Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Review - The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann

When Alex finds out he is Unwanted, he expects to die. That is the way of the people of Quill. Each year, all the thirteen-year-olds are labeled as Wanted, Necessary, or Unwanted. Wanteds get more schooling and train to join the Quillitary. Necessaries keep the farms running. Unwanteds are set for elimination.

It’s hard for Alex to leave behind his twin, Aaron, a Wanted, but he makes peace with his fate—until he discovers that instead of a “death farm,” what awaits him is a magical place called Artimé. There, Alex and his fellow Unwanteds are encouraged to cultivate their creative abilities and use them magically. Everything Alex has ever known changes before his eyes, and it’s a wondrous transformation.

But it’s a rare, unique occurrence for twins to be divided between Wanted and Unwanted, and as Alex and Aaron's bond stretches across their separation, a threat arises for the survival of Artim that will pit brother against brother in an ultimate magical battle.

I read The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann back in February. Like I said in a previous review, I haven't really been up for typing up reviews, but I'm on a roll today so I figured I'd get this one in as well.

Now, I am a Girl Scout leader for a troop of Juniors and we did a Reading badge that month. One of the requirements for the badge was to bring in one of your favorite books and explain what you enjoyed about it. One of my scouts brought this in. It sounded like a fun read so she offered it to me for a week and away we went.

This particular story is kind of like a cross between the Hunger Games and Harry Potter and Divergent and The Giver... loosely, but that's all I can think of to compare it to. I loved reading it. It's one of those stories that sounds like it has every amazing thing you could have ever thought up as a child thrown in to it.

It doesn't start off well, but by that I mean there's a group of 13 year olds that have been deemed Unwanted by their society and they're being shipped off to what they believe is a death farm for elimination. To be labeled Unwanted, all you have to be is creative. The society that Alex lives in doesn't want people who sing or draw or dance. They want people who are easily manipulated... who can be turned in to soldiers for their "Quillitary". Anyone not completely void of emotion and ambition is simply seen as insufficient and is sent away.

I loved that each "unwanted" child finds strength in the things that they love doing the most. That their talent lies chiefly in the very thing that made them unacceptable to "society". It shows kids that just because they're different doesn't mean they're less. That they can be celebrated for doing the things that they're wonderful at doing. It shows that even if it doesn't feel like it, there are people who will appreciate them for things that other people might not, and that they should have the confidence to be who they are.

The Unwanteds was a fantastic read. And since it was a Middle Grade novel it was an easy one that I'd recommend for absolutely anyone. Children and adults alike.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Review - Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

The year is 1945. Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is just back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon when she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach—an “outlander”—in a Scotland torn by war and raiding border clans in the year of Our Lord...1743.

Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire is catapulted into the intrigues of lairds and spies that may threaten her life, and shatter her heart. For here James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, shows her a love so absolute that Claire becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire—and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.

I'm going to be honest. It's been a while since I read Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. I haven't really had it in me to write reviews lately, but I put a new one up today and decided that maybe it's time I write one for this too. Although, I have read 4 out of the 8 novels in the series since December, so details kind of blur together.

I will start off by saying, that I completely love this series. It is 100% one of my favorite series of all time and I love it to pieces. It did take me a bit to really get interested... the first bit of the first book was a little slow for me. But as soon as Claire goes through the stones and ends up in 1743... that's all she wrote for me. I couldn't put it down.

I have a bit of Scottish (and Irish!) heritage and I am married to a man with Scottish heritage. So this series has been particularly interesting to me. The way that Diana writes and the history that's just infused in every detail is amazing. I've never seen the TV show (don't have STARZ *sad face*) but I've seen clips on youtube and was able to read the stories with faces for the characters and voices to go with them.

Every scene is so descriptive and, apart from the very beginning, kept me completely enthralled the entire 2 weeks it took me to read the entirety of book one.

Since it's been such a long time since I've read the story, I won't go in to too much detail (like I said, they blur together). But Outlander is amazing. It's descriptive (and I mean DESCRIPTIVE) and wonderful. Claire is so incredibly smart and strong and resilient. Jamie is just heartbreakingly beautiful in every possible way imaginable. Although his family is frustrating (and by family I mean Dougal and Colum) it adds to the plot and pace of the story in just the perfect way.

