Friday, July 31, 2015

Review - Pivot Point (Pivot Point #1) by Kasie West

Pivot Point (Pivot Point #1)
by Kasie West

Summary: Knowing the outcome doesn't always make a choice easier...

Addison Coleman’s life is one big “What if?” As a Searcher, whenever Addie is faced with a choice, she can look into the future and see both outcomes. It’s the ultimate insurance plan against disaster. Or so she thought. When Addie’s parents ambush her with the news of their divorce, she has to pick who she wants to live with—her father, who is leaving the paranormal compound to live among the “Norms,” or her mother, who is staying in the life Addie has always known. Addie loves her life just as it is, so her answer should be easy. One Search six weeks into the future proves it’s not.

In one potential future, Addie is adjusting to life outside the Compound as the new girl in a Norm high school where she meets Trevor, a cute, sensitive artist who understands her. In the other path, Addie is being pursued by the hottest guy in school—but she never wanted to be a quarterback’s girlfriend. When Addie’s father is asked to consult on a murder in the Compound, she’s unwittingly drawn into a dangerous game that threatens everything she holds dear. With love and loss in both lives, it all comes down to which reality she’s willing to live through... and who she can’t live without.

Source: I purchased a Kindle copy

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Wow. This book completely amazed me. I read this synopsis and kind of expected some light, fluffy YA science fiction love triangle full of tropes and annoying characters because that's honestly what I get so often. When I saw that this book had a 4 star average, I immediately perked up and decided I had to finally get this off of my TBR and out of the way. I mean, I was basically looking up all my TBR books on Goodreads and trying to find one I was in the mood for that wasn't riddled with 2-3 star disappointing reviews. I've been so indecisive about what to read next! I'm on a constant search of books that wow me, which is totally unrealistic considering that not all books can be the ONE.

But Pivot Point was awesome. It was not annoying at all! Addison was a character to root for and love. She was smart, realistic, grounded, and she loved books the way that anyone reading the book can understand. She was gifted with the ability to Search different scenarios when faced with a  decision about something, which was the plot of the book. A harmless decision like figuring out what parent she would live with when they told her they were divorcing ended up being extremely important.

The layout of Pivot Point was incredibly well done. The execution was so flawless. The story went back and forth from one choice to the other. In one scenario, she decided to live with her father in the real world with normal people. In the other, she stayed in the Compound and lived with her mom. Despite her life being completely different, many events still happened in both realities because she can't actually change the future, she can just change her place in it.

While each scenario presented her with a love interest, the book isn't about which boy to pick. It's a lot more complicated than that. Addison felt overwhelmed by the normal world, but in the Compound, she hated that she was constantly being manipulated by abilities. In the normal world, she had to lie to everyone about who she was, where she came from, and her past, which made her uncomfortable.

I am so impressed by Pivot Point. I wasn't expecting such a well executed YA novel with a compelling and unique plot. I can't wait to pick up the sequel! This one is definitely not a book to skip over. It's worth reading. I just realized the author is the same author as the book I finished before this one, The Distance Between Us, and I'm sensing I just found a new favorite author to binge on for awhile!

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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Review - The Distance Between Us by Kasie West

The Distance Between Us
by Kasie West

Summary: Seventeen-year-old Caymen Meyers studies the rich like her own personal science experiment, and after years of observation she’s pretty sure they’re only good for one thing—spending money on useless stuff, like the porcelain dolls in her mother’s shop.

So when Xander Spence walks into the store to pick up a doll for his grandmother, it only takes one glance for Caymen to figure out he’s oozing rich. Despite his charming ways and that he’s one of the first people who actually gets her, she’s smart enough to know his interest won’t last. Because if there’s one thing she’s learned from her mother’s warnings, it’s that the rich have a short attention span. But Xander keeps coming around, despite her best efforts to scare him off. And much to her dismay, she's beginning to enjoy his company.

