Book Review: Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra & Dhonielle Clayton

Book Review: Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra & Dhonielle ClaytonTiny Pretty Things by Dhonielle Clayton, Sona Charaipotra
Series: Tiny Pretty Things #1
Published by HarperTeen on May 26, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Diversity, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 448
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine, Edelweiss
Goodreads
5 Stars
Black Swan meets Pretty Little Liars in this soapy, drama-packed novel featuring diverse characters who will do anything to be the prima at their elite ballet school.

Gigi, Bette, and June, three top students at an exclusive Manhattan ballet school, have seen their fair share of drama. Free-spirited new girl Gigi just wants to dance—but the very act might kill her. Privileged New Yorker Bette's desire to escape the shadow of her ballet star sister brings out a dangerous edge in her. And perfectionist June needs to land a lead role this year or her controlling mother will put an end to her dancing dreams forever. When every dancer is both friend and foe, the girls will sacrifice, manipulate, and backstab to be the best of the best.

Book Review:

When books are pitched as X meets Y, the comparisons rarely work for me. But “Black Swan meets Pretty Little Liars” is SPOT ON for TINY PRETTY THINGS. If you like drama and/or ballet books, this is one for you.

Here’s how much I loved TINY PRETTY THINGS: I read the book twice in a month. Yeah. I reread a lot, but I just couldn’t leave Gigi, Bette, and June behind. I need more of them, stat!

TINY PRETTY THINGS is written from the perspectives of three very different characters at the American Ballet Company school. Gigi is the school’s new student and star, an African American transplant from California. Bette is the rich legacy, the former star student who will do anything to regain her top spot. June is half Korean, a perfectionist who needs to land a lead role or her mother will pull her out.

I appreciated the diverse characters — very rarely have I seen ballet books feature anything other than white main characters. And there’s a reason for that, because diverse dancers do have a more difficult time in the ballet world. But the authors don’t just toss in ethnicities and leave it at that; they show how other students look at Gigi and June, and show the struggles June has as a “halfie.”

There is SO MUCH DRAMA in this book, I ate it with a spoon and loved every second of it. Seriously, I had no idea what was going to happen next, or who was going to attack who. Aside from all the drama and the characters trying to one up each other, there’s plenty of dancing — yay!

And the ending? Oh man. I didn’t see it coming at all. It’s not quite a cliffhanger, but it did leave me desperately craving the next book.

In case you can’t tell, I loved TINY PRETTY THINGS, and highly recommend it. I don’t usually gush for contemporary books, but this one was perfect for me.

Socialize with the authors:
Sona Charaipotra:
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Dhonielle Clayton:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine

Book Review: Ink and Bone by Rachel CaineInk and Bone by Rachel Caine
Series: The Great Library #1
Published by NAL on July 7, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 368
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
5 Stars
In an exhilarating new series, New York Times bestselling author Rachel Caine rewrites history, creating a dangerous world where the Great Library of Alexandria has survived the test of time.…

Ruthless and supremely powerful, the Great Library is now a presence in every major city, governing the flow of knowledge to the masses. Alchemy allows the Library to deliver the content of the greatest works of history instantly—but the personal ownership of books is expressly forbidden.

Jess Brightwell believes in the value of the Library, but the majority of his knowledge comes from illegal books obtained by his family, who are involved in the thriving black market. Jess has been sent to be his family’s spy, but his loyalties are tested in the final months of his training to enter the Library’s service.

When he inadvertently commits heresy by creating a device that could change the world, Jess discovers that those who control the Great Library believe that knowledge is more valuable than any human life—and soon both heretics and books will burn.…

Book Review:

INK AND BONE is one of those books I always wanted, but I never knew it until I read it. There are so many good ideas and it’s such a great story that I’m still thinking about INK AND BONE a month after finishing it. With the amount of books I read, about 20 per month, it’s rare that a book sticks with me.

Jess lives in a world where owning personal copies of books is illegal. The Great Library has survived since the days of Alexandria and now exists in every city. The Library controls access to book and knowledge, functioning with as much power as a country. Jess’s family makes a living selling books on the black market, and seeing an opportunity, his father sends him to the Library, with the intent of having a spy on the inside.

