Tag Archives: five star

Heartless, by Anne Elisabeth Stengl

31 Aug
heartless cover

Isn't this cover beautiful?

“Then the heat came.  It began the same as it had the night before, and with it came sudden remembrance of the dream she had forgotten.  The two faces–one black, one white, one ice, and one fire…Her mother’s ring on her finger tightened and her hands throbbed with burning.”

I just read a book that I couldn’t wait to share with everyone.  In fact, I was surprised that this book wasn’t swept up by the media in the way of Twilight.  Heartless, by Anne Elisabeth Stengl, started slowly.  We are introduced to Princess Una, her brother Prince Felix, and the kingdom of Parumvir.  It’s fairy tale kingdom, complete with an enchanted forest, mysterious pet, and magical bazaar.  The story drifts slowly along until about the halfway point, when things just take off (on dragon wings?). 

After conducting some research, I learned that this is classified as Christian Fiction, and the author is often criticized for so many allegories (hidden meaning or moral).  Whelp, the allegory was lost on me!  I read it as a fairy tale, occasionally simplistic and a bit over the top.  Many reviewers called it Christian Fiction and mentioned allegory without ever explaining what that meant.  When I really love a book, I don’t really like reading many other reviews, because I want to feel solitary in that book’s world, so I’ve decided to stick with my conclusion that the overall themes were about love, devotion and the fact that no one is perfect.  This is hardly a hidden meaning. 

Often, all readers are looking for is a good story.  This one is a great story.  I can see why it drew some criticism, but I wish more people were aware of this “sleeper novel” and enjoyed it the way that I did, without consciousness of hidden morals.  I really did love this book (five stars!) and look forward to more Tales of Goldstone Wood.

The Darkest Night, by Gena Showalter

11 May

“Always before, Maddox had wished to fade into nothing when the fire overcame him, never to return to hell or to earth.  He’d wished to end his miserable existence and finally stop the pain.  Always before—but not tonight.  Not this time.  Tonight, pain was eclipsed by desire.”

The Darkest Night Mouthwatering cover
How can you resist this cover?

I don’t know why I haven’t read more of Gena Showalter’s novels.  I’ve read her Atlantis series and loved them.  Her book covers are mouthwatering.  There are so many Lords of the Underworld books that I wanted to be sure to start from the beginning.  So at a used bookstore recently, I bought the first two.  I just completed The Darkest Night, a truly decadent treat!

Maddox is an immortal warrior bonded with Violence and cursed to die a painful death every night.  Most of his days are spent struggling to control the violent urges, until the day Ashlyn smiled at him.  Ashlyn has her own struggles to face, so when Maddox brings much-needed peace to her life, not even the threat of Violence can sever her loyalty.  Together, Maddox and Ashlyn face the beginnings of war.  They forge an impossible passion to create their own fairytale! 

There are currently eight Lords of the Underworld novels, another on its way, and a few smaller stories in between.  This means I have a lot to read!  This book was clearly Maddox and Ashlyn’s story, but it also served to set up the series and introduce us to more than one upcoming adventure in store for us.  There are many players in the search for Pandora’s box, and I’m so glad that these heroes will all get their own love stories as the larger plot continues.

Remember how I said that the cover was mouthwatering?  Well, the passion within the novel doesn’t disappoint!  There were times when I was embarrassed to be reading this book in public.  I love how hot and sexy this book was without losing its story or ending up over the top.  I very much loved The Darkest Night, and can’t wait to continue with The Darkest Kiss!  Five Stars, easy.

Uglies, by Scott Westerfeld

8 May

When I found Scott Westerfeld’s novel Uglies at a used book sale, I jumped at the chance to finally start this series.  I don’t intentionally seek out Young Adult novels, but I love how engrossing they can be, and they’re often such fast reads.

Uglies book cover

“But it’s a trick, Tally.  You’ve only seen pretty faces your whole life.  Your parents, your teachers, everyone over sixteen.  But you weren’t born expecting that kind of beauty in everyone, all the time.  You just got programmed into thinking anything else is ugly.”

