What to Read Next for Thanksgiving?

Books

Thanksgiving is just around the corner (!!!) and along with great food, Thanksgiving always means curling up in a comfortable chair preferably with a blanket after a brisk walk down to the beach and delving in to some great book. I’m definitely looking forward to the down time that I have next week, but the problem is I don’t know what book to read. Dun dun dun (dramatic music). I’ve had a bit of book ADD recently and I start and stop books a lot because I don’t know what I’m in the mood for. I have a growing list of potential books to bring with me over Thanksgiving vacation to satisfy whatever kind of mood I’m in. Some of these mean trips to the library, others are new or rereads. I’ve been meaning to read The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman and it’s been sitting on my bedside table for a while now, and I’ve also been wanting to reread The Night Circus and a couple of other things. But I’ve also had my eye on some YA things. I only read YA over summer break – nothing else, and that continued in to the fall, and while I have read other things since then I don’t think I’ve actually finished any of them. And I tend not to review books I don’t finish. Oh well.

I also have been thinking a bit more about my story lately. I thought of another scene while I was going to bed a few nights ago, so I’m hoping to sit down with those ideas at some point over the break as well. We’ll see what happens…

This weekend I am also going on a retreat with 100+ high school students and I am so pumped! It should be a great trip. We are going to Princeton for the weekend (its aptly called Princeton Weekend) and its always crazy and so great! I started going as a student, and I volunteered a couple of times when I could in college, and I’ve been going back ever since. I am definitely pumped for this weekend even if we do all sleep on a gym floor. And then there’s Thanksgiving! I always love this stretch before Thanksgiving – even if it has been crazy cold here…I’ll just use that as an excuse to drink Starbucks holiday drinks and tea. Happy Friday everyone, and if anyone has any good book recommendations leave them in the comments!

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Double Book Review: Everyday and We Were Liars

Well, fall might be in full swing what with the cooler weather, the chunky sweaters that are starting to be pulled out of the closet again, and the pumpkin spice lattes, but today I am going to talk about Labor Day.

The end of the summer has been pretty hectic for me, and my blog has unfortunately gone on a bit of an impromptu hiatus, but I am glad to be back again and working on a more regular schedule. Anyway, my Labor Day weekend was great, filled with lots of good food, beach time, and relaxation in one of the most comfortable chairs I have ever sat in. Seriously, I would carry this thing around with me if I could. Many a good book was read and many a great nap was taken in this chair this summer.

My weekend started off with a three hour train ride, and a 20% off coupon at Barnes and Nobles, so I made a book stop on the way to work that Friday to get two books. I figured I didn’t have anything else planned for the train and I didn’t want to have a whole line up of tv shows to watch only to find out there was no wi-fi, so why not get some good reads.

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The first book I got was Everyday by David Levitan. I first saw this book at BEA in 2012 when I went with my NYU program, where it was being released as a galley. After reading the back of the book on its display board I got in the hugely long line to receive a signed copy, but not long after that we were told that they were out of copies. Boo.

So I swore to myself that I would get it in stores, but I didn’t see it for many months, and then when I did I was always getting other books, and I can be bad about reading all the books I buy if I buy more than one at a time. I didn’t want Everyday to be a book I bought on a binge and then never read, so never bought it. But then I did buy it and read it and it is amazing!

Everyday follows the story of A, a sixteen year old who wakes up every morning in someone else’s body, never the same one twice. Right off the bat I was interested in the story, since it is such a unique plot, and I really wanted to see how Levithan pulled this off. But one day A falls in love with a girl and everything changes.

That is pretty much the sappiest sounding recap, but it is a really great story. There is this person who has literally never had any kind of continuity in his life (A doesn’t really have a gender but I am going to say his for the sake of the review) until he meets Rhiannon. I found A to be a very convincing character despite (and because of) his unrealistic situation. He has literally experienced every type of sixteen year old – boy, girl, gay, straight, smart, dumb, jock etc. etc. etc. He has had all these different identities, but never experienced one of his own.

Levithan also does that thing where the author inserts overarching truths about life into the story. While these overarching truths can be well written, I have found that I can be a little wary of them sometimes, since it seems like the author is speaking beyond the character and it can take me out of the story a little bit. Either that or it can be cliched. All in all it can be a tricky thing to pull off. But I thought that Levitan succeeded with his little over arching truths, because of the broad range of experience A has had. Of course he would develop these beliefs about life, love, purpose etc. after everything that he has been through and all that he has seen. To me his observations were well done and on point.

