These Things Hidden – Heather Gudenkauf

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This is going to be a hard one. Which is probably why it’s taken me so long to post this. I feel in love with Gudenkauf’s story telling back when I read The Weight of Silence,  I couldn’t put it down and finished it within days. The same happened with this book. The chapters switch from Allison, a young girl newly released from jail and has had to bare the brutality that comes with her crime and also the judgment of her family.  Brynn, her sister who is the only one who knows the true story of what happened the night that Allison was arrested and she isn’t talking. Charm, a teenager going to nursing school and is also taking care of her estranged mother’s ex-boyfriend whom she recognizes as her dad. Claire, a woman who had trouble conceiving in the past and owns a bookstore with her husband.

The reason this is so tough is that I am not one to spoil a good book and there are so many twists in this one that it’s hard to describe without blowing it wide open. For anyone who has read any of Gudenkauf’s work you can commiserate with me. Every voice is clear and concise and well thought out. You feel for each woman and can understand why things played out the way they did and why each character made the choices that she did. It’s always refreshing to read a book with strong female characters who can hold their own and carry a book to it’s satisfying conclusion. 

Like I said before, I love Gudenkauf and can’t wait to pick up another book by her. This was an emotional rollercoaster of a book but ultimately satisfying. 


The Divergent Series – Veronica Roth

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Fear doesn’t shut you down; it wakes you up.

I originally bought Divergent for my mother for Christmas, but the first thing I see when I get in her car is a copy of Divergent and she’s halfway through it already. Oh well, just another book for me I guess. I started reading it over the holiday and was quickly transfixed, along with most of the nation, by Roth’s dystopian Chicago. I also found joy in trying to pin point the locations that she was referencing through out the books since I had lived there for eight years, and honestly I couldn’t get them all.

It is refreshing in Young Adult novels to have a female lead who can hold her own and doesn’t need a man to hold her up. The journey from quiet Abnegation Tris and balls to the wall Divergent Tris is slow, and yet believable. She grapples with the choice of leaving her family behind to join a different faction. A feeling, I’m sure, that most college bound kids have; that feeling of finally being free but grappling with the thought of “did I make the right decision?”

Roth did not stick to the “normal” format of story telling she throws curve balls left and right and keeps you guessing right up until the end. You become emotionally invested in characters that you loathed when they first appeared and vice versa with others. I liked the twists because it kept me guessing and thirsty for more. I do know that most people were appalled at the ending…I hate giving things away so I won’t discuss it in much detail here; but I thought it was a gutsy move and not one that many authors would think of pulling. I tip my hat to you Ms. Roth.

All in all, I enjoyed reading all three of the books. They are YA so they are easy to read, but they get the point across and you become entangled in the plight of everyone involved, of an entire civilization really. She definitely kicked off a genre though because now wherever you turn there are dystopian YA novels. What Meyer did for the vampires Roth did for the dystopians.

 

 


The Jane Austen Book Club – Karen Joy Fowler

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You’ve done so many things and read so many books. Do you still believe in happy endings?

I, like many other bibliophiles out there, like to read the book before I see the movie adaptation. I say adaptation because that is exactly what it is, they are not taking the text word for word and creating a visual companion they are taking the story and creating their spin on it. I hasten to mention Winter’s Tale. LOVED the book but the movie was just meh, but this is neither the time nor the place. Today we speak only of Jane Austen.

One lonely weekend back in January my fiance was out of town and I pushed The Jane Austen Book Club to number one in my Netflix queue. I opened a bottle of wine as a decent sized snow storm raged outside and settle in to probably hate this romantic dramedy. In truth, I actually enjoyed the movie. It made me want to join a book club so I could talk to actual people about the wonderful things I was reading and squabble over silly nuances in text, instead of just sitting by my lonesome behind a screen telling you all my opinions on literature.

