The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

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Since Donna Tartt won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction Monday, I feel I need to post a review on her award winning book, The Goldfinch.  I first want to say, I didn’t hate it. But I also didn’t love it.  It’s not something that I will read again; although I’m glad I read it.

 

The story centers on Theo Decker.  When it begins, he is a man in his mid-twenties relating an incident in his childhood that will determine the path he takes and the choices he makes for the next ten years; the path of drugs and the art underworld.  Theo is a likeable enough character, but Lord does he make STUPID decisions, one after another.  After his constant poor decision making, I empathized with him but wanted to throttle him yelling, “YOU ARE AN IDIOT!”  The story itself was decent enough but it took forever to get to the point.  I actually started this book around New Years and didn’t finish it until close to Valentine’s Day.  That is not good for me.  A book must speak to me or pull forth some sort of strong emotion, a book where I want to be in the world; that is the type of book that CONSUMES me.  This book did not do that.  I had to take it in small bites.  Five pages here, ten there until I was FINALLY done!  I think I was trying more just to get to the end than to see HOW it actually ended.  At a certain point, Theo’s decisions had deadened me so much that I could care less what happened to him but I had invested enough of my time that I HAD to finish it!   Maybe I am clueless, who knows.  I bought this book because it was on EVERY best of book last year.  Then again, so was Life After Life and I could NOT finish that one.  That was painful on a very visceral level!  I have reached a point in my life where I am tired of basing my reading on what others deem worthy.  If it gets you reading go for it.  If not, find something that grabs your attention!

 

So if you are looking for…I am not even sure how to categorize this book. There is romance, dysfunctional relationships, criminal activity, mystery, suspense, but it was not a page turner.  If you like to slowly watch a story unfold, this is the one for you!  It was not, however, my cup of tea.  3 stars

 

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The Assassin’s Blade by Sarah Maas

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In the last few month, Sarah Maas has easily become one of my favorite authors, one whose work I am eagerly anticipating and she did not disappoint with this collection of novellas.  In The Assassin’s Blade, we have five Celaena Sardonthien novellas that take place prior to the occurrences in Throne of Glass novels. If you have read the two Throne of Glass novels that are currently out (number 3 will be out in September. There will be a total of six books. YAY!) you are already aware of the events that occur in these five stories. They are a bit more fleshed out and, quite frankly, have made the wait for #3 to be excruciating! The novellas in this bound version (you can also purchase the individual novellas in ebook form) are “The Assassin and the Pirate Lord”, “The Assassin and the Healer”, “The Assassin and the Desert”, “The Assassin and the Underworld”, and “The Assassin and the Empire”. Readers of the series will be most familiar with the events in “The Assassin and the Empire” but basically, each of these stories gives you background information as to how exactly Celaena ends up in the Endovier Salt Mines as a slave and how she has become the person we find her to be in Throne of Glass. As usual, Maas’ writing is exceptional. Fast paced and full of twists and turns, you will truly surprised when Maas reveals who turned Celaena in and will be itching for Heir of Fire to see when exactly she will exact her revenge.  5 STARS

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Graceling, Fire and Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore


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This series has been on my radar for some time now, ever since Fire came out.  And after reading Throne of Glass, I decided to give it a whirl and I am very glad I did!  I have listed my reviews of the three books below.  Don’t read the review for Bitterblue if you haven’t read Graceling yet!  While not a trilogy in the true sense of the word, characters in all three novels makes appearances is the others.  Each book, however, is told from a different character’s perspective.  Graceling is Katsa; Fire is Fire (this is her name!) and Bitterblue is from Bitterblue’s.

Graceling

In a land of 7 kingdoms, some children are born with a special ability called a grace.  These children develop eyes of two colors and when it is discovered someone is graced, in most of the kingdoms, they are sent to the king for their usefulness to be determined.  Katsa is niece of King Randa of the Middluns and is graced with the ability to kill.  Used as a thug for her uncle, the king, Katsa has become unhappy with her role and has begun an underground spy ring to assist in cases where she believes justice is being subverted in all of the kingdoms.  In doing so she stumbles on the kidnapping of a Lienid prince, the father of the current King of Lienid.  Her journey to uncover the true kidnapper will teach her some truths about herself, show her what her grace truly is, as well as what the kidnapping means for the fate of the seven kingdoms.    What I enjoyed most about this book (and it continues in Bitterblue) is the relationship between Katsa and Po.  They love each other deeply and Cashore manages to convey that to the reader.  Katsa cannot give up her independence and Po understands that and accepts her for who she is.  The are evenly matched, both very strong characters, accepting of each other for who they are, flaws and all.    5 stars

