The House at Riverton

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The House at Riverton by Kate Morton

Publisher: Washington Square Press

Pages: 473

Source & Format: gift; paperback

Amazon // The Book Depository

Synopsis from Goodreads: Grace Bradley was just a girl when she began working as a servant at Riverton House. For years, her life was inextricably tied up with the glamorous and eccentric Hartford family’s daughters, Hannah and Emmeline. Then, at a glittering society party in the summer of 1924, a young poet shot himself. The only witnesses were Hannah and Emmeline, and only they – and Grace – know the dark truth.

Many years later, when Grace is living out her last days in a nursing home, she receives a visit from a young director who is making a film about the events of that summer. The director takes Grace back to Riverton House and reawakens her memories of the last days of Edwardian aristocratic privilege, of the vibrant twenties and of a stunning secret that Grace kept all her life.

A vivid, page-turning tale of suspense and passion, The House at Rivertonis marked by indelible characters and a breathtaking ending that readers won’t soon forget.

Screen shot 2014-02-06 at 8.22.29 PMWhile it’s no secret that I am obsessed with Kate Morton, I had some reservations going into this one. Most reviews that I’ve read have stated that they didn’t quite like Morton’s first novel as much as her later ones. Now, maybe it was the fact that I had gone into this with some doubt, but I found this novel to be highly engaging, haunting, and very well written. Truth be told, I liked it more than The Forgotten Garden, and about the same as The Secret Keeper. I have still yet to read The Distant Hours, so it remains to be seen whether this may become my favorite of Morton’s works.

It tells the story of Grace, who is living out the rest of her days in a nursing home. She has lived a very full life, starting out as a servant girl at the tender age of fourteen at Riverton House, and then going on to school and becoming an esteemed archaeologist. When Grace receives a visit from a movie director who is making a movie about a terrible event that once occurred at Riverton, Grace finds herself reminiscing about her years there, her relationship with one of the young girls who lived there, and a secret that she has kept all her life.

My favorite novels always seem to be multigenerational and filled with family secrets. I just devour them, and Kate Morton seems to be the author I know I can count on to keep me gripped until the very last page. She definitely has a knack for storytelling that I envy. Her characters are well written and you are able to relate to each one of them. I found myself very much like young Grace, and drawn to Hannah. She was my favorite, this young girl who definitely lived in the wrong time. It was easy to put myself in her shoes and I understood her actions in almost every moment of this story. Needless to say, I loved her. I wanted everything to work out in her favor.

I really love the way that Morton is able to give the reader just enough foreshadowing throughout the story that you are able to figure quite a bit out, but still be surprised at the climax. I liked being able to figure out some of the little secrets on my own, but still gasping at the very end. Even now, a few days after reading it, I am still haunted by the ending.

My only qualm about this book, and it is a small one, is that I would very much have liked to learn a bit more about Grace. I wanted to know her life story in between her time at Riverton and her time at the nursing home. I understand that it wasn’t the point of this novel, but it was still rather frustrating as a reader to not know about her time at university, her archaeology career, and her relationships.

Screen shot 2014-02-06 at 8.21.55 PM“It hardly needs to be said: sooner or later secrets have a way of making themselves known.”  

“True love, it’s like an illness. I never understood it before. In books and plays. Poems. I never understood what drove otherwise intelligent, right-thinking people to do such extravagant, irrational things. Now I do. It’s an illness. You can catch it when you least expect. There’s no known cure. And sometimes, in its most extreme, it’s fatal.” 

“She doesn’t know I cry for the changing times. That just as I reread favourite books, some small part of me hoping for a different ending, I find myself hoping against hope that the war will never come. That this time, somehow, it will leave us be.” 

Screen shot 2014-02-06 at 8.22.37 PMIf you like historical fiction, mystery, and novels that leave you thinking about them long after you’ve turned the last page, you should definitely pick this one up. Kate Morton will not disappoint you. 

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Lichgates AKA the book you all need to read

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Lichgates by S.M. Boyce

Publisher: Caffeinated Books Publishing

Pages: 336

Source & Format: downloaded for free on Kindle, as the author very kindly offers the first book in this series for free

Amazon // FREE ebook copy

Synopsis from Goodreads: Fans of The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and Eragon will enjoy this contemporary remix of the classic epic fantasy genre.
—————-

Kara Magari is about to discover a beautiful world full of terrifying things—Ourea.

