Sunday, November 10, 2013


by Veronica Roth

The Divergent series by Veronica Roth is easily on par with the Hunger Games for me. I almost peed my pants I was so excited could NOT wait to get my hands on the final installment of the series and pre-ordered it from Amazon. Yes, I succumbed to virtual book shopping so that I could have this little gem in my hands ASAP. The book continues to fall Tris and Tobias (AKA Four, man of my dreams) on their quest for freedom and truth in the dystopian society they live in. For a quick recap, you can see my reviews of the first two books here: and

In Allegiant, the factions have been dissolved, but the citizens of Chicago now find themselves slaves to a new tyrant who enforces their "freedom", Tobias' own mother Evelyn. Tobias, Tris, and their friends make their way out of the city to find a surprising new world where they finally learn a truth that will change everything they believe.

So what do I love so much about this book? So many things. Seriously.
1. Tris and Tobias. There is no love triangle in this series. Praise God. They have a solid relationship that faces challenges other than a third person getting in the way.... Instead they have to deal with lying, trust issues, and forgiveness. A lot of this stems from Tris' previous errors in the relationship. "Remember when I teamed up with your abusive father to basically end the world as we know it?" You know, the usual.  However, Tobias brings his own challenges in this book which makes it clear that they have an equal and truly loving relationship.

2. The point of view.  Unlike the first two books which were told solely from Tris' perspective, Allegiant alternates between Tris and Tobias. This switch adds another dimension to the story-telling, and makes the resolution much more poignant.

3. Action.  There are some great action scenes that do not drag on or distract from the story line... instead they add to the storytelling and allow us to see the true nature of our heroes.

Are you still reading? Take a breath. Tris dies. YES. I really admire Roth's bravery in killing off the main hero that we have rooted for over the course of three books. Honestly, it seemed like the only fitting ending. Tris finds in herself the courage to face death, even when she has so much to live for, to protect all the people that she loves. Even those that may not deserve it. She is innately good, despite the society that has tried to turn her into something else.  It turns out that she has more Abnegation in her than she maybe even thought. The last several chapters are told only from Tobias' viewpoint, which is especially touching.

Overall, Allegiant is a beautiful, fast reading story of friendship, love, and redemption.... with a little dystopian drama thrown in for good measure. If you're into the Hunger Games or other dystopian fiction, I highly recommend this series. And make sure you start reading the first book before the movie comes out!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

A Week to be Wicked

by Tessa Dare

This is one of the best romance novels I've read in quite some time! Seriously. The story follows Minerva, and Lord Pain (ahem, Payne) on a slightly ridiculous adventure. Minerva is a true science "nerd" with her head in a book, while Colin (Payne) is a handsome, devilishly charming gentleman that all the girls chase. They band together to reach a scientific conference in Scotland where Minerva hopes to present her discovery of a fossilized giant lizard footprint. Despite all odds, a passionate relationship develops between the two as they face robbers, a shortage of funds, and other trials on their journey. How can you not love a good romance novel where the rake falls in love with a woman who is less typically beautiful, but has a kind nature and strong personality?? Finally. Colin is humorous and brings a lightness to Minerva's scientific pursuits as well. Even though they constantly aggravate one another, they both blossom in their relationship and bring out the best in each other as well. This book had me literally laughing out loud, and is easily my favorite Tessa Dare book to date! Two thumbs up.

Mountains Beyond Mountains

by Tracy Kidder

A serious review for a serious work. Let's start by saying that the author is a Pulitzer-prize award winner. He's a journalist who writes the most impressive works of non-fiction. So, it shouldn't be a surprise that Mountains Beyond Mountains fits this description. Tracy spent years following the works of Dr. Paul Farmer, focusing on his work in Haiti and the development of Partners in Health. This man has dedicated his entire life, so far, to serving the poor and medically underserved. Despite the consequences that his work has caused in his personal life and the lack of sleep he gets, he gives unreservedly to others. Although Kidder often portrays him as a "saint", he ensures that the reader is also aware of Farmer's flaws. However, these flaws often spur him on to do even more for others. Farmer's organization now operates in Boston, Siberia, Peru, Haiti, and countless other sites to treat TB and help people obtain basic necessities like food, shelter, and clean water. His work is truly inspiring!

Have you ever read a book that changed your perspective? I've been talking about this book to everyone I meet, even people I've only known for hours, since I read it. This work reminded me that we do not exist in a vacuum, that we have a responsibility to help others, with the resources we have been blessed with. Farmer talks a great deal about liberation theology, the prevalent belief system in Haiti. This is based on the idea that God sees all suffering, and will set His people free... and that we all have an obligation to serve those in need. This belief is very evident in Dr. Farmer's practices as he strives to accomplish goal after goal to better the health and well-being of others. Mountains Beyond Mountains is a great read that flows well and takes the reader around the world to places where people struggle to obtain the simple necessities of life.... reminding us that there is much work to be done in terms of equality and health world-wide.

