BOOK REVIEW: Kaitlyn Deann “The Brand of Anem”

41xtnkquoclTitle: The Brand of Anem

Author: Kaitlyn Deann

Genre: Dystopian/Romance

My Rating: 4.5/5 stars

 

A brand is a divine marking that results out of intimacy and is considered beautiful… unless you’re unwedded.

Margaret James is the Duchess of Deneb and the daughter of the highest political figure in their city: Judge Mark James. She is expected to follow the rules without fail and to never, ever falter to her flesh. She has been pledged to the chief officer, William Lach. But there is one problem with this arrangement…

Margaret James shares a brand with Carson Owens.

Carson belongs to the infamous Owens family and to the Middle Class, which means it’s impossible for him to marry the woman he loves. Despite the rules, the two of them bound themselves together as young teenagers, and now they will do everything in their power to hide the brand given to them by Anem, the goddess of souls. If caught, they will suffer dire consequences.

Getting caught is inevitable.

The first in a series of novellas to follow, The Brand of Anem is a wild ride from start to finish.

Described by the author as an afternoon read, this book, while short, packs a punch. Deann manages to fit a lot of information in a limited number of words, and the story flows in an easy, simple way. We’re introduced to the characters and are immediately swept up in their lives and their forbidden love.

The Brand of Anem poses a lot of interesting questions about right and wrong, morality, sin and love. This will leave the reader with both a wonderful story and hopefully an engaged mind.

I found the world building fascinating and I’m excited to see the author develop on this in the next books. There was the obvious air of mystery regarding the Owens family and their history, and what lies in store for Carson and Margaret. The cliffhanger of this book was devestating and if I don’t get the next installment soon, I’m gonna lose my mind. (Trying to remain professional but on the inside, I’m screaming and using lots of exclamation points. Take that however you’d like.)

Definitely can’t wait to find out what happens next, and I highly recommend this special read!

Kaitlyn Deann: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

The Brand of Anem: Amazon | Goodreads

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BOOK REVIEW: Colleen Hoover “It Ends With Us”

817vqET828LTitle: It Ends With Us

Author: Colleen Hoover

Genre: Contemporary/Romance

My Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Ouch, this book hurt.

First of all, I almost didn’t read this. My first experience reading Colleen Hoover was November 9, which I despised. I hated it so much that I DNF’d it. I won’t get into it here, but I’ll just say: gross, controlling male MC. No, thank you.

Yet I decided to give Hoover another chance. I saw that It Ends With Us was a Goodreads Choice Awards winner, so I figured there had to be something good about it. The audiobook was available, so the stars were aligned. I read the book.

Holy crap, it hurt so much.

It’s difficult to talk about what this book is about without giving away too much; let’s just say that one of the heavier topics is domestic abuse. This wasn’t at all what I expected, but in the best way possible. It was beautiful and heartbreaking and so so difficult.

The main character, Lily, faces a few different abusive men in her life, the first of which was her father. Given her circumstances, it’s made her sure that if she ever found herself in a relationship with a man like that, she would never stand for it. She would never go back to him. She would be different.

Yet when she finds herself in a relationship with a man who does hurt her, she finds it’s so much harder when you’re the victim. She justifies it, makes excuses, and tries to write it off. He’s different, he’s not like her father.

When some new information comes to light about her current abuser, I was afraid that Hoover would make it seem like it was okay to stay. Encourage it even. In the end, though, I felt that the topic was dealt with really well. With such a sensitive subject, this book could have easily gone off-course; thankfully it didn’t.

I’m so glad that I gave Hoover another shot and hope to read a few more of her books. Comment your recommendations below!

BOOK REVIEW: Taylor Jenkins Reid “Evidence of the Affair”

41Cfcwc9hcLTitle: Evidence of the Affair

Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid

Genre: Contemporary

My Rating: 4/5 stars

 

For a short story, I’ll be writing a short review (which tends to be my type of review anyway; who wants to read a book about a book?).

