Posts Tagged With: books

6 beautiful book covers (with equally incredible stories inside)

gotham

The beauty of this cover is a little non-traditional, but I love it. You’ll learn it tells a bit about the story inside and it’s just so eye-catching.  Books with male main characters sometimes get the shaft when it comes to beautiful covers but this one did a great job. And then there are the words – it’s a page turning, heart-thumping historical fiction that highlights a time I wasn’t familiar with.  It’s worthy of its reputation.

golden

This is a historical fiction that will make you wonder if it actually happened. It was so expertly woven, the truth and tales of the times intermingled with the fiction so beautifully, I thought it had to be true. I adored this (audio) book. It’s a historical fiction that reads like a mystery. I knew the instant I picked this up it would be a winner of my heart: Spain, flamenco, and ballet? It’s like Alexandra knew what draws me to a story and decide to put it all into one place – beautifully at that. If you don’t already have a soft spot for any of those items, you’ll be hard pressed to walk away from this tale without one.

russian

The story behind this beautiful cover will surprise you. As flowery at this story appears, the book is definitely not for the weak of heart, which is part of the reason I like it so much. Furnivall took me by surprise nearly around every corner – no one quite reacted the way I thought they were and the plot twists themselves were numerous but elegant.

covers

I’m a sucker for colorful towns on the water, so maybe this cover doesn’t appeal to everyone. I also love the font.  Did I mention I love the story too? This book is amazing. The characters are beautiful. The story line unfolds in front of you perfectly and seamlessly and yet with a new surprise around every corner. You truly feel like you are reading about lives, not just characters in a book. It’s undeniably poetic and equally real.

smokedaughter3daughter2

Probably one of my favorite things about YA books is that they always have incredible covers.  I was then so pleasantly surprised to find the inside was wonderful, too. I love this book’s imagination, the colors, the scenes. It’s all so beautiful. The setting is incredible – Prague, the art studio, Poison. Even better are the people! Humans, angels, and creatures – they are all fascinating. Taylor does such a great job of showing me everything without overloading me with exposition. I can see so much, and I don’t even think that’s because I’ve traveled to many of the places (Prague and Marrakesh being two main settings – gorgeous on paper and in real life!).

Shadowandbonesiegeandstormruinandrising

Here’s another YA fantasy series that is worth it’s weight to the eyes and the imagination. This series is unique and beautiful. I like the flavor of the setting. I love the back and forth between suspense and life. I like our main character and how we get deep but not too deep. I like the conflicting romance and, even more, I like what took me by surprise. Characters evolved in great ways. Bardugo had my hand quivering at a page turn because I didn’t want to see what would happen next and that’s what I want out of a really good YA book.

What did I miss?  What’s your favorite beautiful book?

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Book Review: All The Light We Cannot See – 3/5

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

light

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Man, I am so in the minority here. Sorry, guys, but I just did not find myself enjoying this book.

Maybe it’s because at this point I have read a decent amount of WWII books. I dabble in a lot of historical fiction set in Europe during that time, and I’ve also found about an equal amount of memoirs or biographies as well. It might not be fair to compare the books but in all the ones I’ve read this one just really fell short for me.

What was it missing? I don’t know exactly. It took a really long time for me as a reader to see the connection between the stories, and, in reality, I still don’t really see it. Yes, paths crossed but… why do I care again? I guess there was impact, kind of, but it just didn’t feel meaningful to me. The timeline jumps around which, I guess, is to make the story not feel like its unfolding as slowly as it is, but it didn’t fool me at all. I kept waiting for something unpredictable to happen but it all just fell more or less into place. I also thought the story of a blind girl would be more poetic. I don’t think Doerr did a poor job, but it wasn’t as different as I expected it to be.

I really should have loved this book. I’m a sucker for WWII stories, historical fiction in general, and, to top it all off, I’ve been to (and am in LOVE with) the town of St. Malo. Just having that as a setting should have caused me to fall in love but instead it was like I was kept at arms length. I just didn’t really connect with anyone, nothing shocked me, and even the hardships of war didn’t hit me like they should have.

Sorry, Doerr. It’s not that it was bad, per se, and I did enjoy the last few chapters when finally, finally it all seemed to come together (though not to any real satisfaction) but the rest of it just felt flat to me. I can’t say I would recommend this book. I’ve much sooner refer someone to read The Invisible Bridge. Now that is one hell of a WWII historical fiction.

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Book Review: The Poisonwood Bible – 4/5

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

poisonwood

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is one of those books I resisted picking up because I didn’t know what to expect. Books that talk about religion – good or bad – tend to make me antsy. I know next to nothing about any religion so I wasn’t sure how this would sit. Obviously, it sat well.

