August 17, 2015

Audiobook Review: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

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This book, y'all. It's been months since I first read it and I still find it hard to put all my feelings into words! I've had it sitting on my kindle for several years and for some idiotic reason, I never got around to reading it in full until this year. I found the audiobook at my library and decided maybe that was what I needed to get me started. I was SO right because this story completely blew me away! All the hype and the rave reviews? All the things every blogger/reviewer has said about Ms. Steifvater and this book? I am now a believer, my friends. Seriously, you need to read this one! It's unlike any other book I've ever read before. How? I shall attempt to try and explain...

First of all, the world building is fabulous! It took me a bit to settle into the story, but it wasn't long before I could feel the wind on my face, hear the ocean waves crashing to shore, and feel the restless energy of the entire island of Thisby. The whole book feels vividly atmospheric and interestingly vague. I say that because we're never quite certain exactly where and when this story takes place, but it doesn't matter because everything feels so timeless. Although there's electricity and cars, which rules out a historical time period, at the same time it doesn't feel modern either. And while the water horses (capaill uisce) have a fantasy genre feel, the rest of the novel is very real and relatable. I applaud Ms. Stiefvater's ability to bring such a mix of things into one amazing story.

Then there's the characters, especially Puck and Sean. I've not read a great deal of stories with multiple narrators and some writers definitely excel at it while others are so-so. This one is in the exceptional category! I should point out, however, that I think it helped that I listened to the audio in which the two narrators reading it were incredibly skilled at accents. Hearing their separate voices for each point of view worked really well and drew me into the story much more than my attempts at reading the e-book had. Likewise, all the side characters are just as fascinating! From Puck's brothers Finn and Gabe, to the horrible Malverns, intriguing George Holly, feisty Dory Maud and her sisters, and even the water horses themselves-who are "magical and terrifying", most especially Corr. There are some characters who are easy to label as a good guy or a bad guy, but most of them vary between the two. I was constantly trying to decide what they would do next and always having to rethink my ideas of them. It made them very compelling. :)

The majority of the book is a build-up to race day and as the tension rose and the stakes kept getting higher, it made me want to skim forward faster. But the beauty of this story is experiencing all the uneasiness and agitation right along with Puck and Sean. There's no great and huge action moments, either. Neither Puck nor Sean are talkative people, but as you spend more and more time in their heads, you realize it's the subtle moments that have the biggest impact on you as the reader and on the characters themselves. The complex details don't show themselves right out in the open; they build and build, quietly appear on the horizon, and all of sudden there they are right in front of you! Much like the water horses themselves, they make their presence known boldly and noiselessly.

This is a book that needs to be experienced without much knowledge of what precisely is going to happen. It's all the little moments strung together that creates the climb to the climax and then that perfect ending! It's a beautifully written story that is never leaving my library because I am positive there will be many a re-read/re-listen in my future! Highly, highly recommend!

And then I see that Kendrick, too, has seen me, and is uncertain about getting into the truck, and that pleases me. I would like to be terrifying. I glower at him.
But Gratton's expression must counteract mine, because Sean Kendrick glances back the way he's come and then starts around to the other side of the truck. My side. Gratton opens his door and tells the dog to get in the back, which she does, shooting us all a filthy look. I move into the seat she'd been occupying--now that I'm sitting right next to Gratton, he smells like the lemon throat lozenges whose wrappers are scattered on the floor. All the while, I'm madly trying to come up with something catchy to say when Sean opens the passengerside door, something that will at once indicate that I remember what he said to me on the beach and also carry that I am not impressed or intimidated, and possibly convey the message that I'm more clever than he thinks, as well.
Sean Kendrick opens the door.
He looks at me.
I look at him.
This close, he's almost too severe to be handsome: sharp-edged cheekbones and razor-edged nose and dark eyebrows. His hands are bruised and torn from his time with the capaill uisce. Like the fishermen on the island, his eyes are permanently narrowed against the sun and the sea. He looks like a wild animal. Not a friendly one.
I don't say anything.