The chemistry between Claire and Jamie is felt immediately. And the love that grows between them is so incredibly palpable that it's hard not to become thoroughly invested in their relationship so much so that you would see Claire forsake her first husband absolutely for the devotion of her second.

If you enjoy historical romances (LOTS of romance) then definitely read this series. It's captivating and wonderful and you won't be sorry!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Review: Starting Over at Steeple Ridge by Liz Isaacson

Tucker Jenkins has had enough of tall buildings, traffic, and business meetings to determine the next app that will change the world. He's sold his technology firm for billions and traded it for Steeple Ridge Horse Farm in rural Vermont.

Missy Marino has worked at the boarding stable and farm since she was a teen, and she's always dreamed of owning it. But her ex-husband left her with a truckload of debt, making her fantasies of owning the farm unfulfilled.

When she meets Tucker, she starts having a new kind of fantasy—one where they work with the horses together. Tucker didn't come to the country to find a new wife, but he supposes a woman could help him start over in Steeple Ridge. Will Tucker and Missy be able to navigate the shaky ground between them to find a new beginning?

Sometimes I love romance novels. They're a nice break from what I usually read. So when I saw the description for Starting Over at Steeple Ridge (and let's face it, the cover got me too) by Liz Isaacson, I didn't think I could pass it up.

Missy had to say goodbye to her friend and mentor and, she thought, any dreams of owning the farm she's ridden/worked at for two decades. A city boy has swooped in and purchased the farm, sight unseen, and now she's working for him. Tucker, the city boy, really had no idea what he was getting himself into when he bought Steeple Ridge but he's definitely out of his element in the Vermont country.


I enjoyed both main characters. But unfortunately I felt like I didn't really get to know them. Even when they were getting to know each other it seemed like it was only ever skimming the surface. Neither was too interested in telling the other about their past and we didn't really see a lot of development in them individually.

Don't get me wrong, I did like the story. But I felt like it was incredibly rushed. Their was no fleshing out of their relationship. First they didn't like each other.... then magically (and very suddenly) they did. I understand that stuff like that happens... but it didn't really make sense in the book for me. Like I said, everything seemed to only skim the surface. All the other reviews that I've read said it was a short, simple and sweet romance novel... and they're 100% correct. It was all of those things. I just wish there had been more to it.

With that being said, again, I did enjoy it. Despite what I've mentioned above. I love horses. I love the country. And I would give anything to have been in Missy's position (working on a farm... not the falling in love with a billionaire city man). The small town feel and the friendliness of the people in Missy and Tucker's life is something I've desired in my own life.

Tucker was the gentlemanly, chivalrous cowboy type even before he was a gentlemanly, chivalrous cowboy. And Missy was dedicated and passionate and I could completely understand her feelings toward the farm and her horses. The two of them made a wonderful pairing, I only wish I had seen more buildup to the relationship.

If you're looking for a clean, easy, quick read this is definitely for you. If you love the country and/or horses then this is for you, too. If you are looking for a book you can sit out on the back porch and read while you drink tea or coffee, grab this one. It's a very lighthearted and sweet read.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Review - Condemn Me Not: Accused of Witchcraft by Heather B. Moore

“This woman was one of the most impudent, scurrilous, wicked creatures of this world; and she did now throughout her whole trial discover herself to be such a one. Yet when she was asked what she had to say for herself, her chief plea was that she had led a most virtuous and holy life.” —Reverend Cotton Mather, 1692
USA Today Bestselling author Heather B. Moore brings the life of her 10th great-grandmother to center stage. Susannah North Martin, accused of witchcraft in 1692, joins five women in the Salem Jail, all sentenced to death for their crimes. Amidst tragedy, Susannah finds hope and compassion as she remembers a well-loved life, and readers discover that love reaches far beyond the grave as Susannah faces the magistrates in Salem.
Condemn Me Not: Accused of Witchcraft by Heather B. Moore is an interesting historical fiction book in that it is based on the true story about the author's own flesh and blood.

