Monthly Archives: July 2014

Mini Reviews – The Here and Now and Ruin and Rising

The Here and Now

The Here and Now

Ann Brashares

YA – 2014 – Science Fiction

Rating: 3.5/5

The Story: Ethan is fishing alone at the river one day when he notices that the air has a wavy, distorted quality to it. And then out of nowhere, there is a girl. Naked, shivering, confused. A string of numbers inscribed on her arm is burned into Ethan’s brain. The experience marks him, and he continues to think about the girl until two years later, when she walks calmly into his precalculus class and takes the desk behind his. As he befriends Prenna and learns her story, he is drawn into her world and becomes a part of a plot to change the course of the future…forever.

The Opening Line: His dad had to work, so Ethan had gone fishing alone.

What I Loved: Two words: time travel. Time travel books always have such an interesting hook and raise such thought-provoking questions, and The Here and Now is no different. I love the idea that we as individuals are so important to how the future unfolds – that each little decision we make changes the course of our life somehow.

What I Didn’t Love: Like with any science fiction novel, the plot definitely stretches beyond the point of believability.

Final Thoughts: The Here and Now is so different from her other books and should stand on its own merit. It’s an entertaining time travel novel full of coincidence, rebellion, and heroism, but ultimately it didn’t do much for me personally. However, I would recommend for science fiction/time travel fans.

Ruin and Rising (The Grisha, #3)

Ruin and Rising (The Grisha #3)

Leigh Bardugo

2014 – YA – Fantasy

Rating: 5/5

The Story: After finding and claiming the power of 2 of Morozova’s amplifiers, but failing to defeat the Darkling, Alina, Mal, and her motley band of Grisha take refuge in the White Cathedral. But soon Alina can’t shake the feeling that she is more prisoner than Saint, so the group devises a plan to escape the caverns and head to the surface on a quest to find the last amplifier, end the Darkling’s reign, and bring peace to the country of Ravka.

The Opening Line: The monster’s name was Izumrud, the great worm, and there were those who claimed he had made the tunnels that ran beneath Ravka.

What I Loved: This whole trilogy! Seriously, when I think great fantasy, this series comes to mind. The characters struggle with conflicting desires and get angry and fall in love and betray their friends out of fear and are completely human. The plot is an epic tale of good vs. evil that challenges our assumptions about what exactly that means. The story is engrossing and I didn’t want to put this one down until it was finished. I laughed, I cried, I got angry. Everything is so well-written and thought out, so intelligent, that I am already sad that this journey is over.

What I Didn’t Love: Um, I’m sure there’s something?

Final Thoughts: This ranks among my group of favorite fantasy series of all time. For your reading pleasure, the others are Kristin Cashore’s Graceling series, Rae Carson’s Girl of Fire and Thorns series, and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. When I think fantasy series that I love, these are my go-to recommendations. This series is exemplary, a true gem. I’m sad to be leaving this world behind.

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East of Eden Checkpoint 1

EastofEdenReadalong

I posted recently about how excited I was to join in the East of Eden read-along, hosted over at The Estella Society. It began on July 21, and I just reached the first checkpoint! I had never read anything by John Steinbeck before going in to this book, so I was at a complete loss regarding what to expect. I can’t remember ever discussing Steinbeck’s work in high school or college English classes, but I had these preconceived notions that I must have picked up somewhere. For example, I knew roughly that his books were set in the West…or something like that. And Grapes of Wrath is about the Depression, right? Anyway, I went in with a mostly clean slate and a mostly open mind.

My first impression is that Steinbeck’s writing is just really accessible. I’ve read so many novels, especially classics, where I feel as though I need a dictionary and maybe a PhD to understand what’s going on. But I was immediately able to follow Steinbeck. He doesn’t really try to be pretentious or overly intelligent. He just writes the story in plain language. Which doesn’t mean that his writing is lower quality. Quite the opposite, in fact. The story is well-written, the characters complex, the descriptions vivid. My one qualm about his writing so far is that he often starts a chapter or section with several paragraphs that sound like a written speech. For example, chapter 13 in my version starts off with a speech about glory. Although it ties in to Adam’s story later in the chapter, it felt jarring to go from plot to speech to plot again so quickly.

