Kassandra

 

KassandraKassandra – The nerdy brunette.

I am quiet with a side of sarcasm, an aspiring writer, wannabe photographer, weekend board game enthusiast, and most recently I am a co-owner of Books & Bottles.

My love of books stems from before I can even definitively remember, my mom instilled it in me as a child and it most definitely stuck. I sometimes think she may wish that other things she tried to teach me could have had the same lasting effect, especially when she comes over and sees that I’ve been eating ichiban for the past week – because cooking is the most challenging thing in my existence. That being said I can still pound though a book in two hours flat – bam snap. In my lifetime I remember countless all-nighters, never because I had to study for a test or finish an important assignment, but because how could I sleep when I didn’t know how the story ended? Reading has always been my favorite escape, I may not have travelled to many countries but I have read my way through hundreds of worlds.

I own way too many books for the amount of space that I have, but that’s okay, it just means more trips to Ikea – win. My passion in life is curling up with Harry Potter and a Chapters blanket, two things that I am completely obsessed with. I literally own like 7 of those blankets, but can you really blame me? And if you don’t know what I’m talking about get to your local Indigo or Chapters stat – this is a necessity. I hate tea, but I love coffee. Books, games, music & wine are my life and I love every second of it.

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Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell

FangirlSeries: Standalone
Genre:  Young Adult
Published:  September, 2013
Goodreads | Amazon | Indigo | Audible

CATH IS A SIMON SNOW FAN. Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan… But for Cath, being a fan is her life–and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.

Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fanfiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere. Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath that she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend; a fiction-writing professor who thinks fanfiction is the end of the civilized world; a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words…and she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this? Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?


Kassandra’s Review

Rating:  5 / 5   I would give it a higher rating if that were humanly possible <3
Format:  Audiobook
Started:  August 22, 2016
Finished:  August 23, 2016
Wine Pairing:
 wine… all of the wine.

“You’ve read the books?”
“I’ve seen the movies.”
Cath rolled her eyes so hard, it hurt. (Actually.) (Maybe because she was still on the edge of tears. On the edge, period.) “So you haven’t read the books.”
“I’m not really a book person.”
“That might be the most idiotic thing you’ve ever said to me”


– Rainbow Rowell, Fangirl

Me before Fangirl: (except I was in a Eeyore onesie)

Me after Fangirl:

Well I know it’s been a while since I last posted on here – Katelynn’s been really keeping this afloat – & it’s not because I haven’t been reading, I think it’s just that I haven’t been inspired to write (that & some personal hard stuff etc.) But when I finished this book, I just couldn’t help but want to shout about it to everyone I could possibly reach – and the internet is perfect for that sort of thing.

It has been a long time since I last connected with a character on this level, maybe not even ever. Cath is emotional, panicky, obsessive, somewhat paranoid, anxious, and above all else – snarky, I cannot understate the snark, it was my favorite thing ever. Needless to say, I instantly loved her. It probably also helped that I could relate to pretty much all of her character flaws and hardships, I too will go extremely out of my way to avoid the human population due to my anxiety and stress levels, I’ve lived through the parent drama, I went through an obsessive fan fic phase and still to this day get emails from mibba (don’t judge me lol), I am way too dependent on my best friend/cousin who you all know & love so dearly, I get stuck in my head and rely on books to help me get out. Now that’s not all that Cath is, but I’ll leave it at that because you should really meet her for yourself (really – I insist). The rest of the characters too, by the way – I mean, there are so many amazing characters to choose from… I could literally gush forever.

“I feel sorry for you, and I’m going to be your friend.”
“I don’t want to be your friend,” Cath said as sternly as she could. “I like that we’re not friends.”
“Me, too. I’m sorry you ruined it by being so pathetic.”


– Rainbow Rowell, Fangirl

Fangirl was a fucking emotional roller coaster in the best kind of way, and Rowell’s writing made me feel like I was right next to Cath through all of the ups and downs. I felt everything she did, and I rooted for her the entire time <3

Right now – all I can think of is how I feel just like Cath did when she finally bought the eighth Simon Snow book – it’s all really over (there are literal tears in & falling from my eyes right now) <3 <3 <3

If you’ve ever dealt with anxiety issues, or you know, were a teenage girl at some point in your life, go read this right now! I hope you love it as much as I do! Now, if you would please excuse me I am going to go drink my feelings. Goodnight loves xo


Katelynn’s Review

Rating:  5 / 5
Format: Hardcover
Started: December 24th, 2016
Finished: December 25th, 2016
Wine Pairing:
 Red wine. In a big-ass glass. With a plate of cookies. Or cake.

“I don’t trust anybody. Not anybody. And the more that I care about someone, the more sure I am they’re going to get tired of me and take off.”

Rainbow Rowell strikes again.

Actually, no – she slayed it. The only book I’ve read before Fangirl was Eleanor & Park which also left me reeling and infatuated, so Rowell is on my auto-buy list from now until forever. Luckily for me I have several of her books to catch on (including Carry On which I need absolutely right now) and if I haven’t recommended Rowell’s books to you before, I will from now on. Be prepared.

Fangirl is about Cath – the smaller twin entering first year of college with social anxiety and who spends as much time lost in her head as she can. The book is split into First Semester and Second Semester, and as we meet her twin sister Wren, her roommate Reagan, and her roommate’s boyfriend Levi if you don’t fall in love with all of them I think you need to read it again. Reading from Cath’s perspective was like stepping into a Febreeze commercial:

To really be a nerd, she’d decided, you had to prefer fictional worlds to the real one.

And if you didn’t connect with introverted and snarky Cath, there was the million-watt bulb Levi with floppy hair and God-like eyebrows:

Levi opened his smile up completely.
“Oh, put that away,” Cath said with distaste. “I don’t want you to get charm all over my sister-what if we can’t get it out?”

