plot was engaging the entire way through the book.  
read my full review here.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Review: Clockwork Angel

Synopsis from Barnes and Noble:
Magic is dangerous—but love is more dangerous still.
When sixteen-year-old Tessa Gray crosses the ocean to find her brother, her destination is England, the time is the reign of Queen Victoria, and something terrifying is waiting for her in London's Downworld, where vampires, warlocks and other supernatural folk stalk the gaslit streets. Only the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the world of demons, keep order amidst the chaos.
Kidnapped by the mysterious Dark Sisters, members of a secret organization called The Pandemonium Club, Tessa soon learns that she herself is a Downworlder with a rare ability: the power to transform, at will, into another person. What’s more, the Magister, the shadowy figure who runs the Club, will stop at nothing to claim Tessa's power for his own.
Friendless and hunted, Tessa takes refuge with the Shadowhunters of the London Institute, who swear to find her brother if she will use her power to help them. She soon finds herself fascinated by—and torn between—two best friends: James, whose fragile beauty hides a deadly secret, and blue-eyed Will, whose caustic wit and volatile moods keep everyone in his life at arm's length . . . everyone, that is, but Tessa. As their search draws them deep into the heart of an arcane plot that threatens to destroy the Shadowhunters, Tessa realizes that she may need to choose between saving her brother and helping her new friends save the world. . . . and that love may be the most dangerous magic of all.
My Review:
The wait for the next book in the Mortal Instruments seems to be endless so I decided to try Cassandra Clare's prequel series, The Infernal Devices.  I must say... I loved it.  I am completely hooked and plan to grab the next book in the series immediately to see what happens next.

The history/background I got from the Mortal Instruments series made starting this set easier.  I already knew what The Institute was, that Shadowhunters feel themselves to be superior to Downworlders, and that each group dislikes the other.  Familiar characters emerged almost immediately and it was fun to see a younger version of them and how different their life was.  The main characters, Tessa, Will, Jem, Jessamine, Sophia, Thomas, Charlotte, and Henry, all live at the Institute and all have engaging back stories.

Tessa and Will are the central focus.  Tessa was taken captive by the Dark sisters at the beginning of the story and finds out what she can do.  Once rescued and taken to the Institute, she tries desperately to figure out how she became what she is, and how she fits into this new, dark world.  As for Will, well, except for a few brief glimpses of emotion, Will is a closed book.  We learn a bit about how he came to live at the Institute but there are still many unanswered questions.  Will and Tessa come close to being together but Will shuts her out each time a moment presents itself.  Even at the end of the book, we still don't know his secrets or why he keeps pushing Tessa away.  Inquiring minds want to know! Which is why I will be starting the next book this evening even though it is way past my bedtime.  I have a hunch....

I found it refreshing and a bit humorous how Tessa reacts to the Shadowhunter way of life.  Since the story is set in the 1800's, she believes that women do not engage in such activities as fighting, that they should not be wearing trousers, and that they are basically the weaker sex.  She is amazed that Charlotte and Jessamine (when forced) are able to use weapons and protect themselves.  As Tessa is repeatedly thrown into dangerous situations, she must act like a fighter in order to survive and finds herself appalled at first, but then almost elated that she is able to contribute and survive the perils around her and her new family.   At the conclusion of story, she is so courageous and clever that you almost wouldn't recognize her anymore.

No spoilers so I am going to stop there.  Clockwork Angel had a good deal of action.  At one point, I thought for sure Tessa would be captured a second time, but I was wrong.  I also really liked the twist in the story.  It didn't come until I got closer to the end but it was a good one!  I wasn't expecting things to happen the way they did but the events will allow the story to meander down a few different paths as it continues.

If I had an official rating system, Clockwork Angel would get 5 stars.  It was THAT good.  :)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Review: Deeply, Desperately

Lucy Valentine is back!