She knows her mom can’t find out—she wouldn’t approve. She’d much rather Caymen hang out with the local rocker who hasn’t been raised by money. But just when Xander’s attention and loyalty are about to convince Caymen that being rich isn’t a character flaw, she finds out that money is a much bigger part of their relationship than she’d ever realized. And that Xander’s not the only one she should’ve been worried about.

Source: I purchased a Kindle copy

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The Distance Between Us was an awesome contemporary YA romance! Books like this one are the reason I am beginning to love YA contemporary romance. It wasn't filled with unrealistic things like insta-lust. It wasn't preachy like so many adult contemporaries seem to be. It was a simple and wonderful story about love between two very different types of people.

I loved Caymen. I am such a sarcastic person and I totally loved that she wasn't afraid to be snarky and sarcastic to just about everyone. It was a personality trait I hardly ever see in a character, especially the star of a romance novel. Xander was a charming. I sided with Caymen in thinking he was privileged and snobby, but eventually it was clear that he really was a good person who loved that she wasn't fake and out to get something from being in a relationship with him.

The conflict of money is definitely one that appears in a lot of romance plots, but it's a pretty valid one and Caymen was realistic about who she was. The thing I liked about this novel was that the main character was not envious of the rich. She actually scoffed at most of it, yet wasn't quite bitter and nasty about it, either. It was a good balance and I think the author created a pretty realistic, sweet, and amazing contemporary romance with a tried and true conflict.

I highly recommend The Distance Between Us. It's a perfect summer read and I finished it in just about a day. It was super cute, left me feeling all sorts of warm and fuzzy, and was definitely well written!

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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Wreck This Journal - Pages 18-21: Press Leaves, Scratch

Pages 18 and 19: Press Leaves and Other Found Things
I decided on summer flowers since it's summer and that's about all I can find in my yard at the moment. I picked a quote about flowers from The Language of Flowers.
"I had been loyal to nothing except the language of flowers." Vanessa Diffenbaugh
Pages 20 and 21: Scratch Using a Sharp Object
Of course, I picked a quote about scratching in some way.
"Books don't offer real escape, but they can stop a mind scratching itself raw." David Mitchell
I would have done more, but the scratching was a lot harder than I thought it would be and I kept it simple.

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Monday, July 27, 2015

Review - At the Water's Edge by Sara Gruen

At The Water's Edge
by Sara Gruen

Summary: In her stunning new novel, Gruen returns to the kind of storytelling she excelled at in Water for Elephants: a historical timeframe in an unusual setting with a moving love story. Think Scottish Downton Abbey.

After embarrassing themselves at the social event of the year in high society Philadelphia on New Year’s Eve of 1942, Maddie and Ellis Hyde are cut off financially by Ellis’s father, a former army Colonel who is already embarrassed by his son’s inability to serve in WWII due to his being colorblind. To Maddie’s horror, Ellis decides that the only way to regain his father’s favor is to succeed in a venture his father attempted and very publicly failed at: he will hunt the famous Loch Ness monster and when he finds it he will restore his father’s name and return to his father’s good graces (and pocketbook). Joined by their friend Hank, a wealthy socialite, the three make their way to Scotland in the midst of war. Each day the two men go off to hunt the monster, while another monster, Hitler, is devastating Europe. And Maddie, now alone in a foreign country, must begin to figure out who she is and what she wants. The novel tells of Maddie’s social awakening: to the harsh realities of life, to the beauties of nature, to a connection with forces larger than herself, to female friendship, and finally, to love.

Source: I borrowed a Kindle copy from my local library

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I loved At the Water's Edge. I was a big fan of Water for Elephants, despite the fact that the novel really didn't fit into my normal category of fiction I read. I was impressed by the writing, which is why I decided to pick this book up. I had to see if the author would wow me all over again. She definitely did. This book has some negative reviews and it's constantly compared to the author's other novel. I think a lot of people were looking for another Water for Elephants instead of being open to a new story line, which is the recipe for disappointment. Authors should not be expected to write more of the same and I'm disappointed that so many people wanted the novel to be so much like her first.

