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review 2015-09-22 03:16
The Book of Ivy
The Book of Ivy - Amy Engel
  In the years preceding a nuclear war, two families fight for power in the small group of survivors. The Lattimers won and the Westfalls lost. In the decades that follow, as a way to strengthen a fragile truce, the daughters of the losing side are set to marry the sons of the winning side. This year is Ivy’s year to marry;however, unlike all the other girls Ivy is a Westfall and is betrothed to the President’s son, Bishop Lattimer. Now Ivy has one job, to kill Bishop Lattimer and restore her family to power. However, Bishop is not who Ivy thought he was, and may be the only person who has ever loved her for who she is. Now she must choose between the loyalty she has to her family, and the love she has for her husband.

This book is more than just another beautiful cover. I read this book in 4 hours without moving. I thought I would just read a few chapters before bed, and before I knew it I was almost finished. I love it when that happens. I loved this book from the beautiful cover art to the characters and the amazing plot!! My biggest problem with this book is that the sequel doesn’t come out until November 2015. It’s agonizing, really.

I love Engel’s characters. Ivy is strong while also being compassionate, and she has an appreciation for human life that I find admirable. She has a seriously sharp tongue that could get her into trouble. She is truly engaging. Bishop Lattimer is nothing I expected; he is kind and intelligent. Bishop is also taciturn; however, it makes him even more intriguing. I spent the entire book trying to figure him and his motives out.

The story line was compelling and imaginative. To be honest, it reminds me of a revamped, dystopian twist on Romeo and Juliet. I thought the romance was more realistic in this book than in many others I have read. Their romance slowly grew over a 3 month period instead of love at first sight. It was also subtle, not all at once, which may be more realistic in an arranged marriage. Furthermore, the inner turmoil! Oh, the inner turmoil! I was just as conflicted as Ivy. I kept questioning myself, what would I do? And then finally the moment of truth - the ending took me by great surprise. This book could have gone a number of different ways, but the ending was not what I imagined. I cannot wait for book 2!
The writing in this book was clear and easy to follow. The author presented the story in a way that made me care about the characters. The conflict was intense and the resolution was just as intense. I don’t know if it was a resolution so much as another conflict, but I digress. I loved that ending wasn’t something I envisioned as a possibility.

I give The Book of Ivy 5 stars


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review 2015-09-22 03:04
Ruthless - Carolyn Lee Adams
  Ruth Carver has a very serious problem, she has awoken in an unfamiliar dark place and has no recollection for how she came to be there. After a little time and some investigating Ruth realizes she is in the bed of a moving pickup. When the truck finally comes to a halt a large man yanks her out of the bed and ties her up. Little does she know she has just entered a deadly game of cat and mouse. Will she become his seventh victim? Or will he become her first?
Ruthless is a fascinating and thrilling young adult book that takes the reader on an adventure, page after page is filled with Ruth’s battle to survive against her kidnapper she calls “Wolfman”. This book is full of page turning action that had me on the edge of my seat the entire time.
Adams begins the book after the Ruth’s abduction which automatically piqued my interest. Ruth is a tough, resourceful heroine and it serves her well, especially, while trying to outrun a monster. As the book continues it turns out Ruth isn’t really the nicest girl around her town, she very competitive with somewhat of a mean streak, hence her nickname “Ruthless”. Despite this the reader doesn’t have a chance to really meet that side of her due to her being in fight or flight mode the majority of the book. I really enjoyed that Adams showed major character growth as the story developed. No one likes a snot for a heroine. The entire story her captor is trying to break her yet, despite his best efforts she doesn’t let him. I really admire this about her.
“The Wolfman” as Ruth nicknames him, is an interesting captor. I feel like Adams could have dug a little deeper into his backstory. Though she does do so, I feel like it was a bit shallow for the depths of his depravity and lacked some detail. That being said, it was very nice to have the little bit that she provided. How often do people do heinous acts and we question why? Fortunately for us, Adams provided us with a bit of insight, despite it not being quite enough.
The writing in this story was interesting, Adams pulls you in from the very first paragraph. I enjoyed that quite a bit. I feel like Adams could have pushed the envelope just a bit in order to make this book truly memorable. Throughout the book there are several flashbacks of both Ruth and Wolfman from before this incidence, and I felt like Wolfman’s part of the story was lacking and Ruth’s was a bit superfluous.
Adams created an all too real situation, her book held me captive for all of 248 pages. It made me ask myself, “what would I do in a situation like this?” “What would my breaking point be?” It’s a terrifying situation to imagine yourself in, even for a moment.
I give Ruthless 4 stars.


