Now I Rise (The Conqueror’s Saga #2) by Kiersten White ~ 5.0 Stars

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Thanks to NetGalley and Delacorte Press for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Release Date: Available Now

496 Pages

Synopsis: Lada Dracul has no allies. No throne. All she has is what she’s always had: herself. After failing to secure the Wallachian throne, Lads is out to punish anyone who crosses her blood-strewn path. Filled with a white-hot rage, she storms the countryside with her men, accompanied by her childhood friend Bogdan, terrorizing the land. But brute force isn’t getting Lada what she wants. And thinking of Mehmed brings little comfort to her thorny heart. There’s no time to wonder if he still thinks about her, even loves her. She left him before he could leave her.

What Lada needs is her younger brother Radu’s subtlety and skill. But Mehmed has sent him to Constantinople–and it’s no diplomatic mission. Mehmed wants control of the city, and Radu has earned the unwanted place as a double-crossing spy behind enemy lines. Radu longs for his sister’s fierce confidence–but for the first time in his life, he rejects her unexpected plea for help. Torn between loyalties to faith, the Ottomans, and to Mehmed, he knows he owes Lada nothing. If she dies, he could never forgive himself–but if he fails in Constantinople, will Mehmed ever forgive him?

As nations fall around them, the Dracul siblings must decide: what will they sacrifice to fulfill their destinies? Empires will topple, thrones will be won…and souls will be lost.

Now I Rise picks up directly where the previous book, And I Darken, left off. Lada (the female version of Vlad the Impaler), is set on fulfilling her destiny to become Prince of Wallachia, leaving her younger brother, Radu, behind with Mehmed. The two siblings are separated during the entire book and this not only effects their relationship, but it further shapes them into the leaders they will become. In the first book, you saw how Lada’s brutal childhood at the hands of her father, made her a fierce, determined and courageous potential leader. In this book, all those traits are still visible, but her ruthlessness ultimately takes an even darker turn, resulting in her committing some truly horrific atrocities. You can see she’s not completely heartless by some of the relationships she has with those who are loyal to her. But by the end, she cares nothing about sacrificing innocents if she believes it’s in the greater good. Even some of those who have remained steadfast in their support, begin to question her. Lada is so fixated on her goal that she doesn’t realize she’s turning into someone far worse than her father. Seeing her transform is cringe-worthy at times, yet utterly mesmerizing. Meanwhile, Radu, who was always the lightness to Lada’s darkness, is facing a crisis of conscience. Still suffering from his unrequited love for Mehmed, he becomes a spy for him to aid in the conquest of Constantinople. The longer he’s there, the more conflicted he becomes over whether he’s doing the right thing. His anguish is heartbreaking, and the things he does changes him in many ways by the conclusion. I didn’t really care for Mehmed in the first book, and nothing in this one has changed my mind. Actually, I dislike him even more. He’s a manipulative, power-hungry ruler who has no problem using or betraying the people who care for him, as both Lada and Radu learn. He may be charming and charismatIc, but he continues to leave me unimpressed. There are quite a few secondary characters that stand out as much as the three main characters, and add interesting layers to the already complex story. Now I Rise is even better than it’s predecessor in terms of world-building, character development, and action. Kiersten White has my deepest admiration for her ability to bring history to life. She may veer away from total accuracy at times, but that doesn’t take anything away from the story. While this is technically a YA trilogy, due to the complexity and brutality of the story, I would suggest this for older teens and adults. You also definitely need to read these books in order because otherwise you’ll find yourself completely lost. The ending of this sequel leaves no doubt that Lada, Radu, and Mehmed are on a collision course, which has me eagerly anticipating the final book, which frustratingly won’t come out until next year. In the meantime, if you’re an adult who usually doesn’t read YA, but you like historical fiction, I cannot recommend these books highly enough! 

 

 

 

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone 20th Anniversary!

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It’s difficult to believe that twenty years ago today, a small boy crept into the hearts of millions of children (and adults) all over the world. Even if you’ve never understood the Harry Potter craze, there is no denying that he and his creator, J.K. Rowling changed how many view children’s literature, and even more importantly how it engaged young readers, even reluctant ones. While it wasn’t released here in America until September 1st, 1998, once it made it’s debut, it was an instant hit. I was still working as a children’s librarian at the time and hadn’t heard of of the book until kids started coming in to the library imploring me to read it. From the very first chapter I was instantly captivated, as well as convinced that this book would become a classic. So thank you J.K. Rowling for creating such a richly drawn, magical world with characters that children and adults can relate to!

