From Book Reviews

*Review* ~ Girl on the Train 4/14/15

The Girl on the Train ~ Paula Hawkins

Goodreads Summary: Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?


Girl on the Train is a book that has been getting a lot of buzz this year.  I finished reading it a few weeks ago, but held off posting my review until I was certain about my feelings for this book.  Goodreads called Girl on the Train, “A compulsively readable, emotionally immersive, Hitchcockian thriller that draws comparisons to Gone Girl, The Silent Wife, or Before I Go to Sleep, this is an electrifying debut embraced by readers across markets and categories”.  However, after taking some time to reflect, I am certain that, for me, this book has not lived up to all of the hype.

As an out of work alcoholic, Rachel has everything a reader could hope for in an unreliable narrator. She is sad, weak and starved for attention – no matter how negative.  Her obsession with the lives of the people she observes on the daily commuter train creates a blurred line (in no way referencing the song) between reality and the world she has created within the confines of her imagination.  Thus creating a predicament for the reader about who to believe as the narration is divided up among the characters.

While the premise of the book was intriguing, I felt that the book itself left something to be desired.  I wanted this book to be as gripping as Gone Girl. I wanted the characters to be as enigmatic and as the fabulous the Liars in We Were Liars.  I had SUCH high hopes for this story, but for me, it fell flat.  When my friends asked me how I was liking this book, I struggled to find anything nicer to say than, “It is FINE.  I don’t exactly find myself dying to pick it back up.”

I suppose my biggest issue with this book is that I found the bulk of the characters to be flat, spiteful and vindictive.  The main cast of characters didn’t have a lot of redeemable qualities. So, I found myself not really caring whether or not I finished their story.  I wasn’t invested in discovering what was going to happen later in the book because the narrative just didn’t drive me to keep reading.  It took me WEEKS to finish this book, when I normally tear through several books per week.  Overall, I would say I found this book disappointing – especially considering the media hype surrounding the story.

three stars

 

Top Ten Tuesday ~ 3/3/15

top ten tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday
Hosted by: The Broke and the Bookish
Description: Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created here at The Broke and the Bookish. This feature was created because we are particularly fond of lists here at The Broke and the Bookish. We’d love to share our lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten lists!


 This week’s Top Ten Tuesday features the Top Ten Books You Would Classify As ALL TIME FAVORITE BOOKS from the past 3 years (you can extend it to 5 if you need to).


 

1. The Raven Boys ~ Maggie Stiefvater

Goodreads Summary: “There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve,” Neeve said. “Either you’re his true love . . . or you killed him.”

It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive.

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her.

His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.

From Maggie Stiefvater, the bestselling and acclaimed author of the Shiver trilogy and The Scorpio Races, comes a spellbinding new series where the inevitability of death and the nature of love lead us to a place we’ve never been before.


2. Throne of Glass ~ Sarah J. Maas

Throne of Glass

Goodreads Summary: 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 exhilarating. 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.


3. Shadow and Bone ~ Leigh Bardugo

Goodreads Summary: Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.

Shadow and Bone is the first installment in Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha Trilogy.


4. This is Not a Test ~ Courtney Summers

Goodreads Summary: It’s the end of the world. Six students have taken cover in Cortege High but shelter is little comfort when the dead outside won’t stop pounding on the doors. One bite is all it takes to kill a person and bring them back as a monstrous version of their former self. To Sloane Price, that doesn’t sound so bad. Six months ago, her world collapsed and since then, she’s failed to find a reason to keep going. Now seems like the perfect time to give up. As Sloane eagerly waits for the barricades to fall, she’s forced to witness the apocalypse through the eyes of five people who actually want to live. But as the days crawl by, the motivations for survival change in startling ways and soon the group’s fate is determined less and less by what’s happening outside and more and more by the unpredictable and violent bids for life—and death—inside. When everything is gone, what do you hold on to?


5. Grave Mercy ~ Robin LeFevers

Why be the sheep, when you can be the wolf?

Goodreads Summary: Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts—and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others.

Ismae’s most important assignment takes her straight into the high court of Brittany—where she finds herself woefully under prepared—not only for the deadly games of intrigue and treason, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart?


6. The Archived ~ Victoria Schwab

Goodreads Summary: The dead rest on shelves like books. Each body has a story to tell, a life in pictures only Librarians can read. The dead, called ‘Histories’, rest in the Archive.