“It’s not programming, it’s just a natural reaction.  And more important than that, it’s fair.  In the old days it was all random—some people kind of pretty, most people ugly all their lives.  Now everyone’s ugly…until they’re pretty.  No losers.”

The idea behind this novel is very interesting, and hits close to home.  On every person’s sixteenth birthday, they are given a surgery to transform from an ugly, into a pretty.  The pretties get to have big parties and don’t have a care in the world.  Children are taught from a very early age that making everyone pretty fixes the problems and inequality that the old “Rusties” faced in the past.

It took several chapters to get hooked on this story, though I’m glad I got past it.  My initial turn off came from the “preachy” feeling that I got from the narration.  There was an obvious message to readers about how we view beauty.  Also, I was more aware that the book was written for a younger audience than I was, for example, when I read The Hunger Games.

While the narration started with a very young feel, it improved exponentially as the novel moved forward.  Actually, Tally, the main character, matured throughout the novel, and her voice evolved with her.   Kudos to the author for accomplishing this so subtly.   I also loved the other characters that we met along the way.

Of course, Uglies ended with a huge cliffhanger, and I’m already desperate to read the next in the series, Pretties.  I can’t wait to learn more about this world.  It’s been a while since I’ve read a five star book, but even with its slow start, this is a highly recommended read!

The Tairen Soul Quintet

21 Nov

I’ve been holding off on this post because I’m smack in the middle of book four in a series of five.  Still, with the release of the final, fifth book occurring this month, I had to get this out there.

For at least a year, I had a cute paperback book on my bookshelf featuring a redheaded young woman laying in the grass, surrounded by magic.  I don’t know why I didn’t look too closely, but I’m very glad that it just sat on my shelf.  Eventually, I found another book at my favorite used book sale and recognized the same style cover and the author.  Still, both books sat, waiting.

How fortuitous that I decided to read the first in the series, Lord of the Fading Lands, so close to the release date of the final book.  When I started, I had no idea that I was about to plunge into an epic.  I’m still in the middle of the fourth book, but I had to share this with you as soon as possible.

The Tairen Soul is a very special version of the Fey, with the ability to change into a large, flying cat-like creature called the Tairen.  Rainier, the last Tairen Soul in the Fading Lands, serves as king over both the Fey and the Tairen.  Rain hasn’t left the Fading Lands in thousands of years, but the mysterious deaths of his kind have caused him to leave in search of a solution.

That solution just happens to be Ellysetta, a simple, mortal girl hiding a lot of secrets.  From the moment she meets Rain, Ellie is forced to face the magic and talents that she has spent her whole life meticulously hiding.  She’s afraid to accept her powers, but with Rain, her truemate, by her side, Ellie will begin a journey to accept her destiny.

The love between Ellie and Rain is wrought with conflict.  Ellie’s soul calls Rain down from the sky, and he immediately professes his love for her as her one true soulmate.  I thought that this would take away from the drama in their relationship, but that is not at all the case.  The couple must still find their way together, in the midst of war and danger.  Ellie is especially intriguing.  Initially, her story read like a Cinderella tale where a simple young girl suddenly becomes a queen.  However, her character is always evolving and growing in depth and strength.  Ellie is no delicate princess to be swept off her feet.  She’s powerful beyond anyone’s understanding, and deeply empathetic.

Written originally as a complete novel, there are really no good endings and beginnings among all the books.  I highly suggest collecting them all, and then reading all the way through.  I hesitate a little to rate The Tairen Soul Series prematurely, especially since I find that it’s the endings that always disappoint me.  Still, I already know that the journey is well worth the read.  I rate this five out of five stars!

The Road, by Cormac McCarthy

6 Nov

The Road Book Cover

“Listen to me, he said, when your dreams are of some world that never was or some world that never will be, and you’re happy again, then you’ll have given up. Do you understand? And you can’t give up, I won’t let you.”