"Beyond mountains there are mountains." - Haitian proverb

Tuesday, July 9, 2013


by Maya Banks

Dear Reader,

I read this book so that you don't have to. You're welcome.

Seriously... I am very disturbed by the current trends in "romance novels". I'm going to get on my soap box here, so feel free to ignore the following post if you choose. When did it become romantic for a man to stalk a woman, give her unknown drugs because she should trust him, force her to eat, hide their relationship from everyone they love & care about, give her away to other men, and make her sign a contract that he has total control over her? This is not just about this book by Maya Banks.... which on its own may have been passable. But just because Christian Grey's character had success in 50 Shades of Grey, that does not mean that every author should pursue the same storyline. I love romance novels. I'm not against a dominating male personality. But typically, they are balanced by equally strong female characters, who insist on a balanced partnership in their relationship. Not mousy little girls who lose every aspect of themselves in the relationship. Spoiler alert: in the end, the guy does finally come around. But it took long enough. And honestly, I DON'T KNOW WHY IN THE WORLD she believes herself in love with him for the whole first 9/10 of the book. Is she crazy?! This man is clearly unhinged. He tells her repeatedly that she should leave him, that he doesn't want her to let him change who she is. But... he does.

I know that Maya Banks is a fairly well-reputed romance author, so I'm going to just pretend I never read this book. The other characters in the book do seem interesting, with the lead females "brothers" taking up the lead roles in the rest of the series. Maybe one of them will salvage the series for me.

Beautiful Ruins

by Jess Walter

Alright readers, I'm sorry for my prolonged absence! I must now make up for lost time by giving you mere sentences on books which are deserving of much more praise! Including Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter. This book had been featured in all the bookstores for some time, and I finally got my hands on a paperback copy. P.S. If you didn't know, reading 50 books in a year can be expensive. Thank goodness for paperback and the library! (Don't you dare tell me I should switch to an e-reader. We will have words.)

This book is crafted beautifully. Walter is a master storyteller, weaving the lives of many people in different times together. There are many characters to follow, but the story itself is easy to understand and somehow it all comes together!  I actually finished reading this book in May, and have thought of it many times since then. He incorporates old Hollywood glamor, the Italian coastline, disillusionment after the war and interpersonal drama in an epic story that begins in the early 1960's and comes to a close in modern day. The characters are all well developed, their motivations are clear, and they stay with you even after you close the pages of this masterpiece. Two thumbs way, way up.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Looking for Alaska

by John Green

My current author obsession? John Green. Why? Tots obvs. He's brilliant. The Fault in Our Stars? And now, after reading Looking for Alaska? I must immediately read everything this man has ever put down on paper. He writes for a "young adult" audience, and his stories typically revolve around teenage characters. However, I love how he doesn't write his characters as people who are too young to know any better, or with shallow emotions. He writes his characters with depth, with true and heartbreaking emotion. They struggle with finding themselves, discovering love and making their way through the "labyrinth of suffering".

Looking for Alaska centers around our narrator "Pudge" as ventures to boarding school (voluntarily) to seek his "great perhaps". He meets an array of  characters who break him out of his daily stupor and essentially change who he is, no one more than Alaska. Sure, this process involves a lot of smoking cigarettes and getting drunk out in the woods... but it also involves great friendship, love, and loss. I'm still thinking about this story and Pudge's revelations days after finishing it. Let me just include some quotes from the book to spark some interest...

"When adults say, 'Teenagers think they are invincible' with that sly, stupid smile on their faces, they don't know how right they are. We need never be hopeless, because we can never be irreparably broken. We think that we are invincible because we are. We cannot be born, and we cannot die. Like all energy, we can only change shapes and sizes and manifestations. They forget that when they get old. They get scared of losing and failing. But that part of us greater than the sum of our parts cannot begin and cannot end, and so it cannot fail." - John Green, Looking for Alaska

"So I walked back to my room and collapse on the bottom bunk, thinking that if people were rain, I was drizzle and she was a hurricane." -John Green, Looking for Alaska

Please read this, and call me so we can talk about this modern day Breakfast Club of a novel.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Death of Bees

by Lisa O'Donnell

What do you do to kill time while you're waiting for your wonderful friend to meet you for a daily dose of fro yo? Well, if you have a goal of reading 50 books this year, you will not waste any time and will literally run (NOT WALK) into the nearest bookshop. So that's what I did! And I picked up this little surprise. The Death of Bees intrigued me from the moment I saw the cover, and the premise of two young girls who have buried their parents in the backyard and are living alone was something I DEFINITELY haven't heard before. I will be honest, the first half of the book shocked me. And not because Marnie and Nelly (both younger than 16) did indeed bury their horrible parents in the yard after their deaths, but because they deal drugs, have sex with married men, and swear a lot.... Does this mean I'm strangely both sheltered and jaded? I honestly don't know. Let me just say that this story was very eye-opening about the poverty stricken population in Glasgow, where the story takes place.

