Sep 29, 2012

Stacking the Shelves #11

Welcome to Stacking the Shelves. Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga at Tynga's Reviews. This is where we showcase books we have received or bought during the week.

Once again, it's been a few weeks since I have done a book haul post. I haven't gotten ANY books for review because I haven't accept any requests, and also I haven't sent but a few in that I have yet to get a response to yet. But that's okay, because I am really trying to lay off the review books because I want to start reading my own books and utilizing my library. 

But I have bought quite a few books for my Kindle. So that's what I'm going to be showing today. No pictures because they are e-books but I will be posting the covers and links to add them on Goodreads. Though I think you will have heard of most of them.

So, here we go!

Bought for my Kindle:


The Unidentified by Rae Mariz

The Lost Girl by Sangu Mandanna

The Waiting Sky by Lara Zielin

A Face Like Glass by Francis Hardinge

Fingerprints of You by Kristen-Paige Madonia

Defiance by C.J. Redwine

Sweet Venom by Tera Lynn Childs

Carpe Diem by Autumn Cornwell

I didn't buy all of these this week. They are a compilation of purchases I made over the last three weeks. I think it's been three weeks since I did a haul post. So that's not too bad. I didn't go book crazy or anything. I try to keep it down to a couple purchases a week. But Sweet Venom was FREE this week.

Have you heard of any of these? Have you read any of them? If so, what did you think? Leave me a comment and I will come visit your STS posts!

Sep 28, 2012

Release by M.R. Merrick Cover Reveal

Today I have for you the cover reveal of Book Three in M.R. Merrick's The Protector series! I'm so excited about this because I am a huge fan of this series and I am dying to read the next one. I love the covers for these books. So many indie books have terrible covers, and you would not even know that these were indie if I hadn't told you because the cover artist is just so damn talented! Before I show you the NEW cover, I am going to refresh your memory with the first two covers!

Of the two, Shift is my favorite, but I really like them both. A big thing for me when it comes to covers is consistency. I like them to tie in to each other on my bookshelf. I think these two do a great job! I think it's interesting that they decided to go with a different title font for the second book, but I don't not like it because I think the tone of the covers is very similar. 

Before I reveal the cover of Release, you get to read the blurb first!!

Blurb: After uniting the shifters and calling in reinforcements, Chase has to face his toughest challenge yet: learning to control his emotions. But as tensions rise and his powers grow, controlling his emotions becomes the least of his problems.

Terrorized by a multi-shifter who is hellbent on turning him, Chase questions just how far he’s willing to go to stop his father. Meanwhile, Tiki’s virtuous nature has placed him in the middle of Vincent’s past, leaving Chase to oppose a senate of vampires and defend a demon he hates.

Trying to balance his friends, his enemies, and his inner demons, Chase is left searching for answers about the Mark, his destiny, and where he can find the next soul piece. Stopping Riley is his top priority, but as more obstacles arise, he finds himself doubting all the decisions he’s made--especially regarding Rayna.

One thing is for certain: Chase has finally realized that he doesn’t know anything. The light doesn’t always quell the darkness, the monsters don’t always stay in the shadows, and the past doesn’t always stay in the past--sometimes, the demons inside are the hardest to fight.

Sounds fantastic, doesn't it? I can't wait to get my hands on this one. If you haven't yet started this series, now would be a good time since the third book is due out in December. You have just enough time to get caught up! Without further ado, here is the cover of Release!!

I LOVE IT!! I can't wait to see what scene it represents in the book! I'm a huge fan of purple, and notice, the title font has changed again! I guess this is a thing with these covers, but I think this title font is my favorite! Definitely my favorite cover too. It's just so dramatic and in your face. It really makes me want to read it.  Do you like it? What do you guys think? Let me know in the comments!!

Links for the author are up above, and the link to add Release to your Goodreads TBR list is down below! I'd love if you left me a comment!

Release is out for your purchase pleasure December 10th, 2012!

Sep 26, 2012

Book Review of Ashen Winter (Ashfall #2) by Mike Mullin

Publisher: Tanglewood Press
Release Date: October 16th, 2012
Pages: 576
Genre: Young Adult, Post-apocalyptic
Source: NetGalley

Blurb: It’s been over six months since the eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano. Alex and Darla have been staying with Alex’s relatives, trying to cope with the new reality of the primitive world so vividly portrayed in Ashfall, the first book in this series. It’s also been six months of waiting for Alex’s parents to return from Iowa. Alex and Darla decide they can wait no longer and must retrace their journey into Iowa to find and bring back Alex’s parents to the tenuous safety of Illinois. But the landscape they cross is even more perilous than before, with life-and-death battles for food and power between the remaining communities. When the unthinkable happens, Alex must find new reserves of strength and determination to survive.

Review: Wow. This book. Wow. I'm speechless and I don't know what to say, so I am going to try and wing it. Like usual.


