The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith [thoughts]

The Geography of You and Me coverThe Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith
Goodreads | @ | www
Release Date: April 15th 2014
Publisher: Poppy
Series: none!

Goodreads description: Lucy and Owen meet somewhere between the tenth and eleventh floors of a New York City apartment building, on an elevator rendered useless by a citywide blackout. After they’re rescued, they spend a single night together, wandering the darkened streets and marveling at the rare appearance of stars above Manhattan. But once the power is restored, so is reality. Lucy soon moves to Edinburgh with her parents, while Owen heads out west with his father.

Lucy and Owen’s relationship plays out across the globe as they stay in touch through postcards, occasional e-mails, and — finally — a reunion in the city where they first met.

A carefully charted map of a long-distance relationship, Jennifer E. Smith’s new novel shows that the center of the world isn’t necessarily a place. It can be a person, too

I read The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight and liked-not-loved it, but The Geography of You and Me sounded interesting and I saw some love for it from Estelle (hm, she must write great reviews because I seem to link back to her a lot!) and I remember Gaby tweeting about it (but that’s a link to a post including it, because I’m too lazy to find the tweets) .

Lucy lives in a nice building in NYC. One day while in the elevator with a boy she’s seen around, a blackout hits and the elevator stalls. She’s stuck with a stranger-a cute one. They have very different stories and backgrounds, but they spend the day together and fall asleep on the roof. After the day, things go differently than planned but they keep thinking of one another.

If you were to ask me to describe this book in one word, I think I’d say “warm.” I really liked it, and even though I read some awesome reviews for it, I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did. But these two characters were real, with real issues, real ways of dealing with them, real emotions, and it made me smile and it made me hurt and holy run-on sentence, this is me gushing about this book! I really liked it.

Lucy loves her city but she’s lonely. Her twin brothers are off to college and her parents travel constantly. She doesn’t have any close friends and spends a lot of her time on the edges. When she meets E, she explains how sad this is in a way she’s never really had to face before. After the blackout, her parents kind of freak out about her being there alone and being stuck and trauma and invite her to come to Europe (London, actually). She’s excited, because she has always wanted to go on one of their trips. She opens up about some things with her parents and it changes things immensely. I really love books where characters actually talk out problems because sometimes life is like that and sometimes I just wish life was like that. It’s not always easy to say what you really mean, but sometimes when things are important to you, you can do it. And I really appreciate the movements made in this book on both parts. I loved how involved her parents were, and the discoveries you make later on about how assumptions guided silence for so long and how her mom was more observant than she expected and it made a huge difference for words to actually be spoken.

Owen and his dad are going through a tough time and figuring out how to make life work. They have to learn about each other and skirt some issues and eventually talk about important things. I really liked their relationship, but I don’t want to get as long about it. But it meant a lot to me that both Lucy and Owen were close with their parents and felt like it was important to make connections and talk to their parents.

And the relationship? I really liked that too. To me, it felt like an instant connection, because I don’t feel like either one of them thought it was love. It’s just like when you meet someone and spend some time with them and really enjoy them and keep thinking about them. It’s not love, but you’re connected. And they have a difficult time keeping up the connection, but they find some ways, and when they meet again it isn’t perfect, but it’s messy and real and the messy parts made me love the book all the more. I loved that they just kept thinking about each other while traveling and their connection was great.

4 star rating

I definitely want to read The Geography of You and Me again, and it’s going on my “buy” list. I really felt connected to it, even though both characters were very different from me and in different situations. It’s cute and sweet, but it is also so much more than that. It’s got depth and meaning, and it’s genuine and warm. It makes me want to revisit Statistical and give This is What Happy Looks Like and some of her other books a try. I really recommend this one to anyone. I’m sure it’s not for everyone and Jen E. Smith’s books seem to be kind of hit or miss, but I really liked this one! If you like contemps with real emotion and a genuine feeling, depth, growth, traveling and development, The Geography of You and Me might be for you!

 

Muckers by Sandra Neil Wallace [Review + Giveaway]

Muckers cover Muckers by Sandra Neil Wallace
Goodreads | Amazon
Release Date: October 8, 2013
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers


Description: Sandra Neil Wallace’s debut historical fiction novel Muckers is based on the true story of the 1950 Jerome Muckers football team and the championship season that rallied an Arizona town together and turned tragedy into a triumph.
The inspiring yet heartbreaking novel delves deep into the rocky terrain of a racially-divided town and a team whose world is suddenly upended, widening the rift between Anglos and Mexican Americans forced to choose between cohesion or rebellion.

Red O’Sullivan’s world is crumbling around him: the mine that employs most of town is on the brink of closing, threatening to shutter the entire town. Red will be part of the final graduating class of Hatley High School, but he’s got his own burdens to bear: his older brother, Bobby, died in the war, and he’s been struggling to follow in his footsteps ever since. That means assuming Bobby’s old position as quarterback, and leading the last-ever Muckers team to the championship. Maybe then his angry, broken-hearted father will acknowledge him, and they’ll be able to put Bobby’s death behind them.

While the Muckers are racially-united, their town is divided. Anglos live near the top of the mountain and Mexican Americans down below—where Red’s best friend Cruz lives, and Angie, who Red longs to be with. When the Communist scare threatens to tear the team apart, Red and the hardscrabble Muckers must find a way to go undefeated and win the state title.