But joining the Library isn’t that easy. There are 32 postulants and 6 available spots. The competition is fierce and dangerous. Jess must navigate a murky world, one where disagreeing with the Library’s policies and politics can be deadly. For example, when Jess is in the middle of a war zone, he could call on his family connections to survive, but doing so would expose his book smuggling background. What to do?

Imagine the greatest texts of the world surviving through the centuries thanks to the Library. But at the same time, imagine the same Library controlling which of those texts the public can see. Imagine a world where you can’t own your own books. It’s every book lover’s nightmare, right?

Rachel Caine explores those ideas and others in INK AND BONE. It’s a very thinky book, but enjoyably so. Jess’s time as a postulant for the Library is the best sort of dangerous adventure, one that’s fun to read but left me thinking. I cannot wait to return to the world the author’s created — bring on the next book!

Let’s talk about it:

What would you do if you lived in a world where you couldn’t own books?

Socialize with the author:

Rachel Caine:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Headstrong by Rachel Swaby

Book Review: Headstrong by Rachel SwabyHeadstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science--and the World by Rachel Swaby
Published by Broadway Books on April 7, 2015
Genres: Biography, Non Fiction
Pages: 288
Format: Paperback
Source: Blogging For Books
Goodreads
5 Stars
Fifty-two inspiring and insightful profiles of history’s brightest female scientists.

In 2013, the New York Times published an obituary for Yvonne Brill. It began: “She made a mean beef stroganoff, followed her husband from job to job, and took eight years off from work to raise three children.” It wasn’t until the second paragraph that readers discovered why the Times had devoted several hundred words to her life: Brill was a brilliant rocket scientist who invented a propulsion system to keep communications satellites in orbit, and had recently been awarded the National Medal of Technology and Innovation. Among the questions the obituary—and consequent outcry—prompted were, Who are the role models for today’s female scientists, and where can we find the stories that cast them in their true light?

Headstrong delivers a powerful, global, and engaging response. Covering Nobel Prize winners and major innovators, as well as lesser-known but hugely significant scientists who influence our every day, Rachel Swaby’s vibrant profiles span centuries of courageous thinkers and illustrate how each one’s ideas developed, from their first moment of scientific engagement through the research and discovery for which they’re best known. This fascinating tour reveals these 52 women at their best—while encouraging and inspiring a new generation of girls to put on their lab coats.

Book Review:

HEADSTRONG: 52 WOMEN WHO CHANGED SCIENCE — AND THE WORLD is a needed book. I wish it wasn’t, but it is. Even in 2015, women still struggle to make their way in male dominated fields like physics, astronomy, computer science, mathematics, etc.

I experienced discrimination based on my gender when I was a computer science student. I’ve been told I’m not a “real geek” because I’m a girl. Although I’m no Yvonne Brill — the inspiration for this book, whose accomplishments as a rocket scientist were overshadowed by her domestic abilities by the New York Times — I understood the struggle every woman mentioned in this book went through. And I’m ashamed to say I’d heard of maybe 4 out of the 52.

HEADSTRONG is separated into 7 sections: medicine, biology and the environment, genetics and development, physics, earth and stars, math and technology, and invention. To be included in the book, the author picked “only scientists whose life’s work has already been completed (xiii).” Due to that, the author admits the book is not very diverse, as opportunities opened up first for white women. She also didn’t include Marie Curie, because if you think of a woman scientist, that’s likely the one you picture. But did you know Marie Curie’s daughter, Irène Joliot-Curie, also won a Nobel Prize?

The profiles are relatively short, 3-5 pages, and focus on the woman’s contributions to her field. I read one or two sections a night and felt like I learned a ton about women in science. For example, I never knew a woman invented Kevlar, or wrinkle free cotton, or the Apgar score. The profiles are easy enough to understand for young girls, and interesting enough to hold the attention of older readers.

What will you learn?