Kingsolver is such a fantastic writer. Politics and opinions in the book aside, she did an incredible job of making this story come alive. The Poisonwood Bible is told from the perspective of five different females whose lives are wholly changed by, truthfully, one man – the father of the family. I love how differently Africa changed each of them – turning inward, turning out, growth, death, and even stasis. I think we all have (or will have) an experience in our lives that change us forever. It was fascinating to see one event change so many characters.

Kingsolver’s writing is poetry. The way she describes not only the atmosphere and setting but also the thoughts are incredible. Each female voice is incredibly distinctive. Adah and Ruth May are particularly wonderful to read. I was able to enjoy this book on audio and the narrator is phenomenal. The way she does Rachel – it’s perfection.

For me, I think the book should have ended prior to the girls growing up. This is the distinction for me between five and four stars. The end of the book, while still enjoyable, gets political. Whether I think one way or another about it, when it’s a historical fiction novel, it’s hard to know what is fact and what is opinion. I liked seeing how the women turned out, but part of me wanted to stay back in the Congo, too.

This book is art, and I loved listening to the words wash over me. There’s a reason its well known and it’s worth your time and effort to experience Kingsolver’s style.

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YA Book Review: Daughter of Smoke & Bone – 5 of 5!

Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor

smoke

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

To those of you who pick up this book – I recommend you buy/borrow the other two from the trilogy at the same time. You’re going to want to read them all in quick succession.

I borrowed this book from the library and read it in a day. Within about three minutes of closing the book I was online, confirming the others were on the shelf, and walking back to the library to borrow the other two. It’s that good, folks!

I love this book’s imagination, the colors, the scenes. It’s all so beautiful. The setting is incredible – Prague, the art studio, Poison. Even better are the people! Humans, angels, and creatures – they are all fascinating. Taylor does such a great job of showing me everything without overloading me with exposition. I can see so much, and I don’t even think that’s because I’ve traveled to many of the places (Prague and Marrakesh being two main settings – gorgeous on paper and in real life!).

Then there’s a plot. It has the scary angels which fascinate me (quick plug for how awesome Angelfall is) along with just as fascinating underworld beings. I love the way you’re not sure who is good and who is bad. The action is intense on both a large and a small scale. Both the reader and the main character, Karou, spend the book trying to figure out who she is – and what connection she has to the (potentially) imminent end to the world. That’s a plot hook if I ever heard of one!

Okay, enough of this internet business – I need to crack open book #2!

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Book Review: The Pillars of the Earth – a (surprising!) 4 of 5

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

pillars

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3.5 with a surprising round-up.

Really surprising. I’m not even sure I can leave it at a 4 star review. This book should not have been something I liked, I’m not a fan of religion, after all. If fact, for a lot of the book I didn’t like it that much… but somewhere in there I got won over.

Obviously, this book is long. That sucks about it. It really doesn’t need to be that long. There’s quite a bit of unnecessary rambling (yes, yes, buildings and architecture are complex, etc.) and Follett seems to assume that by the end of the book we’ve forgotten what happened in the beginning so he has to repeat it (which, I suppose is fair, due to the length). All of this makes it tedious – but not enough for me not to like it.

For the first fourth, maybe even half, of the book I was certain I would give it a solid three stars, maybe 2.5. Decent quality, just nothing too great. But somewhere from the middle to end I started to care more – I think I just really like Jack. The Pillars of the Earth has a bit of a George R.R. Martin feel; you’re never quite sure if good is going to win over evil or not. I started to care and I started to cheer for people. It was a great feeling.

What I love about this book is who the good and bad people are: they are everyone. The kings and earls, the clergy, the peasants, each group had their good and corrupt representation. I loved the women, especially Ellen. The book really flowed for its length. Some of it was fantastical and hard to swallow as believable but I liked it all the same.

I don’t know, I can’t explain it. This book just lives up to its reputation for me. It’s a story I’ll carry with me for a while. If you’re in the mood for a long book, this will be worth considering!

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Book Review: The Handmaid’s Tale – 5 of 5

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

handmaid

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Confession: I have a total lady crush on Margaret Atwood. I’m not ashamed.

Even though I wasn’t in love with Oryx and Crake I still think Atwood is a genius. While I still love The Blind Assassin the most of all the Atwood I have read, my 2014 re-read of this book has rekindled my lady-love.

I enjoyed this book immensely. The plot is incredibly gripping – instead of revealing it in chronological order, the reader is slowly taken through the mind of a Handmaid. Atwood gives such a perfect balance of the character’s remembrance and current activities. The truth is told to us is plausible pieces – the memories of Offred rise to the surface naturally.

