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Summer's End - Lisa Morton Review to come
Shadows - Paula Weston Review to come ;)
Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn hmmm... where to start. This book is tough to review because it is hard to discuss what you liked or disliked about it without revealing too many spoilers. And that pretty much leaves a high level overview of the plot, and you can read the synopsis for that.

What I can say is that I really liked the writing. This was my first time reading a novel by Gillian Flynn and I have to say, she had me at hello. From the very first page, I was pulled into the story and didn't want to put it down. She has a way of immersing you into the story immediately.

What I didn't like? For one, the language. The use of the f-bomb was a bit much for me. It didn't add to the story or make the characters feel more real, it just felt excessive. Also, the middle of the book (a.k.a "the big twist") was... um.. not so surprising to me. I had it partially figured out, just not quite on the level to which it was revealed. (There wouldn't have been a story if it had gone any other way). And finally, the oh so controversial ending. When I turned the page and saw the word "Acknowledgements", my eyes bugged out and I immediately flipped back the page and thought "that was it??!!?" But after a little contemplation about what had actually happened, I have to say—I get it. I'm not saying I loved the ending, but I get why she did it. I don't even necessarily agree with other readers who said "It couldn't have ended any other way" because it could have. Lots of other ways in my opinion. But ultimately, the ending she chose made sense. My biggest fault with the ending was that it was so abrupt. Supporting characters were just shut out in a sentence or two (e.g. Go, Tanner, Boney) and just like that, it was over. All that build up and very little resolution.

Overall though, I did like the book. There aren't too many books that can pull me in so quickly and have me eager to find out what happens next. I enjoyed every minute of the wild ride, even the feeling of being totally deceived and misled at times. Most people either loved or hated this book, but I fell somewhere in the middle. That being said it is totally worth the read; whether you love it or hate it, you will definitely be talking about it.
Iced - Karen Marie Moning *I won a copy of this book in the first reads giveaway*

I was a little bit apprehensive about starting this book because Dani's voice was my least favorite part of the Fever series. But thinking back I realized that in the beginning of the series I found Mac's character incredibly annoying as well. It was the amazing world that Moning immersed me in that made me want to keep reading and I was glad I did. I found that as Mac's character began to grow she became a stronger, more likable heroine. So much so, that by the end of the series I hardly remembered the distaste I had for her in the beginning. That is exactly how I felt after reading Iced. I loved being back in the world of the Dublin underground where the Seelie and Unseelie have been unleashed and the human (or mostly human) race is fighting to survive it. Dani's voice was slightly irritating—plenty of "dude's" and "fecks" to make me roll my eyes.. but I found her voice became less and less annoying throughout the book. I learned enough about her background to make me care a little more and actually start to like her. Just based on the small amount of growth we see in her character in Iced, I'm going to go out on a limb and say we will continue to see Dani grow throughout the series much like we watched Mac evolve in the Fever series.

Summing up, I loved being back in the world that Moning had made so familiar in the first part of the series and I enjoyed the plot created with the Hoar Frost King. I'm looking forward to seeing how it all plays out with Cruce since there was quite a bit of foreshadowing there. Overall I thought it was a great start to the Dani O'Malley books and I can only hope that she will start writing a little FASTER :D
Froi of the Exiles - Melina Marchetta I really wasn't a fan of Finnikin of the Rock. I mean I liked it, but I just didn't love it the way most people did. So I was hesitant to start the second in the series. But I'm glad I did.. This book had all of the things that the first book didn't. It was a little darker, more dramatic and less predictable. I'm really looking forward to reading the next one.
The Sandcastle Girls - Chris Bohjalian I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The Sandcastle Girls is a novel that outlines the lives of several characters, both past and present, and how their lives were impacted by the Armenian Genocide in 1915.

I was also among the readers who had never heard of the Armenian Genocide until I picked up this book. I was immediately drawn in to Elizabeth and Armen's story which took place predominately in Aleppo, Syria in 1915. Horrified by the things that had taken place there (and the fact that I had never even heard of it), I quickly began doing a little research online. I think it says a lot about an author when the story they are telling makes me want to research a topic further. Bohjalian takes a really difficult subject and sheds light on it in a way that is respectful and not overly dramatic. He doesn't add the violence and the gore for sake of shocking the reader, but he delicately weaves it throughout the story, giving us a gripping look into the horrors that took place there.

