Thursday, January 28, 2016

Dual Review: The Book of Ivy and The Revolution of Ivy by Amy Engel

The Book of Ivy
by Amy Engel
Read: October 23 - November 3, 2015
November 4, 2014 by Entangled: Teen
Source: Kindle purchase
Category: YA, dystopian/post-apocalyptic, romance
Series: Book 1/2 

After a brutal nuclear war, the United States was left decimated. A small group of survivors eventually banded together, but only after more conflict over which family would govern the new nation. The Westfalls lost. Fifty years later, peace and control are maintained by marrying the daughters of the losing side to the sons of the winning group in a yearly ritual. 

This year, it is my turn. 

My name is Ivy Westfall, and my mission is simple: to kill the president’s son—my soon-to-be husband—and restore the Westfall family to power. 

But Bishop Lattimer is either a very skilled actor or he’s not the cruel, heartless boy my family warned me to expect. He might even be the one person in this world who truly understands me. But there is no escape from my fate. I am the only one who can restore the Westfall legacy.

Because Bishop must die. And I must be the one to kill him…

The Book of Ivy takes place in a future version of the United States after a war has destroyed most of the country. A group of survivors - led by two different families - came together fifty years ago to create the town of Westfall. After an initial conflict between those two families over who would govern, the town has existed peacefully since that time. But that peace and security comes with heavy control, including the rule that the daughters of the losing side would be married to the sons of the wining group in a yearly ritual. This year, Ivy Westfall, a direct descendent of the losing side, is to marry Bishop Latimer, the son of the town's president. Ivy has a mission to fulfill when she marries Bishop: kill him and begin a conflict that will put her family back in power in the town. However, as soon as Ivy meets Bishop she realizes that he isn't anything that she imagined, and her task doesn't look so simple anymore.  

Thank goodness I waited to read this until book 2 had released. I don't think I could have survived a longer wait. I totally get all the love for Bishop now! Actually, I related to Ivy a lot as well, more than I expected to. I like that she's impulsive and straightforward. And though it takes her time to get her head on straight (and I wanted to yell at her a few times!), I was proud of her in the end. And this story had such a lovely slow burn romance and lots of swoon, which was all so well done. 

I wish we'd gotten more of and overall look at this world, as well as a stronger look at why things needed to change in Westfall. Obviously there are some glaring women's right's issues in this town, but I wanted more urgency felt to them. I mean if the world was almost destroyed from nuclear wars, these people are holding it together pretty well considering. Although we're told of its merits, I was never on board with Ivy's dad's plans. I think a lot of that is because I didn't like him (or Callie) at all. We don't spend much time with them and what we did see was not favorable. Though I'm all about democracy, and agree there are some huge issues in their current society, I couldn't connect with Ivy's belief in her dad's cause. Nor did I believe he'd be a better leader considering his current decisions. I feel awful for admitting this, but I liked Bishop's dad better of the two, despite disagreeing with many aspects of how he ran the government.

I'm excited to see how book two builds on this all going forward, especially and hopefully the swoon ;). 

Love Triangle Factor: None
Cliffhanger scale: High


The Revolution of Ivy
by Amy Engel
Read: November 4 - 5, 2015
November 3, 2015 by Entangled Teen
Source: Kindle purchase
Category: YA, dystopian/post-apocalyptic, romance 
Series: Book 2/2

Ivy Westfall is beyond the fence and she is alone. Abandoned by her family and separated from Bishop Lattimer, Ivy must find a way to survive on her own in a land filled with countless dangers, both human and natural. She has traded a more civilized type of cruelty--forced marriages and murder plots--for the bare-knuckled brutality required to survive outside Westfall's borders.

But there is hope beyond the fence, as well. And when Bishop reappears in Ivy's life, she must decide if returning to Westfall to take a final stand for what she believes is right is worth losing everything she's fought for.

