Review: The Winner’s Crime

The Winner's Crime by Marie RutkoskiTitle: The Winner’s Crime
Author: Marie Rutkoski
Series: The Winner’s Trilogy #2

About: The engagement of Lady Kestrel to Valoria’s crown prince means one celebration after another. But to Kestrel it means living in a cage of her own making. As the wedding approaches, she aches to tell Arin the truth about her engagement…if she could only trust him. Yet can she even trust herself? For—unknown to Arin—Kestrel is becoming a skilled practitioner of deceit: an anonymous spy passing information to Herran, and close to uncovering a shocking secret.

As Arin enlists dangerous allies in the struggle to keep his country’s freedom, he can’t fight the suspicion that Kestrel knows more than she shows. In the end, it might not be a dagger in the dark that cuts him open, but the truth. And when that happens, Kestrel and Arin learn just how much their crimes will cost them.

My Thoughts: I really enjoyed The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski, and had such high hopes for this book. While it’s well-written and very engaging, I found myself more frustrated by it than anything. Don’t get me wrong. The plot is good. There are surprises and heart-breaking moments. But, well, there’s also a whole lot of frustration, and that made my enjoyment a bit less.

What’s so frustrating? Kestrel and Arin, of course. Neither will be straight with the other, although Arin really wants to. And really, he’s actually pretty straight with Kestrel. She, however, is awful. Just awful. “A skilled practitioner of deceit,” as mentioned in the description, is the perfect label for her. Even when she knows there’s no better way to be than perfectly honest, she cannot. She’s too busy trying to keep from letting her father down, I guess. Frustrating to no end was seeing how, despite knowing it was the wrong move, she repeatedly was just awful with Arin.

That said, The Winner’s Crime is no less enjoyable than the previous novel. It’s fast-paced, intriguing, and held my interest from start to finish. If you read the first, definitely give this a read. Despite my frustrations, I’m very glad I did. And I’m very much looking forward to the conclusion — hopefully not too far out!

4.5 StarsSource: Sent by publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Read It: The Winner’s Crime is scheduled for release around March 3, 2015. You can pre-order your own copy via Amazon or Book Depository(These are affiliate links, and purchase through either link will result in my receiving a small commission at no cost to you. Your support is appreciated!)

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Review: Finding Jake

Finding Jake by Bryan ReardonTitle: Finding Jake
Author: Bryan Reardon
Series: n/a

About: While his successful wife goes off to her law office each day, Simon Connolly takes care of their kids, Jake and Laney. Now that they are in high school, the angst-ridden father should feel more relaxed, but he doesn’t. He’s seen the statistics, read the headlines. And now, his darkest fear is coming true. There has been a shooting at school.

Simon races to the rendezvous point, where he’s forced to wait. Do they know who did it? How many victims were there? Why did this happen? One by one, parents are led out of the room to reunite with their children. Their numbers dwindle, until Simon is alone.

As his worst nightmare unfolds, and Jake is the only child missing, Simon begins to obsess over the past, searching for answers, for hope, for the memory of the boy he raised, for mistakes he must have made, for the reason everything came to this. Where is Jake? What happened in those final moments? Is it possible he doesn’t really know his son? Or he knows him better than he thought?

My Thoughts: Have tissue nearby as you read this. I found this hit me almost as hard as Every Last One by Anna Quindlen. Not quite as hard because I wasn’t blindsided by it the way I was by Quindlen’s book. Still, this is so well-written, and just heartbreakingly beautiful. If I wasn’t in the waiting room of my daughter’s orthodontist’s office, I would’ve been bawling as I read.

I don’t want to say too much, because I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone. There are some surprises in this book, but nothing earth-shattering. I felt one big element was pretty obvious, but as an observer it was probably easier for me to figure it out. In Simon’s shoes, I probably would have overlooked this one thing, too.

Simon is an interesting character. You can tell he really loves his family and wants the best for his kids. It’s clear he’s thrown a bit by being the one home with the kids. He seems to lose himself for awhile, but that’s understandable. Even stay-at-home moms have that happen. I did find his overly obsessive tendency to worry about every tiny little thing a bit frustrating to read at times. He can be a bit of a downer. But, you know his heart is in the right place.

