Category: Reviews

Review: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

The year is 1945. Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon–when she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient stone circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach–an “outlander”–in a Scotland torn by war and raiding Highland clans in the year of Our Lord…1743.

Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire is catapulted into intrigues and dangers that may threaten her life…and shatter her heart. For here she meets James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, and becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire…and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.

If you’ve been around the fantasy world at all in the last fifteen years, you’ve probably heard of Diana Gabaldon. The Outlander series is one of the most popular and best selling series in that world. It’s been on my to-read list for an embarrassingly long time. But now that they’re making a TV show (Starz) out of it, I knew I had to read it before the show ruined it for me forever.

Outlander is many things. Part time travel, part fantasy, part romance, part adventure, and a WHOLE-LOTTA-BOOK. It’s a long book. It’s sequels are long too. It’s a daunting task to think about taking on a series full of eight-hundred page books, but in this case I think it’s worth it.

Set against the backdrop of tribal Scotland, Outlander follows Claire on the adventure of a lifetime. She disappeared from post world war two Scotland, and into the middle of the English oppression of the scots. Things only get crazier from there as she meets and falls in love with the notorious Scot and outlaw Jamie Fraser. (Who, of course, is a hero any woman would wish for.)

In the attempts to clear Jamie’s name of a crime he did not commit there are many injuries, near-death experiences, torture, wolves, perhaps a wedding, and lots of sex. Without spoilers, I think that this book (and it’s new TV show) is about to spring into the world and be called the ‘new’ Game of Thrones for both it’s scale and it’s addictive story.

The TV show is premiering August 9th, so read it before it’s too late!

Review: Into the Still Blue by Veronica Rossi

stillblueheaderThe race to the Still Blue has reached a stalemate. Aria and Perry are determined to find this last safe haven from the Aether storms before Sable and Hess do—and they are just as determined to stay together.

Within the confines of a cave they’re using as a makeshift refuge, they struggle to reconcile their people, Dwellers and Outsiders, who are united only in their hatred of their desperate situation. Meanwhile, time is running out to rescue Cinder, who was abducted by Hess and Sable for his unique abilities. Then Roar arrives in a grief-stricken fury, endangering all with his need for revenge.

Out of options, Perry and Aria assemble an unlikely team for an impossible rescue mission. Cinder isn’t just the key to unlocking the Still Blue and their only hope for survival–he’s also their friend. And in a dying world, the bonds between people are what matter most.

In this final book in her earth-shattering Under the Never Sky trilogy, Veronica Rossi raises the stakes to their absolute limit and brings her epic love story to an unforgettable close.

I tend to be wary going into the final book of a series. There’s a moment when I’m absolutely terrified, wondering if my heart will be broken, or I’ll regret knowing what happened, or even that I might be over the moon with happiness. So I was relieved when I absolutely loved the ending of the Under the Never Sky trilogy.

In this book we see Aria and Perry’s relationship blossom through impossible situations and choices. We see true growth by them as a couple which leads to an incredibly satisfying end or both their combined and personal character arcs. In addition, they are not the only characters which receive more than satisfactory endings, almost everyone grows or changes in a visible way.

But perhaps most impressively is the way in which Rossi handles the book 3 conundrum–how to you reach and surpass a goal that has been looked forward to for two entire books? As is the case with many recent trilogies, there is a journey to either a specific place, or a specific goal. A thing that will bring immense change to all the characters and most likely change their entire metaphorical–or in this case, literal–world.

When this goal is reached, it is neither overblown into a utopia or so underwhelming that it is disappointing. Rather, Aria and Perry’s new world has all the problems of their old one, because the same humans still inhabit it, and with them come the same set of relationships and prejudices. Yet, there is the knowledge that in this new world there can be change and overcoming, and that makes all the difference.

I thought that this trilogy ended beautifully, and I encourage everyone to read and enjoy this beautifully rendered fantasy.

Review: Through the Ever Night by Veronica Rossi

ever night headerIt’s been months since Aria learned of her mother’s death.

Months since Perry became Blood Lord of the Tides, and months since Aria last saw him.

Now Aria and Perry are about to be reunited. It’s a moment they’ve been longing for with countless expectations. And it’s a moment that lives up to all of them. At least, at first.

Then it slips away. The Tides don’t take kindly to former Dwellers like Aria. And the tribe is swirling out of Perry’s control. With the Aether storms worsening every day, the only remaining hope for peace and safety is the Still Blue. But does this haven truly exist?

Threatened by false friends and powerful temptations, Aria and Perry wonder, Can their love survive through the ever night?

In this second book in her spellbinding Under the Never Sky trilogy, Veronica Rossi combines fantasy and sci-fi elements to create a captivating adventure-and a love story as perilous as it is unforgettable.

Middle books are hard. Especially when it seems like every YA book is turning into a trilogy. This is why I was very pleasantly surprised by the second book in the Under the Never Sky trilogy.

Unlike the first book of the series, which is a book of immense change and upheaval for the characters, this book is about acceptance and growth. While there is some development and growth of Aria and Perry’s relationship, the development is more of an individual nature, as they spend the majority of the book apart.