Everyday can be a tricky story to talk about since it is so unconventional in its subject and the way it is plotted, but I really loved it, and if anyone else has read it and feels the way I do, or has different thoughts, please reply in the comment section below and we can continue the conversation. 🙂

The second book that I read over Labor Day Weekend, since Everyday took me about a day to read, was We Were Liars by E. Lockhart – another really unique, addicting read. I had seen the book around in stores, and the more I saw it the more I figured I should give it a read.

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We Were Liars is about the Sinclairs, a prominent New England family, who spends their summers on a private island off the coast of Cape Cod near Martha’s Vineyard. Cadence Sinclair Easton and her cousins, the Liars, always spend their summers together on the island, each family with its own house, and its own problems. We Were Liars focuses on “Summer 15”, and what happened then as the patriarchy of the family begins to fall apart.

We Were Liars is another book that is hard to review. It reminded me of Gone Girl in a way in that either you know what is happening in the book or you are trying to piece it together, and there is a definitive moment in the story when that role switches from one to the other. So I don’t want to give too much away, but again I really recommend this book.

The setting of the island played a big role in the story, since that was always what brought the family together, and i thought Lockhart did a really good job of getting the feel of the island paradise down, but also the sense of claustrophobia that comes with it. After all it is just these four families living on the island together. There is also a definite dark streak that runs through the narrative. Lockhart has a very unique, poetic way of telling the story which really grabbed me as a reader, but also made me doubt how reliable Cadence was as a narrator.

Anyway, I don’t want to give too much away again, but I really recommend this book as well. It was another 24 hour read for me, but it felt like it stayed with me much longer than that.

What did you all do over Labor Day weekend? Read any good books? Have any thoughts about these two? Let me know, and enjoy fall! I have yet to have a pumpkin spice latte – my theory is it can stay summer as long as I don’t get one, right? That’s definitely how it works…

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I Changed my Mind About Bitterblue

Helloo! I have been pretty busy non-stop for the past few weeks with babysitting, editing, and going down to PA for a friend’s wedding (which I still can’t believe happened) so this blog hasn’t been updated for a bit.

But today I am excited to be back an talking about a book I read earlier in the summer (after this I will finally be caught up with reviews so that’s exciting).

A few summers ago I read Graceling by Kristin Cashore and it’s companion novel, Fire, both of which were amazing. I also read Bitterblue, the sequel to Graceling, but I decided I didn’t like it, and I never ended up finishing it.

12680907Over the summer I’ve been rereading a few things, including Graceling and Fire, so I decided to give Bitterblue another chance. And I ended up loving it!

The first time I tried reading it, I didn’t have a lot of time to read so I would only read a few pages at a time before falling asleep, and I ended up losing track of the plot. I think that has a lot to do with my first impressions of the book. But this time I read it during my vacation time and I devoured the book in my favorite reading chair over the course of a few days and it was great!

If you haven’t read the first two books, I recommend doing that before reading this review because there will be some SPOILERS.

Bitterblue starts years after Graceling. Bitterblue is a young adult now in charge of her own kingdom that is still working to recover from King Leck’s tyrannical rule. Bitterblue, tired of signing papers in her tower with her team of advisors, decides to get to know her city on her own. When she sneaks out at night she finds a crazy cast of characters and many unanswered questions, like why is the city in such a state of disarray, and what are the majestic bridges leading nowhere? So she sets out to find out the answers to these questions on her own.

There are a lot of subplots to this story that don’t come together until the end, which may have had to do with why I lost track of the story on the first read, but I was really able to enjoy the structure of the book on the second round.

I also really liked Bitterblue’s court life and the way it was portrayed in Cashore’s world. I’ve always enjoyed court novels, probably has to do with all the Tamora Pierce books I’ve read. Court novels just lend themselves so well to intrigue, secrets, and gossip, which Bitterblue (the book, not the character) thrives on. It was also interesting to see Katsa and Po from an outsider’s point of view. During Graceling I thought they were super cute, but there were times during Bitterblue where they got a little clingy I thought. Bitterblue also has a closer relationship to Po, which makes sense since they are cousins, and becomes intimidated by Katsa at different points in the story, which is also understandable. Katsa is a force to be reckoned with. I really liked the way Po cared for Bitterblue, and it was nice to see another perspective of him beyond the mysterious character that he is portrayed as in Graceling.

The minor characters of the story are also well portrayed, and while I like Saf and Bitterblue’s relationship, I could also see her doing well in a relationship with Gidon. I’m not usually one to create my own ships for characters that aren’t cannon (other than Neville and Luna in HP – they BELONG together!), but I did like how Bitterblue and Gidon get along. She always felt comfortable with him, which was important considering everything else that was going on in her life. But she does well with Saf too, and I can see them getting along well in the future beyond the end of the book. Thoughts?