Fire

A companion novel to Graceling, Fire is the last of the monster humans.  Her breathtaking beauty can send both men and woman to declare their love or absolute hatred for her.  If that person was already predisposed to that feeling, then their reaction when they saw her or felt her presence would bring that to the surface.  She also has the ability to invade people’s minds and twist them to what she wants them to do.  But she abhors this and uses it only in self-defense.  Her father, a human monster, had been advisor to the king, and used his power to elevate his own wants, leaving the kingdom in ruins.  Because of this, Fire lives in relative solitude in the country of the Dells, only trusting her best friend, Lord Archer and his father.  But there have been strangers lurking in their woods, with foggy minds that Fire cannot quite grasp.  To find answers, they must visit the queen and while there, Fire must decide if she will stay and help the young King Nash, who has inherited a kingdom on the brink of war.  Can she use her powers to make up for the evil her father unleashed? 5 stars

Bitterblue

It is 8 years after the end of King Leck’s 35 year reign of terror over Monsea and 18 year old Queen Bitterblue is still scrambling to pick up the pieces her psychopathic father left the kingdom in.  But who can she trust?  She is slowly beginning to realize her most trusted advisors are lying to her, keeping secrets trying to protect her from truly understanding the evil her father inflicted upon his subjects and she vows to find out the truth for herself.  Sneaking out of the castle each night, pretending to be a worker in the castle, Bitterblue begins to realize how little she can trust her advisers and comes to depend on her new friends outside the castle, the truth seekers, to finally understand her kingdom and it’s people.

I give this book 5 stars.  Great writing, excellent character development.  Po and Katsa are back, better than ever.  Bitterblue is the center of all the action, however: trying to unravel the mystery that was her father; what was fact and what was fiction?; who was her mother and will Bitterblue ever be the Queen her mother knew she would be?  This book is hefty, at 547 pages but was a page turner for me.  If you aren’t into fantasy, especially one set in a made up world, I would give Graceling a try. Its really refreshing to see this strong, independent female characters and Cashore carries this throughout the three books with Fire and Bitterblue as well.  Women who know what they want and are willing to make sacrifices to get them.  This independent streak is not to say that they don’t make mistakes along the way, but that only makes the reader relate to them more easily.  If you find Graceling to be to your liking, READ both Fire and Bitterblue IMMEDIATELY!!

Delirium series by Lauren Oliver

Delirium“The most dangerous sicknesses are those that make us believe we are well.- Proverb 42 The Book of Shhh”-Delirium, Lauren Oliver

Lena lives in a world where all of your choices are made for you and love is outlawed.  For once you fall in love, or succumb to the sickness, to amor deleria nervosa and are considered diseased.  When every person reaches the age of 18, they are given a procedure in which they are “cured”.  But being cured means not feeling, not remembering, and not choosing.  So which is better?  Lena is 95 days from her procedure and looks forward to it with excitement, as well as fear.  And then she meets Alex, and suddenly, her future does not seem so certain.

 

Ok, I talk a lot about world building so I feel as I must explain what exactly I mean.  I was not a person who grew up reading fantasy; it has been a recent addiction that I have succumb to! For an author to be really spectacular at world building they need to make us BELIEVE that this is a viable option for our future, or (in terms of books like Throne of Glass) that we actually believe this is a viable world, that it makes sense and we believe that it could actually be a reality!  Oliver does this spectacularly.  I will say, the first book, Delirium  was not “I CAN’T put this down!” for me.  But it was intriguing enough that I was curious for what was to come.  But that last chapter??  WOW!!  AMAZING!!  I finished the last two in 2 days.  Delirium is really setting the stage for the fight:  the fight for the right to choose, that will encompass the latter two books.  I have read a number of reviews where people were not happy with the last installment, Requiem.  The main complaint seems to be that there are two many questions that remain unanswered.  Are there unanswered questions?  I suppose.  But it didn’t feel wrong to me, because as Oliver repeats throughout the 3 books, nothing in life is certain; things happen, complications occur but the way things ended, I feel that we DO have a sense of Lena’s choices and I for one, was happy with it.  Actually, this may have been the first time I have read a series and been truly happy with the way it ended.  The three books in the series are Delirium, Pandemonium and Requiem.  There is also a collection of novellas called The Delirium Stories which include the stories of three people associated with Lena- her best friend Hana, her mother Annnabel, and her friend Raven.  For those lucky few that have obtained a copy of the hardback, there is a 25 page short story from Alex’s POV, which I enjoyed, but wish was longer.  Maybe like his POV throughout the entirety of Requiem.  This is ONLY available in the hardback right now, but look to her blog for more information of a possible future posting.

One last thing, I really believe guys will like this series, however, and this drives me INSANE as a librarian at an all boys school, the covers look girlie.  For you guys out there, don’t let that turn you off.  The first book is a lot about love and romance, etc.  But there also is a large amount of discussion of choice.  Love is a common theme throughout the rest of the series, but so is survival and choice.  The last two for me were heart pounding, action packed and suspenseful.  As a whole, I give this series 5 stars.  HIGHLY recommend it!