Socialize with the author:

Rachel Swaby:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Black Iris by Leah Raeder

Book Review: Black Iris by Leah RaederBlack Iris by Leah Raeder
Published by Atria on April 28, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, LGBT, New Adult, Romance
Pages: 368
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
5 Stars
The next dark and sexy romantic suspense novel from the USA Today bestselling author of Unteachable.

It only took one moment of weakness for Laney Keating’s world to fall apart. One stupid gesture for a hopeless crush. Then the rumors began. Slut, they called her. Queer. Psycho. Mentally ill, messed up, so messed up even her own mother decided she wasn't worth sticking around for.

If Laney could erase that whole year, she would. College is her chance to start with a clean slate.

She's not looking for new friends, but they find her: charming, handsome Armin, the only guy patient enough to work through her thorny defenses—and fiery, filterless Blythe, the bad girl and partner in crime who has thorns of her own.

But Laney knows nothing good ever lasts. When a ghost from her past resurfaces—the bully who broke her down completely—she decides it's time to live up to her own legend. And Armin and Blythe are going to help.

Which was the plan all along.

Because the rumors are true. Every single one. And Laney is going to show them just how true.

She's going to show them all.

Book Review:

black iris leeannadotmeBLACK IRIS is a book I’ve been looking forward to for months, so when I started it, I tried to savor it. I wanted to take in and enjoy every line of Leah Raeder’s gorgeous prose, but I couldn’t tease myself. After two days of reading slow, I gave in and read the rest of the book in one frantic gulp. A week later, I’m still nursing a book hangover. I knew BLACK IRIS would destroy me, and did it ever. I’m talking destruction in the best way possible, of course.

I really just wanted to howl like a wolf for my review, but I figured that wouldn’t be too informative. But that’s how I felt when I turned the last page of BLACK IRIS — like the wolf, a wild, powerful beast, high on the success of getting revenge on my enemies. The author put me so completely inside Laney’s head that I felt like her. It’s a great feeling to have — with as many books as I read, rarely do they impact me so emotionally that I feel each betrayal and revelation like a sucker punch to the gut.

BLACK IRIS is smart, sexy, bold, heart-wrenching, dark, and a hundred other adjectives. At times it pokes a bit of fun at other new adult books, such as the magic formula of broken girl plus bad boy equaling sexual healing. And then there are times when BLACK IRIS dives into the human psyche, giving a look at what might happen if you were unafraid of the consequences of getting revenge on all those who have fucked you over. Oh, and there’s some page-scorching sex, of all varieties. Laney and Blythe? My new favorite couple.

I haven’t talked at all about the plot, but BLACK IRIS is a book best read blind. I don’t want to spoil a second of it. Here’s what I will say: the book flips around in time, building tension and anticipation between last year and this year. Gradually, the reason for Laney’s quest for revenge is shown even as that quest takes off. The time jumping also showed me the differing states of Laney’s relationships with Armin and Blythe as I was being drawn into her web. I was super surprised by the ultimate revelations, which is always something I enjoy.

I like to reread, but BLACK IRIS is a book I wanted to begin again as soon as I finished it, which is a bit fast, even for me. But I want to reread because I know I missed little details and descriptions when I started reading faster because I had to find out what happened. I’ve never used the bookmark feature so much on my e-reader as I did when reading BLACK IRIS.

In a way, BLACK IRIS could feel like a checklist of stuffing things inside books: Laney deals with her sexuality, with bullying and her mother’s suicide, with drug use, with the tightrope of female friendships when she’s attracted to them, with finding herself in a new world, with showing her enemies not to fuck with her. But thanks to Raeder’s skillful writing, you don’t feel like these things are in the book just to be in there. No, they’re all important aspects of Laney and her story.

Laney calls herself an Unsympathetic Protagonist, and BLACK IRIS is an emotional and atmospheric ride inside her head during an unforgettable year. As she says, “Fuck forgiveness.”

Let’s talk about it:

What’s something new you’d like to see in New Adult?

