Review: The Prince of the Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

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The Prince of Mist

by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Rating: 5/5 stars

    It’s Spain during WWII and 13 year old Max Carver is forced to move with his family to a beach house in order to avoid the conflict from the war.  No one in the family besides Max’s dad is excited about this move, but their lackadaisical attitudes are snapped to attention when strange occurrences begin.  Soon after, Max begins questioning his surroundings he learns that the previous owners had a son who drowned in the ocean, and Max is certain his death is connected to his family’s experiences.  With the help of a native boy named, Roland, Max and his sister set out to find answers.  They soon discover that their is a malicious spirit terrorizing their family, until he collects a debt he was promised many years before.

Review:  To begin with a disclaimer.  Had I read this book, rather than listening to the audiobook, I probably would have been more likely to rate it as a 3-3.5.  But the recording was so well performed, that I sped through this entire book in a single day!  This story was super creepy and I think it is a great Middle Grade book, that anyone could enjoy.  The music and sound effects did wonders in creating a spooky atmosphere and I would love to know if the other audiobooks were recorded in a similar format.

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Review: The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

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The Bone Season

by Samantha Shannon

Rating: 3/5 Stars

     Set in an alternative future London, The Bone Season follows Paige Mahoney who works for a street lord named Jaxon by discovering other people’s secrets.  Discretion is Paige’s biggest ally, not only for the sake of her job, but also because she commits treason just by existing.  Paige is a clairvoyant, who is able to see into people’s dreams to gain information.  In this world, the government hunts these people down and they disappear from society.  At the start of the novel, Paige is captured and taken to an abandoned part of the city, where she is assigned a Warden.  The Wardens are an alien race who control the human government and enslave those with extra abilities.  Paige must use her training and instinct to learn as much as she can about these people so that she can make her escape.

Review: So I picked up this book when I was participating in TBR Takedown 3.0 and trying to complete my reading outside my comfort zone challenge.  The Bone Season definitely fit into this category.  I’m not even sure what genre this novel fits into, it seems part dystopian, part sci-fi, part something else altogether.  Needless to say, I was very wary, going into it.

That being said, I was pleasantly surprised.  While at times I might have gotten lost in the specialized language, for the most part I was engaged and excited to see what happened to Paige next.  Because this book fits into so many different genres for me, it also brought several different experiences to the reader.  There is the mystery of discovering who this alien race is and what their purpose is.  There is a very slow-burning romance that kept my interest when other parts dragged.  The reader gets to see the inner workings of how Paige’s powers work, which was really interesting.

Because it was out of my comfort zone, this was an entertaining read but I don’t feel the need to rush out and read the sequel.  Overall, I do want to keep reading this series, but its one that I will probably read over several years, when I’m looking to read something different than my norm.

#RockMyTBR 2016 Reading Challenge

Rock my TBR

Like many readers, I have a problem where there are simply not enough hours in a day to read all of the books I plan too! As a result, I have acquired quite a pile of unread books that have been lying around…for years in some cases.  That is why I LOVE the #RockMyTBR challenge that Sarah over at The YA Book Traveler has created!  Here are the books that I’ve added to my shelves over the last couple of years that I  hope to read in 2016:

Sabriel – Garth Nix

Illusionarium – Heather Dixon

Furies of Calderon – Jim Butcher

Under the Banner of Heaven – Jon Krakauer

Assassin’s Aprrentice – Robin Hobb

In the Afterlight – Alexander Bracken

Assassin’s Curse Duology – Cassandra Rose Clarke

Jellicoe Road – Melina Marchetta

Some Boys – Patty Blount

First Fifteen Lives of Harry August – Clare North

All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr

The Bone Season – Samantha Shannon

Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone – Kat Rosenfield

Kingdom of Little Wounds – Susann Cokal

Virgin Suicides – Jeffrey Eugenides

Bossy Pants – Tina Fey

March – Geraldine Brooks

Midwinterblood – Markus Sedgwick

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landou-Banks – E. Lockhart

Girl in the Woods – Aspen Mathis

Wolf by Wolf – Ryan Gaudin

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

This Star Won’t Go Out – Esther Earl

The Wise Man’s Fear – Patrick Rothfuss

Mistborn – Brandon Sanderson

Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl – Jesse Andrews

Rebel Spring – Morgan Rhodes

So hopefully, I’ll be able to knock 2-3 of these out a month (give or take) and by this time next year my TBR should look a bit thinner 🙂

If any of these are on your list and you want to do a buddy read, let me know!