I read Ashfall back when I first started book blogging. If I recall, it was one of the first books I ever reviewed. It may have even been before I started my book blog. I'm not really sure. Don't go read it though because I am sure that review sucks. I DO remember loving the shit out of that book. It was dark, edgy, violent, and really, REALLY, depressing, which in my opinion, is everything a proper post-apocalyptic novel should be.  I am happy to say that I think Ashen Winter carried on the tone and themes of the original novel extremely well. I found it to be very consistent in voice, plot, characters, and setting. Most sequels have been disappointing so far for me this year, but not Ashen Winter.

When reading and reviewing, I usually find that one element of a novel stands out more, be it characters, setting, or plot. I found this book, however, to be a perfect blend of all three. I felt that way about the first book as well. Alex and Darla are extremely strong and well-developed protagonists. They are easy to care for and root for. The development of both these characters continued in Ashen Winter to the point where they almost felt like real people. I found myself cringing, yelling, and fighting for my life right along with them. Well, not really, but you know what I mean.

The plot in this one is even more suspenseful than the first--if that were even possible. Just when you think they are safe, the characters get thrown into another situation they have to solve their way out of. Every single chapter ends in a cliffhanger, which if I may be honest, got to be a little too much for me. Whereas I felt that Ashfall was more about the emotion AND plot, I felt that Ashen Winter was a constant action movie. I'm not saying I didn't like it, but by the end I did find myself thinking enough already.


But even with those small complaints, I still really loved the story in this book. It was...there are no words. I'd like to talk more about the plot, but it's really hard to do that with sequels. I can say that the book starts out on Alex's Uncle's farm. Alex leaves to go look for his parents and then they are off on a whirlwind of bandits, cannibalism, kidnappings, rescues, etc. I know that doesn't give you much, but that's all I got to work with.

If there is one specific place I think this book shines (though it shines everywhere), it is in its setting. Mike Mullin did a crazy amount of research for this book. If you don't believe me, just read the Author's Note at the end and look at all the places he went and the different people he talked to to make sure he got everything right. And it shows. He brings this post-apocalyptic landscape to life and it easily feels like you are right there with the characters and that this setting truly exists. It's frightening. It feels so real and it makes me wonder how CLOSE the world would be to this if a super-volcano actually erupted. I saw one reviewer that said the facts and the research got to be too much for them, but I have to say I disagree. It made me love this book even more. I actually LEARNED something while reading this novel. And that is something I always enjoy.


Since this review is getting to be a bit lengthy, let me wrap it up. I loved Ben. I think the author did a fantastic job of portraying someone that is on the Autism Spectrum. But again, research. It matters. The knowledge of weapons, military vehicles, and propane tanks blew me away. I KNOW. Propane tanks. Shut it.

A few small nitpicks from my Goodreads updates.. Can we just stop writing, "I let out a breath I hadn't realized I'd been holding" in fiction? I counted similar variations of this three times in this book. STOP. How many times in your life have you held your breath and not known about it? It is SO overused and makes me roll my eyes every time.

While we are on the subject of eye rolling, I also got really irritated when Alex REPEATEDLY forgot to remove the safety from whatever gun he was shooting on several different occasions. Yes, I know. You are trying to build suspense. But it didn't work. Instead, it made me think that Alex was kind of a moron. It was entirely unnecessary and only served to irritate me.


Also, there was a random line in this book that made me giggle. At some point in the book, it was written,"He swiveled his hips in my direction." We are talking about Alex's dad here. That's just ridiculous. How do you swivel your hips in someone's direction? Unless you are Elvis Presley, I just don't see it happening. It totally jolted me out of the story. PLEASE publishers, PLEASE remove this line from the book.

Ummm, I'm done. Aside from the minor technical nitpicks, this was a really fantastic book. If you haven't started this series, remedy that immediately. In my opinion, Ashfall was one of the best dystopian novels of 2011, and this will be one of the best of 2012. There's a reason it has won awards. Read it. Just don't swivel your hips in my direction.


To purchase a copy of Ashfall from, click here: Ashen Winter (Ashfall). Yes, I am an affiliate and yes I will earn a commission and I would love it if you bought from my links!

Sep 23, 2012

Book Review of Mystic City by Theo Lawrence

Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Release Date: October 9th, 2012
Pages: 352
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopia
Source: NetGalley

Blurb: Aria Rose, youngest scion of one of Mystic City's two ruling rival families, finds herself betrothed to Thomas Foster, the son of her parents' sworn enemies. The union of the two will end the generations-long political feud—and unite all those living in the Aeries, the privileged upper reaches of the city, against the banished mystics who dwell below in the Depths. But Aria doesn't remember falling in love with Thomas; in fact, she wakes one day with huge gaps in her memory. And she can't conceive why her parents would have agreed to unite with the Fosters in the first place. Only when Aria meets Hunter, a gorgeous rebel mystic from the Depths, does she start to have glimmers of recollection—and to understand that he holds the key to unlocking her past. The choices she makes can save or doom the city—including herself.
Review: I don't even know where to start with this review. Here I am, days later, and I am still so conflicted about this book. In theory, I loved it. Mystic City had every element of a book I should love: magic, romance, drama, intrigue, suspense, etc. And yet I found that it fell sort of flat in its execution. Not completely, but enough that it hindered my enjoyment of the story.

