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Book Review- Unravel Me

unravelme

My hopes were SO high for this book, especially because I absolutely adored the first one. (it stands one of my favorite books ever) I went in with plenty of expectations, most of which Tahereh laughed at and turned upside down. But for the first time in a long time, I wouldn’t have it any other way. (caution- slightly spoilery synopsis ahead)

Juliette has escaped to Omega Point. It is a place for people like her—people with gifts—and it is also the headquarters of the rebel resistance.
She’s finally free from The Reestablishment, free from their plan to use her as a weapon, and free to love Adam. But Juliette will never be free from her lethal touch.
Or from Warner, who wants Juliette more than she ever thought possible.
In this exhilarating sequel to Shatter Me, Juliette has to make life-changing decisions between what she wants and what she thinks is right. Decisions that might involve choosing between her heart—and Adam’s life.

I just… wow. Where do I start? Let me just say that even those who weren’t *huge* fans of Shatter Me will love this. Trust me, I’ve recommended it to plenty of friends who ended up disliking it because they didn’t like the florid language, or thought Juliette was spineless, etc etc. But in Unravel Me, Juliette really comes into herself. Unlike some 2nd books in trilogies (i like to call them “bridge books”), it is vital to the series and even better than the first at times. (I can’t believe I’m saying that) The language is just as brilliant as the first time, yet not trite, and more readable. Before, I realize, the strikethroughs and Juliette’s insecurities were hard to get through for some. But it is beautiful, I think, the utterly human and real way Juliette’s rough edges begin to smooth.

Now for the romance. This is a bit of an embarrassment for me, almost. I now include a quote from a review I wrote of Unravel Me that I wrote sometime last year, after I finished Shatter Me.

“If Juliette and Adam do not end up together {in Unravel Me}, I will throw this book in the garbage”

Yeah… oops. I’m not telling you that Warner and Juliette suddenly get together, but Unravel Me definitely made me consider my unwavering commitment to Adam and Juliette that most people forge in Shatter Me. That is what I get for reviewing prematurely, I guess. Because now my entire heart has done a 180. Yep, I’m Team Warner. I never, EVER thought that would be me. When I finished Shatter Me, I didn’t even think there WAS a Team Warner because no one could possibly like a ruthless man with no heart! I can’t explain it, because a lot of my reasons in this sudden conversion lie in things I wouldn’t dare spoil for you. But I think I learned my lesson about writing characters off.

Before I wrap this review up, two things:

1) even if you didn’t like Shatter Me, I BEG you to read Unravel Me. I think you’ll love it just as much as I did. And if you haven’t read Shatter Me yet, do it! It is one of my favorite books ever, and one of the most beautiful I’ve ever read, too.

2) if you have already read Unravel Me, please express to me in the comments the extent of your feels about Chapter 62. And whether you’re Team Warner or Team Adam.

Love, all!

Olivia

PS.- my absolute favorite book on the planet, Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, is on sale on the Kindle store for only 1.99! That’s half the price of a latte, and I swear you’ll appreciate and love it for much longer. This book will change your life. (reviewed here) (buy it here)

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Book Review- Dualed

I applied for this ARC after talking a bit with the author on Twitter (news flash- she’s insanely sweet), totally not expecting to receive it, so when I did I was VERY excited. The idea of this book fascinated me from the beginning, and I’m happy to say that it exceeded my (rather high) expectations! (as always with ARCs, I’m using the GR summary)

You or your Alt? Only one will survive.

The city of Kersh is a safe haven, but the price of safety is high. Everyone has a genetic Alternate—a twin raised by another family—and citizens must prove their worth by eliminating their Alts before their twentieth birthday. Survival means advanced schooling, a good job, marriage—life.

Fifteen-year-old West Grayer has trained as a fighter, preparing for the day when her assignment arrives and she will have one month to hunt down and kill her Alt. But then a tragic misstep shakes West’s confidence. Stricken with grief and guilt, she’s no longer certain that she’s the best version of herself, the version worthy of a future. If she is to have any chance of winning, she must stop running not only from her Alt, but also from love . . . though both have the power to destroy her.

I think I loved this book because I love books that make me think. Books that make me challenge the norm, wonder why? What if the world was a certain way? (that’s why I’m often drawn to dystopians like this one). I’m almost sad to put this in a category, especially dystopians. They’re so stereotyped, often slandered among ‘serious’ book reviewers. This book is more than a book set in the future, because it might not be in the future. Kersh is a gated, isolated city, separating it’s inhabitants from the ravaging wars of the rest of the world. Sound familiar? While the technology used to create genetically identical twins from two sets of parents (you read that right) seems incredibly advanced and past anything we have now, it doesn’t seem far out of the realm of possibilities to me.

