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I was recently mopping my floors and staring at my bookshelf (because what else would you do while cleaning) and realized that I haven’t actually reviewed all the books on my favorites shelf. I’m not talking my mental “favorites” shelf, which is about a gagillion books long, but the physical shelf where I put my favorite books. Being a book blogger and moreover a book lover, I have my own unique system for organizing my books (mostly so I can find my way to whichever book I want in the vast ocean of literary works I own). It involves a single shelf dedicated to my favorite books in order of preference and merit (but also organized by author because I can’t not organize my books by author), excluding dystopian series because then it wouldn’t fit on a single bookshelf. Anyway, I decided that this would never do and that I’d better review these books quick. Also, I saw a chance to make a graphic. I like that (though I’m not very good at it).

Here is a picture of said bookshelf, but look, it’s mysteriously blurred out (insert chance to make a graphic here).

TFIOS_shelf

Can you guess which book I’m reviewing today? The one in focus, perhaps?

I’m going to forgo my usual header because there’s no use to giving these books a rating. This review is for The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. I don’t EVER talk about this book in public and try to avoid the subject because I love this book so much (as does most of the reading world). It ended up on Tally’s Three Books I Cannot Review list (coming up later this week) and I, similarly, have avoided reviewing it for various mental health reasons. Maybe this is bad for our readers because we don’t review those books we love the most (a lot of the books you’ll read about being on my favorites shelf I haven’t previously reviewed for this reason), so I’m going to attempt to review them here, but give me some slack on these reviews because these will be the hardest books for me to talk about publicly. Maybe I’ll devote a later post (I haven’t written the Tuesday post for next week yet so maybe you’ll see it then) to why we (I) refuse to talk about some books, but for now we’ll focus on this book in particular.

My favorite John Green book is Paper Towns, but The Fault in Our Stars is the first book on my favorites shelf because it hit me so hard in the emotional stomach that I just felt it deserved that first place spot. Because it got that first place spot, the next four books on my shelf are also by John Green because as previously mentioned I can’t bear to break up an author in my organization system (you should see my Scott Westerfeld section). First, a (hopefully spoiler free) summary:

Hazel Grace Lancaster has lived on borrowed time for a great part of her life, thanks to miracle cancer-slowing drug Phalanxifor. There is no knowledge as to when this time will run out, but Hazel has accepted that and would be pretty okay with staying home and watching America’s Next Top Model for the rest of her undetermined lifetime. In spite of Hazel’s wishes, her mom insists that she attend Cancer Kid Support Group, which Hazel thinks is kind of ridiculous.

Then Hazel meets the least ridiculous thing about support group: Augustus Waters. Extreme fan of metaphor and drama, Augustus attempts to sweep the usually unsweepable Hazel off her feet, and in the process gets swept off of his one foot at least several times. The result is everyone lying on the floor, in every array of emotion possible.

When I say everyone lying on the floor I mean that metaphorically but also quite literally in that I was lying in a sort of puddle-heap hybrid by the end of this book. It (metaphorically) killed me emotionally, though a tiny bit of that might’ve been because I read TFiOS in one sitting starting at like eight o’ clock the night I bought it so I was sitting there having my feelings ripped out at approximately five a.m., but it was also a really emotionally difficult (but great!) book. Everyone (meaning one person) I’ve ever talked to about it also says they suffered a mental breakdown while and after reading the last chapters, and that is in agreement with every online discussion of the book I’ve ever read.

I don’t want to say too much more about TFiOS because I don’t want to risk ANY spoilers, but just know that it really is really truly really worth a read. It didn’t make it to the tippy top of the NY Times bestseller list for no reason.

The author, John Green, does other things besides write books, including running a vlog with his brother, Hank, and generally building and sustaining an awesome online community that has been helping to decrease worldsuck (aka do good things for the world) for years, as well as providing a ton of fuel for intelligent discussion (we like that here at Bookmarks) and the increasing of knowledge. You should go check him out.

Can you guess which book I’m reviewing next? (Here’s a hint: it’s the one not blurred out all the way.)