August 13, 2015

Bite-Sized Reviews :: Edition Thirteen

I am SOOOO behind on reviewing the books I've been reading. I say this every time I write a bite-sized reviews post, but this time it's really, really true! I read Julie Kagawa's series back in March. March, people! That's right. Five months ago. Five! That's craziness, right? I completely agree. At least I'm finally getting around to them? That's something. Not sure what exactly, but something! :)

Anyhoo, enough of my chitchat. I know you've just been anxiously waiting for what glorious things I have to say, so I'll stop chatting and get to the reviews. :D


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The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa
I haven't read too many vampire stories, but I kept hearing such good things about this series that I knew I wanted to read this one day. And I am ever so glad I did! Because wow. Ms. Kagawa has created a pretty complex character in Allie and her world is absolutely non-romanticized, a bit gory, and very real. To put it mildly, Allie is awesome! Her quandary with her vampire nature versus her desire to be fully human again and how she handles it just got me in the gut. I was immediately drawn in the story thanks to her and eagerly devoured page after page just to stay in her head and find out what choices she'd make next and how far she'd go to keep her secrets safe. A flawed, but sympathetic, heroine makes for excellent reading, I must say! Yet it's not just Allie, the entire cast of characters are fascinating. Trying to discern their motives and what they would do next isn't easy and they are far from lovable at times. (Some never did grow on me, I confess. But that's the nature of humans, some are always more likeable than others.) All in all, this was a fabulous beginning and I was extremely grateful that I could immediately dive into book two without waiting! :)


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The Eternity Cure by Julie Kagawa
The stakes are higher and the choices harder here in book two. Ms. Kagawa shows no mercy in being willing to throw any and all amounts of angst at her characters! Just at the moment you think things have a bit of time to relax, you're reminded that nothing and nobody is safe in this world. Allie is still as tough as ever and the people and vampires she's surrounded with are as compelling and frustrating as always. I am amazed at Ms. Kagawa's skill at making her world feel small yet enormous at the same time. Because every choice made has far-reaching consequences, as Allie finds out again and again. And make no mistake, this world is not rainbows and kittens! Things are dark and twisty. It became very clear that Ms. Kagawa planned out the details of her story from the beginning because things I'd overlooked before suddenly became important. Once again, I was drawn in unable to stop reading while the tension rose...and then I got to that cliffhanger ending. And immediately opened book three because I had to find out what happened next!


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The Forever Song by Julie Kagawa
Everything explodes in this final book of the series. Not literally! But not one character comes out unharmed or unchanged. If book two was dark and twisty, this one just increases that darkness and throws in several plot twists I wasn't expecting, as well as others I was. Allie is such a great mix of strength and vulnerability. She is the biggest reason I love this series! Her fight to bring her two sides together finally comes to a head and the choices she makes frustrated me at times, yet intrigued me constantly. As did Kanin and Jackal! While I could never fully understand either of them, I was fascinated at the same time. And watching the three of them together, as a makeshift family of their own, is so much fun! I never thought I'd say that, but it's true. :) Another character really irritated me in this book, however. He'd been such a nice guy in the first two books (and a light for all the darkness!) that his change disappointed me. Luckily it doesn't last too long, yet while I understood his reasons, it bugged me nonetheless. Regardless, this is a series I really enjoyed! It kept me up half the night and that is always the sign of a fabulous story. :)


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Hello, I Love You by Katie M. Stout
This was fun! Nothing too deep or thought-provoking here, but if you're willing to turn your brain off and just be entertained, then I think you'll like it. Grace has a few frustrating moments, a couple of her choices I didn't really understand, but overall she's a sweet girl who's struggling to come to terms with a family crisis. Moving to Korea and the subsequent friendships that develop help her to realize her own strength. Plus a dreamy guy to crush on doesn't hurt either! ;) The romance has a bit of insta-love to it, but once you get beyond that they're pretty adorable. And the other characters are enjoyable as well! Especially Sophie. She was definitely a much better friend than Grace deserved at first, but Grace soon realizes how awesome Sophie is and accordingly strives to be a nicer friend in return. As someone who has watched a Korean drama or two, I thought it felt like a cute and fluffy homage. There are a few moments that feel a little contrived, but most k-dramas have a bit of silliness in them so I wasn't bothered. Overall, I really enjoyed this story and it's one I'll reread again!