Unforgettable characters fighting to make their mark on the field and in the world combine for a period novel that will spark dialogue on this timely subject.

TLC Book Tours

Disclaimer: I received a finished copy of Muckers from TLC Book Tours in exchange for my opinion.

I decided to read Muckers because the family issues sounded interesting, along with the idea of a team and town with racial issues uniting behind a diverse team.

I’m grew up in a small town in Oklahoma, where football is ridiculously important. I loved watching football in high school, but so much of it had to do with the fact that I knew the players and that games were a social event. I didn’t understand everything about the game, but I shared intense emotions and hope with the other members of the audience. I can understand how and why football was so important to the people in this town.

The Muckers are a team from a small mining town in Arizona. The town in the book is fictional, but the story is based on real events. The town revolves around and relies on the mine. The mining company owns most of the town and employs most of the residents. After WWII, things for the mining town aren’t looking so great economically. There are rumors that the mine might shut down and the residents will have no choice but to move to other towns.

Red tells the story in first person. His family is Irish. He’s had a hard time of it, he lost his brother in the war and his parents never recovered. His mom had a meltdown and is still in the hospital. His dad is important at the mine and an alcoholic. Red is kind of on his own. He has two close friends, Rabbit and Cruz. His brother was great at football, and Red has the potential to be great, too. The town knows that big changes are on the horizon, so they’re even more interested in a big win from the team, which adds more pressure to Red.

I liked Red a lot. He was going through a really rough and confusing time. He’s a leader for the team, and winning is important to him. He wants to measure up to his brother and make his parents proud. He also has to deal with ridiculous people accusing others of being communists, and Red can see how unfair it is. Red has grown up with the racism and unfairness in the town, and one of his best friends is Mexican. Red doesn’t understand why people act the way they do, and it’s frustratingly easy to relate to. Red works really hard for the team, the town, and his family. Red faces loss and hope, and it’s so easy to like him.

The team works so hard. They know the town might not have much longer, and if it ends they won’t be together anymore. They want something important and lasting to remember and take with them. The town wants the same thing and some of the adults probably want it more than the team does. I can’t imaging how stressful it would be to have to deal with a huge season of football while knowing your whole town might dissolve and you might be separated from your friends.

A slight issue I had with the book is that it would have been interesting and relevant to see the story from a POC’s perspective. Racism affected Cruz a lot more than Red, but you only see the racism from Red’s viewpoint. It’s still an important story, and Red has a lot of confusion about what happens which might help kids seeing the same things happen. Witnessing hard things is still difficult, especially when it’s someone you care about.

3 star rating

I enjoyed reading Muckers! It’s not something I would have picked to read on my own, but I was really invested in what happened to Red and the team! The game scenes were really intense and fun to read, I was hanging on every word. I was definitely pulling for Red and hoping for the best for him! I probably wouldn’t read this one again, but I would be really interested to read more of Sandra Neil Wallace’s work! Also notable: the book is BRIGHT orange, has a map of the town (which was really helpful to me), and has newspages from the town’s paper throughout the book, which definitely added to the smalltown feel! I would recommend Muckers if you enjoy intense sports situations, people coming together, and characters you can’t help but root for.

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If you’re still not convinced, you might check out the rest of the tour and visit Sandra at www.sandraneilwallace.com and on Facebook and Twitter.

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Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen [book review]

Scarlet coverScarlet by A.C.Gaughen
Goodreads | Book Depository | Amazon
Release Date: February 14th 2012
Publisher: Walker Childrens
Series: Scarlet #1

Goodreads description: Many readers know the tale of Robin Hood, but they will be swept away by this new version full of action, secrets, and romance.

Posing as one of Robin Hood’s thieves to avoid the wrath of the evil Thief Taker Lord Gisbourne, Scarlet has kept her identity secret from all of Nottinghamshire. Only the Hood and his band know the truth: the agile thief posing as a whip of a boy is actually a fearless young woman with a secret past. Helping the people of Nottingham outwit the corrupt Sheriff of Nottingham could cost Scarlet her life as Gisbourne closes in.

It’s only her fierce loyalty to Robin—whose quick smiles and sharp temper have the rare power to unsettle her—that keeps Scarlet going and makes this fight worth dying for.

I have been wanting to read Scarlet since I heard about it. I’m not sure why I kept forgetting to pick it up. Lately, I’ve seen the sequel mentioned and that made me want to bump it up on my TBR list.

Scarlet is a female member of Robin Hood’s band of outlaws. Everyone outside of the group and not in the know calls her Will Scarlet and thinks she’s just another merry man. They know Scarlet is strong, fast, and capable. They know Scarlet steals from the rich to feed the poor and that Robin trusts Scarlet. They don’t know Scarlet wraps her chest, has long hair, and wears dresses to church each week.

The band is trying to save the over-taxed people of Nottingham from the Sheriff and Prince John’s evil schemes. Most of the details are the same: Robin is an earl, he went to the Middle East and fought in the Crusades with King Richard, and when he came home his lands and title were no longer his and the people that relied on him were being mistreated. He gathers a crew and they try to feed the people and fight the oppressors. In this story, Lord Guisborne is a thieftaker who has come to rid the Sheriff of his thief problem.

