Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books on my Winter TBR

Last week I talked about my most anticipated 2014 releases and this weeks list sort of coincides with those.  But, I’m taking the opportunity to talk about the books on my list that aren’t being published necessarily, in 2014 and, instead, am looking toward some books I’ve been saving.

1. Fiddlehead by Cherie Priest

This is the last book of the Clockwork Century series and I am both looking forward to as well as dreading it.  I have loved every one of these books from Boneshaker on and while I will hate saying goodbye to Priest’s fantastic, steampunk, alternate history world I am so excited to see how she ends it all.

2. S – or Ship of Theseus by J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst

This book caught my eye immediately.  I’ve seen interviews and blog posts and ordered a hard copy last week (and the delivery date was yesterday – guess what’s still not here?).  I am thinking, because of my sheer anticipation for this book, that it may be my first read of 2014.  That said, there is no way I’m going to wait to open it up…. it’s full of goodies that I want to touch now! =)

3.  Divergent by Veronica Roth

I feel like I’m the last person in the world to read this series.  I have been avoiding reading books until the final installment is either released, or about to be released, just for my own sanity (I don’t have time to re-read like I used to).  So now that all three books (and a movie!) are out it’s time to dive in and see what all of the hullabaloo is about.

4.  The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

Every year, usually in January, when things are cold and I can snuggle under a blanket, I pick up a Kate Morton book.  I have yet to read her latest (waiting for the perfect time, as I always do with my favorite authors) so I think this January will be a good time for it.  I may have to only read at night when it dips into the 60s here on the island, but I am determined to keep with tradition and be snuggled up while I read.

5. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

Here’s another one that I am planning to get to soon.  I picked up Tartt’s book for a birthday gift last October and am just waiting for the right time to dive in (mostly, I have to clear my January books first).  I am thinking this is one I’ll get to in February.

6. The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien

Every four years or so I re-read this magnificent trilogy by Tolkien.  2014 marks the start of the fourth year since my last re-read and I am definitely due.  This year I will be pulling my collectors copy that was my father’s off of my shelves and diving in.

7. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Speaking of re-reads, here is another I’ll be picking up.  I haven’t read Little Women in over ten years now, but with 2014 comes my vow to myself that the classics I grew up with won’t be neglected.  Even if that means a re-read every ten years, I’m determined to make it so.

8. All Spell Breaks Loose by Lisa Shearin

This is another book that I cannot wait to dive into.  Lisa Shearin is one of my favorite guilty pleasure authors and this series is, by far, my favorite paranormal, kick-butt heroine, steamy romance series (and I don’t normally go for those, you know).

9. The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud

I picked this one up with a B&N GiftCard for my e-reader and keep forgetting I have it!  I’ve been fascinated with the idea of those story for a while so I think it’s time to remember that it’s on my B&N reading app and get to it, finally.

10. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

First, I love Rainbow Rowell’s name. Second, she lives in Omaha, NE – where I spent the first 17 years of my life. Third, I want to read this book and I’ve had it since its release.  This winter will be the time.

What books are you planning to read throughout the winter?  Chime in!

Book Review: Sisters of the Bruce by J.M. Harvey

Sisters of the Bruce by J.M. Harvey

  • Method of Obtaining: My copy was provided by the publisher.
  • Published by:  Troubador Publishing
  • Release Date:  11.01.2013

Set against the wild and perilous background of Scotland in the late 13th century, the adventurous lives of Robert the Bruce’s five sisters come to life through their own words in a series of letters. Courage and tenacity are often associated with Scotland’s great hero, but few appreciate the enormous challenges experienced by these remarkable sisters. Their intimate account of family life resonates still with love, loss and hope.

Isa leaves home to sail to the land of the Vikings to become Queen of Norway whilst her sister, Kirsty, finds herself Countess of Mar and chatelaine of the great Kildrummy Castle in Scotland’s far northeast. Danger looms and the younger sisters, Mathilda and Margaret, escape to Orkney with Kirsty’s children. As Scotland spirals into war, Robert’s sisters face the wrath of King Edward of England, whose vengeance wrought the brutal death of William Wallace. Kirsty is incarcerated alone in an English nunnery, whilst Mary endures years of misery within a cage hanging from the walls of Roxburgh Castle. Under Robert’s kingship, old wounds heal and Scotland’s fighting force achieves a resounding victory at the Battle of Bannockburn. Only then are the fragile, traumatised women released, through the ransoming of English nobles, to return home to rebuild their shattered lives… Sisters of The Bruce is a captivating work of fiction that weaves family history with a gripping narrative through the social and political landscape of medieval Scotland, Norway and Orkney. J. M. Harvey has been inspired by Sharon Penman, Elizabeth Chadwick and Sigrud Undset.