I actually owned two copies of JABC and decided to donate the hardcover back to a local thrift store when we moved from Chicago. Since I enjoyed the movie I was planning on enjoying the book just as much, if not more. Which I did. It’s a short easy read told from the point of view of a nameless woman in the book club and every chapter is centered around which Jane Austen novel they are reading at the time. Short and to the point, I found Fowler’s novel engaging and still emotional enough for me to rally behind these women and wish them well in all of their personal endeavors. Unlike many book to film adaptations this one stays fairly faithful to the end. Both the book and the film are short and sweet and sometimes that’s really all you need.


How I Live Now – Meg Rosoff

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I guess there was a war going on somewhere in the world that night but it wasn’t one that could touch us.

I first heard of How I Live Now because I stumbled upon the trailer for the movie one night while I was on IMDB. When at the end it said “based on the book by Meg Rosoff” I knew I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to read it before I saw the movie. I did it right this time and I wasn’t disappointed.

How I Live Now tells the story of Daisy, a teenager who is shipped off by her father to live in the English countryside with her Aunt and cousins. With Daisy Meg Rosoff touches on things that may seem controversial, you may especially think so if you are a parent of a child who is reading this book, and this book is billed as a young adult novel. The book touches upon the fact that the main character has an eating disorder, a disease that many young woman are dealing with. She doesn’t come right out and say “I have an eating disorder”, but it is implied in many ways. How I Live Now also broaches the subject of teens and their sexual awakening, although the way in which it is brought around is shocking to say the least. At its heart Rosoff’s How I Live Now is a tale of survival in a war-torn world and what we are willing to sacrifice to make it back to the ones we love. At just under 200 pages this is a quick one to read but thrilling none the less. I recommend it highly, but please don’t read it merely for the shock factor, this is a high-octane book that doesn’t leave you disappointed at the end.


The Caster Chronicles – Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl

 

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Mortals. I envy you. You think you can change things. Stop the universe. Undo what was done long before you came along. You are such beautiful creatures.

I broke one of my rules with this one. I saw the movie “Beautiful Creatures” first. I know. I know! I couldn’t help myself though. My fiance was out-of-town I had a nice bottle of wine and what girl can resist a young adult fantasy romance movie, I ask you? So, I rented the movie and I really enjoyed it. I’m not saying it’s Oscar-winning material or anything and I actually heard that they aren’t going to pursue adapting the other books because BC didn’t get the reception that they were hoping for. Which is a shame. It’s a guilty pleasure movie that I have since watched again and I have no shame.

That being said, once I saw the movie I HAD to read the book and coming off of the second GOT’s book I needed a decent “fluffer” book to keep me from going crazy on the train to work.

(Side note: A fluffer book is a term that I coined a few years ago when I started reading the Twilight series. I had just read a mammoth of a book and needing something easy and mildly entertaining to read.)


Beautiful Creatures is told from the point of view of Ethan Wate a high school senior who lives in Gatlin, South Carolina where nothing happens. It was pretty refreshing to read a YA book, in particular, that has a young male at the helm. Ethan has a very fleshed out voice and you can hear him speaking in his slow South Carolina drawl throughout the book. These are YA novels so they text is super easy to read and I flew through the first book with reckless abandon. I felt the fantasy aspect was balanced enough that you could actually see this sort of scenario playing out in a small southern town. I liked how the two authors steered away from using the “usual” word for someone like Miss Lena Duchannes and instead created the world of the Casters. Lena Duchannes is the youngest of the Duchannes clan and she is staring her destiny in the face. The Duchannes have been cursed ever since Lena’s ancestor did the unthinkable and resurrected her lover from the dead on the battlefields of the Civil War. Now, whenever a young caster girl turns sixteen powers are claimed for either The Light or The Dark. Her Uncle Macon is determined to protect her from the Darkness and reassures her that on the night of her claiming she will be of The Light. When she meets Ethan she is scared that she will be claimed for The Dark and therefore become a person that he doesn’t know. Through out their journey to break the Duchannes Curse they discover things about their pasts and ancestors that neither imagined.