Da first brought Mackenzie Bishop here four years ago, when she was twelve years old, frightened but determined to prove herself. Now Da is dead, and Mac has grown into what he once was, a ruthless Keeper, tasked with stopping often—violent Histories from waking up and getting out. Because of her job, she lies to the people she loves, and she knows fear for what it is: a tool for staying alive.

Being a Keeper is dangerous and a constant reminder of those she lost, Da and her little brother. Mac wonders about the boundary between living and dying, sleeping and waking. In the Archive, the dead must never be disturbed. Yet someone is deliberately altering Histories, erasing essential chapters. Unless Mac can piece together what remains, the Archive itself might crumble and fall.


7. We Were Liars ~ E. Lockhart

We-Were-Liars-E-Lockhart-Book-Cover

Goodreads Summary: 

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart.

Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.


8. The Sea of Tranquility ~ Katja Millay

Goodreads Summary: I live in a world without magic or miracles. A place where there are no clairvoyants or shapeshifters, no angels or superhuman boys to save you. A place where people die and music disintegrates and things suck. I am pressed so hard against the earth by the weight of reality that some days I wonder how I am still able to lift my feet to walk.

Former piano prodigy Nastya Kashnikov wants two things: to get through high school without anyone learning about her past and to make the boy who took everything from her—her identity, her spirit, her will to live—pay.

Josh Bennett’s story is no secret: every person he loves has been taken from his life until, at seventeen years old, there is no one left. Now all he wants is be left alone and people allow it because when your name is synonymous with death, everyone tends to give you your space.

Everyone except Nastya, the mysterious new girl at school who starts showing up and won’t go away until she’s insinuated herself into every aspect of his life. But the more he gets to know her, the more of an enigma she becomes. As their relationship intensifies and the unanswered questions begin to pile up, he starts to wonder if he will ever learn the secrets she’s been hiding—or if he even wants to.

The Sea of Tranquility is a rich, intense, and brilliantly imagined story about a lonely boy, an emotionally fragile girl, and the miracle of second chances.


9. Wonder ~ R. J. Palacio

Goodreads Summary: You can’t blend in when you were born to stand out.

My name is August. I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.

August Pullman wants to be an ordinary ten-year-old. He does ordinary things. He eats ice cream. He plays on his Xbox. He feels ordinary – inside.

But Auggie is far from ordinary. Ordinary kids don’t make other ordinary kids run away screaming in playgrounds. Ordinary kids don’t get stared at wherever they go.

Born with a terrible facial abnormality, Auggie has been home-schooled by his parents his whole life, in an attempt to protect him from the cruelty of the outside world. Now, for the first time, he’s being sent to a real school – and he’s dreading it. All he wants is to be accepted – but can he convince his new classmates that he’s just like them, underneath it all?

Narrated by Auggie and the people around him whose lives he touches forever, Wonder is a funny, frank, astonishingly moving debut to read in one sitting, pass on to others, and remember long after the final page.


10. Death Sworn ~ Leah Cypess

Goodreads Summary: When Ileni lost her magic, she lost everything: her place in society, her purpose in life, and the man she had expected to spend her life with. So when the Elders sent her to be magic tutor to a secret sect of assassins, she went willingly, even though the last two tutors had died under mysterious circumstances.

But beneath the assassins’ caves, Ileni will discover a new place and a new purpose… and a new and dangerous love. She will struggle to keep her lost magic a secret while teaching it to her deadly students, and to find out what happened to the two tutors who preceded her. But what she discovers will change not only her future, but the future of her people, the assassins… and possibly the entire world.

*Review* Dragonswood ~ Janet Lee Carey

Dragonswood

Goodreads Summary: On Wilde Island, there is no peace between dragons, fairies, and humans.
Wilde Island is in an uproar over the recent death of its king. As the uneasy pact between dragons, fairies, and humans begins to fray, the royal witch hunter with a hidden agenda begins a vengeful quest to burn girls suspected of witchcraft before a new king is crowned.