Synopsis from Barnes and Noble:

Lucy wants to breathe new life into her family’s Boston-based matchmaking company. But how? Even though she comes from a long line of ancestors blessed by Cupid with psychic abilities, a freak accident left Lucy with only one special skill: finding things. Car keys, socks in the dryer, needles in haystacks...and now, in a stroke of professional genius, lost loves!
It’s not long before Lucy’s on a winning streak, helping old flames reunite and create new sparks. Business is booming. But when Lucy finds herself involved in a possible case of murder, she realizes she’s in too deep. Enter Sean Donahue. Lucy’s handsome fire-fighter turned private-eye neighbor, Sean is just the man she needs to help her on the job. Could he also be the man she’s been looking for all along? When it comes to Valentine, Inc., falling in love is always serious business…
My Review:
Just as good as the first book.  Lucy finds herself another mystery to solve, this time it is a missing person she is looking for.  She continues to use her power of finding lost items to help and more and more people are finding out about what she can do.  This is both good and bad.  In this book, we also learn about a family secret that has been kept for years.  All of my favorite characters are here.  Raphael, Dovie, Lucy's parents, Em, Marisol, and Aiden.  Of course, Sean, her love interest is here too but in this book, a small wrench is thrown into the relationship.
The recurring theme in this book is definitely "love."  Finding lost loves, questioning new love, opening up to let yourself love again, and letting go when love is no longer there.  There was a little bit of mystery and suspense but not much.  It was just a quick, fun read. There are a few more in the series but I'm going to take a break and move on to something else for a while.  I'll come back and finish the other books at another time when I am looking for a lighter read.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Feature and Follow

Hosted by Parajunkee and Alison can Read.

Gain new followers and make new friends with the Book Blogger Feature & Follow! or just check out the weekly questions and see what others respond. 

*If you would like to follow me, you can do so by GFC, Bloglovin, Goodreads, Google +, or Twitter :) Just let me know if you are a new follower and I will follow back!  Thanks! 

Question: You Are It! We are playing #FF tag this week. Comment on as many blogs as you can, even if they aren’t participating in #FF. Just say Happy #FF! At the end of your comment. Keep a running total if you want and update your post with it. I'll be commenting on as many as I possibly can!  Have fun! 
Laura  :)

Review: Truly Madly

Even though my TBR pile and my wishlist on Barnes and Noble are quite extensive, I still find myself sometimes in the mood for a specific type of story.  Once I satisfied my ghost story craving with a couple of Heather Graham's books this month, I found myself wanting a mystery that was a bit lighter.  Since I am still waiting ever patiently for the next Mary Russell mystery, I started browsing and finally settled on Truly, Madly by Heather Webber.  This is the first in the Lucy Valentine series and its teaser promised mystery, humor, and just a little romance.  I dove in hoping for a nice light read.