The most important part of this book was the setting. Hands down. Without that, this book wouldn't work. This was a futuristic NYC with technology that ran completely on mystic energy. Electricity was never mentioned but I am assuming they don't use it anymore. There were two areas of NYC: The Depths, which was a lot like a futuristic Venice, complete with flooded canals and gondolas; and, The Aeries, which was where all the rich people and government officials lived. They lived up at the tops of skyscrapers with bridges and roads and futuristic mystic-powered trains connecting them. I kinda loved the world building. It reminded me of a cross between Zanarkand from Final Fantasy X and Stark from the computer game The Longest Journey and Dreamfall. Incidentally, if you haven't played any of those games, you are truly missing out.

But here's the thing. As much as I loved the setting, I just feel like it fell sort of flat. The writing wasn't vivid. There was a lot of telling. I was missing sensory language and description that would have made me more able to mentally picture the setting, which I think was a huge part of why the book sort of failed for me. I hate to use that word, because I did like parts of it. But without a believable, vivid setting, I am going to complain. I am such a sucker for a great setting, and very rarely do I love books that don't have one.

Where the book shined though was in its story. I actually really loved the story. It was suspenseful, exciting, and truly kept me turning those pages. I didn't love the characters but I didn't dislike them, and to a point I cared what happened to them, which was enough for me to really enjoy what was going on. Basically, the rich government that lives in The Aeries controls the city. Aria is the daughter of a powerful family that has their hands deep in the corrupt government. She is engaged and supposedly in love with the other powerful family's son, Thomas. Problem is, she has no recollection of falling in love with him and getting engaged. They claim she overdosed on drugs and lost her memory. But right away, we know something is afoot.

She meets Hunter, a boy from The Depths and she starts to question all she has been told. And that is really where the story begins. It's kind of got a Romeo and Juliet vibe complete with guns and organized crime. I can't tell you much without revealing spoilers, but there is a ton of action and I enjoyed it quite a bit. I loved the magic in this book. I thought it was brilliantly rendered. But the city itself, not so much. It's hard to explain in words.

I liked Aria. I thought she was written well. She wasn't a favorite character and there were times when she did get on my nerves, but for the most part I found myself rooting for her. I don't understand why she put up with some of the crap that she did, and I don't get why she didn't stand up for herself more, but every character is supposed to have flaws. It makes them more realistic. It's just all about whether the reader can deal with those flaws. And in this case I could, because I respected a lot of the relationships she had with the people around her.

One thing I don't get though? And I am not sure if this is a plot hole or what, but why didn't she and Hunter just leave? If there are other mystic cities out there (as is mentioned more than once), why didn't they just LEAVE? Sneak out? It was never even an option! But if you are so worried about getting killed and you truly love each other, pack up your shit AND GO! Maybe I missed something, but I never could figure that out.

Anyway, I don't want to tell anyone not to read this book. Because most of it I really enjoyed. I'm going to read the next one. I think a lot of the problems I had might be personal ones. I have particular preferences that another reader might not have. In some cases, I feel like I am nitpicking. But somehow parts of this book did not work for me. That doesn't mean they won't work for you. You know that if I found a book absolutely terrible and not worth reading, I would say so. This is not one of those books. So take from that what you will.

To purchase a copy of Mystic City from, click here: Mystic City. I am an Amazon Affiliate and will earn a commission if you buy from my links, so please do! :)

Sep 18, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish People You Want To Meet

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's topic is bookish people you want to meet.

This is a tough topic for me to write about because there are so MANY bookish people that I want to meet. Narrowing that list down to ten is going to be impossible. I think I am just going to do a mishmash of authors and bloggers. FYI, as usual, this list is in random order. If you are number ten, don't think that means I want to meet you tenth. :)

Top Ten Bookish People I Want to Meet

1. I'm going to cheat with this first one because the blog I am choosing has two people that run it. Two people who I am very fond of and proud to call my friends. That blog would be Cuddlebuggery and the people that run it are Kat Kennedy and Stephanie Sinclair. They both are top reviewers on Goodreads, and two of the nicest most brilliant people you will ever meet. When it comes to their book reviews and book likes, yes they are hard to please, but I appreciate that because when I read one of the books they have recommended, I know I am 99.999% going to love it. 