I also recommend:

My Review:

Over and over and over again in my reviews over the last several years I’ve found myself having to talk about using a gimmick to sell a book.  That gimmick could be anything from touching on curiosity that a reader might have on seeing things from a villains point of view to exploiting some sort of disability in an effort to sell the book.  J.M. Harvey has added yet another gimmick to my list of things to dislike: that of putting a story where there isn’t a story in order to tell a completely different story.  Sisters of the Bruce was not a book about the sisters, it was a book telling the history of Scotland in the 13th century through the medium of women’s letters and, to a lesser extent, their lives.

The issue that Harvey, I’m sure, ran across is that there is little actual documentation on what the sisters lives must have been like.  Isabelle and Kirsty compose the majority of letters that provide an introduction into the book and those letters are full of politics, movements of the war, and other information that i highly doubt was made readily available to the women – through their brothers, husbands, or even other means.  Instead of getting an inside look into their actual lives, I was forced to endure a lengthy history lesson about the movements of different armies and the struggles for power – basically, instead of a book about women, Sisters of the Bruce was a book about men and the women were simply used as a tool to tell that story.

While I doubt there is enough material to make a lengthy story about this bunch of sisters, I do think there is enough material to have made a short, more concise, but interesting look at the lives of the women of Scotland in the 13th century.  I understand, according to the summary, that Harvey has been influenced by some of my favorite female historians – but I think that his story development and his method of telling that story could use a nice long look.  Penman, for example, does not exploit characters in order to tell her story – instead, she focuses on specific characters, fleshing out their thoughts and reasoning behind their actions.

I was really hoping to read a good, solid book with historical background – instead, I got a book on history with very little to do with the title, or the actual summary of the book.  If you are interested in good historical fiction, check out Sharon Kay Penman, Alison Weir, or even Nicola Griffith’s newest book, Hild, for actual character development.

Book Review: Watch How We Walk by Jennifer LoveGrove

Watch How We Walk by Jennifer LoveGrove

  • Method of Obtaining: My copy was provided by the publisher.
  • Published by:  ECWPress
  • Release Date:  10.01.2013

Alternating between a woman’s childhood in a small town and as an adult in the city, this novel traces a Jehovah Witness family’s splintering belief system, their isolation, and the erosion of their relationships. As Emily becomes closer to her closeted Uncle Tyler, she begins to challenge her upbringing. Her questions about the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ insular lifestyle, rigid codes of conduct, and tenets of their faith haunt her older sister Lenora too. When Lenora disappears, everything changes and Emily becomes obsessed with taking on her sister’s identity, believing that Lenora is controlling her actions. Ultimately, Emily finds release through self-mutilation. The narrative offers a haunting, cutting exploration of the Jehovah’s Witness practice and practical impact of “disfellowshipping,” proselytization, and cultural abstinence, as well as their attitude toward the “worldlings” outside of their faith. Sparse, vivid, menacingly suspenseful, and darkly humorous, Watch How We Walk simultaneously engages on emotional, visceral, and intellectual levels.

I also recommend:

My Review:

Religious abuse is not a pretty subject.  The fear that can be instilled in a child is chilling; horrifying to think about.  My family once adopted a puppy from our local shelter and when we brought him home we watched as he cowered from the men in our family.  You see, he had been horrifically abused by men in the home that had him before and so it was only natural that when a masculine figure approached him, his tail would go between his legs and his eyes would take on that look – you know the one I’m talking about.  Now, magnify that picture in your head and replace the dog with that of a child.  Imagine the fear that child would deal with each time their parent arrives home.  There is no joy, no happiness, no skipping to the door to receive a hug and a kiss; there is only fear. Watch How We Walk by Jennifer LoveGrove tackles this incredibly complex and painful subject in a way that tore me apart.

This is not a book for the faint of heart.  Not every story has a happy ending and not every character lives with hope or a figure who will somehow swoop in and save the day.  Emily, the child in this family of Jehovah’s Witnesses, believes she may have that figure in her Uncle Tyler, her uncle who has not yet come out of the closet and accepted what the church will lay down on him as a result.  Imagine, even seeing the adult in your life who is a voice for you and dealing with the same type of fear – imagine what kind of life that would be.

