Book Review: The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley (New Release 3/28/17)

Because this is a new release, I feel it is fair to start with the book blurb so you have an idea of what we are getting into. This is a contemporary/thriller adult lit book, but it also features a female teen protagonist so it has elements of a coming-of-age story as well. I see how it can have crossover potential for mature older teens.

Anyway, blurb:

30556459A father protects his daughter from the legacy of his past and the truth about her mother’s death in this thrilling new novel from the prize-winning author of The Good Thief.

After years spent living on the run, Samuel Hawley moves with his teenage daughter, Loo, to Olympus, Massachusetts. There, in his late wife’s hometown, Hawley finds work as a fisherman, while Loo struggles to fit in at school and grows curious about her mother’s mysterious death. Haunting them both are twelve scars Hawley carries on his body, from twelve bullets in his criminal past; a past that eventually spills over into his daughter’s present, until together they must face a reckoning yet to come. This father-daughter epic weaves back and forth through time and across America, from Alaska to the Adirondacks.

Both a coming-of-age novel and a literary thriller, The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley explores what it means to be a hero, and the cost we pay to protect the people we love most.

Review:

First off, I loved this book. I thought it was beautiful and gritty in all the right ways. The dynamic of the father with a dark past and the teen daughter coming of age was achingly good. The tale covers several years of Loo’s life with her father Samuel, and also years before. Samuel’s goal is to prepare Loo for a future that may not be perfect, sort of street survivalist education. Hot wiring cars, firing guns… it’s all in there.

I think my favorite part of the book was the ease of the heart-filled writing. Tinti has a practiced style that draws you in to her imagery and world with all of your senses. And more than that, her structure of this story is intriguing as well in that she has built it around Samuel’s many scars.

The marks on her father’s body had always been there. He did not show them off to Loo but he did not hide them, either. They reminded her of the craters on the moon that she studied at night with her telescope. Circles made from comets and asteroids that slammed into the cold, hard rock because it had no protective atmosphere. Like those craters, Hawley’s scars were signs of previous damage, that had impacted his life long before she was born. And like the moon, Hawley was always circling between Loo and the rest of the universe.” 

Through each of their moments together, you can feel the love between them. This book is one dripping with respect, a binding sort of unbreakable love, pain, regret, swelling bittersweetness… it is bound to move you in some way. And though I feel like I have read several books where the protagonist’s return to the hometown of the mother that is no longer in the picture (either because she is wayward, deceased or otherwise), it still felt fresh and explored in new ways that I hadn’t quite seen yet.

Highly recommended read. Take your time with it, let it build, and enjoy.

Tinti eCard 3.jpg

Note: Thank you to NetGalley and Dial Press for a copy of this ARC in exchange for a review. This in no way impact my opinion of the book. 

Book Review: The Selection by Kiera Cass

I needed a break from the books I was reading and this set by Keira Cass has been waiting patiently on my bookshelf. It looked light and fluffy, so I went for it. And I’m very glad I did.

The Selection isn’t my typical fare. It’s nothing I would’ve considered reading on my own, but thankfully it is highly recommended. It also isn’t a book I would say is perfect for everyone… you have to be in the mood for this, or to really have it be your genre.

So what genre is it? Dystopian romance, if that is a thing? It’s The Hunger Games meets The Bachelor. 35 Girls enter The Selection to win the heart of the Prince and become the next princess of Illea. There are also rebels from the north and south that are attacking the palace for some reason… oh wait, probably because this is America in the future after the fourth world war, and the whole of society is on a caste system.

giphy-1Our heroine is America Singer. She is a 5, which means she is three steps above dirt, one step above being a maid, and really far behind from being a 1 (Royalty). The numbers were a little confusing at first because they aren’t explained until a few pages in… this was fine though, as I prefer not to get a full history lesson until I’m invested in the characters, which is exactly what happens. America, who looks like Brittany Snow in my head, is a beautiful girl with a stunning voice that gets selected in the lottery process and has just lost her boyfriend Aspen (who is a 6… a servant level caste boy) because he wants to provide for her and doesn’t see it working out due to a bunch of things. (Yes, intentionally vague summary.)

America doesn’t make friends easy, and doesn’t trust a lot of the girls there. She decides the other girls are in it either for the crown or the money, but not necessarily for the prince. And because she just had her heart broken, she isn’t ready to be in the game. Not really. Until she is. Because obviously she needs to get over Aspen, and the Prince is pretty princely.

The girls aren’t full on Mean Girls to each other, but yet they also are. Especially Celeste. Celeste has her eyes on the prize. Celeste wants to be not just the princess, but the queen.giphy

And America just wants snacks and a friend. She’s been in a caste that doesn’t get a lot of luxuries, so much like in the Hunger Games, food is a big deal. And she tells Prince Maxon so. They become fast friends, or at least from her point of view.

tumblr_m2l0tlEXI21r3e62yo1_500

Okay, enough of the summary!

