December 31, 2014

2014 Best in Books Survey

1. Best Book You Read in 2014: Attachments by Rainbow Rowell, but honestly I read sooo may great books this year!!!
    2. Biggest Disappointment Book: Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin

    3. Most Surprising Book (in a good way): We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

    4. Book Read in 2014 That You Recommended Most in 2014: The Book Thief, We Were Liars and Attachments
      5.  Best Series You Discovered in 2014: What I call The Late-to-the-Party Dystopian Trio: Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, Delirium by Lauren Oliver, and Legend by Marie Lu

      6.  Favorite New Author You Discovered in 2014: Tahereh Mafi, Rainbow Rowell

      7. Best Book Outside Your Comfort Zone: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs.

      8. Most Thrilling, Unputdownable Book Read in 2014: Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver and The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski

      9. Book Read in 2014 That You're Most Likely to Re-Read in 2015: Faking It by Elisa Lorello, I think this will be my annual tradition.

      10. Favorite Cover of a Book Read in 2014: The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski

      11. Most Memorable Character in 2014:Warner from Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

      12. Most Beautifully Written Book of 2014: Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan

      13. Book That Had the Greatest Impact on You in 2014: The Help, The Book Thief, Night and Twelve Years a Slave

      14. Book You Can't Believe You Waited Until 2014 to Read: SO MANY! The Help by Kathryn Stockett, Night by Elie Wiesel, Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, Legend by Marie Lu, Delirium by Lauren Oliver,

      15. Favorite Passage/Quote from a Book Read in 2014:

      You think it's so easy to change yourself. You think it's so easy, but it's not. True, things don't stay the same forever: couches are replaced, boys leave you, you discover a song, your body becomes forever scarred. And with each of these moments you change and change again, your true self spinning, shifting positions- but always at last it returns to you, like a dancer on the floor. Because throughout it all, you are still, always, you: beautiful and bruised, known and unknowable. And isn't that- just you- enough? 
      from This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales  

      16. Shortest and Longest Book Read in 2014:
      • Shortest: Just One Night by Gayle Forman (40 pages)
      • Longest: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (552 pages)
      17.  Book That Had A Scene That Had You Reeling and Dying to Talk to Somebody About It: Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi, Chapter Sixty-Two. HOLY SHIT. Sexiest scene in any book ever.

      18. Favorite Relationship from a Book You Read in 2014:
      • Romantic: Juliette and Warner - Shatter Me series
      • Friendship:Juliette and Kenji - Shatter Me series
      • Familial: the sisters in To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han
      19.  Favorite Book Read in 2014 From An Author You've Previously Read: She Has Your Eyes by Elisa Lorello

      20. Best Book Read in 2014 Based Solely on Another Person's Recommendation: The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski

      21. Genre You Read the Most in 2014:Dystopian/Paranormal YA (23 books!)

      22. Newest Fictional Crush From a Book Read in 2014:Warner of Shatter Me

      23. Best 2014 Debut You Read: Landline by Rainbow Rowell

      24. Most Vivid World in a Book Read in 2014: The world in Lauren Oliver's Delirium

      25. Book That Was Most Fun to Read: The One by Kiera Cass and Cress by Marissa Meyer

      26. Book That Made You Cry in 2014: Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, Nightby Elie Wiesel

      27. Book You Read in 2014 That You Think Was Overlooked: She Has Your Eyes by Elisa Lorello

      28. Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog: Review for Unite Me by Tahereh Mafi (random!)

      29. Did You Complete Any Reading Challenges or Goals You Set This Year? Initially my goal was to read 75 books (which I did!) but then I increased it to 100 and I failed on that miserably! I also failed the TBR Pile Challenge but I learned that I am an emotional reader and that TBR pile will suffer for it! I was one book away from getting a blackout on my Book Bingo!


      1. One Book You Didn't Get To in 2014 But Will Be Your #1 Priority in 2015: Atlantia by Ally Condie

      2. Book You Are Most Anticipating for 2015: Winter by Marissa Meyer and The Winner's Thief by Marie Rutkoski

      3. Series Ending You Are Most Anticipating in 2015: The Lunar Chronicles!!

      4. One Thing You Hope to Accomplish or Do in You Reading/Blogging 2015: Put more of my energy into it and make more friends through my blog! It's been a busy and challenging 2014 but I need to focus my energy and priorities in 2015!


      December 26, 2014

      Review: Pivot Point by Kasie West

      It was hard when I knew I was about to be flooded with memories of a life I hadn't lived yet. Really, two lives I hadn't lived yet.
      -from Pivot Point by Kasie West

      Kasie West's Pivot Point creates a world and concept unlike any other. Hidden somewhere in the United States is a compound of people who use the full capacity of their brains. This usage gives them each unique abilities that they are trained to cultivate early. Aside from her ability to search her decisions for alternate outcomes, Addie Coleman is a relatively normal teenage girl living in this compound. When her parents unexpectedly announce that they're getting a divorce and Addie's dad is moving out into the real world as a Norm, Addie must decide which parent she wants to live with. The book primarily consists of the outcomes of the two choices Addie scans. If Addie chooses to stay with her overbearing mother, she becomes the girlfriend of the most popular guy in school (something she's never been interested in). If she chooses to live with her dad, she adjusts to life as a Norm and even meets a cute new boy. But as her Search goes deeper into her future, both choices reveal things Addie would never want to happen but she has to make a decision.

      At first I wasn't a fan of the writing of Pivot Point. It's not bad necessarily, it's just the result of a first person teen narrator which can often feel cheesy to me. I think the narrative perspective is important and I wouldn't have changed it if I were the author, but it reminded me that I was reading a teen book. Once I was able to get over that though, I was really impressed by how well laid out this story is. The chapters alternate with the path of each choice Addie can make regarding which parent to live with. West does a great job of showing similarities with each path so that you can identify outside forces that Addie's decision did not affect (i.e. a football game is in both choices). I found that this made up for the narrative style and proved West to be a solid writer.

      Another pat of West's writing I like is her characters; they all felt like real people to me. I generally get annoyed by spunky best friend characters, but I really liked Addie's best friend, Laila. She had just enough back story, angst and personality. Addie herself is likable, especially when she's trying to fit in with the Norm culture.

      Throughout the book I kept changing which choice I wanted Addie to make. It was so clear to me which I wanted and then I would completely change my mind. This is another great indicator of how well this story is mapped out. I had suspicions of the ultimate outcome, but it didn't deter my enjoyment of the story overall.

      Bottom Line: This is a very unique and fun story that gets more and more intense as it goes. I think this is a great read for YA fans who love a splash of science fiction/fantasy but still lean more toward contemporary stories. 4/5 Stars.

      December 19, 2014

      Review: The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski

      Happiness depends on being free, and freedom depends on being courageous.
      -from The Winners Curse by Marie Rutkowski
      The Book Rest - Review for The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski
      In Marie Rutkoski's The Winner's Curse, seventeen year-old Kestrel must choose to marry or enter the military as she enters adulthood. As the only child of the most revered general in her people's history, the pressure to join the military and continue to acquire more land and enslave more people is great. But when Kestrel befriends a slave she purchased on a whim, she slowly begins to question the customs of her people and quickly finds herself in the middle of more than she anticipated.