I can’t get enough of Cath. I can’t get enough of Levi. I want to dive into the world of Simon and Baz. I wish I could be blinded by Levi. I want to enroll in Fiction Writing. I’m having difficulties writing a review because I’ve been scrolling through page after page of quotes and can’t decide which ones I like more and which ones I want to print out and sew into my finger tips to keep forever. And even though I just finished, I already to want to open up to the first page and slowly feel myself falling in love with Cath and Levi and Reagan all over again, to feel the world change into poetry and beauty and sarcasm, and to feel the rest of the world blur and muddle as I sink down to the bottom of the ocean and read in peace with the biggest, most idiotic grin plastered to my face.

Rowell’s world building and narration are addictive. My hesitation to contemporary is redundant when it comes to a Rowell book because even though we follow regular teens and young adults (and there’s no elves or dragons on the cover), Rowell spins it into a mystical tale and makes mundane days seem magical. Her characters are rich and dynamic, and in Fangirl it felt like pieces of myself had been ripped apart and re-arranged into four magnificent characters. Each chapter gave me goosebumps and the ending was perfect and gentle and infinite.

“No,” Cath said, “Seriously. Look at you. You’ve got your shit together, you’re not scared of anything. I’m scared of everything. And I’m crazy. Like maybe you think I’m a little crazy, but I only ever let people see the tip of my crazy iceberg. Underneath this veneer of slightly crazy and socially inept, I’m a complete disaster.”

There isn’t much I can go into without spoiling anything, and to be honest I’m still having difficulty finding the right words to express just how much I think Fangirl means to me. It’s beautiful and warm and the perfect hug-in-a-book, and deserves to be paraded around town and adored. It makes our real-life Febreeze-infested life seem just a little bit more refreshing and less cloud-of-chemical-haze.

Let Fangirl take away some of the toxic for a while.

You deserve it.

Spring Reads

Website Banner (Spring Reads)

Well it’s about half way through spring, and we’ve both been lounging around, enjoying the beautiful weather with some pretty fucking awesome books. Naturally we want to share some of them with you   =]   but not all of them, cause you know – we’re greedy like that.

 

Featured Reads From our May Escapades:

 

Every Heart A Doorway, by Seanan McGuire [Kassandra’s pick]

(A perfect quirky one sit summer read – I would definitely recommend this as a wonderful addition to any vacation!)

mcguire every heart a doorway

FAVORITE QUOTE: (If this doesn’t make you want to read this book I don’t know what will)

“Hmm. Tall, thin, and very pale. You must have been someplace with no sun – but no vampires either, I think, given the skin on your neck. Jack and Jill will be awfully pleased to meet you. They get tired of all the sunlight and sweetness people bring through here.”

“Vampires?” said Nancy blankly. “Those aren’t real.”

“None of this is real, my dear. Not this house, not this conversation, not those shoes you’re wearing – which are several years out of style if you’re trying to re-acclimatize yourself to the ways of your peers, and are no proper mourning shoes if you’re trying to hold fast to your recent past – and not either of us. ‘Real’ is a four-letter word, and I’ll thank you to use it as little as possible while you live under my roof.” Eleanor stopped in front of Nancy again. “It’s the hair that betrays you. Were you in an Underworld or a Netherworld? You can’t have been in an Afterlife. No one comes back from those.”

– Seanan McGuire, Every Heart a Doorway


Hex, by Thomas Olde Heuvelt [Kassandra’s pick]

(This is probably one of the most unnerving books I have ever read, if you’re looking for a creepy good time, this book is golden.)

Hex

“Welcome to Black Spring, the seemingly picturesque Hudson Valley town haunted by the Black Rock Witch, a 17th century woman whose eyes and mouth are sewn shut. Muzzled, she walks the streets and enters your homes at will. She stands next to your bed for nights on end. Everybody knows that her eyes may never be opened.”
– Thomas Olde Heauvelt, Hex

… This book had me like

& I absolutely loved it. If you, like me, occasionally enjoy being scared out of your mind – this one is a winner. A very original concept – possible side effects include taking stock of your surroundings to make sure Katherine isn’t standing behind you at least three times a day. I kept expecting her to be standing in the corner of whatever room I was sitting in while reading this.


Court of Mist and Fury, by Sarah J. Maas [Katelynn’s pick]

(If you’ve met me or read my review you probably know I’m still not over this. It’s just too much and never enough.)

maas a court of mist and fury

“I was his and he was mine, and we were the beginning and middle and end. We were a song that had been sung from the very first ember of light in the world.”


Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline [Katelynn’s pick]

Fully supported by Kassandra!

(Total geek fest over the writing, the characters, the game, the world, and everything else – it’s just completely amazing.)

cline ready player one

Basically, with quotes like:

“People who live in glass houses should shut the fuck up.”

“Going outside is highly overrated.”

“You’d be amazed how much research you can get done when you have no life whatsoever.”

“No one in the world gets what they want and that is beautiful.”

And the fact that it’s read by Wil-fucking-Wheaton do you need any more reasons to read this?

No, that’s right. I didn’t think so.


Books We’ve Purchased & Can’t Wait to Read in June …

…. Reviews to come!

Tick Tock, by Dean Koontz

Goodreads | Amazon

Finding Audrey, by Sophie Kinsella

Goodreads | Amazon

The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins

Goodreads | Amazon


Katelynn has been far more on the ball this past month – to see her detailed May wrap up post – CLICK HERE!

Sisters of Blood and Spirit, by Kady Cross

Series:  The Sisters of Blood and Spirit # 1
Genre:
  Young Adult
Published:  March 31, 2015
Goodreads | Amazon | Indigo

“Wren Noble is dead—she was born that way. Vibrant, unlike other dead things, she craves those rare moments when her twin sister allows her to step inside her body and experience the world of the living.

Lark Noble is alive but often feels she belongs in the muted Shadow Lands—the realm of the dead. Known as the crazy girl who talks to her dead sister, she doesn’t exactly fit in with the living, though a recent suicide attempt and time in a psych ward have proved to her she’s not ready to join her sister in the afterlife.