Strong-willed Tess, a blacksmith’s daughter from a tiny hamlet, wants more for herself than a husband and a house to keep. But in times like these wanting more can be dangerous. Accused of witchery, Tess and her two friends are forced to flee the violent witch hunter. As their pursuer draws ever closer they find shelter with a huntsman in the outskirts of the forbidden Dragonswood sanctuary. But staying with the mysterious huntsman poses risks of its own: Tess does not know how to handle the attraction she feels for him—or resist the elusive call that draws her deeper into the heart of Dragonswood.


 

At first glance, Dragonswood appears to be a book that would offer everything that I could hope for in a novel – magic, mystery, dragons and romance!   Unfortunately, this book didn’t exactly hold up it’s end of the bargain upon delivery.  From my perspective, the biggest drawback of this book is that it was marketed with the words “epic romance” on the back cover and the love story just didn’t reach epic proportions.

Tess is a dynamic character who grows and changes a great deal over the course of the novel.  She is flawed, brave, and headstrong, but has the best intentions at the heart of her actions. I like her a lot and I enjoy her magical world.  This book had so much potential to be incredible but it just fell short of my expectations.

three stars

*Top Ten Tuesday*

top ten tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday
Hosted by: The Broke and the Bookish
Description: Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created here at The Broke and the Bookish. This feature was created because we are particularly fond of lists here at The Broke and the Bookish. We’d love to share our lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten lists!


 

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is devoted to things that I like and dislike when it comes to romance in books.

Likes: I really love when an author is able to make a romance believable.  So many times in literature, the love story seems forced because of a lack of something better for the main characters to do.  Here are five examples of books with killer love stories that have kept me up late at night wondering how things were going to work out for the main characters!

 

1. Sea ~ Heidi R. Kling

sea

 

Goodreads Summary: Still haunted by nightmares of her mother’s death, fifteen-year-old Sienna Jones reluctantly travels to Indonesia with her father’s relief team to help tsunami orphans with their post traumatic stress disorder-something Sienna knows a lot about. Since her mother’s plane went missing over the Indian Ocean three years before, Sienna doesn’t do anything if it involves the ocean or planes, so this trip is a big step forward.

But the last thing she expects is to fall for Deni, a brooding Indonesian boy who lives at the orphanage, and just so happens to be HOT. When Deni hears a rumor that his father may be alive, Sienna doesn’t think twice about running away with him to the epicenter of the disaster. Unfortunately, what they find there could break both their hearts.


 

2. The Sea of Tranquility ~ Katja Millay

Sea of Tranqulity

 

Goodreads Summary: I live in a world without magic or miracles. A place where there are no clairvoyants or shapeshifters, no angels or superhuman boys to save you. A place where people die and music disintegrates and things suck. I am pressed so hard against the earth by the weight of reality that some days I wonder how I am still able to lift my feet to walk.

Former piano prodigy Nastya Kashnikov wants two things: to get through high school without anyone learning about her past and to make the boy who took everything from her—her identity, her spirit, her will to live—pay.

Josh Bennett’s story is no secret: every person he loves has been taken from his life until, at seventeen years old, there is no one left. Now all he wants is be left alone and people allow it because when your name is synonymous with death, everyone tends to give you your space.

Everyone except Nastya, the mysterious new girl at school who starts showing up and won’t go away until she’s insinuated herself into every aspect of his life. But the more he gets to know her, the more of an enigma she becomes. As their relationship intensifies and the unanswered questions begin to pile up, he starts to wonder if he will ever learn the secrets she’s been hiding—or if he even wants to.

The Sea of Tranquility is a rich, intense, and brilliantly imagined story about a lonely boy, an emotionally fragile girl, and the miracle of second chances.


 

3. Anna and the French Kiss ~ Stephanie Perkins

Anna and the French Kiss

Goodreads Summary: Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris–until she meets Étienne St. Clair. Smart, charming,beautiful, Étienne has it all…including a serious girlfriend.

But in the City of Light, wishes have a way of coming true. Will a year of romantic near-misses end with their long-awaited French kiss?


 

4. Fire ~ Kristin Cashore

Fire

 

Goodreads Summary: It is not a peaceful time in the Dells. The young King Nash clings to his throne while rebel lords in the north and south build armies to unseat him. The mountains and forests are filled with spies and thieves and lawless men.

This is where Fire lives. With a wild, irresistible appearance and hair the color of flame, Fire is the last remaining human monster. Equally hated and adored, she had the unique ability to control minds, but she guards her power, unwilling to steal the secrets of innocent people. Especially when she has so many of her own.