Socialize with the author:

Leah Raeder:
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– leeanna

Book Review: All the Rage by Courtney Summers

Book Review: All the Rage by Courtney SummersAll the Rage by Courtney Summers
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on April 14, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Realistic, Young Adult
Pages: 321
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
5 Stars
The sheriff’s son, Kellan Turner, is not the golden boy everyone thinks he is, and Romy Grey knows that for a fact. Because no one wants to believe a girl from the wrong side of town, the truth about him has cost her everything—friends, family, and her community. Branded a liar and bullied relentlessly by a group of kids she used to hang out with, Romy’s only refuge is the diner where she works outside of town. No one knows her name or her past there; she can finally be anonymous. But when a girl with ties to both Romy and Kellan goes missing after a party, and news of him assaulting another girl in a town close by gets out, Romy must decide whether she wants to fight or carry the burden of knowing more girls could get hurt if she doesn’t speak up. Nobody believed her the first time—and they certainly won’t now — but the cost of her silence might be more than she can bear. 

With a shocking conclusion and writing that will absolutely knock you out, All the Rage examines the shame and silence inflicted upon young women after an act of sexual violence, forcing us to ask ourselves: In a culture that refuses to protect its young girls, how can they survive?

Book Review:

ALL THE RAGE is a book that made me quiver with rage for what Romy endures.

“Because ‘slut’ was just too humanizing, I guess. A slit’s not even a person (p. 38*).”

You know who writes SLIT on Romy’s mom’s car? The son of the sheriff. If that doesn’t make you want to dive into Romy’s story, to see why everyone hates her so much, I don’t know what will. I’m not trying to be sensational — ALL THE RAGE is full of lines I could quote.

ALL THE RAGE is my first Courtney Summers book, but it won’t be my last. It’s hard stuff to read at times, but I loved how the author didn’t pull any punches or censor anything. I’m sure when I reread this, I’ll find more gems hidden in its pages. Like all the little observations she makes about how society has trained women to be polite. Such as when Romy automatically takes a napkin with a number from a guy who creeps her out, “like the obligation to be nice to him is greater than myself (p. 233*).”

I was a bit confused at the start of ALL THE RAGE, because the book flips between NOW and BEFORE, between Romy’s rape and the horribleness she endures after. There’s not a lot of flipping though, and eventually I knew enough to put the pieces together. I think the confusion I felt as a reader echoes some of Romy’s confusion over what happened to her, since she couldn’t remember.

Okay. So I haven’t really talked about the book itself, the plot or characters, but I’m not going to do that. I went into this book with almost no foreknowledge, and I think that’s the best way to read it. I want it to hit you as hard as it hit me, so no spoilers from me.

I think ALL THE RAGE should be required reading for all high school students and well, everyone. Because it talks about rape culture in a way that will make you think. We live in a world where rape is blamed on the victim for what she was wearing or because she asked for it. We live in a world where if rapists are actually convicted, it’s their future that’s ruined because of one little mistake. We live in a world where people are sympathetic for the perpetrator, not for the victim. We live in a world where people in power can cover up a crime or even ignore it. We live in a world where Romy hopes an unborn baby isn’t a girl, because being a girl is hard and dangerous and painful.

And I apologize for the preachiness, but that’s what ALL THE RAGE did to me. It makes me want to shout from the rooftops. It makes me want to put the book in as many hands as I can. That’s the sign of an excellent read and an impactful book.

*Quotes are from an Advanced Review Copy, and may change by publication.

Socialize with the author:

Courtney Summers:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Ravensbrück by Sarah Helm

Book Review: Ravensbrück by Sarah HelmRavensbrück by Sarah Helm
Published by Doubleday on March 31, 2015
Genres: History, Non Fiction
Pages: 768
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
5 Stars
A groundbreaking, masterful, and absorbing account of the last hidden atrocity of World War II—Ravensbrück—the largest female-only concentration camp, where more than 100,000 women consisting of more than twenty nationalities were imprisoned.