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review 2014-09-09 19:01
The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez
The Book of Unknown Americans: A novel - Cristina Henrxedquez
If he had disappeared completely, I thought, it might be easier. If I had no knowledge that he had ever existed, no evidence that he was ever a part of our lives, it might have been bearable. And how wrong that sounded: part of our lives. As if he was something with boundaries, something that hadn't permeated us, flowed through us and in us and all around us. I learned something about grief. When someone dies, it doesn't leave a hole, and that's the agony.

What has this book done to me? I've lost count of how many times it has made me cry, and I read it two days ago. Not for a second did I believe this book would touch me like this, would swallow me completely and spew me out all messed up. I want to throw it at people and demand they read it. I'll gladly scream it from the rooftops even if it makes just one person read it. That is how I feel about this book.

This is about immigrants, more precisely immigrants from the Spanish speaking world coming to the U.S. It's about a group of people from different countries in different stages of their lives, all of them living in a apartment complex in Delaware. The main focus, however, is on two families: the Rivera family from Mexico and the Toro family from Panama. The Rivera family, Alma and Arturo and their daughter Maribel, moves to the U.S. after their daughter sustains a terrible injury, leaving her brain damaged. They're wishing it will help Maribel's health if they move to America where there are specialists to help her. Soon a friendship builds between the two families, but also love. Mayor, the Toro family's son, falls helplessly for Maribel's beauty. When they spend more time together, Mayor might be the only one seeing Maribel for who she really is after her injury. But things aren't easy for these families, and some things aren't irreversible.

I'm not that familiar with the immigrant debate in America, but we have our own here in Sweden. We even have political parties that want to shut off more or less all immigration to Sweden because of terrible reasons, so I think I get the gist. But that's not what this is about. The Book of Unknown Americans doesn't take a side in the debate. It presents the stories behind these immigrants, because when everything comes around, these people aren't immigrants. That's not their identity. They are human beings. They are individuals. They have their own stories. No laws about immigration will change that. 

'We’re the unknown Americans, the ones no one even wants to know, because they’ve been told they’re supposed to be scared of us and because maybe if they did take the time to get to know us, they might realize that we’re not that bad, maybe even that we’re a lot like them. And who would they hate then?'

Henriquez is, in my eyes, a brilliant writer. She's left me with several new favorite characters. Mostly, because they are presented with such honesty. But it's more than the theme of immigrants that touches me so. It's the grief the Rivera family goes through regarding Maribel and her injury. Descriptions of Alma's grief leaves me wide open with emotions. Arturo's struggle with taking care of his family and how he's met by the Americans that aren't immigrants is eyeopening and has my heart hurting for him. And Mayor, with his love for Maribel... well, let's just say it leaves me in a bloody mess. Just like this book does. Because it's not all sobs and horrors. After all, these people have moments of light too. They're people: happy and sad. Even in a new, foreign country, they find hope. Happiness. Love. Friendship. 

I'm overcome when I think about this place and about what it's given us. Maribel is getting stronger. I can see it. Every day a little bit more. A safe area to live. Such good friends. It's incredible. One day when we go back to México and people ask me what it was like here, I will tell them those things. I will tell them all the ways I loved this country.

I dare you to read this book. I dare you to not fall in love with this characters. I dare you not to fall in love with this story. But in the end, I'm sure, you will love this. Highly recommended!

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review 2014-08-20 15:41
Breathing Underwater by Alex Flinn
Breathing Underwater - Alex Flinn
Telling her that stuff was a mistake. It’s easier to fake it. When you fake it for sixteen years, it becomes part of you, something you don’t think about.