Then Prince Brigan comes to bring her to King City, The royal family needs her help to uncover the plot against the king. Far away from home, Fire begins to realize there’s more to her power than she ever dreamed. Her power could save the kingdom.

If only she weren’t afraid of becoming the monster her father was.


 

 

5. The Summer I Turned Pretty ~ Jenny Han

The Summer I Turned Pretty

Goodreads Summary: Belly measures her life in summers. Everything good, everything magical happens between the months of June and August. Winters are simply a time to count the weeks until the next summer, a place away from the beach house, away from Susannah, and most importantly, away from Jeremiah and Conrad. They are the boys that Belly has known since her very first summer–they have been her brother figures, her crushes, and everything in between. But one summer, one terrible and wonderful summer, the more everything changes, the more it all ends up just the way it should have been all along.

 

 


 

Dislikes: I have read several books where the romance felt like a forced plot device instead of feeling genuine.  Every book doesn’t need to have a romance.  If the romance doesn’t fit, then please, I beg you, don’t use it.  There is nothing more painful and awkward to read, than a forced romantic plot line.  However, the one exception to that rule would be reading a book with a character that is too flawless or too perfect to be even remotely interesting or reliable.

6. Evermore ~ Alyson Noel

Evermore

Goodreads Summary: The first book in Alyson Noël’s extraordinary new Immortals series. Enter an enchanting new world, where true love never dies…

After a horrible accident claims the lives of her family, sixteen-year-old Ever Bloom can see people’s auras, hear their thoughts, and know someone’s entire life story by touching them. Going out of her way to avoid human contact to suppress her abilities, she has been branded a freak at her new high school — but everything changes when she meets Damen Auguste.

Damen is gorgeous, exotic and wealthy. He’s the only one who can silence the noise and random energy in her head – wielding a magic so intense, it’s as though he can peer straight into her soul. As Ever is drawn deeper into his enticing world of secrets and mystery, she’s left with more questions than answers. And she has no idea just who he really is – or what he is. The only thing she knows to be true is that she’s falling deeply and helplessly in love with him.


 

7. Hush, Hush ~ Becca Fitzpatrick

Hush Hush

Goodreads Summary:

A SACRED OATH
A FALLEN ANGEL
A FORBIDDEN LOVE

Romance was not part of Nora Grey’s plan. She’s never been particularly attracted to the boys at her school, no matter how hard her best friend, Vee, pushes them at her. Not until Patch comes along. With his easy smile and eyes that seem to see inside her, Patch draws Nora to him against her better judgment.

But after a series of terrifying encounters, Nora’s not sure whom to trust. Patch seems to be everywhere she is and seems to know more about her than her closest friends. She can’t decide whether she should fall into his arms or run and hide. And when she tries to seek some answers, she finds herself near a truth that is way more unsettling than anything Patch makes her feel.

For she is right in the middle of an ancient battle between the immortal and those that have fallen – and, when it comes to choosing sides, the wrong choice will cost Nora her life.


 

8. Fallen ~ Lauren Kate

Fallen

Goodreads Summary: What if the person you were meant to be with could never be yours?

17-year-old Lucinda falls in love with a gorgeous, intelligent boy, Daniel, at her new school, the grim, foreboding Sword & Cross . . . only to find out that Daniel is a fallen angel, and that they have spent lifetimes finding and losing one another as good & evil forces plot to keep them apart.

Get ready to fall . . .


 

9. Daughter of Smoke and Bone ~ Laini Taylor

Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Goodreads Summary: Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grows dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real, she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”, she speaks many languages – not all of them human – and her bright blue hairactually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.

When beautiful, haunted Akiva fixes fiery eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?


 

10. Twilight ~ Stephanie Meyer

Twilight

Goodreads Summary: About three things I was absolutely positive:

First, Edward was a vampire.

Second, there was a part of him – and I didn’t know how dominant that part might be – that thirsted for my blood.

And third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him.

When Bella Swan moves to the gloomy town of Forks and meets Edward Cullen, her life takes a thrilling and terrifying turn. With his porcelain skin, golden eyes, mesmerizing voice, and supernatural gifts, Edward is both irresistible and impenetrable. Up until now, he has managed to keep his true identity hidden, but Bella is determined to uncover his dark secret.