Synopsis from Barnes and Noble:
Lucy Valentine is as smart as can be, as single as you can get, and so not qualified to run a matchmaking service. But when her parents temporarily step down from the family business, Valentine, Inc., it’s Lucy’s turn to step up and help out—in the name of love.
Plus, her rent is due.
Here’s the problem: Lucy doesn’t have the knack for matchmaking. According to family legend, every Valentine has been blessed by Cupid with the ability to read “auras” and pair up perfect couples. But not Lucy. Her skills were zapped away years ago in an electrical surge, and now all she can do is find lost objects. What good is that in the matchmaking world? You’d be surprised. In a city like Boston, everyone’s looking for something. So when Lucy locates a missing wedding ring—on a dead body—she asks the sexy private eye who lives upstairs to help her solve the perfect crime. And who knows? Maybe she’ll find the perfect love while she’s at it…
My Review:
This book was exactly what I wanted.  I loved Lucy.  She was real.  She had extremely wealthy parents and could have everything, but instead chooses to go it on her own without using any of their money.  She has tried several careers, but hasn't yet found her niche.  She tends to take in animals in need, and because of this has a three legged cat and a one-eyed hamster. She also believes that her love life is cursed so has no hope that she will ever have a lasting relationship.  She also has a great sense of humor and I found myself chuckling several times throughout the story. When Sean enters the picture, she is immediately attracted to him but determined to stay away because of the curse.  This strategy, of course, doesn't work.  I like however, that the romance doesn't overtake the story.  Lucy is her own person and makes her own decisions and Sean isn't consistently coming to her rescue.
The book also has a good plot.  Lucy and Sean find a body and Lucy needs to figure out who the murderer is so they dig deeper into the possible suspects to try to solve the crime.  During the investigation, Lucy also has trouble with the police because they want to know how she knows so much.  The plot has a few good twists and turns and the minor characters like Dovie, Em, and the lieutenant add to the fun of the story.  You can tell that these will be more prominent characters in future books.  One of my favorite minor characters was Raphael, who is the driver and who has known Lucy since she was three.  He calls her Uva (which means grape) because when she was little, she had such a meltdown, she looked as red as a grape.  She calls him Pasa (which means raisin) because when he was yelling at her during that meltdown, his face was squished like a raisin.  He isn't in the story much but you can tell he is a big part of her life.  I look forward to seeing more of him.  The end was a surprise to me which I also liked because I don't like a predictable story.
All in all, this was a fairly quick, light read that was fun but also included a mystery and some suspense/intrigue. The end was a surprise to me which I also liked because I don't like a predictable story. Is it deep?  Not at all. But I wasn't in the mood for deep.  I enjoyed it enough that I immediately grabbed the next book, Deeply Desperately, and I will be starting it today.  I have to say that I am looking forward to seeing what happens to Lucy next!  :)

Monday, November 18, 2013

Review: The Night is Forever

Synopsis from Barnes and Noble:
What happened here, on a historic ranch outside Nashville, during the Civil War? And what's happening now?
Olivia Gordon works at the Horse Farm, a facility that assists patients with mental and physical recovery; her specialty is animal therapy. She's always loved her job, always felt safe…until now.
People are dying, starting with the facility's founder, whose body is discovered in a ravine on the property—site of a massacre in 1862. And before every death, Liv sees a horse and rider, wearing a soldier's garb, in the night sky…. Warning? Omen? Or clue?
Liv calls in her cousin Malachi and his Krewe, an FBI unit of paranormal investigators, to discover the truth. New Krewe member Dustin Blake knows they need Liv's involvement in the case, yet he's worried about her safety. Because he and Liv quickly become more than colleagues…and he doesn't want to lose her to the endless night.
After finishing, The Night is Alive, I went right for the next book.  This time, our murder mystery is happening present day but we also learn a little bit about the civil war time period.  We see the characters from the last book, Malachi and Abby, but it is Malachi's cousin Olivia and agent Dustin Blake who are the main characters in this book.  
I liked this book, but not as much as the previous one, The Night is Alive.  I think I liked the history of the last book better with the pirates and the underground tunnels in Savannah.  This book had some Civil War era info. but it just didn't draw me in as much as The Night is Alive.  I did however, enjoy the characters more in this story. I didn't really connect with Malachi in the last book.  I couldn't get a clear picture of him in my mind and his personality wasn't overly impressive. Dustin seemed more real to me for some reason. 
The plot was interesting.  I wasn't able to figure out who the killer was until close to the end and that is always  good thing.  This book has a little bit of everything.  Murder mystery, suspense, a little action, romance, and some moments of humor as well.  Out of all of the Heather Graham books I have read, this trilogy is still my favorite.   

Friday, November 15, 2013

All Souls Trilogy Update!