      This book isn't quite dystopian and barely qualifies for fantasy, but it does take place in another time and place with elements that make it feel both futuristic and historical. It started out really slow for me and the only thing that kept me going is that Rutkoski's writing is so well done that I trusted her talents (that, and the gorgeous cover! ha). I'm glad I did trust because this book really picks up about a third of the way in and I was unable to put it down! The action and change of pace really turned this into one of my favorite books this year!

      Kestrel is also a great asset to this book because she's a heroine who is strong and courageous yet relatable and flawed. While she accepts her people's customs of keeping slaves and doesn't really know any different, she also questions their captivity and even goes so far to free her nurse maid. Sometimes Kestrel's desire to do what she wants or to do what is right gets her in trouble, but for the most part this is what I liked about her. It made her seem less perfect and polished; I loved when she would mouth off to people and speak her mind. It made me relate to her much more!

      My perception of Arin changed a lot throughout the book. While I think I enjoy his character overall, he is very good at keeping a poker face to not only Kestrel, but also the reader. Any negative feelings I have toward him were probably more due to Rutkoski's writing abilities than any inabilities. There is so much more to examine, but it's difficult to do this without spoilers or giving too much away that will affect your reading experience. To better understand what I mean about Arin.... you'll just have to read the book for yourself!

      Overall this was just what I needed to get me out of a reading rut. When I was finished with the book I was so sad to find that the sequel doesn't come out for another few months! What will I do with that much time to wait?!

      Bottom Line: This is a great book for any fantasy/dystopian fans who want light fantasy without science fiction. A great story overall and I can't wait for the sequel! 5/5 Stars

      December 13, 2014

      Happy Birthday, Grandpa

      Today would have been my grandpa's 81st birthday. He passed away 6 months ago yesterday. 

      While I know he walked with me through my wedding day (see above) and I know he's here with me in spirit everyday, there's a special sort of hole in my heart today missing him more than ever. 

      Tyler's grandma's birthday is later this month, too. We are missing her the same and hope that the two of them are celebrating their birthday month together in Heaven with a lot of fun. 

      We love you, Grandpa and Grandma

      December 12, 2014

      Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

      I am hard on myself. But isn’t it better to be honest about these things before someone else can use them against you? Before someone else can break your heart? Isn’t it better to break it yourself?
      -from Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

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      Amazon | Goodreads

      Stephanie Perkins third novel, Isla and the Happily Ever After, might just be one of the most anticipated YA releases of 2014. I was so excited for it that I specifically reserved it to read while on my honeymoon so that the wedding planning stress wouldn't take away from my experience! I'm very pleased that I did because lounging on the beach in Cancun, Mexico was just the spot to enjoy this sweet, warm and fuzzy novel that only Stephanie Perkins could have written.

      This novel is the story about Isla, a senior at the American School in Paris, who readers might remember from a brief encounter in Perkins' first novel, Anna and the French Kiss. Ever since her first year in Paris, Isla has had a hopeless crush on Josh, a talented cartoon artist who is way out of her league. When Isla has a chance in encounter with Josh in Manhattan over school break, she gets the opportunity to enter his life and make their romance a reality. But with it comes all sorts of other realities for which Isla just might not be ready. 

      For fans of Perkins, this novel has everything we already love and the same sharp wit and swoon-worthy-yet-realistic-romance we were counting on. Perkins proves again that regular teen crushes and ordinary teen problems are just as noteworthy to write about as anything else. What I love about Perkins is her ability to give power to such a seemingly trivial subject. It's easy to describe this book as a teen romance, but it's much more difficult to articulate the substance that's in it. 

      I was probably able to relate to Isla more than any of Perkins characters because of how shy, introverted and her automatic response to do what is responsible. Like myself as a teen, Isla is highly devoted and loyal to her long-term crush and even thrives off of observing from the shadows. But when faced with the challenge of actually participating in his world, she's forced out of her comfort zone to navigate uncharted territories. While this might not be the most relatable story to others, it really was special to me so I might be biased in how much I enjoyed this novel. 

      Similarly, Perkins doesn't make this just a love story. It also navigates issues with friendship, friendship alongside romance, familial issues, dealing with a significant other's family, etc. Similar to Rainbow Rowell, Perkins makes her supporting characters do more than support. They have lives of their own that affect the main characters in this book. I especially enjoyed the way Isla's autistic best friend Kurt factored into her relationship with Josh and gave it a new dynamic that brought out her need to be responsible. This challenged her need to be romantic and get what she wanted, hence depth to a superficial sounding love story. 

      While I don't think the characters in Isla popped as strongly as those in Anna and Lola, I still enjoyed this book so much. Even though I related to it in a particularly specific way, I think any lover of YA romance would find other ways they can relate to this book and enjoy it just as much! And, as always, we get cameos from our favorite couples in Perkins' previous novels. Yay!

      Bottom Line: If you loved Stephanie Perkins other novels, you've probably already read this one. Although, if you haven't - what are you waiting for?! This series would make a great gift for any teen girl in your life! 

      December 5, 2014

      Someday, Someday Maybe by Lauren Graham

      We're all working hard, but so far away from what we actually want to be doing. We're all peering in at the window of a party we aren't invited to yet, a party we wouldn't know how to dress for, or what kind of conversation to make, even if we came as someone's guest.
      -from Someday, Someday Maybe by Lauren Graham

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      Amazon | Goodreads

      Lauren Graham's debut novel, Someday, Someday Maybe is the story of struggling actress Franny Banks. Franny has give herself a deadline of three years to "make it" as a successful actress in New York City. This novel begins six months before her deadline with very little Franny has to show for her ambitions doing important work. What transpires from following Franny's journey isn't simply a measure of her success in acting, but also the lessons she learns about love, friendship and everything in between.

      While this novel is reportedly not based on Lauren Graham's personal experience struggling for success in the acting world, Franny resembles Graham in a lot of ways fans of the actress may perceive her. Franny is charming in a quirky way, always making the most out of the funny situations in which she finds herself. Franny is likable as a character in the ways Graham is likable on television as a character; while the reader and/or viewer may be frustrated with some of each character's respective choices, the characters are both endearing and therefore lovable in their own rights. 

      That said, Franny also frustrated me in a lot of ways. The most irritating thing about this whole novel is how little Franny actually knows about acting, especially auditioning. If she's dedicated two-and-a-half years of her life to "making it" in show business, how has she not done her basic homework on what to expect at an audition or on a commercial set? I just found this incredibly annoying and made me feel like she wasn't working half as hard as she should be. Similarly I really didn't like how she treated her college sweetheart like a backup plan if her life in New York didn't work out. It made me feel like Franny was very self absorbed and took a lot she did have for granted. This distracted from her likability at times. 

      The good and the negative aspects of Franny are what really humanizes this character driven novel and made it enjoyable enough to finish. While the novel didn't necessarily enlighten me in any particular way, it was a well-written, warm and funny, coming-of-into-oneself novel that's just as good as the others in its genre. If you're a big fan of Lauren Graham you'll probably enjoy Franny in similar ways; but if you aren't familiar with Graham this novel might not strike you as anything outstanding. 