Happy Tuesday and hope you’re warm,
Rosey


I’ve talked before about Maggie Steifvater’s Shiver, the first book in her Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy, which is one of the books on my favorites shelf I’d actually label ‘romance’.

The reason I like Shiver isn’t the smut scenes so much as the pretense of scientifically-explained lycanthropy. That’s right scientifically explained lycanthropy. It’s not real-world science but there is an actual pretense for why the characters suddenly pop into a different species, and it has nothing to do with magic or some “age old history” we never actually hear about. It’s very refreshing, and allowed me to focus on other things rather than getting caught up on details I found unbelievable.

I’m recapping from this review now, but another reason I really enjoyed the Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy was something Maggie Steifvater said at Wordstock (2010? 2011? A few years ago): “My characters are wolves when they’re wolves and humans when they’re humans.” That really comes through when you read the books, in a way one might not have expected, but it really adds to the believability and the character development (again, not something you’d expect, but totally true).

Now that I’ve given you a few reasons to read the book, I give you chapters 1-5 in song form. (There are no chapter titles, so no hints there I’m afraid.)

Chapter 1: Eyes on Fire (Zed’s Dead remix) – Blue Foundation
The story begins with Grace, as a small child, being ripped apart by wolves. There’s one wolf that isn’t enjoying it, and the last thing she sees are his gorgeous yellow eyes. When she wakes up, she’s safe.

I picked this song for obvious reasons (the yellow eyes, the whole ‘flay you alive’ chorus, etc.) but also because I think it’s a solid remix of a decent song with paranormal links (the original was on the Twilight movie soundtrack, if you’re wondering) and I like to start a new playlist review on a good foot. There will possibly be more Blue Foundation songs on this playlist in the long run because they are a quality band.

Chapter 2: Electric Feel – MGMT

Next we hear from the wolf with the yellow eyes – Sam. He’s hungry, but the moment he sees the little girl in the snow he begins to change. And then he saves her.

I know this song is kinda overused, but it really fits with all that goes on in this chapter, and the tone matches as well. Also, now I’ve gotten the MGMT out of my system early on.

Chapter 3: Beyond This Moment – Patrick O’ Hearn
These first couple chapters are really short, so not much happened in this chapter, but pretty much Grace talks about how the wolf came to visit her every day in the winter and never in the fall – and how she always thought they were wolves, nothing more.

I really love this song in general, but it also sounds like I imagine six years of childhood passing by as you stood in a window watching the snow fall on your best friend that happened to be a wolf would sound.

Chapter 4: No One’s Gonna Love You – Band of Horses
Chapter four details the first time Sam sees Grace as a human. He’s working in a bookstore when she and her friends brows and all he wants is for her to notice him, but she’s too busy looking at all the books she wants to read.

I’m a believer in vibe over lyrics, and No One’s Gonna Love You is one of those songs that just sounds like the noise that plays in my head during scenes like this.

Chapter 5: How I Feel – Wax Tailor
A boy in Sam and Grace’s town, Jack, was killed by wolves, and now everyone’s afraid of them, except for Grace. In fact, her wolf gets closer to her than ever, which results in a little bit of pack dissonance, but an overall happy couple.

There’s just something about this song that matches the chapter really well, though I can’t quite pinpoint it. Like the chapter, it’s different from what we’ve heard in the pieces before it, and also a little unexpected.

That’s it for today’s review, but keep an eye out for chapters 6-10 sometime soon.
Cheers,
Rosey


The CompanionsTitle: The Companions
Author: R.A. Salvatore
Pages: 384 (Ebook)
Rating: 4.5/5

I recieved an ARC ebook copy from Netgalley, thank you!

The Companions is the first book, of a five-book series that unfolds the changes occurring across the Forgotten Realms and it revolves around the hero, dark elf Drizzt Do’Urden and his companions. It takes the reader back a few years from where The Last Threshold left off to recount the adventures of some long lost companions. All leading up to reuniting twenty-one years later if they can outlast their new enemies and trials to go to the aid of Drizzt. Old readers will be quick to guess who these companions are but new readers will be brought in with welcoming hands as new adventures unfold with promising new roads on every horizon.