After an incredibly long wait (in my opinion anyway), Deborah Harkness, author of the All Souls Trilogy, has put up news on her website about the third and final book titled, The Book of Life.  The first two books, A Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night, were incredible (again, in my opinion), rating in my top 25 books ever!  No official cover yet but I will be watching and waiting.  The book is set to release July 10, 2014.
My countdown begins!  
Click the book below to the Deborah Harkness website

Synopsis from
After traveling through time in Shadow of Night, the second book in Deborah Harkness’s enchanting series, historian and witch Diana Bishop and vampire scientist Matthew Clairmont return to the present to face new crises and old enemies. At Matthew’s ancestral home at Sept-Tours, they reunite with the cast of characters from A Discovery of Witches—with one significant exception. But the real threat to their future has yet to be revealed, and when it is, the search for Ashmole 782 and its missing pages takes on even more urgency. In the trilogy’s final volume, Harkness deepens her themes of power and passion, family and caring, past deeds and their present consequences. In ancestral homes and university laboratories, using ancient knowledge and modern science, from the hills of the Auvergne to the palaces of Venice and beyond, the couple at last learn what the witches discovered so many centuries ago.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Review: The Night is Alive

Heather Graham's series about the Krewe of Hunters continues with this installment. I really enjoyed this one. Read on...  :)
Overview from Barnes and Noble:
It's a city of beauty, history…hauntings. And one of the most haunted places in Savannah is a tavern called The Dragonslayer, built in the 1750s. The current owner, Gus Anderson, is a descendant of the original innkeeper and his pirate brother, Blue.
Gus summons his granddaughter, Abigail, home from Virginia, where she's studying at the FBI Academy. When she arrives, she's devastated to find him dead. Murdered. But Abby soon learns that Gus isn't the only one to meet a brutal and untimely end; there've been at least two other victims. Then Captain Blue Anderson starts making ghostly appearances, and the FBI's paranormal investigation unit, the Krewe of Hunters, sends in Agent Malachi Gordon.
Abby and Malachi have a similar ability to connect with the dead…and a similar stubbornness. Sparks immediately begin to fly—sparks of attraction and discord. But as the death toll rises, they have to trust each other or they, too, might find themselves among the dead haunting old Savannah!
My review:
There are several reasons why I enjoy Heather Graham's books so much.  First, I love ghost stories and it is hard to find a good ghost story these days.  She also has the historical element to all of her books, which I find to be both interesting and a lot of fun.  They are fairly easy reads and aren't usually more than 400 pages so you don't have to worry about an overload of details.  You begin reading, you learn some interesting history about the setting and background of the story, and the plot begins.  There are always interesting characters, some romance between the two main characters, and I like guessing who the real criminal is before the end of the story.  Sure... there is an element of predictability in that the stories usually have happy endings and everything wraps up nicely but that is ok.  I always know I can rely on this author for an enjoyable read.
Something else I appreciate is that, although all of her books are about the Krewe of Hunters, the books are divided into smaller, "trilogies" and different characters are represented in each one.  Old characters do come back but the main characters are always new.  I think that helps keep the series from becoming tiresome.
In The Night is Alive, I especially loved the pirate theme.  The fact that there really are tunnels running under Savannah Georgia that were used in the 1800's and earlier by pirates and to bury yellow fever victims is fascinating.  I actually went on-line and there are YouTube videos and many articles about the tunnels so I learned a lot more about the tunnels.  It was so interesting to me how the author incorporated these elements into the story.
The characters in this book were of course beautiful to look at and conveniently single and drawn together as the story progresses but I don't think that this element took away from the book at all.  The romance wasn't overpowering, and the murder mystery kept me on my toes.  I didn't find myself bored at any time and didn't realize who the killer was until almost the end of the story.  I'm starting the next one, The Night is Forever, today. :)

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Review: Allegiant

Allegiant is the final installment in the Divergent trilogy, written by Veronica Roth.  I definitely have a few things to say about it, but first.... the synopsis from Barnes and Noble:

What if your whole world was a lie?
What if a single revelation—like a single choice—changed everything?
What if love and loyalty made you do things you never expected?
The explosive conclusion to Veronica Roth's #1 New York Times bestselling Divergent trilogy reveals the secrets of the dystopian world that has captivated millions of readers in Divergent and Insurgent.