Perry learns how to be a leader in this book, and he learns how to do it on his own terms, not in the terms of the corrupt leadership he’s known before. He makes mistakes, and he owns those mistakes. This allows his to come into himself as a person and assess who he is, what he wants, and what he has to do to protect his people.

Aria learns what it’s like to stand on her own to feet out in the Real, with Perry to pull her along and force her to act. She accepts her mixed heritage and endeavors to understand what it means to be a child of two worlds with multiple abilities. All in all Aria becomes or more complete person as she distances herself from the isolating technology of the pods that she’s known her whole life.

This sequel is one of the best middle books I’ve found, and is a perfect set up for the finale of the series: Into the Still BlueDon’t miss it!

Picture This: Seasons, Songbirds, and Shadows

Seasons by Blexbolex
Enchanted Lion Books
4/1/10 | $22.95

A stunning book exploring the cycle of the seasons, the passage of time, the way people live, play, forget and remember. Through objects, places and actions, the world is revealed as both permanent and ever-changing.

From the moment you pick up this book, you will be sucked into its beautiful illustrations with their rich, textured colors and retrospective look at the seasons all around us. Each page stands in juxtaposition to each other taking you on a journey through a year of seasons and everything that comes with them. This timeless picture book is one that will captivate its readers for years to come.

Bluebird by Lindsey Yankey
Simply Read Books
1/26/14 | $17.95

The wind is missing! Little Bluebird has never flown without her friend the wind before and is afraid to try. So she sets off on an adventure to find it.

Is it making wishes with the dandelions? Playing with the kites? Tickling the grass? Dancing with the balloons? She searches everywhere. In the end, she finds more than her favorite friend–she finds confidence too!

Lindsey Yankey’s beautiful patchwork art and storytelling is enthralling and wonderful. Follow a little bluebird in search of her friend, the wind. She flies all over town looking for signs that her friend has been there but never discovered her. Just when she almost gives up, she thinks of one last place and reconnects with her hiding friend. It’s a story of determination and love that everyone will enjoy.

The Dark by Lemony Snicket
Illustrated by Jon Klassen
Little Brown BFYR
4/2/14 | $16.99

Laszlo is afraid of the dark. The dark is not afraid of Laszlo.
Laszlo lives in a house. The dark lives in the basement.
One night, the dark comes upstairs to Laszlo’s room, and Laszlo goes down to the basement.
This is the story of how Laszlo stops being afraid of the dark.

There isn’t much more that needs to be said that the few words on the cover don’t. I mean, it’s Lemony Snicket, arguably one of the leading authors in books for young readers, and Jon Klassen, one of the best illustrators and storytellers of children’s picture books, collaborating in a story about facing and overcoming fears. In Laszlo’s case, the dark terrifies him. As the sun goes down, the dark creeps up slowly trapping him in his nightlight lit room. It isn’t until he braves the dark, flashlight in hand, that he faces the dark and learns it isn’t so scary after all.

Review: Life by Committee by Corey Ann Haydu

Committee Top17693452

Some secrets are too good to keep.

Tabitha might be the only girl in the history of the world who actually gets less popular when she gets hot. But her so-called friends say she’s changed, and they’ve dropped her flat.

Now Tab has no one to tell about the best and worst thing that has ever happened to her: Joe, who spills his most intimate secrets to her in their nightly online chats. Joe, whose touch is so electric, it makes Tab wonder if she could survive an actual kiss. Joe, who has Tabitha brimming with the restless energy of falling in love. Joe, who is someone else’s boyfriend.

Just when Tab is afraid she’ll burst from keeping the secret of Joe inside, she finds Life by Committee. The rules of LBC are simple: tell a secret, receive an assignment. Complete the assignment to keep your secret safe.

Tab likes it that the assignments push her to her limits, empowering her to live boldly and go further than she’d ever go on her own.

But in the name of truth and bravery, how far is too far to go?

Take Post Secret, add a little Mean Girls, a little Truth-or-Dare, and a splash of social media and you have Corey Ann Haydu’s Life by Committee.

I’ve been a fan of Corey’s since I read her debut novel OCD Love StoryThat book gave me high hopes for what was to come from her next books, and this one did not disappoint. The protagonist is Tabitha–a girl who is newly shunned by her friends when over the summer her body changes and people start to regard her as pretty. One of my favorite things about this book is that Tab never apologizes for this. She embraces her new looks even though she knows that going back to how she used to dress could win her back her friends, she wants them to love her unconditionally.

When Tabitha stumbles on an online community that revolves around spilling your darkest secrets and then acting on them, her entire life is changed. This brings up so many questions. What in your life do you consider a secret? What secrets would you tell a group of complete strangers? What would you do if you thought you could change your life, but were afraid to?

Life by Committee explores the power of anonymity in social media and both the benefits and harms that it brings with it. The sense of artificial closeness that text on a screen brings us can have both glorious and terrible consequences, and peer pressure can reach us even through the digital plane.

With an unapologetic heroine trying to find her way through new territory, and social situations we can all relate to, Life by Committee is a novel with lasting impressions that everyone should take the opportunity to read.

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