At the Water's Edge is NOT Water for Elephants. It's a completely different story: Different time period, different types of people, different conflicts, and a different plot. It's not the same. Do not expect it to be. If you're open to a similar style of writing with lessons to learn about life and love, then At the Water's Edge will not disappoint.

I admit the book was tough to get into at first. I couldn't stand the attitude of the main characters. They were spoiled, privileged, selfish, and ridiculous. Maddie didn't seem quite so bad at times, but I could tell she was naïve and ridiculous and had no idea how to navigate the real world. It was tough to like a character who had never done her own hair, makeup, nails, laundry, dishes, etc or feel sorry for her. The other problem was that, because the main characters were selfish and clueless, the fact that the novel took place in a time of war ended up not mattering a whole lot to the plot. For anyone reading the book in hopes it would be a war-focused historical fiction novel, I can see why it would be disappointing. And yet, the selfishness of the characters and the war time setting did impact the plot in some subtle and some obvious ways and were quite brilliantly executed plot points.

It did not take long for the story to take shape and suck you in. I was hooked and unable to put it down and I wasn't even sure how it happened so quickly. I went from trudging through the first few chapters to plowing through it.

At the Water's Edge was about Maddie. She found herself in Scotland with her husband and his friend on a quest to photograph the Loch Ness monster and redeem his family's name that was tarnished by a badly faked photograph. During her stay, Maddie began to realize her husband wasn't the kind of person she thought he was and his alcohol and drug addiction began to spiral out of control. Maddie was left at the inn most of the time and started to form friendships with the "help" there and step outside of her station a bit.

Maddie grew so much as a character and I loved watching it happen. I hated her husband and I just wanted her to see what I saw and figure out a way to change her situation. Once she stopped expecting other people to change her life or take care of her, she became a truly amazing character. I began to admire her and root for her.

I highly recommend At the Water's Edge. I was captivated. It was full of drama, secrets, history, romance, and conflict. It was the kind of historical fiction I love. It wasn't too focused on the war or too focused on romance and kept a good balance between the two. The story was about growth and identity and was brilliantly executed. Despite being different from Water for Elephants, it left me with the same feeling after closing it and realizing I read an excellent book that I just want to savor again.

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Saturday, July 25, 2015

Review - The Hero Of Ages (Mistborn #3) by Brandon Sanderson
The Hero of Ages (Mistborn #3)
by Brandon Sanderson

Summary: Tricked into releasing the evil spirit Ruin while attempting to close the Well of Ascension, new emperor Elend Venture and his wife, the assassin Vin, are now hard-pressed to save the world.This adventure brings the Mistborn epic fantasy trilogy to a dramatic and surprising climax as Sanderson's saga offers complex characters and a compelling plot, asking hard questions about loyalty, faith and responsibility.

Source: I purchased a paperback box set of the Mistborn trilogy

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The Hero of Ages was a stunning and epic conclusion to an amazing fantasy trilogy. I thoroughly enjoyed it and the way everything came to an end. I was surprised by the events and the way some things came around full circle. The Mistborn trilogy was a brilliant fantasy story!

It's quite difficult to review the Mistborn trilogy as a whole or even The Hero of Ages as the third and final book. It was so amazing, brilliant, well written, and fascinating. It explored so many facets of leadership and doing the right thing, as well as the importance of history, faith, and truth for the human race. I'm stunned by the ending and the brilliance of it all.

I highly recommend reading this trilogy. It doesn't drag like many fantasy series and is pleasantly only three books as opposed to the 5+ span of some popular fantasy series. It's a complete series, which is amazing. Any fantasy fan knows the agony of waiting years for the next books to come out in a beloved series. The Mistborn trilogy being 3 books that complete an entire story arc while also being easy to read makes it a far better choice for anyone interested in the concept of fantasy who hasn't quite been introduced to the genre yet. It's less dry and outdated as many classic fantasy trilogies. While parts of the book drag a bit, the novels were easy to get through while also being complex.