My absolute favorite part of the book is when we get to the “how it happened” moment. The day that the funds were frozen, that the jobs were lost. Reading that caused a chill to run through me. It’s so simple and horrifyingly possible… it made me want to keep a stash of cash in the house just in case.

The plot line was fantastic and the writing in of itself was amazing. She personified characters who we never met and managed to integrate the boredom of the Handmaid (the words, the details, the line of thought) into a meaningful and forward moving story.

I found it intriguing and well done. Exceptional read. My re-read popped it to a 5.

(P.S. – on my first read through, I totally didn’t even know there was an epilogue. Mind. Blown. Also, I kind of liked it better without the epilogue… but I’m always one for ambiguity.)

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Series Review: Angelfall and World After by Susan Ee – 4 of 5

Angelfall and World After by Susan Ee

angelfall   worldafter

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My first instinct upon completing these books?

Slow clap.

When I am reading a story I need one of two things for it to be something I like – I either need great characters with excellent development, or a kick-butt plot line. Obviously, if I can get both, I’m in love.

Ee just wows me. It’s not a writing marvel and it’s not a masterpiece but I can’t help loving this. It’s hard to explain why I enjoy reading these books so much. I think I just admire Ee’s risk taking. Honestly, she’s balls to the wall with this stuff. Descriptions are bare minimum, exposition is to the wind, this book is a learn as you go – and it’s going to go fast. I find myself filling in the gaps of what’s happening. Ee is constantly surprising me. Sure, like every ya novel with a female protagonist you get some predictable items but in the long run I just want to give Ee a hearty thumbs up. This book had a ton of “What the H?!” moments that make me all antsy in my chair. It’s well designed and even though some of the character development was a little shallow, I enjoyed it all the same. The Angelfall series, for me, is about the plot line. It was interesting, unique, and it was quick.

I realize that’s a terrible review that tells you nothing, but I’m sticking to it. Pleasantly surprised. If YA fantasy is your style, pick it up! And if you enjoy Angelfall, then World After will not disappoint. Penryn is still a BA and the world is still f’d up.

All I have to say is brace yourself for the ending to both of these books.  You’ll never see it coming.

Not sure when the next in the series is coming – but I’m looking forward to it!

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Reviewing a Classic: Slaughterhouse-Five – 4 out of 5

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

slaughterhouse

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Goodness me, the clock has struck-
Alackday, and fuck my luck.”

Tell you the truth, I don’t really get satire. Never have. Candide? Hated it. I just didn’t find it funny. I didn’t really find Slaughterhouse-Five funny either – except for the quote above. I did a great big make-people-look-at-you-on-the-train kind of guffaw laugh at that quote. And then I continued reading to find that Billy Pilgrim did the same thing before they trucked him off to the hospital.

So… somewhere in here I’m clearly not getting it.

That aside, I still liked it. I tried reading this book maybe seven or eight years ago and was completely lost. I expected a story – that’s not what this is. On my second attempt it made sense in that I knew it wasn’t supposed to make sense.

The point I’m trying to make is that sometimes you need to just read something and it’ll absorb into you. Your brain will try to decipher it like your high school English teacher but it’s really your body that you’re reading with. That’s this book. Vonnegut’s writing reminded me of Salinger, but it didn’t quite hit me with instant love.

There’s a reason why this book is one that’s so popular. I just can’t tell you what that reason is.

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Book Review: Tell the Wolves I’m Home – 4 out of 5

Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

wolves

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My writing doesn’t tend to have a lot of “plot.” I always find my stories to be much more character driven, with dialogue and thoughts progressing everything much more than outside occurrences.

This is how I feel this book is driven. It’s from the perspective of a young girl named June. The premise is simple: June’s beloved uncle, Finn, has died and we watch as June copes with this tragedy.

It sounds like it’s going to be simple but it’s not. Not even close. June has a lot going on in her life – dealing with Finn’s death just being one of them. Her relationship with her sister, her parents, her uncle’s boyfriend, and most, importantly, herself make this story a whirlwind. Just when you think she’s coming to grip with one area some other character will knock it all to pieces.

Perhaps the part that I found the most fascinating was the way the characters understood and reacted to AIDS. I’m from a generation where I grew up without a lot of those initial misconceptions of the disease. I’ve never thought I could get AIDS from someone just by touching them or kissing them. I’ve never thought of it as only a “gay” disease. This book takes place in a time when AIDS was just beginning to be known. I think it does such an incredible job of understanding the hurt and devastation that misunderstanding AIDS and homosexuality caused on so many lives.