This book tore me apart on so many levels. I was a sobbing mess at the beginning, a mess at the end, and just torn watching these characters. Its so hard to write a nonspoilerish review, especially about a series and characters that span over 25 years of works. If you’ve ever wanted to pick up R.A. Salvatore’s books, don’t do it with this one. Perhaps Salvatore means to bring in new fans but my advice, start at the beginning.

These characters, got a new chance to be reborn, to start a new life without forgetting their previous identities and for one dwarf in particular, it’s hard, too hard, to have to restart all the successes and be someone less than he was. The dwarf sums it up nicely, “beardless.” A certain halfling gets the chance to, this time around not just be a sidekick but make a difference. I absolutely loved him, though he reminded me very much of another of Salvatore’s character from another series. And then there’s her. Her. Come back as Ruqiah. If she was a bad-ass character before, then she’s just unbelievable now. I would like to see her back with her bow and arrows though^.^

The ending was perfect with a surprise thrown in for good measure and I get teary-eyed every time I reread it. My feelings are still conflicted over this book. I look back at the past books and the pain Drizzt went to and wonder if it was worth it. Granted he wouldn’t know the blessing that was being prepared for him but still. I have conflicts with reincarnation(the only reason why I don’t five star this book). It such a simple way to get characters back in the game but then again, I’m more than excited to see the Companions of the Hall gathered together. For one last major battle? What roads does Drizzt still have yet to walk?

Brilliant book, I rather felt like it was a bridge to greater things but I still had fun following the adventures and painful trials of these three companions of Drizzt Do’Urden. If you’re a high fantasy fan, you don’t want to miss this book. Or rather, I still suggest going back to the earlier books but that is of course, up to you.

Happy, Happy Reading!

~Tally


something strange and deadlyTitle: Something Strange and Deadly
Author: Susan Dennard
Rating: 4.5/5
Pages: 388 (Hardcover)

The year is 1876, and there’s something strange and deadly loose in Philadelphia…

Eleanor Fitt has a lot to worry about. Her brother has gone missing, her family has fallen on hard times, and her mother is determined to marry her off to any rich young man who walks by. But this is nothing compared to what she’s just read in the newspaper—

The Dead are rising in Philadelphia.

And then, in a frightening attack, a zombie delivers a letter to Eleanor…from her brother.

Whoever is controlling the Dead army has taken her brother as well. If Eleanor is going to find him, she’ll have to venture into the lab of the notorious Spirit-Hunters, who protect the city from supernatural forces. But as Eleanor spends more time with the Spirit-Hunters, including their maddeningly stubborn yet handsome inventor, Daniel, the situation becomes dire. And now, not only is her reputation on the line, but her very life may hang in the balance.

 I absolutely loved this book! It went by far too fast but it was thoroughly satisfying, gory, and heartwrenching. This book…. is exactly what the book doctor perscribed for my reading slump that I’ve bee experiencing. It was exciting, thrilling to feel an author wholly enjoy writing the story. You dont come across many authors that can do that.

The characters…. were amazing. None of them white or black but a dizzing array of greys I absolutely loved them all. At first I was skeptical as to what Eleanor saw in Daniel Sheridan but boy, I was head over heels along with Eleanor. Dennard wrote some intense moments between the two that had me grinning.

The plot itself was winding like Philadelphia’s streets (or I imagine they are so) but it developed Eleanor’s relationships quite well even though i found her reactions a bit over the top, I still enjoyed her. The ending was intense, bitter, bittersweet, and still has me reeling from it all. Absolutely. Can. Not. Wait. For. The. Next. Book. And its coming out soon!

~Tally


Surrender by Elana JohnsonTitle: Surrender
Author: Elana Johnson
Pages: 469 (hardcover)
Rating: 3.7/5

The second book in the series by Elana Johnson I began reviewing on Tuesday, Surrender, was much better than I was expecting it to be at the end of my last post.

