Category: Book Reviews

Goodbye, Lunar: WINTER (2015) by Marissa Meyer

Goodbye, Lunar: WINTER (2015) by Marissa MeyerWinter (The Lunar Chronicles, #4) by Marissa Meyer
Published by Feiwel and Friends on November 10th 2015
Pages: 824
Goodreads
five-stars

Princess Winter is admired by the Lunar people for her grace and kindness, and despite the scars that mar her face, her beauty is said to be even more breathtaking than that of her stepmother, Queen Levana.
Winter despises her stepmother, and knows Levana won’t approve of her feelings for her childhood friend—the handsome palace guard, Jacin. But Winter isn’t as weak as Levana believes her to be and she’s been undermining her stepmother’s wishes for years. Together with the cyborg mechanic, Cinder, and her allies, Winter might even have the power to launch a revolution and win a war that’s been raging for far too long.
Can Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter defeat Levana and find their happily ever afters?

It’s time. Time for me to share with you my thoughts on one of my favorite books of 2015, and my most anticipated release for 2015.

The final installment in the Lunar Chronicles: WINTER!

What I Loved

Like many of you I had a bit of trepidation about reading Winter—only because I didn’t want the series to end. At the same time, I spent all those months leading up to its publication extremely excited about its publication. Winter was probably my most anticipated release of 2015, and in the School Library where I work, I threw a party to celebrate the release of Winter for the 5th and 6th grade readers who were excited about the book.

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What’s cool is that more 5th and 6th graders are now reading the series since I started talking about the books!

Don’t you love when you spread your excitement about a series with other readers and they get excited too!?! That’s only one of the many wonderful benefits of working as a librarian!

But, back to Winter! What did I love about this book? First of all, I appreciated the many references to the Snow White source tale that made their way into Winter. Whether it’s a reference to the huntsman, the fear that Winter is more beautiful than Levana, or the threat of a poisoned apple, Marissa included just the perfect number of references to the original fairy tale to make Winter an even more compelling novel.

I also loved the way this last installment in the series featured the reunion of all the star players, and continually shifted between their different perspectives. We get close to Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress all over again throughout the story. 

When CRESS ended, I was really interested in how things would pan out between Cress and Thorne, so of course I was really excited every time Winter switched to a scene about Cress and Thorne’s relationship! What are Thorne’s feelings towards Cress? Would the two ever have that heart to heart we all wanted them to have? I read Winter waiting to see if my questions would be answered…

Speaking of relationships though, I can’t forget to mention Cinder and Prince Kai—loved, loved, loved all their interactions in this book. I especially appreciated the way Prince Kai supported and encouraged Cinder in her journey for justice for Lunar as well as Earth. She wanted to make things right, and Prince Kai showed himself as someone whose heart wanted the same.

And of course, I was on the edge of my seat, wondering what would happen to Scarlet and Wolf. Would Scarlet escape the clutches of the evil Levana? Speaking of Levana, was she redeemable? Well, I won’t give away anything here, but I will say I was completely satisfied with the way everything resolved in the story.

I just wish there was more!

Illuminations of Spirituality

I can’t share my thoughts on Winter, and not mention a few aspects of the story that I think highlight some potential areas of spirituality. I won’t go into great detail in this post about these aspects, but these are dimensions I think could bring up discussion about some of the deeper issues in the story.

-Cinder’s desire to see social justice established throughout the realm of Luna and also on Earth.

-The notion that deep down the members of the “Wolf Army” were still the authentic individuals they had been before they had been “turned.”

-The sacrifice of Ryu for Winter.

-The way Winter was in tune with the animal world, and her connection with the animals she interacted with.

-The deep friendship between Iko and Cinder—two beings that are completely different, and yet their connection was life changing.

Who Should Read This Book

Anyone who started the Lunar Chronicles with Cinder absolutely must finish the series by reading WINTER. This series is epic, and each novel builds on the previous one. Winter is fabulous in the way it weaves together the stories of Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, Winter, and Levana, culminating in a tense, exciting, and rich conclusion.

The Final Illumination

This book was just about flawless in the way that Marissa wrapped up all the loose ends from the previous installments.