Waiting on Wednesday: The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine book blog!

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This week I can’t wait to read The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig!!

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This book follows a girl, Nix, who can travel to any time and place with her father and his ship.  Although she loves her life, this ability may put everything in jeopardy when her father goes back in time to try and save her mother from dying in childbirth.  No one knows what will happen to Nix with her father trying to change history so close to her birth, but ending her father’s heartbreak may cost Nix everything.

This sounds like a totally unique and interesting story.  I can’t wait to read about all the interesting time periods that are visited in this novel and how Heilig has the people aboard the ship interact with those that are stuck in their own time and place.  There are so many cool directions that this book could go and I’m excited to see what happens and what kind of help Nix discovers along the way.

The Girl from Everywhere comes out February 16th, 2016 and is published by Greenwillow Books!

Top 5 Wednesday (on Friday): 5 books we are thankful for

Hi All! Top 5 Wednesday is a tag created by GingerReadsLainey over at Booktube, and this weeks topic is “5 books we are thankful for”.  This is going to be a mix of children’s and adult lit. But other than that it doesn’t really follow a theme.

  1. Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder

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When I was younger, reading with my mom before going to bed was an everyday thing.  For some reason this book (and series in general) really stands out for me.  I loved reading these stories, and I think this series is one on of the main reasons I became a more independent reader of larger chapter books in second and third grade.

2. Quiet by Susan Cain

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I read Quiet right after I graduated from college and it was so beneficial to me.  I have always been an introvert and it has never seemed like a positive thing.  Reading this novel altered that perspective.  It provides plenty of examples of introversion leading to positive results, as well as how to use those characteristics to become a better leader and advocate.  It was super beneficial to me when I was in my post-college flounder 🙂

3. The Lorax by Dr. Seuss (or any Seuss in general)

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The Lorax is my favorite Seuss book but really any of them can be counted among my favorites from childhood 🙂

4. Shel Silverstein

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I love how creative and silly Shel Silverstein is with his poetry while still being able to deliver a pretty important message.  Rarely do his poems make much sense but I am always up for a re-read if I find one of his books in my vicinity.

5. Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

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This book is one that I could read repeatedly and still feel like I am reading it for the first time.  There is so much to take in and so many personalities to understand, that I encounter something new with every re-read.

A Step Towards Falling by Cammie McGovern

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“Friendships are complicated. Friends have power. Friends can break your heart.”

A Step Toward Falling

by Cammie McGovern

Rating: 5/5 Stars

     A Step Toward Falling is a contemporary dual perspective novel that chronicles the lives of two high school girls who have both been affected by a bullying incident.

     Emily is a high school student who witnesses Belinda, a student with developmental disabilities being assaulted and walks away without acting.  Now she and Lucas, another bystander who failed to act, must complete community service at a center that serves people with disabilities.  As time passes Emily begins to feel like she is making a difference in the class, but still feels guilty about the night of the attack.  When Belinda returns to school Emily makes a plan that she hopes will show Belinda how sorry she is and also give Belinda some positive attention that is long overdue.  As new information about the night of the attack comes to light however, Emily begins to second guess how to best help Belinda, and wonders if she is going to end up hurting her more in the end.