Surprisingly (for me), I didn't enjoy this book quite as much as the first one, although there are certain aspects - like Bishop - that were amazing.  Although not delineated on the page, in my head The Revolution of Ivy is set up in three parts 1) survival 2) 'i'm not worthy' aka relationship angst and 3) revolution. I was really proud of Ivy through the first section. I was very frustrated with her through most of the second, but she brought it around in eventually. And I didn't understand several of her choices in the third, though I admired her drive and convictions. Ivy doesn't really understand love, and though it was hard for me to go through that struggle with her, in the end It was rewarding to watch her discover what love is and accept it. This happens mostly because of Bishop's presence in her life. I loved Bishop in every part of this book. He is pretty much a picture of unconditional love. Endlessly patient and willing to follow Ivy anywhere, even when her decisions don't make sense (to anyone but her). I'm still sighing and swooning over him.

Here's the thing, though. In this book we get to be on the outside of the gate, and I enjoyed seeing what was out there, meeting Ash and Caleb and focusing on Ivy and her growth. But at the same time, for most of the book, we are completely separated from what is happening in Westfall. Honestly, I don't even really remember what Ivy's dad's vision was - she keeps saying he had great ideas, but what were they exactly? - and I don't have a firm understanding of Latimer's ruling strategy either? It made it tough for me to follow along with Ivy's plans near the end, because I honestly didn't care about those people or connect to them. Basically the plot outside of Ivy's growth, her new friends and relationship with Bishop, felt weak to me.

This is something seemingly small that bugged me a lot: in The Book of Ivy, Ivy goes on about how she's not ready for marriage or babies yet, and part of the catalyst for the overall plot is how terrible it is that this society forces girls like her into those two things so young. And yet, in this book, Ivy and Bishop decide to have sex, but there is absolutely zero discussion of contraception - I got the sense that it doesn't exist in this world? - nor is there any mention of consequences or outcomes of unprotected sex, beyond the fun part of it. The probability of a pregnancy is never factored into why Ivy wanted to wait previously, or anything to do with her being ready now. Especially in a dystopian society where people are mostly using products left over from the past, without manufacturing new ones, I feel like the possibility of pregnancy should have been a part of their discussion, or some sort of preventive measure mentioned. It was a glaring plot hole to me that this wasn't brought up at all.

In sum: The outside plot/world building elements were not as complex as I'd hoped, but the romance continued to shine, and Bishop is the true star of this book. It was also nice to be able to read this duet back to back and go right through the cliffhanger. I haven't been able to do that in a while. Overall I'd recommend these, but if you choose to read this series, be looking for the characters and romance more than a big dystopian or post apocalyptic plot thread. 

Love Triangle Factor: None
Cliffhanger Scale: Series end

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Duel #HamiltonConfessions

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke & The Bookish

I haven't done a TTT in months. Actually, it's probably been well over a year, but who's counting, really? Anyway, since it's a freebie week and I am all things Hamilton obsessed right now, I though it would be fun to mark the occasion by posting my Top Ten list inspired by the musical phenomenon. 


I know that most of you know exactly what I'm talking about here, but for those people in my life to whom I've been trying desperately to explain what the heck I've been listening to non-stop, here's what you need to know:

What is Hamilton, you ask?

Hamilton is a a musical written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, and based on a biography by Ron Chernov, that is about Alexander Hamilton, one of the founding fathers of America. You know, the one who is on the $10 bill. If you are from the USA you probably learned about him at some point in History class. And though a musical production about a long dead political leader from when white hair was fashionable, may not sound very exciting or current, trust me, it IS. 

My heart swells at the idea of making history accessible and FUN, both of which Hamilton does. It also makes it inspiring and emotional and sometimes painful too, which is another reason this story is so addicting. Connecting people in the present to people in the past through the power of music and stories, I LOVE IT. 

Somehow Hamilton 
achieves the magical combination of feeling both revelatory and nostalgic at the same time. I talk about that a tiny bit below, but this is music to be known and experienced for yourself. Basically, you need to listen to know how this is possible. I dare you not to become obsessed yourself. 

Now, if only I didn't have to mortgage my house or sell my firstborn to find and afford a ticket to see it. 

 Alexander Hamilton (image source) and his wife Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton (image source).

I put these on Twitter the other day, but here again are my 
Ten Duel #HamiltonConfessions

ONE It took me a LONG time to make it past "Take A Break". I've listened to the first 2/3 of the musical many more times than the last 1/3.