This is a story told in letters written between Carrie and David. Their spouses are cheating on them with each other’s spouses. Messy stuff.

It begins with Carrie writing to David to inform him that his wife is having an affair with her husband. She knows this because she’s found some letters addressed to her husband from David’s wife. Carrie asks David if he can look for letters from her husband among his wife’s things because she just wants to know why, and asks if he wants to see his wife’s letters.

So begins the correspondence between the two as they cope with the pain of betrayal and ask each other for advice. What will they do? Will they try to work things out? Will they confront their spouses?

It’s a very easy read, and the end is both satisfying and yet not enough. It makes me wish there had been just a little bit more, or maybe even, dare I say it, a sequel? In such a short amount of time, Reid made me fall in love with Carrie and David. I cared for them both and wanted to see them happy.

I’ve had varying experiences reading Reid’s work, but I can say that this was a win for me.

BOOK REVIEW: Maggie O’Farrell “I Am, I Am, I Am”

81CDbgRQIrLTitle: I Am, I Am, I Am

Author: Maggie O’Farrell

Genre: Memoir

My Rating: 4/5 stars

 

A book about 17 near-death experiences, what could possibly go wrong?

This book was both incredibly interesting and anxiety-inducing. I finished this book with an intense fear of the world and the people in it. There are so many horrible humans who are out to hurt others. The earth itself is full of hazards and animals and things that will kill you. I mean, you can’t read this book and not think about all the ways that you could have died already in your own life. All the near death experiences that you’ve had. It makes you feel so very mortal.

There were parts that made my skin crawl, chapters that made it difficult to breathe, whole segments that made your own heart beat faster for the narrator. There were some parts that dragged, but it was ultimately amazing.

One chapter in particularly shook me to my core, but it’s not exactly a near-death experience. It talked about the author’s several miscarriages, and reading it so close to my own miscarriage was definitely a punch to the gut. It was strangely healing, but definitely hard to read.

O’Farrell’s writing was absolutely beautiful. She conveyed emotions flawlessly and made me feel everything that she had been feeling. It was such a roller coaster of a book, but I would say it was a rewarding one.

BOOK REVIEW: Ruth Emmie Lang “Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance”

91p1dqTF21LTitle: Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance

Author: Ruth Emmie Lang

Genre: Fantasy

My Rating: 4/5 stars

 

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance is the first Book of the Month that I ever selected. I’m ashamed it’s taken me this long to get to it, considering I’ve read several other BOTM picks since then. Oops.

That being said, I had heard lots of good things about this, so I finally picked it up the other day! Okay, I found the audiobook at my library and I listened to it. Sue me.

That being said, I really enjoyed this. I’m not sure what I expected, although I knew this was a fantasy labeled as “magical realism”. It follows a boy named Weylyn Grey through the perspectives of those closest to them. First there’s the girl who delivers meat for her father to Weylyn and his wolf pack. She’s immediately fascinated by him and his life with the wolves, and over time decides to run away with them. Strange things seem to happen around him, though, but she doesn’t think much of it at the time.

Then there’s the foster family that takes Weylyn in after he and the girl are discovered with the wolves. Specifically his foster sister, who takes a liking to him and bonds with him. There’s the general education teacher who desperately wants children who finds a void filled with Weylyn’s company.

So many people touched by Weylyn’s presence in their lives, while still odd things tend to happen around him. The story sees him well into adult-hood and shows his power over nature and people growing. It’s such a heartwarming, lovely story that will just make anyone feel good.

Weylyn is naive as a child, obviously, considering his time with the wolves, but it seems to follow him years later as a grown-up. I can’t decide if I appreciate this or not. On one hand, his naivety was charming as a child, but it makes him seem clueless and stupid as an adult. But it’s easy to dismiss with such an adorable character like Weylyn.

This was just a very sweet, feel-good story that will be enjoyed by anyone who likes a happy ending.

BOOK REVIEW: Felicia Day “You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost)”

23705512Title: You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost)

Author: Felicia Day

Genre: Memoir/Humor

My Rating: 5/5 stars

 

I actually really enjoyed this.

