May 31, 2013

The Secret of Ella and Micha by Jessica Sorenson

He knows what I'm about to say- he always does. He is my best friend, my soul mate. In a perfect world, full of roses and sunshine we'd be together, but this world is full of broken homes, drunken fathers, and mothers who give up too easily.
-from The Secret of Ella and Micha by Jessica Sorenson


The Secret of Ella and Micha is essentially a story of tragically poor communication learned by two white trash kids from their neglectful and emotionally defunct parents. Ella and Micha have grown up together as next door neighbors, best friends who both have secretly wished for more since they were sixteen. The novel opens on Micha convincing Ella not to jump off a bridge and the reader quickly learns that these two have issues. Between her alcoholic father and her mom's suicide, Ella flees her white trash small town life for college in Las Vegas without telling anyone, not even Micha. When she returns for summer vacation after eight months of reinventing herself, Ella must face Micha and all of the issues from her old life. 

At the end of the day, this is a forgettable, easy romantic read that will entertain you if you like that sort of thing. For me, there's a fine line between a guilty pleasure romance and a cheesy, cheap book and unfortunately this book jumped over to cheesy really fast with unrealistic dialogue and the typical stud-and-virgin storyline. The characters were likable enough and their issues were intriguing, but the overall story was not as well executed as I had hoped. The only major compliment I can give is that Sorenson does an excellent job of communicating the sexual tension between Ella and Micha.Without being too explicit, I definitely could feel what Ella was going through!

My greatest complaint (which knocked a whole star off of my rating) was the insane amount of typos in this book. I totally understand a few regular typos in any book, e-book or in print. But this book had so many, including grammatical errors that made my jaw drop. Who edited this, if anyone? I was shocked to find "then" used where "than" should have been used and the word "pining" spelled "pinning" (for a second I thought Micha might totally be into Pinterest...). Simple typos are normal and I'm not too sensitive to punctuation problems, but I was embarrassed to read countless errors that distracted me from reading and forced me to question the credibility of the author. 

I am a little bit intrigued by the concept of a sequel to this story because at the end of the day I think I liked Ella and Micha, but I don't know if I can handle another book full of errors I learned to correct in high school! I totally respect the author for writing a book, publishing it on Amazon and everything, but heck, I'LL do my best edit a book if someone really has nobody else to do a simple proofread!

Bottom Line: Unless you absolutely love mindless romances, skip it. If you're on the fence, the price and length of the book are right so that you can give it a try and not feel too bad if you like it as much as I do. 2/5 stars -- like I said above, I would have given it an extra star if it didn't have so many grammatical errors.

May 27, 2013

Monday's Reading Recap

Happy Memorial Day! I hope you're reading this not at work because you're enjoying your day remembering those who have fought for our freedom! :) I finished the Matched series last week and I was kind of disappointed with the last book, but more on that in a later review. I'm finally starting Game of Thrones, which I have been putting off because of the size of that book. I don't know how I can read multiple books a week with a cumulative 800+ pages, but I'm afraid of an 800+ page book. Have you read Game of Thrones? Did you love it as much as everyone is telling me I'm going to?!
 

Last Week I Finished Reading: Reached by Ally Condie

This Week I'm Reading: Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin (finally!!)

This Week I'm Sharing a Review For: The Secret of Ella and Micha by Jessica Sorenson


What are you reading? 

May 24, 2013

Book Tour: Fateful Eyes by Panos Nomikos

  photo bannerfatefuleyes2_zpsd88ecc93.jpg 

 photo FatefulEyesBookCover_zps8c23ddd8.jpg

Synopsis: Fateful Eyes is a story about a life spent searching for love, accomplishments, and true fulfillment, within the world upheavals that, unfortunately, characterize the beginning of the new millennium. In his own life, Panos Nomikos (the author) has traveled in many continents, has been acquainted with many different people from different cultures, and he has also humbly attempted to comprehend the dizzying pace of events that are unfolding in such a frenetic tempo around us

Panos aspires to share those experiences by narrating the story of “Peter”, a cosmopolitan who is traveling around the world at several exotic places, trying to solve a great puzzle, trying to locate a mysterious lady who came from his distant, youthful, and lustful past, and upset his life and his relationship with his affectionate lover. All the while, she is trying to fend-off by the threat posed by that mysterious rival in his heart.