Kara, a college student still reeling from her mother’s recent death, has no idea the hidden world of Ourea even exists until a freak storm traps her in a sunken library. With no way out, she opens an ancient book of magic called the Grimoire and unwittingly becomes its master, which means Kara now wields the cursed book’s untamed power. Discovered by Ourea’s royalty, she becomes an unwilling pawn in a generations-old conflict—a war intensified by her arrival. In this world of chilling creatures and betrayal, Kara shouldn’t trust anyone… but she’s being hunted and can’t survive on her own. She drops her guard when Braeden, a native soldier with a dark secret, vows to keep her safe. And though she doesn’t know it, her growing attraction to him may just be her undoing.

For twelve years, Braeden Drakonin has lived a lie. The Grimoire is his one chance at redemption, and it lands in his lap when Kara Magari comes into his life. Though he begins to care for this human girl, there is something he wants more. He wants the Grimoire.

Welcome to Ourea, where only the cunning survive 

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When Kara Magari discovers a previously unknown path while hiking one day, she could never being to imagine that it will change her life. Where this path leads her is a world she has never heard of and certainly never imagined. Is Kara going to be able to step up to her new role in the terrifying world of Ourea?

 

Before I even begin talking about this book, I feel I must warn you. I will not be reviewing, but rather GUSHING over the awesomeness that is Lichgates. This is a fantasy highly reminiscent of Narnia and Lord of the Rings, but definitely of its own merit. The similarity comes from the manner in which the fantasy plays out so spectacularly. I can’t even being to imagine what it would be like to enter Boyce’s imagination, because clearly it is filled with wonder. You can tell that she has really thought out her imagined world, which is very important in a fantasy. The reader needs to be able to suspend any disbelief and fully immerse themselves in the story, and this is my make-it-or-break it rule whenever I read these types of novels.

 

I also love well-written characters. The worst thing that can happen to a book is when the reader can’t have someone to root for or relate to. That’s not a problem in Lichgates. All the characters are equally engaging. I really enjoyed reading from Kara’s point of view, and I also thought that the scenes dealing with her grief were incredibly brilliant. As someone who has lost a parent, I found those parts very accurate and emotional. I can place myself in Kara’s shoes, and it made the reading experience even better for me.

Screen shot 2014-02-06 at 8.21.55 PM“Though it may sometimes seem as if life is decided for us, remember that in all actions before this, you made the choices which brought you here. You alone decide where to go next. There is always choice.”

“You’ve got a troubled past, well so do I. Most people do. We do things we’re not proud of, things we wish we could take back, but what’s done is done and all you can do is try to redeem yourself in the present.”

“To keep the dead in this life is selfish. You must believe that they are in a better place, no matter how soon they were called there. Those who are strong will live with the memory of their loved ones until they too may join them some distant day. Death is part of the ultimate balance. It’s to be left to nature’s command. Remember that grief is a necessary pain. It’s your only way to heal. To starve it will destroy you.”

 

Screen shot 2014-02-06 at 8.22.37 PMThis was a book I am so happy I stumbled across. I will be buying the rest of the series, because I NEED to know what is going to happen. I need to go back to Ourea. I hope that everyone who reads this review will decide to give it a chance. You will not regret it one bit.

 

 

Vampire Academy

6432838Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

Publisher: Razorbill

Pages: 340

Source & Format: bought for Kindle

Amazon // The Book Depository

Synopsis from Goodreads: St. Vladimir’s Academy isn’t just any boarding school—it’s a hidden place where vampires are educated in the ways of magic and half-human teens train to protect them. Rose Hathaway is a Dhampir, a bodyguard for her best friend Lissa, a Moroi Vampire Princess. They’ve been on the run, but now they’re being dragged back to St. Vladimir’s—the very place where they’re most in danger…

Rose and Lissa become enmeshed in forbidden romance, the Academy’s ruthless social scene, and unspeakable nighttime rituals. But they must be careful lest the Strigoi—the world’s fiercest and most dangerous vampires—make Lissa one of them forever. 

Screen shot 2014-02-06 at 8.22.29 PMI definitely didn’t love this book, but I didn’t hate it either. I thought it was a decent story, and I probably would’ve been obsessed with it if I had read it while I was in high school. Now that I have been out of high school for about nine years (Wow, I’m old), it didn’t appeal to me quite so much. I had a really hard time NOT getting irritated at the petty drama surrounding the students, and the way so much was invested in their social standing. If it hadn’t been the kindle daily deal the other day, I probably wouldn’t have read it at all.