Now the guy who saved Lark’s life needs her to repay the favor. He and his friends have been marked for death by the malevolent spirit of a vicious and long-dead serial killer, and the twins—who should know better than to mess with the dead—may be their only hope of staying alive.”


Kassandra’s Review

Rating:  2.5 / 5
Format:  Paperback
Started:  April 7, 2016
Finished:  April 7, 2016 
Drink Pairing: 
Coke – cause I was too lazy to go buy wine lol.

“You shouldn’t repeat that kind of shit,” Ben said.
“You’re just saying that because you’ve got a thing for her,” Sarah goaded.
Ben leaned forward on the forearm he rested on the table. “No, I’m saying it because I’m not a gossipy bitch.”
I could kiss that boy.
– Kady Cross, Sisters of Blood and Spirit

Unlike that unbelievably awesome quote, Sisters of Blood and Sprit was okay – 2 stars + an extra 0.5 for the fact that almost every third sentence was sarcastic. That made this book so much better lol. I actually really enjoyed Lark’s character – even though she was a bit of a bitch at times lol.

“Sure Mace. What would you like to talk about? How you found me sliced open like a trout, lying in my own blood? Or the fact that an angry-ass ghost ripped you a new one?” Sometimes I pushed the “bitch” button before I could stop myself.
– Kady Cross, Sisters of Blood and Spirit

At least she’s self-aware… and she didn’t whine – not even once – instead we get the most sarcasm I have ever witnessed in written form (*kudos Kady Cross!*), a high dose of bad ass attitude, and a side of bitter. Wren was pretty cool too – though I wish we saw a bit more of her crazy ghost side and creepy eye fetish. But yeah – that’s all that I liked about this book, the rest was really meh. The writing was choppy and rushed, and the characters had this terrible habit of moving through emotions the same way I move through books – quickly and already moving on to the next one… One moment Wren is talking, then in the next sentence she’s crying, and then in the next sentence she’s fine again and apologizing for crying. It felt like reader’s whiplash – I swear my brain is going to ache for weeks. It kept sending me reeling, and by the time I caught up with where the character was going emotionally they were already over it. The remaining characters were underdeveloped, but I mean it’s a four hour read, 257 pages with big font – you can only ask for so much & I accept that, so I wasn’t exactly heartbroken.

Overall it was a quick and dirty read that was modestly enjoyable – which just happened to be exactly what I was looking for from this particular novel. ♥ I know it is a series, but there’s no cliffhanger – everything is resolved and I am resolved to not read book two.

The Darkest Part of the Forest, by Holly Black

The Darkest Part of the ForestGenre:  Young Adult
Published:  January, 2015
Goodreads | Amazon | AudibleIndigo | Barnes & Noble

“Children can have a cruel, absolute sense of justice. Children can kill a monster and feel quite proud of themselves. A girl can look at her brother and believe they’re destined to be a knight and a bard who battle evil. She can believe she’s found the thing she’s been made for.

Hazel lives with her brother, Ben, in the strange town of Fairfold where humans and fae exist side by side. The faeries’ seemingly harmless magic attracts tourists, but Hazel knows how dangerous they can be, and she knows how to stop them. Or she did, once.

At the center of it all, there is a glass coffin in the woods. It rests right on the ground and in it sleeps a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointed as knives. Hazel and Ben were both in love with him as children. The boy has slept there for generations, never waking.

Until one day, he does…

As the world turns upside down, Hazel tries to remember her years pretending to be a knight. But swept up in new love, shifting loyalties, and the fresh sting of betrayal, will it be enough?”


Kassandra’s Review

Rating:  4/5
Format:  Trade Paperback
Started:  March 8, 2016
Finished:  March 9, 2016
Wine Pairing:
Barefoot Moscato Spumante Champagne (such bubbles ♥)

“There’s a monster in our wood. She’ll get you if you’re not good. Drag you under leaves and sticks. Punish you for all your tricks. A nest of hair and gnawed bone. You are never, ever coming home.”
– Holly Black, The Darkest Part of the Forest

I can honestly say I was not expecting to enjoy The Darkest Part of the Forest as much as I did. There’s just something about Faeries that usually puts me off, it’s the same thing with books about Sirens and Mermaids. They’re just not really my thing. I had been told however that this book was supposed to be outstanding and I will be the first one to admit that it did not disappoint. Holly Black introduces us to the town of Fairfold, where humans and the Folk live amongst each other and abide by an uneasy truce. The Folk leave the locals alone for the most part, but tourists are fair game. Hazel and her older brother Ben were raised (I use this term lightly*) in town, and except for a brief stint living in Philadelphia, this is where they’ve always called home. As children, they were kind of neglected by their parents, who mostly left them alone to fend for themselves. A reality probably due to the fact that they were a couple of young artists who, by the sounds of it, really weren’t ready to be parents. So due to their above average freedom, Ben and Hazel had what can best be referred to as a wild childhood. They kept themselves distracted with grand adventures in the forest behind their home, and creating magical stories about the boy in the glass coffin. No one knows much about the boy with horns on his head and elfish ears, except that he has always been there, asleep in the forest. Hazel and Ben dream that they will be the ones to save him and anyone else who is in need of rescue in Fairfold. But as they grew up they both moved away from such things, Ben out of fear, and Hazel because she couldn’t do it alone. When their sleeping prince awakens, everything begins to fall into place and the siblings are forced to come to deal with who they truly are and the roles they must play.

The world that Black built was vivid and imaginative, I loved learning more about the culture of the locals who live in a place where it is widely accepted that there are things that go bump in the night, and if you’re not careful, they might just disembowel you. The Folk were what they are supposed to be, scary. I think a big reason why I don’t typically do Faerie stories is because most of the ones I have found take a… let’s call it a fluffier approach. They don’t take the lore very seriously, which is an injustice, because Faerie lore can be pretty terrifying. Sometimes it’s not just tricks and pranks, sometimes it’s messy, deadly and cruel. This is perfectly captured in The Darkest Part of the Forest.