First off, this book had me reading well into the night.  It was very good.  The point of view flips back and forth from Tris to Tobias with each chapter which actually worked really well.  I liked seeing his side of the story and the events still flowed smoothly.  It's funny because it seems to me like these two characters have almost switched personalities since the first book.  Tris now being the true risk taker and Tobias being more fearful and unsure of everything.  Their relationship however, grew and endured through the multiple problems/tragedies within the story and I was happy that they didn't give up on one another.  

I thought this book was the darkest of the three.  The plot begins where Insurgent left off and Tris is freed from prison by overcoming the truth serum and convincing Evelyn she is not a traitor.  Things in the city have not changed for the good.  There may not be factions any longer, but the factionless are in chaos and still unable to make their own decisions about how to live.  A group including Tris and Tobias decide to leave the city to see what it is like on the other side of the fence, hoping for something better, but what they find doesn't end up being much better than what they left behind.  In this story, many characters risked everything for what they believed was right.  Some were separated from their loved ones, and there were quite a few deaths, both good people and bad.   

That brings me to the end.  I don't believe in spoilers so I will not say anything about what happened except to say that I both loved and hated the ending at the same time.  I liked what the author did because I felt that one of the characters got the wish they have been dreaming of and it was fitting.  However, I hated the fact that I didn't get what I wanted as a reader.  That's all I will say for now... bring on the comments because I have a lot more to say but I don't want to put it here because it will ruin the story for those who haven't had the privilege of reading it yet... and it was a privilege.  I am sad that the story is over.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selections are (because I couldn't decide on just one):  

Hollow City (The sequel to Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children)
Publication date: January 2014
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children was the surprise best seller of 2011—an unprecedented mix of YA fantasy and vintage photography that enthralled readers and critics alike. Publishers Weekly called it “an enjoyable, eccentric read, distinguished by well-developed characters, a believable Welsh setting, and some very creepy monsters.”
This second novel begins in 1940, immediately after the first book ended. Having escaped Miss Peregrine’s island by the skin of their teeth, Jacob and his new friends must journey to London, the peculiar capital of the world. Along the way, they encounter new allies, a menagerie of peculiar animals, and other unexpected surprises.
Complete with dozens of newly discovered (and thoroughly mesmerizing) vintage photographs, this new adventure will delight readers of all ages.

City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare
Publication date: May 2014
The spellbinding, seductive finale to the bestselling Mortal Instruments series.
Darkness returns to the Shadowhunter world. As their society falls apart around them, Clary, Jace, Simon, and their friends must band together to fight the greatest evil the Nephilim have ever faced: Clary’s own brother. Nothing in the world can defeat him—must they journey to another world to find the chance? Lives will be lost, love sacrificed, and the whole world change in the sixth and last installment of the Mortal Instruments series!

Review: The House of Hades

Being a mom and a fourth grade teacher, plus a lover of fantasy and mythology, Percy Jackson is one of my all time favorite characters and I have read all of the books featuring his character.  I love this series almost as much as I loved the Harry Potter books.... almost.  :)

Synopsis from Barnes and Noble:
At the conclusion of The Mark of Athena, Annabeth and Percy tumble into a pit leading straight to the Underworld. The other five demigods have to put aside their grief and follow Percy's instructions to find the mortal side of the Doors of Death. If they can fight their way through the Gaea's forces, and Percy and Annabeth can survive the House of Hades, then the Seven will be able to seal the Doors from both sides and prevent the giants from raising Gaea. But, Leo wonders, if the Doors are sealed, how will Percy and Annabeth be able to escape?
They have no choice. If the demigods don't succeed, Gaea's armies will never die. They have no time. In about a month, the Romans will march on Camp Half-Blood. The stakes are higher than ever in this adventure that dives into the depths of Tartarus.
I was anxiously awaiting this book since there was such a cliffhanger in the last book.  I still really like the way the point of view changes every few chapters.  We get to see what's happening to each of the main characters in two to three different places until we get close to the end where everyone is together again fighting the final battles of the story.  No spoilers here so I won't say much but this book had, in my opinion, the perfect combination of personal back stories, action, and fun.  There were times when I laughed, when I was on the edge of my seat, and when I was empathizing with what the characters were going though.  I have my hunches about how the series will end just from how most stories go but I'm hoping that Rick Riordan still has a few surprises up his sleeve.  The next book can't come soon enough for me, but alas, I have to wait another year... 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Musing Monday