Overall, I enjoyed the book. At times it was hard to read and I also felt it to be a bit long for the events. Still, it’s a book that will stay with me in a very good way.

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Book Review: Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty


Sloppy Firsts
by Megan McCafferty

sloppyfirsts

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

hypedbooklowerexpectations

Man, this book was supposed to be a clincher! I had heard so many good things: “Jessica Darling is a great character,” “the people are hot, “her experiences are hot,” “it’s sooo much better than 50 Shades of Gray” – well, at least they got the last part right. Mostly because 50 Shades totally sucks.

Mmm, but yes, back on track. I just couldn’t get into this book. I’d blame it on me not actually being a young adult anymore, but I can’t even use that as an excuse. These characters are just annoying. Maybe I didn’t have a normal high school experience, but were people really this dumb and catty in high school? Did anyone out there actually have all these groups with various names and stereotypes? Did I miss something here? Everything about this book is so cliche it’s sigh-worthy. And sigh I did, a lot, while reading.

So – Sloppy Firsts. Enter Jessica Darling: the entire book is a continuous spot light on this whiny teenager who “doesn’t have any friends” even though everyone seems to inherently like her. She’s the typical girl who claims to be unattractive because she is “too skinny” – oh, sure. She’s the girl who is so “totally awkward” but cracks out witty conversations all the time. She’s a young girl who has a talent for books and writing because – another heavy sigh on my part – the author can’t freaking come up with any other passion in life. Seriously, how many characters have to love writing and/or Jane Eyre/Jane Austen/Tolstoy/Insert Any Other Famously Good Novel Here in order to show they have hobbies and intellect? It’s old.

Obviously, I just couldn’t get into her. I’ll give props to McCafferty for doing a good job on depression, I think Jessica’s feelings there were very believable and well done. I know this review is going to sound like I hated it, but I didn’t. It had some gems of dialogue in there, though I never quite got the laugh. It’s the supposedly good and happy parts that are lame. Marcus is a useless love interest. I didn’t get him at all, or her attraction. Did McCafferty even describe him for us? I had no idea he was important until I had already missed everything. Not a good sign.

Plus, can we please talk about the lack of period piece? And how she’s totally not concerned? Or not enough? I mean – what?

Anyway, I checked out the second installment for the library because the book is not stand alone (a pet peeve of mine about series, but I’ll let it go). I doubt I’ll crack it open. I do want to give it a second chance because so many people love it but, for now, I’m just going to go with meh.

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Book Review: Voyager by Diana Gabaldon

Voyager by Diana Gabaldon
voyager
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

First – read this: Book Review: Outlander and Dragonfly in Amber

then mix in happy gasps, jumping for joy, high fives all around, and you know how I feel.

Now, onto Drums of Autumn.

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Book Review: Driving Over Lemons by Chris Stewart

Driving Over Lemons by Chris Stewart


lemons

Man. I should have loved this book. When I pulled the off the shelf at Half Price Books I knew I had to have it. It was perfect for me. Not only was it a travel memoir, one of my great weaknesses, but it was a travel memoir about Spain. Add onto that a quirky story and I’m sold.

So what happened? Why am I not head over heels for this story? The writing was quite good, the descriptions were also nicely done. There is nothing glaringly obvious throughout the entire length.

The problem is that I just don’t care. Stewart, whether he meant to or not, kept me at arms length. I felt no suspense nor any struggle. All of the characters, especially his wife, were more supporting cast than ever having real personalities of their own (except maybe Romero). At times he hinted at disappointment or challenges but I never felt it. Everything that was hard seemed easy – something which moving to a falling down farm in the middle of rural Andalucia should never seem.

Maybe I should have known. After all, the title says “an optimist in Andalucia.” That optimism definitely permeated the book. The problem was it wasn’t just over Stewart. You could feel it over every moment and every character. It watered it down and even though he was writing about an area of the world near and dear to my heart, I found myself just not caring.

This may be a bold statement, but I feel while Stewart didn’t do anything wrong, he also didn’t do anything right with this book. Though maybe that’s harsh. There was one piece that touched me, toward the end. Stewart mentioned how he didn’t feel like he fit in until he let himself be an outsider. Those are his exact words, but they are close enough. I understand that completely. My first time in Spain I tried so hard to fit in – I bought all European clothes, did European things, etc. Of course, it didn’t work. Everyone spotted me as American, and treated me as such. When I went back years later and lived in Salamanca, I did nothing to hide my foreignness, and somehow I just fit better. It’s funny how it all works.

So, Stewart, I do thank you for the one spark of inspiration in the whole of the book. However, even with that, I just can’t lay my recommendation to it.

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