     Belinda has not returned to school since she was attacked.  She has fallen into a routine of watching Pride and Prejudice repeatedly hoping to rediscover the comfort she used to find in watching her favorite movie.  She used to believe that there were people like Mr. Darcy in the world but now she isn’t sure.  While her grandma and mom are very understanding and don’t mind that she is taking time off from school, Belinda knows she has to go back.  As Belinda tries to return to her school routine, she begins to understand that things have changed.  She needs to learn to adjust to new roles in her classroom and also finds that she may have some new friends to help her with all of these changes.

Review: This is McGovern’s second novel that I have fallen in love with.  She has a wonderful way of making people with disabilities her protagonists without making the conflict of the novel center around their disability.  Did Belinda’s disability play into how she recovered or reacted to her attack? Of course, but it wasn’t the only motive driving her actions or determining the next plot point.

     I loved the complexity of the feelings and people in this story.  This is seen best through the inaction of Emily and Lucas, despite neither of them being “bad kids”.  They froze, and despite their parents and peers telling them that it isn’t their fault or there is nothing they could have done, it’s not true.  Despite their mistakes at the beginning of the novel however, Emily and Lucas show great maturity in accepting their punishment and doing everything they can to improve the lives of the people they are meant to be serving.

    I cannot recommend this book enough! Whether to learn more about people with developmental disabilities, or just to read a YA book with great themes, character growth, and a heartwarming message.

Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella

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Finding Audrey

by Sophie Kinsella

Rating: 4/5 stars

 Audrey is a high school student who has taken a medical leave of absence from school due to her severe anxiety disorder.  As she puts it, her “lizard brain” (the portion responsible for fight or flight responses) is overactive and she constantly has to talk herself down in situations as harmless as having her brother’s friends coming over to visit.  Something happened to Audrey in school between some other girls that has resulted in her being extremely wary of people outside her comfort zone.

As part of her therapy, Audrey takes active measures to improve her disorder as the date for her re-enrollment in school looms closer.  This begins with her brother’s friend Linus.  When he comes over to play video games, Audrey and him begin a shaking friendship that gives her the encouragement she needs in order to attempt interacting with strangers and the world outside her home.  With a promising start Audrey is excited to be “cured” and begins attempting bigger challenges to prove that her need for medication and extra care is unnecessary. However, Audrey must learn that she, just like everybody, will have some set backs in life and that those set backs do not mean that things aren’t improving overall.

Review: I thought this was an utterly adorable story. Kinsella highlights a very serious condition, showing how it can definitely affect someone’s quality of life while also maintaining the natural sense of humor that Audrey had prior to her breakdown. Although I found Audrey’s mom to be a bit obnoxious when I first started the novel, she quickly grew on me and I found many of her antics really hilarious as the story unfolded.  I also felt that the mom’s overbearing concern with computer games, junk food, and whatever else the media says is bad for kids, shows how almost helpless her mom felt.  As much as she tried to set her daughter up to have the happiest life possible, factors beyond her control resulted in her having to watch from the sidelines as Audrey worked through her anxiety.

All of the characters in this novel supported Audrey in their own way.  It was a truly heartwarming story that showed that despite her disorder, Audrey had the strength and support to stand up on her own two feet again.

A Monster Calls playlist

Here is the playlist I came up with to go along with A Monster Calls!

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Radioactive – Imagine Dragons

The Wolves – Ben Howard

Breathe Me – Sia

Centuries – Fall Out Boy

Film Noir – The Gaslight Anthem

Better Days – Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

A Monster Call Spotify playlist

 

Top 5 Friday: 5 YA Characters I Want to be Friends With

These are the Top 5 primary or secondary characters from various YA novels that I would love to be friends with in real life:

     1. Jace from The Mortal Instruments Series by Cassandra Clare

Although the series overall ran a little lukewarm for me and I was only able to get through the first 2.5 books, I really like Jace’s character.  Especially in the first novel, he is such a sarcastic and laid-back character that I could easily get along with him.  And for those times when he was a bit broody, I would just leave him to his demon hunting things until he blew off enough steam 🙂

2. Thomas Schreiber from Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine

Thomas is quite simply a really solid and reliable friend. He is a genuinely great guy, who wants to see the best in everybody and improve the lives of those around him, without any ulterior motives.  With a friend like this, how could your life not vastly improve just through proximity alone.

