Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award Tag

I was tagged for the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award by Sunny @ Blue Sky Bookshelf, Shae @ Shae Has Left The Room and Nicole @ Nicole's Novel Reads. That means I have 30 questions to answer! I actually don't know who started this meme, but all the credit of the idea to her.


  • Thank the blogger who nominated you and link back to their website.
  • Post the award's logo on your blog.
  • Answer the ten questions you have been asked.
  • Nominate 10 other bloggers and ask them 10 other questions. 

Questions from Sunny:

1. What YA book to movie adaption is your favorite?
Does Harry Potter count, even though it's technically MG? Because I'll always love those. All of them. I don't discriminate, even against the first two. I haven't see a lot of the adaptations this year though I really want to. I am a fan of The Hunger Games movies and Divergent was good too.

2. Do you listen to music while you read and if so, who's your go-to artist?
No. I like zero distractions when I'm reading. If there's anything going on around me, I will completely tune it out. I want to be fully in my head and in the story. This makes it difficult for me to read when other people/things are demanding my attention. 

3. What's the best book you read this year?
No way can I pick one here: I'll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios, Every Word by Ellie Marney, Lady Thief by AC Gaughen and Rites of Passage by Joy N. Hensely are all up there. 

4. What's your favorite and least favorite genre to read?
This is so hard, because I'll read anything if the story sounds good! I don't like text books? I guess I don't usually go for horror, or anything too gory. Though I might if the love story was worth it. Recently I've been reading more fantasy than contemporary and loving historical fantasy in particular.

5. What did you rate the last book you read and why? (DNFs count)
Four stars to Princess of Thorns by Stacey Jay. I thought I wouldn't like it, but ended up enjoying it so much! Mostly because the characters surprised me. They both made me angry, but their growth was incredible, and the swoon was nice too. :) It's not really a fairytale retelling though. 

6. Do you like reading outside or inside better?
I LOVE to read on the beach, but I rarely get to do that anymore, since I have little kids that I need to watch at all times. In the winter, I definitely want to be somewhere cozy inside. But I'm not picky. If I get a concentrated time to read, I'm happy!

7. Who's your favorite OTP? (one true pairing/fictional couple)
Remember when I said I can't pick just one? Some of my favorites are Froi and Quintana from The Lumatere Chronicles (actually all of Marchetta's couples. Jonah and Taylor are another type of Froi and Quintana). I will forever love Anne and Gilbert from Anne of Green Gables. Oh also, Sydney and Adrian from the Bloodlines series. And Mycroft and Watts from Every Breath! Now, I'm worried I'm forgetting someone important. See. I'm terrible at this. 

8. Gifs or no gifs in reviews?
No gifs. First, I have no idea how to use them. Second, honestly, I think the flashing is distracting. I typically ignore them when reading a review. I also don't like vlog reviews. I'd rather read the information than watch it. But I do love many bloggers who do gifs, and I'm always impressed with their ability to find comparison images.

9. Do you read more ebooks or physical copies?
Mixed. Some books I want to read in ebook and some in physical, but I get arcs and finished books all different ways.

10. What's one book you wish everyone would read?
I'm not sure I can think of one. It's definitely worth it to step out of your favorite genre and read a variety of things, but I recognize that not everyone is going to love every book. I'm not sure I could recommend one thing across the board. What I prefer is to make targeted suggestions. Though my Sunday School brain wants to shout the Bible! 

Questions from Shae:

1. What’s your favorite age category and genre?
I've been loving historical fantasy recently, but I don't think I have a forever favorite genre. I'm not sure about age either. I have been skewing towards YA recently, but I do love books about adults and younger children too. This is too hard. Sorry for the wishy washy answer!
2. If you could erase your memory and read one book again for the first time, which book would it be?
Such a good question! I'm going with Twilight. I LOVED that entire series when I first read it, but it has lost its shine and I think Bella is so annoying now. I'd like to go back and relive the magic again for the first time. Also, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
3.  If you could physically force everyone on Earth to read one book, what would it be?
See question 10 above. I admire people who believe so much in one book they will push it on anyone. Though I see reading as so subjective that this is hard for me to do personally. But I will blast my love for certain books to others I think will love them too! 
4. What was your nonfiction reading obsession as a kid?
I don't know if this counts, but I used to love the American Girl doll books, and was fascinated by the real history section at the end of each story. My favorite was Samantha who lived in the early 1900s. Basically, I've always loved history. 
5. If you could live (not visit, LIVE) in any other country except for the one you live in now, which country would it be and why?
Italy. I lived there in college for a semester and fell in love with the place and the culture. I love the idea of living somewhere that is so rich in history. You can be walking through the narrow streets of Rome and all of a sudden encounter something that was built over 2000 years ago. It was also then that I fell in love with town style living. Living in a place where you can walk anywhere, but also very quickly get out to the countryside. I lived in this town called Orvieto, where you could walk to the wall from anywhere and see the surrounding grape orchards, or go out into them if you wanted. Living in New England is like that in many ways, though less wine production and no renaissance art that isn't in a museum. I'm actually very happy where I live, except for the dead of winter.

Orvieto - original image source

6. If you could meet one LIVING author, who would you choose?
Melina Marchetta
7. If you could meet one DEAD author, who would you choose?
Jane Austen
8. If you could make one (ONE!) book boyfriend real, who would it be?
You see, I already have a man. So I'm not sure I'd want this book boyfriend to exist without his lady. I'm going to go with an out there guy though. I'd say Stephen Dene from Maureen Johnson's Shades of London series. In real life, I like those nice ones. But what I mostly want is for what happened to him at the end of the last book to not have happened. 
9. Name one weird and/or random thing that can be found in your room.
I don't think I have anything too crazy in there. Lots of books, of course. We do have a photo of my husband's grandfather and Ted Williams hanging on the wall. It's in a frame that includes a bunch of flies Williams tied. (They used to fly fish together in Canada.)
10. Describe an instance in which you were a reading/blogging black sheep.
Such a great question! I did not like ever popular Distance Between Us or Seraphina, both made me feel like a YA reading failure. 

Questions from Nicole:

1. What book would you recommend to your fellow book lovers? If the book is part of a series, you can include the series.
As I mentioned above, this has a lot to do with who you are. Right now I'm loving Anne Bishop's Others series, though. And I don't think you can go wrong with Melina Marchetta or Maggie Stiefvater. 

2. Who is your favorite author?
Some favorite authors: Melina Marchetta, Maggie Stiefvater, Jane Austen, Harper Lee, Megan Whalen Turner, Jandy Nelson.

3. Who is your most read author? Also, how many books have you read by the author?
According to Goodreads my most read authors are Julie Kagawa and Jennifer L. Armentrout. This sort of surprised me, though it probably shouldn't since both are very prolific. Sophie Kinsella comes in third. 12 + 12 + 11. The funny thing about JLA is there's a lot of her books I haven't read! 

4. Name 3 fictional places you would like to visit. 
Number 1 would be Thisby from The Scorpio Races. Of course I'd love to be a wizard and go to Hogwarts. I'd also love to visit Gen's world, though not during any scary war activity. 

5. What quote from a book will you never forget and why? 
I'm bad with quotes. We could even make that a bookish confession. I love reading on my kindle b/c I can highlight quotes, but I rarely remember them. There's nothing I can think of off the top of my head, though I know I was moved by many. 

6. What book can you read over and over again and never get tired of?
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.  That remains my favorite book. And wonder of wonders! It doesn't have any romance in it. 

7. What book made you cry?
I have a whole list HERE. But I don't think I've ever cried as much as I did reading The Kite Runner

8. List three book confessions.  
1) Sometimes I seek out spoilers or will read the last page in a book for my own sanity. I used to think this was a terrible thing. But knowing makes it easier to prepare myself, or avoid something all together. I've been burned too much by not being prepared.

2) I'm the ultimate mood reader. I have a very hard time forcing myself to read something I'm not feeling, or I've already decided I won't like based on trusted reviewers. This includes books for review. 