Musing Mondays asks you to muse about one of the following each week…
My choice for the week:
• Do you have a bookish rant? Something about books or reading (or the industry) that gets your ire up? Share it with us!
I'd like to muse about series books.  When reading a series with a continuing story, I love the cliff hanger endings that have me desperately waiting for the next book.  The Mortal Instruments series, the Divergent series, etc. I love putting the next installment on my wish list and watching the release dates get closer and closer.  I love thinking about all of the various ways the story could turn out and then seeing if any of my predictions become reality.  Then, there are the series books that have the same characters where each story builds on what you already know, but also have a unique plot of their own.  I love those too.  However, sometimes when a series continues on and on into the 6th, 15th, or sometimes even 20th or more book, I find myself asking, "When is enough enough?  When does it become too much of a good thing?" 

This is where I get frustrated.  There are a few series that I have devoured and then as they go on and on and on.... I've found myself becoming disappointed for several reasons.  The writing just isn't as original as it began and the stories become predictable.  Sometimes, the intensity is lost, whether it be within the relationships of the characters or the action/main event of the story.  It's like a balloon that is really full and fun to play with for the first few days and then it gradually starts to deflate and it just isn't any fun anymore and you wish it would go back to the way it was when you first got it.  I won't mention specific authors and, of course, this isn't always the case.  I've just had it happen several times and I have wished that I stopped reading before the series puttered out.  I often wonder if we would have enjoyed the 15th Harry Potter book as much as the first seven?

I'm in the middle of a few good series currently and I am hoping and praying that these immensely talented authors know when to stop and leave us with book series memories we will cherish forever.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Review: The Girl You Left Behind

I knew walking into this book that there would be an element of sadness to it so it took me a while to actually pick it up and start it.  When a story is too depressing, I get stuck feeling sad for days so I was hoping and praying that this wouldn't be the case.  I actually really enjoyed the book and was satisfied with the way it ended.  It is definitely a book that makes you think and realize that you shouldn't take the luxuries you have for granted.

Here is the synopsis from Barnes and Noble:
France, 1916:  Artist Edouard Lefevre leaves his young wife, Sophie, to fight at the front. When their small town falls to the Germans in the midst of World War I, Edouard’s portrait of Sophie draws the eye of the new Kommandant. As the officer’s dangerous obsession deepens, Sophie will risk everything—her family, her reputation, and her life—to see her husband again.
Almost a century later, Sophie’s portrait is given to Liv Halston by her young husband shortly before his sudden death. A chance encounter reveals the painting’s true worth, and a battle begins for who its legitimate owner is—putting Liv’s belief in what is right to the ultimate test.
One thing I really like about the story is that it wasn't predictable.  I never knew what would happen next.  I had hunches and theories but I was never sure and that kept me reading well into the night.  I also enjoyed how the author switched between past and present.  The main plot revolved around a portrait of Sophie when she had been in Paris with Edouard.  The portrait caused both pleasure and pain for Sophie in the past.  In the present, in is owned by Liv Halston, whose late husband gave it to her as a gift.  She loves the portrait and when a long lost Lefevre relative says it was stolen and tries to take her to court to get it back, Liv, like Sophie, is willing to make huge sacrifices.  Liv is also strong, but stubborn in my opinion.  The court case could cause her to lose everything but she won't give up.  I liked that about her but at the same time, I was frustrated with her at times for being so one sided and not realizing how much she has on the line.  She did smarten up toward the end and again, I thought I knew what would happen and I was mistaken and pleasantly surprised.
If you enjoyed Sarah's Key (which I did), you will like this story.  It definitely has its depressing moments but also some inspiring ones.  Sophie was an extremely strong character who took extreme risks to keep her family safe. She never gave up on her hope that she and her sister Helene would see their husbands again.  Helene was less confident and often leaned on Sophie for support but when the time came for it, she found the emotional strength she needed as well.  Edith, although not a huge character, was the one I felt the most emotionally attached to.  I wanted to know more about her life after Sophie was taken.  She was so young to have to deal with so much loss.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Review: The Liberator