I am perhaps a little behind the times, but I finally read The Road, by Cormac McCarthy.  I’ve wanted to read this book for quite a while, but I always put it off because people were always telling me that it’s so dark.  Often, I just want to lose myself in a good story to escape reality.  People warned me that this was a hard book to read without getting depressed.

Well, I shouldn’t have listened to those people.  I found this tale to be very heartwarming.  The plot is simple.  In a post-apocalyptic world, a man and his son journey south for the winter.  They struggle to survive by hiding from others and scavenging for supplies.  That’s it; not much to it.

It’s the relationship between the two of them that makes this so much more.  Their relationship is so complex.  The boy has only known a dead, desolate world while his Papa is still in mourning for the world he knew.  Still, it’s this boy who acts as the moral compass for the two of them.   The father lives only for his son; his patience for him is endless. They love each other very much.  This fact makes everything beautiful, despite all of the ugliness that they encounter.

It took me a while to adapt to reading this book, however.  I don’t know what makes McCarthy think he’s so special that he can ignore the rules of punctuation and grammar.  This is the first (probably only) I’ve read by McCarthy, so I’m not sure if he always writes this way.   In some ways, the sparseness of his writing worked very well with the mood and the setting of the novel.  I adjusted.  It just took a while.

I can hardly imagine giving a Pulitzer Prize winning book a low rating, but thankfully I don’t wish to do so.  The Road is far more beautiful and heartwarming than its concept would appear.  Five Stars!

I’m curious to hear from others who have read this book.  The boy’s age is never stated.  How old do you think he was?

The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger

11 Sep

“It comes out so quietly that I have to ask her to repeat it: “It’s just that I thought maybe you were married to me.”

 

Told through both Clare and Henry’s point of view, this is a “timeless” love story quite literally.  Clare met Henry when she was seven; Henry met Clare when she was an adult.  If that last sentence seems confusing, it’s just a taste.  Henry struggles with what he calls “chrono displacement disorder,” and often finds himself shooting through time.  He reappears, either in the past or in the future, not sure of his location and sporting only his bathing suit.  This, needless to say, makes his relationship with Clare a bit complicated.

But isn’t every relationship complicated?  I think that’s the point here.  While every couple has its share of issues, this issue is supernatural.  That doesn’t change how they deal with it.  Clare and Henry have a very real love, made more real by the trials and tribulations caused by time travel.  Since occasionally Clare gives us her point of view, and occasionally Henry tells us his, we never doubt the love between them.  We do, however, see the secrets they don’t share with each other.

What really impressed me about this novel is its beautiful writing.  I learned that Audrey Niffenegger is an artist.  This shows in her writing; she turns words into paint and lays them gently on the page until the story comes to life.  While I was occasionally confused about where and when each scene began, I was constantly intrigued by this story.  I found it warm, heartfelt, and, pardon the repetition, beautiful.

I’m very excited to read the author’s second book, Her Fearful Symmetry.  Five Stars.

 

PS: I saw the movie, and it just seemed pointless.  I don’t know if I would have felt that way had I not read the book, but regardless, read the book.  Don’t bother with the movie.

Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins

8 Aug

This book cannot possibly be reviewed without some spoilers for The Hunger Games.  If you haven’t read that yet, DON’T READ CATCHING FIRE!  Also, read it.  Then you can read my review 😮

Catching Fire cover“He embraces me, enfolding me in the smell of blood and roses, and plants a puffy kiss on my cheek.  When he pulls back, his fingers digging into my arms, his face smiling into mine, I dare to raise my eyebrows.  They ask what my lips can’t. ‘Did I do it?  Was it enough?’  In answer, he gives an almost imperceptible shake of his head.”

It’s a miracle that Katniss and Peeta both survived the Hunger Games together.  It’s the talk of the Capitol; they’ve become instant celebrities.  Kat can’t seem to really figure out why she did what she did to save Peeta.  She doesn’t really have time to figure it out.  Her adoring fans believe that she did it purely out of love, and the President is convinced she did it as an act of rebellion against the Capitol.  Reality doesn’t seem to matter too much though because Kat has the distinct feeling that she is in even more danger than she was in the arena.

