Thursday, October 27, 2011

Graceling by Kristin Cashore (October Book Club Pick)

Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight—she’s a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme skill. As niece of the king, she should be able to live a life of privilege, but Graced as she is with killing, she is forced to work as the king’s thug.
When she first meets Prince Po, Graced with combat skills, Katsa has no hint of how her life is about to change. She never expects to become Po’s friend. She never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace—or about a terrible secret that lies hidden far away . . . a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone.

So, what did you all think of October's pick?

I am finding that I am a really big fan of fantasy, and although I didn't love this book, I really liked most of it. I loved the whole concept of this book. The idea of being "graced" with some heightened or extraordinary ability, and that trait manifesting itself at a young age, was a great story idea. I liked the story of Katsa and Po, from them practicing fighting (them kicking the crap out of each other) to the romance that developed between them.

I liked that the story flowed instead of dragging in parts (which, in fantasy, generally happens often!), which, to me, was evidence of exceptionally good writing. Like I said, fantasy often has too much lots of detail--to the point where it's overwhelming. This book wasn't like that at all. I was hooked from the start, and the story never "got old" for me.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book, although I've heard that the second book is just a "companion" and doesn't have these characters. The final book in the set is also a "companion" with different characters, but it also ties all the books together.... So I'm told. So now I'm curious. Did you read Graceling? Did you like it? Why or why not?

Stay tuned for next month's book. Just FYI, it's not going to be Wither by Lauren DeStefano like I originally planned. I'm sorry if you've already read it, and if so, feel free to tell me what you thought of it! I will let you know on Tuesday, for sure, what November's book will be. I haven't quite decided yet, but when I do, you'll be the first to know!

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Divergent by Veronica Roth

In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.


This is what I do whenever I decide to pick up a Dystopian novel. And it's never a good sigh. It's a I've-read-this-same-exact-story-about-a-half-a-million-times-just-with-a-new-cover-and-a-new-author-name kind of sigh. So as I put off reading this for my local book club that I'm in. Until other members started gushing about how amazing it was.


Yes, still the bad one.

Most of my book club friends really like Dystopian. I, on the other hand, have a love/hate relationship with it. It's never "just okay" for me. It's either really good or really bad. No middle ground. This book was no exception.



I do not have the words to describe to you how much I loved this book. I thought it was every level of amazing. Seriously. I thought the whole story was daring and bold and, well, just...amazing. Beatrice ("Tris") was such a well-written female protagonist. She was strong, in a quiet, reserved manner, and she was incredibly brave. I appreciated that the author made Tris's interactions with the other initiates realistic. I also liked that the author took risks, not just with the other characters, but also with Tris. I think the risks paid off. I can't imagine it's easy to put your main character through some of the things Tris endures, but that made Tris more genuine and believable. I applaud Veronica Roth for letting Tris get a little (or a lot) banged up.

Four. I think this may be my new favorite number. Or person. Mmmm... a new literary crush. Why do I love bad boys? I have no idea. But Four is a jerk. He's not sympathetic, he's been hardened by lifestyle, and I totally love him. I don't know why it worked for him, but boy, did it work. I liked that he tried to make people better by making them try harder. He was subtle but deliberate. I thought he was a perfect character opposite Tris.

This has officially tied The Goddess Test as my favorite book of the year. There were twists and turns in the story that I never saw coming. I loved every minute I spent reading this, and I was heartbroken when it was over. There are so many things I want to say, but I can't without giving anything away.  Just trust me when I tell you that you want to read this book immediately. It was incredible!

Happy Reading!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Steel by Carrie Vaughn

It was a slender length of rusted steel, tapered to a point at one end and jagged at the other, as if it had broken. A thousand people would step over it and think it trash, but not her.

This was the tip of a rapier.

Sixteen-year-old Jill has fought in dozens of fencing tournaments, but she has never held a sharpened blade. When she finds a corroded sword piece on a Caribbean beach, she is instantly intrigued and pockets it as her own personal treasure.

The broken tip holds secrets, though, and it transports Jill through time to the deck of a pirate ship. Stranded in the past and surrounded by strangers, she is forced to sign on as crew. But a pirate's life is bloody and brief, and as Jill learns about the dark magic that brought her there, she forms a desperate scheme to get home—one that risks everything in a duel to the death with a villainous pirate captain.

Isn't this the most beautiful cover? I love it. Really maybe one of my favorite covers ever.

That said, don't be fooled. The cover is the greatest thing about this book. The story dragged, and there was too much description where none was needed, and too little when it would have been helpful. The "romance" was pretty much non-existent, as was the "really fabulous pirate story."