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…A breeze ruffled the neat hedges of Privet Drive, which lay silent and tidy under the inky sky, the very last place you would expect astonishing things to happen. Harry Potter rolled over inside his blankets without waking up. One small hand closed on the letter beside him and he slept on, not knowing he was special, not knowing he was famous, not knowing he would be woken in a few hours’ time by Mrs. Dursley’s scream as she opened the front door to put out the milk bottles, nor that he would spend the next few weeks being prodded and pinched by his cousin Dudley…He couldn’t know that at this very moment, people meeting in secret all over the country were holding up their glasses and saying in hushed voices: ‘To Harry Potter–the boy who lived!’

 

Don’t Close Your Eyes, by Holly Seddon ~ 4.0 Stars

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

Release Date: July 4th, 2017

336 Pages

Synopsis: Twin sisters Robin and Sarah haven’t spoken in years.

Robin can’t leave her house. A complete shut-in, she spends her days spying on her neighbors, subtly meddling in their lives. But she can’t keep her demons out forever. Someone from her past has returned, and is desperate to get inside.

Sarah can’t go home. Her husband has kicked her out, forcibly denying her access to their toddler. Sarah will do anything to get their daughter back, but she’s unraveling under the mounting pressure of concealing the secrets of her past. And her lies are catching up to her.

The novel takes readers back in time to witness the complex family dynamics that formed Robin and Sarah into the emotionally damaged young women they’ve become. As the gripping and intricate layers of their shared past are slowly peeled away, the shocks and twists will keep readers breathless long after the final page.

Don’t Close Your Eyes is a slow burning suspense story, which takes a look at two dysfunctional families who start out as friends, but are torn apart by secrets and lies. It’s told in the alternating POVs of Robin and Sarah, and also flashes back and forth from the 1990s and the present day. Just as she did in her debut novel Try Not To Breathe, Holly Seddon is not afraid to tackle the more sinister aspects of family life. The beginning of the story is seemingly innocuous, but it’s not long before the first cracks appear, which ultimately send each character on their own self-destructive journey. Seddon is brutally honest regarding her flawed characters and they come off as being very realistic, if not completely likable. The pacing of the book stays steady until the last quarter, when everything I thought I understood was turned on its head, literally leaving me gasping in disbelief. The shocking ending tied everything up wonderfully which left me completely satisfied. I highly recommend Don’t Close Your Eyes to readers who enjoy a dark story exploring complex family relationships. 

 

Me Without Healthcare….

POWERFUL AND MOVING POST THAT EVERYONE SHOULD READ AS MR. TRUMP AND CONGRESS PLAYS GAMES WITH OUR HEALTH CARE!

AS I LIVE & BREATHE

Again, a rare occurance to get political on my blog. Because whether people agree with me or not, this is a matter of life & death. The AHCA/BCRA must not pass!

I do not joke about death. Yet, after asking nicely with no movement & amendments sure to get worse, I know no other way to get through.

The 13 authors don’t want to be called heartless or murderers then don’t pass this cruel bill.

Some may say it’s extreme, but I’m tired of playing nice & being ignored, & getting canned responses about how I must take more personal responsibility when I’ve taken plenty.

I’ll be sending this mock obituary through to my delegation tonight because I think they need to see the consequences of a “Yes” Vote:

Nicole “Nikki” S. died of chronic rejection in a Philadelphia hospital.

Nikki was born on May 25, 1977 in Watertown, SD…

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Words To Remember

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Everything in the world has a spirit which is released by its sound.

Oskar Fischinger ~

German-American artist, musician and filmmaker, who’s being honored by Google with a commemorative Doodle on his 117th birthday. If you haven’t had a chance to play with it, please try. I guarantee it’ll bring a smile to your face.

The Silent Corner (Jane Hawk #1) by, Dean Koontz ~ 4.5 Stars

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

Release Date: Available Now

464 Pages

Synopsis: “I very much need to be dead.”

These are the chilling words left behind by a man who had everything to live for but took his own life. In the aftermath, his widow, Jane Hawk, does what all her grief, fear, and fury demands: find the truth, no matter what. People of talent and accomplishment, people admired and happy and sound of mind, have been committing suicide in surprising numbers. When Jane seeks to learn why, she becomes the most-wanted fugitive in America. Her powerful enemies are protecting a secret so terrifying that they will exterminate anyone in their way. 

But all their power and viciousness may not me enough to stop a woman as clever as they are cold-blooded, as relentless as they are ruthless and who is driven by a righteous rage they can never understand. Because it is born of love.

