“Raven Song” Book Review

Displaying Cover.jpgPhoto courtesy of: Author Assistant

Author:  I. A. Ashcroft

Publisher: Lucid Dreams Publishing

Type: Dystopian, Fantasy, Sci-Fi

Rating: 🌸🌸 out of 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸

Synopsis:

Raven Song is a post-apocalyptic story in which the world as we know it burned and society has had to rebuild and find a way to survive in the charred remains of the time before. The story centers around Jackson, a smuggler, and a man with no memory of where he comes from. All that Jackson knows is that he is able to see ravens wherever he goes, this despite the fact that ravens are a long extinct bird. In contrast to Jackson is Anna, a woman out of her time. Anna is a woman who went to work one day, only to then wake over a century later in a box. Scared, unable to breathe, Anna finds herself being saved from the box she’s in by none other than Jackson.

What ensues is a story of two humans who despite being from different times, find themselves drawn to one another through an unspoken and not entirely understood connection. With government officials and those who believe in and practice magic working to track them down and do all that they can to either control, or if need be, kill them, Jackson and Anna come to realize just how much they need the other one to survive and to find out who they are, why they’ve been brought together, where Jackson came from, and what happened in Anna’s past that has caused her to be present 100 years in her future.

Thoughts:

I received a free copy of this book from Author Assistant in exchange for an honest review. I really wanted to like this as the premise sounded interesting and like something that would blow my mind. Unfortunately, this book did not live up to my expectations. I found it to be painfully slow-moving, and there were many times where I wanted nothing more than to walk away from it never to return; but, I persisted in pushing through in hopes it would pick up and get better. Despite reading the occasional paragraph or even page where my attention was fully captured, these moments of enjoyment did not last long and sooner than I would have like, I was back to plodding my way through the book.

Not only did the plot move way too slow, but I found that it posed more questions than it answered. I know that this is the first book in a series and that this book is laying the ground work for the later books, but it would have been nice is some of the questions that were posed were answered instead of sidestepping the issue and creating more questions. Having finally finished this book, I currently have no plans to finish the series.

“The Sleepwalker” Book Review

Author: Chris Bohjalian

Publisher: Doubleday Books

Publication Date: January 10, 2017

Type: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller

Rating: 🌸🌸🌸🌸 out of 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸

Synopsis:

One morning, Annalee Ahlberg’s children wake to discover that their mother has disappeared in the middle of the night. Knowing that their mother suffers from sleepwalking, Lianna and her sister Paige immediately contact their father who is out-of-town for a conference along with the police and neighbors to get a search party going. With no clues to where Annalee went, aside from a small piece of fabric from her nightshirt which is found hanging from a tree branch by the Gale River, the search eventually fizzles out.

With the case having gone cold due to a lack of clues and a body, Annalee’s daughter Lianna works to understand both her mother’s sleepwalking and who she was as a person. As Lianna delves into her mother’s history, she finds herself being drawn to one of the detectives investigating her mother’s disappearance, Gavin Rikert. With mounting questions about: what drew her mother out of bed that night? what exactly Gavin’s relationship to her Annalee was? If her mother is in fact dead, where is the body? Lianna slowly puts the pieces of what happened that night together as clues prove to be slow in forthcoming.

Thoughts:

I was fortunate enough to receive a galley copy of Chris Bohjalian’s newest book, The Sleepwalker from the publisher and as with other books I have read by Mr. Bohjalian, this was a truly enjoyable and unique story to read. This is also going to be a hard review to write as I don’t want to give away too much, but I’ll do my best. One of the main things I loved about this book was how much it taught me about sleepwalking and the different types of sleepwalking that exist as I knew next to nothing about this condition. The characters were wonderfully fleshed out and I found that I was just as frustrated as the main character Lianna was in her search to figure out who her mother was and what happened the night of the disappearance.

Upon learning what happened to Annalee, I couldn’t help but feel like Lianna in that I knew all along what happened that night, as the clues were provided to me earlier in the story but I didn’t want to believe that was what happened. The old adage, of often the simplest answer is the correct one came to me as it proved to be true. Despite silently berating myself for not figuring it out sooner, I still enjoyed the story and can’t help but marvel at the fact that once again, Chris Bohjalian has managed to weave such a complex and intricate story that not only held my attention but provided just the right amount of misdirection and red herrings to keep me second guessing where I thought the story was heading.