The second half of the story became a page turner for me, as the relationships with the girls neighbor Lennie and their grandfather become more developed. Through these, the girls learn the nature of love, how to accept good love from others, and their own true value. As they build a new family with Lennie, they learn about sacrifice and find a home where they least expected it. And when things take (another) turn for the worse, the sisters lean on each other, despite their constant bickering and misunderstandings. The dynamic between Marnie & Nelly is the foundation of the story, their love for eachother propelling them forward. I also found the varied viewpoint storytelling interesting to read. Especially since Nelly appears to be a 90 year old crone trapped in a 12 year old's body. In her own words, Toodle-oo!

Just One Day

by Gayle Forman

I have been looking forward to this book for ages, simply because Gayle Forman wrote one of my favorite book series of all time, If I Stay and Where She Went.
Although her writing is intended to be "young adult" literature, the themes and heart of her stories speak to readers of all ages. In this new book duet (the sequel Just One Year will be out this fall), we follow Allyson as she gets caught up in a whirlwind European romance with Willem. In "just one day", she falls in love and discovers her true self. But when Willem disappears the next morning, Allyson is left to deal with the fall out. As she heads off to her freshman year at college back at home, we join her on a journey of self-discovery. Anyone who has left the nest for the first time can identify with Allyson's struggle developing her own identity apart from her overprotective parents and familiar surroundings. As she grows into herself, she begins a search for the truth of what happened to Willem.... and the ending will have you biting your lip (like myself), as you realize you have to wait months to find out what happens to these two characters! Yes, MONTHS. (I should have heeded my sisters advice and waited to read this until the sequel was already out... I'm not known for my patience.) While this story did not have the same depth as If I Stay, it certainly pulled me in. And if Gayle Forman follows her previous pattern, then the sequel is sure to be even better!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Gone Girl

by Gillian Flynn

Have you heard of this book? If not, have you been living under a rock? I've been surrounded by whispered conversations about this book for MONTHS now and decided to finally get in on the action. There's nothing I hate more than not being able to partake in a bookish discussion. Well, almost nothing...  Honestly, I can't tell you much about the book without giving away some critical plot points. And since not many people in the world are spoiler whores like myself, I will hold back and offer just a few thoughts. In Gone Girl, we begin by following a man (Nick) who finds that his wife (Amy) is missing. The drama just builds from this point. Although the beginning was a little slow (filled with marital back story and strife), as soon as I hit the first twist I couldn't put the book down. Oh yes, there are plenty of twists. At the core of it all, Flynn deals with questions like: "How well can you really know another person?", "What are the boundaries within marriage?", "Can you love someone without conditions?". To borrow Nick's words, the relationship between these two bizarre people is "catastophically romantic". Catastrophically. Twisted. Toxic. Did I reveal too much? Now, please read this so that we can have a real discussion on the topic. Call me when you're done. Thank you.

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Fault in Our Stars

by John Green

This book made me cry in front of strangers. Let me explain... I have a leaky eye. Specifically, my right eye. For some unknown reason, while my left eye can contain itself, my traitorous right eye will always reveal my true emotions and sheds a tear at every sappy Hallmark movie, Google+ commercial, or sweet note from a friend. So when I tell you that I read this book on an airplane, it should not come as a surprise that my right eye shed more than a single tear, in front of total strangers. The poor girl sitting next to me must have thought I was going through something tragic, since I kept turning to the window to wipe tears from the right side of my face. But please, do not let my sappy tears discourage you from picking up this book. There are few books that have truly touched my heart and stayed with me (the last most likely being If I Stay by Gayle Forman)... but this will be added to my list. The story follows Hazel, a teenager who has lived for years with a terminal cancer diagnosis. While her life seems pointless & endlessly repetitive (the only excitement being a TV marathon of America's Next Top Model), all of that changes when Augustus Waters waltzes into her support group. The friendship, support and love they find in each other changes them deeply, eternally. I don't want to give away too much of the story, so you'll have to read it yourself. Green's perspective seems to be spot on, on a subject that few can truly grasp. Heartbreaking and yet beautifully hopeful, this book should be on everyone's list for 2013.

Can you believe it?

Welcome to 2013! It's hard to believe that this will be my 3rd year writing on this blog... In total, I have read a total of 90 books over the last 2 years. Crazy! I have a feeling that 2013 is going to be a great one all around, and I'm excited to continue sharing my reading journey with you! As always... send any of your favorite recommendations my direction, and I'll be happy to read & blog my thoughts. Happy new year!