Also, that blog has some of the funniest, snarkiest, and most entertaining posts of any book blog out there. If you haven't visited the site or aren't aware of it, well now you are. And I'm sure they will turn you into a repeat 

2. The next bookish person I'd love to meet is Karina Halle. She writes the Experiment in Terror series and she has a new book called The Devil's Metal coming out shortly. You can add it to your Goodreads TBR pile here. Karina is a good friend of mine and I love working with her. Unfortunately she lives on the other side of the country or I probably would have met her already. But whatever, she's awesome and exceptionally talented. Her website can be found here:

3. Time for another blogger to make the list. This time I am going to choose Mandee at VeganYANerds. She's seriously one of the nicest people I have ever met. Her book reviews are amazing and I think I like watching her book haul vlogs more than anyone else's. She's just so articulate and I think her taste in books is really different. She has brought my attention to a lot of books that I wouldn't have otherwise noticed. Her cat is adorable as well. I just think she would be really awesome to chat books with. That blog has become one of my favorite book blogs to follow, and though they don't post as often as some others, every post is quality and worth reading.

4. I don't think a blogger/bookish list on my site would be complete without adding Wendy Darling from The Midnight Garden. I've been a fan of Wendy's book reviews on Goodreads for a very long time. And I don't think that everyone is aware that she runs a book blog too! Wendy has been through a lot this year, but through it all has remained devoted to the blogging community. I look up to her because she is an amazing person who has been nothing but nice to me. She's sweet, intelligent, and her knowledge about publishing and books is something to be appreciated. Follow her on Goodreads, Twitter, and read her blog and she can teach you an awful lot. There is a reason why she is known as one of the top reviewers. 

5. Next on the list is Christina at A Reader of Fictions. Christina and I love to chat books. We don't always agree (a lot of times we do), but more often than not she makes me see things from a different perspective that I would not necessarily have noticed. We talk nearly every day and I think she writes some killer book reviews that I think should be getting a whole lot more attention than they are. That's part of the reason why I am showcasing her here. You should visit her blog and follow her on Twitter. She's a librarian as well, and that only makes her more knowledgeable. She is super sweet, intelligent, and I think if there was an award to give for blogger closest to my personality, she would win it (though that is not actually something to aim for). ;) She doesn't have a button, so...

6. How could I complete a bookish list without adding Giselle from Xpresso Reads? She just won a Bloggy Award for nicest blogger, and I definitely think she deserved it though she's awfully mean to me sometimes.;) I love having conversations with her on Twitter. I visit her blog a lot (though I lurk more than comment) because she always has easy to follow and read posts about the latest in book releases. When I am looking for the books that are going to be released that week, this is the blog I go to. Not only is it a great blog for that, but she has some killer giveaways and book reviews as well. She posts daily, sometimes more than once, and I don't know how in the hell she does it. We love poking fun at each other and chatting books. Lately we seem to be disagreeing more than agreeing, but there is no denying that her opinion is one I respect and trust.

7. There is no one I look up to more than Ashley at The Bookish Brunette. We run two VERY different blogs, but that's okay. We respect each other's opinions and I wish every relationship in the book blogging community could be similar. I love her personality and how outgoing she is. It is clear to me how passionate she is about books and reading. When she writes a discussion post, you know it is a topic she is very serious about. She has some informative posts about how to properly request a book review that every author should read. There is no other blog out there with a voice as distinct as hers. The same goes for her Twitter account. If you aren't following Ashley, you are missing out. I think she would be complete fun to hang out with. 

8. Blythe at Finding Bliss in Books is one of my favorite people in the world. There is no one more passionate in her book reviews than Blythe. Because of this, she gets A LOT of trolls on her book reviews on Goodreads. The thing is, I just love the way she sends them packing. She also runs a kick-ass book blog and I just adore chatting books with her on Twitter. She has great taste, she's hilarious, and she's a Big Brother fan. And that's all you need to know. I think if we met in person, we would have a TON to talk about. She also needs to get a blog button so I don't hurt her.

9. I only have two spots left, and I hate that I have to leave anyone out, but I absolutely could NOT leave out Jenni at Alluring Reads because she is truly one of the nicest people I know. She films killer vlogs and makes me laugh a lot due to her wonderful sense of humor. I've watched her blog grow over the year and she has done it faster than about anyone I know. She leaves great blog comments and has a lovely presence on Twitter. Whenever I have a question, she is one of the people I go to because I know she will never blow me off. She's just awesome that way. 

10. The last spot on the list is going to M.R. Merrick. I only have one other author on the list, but I couldn't leave him out because he is such a dynamic personality. First of all, I LOVE working with him, but I also love when we chat, either on Twitter or at my chat parties. He's an extremely talented author that I see having a long-lasting and rewarding career. He's also just a bad-ass. He's funny, smart, and really freaking entertaining. Do you need to laugh more often? Follow him on Twitter and it's almost guaranteed. Find him on the web here.

Obviously I follow a lot more blogs and authors than that. I picked those ten because I feel I know them the best and I really wanted to write more than just a sentence. The thing is, I could probably write an endless list. There are about twenty people I wanted to add from Goodreads but I don't have blog links for them which makes me have a sad. But I was able to add more of my favorites in a paragraph with blog links below.