I am in love with these characters; they seem like dear friends that I now have to say goodbye to. And yet I don’t—as I can read the series over and over again. I sincerely wouldn’t mind if Marissa informed us she was just going to keep writing about this universe and these characters. I would read every book she wrote! Fairy tales are near and dear to my heart, but just as dear are reworked, expanded, and even subversive fairy tales. I appreciated the way that Marissa infused life into these fairy tales but also adapted them and colored them so that they fit within the science fiction setting she created. It really was wonderful!

five-stars
What Katie Read

ARC Illumination: Everything, Everything (2015) by Nicola Yoon

ARC Illumination: Everything, Everything (2015) by Nicola YoonEverything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
Published by Random House Children's Books on September 3rd 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Love & Romance, Family, Contemporary
Pages: 320
Goodreads
five-stars

Madeline Whittier is allergic to the outside world. So allergic, in fact, that she has never left the house in all of her seventeen years. But when Olly moves in next door, and wants to talk to Maddie, tiny holes start to appear in the protective bubble her mother has built around her. Olly writes his IM address on a piece of paper, shows it at her window, and suddenly, a door opens. But does Maddie dare to step outside her comfort zone?

Everything, Everything is about the thrill and heartbreak that happens when we break out of our shell to do crazy, sometimes death-defying things for love.

Happy August, readers! The blog has been on a bit of a hiatus due to my pretty busy teaching load this summer, but I’m happy to say that I’m gradually returning back. I have loads of books to tell you about, and I’m sure you’re also anxious about getting Part 2 of my ALA recap! I’m eager to post it. More updates coming soon, but first, I must tell you about Everything, Everything!

What an impressive and beautiful book. Many of my friends on Twitter and Goodreads had been raving about this one, and the unique premise (along with the cover) really drew me to this debut. I was thankful to pick up a Print ARC at ALA, and I was almost jumping for joy at getting a matching tote. Upon arriving home, this is one of the first books I picked up, and without further ado, let’s get to my thoughts on this September release YA!

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What I Loved:

The creative narrative structure: Drawings, e-mails, air quality reports, and chat room dialogues pepper the narrative of Everything, Everything and I loved it! I think this creativity added a depth and richness to the story that wouldn’t have been achieved without these unique additions.

The voice of the MC: Maddy is endearing, curious, and sometimes fearful. But she’s willing to take a risk on her next door neighbor, Olly. And the fact is, “He’s not safe. He’s not familiar. He’s in constant motion. He’s the biggest risk I’ve ever taken.” Of course, we cheer Maddy on, and though this isn’t a thriller, I feel like I was on the edge of my seat waiting for this couple to get together. Would Olly brave the air lock room and the decontamination in order to see Maddy, who’s allergic to almost everything in the outside world? Well, you’ll just have to read to find out…

The depiction of conflict: Every relationship, if it’s an authentic and close one, will endure conflict of some sort. That’s what happens when people are real with one another. Whether it’s between Maddy and her mom or Maddy and Olly, the dialogue, emails, and chat transcripts in the book illuminate the ups and downs of these connections. As Maddy is growing up, and eventually trying to hide her connection with Olly from her mother, she inevitably drifts apart from her mother in order to make her own way in the world. It’s astounding, in some ways, thinking about how much Maddy is missing in her life just due to the fact that she is confined to a very small space, and isn’t allowed outside. Or…she might die. Her mother and her “nurse” are the two people she mostly sees everyday. Until Olly comes along—the boy next door. Then, everything changes. Everything. But this change is good. Even though the changes that ensue are painful at times, they prove to be the best kind of changes that happen for Maddy.

Illuminations of Spirituality:

Madeleine gradually opens up to the idea of love in her life—romantic love, that is, and it takes an immense amount of courage for her to do so. But Olly is such a sensitive friend to Madeleine, and he seems to understand her fears and trepidation. I think this reflects a spiritual aspect of the book in that it highlights the way people make room for our weaknesses and fears—true friends will understand that sometimes it’s a journey for a relationship to blossom. Nurturing has to take place, and when we’re in tune with the spiritual part of our selves—that aspect that is in tune to other people’s unvoiced fears, we can be more sensitive in our connections and interactions. The book really dives into the characters—Madeleine, her Mother, Olly—the result is a beautiful character driven story that illuminates the power and magic of love. Also: of growing up. Growing up is an essential part of life, and for Madeleine, it brings some pain. Especially in relation to discoveries she makes. No spoilers here, but there are some painful points in the story. It’s realistic in that it depicts the ups and downs of figuring out who you are and what you want right in the middle of some of the most confusing years: the teenage ones.