There are many puzzles and riddles throughout the book as Bitterblue tries to figure out what’s going on which made for a good read. There was a lot going on but the pace moved along well, and the story was always pushing forward.

I also liked the way Bitterblue tied the two previous books together, especially towards the end. It also painted a strong picture of Leck, even though he died two books ago. He remained a strong character throughout the three books without having too much “screen time”, which made for an interesting read.

Anyone else read Bitterblue out there? What are your thoughts?

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Ruin and Rising: A Great Ending

Hello everyone and happy Friday! And welcome to my 99th post!! I have been pretty busy these past couple of weeks between going to camp, babysitting, and editing which has been great! I love keeping busy but I also haven’t had much time to blog recently so I am making up for that today.

Other than Harry Potter, I don’t think I’ve ever actually bought a book on the day that it came out, but I started reading the Grisha series at the perfect time for the third book release back in June (still playing catch up a bit), and I was able to get it on its release date, which was pretty exciting. 🙂 I am sad that this review took me so long to get to, but I am really excited to finally talk about it and hear what anyone else thought about this final installment or the series in general. Leave your comments below!

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I must say I was a bit apprehensive about this book before reading it because I have read many trilogies where the third book isn’t as good as the first or second, and I really did not want that to happen with this series. But I can safely say that that was not the case with Ruin and Rising. At all. So don’t worry. It was amazing.

Many of the things that I enjoyed about Ruin and Rising were continuations of what I have already talked about in my last two reviews, so I won’t go in to as much detail with this review, but it was an amazing book and everyone should read it. The characters were complex, sarcastic, and real. The Darkling continued to be terrifying in his complexly enticing way, the Russian fantasy world setting continued to spellbound, and the action in the book kept me reading, even if the pacing was different from the previous two books.  Also if anyone hasn’t read the series be warned that there will be spoilers although I will try to keep them at a minimum. But feel free to check out my thoughts on the first or second books.

Ruin and Rising picks up shortly after Siege and Storm with Alina living underground as Ravka’s current patron saint, a life that has been touched on in the previous two books, but has never been fully explored until now. She is weak and broken after the events of the second book, but she is still on a mission to beat The Darkling by collecting Morozova’s third amplifier. 

Alina is also not the same character she was in the first or second books. After her stand off with The Darkling at the end of Siege and Storm she is much darker, and works to regain the power that she had before she was broken down, and find power that she never had (hence the Rising). She and The Darkling are now more similar than ever, and The Darkling is more powerful than before, which furthers the Mal/Darkling/Nikolai debacle which was about so much more than a love triangle. (thank you!)

I have a lot of feelings about the ending of this book that I would love to talk about here, but I don’t want to give too much away, which is why this review is on the shorter side. While I was reading avidly throughout the entire story, it was really the last couple of chapters that really got me going. Plot twists tend to do that. So if anyone has thoughts – good, bad, or ugly – on the series, the characters, the ending leave them below and we can talk! 

Also I am so excited to announce that this is my 99th blog post! I can’t believe I’ve made it this far, and I have loved blogging for the past 2 years (my gosh, that’s a long time…) Well, on to 100!

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Siege and Storm

Hello everyone and Happy Monday! Although it doesn’t feel like a real Monday for me because tomorrow I am packing my bags (actually I am doing that tonight) and heading up to camp to be a camp councilor for a week at FOCUS. The weeks that I am at camp are my absolute favorite weeks of the summer, and I have loved it there ever since I started going as a high schooler, so I am really excited for this upcoming week. 🙂

But before then I wanted to squeeze in one more review in an attempt to catch up with reviews on here since I am still behind. I was hoping to do two last week but that just didn’t happen between editing, babysitting, and getting ready for this week, but I am here now. 🙂

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Also I suggest that if you want to avoid some SPOILERS if you are thinking of reading this series (which you should definitely do!) read my review of Shadow and Bone instead.

So Siege and Storm. I still have a lot of feelings about this series, and I am really excited to revisit the books again, which I feel will be much sooner than I usually reread a series. Siege and Storm starts with Alina and Mal on the run from The Darkling and the power he has over Ravka. While they are away they meet some new characters, including Sturmhoud, a famous privateer. While Alina’s true identity as the Sun Summoner must remain hidden, she and Mal must find a way to battle the growing power of The Darkling, all while keeping Alina in control.

