Monday, July 28, 2014

Review & Giveaway: The Family Romanov by Candace Fleming

Title: The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and The Fall of Imperial Russia
Author: Candace Fleming
Publisher: Schwartz & Wade
Publication Date: 7.8.2014
Pages: Candace Fleming
Genre: Non-Fiction
Series: N/A
Source: ARC from ALA

Rating: 4 Stars

Summary (from Goodreads):
Here is the tumultuous, heartrending, true story of the Romanovs—at once an intimate portrait of Russia's last royal family and a gripping account of its undoing. Using captivating photos and compelling first person accounts, award-winning author Candace Fleming (Amelia Lost;The Lincolns) deftly maneuvers between the imperial family’s extravagant lives and the plight of Russia's poor masses, making this an utterly mesmerizing read as well as a perfect resource for meeting Common Core standards.

Review:
I love me some young adult fiction, but sometimes? Sometimes real life is even more twisted and dramatic than anything an author can dream up. Take THE FAMILY ROMANOV, for example. This family has incited man-hunts that still exist today for the long-lost Anastasia, movies deals, book deals, and endless amounts of deliberation.

Mostly I am a fiction fanatic, but occasionally I like to read a non-fiction. The Romanov family has always intrigued me. What I especially liked about the way Candace Fleming wrote this book is that it read more times than not like a novel, not a textbook.

It’s easy to recount the history of the Romanovs and the rebellion that ultimately led to the slaughter of an entire royal family, but Fleming does a great job to include an audience that might be turned off by textbook-esque facts and slowly spinning the tale of their demise. It’s hauntingly poignant.


Yes, this book is mostly non-fiction, but just Google the Romanov’s and tell me you aren’t curious. I dare you.

Giveaway:
Random House has generously donated a finished copy of this book for me to giveaway. Winner must have a US/CA mailing address. Simply comment below to be entered.

Review: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Title: Throne of Glass
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Publication Date: 8.7.2012
Pages: 404
Genre: Young Adult, High Fantasy
Series: Throne of Glass #1
Source: Finished copy from publisher

Rating: 5 Stars

Summary (from Goodreads):
After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin. Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king's council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she'll serve the kingdom for three years and then be granted her freedom. 

Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilirating. But she's bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her... but it's the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best. 

Then one of the other contestants turns up dead... quickly followed by another. 

Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.

Review:

Sarah J. Maas is a master at her craft. This book just blew me away. I caught myself gasping, whispering to myself "oh no", and getting mad along with the characters. I was definitely surprised by the turn of events.

The characters in this book are so amazing and have such depth that you can almost talk to them. Celaena is by far my favorite, as she should be. Maas did an amazing job getting you in her head, letting you in her heart. You think you know her, how she is, how she will react to something and then BAM! Your blown away by her. You begin to feel her scars and blush with her at the same time. Dorian and Chaol are no different. All of their personalities are so different yet you can relate and understand them and who they are. I love them all.

Maas has an eye for details. All of the little things she describes and inputs make this story that much more real. Exactly how Celaena was when she left camp, the fires, the glass castle, and the landscape give the perfect mental image and portray what Maas is giving you. I don't want to give to much away.

What I love most is Celaena's journey. How her priorities change and her heart seems to grow out of no where. And the hint of something deeper that she is keeping quiet and hidden. Also, the king. There are just question marks popping up all around and makes you weary for Celaena.

Maas has created an adventurous, mysterious tale that leaves you clueless, happy, hopeful and excited for what's to come.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Blogger Anonymous: Fifty Shades of Book Shaming


Welcome to the third edition of Blogger Anonymous. Not quite so anonymous, but definitely a place where people (mainly me, but feel free to join in), post about issues and drama that is currently plaguing me pertaining to blogging and books and reading.

So let's talk about a subject currently burning my biscuits: Fifty Shades of Book Shaming.


I've been an avid reader all of my life, ever since I figured out how to sound words out and have them make sense. I've always been that girl with her nose stuck in a book. The girl who was just as likely to sit at the lunch table reading as she was to chat with her besties.

Around high school, I felt this ... shift in my reading. I remember reading a Sweet Valley High novel (one that I had actually re-read several times) before class started and a classmate sat down next to me and posed the, "What are you reading?" question. I flipped the book around so she could see the cover and was met with a small smile and a nose wrinkle.