August 12, 2015

Persuasion & Prayers Read-Along :: Day 15


As I sat down to finally do a little blogging and contemplated what I wanted to chat about today, I realized that I hadn't posted the final day of the read-along. So here it is! Better late than never, right?

........right??

I hope so! If not, oh well. Because I'm posting it late anyway! :) If you care to, head over to Amber's posts from July and check out all the discussion. And read the rest of this post too! Please? :)

Day 15 :: The Prayers of Jane Austen Prayer :: #3

Quote to Ponder:

"Incline us, O God, to think humbly of ourselves, to be severe only in the examination of our own conduct, to consider our fellow-creatures with kindness, and to judge of all they say and do with that charity which we would desire from them ourselves."

Observation:

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I really appreciated what Amber wrote, so I'm hoping she doesn't mind if I share it here:

Don't the sentiments expressed in this prayer fit well with the lessons of Persuasion?
  • Time is short; don't let pride hold you back from the love you're meant to give.
  • Hardships come and meaningful things take time, so we must follow Jesus's example of patience and endurance.
  • We all mess up, and the knowledge of this ought to make us humble before God and with each other.
  • All in all, God works all things for our good (Romans 8:28), and we're deeply and truly blessed.
  • We need God's mercy to save us from our self-centered and hard-hearted tendencies.
  • "Everyone needs compassion," as the worship song "Mighty to Save" (Hillsong) sums up. We've all suffered in our own ways. We all need love.

Question :: Did this prayer speak to you and your current situation in life? If so, how?

Oh to love others as we are loved! Regardless of how much we may get hurt, we are called to love always. Love well. To be kind and compassionate. To love others is to be vulnerable. The older I get the more I come to understand how hard this is, yet how much I am blessed when others love me, in spite of my flaws. And when I do the same in return, the blessings flow down in ways I'd never imagined. Love well, my friends. You will be ever so grateful you do.



August 5, 2015

Persuasion & Prayers Read-Along :: Day 14


Oh my heart! We're at the end of Persuasion and I simply can't stop swooning. A more perfectly delightful ending could not have been written! I have said before and I will say again, this book remains my favorite Austen, this read-through proved that again. All the details and the laughter and the swoony moments combine to make me a very happy reader! :) Also many thanks to Amber for hosting this read-along and all the other ladies who participated (looking at you Courtney and Julie :). I have loved every minute of reading this story again and having the privilege of discussing it with those awesome ladies. And now, onwards to more of my gushing!

Day 14 :: Persuasion Chapters 23-24

Quote to Ponder:

"I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant. You alone have brought me to Bath. For you alone, I think and plan. Have you not seen this? Can you fail to have understood my wishes? I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think you must have penetrated mine. I can hardly write. I am every instant hearing something which overpowers me. You sink your voice, but I can distinguish the tones of that voice when they would be lost on others. Too good, too excellent creature! You do us justice, indeed. You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men. Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating, in
F.W.
I must go, uncertain of my fate; but I shall return hither, or follow your party, as soon as possible. A word, a look, will be enough to decide whether I enter your father's house this evening or never."

"Such a letter was not to be soon recovered from."

