Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman


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Under the streets of London there’s a place most people could never even dream of. A city of monsters and saints, murderers and angels, knights in armour and pale girls in black velvet. This is the city of the people who have fallen between the cracks.

Richard Mayhew, a young businessman, is going to find out more than enough about this other London. A single act of kindness catapults him out of his workday existence and into a world that is at once eerily familiar and utterly bizarre. And a strange destiny awaits him down here, beneath his native city: Neverwhere.

I found this book enchanting.

Even though I loved it all, the MC was my favorite. Richard’s this regular guy shoved into a world he does not understand, forced to survive horrific obstacles and prove to himself what he’s capable of. I was so sad when this book ended because it meant I couldn’t follow him anymore…good thing with books it is never truly farewell.

The setting was captivating. Ordinary things were made poignant and engrossing; it is so different, no wonder poor Richard became overwhelmed!

Since finishing it, I’m holding other MCs to a pretty high standard. Do try this book–you’ll find yourself engrossed, too!

Threats of Sky and Sea by Jennifer Ellision


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They know that fire can burn. But they’ve forgotten how water can scald.

Thus ends Threats of Sky and Sea, a YA Fantasy by Jennifer Ellision–who is an awesome person, I might add, and allowed me to interview her here.

As far as greedy kings go, this novel is home to one with an unusual upper hand. He has Elementals working for him–in particular a Lady Kat, who terrorizes those around her with an affinity for air. In this world, if you’ve a gift with one of the elements, you have unusual power to make it help with your purposes.

And Breena Perdit is about to learn she is one, herself.

Lady Kat may be cruel and power-hungry, but Breena will hurt most from untruths in her own family–secrets that will make her question her own identity.

It seems impossible that she would be an Adept–because she isn’t seventeen yet, making her far too young to have discovered such ability. But she’s captured by the king on that suspicion, taken with her father away from home, and nothing will be the same.

I don’t know what’s wrong with me, because the first time I read this novel, I thought the beginning was slow. Looking back, maybe I was just reading too late at night. It really picks up about three chapters in, and you can’t put it down.

Although the plot was intriguing, what I found most memorable were the characters. They’re wonderfully surprising: We learn that Da has been keeping a secret all along, when he seems like the last person to do it. Princess Aleta, who really isn’t as bad as we think in the beginning. My personal favorite was Tregle, the Torcher who seems to have a greater sense of conscience than Lady Katerine would like.

I finished the book and missed the characters immediately.

Also, I really need to say this–Riders (wind Adepts) can send a breeze to catch a conversation. That is both awesome and very creepy, and I think it would be a useful thing to have. Wind power always seemed the least impressive in other stories, but here it’s given new significance. Here I’d like to have wind power.

Finally, the ending nearly made me cry. Not a lot of endings do that since The Book Thief (I’m not sure any book will ever beat that one.) The book was great at playing with emotions, making the characters people you will miss.

I really want the sequel.

You should read Threats of Sky and Sea, and check out the author interview.

4/5 stars.

Book Review: Scotch Rising by S. J. Garland


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Edinburgh 1707. The English supporters in the Scottish parliament have narrowly signed the Act of Union. The controversial paper bringing England and Scotland together into one Great Britain will not be uncontested. From the Acts inception it appears doomed to carry the blood of Scots and Englishman alike. Esmond Clyde-Dalton returns to London a broken man after his wife’s death. He only seeks a dishonorable discharge. His superior Colonel Manner’s, known for his extensive spy network, has other plans. Sent to the highlands of Scotland to become an excise collector on Scotch. Esmond quickly becomes embroiled in solving the murders of two Scots men. As his investigation continues, Esmond soon realises life in Markinch is not all it seems. Esmond’s peaceful retirement turns to a fight to save not only his life, but also the lives of friends he has made in the highlands.

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I didn’t know what to expect, because it isn’t a genre I try often; the historical part caught my interest. It was engaging and believable, so I found it a welcome breath of fresh air from my reading comfort zones.

In Scotland, the Captain finds himself sucked into a mystery. The tax collector before him died, and looking at the things he left behind, the story everyone tells explaining it seems dishonest. Suspicious Captain Dalton takes the mystery on himself, but it won’t be easy.

While the setting and hook were masterfully done, on retrospect I find it disorienting that he gets into so much trouble. The things Dalton did seemed rash at times. He seemed to act on impulse a lot and got hurt…very frequently.

It’s the one thing about his character that bugged me: He seemed to make a lot of decisions on a whim, even after recovering from injuries. But it doesn’t really take away from the story; those were moments I would have screamed at the television, were it a movie.