A freaking nose wrinkle. Like I was an adorable little sister who just didn't get it. She leaned over and proceeded to pull out a Stephen King novel that was easily five times the size of my SVH one and leaned back in her chair and started reading, making sure to angle the cover towards me.



Hint, hint, Hannah. Time to grow up.

That was my first taste at someone judging my reading. So I did what any normal teenage bookaholic would do - I went to the library and checked out some Agatha Christie, Stephen King, and (because I had enjoyed the mini-series) Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry. 

I made it about halfway through Agatha. Stephen and I got pretty close over bonding with a psycho clown, but even that was ... weird. As for Larry and Lonesome Dove, well it wasn't the same as what I had seen on TV and I knew it wasn't the book for me when one of the prostitutes described a guy's business as a shriveled carrot with the roots attached.



But I felt confident whipping that book out of my JanSport backpack before class. Even if instead of devouring a book a day I was lucky to sludge through a chapter. It didn't matter because now I was reading like an adult.

Albeit an unhappy one who developed an aversion to carrots (seriously, I don't eat them anymore). 

This went on for a few years where I secretly read my Francine Pascal fluffy goodness in secret while keeping a dusty stack of "age appropriate" material on my nightstand. Towards the end of high school and college I found a new genre to sink into.

Christian Fiction.

Being raised in a very Christian family (and being Christian myself) this was the perfect medium. I loved finding essentially clean, adult books. I wasn't all that into the sexy scenes back then - give me some kissing and emotionally vulnerable moments and I was golden. I still maintain that these are some of my favorite authors: Tracie Peterson, Dee Henderson, Deanne Gist, Terri Blackstock, Lori Wick ... These women can write romance like you wouldn't believe. And I bought these books by the series, eagerly reading everything I could.

Until one day, I was sitting in the break room at work reading and a coworker walks in and asks the question: "Whatcha reading?"

I show her the cover. Cue another nose wrinkled, but this time with a question: "What's that about?"

I hand over the book so she can read the back cover because I suck at summarizing plots out loud when put on the spot. I seriously kinda fangirl and flail and screech, "It's good! There's kissing! And I love it! And you should READ IT!"

But after a second she hands it back and does the sucking-air-through-teeth thing with a wince. "I didn't know you were so ... religious." She set the book down and high tailed it out of the room.




I froze for a few seconds, trying to figure out a reply, but she left. I mean, yes, I am religious, but I wasn't going to start a prayer circle around her by myself. Or start preaching. But suddenly, my "safe" books didn't feel safe. They came with judgement. Again.

I went through these cycles for years. Yes, I found my way back to YA but it was sudden;y more acceptable because Stephenie Meyer made it so. She (along with a lot of other authors) made Young Adult something that was accessible and ground-breaking and compelling. The tiny little mass-market paperbacks of 200 pages were replaced by gargantuan novels that were 300-400 pages of hardbacked brilliance. 

But even still, I carry around a book and sometimes, I still get the, "What are you reading?" accompanied by the wince and pity look. Because clearly an adult reading young adult fiction is means I am somehow lacking something in my life that makes me stuck in the teenage past. Or I'm an idiot.



No. That's not it.

Whatever.

Now it seems people are switching their focus from adults reading YA to the Fifty Shades craze currently taking over the world. I am reading tweets, facebook posts, and articles criticizing people who read this series, fanfiction, the unrealistic way it portrays relationships, the BDSM aspect that is borderline abuse ... Can we all just stop for a second?

No matter what your stance on Fifty Shades of Grey, E.L. James, fan fiction, here are a few things to consider:

1. Fifty Shades of Grey may not be your kind of book but it is someone's kind of book. So if you don't like people judging what you read, you have no place to judge what they read. Critique/review the work, fine. But not the reader. Reading is just starting to be cool again, let's not send people scurrying back under the covers with their books.

2. Ana and Christian do have an unrealistic relationship. She's a shy, wallflower virgin and he's a 27 year old tycoon. And they fall in love. And do ... things. So, what exactly is the problem with this? That a 27 year old can be that successful? That a gorgeous guy would go for a quiet wallflower? It's called fiction for a reason. I don't read fiction for the realism. It's OK to write about dragons and faeries and a twelve year old wizard, but we draw the line at two adults falling in love and being kinky? 