      Bottom Line: Nicely written, quirky, coming-of-age type novel that will probably resonate more with fans of Lauren Graham's acting than the average reader. A good, warm read but not necessarily the best book I've read this year. 3.5/5 stars

      November 28, 2014

      Dash and Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

      But isn't this a dance? Isn't all of this a dance? Isn't that what we do with words? Isn't that what we do when we talk, when we spar, when we make plans or leave it to chance? Some of it's choreographed. Some of the steps have been done for ages. And the rest- the rest is spontaneous. The rest has to be decided on the floor, in the moment, before the music ends.
      -from Dash and Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

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      Today I am going to tell you about the best YA book to read once you're ready to relax and bask in the glow of the holidays. Dash and Lily's Book of Dares takes place over the days preceding Christmas through New Year's Day. I started reading it last year on Christmas Eve and it was really special to follow these characters through the holiday week nearly in real time. I suggest picking it up this week to make your holidays a little merrier!

      When Lily leaves a red moleskin notebook full of instructions amongst the shelves of her favorite book store in New York City, she hopes it will help h er find a special someone with whom to share her lonely teenaged life. Dash, an artfully articulate teenage boy solves all of the notebooks riddles and dares, but instead of simply returning it to Lily, he sends it back with some dares of his own. What ensues is a whimsical adventure of two teenagers trying to find their own blend of love during the holidays and deciphering if their relationship can be sustained outside of their notebook.

      There's a lot of talk about this book: it seems either you love it or you hate it. But I think if you can suspend reality that there are enough teenagers as funny, articulate and intelligent as both Dash and Lily for the two of them to meet for a battle of wits via a red moleskin, then it's a lovely story. There are many times where Dash especially was irritatingly superior in his wit and vocabulary that I definitely was annoyed. However, the sweetness of the holiday season and innocence of their adventure into love allowed me to enjoy this story thoroughly.

      I really appreciated how Cohn and Levithan collaborated on this book and wrote each character independently without any outline to guide the initial story. While both characters sounded years ahead of their time, they both maintained separate voices that helped adjust when they alternated the narrative. I liked both Lily and Dash, despite my previous complaints, and trusted them both as characters and storytellers.

      The premise of the chase was intriguing and kept me entertained throughout the first half of this book, but what really sold me into adding a fourth star was the exploration of loving a real person versus loving a person in our head. This book expounds upon the importance of the person you're pursuing versus the person you want to pursue. It discusses the fine line between a fairy tale and a happy reality. I think it's an important message for teenaged and young adult readers, especially with the glamorous love projected by fairy tales and Hollywood. I don't think Dash and Lily are realistic representations of the teenaged populace, even in New York City, but I think they experience and learning process are very identifiable to people of all ages.

      Bottom Line: Looking for a light holiday read that will fit right into your Christmas Eve through New Years Day schedule? Pick this one up for teenaged adventure, romance and new vocabulary words! 4/5 Stars.

      November 21, 2014

      The Proposition by Katie Ashley

      Have you ever wanted something so bad you think you’d die if you don’t have it? That the mere thought of it keeps you up at night. You can’t sleep, you can’t eat, you can’t drink. You are so consumed by that desire nothing else matters, and you’re not sure life is worth living if you can’t have it.
      -from The Proposition by Katie Ashley
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      Katie Ashley's The Proposition is the story of the great lengths female prototype Emma will do to get pregnant. After losing her fiance and her mother, Emma is so desperate for family that she's willing to do anything for a baby. This includes sleeping with a sexy chauvinistic guy from work, Aiden, who propositions Emma with his sperm so long as he can get her pregnant the old fashioned way. While Emma tries to protect her heart and think of their arrangement as physical only, she can't help but grow attached to the potential future father of her child.

      I probably could have written this review before I even read the book because it was exactly what I expected and ended exactly the way I think anyone could imagine. This book was such a cliche I laughed much more than I swooned. The way Emma tries to protect herself and Aiden tries to pretend like he doesn't care about Emma wasn't even creative. I didn't even like either character, there was nothing that stood out about either of them to me. The author uses Emma's tragic history to make the reader feel bad for her, but this was such a sloppy way to try to force my feelings that I was mostly just annoyed by how stupid Emma was for wanting to bring a baby into the world for her own selfish loneliness and resented her way more than I felt sorry for her. There was nothing redeeming about this book, even the erotic parts were nothing notable.  The worst part about this book is how it perpetuates male and female stereotypes so horribly I was embarrassed by the content.

      So why did I read it? I actually listened to the audio book during the last week leading up to my wedding and really needed something easy to take my mind off of all my stress. This was the only thing that met the bill available through my library and, for what it's worth, it definitely distracted me from all my stress! I don't regret reading it because of that, but I wouldn't recommend this one to anyone. Also, the narrative of the sexy scenes are so ridiculous in the narrator's monotone... I definitely don't recommend listening to romantic audio unless you want to laugh! While I knew what to expect with mindless romance, there are many mindless romances that can still get me to embarrassingly swoon. This was not one of them. I suppose if you really love contemporary romance you might be more forgiving, but this one was not for me.

      Bottom Line: Boring, predictable, not even creative in the sexy department. The only memorable part about the characters is how annoying they are. The actual writing is fine and I wasn't enraged by it, so I don't feel right giving it only 2 Stars; but I disliked it enough not to give it 3... 2.5/5 Stars.

      November 14, 2014

      The Submissive Trilogy by Tara Sue Me

      Gray was two people from different worlds coming together unexpectedly and creating something new. Gray took the best parts of us both and fit them together into something larger than we were apart.
      -from The Dominant by Tara Sue Me

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      So I was in a reading funk earlier this year and I wanted something so light and easy and non-life altering that I could finish it and not even realize I had spent time reading. Does that make sense? Do you ever get that way? The Submissive was the best written out of the contenders I had on my Nook at the time and it actually surprised me in a lot of ways.

      Forgive me if this sounds all too familiar, but The Submissive is the story of sweet little Abigail who applies to become the submissive of rich, handsome, young business mogul Nathaniel West. Nathaniel is a dominant who participates in the sexual underworld of BDSM and, of course, he has a rocky past and has never been able to really commit to love. Until Abigail. The Submissive is Abby's point of view of their little love story while The Dominant is the exact same story told from Nathaniel's perspective.

      Within a few chapters I became really frustrated because the story line of The Submissive was so ridiculously close to 50 Shades of Grey that I couldn't believe the lack of creativity. It even went so far to personify the female protagonist's inner-struggle (good Abby/bad Abby similar to 50 Shades' "inner goddess"). I can understand wanting to copy the success of a best selling book (even if it's terrible writing and has a lack luster storyline), but copying almost every ounce of it was disturbing to me! That was until I did a little research and found out that The Submissive is actually rumored to be the inspiration for 50 Shades of Grey, not the other way around! The fact that The Submissive is actually much better written and felt like it had more substance makes me really disappointed in the success of 50 Shades of Grey. If women are going to get all crazy about erotic romance novels (which is totally fine!), at least have the ability to distinguish decent writing from the terribly-edited fan fiction that is 50 Shades of Grey. Now, I don't mean to start a war with fans of 50 Shades, that's just my opinion on my blog.