The Liberator is the second Dante Walker novel, sequel to The Collector, both by Victoria Scott.

Synopsis from Barnes and Noble:
Dante has a shiny new cuff wrapped around his ankle. His new accessory comes straight from Big Guy himself and marks the former demon as a liberator. Despite his gritty past and bad boy ways, Dante Walker has been granted a second chance.
When Dante is given his first mission as a liberator to save the soul of seventeen-year-old Aspen, he knows he’s got this. But Aspen reminds him of the rebellious life he used to live and is making it difficult to resist sinful temptations. Though Dante is committed to living clean for his girlfriend Charlie, this dude’s been a playboy for far too long…and old demons die hard. 
With Charlie becoming the girl she was never able to be pre-makeover and Aspen showing him how delicious it feels to embrace his inner beast, Dante will have to go somewhere he never thought he’d return to in order to accomplish the impossible: save the girl he’s been assigned to, and keep the girl he loves.
My review:
I think this was a good book.  Not great, but good.  With regards to characters, Dante is the typical gorgeous male lead.  He's strong-willed, stubborn, and impulsive.  He is a little bit too sappy about his girlfriend Charlie in this book but otherwise, he is a winner and your typical hero who will face anything, even Hell, to keep Charlie safe.  Charlie herself grows a lot stronger in this book.  She is slowly accepting what is happening and learning to fight rather than cower and let everyone else to the work.  She is starting to stand her ground and I think this makes her a much more likable character.  We meet Aspen, who I didn't much care for at first, and ended up being one of my favorites.  Her tough angry exterior slowly fell away as the story continued and I was actually surprised when she made a huge sacrifice toward the end of the story.  All of the other characters are still a big part of the story too.  Blue, Max, Valery, Annabelle, and now Kraven, who has quite a large role this time around.
The story was basic for the most part, Dante and his friends protecting Charlie at all costs.  Dante gets another assignment however, and has to leave for a little while.  While he is gone, demons go after Charlie.  We find out that her soul is already in Hell and Dante decides to go get it.  They go to a training center to get ready for the journey.  When the story was close to ending, I was excited to see a cool plot twist that explained a lot and got me excited for the third installment.  As I said, the book was good but until this part, the third book wouldn't have been on my priority list.  I loved, however, the direction the author took at the end and so I will pick up the next one when it comes out to see what happens.  If you liked the first book, I say go ahead and read this one.  Once you get about three quarters of the way through, you will be happy you picked it up.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Review: Hotshot

I was super excited to read this because Julie Garwood's Buchanan family series were a lot of fun to read.  I don't however, have a whole lot to say about this installment in the series.