I am still on my quest to find a awesome YA pirate novel. Romance preferable. Steel, unfortunately, just didn't do it for me. Overall, it was pretty "blah" in my opinion. Anyone have any Pirate-themed suggestions for me?? That aren't bodice-rippers? Help a sister out!!

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Call me Ishmael.

Or don't.
Whatever. It's your call.

You know, in all my reading adventures, I have not once read Moby Dick. I hear it's awesome. Most classics just aren't my style. Crazy, right?

However... (sigh.)

Today is my birthday and since I am feeling all kinds of generous, I am going to give away a book. Any book you want. Or any book I can order from Amazon for $20 or less. And I won't buy any Erotica or other books that I deem inappropriate.

Pssh. Details.

In order for this giveaway to happen:

  1. I must reach 56 followers by November 30th.
For all of you that are addition-challenged (me), that would be 25 more followers.
If I do not reach this goal, then sucks for you-- I'll buy a book for myself. Maybe it'll be Moby Dick....  Happy birthday to me. :)

     2.  You MUST leave me a comment of what book you want.

     3.  Leave me your email address with your comment so I can contact you when you win.

***I'm sorry but this contest is for U.S. only.

Winner will be chosen at random on December 1, IF we reach the goal of 56 followers. So tell your friends!)

P.S. If we reach 56 sooner, I'll do the drawing early!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Pirate Ruse by Marcia Lynn McClure

An instant before the sea swallowed her, Cristabel Albay gasped her last breath. She was certain it would truly be her last breath… Yet, mere moments later, her head broke the surface of the sea and she exhaled the breath she had been holding—the one that had not been her last—gasping for another.

“Do you swim, woman?” the pirate Navarrone growled.

“Y-yes,” Cristabel stammered. Her thoughts were muddled—for panic was her only ally. Yet, she was cognizant enough to know that her life was still in danger—not from pirates perhaps—but from the sea.

“Then swim!” the pirate growled. “If you want to live to see another sunrise, then swim for The Merry Wench.”

…She glanced up to the Chichester where pirates and British sailors yet battled. The Screaming Witch was already sailing, and Cristabel would rather have died than be the victim of the atrocities that would have met her aboard it.

Yet, to abandon one pirate ship for another? It was madness! Still, she could not fathom drowning—for drowning terrified her more than any other fate of death. Her only hope in surviving was to do as the pirate ordered. …She had heard tales of The Blue Blade Navarrone—tales of mercy. …Perhaps he would take pity on her… Thus, with no other venue to follow, Christabel began to swim—to swim for The Merry Wench and whatever fate awaited her there.

I read and review Young Adult books, and I love them. But every once in a while, I really just want to read a romance novel. I'm not talking about any "bodice-ripping, heaving bosoms, get the point" romance novels, but a "clean" romance novel. That's where Marcia Lynn McClure comes in. I seriously love her books. There are often (lots of) stolen kisses in darkened hallways or alleys, there is usually some kind of forbidden love, and there is always a strong willed heroine and a sexy man that should most definitely be off limits.
In this book, that sexy man just happens to be a pirate. Which leads me to the question, Why are there not more pirate books?? I love pirates. Holy cow, talk about your ultimate off-limits bad boy. What is it about pirates that I love so much? And don't say Johnny Depp, because I loved them long before him. He just kind love for them. (haha) Which leads me to a new question, Why are there not more YOUNG ADULT pirate books? Someone please write a really awesome YA pirate book with romance. Actually, write two or three. Or if you know of any, please let me know!! Thanks.
Anyways.... (I digress), I have a TON of Marcia Lynn McClure books that I am slowly working my way through. They are always quick reads, and although they are usually a little cheesy at times, I haven't read one of her books that I didn't love. Who knew someone could write "clean" romance novels, right? Well, it can be done. And they are awesome! Although I must say, this is definitely my very favorite. If you want to start reading her books, start with this one. I loved everything about it. 
Happy Reading!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

October Book Club

For those of you who have been "out of the loop", or just haven't heard about it yet, I have started a book club here on Reading for Refuge. Each month I've picked a book, and you have the whole month to read it. Since I post on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I will post my review of the book club pick on the last Tuesday or Thursday of the month, depending on where it lands--example: October's review will be up on Thursday, October 27th since it's the last posting day of the month. Anyway, the purpose of having a book club is so we can read the same book at the same time and get feedback from everyone about the pick. It makes things a little more "interactive", I suppose. That's the plan anyway. 

Anyway, this month's pick is:

Graceling by Kristin Cashore 

Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight—she’s a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme skill. As niece of the king, she should be able to live a life of privilege, but Graced as she is with killing, she is forced to work as the king’s thug.

