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!

Review: Otherbound by Corinne Duyvis

Post Top Otherboundcover_otherbound_medium

Amara is never alone. Not when she’s protecting the cursed princess she unwillingly serves. Not when they’re fleeing across dunes and islands and seas to stay alive. Not when she’s punished, ordered around, or neglected.

She can’t be alone, because a boy from another world experiences all that alongside her, looking through her eyes.

Nolan longs for a life uninterrupted. Every time he blinks, he’s yanked from his Arizona town into Amara’s mind, a world away, which makes even simple things like hobbies and homework impossible. He’s spent years as a powerless observer of Amara’s life. Amara has no idea . . . until he learns to control her, and they communicate for the first time. Amara is terrified. Then, she’s furious.

All Amara and Nolan want is to be free of each other. But Nolan’s breakthrough has dangerous consequences. Now, they’ll have to work together to survive–and discover the truth about their connection.

Sometimes a book just sneaks up quietly behind your back… and then slaps you on the head. Hard. That basically sums up my reading experience with Otherbound. I had been intrigued by it for some time. So, when I had the chance to read and review the story for free, I gladly grabbed the chance!

However, I never expected to be so immersed in Nolan and Amara’s story. The writing and settings were exquisite. And, at the end of Otherbound, I felt as if I had lost a friend. This book will stick with me for a long time, and will definitely make it onto my 2014 favorites list.

Let’s start with the two characters and two settings. Our two main characters are Nolan and Amara. Nolan is from our world. However, he is not your average boy. He is missing a good part of one of his legs, and he has “seizures” and “hallucinations”. Of course, the readers learn pretty quickly that Nolan doesn’t have either of these plights, despite what the doctors might say.

Every time Nolan closes his eyes, he finds himself in another world called the Dunelands. More specifically, he sees through the eyes of a girl called Amara. Amara is not only a mute servant from the Dunelands, she is also a healer protecting a cursed princess. This job is not nearly as glamorous as it sounds, as the healing process causes Amara to inflict terrible harm upon herself. Also, Jorn, her master, cruelly punishes Amara often. And, in turn, Nolan has to suffer through terrible pain as well.

Otherbound had a certain uniqueness that other books lack. Not only does the author evidently have a wildly creative mind, she also incorporates diversity into Otherbound. The characters are LGBT, Hispanic, disabled, mute etc. The character relationships were astounding. Whether it was the relationship between two love interests or between family, Otherbound made the interactions realistic, hopeful, and heartbreaking.

Also, I loved the unpredictability of this novel. I was never sure what would occur next. And two revelations in the novel caught me totally off guard, but, when I reread parts of the book, made total sense to me. Both of these new bits of knowledge were about magic and the two worlds! This brings me onto my next topic, the magic and worldbuilding! For fear of spoilers, I won’t say much except the author had her world, and the awesome magic within, down pat!

Speaking of resolutions, I loved Otherbound’s ending. Nothing is tied up in a nice red ribbon but the story ends at just the right place. Also, I was impacted tremendously by one of the sentences on the very last page. I may or may not have leaked a few tears.

Corrine has truly written a gem. The book has it all: a fantastic plot, a vivid setting, diverse characters, major feels, wonderful themes, and a stunning conclusion. Also, despite the length of this review, I feel as if I have barely touched upon all the amazing aspects of Otherbound! Overall, I cannot recommend Otherbound highly enough.

Reviewed by Emily Anne at Reader Rising, who was given this book from Novel Thoughts in exchange for an honest review. She rated it five stars.

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.

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