I thought about lowering my star rating for this book because of my issues with Simon, but decided against it. Finding Jake by Bryan Reardon is written so well, is so raw … as I said above, this book is heartbreakingly beautiful. Just remember to have tissue with you — and beware reading it in public!

5 StarsSource: ARC sent by publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Read It: Finding Jake is scheduled for release around February 24, 2015. You can pre-order your own copy via Amazon or Book Depository(These are affiliate links, and purchase through either link will result in my receiving a small commission at no cost to you. Your support is appreciated!)

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Review: My Little Life of Jesus

My Little Life of JesusTitle: My Little Life of Jesus
Author: Karen Williamson
Illustrator: Amanda Enright
Series: n/a

About: My Little Life of Jesus introduces the story of Jesus’ life to 3-to 5-year-olds. It follows Jesus from His birth, being baptized by John, meeting the disciples and teaching them how to pray, telling His stories to people in nearby towns and villages, right through to His return to the heavenly Father. Illustrated throughout with artwork from a popular Candle Books artist, there is also a map included to show the land where Jesus lived. This padded hardcover comes complete with a presentation page for gift or award giving.

My Thoughts: The illustrations are beautiful and very colorful. The stories are short and easy for youngsters to understand. This book is a fun way to acquaint young children with the life of Jesus. My younger two (7 and 9 years old) both find this book enjoyable. It’s a great addition to any child’s library.

4 StarsSource: Received for review as part of a blog tour promotion hosted by Kregel Publications.

Read It: You can order your own copy via Amazon or Book Depository(These are affiliate links, and purchase through either link will result in my receiving a small commission at no cost to you. Your support is appreciated!)

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Review: Burning Kingdoms

Burning Kingdoms by Lauren DeStefanoTitle: Burning Kingdoms
Author: Lauren DeStefano
Series: Internment Chronicles #2

About: After escaping through the bottom of Internment, Morgan and her fellow fugitives aboard the great mechanical bird land on the ground to finally learn what has lived beneath their floating island home all these eons.

The ground is a strange place where water falls from the sky as snow, and customers watch moving pictures and visit speakeasies. A place where families can have as many children as they want, their dead are buried in vast gardens of bodies, and Internment is the feature of an amusement park.

It is also a land at war.

Everyone who fled Internment had their own reasons to escape their corrupt haven. But caught under the watchful eye of another king that wants to dominate his world, they wonder if coming to the ground will drag Internment down with them.

My Thoughts: I have been looking forward to this book since having read Perfect Ruin, the first book in the Internment Chronicles series. I was so excited when the opportunity to read this ARC presented itself.

Let me start by saying that this book was worth the wait. It’s an easy read, meaning easy to get into, easy to stay in, and easy to finish. Don’t think that means it’s not well-written. It IS well-written. Lauren DeStefano has quickly become one of my favorite authors. The worlds she creates are imaginative and unique. Her characters are compelling and realistic. Her stories are a pleasure to read.

As with the first book, there really was nothing that I didn’t like. I did get frustrated with Pen on numerous occasions, she seems set on self-destruct mode. Although, as you read and things are revealed, it becomes evident why. Still, I found her quite selfish and not a very good friend to Morgan. Sure, she’s always there for Morgan, but on her own terms. She’s quick to throw verbal barbs at the one person who’s never been anything but a true friend to her.

All of that said, I still very, very much enjoyed this book. I highly recommend Burning Kingdoms by Lauren DeStefano.

4.5 StarsSource: Received through Around the World Tours for review.

Read It: Burning Kingdoms is scheduled for release around March 10, 2015. You can pre-order your own copy via Amazon or Book Depository(These are affiliate links, and purchase through either link will result in my receiving a small commission at no cost to you. Your support is appreciated!)

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Happy New Year!

I just wanted to wish all of my wonderful readers a very happy new year! It’s hard to believe 2014 is over and 2015 is here already! It’s been a crazy year!

I’ve been pretty quiet blogwise, even more than in 2013. Not by much, but still enough to count. I apologize for being so absent. I still strive to bring you regular, pertinent book reviews. I’m just not always able to get as much done on the blog as I’d like. A household with three demanding kids, all involved in various things, plus my having to return to work part-time, makes a huge impact on my ability to write reviews — and even read as much as I’d like!