Even though I loved this book, and I love the writing style, I gave it a four out of five rating because I found the first part of the book to be a bit slow. Despite this, the book did pick up in pace and drama for me once I finally settled in and I ended up flying through the second half of the book with no trouble.

If you’re a fan of Chris Bohjalian, you definitely do not want to miss this book.

 

Top 12 Books of 2016

As 2016 draws to a close I can’t help but reflect on the past year and all the books I read. For the most part, the majority of the 102 books read I found entertaining and enjoyable, there were only a handful that I did not enjoy. Looking back on all of these books, I felt it was only right to select my top 12 books from the year. As I waded through the list of books, I decided it was best to select my top read from each month to help narrow down the contenders.

JanuarySalt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Salt to the Sea was my first introduction to the writing of Rita Sepetys and she quickly became a writer that I look forward to reading more from. This was a beautifully written historical fiction YA book about a very little known piece of World War II history. The story centers around four teens who are each making their way, amidst thousands of other refugees towards the coast in hopes of boarding the Wilhelm Gustloff ahead of the Soviet advance. This was a heart-wrenching and all too human story of the greatest tragedy in maritime history. This book was my top read for January because of how well Ms. Sepetys wove the story together and for moving me to moments of tears and joys as she told the story.

FebruaryAudacity by Melanie Crowder

Another historical fiction YA book, Audacity tells the story of Clara Lemlich, a young Russian Jew who emigrated to New York at the turn of the twentieth century. Clara found herself working in a factory on Manhattan’s Lower East Side and after harsh work conditions she went on to lead the largest strike by women in US history. This book made it to the top of my February list mainly for the way the story was told. This important story was told in verse and for me it brought the story to life that much more. Verse isn’t for everyone, but I think that this is a book that many would find enjoyable.

MarchDark Sparkler by Amber Tamblyn

Every so often I get in the mood for some poetry reading and I will look towards either a classic poet, or a more modern poet. In March, I found myself reading Amber Tamblyn’s book of poetry that looks at the lives of more than twenty-five of Hollywood’s actresses. The poems range from Marilyn Monroe to Sharon Tate, from the famous to the lesser known. The poems are insightful and raw, and the pictures that accompany many of the pieces are each unique to that poem and to the artist who drew it. I would love for Amber to one day write a male version of Dark Sparkler as there are plenty of male actors in Hollywood with dramatic stories of their own.

AprilNovember 9 by Colleen Hoover

This was my first Colleen Hoover book and I decided to pick it up after seeing so many rave reviews of it on Instagram. I devoured this book in a matter of hours and was left not only satisfied with the book as a whole, but left wondering how I had gone so long without reading it. Not only did November 9 quickly become my favorite read for the month of April, but it became one of my favorite books of all time. So much so, that I’m afraid to read any other books by Colleen Hoover in case they don’t live up to this one, but I’m sure I’ll get over that fear in the New Year.

MayScarlett Epstein Hates It Here by Anna Breslaw

Reading this book was like spending the afternoon with one of my best friends. Scarlett was the kind of fan girl that I was able to relate to as she reminded me of how obsessed I was with Buffy the Vampire Slayer when I was a teen. Now, I didn’t take part in the online communities or write Buffy fanfic, but I did make it a point to be home when it aired and I would shush anyone who tried to speak to me during that hour of the night. This was one of my favorite début of the year and I can’t wait to see what else Anna Breslaw comes out with.

JuneGirl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes

I found this book to be a very cathartic read, as I myself had experienced a trauma at the beginning of the year. I was able to relate to Maguire and her issues with anxiety so much so reading Girl Against the Universe aided me in dealing with my own anxiety and working to move forward in my own life. Both this book and the author, Paula Stokes, are on my favorites list because of what was an important read for me and because of the kind words I received from Paula Stokes when she read my review of her book.

JulyThe Call by Peadar O’Guilin

This YA horror story is one that literally haunted my dreams while reading it. Rather than reading the story in one sitting, I decided to draw out the anticipation of everything and as a result I would toss and turn at night dreaming of all the different possibilities where the book was going to go next. My nocturnal musings led to me only getting 4-5 hours before I was awake again and picking the book back up. I loved everything about this book and its unique take on the folklore of the fae in Ireland and what happened to them. This was the perfect book to keep one up reading late into the night.

