Review: All the Rage

All the Rage, Courtney Summers

Amanda

Published: April 14th 2015 by St. Martin’s Griffin

Hardcover, 336 pages

Source: Shelf Awareness Giveaway

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From Goodreads…

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?

ALL THE STARS to All the Rage.

I don’t read a lot of YA contemporary but something about this book drew me to request it.  While at the same time I was also honestly afraid to read it based on the description.  This book was not what I expected with respect to the sexual violence- the violence is largely in the past and Romy is an incredibly brave young woman going on every day. Romy’s rape is over, but she’s still constantly being attacked.  She can’t go to school or go out with her mother without being mocked or humiliated in some way for being brave enough to say she was raped. Yet she paints on her armor of red lipstick and nailpolish and tries to hold her head high.  Romy is not perfect by any stretch, but she feels so real.

Aside from being a powerful book addressing sexual violence, shame, abuse of power, and horrible high school classmates All the Rage has incredibly moving writing, a compelling mystery and a sweet and hopeful romance.  I’ve been trying to find the words to review this book for months and I still feel like I’m failing.  Just read it okay and talk to me about it!  Courtney Summers made me cry and made me rage and I will definitely be reading all of her books.

This is such an important book to read and discuss.  We live in a rape culture and we lose so many young women before they have a real chance.  How do we fix that?  How do we channel the rage and help our girls?

5 stars

Thank you Shelf Awareness and St. Martin’s Griffin for this advance copy!

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Review or Why I Loved “A Man Called Ove”

A Man Called Ove,  Frederik Backman

Amanda

Published July 15th 2014 by Atria Books

Hardcover, 337 pages

Source: Purchased

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When I started this book I kind of worried about what the Paperback Princess led me into.   I quickly realized that she is my new favorite for recommending this book because I adored Ove.  Ove is a Swedish curmudgeon in his late 50s and when we meet him he is waiting to die.  He basically gives zero fucks about anyone who crosses his path-unless they drive a car where it’s not meant to go in his residential area.  He makes up unkind nicknames for his neighbors and then uses them straight to their faces.  He tries to shoo a Cat Annoyance from living in his shed out into the Swedish winter and considers electrocuting the dog that’s peeing on his paving stones. Then he meets his new neighbors…

You will realize despite all this that you have fallen completely and totally in love with Ove.  Backman takes the reader back and forth in time so we see the events and the people that turned Ove into the man he is.  I loved how his father molded him into a man of character.  Even more, I loved how he fell in love with his wife and how he learned to show that to her.  This book made me snicker loudly on the train and it definitely made me cry as well.  I forced this book onto a friend who said she gave herself a headache crying at the end.  Don’t say you haven’t been warned.

The Goodreads blurb for A Man Called Ove refers to him as “the neighbor from hell.”  Which he is in a sense, but once you give Ove a chance you begin to understand why he feels strongly about rules.  He follows the rules and he expects the same from everyone else.  Ove isn’t a man of prejudices – he dislikes nearly everyone equally. I found that to be part of his charm.   He not an easy man to get to know, but once you give Ove a chance you’ll fall in love too.

Goodreads is giving away copies! Go enter!  Or go to the library.  Buy it!  Read this book-but have a tissue on hand when you do.

Review: The Sculptor

The Sculptor, Scott McCloud

Amanda

Published February 3rd 2015 by First Second

Hardcover, 496 pages

Source: ARC from Publisher

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Goodreads

David Smith is giving his life for his art—literally. Thanks to a deal with Death, the young sculptor gets his childhood wish: to sculpt anything he can imagine with his bare hands. But now that he only has 200 days to live, deciding  what  to create is harder than he thought, and discovering the love of his life at the 11th hour isn’t making it any easier!

This is a story of desire taken to the edge of reason and beyond; of the frantic, clumsy dance steps of young love; and a gorgeous, street-level portrait of the world’s greatest city. It’s about the small, warm, human moments of everyday life…and the great surging forces that lie just under the surface. Scott McCloud wrote the book on how comics work; now he vaults into great fiction with a breathtaking, funny, and unforgettable new work.