      Anyways, this isn't necessarily a review comparing two books, so I'll get on with it! What I found interesting about this series was that it really explored the lifestyle of BDSM. Instead of just having a guy who enjoys tying a girl up and whipping her with things, Nathaniel teaches Abby the whats and whys of his sexual lifestyle and the reader learns right alongside her. I think it helped to deconstruct something that's thought of as so taboo and humanized it, making it understandable to the average person. While I don't want to invest in riding crops or anything, it was interesting to learn about a world that is never really talked about.

      I also found Abby and Nathaniel to be extremely relatable. Nathaniel didn't really seem like some big shot millionaire and Abby wasn't a pure virgin. They seemed human and normal. I wasn't sure I was going to be able to read The Dominant because even though The Submissive got the job done entertaining me, I did not care to hear the whole entire story all over again! But once I did begin to read it, I found Nathaniel's perspective to be refreshing and it gave enough new information to make it informative. I definitely do not think these books are for everyone, but for being an easy and light romantic read, it got the job done.

      The third book in the series I probably could have done without; there was no real conflict or climax, it just followed the characters on with things after the end of the two other books. I felt that parts of The Training could have been included in the other two books to compact this series. There was a lot more informative information about the BDSM lifestyle in The Training, but I wasn't so interested in it that I needed to read this. If you really loved the characters (and I admit I did grow attached to them enough to finish the third book), you will probably want to read the complete series. 

      Bottom Line: Not for everyone and not at all life-altering, but I enjoyed it as a light, fluffy and swoony read that is written way better than 50 Shades of Grey. If you liked 50 Shades of Grey and Bared to You, you will probably enjoy this series. 3.5/5 Stars.

      November 7, 2014

      Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup

      This is no fiction, no exaggeration. If I have failed in anything, it has been in presenting to the reader too prominently the bright side of the picture. I doubt not hundreds have been as unfortunate as myself; that hundreds of free citizens have been kidnapped and sold into slavery, and are at this moment wearing out their lives on plantations in Texas and Louisiana. But I forbear.
      -from Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup

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      Slavery and the Holocaust are two portions of semi-modern history that are so egregious and so unbelievable that I can't help but want to read about them and learn about them. There's no way I can wrap my head around why anyone would want to treat another human being the way people were treated during these blemishes on human history, but I admire any books educating on the subject because by learning more about the horrors of humanity we can better prepare ourselves to eradicate future atrocities. I also admire the bravery of authors who write about their personal experiences and the counter of goodness and strength of the human spirit they bring. Solomon Northup is no exception and his story is one of so much unfair horror and yet so much bravery that I really want to encourage you to read it.

      Solomon Northup was born a second generation African-American in America. More importantly, he was born free. Twelve Years a Slave is Northup's personal account and just based on the prose of the narrative alone it's obvious that he was an intelligent, educated man. Northup lived the American dream in New York where he was married with three children and worked very hard so that his family was never wanting. One day when looking for extra work, Northup was drugged and kidnapped and sold into slavery where he remained a slave for twelve years. His memoir is a graphic account of the horrors he faced, the friendships he made and the way he was able to find his way back to freedom.

      What is most interesting about Northup's account of slavery is that he, born a freeman, had no experience as a slave before entering slavery. Many accounts of slavery are based on people who were born into slavery, but Northup's account makes it especially easy for people who never experienced slavery firsthand or even segregation to identify with. It also makes it so much more horrifying to imagine being free one day and a slave the next and emphasizes how much we are able to take our freedom for granted. The injustice of Northup's story is absolutely infuriating, but similarly terrifying.

      Because of his lack of experience with slavery, Northup explains his story with much detail and background for readers who also have little experience with the details of slavery. I found this both good for informational purposes but also terrible because of how horrible slavery is in all aspects. Learning about the sale process of slaves and how horrible slave owners could be was such a sad and shameful depiction of humanity.

      Fortunately, Northup did share some of the better stories about people who took care of each other and even slave owners who weren't as terrible. While none of these stories make up for any part of the horrors of slavery, they shed some much needed hope on humanity and the human spirit. Had it not been for the goodness in people, Northup may have never become free again.

      Bottom Line: This is a must read for everybody. You should know your history and you should never allow itself to repeat in any similar shape or form. 5/5 stars.

      October 31, 2014

      Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

      I had just come to accept that my life would be ordinary when extraordinary things began to happen. The first of these came as a terrible shock and, like anything that changes you forever, split my life into halves: Before and After. Like many of the extraordinary things to come, it involved my grandfather Abraham Portman.

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      Amazon | Goodreads

      Using (generally eerie) vintage photography, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs weaves a supernatural tale visually in addition to the traditional written word of a novel. Jacob Portman's grandfather has always been a little kookie. Grandpa Portman was sent to an island during World War II where he survived the Holocaust living amongst other child refugees, so his crazy stories have always been forgiven. However, his stories about the peculiar children with whom he grew up and the monsters who are after him only become more desperate with age. When tragedy strikes, everyone is quick to write Grandpa Portman off as a crazy old man; but Jacob is curious to find out just where his Grandpa is from and if maybe he wasn't so delusional after all.

      It's difficult to review this book without alluding to spoilers, so forgive me if I'm vague and this review is short. The biggest draw of this novel is the incorporation of vintage photography used to tell the story. I really found this fascinating, creative and helpful in imagining the strange world Riggs creates. The photographs are often extremely creepy, especially in the beginning before the characters are placed into context in the story. I especially love that the characters matched with the photographs retain the original names alluded to in the photographs' titles. This made the story feel especially realistic and plausible. 

      This book is full of themes of identity, true to most teen fiction. I especially enjoyed the categories of a person being "Peculiar", "Normal" or a "Monster". Similarly, the question is posed whether we are all extraordinary and how we use our abilities. These themes and ideas, coupled with the dry humor made this book more interesting and enjoyable than the darn and scary novel I was anticipating. 

      Overall, this novel is not something I would ordinarily read. I'm not really into paranormal or fantasy and not knowing what to expect made the beginning particularly slow. But in the end I really enjoyed how Riggs broke apart the stereotype that "peculiar" is negative or useless. I wasn't sure if this would be a series I would want to continue after the first installment, but after finishing this book I immediately went off to find a copy of the second book, Hollow City. It may not have been anything I was expecting or thought I would enjoy, but I'm glad I read this book and that it expanded my reading horizons. 

      Bottom Line: Even if you don't like fantasy, paranormal, or "creepy" books I still recommend giving this series a shot to get you into the "peculiar" mood of Halloween! 4.5/5 hearts.

      October 24, 2014

      Landline by Rainbow Rowell

      You don't know when you're twenty-three.
      You don't know what it really means to crawl into someone else's life and stay there. You can't see all the ways you're going to get tangled, how you're going to bond skin to skin. How the idea of separating will feel in five years, in ten - in fifteen. When Georgie thought about divorce now, she imagined lying side by side with Neal on two operating tables while a team of doctors tried to unthread their vascular systems.
      She didn't know at twenty-three.