What Bella doesn’t realize is the closer she gets to him, the more she is putting herself and those around her at risk. And it might be too late to turn back…

* Friday Favourites*

Friday Favorites

Friday Favourites Hosted by: Book Lover’s Life
Description: Each week I showcase a book or series that’s on my favourites shelf. It could be a book I’ve only just read or a book I read a few years ago.


 

Poison Study

This summary is brought to you courtesy of Goodreads.

Choose: A quick death…Or slow poison…

About to be executed for murder, Yelena is offered an extraordinary reprieve. She’ll eat the best meals, have rooms in the palace—and risk assassination by anyone trying to kill the Commander of Ixia.

And so Yelena chooses to become a food taster. But the chief of security, leaving nothing to chance, deliberately feeds her Butterfly’s Dust—and only by appearing for her daily antidote will she delay an agonizing death from the poison.

As Yelena tries to escape her new dilemma, disasters keep mounting. Rebels plot to seize Ixia and Yelena develops magical powers she can’t control. Her life is threatened again and choices must be made. But this time the outcomes aren’t so clear…


Poison Study is one of my favorite books.  It is the first Maria V. Snyder book that I have ever read and after reading the first chapter, I was completely hooked.  Yelena was a compelling character from the start and I found myself wondering what it would be like to walk in her shoes.  A victim of violence and in trouble for defending herself from her attacker, Yelena has a spirit that perseveres in the face of adversity.  I admire her courage and her willingness to make the hard choice, even knowing that it might get her into more trouble.  This story has a little something for everyone: action, adventure, magic, intrigue, and love.  It is, by far, one of my favorite novels.  However, the magic of Yelena’s tale doesn’t just stop with the first book.  Maria V. Snyder has created an entire world of assassins, criminals, magicians and corruption that will draw in even the most reluctant reader of fantasy.

Gold star

*Way Back Wednesday* ~ The Lord of the Flies

keep-calm-its-wayback-wednesday

Way Back Wednesday is a weekly feature hosted here at Cracken the Spines, where each Wednesday I will post reviews of books that have been published and on the shelves for a minimum of a year but preferably longer.  New releases are not the only books that are exciting to read and discuss.  Many of the best stories have staying power.  So keep calm, relax and enjoy the reviews!


*Review* 

The Lord of the Flies ~ William Golding 

Lord of the Flies

Goodreads Summary: William Golding’s compelling story about a group of very ordinary small boys marooned on a coral island has become a modern classic. At first, it seems as though it’s all going to be great fun; but the fun before long becomes furious & life on the island turns into a nightmare of panic & death. As ordinary standards of behavior collapse, the whole world the boys know collapses with them—the world of cricket & homework & adventure stories—& another world is revealed beneath, primitive & terrible. Lord of the Flies remains as provocative today as when it was 1st published in 1954, igniting passionate debate with its startling, brutal portrait of human nature. Though critically acclaimed, it was largely ignored upon its initial publication. Yet soon it became a cult favorite among both students and literary critics who compared it to J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye in its influence on modern thought & literature. Labeled a parable, an allegory, a myth, a morality tale, a parody, a political treatise, even a vision of the apocalypse, Lord of the Flies has established itself as a classic.


William Golding’s Lord of the Flies is not the first tale to explore the idea of evil residing within the human soul and it certainly won’t be the last.  However, it is one of the most accessible.  The characters in the story are young boys who have survived a horrible plane crash and who are left to try and figure out how to survive on an island without any guidance from adults – outside of their memories of what civilization was like ‘before’.  The gruesome reality of trying to survive without the technology that they have become accustomed to is a brutal wake-up call for these children, who originally start out believing that they are on an adventure.  As time goes on, one catastrophe leads to another, and the delicate balance that was first created as they were marooned on the island begins to crumble.  If basic survival wasn’t stressful enough, Golding throws another wrench into the boys’ best laid plans by adding the stress of a ‘beastie’ residing on their island.  However, as the story progresses, the boys come to realize that the ‘beastie’ isn’t really what they initially believed it to be.  They have so much more to fear than they ever realized.

This book forces readers to take a deeper look at society and humanity as a whole, while asking themselves where they would fit into this tenuous structure that the children on the island have created.

