Monday, 26 March 2018

Audiobook: The Midnight Star

The Midnight Star (The Young Elites, #3)

.The Midnight Star is written by Marie Lu and narrated by Lannon Killea and Carla Corvo and is the final book of the Young Elites series.

There was once a time when darkness shrouded the world, and the darkness had a queen.

Adelina Amouteru is done suffering. She’s turned her back on those who have betrayed her and achieved the ultimate revenge: victory. Her reign as the White Wolf has been a triumphant one, but with each conquest her cruelty only grows. The darkness within her has begun to spiral out of control, threatening to destroy all she’s gained.

When a new danger appears, Adelina’s forced to revisit old wounds, putting not only herself at risk, but every Elite. In order to preserve her empire, Adelina and her Roses must join the Daggers on a perilous quest—though this uneasy alliance may prove to be the real danger.

The Breakdown:
1.  This book opens about a year after the previous book ended.  Raffaele's predictions of what is happening to the Elites power is becoming more and more apparent in this book.   It is a little frightening what is happening to them and the world as the rift between the mortal realm and gods realm is opening.

2.  I just want to take a minute to talk about how horrible a queen Adelina is. She lets her resentment and rage rule her actions.  Instead promoting tolerance between the marked and unmarked, she instead begins punishing those who are not marked, fostering more resentment between the marked and unmarked.   She is always losing control of her illusions more and more.   I will say she does redeem herself at the end in a big way.

3.  I felt that the ending of this book was perfect for the series.  With Elites that have been enemies banding together to save the world. 

To Read or Not to Read:

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

A Wrinkle in Time

A Wrinkle in Time (A Wrinkle in Time Quintet, #1)

A Wrinkle in Time is by Madeleine L'Engle and is the first her Time Quintet.

It was a dark and stormy night; Meg Murry, her small brother Charles Wallace, and her mother had come down to the kitchen for a midnight snack when they were upset by the arrival of a most disturbing stranger. 

"Wild nights are my glory," the unearthly stranger told them. "I just got caught in a downdraft and blown off course. Let me be on my way. Speaking of way, by the way, there is such a thing as a tesseract".

Meg's father had been experimenting with this fifth dimension of time travel when he mysteriously disappeared. Now the time has come for Meg, her friend Calvin, and Charles Wallace to rescue him. But can they outwit the forces of evil they will encounter on their heart-stopping journey through space?

The Breakdown:
1.  Many, many years ago I read this as a child in middle school.  I remember enjoying the book then.  It is always nice to re-visit old friends, even if you see things a little differently as an adult.  I do vividly remember the scene of the scene of the children bouncing the balls in sync on the planet they travel to from my first read of this book.

2.  I will say, reading this as an adult, I found that Meg had some super bratty moments.  She also is very stubborn, but that stubbornness really works for her.  One of the other things I picked up with her that is her realization that her father is human.   It is an important moment that every child has at some point.

3. Can I talk about my love of the Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, Mrs. Which, and Aunt Beast?  I loved the uniqueness of each these characters.   The Mrs. have a brief but interesting origin story.   And Aunt Beast is just awesome.

4.  Then there is the IT which is super creepy.  A being that can override free will and force all things to conform to a certain way.  Nothing is scarier than that.

5.  I will say that I feel the ending happened very quickly, but I think that is partly due to this being the beginning of a series. But it is a great, quick read, and a wonderful way to introduce a child to the world of fantasy.

To Read or Not to Read:

Monday, 19 March 2018

Goodbye Days

Goodbye Days

Goodbye Days is by Jeff Zentner.

What if you could spend one last day with someone you lost?

One day Carver Briggs had it all—three best friends, a supportive family, and a reputation as a talented writer at his high school, Nashville Academy for the Arts.

The next day he lost it all when he sent a simple text to his friend Mars, right before Mars, Eli, and Blake were killed in a car crash.

Now Carver can’t stop blaming himself for the accident, and he’s not the only one. Eli’s twin sister is trying to freeze him out of school with her death-ray stare. And Mars’s father, a powerful judge, is pressuring the district attorney to open a criminal investigation into Carver’s actions.

Luckily, Carver has some unexpected allies: Eli’s girlfriend, the only person to stand by him at school; Dr. Mendez, his new therapist; and Blake’s grandmother, who asks Carver to spend a Goodbye Day with her to share their memories and say a proper goodbye to his friend.

