Friday, November 29, 2013

What We Talk About When We Talk About Love: Stories

Author:  Raymond Carver

Year: 1989
Publisher:  Vintage Contemporaries
Pages:  159

Goodreads Summary:

In his second collection of stories, as in his first, Carver's characters are peripheral people--people without education, insight or prospects, people too unimaginative to even give up. Carver celebrates these men and women.

Raymond Carver is a master storyteller. He writes these super short stories that are packed with intrigue and feelings. In less time that you can imagine, Carver made me connect with his characters and then he always had these twists that made me read it again just to wrap my head around what happened. The title story, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, is one of the best short stories I've read. This collection of stories made a great last read of the night each night before I went to bed. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Kill Shakespeare, Volume 2

Author:  Conor McCreery and Anthony Del Col
Illustrator:  Andy Belanger
Year:  2012
Publisher:  IDW Publishing
Pages:  148

Goodreads Description:
And so the curtain falls... Hamlet, Juliet, and Shakespeare all facing death. Can Othello rally the Prodigals to defeat Richard and Lady Macbeth's now-fractured army? But even if he does, will anyone be left alive to celebrate victory? The critically acclaimed series ends its first run in this second volume collection.

This is a fun little graphic novel series. I love the idea of all Shakespeare's characters being alive and waging a battle. I like the way the authors kept some of the basic personality of Shakespeare's characters but still expanded and made them different (yes, I'm talking about you, Juliet). I do feel like certain parts of the story could have been better developed but overall, it's a fun series.

Monday, November 25, 2013

March, Book One

Authors:  John Lewis & Andrew Aydin
Illustrator: Nate Powell
Year: 2013
Publisher:  Top Shelf Productions
Pages:  128 

Goodreads Description:
Top Shelf Productions is proud to present the first volume of MARCH, a graphic novel trilogy co-authored by Congressman John Lewis (GA-5) and Andrew Aydin, with art by Nate Powell (a New York Times bestseller, Eisner Award winner, and finalist for the LA Times Book Prize).

MARCH is a vivid first-hand account of John Lewis' lifelong struggle for civil and human rights (including his key roles in the historic 1963 March on Washington and the 1965 Selma-Montgomery March), meditating in the modern age on the distance traveled since the days of Jim Crow and segregation.
In MARCH, a true American icon teams up with one of America's most acclaimed graphic novelists. Together, they bring to life one of our nation's most historic moments, a period both shameful and inspiring, and a movement whose echoes will be heard for generations.

This is a wonderfully beautiful graphic novel.  It has a brilliant frame story. I've had the opportunity to meet John Lewis a couple of times in my life. He is such a quiet, unassuming and humble man. A part of me always had a hard time reconciling the man I'd met with my idea of a civil rights leader. However, in this first book of the graphic novel series, it's made clear that John Lewis was an advocate of peaceful resistance. He fought for what was right without actually fighting. I loved the lead up to how John Lewis got started in the civil rights movement. This was a terrific beginning to the series and was, in truth, just enough to whet my appetite for the rest of the story. It's a fantastic way to learn about this period of history that happened before my lifetime. I recommend it to everyone.

Saturday, November 23, 2013


Author:  Marie Lu
Series:  Legend, Book 3
Year: 2013
Publisher:  Putnam
Pages:  369

Goodreads Summary:
The explosive finale to Marie Lu’s New York Times bestselling LEGEND trilogy—perfect for fans of THE HUNGER GAMES and DIVERGENT!
He is a Legend.
She is a Prodigy.
Who will be Champion?

June and Day have sacrificed so much for the people of the Republic—and each other—and now their country is on the brink of a new existence. June is back in the good graces of the Republic, working within the government’s elite circles as Princeps Elect while Day has been assigned a high level military position. But neither could have predicted the circumstances that will reunite them once again. Just when a peace treaty is imminent, a plague outbreak causes panic in the Colonies, and war threatens the Republic’s border cities. This new strain of plague is deadlier than ever, and June is the only one who knows the key to her country’s defense. But saving the lives of thousands will mean asking the one she loves to give up everything he has. With heart-pounding action and suspense, Marie Lu’s bestselling trilogy draws to a stunning conclusion.