My favorite character was Kieran, who in his youth is brave and sometimes more prudent than the captain. I think he will develop to be one of my all-time favorite characters, the “small” hero who proves himself to be more for his age.

Something else I loved was the use of dialect. It made the characters very realistic, and as a whole added vibrant color to the pages.

I would read this book again, and absolutely do recommend it. Mine was a digital copy which was the only reason I didn’t finish it in a day (reading on iPad screens is a bit irritating.) Get a print copy–I want one myself, and I really want to read the next book!

Book Review: Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly


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Heroes never really die.

We all make an impact on the world. Even if we don’t make major history books, it doesn’t change this truth: No life is an accident.

You will meet obscure heroes in strange ways, and Revolution is one such tale. Andi Alpers meets an obscure hero by finding her diary, and is swept into her life–into the French Revolution.

 

Andi’s father forces her to accompany him to Paris, hoping to bond a little. Instead of making new father-daughter memories, she spends the trip researching for a paper. If she writes a good report, she can go home early to care for her mother. Her little brother’s death has affected them all; Andi’s mother has been taken by crippling depression, with Andi barely hanging on.

 

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My thoughts don’t dwell so much on plot, but the realistic actions of these characters.

It was refreshing that having a love interest did not shake the main character’s resolve. It didn’t make her want to stay and tour the City of Light. It doesn’t boost her self-esteem either: There’s no magical moment where they make eye contact and she realizes how valuable she is. Her depression seeps through to the very bone, and every other feeling is only on the surface.

 

That being said, all the shifts to diary format made for a sometimes grueling read. It might have done good to space them out a bit; I kept getting confused about who the main character was. That may have been done on purpose, but it still threw me off.

The book is a bit heavy, detailed, something you approach attentively. Don’t get me wrong: It’s an impressive read if you drink it in. Revolution is deep, and I couldn’t recommend it more. I’ve read it twice, and enjoyed it both times!

 

Because it was a bit of a long read, I’ll give it 3 stars. Looking forward to reading more by this author!

Review: The Iron King by Julie Kagawa


This series is fascinating. The characters and concepts surprise me every time I visit.

With a writing style that draws me in, I’m off on an adventure to a place with beautiful things–magical creatures, dragons, beautiful courts, and people who hold to promises no matter what.

Don’t make a promise in the land of faery unless you really know what you’re doing. These creatures may be unpredictable and wild, but promises are kept.

This honesty gave them an odd, pleasant quality–I can’t describe it–like, expect them to eat you. Expect them to turn you in to their king or queen with a broad smile. But also, expect them to do what they say they will.

The creatures, characters, places here are wild–but this honest quality gives them something I can respect, compared to other books where they just do what they want.

Meghan Chase is looking for her little brother, Ethan, who’s been replaced with a changeling. Finding him isn’t going to be easy, and on her way to Ethan, she finds herself in new messes and battling new obstacles. Her best friend is a faery, and there’s a talking cat named Grimalkin who doesn’t tire of reminding her that she’s human and he is a cat.

Grim is an interesting character. I liked him most! The talking cat who’s shamelessly more intelligent is a nice change, an original character that someone needed to come up with.

This was my second read of The Iron King. I will never tire of this world and the people we encounter.

It’s definitely one of my favorite Young Adult series, funny and creative and engrossing. Give it a try–meet characters who will stick with you for a very long time.

I can’t wait to get to Book 2–my heart’s still in the Nevernever.

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PARIS by Edward Rutherfurd


This book was 800 pages long.

It had been years since I even tried to read something so big. Even better, it covered different periods of time in Paris, following the same families and places. It is fantastic and completely swallowed me up.

My mind is blown–how does one become patient enough to write something like this? How long does the project take, from research to revising? A writer lives in the world they create, so Edward Rutherfurd has definitely spent a long time immersed in Paris.

The most exciting part of the book, in my opinion, was the beginning–where he covers Paris at the time the Eiffel Tower was being constructed.

Gustave Eiffel is a character in this novel, and so bold! He is not loved by everybody, but they all know his name. Everyone knows he’s going to build a tower many consider ugly. Very few believe in it, and there were repeated attempts to bring it down after it was completed. Now it's iconic–irony, right?

There is some adult content you could skim over, and language to make it gritty.

As a whole the book is powerful and I miss it already. If you want a read that'll cover your entire summer, I highly suggest this book. I've really got to find his other work…

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Paper Towns by John Green


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When Margo Roth Spiegelman beckons Quentin Jacobsen in the middle of the night—dressed like a ninja and plotting an ingenious campaign of revenge—he follows her. Margo’s always planned extravagantly, and, until now, she’s always planned solo. After a lifetime of loving Margo from afar, things are finally looking up for Q . . . until day breaks and she has vanished. Always an enigma, Margo has now become a mystery. But there are clues. And they’re for Q.