Yet, the puzzle itself is not the essence of this novel. The puzzle is only a “pretext” to justify the exposure of Peter’s tortuous and twisted path in life, as well as to narrate the lives of everyone around him, as they all become unwittingly entangled into the rolling thunder of the world’s current upheavals, terrorism, wars, and economic crises. Like a modern Odyssey, the real essence of this novel is Peter’s long and tormenting journey towards his destination, towards the completion of his mission. Notwithstanding the mystery, the problems, and the upheavals, this story also celebrates love, affection, optimism, and the enthralling beauty of marvelous life.

Review: I'll be honest, I had a really difficult time connecting with this book; it was a very captivating story and Peter's journey is vividly written. But there was something about the writing style that made it difficult for me to embed myself into the book like I wanted to. I felt like there was so much of Peter's past at one time that it made reading overwhelming, slow and staggered. However, once the actual bulk of the story begins, this book was much more forgiving. 

Nomikos vividly illustrates everything with his words so that you feel like you are traveling alongside Peter yourself; I have never wanted to visit Greece more than while I was reading this book. Similarly notable, this book really keeps you on your toes with trying to figure out who in Peter's life to trust and how to uncover the mystery of Peter's daughter especially. It will be interesting to see what happens in the next installment of this series. 

Speaking of which, the author has an incredible contest for you . . .

 photo contestbanner_zps56c093eb.jpg

Read Fateful Eyes, try to guess the solution of the puzzle (that will be finally revealed in the forthcoming 2nd volume) and win a trip for two persons, for one week, all expenses paid, to the beautiful country that is the final destination of the protagonist in this story, and also win books and other prizes. Contribute your ideas at http://panosnomikos.wordpress.com/about or by email to pnomikos@ath.forthnet.gr . Fateful Eyes can be found on Amazon www.amazon.com/author/panosnomikos in paperback or e-book formats. 

 photo PanosNomikosPhoto_zps0470f617.jpgAbout the Author: I am Panos Nomikos and I was born in 1961 in Athens, Greece, this beautiful country that has become lately the epicenter of the raging global financial crisis. During my carefree, youthful years, I roamed the idyllic islands of my home country having fun on the golden beaches under the sun with my friends and lovers. Later on, I studied for a Ph.D. in the UK and I started a career in Information Technology in the maritime sector, roaming again across the world on intercontinental business trips in faraway places in Asia, Europe and America. In the course of my career I have authored numerous essays and articles in professional publications.

I maintain a blog at http://panosnomikos.wordpress.com to write about my favorite themes related to my beautiful home country, Greece, its position within the world-wide socioeconomic transformations, and its current upheaval in the midst of the worst financial crisis that we are experiencing here. I am especially writing to talk about ordinary Greeks, those living within the country, but also those who live and distinguish themselves around the world, trying to understand their vivid pulse and their feelings of belonging to the world-wide Greek diaspora.
Similarly, I have always aspired to share all those views and experiences and my quests to discover my own ‘true meaning of life’ by writing books. My first novel, ‘Fateful Eyes’, narrates the story of Peter, a busy professional who travels constantly around the world trying to solve a perplexing puzzle that has upset his life, whereas his affectionate lover tries to fend-off the threat posed by a mysterious antagonist in his heart.

You can also follow Panos Nomikos here:

May 20, 2013

Monday's Reading Recap


Last Week I Finished Reading: Matched and Crossed, both by Ally Condie

This Week I'm Reading: Reached by Ally Condie

This Week I'm Sharing a Review For: Fateful Eyes by Panos Nomikos
What are you reading? 

May 17, 2013

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

The more I see and hear, the more I realize how much I don't know.
I want to know everything.
-from Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore


Kristin Cashore's third novel set in the Graceling realm is a sequel to the first novel in the series, Graceling, and a companion to the second novel, Fire. Please note that this means there will be spoilers for Graceling in this review. Graceling is one of my favorite novels (and the first review ever posted on this blog!), so I highly recommend that if you haven't read it, go read it now and skip this review (for now).