I love how this series is compared to The Hunger Games and Divergent. Those were both tremendously popular series with huge cult followings that did phenomenally well. And Marie Lu deserves all that and more. This series is most likely my favorite of any dystopian series out there. Lu writes these beautiful stories with lines that make me sit back and say "wow, that's beautiful." She has this way with words that is unmatched in YA literature in my opinion. Whereas the ending of Allegiant drew anger (and even death threats) from fans and many fans think that Mockingjay was a disappointing ending for The Hunger Games series, Lu writes a perfect ending to the Legend series. Things aren't perfect at the end. Instead, it's bittersweet but keeps hope alive. I feel like Collins did the same thing with Mockingjay; however, her words are not as elegant as Marie Lu's and Collins doesn't have the same magic touch. 

In sum, if I were going to recommend any one dystopian series to a reader, it would be this one. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Naturals

Author:  Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Year: 2013
Publisher:  Listening Library
Narrator:  Amber Faith

Goodreads Summary:
Seventeen-year-old Cassie is a natural at reading people. Piecing together the tiniest details, she can tell you who you are and what you want. But it’s not a skill that she’s ever taken seriously. That is, until the FBI come knocking: they’ve begun a classified program that uses exceptional teenagers to crack infamous cold cases, and they need Cassie.
What Cassie doesn’t realize is that there’s more at risk than a few unsolved homicides— especially when she’s sent to live with a group of teens whose gifts are as unusual as her own.
Sarcastic, privileged Michael has a knack for reading emotions, which he uses to get inside Cassie’s head—and under her skin. Brooding Dean shares Cassie’s gift for profiling, but keeps her at arm’s length.
Soon, it becomes clear that no one in the Naturals program is what they seem. And when a new killer strikes, danger looms closer than Cassie could ever have imagined. Caught in a lethal game of cat and mouse with a killer, the Naturals are going to have to use all of their gifts just to survive.

What a fun joy ride this audiobook was! It was such a thrilling listen with a great mystery.  My sister, friend and I listened to this audiobook while driving to Yallfest and had such a terrific time trying to figure out who the killer was. Barnes did a terrific job of keeping us guessing. I really hope there are more books with this cast of characters.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


Author:  Veronica Roth

Series: Divergent, Book 3
Year: 2013
Publisher:  Harper Audio
Narrators:  Emma Galvin, Aaron Stanford

Goodreads Summary:
The faction-based society that Tris Prior once believed in is shattered—fractured by violence and power struggles and scarred by loss and betrayal. So when offered a chance to explore the world past the limits she’s known, Tris is ready. Perhaps beyond the fence, she and Tobias will find a simple new life together, free from complicated lies, tangled loyalties, and painful memories.

But Tris’s new reality is even more alarming than the one she left behind. Old discoveries are quickly rendered meaningless. Explosive new truths change the hearts of those she loves. And once again, Tris must battle to comprehend the complexities of human nature—and of herself—while facing impossible choices about courage, allegiance, sacrifice, and love.

Told from a riveting dual perspective, Allegiant, by #1 New York Times best-selling author Veronica Roth, brings the Divergent series to a powerful conclusion while revealing the secrets of the dystopian world that has captivated millions of readers in Divergent and Insurgent.

I have loved this series from the first book. Divergent and Insurgent were both fast paced thrillers. Roth slowed the pace down quite a bit in Allegiant and spent quite a bit of time in Tris and Four's heads helping us see how they think and resolve some internal issues and grow as characters. That change took a bit of getting used to but in the end, I went with it. But what about that ending? Yes, I've read all the reviews talking about how horrible the book is and how disappointed everyone is with it. Was I disappointed with it? Of course, I wasn't happy that there wasn't the HEA that I want to see in my books. I always want things to work out perfectly for my characters. HEA's make me feel like there's hope in the world. After all if my characters can make it in their dire circumstances, then there's a chance that things will work out for me. But what do I ultimately want from my books? I want them to make me feel emotions whether it be happiness, fear or sadness. Come on, admit it, you love a good cry.  In the end, that's what Allegiant did. It broke my heart and made me cry. Years from now, when somebody brings up this story, what I will remember is the emotions I felt. And in my mind, that makes a good story.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Elite

Author:  Kiera Cass
Series:  The Selection, Book 2
Year:  2013
Publisher:  Harper Audio
Narrator:  Amy Rubinate

Goodreads Description:
Thirty-five girls came to the palace to compete in the Selection. All but six have been sent home. And only one will get to marry Prince Maxon and be crowned princess of Illea.
America still isn’t sure where her heart lies. When she’s with Maxon, she’s swept up in their new and breathless romance, and can’t dream of being with anyone else. But whenever she sees Aspen standing guard around the palace, and is overcome with memories of the life they planned to share. With the group narrowed down to the Elite, the other girls are even more determined to win Maxon over—and time is running out for America to decide.
Just when America is sure she’s made her choice, a devastating loss makes her question everything again. And while she’s struggling to imagine her future, the violent rebels that are determined to overthrow the monarchy are growing stronger and their plans could destroy her chance at any kind of happy ending.