I say really, because I didn’t expect much from this. To be perfectly honest, I haven’t been exposed to Felicia Day much except for her role in Eureka and a few episodes I’ve seen her in on Supernatural. I knew she was considered “Queen of the Geeks”, so she’s someone that I should know more about since I’m a self-proclaimed geek myself. I knew she was a gamer, but I’m only just now getting into video gaming and it’s definitely just on a recreational, occasional basis.

Moving on, Felicia Day’s memoir was so much more than I could have ever imagined.

First of all, I listened to the audiobook, which was read by her; so listening to her story in her own voice was an experience in itself. It felt like it was being told and read in the way that she intended, so it was perfect. Day is so funny, so her voice was a delight.

Learning about her early life was so interesting. I could definitely relate to her homeschool trials, being homeschooled myself, and found it so interesting that she originally went to college on a violin scholarship. Yet even though she could have made a career out of that, Day realized that she wasn’t passionate about playing violin like she should be. She chased a dream that hadn’t even fully formed yet, and for some reason there’s something so inspiring about that to me.

I’ve struggled myself lately, trying to figure out what I want to do with my life and what kind of career I want to pursue. There aren’t a lot of options for someone who doesn’t have a degree and doesn’t feel good enough to try. But Felicia Day dreamed and she took a leap. She put herself out there.

Amazingly, it wasn’t her work in commercials that launched her fame, but her web series start up. Felicia went against all odds to film a show without any professional help or funding, and she made a name for herself. I think that’s awesome, and it makes me think and realize that I am capable of anything. If she can do it, so can I.

It’s been a long time since a book moved me to become motivated in the way that I am now. It was amazing. I’m so glad that I read this and I think that anyone who needs a little push should read this as well.

BOOK REVIEW: Katherine Center “How to Walk Away”

91de-kA4w7LTitle: How to Walk Away

Author: Katherine Center

Genre: Contemporary

My Rating: 5/5 stars

 

I’ve seen this book compared to Me Before You a few times, but let’s make something clear: How to Walk Away is better.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved the chemistry in Me Before You. Louisa and Will were absolutely precious and I will never not think about how adorable the sock scene was. But that ending.

(Spoilers for Me Before You ahead.) That ending made me so angry. I understand it, I do. I understand why it ended that way, but it didn’t have to. Will didn’t have to die. Of course circumstances in his life had caused him to become miserable, but didn’t Louisa prove that happiness in spite of the tragedy was possible? I’ll never get over that, I just won’t.

So in How to Walk Away, Katherine Center took a similar approach: Margaret is left paralyzed and burned from an airplane crash. She loses everything: fancy job, not-mangled body, handsome fiance. She faces many trials in the months to come and alternates between obsessing over getting better and not wanting to try at all. Many things occur that make her want to quit, and she does contemplate suicide.

Yet this story shows that even in the wake of adversity, contentment and even joy can be found again. And it doesn’t even have to be in the arms of a lover.

Although that’s super helpful because duh, romance.

Margaret reacts very realistically to her circumstances, and it makes her human. She doesn’t have a bunch of wise words now to share with her family, which is suffering from a bit of dysfunction itself. She doesn’t treat her piece-of-garbage fiance with grace or kindness when all is said and done. Margaret hurls all the righteous rage that is due her. She has depressive episodes and sometimes let’s it affect her recovery.

But what Margaret becomes in the end is not a shell of a person, but a beautiful flowering human who finds new hope and purpose in spite of her circumstances. I loved the message of this story and I loved the outcome.

The secondary characters were wonderful also. I loved reading about Margaret’s family drama, and of course loved all the scenes that included her attractive Scottish physical therapist. *wink*

I cheered for Margaret from the very beginning of this story and it was so rewarding to see her life play out for the better. What an inspiring story, that even caused me to examine my own life. I think that’s all we can ask of any good book.