At first I wasn’t thrilled with the two-point perspective, nor the narrators’ shortcoming of not being Vi, the main character of the first book, Possession. After 469 pages, I’ve come around to the more innocent and less strong stubborn voices of Raine and Gunner, main characters and narrators of Surrender.

Raine, seventeen year old daughter of Van Hightower, Director of Freedom (remember that foreshadowing?), is a leader of the Insiders, a resistance hoping to gather enough government contacts to bring down the regime of Thinkers and Directors and return the world to a place where everyone has the power to make their own decisions and have their own opinions. Gunner is the golden guy of Freedom, hoverboarding star, highly talented, all that stuff. The story begins with Raine trying to get Gunner to join the Insiders, for obvious (talent-related) reasons and maybe some personal ones as well.

As daughter of the Director, Raine has a lot of responsibilities. For one, she must keep track of and chart her ditzy flatmate’s nightmares, and send a report off to Assistant Director Thane whenever they happen. And Vi has nightmares every night. She also has to keep up with her heavy load of work for the Insiders, as she’s a top recruiter and also one of the most influential contacts they have. There’s one more mandated activity, but Raine doesn’t like to talk about that. Her special talent isn’t one she enjoys using.

Gunner lives with his mom, though he probably should be living in student housing. Everyone else does, at least. He’s a pretty normal dude – talented, sure, but nothing super special. His favorite activities are snacking and flying, both of which he manages to eek out of the government in large enough quantities to keep himself pretty content with life. Until one day, on the way to get his snack, his mom isn’t quick enough to close the safe.

In a world where the only currency is obedience and the only rewards unimportant, Gunn and Raine try to make sense of the oddities around them – Vi, Zenn, Thane, and the new arrival, Jag.

Elana Johnson kicked her ‘yeah’ and ‘because’ habit, but replaced them with + and =, which are actually okay. In the two perspectives, only Gunner really uses them, but since he narrates half the book, there are a lot of non-letter signs on the pages for a literary work. Again, something I’m willing to overlook because I enjoyed the story and the rest of the prose, but worth noting if that kind of stuff will bug you.

I really enjoyed Surrender, and though I’m posting this on Friday, it’s actually Wednesday as I write this. (Meaning I went out and got the book, read it, and reviewed it within 48 hours of finishing Possession.) I’m looking forward to Abandon (is three reviews from the same series in a row too much? I hope not), which will probably blow me away, because these books actually seem to be getting better as I progress in the series, which is not something I can say about every dystopian series. I’m looking at you, Matched trilogy. (Also, I’m hearing that the term is no longer YA dystopian, but I’m not buying it.)

Another thing I’ve been meaning to bring up since starting Possession is the god modding aspect of the talents. If you’ve had experience roleplaying or have learned about the not-so-official literary aspects they don’t really teach in school, you’ll know god modding is giving your characters so many abilities that they don’t have any chance of failure. This could be a huge problem for the Possession books, but Elana Johnson seems to be doing okay so far. There have been a couple times where I either went ‘oh, that’s handy,’ or ‘why can’t they just use their superpower?’, but overall I’ve bought the use or not use of each character’s power. I’m a little worried that things will take a turn for the god moddey in the next book after [SPOILER] Vi was all “I can do everything” and bust out the complete mind reading abilities, but I hope the esteemed Mrs. Johnson will keep everything realistic [NO MORE SPOILER]. Also, you’ve had ample time to go find Possession, so I expect you’re reading it or have already finished by now. (Not actually, read what you want. But seriously, you should read these books.)

My hopes for Abandon, go something like this:
-It is narrated by at least one of the points in the love triangle from Possession (most hopefully Jag, but Vi was great in the first book and I wouldn’t mind reading from Zenn’s point of view).
-It is at least 600 pages long (Looked it up, it’s not. 464.)
-There is no resurfacing of the yeah and because, even if Vi is narrating
-There is ZERO ‘it was all a dream/all government orchestrated’ plot work (glaring at Veronica Roth’s Insurgent, here)
-The ending is closed. No room for interpretation or continuation, everything’s been worked out (ahem, The Passage).