TWO The affair KILLSSS me. It's hard for me to get through it & the aftermath*. I usually avoid stories that feature them.

*Actually, I've listened to "Say No To This" exactly one time, and I will listen to it again if when I see the musical, but that is all I can handle. And while I LOVE the songs at the end of the production, they make me so emotional that I go into mourning again every time it's over. This is why I generally stick with Hamilton's younger, more idealistic years. 

THREE I have a hard time reconciling the personal lives of The Club of Great Men In History Who Cheat with their professional accomplishments.

Aside: That club has a LOT of members, unfortunately. Including several characters in this musical.

FOUR AND YET, Burr's "Wait for It" is one of my top 5 favorite songs on the album. And it's partially about an affair. HAHAHAHAHA me. 

Dear Aaron Burr aka Leslie Odom Jr., Why do you have to have such an amazing voice? You are the unsuspecting villain in this story. Stop making me feel things for you. xoxo. Lauren

FIVE I'm obsessed with, but terrible at finding the references to other songs in this musical. "My Shot" = "Lose Yourself" tho 

Update: I've listened to this soundtrack so much now that I can't tell anymore if what I'm hearing is referencing other music or I'm just remembering it from previous listenings. 😂

P.S. This is one of the reasons this musical is making so many waves and is so current. It feels both nostalgic and new, even the first time you hear it. 

SIX This music is bleeding into my life & shaping how I experience the books I’ve been reading. For instance, 

SEVEN Was THE WINNER'S KISS written to the first 1/2 of ? A young orphan + scrappy country against a global superpower, ?

Dear Marie, I'm happy for you, really. *sobs* Also, seriously, SO MANY parallels. And The Winner's Kiss is AMAZING. Love, Lauren

7B) Did Nicholas from PASSENGER by transport Hamilton to America? WAS HE ON THE SHIP WITH ETTA? 

I KNEW it!

7c) Mad King George is also ruling when Lady Helen is presented to the queen in THE DARK DAYS CLUB. Worlds bleed together! AAAHHH.

P.S. He's also a fair bit more insane. Still singing love songs to his lost colony, I expect.  


NINE I nearly forgot* to pick up my child from school recently bc I was discussing Hamilton with someone & lost track of time.

*I was, in fact, 15 minutes late to pick up said child. This has NEVER happened before. I'm sorry, teacher. I was late, because I was consumed by this musical I've been listening to...

TEN IMO Eliza is clearly the hero of this story. I LOVE HER. Sorry, Hamilton, you had your shot. 


 ✍🏽 🔫

Tell me your #HamiltonConfessions!

Friday, January 22, 2016

Early Review: Starflight by Melissa Landers

by Melissa Landers
Read: November 2 - 8, 2015
February 2, 2016 by Disney-Hyperion
Gail @ Ticket to Anywhere (THANK YOU!)
Category: YA, Sci-fi, space travel

Book Description: Life in the outer realm is a lawless, dirty, hard existence, and Solara Brooks is hungry for it. Just out of the orphanage, she needs a fresh start in a place where nobody cares about the engine grease beneath her fingernails or the felony tattoos across her knuckles. She's so desperate to reach the realm that she's willing to indenture herself to Doran Spaulding, the rich and popular quarterback who made her life miserable all through high school, in exchange for passage aboard the spaceliner Zenith.

When a twist of fate lands them instead on the Banshee, a vessel of dubious repute, Doran learns he's been framed on Earth for conspiracy. As he pursues a set of mysterious coordinates rumored to hold the key to clearing his name, he and Solara must get past their enmity to work together and evade those out for their arrest. Life on the Banshee may be tumultuous, but as Solara and Doran are forced to question everything they once believed about their world--and each other--the ship becomes home, and the eccentric crew family. But what Solara and Doran discover on the mysterious Planet X has the power to not only alter their lives, but the existence of everyone in the universe...

I feel terrible for being so in the middle of the road about this book (and rating it only 3 stars on Goodreads), because it is a great story. The setting and space travel is exciting, the heroine is fierce with her Cinder inspired mechanical skills, and determination to make something of herself, and the story is engaging and surprising. There's even space pirates! 