 

It tells the story of a school for young vampires. On the one side, we have the Moroi, who are the super special kids. On the other side, the dhampirs, who are just meant to give up their entire lives to be guardians for the Moroi. No, seriously. They spend their lives guarding them. This immediately confused me, because they are supposedly so much stronger than the Moroi. Why wouldn’t you just form an uprising and take your lives back? That’s what I would do.

Screen shot 2014-02-06 at 8.21.55 PM“I had a standing arrangement with God: I’d agree to believe in him—barely—so long as he let me sleep in on Sundays.” 

“She felt so much emotionally, she would say, that a physical outlet- physical pain- was the only way to make her internal pain go away. It was the only way she could control it.”

“The greatest and most powerful revolutions often start very quietly, hidden in the shadows. Remember that.”

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Anyway, putting that aside, I did like it. It had a good storyline that kept me intrigued, characters that I cared about, and a little bit of a mystery that kept me wanting more. I do plan to read the rest of the series at some point.

 

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“Hope is the real magic, child.”

10763598Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor

Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers

Pages: 420

Source & Format: bought for Kindle

Amazon // The Book Depository

Synopsis from Goodreads: Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real, she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”, she speaks many languages – not all of them human – and her bright blue hairactually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.

When beautiful, haunted Akiva fixes fiery eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

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WOW. I am still reeling from the experience of reading this absolutely wonderful book. Somewhere around the halfway point of the story, I came to the conclusion that this is the story that I had been waiting for. I’m not sure quite how to explain what I mean with that, but it just is. It was utterly perfect, at least for me.

 

It tells the story of a seemingly normal girl, Karou, who lives and goes to school in Prague. When Karou is not working on her art, avoiding her ex boyfriend, or hanging out with her best friend Zuzanna, she is running errands for Brimstone, her otherworldly guardian. Even though Karou doesn’t quite understand the errands that she runs (collecting teeth), she continues doing so, because the only family she has ever known is with Brimstone. This all changes when she meets an angel by the name of Akiva. Even though they are from separate worlds and families, they are drawn to one another. Karou finds herself wanting to learn just where she came from before she happened to be with Brimstone, and Akiva just might have some of those answers she so desperately needs.

 

Now, hear me out here. I am rather particular with paranormal and urban fantasies. I like to feel that an author has really thought things through, and that they are prepared to take me on a journey somewhere that I certainly couldn’t go in my real and mundane life. Laini Taylor did that. I feel like the worldbuilding that took place in this novel was nothing short of amazing. You could just tell that she has left nothing to chance. Nothing annoys me more than when I feel that something was just thrown into a story without an actual thought, and that didn’t happen here. Every little thing made sense in the end. Also, the lyrical prose in which the author wrote! I was completely enamored with Taylor’s writing! It’s hard for me to describe what I mean by this, but it was obvious that she chose every word very carefully. There were times when I would reread certain passages just because I wanted to drink it in all over again.

Screen shot 2014-02-06 at 8.21.55 PM“I don’t know many rules to live by,” he’d said. “But here’s one. It’s simple. Don’t put anything unnecessary into yourself. No poisons or chemicals, no fumes or smoke or alcohol, no sharp objects, no inessential needles- drug or tattoo- and… no inessential penises, either.”

“I swear I hate more people every day. Everyone annoys me. If I’m like this now, what am I going to be like when I’m old?”

“Hope? Hope can be a powerful force. Maybe there’s no actual magic in it, but when you know what you hope for most and hold it like a light within you, you can make things happen, almost like magic.”

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I am going to be pushing this book on everybody I know, seriously. Like I said, this book was everything I have ever wanted in a story! I don’t even know how to properly capture my emotions right now, because I am still in absolute awe of what I just experienced. If you are in the mood for a completely original story that is going to take you places, please read this book =)

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Seriously, is everyone hanging out without me?

13532238Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling

Publisher: Three Rivers Press

Pages: 219

Source & Format: Paperback; bought from B&N

Amazon // The Book Depository

Synopsis from Goodreads: Mindy Kaling has lived many lives: the obedient child of immigrant professionals, a timid chubster afraid of her own bike, a Ben Affleck–impersonating Off-Broadway performer and playwright, and, finally, a comedy writer and actress prone to starting fights with her friends and coworkers with the sentence “Can I just say one last thing about this, and then I swear I’ll shut up about it?”