Also, it chilled me to the bone. The thought of being raised to fight, taught your whole life that to live, you had to be fierce, violent, unfeeling- it terrifies me. The world building is incredibly convincing, and I especially loved the main character. It bothers me that a lot of dystopian female characters are so cold, and unfeeling. (I’ve mentioned numerous times that this is the way I feel about Katniss) West has every reason in the world to be cold, every reason to block out all emotion. But somehow, she doesn’t let it get to her. At the beginning, she’s how you would expect a girl in her world to be- utterly grounded in what she needs to do. But towards the end, it’s great to see her really allow herself to feel.

Lastly, the romance. It really felt true and natural, almost like something that actually happened. I am drawn towards romance that is less blind passion and more slow and real, and this definitely did it for me. Thank goodness for the absence of a love triangle, that’s all I have to say.

I highly recommend this book, everyone! It kept me on my toes, never let me get too relaxed, and the romance melted my heart. I also love that the end wasn’t a cliffhanger, seeing as it will be more than a year at least before the sequel comes out! Look for this one in stores on February 26th, 2013!

Olivia

*ARC kindly provided for me from the publisher via Netgalley*

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Book Review- Between Shades of Gray

betweenshades

This book blew my expectations out of the water! From the very first page I was captured, and read it in the space of about two days. It’s the kind of book that gives you a hunger for more, even after you finish reading it. When I first started it, I was in a nasty reading slump, but it pulled me out fast! It reminded me how much I really love reading stories of other times, other people, other events, and for that, I am grateful.

Lina Vilkas is a normal teenage girl in Lithuania; she loves to paint and draw, she crushes on boys and has high hopes for the future. But when Stalin invades Lithuania and deports thousands to working camps in Siberia, everything changes.

One thing I’ve learned from reading a lot of historical books is that it takes skill to write about a different time period than our own and make it simulatiously informative and entertaining. The line between informative and a history lesson is a difficult one, but this book successfully made a truly interesting period of history entertaining and enjoyable. Also, it was nice to read about a historical period I hadn’t heard about yet. I obviously knew about WWII and that it affected everything, everywhere, but I did not know about Lithuanians being deported to Siberia. I can’t even comprehend being forced out of my home to go work in Siberia. History unremembered is a terrible thing, and I’m glad this book is telling Lina’s story.

I thought it was insanely cool that Lina Vilkas actually existed. At the end, you find out that it was inspired by an actual diary and letters written by a Lina Vilkas. Also, even though the book ends in an unusual place and you don’t really know what happens to Lina, the letter tells you. Not to mention that the romance in the book (which was amazing, some of my favorite that I’ve read, actually, and that’s saying something) is based on Lina’s real life love, mentioned in the letter. I find this unbelievably cute.

Y’all know writing style is a huge thing for me. I have a strong affininty for books with brutal beauty in the words, such as with this one. It is concise enough not to bother people who dislike more floral writing styles, but still has the beauty of something that would normally be a bit more wordy. Also, the resonance of the title could not have been more perfect. It was worth reading just for the one sentence where it was explained. I want to quote it here so bad, but I feel like it would spoil a big secret, even though it isn’t one.

I highly, highly recommend this book, especially for anyone interested in the time period, looking to get out of a reading slump, or searching for a brutally honest YA romance.

Olivia

*This ARC was kindly given to me (from her personal stash, no less) by Jennifer of ARCycling. Thank you so much, Jennifer. I’ll treasure it.*

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Book Review- Ten

I wouldn’t normally read this book. I get terrified very, very easily. At random stuff, at actual scary stuff, it doesn’t matter. I’m a big fat scaredy cat. But I had heard great things about this book, and I decided to go for it. I wasn’t disappointed!

Ten teens. Three days. One killer.

Meg and her best friend Minnie are super excited to go to a party on Henry Island. Only the coolest kids are invited, and it’s going to be the greatest weekend ever- no parents, just fun. But when the rest of the party doesn’t show up, and a storm begins to rage outside, they get nervous. With no connection to the outside world, things start to get downright creepy. A strange DVD in the T.V., and then people start dying off. Meg is racing against the clock to find the killer before they’re all dead. Is it one of the ten kids or someone else? (my apologies for the crappy summary. Here’s Goodreads’ if you’d rather: link)

Creeptacular! It’s just as bone-chilling as it sounds. I really enjoyed how the author managed to make it more than pure frights. It was so much more than a bunch of dead teenagers. They each have a story, and as we find out throughout the book, they each have a reason the killer wants them dead. It was a mystery in addition to all the creeps and thrills. By the end, I had absolutely no idea who the killer was, except that it couldn’t be any of the people who were already dead.
There was a nice romance between Meg and T.J. I was impressed that they were able to focus on each other for even a moment given all of the people dying and whatnot. But while I would normally protest that romance is completely unbelievable in life-or-death situations, I liked it. Meg really needed someone to talk to, because as it progresses, the weekend gets more and more frightening. I would need someone to talk to, too, if all of my friends were dying.