Shortly before the outbreak of World War II, Heinrich Himmler, the head of the SS and the architect of the Holocaust, oversaw the construction of a special concentration camp just fifty miles north of Berlin. He called it Ravensbrück, and during the years that followed thousands of people died there after enduring brutal forms of torture. All were women. There are a handful of studies and memoirs that reference Ravensbrück, but until now no one has written a full account of this atrocity, perhaps due to the mostly masculine narrative of war, or perhaps because it lacks the Jewish context of most mainstream Holocaust history. Ninety percent of Ravensbrück's prisoners were not Jewish. Rather, they were political prisoners, Resistance fighters, lesbians, prostitutes, even the sister of New York's Mayor LaGuardia. In a perverse twist, most of the guards were women themselves. Sarah Helm's groundbreaking work sheds much-needed light on an aspect of World War II that has remained in the shadows for decades. Using research into German and newly opened Russian archives, as well as interviews with survivors, Helm has produced a landmark achievement that weaves together various accounts, allowing us to follow characters on both sides of the prisoner/guard divide. Chilling, compelling, and deeply unsettling, Ravensbrück is essential reading for anyone concerned with Nazi history.

Book Review:

I have read a lot of books on World War II and the Holocaust, from history textbooks to historical fiction to survivor memoirs. There’s a lot of literature out there, and for good reason. It’s something we should never forget or allow to happen again. But RAVENSBRÜCK is one of those books that stands out, and for another good reason: it’s about the only concentration camp designed for women.

I spent almost 21 hours reading RAVENSBRÜCK, and consider every one of those hours well spent. I learned an incredible amount while reading. Have you heard of the Polish students — the “rabbits” — that were experimented on at the camp? They smuggled out letters written in urine to tell the world their story because they feared the Nazis would silence them forever to cover up the crimes. When women were beaten for punishment, Heinrich Himmler personally approved each beating. Ravensbrück trained women guards for the rest of the concentration camps. I learned more about satellite camps than I have in any other book. I also learned that many Soviet women were imprisoned again upon release, because Stalin considered them traitors.

I really feel like the author did an incredible job of making a readable history of Ravensbrück. Yes, it is hard reading because of the atrocities, but I so appreciated that the author didn’t gloss over those, but instead told me how the women survived. I was in awe of the women mentioned, at their thirst to live in horrendous conditions. How they rebelled a hundred tiny ways, sometimes escaping punishment and sometimes suffering the ultimate fate for their rebellion. How many of them returned home and never said a word, because nobody wanted to hear about Ravensbrück.

In RAVENSBRÜCK, Sarah Helm combines historical evidence (records, trial transcripts, etc.) and the voices of the survivors to create a biography of the camp, from founding to liberation. If she couldn’t corroborate an account, she told the reader what the survivor said anyway, adding additional evidence for or against, if there was any. Many, many voices are represented, from guards to Soviet prisoners of war to Polish doctors and students to German communists and more.

I do have one small wish: a list of all the women who had a voice in RAVENSBRÜCK, along with their fates, would have been a good addition in my eyes. There were so many interesting women mentioned, and I doubt I could ever track down information about them.

I can’t recommend this book enough if you have any interest in WWII, concentration camps, or even women’s history in general.

YA Connection:

ROSE UNDER FIRE by Elizabeth Wein is a YA historical fiction book set, in part, at Ravensbrück. So far, it’s the only historical fiction book, YA or otherwise, that I’ve read set in Ravensbrück. After reading Sarah Helm’s history of the camp, I feel that Elizabeth Wein did a respectable and realistic job of describing life there.

– leeanna

Book Review: Dead Heat by Patricia Briggs

Book Review: Dead Heat by Patricia BriggsDead Heat by Patricia Briggs
Series: Alpha & Omega #4
Published by Ace on March 3, 2015
Genres: Paranormal, Romance
Pages: 336
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
5 Stars
For once, mated werewolves Charles and Anna are not traveling because of Charles’s role as his father’s enforcer. This time, their trip to Arizona is purely personal, as Charles plans to buy Anna a horse for her birthday. Or at least it starts out that way...

Charles and Anna soon discover that a dangerous Fae being is on the loose, replacing human children with simulacrums. The Fae’s cold war with humanity is about to heat up—and Charles and Anna are in the cross fire.

Book Review:

DEAD HEAT makes me want to howl at the moon.