Not to worry, I’m not going anywhere. I’ve had some additional personal things come up — unexpectedly, as is often the case with such things — that have caused me to cut back significantly over the past several weeks. This has forced me to cut back on scheduled reviews for the next few months. I’m not sure when I’ll be able to get back to my fast-paced reviewing. Back then, I wasn’t working outside the home. I had more time. Now, I’m not sure. But I’ll do my best.

So, I haven’t chosen a favorite November or December book. So, let me do that now.

Take Me On by Katie McGarryNovember’s favorite read is Take Me On by Katie McGarry with a rating of 5 stars. It was absolutely fantastic — not really surprising, given Katie McGarry’s ability to write a fantastic novel!

Dream a Little Dream by Kerstin GierAnd for December, a very quite month around here, choosing will be pretty quick! LOL December’s favorite is Dream a Little Dream by Kerstin Gier with a rating of 4.5 stars.

I have read other things, just haven’t been feeling the need to review every single thing I read lately. I finally finished the Matched trilogy (Ally Condie). I thought it ended well. I am about to start Maze Runner, a book my daughter gave me for Christmas. I’m looking forward to it, as I have heard great things! :)

Again, best wishes for you all in 2015! May it be a blessed, wonderful, book-filled year for you all!
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Review: Dream a Little Dream

Dream a Little Dream by Kerstin GierTitle: Dream a Little Dream
Author: Kerstin Gier
Series: The Silver Trilogy #1

About: Mysterious doors with lizard-head knobs. Talking stone statues. A crazy girl with a hatchet. Yep, Liv’s dreams have been pretty weird lately. Especially this one where she’s in a graveyard at night, watching four boys perform dark magic rituals. The really weird thing is that Liv recognizes the boys in her dream. They’re classmates from her new school in London, the school where’s she’s starting over because her mom has moved them to a new country (again). But they seem to know things about her in real life that they couldn’t possibly know, which is mystifying. Then again, Liv could never resist a good mystery.

My Thoughts: This is one of those books I took a bit of a chance on, and I’m so glad I did! I thought the summary sounded promising, but I gotta tell you — the book’s even better! It was much better than I’d been expecting. Don’t get me wrong. I expected to enjoy it. I just had no idea how much!

This was a lot of fun to read. It’s imaginative, unique, fun, mysterious, with laugh-out-loud moments thrown in for good measure! Seriously. There were a few times my kids asked what was funny because I burst out laughing. What can I say? Liv has wit. And sometimes the descriptions created a funny mental picture.

So, the plot is kinda out there. Part of what pulled me in so well was just trying to figure out what the heck was going on. Not in a bad way. I was intrigued. I had some ideas, but didn’t feel I had figured it all out. This book kept me on my toes. There were a few twists that I didn’t see coming. And, in retrospect, they make perfect sense. Nicely done!

I loved the characters, especially Liv, Grayson, and Henry. As I mentioned above, Liv has wit. She’s the first-person narrator, and I just loved getting inside her head. She’s a good person, but she’s also got spunk. She’s stubborn, but not to the point of frustration. It’s a healthy stubbornness. Grayson is her soon-to-be step-brother, and I really like him a lot. While he appears to be aloof, you quickly learn that he’s kind, caring, and the big brother any girl’s lucky to have. And Henry. Sweet Henry. Definite book boyfriend.

