Perfect (Flawed #2) ~ By Cecelia Ahern – 4.5 Stars

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Thanks to NetGalley and Feiwel a& Friends for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Release Date: April 4th, 2017

352 Pages

Synopsis: Celestine Norht lives in a society that demands perfection. After she was branded Flawed by a morality court, Celestine’s life has completely fractured–all her freedoms gone. Since Judge Crevan has declared her the number one threat to the public, she has been a ghost on the run with Carrick–the only person she can trust.

But Celestine has a secret–one that could bring the entire Flawed system crumbling to the ground. A secret that has already caused countless people to go missing.

Judge  revan is gaining the upper hand, and time is running out for Celestine. With tensions building, Celestine must make a choice: save just herself or to risk her life to save all Flawed people.

And most important of all, can she prove that to be human in itself is to be Flawed?

Perfect is the sequel to last year’s Flawed and while it could probably be read as a standalone, I think you’d enjoy it more if you read the previous book before diving into this one. In Flawed, the reader is introduced to an alternate world that is set slightly in the future. This particular “utopian” society is one that is run by the Guild who has put into place these draconian rules to supposedly weed out any type of corruption. If you lie, cheat, steal, etc. you are deemed Flawed and are branded accordingly. In addition, you are now an outcast, and subjected to even more rules. Celestine makes the mistake of helping an elderly Flawed man on a bus, which results in her being branded. As Flawed ends, she is on the run from the Guild, its law enforcement known as Whistleblowers, and her ex-boyfriend’s father, Bosco Crevan, (a real nasty piece of work) who is one of the three judges who head up the Guild. Perfect picks up shortly after the end of Flawed with Celestine hiding out at her grandfather’s farm. She’s gone from a rather spoiled and pampered girl to the somewhat unwilling leader of a resistant movement. In some ways she reminded me a little of Katniss from The Hunger Games. I love how the author made her imperfect yet likable. She’s come a long way from the beginning of Flawed, yet she still makes mistakes, which is why she always makes backup plans. She’s compassionate (which is what got her into trouble in the first place), and determined to not only save herself but to bring down this cruel and abusive system and save as many of the Flawed as she can. She realizes she needs to rely on others to help her accomplish this and doesn’t try to tackle everything on her own. One of the things I loved in the first book was the close relationship Celestine had with her family, and that continues in this story. The romance between her and Carrick that was hinted at in Flawed is fully developed here, and while it may not be smooth sailing all the way for the two of them, it’s believable and realistic. There’s sort of a love triangle between Celestine, her ex, Art and Carrick but it never developed into anything too annoying, mainly because Art really wasn’t in the picture all that much. The story itself, like its predecessor is exciting and fast-paced. I read each of these books in one sitting because I literally couldn’t tear myself away! Flawed and Perfect made such a wonderful duology, that I actually wish there was going to be one more book even though the ending wrapped up everything perfectly. There are a few brutal scenes in both books, so I’d recommend this for readers 14 and up. Otherwise I really can’t recommend these two books enough! 

 

 

Sanctuary ~ By T. M. Brown – 4.5 Stars

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Thanks to the author for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis: Sanctuary introduces newly retired publishing executive, Theo Phillips, and his wife Liddy, to the time-lost South Georgia town of Shiloh. They leave the shadows of Atlanta and move into a quaint home of notoriety. While making new friends, they discover twenty-first-century challenges threaten the town’s laid-back lifestyle. Theo’s interest in a memorial launches him into investigating tragic events that have left Shiloh unsettled. Theo and Liddy’s retirement dreams take a turn that could unravel both of them and the idyllic life they and many others look for in Shiloh.emise

Mike Brown is another fellow WordPress blogger so if you have a chance, please go check out his fantastic blog at: http://coachbrownorg.wordpress.com When Mike asked me if I’d be interested in reading an eARC of Sanctuary, I immediately said yes mainly because I love Southern mysteries and its premise intrigued me. I’m so glad I did because it’s one of those lovely gems of a book that was a near perfect read for me. I have to confess I don’t read a lot of Christian fiction. There’s no particular reason. The genre just never has been my cup of tea. But in this case, Mike does a wonderful job blending in the more religious aspects of the story without it taking over. I absolutely loved the characters and the small Southern town of Shiloh. Actually, I’d like to live there. It’s the type of small town that may be a little old-fashioned, but everyone looks out for one another. Theo and Liddy Phillips are the type of people you’d want to be friends with in real life. They’re a loving, loyal and compassionate couple who will do anything to help right a wrong, which is what happens in this book. The other characters of Shiloh are equally well-developed with many of them having their own interesting backstories. There are actually two mysteries in play here which wind-up being interconnected. They’re both intriguing, and while the outcome wasn’t a tremendous surprise, this didn’t lessen my enjoyment any. I did think the story moved a little slowly at times, but honestly, this is a minor complaint. Overall, Sanctuary is a pleasant read that I highly recommend to readers who enjoy cozy mysteries. I think it might be the first in a series, which I’d love, because I’m not ready to say goodbye to Theo, Liddy, and their new friends and neighbors.