All in all, I did really enjoy this book; the story was fantastic, the characters intriguing, and the ending was satisfying. That’s it folks! (you know, like Folk’s – sorry, I couldn’t help myself.)

*By the way – If you’re interested you should check out this awesome book trailer on Little, Brown Books for Young Readers’ YouTube page – I just found this and am now home alone, and pretty spooked. Effective marketing!


Katelynn’s Review

Rating:  4 5
Format:  Trade Paperback
Started:  March 28th, 2016
Finished:  March 28th, 2016
Drink Pairing: 
Chai tea with tissues because holy smokes – this book!

“That night she’d discovered that thirteen-year-old ferocity was no match for ancient monsters, not alone.”
– Holly Black, The Darkest Part of the Forest

Hazel is a high-school student who has a problem:

She kisses too many boys.

She kisses them to forget, to distract herself from everything she’s blamed on herself, from everything she’s done, from everything she fears she’ll do.  Growing up in a family where it was easier to make-believe and pretend, to push memories into a closet and close the door tightly behind them, Hazel learned she is good at lying to everyone – including herself.  She holds onto the memories and the fairytales she and her brother, Ben, created as children.  The dreams of a Fae prince locked away in a coffin who would wake and whisk them away to be warriors or princesses or princes, and the dreams of leaving Fairfold and never turning back to the haunted town where the tales of pixies and goblins are anything but tales.

But when the Fae prince her and her brother dreamt about for years wakes up, her web of lies and secrets begin to tangle and snap free, leading Hazel and Ben down the paths into the darkest parts of the forest, down a path there’s no turning back.

“He wasn’t their prince anymore.”
– Holly Black, The Darkest Part of the Forest

I’m going to admit that if I had stopped reading half-way through The Darkest Part of the Forest, I probably wouldn’t have picked it up again.  For whatever reason the first half of the book didn’t catch my attention.  I would have googled and read reviews to find out how it ended, but I wasn’t intrigued.  In fact, Hazel irritated me: I hated her kissing obsession, her constant lies, her seemingly endless list of secrets.  Even the flipping between the past and the present or character perspectives tended to verge on annoying as I start every chapter lost and confused – what time is it?  Who am I reading about?  Is it a dream?  A memory?  Current events?  The first half of the book was necessary but forgettable – like the blackness before a dream you can never remember upon waking up.  It droned on with character introductions, dull build-up, and contained a whole bunch of high-school drama I’ve never related to, nor do I care to.  Kissing?  Gossiping?  Forest parties?  Not my thing.  I was expecting something a lot fluffier than what came.

But just before the halfway point (right around the quote above, to be exact) my opinion went from indifferent to infatuated and my attention was glued to the pages.  Black does a wonderful job of writing the suspense and keeping the mood taught as we’re lead deeper into the forest, further and faster down a path that is anything but fluffy.  Our heroin grows as she’s cast in a different light, our heroes flit between mortality and trickery, and the lies and secrets continue to roll and roll.  I realize that, despite Hazel having kissed all the boys and I haven’t (to say the least), I related to her more than I thought I would.  The secrets, the trust-issues, the wish to be something more all resounded clearly in my head like a warning and a calling, and though I’ll probably never find a world like Fairfold in this lifetime I’m glad to have read about it.

The Darkest Part of the Forest is a fairytale reminiscent of a darker version of Little Red Riding Hood.  It tells of growing up, of learning to accept, and learning to not fear growth or who you are.  It’s a wonderful fairytale that seems to fit too perfectly with the real world and could probably have many connections to actual events (if you wanted to play psychiatrist). But I will keep it safely nestled with the rest of my dreams for now, because when the end finally came I was left laughing and giggling and crying actual tears with a feeling of sheer bliss.  That feeling is special, and it needs to be held close and remembered. So Hazel and her tale will stick with me for a while; she’ll follow me into my dreams and play knight with me and Ben will sing and Jack will dance, and my world will be alive for a fleeting moment just as the Folk’s.  Just as sunset and sunrise are both day and night, and just as I both am and am not in a dream that changes and grows and, sometimes, strays too far into the dark.

“Every child needs a tragedy to become truly interesting.”
– Holly Black, The Darkest Part of the Forest

An Ember in the Ashes, by Sabaa Tahir

An Ember in the AshesSeries:  An Ember in the Ashes, #1
Genre:
  Young Adult
Published:  April, 2015
Goodreads | Amazon | AudibleIndigo

“Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.


Kassandra’s Review

Rating:  5/5 ♥
Format:  Audiobook & Hardcover
Started:  March 7, 2016
Finished:  March 8, 2016
Wine Pairing: 
Monster Vinyards – Skinny Dip Chardonnay <3

When I first woke up today, I thought – I’m going to read a few chapters of my book, and then I’ll go make myself some breakfast, maybe clean the house, or watch some more full house on Netflix (the addiction is real)…  I was only on the third chapter and now I can say, looking back – I was incredibly naive in believing that I would have the will power to put it down again. It is now 5:30 in the afternoon, and I still haven’t eaten today, in fact – I haven’t done anything today, except bury my face in the pages of An Ember in the Ashes. Now for those who know me, this pretty much goes unsaid, but I. Love. Food. Like a lot. There is not much that can come between my stomach and what it desires, but this book was so god damn good, that it literally made me forget everything except the anticipation that I felt each time I turned the page. Sabaa Tahir creates a world so captivating, and characters so real and relatable, I just couldn’t put it down. I’m pretty sure I’ve found my new favorite author (besides J.K. Rowling <3 long live the queen).