      -from Landline by Rainbow Rowell

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      Oh Rainbow Rowell, how much I love you, especially your adult fiction! Let me tell you, I liked Eleanor and Park, I related to Fangirl to the point of loving it simply for that, but when I picked up Attachments and Landline it was like Rainbow Rowell gave me everything I love in contemporary adult fiction wrapped in a bow. She brings the warmth and wit of YA with real adult lessons and each novel makes me a bigger Rainbow Rowell fan than the last.

      Landline is the story of Georgie McCool, a Los Angeles based television writer and wife of Neal, her stay-at-home-dad husband. Georgie tends to take Neal for granted and put her own needs and dreams in front of his. She's not mean, bad or vindictive, she just is really driven toward her dreams. But when Georgie bails on their Christmas visit to Neal's family in Omaha because her dream television show might get picked up, Neal goes without her and leaves Georgie alone in Los Angeles to consider her real priorities. When Georgie stays the night in her childhood home, she rediscovers her old landline phone and calls Neal. What she discovers is a portal into the past through a telephone connection with Neal before he asked her to marry him.

      I didn't actually read the full synopsis before I started reading this book, so when I got to the part about the magic phone I was like, "What kind of a book is this?!" I was surprised to find this magical element involved in a pretty realistic contemporary, but I trusted Rainbow Rowell and she didn't disappoint. Georgie's internal struggle between the grey area of what's "right" is such a strong part of this book. The people we love the most are who we take for granted most of the time, so I never really saw Georgie as being bad for not going to Omaha. But I was also able to relate to Neal and why he was so upset. I actually struggled between whether or not I liked Neal through most of the book, but I also enjoy how Rowell makes her characters so complex. True to form, Rowell doesn't just color in her main characters but crafts supporting characters just as vibrantly. Georgie's ridiculous mother, from her over-the-top love of pugs to her bedazzled yoga pants, was one of my favorites. I really enjoyed the complexities of Georgie's whole family dynamic.

      What I didn't love about this book is that at times it seemed to be meandering a little bit. I almost got bored with Georgie's calls to Neal from the past, but fortunately Rowell would pick up the pace just when I was feeling this way. Similarly, I wasn't completely fulfilled by Georgie's best friend, Seth. I thought he was a great addition to the dynamic of Georgie's story, but I didn't feel satisfied by his presence the way I think Rowell aimed for me to feel. Neither of these things ruined the story, but maybe stalled the experience for me a little bit.

      As a newly-married woman (WHAT?!) I think this book is an important story to read upon starting a marriage and maybe during the same season of marriage as Georgie. Much like What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty, I think it helps the reader reconsider the start of their own love story and evaluate the things that have happened between now and then to bring you where you are.

      Bottom Line: Soak it in like every other Rainbow Rowell book! Great characters, great message and a little bit of magic! Highly recommended for anyone who is married, getting married, or in a seriously long-term relationship. 4.5/5 Stars.

      October 17, 2014

      Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

      By the time Lincoln realized that he hadn't sent a warning to Beth Fremont and Jennifer Scribner-Snyder -after who knew how many offenses, three? half a dozen? - he couldn't remember why not. Maybe because he couldn't always figure out what rule they were breakuing. Maybe because they seemed completely harmless. And nice. [...] 

      And also... Also, he kind of liked Beth and Jennifer, as much as you can like people from reading their e-mail, only some of their e-mail.
      -from Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

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       You guys, I'm getting married on SUNDAY! Crazy, right?! In celebration of that wonderful day, I'm sharing my review for one of my favorite romantic novels that I've read this year! Enjoy! 


      I've been trying to resist the Rainbow Rowell mania for some time now. I liked Eleanor and Park but I didn't love it the way I was told I would. I liked Fangirl a lot more, but it was really long. When I started Attachments, I figured this would settle whether I was a real fan of Rowell or not and I must say, less than 24 hours later when I finished this book, I decidedly became a HUGE fan.

      Lincoln works on IT security for a newspaper, The Courier, in 1999. His main job is to read flagged interoffice emails and to prepare for the big Y2K scare. He starts becoming attached to two women in the company who email each other and get flagged all the time. Eventually he begins falling in love with one of them and begins to question his ethics with the invasion of her privacy. Bigger than just a love story, Attachments is a modern day coming of age story that also examines attachments between parents, friends and things that we depend on that might act as a crutch and prohibit us from finding out potential.

      As always, Rainbow Rowell sets the bar for crafting smart, flawed, realistic characters that jump right off the page. Each character, whether a main character or supporting, has dimension to them and it's obvious the time Rowell spends developing them. Parents are never stock characters in Rowell's books, and in Attachments, Lincoln's mother (whom he lives with) can be the subject of a book all her own. Her attachment to Lincoln and the psychology of why give this story its greatest added layer that proves Rowell's superiority as a writer. I similarly noticed various characters' attachment to religion as a subtle theme throughout the book, despite most not acting "religious" or living particularly pious lives. There are plenty of examples of attachments, but these were my favorite non-obvious ones.

      Another great example of how Rowell crafts her characters is how much I loved Jennifer and Beth simply based on their emails alone. The reader gets the exact same experience as Lincoln because we don't learn anything more about these women than the contents of their flagged emails. I was able to relate so much with Beth throughout the entire novel, which helped me love her and feel what she was feeling; from being familiar with an empty dead end relationship to her quirky use of sarcastic comic relief for everything and her discontent with her arms (This was one of my favorite parts of the book! Also, please God, let my arms look good on my wedding day!), Beth was so much fun. Experiencing these characters the exact same way as Lincoln really made the entire experience of this book much more fulfilling, but this method may not have been as successful without Rowell's expertise in characterization.

      Finally, my most whiny complaint about Rowell's work is that often times I think the book is too long for the content. With Fangirl I still kind of hold my ground (even though I loved it), but Attachments helped me recognize that Rowell doesn't take the easy way out to end a story. She allows her characters the time and opportunities to grow (and fail), to get something right the right way. This offers the reader a more fulfilling resolution than a cheesy one. I might be happy with a cheesy easy ending, but I'll think about the book much more if a character is smart, sincere and (in the case of Lincoln) stays true to his moral compass. I'm okay with a book being a little long to get this kind of ending.

      Bottom Line: This book might not hit everyone the way it hit me, but it's an absolutely fantastic romantic story with more depth than the premise lets on. I think if it sounds like something you will like, you will probably love it. 5/5 Stars

      October 16, 2014

      5 Books I'm Bringing on my Honeymoon

      My wedding is in THREE DAYS! I can't even wrap my brain around that! All I can focus on to calm myself down is our honeymoon in Cancun where I will finally be able to catch up on my reading! As my last unscheduled post before I get married, I wanted to share with you the 5 books I'm bringing on my honeymoon!

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      Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins - I have been resisting reading this since its release because I know I'll enjoy it more when I'm relaxed! I CAN'T WAIT! It's already burning a hole in my suitcase!

      Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein - Another I keep meaning to read, this time I hope I will really get a chance to start it!

      What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty - This is a great book to read after getting married. I've already read it once, but I think it will be the perfect honeymoon re-read! 

      Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins - I want to re-read this one in time for the movie release, and what better time to start than now!

      This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper - I want to see the movie, but I always try to read the book first! 

      What books are you reading right now?

      October 11, 2014

      YA Holocaust Literature

      When I was in college I did a study on YA Holocaust literature and how important it is for young people to read stories, fiction or non-fiction, about this time in history. I feel that it's important not only for historical reasons, but also to help teens gain empathy, understanding and help them navigate through their value systems. After reading The Book Thief I decided to listen to some classic YA Holocaust audio books that I hadn't ever read or that I hadn't read in a long time and I want to share them with you. For the record, I would give them all 5 stars.

       photo 562282_zps612c7b1e.jpgNight by Elie Wiesel - One of the most popular accounts of an experience in a concentration camp, Elie Wiesel tells his own story beginning with life before the war and ending with his liberation from Buchenwald concentration camp. This memoir is written very simply so that it can be understood by young readers, but its message is universal for all ages. I especially love that when asked to turn this book into a film, Wiesel refused because it would lose its meaning without the silences between the words. I highly recommend Night, but I also stress that there is very difficult subject matter. I don't think you should avoid reading this because of that, but I think you should be aware and prepared emotionally.

       photo 438930_zps18c544ec.jpgUpon the Head of a Goat: A Childhood in Hungary by Aranka Siegal - This novel is one of my favorite books. and I even performed parts of it for a theatre project in college. Aranka Siegal fictionalizes her personal experience leading up to her time in Nazi concentration camps, but all of the events are completely real. I think I remember reading that she only wrote about the time before and after her time in the concentration camps because it was too difficult of material for her to write about for children. Even without writing about her time in Auschwitz, Siegal still captures both the terror of the Holocaust and the triumph of the human spirit through her family. If you enjoy this book, you will also love the sequel Grace in the Wilderness: After the Liberation.

       photo 47281_zpsbdedf60c.jpg  Number the Stars by Lois Lowry - This book used to actually scare me when I was little and saw it in my classrooms because I was afraid of the little girl on the cover; I didn't even know what the book was about but I never tried to read it. As an adult when I found out it was actually a book about World War II, I read it and was so disappointed I never read it when I was young. This is the only book on my list that is completely fictional as Lois Lowry did not live through the Holocaust. But that doesn't detract from the power of this story of friendship. Annemarie is ten year old in Copenhagan and her family takes in her Jewish best friend, Ellen, to hide. This is a great story of the non-Jews who fought to protect their friends and neighbors and I think it's a great perspective of the good in humanity that prevailed against the evil.

       photo 48855_zps6636e4dd.jpg The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank - This is probably the most famous out of the books I'm profiling today. I remember reading Anne Frank's diary in sixth grade and it inspired me to keep a super formal diary of my own, I was so impressed by her writing even though I don't think I quite comprehended the gravity of Anne's situation. Re-reading as an adult put things in better perspective. Even though Anne is unapologetically a stereotypically (let's be honest: sometimes annoying) teenager, her diary truly makes the events in World War II and the Holocaust so much more real than anything else I've ever read. It helps the reader connect the mundane everyday tasks of living with something so important as survival during a time of human extermination. Knowing Anne's fate makes this book so much harder to read, but I'm happy that her father kept her memory and legacy alive for many future generations to learn from.

      Are there any historical books that have impacted you strongly?

      October 10, 2014

      The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

      I wanted to tell the book thief many things, about beauty and brutality. But what could I tell her about those things that she didn't already know? I wanted to explain that I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race-that rarely do I ever simply estimate it. I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant.
      -from The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
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      Amazon | Goodreads

      Writing about World War II in Europe without living through it is a difficult task but beautiful when done properly. In The Book Thief, Markus Zusak proves that he can elegantly, sensitively and even at times humorously deliver a story that embodies the human spirit that allowed humanity to eventually prevail during this horrible time in history and the ability for books to feed the soul. 

      The Book Thief is the fictional story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich during World War II, narrated by Death. Always fascinated by books, Liesel's foster father teaches her to read and ignites a hunger for books in her. Beginning even before her time in foster care, Liesel steals books and it is the only form of real control she has in her life. But Liesel's book thievery only scratches the surface of this story: from her colorful foster mother to the Jewish man hiding in her basement and the solace Liesel brings to others with her reading, this book is full of surprise that will warm your heart and make you laugh while it breaks your heart and makes you cry. This is one of those books that is difficult to articulate because there's just too much to say and my words won't do justice.
      The narrative of Death is what really sets this story on a platform all its own. Death gives an omniscient narrative perspective and will often even tell the fate of a character long before necessary. This made me pay closer attention to characters I knew would not live much longer where I probably would not have paid attention to them otherwise. Furthermore, Death is not obligated to operate under the same rules of conduct as humans so he/she/it is better able to candidly speak about World War II (although, fortunately, Death is still very respectful and sincere). Having this atypical narrator set the stage for how special this book is and it provided the tools necessary to breach a sensitive topic. 

      The theme of books and how Liesel stole them is easily identifiable to an avid reader, so I had no problem connecting with Liesel there. But what I also liked was how stealing gave her a sense of control amongst so much chaos. From her first book stolen at her brother's funeral on her way into foster care to all of the tumultuous changes in her lifestyle caused by the war, reading and stealing were Liesel's control. I also liked that despite stealing being "wrong", Liesel always used her books for good, reading to Max and her neighbors in the bomb shelter. 

      While The Book Thief may not be a "true story", I think it does an excellent job in highlighting the human spirit during World War II and focusing on many ways, big and small, that people helped other people. Even the small act of the mayor's wife allowing Liesel to use her library and leaving her cookies was something that showed that there was still pieces of good in humanity. This book shows how books can fuel people and how people can do good, even when they're surrounded by evil. 

      Bottom Line: A must read for anybody and everybody. I listened to the audio book and loved the narrative. Please pick this one up, you won't be sorry. 5/5 Stars.

      October 6, 2014

      If We Were Having Coffee Together . . .

      I'm taking a page from The Perpetual Page-Turner and posting what it might be like if we were to have coffee together . . . even though the pictures from my bachelorette party I will litter this post with could make the title: "If we were having Dirty Shirleys Together . . . " ;)

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      If we were having coffee . . . I would tell you all about how much fun I had this past weekend at my bachelorette party in Las Vegas. When I think about all that went into planning it and all the girls that traveled out there with me to celebrate, I seriously want to cry. I'm not even being dramatic, I am so humbled that my like-a-sister-cousin Jennifer and my sister-in-love Tara threw such an incredible party (the details!!) and that my friend Nicole and future sister-in-loves Allison and Deanna came out with me! Tara's mom even joined us the last day for the most fun-filled girls weekend ever! If we were having coffee I would probably go on and on about the fun for HOURS!

