You guys know that I'm a huge fan of Cassie's, so I can't even begin to describe my level of anxiety...more*Review posted on Page Turners Blog on 6/30/2014*
You guys know that I'm a huge fan of Cassie's, so I can't even begin to describe my level of anxiety in reading this final Mortal Insturments' story. Let's just say that using Spinal Tap's 1-10 amp scale, I hit 11.
I'm going to assume everyone's read the first 5 TMI books, so SPOILER WARNING, I may talk about things that happened in those, but I solemnly swear that I will not spoil City of Heavenly Fire for you. What I will say is that Cassie left no stone unturned. She gives us EVERYTHING, and I do mean EVERYTHING we wanted to see. All loose ends are tied up and then in those 725 pages, she gives us even more.
Reading the final installment of a long series is like leaving your friends at graduation. You're not sure what will happen to them after you go your separate ways. I was expecting a feeling of loss, but instead Cassie's writing gave me a feeling of satisfaction. Yes, there are the promised deaths, and plot twists that you DID NOT SEE coming, but there are these quiet, lovely moments between each of the characters that I didn't expect. And that's what makes this a long story. Those moments. I think that the one consistent criticism I read about City of Glass was that readers did not get a good dose of payoff for all the suffering (Jace and Clary especially) that occurred. Well, we get it here. There is lots of reflection on growth from all the characters, and it's in their point-of-view.
They are very different people from the characters we first met in City of Bones, but they are also very true to themselves. For those of us who missed the comedic moments that were lacking in City of Fallen Angels, oh my, is the snark ever back. It flies back and forth in their sharp-witted banter and it provides much relief from their serious task of finding and confronting Sebastian.
Do I have a criticism? Well, you know me, I can't read a story without the Red Edit Pen in My Head going "click" at least once, so let me try to do this without any spoilers. There is a major character who has a moment in the story (toward the end) that I thought was unnecessary. Sometimes, it's better if a character stays very defined and we don't see a blurring of lines. Okay, that was vague, but when you read it, I promise, you'll think, oh okay, THIS is what Sophie was a tad eye-rolly about. For me, the moment was unnecessary and it took away from the character's arc.
But overall, this last volume sits on my shelf proudly next to my Harry Potter series, because it is a pretty darn perfect example of a master story-teller at her finest. (less)
*Review posted on Mundie Moms on 8/1/2014 with a companion review of Shadow and Bone*
I find myself writing a lot about tension and stake in stories,...more*Review posted on Mundie Moms on 8/1/2014 with a companion review of Shadow and Bone*
I find myself writing a lot about tension and stake in stories, and from now on, I'm going to use Siege and Storm as an example of a second book that keeps you on the edge of your seat.
Alina and Mal escape the Darkling, but not for long. My darling Darkling is more wicked than ever and dreams of him being an anti-hero begin to slip away as I'm convinced he is an intimidating villain through and through. Blurring the hero issues, is a newcomer, the sea-worthy scoundrel, Strumhond. The dialogue between Alina and Strumhond snaps, crackles and pops and I found myself wanting more scenes with the two of them.
But, this story is about stakes and Alina's role as a saint and savior to a desperate population leaves me wondering will she be able to out-power the Darkling? See what I mean? TENSION.
I'm going to end the review with a fact. I read both books over two days. And I'm pretty sure you will, too. Now excuse me, while I go and read the last installment, because I'm pretty sure the Darkling doesn't like to be kept waiting. (less)
* Review posted on Page Turners Blog on 5/18/2014*
True confession: I sooooooo didn't want to read this book. I didn't want to read it for a...more* Review posted on Page Turners Blog on 5/18/2014*
True confession: I sooooooo didn't want to read this book. I didn't want to read it for all the reasons that may cause some of you to hesitate. Here are my top 3 reasons for waiting:
3) The Big C: Most of us have lost close friends or family members to cancer, and those of us who have, hate the Big C with a passion. I, personally, would love to see all cancers be a thing from the past. I'd like for them to survive only in history books.