Susannah North Martin was arrested for witchcraft and tried and hanged in 1692 during the witch hunting frenzy that was the Salem Witch Trials. Now, you know, and I know, that the accusations hurled at these women, men, and yes... even children, were complete and total crap. But reading this story sort of takes you out of time and places you in 1692. It gives you a kind of behind the scenes look at how these trials were conducted and what the accused had to endure and eventually what condemned them to death. Ridiculous accusations. All of it.

The absurdity of the examinations and trial are broken up, thankfully, just about every other chapter with Susannah in her younger years. We meet her as a 25 year old aspiring spinster as new neighbors come in to her life, immediately ruining her hopes of remaining alone forever. We also meet her (future) husband George, along with his ailing sister Eve, and, his daughter Hannah. Eve is friendly and kind and becomes fast friends with Susannah while Hannah is quiet and reserved, taking a considerable amount of time to warm up to Susannah. George... George is fantastic. And wonderful. And just.... just.

He's essentially the most eligible bachelor in Salisbury and everyone is fawning over him. Except Susannah. While I knew, based on the parts of the story that were told from the point of view of Susannah at age 71, that the two would eventually marry, reading about the two of them in younger years still made me want to ring her neck. Every time she avoided him or got angry at him. Every time she assumed his intentions or affections toward the other women in the town. The growth in their relationship was wonderfully written in my opinion and I absolutely loved watching them fall in love.

I've always been mildly curious about the Salem Witch Trials, knowing a little about the accusations toward the women who would eventually be sentenced to death. And knowing a little about their accusers. This story broke my heart though. Especially since I can't imagine how the author felt putting it together, know that Susannah was related to her and such horrible things were said and done to her. Yes, they are separated by more than 300 years, but to learn that a family member met such a fate at the hands of such evil people had to be a hard pill to swallow and subsequently turn in to the story it's become.

If you've any interest in the Salem Witch Trials or just that time frame in general, I'd suggest reading this story. While fictionalized, it is based heavily in truth and that makes it all the more compelling.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Review - The Weaver by Emmi Itäranta


Inside the Book:

Title: The Weaver
Author: Emmi Itaranta
Release Date: November 1, 2016
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Genre: Dystopian
Format: Ebook

The author of the critically acclaimed Memory of Water returns with this literary ecological tale in the vein of Ursula K. Le Guin and Sheri S. Tepper, in which an innocent young woman becomes entangled in a web of ancient secrets and deadly lies that lie at the dark center of her prosperous island world.

Eliana is a model citizen of the island, a weaver in the prestigious House of Webs. She also harbors a dangerous secret—she can dream, an ability forbidden by the island’s elusive council of elders. No one talks about the dreamers, the undesirables ostracized from society.

But the web of protection Eliana has woven around herself begins to unravel when a young girl is found lying unconscious in a pool of blood on the stones outside the house. Robbed of speech by her attackers, the only clue to her identity is one word tattooed in invisible ink across her palm: Eliana. Why does this mysterious girl bear her name? What links her to the weaver—and could she hold Eliana’s fate in her hand?

As Eliana finds herself growing closer to this injured girl she is bound to in ways she doesn’t understand, the enchanting lies of the island begin to crumble, revealing a deep and ancient corruption. Joining a band of brave rebels determined to expose the island’s dark secrets, Eliana becomes a target of ruthless forces determined to destroy her. To save herself and those she loves, she must call on the power within her she thought was her greatest weakness: her dreams.


My Review:

The Weaver by Emmi Itäranta is a fantastic book. I've not read much fantasy lately and this was just the book I needed to jump back in to the fantasy world with both feet. It was mysterious and magical and wonderful, even if sometimes in a bad way.

Eliana, at face value, is a dutiful weaver. She does what she's told when she's told and never seems to veer from the course that the rest of her House is on. Until a girl appears and flips her world completely upside down. Then she realizes that there is so much more than what she's told to say and do and not say and not do.... and not all of it is as it should be. The secrets she keeps aren't as secret as she thinks anymore either.

There are so many characters in this story that are just amazing. Eliana, Valeria, Janos, Alva... all magnificent and strong and willing to put their lives on the line to save those who need to be saved. There are also so many frustrating things going on... people happy to be kept ignorant... to believe everything they're told because it's easier than thinking for themselves. Even if it means people they know and love are going to be ripped from them and taken somewhere horrific and terrible for the rest of their lives. Sometimes ignorance is bliss... but not for everyone.