I’ve been reading Dean Koontz since I was a teen, and while it’s been a rocky road at times–loved the Odd Thomas series and standalones like Watchers but had a difficult time with ones like The Darkest Evening Of the Year and Funhouse–he has still remained one of my favorite horror writers. The Silent Corner, the first novel in the Jane Hawk trilogy is less like Stephen King, and more like Michael Crichton. It’s a thrilling and pulse-pounding ride from start to finish and despite it being just under 500 pages, I read it over the course of two days because I literally could not put it down! Jane Hawk is a kick-ass heroine who ripped out my heart and stomped all over it. There’s no doubt she’s a tough cookie, but her heartbreak and anger over the loss of her husband resonates off the page. Her anguish is further compounded, when because of threats by this faceless sinister conspiracy, she is forced to send her sweet son into hiding while she embarks on a cross-country odyssey to uncover what’s behind the burgeoning epidemic of suicides by well-adjusted people, with no previous signs of depression. Jane is of course the star of the story, but there are a few quirky allies she meets along the way which make this story even more enjoyable. The villains are a little more two-dimensional, but they weren’t bad enough to spoil the book for me. The pacing is just insane and this, coupled with short chapters, makes it difficult to tear yourself away. The Silent Corner is a fantastic beginning to this new trilogy and thankfully the second book, The Whispering Room is due out in January, because I don’t think I could wait any longer. Longtime Koontz fans won’t be disappointed by this, and if you haven’t read any books by him, this is an excellent book to start with.

 

Lockdown, by Laurie R. King ~ 4.0 Stars

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

Release Date: Available Now

336 Pages

Synopsis: Career Day at Guadalupe Middle School: a day given to innocent hopes and youthful dreams. A day no one in attendance will ever forget.

A year ago, Principal Linda McDonald arrived at Guadalupe determined to overturn the school’s reputation for truancy, gang violence, and neglect. One of her initiatives is Career Day–bringing together children, teachers, and community presenters in a celebration of the future. But there are some in attendance who reject McDonald’s bright vision. 

A principal with a secret. A husband with a murky past. A cop with too many questions. A kid under pressure to prove himself. A girl struggling to escape a mother’s history. A young basketball player with an affection for guns.

Even the school janitor has a story he dare not reveal.

But no one at the gathering anticipates the shocking turn of events that will transform a day of possibilities into an explosive confrontation.

Laurie R. King is best known for her Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series, of which I’m a devoted fan. She’s also written the contemporary mystery Kate Martinelli series, which I haven’t tried yet, but after reading Lockdown, I definitely will be. I thought going into this, that it would be a thriller about a school shooting, and I was eagerly anticipating how the author would handle this topic. While it started off a little slow and a bit chaotic, in the end I was completely captivated by the character-driven story. It took me a little while though to get used to the way the story unfolds. It’s told from several different viewpoints including: the Principal’s, her husband, a police officer, and a few students. It also jumps between different time periods and adds in the mysterious disappearance of a young student, and because of these things I felt as though I was getting whiplash at first. But the characters are so well written, that within the first fifty pages I settled in and couldn’t tear myself away. Their lives and backstories are integral to what unfolds on Career Day, and they add to the slow- building suspense. Because each of them has something going on that could result in the violent act that happens at this small California town’s middle school, I really had no idea who the shooter was going to be. When the story arrives at its climax, what happens makes sense and leads to a satisfying conclusion. Overall I found Lockdown to be a creative standalone from Laurie R. King that solidifies her respected reputation. I highly recommend it to fans of hers, as well as readers who enjoy a good character-driven mystery.

Carnivalesque, by Neil Jordan ~ 2.0 Stars

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Thanks to NetGalley and Bloomsbury USA for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Release Date: Available Now

288 Pages

Synopsis: It looked like any other carnival, but of course it wasn’t. The boy saw it from the car window, the tops of the large trailer rides over the parked trains by the railway tracks. His parents were driving towards the new mall and he was looking forward to that too, but but the tracery of lights above the gloomy trains caught his imagination…

Andy walks into Burleigh’s Amazing Hall of Mirrors, and then he walks right into the mirror, becomes a reflection. Another boy, a boy who is not Andy, goes home with Andy’s parents. And the boy who was once Andy is pulled–literally pulled, by the hands, by a girl named Mona–into another world, a carnival world where anything’s might happen.