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      If we were having coffee . . . I would tell you how surreal it is that I'm getting married in THIRTEEN DAYS. I still have a lot to do (even though I am pretty well organized), but the pressure to pull off the day is so stressful I feel frozen in place. I have such a great support system though, that I know it will all be okay. I am not at all worried about getting married, I'm worried about the epic party I'm in charge of! ;) In 2 weeks I will be getting ready to go to Cancun and I think when that time comes I will be especially relieved, happy and excited to start my life as a wife!

      If we were having coffee . . . I would tell you how cute my new almost-nephew is! Tyler's sister had a baby last week (the first in their immediate family) and we were lucky enough to drive up to northern California for his birth! I can't wait to see him again at the wedding!! Congratulations to Kim and Ryan on new baby Malcolm! :)

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      If we were having coffee . . . I would embarrassingly admit that I have not really done hardly any reading in almost TWO MONTHS! I listened to Lauren Graham's audio book Someday, Someday Maybe but other than that, I suck! I can't even believe my Dystopian September is finished - I realized it this morning and was blown away!! I do think I get a free pass planning a wedding, but I don't know that I'll make my reading goals for the year! I've all but given up on the TBR List Challenge. I think it's all fun, stupid, mindless books for me for the rest of the year!

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      If we were having coffee . . . I would ask you to call all the people invited to my wedding who have not RSVP'd because I'm so annoyed by them (a week after the request date!) I don't even want to do it right now haha!

      If we were having coffee . . . I would probably have to cut it short because I have 12 more days to get a TON of stuff DONE!!!! ;)  Until then . . . .

      October 3, 2014

      Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

      You can't stop the future
      You can't rewind the past
      The only way to learn the secret to press play
      -from Thirteen Reasons Why by ay Asher

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      In Thirteen Reasons Why, Clay Jensen comes home from school one day to find an unmarked package containing cassette tapes. The cassettes are from Hannah Baker, a girl from school who recently killed herself, a girl who Clay had a crush on. On each side of the cassette tapes are thirteen individuals who gave Hannah reasons to kill herself and each recipient must listen through the tapes to find out how they play into the story. In this interesting dual narrative between Clay and Hannah via the tapes, new perspectives are revealed about Hannah Baker and the things that break a person.

      First off, I want to say that I really enjoy how Jay Asher always a refreshing way to tell his stories. From The Future of Us which had an interesting spin of the future in it, to Hannah Baker's narrative through her tapes in Thirteen Reasons Why, I really like the creative direction Asher takes in his work. While you might remember I didn't love the execution of The Future of Us, I found Thirteen Reasons Why much more satisfying.

      I listened to this via audio book, which I highly recommend because you get to hear Clay's voice and Hannah's voice and it makes the whole experience more realistic (even if Hannah's voice creeps me out and sounds way older than a teenager). This book is such an interesting study of the human experience, especially magnified by the emotions of teenagers. First off, it's very clear right off the bat that Clay is a responsible and trustworthy narrator. He is a good guy, he liked Hannah, he has a strong moral compass and sense for justice. As a reader I felt like Clay couldn't have anything to do with Hannah's death and that he would stand up to bullies in general. That said, Hannah shares experiences that Clay had no idea about and Clay also shares (through the narrative) his remorse for not helping Hannah more when she was alive. The layers of their narratives made me consider how each person has such unique experiences and nobody ever completely understands what is going on with another person without proper communication. Oftentimes this doesn't matter too much, but in the case of Hannah Baker, it meant her life. Had she understood how much Clay liked her and/or had Clay not been so shy and expressed his feelings to her, maybe she would have found a reason to live. Communication is a big theme in romantic books (and life in general), but Asher weaves together its importance so poignantly through this story.

      As I mentioned, I couldn't understand why Clay would receive the tapes because he is such a good guy, so I was on the edge of my seat waiting for his tape to come into play. I won't spoil it for you, but I was disappointed by that part, but that's mainly my only major complaint with this book. The ending did seem to wrap up a little abruptly for me, but it's not like I was able to expect Hannah Baker to come strolling in for a happy ending. This book is tough. It's made tougher by the fact that bullying and teasing is rampant amongst teenagers and many of them don't understand the consequences. I think this is an important book to read and it has an interesting spin on the subject through the cassette tape narratives to really hold your interest.

      Bottom Line: A creative way to tell a story about bullying and a strong explication on human nature and communication in general. I recommend to anyone who sounds like it's something they would like and feel like it's an important subject to read about. 4/5 Stars.

      September 26, 2014

      Mini Reviews: Pandemonium and Requiem by Lauren Oliver

      With the cure, relationships are all the same, and rules and expectations are defined. Without the cure, relationships must be reinvented every day, languages constantly decoded and deciphered. 

      Freedom is exhausting.
      -from Requiem by Lauren Oliver

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      For the sequels to Delirium I've decided to give you two mini-reviews together. I figure if you haven't started the series you won't want to read them anyway because of the necessary spoilers for Delirium and if you have read them then it's a good jumping off point for discussions. It's also funny because I have such differing ratings for both books.

      Don't forget: these reviews contain spoilers for Delirium and the Requiem review contains spoilers for Pandemonium.

      Pandemonium (Book 2)- 5 Stars
      This was by far my favorite book in the series. It picks up a few months after Delirium left off but alternates chapters with what happened to Lena immediately as she entered the Wilds and after she became acclimated. I didn't necessarily care for this back and forth at some points and I feel like by the end, Oliver kind of forgot about it and stuck with the present anyway. It seemed like the flashbacks slowed things down for me. Lena has found herself in the Wilds and is being cared for by a group of (what society calls) Invalids involved with the Resistance. Lena begins to learn their ways and eventually finds her way back into society as part of a plan for the Resistance. But when the plan goes wrong and she's in captivity with the poster-boy for a Deliria-Free America, Lena must use everything she's learned to gain her freedom back.

      The best part of this book to me is Lena's growth. She finally becomes a protagonist I can cheer for but she doesn't become a super hero overnight either. She has to learn to depend on her own strength now that she doesn't have Alex to lean on and press her forward. I really enjoyed seeing Lena blossom in this way. I also enjoyed seeing her in the driver's seat of a lot of the action. I would have never expected this from the Lena in Delirium, but she has learned that to have freedom you must fight for it and bleed for it.

      Another thing that I enjoyed unexpectedly was Julian. He kind of came out of left-field for me but I liked him a lot. It was interesting to see a boy who is so similar to Lena before she left society and then to see Lena's influence on him as someone opposed to the cure. It was a fascinating dynamic to consider and see play out. Not to mention, Lena and Julian's captivity and all the action was edge-of-your-seat material. I felt like this book flew by because it was so action packed and had a great ending.

      Requiem (Book 3)- 3.5 Stars
      Requiem started out so promising but ended so abruptly, I wanted to cry. Basically following suit of most other dystopian series, Requiem is the big political book where war is waged against the big bad government to initiate a whole lotta change. This book alternates with chapters giving both Lena and recently-cured Hana's perspectives. At first I didn't care for Hana's point of view but she grew on me and I became anxious for the two characters to intersect. It was interesting to see the experience of a cured and an uncured.