3. If BDSM isn't your thing in fiction or real life, cool. Don't read it. Don't go to playgrounds or engage in these activities. Personally? It's not my thing. I don't mind it in fiction (again, fiction), but in my day-to-day life, I know it could never be for me. But that doesn't mean it can't be for other people. I have friends who engage in this lifestyle and neither of them is abused or mistreated or are serial killers - it is consensual and safe and sane. And they are adults in a committed relationship. 

4. A lot of people criticize that this was once fan fiction. "Bella and Edward porn" is the term most often thrown around. Yes. This once was fan fiction. But so what? I've been part of the fan fiction community for years, decades even. I have several websites where my work is up and I've won awards for my writing from various fandoms and even won a few contests. The process is different for every person, but taking a character from someone else's creation (be it a book, TV show, movie, etc.) and creating a new story, world, interactions for them is work. It is a lot of work and fandoms are a lot less forgiving than bloggers and the general public. It is a whole new level of rabid addiction you cannot imagine if you've never been involved. 



So, just to lay a few things out there:

1. I read all forms of fiction - young adult, Christian fiction, adult (romance and erotica).
2. I've written fan fiction for years.
3. I don't hate Fifty Shades of Grey. It's not my favorite book or one I would re-read, but it isn't the Devil's Handbook either.
4. I probably will see the movie because ... why not? *shrug*

Any questions? Comments? Or are most of you like:





Review: The One by Kiera Cass

Title: The One
Author: Kiera Cass
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date: 5.6.2014
Pages: 323
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian, Romance
Series: The selection #3
Source: Finished copy from BEA

Rating: 4 Stars

Summary (from Goodreads):
The highly anticipated third book in Kiera Cass's #1 New York Timesbestselling Selection series, The One will captivate readers who love dystopian YA fiction and fairy tales. The One is perfect for the fans who have followed America's whirlwind romance since it began—and a swoon-worthy read for teens who have devoured Veronica Roth's Divergent, Ally Condie's Matched, or Lauren Oliver's Delirium.

The Selection changed America Singer's life in ways she never could have imagined. Since she entered the competition to become the next princess of IllĂ©a, America has struggled with her feelings for her first love, Aspen—and her growing attraction to Prince Maxon. Now she's made her choice . . . and she's prepared to fight for the future she wants.

Find out who America will choose in The One, the enchanting, beautifully romantic third book in the Selection series!

Review:
I know what you’re thinking: Hannah finished a trilogy?

Yeah. I did. Can I get an “Amen”?

That being said, I’ve really enjoyed this series, and this was a great way to tie everything together. Sort of.

The last in a series is always the hardest review to write, so lemme tell you what to expect in the most non-spoilerish of ways I can.

The Rebellion: You find out what’s really going on with the rebels and why, but (like I said with the other books), the rebellion always feels like an unnecessary plot point just to add more drama to an already dramatic series. But, this does get resolved.

The Choice: Yes, America makes her choice. No, I won’t tell you who it is, but I was surprised by the adult nature of her choice. Impressed, even, if by the end I was more than ready to walk away from America and her waffling ways.

Look, if I can finish this series, then you know it’s gotta be worth it. So read this trilogy by Kiera Cass and let yourself love it.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: Can't Look Away by Donna Cooner


"Waiting on Wednesday" is a weekly event, hosted by Jill @ Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly waiting to get into our hands.


This week I'm waiting on....

CAN'T LOOK AWAY


By: Donna Cooner

Torrey Grey is famous. At least, on the internet. Thousands of people watch her popular videos on fashion and beauty. But when Torrey's sister is killed in an accident -- maybe because of Torrey and her videos -- Torrey's perfect world implodes.

Now, strangers online are bashing Torrey. And at her new school, she doesn't know who to trust. Is queen bee Blair only being sweet because of Torrey's internet infamy? What about Raylene, who is decidedly unpopular, but seems accepts Torrey for who she is? And then there's Luis, with his brooding dark eyes, whose family runs the local funeral home. Torrey finds herself drawn to Luis, and his fascinating stories about El dio de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead.

As the Day of the Dead draws near, Torrey will have to really look at her own feelings about death, and life, and everything in between. Can she learn to mourn her sister out of the public eye?


Why I Want It:
I am a huge makeup junkie, and I love watching makeup haul/tutorial/reviews on YouTube. I'm excited to see a book that is about makeup blogger, plus I really enjoy emotionally turbulent contemporaries.