The typical flow of the second book of a trilogy tends to push the main character to his/her breaking point, Leigh Bardugo definitely follows that path here, but there is also so many other things going on that it didn’t seem overly done to me. Alina now wears the antlers of a stag as an amplifier, which gives her greater Sun Summoning powers, but also puts her under the control of The Darkling. Much of this book is Alina’s struggle to reclaim her own power, and to find out what that really means to her. It is clear that she is falling apart on this inside, but that is all masked well by her exterior, which made for some good conflict.

I have read a couple of other reviews of Shadow and Bone and Siege and Storm through my wanderings on the internet, and there seems to be a large group in the fan base who are Darkling/Alina fans. Granted I think The Darkling is a great villain. He is attractive, which makes other characters (and readers) drawn to him, he is good with words and knows what to say, and he is filled with drive and power. He makes a great villain and antagonist for Alina. And the fact that they had a fling in Shadow and Bone for a bit and that they are so similar (“like calls to like” with their Grisha powers) makes him all the more intriguing.

But in the second book he really does become downright creepy. Which was great for the plot and for pushing Alina to the edge, which is pretty much the purpose of this book. But that does not mean they should be in a relationship together. In fact it means they SHOULDN’T. I liked that Alina debates this so much throughout the series, because it forces her to question her own power and her identity as the only Sun Summoner, but their relationship is pretty much the definition of unhealthy.

He appears to her as hallucinations that only she can see. Danger! Danger! And he wants to use her power for his own good. More danger! More danger! These made for great scenes, and it made my skin crawl whenever he appeared. And it made me like Mal even more. Because he was an escape from the darkness around her, but it also drives a wedge in between them since there is this whole side of Alina’s life that he cannot relate to. It definitely complicates things which makes the story more intriguing and complex as well. So while I love The Darkling as a villain, I really cannot get behind the Alina/Darkling pairing, and I really don’t want to.

Speaking of pairings, Alina has many potential suitors in this book. I can become pretty cynical when it comes to relationships in young adult literature, especially if those relationships take the form of a love triangle. But with this book each character was really distinct and well developed so that they were all more than just a pretty face who had all the right things to say when Alina needed to hear them. Bardugo continued to make really convincing realistic side characters throughout the Grisha series, which I really appreciated. Each one had their own tone, their own sense of humor, and their own goals, which really made them stand out, whether they were potential love interests of Alina’s or not. And each love interest was more than that as well – it was a direction that Alina’s life could go down – Sun Summoner, commoner, queen. This added a lot more complexity to the story than just a pretty face would, and I really appreciated that.

While I found that the story wasn’t as tightly plotted as Shadow and Bone (which also makes sense for the middle book in a trilogy) the action and characters really kept the story going. Writing these reviews really makes me want to reread these again.

Has anyone else read Siege and Storm or any of the other books in the Grisha trilogy? What did you think?

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Reading Narnia: Prince Caspian

Hello everyone! I have been kind of crazy busy since last posting, but I am excited to be back. On Friday I went up to Wheaton for my 2 year reunion. It was great to see everyone (and remember how uncomfortable dorm mattresses are) and it was a lot of fun. I left early on Saturday morning to go back to the city for one of my best friend’s bridal showers, which was also tons of fun. I also started a new babysitting job for two adorable little girls on Monday, and I have been editing a bit, so even though I’ve been a bit swamped, and I’m 90% sure I left my wallet on the train up to Wheaton and I spent my train ride back cancelling my debit card and finding the closest Western Union to Penn Station that was open on a Saturday, I would say I’ve had a good past couple of days.

Today I’m also excited to talk about Prince Caspian here. I am still playing catch up with book reviews because as it turns out it doesn’t take too long to read kid’s book (although it is a lot of fun 🙂 ) and I’ve been reading a lot of YA recently (as you will see after the Narnia series is over). So I think I was reading this right after Easter.

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So Prince Caspian. I ended up borrowing a copy of the book from the library, and it was the special edition with color photographs which was pretty fun. It’s been a while since I read a book with pictures in it. I also was a little more familiar with the story of Prince Caspian from seeing the movie, as opposed to other Narnia books.

A bit about Prince Caspian: Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy return to Narnia when they are heading back to school (that would be nice) only to find it a very different place from when they were last there. Years have passed, and Narnia has been taken over by the Telmarines, who have sent all the talking animals into hiding. But the Telmarines have a prince (Caspian) who is more interested in Narnia and its creatures than his own land. He and the Pevensies team up to bring back Narnia.

I don’t have the book in front of me at the moment so I am doing this review by memory, but I did like the way Caspian was introduced to Narnia – through stories from his old Nurse and his tutor. He always had a fascination and love for the land that his nation did not share, which ultimately shapes the rest of the series.