  •  Why are humans so drawn to violence as a means for problem solving?
  • How fragile are the rules that we have set up in order to have a functioning, civil, society?
  • Could things really deteriorate this quickly without a system of government that provides us with checks and balances?
  • Does our will to survive bring out our most primitive natures?
  • Are we really as civilized as we want to believe?

But the most disturbing question of all is: If everything started to fall apart, what kind of person would I be at the end of the day and what things would I be willing to do in the name of survival?

Gold star

*Review* We Were Liars ~ E. Lockhart

We-Were-Liars-E-Lockhart-Book-Cover

This summary comes to you courtesy of Amazon:

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from New York Times Bestselling author, National Book Award finalist, and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart.
Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.


“Once upon a time there was a king who had three beautiful daughters.  These daughters grew to be women, and the women had children, beautiful children, so many, many children, only something bad happened, something stupid, criminal, terrible, something avoidable, something that never should have happened…”

As I read We Were Liars, I couldn’t get the phrase, “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions,” out of my mind.  E. Lockhart tells a haunting tale of four teenagers who summer together on a private island off the coast of Massachusetts.  From the outside, the Liars seem to be living the American Dream: wealth, beauty, privilege, education, freedom and love.  However, upon closer inspection, the reader sees how many cracks mar the surface of their highly polished veneers.  Cadence is the eldest of the group and has suffered a terrible accident that has left her irrevocably changed.  Johnny comes next with his “bounce”. “He is beautiful and charming while embodying both “effort and snark.”  Mirren embodies hope and joy about what the future might bring.  “She is sugar, curiosity, and rain.”  And finally, there is Gat.  Gat is the love of Cadence’s life, but their relationship is a challenge – even on its best day.  “Gat is contemplation and enthusiasm.  He is ambition and strong coffee.”  He is everything that Cadence wants; and yet in a world where she has everything she could ever imagine at her fingertips, Gat seems to be the most unattainable.

For such a short book, We Were Liars packs a heck of a punch.  It asks hard-hitting questions like: How can a person forgive oneself after doing the unforgivable?  What happens to family when familial bonds shatter?  Does money always lead to corruption?  What is the price of a revolution?   These questions beg to be discussed and this novel provides an unforgettable starting point for both discussion and reflection.

I really enjoyed this book and had a hard time putting it down because as I read, the secrets of this book unraveled and I couldn’t wait to see what was going to happen next.  The writing was brilliant and the imagery was pure magic. We Were Liars is a page-turner that appeals to a variety of readers and I cannot wait to put it into the hands of my students!

4-star-review3

 

 

 

*Review* Ashfall ~ Mike Mullins

Ashfall

This excerpt is from Goodreads:

Under the bubbling hot springs and geysers of Yellowstone National Park is a supervolcano. Most people don’t know it’s there. The caldera is so large that it can only be seen from a plane or satellite. It just could be overdue for an eruption, which would change the landscape and climate of our planet.

For Alex, being left alone for the weekend means having the freedom to play computer games and hang out with his friends without hassle from his mother. Then the Yellowstone super-volcano erupts, plunging his hometown into a nightmare of darkness, ash, and violence. Alex begins a harrowing trek to search for his family and finds help in Darla, a travel partner he meets along the way. Together they must find the strength and skills to survive and outlast an epic disaster.


Admittedly, I’ve been waiting to read this book for quite some time.  I have a healthy obsession with natural disasters –  especially the idea that the Yellowstone Caldera might one day erupt and wipe out humanity as we all know it.  After all, the super-volcano is well overdue for an explosion of epic proportions, which makes the premise of this novel utterly terrifying and captivating all at once.  I’m not sure why it took me so long to pick up this book, but I am so glad that I did.

Ashfall, is a riveting tale of Alex’s survival after the explosion of the Yellowstone super-volcano.  The devastation of the ashfall knocked Alex’s entire world off course.  At the start of the novel, he was just an average teenager who was looking to have a weekend free of family and responsibility.  However, when disaster struck, Alex showed surprising grit by choosing to persevere against all of the odds stacked against him.  Abandoning the crisis at home, he headed out in search of his family, who had gone out of town to his Uncle’s farm for the weekend.  On his quest, Alex met Darla, a savvy, hard-working girl who teamed up with him on his journey.  Together, with the hope of finding Alex’s family, they did the unthinkable and trekked hundreds of miles through snow, ash, and the breakdown of civilization while trying to survive the aftermath of this epic natural disaster.