The problem I had with Starflight is my own ability to hold a long grudge, and inability to forgive. I just could not get over how Doran treated Solara all through school and then for the first portion of the book. He tormented her for YEARS when they were in school together, and once the book begins he treats her like a slave when he hires her in exchange for passage on his ship. At one point Solara remarks that Doran treats his girlfriend's dog better than he treats her, and that's not at all an exaggeration. At all. Although Doran does make a huge character change as the story progresses, I just didn't get enough remorse from him.  I needed to see a lot more groveling. 

I admire this book for going big and creating a truly unlikable hero at first (usually, even if one character is supposed to be "unlikable," I can see redeemable qualities. But I LOATHED Doran in the beginning of this story.). The problem is that I just could not ever get over what he did, or to the point where I could ship him with Solara. I was too angry at him! I think most people will love this and be fine - I've seen several glowing reviews from people who were able to get past the start of this book. Sadly, I could not. I am such an emotional reader, and my inability to make a connection with the romance definitely downgraded this entire story for me. 

Starflight is the first in a companion series, and I'm intrigued by the look we got at the characters I believe will star in the next book. I'm definitely interested in what happens going forward, but unfortunately, I wasn't able to love this particular installment. 

Love Triangle Factor: None. (Doran does have a girlfriend at the start of the book, and though I hated that part, she doesn't play a role for long. And she's horrible.) 

Cliffhanger Scale: Companion series. This book wraps, but it's clear there's at least one more story to come, featuring two characters that are introduced in Starflight. I'm excited to hear from their perspectives.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski: The Winning Kiss Blog Tour

Tour organized by Fierce Reads
Follow the stops HERE

The Winner's Kiss is the very anticipated third installment in The Winner's Trilogy, which also includes The Winner's Curse and The Winner's Crime. I have been riveted to this series since the very first line in The Winner's Curse, and I have loved watching the evolution of these beloved stories and their characters. 

Kestrel and Arin have put me through every emotion imaginable.  I love them dearly and feel fiercely protective of them. In honor of their journey through this series, and the title of the final book, bloggers are sharing their favorite kisses from literature.

What book is your favorite literary kiss in?

I debated for quite a while about what to pick for my favorite literary kiss, because there are just so many good ones. Both big scenes with lots of details, and quiet, subtle kisses that characters have to work hard to get to, or that readers need to peruse carefully to grasp the full effect. I love them alllll. I almost picked a more subtle, hard earned moment, but in the end, I've chosen one that is more on the grand gesture side than the quiet one. 

The Night Circus 
by Erin Morgenstern 
First Published: September 13th 2011 by Doubleday

I read The Night Circus back in 2011 when it released, and then I reread it last month via the audiobook read by Jim Dale. For a book to become one of my favorites, it has to stand up over time, and The Night Circus does that and some. I love it even MORE the second time through. Audiobooks always add more layers of depth to any reading experience, and my adoration for this story and these characters has now multiplied. This includes my love for Celia and Marco and their amazing love story, which starts slowly and blossoms into the most delicious swoon. Because of circumstances, these two don't spend a lot of time together during the book, but everything they do is for each other, and when they are together in the same room, sparks fly. 

Celia and Marco have several winning kisses, but this is my most favorite: 

I'm posting the entire scene, because it is part of why I love this kiss so much. I've also highlighted my favorite kissing line (emphasis mine). 


"Without a word, Marco turns his back on his instructor. He walks out the door at the back of the room...

Image source
He goes directly to the ballroom, making his way to the center of the dance floor. He takes Celia's arm, spinning her away from Herr Thiessen. 

Marco pulls her to him in an emerald embrace, so close that no distinction remains between where his suit ends and her gown begins. 

To Celia, there is suddenly no one else in the room as he holds her in his arms. 

But before she can vocalize her surprise, his lips close over hers and she is lost in a wordless bliss.

Marco kisses her as though they are the only two people in the world. 

The air swirls in a tempest around them, blowing open the glass doors to the garden with a tangle of billowing curtains. 

Every eye in the crowded ballroom turns in their direction. 

And then he releases her and walks away. 

By the time Marco leaves the room, almost everyone has forgotten the incident entirely." 

Who is kissing?

Celia and Marco OF COURSE

Why is it your favorite?