I also liked the internal debate that went on in many of the characters during the Telmarine’s reign. It was clear that they were in a tight spot and needed to find a way out, but was it worth waiting for Aslan, who some of them had never seen, or would turning to the White Witch, the antagonist in Lion, Witch, Wardrobe work? Nikabrik the dwarf was all for The White Witch (the dwarves were treated well under her rule), and it created a good amount of tension in the book. This debate was also played up more fully in the movie with The White Witch almost making a comeback through a sheet of ice only to have Edmund destroy her (go Edmund!)

Prince Caspian is one of the few books that I have read after seeing the movie as opposed to before, so I was kind of hoping that that scene was in the books as well, but I thought the debate was shown well without it too. It also showed how much time had passed since the Pevensies had last been to Narnia and the gravity of the Narnian’s current situation  if the bleak winter in the second book could be potentially seen as better than their current predicament.

The other main thread of Prince Caspian (other than the impending battle between the Narnians and the Telmarines) is, of course, Aslan. Lucy, who has always been the closest to Aslan, claims to see him while travelling through Narnia, but the others cannot. This also brings in some conflict to the story as to why they can’t see him, and why Lucy can. Lewis does a good job of portraying “a child-like faith” in Lucy without making it sound preachy, which could easily happen in an allegory like this. The older children really begin to doubt Lucy, (although they do point out that she’s been right before) and doubt themselves about why they can’t see the Lion when Lucy can.

All in all I enjoyed Prince Caspian, although I would still say that The Horse and His Boy and The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe were my favorites. Also if I have a chance I may review The Voyage of the Dawn Treader this week as well (two review in one week – w0w), but for now I am looking forward to a nice relaxing Memorial Day Weekend, even if it is supposed to rain.

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Reading Narnia: The Horse and His Boy

I was hoping to post earlier this week, but I’ve been pretty busy which has been nice, so here I am now, and I’m excited to talk about The Horse and His Boy. As it turns out, the Narnia books don’t take very long to read, and I finished this one a couple of weeks ago. I started reading The Horse and His Boy when I was little, but I was disappointed to find out that Polly and Digory or the Pevensie children weren’t main characters, and I just couldn’t get into it so I stopped reading about five pages in. So it’s kind of funny now that it is one of my favorite Narnia books.

ImageThe Horse and His Boy takes place entirely in Narnia, as opposed to many of the other books in the series, during the rule of Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy. It shows more of Narnia, and its surrounding lands, specifically Calormen  Archenland. Shasta is a boy living with his father in Calormen, but he is not happy in his situation and decides to run away with Bree, a talking horse from Narnia.

On his journey he runs into Aravis and her horse, Hwin, who are also running away. The two of them team up on their way to Narnia and run into more trouble and adventure than they ever planned in, especially when they discover a plot to take over the Narnian crown from the Pevensies.

In my opinion, The Horse and His Boy has some of the strongest characters in the Narnia series. Aravis is awesome, and I particularly liked her conversations with Lasaraleen, a snotty Calormen princess and old friend of Aravis, since the two are such polar opposites. Lasaraleen has a tough time seeing past herself while Aravis is primarily focused on her own safety and escape.

Shasta also has a great relationship with Bree the Horse, who has some great, funny lines.

It was also interesting to see Narnia from an outsider’s view, particularly a negative one such as the Calormen’s. The prince of Calormen is the one actively against Narnia, while his father, The Tisroc, is more against it, but is not strong willed to stop his son. This is where most of the conflict comes from the story, but it also sets up an interesting dynamic within the royal family.

Even though Peter, Susan, Lucy, and Edmund are not main characters in The Horse and His Boy, they do make an appearance as kings and queens of Narnia (which I would have found out if I had stuck with the book longer when I was little). I particularly liked this, not only because we got to see them in a different light, but we got to see how Edmund’s relationship with the Witch in the last book affected his rule as king, particularly when he shows mercy on a traitor . It was nice to see Edmund as something other than a stuck up, insecure little boy, so I particularly liked that. It was quick, but it really showed development within his character. 

And of course there is Aslan. He doesn’t have as active a role in this book as opposed to other per say, particularly compared to Lion, Witch & Wardrobe or Prince Caspian, but even though he doesn’t have as much screen time, some of my favorite, and his most powerful lines of his are in this book. (Some of these are spoilers but) two that really stuck with me were,

I was the lion who forced you to join with Aravis. I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead. I was the lion who drove the jackals from you while you slept. I was the lion who gave the horses the new strength of fear for the last mill so that you should reach King Lune in time. And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight, to receive you.

and

Child, I am telling you your story, not hers. No one is told any story but their own.

There were others, but those are the two that resonated with me the most.

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