The Houses of Crafts were intriguing. All the different districts and positions... A place for everyone and everyone it their place kind of thing. Everything was described in so much detail at all times that sometimes I lost the actual purpose of what I was reading, but still... the imagery was beautiful and haunting and downright terrifying in spots.

I couldn't put this book down. I just couldn't. Read it in less than a day. If you're looking for a suspenseful and fantastical read with absolutely beautiful imagery, I highly recommend you pick up The Weaver.

Meet the Author:

Emmi Itäranta (b. 1976) was born in Tampere, Finland, where she also grew up. She holds one MA in Drama and Theatre Studies from the University of Tampere, and another from the University of Kent, UK, where she began writing her debut novel Memory of Water as a part of her Creative Writing masters degree. She later completed the full manuscript in both Finnish and English. The novel won the Fantasy and Sci-fi Literary Contest organised by the Finnish publishing house Teos. It was published to enthusiastic reviews in Finland in 2012 under the title Teemestarin kirja. In 2015 the English language version, Memory of Water, was nominated for the Philip K. Dick award in the US and the Arthur C. Clarke award in the UK. Translation rights to the award-winning novel have been sold in 21 territories to date. Itäranta’s second novel Kudottujen kujien kaupunki was published in 2015, and it won her the Tampere City Literary Award. In the UK the novel is known as The City of Woven Streets, and in the US as The Weaver. Itäranta’s professional background is an eclectic blend of writing-related activities, including stints as a columnist, theatre critic, dramaturge, scriptwriter and press officer. She lives in Canterbury, UK.

Connect with Emmi: Website | Facebook | Twitter


Tour Schedule

 Monday, November 7 
Guest blogging at Books, Dreams, Life
Book featured at The Dark Phantom

Tuesday, November 8
Book featured at Literal Exposure
Book featured at The Literary Nook

Wednesday, November 9
Book featured at A Title Wave
Book featured at As the Pages Turn

Thursday, November 10
Book featured at Voodoo Princess

Friday, November 11
Book featured at The Bookworm Lodge
Book featured at All Inclusive Retort
Monday, November 14
Book reviewed at I'm Shelf-ish
Tuesday, November 15
Book featured at My Bookish Pleasures

Wednesday, November 16
Book featured at Mello and June
Book featured at Harmonious Publicity

Thursday, November 17
Book featured at CBY Book Club
Book featured at Write and Take Flight

Friday, November 18
Book featured at Bound 2 Escape
Book reviewed at Cover2Cover

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Review - The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

Nothing living is safe. Nothing dead is to be trusted.

For years, Gansey has been on a quest to find a lost king. One by one, he’s drawn others into this quest: Ronan, who steals from dreams; Adam, whose life is no longer his own; Noah, whose life is no longer a lie; and Blue, who loves Gansey… and is certain she is destined to kill him.

Now the endgame has begun. Dreams and nightmares are converging. Love and loss are inseparable. And the quest refuses to be pinned to a path.

So, I was stuck flying during the whole Delta debacle when the computers went down and flights were delayed and cancelled and everything was just ridiculous. Luckily, I'd brought some books. And luckily, one of those books happened to be The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater. The Raven King, book 4 in The Raven Cycle, is one of the most beautifully written stories that I think I've ever read. While I have come to expect nothing less from Maggie Stiefvater, this one went above and beyond anything else I've picked up by her.

Everything was just so magically descriptive and fantastical that I couldn't manage to put it down. It really did save my trip up to Maine to pick up my daughter. Flights and accommodations were significantly less than stellar so it helped to have something that could completely remove me from the situation I was in and transport me somewhere else completely. The book was terrifying and haunting and heartbreakingly sad and beautiful all at the same time.

It was nice to be able to come back to Fox Way and see Maura and The Grey Man again. To be able to follow Ronan and Adam and Gansey and Blue around one more time. Learning more about Blue's father was a bit shocking, but seemed absolutely fitting considering Blue. There were also some other great plot twists that perhaps I should have seen coming but didn't, i.e. Cabeswater.