Scarlet is such a great character. She is smart and skilled. She has knives, she can climb, and she’s the most capable thief of the group. She’s also kind and she wants to help people. She pretends to be a male member of the gang, but she’s still feminine. I love that she liked having long hair. A lot of times when there’s a strong female warrior type, they seem to have to leave girlish aspects behing. I like that Scarlet got to keep hers.  She also had postive and understanding views of other women which is so nice to see. Especially in a historical fiction, and even more so because Scarlet goes to church. I also liked that she went to church, it felt realistic for her character.

“I suppose you want me to say what a tart she is. Or you are? But really, every time you climb in her window, you make her think that’s all she’s good for. Bess is a nice girl.”

Scarlet also has a secret past that nobody in the band knows. I feel likst I should have figured the twist out because when I read it I felt like it should have been really obvious. However, I think I was just enjoying the book so much I didn’t need to try to guess things, if that makes sense. I think it might be easy for most people to guess, but I don’t think it would be very disappointing if you figure it out before the reveal. I liked what it ended up being and it made a lot of sense for the story. Some of the reactions after certain characters found out all of it were annoying, but that’s another thing.

I had issues with the romance of the book. There’s a bit of a triangle and I thought it was unnecessary. Some of it was just awkward. I feel like one of the guys was just there to generate jealousy for the other one. I did like Scarlet’s sort of exploratory sense of dealing with the situation. I liked that she was never ashamed of her feelings and that she stood up for herself when the guys were trying to boss her around or be too protective. I really loved her views on so many things and I really just love her as a character. I actually did like the “real” romance a lot, too.

I was slightly disappointed by some of Robin’s behavior. He wasn’t completely awful, but he had some typical male views for the time period. It makes sense that someone from his background might feel that way, but he is an outlaw and he is usually portrayed as kind in modern tales. Sure, he has is issues and anger, but he’s trying to help his people, which is something he doesn’t have to do. I think his personal feelings cause him to say some things he might not actually mean, which everyone does, but it felt weak for him. I wish he would have used a different tactic, I guess. It wasn’t a huge deal, but it was a deal, if you know what I mean!

4 star rating

Scarlet was lovely. I love the girl, I love the world. I want more! I had a few issues, but overall I loved it. I borrowed this from the library but I definitely want to buy a copy as soon as I can. I will definitely be reading Lady Thief and the rest of the series! I recommend it to everyone but especially if you love females kicking ass while maintaining feminity and putting up with a merry band of outlaws.

Check out A.C.Gaughen‘s website and twitter!

Do you have any Robin Hood recs? I heard from Christina at You Book Me All Night Long that Robin McKinley’s The Outlaws of Sherwood is amazing. I’ve watched a lot of Robin Hood movies and the BBC show (where Harry Lloyd, my pretty, plays Will Scarlet) but I haven’t actually read much. Scarlet did have a list in the back of it, but I forgot to note them and I’d like recs I know people have enjoyed! 

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig [book review]

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation coverThe Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig 
Goodreads | Book Depository | Amazon
Release Date: December 27th 2006
Publisher: New American Library
Series: Pink Carnation #1

Goodreads description: Deciding that true romantic heroes are a thing of the past, Eloise Kelly, an intelligent American who always manages to wear her Jimmy Choo suede boots on the day it rains, leaves Harvard’s Widener Library bound for England to finish her dissertation on the dashing pair of spies the Scarlet Pimpernel and the Purple Gentian. What she discovers is something the finest historians have missed: a secret history that begins with a letter dated 1803. Eloise has found the secret history of the Pink Carnation the most elusive spy of all time, the spy who single-handedly saved England from Napoleon’s invasion.

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, a wildly imaginative and highly adventurous debut, opens with the story of a modern-day heroine but soon becomes a book within a book. Eloise Kelly settles in to read the secret history hoping to unmask the Pink Carnation’s identity, but before she can make this discovery, she uncovers a passionate romance within the pages of the secret history that almost threw off the course of world events. How did the Pink Carnation save England? What became of the Scarlet Pimpernel and the Purple Gentian? And will Eloise Kelly find a hero of her own?

I’ve been wanting to read The Secret History of the Pink Carnation and the series for a few years and it’s been an off and on interest that I never got to. I saw it at the library when I was picking out books for Bout of Books and immediately picked it up! I had forgotten/confused the premise a little, I knew it had to do with secrets (ha), spies, and history but I think I merged it with something else, too.

Eloise is a Harvard grad student in London researching spies in wars between England and France around and after the French Revolution. The Scarlet Pimpernel and the Purple Gentian are well-known examples but the Pink Carnation is still a mystery. The former two were exposed and written about at length, but nobody ever named the Pink Carnation. In Eloise’s eyes, the Pink Carnation was the best of them all and the most romantic. She seeks the mystery behind the mask and hopes to share it with the world.