3) Besides love triangles, I actively avoid books with ghost/human relationships and bucket list plots.

9. When and why did you start blogging?  
I started blogging at the end of July 2012. I had done an Outlander read-along with a bunch of bloggers that summer, and the very generous Asheley @ Into the Hall of Books let me post my answers on her page. I loved being part of the readers community and that led me to starting my own blog. 

10. What are some of your favorite hobbies besides reading and blogging?
I don't have a lot of time for hobbies other than reading, which has always been my favorite. I have a busy family that takes up a lot of my time (which I love), and friends I get together with. I honestly, don't even have time for TV, because I've pretty much had to pick between that or reading/blogging. In the summer, I love being outside, biking or exploring places nearby. 

My nominees: 

Rachel/Jasprit @ The Reader's Den
Jenny @ Supernatural Snark
Mary @ The Book Swarm
Asheley @ Into the Hall of Books
Keertana @ Ivy Book bindings
Nick @ Nick's Book Blog
Carina @ Carina's Book Blog
Siiri @ Little Pieces of Imagination
Andi @ Andi's ABCS
(I realize all of you are busy this time of year, and I love you whether or not you make your own post xo)

I'm too lazy to think of more questions. You can just answer any 10 of the ones I answered above! Thank you Sunny, Shae and Nicole for your thoughtful bookish questions. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Sharing is Caring GIVEAWAY

Tis the season, and you know how it goes. The holidays start (earlier and earlier these days), and it is all about giving. Well, today it is time for me to give you to get! With the help of 19 other bloggers we bring to you, Book Nerds Unite, a Sharing is Caring giveaway.

It’s pretty easy to enter. Just click on the Rafflecopter link/widget and start following some great bloggers.  We are offering a first place prize of $150.00 Amazon or Barnes and Nobles gift card and a second place prize of $50.00 Amazon or Barnes and Nobles gift card. Whether or not you win the prize, you get to add some fabulous new blogs to your blog feeds. Good luck!

*Giveaway is US only. It runs from 11/24/14 to 12/11/14. Winners are selected at random. Please don’t mark a blog as followed if you haven’t in fact followed. All entries will be checked.
**Graphic by Rachel from Hello, Chelly

If the form doesn't show up, click, HERE

Friday, November 21, 2014

Early Review: Princess of Thorns by Stacey Jay

Princess of Thorns
by Stacey Jay
Read: November 16 - 19, 2014
Published: December 9, 2014 by Delacorte Press
Source: Netgalley (THANK YOU, Random House!)
Tags: YA fantasy, fairytales, ogres 

Find: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | The Book Depository  

Game of Thrones meets the Grimm's fairy tales in this twisted, fast-paced romantic fantasy-adventure about Sleeping Beauty's daughter, a warrior princess who must fight to reclaim her throne.

Though she looks like a mere mortal, Princess Aurora is a fairy blessed with enhanced strength, bravery, and mercy yet cursed to destroy the free will of any male who kisses her. Disguised as a boy, she enlists the help of the handsome but also cursed Prince Niklaas to fight legions of evil and free her brother from the ogre queen who stole Aurora's throne ten years ago.

Will Aurora triumph over evil and reach her brother before it's too late? Can Aurora and Niklaas break the curses that will otherwise forever keep them from finding their one true love?

My note: Please ignore the Game of Thrones reference in the title. I automatically disregard other literary comparisons, because I think they're confusing and not useful. 

Guess what, guys? I really liked this book a lot! Based on my feelings about the characters (well one) in the beginning of the story, and some early reviews I saw, I didn't expect to like Princess of Thorns as much as I did. A happy surprise, indeed! Also, don't believe everything you see, unless you read it for yourself. 

Princess Aurora is on a mission to rescue her brother Jor from the ogre queen who has captured him. It is not good that he's  been taken, since Aurora and her brother have been hiding for years from the evil Queen Ekeeta. She needs Aurora and Jor to fulfill a dark prophecy that will not benefit anyone but the ogres. This recent development is even more frustrating, because Aurora is the rightful heir to the throne. But instead of ruling, she and her brother have been hiding with the fairies for the past 10 years. Unfortunately, things go wrong almost immediately for Aurora once she sets out, as she's captured and drugged by slavers. 