I loved the inclusion of Henry and his bee. Henry, someone who had been on the outside and absent for 90% of the story telling played such a wonderful part in this last story. I loved that I got to see Ronan for who he really was. Not just some jerk who liked to fight and piss people off. But someone who loved, and who wanted to BE loved. Who wanted to protect and to fight FOR people... not just fight people. Maybe he was that way the whole time, but the development of a certain relationship in this final installment of the story just made him so much more... Ronan... to me.


That's really all I can say to sum up how good this book was. Well, fantastic and wonderful and beautiful and all of the other synonyms of all the words. If you've read the rest of the series, please finish it out and pick this one up. If you haven't, then start. The story and the journey they go on will amaze you.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Review - Splintered by A.G. Howard

This stunning debut captures the grotesque madness of a mystical under-land, as well as a girl’s pangs of first love and independence.

Alyssa Gardner hears the whispers of bugs and flowers—precisely the affliction that landed her mother in a mental hospital years before. This family curse stretches back to her ancestor Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alyssa might be crazy, but she manages to keep it together. For now.

When her mother’s mental health takes a turn for the worse, Alyssa learns that what she thought was fiction is based in terrifying reality. The real Wonderland is a place far darker and more twisted than Lewis Carroll ever let on. There, Alyssa must pass a series of tests, including draining an ocean of Alice’s tears, waking the slumbering tea party, and subduing a vicious bandersnatch, to fix Alice’s mistakes and save her family. She must also decide whom to trust: Jeb, her gorgeous best friend and secret crush, or the sexy but suspicious Morpheus, her guide through Wonderland, who may have dark motives of his own.

Yay for book birthday presents! Splintered by A.G. Howard is a book that I've been wanting to buy for a long time but for some reason kept putting it off. Until my birthday last month. Thank you to my husband for buying it for me.

First of all, the cover art is absolutely stunning. And I probably would have gotten it based on that alone (yeah I know you're not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but I can't help it), but the premise of the story was pretty interesting as well. I don't need to say much in summary since the book blurb thingy pretty much sums it up.

Alyssa is kind of morbid. But for good reason when you find out that she hears bugs and plants talking to her. Her mother is in a mental facility and she really doesn't want to end up there too so in an effort to silence the voices she turns bugs into art. She's got a pretty groovy sense of style. From synthetic dreads to tutu-like skirts to ass-kicking boots, but all of it is to try and squash any resemblance to her mother. She's got a lot of internal battles going on and, in this story, definitely a lot of external foes to fight as well, but she is courageous and strong and is determined to fix things her great-great-great grandmother messed up to free herself and her mother from the curse she believes she's inherited.

Jeb is, at first, the annoyingly intrusive but protective big brother to Alyssa. Butting in to her life and conspiring with her father to keep her "safe" and look out for her. Which is what big brothers are supposed to do. But he's something much different to Alyssa and is seemingly completely ignorant of it until their journey through the looking glass and in to Wonderland. Although, his appearance there is quite by accident. He's chivalrous and charming and everything you think a strong protector would be. He's prepared to sacrifice everything for Alyssa, even though she doesn't need him (or want him) to.

Morpheous was hard to pin down for me. The mysterious childhood friend of Alyssa's is both seductive and enticing while being suspicious and conniving at the same time. Dangerous combinations. His stated motives for bringing Alyssa to Wonderland and his actual motives are not exactly in line with each other, something Alyssa finds out too late. But while his intentions aren't exactly pure, he does care for Alyssa. So, there's a bit of redemption for him in that at least.

This story was kind of Tim Burton-esque for me. It was more like what I imagined his movie version of Alice in Wonderland should have been. The creatures were absolutely hideous and grotesquely wonderful and seeing all the characters in true form (the "Mad Hatter" was one of my favorite) was lovely. Nostalgic and yet... not. Old friends but complete strangers at the same time. We find out that the descriptions given by Carroll of Alice's adventures in Wonderland was very skewed and incredibly tame compared to the actual inhabitants of that world.

I loved the book. And I can't wait to read the next one. If you like "re-tellings" (although this wasn't a re-telling per se, it was more a modern day continuation), you should definitely grab this and give it a read!


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