Bitterblue takes place eight years after Graceling; young Queen Bitterblue has taken the throne in the kingdom of Monsea after her tyrannical father, King Leck, has been killed. Frustrated and overwhelmed by monotonous work in the castle and curious about what really goes on in her kingdom, the na├»ve but optimistic queen begins sneaking out at night pretending to be a servant girl from the castle. While she is out, Bitterblue befriends thieves seeking the truth about the tragedies that took place in Monsea during King Leck's reign. It doesn't take long for Bitterblue to see that her kingdom is not at all what it seems: literacy is atrocious, buildings are dilapidated and truth seekers are being hunted by those who wish to silence the history of Leck's madness. Bitterblue must decide which of her friends and advisors she can trust and learn how to best be queen in a kingdom still haunted by her father's terrifying reign.

It took me much longer to get sucked into Bitterblue than any of Cashore's other Graceling realm novels; at first the story is kind of all over the place. My biggest struggle was believing that it took Bitterblue eight whole years to finally become so restless that she sneaks out of the castle or wants to be more hands-on as a leader. There was little explanation to why she suddenly made a move to go outside the castle and I think eight years was just convenient for her age. I only wish the author would have made a greater effort at reconciling such a large time gap; I think it contributed to me not diving into this story as immediately as the other two books.

Once I did get into the story, Bitterblue does not disappoint, similar to its preceding novels. Fans of Graceling will be happy to read a lot about Katsa, Po, Lord Giddon, and Prince Raffin and what they have been up to in the last eight years; fans of Fire will also be happy to hear about the kingdom in The Dells. Similar to Katsa and Fire, Bitterblue struggles with the emotional oppression of a paternal male figure (King Leck) and must make reparations for the impact he has made on her personally and on the kingdom. Different from Graceling and Fire, however, Bitterblue reads more like a crime mystery as the reader pieces the kingdom's present story together right alongside Queen Bitterblue.

One major theme well fleshed out in Bitterblue is the many dimensions of lies and non-truths. Bitterblue struggles with not knowing the whole truth of her kingdom which implies she is being lied to, if not explicitly, then by being kept ignorant of important issues. When Bitterblue begins sneaking out at night, she finds herself guilty of the same non-truths. When she creates a false identity to the friends she makes at night, she finds herself outright lying. This brings to question: are all lies created equally? Is it appropriate to lie about certain things or to certain people? How much of the truth is acceptable to withhold? Who can you trust with the whole truth? Who can handle the whole truth? This book does an excellent job of explicating these questions and the answers Cashore gives may not be the ones you expect.

I really hope Kristin Cashore is not finished with her books in the Graceling realm. I would really love to hear how Bitterblue's reign continues as I was a little bit disappointed with the somewhat abrupt ending to this novel. With Cashore's talent for beautiful prose and fantastic storytelling, I hope she continues writing in this realm for many years to come.

Bottom Line: Read this whole series, especially if you love action-adventure-fantasy! This is not your average dystopian YA series, it's a step above the rest. 5/5 Stars

May 10, 2013

Fire by Kristin Cashore

She had thought she'd already reached her capacity for pain and had no room inside her for more. But she remembered having told Archer once that you could not measure love on a scale of degrees, and now she understood that it was the same with pain. Pain might escalate upward and, just when your thought you'd reached your limit, begin to spread sideways, and spill out, and touch other people, and mix with their pain. And grow larger, but somehow less oppressive. She had thought herself trapped in a place outside the ordinary feeling lives of other people; she had not noticed how many other people were trapped in that place with her.
-from Fire by Kristin Cashore
Like many other readers, I was disappointed to learn that Kristin Cashore's Fire was a companion novel to her debut, Graceling, rather than a sequel. I was excited to read more about Katsa and Po, but then deflated that Fire features new characters in the same realm as Graceling. However, it didn't take long for Cashore to capture my attention and heart with equally endearing characters and an even more captivating story of politics, self identity and love in a time of war.

Set in a land just outside the graceling kingdoms and a generation earlier than its preceding novel, Fire is the story of its title character: a stunningly beautiful half-monster half-human teen with the power to enter into and control the minds of those around her. As the orphan of an evil monster father who used his power to destroy people and things for fun, Fire pledges only to use her power in self-defense. But with the kingdom of The Dells on the brink of war, Fire must decide if she should use her power to help the royal family protect the kingdom. Fire is a coming-of-age story about discovering ones strengths and capabilities, and deciding how best to use them.