2) Oh, Those Great Expectations: It's John Green, you guys. JOHN GREEN. I loved An Abundance of Katherines (I even made my freshman son read it, so I could have someone to talk to about it. And yes, yes he loved it as much as I did.) and I loved Paper Towns even more. Lately, I've read a few books that my fellow reviewers have gushed about, but they've left me lukewarm or downright not interested. Could JOHN GREEN (in my mind, his name must be emphasized if not shouted from the rooftops) write a cancer story that wouldn't leave me completely depressed, devastated or worst of all, disappointed?
1) All The Feels (I didn't want to feel): Ah yes, the real reason I didn't want to read TFioS. You guys, I'm a mom of three and that line where Hazel overhears her mom say that she would no longer be a mom if Hazel died (oh heck yes, I do read reviews of books I may not want to read)? Weeeeeeell, that was reason enough for me to avoid the book altogether. I admit I'm weak and that my mama-heart just couldn't handle that thought.
But one day while watching all the TFioS movie hoopla unfold, I thought to myself maybe I should check out the audiobook. And guess what? iTunes has it on sale during the month of May for only $5.95. I love a good bargain, so I purchased it and began listening.
Kate Rudd's voice captured all the nuances of Hazel from the very first page -- exhausted, exasperated, wanting-to-be-a-normal-teen. Oh, how I loved her acting. When Hazel noticed Gus at that first support group meeting, I think I sat up a little straighter, too. Wouldn't we all have noticed him? I think so.
Hazel's and Gus' love story is one that filled my heart with joy and then predictably (yet somehow gently) sucked the joy out leaving a more permanent sense of reality. JOHN GREEN, you capture those quiet moments so well. In fact, you incorporate an entire quiet subplot masterfully. When Hazel and Gus travel to Amsterdam to visit Hazel's favorite author, the gentleness of their developing love for each other is hopeful and doomed and just, gah, perfect.
And then John does what I think he does best. He ties up these plots and subplots in sweeping strokes of plot twists and turns until you are left with nothing but the last page. What a gorgeous story, and I am so very glad that I steeled my heart and read it.
For those of you who will purchase (or borrow from your library) the audiobook, you are in for an extra special treat. There is a short interview with John, at the end of the book, where he answers the questions most of us wanted to know (inspiration, process, ending, etc).
Now go on, I promise you if you read it, you'll be okay. Okay? Okay.(less)
*Reviewed on Mundie Moms as a Flashback Friday post on 5/16/2014*
For years now my close, bookwormish friends have recommended this series to me and ad...more*Reviewed on Mundie Moms as a Flashback Friday post on 5/16/2014*
For years now my close, bookwormish friends have recommended this series to me and advised me that I would fall in love with Cinda's writing. But somehow, I never did pick it up because all those shiny, new releases got in the way. And then one day, I tweeted a request for an outstanding audiobook recommendation, and sure enough The Demon King popped up again. I figured it was time to listen to this much recommended story.
And you know what? Those friends of mine were right. Cinda writes of a magical, fantasy world, but one whose characters you immediately recognize. Han, the former street lord of the Raggers, rough and right in his approach to just about everything. Yes I admit, I loved him right away.
But there's also Princess Raisa and oh, how I loved her. She is surrounded by all those expectations of what is "right for her", and with her character came the thing I love the most in these types of plots -- political intrigue.
Cinda's a master of surprise and while you may anticipate that a plot twist is coming, you won't be sure of it until it, BAM, hits you. The Demon King sits on my shelf alongside my favorite fantasy stories (think of Megan Whalen Turner's The Thief). Like a lot of first books with a large cast of characters, the plot is a bit slower, but I promise you that thanks to the wonderful narration of Carol Monda, you will keep all the characters straight and you will fall in love with both Han and Raisa. I finished the audiobook and immediately bought the second one. I need to know what happened next, and yes, yes, to all my bookish friends, you were so right, I did fall in love with Cinda's story. (less)
So here's the deal, you know that book that people, I mean close friends not just any ol' person, tell you about? A...more*Posted on Mundie Moms on 8/1/2014*
So here's the deal, you know that book that people, I mean close friends not just any ol' person, tell you about? And they go on and on and ON about how you should drop everything and read this now. You ignore them because you may be caught up in a Summer of Contemporary Reads, and you just aren't in the mood for fantasy of any kind. You want real stories with real people and you don't care that your friends are declaring themselves Team Whomever because your fangirlsh ways are on overload anyway. Ever been there? Well, that was me when Shadow and Bone came out.