I do have one complaint, though, which is why I didn’t give this five stars. My problem is that I felt that while the book takes place in London, it was too British-sounding. Don’t get me wrong. I expect all of her classmates and others local to London to be as British as they come. But, I thought Liv’s mother is American, and if that’s the case I would’ve expected more American-“sounding” narration from Liv. She says things like “shove off,” “off my rocker” (Americans generally would say “crazy”), or “toilet” instead of “bathroom” — and other such things. I found it a bit distracting. Although, she’s lived around the world, so I suppose it could be explained away. But, the part that pushed me over the edge was a part where she’s dreaming about some bullies she encountered while living in Berkeley, California. While you could maybe explain Liv’s somewhat British mannerisms and wording, the likelihood of finding such people — especially in a gang of mean girls — in Berkeley just doesn’t ring true. No one raised in the U.S. (or just about no one raised in the U.S.) would call the girls’ bathroom the “girl’s toilet” — it’s either the “bathroom” or the “restroom.” The toilet is a fixture in a bathroom, not the room itself. At least here in the U.S. Anyway, from that point on, I found the somewhat inconsistent use of American-like English and British-like English distracting. I know that this is more of a translation and/or editing problem — and I was reading an ARC, so maybe it’s fixed by the time you read this review — but it really was distracting enough to get just a little bit in the way of my enjoyment of the book.

Oh, one more small problem. Toward the end, we find Liv doing some kung fu moves — while wearing a very full ball gown. The logistics of that gave me pause. How effective would her moves be when wearing something that earlier required her to take stairs slowly and watch each step as she went?

Distractions and inconsistencies aside, I absolutely loved this book. I would very highly recommend Dream a Little Dream by Kerstin Gier to anyone who loves a bit of mystery with some fantasy mixed in — and a very unique story! I will be very much looking to continue this series!

4.5 StarsSource: ARC sent by publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Read It: Dream a Little Dream is scheduled for release around January 6, 2015. You can pre-order your own copy via Amazon or Book Depository(These are affiliate links, and purchase through either link will result in my receiving a small commission at no cost to you. Your support is appreciated!)

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Review: My Heart and Other Black Holes

My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine WargaTitle: My Heart and Other Black Holes
Author: Jasmine Warga
Series: n/a

About: Sixteen-year-old physics nerd Aysel is obsessed with plotting her own death. With a mother who can barely look at her without wincing, classmates who whisper behind her back, and a father whose violent crime rocked her small town, Aysel is ready to turn her potential energy into nothingness.

There’s only one problem: she’s not sure she has the courage to do it alone. But once she discovers a website with a section called Suicide Partners, Aysel’s convinced she’s found her solution–Roman, a teenage boy who’s haunted by a family tragedy, is looking for a partner. Even though Aysel and Roman have nothing in common, they slowly start to fill in each other’s broken lives. But as their suicide pact becomes more concrete, Aysel begins to question whether she really wants to go through with it. Ultimately, she must choose between wanting to die or trying to convince Roman to live so they can discover the potential of their energy together.

My Thoughts: My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga is a well-written story about a subject that might be difficult for some to read: teen suicide and depression. And it’s very well-written. I liked that there was really no wallowing. It wasn’t overly dark or bleak.

I really liked the characters, especially Aysel and Roman. Aysel is actually a great narrator. She is completely honest, and doesn’t tend to get overly dramatic. She paints a picture of the world as she sees it in a very matter-of-fact matter. And her description of the depression? Absolutely perfect. Aysel refers to it as the black slug living in her gut. It eats up everything — all emotions, good or bad — and just leaves her empty. As one who’s experienced such a thing, I could completely relate. Again, it’s right-on. Roman, while he’s struggling even more than Aysel, is an absolutely amazing character — book boyfriend? Definitely a contender! ;) Despite his obvious deep depression, he’s actually pretty sweet and clearly someone with a lot of potential. The two of them together are just perfect.

Watching Aysel open up to life, with the help of Roman (as mentioned in the synopsis, so I’m not spoiling anything ;) ), is something. She slowly, and quite naturally, sees that maybe life really isn’t all that bad. Maybe there is something worth holding onto. Maybe, just maybe, there’s a purpose and pushing forward to see what’s ahead would be a good thing.

What I like is that while this book deals with a heavy subject, it’s in no way overly dark negative. It’s a book filled with hope. I really like that. After the story, there is a list of resources — crisis lines and other such things — for anyone who might be in need of such. This book is written in such a way that it definitely has the potential of helping others.

4 StarsSource: Received through Around the World Tours for review.

Read It: My Heart and Other Black Holes is scheduled for release around February 10, 2015. You can pre-order your own copy via Amazon or Book Depository(These are affiliate links, and purchase through either link will result in my receiving a small commission at no cost to you. Your support is appreciated!)

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