I have to say to start this was my very first graphic novel.  I admit, I judged what the plot would be based on the cover and I was very wrong – and I am so glad about that. Wow!  Scott McCloud conveys every possible emotion in this book and even more amazing to me it’s all drawn in black and white.  Despair, passion, hope, love- it’s all there!   I cannot draw beyond a stick person so I’m in awe of the story McCloud was able to tell here.  The size seemed intimidating but I flew through the Sculptor in about 3 sittings because I could not wait to see what happened when David’s 200 days were over.

When we meet David he is not a happy person.  He is impulsive and has a history of making poor choices – as evidenced by the deal he makes with Death.  He gets 200 days of life during which he can create anything he wants, but that’s it.  The ways David choses to spend that time are both funny and still sad and I loved watching all of it play out across his face.  I didn’t quite like David in the beginning.  He’s feeling really sorry for himself and he had a few too many rules for his life-but I loved the growth that happened in these pages and my heart hurt a bit to finish this book.

Maybe the dialogue was a bit melodramatic at times, but in the context of the story and David’s time running out I can totally forgive that.   I expected to be entertained by The Sculptor, I did not expect to be moved in the end.  I found the ending so beautiful and hopeful despite my sadness that it was over.

If you want to know more Holly tells me that Scott McCloud was just on the Nerdette podcast so check that out if you’re a podcast person! (I’m still on episode 2 of Serial which will take me 18 months to finish personally)

Thank you First Second for this advance copy in exchange for an honest opinion!

If this sends me down the graphic novel rabbit hole any recommendations of what to try next?

Review: Prayers for the Stolen

Prayers for the Stolen, Jennifer Clement

Amanda

Published November 4th 2014 by Hogarth

Paperback, 240 pages

Source: Blogging for Books

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From Goodreads…

Ladydi Garcia Martínez is fierce, funny and smart. She was born into a world where being a girl is a dangerous thing. In the mountains of Guerrero, Mexico, women must fend for themselves, as their men have left to seek opportunities elsewhere. Here in the shadow of the drug war, bodies turn up on the outskirts of the village to be taken back to the earth by scorpions and snakes. School is held sporadically, when a volunteer can be coerced away from the big city for a semester. In Guerrero the drug lords are kings, and mothers disguise their daughters as sons, or when that fails they “make them ugly” – cropping their hair, blackening their teeth- anything to protect them from the rapacious grasp of the cartels. And when the black SUVs roll through town, Ladydi and her friends burrow into holes in their backyards like animals, tucked safely out of sight.

While her mother waits in vain for her husband’s return, Ladydi and her friends dream of a future that holds more promise than mere survival, finding humor, solidarity and fun in the face of so much tragedy. When Ladydi is offered work as a nanny for a wealthy family in Acapulco, she seizes the chance, and finds her first taste of love with a young caretaker there. But when a local murder tied to the cartel implicates a friend, Ladydi’s future takes a dark turn. Despite the odds against her, this spirited heroine’s resilience and resolve bring hope to otherwise heartbreaking conditions.

An illuminating and affecting portrait of women in rural Mexico, and a stunning exploration of the hidden consequences of an unjust war, PRAYERS FOR THE STOLEN is an unforgettable story of friendship, family, and determination.

I love stories about brave young women so the description for Prayers for the Stolen immediately drew me in. Jennifer Clement pulls no punches in describing what life can be like in Mexico right now.  On the first page I read, “The best thing you can be in Mexico is an ugly girl.”  I knew this was not going to be a book about ugly girls and that it would break my heart a bit.  This was a beautifully written book on a heartwrenching topic.  13 year-old Ladydi lives in a tiny village where there no girls are born.  Every baby is a boy, until their mother’s have no choice but to let them be girls.  But then they black out their teeth and dirty their faces to cover any beauty and to keep them safe.  There are no men in the village.  They’ve all either left for the United States or are basically lost to the drug trade.  Yet these girls still want to learn, they want to go to school and they have their own dreams for the future.

I loved Ladydi and her determination to live her life despite the violence, the chaos and the moments of sheer terror.  I cannot imagine what life is like in rural Mexico but this book gives scenes that were both bleak and beautiful.  I don’t want to know honestly what it would feel like to have to hide my daughter lest she be kidnapped at gunpoint from my home.  I live in enough fear as a parent day to day in the comfort of the US- but Clement made you really feel for Ladydi’s mother.  She’s trapped by poverty and the hopes that her husband will return and while she’s slowly giving up on her own life she still wants better for her daughter.  Though I knew violence was coming, I certainly didn’t expect the twists Ladydi’s path took.  Maybe a few points seemed obvious, but they didn’t take away from the overall story for me at all.