What did I think about this book aside from liking it? It was a fun read, and really engaging. It in fact was the light and fluffy read that I was looking for, but with the odd twist of having rebels and attacks around The Bachelor set. It was predictable. And the history of the country and its changes is explained in bits and pieces, thankfully, so that you don’t have to read through it all at once. The author times this well because by the chapter where you are getting etiquette lessons and history trivia along with the ladies, you are already invested in the story.

The banter and building relationship between America and Prince Maxon is instant by not insta-love. They are friends first, and she is awkwardly honest to a fault. Again, there is a lot of predictability, but there is a great comfort in that. I wasn’t looking for a book to blow my mind away with girls in tulle and taffeta. I would have liked a little more character building with a few of the characters, a few more details about the Prince’s time with the other girls, but at least for this book (I’m not sure about the others) this book is from America’s perspective. She, the royal family, and her own family are well described and likable. And since it is a trilogy, there could be a lot more coming my way.

As for how I hope it will end… Right now I am Team Maxon. Aspen’s insecurity told me all I needed to know about him, and I haven’t cared for him since. If that break up, that awful hissy fit of insecure masculinity was his instinct… I don’t believe he’s capable of real change. But I guess we will see!

I liked it, and I am ready to move on to the second book in the trilogy. Happy hunger games!

#MaasMondays: Week 3 – Crown of Midnight

You guys… it is so close to April, which means it is so close to May, which means it is sooooo sooooooo very closer to A Court of Wings and Ruin. Deep breath. And now… on to week 3!

Last week we got into some discussion on Throne of Glass, and we are now onto Crown of Midnight. This is a very polarizing book… wait… I think a lot of the books are like that. But this one in particular had some heated discussion in my reading groups, especially for those that read it when it was released. And absolutely especially for the people who loved the couple of this book more than Sam or Dorian. We’ll get to that in a bit.

First, as per usual, this is a discussion rather than a review, so there will be spoilers.

Blurb:

17167166From the throne of glass rules a king with a fist of iron and a soul as black as pitch. Assassin Celaena Sardothien won a brutal contest to become his Champion. Yet Celaena is far from loyal to the crown. She hides her secret vigilantly; she knows that the man she serves is bent on evil.

Keeping up the deadly charade becomes increasingly difficult when Celaena realizes she is not the only one seeking justice. As she tries to untangle the mysteries buried deep within the glass castle, her closest relationships suffer. It seems no one is above questioning her allegiances—not the Crown Prince Dorian; not Chaol, the Captain of the Guard; not even her best friend, Nehemia, a foreign princess with a rebel heart.

Then one terrible night, the secrets they have all been keeping lead to an unspeakable tragedy. As Celaena’s world shatters, she will be forced to give up the very thing most precious to her and decide once and for all where her true loyalties lie… and whom she is ultimately willing to fight for.

Quick summary that skips many things:

Celaena is now the King’s Champion and one thing she is not doing is actually killing the people that she is sent to kill. Her relationship with Dorian is on the rocks since they broke up. Chaol’s relationship is also on the rocks with Dorian because he steps into the boyfriend role with Celaena, forcing Dorian to get over their break up. Celaena has regained enough freedom to go shopping for the fancy dresses, shoes, hats and all the finer things like bath toiletries that she loves. Meanwhile there is still trouble in the crypt and the dead Fae queen isn’t leaving Celaena alone. Nehemia dies. Gruesomely. Chaos ensues. And in the end, Chaol and Celaena part ways at the docks as she boards a ship to Wendlyn on an assassination mission. She uses a Sam quote here too, which may make you think he stands a chance when she returns.

Phew. Not the shortest summary I could’ve written, but shorter than last week.

The Couple of Crown of Midnight:

The couple of this book is Chaol and Celaena. There are a lot of die-hard Chaol fans, as a lot of people shipped this relationship in the first book because he has that neglected, kicked-puppy, defers-to-his-best-friend, tough-but-lovable kinda thing going on. Chaol is easy to like, I will give you all that. But Celaena has to take the lead during their courtship phase. And that’s fun to some extent, but he seemed to struggle with his worthiness a little too long.

Chaol sees the strength and spirit in Celaena, but he wants her to be something she is not, in my opinion. He wants a happily ever after, but more than that he wants to remain true to himself… and for him, that means putting his loyalty to Adarlan over her. So when it matters, when he is ordered to do so… when he has a chance to warn Celaena that there is a plot to kill Nehemia, he doesn’t tell her.