Then early this summer, I looked at my shelves and thought, hmmm, I wonder if this story is good as an audiobook? I clicked over to iTunes and BAM, I was hooked.
Alina is a real person! Oh, is she ever. Barely healthy enough to be a cartographer in the army, and with her unit about to cross into the Shadow Fold, I was relating to her even before the moment where she (I'll keep it spoiler-free for people like me who aren't convinced to read it, yet) showed her true nature (how was that for being vague?). She is everything I adore in a heroine -- smart, stubborn and determined.
But wait, there's more. There's her fellow orphan, Mal, a loyal friend with a hero streak. And then there's the Darkling. Hello, Team Darkling (I obviously have room for more fandoms in my heart!).! A Machiavellian magician who stole this Mundie Mama's heart. Could he be the anti-hero of my dreams? Time will tell.
A huge round of applause to Leigh for taking Slavic lore and customs and making them come alive in a fantasy setting. This is near and dear to my heritage, so I'm extremely happy at her well researched and vivid world-building skills. And the narrator, Lauren Fortgang, delivers the story in a straightforward manner without any dramatic overacting.
So, don't be like me and wait. The full trilogy is now out -- go and get it.(less)
I need to admit a few biases right now -- I love any plot having to do with love letters and sisters. As an only...more*Reviewed on Mundie Moms on 5/24/2014*
I need to admit a few biases right now -- I love any plot having to do with love letters and sisters. As an only child, I always wondered what it would be like to have an older or a younger sister, and Lara Jean has both. But, she also has a mom who died when her youngest sister was barely a toddler. Living in the perfect shadow of her older sister and in the proximity of her older sister's boyfriend, the boy-next-door Josh, makes life interesting for Lara Jean. Complicating the matter is the fact that her older sister has left for college and somehow the unsent letters to all of Lara Jean's crushes (including Josh) have been sent out.
Those of you who know my taste in books just gasped with me. I was hook-line-and-sinker-ed within the first few chapters. Jenny Han complicates and twists those family bonds so well that I felt like I could invite all the Song girls over for dinner and it would be like having old friends over for a drink. These girls know their roles -- the responsible oldest, the dreaming middle one and the pining-for-a-puppy youngest. But in Jenny's hands they are complex and completely three dimensional.
Jenny also handles that much maligned Love Triangle concept really well. I'm a fan of well executed love triangles, and I know even the biggest critics will love this one. As a reader, we are meant to fall in love with Josh, but Josh isn't always as dreamy a choice as he appears to be. Conversely, Peter (the big man on campus) isn't as stuck-up and jerk-ish as he appears to be. The blurring of these lines makes choices much more difficult and therefore much more realistic. I won't tell you who I was cheering for, but it may have to do with a certain boy in a hot tub who knows just the kind of donuts a certain girl likes. See? No spoilers.
Then there's Jenny's gorgeous phrasing and ability to convey the deepest sadness and disappointment as well as a poetic understanding of family ties. I think I highlighted more quotes in this story than I have in any other this year or last. Here's one of my favorites (from page 294):
When someone's been gone a long time, at first you save up all the things you want to tell them. You try to keep track of everything in your head. But it's like trying to hold on to a fistful of sand: all the little buts slip out of your hands, and then you're just clutching air and grit. That's why you can't save it all up like that.
Watching Lara Jean mature and step out of the spotlight of her older sister reminded me of so many of those "new chapter" moments in my own life. Those moments when I accepted changes, new people and yes, shocking developments. I'm placing this on my Share with the Kids bookshelf. In fact, I've already told my soon-to-be-sixth-grader about it. I have a feeling that she will love this story as much as her mama does. (less)
Sweet, awkward, determined-to-keep-losing-weight Neve is easily one of my favorite romance characters ever. Yup, EVER. Reviewers use words like "relatable", and DearEverything, is Neve ever relatable. I completely understood her desire to re-make herself for her college crush's return home. So as you can imagine, I fell in love with the concept of a "pancake relationship" (based on the fact that the first pancake is never perfect so you tend to throw it away).