I started Paper Towns on the plane to Vegas and finished it on the way back.

The book has such an undertone of melancholy to it. Even in humorous scenes, like when Ben is doing something crazy, we can feel that the author has an ache in his heart. Something’s missing in the character’s life and we, the readers, feel it as well: The void Margo left. We don’t care about the other kids having a good prom; we don’t care about anything except solving this mystery because we feel Q’s emptiness if he doesn’t. The main character is so real that we feel his pain.

When Q starts finding clues Margo left behind—or at least, we presume it was her—we go with him on a thrilling, heartbreaking journey. I watched Q crack the codes she left, discovering new leads. He’s in love with this girl and wants to find her, even if he doesn’t find her alive.

It’s not a happy kind of love: It’s a quiet, powerful, broken love. Margo fascinates him because she goes out of the box to live her life in ways he’d be scared to do himself. The first nine chapters made me smile because she has a whole plan to wreak havoc on town, and though he sometimes tries halfheartedly to talk her into sense, Q enjoys every bit of her craziness. He thinks it’s beautiful, and this is what causes him to fall in love—becoming one of the only kids in school obsessively searching when she vanishes.

I loved the book, but towards the end I did not like Margo. Compared to the first chapters detailing the adventure they had, Margo later on seems tired and out of character. Like Q’s other friends, I question if it was worth all the trouble they went through to find her. Perhaps for Q it was, since love is love, but she took the whole thing so calmly–as if she didn’t expect anyone to follow her, an unfair reaction. The ending in general didn’t satisfy me, but as a whole I would read this book again.

Note: If crude language bothers you, there’s quite a bit of it here, but all in character.

It was my first John Green novel, and I see why people enjoy his writing. It isn’t super complex, yet has a depth characteristic to him only. Soon I’ll get around to reading The Fault in our Stars. I’ve avoided that book for long enough!

Review: The Paris Wife by Paula McLain


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This book made me excited to be a writer. I could only dream of someday having such a gorgeous voice in my work.

Every now and then, we stumble upon the accidental read. There’s always that one book you guiltily buy because of the title–and for once, it doesn’t let you down. As this is  an adult historical book, there is some mature content. That being said, it’s a superb look into the life of Ernest Hemingway from a different perspective.

Does a writer ever really love one person more than their art?

This is the question we ask ourselves over and over throughout the book. It’s mostly written from the viewpoint of Ernest Hemingway’s wife, Hadley–though a couple of times, there are switches to his perspective, which I admit did catch me off-guard. They were all written in italics, which I suppose disoriented me.

This book is set in 1920, after the war; our world bears a scar that will never go away. Some people still try finding refuge in love, hoping to start their lives over. Ernest Hemingway’s scars run deep. Writing is clearly his one true love from the beginning. Still, he tries to be one of these brave souls. He settles with the main character, Hadley, and together they move to Paris. That’s where all the writers of the day wanted to be, according to Sherwood Anderson:

But if you want to do any serious work, Paris is the place to be. That’s where all the real writers are now.”
—Page 71

Ernest Hemingway in’t satisfied as a journalist. He feels they mock him, giving him jobs that seem ridiculous to write about. He wants to publish a novel that will make a dent in the literary world. While working to barely get by in Paris, he waits wait for the novel. He waits for the masterpiece that’ll launch him with the other greats–the “Lost Generation,” including F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ezra Pound.

In Paris, you’ve got to be bulletproof. This is impossible when love comes into the picture. We soon realize Hadley’s love is deeper than that of her husband. While he makes friends and his career grows, his wife is fading. She’s become distant to him, insignificant.

Paris has no mercy: She’s taken everything, and will continue till there’s little hope left. This novel is heartbreaking and beautiful, terrible and marvelous.

I want to share one of the most powerful excerpts to me, as a writer. All Hemingway’s work has just been lost, and this passage–I think–holds the overall feel of the story. It’s lost and hopeless, always about starting over without a clue how to begin.

“He puts his hand on the knob and pulls the door open and then he knows everything. There isn’t a page left in the cupboard. Not a note or a scrap. He looks and looks, standing there, wrenched out and hollow. As desolate as the cupboard is, that’s how he is too because the pages belong to him and are him. It’s like someone has taken a broom to his insides and swept them out until everything’s clean and bright and hard and empty.”
—Page 135

At times the writing sounds like a great poem, sweeping you away so that you’re hurting with the characters. When the book was done, I tossed it on the ground and stared at the wall miserably. Make sure you have thick skin: It’s not a light read.