Why do I love this kiss? Let me count the ways. 

1) I love the movement of this scene. I am an extremely visual reader, and I can perfectly imagine the kiss playing out like a movie - Marco turning from his argument with Alexander and going straight to Celia in the ballroom, pulling her into his arms, then walking right out the door after their kiss is over. 

2) I love the way Celia's dress, which she created to change the color of whomever she's standing nearest, turns the emerald green of Marco's suit. They are as close together and connected in this moment as they can be, and their blended clothing is an outward representation of how they feel about each other and the fact that they truly are the only people in the world for each other. 

3) I love that even when Marco's left the room, Celia's dress stays green. 

4) I love the fact that Marco is the one who does the leaving in this scene, when it is Celia the illusionist who typically disappears during their encounters. 

5) I love that you can see careful and controlled Marco's desperation for Celia in this scene, and the fact that she feels exactly the same for him. They just cannot stay away from each other, even though they are opponents who have been kept separated.  

6) I love that Celia and Marco create literal sparks and gusts of wind and explosions from their magic whenever they touch. And that in this moment they are so consumed with each other that they aren't able to temper the outward reaction of their lips touching, as a tempest swirls around them. 

7) I love that for the length of the kiss, Marco lets everyone know exactly how he feels about Celia - and she for him, before he takes the memory away from the people in the room.

8) I love that this entire scene takes place without any words being spoken. Actions really do speak louder, and Celia and Marco are experts at expressing their love in ways that are beyond language. If  you haven't read this book yet, wait until you get to the other scene that features kissing and no speaking. 

Bonus Question: what kiss do you hope will occur in Marie Rutkoski's The Winner's Kiss?

Is this a trick question? I'm all over Kestrel + Arin and wouldn't be sad it this book was just one massive make out session. But for real, I'm halfway through this story and LOVING every second of it. 

As part of this blog tour, we get to send a kiss to a friend by giving a copy of The Winner's Curse to someone, and I'm chosen to have it sent to my sister. She is living abroad for the next few years and I miss her so much! I've been sending her ebooks to read, and discussing them has been a great way to stay connected. I'm excited to for her to receive the joy of a package (who doesn't love getting a book in the mail?!) and then to be able to talk about this series as she reads it. 


About the Book 

The Winner's Kiss
by Marie Rutkoski
Published: March 29th 2016 by Farrar Straus & Giroux
Series: The Winner's Curse # 3
Buy the Book: Amazon | B&N Book Depository | IndieBound 

Book Description (Spoilers for the first 2 books): War has begun. Arin is in the thick of it with untrustworthy new allies and the empire as his enemy. Though he has convinced himself that he no longer loves Kestrel, Arin hasn’t forgotten her, or how she became exactly the kind of person he has always despised. She cared more for the empire than she did for the lives of innocent people—and certainly more than she did for him.

At least, that’s what he thinks.

In the frozen north, Kestrel is a prisoner in a brutal work camp. As she searches desperately for a way to escape, she wishes Arin could know what she sacrificed for him. She wishes she could make the empire pay for what they’ve done to her.

But no one gets what they want just by wishing.
As the war intensifies, both Kestrel and Arin discover that the world is changing. The East is pitted against the West, and they are caught in between. With so much to lose, can anybody really win?


About the Author

Marie Rutkoski is the author of The Kronos Chronicles, including The Cabinet of Wonders and The Celestial GlobeThe Cabinet of Wonders, her debut novel, was named an Indie Next Kids’ List Great Read and a Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year, among other honors. Rutkoski grew up in Bolingbrook, Illinois (a suburb of Chicago), as the oldest of four children. She attended the University of Iowa, where she took Writers’ Workshop classes and studied with Pulitzer Prize-winner James Alan McPherson. After graduating, she lived in Moscow and Prague. Upon receiving her Ph.D. from Harvard University, she held dual appointments as a lecturer there in both English and American Literature and Language, and History and Literature. Rutkoski is currently a professor at Brooklyn College, where she teaches Renaissance Drama, children’s literature and creative writing. She lives in New York City with her husband and cat. 

Find Marie: Twiter | Website | Goodreads

Follow the tour HERE

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