I found that I was on the fence about this book the entire time that I was listening to it. I spent most of the book raging at America for not making a decision, not fighting back, not just reaching out and grabbing what she wanted (or at least deciding what she wanted). At times I was ready to give up on the book and the series. Then, finally, right towards the end of the book, America grew a backbone and started to make up her mind and became likable. I was sorry to see the book end because suddenly America was leading her life and not letting it lead her. Now I can't wait to read the final book and see how the series ends.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Just One Day

Author:  Gayle Forman

Series:  Just One Day, Book 1
Year:  2013
Publisher:  Speak
Pages:  369

Goodreads Summary:
A breathtaking journey toward self-discovery and true love, from the author of If I Stay

When sheltered American good girl Allyson "LuLu" Healey first meets laid-back Dutch actor Willem De Ruiter at an underground performance of Twelfth Night in England, there’s an undeniable spark. After just one day together, that spark bursts into a flame, or so it seems to Allyson, until the following morning, when she wakes up after a whirlwind day in Paris to discover that Willem has left. Over the next year, Allyson embarks on a journey to come to terms with the narrow confines of her life, and through Shakespeare, travel, and a quest for her almost-true-love, to break free of those confines.
Just One Day is the first in a sweepingly romantic duet of novels. Willem’s story—Just One Year—is coming soon!

In my opinion, this isn't so much a story of romance as it is a story of growth and self-discovery. I have to admit that I got annoyed with Allyson's depths of depression from her one day in Paris but once she started recovering and finding herself, I found myself liking Allyson a lot. I loved watching Allyson grow and take control of her life and find herself. The idea of traveling around Europe (even penniless) appeals to me so much. I would love to take just a summer and do that. What I didn't like was that ending! I need the next book now!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Love Evolution

Author:  Michelle Mankin
Series:  Black Cat Records, Book 1
Year:  2012
Publisher:  Self
Pages:  207

Goodreads Description:
Nineteen year old Avery Jones can play the guitar as well as any guy. Better Even.
Brutal Strength, one of the biggest bands around, needs a new lead guitarist.
Seems like the perfect fit, except for one big problem. Temperamental lead singer Marcus Anthony won't allow a woman in his band.
Read Love Evolution, a rock 'n roll adaptation of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night.

When I first started this book, I didn't think I was going to be able to read it at all as there were just too many cliches and flowery descriptions of everything. It just wasn't cutting it for me. But then the book hit it's stride for a little bit and was quite enjoyable.  Then the ending was a little jumbled and and just OK. It was a quick read and a fun little romance. I don't think any of the problems with the book weren't something that a really good editor couldn't clean up and make work.

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Bitter Kingdom

Author:  Rae Carson
Series:  Fire and Thorns, Book 3
Year: 2013
Publisher:  Greenwillow
Pages:  433

Goodreads Summary:
The epic conclusion to Rae Carson's Fire and Thorns trilogy. The seventeen-year-old sorcerer-queen will travel into the unknown realm of the enemy to win back her true love, save her country, and uncover the final secrets of her destiny.
Elisa is a fugitive in her own country. Her enemies have stolen the man she loves in order to lure her to the gate of darkness. As she and her daring companions take one last quest into unknown enemy territory to save Hector, Elisa will face hardships she's never imagined. And she will discover secrets about herself and her world that could change the course of history. She must rise up as champion-a champion to those who have hated her most.