There’s more to this book…So much more, including a love triangle, violence, and many, many mind games.  I personally loved Catching Fire even more than The Hunger Games.  Reading it for a second time what even better.  Kat is both artful and childlike.  She  is bold and brave at one moment and cowering the next.  I am very fascinated at the contradictions in this character.  It is made even more interesting because she must always be one person for the public while protecting her real thoughts and feelings.

Duality plays a very important part in both of these books.  There is always reality according to the public, and reality according to Kat.  Since we see everything through Kat’s eyes, it is our job as the reader to interpret where the real truth lies.  Five stars, no doubt.  Mockingjay comes out in just over two weeks.  I suggest timing it perfectly so you won’t have to wait the full year for the conclusion like I do!

The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins

25 Jul

The release of Mockingjay, the third in The Hunger Games Trilogy, is one month from today!  In anticipation of this release (I can barely wait), I’m rereading the first book this weekend.  It’s a really fast read!

The Hunger Games Cover“Peeta looks me right in the eye and gives my hand what I think is meant to be a reassuring squeeze.  ‘Oh well,’ I think.  ‘There will be twenty-four of us.  Odds are someone else will kill him before I do.’ “

Katniss lives in a future America, now called Panem, which is divided into 12 districts surrounding the Capitol that rules them all.  Because of a past failed attempt at revolution, the Capitol rules with a vicious iron fist.  Every year, as a reminder of the Capitol’s strength, each district gives up two children, a boy and a girl, to participate in The Hunger Games.  Winning The Games means much-needed food and riches, but the winner survive by killing off the competition.  Katniss knows what is at stake when she volunteers to represent her district.  She knows how to hunt and how to watch her tongue, but she also needs strategy if she is going to get out alive.

This novel fits my somewhat obscure love of post-apocolyptic, dystopian literature.  I just love reading about different versions of our future world at its worst.  Sounds creepy, and yes, this book is just that.  I had crazy dreams about survival for a month after staying up one night reading.  I love how so much of the story happens in Kat’s head.  She’s sixteen years old; because of her life, she has maturity beyond her years.  Still, the reader can’t forget that she’s young and naive in many ways.

Of course there is action and violence in the arena.  There’s also a political battle simmering under the surface, and a coming-of-age story told under the most undesirable of circumstances.

My absolute favorite book is The Long Walk by Stephen King.  This book has all that good stuff that King’s book provides.  Since it’s a Young Adult fiction, it’s much easier and faster to read.  Also, it starts the trilogy so the fun isn’t over when the book ends.

Second in the trilogy is Catching Fire.  You have to immediately seek this out when you finish the first!  Five Stars for sure 🙂

The Mercy of Thin Air, by Ronlyn Domingue

20 Jul

The Mercy of Thin Air “Why, it beats so I can love you.”

Young Razi Nolan is at the cusp of a life-changing decision when she dies suddenly at the age of 22 in 1929.  Now, as a ghost, Razi has access to all of her life memories, as clearly as if they all happened yesterday.  After all, time no longer has much meaning.  Razi shares her memories, centering on life as a young woman in love in the 1920s.  Razi intertwines her story with the story of the young, modern-day couple with whom she now “haunts.”  While Razi gathers hints and learns more about the couple she is living with, they are doing the same.  The result is a hint of mystery that keeps everything moving with a forward momentum.  We are also given two passionate love stories made real with challenges and pitfalls along the way.

I loved the patchwork story telling in this novel.  I learned about New Orleans in the 1920s and the book has motivated me to learn more about the women of this era and how they fought for women’s rights.  The Mercy of Thin Air is, on the surface, a love story that brought me to tears several times.  It’s the mysticism, however, that makes it a stand-out read.  That love lasts beyond death is a touching theme.

I found this book a year ago for sale for a quarter at my hometown library.  Even though it was highly recommended by a friend, I just now got around to reading it.  I’m sorry I delayed.  I highly recommend this as a summer read. Five Star!