Perhaps you want to know what Mindy thinks makes a great best friend (someone who will fill your prescription in the middle of the night), or what makes a great guy (one who is aware of all elderly people in any room at any time and acts accordingly), or what is the perfect amount of fame (so famous you can never get convicted of murder in a court of law), or how to maintain a trim figure (you will not find that information in these pages). If so, you’ve come to the right book, mostly!

In Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, Mindy invites readers on a tour of her life and her unscientific observations on romance, friendship, and Hollywood, with several conveniently placed stopping points for you to run errands and make phone calls. Mindy Kaling really is just a Girl Next Door—not so much literally anywhere in the continental United States, but definitely if you live in India or Sri Lanka.

 

Screen shot 2014-02-06 at 8.22.29 PM This is a book that I have been meaning to check out for a long time. While I am not very big on memoirs, if something seems funny and it is talked about enough, I will most likely at some point need to read it. This is how a great number of books happen to be in my possession.

This doesn’t read like any memoir that I have ever read before, but I think that’s okay. It is a series of essays about many different things in Mindy’s life, and it is incredibly relatable. She writes in a very witty style that just makes it impossible not to fall in love with her. She also has a way of making even the most traumatizing moments of her life (a boy in school calling her a whale) seem like just a hilarious little anecdote.

I love when someone is able to be both serious and funny, and I think that even though this book was mostly the latter, Mindy managed to also give readers something to hold on to. You are left with wondering just WHY it’s so wrong to actually (GASP!) enjoy spending time with parents as a teenager, and why would anyone ever think that high school is actually the ‘thrill of living’? Listen, as someone who absolutely hated high school and thought that watching movies with my mom on a Friday evening was a good time (still does), this book made me feel less alone. Thanks Mindy!

Screen shot 2014-02-06 at 8.21.55 PM“Teenage girls, please don’t worry about being super popular in high school, or being the best actress in high school, or the best athlete. Not only do people not care about any of that the second you graduate, but when you get older, if you reference your successes in high school too much, it actually makes you look kind of pitiful, like some babbling old Tennessee Williams character with nothing else going on in her current life. What I’ve noticed is that almost no one who was a big star in high school is also big star later in life. For us overlooked kids, it’s so wonderfully fair.” 

“I’m the kind of person who would rather get my hopes up really high and watch them get dashed to pieces than wisely keep my expectations at bay and hope they are exceeded. This quality has made me a needy and theatrical friend, but has given me a spectacularly dramatic emotional life.”

“The chorus of “Jack and Diane” is: Oh yeah, life goes on, long after the thrill of living is gone. Are you kidding me? The thrill of living was high school? Come on, Mr. Cougar Mellencamp. Get a life.” 

Screen shot 2014-02-06 at 8.22.37 PMListen, this book is probably not for everybody. I doubt I am going to be telling everyone I know to read it, because lets face it, a lot of the people I know just wouldn’t get it. But, on that note, I do think it is worth reading if you are a person who thinks that laughing at yourself is really good medicine. There’s nothing wrong with a little self-deprecating humor every now and then. I mean, I finished this book in less than a day. It’s not hard to read and you don’t need to invest yourself for long. It’s just a good, fun read.

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Cress!

ImageCress by Marissa Meyer

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Pages: 560

Source & Format: preordered from Amazon; hardcover

Amazon // The Book Depository

Synopsis from Goodreads: Rapunzel’s tower is a satellite. She can’t let down her hair—or her guard.

In this third book in the bestselling Lunar Chronicles series, Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they’re plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and her army. 

Their best hope lies with Cress, who has been trapped on a satellite since childhood with only her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker—unfortunately, she’s just received orders from Levana to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice. 

When a daring rescue goes awry, the group is separated. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a high price. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing stop her marriage to Emperor Kai. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only ones who can.

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The Lunar Chronicles is one of those series that I tried to avoid reading for the longest time. It just seemed to be too popular and too different from my normal tastes, and I thought I would absolutely hate it. I finally conceded defeat and borrowed Cinder from my library, and I was hooked. I quickly purchased both of the two books that were already available (Cinder & Scarlet), and preordered my copy of Cress, knowing I needed it asap.