I can see why this novel was pretty hyped up. It was well written, suspenseful, and will fit well in todays teen market. The majority of teens really enjoy stuff that creeps the heck out of them, and even for adults this will do the trick. I love the ending, and I think the entire book was very well thought out. Not to be missed for anyone who loves or is writing a thriller or horror! Or maybe even someone like me, who avoids it like the plague. Great for the reluctant teen reader in your life.

Just make sure not to read it at night.

Olivia

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Finding Balance

Something I perpetually struggle with: balance.
How do I balance reading and writing? Schoolwork and blogging? Studying and getting the right amount of sleep?

And the thing on my mind most lately, how do I balance worrying about how my writing is turning out and letting it go completely?

This story really begins on Friday. I was straightening my hair (as anyone with curly hair knows, this is no joke) and wanted something to do while I worked away. I don’t know how many of you know about Ted Talks, but basically they are 20 minute long educational lectures. Except they are very, very interesting. On a whim, I searched for Ted Talks on writing and clicked on one by Elizabeth Gilbert. Some of y’all that have been here since this blog began might remember my review of Eat, Pray, Love by her. I hated it. But as it turns out, she is a charasmatic public speaker and has some really interesting points to bring up in this particular talk. Here‘s the talk. I highly recommend you watch it, even if you aren’t a writer or creative-oriented person.

If you don’t have time, Elizabeth basically talks about writing and creativity. Why is it that writers in particular have a history of being mentally unstable? So many writers in history were undone by their gifts. Why is this? Why do writers feel so much crushing pressure that sometimes they will put writing away forever? What is it about creative people that gives us that reputation?

Elizabeth looks back in history to the Ancient Greece and Rome, where some of history’s greatest philosophers, artists, and writers came from. Back then, the view of the arts was much different. People believed that everyone creative had a genius, who lived in their studio wherever they worked and helped them with their work. They were separate from the human, and it was very freeing to be creative during this time period. If you failed, it wasn’t entirely your fault. If you succeeded, it wasn’t entirely your doing, either. And then along came the Renaissance, which was the beginning of people calling a person a genius instead of having a genius. That was the beginning of the end, you could say. After that, it was even harder than it would be in the first place to be creative. Being called a genius puts an enormous amount of pressure on a single person.

The point is, balance is hard to achieve. We have to remember that, as writers, it’s completely normal for us to doubt ourselves and feel like we’ll never find the words for the story that’s in our heads. We all feel this way, the paranoia of having characters’ entire existence in your hands and wanting to do justice to their story. You aren’t alone in this. Just try to let it out of your hands.

Try thinking about each writer as a pen. (haha nice analogy, right?) A pen has extraordinary possibilities, you can write or draw almost anything with it. But only so much ink can flow out of the tiny nib at a time. You can press down on paper really hard, but that isn’t going to make the ink flow any faster.

As Elizabeth suggests, let us celebrate those who have the guts to write, paint, draw, sculpt, film, and every other thing of beauty. It takes as much determination as it does talent to be successful creatively. And let’s remember that success is self-defined: no one can tell you that you aren’t successful if you’ve passed your own goals.

Fight that voice in your head that says you aren’t good enough. Kick and scratch and whatever you do, don’t give up. If you need to trunk one project or a dozen, that’s ok. But don’t ever stop completely.

In the beautiful words of Tahereh Mafi:

“we write every day, we fight every day, we think and scheme and dream a little dream every day. manuscripts pile up in the kitchen sink, run-on sentences dangle around our necks. we plant purple prose in our gardens and snip the adverbs only to thread them in our hair. we write with no guarantees, no certainties, no promises of what might come and we do it anyway. this is who we are.”