It’s that good folks — good enough to send me into a frenzied weekend of rereading the entire Alpha & Omega series and then right back into DEAD HEAT again. Yup. I read this book twice in a week and loved it both times. I was like an obsessed werewolf on the hunt. I couldn’t turn the pages quickly enough.

I’ve liked Anna and Charles since CRY WOLF in 2008. Alpha & Omega is one of my very favorite paranormal romance series because it has all the things! Anna and Charles are great characters; they defy genre stereotypes and have a relationship I love (and I’m really picky on romance). The paranormal aspects are there; I enjoy how the author writes werewolves and her fae are super creepy. The stories are always interesting, as are the side characters. Really. I could go on and on about this series.

I think DEAD HEAT might be the best installment yet. It’s the fourth book in the series, and while I think you should read all of them, I also think you could dive right into this book and not be lost. It’s been almost 3 years since I read the third book, FAIR GAME, and I was okay. Events are loosely connected, but as the series goes on, I feel like each book is more independent.

In DEAD HEAT, Anna and Charles go to Arizona to buy a horse for Anna’s birthday. They stay with the local alpha, Hosteen. Hosteen’s son, Joseph, is one of the very few people Charles cares about other than his family. But Joseph is dying, leaving Charles to wonder if it’s worth the pain of being close to someone who will die. It’s a difficult conundrum, considering Anna wants to have children. And then Hosteen’s great-grandchildren are attacked by a deadly fae, sending our main pair on a hunt with the FBI and Cantrip for a missing child.

It sounds like a lot, right? But it’s not. I adore Patricia Briggs’ writing. She’s got this way of sucking me into a book, making me care about every single character, and making me want to be there. When I was reading DEAD HEAT, I wanted to be a werewolf. I wanted to have Anna and Charles’ relationship (and I’m a single-for-life woman). I like how Anna and Charles support each other, but they also know how to let the other stand alone when necessary. Their relationship feels so real to me, and that’s not usually something I say. I felt Patricia Briggs’ love for everything she wrote about, from Arabian horses to Anna and Charles to Hosteen and Joseph.

I just couldn’t get enough of DEAD HEAT. So good. Arrooooo!

leeannadotme dead heat

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– leeanna

Book Review: Paper Things by Jennifer Richard Jacobson

Book Review: Paper Things by Jennifer Richard JacobsonPaper Things by Jennifer Richard Jacobson
Published by Candlewick Press on February 10, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Middle Grade
Pages: 384
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
5 Stars
When forced to choose between staying with her guardian and being with her big brother, Ari chose her big brother. There’s just one problem—Gage doesn’t actually have a place to live.

When Ari’s mother died four years ago, she had two final wishes: that Ari and her older brother, Gage, would stay together always, and that Ari would go to Carter, the middle school for gifted students. So when nineteen-year-old Gage decides he can no longer live with their bossy guardian, Janna, Ari knows she has to go with him. But it’s been two months, and Gage still hasn’t found them an apartment. He and Ari have been "couch surfing," staying with Gage’s friend in a tiny apartment, crashing with Gage’s girlfriend and two roommates, and if necessary, sneaking into a juvenile shelter to escape the cold Maine nights. But all of this jumping around makes it hard for Ari to keep up with her schoolwork, never mind her friendships, and getting into Carter starts to seem impossible. Will Ari be forced to break one of her promises to Mama? Told in an open, authentic voice, this nuanced story of hiding in plain sight may have readers thinking about homelessness in a whole new way.

Book Review:

I was drawn to PAPER THINGS because Ari and her brother Gage are homeless. I hadn’t yet seen this topic covered in a middle-grade book, and I was curious as to how the author would handle it. I admit, I don’t have any experience or real knowledge of homelessness, but I think the author did an incredible job of showing it in a way kid and adult readers can empathize with Ari.

Only eleven, Ari has already been through a lot. Her father died in Afghanistan; she never knew him. Her mother died a few years ago. Since then, she and her brother have stayed with her mother’s best friend, Janna. But Gage and Janna don’t get along, so when Gage decides to leave, Ari goes with him, because their mother wanted them to stay together.