This is the point where Prince Niklaas comes into the story He's on his own mission to find Aurora and convince her to marry him. He needs her to help defeat a curse that will all but destroy him when he turns 18. Aurora is dressed as a boy in armor when Niklaas encounters her, making him think she's really her brother Jor. Aurora has her reasons for not telling Niklaas the truth (partially due to her fairy gifts, or curses depending on how you look at them), and together they form an uneasy alliance. Their goal is to hire an army to help free the real Jor. Although Niklaas' version of their mission is slightly different, because he's not been clued into the fact the boy he's traveling with is really a girl.

Here's the thing. I despised Niklaas when I first met him. His views on women and constant boasting about his past conquests were off-putting to say the least. If I'd met him in real life, I wouldn't have gone anywhere near him. Thankfully, Aurora is equally turned off by his behavior. But this made his character growth so excellent to witness first hand. I was truly amazed by how my feelings changed about him from the first to the last pages. Plus it was so much fun watching Aurora challenge every one of his beliefs about girls, even when  Niklaas thought she was a boy and he didn't know it was happening. 

However, it's not only Niklaas who has some growing to do. Aurora also learns some tough lessons through this story. There was even a moment when I stated in my Goodreads updates, "Girl, I would punch you in the face if I could." I was so mad at her!! But all those strong emotions mean that I cared about this book and these characters. Truly, the strength of this book for me was in the characters and relationship between Aurora and Niklaas: how it developed and changed as they faced dangerous situations and had to learn to trust each other. Their constant banter was fun to read, but I really enjoyed the way they each grew up throughout the story. I also appreciated the way this book explores stereotypes and gender roles. I was challenged on both sides of that question, and in the end, really appreciated the moments that made me angry, because they also made me think.

On the other hand, I did think that the overall mythology was confusing, and I never fully grasped the ogre's mission. There were a lot of different magical elements put together in this story - in addition to ogres: a swan prince, fairy blessings, witches, even a brief Rapunzel reference. It was an interesting mashup of fantasy elements from various fairytales, though most of them were just side details (including the Sleeping Beaty connection). The basic plot of the story was also fairly simple. It is a quest of sorts, but it's straight forward if you break it down, and I wasn't surprised where it takes the characters in the end.

But even though I wasn't surprised where the characters end up, I wasn't expecting who they would be at the end, or how the specific events would play out. For that, Princess of Thorns has a strong and surprising ending that solidifies it along with Of Beast and Beauty as another great read from Stacey Jay. 

Love Triangle Factor: None
Cliffhanger Scale: Standalone!    

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

I can't wait to read these sequels!

TTT is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke & The Bookish

Top Ten* sequels I can't wait to read: 

*Because I just can't pick 10 this week, I'm going to list SEQUELS I'm anticipating in 5 categories* 

1) With covers:

A) Siren's Fury by Mary Weber - Storm Siren ended in a terrible cliffhanger. I must know what happens next! 

B) Golden Son by Pierce Brown - After the end of Red Rising, I'm eager to find out what crazy things Darrow does in the sequel.

C) Of Dreams and Rust by Sarah Fine - I'm excited for more of Wen and Melik's story. No love triangles please! (Thoughts on Of Metal and Wishes)

D) The Ruby Circle by Richelle Mead - I'm desperate for the conclusion of Adrian and Sydney's story. I LOVE them so. (Thoughts on Silver Shadows)

E) Every Move by Ellie Marney - Another of my MOST MOST anticipated. Every Breath & Every Move were surprising Aussie favorites this year. 

F) Lion Heart by A.C. GaughenLady Thief was one of my favorite sequels this year, but it ended on another terrible cliffy. Will Scarlet and Rob be okay? I must know!