One of the most surprising aspects that I loved was the fact that the characters in this book are not always likeable. This doesn’t happen much in YA fiction, at least not intentionally. We usually meet our hero or heroine and they can do no wrong. They are also instantly brave and rise to the challenges that face them with nothing but their sheer determination and selflessness… Now I’m not saying that I don’t enjoy those types of novels, but there’s something about an imperfect character who is well aware of their flaws that is just so much more (not sure how else to describe it). When we meet Laia, her brother is imprisoned and she is literally his only hope of survival. When initially faced with this she runs and saves herself, the guilt and shame eat away at her. But she is given a chance at redemption, and even while she puts herself in a terrifying situation to save her brother, she still holds back because of her fears. She doesn’t take risks at every opportunity, even though she knows what’s at stake, and she hates herself more for it. She does not become brave overnight despite the fact that her brother’s life is dependent on it. Bravery is a constant struggle. It’s something that she works towards throughout the entire book, and when she finally finds her strength – it feels so real. I hate when YA authors write whiny/useless/daft female leads, usually they are then passed off as extremely selfless, beautiful and brave. It was amazing to watch Laia accept her flaws and move past them, to watch her step away from the scared little girl who just wanted to be rescued. I found her to be a truly inspirational character.

“He only wants to help me. Yet I take no comfort in what he said: I’ll find you in Silas. I’ll find a way to Darin. I’ll take care of everything. I promise.
Once, I’d have wanted that. I’d have wanted someone to tell me what to do, to fix everything. Once, I’d have wanted to be saved.
But what has that gotten me? Betrayal. Failure. It’s not enough to expect Keenan to have all the answers. Not when I think of Izzi, who even now might be suffering at the Commandant’s hands because she chose friendship over self-preservation. Not when I think of Elias, who gave up his own life for mine.
The shed is stifling suddenly, hot and close, and I’m across the floor and out the door. A plan forms in my head, tentative, outlandish, and mad enough that it just might work.”
– Sabaa Tahir, An Ember in the Ashes (Laia)

Now, on the other hand we have our second lead character, Elias. A mask who hates what he is and what he has been trained to do. Elias lives under constant scrutiny, where even the smallest show of compassion is punished ruthlessly. His flaw comes from his desire to survive and be free. Because of this, he doesn’t always do the right thing, and even when he starts to – it’s not always consistent. He struggles That is until he draws the line. It takes him a while to get there, but he slowly learns that if he truly wants to be free, he can’t just turn away and ignore it all. If he wants to be more than a mask, more than the evil he has been raised to be, he has to take a stand.

Another huge plus for this novel – There was no instant love and the relationships weren’t the main focus of the story! Yay! Any romantic developments felt natural and realistic, there was no moment where their eyes met and the rest of the world fell away. Don’t get me wrong – there’s attraction, but it develops over time and it’s more complicated/less superficial. By the end of the book the characters don’t even know how they feel about each other, and that is conveyed perfectly to the reader. Nothing is cut and dry.

There is a slight love triangle – square(ish) thing – going on, which I’m not usually a fan of, but I find that I’m kind of enjoying sorting out these character’s feelings along with them. I think everyone can relate to Elias as he questions whether or not he returns the feelings of his best friend Helene. He’s a bit lost and he doesn’t know how to deal with how their relationship is progressing. Meanwhile, he can’t help that he feels drawn to Laia. And while Laia connects with Keenan over past pains they both share, she can’t deny what she begins to feel for Elias as she learns that he is much more than just a mask.

Overall – This book was meant to be cherished. An Ember in the Ashes was a perfect 5/5 to me. The world is well built and enthralling. Every piece of backstory drew me in further and I was never bored. I also never knew what would happen next, something that hasn’t happened to me in a good long while when it comes to YA fiction. So here I am, sitting on the edge of my seat and not sure what to do with myself now. All I want to do is jump back into that world, but alas, A Torch Against the Night will not be out until August 2016. Whyyyyyyy? </3

* (SIDE NOTE) – I would just like to mention that I had originally begun listening to the audiobook for An Ember in the Ashes on Audible, which I would highly recommend. The Narrators, Fiona Hardingham and Steve West were impeccable! Their performances instantly took my breath away and made the story so much more real. I was so drawn in that I rushed out and bought myself a hard copy of the book and crushed it in a day. Lack of self-control – 1, Kassandra – 0. If you’re interested and didn’t find the link at the top of this review, you can check it out here.


Katelynn’s Review

Rating:  3.5 5
Format:  Audiobook & Hardcover
Started:  March 8th, 2016
Finished:  March 17th, 2016
Wine Pairing:
 No wine… my hangover still hurts…

“She makes for the closest training building, and I take my time following, watching the way she moves: angry, favoring her right leg, must have bruised the left in practice, keeps clenching that right fist – probably because she wants to punch me with it.”
 – Sabaa Tahir, An Ember in the Ashes

An Ember in the Ashes came with praises sung high and low from Kassandra, who fell in absolute love with this book.  It’s been the discussion of our weekly adventures as I slowly picked my way through the 15 hour audiobook slowly.  I gave up today and borrowed the Hardcover so I could finish the book before I forgot what happened at the beginning.  Don’t get me wrong, the reading by Fiona Hardingham and Steve West is amazing – they are wonderful narrators and I love their accents and their voices should marry each other because they sound perfect together – but I find audiobooks are more suited to long drives with the windows down, or plane rides, or trains…  Not for when you’re mucking around the house or sitting in bed.  I feel absolutely useless.

…but I digress.

“There are two kinds of guilt. The kind that’s a burden and the kind that gives you purpose. Let your guilt be your fuel. Let it remind you of who you want to be. Draw a line in your mind. Never cross it again. You have a soul. It’s damaged but it’s there. Don’t let them take it from you.”
 – Sabaa Tahir, An Ember in the Ashes

Split into three chapters (which serves no purpose as far as I can see?), An Ember in the Ashes follows Laia and Elias as they both live out two completely different lives within the walls of Blackcliff.  Huge on character building and development, the story sometimes seemed slow moving and my eyes would start to wander around the next page for something interesting.  However, Tahir’s use of continuous flipping between character perspectives is masterfully portrayed, managing time, building suspense, and filling in details indirectly was an absolute pleasure to read.  The characters themselves grow substantially, and it’s wonderful that Laia learns to stand on her own to feet and get over her fears that held her quivering where she stood as soon as she didn’t know how to respond.  Elias remains the selfish character that only wishes to be free of the life he never wanted, the same Mask that’s too different from his comrades, haunted by his dreams, but he does decide to stand up for what he believes in – and it’s not the Empire.  I think my favourite character is Cook and I wish we learned more about her, but other than her, I haven’t found myself overly attached to any of the characters.  My favourite part of the book was the world.  I love the setup – from the Scholars stuck under Empire rule, to the stifling black walls of Blackcliff, I had no problems imagining the world and the brutality of the Masks, the colours of the Tribes…  Tahir’s writing is smooth, simple, and has a great flow throughout the book and with both characters.