Max could not be a more perfect pancake partner -- as he himself says it, (paraphrased) he's done everything you can imagine and probably twice. But trust me on this, when Max and Neve are together, their chemistry simply explodes off the page. And that, for me, makes for the best kind of storytelling.
Sarra has surprised me twice with the depth of her characters in deliciously plotted romances (my review of her YA story, Adorkable). There is so much more to both Max, and especially to Neve, than first meets the eye, and I enjoyed every reveal along the way. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I kept pestering Katie with texts and quotes from the story. Yes, I'm THAT pesky friend.
This is the perfect book to throw in your bag now that the weather is warming up and a lot of us are heading out to enjoy the great outdoors (oh, I know you guys are like me and always have a book nearby). But, here's a quick warning: you will have a desperate need to find out what happens next and if it ends the way you want it to end. Trust me on this -- desperate. So watch that clock carefully, you will lose track of time with story.(less)
When Rockstar Book Tours asked us if we would like to be a part of the Manor of Secrets blog tour, I m...more*Review posted on Page Turners Blog on 2/6/2014*
When Rockstar Book Tours asked us if we would like to be a part of the Manor of Secrets blog tour, I may have rushed to my pantry looking for scone ingredients. No, seriously, I loved Katherine's Gilt and Tarnish (5-star review), and I read those over a span of two days, so I felt that I had to get prepared with rations for a good, indulgent reading session.
Armed with a full teapot and some freshly baked scones, I began to read. All the things I loved about Katherine's prior two stories were there -- the carefully researched details and the delightful intrigue that only occurs when you mix two classes, the upstairs and the downstairs together, in the most delicious of plots.
I adored Charlotte and Janie. They were both head-strong, passionate and knew that their current situation was not what they ultimately wanted for themselves. And boy oh boy, can Katherine write a stolen moment of forbidden romance between Lady Charlotte and the footman, Lawrence who find themselves waltzing:
This wasn't a showy dance with quick turns. It didn't cover a lot of ground. It wasn't one where the girl could draw attention to the drape of her skirts or traverse an entire ballroom. It was intimate. Close. Delicious. She was just getting the hang of it -- the music building into the final measures -- when Lawrence stepped her into a spin. She turned beneath his arm, looking up into his face. His hand was light on hers against her stomach. His breath whispered on her cheek.
Katherine has an absolute talent in making a historical novel, with all of its richness of manners and class structure, come alive with moments that modern readers can enjoy. I will admit that what attracted me to the story was the Edwardian period and promises of a "Downton Abbey" feel to the plot. I can assure you that Katherine delivered just that.(less)
I know you guys are aware of my impatience with second books in a series, and I think some of you feel...more*Review posted on Page Turners Blog on 2/7/2014*
I know you guys are aware of my impatience with second books in a series, and I think some of you feel the same way. You see, they sometimes just seem to be a slow bridge to the last book of the series. But a second book in Cory's hands is never, ever going to be slow. In fact, the pacing in Pushed's plot is faster than that of its predecessor, Touched. Yes, it's that fast-paced. Cory does not let Remy rest for long. Having said that, if you've read the excerpt in today's PTB blog tour post, you know that she's written in these quiet moments of let's face it, absolute hotness. And I find myself falling in love with Remy and Asher all over again.
Okay, here comes the point where I need to decide whether or not to share spoilers, because there are some whoawhoawhoa moments in the story. I'll let you discover those on your own. Just realize you've been forewarned regarding action and yeah, "moments". I really hate keeping this spoiler-free, can you tell?
So with that, I'll let you know that Cory introduces some interesting new characters like Remy's grandfather and my favorite city, San Francisco. Her descriptions of the City by the Bay left me longing for a visit. But, as in Touched, the characters take center stage and you will feel so familiar with them that you'd expect to see them later in your day, rounding some corner and almost knocking you off your feet.