Speaking of plot, here’s the short version so far, if you’re so inclined to read. Spoilers ahead! Skip to the next paragraph if you want to remain in the dark, plotwise! The book opens with a rough character sketch of an Irishman named Samuel Hamilton, whose family settled in California’s Salinas Valley on a plot of land that is absolutely parched. With a large family to support, Sam goes to work blacksmithing and other such things. Then Steinbeck shifts to the story of Charles and Adam, two brothers growing up on the East Coast under the influence of a father who may or may not have accomplished the many things he claims to have accomplished. There’s a lot of rage and sibling rivalry, but eventually Adam joins the army, Charles stays on the farm, and the father dies. Later, Adam marries crazy Cathy and moves West, to the Salinas Valley, where he meets Sam.

I love the characters so far. The jolly Irishman. Two siblings just trying to earn their father’s love. A crazy, manipulative woman who murders her parents and becomes a prostitute of sorts before settling into an unhappy marriage. The main players in our story are very, very human. There are flaws and so many shortcomings. There is uncertainty and envy and unhappiness. This character development, along with the story itself, brings so many questions to mind. What does it mean to be successful? What is the price of happiness?

At this point, we don’t know a ton other than a great deal of the backstories of Adam and Charles, but I think the next section of the book will pick up and dive deep into plot. I have no clue if Adam and Cathy can find happiness or what larger role Sam will play in Adam’s life. I don’t know what happens to Charles, all alone on the farm. But I do know that I am enjoying this novel much more than I thought I would. I can’t wait to see what happens next!

Anybody reading along? What do you think so far?

P.S. Confession! For much of this first section, I totally thought Adam and Charles grew up in the Salinas Valley. So you can understand why I was confused when Adam and Cathy moved West to settle there, right? 🙂

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

2a

It’s Monday! is a weekly meme hosted over at Book Journey that allows bloggers to post a sort of wrap-up of the past week while also looking to the week ahead. Without further ado…

Last Week: I didn’t read as much as I usually do. I live with my two best friends, and I recently realized that I’ve been reading so much lately that I haven’t really invested in my friendships with them. I guess when you live with someone, you start to take for granted that they are always there. So last week, I made conscious efforts to hang out with them. I spent the week watching their favorite shows, like Big Brother and Fairy Tale. I also was able to grab a couple naps over the weekend, which was fantastic! It made me think about how in the future I want to spend more time investing in the people I love, and not necessarily so much being off in my own world. Bookwise, I talked characters and character traits last week and read four books. I also reached the first checkpoint for the East of Eden read-along. Here’s the list!

Sinner (The Wolves of Mercy Falls, #3.5)

The House of Velvet and Glass – Katherine Howe

Sinner – Maggie Stiefvater

The Islands of Chaldea – Diana Wynne Jones and Ursula Jones

The Here and Now – Ann Brashares

Ruin and Rising (The Grisha, #3)

Currently Reading: East of Eden – John Steinbeck, Ruin and Rising (The Grisha #3) – Leigh Bardugo, and Perfectly Good White Boy – Carrie Mesrobian

Looking Ahead: My goals for this week are modest. I want to write up this week’s discussion of East of Eden and reach the checkpoint for next week. I plan to finish the other two novels I am currently reading. I hope to have an author interview with Ursula Jones on the blog later this week. I’m going to consciously spend time with friends – we will be watching a couple films including Party Girl, Bringing Up Baby, and maybe An American in Paris. And of course, I will be reading a couple other things as well.

Four: A Divergent Collection – Veronica Roth

One Man Guy – Michael Barakiva

How does your week look, friends? How do you balance work, school, friendships, and personal time?

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