When a story is so perfect good it leaves you breathless, where do you start describing it? Do you start with the delicate plot that have you hanging on for every word? Or maybe with the provocative protagonist? Do you begin with the powerful message the story conveys? I don't know. At least not with Breathing Underwater. So I apologize in advance if nothing of this makes sense.

If there's one thing I must say about this novel, it's that every teenager should read this, boy or girl. I find it strange youths these days are receiving the wrong message from so many books (Twilight, Hush Hush, Beautiful Disaster, FSoG, etc.) about how healthy relationships look. Abuse is so much more than just punches and slaps, so the argument that just because a man or woman doesn't hit his/hers significant other it's not abuse, is bullshit. In Breathing Underwater we are inside Nick's head, and we meet him in a courtroom where he gets a restraining order toward his ex-girlfriend, Caitlin. He has abused her in more ways than one. The thing is, Nick doesn't see it that way, at least not at first. From the first page Nick's character catches the reader's attention, and throughout the story we see him come to terms with what he's done and takes responsibility for his actions. We're on such an intimate level with this young boy, meeting all his troubles in what other's consider a perfect life. Nick is victim of abuse as well. Only his is by his father. What Nick did was wrong, so obviously wrong. Yet, it's easy to sympathize with his character, and the portrayal of his inner anger and insecurities is perfection. Yes, I said it. Perfection. 

I'm not quite sure how to express my admiration for this story. While the characters are far from perfect, the overall impression is that the story is perfect. It's a carefully drafted story that is so relevant today in the midst of abusive relationships that are romanticized. But it was not just because it's a realistic portrayal of abusive relationships that made me rate this book 5 stars. No, there's something more about it. Something so intense, so honest... so raw, it blew me away. I can't quite put my finger on what it is, not right now with my feelings all over the place. But it's there. That little extra something. And that little extra something makes Breathing Underwater perfect in all its imperfection.

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review 2014-08-06 20:12
Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John
Five Flavors of Dumb - Antony John
"You’re deaf, but there’s no excuse for being blind as well."

Five Flavors of Dumb deserves all the stars, maybe even more. It's one of those books I can't even think of one detail - small or big - that I'd change if I could. No, Five Flavors of Dumb is the way it's supposed to be: a mix of a vide range of emotions, all packed into this touching story.

To be honest, I expected very little of this despite some wonderful reviews. The premise: A deaf girl, struggling at home with her younger sister, one day finds herself in the position as manager to a new band at her school named Dumb. She has one month to book them a gig that pays. With the band members' different personalities and background, it might be harder than our heroine, Piper, thinks. 

The reason for my hesitance toward this was because I could see it become one of those comedy teen movies that doesn't take itself, or the matter of hearing loss, seriously. I was afraid Piper's deafness would be glossed over or turned into something comical. This was not the case. Piper's character is a wonderful protagonist to follow, even when she's forced to make tough decisions or must question herself and what kind of person she is. In fact, Piper might just be one of my favorite protagonists in the YA genre. Okay, perhaps one of my favorite protagonist over all genres. 

“Music. It’s not about those things. It’s about a feeling. It’s about expressing yourself. It’s about letting go.”

What makes Five Flavors of Dumb more than just a breezy YA story is that it vows in so many parts of Piper's life. With the band and Piper's managing it is always present, it brings together other parts of her life, especially at home. Piper's parents might take the whole thing as a joke in the beginning, they too soon must face some hard truths about what their family has come to. This dysfunctional family realizes that each member might hold some of the blame, and they all must accept it to move forward to make amends. 

While we learn about Piper's family, we're also introduced to the band Dumb. There are some wonderful character here, such as Tash, Kellie, and Ed. Tash, with her hard exterior. Kellie, who's more than just a pretty face. And Ed. Oh, sweet, sweet Ed. Yes, while some other members need to get over themselves, these three are just delightful, and I love how the author worked with them as he did with Piper's character and her family. 

In the end, it all comes down to the music. A love for rock music, historical icons such as Kurt Cobain and Jimi Hendrix, and how music is a universal language. It brings them all together, Piper, her family, and the band. I highly enjoy stories that have a musical theme, but this one stood out by being about so much more than music. It's about self discovery, family, friendship, what's worth betting on, and passion. And I, for one, love this book with a burning passion. A highly recommended read!

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