I love history and I think it has a lot to do with how nosy I am. I like knowing people’s business and history is all about the lives of others. There were people in the past that did important things that affect us today and they had friends and loves and pets and houses and I need to know about them all! Didn’t they know people in the future would need to know about their life? I mean, seriously! Eloise’s interest in a specific figure in history wasn’t an exact situation I’ve been through but I could definitely understand her drive. She’s been through a lame break up and there’s a dashing masked man she can get to know. The only problem (besides him not being alive) is that nobody knows his true identity. She names her paper something more vague and pretends to research all of the spies at the time and begins inquiring with the descendants of known spies families. She hits some blocks and then finds the break she needs and reads the letters about Amy, a young woman who left France before the Revolution and Richard, the Purple Gentian.

I liked that all the information Eloise read in the letters were interpreted into a story instead of the story being epistolary. I don’t mind letters in books but I’m not a huge fan of books that are written only in letter form. There were some things that made me wonder how it was put together and what must have been included in letters. The history part of the story is in third person so you get to see inside their heads and it’s usually Richard or Amy. There are some things, like love scenes, that I wasn’t sure how they would have been written about in detail but maybe they didn’t mind sharing things like that, I don’t know. I’m sure people did write about physical happenings sometimes, so perhaps it all fits but I’m not completely sold. I enjoyed the way it was written, but there were some things that didn’t seem like they would have been easily translated from letters.

I enjoyed that the story incorporates Eloise and the modern-day story of her discovery and feelings along with the actual accounts of the Pink Carnation. I wasn’t sure going in how it would work out, but Willig did it well. It wasn’t exactly balanced, the story is more about Eloise’s discovery of the Pink Carnation so there’s more about that story than Eloise’s own story. Eloise’s part is told in first person and it was nice to get into her personal and quirky thoughts. It was a little weird to flip between first and third sometimes, but it doesn’t change often enough to be a huge problem. I liked both stories and every time it switched to one I was reluctant to let go of the story I was currently reading!

The story of the Pink Carnation isn’t exactly thrilling but I did find it enjoyable. The romance is similar to most others, which doesn’t make it bad. Amy and Richard start out bickering and there are obstacles but it is a pretty basic situation. There were some amusing side characters like Richard’s mother and some of his colleagues in masked business. The mystery aspect was not exciting for me. There are a few twists, but nothing is surprising. Some things in the story are more shocking to Eloise because of her preconceived views of the story as a whole, and her reaction to the story was entertaining.

I did like Eloise and enjoyed her story more than I expected to. It seemed funny to me that I like the modern part of the story so much. Eloise was enthusiastic and really cared about her subject of study. I enjoyed her interactions with Colin, the surly descendant of the Purple Gentian and Arabella, his aunt. There is definitely chemistry between Eloise and Colin along with antagonism, which is great. I’ve already read the second book so I know Eloise’s story and interactions with Colin continue in the next book but I’m guessing the modern story is strung out to keep you interested. I am, and I’m impatient!

3 star rating

I enjoyed The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, but I don’t think it was amazing. The premise is interesting and characters are okay, but the mystery and plot fails to wow. I’m glad I read it and do plan to continue the series. Thankfully my library has e-copies of most of them (or maybe all, I’m not even sure how many there are!). I have already read the second book in the series and I actually think I enjoyed it more. I’ll read the rest of the series for as long as I’m interested. I probably won’t review each book in the series, but I might do a series/wrap-up sort of post at some point. I would recommend The Secret History of the Pink Carnation if you like: romance, spies, and silliness. 

Check out Lauren Willig‘s website!

Review: Shiloh by Helena Sorenson

Shiloh coverShiloh by Helena Sorenson
Goodreads | Amazon
Release Date: April 16th 2013
Publisher: MyInkBooks.com
Series: I think it’s the first book in a series.

Goodreads description: In a world of perpetual darkness, a boy is born who wields remarkable power over fire. Amos is no more than seven when he kills a Shadow Wolf and becomes a legend in Shiloh. He would be destined for great things were it not for the stories his father tells about a world beyond the Shadow and a time before the Shadow. Only madmen hold to such tales, and in Shiloh, they have always come to bad ends.

Amos is fearless. He walks with easy confidence, certain that the Shadow cannot touch him. Even his family is in awe of him. His father marvels at his skill with the bow, his mother thanks the gods that he has all the courage she lacks, and his sister, Phebe, worships him for saving her from an attack of the Shadow Cats.

On a trip to the village of Emmerich, Amos rescues the Magistrate’s son, Simeon, from the village bullies. Simeon, fair-skinned and pale-eyed like other Dreamers in Shiloh’s history, becomes Amos’s constant companion and dearest friend. Simeon becomes a part of Amos’s family, listening to fireside stories told in a way he’s never heard them before and learning to wield a bow and arrow.

The year the boys turn twelve, they are itching to prove themselves. An impetuous plan to steal a beautiful lantern goes miserably awry, and the lantern’s owner prophecies that Amos will be devoured by the Shadow. For the first time, a seed of fear is planted in Amos’s mind, and when his father is killed by a Shadow Wolf on the last day of the Great Hunt, the fear takes hold. If so great and brave a man as his father could fall to the Shadow, what hope has he?

Buy your copy of Shiloh today to find out more …

I received a finished eBook for review from the publisher.

Shiloh is a world of darkness, of the Shadow. There are stories of light beyond the Shadow: a lantern in the sky, or stars at night. To most, these stories are foolish and inconceivable. The people of Shiloh have only known darkness.