Soon the other families are asking for a Goodbye Day with Carver, but he’s unsure of their motives. Will they all be able to make peace with their losses, or will these Goodbye Days bring Carver one step closer to a complete breakdown or—even worse—prison? 

The Breakdown:
1.  I feel that I should start with a warning.  This book deals with a very heavy subject, and was very emotional for me.  On multiple occasions I found myself tearing up as I read.  That being said, Zentener is a fantastic writer with engaging characters and a story that makes the reader think.

2. Carver is a character laced with guilt and mourning for his best friends deaths.  He is amazingly talented character that is going thru the most difficult time in his life.   As he deals with his loses, he develops panic attacks, which is understandable since others and himself are blaming him as partially responsible for his friends' deaths.

3.  I think this book brings up an interesting point in the legal system.   Where does the blame fall in accident as a result of texting while driving?  Is it squarely on the driver, or  is there blame to the person texting if they know the person their texting is driving?  I think that Zentener brings up interesting points that I could see future ramifications in our legal system with.

4.  I loved the concept of Goodbye Days.  A last day doing things that you enjoyed doing with your deceased loved one to tell them goodbye.  It is both a little heartbreaking and a little healing.  It was interesting to see how each of Carver's friend's families treated these days and what their aims were.

5. One last thing, loved that Zentener had Dearly make a brief appearance in this book.  Very much enjoyed seeing Dill show up in this book, and how is music career has taken off.

To Read or Not to Read:
Must Read

Sunday, 18 March 2018

The Glass Spare

The Glass Spare (The Glass Spare, #1)

The Glass Spare by Lauren DeStefano is the first book of the series of the same name.

A banished princess.
A deadly curse.
A kingdom at war.

Wil Heidle, the only daughter of the king of the world’s wealthiest nation, has grown up in the shadows. Kept hidden from the world in order to serve as a spy for her father—whose obsession with building his empire is causing a war—Wil wants nothing more than to explore the world beyond her kingdom, if only her father would give her the chance.

Until one night Wil is attacked, and she discovers a dangerous secret. Her touch turns people into gemstone. At first Wil is horrified—but as she tests its limits, she’s drawn more and more to the strange and volatile ability. When it leads to tragedy, Wil is forced to face the destructive power within her and finally leave her home to seek the truth and a cure.

But finding the key to her redemption puts her in the path of a cursed prince who has his own ideas for what to do with her power.

With a world on the brink of war and a power of ultimate destruction, can Wil find a way to help the kingdom that’s turned its back on her, or will she betray her past and her family forever?

The Breakdown:
1. I am fascinated by the world that DeStefano has created in this series.   It is a strange mix of technology and magic.  There are curses placed on people and then there are things like computer navigation systems on the boats.  One of Wil's brother is a practitioner of Alchemy, but it seems to be a more scientific approach to change materials into armor and weapons.   I definitely enjoyed the world building in this book.

2.  As much as I loved the world building, I was not in love with the characters in general.  There were things I liked about them, but overall I did not find them that memorable.  In fact, I had to go back to the book again to remember the cursed princes name, Loom and his friend Zay.   I felt like the characters were mostly very one dimensional.

3. I did find Wil's story very intriguing from the circumstances of her birth to the strange power she has to change living things into gems.  I want to know more about the reasons for this power and why it manifested when it did. I did feel like DeStefano did a lot of building for character but gave very few answers about her in general.

4. While I felt like much of the book was more about world building than character and plot building, the last third of the book really picks up in the plot.  The introduction of Loom's family and details of his curse along with the hints of the reason Wil has this strange and terrible power.  It is because of the last part of the book that I am interested to see where the next book goes.

To Read or Not to Read;
Read, because I think there is potential to this story.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Audiobook: Wayfarer

Wayfarer (Passenger, #2)

Wayfarer is written by Alexandra Bracken and narrated by Saskia Maarleveid and is the second book of the Passenger duology.

All Etta Spencer wanted was to make her violin debut when she was thrust into a treacherous world where the struggle for power could alter history. After losing the one thing that would have allowed her to protect the Timeline, and the one person worth fighting for, Etta awakens alone in an unknown place and time, exposed to the threat of the two groups who would rather see her dead than succeed. When help arrives, it comes from the last person Etta ever expected—Julian Ironwood, the Grand Master’s heir who has long been presumed dead, and whose dangerous alliance with a man from Etta’s past could put them both at risk. 