But Gage didn’t tell Ari he didn’t really have an apartment for them. They spend the next several weeks staying with friends, in a shelter, even in a storage unit and a car. Ari’s smart, but being homeless starts to affect her studies, her friendships, and even her chances at getting into a middle school for gifted students. I liked that the author showed how things can snowball: Ari doesn’t have enough time at the library because she and Gage have to worry about where they’re spending the night. She leaves research books at one friend’s house, across town. Her teachers aren’t happy when she tries to do homework for one class in another. And so on. When Gage gets a reliable job, he still can’t get an apartment because of government red tape or needing a rental history. Etc.

I read PAPER THINGS in one sitting, and the book definitely got to me. I was rooting for Ari and Gage. I felt for Ari, who was torn between her brother and her love for him, and the security she had with Janna. I thought Ari was relatable, and while she was sometimes really mature for an eleven-year-old, she was smart and had also deal with a lot in life, so it wasn’t unrealistic. PAPER THINGS is written simply enough so that kids can understand it, but also with enough depth so that adults can enjoy it and get just as much out of it.

Socialize with the author:

Jennifer Richard Jacobson:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Half the World by Joe Abercrombie

Book Review: Half the World by Joe AbercrombieHalf the World by Joe Abercrombie
Series: Shattered Sea #2
Published by Del Rey on February 17, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 384
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
5 Stars
Sometimes a girl is touched by Mother War.

Thorn is such a girl. Desperate to avenge her dead father, she lives to fight. But she has been named a murderer by the very man who trained her to kill.

Sometimes a woman becomes a warrior.

She finds herself caught up in the schemes of Father Yarvi, Gettland’s deeply cunning minister. Crossing half the world to find allies against the ruthless High King, she learns harsh lessons of blood and deceit.

Sometimes a warrior becomes a weapon.

Beside her on the journey is Brand, a young warrior who hates to kill, a failure in his eyes and hers, but with one chance at redemption.

And weapons are made for one purpose.

Will Thorn forever be a pawn in the hands of the powerful, or can she carve her own path?

Book Review:

In 2014, the first book in Joe Abercrombie’s Shattered Sea trilogy, HALF A KING, was one of my favorite books of the year. I’m two months into 2015 and I already know the second book, HALF THE WORLD, will be one of my favorites for this year.

Some awesome things about HALF THE WORLD:

♥ It’s the second book in a trilogy, but you DO NOT need to be familiar with book one. I recommend you read HALF A KINGbecause Yarvi’s story is fantastic. But if you skip it, you won’t be confused. The author fills you in on what you need to know.

♥ If you like kick butt, prickly, determined, stubborn female main characters, you’ll probably love Thorn Bathu. Thorn’s my kind of girl — she wants to be a warrior, the first female warrior to stand in the shield wall. But everyone’s against her, and when her trainer names her a murderer, she almost loses her life. Father Yarvi rescues her from death, but is his rescue really a rescue? If you read HALF A KING, you’ll know Yarvi plays his own game, and even if you haven’t, his actions show his character in HALF THE WORLD. The short version? Thorn comes out even stronger in the end of the book than she was in the beginning, but it’s a bumpy ride. Even worse than hauling a ship overland.

♥ As the title implies, HALF THE WORLD shows a great deal of the world of the Shattered Sea. The characters do journey over half the world trying to find support for their country. As much as I like the Viking feel of Gettland, it was cool to see other cultures and peoples. HALF THE WORLD feels epic in scope without clocking in at 700+ pages. I love big fat fantasies, but sometimes it’s nice to read something that’s less than 400 pages and still get the same feeling.

♥ This is quite unusual for me, but I actually liked the romance in HALF THE WORLD. It’s not a big part of the book, but it is there. At first, I rolled my eyes when I saw that Thorn and Brand were attracted to each other, because I didn’t want the book to be full of them making eyes at each other and falling in loooove right away. It’s not. Anyway, Thorn and Brand have some missteps, and spend a good portion of the book mad at each other for reasons a lot of people will recognize. I thought the romance bit was a lot more realistic than you usually see, which is why I liked it.