AugustGirl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow

I have recommended this book to so many of my fellow bookworms since reading it, I even filled out a shelf talker at the bookstore to further help promote it. Girl in Pieces is a story that needs to be told as it deals with some of the darker issues which exist in society and that some of us, our friends, or family may deal with. The story was raw and emotional in its sadness. Reading this book made me want to reach in and hug the main character, telling her everything would be all right and that she could count on me. Upon finishing the book, I was left wishing I had studied psychology  or social work in school and gone into counseling for teens.

SeptemberMiss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

This was actually a re-read for me. I first read the book not too long after it was originally published and decided to revisit it after hearing they were going to make it into a movie. On my second read through, I found insights into the story and the accompanying pictures that I had missed on the first read through. Sadly, I still have not seen the movie, or finished reading the rest of the books, but those are both things I plan on resolving in the New Year.

OctoberThe Steep & Thorny Way by Cat Winters

This 1920s retelling of Shakespeare’s Hamlet was so well written and uniquely done. I loved that for once, an author actually wrote about a minority female as their main character. The story was beautifully woven together and had so much rich insight into the history of Oregon in the early 1920s. The included historic pictures further added to the story for me since I was unaware of the vast majority of the facts which are covered in the book not having grown up in Oregon. I was fortunate enough to meet Cat Winters at a book signing and share with her just how much I enjoyed her book; I was even able to convince 4 other people (all strangers to me) who  were looking to read a diverse book to purchase it.

NovemberVassa in the Night by Sarah Porter

This retelling of a classic, and lesser known, fairytale was darkly enjoyable. Vassa was such a different story and unique in it’s telling that I flew through the book, and then proceed to read the original fairytale. Sarah Porter told this story so well, that I think she could give the Brother’s Grimm a run for their money.

DecemberBlack Moon by Romina Russell

The third book in the Zodiac series did not disappoint. The stakes continue to be raised, the new zodiac worlds which are introduced are just as stunning unique as those introduced in previous books and the cliff hanger ending left me screaming in shock and horror. This book quickly jumped to being my favorite book in the series thus far.

As previously stated, 2016 was a wonderful year when it came to reading. I read a total of 102 books, attended some amazing author discussions and books signings, made some new bookworm friends along the way. Looking forward, there are some amazing books coming out and I can’t wait to see which authors I’ll get to meet on their book tours and stops in Denver.

 

How I did on my 2016 Charity Reading Challenge and What’s Next

At the beginning of the year, I wrote about my desire to take part in a charity reading challenge. My goal was to read as many books as I could and for every book I read, I would set aside a certain dollar amount (1-499 pages = $1, 500-999 pages = $5, 1000+pages = $10), to be donated at the end of the year to the charity of my choosing, Stand Up 2 Cancer, in memory of my father who passed away from bladder cancer in 2010.

As 2016 draws to a close, I have managed to read 102 books, and to set aside $131 for donation. Of those 102 books read, 96 were ones that earned $1, 5 books earned $5 and only 1 book earned $10. Although I originally planned on making a donation to Stand Up 2 Cancer, I have since then become aware of the Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network (BCAN) and have made a charitable donation of $131 to them. My reason for this change is because although Stand Up 2 Cancer is a wonderful cancer organization, I want to donate to a cancer organization that is specifically working to raise awareness about, provide resources for, and find a cure for the type of cancer my father passed away from. Many people are not aware that bladder cancer is the 5th most commonly diagnosed type of cancer in the United States, and I want to do what I can to help raise and support that awareness.

With that being said, moving forward into 2017, I have decided to reduce my reading goal from 100 books to 75 in hopes that I will be able to read longer books and have even more money to donate at the end of 2017 to the Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network.

As I did with my original charity reading challenge post, I encourage all who read this to create your own charity reading challenge to benefit the charity or cause closest to your heart.

“Frostblood” Book Review

frostblood-cover image courtesy of: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/27827203-frostblood

Author: Elly Blake

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Publication Date: January 10, 2017

Type: Fantasy, Young Adult, Advance Readers Copy

Rating: 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸 out of 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸

Synopsis:

Elly Blake’s upcoming YA novel, Frostblood, is delightfully action packed and full of danger from the very beginning of the book. The story revolves around seventeen-year-old Ruby, a young fireblood, a unique human who is able to start and control the element of fire with her body. When Ruby’s village is raided, and her mother killed by the frost soldiers of the Frostblood King, Ruby finds herself imprisoned with nothing but thoughts of revenge to keep her going.