I also want to meet Jessie at Ageless Pages Reviews, Katie at BlookGirl, Nemo at The Moonlight Library, Amanda at The Book Slayer, Mickey at I'm a Book Shark, Archer at Devil's Advocate, Ashleigh Paige at The YA Kitten, Flannery at The Readventurer, Anna at Literary Exploration, Megan at Book Brats, Loretta at Between the Pages, Amy at Book Loving Mom, Lea at LC's Adventures in Libraryland, April at Good Books and Good Wine, Keertana at Ivy Book Bindings, Joy at Joyous Reads, Karina at Nocturnal Book Reviews, Kristilyn at Reading in Winter, Andrea at The Bookish Babe, Cassi at The Galavanting Girl Books, Taylor at Thoughts Of An Endless Dreamer, Pixie at The Bookaholic, and of course my occasional guest reviewer, Heartless Lyn. 

I feel like I missed so many people. And if I did, I hope you forgive me. I love you all. Leave me a link to your TTT and I will try to come visit.

Sep 15, 2012

Book Review of Magisterium by Jeff Hirsch

Publisher: Scholastic
Release Date: October 1st, 2012
Pages: 320
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Dystopia (sort of), it's in the I don't even know genre.
Source: NetGalley
Add it to your Goodreads to-read list here.

Blurb: On one side of the Rift is a technological paradise without famine or want. On the other side is a mystery.

Sixteen-year-old Glenn Morgan has lived next to the Rift her entire life and has no idea of what might be on the other side of it. Glenn's only friend, Kevin, insists the fence holds back a world of monsters and witchcraft, but magic isn't for Glenn. She has enough problems with reality: Glenn's mother disappeared when she was six, and soon after, she lost her scientist father to his all-consuming work on the mysterious Project. Glenn buries herself in her studies and dreams about the day she can escape. But when her father's work leads to his arrest, he gives Glenn a simple metal bracelet that will send Glenn and Kevin on the run---with only one place to go.With MAGISTERIUM, Jeff Hirsch brings us the story of a complex, captivating world that will leave readers breathless until the very last page.
Review: If you look up at the top, you will see that I really couldn't decide what genre to put this book in. Of course it's young adult. But as for the rest...well, there are some dystopian elements, especially in the beginning, but most of all, I think this is a fantasy. It's not quite high fantasy, but it has some elements of that, too. There's lots of walking/traveling from place to place. Different villages, a magic system, a mythical antagonist, and some bizarre creatures. There's even an old woman that lives in a ramshackle cottage in the woods. And you get there by following signs and you board a boat with a boatman reminiscent of Charron and the River Styx. Okay, so not all of what I mentioned are high fantasy elements. I sort of trailed off there. Heh. It's just a really weird but captivating book. Not everyone is going to love it though.

The beginning is very different from the middle and the end. It's almost as if you reach a point somewhere in the book and then it shifts and you feel like you are reading something completely different. In that way it is inconsistent, but it works. At least for me it did. I was fascinated by this book and found myself having a very difficult time putting it down. I finished this one more quickly than most books I have read this year.

And yet, I cannot give it five stars. Perhaps it is because I was not in love with the writing. It's not that it's bad, it doesn't put me off or anything, but I did feel it was lackluster and not very special. Add to that the fact that I felt like the world-building was not explained very well. Not in every area, I just felt confused a lot and I spent some time wishing I had more information. I have a feeling that would have created some plot holes and that was why it was left out, but you simply can't do that. Readers are smart and they'll notice. What world-building there is was great, but I was left feeling unsatisfied.

And then the end. That ending. *passes out*


I don't mind cliffhangers, I really don't, but I am incredibly unsatisfied with this one more than most. I'm not actually knocking off stars for the cliffhanger, but the feeling of being left unhappy. Most cliffhangers I read leave me with my mouth hanging open, but this one just left me feeling angry and wanting to chuck my book at the wall. And I could not do that because it was on my Kindle. I don't know if this book is a standalone or a series because Goodreads didn't say at the time of this review writing, but I really hope it is not a standalone because then that's just cruel.


Bittersweet ending, fine, but this goes above and beyond that. You'll see when you read it. I'm not trying to put anyone off this book, I really did enjoy it, there were just some major problems that left me unable to rate this as highly as I wanted to. And unfortunately most of those problems came towards the end.

The characters are lovely, but not particularly special. I do believe that readers will enjoy them and they are written well, it just again comes down to the writing and the underwhelmed way it made me feel. Upon finishing this book I was angry but in love with the characters, and now here we are a few days later, and I have already forgotten their names except for Aamon. You'll see.

I really think you should read it though and form your own opinions. It's a weird book, so I recommend this one for fans of the strange and original. I recommend this for someone looking for a good story and a book to escape into. I do not recommend this one for a reader who likes to ask a lot of questions. You will be hard-pressed trying to find the answers you seek.