G) The Heart of Betrayal by Mary E. Pearson - This is probably the one I'm most nervous about. I reeeaallllyyyyy hope this doesn't have a love triangle. I might have to strike it from my list if so. (Thoughts on The Kiss of Deception)

H) Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke by Anne Blankman - I loved Prisoner of Night and Fog, but it was a tough time period to read about. I'm so worried for Gretchen and Daniel! 

(Images of the previous book in the series)

2) No covers: 

A) Burn by Paula Weston - I love The Rephaim series, and I'm incredibly excited/nervous for how everything will come together in the end. Gaby + Rafa = LOVE

B) Winter by Marissa Meyer - After Cress, so much is at stake for these characters. Scarlet and Wolf are my #1 concern, though!!

C) Trail of Tears by Josephine Angelini - I enjoyed Trial By Fire so much this year, and I really want to love the sequel just as much. PLEASE!

(Images of the previous book in the series)

3) No cover or title:

A) Raven Cycle #4 by Maggie Stiefvater - OBVIOUSLY. Oh, but GANSEY!! (Thoughts on Blue Lily, Lily Blue)

B) The Archived #3 by Victoria Schwab - I NEED MORE WES AND MAC!!! This book doesn't even have a publication year, but the author has promised it's coming. MORE PEOPLE PLEASE READ The Archived and The Unbound. PLEASE! 

C) The Elemental Trilogy# 3 by Sherry Thomas - The Perilous Sea is a fantastic example of a series that increases tension in book two, without adding a love triangle. WHAT??? It's possible, people! I must have the end of Titus and Iolanthe's story. 

4) I've read and cannot wait to own in hardback:

A) The Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoksi - The sequel to The Winner's Curse destroyed me. But it was gorgeous too. I cannot wait to own my own copy. 

B) Vision in Silver by Anne Bishop - I am obsessed with this series. I cannot get enough of it. (This one is Adult - see thoughts on Murder of Crows)

5) I NEEED but may never exist:

A) Rites of Passage 2, Joy N. Hensley - Rites of Passage is one of my favorite books of the year, and I want a sequel so badly. But if there isn't one, I've invented my own end for the characters that makes me feel very happy. 

EEK! I went way overboard here. SORRY, guys! (But not really)
What sequels are you anticipating this week?

Friday, November 14, 2014

Early Review: Boys Don't Knit (in public) by T.S. Eaton

Boys Don't Knit
by T.S. Eaton
Read: October 19 - 21, 2014
Published: March 24, 2015 by Feiwel & Friends 
Source: Arc from Macmillan (THANK YOU!) 
Tags: Contemporary, YA, British humor, knitting boys

Find: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N 

Knitting is a man’s game.

After an incident regarding a crossing guard and a bottle of Martini & Rossi (and his bonehead friends), 17-year-old worrier Ben Fletcher must develop his sense of social alignment, take up a hobby, and do some community service to avoid any further probation.

He takes a knitting class (it was that or his father’s mechanic class) under the impression that it's taught by the hot teacher all the boys like. Turns out, it’s not. Perfect.

Regardless, he sticks with it and comes to find that he’s a natural knitter, maybe even great. It even helps ease his anxiety and worrying. The only challenge now is to keep it hidden from his friends, his crush, and his soccer-obsessed father. What a tangled web Ben has weaved . . . or knitted.

Boys Don't Knit was a complete delight! I loved being inside Ben's head. Ben doesn't always understand his messy family - or feel like he fits. He's not sure how he feels about his friends (they keep getting him into trouble), and he doesn't know how to talk to girls he likes. When Ben gets put on probation for a situation that involved poor judgement, liquor stealing, and hitting a crossing guard with a bicycle, all largely the fault of his idiotic friends, Ben ends up taking a knitting class. Of course, Ben doesn't want anyone to know about it even though he's a natural, and that leads to much hilarity and inner turmoil. 

Ben's a little awkward, quite clueless at times (though he can also be very perceptive), and he doesn't feel like he fits with his friends or at home. Ben doesn't like sports or cars or the other manly things his dad prefers, or his friends wild schemes, which always end in disaster. Ben likes organizing things and school and no drama. But it is through the seemingly unmanly activity of knitting that Ben realizes he might not be the loser he always thought he was. He has friends and support and maybe a girl who likes him too. Plus he finds he's also pretty good at helping others. 