Many will disagree, and have disagreed, but he did betray her. True, it went so quickly that he didn’t have a lot of time. True, if she loved him that much, she could have been a little more understanding (maybe?). Either way, Nehemia’s death shatters their relationship. Mind you, I know I’m saying this as someone who is not invested in the Chaol/Celaena ship, but I did enjoy their relationship. It needed to happen. They needed each other for that time, and they were perfect for each other in those moments. It helped them each grow.

The Best Moments of Crown of Midnight for me:

  • Mort – he provided some much needed comic relief
  • Chaol’s Birthday
  • The Celaena / Aelin plot reveal
  • The carnival
  • Dorian and Celaena mending their friendship
  • Celaena vs. Grave
  • Celaena vs. Everyone in the Warehouse
  • Celaena vs. Baba Yellowlegs

If you felt like Throne of Glass was slow, chances are, the speed of Crown of Midnight was perfect for you. And if you are like me, everything felt like it came to a crashing halt when Nehemia died. I read those pages a few times before moving on with the book. It was a shocking character death, and it was so soon after Celaena was admittedly happy, I was in disbelief. So I put the book down for a few hours, and then had to read the rest before I could be bothered to go to sleep. Plus Celaena got to show her dark side. All of her assassin’s training came out in FORCE.

I think what I mostly liked about Crown of Midnight was Celaena’s freedom. She is out of the castle, she’s not in Endovier, she’s not in training underneath Arobynn. She is free to travel, to go on missions, to go all over Adarlan, to recapture a bit of herself again. True, she is working for the king. But she is being rebellious in that role. I love that she is weighing the costs of killing those the king would have killed versus the cost of her own life if she is caught. She hates the king, but she knows how dangerous he is and walks this fine line throughout her missions.

I love that Maas’ characters are finding their way, and at the same time making awful (and sometimes incredible) humanizing mistakes that could make or break them. This book reminds us that people don’t always make the right choice. In the real world, that is as true as anything. I prefer my characters to not know the answers instinctively, I prefer them to have to stagger through some tasks blindly, and to think they have everything planned but also didn’t see factor X. If they know everything and just win win win, that’s not real. It’s not believable. And this book, to me, is proof. You get so much more engaged in the story when they have victories and losses.

Crown of Midnight is a great ride, but still… not yet my favorite of the series. (That comes very soon!) What is your favorite part of CoM?

Some of my favorite CoM Quotes:

“Because,” she whispered, her voice shaking, “you remind me of what the world ought to be. What the world can be.”

“He would move on. Because he would not be like the ancient kings in the song and keep her for himself. She deserved a loyal, brave knight who saw her for what she was and did not fear her. And he deserved someone who would look at him like that, even if the love wouldn’t be the same, even if the girl wouldn’t be her.
So Dorian closed his eyes, and took another long breath. And when he opened his eyes, he let her go.”

“When you do, I want you to remember that it wouldn’t have made any difference to me. It’s never made any difference to me when it came to you. I’d still pick you. I’ll always pick you.”

“I know you can look after yourself. But I worry because I care. Gods help me, I know I shouldn’t, but I do. So I will always tell you to be careful, because I will always care what happens.”

“But no matter what I did, Elentiya, I want you to know that in the darkness of the past ten years, you were one of the bright lights for me. Do not let that light go out.”

“Nehemia was gone. That vibrant, fierce, loving soul; the princess who had been called the Light of Eyllwe; the woman who had been a beacon of hope—just like that, as if she were no more than a wisp of candlelight, she was gone.
When it had mattered most Celaena hadn’t been there.
Nehemia was gone.”

“She was a whirlwind of steel and blood. As he watched her cut through the men as though they were stalks of wheat in a field, he understood how she had gotten so close to touching Endovier’s wall that day. And at last-after all these months-he saw the lethal predator he’d expected to find in the mines. there was nothing human in her eyes, nothing remotely merciful. It froze his heart.”

#FridayFeels Book Discussion: Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

22299763Just because it isn’t contemporary, doesn’t mean it can’t give you the feels. There are more ships in this book than most. Because this book follows Six of Crows, it will contain a few spoilers from the first book.

I loved this book even more than Six of Crows because it is high emotions and high stakes. When last we left our crew, they were betrayed and Inej was (spoiler) kidnapped. AGH! Kaz Brekker puts his expert strategist skills to the test to figure out a way to get Inej back, hide Kuwei from everyone that wants him, get their money from the heist in the last book, get his revenge on the man (Pekka Rollins) that was responsible for his brother’s death, and most importantly… not get anyone killed. The quote “No Mourners, No Funerals” from SoC takes an even heavier tone in this book as you realize how one wrong step could land any of them on that body barge out in Ketterdam harbor.

The ships that will give you the feels in this book? All of them.