3. The Tucks from Tuck Everlasting

This may be cheating because it isn’t just one person, but the Tucks are such an awesome and grounded family.  They focus on creating positive experiences despite the negative effects immortality can have on one’s outlook on life (with the exception of Miles at times).  I feel like spending time with them would feel like a constant potluck, a party with close friends where there is total acceptance and no need to be anything less than authentic.

4. Levi from Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Levi has a quirky charm that is not over the top and makes him super realistic.  I could easily see him on the campus of the college I attended.  Reading Fangirl, I was super jealous of the easy friendship that his personality enabled between Levi and Cath at the beginning of the novel.

5. Nanny from The Nanny Diaries by Emma McLaughlin

I though Nanny made hilarious observations throughout this entire novel and loved her perspective on her job and current situation.  I cannot imagine an afternoon hanging out with her being boring or taken too seriously.

So after making this list I noticed that there are not many female characters that I would want to be friends with.  I think this is because I have a pretty laid-back personality, when I think of hanging out with friends I want to relax and anticipate sore ab muscles from the amount of laughing I will be doing.  It seems like female characters are often mired in crisis or serve as a moral compass for the protagonist.  Can anyone point me to any YA novels that have a solid laid-back female protagonist or a friend that serves as comic relief without being catty or angsty?

Throne of Glass – Sarah J. Maas

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Throne of Glass

By Sarah J. Maas

Rating: 1/5 stars

Throne of Glass is a fantasy novel about Calaena Sardothien, an assassin who has just spent a year sentenced to working in Salt Mines after being caught.  The Crown Prince, Dorian, has had her released on the condition that she will compete in a competition to find the King of Erilea’s next Champion, or assassin.  Calaena agrees on the condition that if she wins, after 4 years of service she will be free.  As the competitors begin completing tasks and slowly being eliminated, they soon have additional concerns as someone has started to kill competitors outside of the specific tasks.  Calaena now has to find a way to survive these attacks while also building her strength to succeed in the tournaments.  Also distracting her is a new friendship with the Princess of a neighboring nation that is being threatened by Erilea, as well as the romantic feelings she has for her guard Chaol and the Crown Prince.  Trying to overcome all of these factors, Calaena must put other thoughts aside if she hopes for a chance for her freedom in the foreseeable future.

Review:  So I will put a disclaimer out right in the beginning of this review stating I might be a little more harsh on this book than normal because of all the hype that is surrounding it.  Because Queen of Shadows,  the 4th book in this series, came out this month I have been seeing a lot of raves about it and thought I should finally get this series read.

It was almost painful at times trying to get through this book.  I think the main problem I had with trying to get into this novel is it is completely inconsistent.  Calaena is supposedly the greatest assassin in Erilea, however her characterization and the way other characters in the novel treat her don’t align with this at all.  This is supposed to be a character that broke her own wrist when she was still a preteen in order to become a stronger fighter in her less dominant hand, however, throughout the whole novel there were constant complaints about blisters, uncomfortable high heels, having to walk in wet shoes.  I found the amount she whined made any of her previous claims and experiences unbelievable.  Also the way the male characters treat her also undermine her claim to greatness.  Her tendency to become a Damsel in Distress around Chaol, was really at odds with her background and it kept me from being pulled into the story.

I also felt a lot of plot decisions were made because they were necessary for moving the story forward but did not make sense with the setting the author had created.  Having guards constantly around the Princess and Calaena for protection, and then having them just randomly be out of sight the one time somebody approaches them and makes a threat just does not make sense.

I have heard that the next novels in this series do get better as they continue, but because of the awful experience I had reading this book, I really have no interest in learning what happens to these characters or seeing how their stories resolve.