Overall, I think Tahir has a great idea.  I can see why there’s a growing hype with this book…  But I don’t really know what else to say.  Good story, cool concept, and I can’t wait to see where it goes.

“You are an ember in the ashes, Elias Veturius. You will spark and burn, ravage and destroy. You cannot change it. You cannot stop it.”
 – Sabaa Tahir, An Ember in the Ashes

The Pledge Trilogy, by Kimberly Derting

Series:  The Pledge # 1 – 3
Genre:
  Young Adult
Published:  November 2011, January 2013, December 2013

The Pledge:  Goodreads | Amazon | Audible | Indigo
“In the violent country of Ludania, the classes are strictly divided by the language they speak. The smallest transgression, like looking a member of a higher class in the eye while they are speaking their native tongue, results in immediate execution. Seventeen-year-old Charlaina has always been able to understand the languages of all classes, and she’s spent her life trying to hide her secret. The only place she can really be free is the drug-fueled underground clubs where people go to shake off the oppressive rules of the world they live in. It’s there that she meets a beautiful and mysterious boy named Max who speaks a language she’s never heard before . . . and her secret is almost exposed.

Charlie is intensely attracted to Max, even though she can’t be sure where his real loyalties lie. As the emergency drills give way to real crisis and the violence escalates, it becomes clear that Charlie is the key to something much bigger: her country’s only chance for freedom from the terrible power of a deadly regime.”

The Essence:  Goodreads | Amazon | Audible | Indigo
“At the luminous conclusion of The Pledge, Charlaina defeated the tyrant Sabara and took her place as Queen of Ludania. But Charlie knows that Sabara has not disappeared: The evil queen’s Essence is fused to Charlie’s psyche, ready to arise at the first sign of weakness.

Charlie is not weak, but she’s being pushed to the brink. In addition to suppressing the ever-present influence of Sabara, she’s busy being queen—and battling a growing resistance determined to return Ludania to its discriminatory caste system. Charlie wants to be the same girl Max loves, who Brook trusts, but she’s Your Majesty now, and she feels torn in two.

As Charlie journeys to an annual summit to meet with leaders of nearby Queendoms—an event where her ability to understand all languages will be the utmost asset—she is faced with the ultimate betrayal. And the only person she can turn to for help is the evil soul residing within.”

The Offering:  Goodreads | Amazon | Audible | Indigo
“True love—and world war—is at stake in the conclusion to The Pledge trilogy, a dark and romantic blend of dystopia and fantasy.
Charlie, otherwise known as Queen Charlaina of Ludania, has become comfortable as a leader and a ruler. She’s done admirable work to restore Ludania’s broken communications systems with other Queendoms, and she’s mastered the art of ignoring Sabara, the evil former queen whose Essence is alive within Charlie. Or so she thinks.

When the negotiation of a peace agreement with the Queendom of Astonia goes awry, Charlie receives a brutal message that threatens Ludania, and it seems her only option is to sacrifice herself in exchange for Ludanian freedom.

But things aren’t always as they seem. Charlie is walking into a trap—one set by Sabara, who is determined to reclaim the Queendoms at any cost.”


Kassandra’s Review

Rating:  3 / 5
Format:  Hardcover
Started:  March 10, 2016
Finished:  March 13, 2016 
Wine Pairing:
  Anything that will help you think less.

The Pledge trilogy – overall – I found it to be pretty meh. The more I actually think about the plot of this series, the more I find wrong with it… I was really looking forward to reading these, the covers are absolutely gorgeous (this may or may not have been the reason that they were purchased – shhhh don’t judge), the concept sounded promising, and they’ve been sitting on my shelves forever. When I read book one, I was underwhelmed and if I hadn’t already owned book two, this may have been a one book review. The writing was okay, the story was okay, and the characters were okay. If I had to sum up The Pledge in one word, you can probably guess what it would be… Okay. The only thing that was more than okay was the concept – that was amazing. The world was well developed, and the rules of the society were well defined and explained, but I can’t help feeling that Derting just kind of dropped the ball on everything else. To my surprise and gratitude, the writing did improve in books two and three, thank god. Though you can still look forward to sentences like this gem right here:

“The air on the docks was filled with the smell of fish and body odor and wet dog and dirty snow, none of which Brook cared for.”
– Kimberly Derting, The Essence

Other than the lack of commas where there should be commas, there were two big things that really took away from this series for me. The lack of character development and the plot holes. I won’t go incredibly in depth, because I don’t really feel up to writing another book report like I accidentally ended up doing with my Magonia review… But here’s the gist of my rant:

Charlie was so naïve and weakly written. Somehow, to me, she came across weak even when she was doing something that took strength… I have no idea how Derting managed to accomplish this but bravo. In book one she is utterly oblivious and it is incredibly annoying. The reader should not be able to connect the dots THAT much faster than the main character. By midway through The Offering (book three FYI), it almost seemed as if Charlie had finally grown a bit of a backbone – I had no idea how she managed to stand up straight through everything prior to this.