In Shiloh, Amos is a legend for killing a Shadow Wolf when he was only seven. However, as amazing and fearless as young Amos is, his family is still different. His father Abner has strange beliefs in old tales of lights. Wynn is his worried mother, and his sister Phebe is scarred from a Shadow Cat attack. Amos befriends another outsider named Simeon from cruel village children. They become fast friends and Simeon sort of becomes part of the family. Simeon grows to believe the stories Abner tells. He is meek and in awe of how fearless Amos is.

When Amos and Simeon are twelve, they are excited to finally get to go on the Great Hunt. Unfortunately, Abner is killed by a Shadow Wolf and it changes everything (note: this is in the description so I’m not really spoiling here). Amos changes completely and becomes afraid for the first time in his life. He’s approached by a dark man who leads him down a dark path.

I think of this story as having three parts: when the boys are young and they meet, when they’re twelve and the hunt happens, and after the hunt. A lot of the story feels like setup for the rest of the story. Important information is given, but it seems like a lot of telling until Abner dies. It was interesting but it also felt slow. A lot happened, but it also felt like I was waiting for something to happen. There were a few times I had to push to keep reading, but I’m glad I did. There’s a lot more actions after the hunt.

Amos is frustrating and I wasn’t a fan. After his father dies, he’s in turmoil and lets everything he knows fall into darkness. He gives up hope and leaves his home and family. He’s gone for over five years and when he comes back, he isn’t pleasant. He hurts someone emotionally which leads to something awful. Then he just snaps out of it and feels bad. It was strange how easy his remorse came after spending so much time in anger.

There’s also Isolde, from another clan. She’s heard stories of Amos and the old stories. She’s unhappy and wants more for life, so she goes out on her own. She sort of roams and adventures looking for Valour’s Glass, an important lost relic. She also shows up right at the opportune moment to go on a quest with Amos and Simeon. It was kind of random that she just showed up. I think it would have made more sense if she’d been there earlier and met them before. She was a strong character and she was frustrated with men being in charge of her life, so she was likable.

Simeon and Phebe were my favorite of the four main characters. Simeon is so timid when he’s small but he works hard and grows up strong. He also seems very kind and determined. Phebe is disfigured and lonely, but she still sings on. She still has hope.

My favorite part of the story was the lore. The creation story was unique and I loved it: “Whenever one of the Immortals (for so they came to be called) saw in another Immortal an image that matched something in his own mind, that image came to life.” The Night Weavers were creepy things that came when one was feeling extremely depressed and vulnerable. Shadow Wolves and Shadow Cats are fierce animals hunting the people of the world. Darkness is a common theme, but for everything to be darkness? The world is dark, how do they see? How do they function? It was difficult to grasp but I liked it. I liked the hope that some of the people had. I loved that they were light themselves.

I feel like the people are complacent to the darkness, but they also seem to be waiting for something else. They’re skeptical of the stories but maybe they are reluctant to hope for something better. Their lives are difficult and I think they want something more but the thought of any change is frightening. Perhaps hope is crushing because of how unlikely it seems. They have so much to fear and it seems like it would be easy to ridicule people who are brave enough to believe in a completely better life.

3 star rating

I enjoyed this book. There were issues but there was a lot to enjoy about the story. It kept drawing my thoughts back to it when I was doing other things. I’m pretty sure Sorenson has more books planned in this world, and I am very interested in reading them. I recommend this if you’re looking to take a chance on something different; it’s not for everyone but it might be for you!

Check out Helena Sorenson‘s website and twitter!

Siege and Storm cover

Book Review: Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo

Siege and Storm coverSiege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo
Goodreads | Book Depository | Amazon
Release Date: June 4th 2013
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Series: The Grisha #2

Goodreads description: Darkness never dies.

Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land. She finds starting new is not easy while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. She can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long.

The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her–or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm

I read Shadow and Bone when it came out. I liked it but I didn’t love it as much as everyone else did. I remember liking Mal and kind of liking The Darkling. It must have been a bad mood thing because I reread it before I read Siege and Storm and I enjoyed it more this time. I also enjoyed Siege and Storm a lot! This review is kind of vague because I don’t want to spoil anyone!

Alina and Mal are on the run after the huge rumble in the Fold. They’re trying to remain incognito while regrouping and deciding what to do next. It works until it doesn’t. Then they have to figure out how to stop The Darkling and save the country. Easy shmeasy, right?

Alina and Mal have this connection. They were there for each other when they had nobody else. When they were orphans, they weren’t important to the people who took care of them. They were tolerated. In each other they found someone to feel something for and an actual attachment. They’ve been separated, and they missed that attachment. They keep wanting to help one another and to save one another. I love that. They have issues in this book and struggle to hold on to the connection they both want to keep. I love the push and pull of their relationship and Mal makes me swoon.