The story of Fire and her complicated relationship with her father, Cansrel, is simple enough: Cansrel is a monster who is bad while Fire is resistant to her monster qualities and is good, despite her doubts and fear of becoming like Cansrel. But what sets this story apart is Cashore's ability to show Fire (and the reader) that people are not black and white, not inherently good or inherently evil. People are complicated and love, namely Fire's love for her father despite who he is, is complicated.

To compound this illustration, Cashore symmetrically puts Fire in relation to the royal family who were affected by a similar mad father, the late King Nax, Cansrel's best friend. Despite the poor leadership and abuse, the royal children push forward and emphasize their strengths in light of where they came from. Although they have been affected by their father and Cansrel's abuse (most ironically their immediate bias against Fire because of whose daughter she is), the children of King Nax do not limit themselves based on the person who was their father.

While I think that these messages are important and powerful for young readers to learn, I must note that Fire has much more adult content than Graceling. The content is not explicit, but the implications make it a book I might not recommend for readers younger than high school (depending on the maturity of the reader, of course).

My only complaint might be that the segues between Fire's feelings for people are rather weak. There are few indicators that she went from feeling one way about someone to another way until she's embracing them or something. But if that's my only complaint, it's hardly worth mentioning.

Fans of Graceling may be excited to know that, while Fire takes place many years before Katsa was born, some of King Leck's history is revealed which soothes the disappointment that this isn't a sequel. I recommend reading this immediately after Graceling, even though it isn't a sequel because I think a lot of the nuances of King Leck's history may have been lost on me since I didn't read this immediately after Graceling tend to forget details. It definitely makes re-reading this series worthwhile at some point.

Bottom Line: A great action-adventure fantasy story that has something for everyone! Highly recommended! 5/5 Stars

I think if this book were to become a movie, the lead single for the romance that occurs should be Neon Tree's "Close To You". It's pretty perfect considering Fire can be close to anyone with her mind, so true intimacy is a hot commodity. Not to mention the line, "Give me fire / it will melt all your fears away" . So when is someone in Hollywood going to hire me to help with soundtracks? Just sayin'....! ;)

May 3, 2013

The Clock of Life by Nancy Klann-Moren

Back then I thought going for help was the right thing to do, but I wasn't so sure anymore. Figuring out what's right and wrong seemed as hard as holding on to water.
-from The Clock of Life by Nancy Klann-Moren


The Clock of Life by Nancy Klann-Moren is a fictional account of real life struggles in the south after the Civil Rights Movement and Vietnam War. During this time of great change, Jason Lee Rainey is growing up amidst racial tension in Hadlee, Mississippi in the shadow of his late father, a passionate white Civil Rights activist who died in the Vietnam War. Jason Lee has same convictions as his father but he is faced with the brutal evidence of continued racism all around him. With a vibrant cast of characters, including his widowed mother and disabled uncle, Jason Lee tries to reconcile if he has the same strength to make a difference as his father, knowing very little of his father at all.

This novel is a simple read but powerful in its content. Klann-Moren does an excellent job of addressing a serious subject from the perspective of a boy who grows into a young man, making a difficult topic easier to discuss under the guise of Jason Lee's ignorance and naivete. I especially appreciated the depth of all of the characters, especially Jason Lee's mother and her struggle of repressing her grief for many years after losing her husband so young. Similarly, Jason Lee's Uncle Mooks gives a dimension of unexpected wisdom that is special to his character. I found that Klann-Moren really has a talent for developing these special characters and then blending them to learn and relate to each other.

Jason Lee's journey to learn about his father and develop his own opinions and convictions is endearing and powerful. Without coming off as too perfect of a kid (I mean, he does rip off vending machines with counterfeit quarters and drink moonshine with his buddy), Jason Lee has a drive for justice and compassion that separates him from the norm of racist white people from this era. His struggle to reconcile right from wrong and deal with the startlingly serious consequences of doing what he thinks is "right" makes Jason Lee a protagonist any reader can get behind.

My only major complaint is that The Clock of Life ended a little more abruptly than I would have liked and I wish I knew what became of Jason Lee Rainey. Perhaps the author wants the reader to wonder and appreciate that because of kids like Jason Lee in the post-Civil Rights era we hardly even think about race upon meeting a person today. I'd like to imagine the character of Jason Lee went on to do all the things he wanted to do to make our world a more tolerable and loving place to live.

Bottom Line: A great read for anyone, teen through adult, especially if you like Civil Rights era literature. 4/5 stars