I wish I could praise the trilogy more, but I'm rendered almost speechless by the story. It was so incredible. I was unprepared for the way things would evolve throughout the novel. I wasn't expecting such closure and brilliance. I cannot gush enough about it and I'm so glad that I read this trilogy. I am also incredibly happy that I continued reading after the first book because the story has to be read as a whole in order for it to have the same mind blowing effect.

Read this trilogy! It is awesome!

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Thursday, July 23, 2015

Review - The Well of Ascension (Mistborn #2) by Brandon Sanderson

The Well of Ascension (Mistborn #2)
by Brandon Sanderson

Summary: The impossible has been accomplished. The Lord Ruler – the man who claimed to be god incarnate and brutally ruled the world for a thousand years – has been vanquished. But Kelsier, the hero who masterminded that triumph, is dead too, and now the awesome task of building a new world has been left to his young protégé, Vin, the former street urchin who is now the most powerful Mistborn in the land, and to the idealistic young nobleman she loves.
As Kelsier’s protégé and slayer of the Lord Ruler she is now venerated by a budding new religion, a distinction that makes her intensely uncomfortable. Even more worrying, the mists have begun behaving strangely since the Lord Ruler died, and seem to harbor a strange vaporous entity that haunts her.
Stopping assassins may keep Vin’s Mistborn skills sharp, but it’s the least of her problems. Luthadel, the largest city of the former empire, doesn’t run itself, and Vin and the other members of Kelsier’s crew, who lead the revolution, must learn a whole new set of practical and political skills to help. It certainly won’t get easier with three armies – one of them composed of ferocious giants – now vying to conquer the city, and no sign of the Lord Ruler’s hidden cache of atium, the rarest and most powerful allomantic metal.
As the siege of Luthadel tightens, an ancient legend seems to offer a glimmer of hope. But even if it really exists, no one knows where to find the Well of Ascension or what manner of power it bestows.

Source: I purchased a paperback

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The Well of Ascension was awesome!

At first, I was kind of bummed out reading it. Not only was I still mourning the loss of Kelsier, like most of the characters, but I was also becoming annoyed with Vin. I couldn't understand why she would treat her kandra servant so horribly just because he did was he was told. The kandra are servants who follow a Contract and that is all they do. I understood the motivations of Kelsier and why his kandra followed instructions. I thought Vin was being petty and yet, because of how powerful she was, I thought the crew and Elend let her continue to be petty.

Fortunately, the Mistborn trilogy doesn't suffer from the same thing that is prevalent in YA novels. Heroes and heroines are flawed and make mistakes, but they don't continue to be terrible or too stupid to live. Eventually, Vin realized her errors and her mistakes were ones she learned from and grew as a result of. While she second guessed herself and why she would ever deserve someone like Elend, he was second guessing himself and wondering why he would ever deserve someone as strong as Vin. The two of them were young and prone to self reflection during a precarious time in Luthadel. They weren't horribly distracted by each other like that of YA fantasy/romances. Mistborn is far from being a romance in any way, but the relationship between Vin and Elend was still very important to the story.

I absolutely loved The Well of Ascension. I enjoyed seeing Elend become a king and struggle with democracy. Many of his issues and mistakes are ones that our governments of today struggle with, such as the argument for freedom over safety and the reverse. Elend felt that it was important to give power to the people, but suffered from his idealism. It was interesting to watch him struggle and adapt to the post-Lord Ruler Luthadel that was torn apart by the chaos. Instead of praising Vin and Elend for freeing them, the people often complained that things were better under the Lord Ruler's oppression. I love when fantasy novels can contain otherworldly things, yet deal with important and age old questions relevant to any society, fictional or not.