Meanwhile, Nicholas and Sophia are racing through time in order to locate Etta and the missing astrolabe with Ironwood travelers hot on their trail. They cross paths with a mercenary-for-hire, a cheeky girl named Li Min who quickly develops a flirtation with Sophia. But as the three of them attempt to evade their pursuers, Nicholas soon realizes that one of his companions may have ulterior motives. 

As Etta and Nicholas fight to make their way back to one another, from Imperial Russia to the Vatican catacombs, time is rapidly shifting and changing into something unrecognizable… and might just run out on both of them.

The Breakdown:
1.   Bracken takes the reader on an adventure from beginning to end.  Across several time periods, and even some alternate timelines that have been reset to the original timeline mentioned in the story or changed in other ways.  Plus, she brings in even more wonderfully fascinating characters.   Although, I have to say I am not sure I loved it as much as the first book.

2.  I must take a minute to correct my previous statement about loving to hate Sophia.  After this book, I really like her.  Bracken expands on Sophia history and her goals so I now understand her motives in the first book.  Plus, she shows that when she cares for someone, she becomes furiously loyal to them.  She proves herself to be wonderful ally to Nicholas throughout this book.

3.  I am sure you are wondering about Etta and Nicholas, since they are the main characters.  I loved their journeys during this book.  While separated for much of the book, Bracken does a great job of both expanding on their characters individually and showing how much they care for each other despite their distance. 

4.  I am loving many of the new characters in this book.  First, Henry Hemlock, who Bracken revealed at the end of the first book is Etta's father.  He is wonderful.  I feel that he was a much better parent to Etta in their short time together in this book that Rose was to her in the rest of her life.  I really feel like he wants change for the greater good.  The Li Men, a girl was quite a few secrets and is quite handy on numerous occasions for Nicholas and Sophia.  Plus, the interesting chemistry between her and Sophia has me wanting a story featuring just them.  Then Julian Ironwood, Nicholas's supposedly dead half-brother, is not so dead.  He has some great character development from lazy party boy to a young man inspired to make a change.  The possibly the most interesting of characters, the Belladonna, aka the Witch of Prague.   She has some interesting motives that are not quite clear until the end.   

5. Even after learning Rose's reasons for treating Etta the way she has, I am still ambivalent toward her.  I feel that she redeems herself some toward the end of the book, but I am not sure that makes up for everything that Etta has been through.

6.   I loved the ending in this book.  It was perfect for the characters, and an interesting twist on what happened to the astrolabe.  I am a little sad that Etta and Nicholas's story has finished.

To Read or Not to Read:
Must Read

Sunday, 11 March 2018

A Taxonomy of Love

Taxonomy of Love

A Taxonomy of Love is by Rachael Allen.

The moment Spencer meets Hope the summer before seventh grade, it’s . . . something at first sight. He knows she’s special, possibly even magical. The pair become fast friends, climbing trees and planning world travels. After years of being outshone by his older brother and teased because of his Tourette syndrome, Spencer finally feels like he belongs. But as Hope and Spencer get older and life gets messier, the clear label of “friend” gets messier, too.

Through sibling feuds and family tragedies, new relationships and broken hearts, the two grow together and apart, and Spencer, an aspiring scientist, tries to map it all out using his trusty system of taxonomy. He wants to identify and classify their relationship, but in the end, he finds that life doesn’t always fit into easy-to-manage boxes, and it’s this messy complexity that makes life so rich and beautiful.

The Breakdown:
1. First of all, many amazing props to Allen for having a main character with a disability.  I recently went to an author event with her, and she talked about all the research she did on Tourette syndrome to make sure she got it right.  I loved that while Tourette syndrome was a part of Spencer, she did not let it define his character.  Plus, I love that Spencer is into science.  The science geek in me always loves a character that enjoys the subject as much as I do.

2.  I thought the progression of Spencer and Hope's relationship was very natural.  From best friends, then a falling out to friends again and eventually to romance.   I love that Allen is not afraid to for her characters to have messy, complicated emotions because that is the way life is.

3. There are some serious feels and dark times in the middle of this book.  You will definitely need a tissue handy for it. 