We’ll see how that works out. Review to come. Probably next Tuesday.

Au revoir,
Rosey


stormdancer Title: Stormdancer (The Lotus War #1)
Author: Jay Kristoff
Pages: 313 (Hardback)
Rating 4/5

When you sit down to read this book, I sincerely hope you have more time than me to just sit and read. For however long it takes you to get to the last page. I read this in large chunks, impatient to see how it would end. A beautiful read in many senses.

A DYING LAND
The Shima Imperium verges on the brink of environmental collapse; an island nation once rich in tradition and myth, now decimated by clockwork industrialization and the machine-worshipers of the Lotus Guild. The skies are red as blood, the land is choked with toxic pollution, and the great spirit animals that once roamed its wilds have departed forever.

AN IMPOSSIBLE QUEST
The hunters of Shima’s imperial court are charged by their Shōgun to capture a thunder tiger – a legendary creature, half-eagle, half-tiger. But any fool knows the beasts have been extinct for more than a century, and the price of failing the Shōgun is death.

A HIDDEN GIFT
Yukiko is a child of the Fox clan, possessed of a talent that if discovered, would see her executed by the Lotus Guild. Accompanying her father on the Shōgun’s hunt, she finds herself stranded: a young woman alone in Shima’s last wilderness, with only a furious, crippled thunder tiger for company. Even though she can hear his thoughts, even though she saved his life, all she knows for certain is he’d rather see her dead than help her.

But together, the pair will form an indomitable friendship, and rise to challenge the might of an empire.

A thunder tiger sounds pretty awesome yes? Buruu fits awesome like a glove (granted it’d have to be a pretty big glove for him to fit in it…) I loved the interactions between him and Yukiko and their growing relationship throughout the whole story. They balanced each other out and more than once I found myself laughing at the pair. There are tender moments and moments that leave you wondering what righteousness and justice really are.

The beginning had me off balance for a chapter or so until my mind took grasp of all the names and meanings of Yukiko’s world. I also really didn’t come to care for any of the other characters except for Yukiko’s father Masuru and Akihito, her uncle. I’ll leave their fates up to you to discover but I will warn you that no one is too important to die. In fact, a whole bunch of characters die, some better than others. (and poor Buruu! but that’s a spoiler so you’ll have to read for yourself to learn more)

Kristoff created a world that was a delight to explore and I’m excited to see what Yukiko and Buruu will do next. There’s a lot of action(my favorite being the fight with the oni warlord) and hinting at danger from all directions to come in the next book. I feel like Stormdancer is just a warmup for the ride that the second book Kinslayer will be. Looking forward to it in September!

~Tally


Possession Title: Possession
Author: Elana Johnson
Pages: 405 (paperback)
Rating: 3.5/5

Today I bring you . . . Yet another YA dystopian. Surprise, I know. But there are so many! And some of them are actually okay.

Like this one, Possession by Elana Johnson. I’ll admit, parts of it annoyed me to no end. Like how every other sentence begins with “Yeah” or “Because,” which is not a proper way to begin a sentence, as we all learned in third grade. I am generally unopposed to Because, actually, but when used well and with a purpose. These becauses just annoyed me. The yeahs were also a problem, especially for the first few chapters, but the actual story I liked just fine.

Vi lives in a world of black or white, good or bad. Literally. The Goodies have white skin that’s never been exposed to the sunlight. The Baddies are tan. The Goodies have rules, and the baddies don’t. Vi is a Goodie. Zenn is a Goodie. Jag isn’t.

In their world of strict rules and regulations, Vi and Zenn try to stay true to themselves, even in the face of the brainwashing transmissions Goodies are subject to every night. These transmissions are produced by the Thinkers, those who think so the general population doesn’t have to. They’re designed to keep the masses under control and working for the greater good – but only as the Goodie officials see fit. Vi, caught in the act of outright rulebreaking, (walking in the park with her government assigned match – very hardcore) is sent to prison, awaiting a sentence she doesn’t know exists. There she meets the charismatic badboy Jag. Living in the same cell, they get to know each other more personally, and Vi learns that the Baddies she always feared aren’t as the Goodie government makes them out to be, that they may be more like herself than any other Goodie she’s met – even Zenn.