In case you can’t tell, I thought HALF THE WORLD was fantastic. I think I liked it even more than HALF A KING! I cannot wait to see how everything ties up in the last book, HALF A WAR, due out later this year. I need my Yarvi and Thorn fix!

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Joe Abercrombie:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Price of Blood (Emma #2) by Patricia Bracewell

Book Review: The Price of Blood (Emma #2) by Patricia BracewellThe Price of Blood by Patricia Bracewell
Series: Emma of Normandy #2
Published by Viking on February 5, 2015
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 448
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
5 Stars
Menaced by Vikings and enemies at court, Queen Emma defends her children and her crown in a riveting medieval adventure.

Readers first met Emma of Normandy in Patricia Bracewell’s gripping debut novel, Shadow on the Crown. Unwillingly thrust into marriage to England’s King Æthelred, Emma has given the king a son and heir, but theirs has never been a happy marriage. In The Price of Blood, Bracewell returns to 1006 when a beleaguered Æthelred, still haunted by his brother’s ghost, governs with an iron fist and a royal policy that embraces murder.

As tensions escalate and enmities solidify, Emma forges alliances to protect her young son from ambitious men—even from the man she loves. In the north there is treachery brewing, and when Viking armies ravage England, loyalties are shattered and no one is safe from the sword.

Rich with intrigue, compelling personalities, and fascinating detail about a little-known period in history, The Price of Blood will captivate fans of both historical fiction and fantasy novels such as George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series.

Book Review:

In 2013, I read an amazing historical fiction book that stuck with me. I named SHADOW ON THE CROWN, the first book in Patricia Bracewell’s trilogy about Emma of Normandy, one of my favorite books for 2013. Every so often, I would check to see when the next book was coming, because I needed more of Emma’s story.

I had to wait two years for more, but THE PRICE OF BLOOD was more than worth the wait. I just hope I don’t have to wait another two years for the last book of the trilogy. After reading the last page of THE PRICE OF BLOOD, my greedy self needs more again. But you would too, because this book is fantastic. I highly recommend it if you like historical fiction. The author interested me in a period of history I never cared about before, which is a mark of successful historical fiction for me.

Like SHADOW ON THE CROWN, THE PRICE OF BLOOD is told from four viewpoints: Emma, Queen of England; Æthelred, King of England; Athelstan, the king’s oldest son; and Elgiva, daughter of one of the king’s chief rivals. It’s easy to know who’s who, and the different characters give a more complete picture of what’s going on in 1006 England. In the first book, Emma was my favorite. But in this book, I also enjoyed Athelstan and Elgiva, as I felt like their stories really expanded. Athelstan has to deal with his paranoid father who thinks Athelstan wants the throne at any cost. Like Emma, Elgiva is a woman in a man’s world, but they go about trying to acquire power and influence in very different ways. Emma uses knowledge and connections while Elgiva uses sex and attempts to manipulate men into doing what she wants. It was an interesting contrast for me.

There’s a lot going on in THE PRICE OF BLOOD, but in the best way possible. Since it had been two years since I was last in this world, I was lost at the beginning. The book includes a helpful glossary, dramatis personae, and map, and after a few chapters, I found my footing. I couldn’t read quickly enough. Patricia Bracewell penned an intricately written tale, bringing together all four characters and their individual struggles to show the effect of Viking invasions on England. Let’s just say the title is an apt one.

THE PRICE OF BLOOD is almost like watching an episode of Vikings — but from the view of the English. The author doesn’t shy away from describing anything, from an ugly battle to a woman being claimed by an unwanted husband to the stark difficulties of living in a country that can’t fight off a more powerful enemy. I actually felt like I was beside the characters, waiting for the next town to be burned. There’s a high level of historical detail in this book, but it doesn’t feel overly researched or like the author’s trying to cram facts down your throat. Patricia Bracewell’s just trying to tell a great story, and she does a brilliant job of it.

Extra!

The publisher, Viking, and the author have created an online book club kit. It’s pretty cool — there’s a recipe, suggested music, little known facts for the time period, and a Q&A with the author. Be sure to give it a look!

Socialize with the author:

Patricia Bracewell:
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– leeanna