Ben's inner voice was completely endearing, and I enjoyed seeing him gain confidence and begin to see his own worth. The story is told by Ben in a very conversational style, organized by date, instead of chapter (sort of like a diary. But don't worry: it's not epistolary, and the storytelling method works very well, adding to the overall experience). Reading Boy's Don't Knit was like cuddling up in a warm sweater while watching a British comedy. They perfect mix of hilarious and heartfelt. 

This book doesn't come out in the US until next March, but I found it to be incredibly entertaining. Definitely add it to your list!

Love Triangle Factor: None/Mild. Romance is not the focus of this book, and Ben is pretty clueless about the whole thing, so so there's some resulting drama, but it's always going in the same direction. 
Cliffhanger Scale: Low - This book has a sequel An English Boy in New York

Monday, November 10, 2014

Burn for Me by Ilona Andrews

Burn for Me
by Ilona Andrews
Read: November 1-2, 2014
Published: October 28, 2014 by Avon
Source: Kindle Purchase
Tags: Adult Fantasy, Magic, 

Find: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N 

#1 New York Times bestselling author Ilona Andrews launches a brand new Hidden Legacy series, in which one woman must place her trust in a seductive, dangerous man who sets off an even more dangerous desire…

Nevada Baylor is faced with the most challenging case of her detective career—a suicide mission to bring in a suspect in a volatile case. Nevada isn’t sure she has the chops. Her quarry is a Prime, the highest rank of magic user, who can set anyone and anything on fire.

Then she’s kidnapped by Connor “Mad” Rogan—a darkly tempting billionaire with equally devastating powers. Torn between wanting to run or surrender to their overwhelming attraction, Nevada must join forces with Rogan to stay alive.

Rogan’s after the same target, so he needs Nevada. But she’s getting under his skin, making him care about someone other than himself for a change. And, as Rogan has learned, love can be as perilous as death, especially in the magic world.

I've finally read an Ilona Andrews book, and all I can think is: "What was I waiting for?!" This was so good! 

What I love - The whole world building drew me in from the start. I'm a sucker for stories that take our world and tweak it a bit, throwing in some real historical events to add context. It just makes the story seem more real to me for some reason. This book does all that, while creating an incredibly rich society. Nevada lives in an America that looks very much like our own, except that magic is real and families and people are ranked by how much they have. Nevada's family has some magical blood running thorough it, but nothing that gives them any status in society. Mad Rogan on the other hand is the very powerful head of a very powerful House (or magical family). 

Along with the world building, I couldn't get enough of these characters. Nevada runs a small family detective company that gets bullied into taking an impossible case by another powerful House. She's clearly in way over her head, but she will do anything to save her business. I fell so hard for this girl, and her fierce love of her family. At first, it seems like Nevada couldn't possibly survive in this high stakes death match against a egotistical Prime Fire user. But Nevada is clever, determined, and has a neat and effective little magic trick of her own. Despite other people's best efforts to out smart her or take her down, she just keeps living and surprising everyone she meets in this book, none more than Connor "Mad" Rogan. 

Mad Rogan has his own interest Nevada's case, and he decides getting to her is the best way to accomplish his goals. Rogan kidnaps Nevada and is shocked when things don't go exactly as he plans. Then they are both shocked when they somehow end up becoming uneasy allies. I was very wary - and unhappy with Rogan - at first, but the more I read, the more I understood him and fell in love with his and Nevada's dynamic. 

With the incredible difference in their magical abilities, social status and general moral code, Nevada and Mad Rogan don't seem to be a good match at all. But as the story progresses, it becomes clear that they're actually incredibly well suited. And despite the fact that I wanted them to hurry along their romance, I really enjoyed the way it is paced in this first installment, as well as the fact that Nevada is clear about her limits and what she is (and isn't) looking for. It's refreshing to see that in a heroine, especially one up against an alpha male like Mad Rogan, who is used to getting his way. I also didn't feel like she was being annoyingly stubborn for frustration's sake, which sometimes happens to heroines. I cannot wait to watch where that relationship goes in the future! 