This was a beautifully written book that was hopeful despite the brutality of its origins.  Ladydi’s resilience made this a great read.

Last thought-How beautiful is that cover?!

4 stars!

Thank you Blogging for Books for this copy in exchange for an honest review.

Review: The Unquiet Dead

The Unquiet Dead, Ausma Zehanat Khan

Amanda

Hardcover, 352 pages

Expected publication: January 13th 2015 by Minotaur Books

Source: e-ARC from NetGalley

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The Unquiet Dead is a debut mystery that twines together a questionable death in Canada to the atrocities committed in the Bosnian War of the ‘90s.  The reader is introduced to Inspector Esa Khattak and Sergeant Rachel Getty who are in a special community policing division consisting basically of the two of them.  Esa is called because the apparent accidental death of a businessman might actually be the suspicious death of a fugitive Serbian war criminal.  Esa and Rachel need to try to confirm Christopher Drayton’s identity without disrupting the Bosnian community that has become established in Canada.  They’re also trying to understand how a war criminal slipped through immigration to set himself up as a wealthy Italian importer.  They begin to delve into his personal life and to try to understand the evidence left behind in his home.  The mystery itself was excellent; this was an ending I did not see coming at all.

Someone else had figured out that Drayton was not who he claimed to be and was trying to remind him of the life he had left behind.  Esa and Rachel move between Drayton’s social circle and the Muslim community trying to find the threads linking them.  This is further complicated as Esa is himself Muslim and has his own history in Sarajevo.  I was enthralled by this book as I tried to figure out the killer before the police– I definitely didn’t do it this time.

The story flashes from Drayton’s life in Canada to the past in Srebrenica and the Bosnian War.  Khan masterfully uses quotes from survivors to make clear what went on during the massacre.  I found myself in tears on the train at times as I read.  I did not really understand what was happening in Bosnia when it was in the news so I did not have a lot of knowledge of the atrocities that occurred or the UN involvement.  There is a list of further recommended reading included and I will be digging into that so I can educate myself further. The author did her PhD dissertation on the Srebrenica massacre so she clearly knows her subject.

This was an intense and powerful read.  Not only are Esa and Rachel deep into this stressful investigation but they are also figuring out their relationship as partners and both dealing with emotional police cases from their past.  I was on edge while reading because of the mystery, but also due to their personal lives.  I definitely want more, so I am so glad to see another book is in the works.  Rachel in particular seemed to develop into a more complex character as the book finished and I cannot wait to see what’s in store for her.  Esa was cryptic too often and I would hope his story becomes more open in the next book.

4.5 stars!

Thank you NetGalley and Minotour Books for this advance copy in exchange for an honest review!

Review: Everly After

Everly After, Rebecca Paula

Amanda

Published October 21st 2014

Source: e-ARC from Love Between the Sheets Blog Tour

Book Cover - Everly After v4Synopsis:

All truths burn bright and clear. I’m still waiting in the dark.

Everly Monteith has traded her life of glitter, parties, and self-destruction for waitressing at a Parisian café. She’s put the tragedy that sent her across the Atlantic in the past—until her toxic ex shows up and sends her reeling once more. Her fresh start begins slipping away until a smug British war correspondent crashes her party. But falling for Beckett means letting down her guard, something that might pull them both into the dark.

There are beautiful lies in this world, and it takes me being chased through a hallway at a rave to decide this girl is one of them. But even the most beautiful lies aren’t worth chasing.

Twenty-five-year-old Beckett Reid is forced into sabbatical after being kidnapped on assignment in Afghanistan. Back in Paris, he locks himself away to work on a novel, focused on saving his budding journalism career. But when he meets an enigmatic American heiress, his plans are quickly neglected. Everly is the perfect replacement for dangerous war zones, even if she does leave glitter on everything he owns. Reckless and wild, she runs through life making more mistakes than anyone he’s met, but Beckett is determined to fight for her, even if he must face the messy truth that he must fight for himself first.

*This New Adult romance is recommended for readers 18+ due to mature content.*

I’m going to start you off with the messages I sent to my friend Christina while reading this book:

Holy shit this book is intense.

This is so much more than I expected!