“Maybe growing up means disappointing the people we love.”

“You can’t predict the future. It turns out that you can’t predict the past either. Time moves in both directions – forward and backward – and what happens here and now changes them both.”

Spoiler alert: Love is worth everything. Everything.”

Who Should Read This Book:

Readers who enjoy young adult contemporaries would most assuredly enjoy this novel featuring a protagonist with a unique medical condition. It’s character driven, yes, but there are plenty of significant interactions, even a tropical vacation, what’s not to love about Maddy and Olly? I know I’ll be thinking about these characters for a long time, and that ending was just perfect!

The Final Illumination:

One thing I love about this book (among other things) is the cover! Isn’t it stunning? What a wonderful choice on the part of the cover designers because it seems (to me) to encapsulate part of the story’s theme. Where once life was dull with very little change and variety, new relationships can open up dimension and depth and detail and color…

What did you think of Everything, Everything? Are you planning on reading it when it releases in September? Drop by my Twitter account where I’ll have a Preorder Giveaway going on for the book!

five-stars
What Katie Read

Mini Review: The Bookseller (2015) by Cynthia Swanson

Mini Review: The Bookseller (2015) by Cynthia SwansonThe Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson
Published by Harper Collins on March 3rd 2015
Genres: Psychological, Adult, Historical
Pages: 352
Goodreads
four-stars

A mesmerizingly powerful debut novel about the ways in which past choices can irrevocably define the present—and the bittersweet confrontation of what might have been
1962: It may be the Swinging Sixties in New York, but in Denver it's different: being a single gal over thirty in this city is almost bohemian. Still, thirty-eight-year-old Kitty Miller has come to terms with her unconventional single life. She was involved, once—with a doctor named Kevin—but when things didn't work out the way she had hoped, she decided to chart her own path. Now she dedicates herself to the bookstore she runs with her best friend, Frieda, returning home each evening to her cozy apartment. Without a husband expecting dinner, she can enjoy last-minute drinks after work with her friends; without children who need to get ready for school, she can stay up all night reading with her beloved cat, Aslan, by her side.
Then the dreams begin.
1963: Katharyn Andersson is married to Lars, the love of her life. They live in a picture-perfect home in a suburban area of Denver, close to their circle of friends. It's the ideal place in which to raise their children. Katharyn's world is exactly what Kitty once believed she wanted . . . but it exists only when she sleeps.
At first, Kitty enjoys her nighttime forays into this alternate world. Even though there is no Frieda, no bookstore, no other familiar face, Kitty becomes increasingly reluctant to open her eyes and abandon Katharyn's alluring life.
But with each visit to her dreamworld, it grows more real. As the lines between the two worlds begin to blur, Kitty faces an uncertain future. What price must she pay to stay? What is the cost of letting go?

I was first drawn to The Bookseller because of its premise. Kitty is in her 30s, managing a bookstore with her best friend, and she leads a contented life with her work as a bookseller and her cozy home and cat. And plenty of time to read.

Then, things start to get a little strange.

She begins to dream of a parallel life: in it, she’s married with three children and her life is entirely different than the one she knows as a bookseller. In fact, the bookstore doesn’t even make up a part of her life in this alternate reality. Her best friend and she aren’t really best friends anymore, and a guy she only talked to once on the phone in her single life reality has become her husband! 

WHAT IS GOING ON?

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The book takes place in both 1962 and 1963, and bounces back and forth between the two realities. The pace of the book trips along and this was a delightful read for me earlier in the spring of this year. To be honest, I was a bit surprised at what happened to Kitty at the end, and I suppose I applauded the author for that.

I found The Bookseller to be an interesting exploration of the perspective of a single woman living a fulfilled life, considering if she’s missing anything in the way of marriage and family. At the same time, it’s thought-provoking to consider the other side—what freedom and opportunities does a married woman with children miss?

This is a “Sliding Doors” type book and I definitely enjoyed it. This garnered a solid 4 stars from me and I would  recommend it for those of you who enjoy a lighter read situated in the earlier time period of the 60s. 

four-stars
What Katie Read
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