Despite the country being the home of the frostbloods and their king, and hatred of the firebloods, there are those who oppose the king and work towards overthrowing him. Thus, Ruby finds herself being broken out of prison by a couple of mysterious monks and taken to their abbey for safety and proper training of her powers in exchange for her agreeing to help them kill the king.

As the months pass, Ruby’s powers continue to grow and she finds herself not only learning to trust and befriend some of the monks, but even falling in love with the mysterious Arcus. Just when Ruby and Arcus finally begin to admit to and explore their feelings for one another, the king’s soldiers raid the abbey, taking Ruby into custody once again. This time though, Ruby is taken to the court of the ice king where she is made to flight frostblood champions to the death in a gladiator style arena.

With her powers continuing to grow, a dark force attempting to control her, no idea as to whether her friends are alive and coming for her, it is all Ruby can do to hold on to a piece of herself and remember her original mission.

Thoughts:

I received an advance review copy of Frostblood, courtesy of Netgalley. Even before starting the book, I was taken in by both the beautiful cover and the engaging description. I find that with a lot of fantasy novels, YA or adult, the description will make the book sound absolutely amazing, but upon actually reading the book, it falls flat for me. Luckily, Frostblood did not do this. The book both lived up to and exceeded my expectations. I loved the world building Ms. Blake created and the mythology she developed for the story. The mythology is so rich with details, that the possibilities for the subsequent books int he series have my interest so piqued that I’m ready for the next book and the first one is still weeks away from release.

The characters were well-developed and for once I didn’t want to constantly beat the main character upside the head for whining too much. That’s not to say that Ruby was a perfect character, she was stubborn and often acted before fully thinking things through. Thankfully though, Ruby did learn from her mistakes and developed into the kind of character who thought things through and allowed others to help advise her.

As for the romantic aspect of the book, it held just the right amount between Ruby and Arcus. Since the developing romance between them is not the main focus or driving force of the story, it was actually a pleasure to read because it didn’t feel forced upon me as the reader. Did I know that they would go from not liking or trusting one another to friends and eventually more than friends? Of course I did, but the progressions was both enjoyable and humorous. I was further pleased with the love story development because I really saw how complementary they were and it was nice to see that Ruby could hold her own when Arcus wasn’t around.

Overall, this was a truly enjoyable read that I flew through and I look forward to reading the rest of the series.

YA Happy Hour Review

(the above books represent some of the 22 authors who were present at the YA Happy Hour)

Last Friday, October 14, 2016, I had the pleasure of attending the Tattered Cover Bookstore’s first ever YA Happy Hour in which 22 Young Adult authors were in attendance. Tattered Cover’s YA Happy Hour came about in large part because on the following day, all the authors were to gather at Littleton High School for the first ever Teen Book Con, an all day event with panels and book signings. When it was first announced that Tattered Cover was going to host a Teen Book Con, I of course was ecstatic and looking to clear my calendar months in advance; sadly, as more information became available it turned out that the Teen Book Con was only open to those who were 13-20 years of age. As I contemplated using the fact that I currently can pass for an 18-year-old and whether or not to use this fact to “crash” the event, other young adult reader fans were emailing and contacting the Tattered Cover about something for the adult fans of young adult literature.

Luckily for myself, and all the other YA adult fans, the Tattered Cover agreed to host a separate event for the adults the night before. The Tattered Cover had managed to avert any further backlash from their adult patrons (a large source of income not only for the store but for these authors as well) and all of us over 21 year old’s would have an evening for ourselves complete with food, wine and beer and of course mingling and signings with the same 22 authors as the teens would meet the following day. I immediately bought my $10 ticket to the event, a truly great deal as I was then able to apply that $10 towards the purchase of a book that evening, and secured a sober designated driver for the evening (my Mom).

As Friday evening quickly approached, I worked to gather all the books by the authors I wanted signed and counted down the days until the event. Finally, Friday arrived and like a kid in a candy store, I found myself clutching a stack of books as I weaved in and out of groups of my fellow bookworm’s, looking for the next author on my list to get books signed by them. Not only did I get to spend sometime speaking with and meeting some of my favorite authors, but I also made some wonderful new friends among the other YA adult readers who were in attendance.