Shatter Me series by Tahereh Mafi

Shatter Me (Series Recap)Juliette has been locked up for 264 days, 264 days without any human contact-no one speaks to her, no looks at her, but especially no one touches her.  That is because Juliette suffers from a weird affliction, her touch is lethal to anyone that she touches or that touches her.  So how did Tahereh Mafi manage to make a sizzling, hot, romantic book with no touching??  Well, I will not give any spoilers but DEAR LORD!!  The writing was exquisite.  She writes as if she is actually feeling, tumbling, experiencing with Juliette.  The world building was so good and the characters were fantastic!  My favorite is Warner, which may confuse you after you read Shatter Me, but by the end of Unravel Me, you will understand!  The three novels are told from Juliette’s point of view and the two novellas from the two main guys POVs.  Destroy Me is told from Warner’s POV and Fracture Me from Adam’s.  These two can be purchased separately as ebooks or the bound versions which is called Unite Me.  Read in this order, Shatter Me, Destroy Me, Unravel Me, Fracture Me, and then Ignite Me.   I had one complaint in the series and it has to do with Warner’s father.  He was such a major force in the book but he was more talked about than actually appeared in it.  I would like more of him and more of an explanation of why his son is the way he is.  Sorry if I am being vague but I don’t want to give anything away!    There is the romantic, beautiful side to the prose and then the action pack suspenseful side!  I think I read all 3 novels and 2 novellas in like 4 days.  I was sad when I actually ended the series and wanted more of Juliette!  I would highly recommend this series!  I couldn’t put it down!  In the middle of The Delirium trilogy now!  Look for my review of that series next!  I’m lovin’ Lauren Oliver!!

Randomness…

ImageI was sort of in a reading rut (well, it only lasted about half a day but there you are!) I tried, attempted, WANTED to like Life After Life by Kate Atkinson.  This was my second attempt at it and while I made it further, I still barely made it 1/4 of the way through.  I may try it again next summer. (Third times a charm, and all that, RIGHT???)  It may have been my dislike of over hyped books turned me off but I seriously didn’t see what the big deal was for this book to get so many STARRED reviews and be on so many people’s “Best of 2013″ lists.  I found it to be mediocre at best.  Basically, the life in question is Ursala (I can’t even remember her last name at this point and I last read it two days ago.  That’s how underwhelming this book was for me.) She is basically going through her life and dying and then coming back, each time she supposedly learns something (don’t go near that window; keep the maid from going into town) that will save her life and let her go on a bit longer.  (She went through Armistice Day FIVE times??? Was that necessary??) I could deal with it grudgingly as long as she was chronological about it.  But then she jumps from age 8 to 37 then back to 13 and I have NO clue what the point of any of it was.  It was slow, there was nothing in it that piqued my attention, no overwhelming need to keep going.  It was just BLAH to me! And y’all, I’m on book 75 for the year, obviously reading quickly is not something I have an issue with!  So, I put it down, because my lawd there are too many good books to read!!

 

ImageNow, maybe my inability to concentrate on it came from the fact that as I was shelving books this week, I came across Sweethearts by Sara Zarr.  I have seen it on our shelves many times and have been interested in it but this time I picked it up and I was SOOO glad I did.  I read the whole thing yesterday.  Super quick read! Long and the short of it? Jennifer Harris and Cameron Quick were best buds in elementary school.  Both ostracized, they found a comfort in each other, soul mates almost.  Even though they are young, the the collective experiences have made them wiser beyond their years.  They depend on each other almost for their mere existence…and then one day Cameron is just gone.  No explanation, no good-bye and Jennifer is forced to examine herself.  It’s now her 17th birthday (a day that holds terrifying memories of her and Cameron) and she is now popular and pretty Jenna Vaughan with tons of friends when Cameron re-emerges, eight years after he disappeared.  Zarr flips back and forth between the past and the present showing how that fateful day shaped who Jenna has become.  Jenna sees herself as weak, but doesn’t realize how strong she really is. Her transformation is seamless.  I highly recommend this!

Eleanor and Park, $2.99 TODAY ONLY!!

How timely was my Eleanor and Park review yesterday??  TODAY ONLY $2.99 e-books!  Here are a few links you might be interested in:

Rainbow Rowell’s announcement of facebook is here.

The link to buy it through Amazon is here.

If Barnes and Noble is more your cup of tea, you can find that link here!

And you can find my review of Eleanor and Park as well as her other YA book Fangirl here.  And if you would like to read my review of her first novel, Attachmentsyou will find that here!

HAPPY READING!!