Alina has all this power that she doesn’t fully understand. She’s not sure what she wants to do with it or what she wants to want to do with it. It would be awesome if she wanted to help people and be a genuinely good person and she knows that. A part of her just wants to take the power and go crazy with it, but she isn’t sure she wants to want that. Girl is confused and understandably so. When she understood her powers for the first time and learned to use them, they made her feel whole. She knows her abilities can cause corruption, but there are other uses for them, too. It’s frustrating but important to watch her reason out her feelings and try to find the right path for herself and perhaps for everyone in the country. Alina is an easy heroine for me to pull for because she’s so vulnerable but she’s also selfish. I love watching her want.

“I looked up at the star-filled sky. The night was velvety black and strewn with jewels. The hunger struck me suddenly. I want them, I thought. All that light, all that power. I want it all.”

Sturmhond is such a great addition to this book! I enjoyed him. He is charismatic and irresistible! I’d heard a lot of good things about him before I read the book and I was kind of expecting to not like him, but I was pleasantly surprised! He is a bit smarmy and can lay it on pretty thick, but he’s also multi-faceted and surprising. Hidden depths might be a cliché, but it definitely applies! I also enjoyed the twins Tolya and Tamar! They were both awesome, tough, and so much fun to read about.

Meanwhile, The Darkling is still creepily intriguing. He lost a lot of his allure for me this time around, but he’s still a captivating character. He’s unhinged and scary, and he wants to consume everything. The Grisha who followed him are kind of at a loss because of how much they believed that he wanted to save the country and make it better. Now they’re bewildered and don’t know where they stand.

A good thing (for me) about Alina’s triangular love interests is that Bardugo shows why she feels torn, and you can see that her desires are splintered. It isn’t just that she can’t make her mind up between some cute guys. There is a draw to each and she’s unsure about herself and what she wants. Even when she’s doing something I don’t like, I still understand her motivation and confusion, which is something I really like about the writing.

The religious aspect of the story completely fascinates me! I’m curious about the amplifiers and their connection to the Saints. There are so many questions, and I’m so excited to learn more. The pilgrims have put their hope in Alina as the Sun Summoner and as a savior, which is obviously overwhelming. Regardless of the origin of their beliefs, beliefs are a powerful thing. There’s so much potential power in the people and their faith in her.

There’s a lot of action in this book, but I did get a bit bored in the last part of the book. Maybe it was just impatience, because I am very impatient. Alina was learning and preparing but sometimes it felt like nothing was happening. There was a lot of introspection, politics, and drama. Some of it I even liked, but I was still ready to pick up the pace. Luckily, the end sped up again and I was thrown into a dizzying, suspenseful turn of events. The end of this book is pretty incredible and left me wanting more!

4 star rating

I enjoyed Siege and Storm and I’m excited to read Ruin and Rising! I’m hoping for a good resolution, even if it isn’t exactly a happy one. I also hope Alina learns more about what she wants and who she is, what her motivation for power is and how she truly feels about Grisha. I would recommend this to anyone, even if you don’t like fantasy I think there’s plenty of real character interactions that will draw you into the story.

Check out Leigh Bardugo‘s website and twitter!

Review: The Break-Up Psychic by Emily Hemmer

The Break-Up Psychic coverThe Break-Up Psychic by Emily Hemmer
Goodreads | Amazon | Smashwords
Release Date: May 28th 2013
Publisher: Emily Hemmer
Series: Dangerously Dimpled #1

Goodreads description: Ellie has a bad habit of picking the wrong man; a cheating ex-boyfriend, a mild-mannered foot fetishist, and let’s not forget about the hillbilly with the impolite hard-on. But when Sam James, the oh-so-hot bad boy Ellie has sworn to stay away from, keeps turning up like a bad penny, she’s going to need more than her psychic senses to see what’s coming her way

The Break-Up Psychic sounded kind of cute when I read the description, so I thought I’d give it a shot. Sometimes you’re just in the mood for a certain thing and when you read a description it’s like “oh, that’s it!” In my opinion, the title doesn’t fit because there’s no psychic activity going on, it’s more like intuition. I guess psychic sounds better!

Ellie is fun and flawed. She’s got daddy issues that affects her relationship intuition and ability to trust. She is very suspicious and always listening for “psychic” powers to warn her that a guy isn’t on the level. She can “spot a breakup coming days, even weeks ahead of time” — it’s a feeling. Lately, she’s been getting that feeling about Tim, her current boyfriend. He hasn’t done anything demonstrably terrible but he’s been buying a lot of flowers and lacks interest in foreplay, sending red flags.   

Unfortunately for Ellie, the signs are accurate, and she walks in on a rather heated er, interaction between Tim and the neighbor. Ellie is quick to call it quits but Tim wants another shot. The idiot mansplains that her suspicions drove him away. According to him, he made a mistake, but it was her lack of trust and paranoia that pushed him towards another woman  Wrong is wrong, but trust is an important part of any relationship. Ellie seems to fling her suspicions at guys, which causes problems. Obviously, being overly suspicious doesn’t make it okay for anyone to cheat, there are other ways to deal with the problem!

Ellie is jaded but she still wants a happily ever after, who doesn’t? She thinks going for a different kind of guy might be the answer. No more bad boys, just stable and boring guys. That should be easy, right? Ha! Soon after vowing to take a different path, she meets bad boy, Sam James. People warn her not to get involved with this guy. She tries to stay away from him, but after she meets him she starts seeing him everywhere. Plus, he is really hot so even though she made a vow, she doesn’t really want to stay away. BUT, she doesn’t know if she can trust him.