I left the store that evening still hyped up from my discussion with authors: Cat Winters, Sharon Cameron, and Matthew J. Kirby about their books and where they found the inspiration; book bag overloaded with the nine books I had gotten signed that evening, and excited about having made new friends in the book community who I look forward to future book discussions with and seeing at other book signings. From my perspective, I have to say that the evening was a huge success. The event was sold out days before the event and the store was packed. In speaking with the authors they were enjoying themselves and really impressed with what Tattered Cover had managed to put together. Many, both fans and authors alike, expressed the hope that both Friday evening and the next day’s Teen Book Con would prove to be such a success that this would become an annual event with other authors getting a chance to attend.

“Girl in Pieces” Book Review


Cutting is a fence you build upon your own body to keep people out but then you cry to be touched. But the fence is barbed.” Girl in Pieces

Author: Kathleen Glasgow

Publisher: Random House US

Type: Young Adult, Mental Health, Advanced Readers Copy

Rating: 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸 out of 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸

Synopsis:

Kathleen Glasgow’s début novel Girl in Pieces is a first person narrative which tells of teen Charlotte “Charlie” Davis whose life is in shambles. At the age of seventeen Charlie is: homeless, a cutter, has a best friend who will spend the rest of her life in a vegetative state, a mother who doesn’t want her, a father who is dead and currently residing in a mental institution. Charlie is a seventeen year old who is broken in more ways than one can count; yet, despite being broken, the reader can’t help but root for her to find a way through her pain and to come out a stronger person on the other end.

When the book opens, Charlie is lying on a hospital lawn reflecting upon the stars shining down upon her: I remember the stars that night. They were like salt against the sky, like someone spilled the shaker against very dark cloth. As the blood seeps out of her veins, Charlie’s story is only just beginning. Over the next first third of the book, the reader is taken within the walls of the mental hospital Charlie finds herself in following a cutting experience which was in fact a suicide attempt. Here, amongst other teenage girls who are dealing with their own forms of addictions, from alcohol and drug abuse to self-mutilation, Charlie begins to take her first steps towards acknowledgment of who she is, where she has been, her experiences and finally to begins to see a way to move forward.

Following Charlie’s stint in the hospital where she meets others who are similar to her, she is discharged and finds herself leaving the cold and pain of Michigan for the warmth and sunny sky of Tucson, Arizona. Arriving in Tucson, Charlie finds work as a dishwasher in a restaurant  along with an apartment. As Charlie fights to remain sober and not to give in to the need to cut, she enters into what evolves into a toxic relationship with one of her coworkers,  Riley, a once famous musician who lost his way to drug abuse. Although the reader can argue that Charlie and Riley love one another and want to save each other, ultimately their relationship fails and they find that they are unable to save the other without first saving themselves.

The final part of the book, can be viewed as a rebirth for Charlie. Like the phoenix rising from its own ashes, Charlie falls and yet is able to climb her way out of the inferno. With the help of her friends and her art, Charlie finally comes to understand what she needs in order to survive and have fulfilling relationships.

Thoughts:

I was extremely fortunate enough to receive and advance readers copy of this book from Random House Children’s Books and I can’t begin to thank them for giving me the opportunity to read this emotionally charged book. From the description of the book and comparisons to 13 Reasons Why and Girl, Interrupted (both of which are stories that I thoroughly enjoyed), I couldn’t help but be intrigued and slightly skeptical about this new young adult story by a début author. Luckily, I need not have been so skeptical as the book was everything I could have hoped for and so much more.

This was a book that I found hard to put down as I recognized that the story was not only tragic and heartbreaking, but beautifully written and one that needed to be told. Although Charlie is a very flawed character and there were times that I wanted to reach out and shake her while yelling “What the hell do you think you’re doing?!?”; I couldn’t help but feel empathy for Charlie, a young woman who had been without any kind of affection for so long that it was the physical pain she brought on herself that allowed her a way to cope with her feelings of worthlessness.

Girl in Pieces is a human story that tells of the darker side of humanity, the story that many in society do not want to acknowledge exists or is even possible. It serves as a harsh reminder that there are teens in this world who are dealing with very real pain who believe that they have nowhere to turn other than to harm themselves in some physical way. In the publisher’s letter to me, they said that Girl in Pieces is “a haunting, beautiful, and necessary book that will stay with you long after you’ve read the last page.” I have to say that I agree with the publisher, I have already recommended it to my book club (a group of women where ages range from 22-80s) as well as other friends. It’s a book that I have yet to stop thinking about, despite having finished it five days ago. The story is raw and emotional and will definitely remain with me for a long time to come.

Girl in Pieces will be published in the United States on August 30, 2016.