Cress picks off immediately where Scarlet left off, with Cinder, Scarlet, Captain Thorne, Wolf, and Iko escaping on the Rampion. While making plans to stop the wedding of Prince Kai and Queen Levana, they also decide to rescue Cress, a hacker who has been imprisoned on a satellite and works for the Lunar queen against her will. In the midst of her escape, the group gets separated.

I think my favorite thing about Cress was the alternating POV storyline. I enjoyed getting to know all of the different characters, especially Scarlet, who quickly became my favorite after I first read the second book. Also, it is impossible not to fall in love with Cress. She is absolutely adorable, and I found myself relating to her immediately. Meyer did a fantastic job of showing the lack of social skills in Cress, and showing the hope she holds in her heart, throughout everything she sees in the world. I enjoyed Cress’s POV so much in this book; the way she played out imaginary scenarios in her head in order to cope with the things she was facing was something incredibly relatable. I myself do it all the time, and I love Meyer for creating this character.

Screen shot 2014-02-06 at 8.21.55 PM“She was a girl. A living girl, smart and sweet and awkward and unusual, and she was worth far more than they could ever realize.”

“Knees suddenly weak, she reached for his forearms to stabilize herself. ‘You came for me.’

He beamed, looking for all the world like a selfless, daring hero.

‘Don’t sound so surprised.'”

“Iko bent toward her. ‘That dress looks amazing on you,’ she said. ‘Cinder, doesn’t she look amazing?’

Cinder sighed as the elevator came to a full stop. ‘Iko, after this we’re going to start working on occasion appropriateness.'”

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Overall, I think this might be my favorite book from the series, at least so far, as Winter is yet to be published 😉 I must applaud Meyer for the way she can take the classic fairytales we all know and give them such an imaginative spin. It’s highly obvious that she has a wonderful imagination and zest for storytelling. I can’t wait for 2015!

 

Thanks for reading!

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The Winter Sea

ImageThe Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley

Publisher: Sourcebooks, Incorporated

Pages: 527

Source & Format: purchased; nookbook

Amazon // The Book Depository

Synopsis from GoodreadsIn the spring of 1708, an invading Jacobite fleet of French and Scottish soldiers nearly succeeded in landing the exiled James Stewart in Scotland to reclaim his crown.

Now, Carrie McClelland hopes to turn that story into her next bestselling novel. Settling herself in the shadow of Slains Castle, she creates a heroine named for one of her own ancestors and starts to write.

But when she discovers her novel is more fact than fiction, Carrie wonders if she might be dealing with ancestral memory, making her the only living person who knows the truth-the ultimate betrayal-that happened all those years ago, and that knowledge comes very close to destroying her…

Screen shot 2014-02-06 at 8.22.29 PMI am not convinced that I will have the proper words to do this book justice. It was an absolutely beautiful story, with all the elements that I love best. This is historical fiction at its finest, properly researched with just the right amount of imagination to give it a little extra.

I was slightly unsure how I was going to feel about it, because I found the actual historical aspect involving King James and the Jacobites and the war all a bit confusing in the beginning. Luckily, Kearsley included a very great scene where a character broke it down a bit, and from that point on I was able to follow along and truly disappear into the lives of the characters. And oh- what lovely characters they all were! Many times, when books go back and forth between time periods and character point of views, it can get slightly muffled in a reader’s mind. That absolutely never happened in this book. The author truly made me care deeply about all the people I met on my journey throughout Slains.

I think that one of my favorite parts of the whole story was the creativity behind having a protagonist doing research for her own novel, coming across this interesting secret history that traces back in her own lineage, and being able to follow along with her process of writing and learning about her own ancestor. It was executed flawlessly. I am in love with books about books and books within books, so this was absolutely my cup of tea. I can’t wait to read it again, and I highly recommend that others pick it up and do the same.

Screen shot 2014-02-06 at 8.21.55 PM“But life, if nothing else, had taught her promises weren’t always to be counted on, and what appeared at first a shining chance might end in bitter disappointment.”

“And where he had run out of room to stand a book up properly on edge, he’d laid it horizontally across the top of its companions and stacked others over that, so there were books wedged in wherever there was space. It had the same effect on me as the sight of a candy store had on a six-year-old.”

“But God passes His affairs into the hands of men, and there the trouble lies.”

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This is absolutely a book that you want to stay up and finish late into the night. It actually has a nice ambience reading it into the evening, curled up under some blankets. You can sleep another time 😉

 

Thanks for reading =)

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