Most of the other characters in this series are extremely one dimensional and convenient. Take Max for instance, the love interest for our dear Charlie. Throughout the entire series, we learn basically nothing about him other than the fact that he joined the army and loves Charlie for some reason (beware of instant love – just add water). By not developing such a main character, I ended up caring very little about their relationship. When looking at Angelina’s character, Charlie’s little sister who has the power to heal and to tell instantly if someone has a deceptive soul, it felt like the only reason Angelina was given that second power was so that the author didn’t have to actually show through the characters actions whether or not they should be trusted. She didn’t have to waste time developing relationships and trust between the characters, seeing as Charlie could just accept them based on an instant. I could keep going but we’re entering long-winded territory. Sooo moving on…

There were several big plot holes throughout the series that I just couldn’t ignore. It’s one thing when a book asks you to forgive small things, but some of what happens in The Essence literally makes no sense. At one point there is a plot to get Charlie away from her palace and guards in order to assassinate her, but the assassin is already alone with her daily in the palace with no guards present… ? Does this bug no one else? Most of The Essence felt like filler information, a ton of it has no bearing on the actual story of the book at all. Charlie travels to another Queendom to attend a summit with the other queens in hopes that she may be able to negotiate for resources to help establish Ludania. These queens are flimsy and easily forgettable characters, Derting basically chose one characteristic each and that sums up all that they are. The big bad for book three is introduced at this point *cough*Queen Elena*cough*, and it is completely obvious to everyone, except Charlie of course, who should win the championship for World’s Most Naive Individual.

Basically the whole series was extremely predictable, and so much went unexplained for the sake of convenience and storytelling. But when it comes down to it, if you can hold your tongue and just enjoy the story without questioning it too much, then I’m sure you will enjoy this trilogy. You are a much stronger person than I am.

Room, by Emma Donoghue

RoomGenre:  Fiction
Published:  September, 2010
Goodreads | Amazon | Indigo | Audible

“To five-year-old Jack, Room is the entire world. It is where he was born and grew up; it’s where he lives with his Ma as they learn and read and eat and sleep and play. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits.

Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it is the prison where Old Nick has held her captive for seven years. Through determination, ingenuity, and fierce motherly love, Ma has created a life for Jack. But she knows it’s not enough…not for her or for him. She devises a bold escape plan, one that relies on her young son’s bravery and a lot of luck. What she does not realize is just how unprepared she is for the plan to actually work.

Told entirely in the language of the energetic, pragmatic five-year-old Jack, Room is a celebration of resilience and the limitless bond between parent and child, a brilliantly executed novel about what it means to journey from one world to another.”


Kassandra’s Review

Rating:  5/5
Format:  Mass Market Paperback
Started:  March 1, 2016
Finished:  March 1, 2016
Wine Pairing:
Gasp, dare I say it… none

Jack is an adorable five year old boy who has grown up in Room with his Ma, together they occupy an 11 ft. x 11 ft. space that makes up their entire world. He has many quirks – mostly from the way that Ma has had to raise him, and from the things that he can’t understand. To Jack, things in Room are real but parks, mountains, trees, candy, other people, the sea… that’s all TV. It’s just not real, it can’t be – there just wouldn’t be space for it all. To him, the entire universe exists inside Room. He is so sweet, incredibly smart, and fiercely protective of his mom. To Ma, Jack has always been her savior, having him made everything she endured worth it, and she does everything she can to give him as much of a childhood as she she is able to in Room. She knows though that it’s not enough, and so together they set ahead to escape to outside, a new concept that Jack doesn’t even understand or always fully believe in.

“Just because you’ve never met them doesn’t mean they’re not real. There’s more things on earth than you ever dreamed about.” – Ma

In Room, we see the terrible ordeal of a young woman who was stolen and kept in captivity for seven years, but it is shown to us through the eyes of her five year old son, fathered by her captor. I absolutely loved reading through Jack’s eyes, even though at times it was heartbreaking. His innocence shone through in every part of this book, especially the darker moments. There would be times when as the reader you realized and understood things that were happening that Jack just didn’t comprehend. The way this was written was brilliantly executed, it tackled incredibly complex and dark subject matter even though the narrator didn’t fully understand it.

This book is brutally real, nothing is glossed over or sugar coated. It is an amazing story of growth and the relationship between a mother and her child. I can’t think of a single person that I wouldn’t recommend this to. It was dark and beautiful <3

Magonia, by Maria Dahvana Headley

magoniaSeries:  Magonia #1
Genre:
  Young Adult
Published:  April, 2015
Goodreads | Amazon | Indigo | Audible

“Aza Ray is drowning in thin air.

Since she was a baby, Aza has suffered from a mysterious lung disease that makes it ever harder for her to breathe, to speak—to live. So when Aza catches a glimpse of a ship in the sky, her family chalks it up to a cruel side effect of her medication. But Aza doesn’t think this is a hallucination. She can hear someone on the ship calling her name.

Only her best friend, Jason, listens. Jason, who’s always been there. Jason, for whom she might have more-than-friendly feelings. But before Aza can consider that thrilling idea, something goes terribly wrong. Aza is lost to our world—and found, by another. Magonia.

Above the clouds, in a land of trading ships, Aza is not the weak and dying thing she was. In Magonia, she can breathe for the first time. Better, she has immense power—and as she navigates her new life, she discovers that war is coming. Magonia and Earth are on the cusp of a reckoning. And in Aza’s hands lies the fate of the whole of humanity—including the boy who loves her. Where do her loyalties lie?


Kassandra’s Review

Rating:  3/5
Format:  Hardcover
Started:  February 26, 2016
Finished:  February 27, 2016
Wine Pairing:
… Not sure alcohol will help to make this book less confusing so I would recommend Screw It Pinot Gregio

I am still not completely sure how I feel about Magonia. I really enjoyed the story and world, but there were just a few too many parts where I was utterly confused. Looking back on it, now that I have all of the puzzle pieces, the overall world was amazing. I loved the concept and characters (though some lacked development), but the biggest problem I had with it was the timing with information. Don’t get me wrong – you do get most of the information that you need, but you never seem to get it when you need it. There were pieces of backstory that were revealed later on in the book that were essential to understanding things that happened, or that alluded to things that Aza should have noticed, much earlier on.

I found that writing the spoiler filled review below really helped me to work out what actually happened in this book, but that shouldn’t have been necessary.