I don’t even know what to say. I’m totally on edge and am going to have to finish tonight.

And if I read this book for Beckett to die ** ***** I am going to be supremely pissed!

I even tweeted at Rebecca Paula that she had better not break my heart!

So now almost a week later-my heart is recovered from the stress and I can tell you that I loved this book. Everly After is about two very different kinds of romantic love–love that makes two people bring out the best in each other and those that only bring out the worst in each other.  This story was a battle of who would win out in the end.  Paula did an amazing job of wrapping me up into Beckett and Everly. They felt completely real to me and their emotions were often so raw.   I wanted to reach through and shake them both on occasion (ok mostly Everly), but in the end I think things worked out perfectly.  I felt like I was right there with them-and my goodness-I felt the heat between them coming out of the book!

I don’t read a lot of New Adult (NA).  I expect NA to be fluffier books -romance, some sex and some light drama perhaps.  Just not what I gravitate towards first.  Everly After-not what I expected of NA and I am so glad I was proved wrong.  This was not light and fluffy but it was a book with depth and heart.  If this is her debut, I cannot wait to read what else Rebecca Paula is writing.

Thank you Rebecca Paula for this advance copy in exchange for an honest opinion!

Here’s a link to a super fun giveaway including a copy of Everly After

Buy The Book

Amazon: http://amzn.to/1vwJNUy

Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/1pd6jdQ

KOBO: http://bit.ly/1w3SZ0y

About The Author

RebeccaIt began with a boy who survived a plane crash in the wilderness.

I discovered my love of writing during a fifth grade writing assignment for Hatchet. After that, I knew I wanted to be a writer.

Always the hopeless romantic, I write late Victorian and Edwardian historical romances as well as contemporary New Adult romances.

I am a member of Romance Writers of America (RWA), as well as the New Hampshire chapter (NHRWA) and the New England chapter (NECRWA). I contribute regularly to the Modern Belles of History blog, a site dedicated to writing, reading, and researching 20th century women’s historical fiction.

When I’m not writing, I’m most likely reading or daydreaming about my next travel adventure. I live in New Hampshire with my husband and our cat, Bella.

Website: https://rebecca-paula-esmo.squarespace.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rebeccapaulaauthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/beckapaula

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8442728.Rebecca_Paula

Finished Reading Dark Triumph

And now, the riveting conclusion to our discussion on Dark Triumph! (Click for part one and part two.)

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Holly: Okay, I am finishing this book tonight!

Amanda: My friend Christina said she sobbed through the last 25%, so it must be intense!

Holly: I’ll try not to do that! (#notacrier)…

[reading interlude] 

I finished! But I don’t get crying. Why for?

Amanda: I think because of [insert spoiler].

Holly: Oh, yeah. That was pretty sad. #heartofstone

Amanda: While I take my role as the family crier quite seriously, I want you to know that I did not cry at all while reading, sister.  Despite the lack of tears, Sybella totally got to my heart.  I loved her strength and her loyalty despite her horribly sad background.  Grave Mercy  had set Sybella up to be almost too crazy to function.  And then when you learn her story, the fact that she is not only functional, but also smart, able to make friends and completely lethal is kind of amazing.

Holly: I liked this book a lot. I’m not quite ready to push the series on everyone I know (but that could change after reading #3 Mortal Heart, right?!), but I was definitely into the story and the characters. I am still a little caught up in the creepiness factor of teenage girls as death’s handmaidens, though I guess the concept starts to make a bit more sense here. I’m going with 4 stars!

Amanda: I loved this book in the end! 5 stars from me!  One thing that struck me reading this one was how much I want to now read about the actual history of Anne and Brittany. I didn’t feel that interested after #1. Reading the Author’s Note also really piqued my curiosity.  

Holly: Which is funny, because the author’s note said that #1 Grave Mercy included more details on actual events and people, and the political maneuverings of medieval Brittany, while #2 Dark Triumph is more of a personal, individual story.

Amanda: I am just a weirdo I think as I was wanting more this time.  This makes me really excited for Mortal Heart next month!  I think Annith is going to also be a bad ass and I really hope that Person Who Shall Not Be Named gets what is coming to them!  I don’t know that I’m quite ready to be an official pusher of the series, but I definitely would recommend reading them so far!  Move over Bella, the assassins are way better YA heroines!

Holly: Wait, was that even a question? Duh.