If I had to give any criticism, it would be that the switching between the past and present story lines felt a bit jarring. I was so engrossed in the story taking place in Aleppo, that it made the current day narrative feel more like a disruption. While initially irritated by this, I began to realize that the author was intentionally trying to show how much time can dilute the events of history. Future generations sometimes end up with this watered-down view of what happened; for example, Laura knew that Turks and Armenians didn't like each other based on the actions of her parents, but never fully understood the depth or magnitude of the circumstances behind it. That being said, even if it was intentional I was never able to fully connect with the present day narrator. I found myself having to check the synopsis several times just to remember her name.

Overall this was a very enjoyable book. Though the subject matter is at times difficult, the author tells the story with elegance and grace. I definitely recommend it to anyone who is a fan of historical fiction.
Beautiful Ruins: A Novel - Jess Walter "embrace the sweet lovely mess that is real life."

This quote from the book pretty much sums it up. Walter tells a story that shows the complexities of life and how sometimes people can find beauty among the ashes. I loved this book. I was immediately sucked in by the author's beautiful prose. Thematically there is this constant juxtaposition of average versus beautiful, contentment versus happiness, of doing what you want versus what you should. Having gone into this one without knowing much about it (I chose it completely based on the fact that I was travelling to Italy and the book is partially set there), I was pleasantly surprised. All in all this book ended up being one of my favorite reads this year.
The Night Circus - Erin Morgenstern Someone completely summed up the way I felt about this book in the comments of this discussion so I thought I would share it here.

"It was a beautifully written book that was like a very sweet and light dessert. You enjoyed consuming it, but were still hungry afterwards."

There were some holes in the plot and some questions that went unanswered, but I enjoyed the book and thought the writing was lovely.
Unwind - Neal Shusterman 3 stars just because there was enough action to keep me interested and it was a quick, easy read. But the idea of unwinding was just so far fetched that even though I enjoyed the story, I was never fully invested in it. And then there was the whole Humpty Dumpty/Humphrey Dunfee reference.. Major eye roll on that one.
City of Heavenly Fire - Cassandra Clare In two years I will probably have lost all desire to read this book... Ridiculous. This is why I like to wait until a series is complete before starting. I got through five of these books, FIVE. And now it will be two more years before I can see how it ends? What a joke.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close - Jonathan Safran Foer Heartbreaking. A story about love and loss that's written through the eyes of a grieving child. This book made me smile, laugh, cry.. sometimes all at the same time.
City of Bones - Cassandra Clare I happened to read both of the Infernal Devices books before I read this one. And I loved them! So I decided to read this series (since it is insanely popular) while I wait for Clockwork Princess to be released. And I must say I was disappointed in this book. Why does everyone love it so much?

First, editing. There wasn't any. I know this was Clare's first professionally published work, so I expected it to be a bit rough but it was pretty bad. A lot of spelling errors, repeated dialogue, etc. A lot of which could have been avoided if someone had just run a simple SPELL CHECK. And then there is the issue of dialogue. It was bad and mostly pointless. The first 250 pages or so could have been condensed into a single chapter. The meaningless sarcastic dialog did nothing to get me more attached to the characters or help with the world building.

However, by the second half of the book (literally around the 250 page mark or so) the book finally starts to get interesting. I see the huge parallels with Star Wars that everyone complains about but since Clare put a new spin on it (shadowhunters and vampires and werewolves, Oh My!) it didn't bother me much. And my assumption is that the Luke/Leia thing will get resolved in one of the next books. Also, I haven't read Harry Potter so I can't be offended with any parallels there as others have been. Overall this story was just okay and the plot was predictable.

That all being said, I am willing to read the other books in this series to see how it all plays out. Mainly because Clare's writing obviously gets better (I personally think the Infernal Devices books are much better so far) so I am willing to give it a go. I just hope I don't have to wait until book five *crosses fingers* before I can get through a chapter without rolling my eyes.
The Memory of Love - Aminatta Forna I won this book as a first reads give away. I had a really hard time with this book. The author is extremely talented and there is some really beautiful writing but I found myself having to slog my way through it. The first 350 pages were riddled with so much unnecessary detail that I would go from being really interested in what was happening, to debating if I should even finish the book. And that's pretty much what I did... Picked it up for a while, put it down for a looooong while, picked it up again, etc, etc. It ended up having some really interesting plot points, but in my opinion it just took too long to get there.
Switched  - Amanda Hocking My two star rating really says it best... it was ok. As other reviewers point out, the story feels really rushed in the beginning. You don't get a chance to know the characters before you are thrown into the action. And for me, that is a pretty big flaw. I need to be interested in a character before I care what happens to them.