Here is the synopsis from Barnes and Noble:

Peyton Lockhart and her sisters have inherited Bishop’s Cove, a small, luxurious oceanfront resort, but it comes with a condition: The girls must run the resort for one year and show a profit—only then will they own it.
A graduate of a prestigious French culinary school, Peyton has just lost her job as a food critic. Out of work and in a bad place personally, a year doing something completely different sounds wonderful.
There are countless challenges and too many people who want to stop the sisters from succeeding. Among them are Peyton’s contentious cousins, who are outraged that they didn’t inherit the resort, as well as a powerful group of land developers who have been eyeing the coveted beachfront property.
It’s soon apparent to Peyton that their efforts are being sabotaged, but she refuses to let the threats scare her—until she’s nearly killed. She calls on her childhood friend and protector, Finn MacBain, now with the FBI, and asks for his help. He saved her life once; he can do it again.
My review: 
Not a favorite unfortunately.  I usually eat up every last detail in Garwood's books.  Mercy and Heartbreaker were in my top ten for last year and I read a lot of books so that was really saying something.  In Hotshot, I quickly found myself skipping pages and to be honest, it didn't make a difference.  The romance was rushed and predictable and although the plot had a lot of potential, it fell flat in my opinion.  I certainly hope that her next book is much better.  Oh well,  not every book can meet expectations I guess.  On to my next book.  :)

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Super Six Sunday

Super Six Sunday is an original bookish meme hosted at Bewitched Bookworms and inspired by “Top Ten Tuesday” from The Broke and The Bookish 

Super Six Books that made me cry. hard!

These books all had me bawling.  All of them dealing with loss of a loved one or personal tragedy and the overwhelming grief that goes with it.  Whether it be a human or an animal involved, I sob uncontrollably.  I have to go for a much lighter read next to get over it.  There are of course, so many more I could have added to this list but I chose the first six that came to mind.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Review: Origin

This is the fourth book in the Lux series.  If you've read the other books in the series, you know that the third book left the reader with a huge cliffhanger so I was so excited to get my hands on this one to see what happened next.

Synopsis of Origin from Barnes and Noble:
After the successful but disastrous raid on Mount Weather, he’s facing the impossible. Katy is gone. Taken. Everything becomes about finding her. Taking out anyone who stands in his way? Done. Burning down the whole world to save her? Gladly. Exposing his alien race to the world? With pleasure.
All Katy can do is survive. 
Surrounded by enemies, the only way she can come out of this is to adapt. After all, there are sides of Daedalus that don’t seem entirely crazy, but the group’s goals are frightening and the truths they speak even more disturbing. Who are the real bad guys? Daedalus? Mankind? Or the Luxen?
Together, they can face anything.  
But the most dangerous foe has been there all along, and when the truths are exposed and the lies come crumbling down, which side will Daemon and Katy be standing on? And will they even be together? 
My Review:
I wasn't disappointed.  If you have read my reviews before, you know that I get frustrated when the two main characters get torn apart over and over again.  Jennifer Armentrout doesn't do that.  Katy and Daemon were separated at the end of the last book but it wasn't for long and it didn't happen over and over. They got to face the other challenges in the story together.  Their relationship is strong and lasting and, even though Daemon got a bit sappy at times, I was glad they had each other for support.  They certainly needed it with everything that was happening!
Archer has quite a large role in this story and I really liked his character.  I had a hunch from the beginning when he was placed as Katy's guard that he would help her.  He didn't let me down.  However, in one scene where she is hurt pretty badly, he just lets it happen. I understood why he had to do it, but it still angered me that he didn't jump it to prevent it from happening.  When his true identity was revealed, I was glad he was on the right side. Although I love Dee and Dawson and Beth just as much as I did in the earlier books, Archer became one of my favorite characters in the series.  I hope we get to see much more of him.
As for the plot, I thought it was creative that the author used area 51 as a major setting.  It fit perfectly. Katy found out just what she was capable of and this produced a lot of conflicting emotions for her.  She did some things that she will always regret and some she will never regret.  Every character made life changing decisions and had to live with the results, good or bad.  There were definitely some dark moments in this book. Family came first no matter what the cost.
Introducing the Origin as this entirely different race brings about a lot of new possible paths for the series to take. Plus, without giving anything away, we have a big turn at the end that could change everything.  I predict that war is coming but it is impossible to tell yet who will be fighting on which side.  Now comes the long wait to the next book but I am just as excited for this one as I was for each of the others in the series.  Keep them coming!