Vi changes her mind again and again as she sees the rest of the world (sometimes with Jag, sometimes without) and ultimately makes the decision that will change her life – and many others’- forever.

I wasn’t expecting to love Possession, but I was pleasantly surprised at how well it turned out. I’m definitely going to read the second book in the series, Surrender, which is already out. (After a few seconds of research, the third and final book, Abandon, is also on the shelves.) I liked the main character, Vi, just fine, and the love triangle (twisted as it may be) isn’t completely sickening, which would’ve surprised me to know if you’d told me at the one-third mark. (Side note: are there any YA dystopian books that don’t feature a love triangle? I would love to hear about them if they exist. Edit: Since posting this I have thought of several books with no love triangle but distinctly dystopian aspects. Also Divergent, which is currently the poster child for YA dystopian. I retract my previous statement.) Original love interest Zenn is brainwashed by the government, in training to become a high-class official, when Vi is imprisoned for breaking the rules to be with him. In prison, second love interest is introduced – gorgeous, dangerous, smexy Jag. Vi didn’t stand a chance. Really, she didn’t. Jag has the ability to control people with his voice – something he wasn’t morally opposed to using on Vi when it suited his purpose. I will stop now to avoid spoilers. Anyway, Vi has to choose between good guy Zenn and his offering of peace and love and complete governmental tyranny or Jag and his exciting, adventurous brand of freedom in a coastal political asylum called Seaside. Which would you choose? I’m pretty sure you and Vi picked the same thing (not a spoiler, promise).

Getting more into the actual book stuff, I liked the voice the story was narrated in (first person from Vi’s point of view), barring the previously mentioned ‘yeah’ and ‘because’ annoyances. She’s a sarcastic and attitudey person, which is the kind of voice I enjoy in one of those “run-of-the-mill” badass heroines YA so frequently features these days. An interesting problem for readers of the book is the oppositeness of the lingo – to Vi the Goodies are the bad guys and the Baddies the ones in the right, though her opinion is subject to change with whatever emotion she’s got brewing in her angsty head. “Freedom” is a government holdup and brainwashing facility. Everything’s the other way ‘round. Eventually Vi comes to the conclusion that the government-provided labels she’s grown up sticking on everything she’s seen probably aren’t the best thing for her to keep as her frame of reference, but not until the reader has worked out the general connotations of each name.

The conflicts and character profiles that inhabit the book are pretty common things – good versus bad, obedience versus freedom, old and dependable boyfriend versus new and thrilling boyfriend, etc. Not so much a groundbreaking new futuristic commentary on the world’s future. Somehow everything works, though, and creates an enjoyable story I could definitely get behind and devour. I timed myself reading and it took me exactly three hours fifty five minutes and forty four seconds of dedicated reading time to finish the book, and about twenty six hours from beginning the book to reading the last page, including the time it’s taken me to sleep/eat/practice other human occupations. A testament to the interestingness of the book, I do believe.

Though as I read through this review I realize it sounds pretty negative, I actually quite liked Possession, even factoring in the ‘yeah’ and ‘because’ conundrum. I’m probably bashing on it so much because I’ve been immersed in Vi’s seethingly critical narration for the past couple hours, and I went straight to writing a review without taking time to let her voice work its way out of my head.

I would recommend you read Possession when you have a good chunk of free time, as it’s the kind of book you want to enjoy all at once. I’m glad I chose it as my first read of this year’s summer. Look for reviews of the next two books in the near future.

Happy summer,
Rosey

PS: So, after some more of my ever occurring research, it turns out the next book in the series follows Vi’s new roommate, who we haven’t met in Possession. Very disappointing to me. Just thought I’d let you know.

PPS: More research reveals the next book is told in multiple perspectives. Again, not excited.

Final update: After reading a few pages, it doesn’t seem so terrible. Review to come.