I can't seem to say this enough with this series (my 5-star review of Touched), if you love a well told paranormal tale, these characters and world-building will leave you longing for more. Fortunately, the final book in the series, Ignite, comes out in May. (less)
I wanted a HEA, fluffy, okay I'll admit it -- even predictable -- read. This was all that, and if would've worked for me had the pacing been tighter....moreI wanted a HEA, fluffy, okay I'll admit it -- even predictable -- read. This was all that, and if would've worked for me had the pacing been tighter. Lots of scenes seemed to be unnecessary and the story therefore dragged.
Love a famous-person-forced-to-be-a-normal-person trope, but this one didn't do it for me.(less)
I love spy plot lines, heck, I'm the mom who may have borrowed my son's Alex Rider books just to get...more*Review posted on Page Turners Blog on 9/10/2013*
I love spy plot lines, heck, I'm the mom who may have borrowed my son's Alex Rider books just to get a spy fix in and you guys know how I feel about Ally Carter's Gallagher Girls series as well as Talia Vance's Spies and Prejudice and Robin Benway's Also Known As. Well, if you've read all those books and have fallen into a YA reading lull with the usual array of urban fantasy/fantasy/coming-of-age contemps, please pick up Kat Carlton's Two Lies and a Spy. I have a feeling that you will enjoy it as much as I did.
My favorite spy stories have two things in common: extremely high stakes and a reliable team that surrounds the protagonist. This team is key because they must supply the spy with all the tools/information needed to discover the mastermind that's causing the main character grief. And Kat gives us both of these in spades. First, Kari's stakes couldn't be higher -- missing parents who are possible traitors. Lucky for Kari, her younger brother is quite the smarty-pants and her two best friends are a computer whiz and a martial arts expert. Then there is a small matter of the boy she's crushing on whose help she needs to break into CIA headquarters and oh yeah, the snarky Brit, Evan. If it seems like a lot of characters, well it is, and they are all necessary for this mission. And yes, if you're sniffing out a love triangle, there is one but it didn't bother me because I fell for it. I think you will, too.
Here's the best part that I can't tell you about -- yeah, there's a plot twist to end all plot twists and you know what? I loveloveloved it!
I'm thrilled that there will be a sequel because I definitely want to spend some more time with Kari and company. (less)
The Cold War era was a perfect setting for an unlikely romance. And for me, the unlikelier it is, the...more*Review posted on Page Turners Blog on 1/9/2014*
The Cold War era was a perfect setting for an unlikely romance. And for me, the unlikelier it is, the more I usually love it. This proved very true for Natalie Standiford's The Boy on the Bridge.
I was born behind the Iron Curtain (in what was Yugoslavia and is now Serbia), and although I was young when my parents came to the States, we returned often. I completely related to Natalie’s portrayal of the very different world of Soviet Russia. The mistrust in the air whenever anything foreign is spotted. The bleakness of everyday life when compared to our colorful consumerism. The one-sideness of the Soviet education system compared to our more generalized approach (although, a great argument can be made that both sides were heavy handed in the “our side is right” philosophy). There’s a beauty in the cold, desperate Soviet world that Natalie conveyed through her protagonist, Laura, the American exchange student who finds perhaps-maybe-it’s-love with the artistic Alyosha. Unfortunately, during the Cold War, a girl like Laura could never be sure if her U.S. passport was a ticket out for the boy with the sad eyes and the colorful friends.
I have to give Natalie huge props for pacing the natural push-pull of a forbidden romance so beautifully. And as always, she introduces secondary characters who are so real and quirky that you feel like you are walking in Laura’s shoes and that you’ve personally met them all. There are plenty of worrisome moments as Laura learns to trust her own instincts and one head-swivel of a moment when one character does something so very unexpected.
I loved this story so much. I completely fell for the melancholy bittersweetness of Laura and Alyosha’s is-it-or-is-it-not doomed love and I cheered for them, hoping that they could hold on to the moments of truth just a little bit longer. On her blog, Natalie has pictures of her actual experience in Soviet Russia when she was an exchange student there. I think she captured the mood of those pictures perfectly in The Boy on the Bridge.
This is the perfect winter read, full of hope and sadness and that unsettling feeling that you get when you're growing both older and wiser. (less)