BOOK REVIEW: Fredrik Backman “A Man Called Ove”

81jKaejWaNLTitle: A Man Called Ove

Author: Fredrik Backman

Genre: Contemporary

My Rating: 5/5 stars

 

What an adorable book.

I’ve been eyeing this for the longest time, but there were always other things I wanted to read. However, I’ve been on an audiobook kick lately, and A Man Called Ove happened to be available to read right away.

So I listened to this in a day and I love it. It was oh so sweet, and honestly hilarious. Ove is me. I am Ove. He’s a grumpy old man who doesn’t understand technology and gets annoyed by people, and I’m just like, “Saaaame!” Only difference is age.

His wife passed away about 6 months ago, so at this point, Ove is just going through his same old routine and going to work, waiting to die. But when he gets laid off from his job and forced to retire, he decides he has nothing left to live for. So Ove plans to take his life into his own hands, and plans his death.

His quirky new neighbors have other plans.

Ove spends the rest of the book trying to kill himself; but every time he starts to, he gets interrupted somehow. Neighbors ringing the doorbell, neighbors asking for a ride to the hospital, neighbors forcing him to take care of a mangy street cat they saved. Somehow, something always gets in the way.

This sounds sad. I guess it is, but it’s also so comical that I couldn’t help but laugh every time his plan gets foiled. So really, this book was just a delight all the way around. I adored it. I especially loved the audiobook because I felt it really added to the humorous parts and made me just laugh out loud.

I can’t wait to read more from this author! This was such a good introduction to Backman’s writing, and I will definitely be checking out everything else I can get my hands on!

BOOK REVIEW: Hank Green “An Absolutely Remarkable Thing”

An-Absolutely-Remarkable-ThingTitle: An Absolutely Remarkable Thing

Author: Hank Green

Genre: Science Fiction

My Rating: 5/5 stars

 

If you’re familiar with John Green’s work and expect this to be similar, you’re going to need to undergo a complete mind-wipe before digging into this masterpiece of a book. Not that John isn’t fabulous in his own way, but Hank’s style is so distinctly his.

Plus all of John’s books are about angsty teenagers who talk like hipsters in their mid-thirties. And Hank’s debut novel is science fiction with an extremely complicated adult main character.

So that’s one thing that needs to be cleared up right away: Hank’s novel is marketed to adults, although it can be a great bridge from YA to adult. The content isn’t necessarily too adult, but all of the main characters are grown-ups well out of college.

This story follows April May, who happens across a sculpture on her way home from work late one night. She’s captivated by it and on a whim, she calls up a friend of hers to come take a look. April tells him to bring his filming equipment, and the decide to make a video featuring their new friend, who they lovingly name Carl.

The next day, April wakes to find that their video has gone viral. Not only that, but their’s isn’t the only Carl; there are 63 others circling the globe, and nobody knows how they got there.

So this starts out as a look at sudden fame and how different people deal with it. April and her friend are immediately thrust into this world of interviews and social media, and they both have to learn how to adapt. It’s interesting to see how April reacts, regardless of how little she cared for media and the news before her newfound celebrity status. She makes some poor decisions throughout her journey, and while it sometimes makes her unlikable, it makes her feel very real.

However, some new information comes to light and the world slowly begins to realize that the Carls are not of their world.

So, aliens.

This makes April’s position, right smack in the middle of it, suddenly all the more interesting because not only was she one of the first to discover the existence of the Carls, she also may have been the first to make contact. The story shifts from being a human examination to an almost Ready Player One-like mystery, where the entire world has to work together to discover what the Carls want and why they’re there.

It’s absolutely fascinating, and I adored this book. I had doubts going into it, and the beginning was a little rough. I also wasn’t a fan of some of Hank’s style choices: unnecessary exclamation points and some ALL CAPS that made the writing seem more juvenile. However, once I got into the meat of the story, I forgave those things immediately in favor of an absolutely remarkable journey.

The characters were all relatable and likable (although as previously mentioned, not all the time). Hank seems to know humans very well because the events of the story unfold in such a way that I believed it could all actually happen. The pacing of this story was excellent and I was never once bored; in fact I read it cover to cover in less than 24 hours because I was so engrossed.