To purchase a copy of Magisterium by Jeff Hirsch from, click here: Magisterium. At the time of this writing, there is no Kindle edition available. I do hope that changes. The obligatory disclaimer: I am an AMZ affiliate and if you buy from my links I will earn a commission, so please do!

Sep 13, 2012

Book Review of Because it is My Blood by Gabrielle Zevin

Publisher: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux
Release Date: September 18th, 2012
Pages: 368
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian
Source: Physical arc from MacKids

Blurb: Since her release from Liberty Children's Facility, Anya Balanchine is determined to follow the straight and narrow. Unfortunately, her criminal record is making it hard for her to do that. No high school wants her with a gun possession charge on her rap sheet. Plus, all the people in her life have moved on: Natty has skipped two grades at Holy Trinity, Scarlet and Gable seem closer than ever, and even Win is in a new relationship.But when old friends return demanding that certain debts be paid, Anya is thrown right back into the criminal world that she had been determined to escape. It’s a journey that will take her across the ocean and straight into the heart of the birthplace of chocolate where her resolve--and her heart--will be tested as never before.

Review: Don't let the three star rating fool you, I actually really enjoyed this book, it's just that there were many flaws. You CAN have both. 

We're back again with Anya Balanchine, and we're pretty much continuing where we left off. In the opening of this book, she's serving out her sentence at Liberty and it's the night before her release. She goes home and that's pretty much where our story begins again. The thing with these books are, they are not very high energy. And for a mafia novel, you would expect differently. I just always expect more action and you never get it. It's more of a character study and sometimes it seems like not that much is happening. It's not that that is necessarily a bad thing, it's just not what you expect from a book about organized crime.

I've always liked Anya Balanchine. I know I might be in the minority by saying that, and you might be surprised by ME saying that because of my feelings about religion, but I've never really been offended or bothered by Anya's religious views. In this book, Anya questions her beliefs quite a bit anyway. She says a few things that MIGHT offend someone that is highly religious. She's just finding it hard to believe in God right now what with everything going on in her life and the people around her getting hurt and dying. I can't say I blame her. Who wouldn't? But she is a fighter and a strong girl like always. Yes, she's a bit of a complainer, but thankfully I did find less of that in this book than in the first book. 

I really enjoyed Anya's inner conflict over morality, mortality, and her beliefs. She really grows and develops as a character, and so do many of the others. Win and Anya continue their forbidden romance and there is a lot of back and forth and push and pull, and depending on whether or not you like them as a couple, this may annoy you. We also are lucky enough to be introduced to some new characters, both which I really liked. But I don't want to spoil that part of it for you. You should discover them for yourselves.

Anya gets to do a little traveling in this book, and although I really enjoyed learning about cacao farming, this part of the book felt a little out of place, disjointed, and not really connected to the other parts of the story. It was very strange. I really did like these parts though, I just felt at times like I was reading a completely different book. 

As for the technical stuff, I really DO like Gabrielle Zevin's writing, but I hate how she makes Anya talk directly to the audience. I pretty much cannot stand any occurrence of that in ANY writing, but it truly grated on me here. I do, however, love the tone of her writing, and though the style is a little detached, I always liked the way Anya told the story. Perhaps it's because I really am a fan of Anya's voice and the way she deals with her emotions and the people around her. 

Bottom line: This one didn't have nearly as much action as the first book (and that book didn't have much action either), but we are introduced to new characters, our existing characters experience some wonderful growth, and this story is a nice lead-in to the next book. Though parts of it felt like filler and just a bridge to book three, I did still enjoy it. Just not as much as the first book, All These Things I've Done. I'd recommend this one if you are already entrenched in this series. If you aren't, definitely read the first book before deciding. DUH.

Purchase Because It Is My Blood from Because It Is My Blood (Birthright (Zevin) I am an Amazon affiliate, and I will earn a commission if you buy from my links. So please do!

Sep 11, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Make You Think About the World

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This weeks top ten is books that make you think about the world.

I love this topic because I read a lot of cultural fiction, but I have hardly read that much. I talked this topic over with my husband and he gave me some ideas and I think this list will be easier to put together than I originally thought. But either way, I'll try to do the best I can. They are not in any particular order, FYI.

Top Ten Books That Make Me Think About the World

1. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

In this literary tour de force, novelist Arthur Golden enters a remote and shimmeringly exotic world. For the protagonist of this peerlessly observant first novel is Sayuri, one of Japan's most celebrated geisha, a woman who is both performer and courtesan, slave and goddess.

We follow Sayuri from her childhood in an impoverished fishing village, where in 1929, she is sold to a representative of a geisha house, who is drawn by the child's unusual blue-grey eyes. From there she is taken to Gion, the pleasure district of Kyoto. She is nine years old. In the years that follow, as she works to pay back the price of her purchase, Sayuri will be schooled in music and dance, learn to apply the geisha's elaborate makeup, wear elaborate kimono, and care for a coiffure so fragile that it requires a special pillow. She will also acquire a magnanimous tutor and a venomous rival. Surviving the intrigues of her trade and the upheavals of war, the resourceful Sayuri is a romantic heroine on the order of Jane Eyre and Scarlett O'Hara. And Memoirs of a Geisha is a triumphant work - suspenseful, and utterly persuasive.