The plot of this book is equally exciting, and well balanced against the strong world building and complex characters. It is filled with action, danger and lots of intrigue. Along the way, we also meet a great secondary cast of characters. I can't wait to discover more of this world, and find out where Nevada and Mad Rogan take us next. 

What I wish - I basically loved all of this book. But now I remember why I like to wait to read Urban Fantasy until multiple books are out. This just wasn't enough of these characters and this story for me! I'm dying for the next installment. Also, while I adore the text, I greatly dislike this book cover. I'm pretty sure Nevada would not be happy about her representation on it. I'm not sure Mad Rogan would appreciate it either. Though Adam would be pleased - well, if that were Adam on the cover, which it is not. So actually, maybe he'd not like it. Basically, I think the cover is a poor representation of the excellent story in these pages.

PS. I think the original cover was 100x better. I think the new one sends the wrong message, actually. 

Love Triangle Factor: None
Cliffhanger Scale: Low/Medium. Low danger. This part of the story wraps, but lots of indication of what is to come. I want MORE. If you want further info about the future of this series/relationship, visit the author's FAQ page (I wish more stated this explicitly). 

Friday, November 7, 2014

Short Review: Melt by Selene Castrovilla

by Selene Castrovilla
Read: August 29, 2014
Published: November 6, 2014 by Last Syllable Books
Source: NetGalley (Thank you!)
Category: YA, contemporary, abuse, first love, 

Find: Goodreads

Book description: MELT is a brutal love story, set against the backdrop of The Wizard of Oz. Sixteen year old “good girl” Dorothy just blew into the small town of Highland Park – where the social headquarters is Munchkinland (Dunkin’ Donuts.) There, she meets Joey – a “bad boy” who tells no one about the catastrophic domestic violence he witnesses at home. Can these two lovers survive peer pressure, Joey’s reputation, and his alcoholism? And then there’s his family's secret – about to be unleashed.

Told in dual first person, Joey's words are scattered on the page - reflecting his broken state. Dorothy is the voice of reason - until something so shattering happens that she, too, may lose her grip. Can their love endure, or will it melt away?

MELT is based on true events. It is both a chilling tale of abuse, and a timeless romance. It will hit you like a punch in the face, and also seep through the cracks in your soul. 

Melt is an emotional read that contains some powerful and heartbreaking themes, especially of child abuse and domestic violence. It is also based on a true story, which makes the story even more real. However, I felt like the author was in such a rush to get her story out and save her characters that I missed some of its impact. I wish she'd slowed down a bit and taken more time to build the story and let us get to know her characters better, especially in the way the romance developed.  Dorothy and Joey's immediate connection and almost instant relationship went way too fast for me, affecting how well I connected to the story. I get insta-attraction. But for Dorothy and Joey to be drawn to each other from across a crowded Dunkin Donuts, the first time they laid eyes on each other, was hard for me to believe. As a result, it made the rest of the story a little unbelievable as well. 

I really enjoyed Joey's stream of consciousness like narrative, and I felt like it fit the dire nature of his situation and how much he was falling a part because of it. However, I'm not sure why he used poor grammar in his inner monologue (like saying "he don't" instead of "he doesn't") when he spoke fine in Dorothy's POV. This book tries to make a comparison to The Wizard of Oz, but I didn't really get the connection. This is not a retelling, more it uses quotes and the idea of melting, but I honestly didn't think the Oz quotes added anything, and I'm not certain it works for a cover theme. 

Despite all that, this story was compelling, and I read it in one sitting, which is a rare treat for me. I was rooting hard for these two to make it, and for Joey to survive all the mess life has thrown at him. 

Love Triangle Factor: None
Cliffhanger Scale: Standalone

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Walled City by Ryan Graudin

The Walled City
by Ryan Graudin
Read: October 29 - November 3, 2014
Published: November 4, 2014 by Little Brown BYR
Kowloon Walled City
Find: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | The Book Depository 

730. That's how many days I've been trapped.
18. That's how many days I have left to find a way out.

DAI, trying to escape a haunting past, traffics drugs for the most ruthless kingpin in the Walled City. But in order to find the key to his freedom, he needs help from someone with the power to be invisible....