{I'm sorry, but I had to post that entire letter. I had to! Can you imagine receiving such beautiful words meant just for you? I don't blame Anne for being unable to even think clearly after reading that! My heart melts every single time I read it. One of the best letters in literature, in my humble opinion!}

Observation:

Some of the others who were reading this with me said they got pretty frustrated with Wentworth in the first half of the story. And I don't blame them! He does act pretty idiotically. Yet I knew that in most of that portion of the book we are only getting Anne's perspective, so we miss out on what's really going through Wentworth's mind. Which is why I love that Ms. Austen gives us clarity-of what was going on with him-in these last chapters! Because while that letter is simply amazing (it really, really is!), the fact that we can finally understand him and see him own up to his mistakes is especially wonderful. I love that he acknowledges how his actions were wrong and that it was his emotions that got the better of him (see? I told you! ;) directly to Anne, "...he was obliged to acknowledge that he had been constant unconsciously, nay unintentionally, that he had meant to forget her, and believed it to be done. He had imagined himself indifferent, when he had only been angry...".

Once you know his reasons it helps how you view him in the early chapters (especially when reading the book again) and while it doesn't make his choices less frustrating, it does make it easier to forgive him. By doing that, perhaps Ms. Austen wanted to give us a hero who is flawed, realizes this about himself, and seeks to become better. (Which is a hero I can definitely connect with and swoon over! :) It also gives Wentworth more compassion for Anne's mistake eight years ago. It takes hardship to bring both of them to that understanding though, which makes their reunion feel even more earned. Both made mistakes, both dealt with heartache and pain, both forgave, and both loved fiercely from then on. Beautiful, yes?! :D

Question :: We've finished the book! What are your final thoughts? Where does Persuasion rank among the Jane Austen stories you know and love?

My favorite, of course! But you already knew that. :D I have trouble narrowing down precisely why this story resonates with me so much, but I can definitely talk about what I love about it.

9931852First, I just adore Anne. (Here's a recent gush-fest for your consideration. :) She doesn't really change over the course of this story (at least not drastically), it's more that she comes to understand herself better. She realizes the strength that's inside her, because while she's always been strong, I don't think she'd ever have labeled herself as such in the beginning of this story. Watching her blossom into a more daring woman who can finally believe in her own worth and be firm enough to even stand up to her father when the occasion calls for it is glorious! And to then get that exquisite letter and "perfect happiness" with Wentworth? I love it!

And seriously. I know I'm repeating myself, but that letter....!!!! :D

I have to note that awesome conversation that Captain Harville and Anne have just prior to the letter as well. (Sidenote: that's one scene where the 2007 version of Persuasion disappoints me.) It is such a crucial moment when Wentworth overhears them and is unable to stay silent any longer. I love how they can't fully agree, yet they know they're both a bit biased in their own favor and still completely understand where the other is coming from. It's a mutual admiration and understanding and it's perfectly timed. I love how passionate Captain Harville is when he's talking about how he misses his wife and children when he's gone. It's also the moment when it seems very clear to me that he knows at least a bit of Anne and Wentworth's past and possibly may even know how they both feel presently. Of course, that's pure speculation on my part, but Anne notes this about him just prior to their convo "...the unaffected, easy kindness of manner which denoted the feelings of an older acquaintance than he really was...". He's so open with her during this convo, clearly comfortable sharing a bit of his heart with her. One doesn't do that with someone they don't know well, unless they know things about this person, perhaps, which leads them to know they can trust them. I could be wrong, but I like to imagine such a scenario because I simply love this scene in the book! :)

Of course, y'all know I love that wonderful happy ending. Anne and Wentworth forever!!! ;D But truly, after all the heartache and fear of rejection both of them went through, it is absolutely delightful to see them so happy together. They both deserve it. I'm also pleased with how so many ends get tied up exactly right. From Lady Russell and Wentworth's friendship, to Wentworth helping Mrs. Smith, to both Musgrove girls getting their own happy ever after, and even though Sir Walter and Elizabeth end up with more heartache and uncertainty than happiness, it's fitting for them. (Plus they still have each other! ;) And while tinged with just the right amount of reality, I am undeniably with Amber when she states "I think Anne might echo Mrs. Croft's words from chapter 8: "I can safely say, that the happiest part of my life has been spent on board a ship. While we were together, you know, there was nothing to be feared." Anne and Wentworth have a joyful future together, whatever it brings!

Have I mentioned how much I love this book? :)



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