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        2. Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff

A DYING LAND The Shima Imperium verges on the brink of environmental collapse; an island nation once rich in tradition and myth, now decimated by clockwork industrialization and the machine-worshipers of the Lotus Guild. The skies are red as blood, the land is choked with toxic pollution, and the great spirit animals that once roamed its wilds have departed forever.

AN IMPOSSIBLE QUEST The hunters of Shima’s imperial court are charged by their Shōgun to capture a thunder tiger—a legendary creature, half-eagle, half-tiger. But any fool knows the beasts have been extinct for more than a century, and the price of failing the Shōgun is death.

A SIXTEEN YEAR OLD GIRL Yukiko is a child of the Fox clan, possessed of a talent that if discovered, would see her executed by the Lotus Guild. Accompanying her father on the Shōgun’s hunt, she finds herself stranded: a young woman alone in Shima’s last wilderness, with only a furious, crippled thunder tiger for company. Even though she can hear his thoughts, even though she saved his life, all she knows for certain is he’d rather see her dead than help her.

But together, the pair will form an indomitable friendship, and rise to challenge the might of an empire.

3. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

In 1922, F. Scott Fitzgerald announced his decision to write "something new--something extraordinary and beautiful and simple and intricately patterned." That extraordinary, beautiful, intricately patterned, and above all, simple novel became The Great Gatsby, arguably Fitzgerald's finest work and certainly the book for which he is best known. A portrait of the Jazz Age in all of its decadence and excess, Gatsby captured the spirit of the author's generation and earned itself a permanent place in American mythology. Self-made, self-invented millionaire Jay Gatsby embodies some of Fitzgerald's--and his country's--most abiding obsessions: money, ambition, greed, and the promise of new beginnings. "Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that's no matter--tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther.... And one fine morning--" Gatsby's rise to glory and eventual fall from grace becomes a kind of cautionary tale about the American Dream.

It's also a love story, of sorts, the narrative of Gatsby's quixotic passion for Daisy Buchanan. The pair meet five years before the novel begins, when Daisy is a legendary young Louisville beauty and Gatsby an impoverished officer. They fall in love, but while Gatsby serves overseas, Daisy marries the brutal, bullying, but extremely rich Tom Buchanan. After the war, Gatsby devotes himself blindly to the pursuit of wealth by whatever means--and to the pursuit of Daisy, which amounts to the same thing. "Her voice is full of money," Gatsby says admiringly, in one of the novel's more famous descriptions. His millions made, Gatsby buys a mansion across Long Island Sound from Daisy's patrician East Egg address, throws lavish parties, and waits for her to appear. When she does, events unfold with all the tragic inevitability of a Greek drama, with detached, cynical neighbor Nick Carraway acting as chorus throughout. Spare, elegantly plotted, and written in crystalline prose, The Great Gatsby is as perfectly satisfying as the best kind of poem.

4. In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner
For seven-year-old Raami, the shattering end of childhood begins with the footsteps of her father returning home in the early dawn hours bringing details of the civil war that has overwhelmed the streets of Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital. Soon the family’s world of carefully guarded royal privilege is swept up in the chaos of revolution and forced exodus.

Over the next four years, as she endures the deaths of family members, starvation, and brutal forced labor, Raami clings to the only remaining vestige of childhood—the mythical legends and poems told to her by her father. In a climate of systematic violence where memory is sickness and justification for execution, Raami fights for her improbable survival.

Displaying the author’s extraordinary gift for language, In the Shadow of the Banyan is testament to the transcendent power of narrative and a brilliantly wrought tale of human resilience.
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5. The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

With a voice as distinctive and original as that of The Lovely Bones, and for the fans of the speculative fiction of Margaret Atwood, Karen Thompson Walker’s The Age of Miracles is a luminous, haunting, and unforgettable debut novel about coming of age set against the backdrop of an utterly altered world.

“It still amazes me how little we really knew. . . . Maybe everything that happened to me and my family had nothing at all to do with the slowing. It’s possible, I guess. But I doubt it. I doubt it very much.”

On a seemingly ordinary Saturday in a California suburb, Julia and her family awake to discover, along with the rest of the world, that the rotation of the earth has suddenly begun to slow. The days and nights grow longer and longer, gravity is affected, the environment is thrown into disarray. Yet as she struggles to navigate an ever-shifting landscape, Julia is also coping with the normal disasters of everyday life—the fissures in her parents’ marriage, the loss of old friends, the hopeful anguish of first love, the bizarre behavior of her grandfather who, convinced of a government conspiracy, spends his days obsessively cataloging his possessions. As Julia adjusts to the new normal, the slowing inexorably continues.
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        6. 1984 by George Orwell

A masterpiece of rebellion and imprisonment, where war is peace, freedom is slavery, and Big Brother is watching...