My final verdict – needs more stormsharks & batsails, but I will read book two when it comes out in October 2016. Hopefully it will answer at least some of the questions that are floating around in my brain.

Divergent, by Veronica Roth

DivergentSeries:  Divergent #1
Genre:
  Young Adult
Published:  April, 2011
Goodreads | Amazon | Indigo

“In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue–Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is–she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are–and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she’s chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she’s kept hidden from everyone because she’s been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.”


Kassandra’s Review

Rating:  5/5
Format:  Hardcover
Started:  December 7, 2013
Finished:  December 8, 2013 (@ 4:30 am <3 I couldn’t put this book down, I literally read all night)
Wine Pairing: 
Kraken on the rocks

When I started this book, I was a little nervous. I had heard the rave reviews as well as many that made it out to be the downfall of dystopian fiction, that or just another version of the hunger games. But as I read, I learned all about a world where people gathered together trying to improve their situation, though their efforts were twisted into something ugly over time. A plain girl fights ferociously for her right to find her place in her family’s world as well as her own. Some reviews said that classifying people into characteristics as factions was shallow, but personally I don’t really think that they understood the concept, or maybe they did and they just simply thought that it was shallow. They way I understood it, the factions didn’t classify people into what they were, they represented the things that different groups of people felt were ultimately the downfall of society. Abnegation is not a group of selfless people – where that’s all that they are and it sums them up in that one word, it’s a group who aim to be selfless because they feel that selfishness is the greatest sin to be fought. Tris begins this story as a nervous timid girl who is desperately trying to fit in and do what is expected of her. But as her story develops we get to watch her shed the ideology that she feels she needs to fit into, and come to realize who she has been all along with confidence.

“I guess I am what I’ve always been. Not Dauntless, not Abnegation, not faction less. Divergent.”

If anyone out there cannot relate and find truth in this story I would be shocked. The characters are well developed and I absolutely loved to watch them grow from the beginning to the end. If it wasn’t 4:30 in the morning I’d be grabbing Insurgent off my bookshelf already 😛 I guess I can wait for tomorrow though.

My Name is Rapunzel, by K.C. Hilton

hilton my name is rapunzelGenres:  Romance, Fantasy, Young Adult
Published:  November, 2013
Goodreads | Amazon | Indigo | Barnes&Nobel

“My tale has been told again and again, and I’ve heard each one. Except for my hair, I barely recognize the pitiful renditions. Muddled versions, crafted to entertain laughing children…but the children wouldn’t have laughed if they’d known the real story. It wasn’t their fault. They didn’t know the truth. Nobody did.

“My name is Rapunzel. I will tell you my story. I will tell you the truth.”


Kassandra’s Review

Rating:  1.5/5
Format:  Signed Paperback
Started:  December, 2013
Finished:  December, 2013
Wine Pairing: A pint glass of chardonnay, weird choice – I know

** SPOILER ALERT **

Before I begin this review, I would really like to thank K.C. Hilton for the beautiful copy of this that I received. I was lucky enough to win a signed copy through the goodreads giveaways and it was the best Christmas present I received this year! Thank you!! 🙂 And now onto the review…

I give this book one and a half stars out of five, I feel I must be honest, so here we go.

The cover is absolutely beautiful and the story’s plot had a really interesting twist on the typical Rapunzel story. The prologue caught my attention immediately, it had a great premise but as I read on I really wanted to love it, I really did, but I just couldn’t. I loved the idea but I couldn’t help but to stumble through the book, sometimes skipping entire pages because of the somewhat repetitive writing style. Chapter one starts us off with Rapunzel attempting to escape from her prison and the dragon that keeps her there, its exciting and enthralling, I couldn’t wait to see where it lead to… Only it didn’t lead anywhere, in fact, that wasn’t even a major scene in the novels plot. It was a well written chapter and if the story line had followed it’s lead I feel It could have been instantly one of my favourites. Instead we are told a long history of Rapunzel, including a ton of filler information that really did not move the plot forward at all, and as interesting as it was to learn her history, I was still on the edge of my seat waiting for the escape! Cause why else would that be the first chapter if it wasn’t what the book was building towards? So I read and read, but all I got was Rapunzel being heart broken over her long lost love, and her indignation that John Jenkins didn’t believe in fairy tales, which lead once again to a huge history dump. Still I hoped that the story would save itself, I saw John and instantly loved him, he gave the story a sense of realism and I really felt that he would be good for our leading lady who deserved to move on with her life. But alas, fate (otherwise known as the author in this case) had other plans, of course this is the moment that we find out that Henry is alive and is actually the dragon who has kept Rapunzel confined to her tower all those years. Cursed to never be able to look upon her face without becoming the dragon, he stalks her to “protect” her from the witch. And Rapunzel instantly throws away the great guy who can offer her a new life for the guy that essentially stalked her and keep her prisoner. Where is logic? this was the point where the book truly lost me.

It bewildered me that all that time, Henry could have just looked at the ground and saved the girl he loved years and years of heartbreak. I don’t get it. I couldn’t connect with Rapunzel, her motivations didn’t make sense and I didn’t feel that the character was very dimensional. John (although I loved him!) confused me as well, when we meet Mr. Jenkins he is upfront and certain in his convictions about not wanting to be married or settle down, and then in a whim of a moment, he’s head over heels for Rapunzel and asking her to run away with him? I just don’t see how he got from A to B, it was as if the character changed personalities within a chapter.

As you can tell, I have very strong feeling regarding this novel, but I didn’t give it a lower score for a reason. Despite all of the faults that I had with it, I did enjoy it. I didn’t love it but I definitely didn’t hate every second of reading it. Hilton has a great sense of humour and it really shines through. The story is filled with humour and emotion which is incredibly well written. Rapunzel’s history, though a lot of it seemed unnecessary and it wasn’t exactly what I wanted to learn more about, was interesting and pulled me into an interesting world.

Overall, it was a good book for a light read, but it could have been amazing. That being said I would definitely purchase any other book that K.C. Hilton writes, she’s a great author and I can’t wait to see what she does next.