There were some things that bugged me: 

  • It wasn’t exactly instalove, but it was quick. I know that sometimes people fall in love fast and sometimes that works out. It wasn’t completely unbelievable in this story, but it’s still a little annoying.
  • One thing it seems like most romance books have is a “if you want me to stop, I need to know right now,” line. This always bugs me because sure, it’s uncomfortable if guys are ready and have to stop but who cares? If at any point during any kind of interaction a person decides they need to stop, it’s time to stop! So maybe the guys should say something like “It would be really nice to know if you want to stop now, but if at any point you need or want to stop, let me know. I’m a human being and I respect you so if you need to stop, it will be fine.” I know the characters aren’t trying to be jerks, but there’s always time to stop, guy who was enamored with her from the beginning!

Things I enjoyed:

  • Hilarious bad dates
  • Funny moments in general
  • Ellie has some great friends that look out for her.
  • Seriously steamy love scenes
  • Ellie makes realistic mistakes and works through her issues
  • I actually really liked that Ellie didn’t have a negative body image. She seems pretty confident about her body and happy with herself. I don’t mind reading about people with confidence issues or body image problems (and I can relate to them) but it was a nice change.

There was some cheesiness but it is a romance novel so that’s pretty much a given. I’d recommend it to someone wanting a hot, sweet, and funny contemporary read! Give a new author a shot!

4 star rating

Check out Emily Hemmer’s website and twitter, and she’s hosting a giveaway on Goodreads!

Pushing the Limits cover

Odd Reader Out: Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry

Odd Reader Out: That book everyone but me loves.

Pushing the Limits coverPushing the Limits by Katie McGarry
Goodreads | Book Depository | Amazon
Release Date: July 31st 2012
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Series: Pushing the Limits #1

Goodreads description:No one knows what happened the night Echo Emerson went from popular girl with jock boyfriend to gossiped-about outsider with “freaky” scars on her arms. Even Echo can’t remember the whole truth of that horrible night. All she knows is that she wants everything to go back to normal.But when Noah Hutchins, the smoking-hot, girl-using loner in the black leather jacket, explodes into her life with his tough attitude and surprising understanding, Echo’s world shifts in ways she could never have imagined. They should have nothing in common. And with the secrets they both keep, being together is pretty much impossible.

Yet the crazy attraction between them refuses to go away. And Echo has to ask herself just how far they can push the limits and what she’ll risk for the one guy who might teach her how to love again.

Lately I’ve seen a lot of people reading and talking about Dare You To, so I thought I’d check out the first book in the series. I feel like the only person that didn’t connect with this book! I know I’m not the only one, but I do feel like I’m in the minority here.

This book centers on two troubled teens: Noah and Echo. Noah is a known bad boy at their high school, who only has one-night stands and is a known stoner. Echo is from a wealthy family and has good grades but people think she tried to kill herself. The reality is that Noah is in foster care and used to have a nice family and Echo didn’t cut herself but repressed the memory of what really happened. They meet through the school counselor because Noah needs tutoring and Echo needs money.

I disliked most of the characters in this book except for the main characters, and I didn’t love either of them. I don’t understand any of Echo’s friends and family. I know that there are horrible people in the world, but this made me so thankful for the people I have in my life. Even Echo’s best friend, who defends Echo from other horrible friends, doesn’t seem to really want to help her. Echo is going through so much and she seems so alone. It might be realistic, but good friends can be realistic, too.

I’m not sure about how they handled her repressed memories. I don’t know a lot about the subject, but everything that happens in the book seems so shady. The school counselor, Ms. Collins, at least wanted to help Echo. Her father didn’t tell her anything and I think he is one of the worst characters of the book. He just wanted to keep her in the dark, and even if he was doing it to protect her, it didn’t seem very healthy. The way the book regarded Echo’s mom’s bi-polar disorder seemed wrong, too.

While I did think there was some cuteness and hot scenes, Noah was so weird! Everything he thought and said about Echo was just cheesy. Calling her a siren and a nymph? What guy thinks like that? “I could think of plenty of things to do with Echo in a house alone. Hell, I’d fantasized about moments like this, but damn if she didn’t make me want to be a better man” – a quote from Noah’s mind, that just doesn’t feel realistic to me. I’m not trying to say all guys are dogs and no guy could ever genuinely want to be better for a girl, but his incredibly quick change from one-nighters to total devotion seems unrealistic. There was also some contrived conflict between Echo and Noah that can only be described as tired.

Personally, I didn’t enjoy this book and it made me feel uncomfortable. I did like Echo, and I felt frustrated on her behalf. I liked Noah, despite his weirdness, and how much he cared for his family. His persistence in getting what he wanted and not thinking out what was best was frustrating, but probably fitted the situation. I know people have difficult lives, but the way the issues were handled in this book made me uneasy. The suddenly happy ending where everyone learns a lesson and gets along didn’t seem to fit the story. I didn’t hate this book, but it wasn’t for me. I didn’t like Beth much but the Dare You To description does sound intriguing, so I’m not sure if I’ll pick it up or not.

two star rating

Dear Reader Friend, just because I didn’t like this book doesn’t mean you won’t love it! Check out Katie McGarry’s website and twitter!