Can't Look Away will be released August 26, 2014 by Point

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Review: Of Beast and Beauty by Stacey Jay

Title: Of Beast And Beauty
Author: Stacey Jay
Publisher: Delacorte
Publication Date: 7.23.2013
Pages: 391
Genre: Young Adult, Retelling, Fantasy
Series: N/A
Source: ARC from a friend

Rating: 4 ½ Stars

Summary (from Goodreads):
In the beginning was the darkness, and in the darkness was a girl, and in the girl was a secret...

In the domed city of Yuan, the blind Princess Isra, a Smooth Skin, is raised to be a human sacrifice whose death will ensure her city’s vitality. In the desert outside Yuan, Gem, a mutant beast, fights to save his people, the Monstrous, from starvation. Neither dreams that together, they could return balance to both their worlds.

Isra wants to help the city’s Banished people, second-class citizens despised for possessing Monstrous traits. But after she enlists the aid of her prisoner, Gem, who has been captured while trying to steal Yuan’s enchanted roses, she begins to care for him, and to question everything she has been brought up to believe.

As secrets are revealed and Isra’s sight, which vanished during her childhood, returned, Isra will have to choose between duty to her people and the beast she has come to love.

Review:

I love Beauty and the Beast when I was a little girl. Who didn't? Stacy Jay's slightly darker, twisted version but a whole new perspective on this childhood story that makes me love it even more.

Isra's world under the dome quite the host of issues. You don't really get an idea of what her city looks like except for the glimpse when she finally does a walk through. Though, you get the general idea that it is quite vast and has it's citizen caste areas like any normal city. The dome itself lacks any real description other than it's glass.

I believe the focus of this book was more on the characters and their story, which is why the setting wasn't as important. Isra has lead a lie of a life since she was four only to find out that it was someone important to her that made her that way. She is a strong woman in all that she faces and while she may seem childish, she handles it all beautifully.

I loved the relationship build up of her and Gem. It was somewhat typical but keep in mind the original Beauty and the Beast. Love conquers all, even in real life. Even though this has a bit of magic in it, anyone in the real world can see how it applies to our lives.

This reinvented tale of our childhoods puts a new light to it. It's a wondrous tale that was hard to put down. A little bit of adventure with lots of love and suspense makes this my favorite tale of an old story.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Review: The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas

Title: The Burning Sky
Author: Sherry Thomas
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: 9.13.2013
Pages: 464
Genre: Young Adult, High Fantasy
Series: The Burning Sky #1
Source: ARC from BEA

Rating:

Summary (from Goodreads):
It all began with a ruined elixir and an accidental bolt of lightning…

Iolanthe Seabourne is the greatest elemental mage of her generation—or so she's being told. The one prophesied for years to be the savior of The Realm. It is her duty and destiny to face and defeat the Bane, the greatest mage tyrant the world has ever known. A suicide task for anyone let alone a sixteen-year-old girl with no training, facing a prophecy that foretells a fiery clash to the death.

Prince Titus of Elberon has sworn to protect Iolanthe at all costs but he's also a powerful mage committed to obliterating the Bane to avenge the death of his family—even if he must sacrifice both Iolanthe and himself to achieve his goal.

But Titus makes the terrifying mistake of falling in love with the girl who should have been only a means to an end. Now, with the servants of the Bane closing in, he must choose between his mission and her life.

Review:
Who doesn't love magic, adventure, and of course, love. Sherry Thomas made an amazing world, somewhat current but yet old at the same time. Princes and queens with their servants yet modern enough with trains and boarding schools.

Iolanthe is such an amazing girl, Thomas gave her so much devotion and courage that I was amazed by her and her adventures. She was so worried about keeping up appearances, in more ways than one, that she would let nothing get in her way of what she wanted or needed to do in order to keep herself and those that mattered to her safe.

Who knew that what she had to go through, at the hands of Titus, would be such an amazing adventure if not daunting on her part. When one thinks they have no destiny of any sort of measure and believes themselves to relatively normal only to have their whole world thrown upside down by exactly what you thought wouldn't be life changing, you might get a little mad.

Titus is confusing. He is distant and hard, yet soft at the same time. He does have feelings but shows them in the oddest ways sometimes. He never does anything without purpose and has plans for everything. Even if he doesn't expect something, in an instant he had a plan. He is quite comical when faced with a conundrum. He goes into a nervous mess while trying to help himself and sometimes it is best to trust your friends and let things happen.

Thomas created a magical world with adventures that set your mind spinning. I could read this fast enough and cannot wait for the next book.

Buy: Amazon
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