      I had heard a lot of negative reviews about the conclusion to the Delirium series, but I never read them because I didn't want to be spoiled. One major complaint was how nothing seems to really happen through much of the book. Personally, I didn't really realize how aimless this book seemed until I really thought about it at the end because there were so many emotions that went through me throughout that I didn't mind so much. I mean, that love triangle that kind of magically materialized itself just killed my heart. The growth of Julian (who reminded me so much of Peeta in The Hunger Games), the angst of Alex, the inability for Lena to even deal with the situation - it was enough for this superficial little reader (ha).

      Up until the last few pages I couldn't understand all the negative press because it was a decent book. But then Lauren Oliver called and phoned in the end. Remember when I said that Delirium was too long of a book and could have used some editing? Well, the opposite for Requiem! First off, I was so irritated by Hana and Lena's interaction: the Hana that Lena sees is not the Hana we have been hearing throughout the book. I felt jipped and lied to. Hana proved to me through her narrative that she had much more substance even if she was flawed. But that interaction was crap. Finally, the end was tied up in a cute little bow that had a dozen loose strings hanging from it. I have so many more questions! I knocked a whole star off for this ending. If you haven't read this book yet, just be forewarned. I probably would have been more disappointed if I hadn't known the general consensus from the book blogging community.

      Bottom Line: Someone needs to lock Lauren Oliver and Tahereh Mafi in a basement and tell them both to write fulfilling epilogues to their series so that this girl is a little bit more satisfied. Now I'm really going to go off on some tangents....

      Have you read the Delirium series? How did you feel about it? Am I crazy? ;)

      September 25, 2014

      Delirium by Lauren Oliver

      Love: a single word, a wispy thing, a word no bigger or longer than an edge. That's what it is: an edge; a razor. It draws up through the center of your life, cutting everything in two. Before and after. The rest of the world falls away on either side.

      -from Delirium by Lauren Oliver

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      In seventeen year old Lena's world, love is a disease that the government has inoculated. Every male and female are cured on or around their eighteenth birthday and then paired with a member of the opposite sex to live a normal, structured life. Lena can't wait to be cured, it's something she has dreamed of her whole life. Until, of course, she meets a boy. When Lena meets Alex, her ideas of love and the government's control are challenged. She begins to wonder about the world beyond her society's walls and where she belongs.

      Let me just say that I love Lauren Oliver, no matter what I say in my reviews, mmmkay? ;)
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      Delirium had a lot of hype to live up to, so perhaps I had unfair expectations, but it took me awhile to get through this book. In the end, it was worth it (hence the four-stars), but I felt like it took too long for Oliver to get to the point. I really enjoy Lauren Oliver's writing and there was no problem there other than the fact that she maybe writes too much. For the most part I think the average reader knows where this story is headed before Alex even enters the picture (Hmm, what sort of conflict do you think will be in a book about abolishing love?); I just don't think it should take 400+ pages to get that story out. Funny enough, Oliver then skims through how Lena and Alex's relationship grows so quickly that it took me awhile until it felt solid and believable. I just this story was better paced and/or edited.

      That said, I still did enjoy the book overall. When I finished I found myself extremely invested in the series despite it taking awhile to win me over. While the idea of love as a disease is nothing new, Oliver builds a frighteningly controlled world stripped of all emotion because of its lack of love and gives a refreshing perspective. Without love as the centerpiece of life, everything changes and in Delirium, readers get a clear picture of all of the effects.

      Lena and her best friend, Hana, give a good balance of perspective as a teenage girl on the cusp of being cured. While Lena is a rule-follower and a very trustworthy narrator, Hana is more care-free and apt to break the rules. Being able to see both angles gives readers a better sense of the experience of teens in their world. I might be jaded from reading so many dystopian series, but I found myself impatient with Lena through a lot of the story while Hana was able to balance that a little bit. After finishing the series as a whole, I was better able to appreciate Lena in Delirium because of how much she grows and evolves.

      While I would still recommend the Delirium trilogy to any dystopian loving reader, I will warn that I found it a little long. I don't know that "slow" is the right word, but maybe somewhat anticlimactic given the length. I still really enjoyed the book overall and it made me want to jump right into the next installment of the series.

      Bottom Line: Too long, in my opinion, but still a really great kick start to a strong series. The writing is solid and the climax will have you at the edge of your seat! 4/5 Stars.

      Oh, and P.S: Save your time and don't bother watching the pilot of the series on Hulu, it is so cheesy and terrible!

      September 19, 2014

      Champion by Marie Lu (Legend #3)

      Sometimes, the sun sets earlier. Days don’t last forever, you know. But I’ll fight as hard as I can. I can promise you that.
      -from Champion (Legend #3) by Marie Lu

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      Amazon | Goodreads

      This review contains spoilers for Legend and Prodigy

      Champion is the climactic ending to Marie Lu's dystopian Legend series. Taking place almost a year after Prodigy left off, The Republic of America is making great strides toward resolving a lot of the problems that made it corrupt due to its new leader. But when a peace treaty with the Colonies of America falls through because of a plague outbreak in the Colonies, the Republic needs to call upon the help of Day and his brother Eden again. When Day and June reunite, they must put their past aside to help save the new Republic.

      While I didn't love Champion as much as I loved Prodigy, this was definitely a fitting end to a great trilogy! The story begins somewhat aimlessly to me, with peace talks one minute and then the Colonies making illegal attacks on the Republic the next. I wasn't sure who to trust and I didn't know if Lu intended for me to be so disoriented or not, which made it feel aimless. Similarly, the romance of June and Day seems a bit disjointed as well. There is one climactic point emotionally that I loved, but the following chapter seemed to eradicate any progress made between June and Day. I was really frustrated with that, even if I could understand it (I know, I make no sense but I'm avoiding spoilers!). There was just too much resentment too quickly following such a beautiful scene.

      Despite those frustrations, I really did enjoy the movement of the book and the evolution of not only the characters, but the Republic society as a whole. There is so much growth seen in this system that I have not seen in any other dystopian books which I think sets this series apart. Through the leadership of Anden and the encouragement of Day, the Republic slowly shifts into a government that the people support, love and are willing to fight for which is so different from the Republic in Legend.

      My favorite theme in this book is that of sacrificial love. Many of the characters must sacrifice something for the greater good of their society. Early in the series we see many characters sacrificed for standing against the Republic, but in Champion the characters are given the opportunity to sacrifice themselves for a better government which gives a different dynamic to their sacrifice. Day must contemplate sacrificing Eden for a plague cure (which may not even be his call to sacrifice at all). Day sacrifices his relationship with June for her well-being. There are many more that I won't spoil, but this book calls into question what you would sacrifice for the greater good and what you would sacrifice for the ones you love.

      The end of this book and series was truly one of the best I've read. Everything comes full circle and while we've seen a lot of  loss throughout the series, there is also so much hope with the ending. While I'm sad that it's over, I'm so satisfied with the end and can highly recommend this series to any fan of dystopian fiction!

      Bottom Line: While it was a little bit aimless at times, it was a wonderful book and a fulfilling series-end! 4/5 Stars.