I laughed, I cried, I was on the edge of my seat. Those last 50 pages had me losing my mind. The ending was fantastic and it was the perfect bridge between this and the sequel. Yes, a sequel! I thought this might be a standalone but once you get to the end, you’ll agree that if Hank doesn’t give us a second book fast, we’re going to have to go to his house and force his hand.

Not really, Hank! I would never do that!*

This was a wonderful book and it’s the kind of story that stays with you after and makes you think about it for days. So naturally I’ve been bugging my husband about it ever since and he’s about done with me. Sorry honey, it’s what you signed up for when you married me!

 

*Seriously though, I will riot if I don’t get that sequel.

BOOK REVIEW: Sarah J Maas “Kingdom of Ash”

9781619636118Title: Kingdom of Ash

Author: Sarah J Maas

Genre: Fantasy

My Rating: 5/5 stars

 

There are going to be major spoilers in this post so if you haven’t finished Kingdom of Ash yet, leave for your own good. GOODBYE NOW.

Okay, I’m starting now.

Can I first just say holy crap???? Like, what a journey, am I right? This series has been a favorite of mine since the very beginning, and I’ve been following Throne of Glass since practically the beginning. It’s been a wild ride, and I have always said that each book gets better than the last one. Sarah J Maas ups the stakes somehow, or introduces new, awesome information.

Say what you will about Maas, but she can write one detailed high fantasy, which can’t be said for many established fantasy authors out there. I know that Maas is criticized almost constantly, but I have to say that I think she’s an incredibly talented writer. She had to have done a ridiculous amount of research in writing this series, and it shows. She can write a great romance, but have you read any of her battle scenes?

So do I think she gets a bad rep for no reason? Kind of. I understand some of the complaints that people have, I do. But if you don’t like her books, then don’t read them. But I’ve seen so many people talking crap about her books, who haven’t liked her from the beginning yet keep reading them? I mean, to each their own I suppose, but typically if I didn’t like the first book of a series, I just quit and leave it at that. These people need to get a life.

*I* don’t even like all of her books. I’m not a huge fan of her ACOTAR series. I’ve always been partial to Throne of Glass, but I can at least acknowledge the huge fan-base that ACOTAR has and recognize that she must be doing something right.

Anyway, this wasn’t supposed to be a Maas defense post, this is a review of Kingdom of Ash.

I’ll start with the bad: Maas apparently has a problem with killing of her characters. Not to say that I’m mad or anything, because of course I’m thrilled that all of my favorites lived; but I also know that it’s not realistic. I definitely expected someone important to die in this book, and I’m almost disappointed that no one did. It seems like the last crucial character she killed off was Nehemia, and that was ages ago.

I gotta reiterate: I ain’t mad. I’m so happy that all my characters ended up happy in the end. But also not? Like isn’t it so convenient that everyone ended up paired off and married by the end? I can’t say I’m mad about that either because yay love! Yay marriage! Yay for my ships that ended up together! But also, not realistic.

If Maas hadn’t killed off Manon’s Thirteen, I probably would have been a little more peeved by all of this, but that scene was heart wrenching. I admit that when Manon and the Thirteen were first introduced, I wasn’t the biggest fan. I was still obsessing about how amazing Aelin’s character was becoming and how hot Rowan was.

However, by this last book, I was definitely on board with the Thirteen, particularly Asterin, and I ship Manon and Dorian forever.

Maas has written some of the most interesting, fleshed out characters in all of YA fantasy, and I am going to miss them with my whole heart. When Aelin said her goodbyes to Dorian and Chaol, I thought my heart was going to fall out of my chest. Such an iconic trio, there from the beginning! It’s the end of an era! Literally kill me!

Was the book maybe a bit too long? Um, yeah. Come on, Sarah, are you trying to kill me? Yet this was the perfect conclusion to an awesome series, and I can’t say I would have changed a thing.