In my opinion, this is yet another book jumping on the "Twilight" bandwagon. Angsty teenage girl moves to a new town, starts a new school, and is immediately attracted to the dark mysterious boy who stares at her in class and treats her poorly. She starts to like him and low and behold he doesn't show up to school one day, but instead appears at her bedroom window. Then it is revealed that mysterious boy is actually not a boy but a mythical creature. The only major difference here is that the girl turns out to be one too. And even though there wasn't a really obvious love triangle happening in this first book, it's pretty easy to predict that there is one developing and it will probably appear in one of the next books.

The use of "Trolls" was really weak as well. There was nothing at all interesting about them, and they basically were no different than humans except they are picky eaters, have messy hair and don't like to wear shoes. It really just felt like the author just used Trolls because vampires and werewolves have been so overused.

And finally, a large dose of deus ex machina is given to us at the end of the story. Wendy decides to escape with Rhys, and when confronted with a fence surrounding the community Rhys suddenly "remembers" a hole in the fence whereby the two can exit. That same hole they conclude, was also used by the Vittra to enter said community. Two very important details that are conveniently solved by a sudden appearance of a hole in a fence.

Anyway, the book is slightly entertaining even though the reading level seems much younger than YA. There is enough action and teenage romance that I'm sure some readers will enjoy the book more than I did.

You can see this and other reviews on my blog http://refurbish-me.blogspot.com

The Organic Home Garden - Patrick Lima, John Scanlan * I won this book as a first reads giveaway *

I wish there were some color photos or at least colored illustrations in this book, but other than that the content was informative and well organized. Very useful for someone wanting to start a home garden.
Tempest - Julie Cross I won this book as a first reads give away.

I know I am going to be in the minority here based on all of the five star reviews I have already seen for this book. I actually wavered between one and two stars but when I had to choose between "I didn't like it" or "It was ok" I ultimately had to go with "I didn't like it". There wasn't in fact one thing I could think of that I liked about this book. I'm not trying to be harsh or unfair, but rather honest. I didn't find myself caring for any of the characters, the plot felt jumbled and pointless, and I wasn't a fan of the writing style.

I know this book is considered young adult but it actually felt younger to me. The main character (supposedly a 19 year old male) came across more like a 14 year old who was trying to use swear words to sound more grown up. And speaking of being young, since when do 17-19 year olds talk about getting drunk so much? I'm not naive to the fact that underage drinking goes on, but listening to the main character talk about doing shots of Crown Royal and being wasted/hung over several times just didn't sit well with me. Yet this same character talks about one of his biggest regrets with regards to his deceased twin sister was telling his friends that she farted? Really? It was dialogue like that that had me rolling my eyes every other page. He runs into his Spanish teacher who believes she is talking to a 17 year old Jackson, and she tells him she hopes he sampled all the Spanish wine while in Spain. I understand that the drinking age is less in Spain (18) and not really enforced, but I just can't see an American teacher telling a 17 year old that drinking should have been a highlight of his trip. Nothing was believable about it to me.

Other things in the book just didn't seem to make sense. (And no I'm not talking about the time traveling because I consider myself intelligent enough to follow a timeline) But things like Jackson traveling back to 2003 and seeing his dad but not worrying about being recognized because he looked so different than his 12 year old self, yet cut to 2004 and he is trying to disguise himself because he knows his father will recognize him. So his 12 year old self looked nothing like him, but his 13 year old self was a dead ringer? Doesn't make sense. Also there is a 19 year old woman working for the CIA and actually calls Jackson a stupid teenager (note Jackson is actually 19 as well but she thought he was *gasp* only 17). Guess she was a really wise 19 year old.

Beyond all of that, the writing was not great. If people criticized Stephanie Meyer for her writing ability, then they will have a field day with this one. And no I'm not a fan of Twilight. I only read the first book and gave it 2 stars. That being said, I was able to read Twilight without feeling like I was reading a children's book. A lot of the plot of Tempest was not revealed through Jackson's jumping adventures, but rather the big "revelations" happened by other characters telling him what happened. The whole book broke the whole "show don't tell" rule. The entire story is told and not shown.

Amazing that they sold the movie rights to this one before even finding out if people liked the book. On the other hand, it appears there are plenty of people who liked it so they will probably pay to go see the movie as well. I think I will wait until it comes to cable :)