Kaz + Inej

 

i_can_help_you___inej_and_kaz_by_amandaduarte-davhlwc.jpg

I would have come for you. And if I couldn’t walk, I’d crawl to you, and no matter how broken we were, we’d fight our way out together-knives drawn, pistols blazing. Because that’s what we do. We never stop fighting.

That quote is from Crooked Kingdom. It is Kaz speaking to Inej. As I mentioned, Inej is kidnapped at the end of Six of Crows. This quote gave me chills when I read it.

So a bit on their history: Kaz brought Inej into his crew, the Dregs, after spotting her at the Menagerie (a red-light district house of ill repute). He didn’t have much in terms of romantic inclinations to her in the first book, but he did have loyalty to her that seemed to imply he liked her more than anyone else. Because Kaz doesn’t like or trust most everyone. And he didn’t feel like he deserved her. And because of his issue with skin-on-skin contact (a reveal in Six of Crows that made my heart break for him), he has problems trying to physically show affection for Inej.

Some people have suggested that they are together through this whole book, but to me they are in a courtship phase. The ending is really up to interpretation. I love how Inej stands up to Kaz, and how Kaz tries repeatedly to show how he feels. His words in the quote above tell me all I need to know. But Inej wants more than words. She wants it all or nothing.

Wylan + Jesper

wylan_and_jesper_by_taratjah-dana6qu
Fan art by @taratjah

“Jes, I’ve thought about this-“
“Thought of me? Late at night? What was I wearing?”
“I’ve thought about your powers,” Wylan said, cheeks flushing pinker.

I think I sorta missed any relationship building on this until the end of Six of Crows. Wylan and Jesper are a sweet couple. When we left them in Six of Crows, Wylan had been tailored by Nina to look like Kuwei as part of the heist. So we have two guys that look like Kuwei, and no one that looks like Wylan. Which is confusing for pretty much everyone, including Jesper who has feelings for Wylan. Wylan also has feelings for Jesper, but is happy to be the pursued instead of the pursuer… maybe because he is young, shy and/or introverted.

I love their relationship in this book because it’s flirty but it also has a nod to the classic mistaken-identity bit from commedia dell’arte (15th-16th century Italian theater which also influenced Shakespeare in plays such as Twelfth Night and many others). It has a slower build than other relationships, but it is well worth the time to watch for and enjoy.

Nina + Matthias

nina_and_matthias_by_taratjah-dana6vk
Fan art by @taratjah

“You’re better that waffles, Matthias Helvar.”
A small smile curled the Fjerdan’s lips.
“Let’s not say things we don’t mean, my love.”

Nina and Matthias are a couple we all saw coming from a mile away. Mostly because in the first book we find out that they sort of did have a relationship, and then Nina betrayed Matthias and ended up in prison. She tried her best to make it right and with Kaz’s help in SoC, they did spring him from jail. But then Nina and Matthias have a love/hate relationship for the rest of that book.

When we left them in SoC, Matthias was incredibly worried for Nina as the affects of parem wore off, and her health is now in jeopardy. And that’s where Crooked Kingdom picks right back up. Nina is ill because of the parem, and she just wants to start using it again. But they all know if she does she will be addicted, and the next withdrawal will kill her.

I love their relationship because they have to learn how to trust each other, love each other again, and forgive their mistakes. Their challenges in CK definitely revolve around Nina’s need for the drug, her shifted Grisha powers, and Matthias’ resolution to keep her safe.

 

That is all for the main relationships in Crooked Kingdom. There is also a great feel part when Jesper is reunited with his father. It reminds you about how young the Dregs really are and the power of a parent. You’ll also find some stellar friendship building that continues from SoC between Nina and Inej. Those girls are the best.

The friendships and the relationships and the madness of Crooked Kingdom left me reeling. It is easily one of my favorite new books and I want so much more from the Grishaverse. I want more of the Dregs. I need more of all of them.

Have you read Crooked Kingdom? Did you love the relationships? What are some non-contemporary romances that gave you the feels?

Book Review: Perfect (Flawed #2) by Cecelia Ahern

28116714Book Blurb:

Celestine North 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 Crevan 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?

Review:

So, I have to admit, I liked Perfect more than the first book in the series. If you loved the first book, you are going to be really gratified with how Perfect turned out.

As we know from the first book, this is a dystopian world. And although that is a common genre these days, I still found it enjoyable and the pacing was great throughout the book.

Celestine was further developed and seemed, to me, to be a stronger character this time around. She has a cause to stand up and FIGHT for. She was intelligent, calculated, and embraced who she has become. I had a love/hate relationship with Celestine in the first book (though I liked Flawed as well), and in this book she is humanized a bit and more likable.

Since this isn’t out for another two weeks, I don’t want to ruin it, especially as it is the end of the duology. But it was a very satisfying read with action, twists and turns, and a dash of romance. Recommended to those who love a good dystopian series.