The headings above each chapter drove me crazy.. in a good way. I was so eager to find out what went wrong with the Terrisman who believed in Alendi. How did Rashek come into power? What mistake did Alendi make? How would their story impact that of Vin and Elend? Was Vin the Hero of the Ages? It was maddening and I felt like Sazed was so very often distracted and was not deciphering at the speed in which he deciphered the text in the first novel. And the text in The Well of Ascension was infinitely more important to the fate of the characters.

I was surprised by some of the revelations and events in The Well of Ascension. Absolutely nothing happened that I thought would happen and I felt for the characters and their horrible situation. Between various armies attacking, the deepness, the lack of atium, and the disturbing shadows in the mist, I wasn't sure how anyone would survive and make good decisions.

For me, The Well of Ascension had a rocky start because I was so shocked by Kelsier's death at the end of the first novel and it was hard to readjust. Things were easy when they were planning to overthrow the Final Empire, but the situation in the sequel was a lot tougher and less idealistic. Kelsier's charisma and optimism was a crucial part of book one and it was tough to read without it. Fortunately, I found The Well of Ascension to be a lot better as it was more profound and thought provoking with higher stakes. I can't wait to pick up the next book and find out what will happen next. Because OMG, things are basically in shambles. It's maddening!

I highly recommend the series so far. I can't believe it has taken me this long to read one of Brandon Sanderson's series. I understand why he is a favorite fantasy author of many readers. It has everything I love about fantasy without the slow and dull sections that so many of them have.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Throwback Review - Mistborn/The Final Empire (Mistborn #1) by Brandon Sanderson (1/25/2015)


Update: Since this review, I reread Mistborn in paperback after finding the box set at the used book store where I used to work in Georgia. I felt that it was difficult to read on my kindle because I bought the trilogy together and it's extremely long. I enjoyed the reread and immediately moved on to book 2!

The Final Empire (Mistborn #1)
by Brandon Sanderson
Summary: In a world where ash falls from the sky, and mist dominates the night, an evil cloaks the land and stifles all life. The future of the empire rests on the shoulders of a troublemaker and his young apprentice. Together, can they fill the world with color once more?
In Brandon Sanderson's intriguing tale of love, loss, despair and hope, a new kind of magic enters the stage - Allomancy, a magic of the metals.

Source: I purchased a Kindle copy

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The Final Empire was awesome. People have been recommending Brandon Sanderson and the Mistborn trilogy to me for awhile and now I know why. I loved the writing, the unique plot, and I thought the story was amazing.

At first, the size of the book seemed daunting. I’ve purchased the trilogy for kindle and gasped as it told me it would take me over 24 hours to read the trilogy. But I turned the nifty feature off and instead had it show me how long I had left in each chapter, which kept me motivated. And once I started reading, I was immediately captivated by the story and wasn’t looking at how much I had left to read, but instead wondering what would happen next.

I cannot gush enough about the characters. They were very well developed with distinct personalities, motivations, and backstories. Not a single side character felt like they were just placeholders. They felt like real people with real reservations, hopes, and dreams. And, wow, how they grew as the story went on. Vin grew into everything Kelsier thought she could and more. I cared about every single character, even Vin’s brother, who wasn’t present in the book at all.

The lore and setting in The Final Empire was so unique. It wasn’t predictable at all. The magic was different than anything I’ve ever encountered and the history behind the way things were was so hidden and mysterious. I loved the unique plot and world building, but I also loved the way that such an “out-there” story could have so many parallels with our own history. There are a handful of different spots in time and civilizations that the author could have been drawing influence from when he created the class system in the novel. That’s one of my favorite things about fantasy novels. I am intrigued by the way such a magical story with elements that don’t exist in our world can mirror our world so well and give us such needed lessons about ourselves, power, society, and love.

The Mistborn trilogy, or at least the first book (so far), is a must read for any fantasy lover and I’m glad I finally understand why so many fellow fantasy lovers rave about Brandon Sanderson.

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