Thought Police. Big Brother. Orwellian. These words have entered our vocabulary because of George Orwell's classic dystopian novel, "1984."

The story of one man's nightmare odyssey as he pursues a forbidden love affair through a world ruled by warring states and a power structure that controls not only information but also individual thought and memory, 1984 is a prophetic, haunting tale.

More relevant than ever before, "1984" exposes the worst crimes imaginable--the destruction of truth, freedom, and individuality.

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7. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

A powerful, blazingly honest memoir: the story of an eleven-hundred-mile solo hike that broke down a young woman reeling from catastrophe—and built her back up again.

At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother's death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life: to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State—and to do it alone. She had no experience as a long-distance hiker, and the trail was little more than “an idea, vague and outlandish and full of promise.” But it was a promise of piecing back together a life that had come undone. 

Strayed faces down rattlesnakes and black bears, intense heat and record snowfalls, and both the beauty and loneliness of the trail. Told with great suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild vividly captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.

         8. Behind the Beautiful Forevers by  Katherine Boo
In this brilliantly written, fast-paced book, based on three years of uncompromising reporting, a bewildering age of global change and inequality is made human.

Annawadi is a makeshift settlement in the shadow of luxury hotels near the Mumbai airport, and as India starts to prosper, Annawadians are electric with hope. Abdul, a reflective and enterprising Muslim teenager, sees “a fortune beyond counting” in the recyclable garbage that richer people throw away. Asha, a woman of formidable wit and deep scars from a childhood in rural poverty, has identified an alternate route to the middle class: political corruption. With a little luck, her sensitive, beautiful daughter—Annawadi’s “most-everything girl”—will soon become its first female college graduate. And even the poorest Annawadians, like Kalu, a fifteen-year-old scrap-metal thief, believe themselves inching closer to the good lives and good times they call “the full enjoy.”

But then Abdul the garbage sorter is falsely accused in a shocking tragedy; terror and a global recession rock the city; and suppressed tensions over religion, caste, sex, power and economic envy turn brutal. As the tenderest individual hopes intersect with the greatest global truths, the true contours of a competitive age are revealed. And so, too, are the imaginations and courage of the people of Annawadi.

With intelligence, humor, and deep insight into what connects human beings to one another in an era of tumultuous change, Behind the Beautiful Forevers carries the reader headlong into one of the twenty-first century’s hidden worlds, and into the lives of people impossible to forget. 
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9. Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard

It all begins with a stupid question:

Are you a Global Vagabond?

No, but 18-year-old Bria Sandoval wants to be. In a quest for independence, her neglected art, and no-strings-attached hookups, she signs up for a guided tour of Central America—the wrong one. Middle-aged tourists with fanny packs are hardly the key to self-rediscovery. When Bria meets Rowan, devoted backpacker and dive instructor, and his outspokenly humanitarian sister Starling, she seizes the chance to ditch her group and join them off the beaten path.

Bria’s a good girl trying to go bad. Rowan’s a bad boy trying to stay good. As they travel across a panorama of Mayan villages, remote Belizean islands, and hostels plagued with jungle beasties, they discover what they’ve got in common: both seek to leave behind the old versions of themselves. And the secret to escaping the past, Rowan’s found, is to keep moving forward.

But Bria comes to realize she can’t run forever, no matter what Rowan says. If she ever wants the courage to fall for someone worthwhile, she has to start looking back.

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      10. A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail

Back in America after twenty years in Britain, Bill Bryson decided to reacquaint himself with his native country by walking the 2,100-mile Appalachian Trail, which stretches from Georgia to Maine. The AT offers an astonishing landscape of silent forests and sparkling lakes--and to a writer with the comic genius of Bill Bryson, it also provides endless opportunities to witness the majestic silliness of his fellow human beings.

For a start there's the gloriously out-of-shape Stephen Katz, a buddy from Iowa along for the walk. Despite Katz's overwhelming desire to find cozy restaurants, he and Bryson eventually settle into their stride, and while on the trail they meet a bizarre assortment of hilarious characters. But A Walk in the Woods is more than just a laugh-out-loud hike. Bryson's acute eye is a wise witness to this beautiful but fragile trail, and as he tells its fascinating history, he makes a moving plea for the conservation of America's last great wilderness. An adventure, a comedy, and a celebration, A Walk in the Woods is destined to become a modern classic of travel literature.
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And that's my list! Books that go on this list are cultural reads, travel literature, or books that just make you think about the world at large and how it works. There are so many different ways that someone could interpret this list. So I am really curious to make my way around to the other blogs participating this week and see what kind of books they came up with. What do you think about my picks? Leave me a link and I will come visit your lists!

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