Pushing the Limits cover

Review: Icons by Margaret Stohl

Icons coverIcons by Margaret Stohl
Goodreads | Book Depository | Amazon
Release Date: May 7th 2013
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Series: Icons #1

Goodreads description:Your heart beats only with their permission.

Everything changed on The Day. The day the windows shattered. The day the power stopped. The day Dol’s family dropped dead. The day Earth lost a war it didn’t know it was fighting.

Since then, Dol has lived a simple life in the countryside — safe from the shadow of the Icon and its terrifying power. Hiding from the one truth she can’t avoid.

She’s different. She survived. Why?

When Dol and her best friend, Ro, are captured and taken to the Embassy, off the coast of the sprawling metropolis once known as the City of Angels, they find only more questions. While Ro and fellow hostage Tima rage against their captors, Dol finds herself drawn to Lucas, the Ambassador’s privileged son. But the four teens are more alike than they might think, and the timing of their meeting isn’t a coincidence. It’s a conspiracy.

Within the Icon’s reach, Dol, Ro, Tima, and Lucas discover that their uncontrollable emotions — which they’ve always thought to be their greatest weaknesses — may actually be their greatest strengths.

There’s so much about Icons that I wanted to love. The concept is really interesting and aliens are always a plus. Unfortunately, the book felt disconnected and slightly messy to me.

Icons is set in the future and aliens are in charge. They came on 6/6 or “The Day” and dropped Icons into thirteen major cities which killed most of the residents. These cities are now known as Silent Cities. The aliens, known as the House of Lords, are mysterious. Nobody has seen them or knows much about them. They use the Icons to control the earth with electric pulses. Most of the human population lives in a concentrated area surrounding  mega-cities or in the country.

Doloria, also called Dol, was found by Padre in the ruins, a lone survivor in a silent city. Ro, her best friend, was found soon after. For some reason, the alien pulse that killed everyone else didn’t kill them. They both have strange dots on their wrists and strange abilities. Dol knows that she is different, she knows that she can feel things and there’s a reason why she’s still alive when so many aren’t. She knows she’s a Weeper and she can feel what others feel and read their minds. What she doesn’t know is why.

On her 17th birthday, Padre gives her a book. However, as with all stories, when one important thing happens, there’s a domino effect and this is when guards known as Sympas show up. They take Dol and Ro to former LA, now called “the Hole.” Along the way they meet Fortis, a merck/shady guy and Lucas, another dotted survivor who also happens to be the Ambassador’s son. The Ambassador is connected to the House of Lords.. They arrive at ambassador HQ and meet a scarily demented military official that is probably evil and wants to kill them all. There’s also Timora, the final dotted one and Icon Child. 

Our dotted friends have abilities that make them insusceptible to the alien technology. Dol is a Weeper, Ro is a Rager,Ti is a Freak, and  Lucas is a Lover. They all have powerful abilities. The Ambassador has been looking for them, there’s anti-Embassy propaganda about them, and the Rebellion believes they might be the answer to taking back Earth.

One thing that really bothered me was the timeline. I had no idea how much time passed in this book. I felt like Dol left and got to the Embassy then they were leaving and I never realized a day had passed. I didn’t really buy into any of the connections in the book, romantic or friendship. Dol and Ro grew up together, so it made sense that they were friends. The same goes with Ti and Lucas. At first Ti hates the new kids, but Lucas and Dol are drawn to each other. Dol doesn’t like Ti, but later, for no real reason, Dol and Ti are friends. They want the same things, but there wasn’t anything that helped them bond. The romance felt empty to me and in my opinion, there were more reasons against it than for it.

The girl examines me, up and down. “Start with her criminal record, Orwell. I’m guessing it’s lengthy.”
“I’ll start now.”
“Ti-mo-ra? I see why you’re so sensitive about names.” I shrug. I can’t resist
-Harsh burns between Icon girls.

There is so much going on in this book, but it kind of felt like nothing actually happened. It felt like a lot of setup. I didn’t love any of the characters, but I probably liked Ro the most. Out of everyone, he seemed the most honest. I wasn’t inspired by the resistance. I was interested in the Icon Children’s actual abilities and the aliens, but there wasn’t much information about either of those things. I understand the (silly) need to withhold details so you can spring them at readers later on in the series, but there wasn’t enough in book one to make me care about finding out later. I wouldn’t say this book was a complete waste of time, but I wouldn’t recommend it and I don’t plan on reading the rest of the series.

two star rating

Check out Margaret Stohl’s website and twitter!

The 5th Wave cover

Review: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

The 5th Wave coverThe 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
Goodreads | Book Depository | Amazon
Release Date: May 7th 2013
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Series: The Fifth Wave #1
Rating: 4.5 star rating

Goodreads description:After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.

Now, it’s the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth’s last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie’s only hope for rescuing her brother—or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up

Cassie is sixteen when the world changes. One day, seemingly out of nowhere, an alien ship shows up overhead. All attempts to communicate with the aliens are ignored. There’s an ominous waiting and then a sudden answer in the form of an EMP. This is the first wave. There are three more waves, diminishing the human population. Cassie feels like the only human alive.

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