This series was probably my biggest surprise of the  year. I can't believe how much I loved these books. They were  just wonderful fantasy books with a beautiful romance and a terrific story. And will probably make my top 10 books of the year. I was so sad to see this series end. I could read about this world and these characters forever.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Crown of Embers

Author:  Rae Carson
Series:  Fire and Thorns, Book 2
Year:  2012
Publisher:  Greenwillow
Pages: 410

Goodreads Summary:
In the sequel to the acclaimed The Girl of Fire and Thorns, a seventeen-year-old princess turned war queen faces sorcery, adventure, untold power, and romance as she fulfills her epic destiny.
Elisa is the hero of her country. She led her people to victory against a terrifying enemy, and now she is their queen. But she is only seventeen years old. Her rivals may have simply retreated, choosing stealth over battle. And no one within her court trusts her-except Hector, the commander of the royal guard, and her companions. As the country begins to crumble beneath her and her enemies emerge from the shadows, Elisa will take another journey. With a one-eyed warrior, a loyal friend, an enemy defector, and the man she is falling in love with, Elisa crosses the ocean in search of the perilous, uncharted, and mythical source of the Godstone's power. That is not all she finds. A breathtaking, romantic, and dangerous second volume in the Fire and Thorns trilogy.

Wow!  Talk about a book that definitely does not suffer from middle book syndrome. The Crown of Embers never slacked up. It was non-stop action. I absolutely loved the entire cast of characters (both old and new). And the love story - can we just say that when Rae Carson finally gave Elisa love she did it with complete flair and absolutely took my heart away. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Girl of Fire and Thorns

Author:  Rae Carson
Series:  Fire and Thorns, Book 1
Year:  2011
Publisher:  Greenwillow
Pages:  423

Goodreads Summary:
But she is also the younger of two princesses, the one who has never done anything remarkable. She can't see how she ever will.

Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king—a king whose country is in turmoil. A king who needs the chosen one, not a failure of a princess.
And he's not the only one who seeks her. Savage enemies seething with dark magic are hunting her. A daring, determined revolutionary thinks she could be his people's savior. And he looks at her in a way that no man has ever looked at her before. Soon it is not just her life, but her very heart that is at stake.
Elisa could be everything to those who need her most. If the prophecy is fulfilled. If she finds the power deep within herself. If she doesn’t die young.
Most of the chosen do.

Put most simply, I loved this book. It's a beautiful fantasy story with magnificent world building. But don't be thinking this is a typical YA novel. First off, the heroine of the story is lonely, depressed and (heaven forbid) fat. And although Elisa is super smart and friendly, she is susceptible to self-pity. But even when she's in this state, she doesn't hesitate to face her fears and fight the enemy to save those she cares about. And here's one of those places where Rae Carson shines. Instead of making her heroine completely humble, Elisa says things to the effect of: "well, yes, I did save your life."  But the most amazing part of the book is watching Elisa grow and accept herself and her spot in her world. And I love the twist at the end where Carson basically tells her audience that she's not writing some stereotypical YA love triangle. 

Saturday, November 2, 2013


Author:  Rachel Cohn
Series:  Annex, Book 1
Year:  2012
Publisher: Hyperion
Pages: 331

Goodreads Summary:
Elysia is created in a laboratory, born as a sixteen-year-old girl, an empty vessel with no life experience to draw from. She is a Beta, an experimental model of a teenage clone. She was replicated from another teenage girl, who had to die in order for Elysia to exist.

Elysia's purpose is to serve the inhabitants of Demesne, an island paradise for the wealthiest people on earth. Everything about Demesne is bioengineered for perfection. Even the air induces a strange, euphoric high, which only the island's workers-soulless clones like Elysia-are immune to.

At first, Elysia's life is idyllic and pampered. But she soon sees that Demesne's human residents, who should want for nothing, yearn. But for what, exactly? She also comes to realize that beneath the island's flawless exterior, there is an under­current of discontent among Demesne's worker clones. She knows she is soulless and cannot feel and should not care-so why are overpowering sensations cloud­ing Elysia's mind?

If anyone discovers that Elysia isn't the unfeeling clone she must pretend to be, she will suffer a fate too terrible to imagine. When her one chance at happi­ness is ripped away with breathtaking cruelty, emotions she's always had but never understood are unleashed. As rage, terror, and desire threaten to overwhelm her, Elysia must find the will to survive.

 I had a couple of misfires on starting this book. I had a really hard time getting into this book. For some reason I wasn't quite feeling it for Elysia. Demesne was an odd sort of dystopian world that I couldn't quite understand and I couldn't say right in my head without thinking Shakespeare. Plus, I have a hard time identifying with the clones as main characters bit. But then stings started picking up and I started getting into the story and I found myself enjoying the book and liking Elysia. I was even pulling for her and hoping that she'd find a way to join in the rebellion and break free. 

Overall, Beta wasn't the greatest dystopian book I've read but I am intrigued enough to pick up the rest of the series and find out what  happens.