This quote on the first page sums it all up:

It is not what France gave you but what it did not take from you that was important.
—Gertrude Stein

THE GODDESS TEST by Aimee Carter


*SPOILER WARNING.

So there are a lot of ‘fresh takes’ on Greek myths. I like Cassandra Clare but she wouldn’t be the first author I like to promote a fictional book about Greek mythology that’s just way overrated. I didn’t really expect much when I bought this book, but I was giving it a shot. Hopefully, some good books had been published since I was last an avid reader–and, thank goodness, this time I lucked out. The Goddess Test was an enjoyable read and really helped bring me back into happy reader mindset. I’d been writing for so long that I forgot what a good book was like.

Granted it took me a few weeks to go past the first chapter, though I blame this on the simple fact that I wasn’t that good at being a reader when I picked it up. That, and the prologue was a little hard to grasp; it wasn’t confusing persay but the characters were very difficult to relate to. I couldn’t picture them or what was going on. Maybe it’ll be different when I go back to read it again, but it did take me quite a while to make it past the prologue. Once I actually did I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I liked the main character. She isn’t a crybaby and she isn’t a damsel in distress. She’s just a normal girl pulled into a weird story. I think she might have believed everything a little too fast, but that’s just my opinion, I’m used to writing long and heavily detailed stories after all. Maybe it was longer as a first draft but to get published they made the author speed it up? Anyway, overlooking that she believed a little quickly for my taste, the rest of her was believable–right down to her emotions. Aimee Carter nailed it with this character, I liked her immediately.

Henry is sweet at times but I think it might be the way he speaks, a little bit forced, that made it difficult for me to visualize him. He is a powerful character and I like him, but I think he is ironically the rustiest character in the book, description-wise. There’s just something forced about him, though once again, it might get better when I read it a second time. It’s really no big deal and doesn’t take much from the story.

The romance isn’t too cheesy, nor is it dirty–when they do slip once, I appreciated that the author didn’t make it look like a good thing. No, slipping into the sin of lust was a very bad thing here, and it almost had grave consequences. Also it wasn’t really their faults either, but I won’t get into a deep discussion of what happened. Just know that it isn’t described, you don’t have to worry about your eyes falling out or even having to skip a page. I love the author forever for this and if she lets me down regarding this in the next books…I might burn them… It’s just refreshing to be able to dream without closing your eyes! Aimee Carter, don’t ruin this!

The world building and storyline was amazing. I like how she described locations. Even if I occasionally had trouble picturing a character, I never struggled with a scene. Great detail was put into location! The escapist in me approves. You can bet that I look forward to buying and reading the next books. I hope they live up to this one, it would be difficult but if they do, I have a new favorite author! Definitely give this book a try, it is worth your time!

PARIS, MY SWEET by Amy Thomas


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Complete with a cover that’s pure eye candy (I must admit that the cover is why I first bought it,) this little memoir is vivid. Amy Thomas painted the city and people in it so I could feel a breeze on my face, or smell the Nutella crepe that she described with such enthusiasm.

It also opened my eyes to a truth we often forget: There is such a thing as adventure in the world. Often, you just have to venture far in order to find it–and we like our comfort zones too much. We deny this, and complain later about how our lives are so boring. Stories appear out of nowhere like wisps of smoke (or in this case, the warm steam of perfect hot chocolate,) but you won’t see them unless you’re looking. Give something up, and only then will your heart be light enough to travel.

Amy did, indeed, sacrifice much to go on her adventure to Paris; with all its bubbly cheer, the book tells us she went through nostalgia and loneliness. Missing her family, having very few friends, regret–there’s always going to be that glance over your shoulder, hesitation to close the door behind you. I appreciate the author mentioning these very human emotions, so I could better relate.

Her writing style is conversational and easy to follow, at times resembling a blog post (after all, she is a blogger.) Inserting the words in French here and there gave it just the right dash of color, not so blinding that you could not see, but bold enough that you wanted to look. The cultures and how they differ were painted well, a plus for those of us who have never been there. Certainly, every person’s impression of Paris will be different,. That’s what books are for–to take us there.

There were only a few downsides, and they don’t even really count as such. In the blurbs where Amy recommended restaurants in Paris and New York, I felt a little resentful reading them and knowing I’ll probably never get to visit (the key word here being probably.) Also, the ending was rather abrupt–for some reason, it took me a few seconds to realize I was staring at the last paragraph. Somehow she managed to make the ending not an ending, in a good way–after the initial shock had faded, I realized the last chapter left us on an optimistic high.

I am very pleased with this book, and how she took me with her to Paris, describing her adventure in a very warm and personal manner. It made me excited for life, and hopefully someday I can experience the City of Light as well.

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