This book had me hooked from the beginning and I was quickly recommending it to students for reading during their Independent Novel Projects.  Alex makes an amazing transformation from a sulky teenager to an astonishing young man throughout the course of this book.  His conviction to find his family was inspiring because there were times when even the most stalwart traveler would have been tempted to abandon all hope.  I loved this book and am looking forward to the next one in the series!

4-star-review3

*Review* Dark Places ~ Gillian Flynn

Dark Places

*Review* Dark Places ~ Gillian Flynn

The following book summary comes to you courtesy of Goodreads.

Libby Day was just seven years old when her evidence put her fifteen-year-old brother behind bars.

Since then, she had been drifting. But when she is contacted by a group who are convinced of Ben’s innocence, Libby starts to ask questions she never dared to before. Was the voice she heard her brother’s? Ben was a misfit in their small town, but was he capable of murder? Are there secrets to uncover at the family farm or is Libby deluding herself because she wants her brother back?

She begins to realise that everyone in her family had something to hide that day… especially Ben. Now, twenty-four years later, the truth is going to be even harder to find.

Who actually massacred the Day family?


“I was not a lovable child, and I’d grown into a deeply unlovable adult. Draw a picture of my soul, and it’d be a scribble with fangs.” ~ Gillian Flynn Dark Places

My initial thought after finishing this book was: Why must Gillian Flynn write books with such despicable characters?  Her writing style is gritty and graphic in all the ways you want a book about a murder to be, but then she has these characters that are just so difficult to like.  The only thing I can come up with to explain why her characters are so utterly detestable is that unlikable  characters make it difficult to figure out who the real killer actually is – they serve as a plot device to keep the readers guessing.  One thing I’ve learned about Gillian Flynn’s books, she never leaves anyone off of her list of suspects.

Gripes about unsavory characters aside, I thought this book was exceptional.  It poses questions that people get uncomfortable thinking about.  For example, If I were desperate, how far would I be willing to go in order to protect my family?  Would I be willing to commit murder?  Gillian Flynn forces readers to contemplate the ugly truths about human nature that most people would just prefer to ignore.  Her use of language rides the line between uncomfortable and over-the-top throughout the entire book.  At times, her writing was so graphic that I was sinking deeper into my couch cushions and reading between squinted eyes in order to protect myself from the assault of words.  But, I LOVED it.  I read her book in the style of a child watching a horror film for the first time – crouched down in my seat, biting my nails, and watching the words through my fingertips.  I couldn’t get enough and I cannot wait to see what she comes up with next.

4-star-review3

*Review* The Goldfinch ~ Donna Tartt

The Goldfinch

The Goldfinch ~ Donna Tartt

The following description comes courtesy of Goodreads:

It begins with a boy. Theo Decker, a thirteen-year-old New Yorker, miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. Bewildered by his strange new home on Park Avenue, disturbed by schoolmates who don’t know how to talk to him, and tormented above all by his unbearable longing for his mother, he clings to one thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the underworld of art.

As an adult, Theo moves silkily between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty labyrinth of an antiques store where he works. He is alienated and in love-and at the center of a narrowing, ever more dangerous circle.


The Goldfinch is an incredibly gripping story that deals with loss, love, addiction and obsession.  It is undoubtably one of the most important books of 2014, having won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.  However, it is also one of my favorite books of the year.  Tartt’s writing draws the reader into the novel with finesse and expertise while telling a story of tragedy and triumph.  The plot follows the life of a boy, Theo, and follows him throughout various trials and tribulations that occur in the aftermath of the tragic death of his mother, who is killed in a terrorist attack at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art.  The Goldfinch calls out to the art-lover in me, but also reaches deeper into the unsavory underbelly that exists in certain circles of the art world.  This book is lush and descriptive, but it is also exciting and provocative.  While reading an 864 page book may not appeal to everyone’s sense of fun,  The Goldfinch is a story worth reading, and brave readers who aren’t daunted by the size of the book will find themselves rewarded by the unraveling of this gorgeous  and unforgettable tale.

Gold star