4. Also this book may have one of my favorite book lines ever.  When Spencer and Paul are discussing the new kid and being different and not fitting in. Paul says, "Maybe it's about finding the other people who don't fit the same way you don't fit."  I adore this line and there is so much truth in.  If only I had believed that more in high school.

5.  I liked this book from beginning to end.  The characters were all wonderfully complex and Allen captures small town Georgia setting beautifully.  And the ending was just perfect.

To Read or Not to Read:

Friday, 9 March 2018

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Harry Potter, #7)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling is the final book of the Harry Potter series.

It's no longer safe for Harry at Hogwarts, so he and his best friends, Ron and Hermione, are on the run. Professor Dumbledore has given them clues about what they need to do to defeat the dark wizard, Lord Voldemort, once and for all, but it's up to them to figure out what these hints and suggestions really mean.

Their cross-country odyssey has them searching desperately for the answers, while evading capture or death at every turn. At the same time, their friendship, fortitude, and sense of right and wrong are tested in ways they never could have imagined.

The ultimate battle between good and evil that closes out this final chapter of the epic series takes place where Harry's Wizarding life began: at Hogwarts. The satisfying conclusion offers shocking last-minute twists, incredible acts of courage, powerful new forms of magic, and the resolution of many mysteries.

The Breakdown:
Now, I will open at the close. (See, what I did there.)  I think this is  my first ever re-read of the Deathly Hallows.  As always, Spoilers! (You know that you just read that in River Song's voice.)

I am going to start the the heavy amount of feels in this book.   Rowling gut punches me from almost beginning to end.  From Hedwig to Lupin and Tonks, this books should have come with a box of tissues.    For the saddest death is a toss up between Dobby and Fred.  Dobby went back into the house he hated and did everything he could to be free of to save Harry and his friends, which result in his death.  Totally cried, again, when I read this, especially when Luna gives her eulogy. Then Fred, who died laughing, which is what he loved to do and make others do.

I really enjoyed getting both Dumbledore and Lily's stories more in this book.  For Dumbledore, Rowling shows for all his greatness as a wizard, he also had some glaring faults.   His being drawn to the dark arts,  but also more on his family life.  I am left to wonder based on what was described about his sister whether she was an Obscurous. (Which to my recollection is never specifically mentioned in any of the books, but is shown in the Fantastic Beast movie.)  The with Lily, first the letter that Harry finds as Grimmauld Place in Sirius's room, and then with Snape's memories of her.  While everyone compares Harry to his father, at one point Dumbledore states that personality wise he really is more like his mother, and I feel that Rowling gives us more of a sense of that in this book.

I want to take a moment to appreciate the friendship between Harry and Hermione.  I love that Rowling proves that guys and gals can be friends without any romantic attraction.  I enjoy that they really support each other, and understand that neither is perfect.  Although, Hermione is pretty damn close.

I am about to give an unpopular opinion, but here goes.  After this re-reading, I don't find Snape a romantic hero.  I feel that, yes he had an obsessive love of Lily, but I don't know that I would call it a true love.  He is very cruel to her at times, and despite knowing she is muggle born, he still throws in with Death Eaters who are very much anti-muggle born.  She even points these out to him, and he basically blows her off.   It is not until her life is in danger that he even tries to change.

So strangely, probably my favorite scene in this book is when Harry is "dead" and meeting Dumbledore in his mind.  I found the concept of afterlife presented here interesting.  Plus, I love the quote, "Just because it is in your head, does not mean it isn't real."

One last thing before moving to the epilogue.  How amazingly epic was Neville in this book?  Talk about progression as a character.  Leading the rebellion at Hogwarts against Snape.  Squaring off against Voldemort and then killing Nagini.  He is a real hero.

I am just going to briefly touch on the epilogue. I feel like this was a very polarizing thing in the fandom.   People either loved it or hated it.  I personally loved it.  I like the idea of know where everyone ended up.  Although, I am sad there is no mention of Luna during it.  Also brought to mind a question for me, does the Daily Prophet have birth announcements?  At Platform 9 3/4 Harry mentions when seeing Draco that must be Scorpius his son.  I get the feeling they did not keep in touch, so how does he know Draco's son's name? Birth announcements or by word of mouth?

To Read or Not to Read:
Must Read