I read a review on goodreads.com that Ethan seems to have no problem accepting the fact that he has fallen in love with a Caster and that he can now see the past when they each are touching a locket that binds them to this life and the past one; or that he and Lena can communicate telepathically. To that I have to say, it’s a book. It’s a young adult novel that asks you to suspend your beliefs. Did Bella have any problems when she found out Edward was a vampire or that Jacob could turn in to a wolf? I don’t think so. This is why we read books like these to imagine what it would be like if these things actually existed.

The books all fit together nicely and keep the ultimate story moving along. I have never been one for spoilers so I will end it here and just say that I enjoyed these books more than I thought I was going to. In revisiting them to write this blog I would actually not mind reading them again. They are a wild ride but one that is worth taking, especially if you’re looking for something to get you through a book coma or maybe you’re just looking to suspend your disbelief and take a peek in to the Caster world. Whatever  your reason is for visiting Gatlin and Ethan, Lena, Amma, Link, Ridley, John, Liv, and Macon you will enjoy the adventure.

 


A Game of Thrones & A Clash of Kings – George R. R. Martin

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Winter is coming.

I will admit here that I was a “bandwagon jumper” when it comes to GOT. We were allowed to borrow the first season and tore through it in a couple of days during the long winter of 2012/2013. Then we had a HBO promotion through our cable provider so we marathoned the second season, again, within a few days we were finished. Then I remembered a very dear friend of mine had given me the first four books in a box-set since he had no need for two.

The first book A Game of Thrones was adapted almost word for word in to the series, some times I actually felt like I was reading the script, and I was happy that they stayed so faithful to the source material. That being said; the first book was super easy to read since I had already been introduced to the characters and the lines that they spoke I had already heard before. As far as the story goes, Mr. Martin has created a world that you wholeheartedly believe in with characters that you grow to love and some that you hate with a passion.

Each chapter is written from a different characters perspective, a style of writing that I enjoy reading because it gives you more of an insight into what everyone is feeling and how they perceive the situations around them. Each character was a joy to read except for Bran. I know I may get some flack for this, but Bran bored me. I would always flip to the end of the chapter to see how many pages I had left to go. Yes, his story is integral to the plot, but (at least for the first two books) he bored me to tears.

The second book, A Clash of Kings, was painfully hard to get through. Even though I had seen the second season and I knew, for the most part, what was happening or about to happen it was slow going getting there. Mr. Martin drudges up battles and characters that you have never heard of before just to tell you that they all died. Why do I care? Again, yes, they might have been a pertinent part to the plot but why do I have to read about these dead men (who all have names mind you) that I don’t care about. That was really my main beef with this book. The pacing was slow and he would ramble on for what seemed like forever about dead people.

So, when it came time to read the third book I just simply couldn’t do it. I have heard that it is the best one and every fans favorite and I will read it, that I can promise you. For now; I will continue to watch the show, which continues to shock me every season, and one of these days I will get around to finishing A Song of Fire and Ice.


It’s been a long time…

Hello friends,

I realize that it’s been a very very long time since I’ve posted and I am truly sorry. To say life got chaotic is rather an understatement, but now I live in the great state of Michigan with my fiance and our two cats and I couldn’t be happier. Even though life was spinning wildly into madness over in Chicago I never stopped reading. I did take a bit of a break there for a while, you can’t blame me. It’s hard to read when you have three weeks to pack, move, find a house to live in, and you accidentally packed up the book that you were reading. Never the less, I am back and hope that you haven’t abandoned me as I so carelessly abandoned you.

Now, a journey to the past. Let’s take a look back at what I’ve been reading since I left.

A Game of Thrones – George R. R. Martin

A Clash of Kings – George R. R. Martin

The Caster Chronicles #1-4 – Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl

How I Live Now – Meg Rosoff

The Divergent Series #1-3 – Veronica Roth

The Jane Austen Book Club – Karen Joy Fowler

Juniper – Monica Furlong

These Things Hidden – Heather Gudenkauf

The Book Thief – Markus Zusak

So, there you have it. I am going to blog about all of these experiences and I will try to put the series all in to one to avoid bombarding you with a ton of posts all at once.

Read on, friends!


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