Olivia

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Book Review- Crewel

So, this book was AMAZING. WITH ALL CAPS LOCK. I’m in shock. I was lucky enough to win it in a signed ARC off of Twitter, and I also have signed matching bookmarks. Matchy matchy! So cool. I’m very lucky.  (as always with bigger ARC’s, I’m sticking to the GR summary)

Incapable. Awkward. Artless.
That’s what the other girls whisper behind her back. But sixteen year-old Adelice Lewys has a secret: she wants to fail.
Gifted with the ability to weave time with matter, she’s exactly what the Guild is looking for, and in the world of Arras, being chosen as a Spinster is everything a girl could want. It means privilege, eternal beauty, and being something other than a secretary. It also means the power to embroider the very fabric of life. But if controlling what people eat, where they live and how many children they have is the price of having it all, Adelice isn’t interested.
Not that her feelings matter, because she slipped and wove a moment at testing, and they’re coming for her—tonight.
Now she has one hour to eat her mom’s overcooked pot roast. One hour to listen to her sister’s academy gossip and laugh at her Dad’s stupid jokes. One hour to pretend everything’s okay. And one hour to escape.
Because once you become a Spinster, there’s no turning back.

Sounds unebelievable. Y’all know I’m always wary of books that are too hyped, because nothing kills your love of books like reading a book where you expect it to be great and it stinks. (Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, I’m talking to you) This book wasn’t what I expected, it was BETTER.

First, lets talk about the writing style. Gosh, do I love Gennifer’s way with words! This is such a delicate story; a genius idea and great world building, but without the breathtaking and poetic writing style, I wouldn’t be anywhere near as impressed. It could have been one of those novels you love the idea for, but the excecution was terrible. But it wasn’t, and thank goodness for that! Right from the start, I was hooked by the gorgeous prose. And after a couple pages, the plot captured me, and the rest is history.

The world buiding is eeriely believable. With such a specific topic, it would have been easy to do something characteristic of James Patterson and forget the details you wrote earlier, thus making the reader very, very lost. I was absolutely glued to this book for all of yesterday and didn’t give up until I finished.

I love how this book has me thinking about weaving. I can almost see the weave of that walls around me (not really, I wish). Made me really thing about the scarf I’m crocheting, and what if I was using a thunderstorm for yarn instead, or the gold time thread, or water, or a person. People have threads, too. It especially reminds me of a yarn I’m crocheting that scarf with right now. It’s called The Wedding Job from Nerd Girl Yarns. (I think they should rename it Crewel, but…)

The romance is great. There is a sort of love triangle, but not in the usual tear-your-heart-apart-everyone-ends-up-sad way. The realistic kind, I wouldn’t be surpised if it happened in real life. The boy Adelice eventually chose was the one I (and a lot of other people too, I think) was rooting for from the beginning. The other boy isn’t too torn up about it. Whenever they were together, I got this silly smile on my face, because as terrible as the situation is, they were still really adorable.

The whole plotline is tangled up, and the way it unravels is truly awe-inspiring. The ending is very…. whoa. There were way more sci-fi and thriller elements in it than I expected, but I was not disappointed! The way the end was worded was a little bit hard to understand, but once I understood what had happened I couldn’t find the words to talk about it. I can’t…. she totally surprised me. The second book isn’t even officially OUT yet and I’m already dying for it!

Crewel releases October 16th, and you can pre-order it here! Recommended to everyone. Really great book. And if you would like to try it first, the first 5 chapters are available free on Kindle!(Link)

Hope everyone liked the review! 🙂

Olivia

P.S. Have y’all seen my new header? I love it! It was designed by my friend @alliebbooks. I’ll be adding contact info for her on my bio soon.

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I Capture the Castle

Once upon a time, there was a girl.

She was a sporadic reader, usually coming back to the same 10 or so classic books. She loved the familiarity of the words, her old friends. It seemed like all of the new books she tried ended with sadness. Sadness made her not want to read, to go back to the old comforting, predictable books.

One day, the girl’s teacher handed her I Capture the Castle and said “Please read it. I know you’ll love it.”

The girl did so.

She was captured by the candid descriptions of the English countryside. By the shaby castle. By Cassandra, her literary kindred spirit, stole her heart from the first line- “I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.”

She finally found a happily-ever-after book, but not the fake kind. One that, after much love and writing and hardships, the main character turns out all right. It taught her life that life is moments of extreme happiness and sadness, and that you need both to appreciate the magnitude of it all. That laughter really is the best medicine, besides writing.

The girl wondered where she could find some friends to talk about this book with, the book that started it all. Her teacher was great, but the girl wanted some others too. So she started a blog, and began to read everything in sight.This book made her step out of her comfort zone, and she hadn’t gone back since. She made lots and lots of friends, and felt like she found a purpose.

A few months later, on her second read of this book, the girl thought about writing. She thought about an idea that had been in the back of her head for a while. She decided to take a chance, found a kitchen sink of her own, and started to write.

Several ideas later, the girl is still going. She doubts she’ll ever stop.

****

This was just my little thank you letter to the book that started it all. Highly recommended! 😀

Olivia

P.S. Thanks to my friend Alice and her lovely Girl Series posts that gave me the idea to write this subjectively! ❤

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