When she first meets Prince Po, Graced with combat skills, Katsa has no hint of how her life is about to change. She never expects to become Po’s friend. She never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace—or about a terrible secret that lies hidden far away . . . a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone.
I haven't read it yet, but I am going to start it here in a few days. I am so excited. I've heard great things about this book. Which is quite a relief since last month's pick was no good. (Sorry about that, by the way.) Anyway, enjoy and...
Happy Reading!

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Torrent by Lisa T. Bergren

This is the THIRD book in the River of Time series. Read Waterfall and Cascade before reading this review.

When Gabi and Lia finally learn to surf the river of time, they realize they must make hard choices about life and love in the third and final book in the River of Time series.
Gabi and Lia Betarrini have learned to control their time travel, and they return from medieval Italy to save their father from his tragic death in modern times. But love calls across the centuries, and the girls are determined to return forever—even though they know the Black Plague is advancing across Europe, claiming the lives of one-third of the population. In the suspenseful conclusion of the River of Time series, every decision is about life … and death.

I won't lie--I think this was my favorite book in the series.'s not for the reasons you may think.

Now, please don't throw things at me or ban me from your blog lists here, all you die-hard Marcello fans--

I am totally head over heels in love with Lord Rodolfo Greco.

Lord Greco first makes an appearance in book two, Cascade, and I absolutely hated him. Until, of course, I didn't anymore. Obviously. When I finished reading book two, I was wondering if (hoping, actually) he'd make an even bigger appearance in this book, Torrent. Oh boy. I was NOT disappointed. Well, until I was. Darn it.

I love the River of Time series. And honestly, I was all for Gabi-Marcello. (Gello? G-E-L-L-O! I digress.) Until Lord Greco made an appearance. Again, please don't hate me for this, but I was seriously rooting for him. I didn't even really care if he ended up with Gabi, I just want him to end up with someone I can root for. Which leads me to do something I'm sure I won't be proud of later. Grovel.

Lisa T. Bergren,

I know you've found me on here before, so I'm hoping (fingers crossed) that you'll venture back to my lowly little book blog. If you are reading this, please, PLEASE, PLEASE give me some more of sexy Lord Greco. I will be the happiest reader alive if you do.

Thanks so much,

P.S. Please?

If you have not read this series yet, I highly recommend it. They are wonderfully written, really and truly. This is one of those series that can suck you in one night and before you know it, it's three in the morning and the book has ended and you are counting down the hours 'til your local bookstore opens so you can go buy the next one. Seriously? READ THESE. :) You won't regret it. Unless you only buy them one at a time and have to wait.... But you can't say I didn't warn you! They are addicting. Enjoy!

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Slathbog's Gold by M.L. Forman

Do you have the courage, the wits, and the skill to claim a dragon's hoard? If so, apply within ...

The sign is small, tucked into the corner of Mr. Clutter's bookshop window: "Adventurers Wanted. Apply Within." No one but fifteen-year-old Alex Taylor even seems to notice it is there. And for Alex, who has wished for a change in his life, it is an irresistible invitation.

Upon entering Mr. Clutter's shop, Alex is swept away on an incredible adventure to a faraway land filled with heroic warriors, mysterious elves, and hard-working dwarves.
Alex becomes the eigth man in a band of adventurers seeking the lair of Slathbog the Red - and evil dragon with a legendary treasure. Along the way, Alex and his new friends must battle dangerous trolls and bandits, face undead wraiths, and seek the wisdom of the Oracle in her White Tower.
Alex's adventure takes him to distant and exotic lands where he learns about courage, integrity, honor, and, most importantly, friendship.

As far as Middle Grade books go, this one was one of my favorites. Keep in mind that this book is geared for a younger audience. There was no romance (darn.), not very much real danger, and minimal conflict. Everyone is smiley. Seriously. I can count on one hand how many times someone actually got mad in this book. However, for a middle-school aged boy or girl, this is just an exciting adventure.

I loved all of the characters. Really, there's not a single person that I recall not liking as I read this book. They were all quite unique and well written, and I really enjoyed the interactions between them all. I liked the themes throughout the book also. The biggest ones, for me, were integrity and honesty. They all live by the honor system. They split all they have among the group, and they don't keep any secrets among their little "band of adventurers". As I read, I kept thinking, "Do you know how easy it would be for a liar or thief among them to swindle them out of treasure?" But none of them ever did. I really liked that. As I enjoyed a great story, I had important values reinforced. I was impressed, since so many young people these days really need that.

If I had to describe this book to you, in a nutshell, I would say it's like Lord of the Rings for kids. I'd highly recommend it, whether you are young or old-- because either way, you'll enjoy it.

Happy Reading!