JIN hides under the radar, afraid the wild street gangs will discover her biggest secret: Jin passes as a boy to stay safe. Still, every chance she gets, she searches for her lost sister....

MEI YEE has been trapped in a brothel for the past two years, dreaming of getting out while watching the girls who try fail one by one. She's about to give up, when one day she sees an unexpected face at her window.....

In this innovative and adrenaline-fueled novel, they all come together in a desperate attempt to escape a lawless labyrinth before the clock runs out.

A girl pretending to be a boy, determined to rescue her sister, if she can find her first - and keep outrunning the vicious street gangs. A boy with secrets, a gun and 18 days to complete an impossible task. A girl sold into prostitution, who is not sure she'll ever be free. All three are living in the Walled City, where their lives are about to converge. 

Jin, Dai and Mei Yee do not have an easy journey through this book. They are constantly surrounded by dangerous people and very real threats. I admired their fierce determination, will to survive and the way they all came to care about and fight for each other - as well as themselves. Trust is a rare commodity in their world, and fatal if given to the wrong person, but these three need each other if they're going to make it out alive.  

Four elements I want to highlight about The Walled City:

1) Tension. The Walled City kept me on the edge of my seat, constantly looking over my shoulder and worried about what - or whom - would be coming next. The author did an excellent job building tension in the story through Jin, Dai and Mei Yee's three narratives. They are all in very different places when the story begins, but the closer I got to the end and the more their lives converged, the faster I was turning the pages. The cover copy calls this an "adrenaline-fuled novel," a very fitting phrase. 

2) Setting. I was completely fascinated by the setting of the book. In many ways it is its own character: Hak Nam, Walled City, or 33,000 people crammed into a 6.5 acre space, built up, instead of out. Gritty, lawless, run by gangs, filled with drugs, prostitution, hoards of vagrants, and very little sunlight. All set right on the edge of a major, modern metropolis. It's a place I could not fathom existing - or existing in, and yet, a version of it was real less than 25 years ago. Now I'm pretty much obsessed with the real Walled City.
Kowloon Walled City ariel view (source)
The location names have been changed for this book, but the Kowloon Walled City was a real place near Hong Kong. Even though The Walled City is written as an action/adventure story, which it has in plenty, it also reads like historical fiction (though it is not officially the latter). Anytime an author takes real events from the past and weaves them into a fictional story, I get excited. Something about adding true history, makes a story feel more real and grounded to me.  I was even more thrilled when I found out the author worked hard to make her book city as close to the real city as possible, even asking a former resident of Kowloon to read her manuscript for authenticity  The location of this book is one of my favorite aspects of this story, as is the way some of the real events surrounding the place weaved into this fictional tale.

3) Voice. This book is written in first person, though as I was reading, I kept forgetting that and thinking it was in third person. I enjoyed this story so much, but I agree with fellow blogger Nikki's comments that I actually wish it had been in third person. I got wrapped up in all three of these characters' stories: their secrets, the impossible things they had to do, the pain they suffered, and the ways they grew up and found inner strength and resolve. However, the tones of their voices were all similar. I was never confused whose head I was in, but the individual character voices didn't stand out to me as much as the fast paced way the story fit together and the fascinating setting, both of which made this tale shine. 

4) Romance. The romance in this story is not the main focus, but it is important and something that stood out to me. First, because its players were a little unexpected for a YA book, but that is what I really liked about it. The gently budding love story is sweet and innocent first love, but it is also forbidden and incredibly dangerous, as is pretty much any major attachment in this world. The romance highlights how well this book balances its light and dark elements. 

The Walled City is a rush from start to finish. I couldn't stop reading this book or freaking out for the characters. The stakes are high and nothing is guaranteed, but human trafficking is real, redemption can be found in the darkest places, and if all else fails, RUN. 

Love triangle factor: None
Cliffhanger scale: standalone

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