 

Feral ~ By James DeMonaco & B.K. Evenson – 3.0 Stars

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Thanks to NetGalley and Anchor Books for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Release Date: April 4th, 2017

256 Pages

Synopsis: From James DeMonaco, the writer/director of The Purge film franchise, comes the provocative and terrifying last stand of a lone outpost of women in the wake of a deadly pandemic.

Allie Hilts was still in high school when a fire at a top-secret research facility released an airborne pathogen that quickly spread to every male on the planet, killing most. Allie witnessed every man she ever knew be consumed by fearsome symptoms: scorching fevers and internal bleeding,madness and uncontrollable violence. The world crumbled around her. No man was spared, and the few survivors were irrevocably changed. They became disturbingly strong, aggressive, and ferocious. Feral.

Three years later, Allie has joined a group of hardened survivors in an isolated, walled-in encampment. Outside the guarded walls the ferals roam free, and hunt. Allie has been noticing troubling patterns in the ferals’ movements, and a disturbing number of new faces in the wild. Something catastrophic is brewing on the horizon and time is running out. The ferals are coming, and there is no stopping them.

Fair warning: Feral is not for the faint of heart. Given that one of the authors is James Demonaco writer/director of The Purge films, this shouldn’t come as a complete shock. There were some scenes though that even had me wincing and saying “Ew!” The first part of the book starts out strong as the reader sees how Allie deals with the end of the world as she knows it. Just a teenager, she witnesses the unimaginable and in order to protect herself and her 12-year-old sister Kim, has to do some horrible things in order to survive. As the story flashes forward three years, you see a much more hardened woman. She’s badass, and impulsive, yet still maintains her humanity somehow. Allie is really the best part of the book and she’s the main reason why I kept reading. Unfortunately, I ran into a few other issues. Feral alternates between first and third person POVs as well as between several different characters. While this style didn’t make things confusing, it did make the story rather choppy. I also wish Allie’s relationship with her sister Kim had been more developed. The other characters were unoriginal and also lacking in development and I wound up not connecting with any of them. And finally, while the book started out with a unique twist on the whole “end-of-the-world because idiotic scientists are messing around with something they shouldn’t be” trope, by the middle of the book things had become pretty predictable and I saw the ending coming a mile away. The action scenes though are masterfully done and the the book at under 300 pages is a quick read. Overall, Feral is an okay story that fans of gory horror may enjoy.

Westminster Attack

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By now I think all of us have heard the news about the terror attack that occurred on the Westminster Bridge and the grounds of Parliament today, the one year anniversary of the attacks in Brussels. There really aren’t any words that I can think of to share except that my love, thoughts and prayers are with the British people and the victims. While I was watching the news and feeling helpless and devastated as I usually do when something like this happens, I began looking up the history of the Westminster Bridge and I stumbled upon this beautiful poem by William Wordsworth that I thought I’d share.

Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802

Earth has not anything to show more fair:

Dull would he be of soul who could pass by

A sight so touching in its majesty:

This City now doth, like a garment, wear

The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,

Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie

Open unto the fields, and to the sky;

All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.

Never did sun more beautifully steep

In his first splendour, valley, rock, or hill;

Ne’er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!

The river glideth at his own sweet will: 

Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;

And all that mighty heart is lying still!

A Crown Of Wishes (Star-Touched Queen #2) ~ By Roshani Chokshi – 4.5 Stars

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Thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Griffin for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review. 

Release Date: March 28th, 2017

352 Pages

Synopsis: Gauri, the princess of Bharata, has been taken as a prisoner of war by her kingdom’s enemies. Faced with a future Of of exile and scorn, Gauri has nothing left to lose. Hope unexpectedly comes in the form of Vikram, the cunning prince of a neighboring land and her sworn enemy kingdom. Unsatisfied with becoming a mere puppet king, Vikram offers Gauri a chance to win back her kingdom in exchange for her battle prowess. Together, they’ll have to set aside their differences and team up to win the Tournament of Wishes–a competition held in a mythical city where the Lord of Wealth promises a wish to the victor.

Reaching the tournament is just the beginning. Once they arrive, danger takes on new shapes: poisonous courtesans and mischievous story birds, a feast of fears and twisted fairy revels.

Every which way they turn new trials will test their wit and strength. But what Gauri and Vikram will soon discover is that there’s nothing more dangerous than what they most desire.