After reading the synopsis for Carnivalesque I was so excited to dive into it. I love stories about changlings and carnivals and this sounded like an entirely new take on the theme. But sadly it just didn’t live up to my expectations. The biggest problem I ran into was that I couldn’t connect with the characters. They were a little too one-dimensional and there was really no obvious development to them even by the end of the book. The story is told from the POVs of Andy and his mother, but there was little distinction between their voices which left me confused at times when the narrative switched between them. I also found that, except for a few instances, the plot moved too slowly. The world-building is beautifully descriptive, but in many ways, is too wordy and overly-descriptive. I think what frustrated me the most though, was that Carnivalesque is filled with so much potential, but it seemed to stay just out of reach…at least for me. There are reviewers, however who did enjoy this, so please check out their reviews before making up your mind as to whether you want to try this. Ana, over at Ana’s Lair enjoyed this more than I, so if you’d like to see another opinion, please read her review at https://anaslair.wordpress.com/2016/12/19/carnivalesque

 

Pure, unbridled joy …. 🌹 “January 6, 2015 …. Wedding Day …. 🌹 “!! 

WITH ALL THE HORRIBLE NEWS OF THE LAST 24 HOURS, SUCH A HEARTWARMING STORY FROM DR. REX IS A REMINDER OF ALL THE GOOD THERE IS IN THE WORLD!

It Is What It Is

~~June 14, 2017~~

🌹 An amazing memory! 🌹

On this day, a dream became our reality. It was a day that I thought would never happen in our lifetime. After meeting my soulmate in 1969, life separated us until 1996. We reunited then and been together since.

Marriage equality became the law of the land!

❤️ Known each other for 48 years. ❤️

Been together for 21 years.

❤️ Been legally married for 2 years.  ❤️

We gathered with a group of close friends and celebrated.

That’s only a water bottle and a bread stick!


We BOTH are ONE!! 

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Missing, By Kelley Armstrong – 3.5 Stars

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

Release Date: Available Now

384 Pages

Synopsis: The only thing Winter Crane likes about Reeve’s End is that soon she’ll leave it. Like her best friend did. Like her sister did. Like most of the teens born in town have done. There’s nothing for them here but abandoned mines and empty futures. They’re better off taking a chance elsewhere.

The only thing Winter will miss is the woods. Her only refuge. At least it was. Until the day she found Lennon left for dead, bleeding in a tree.

But now Lennon is gone too. And he has Winter questioning what she once thought was true. What if nobody left at all? What if they’re all missing?

I’ve been a fan of Kelley Armstrong since she came out with Bitten, the first book in her Women Of the Underworld series, so it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that I was going to request this when it appeared on NetGalley. While I don’t think Missing is one of her best books, it was still, for the most part, enjoyable. One of the things I like about this author is the way her writing seamlessly flows. It makes it practically effortless to breeze through her books, and even though I found the plot in this to be a little slower moving than some of her others, I still finished this in two sittings. One strength here is Armstrong’s critical look at social class norms through her characters. Winter lives in a trailer park with her drunkenly abusive father, and often goes hungry. Lennon and his brother Jude (gotta love the Beatles reference), have grown up in luxury with their adoptive wealthy parents. The issues of class, privilege and Southern “chivalry” are all explored within the context of the story and its characters. The isolated and small town setting of Reeve’s End in Kentucky is very atmospheric and helps create a menacing air. Residents here not only distrust outsiders, they’re continually keeping an eye on each other. As a result, it’s not difficult to wonder if the kids who left Reeve’s End did so willingly, or are missing due to a far more sinister reason. The best part of the book is Winter. Having lost her mother and stuck in this going nowhere town, she is nevertheless a girl with a plan. She avoids her father as much as possible, and is ready to leave like her older sister. But her plans are upended when after spending a night in the woods, she stumbles across Lennon, which in turn leads her down a dangerous path. Winter is an easy character to become emotionally invested in. She’s courageous, stubborn, and not afraid to speak her mind. She’s also determined to find out who or what is behind these disappearances especially when she discovers that her assumptions regarding her sister may be wrong. The secondary characters aren’t as well drawn, particularly in regards to the adults who either come across as one dimensional or are stereotyped as in the case of the police. Is it me, or is the way authority figures are portrayed in YA fiction seem more often than not, to fit these characteristics? Anyway, there are many creepy twists and turns and more than a few red herrings tossed in the reader’s path, which will keep you guessing almost right up until the somewhat rushed ending. Which brings me to my last issue. The big reveal comes pretty much out of left field. The villain did not make their appearance until right before then, and this basically left me scratching my head. I personally don’t like it when an author throws in a previously unknown character at the conclusion, but other readers might not mind it. Overall, though, I found Missing to be a quick read that’s light on romance but heavy on suspense. It also brings up the very real issue of how easy it is under the right circumstances, for someone to go missing, and not have enough questions raised. Teens who like mystery and suspense and a strong main character should definitely enjoy this.