A Crown of Wishes is the “companion book” to last year’s The Star-Touched Queen and while you needn’t have read the first book to enjoy this, I recommend that you do because it completes the magical world-building that was first introduced in TSTQ. I enjoyed the previous book, but this was even better, thanks to its two main characters, Gauri and Vikram. They’re both feisty and stubborn and lock horns on more than one occasion, and the banter between them is clever and funny. Their romance develops slowly but believably and it seems that the reader is aware before the two of them, that they are made for each other. There’s a third character introduced, Aasha, who is quite intriguing and while quite a bit of her background is revealed I’d love to see a book or even a novella devoted solely to her. The mythology and world-building is absolutely magnificent! Chokshi really has a beautifully descriptive and vivid style of writing that draws you into the story. The competition itself is exciting and makes this a fast-paced book. My one complaint is that I thought there were a few things that fell into place a little too easily for Gauri and Vikram. Otherwise, A Crown Of Wishes is a lush adventurous tale full of magic and humor and I highly recommend it. This duology has left me eagerly looking forward to Roshani Chokshi’s next venture, The Gilded Wolves, which is due out in 2018. 

 

Bull ~ By David Elliott – 5.0 Stars

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Thanks to NetGalley and HMH Books for Young Readers for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Release Date: March 28th, 2017

200 Pages

Synopsis: Much like Lin-Manuel Miranda did in Hamilton, the New York Times best-selling author David Elliott turns a classic on its head in form and approach, updating the timeless story of Theseus and the Minotaur for a new generation. A rough, rowdy, and darkly comedic young adult retelling in verse, Bull will have readers reevaluating one of mythology’s most infamous monsters. 

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from Bull, but I love David Elliott and anything to do with Greek Mythology, so I knew I had to read this. While I don’t think this will be for everyone, I found it to be both hysterically funny as well as touching and I thoroughly enjoyed it. As the synopsis says, the story is told entirely in verse which takes you a little while to get used to if you haven’t read this style of writing. David Elliott really does a great job with the concept and uses a different style for each character. The humor is provided by Poseidon who is arrogant and snarky yet you can’t help but reluctantly liking him even if he does ruin people’s lives. While this is basically a modernization of the classic story of the Minotaur, what I really loved about this, was that you actually got to hear from him. Asterion is basically doomed from birth through no fault of his own and his voice particularly comes across as both tragic and beautiful. Just to give you an example, here’s a passage from when he’s 14:

I wonder if I’ll ever understand 

What I am or what one day I’ll be.

A fish?

A fowl? 

A bull?

A beast?

A man?

A superstar?

A gross monstrosity?

Minos says I’m nothing more than Nothing.

Can Nothing take a form and call it me?

But Nothing is ever what it seems.

Watch Nothing laugh.

See Nothing cry.

Hear Nothing scream.

Yep. My heart broke for him at that point. I also loved the relationship between him and his half-sister Ariadne who is determined to rescue him from the maze. Bull is a fast read (I finished it in less than an hour), that I think will appeal to older teens and adults who enjoy Greek Mythology. It perfectly captures the mercilessness of Poseidon, the fury of Minos, the insanity of Pasiphae and the self-loathing of Asterion. Because of the original subject matter and some fairly salty language, I recommend this for high-schoolers and older. 

World Poetry Day!

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While I’m no poet myself, I do love and appreciate this medium, so I thought I’d share a poem from one of my favorite authors/poets who sadly passed away in 2014: the timeless and incomparable Maya Angelou.

MAYA ANGELOU

Caged Bird

A free bird leaps 

on the back of the wind

and floats downstream 

till the current ends

and dips his wing 

in the orange sun rays

and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks

down his narrow cage

can seldom see through

his bars of rage

his wings are clipped and

his feet are tied

so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings

with a fearful trill

of things unknown

but longed for still

and his tune is heard

on the distant hill

for the caged bird

sings of freedom.

The free bird thinks of another breeze

and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees

and the fat worms waiting on a dawn bright lawn

and he names the sky his own.

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams

his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream

his wings are clipped and his feet are tied

so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings

with a fearful trill

of things unknown

but longed for still

and his tune is heard

on the distant hill

for the caged bird 

sings of freedom.

Happy International Happiness Day!

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I had no idea until I visited Didi’s blog at https://didioviatt.wordpress.com that in addition to it being the first day of Spring for most of us, it’s also International Happiness Day, which in retrospect is quite fitting. So, I know Mondays can be tough, but hopefully there’s at least one thing you can think of that will instantly bring a smile to your face!

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The happiest people don’t have the best of everything, they just make the best of everything. 

~ Zig Ziglar ~ 

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Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.

~ Thich Nhat Hanh ~

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For every minute you are angry you lose 60 seconds of happiness.

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson ~

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Happiness is a warm puppy.

~ Charles M. Schulz ~

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Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow. It only saps today of its joy.

~ Leo Buscaglia ~