Watch How We Walk is aptly named.  There is a lot of talk in various religions of not just talking the talk, but walking the walk, and Emily’s family is laid bare before the reader and we are able to see every intimate aspect of their walk.  Emily’s own actions are heartbreaking and…well, like I said, this is not a story for the faint of heart.

This would be a book I would recommend to people who are struggling to understand how religious abuse can take such a grip on a persons mind; or those who do not understand the impact that fanatic religious beliefs have on others around them.  It’s the children who suffer the most; entire childhoods ripped away and can never be restored.  Watch How We Walk is a good, hard reality check and an important book as a result.

Book Review: The Crooked Maid by Dan Vyleta

The Crooked Maid by Dan Vyleta

  • Method of Obtaining: My copy was provided by the publisher.
  • Published by:  Bloomsbury USA
  • Release Date:  08.08.2013

Vienna, 1948. The war is over, and as the initial phase of de-Nazification winds down, the citizens of Vienna struggle to rebuild their lives amidst the rubble.

Anna Beer returns to the city she fled nine years earlier after discovering her husband’s infidelity. She has come back to find him and, perhaps, to forgive him. Traveling on the same train from Switzerland is 18-year-old Robert Seidel, a schoolboy summoned home to his stepfather’s sickbed and the secrets of his family’s past.

As Anna and Robert navigate an unrecognizable city, they cross paths with a war-widowed American journalist, a hunchbacked young servant girl, and a former POW whose primary purpose is to survive by any means and to forget. Meanwhile, in the shells of burned-out houses and beneath the bombed-out ruins, a ghost of a man, his head wrapped in a red scarf, battles demons from his past and hides from a future deeply uncertain for all.

I also recommend:

My Review:

There are times I will pick up a book, read it, and then sit for a long time afterward, thinking about what I want to say about it.  It’s now December and I am still thinking about The Crooked Maid over three months after I finishing reading it.  I’m extremely torn on what I want to say, because – as so often happens with literary fiction, what I hoped for and what I got were two very different things.  The Crooked Maid deals with the time in Germany spent after the end of WWII – during the de-Nazification of Germany.  It’s such an unusual setting and I was looking forward to reading about it, but what I got in Vyleta’s story was something a bit more confusing.

I understand that a story about this time period is automatically something that is hard to understand.  It’s a subject matter that people don’t often deal with in their lives, and really never deal with on a day to day basis (I’m casting a wide net here; that’s not to say there are not things that are happening in the world today that are similar, but generally speaking, we aren’t dealing with this particular re-building set during this time period).  And while I understood that a story had to be told along with it, to show what that rebuilding actually meant, the story ended up being one that left me feeling dissatisfied – like Vyleta had tried for something out of his grasp and ended up with a warped version of it.

I think part of the problem was that I just didn’t give two figs for Anna Beer.  I wanted to sympathize with her, she was undertaking a terrible journey and her path was one that was not easy – but frankly, I just didn’t care.  The same with Robert Seidel.  Being described as a  schoolboy and, as a result, seeing the dynamics between him and Anna just left me feeling a bit sick to my stomach.  Then, there’s the hunchbacked young servant – a character that the book was actually named after but one who plays a secondary role to Anna.  I just didn’t care for any of them and, without caring for them, you can imagine how it was when I tried to care about what happened to them.  It made reading The Crooked Maid a bit of a chore.

Vyleta has a beautiful way with description, and that’s just about the only thing that really redeemed this book for me.  But, books are not all about beautiful descriptions and insightful thoughts – there has to be someone or something that the reader can connect to, so the result was that I read some beautiful words put together in pretty sentences but, like I often am when I hear a pretty piece of music on the radio, I am left with feeling like I’ve been robbed a bit when I found out the substance wasn’t worth the packaging.

The Crooked Maid is just another book that has me wonder about the awards process.  For longlists and shortlists, are various award committees looking at the packaging or are they really looking at the story?  Then again – it may just boil down to a matter of taste, and my taste just didn’t extend to enjoying this one.

Book Review: Arrow of the Mist by Christina Mercer

Arrow of the Mist by Christina Mercer

  • Method of Obtaining: My copy was provided by the publisher.
  • Published by:  Christina Mercer
  • Release Date:  03.13.2013

Terror strikes the Celtic inspired kingdom of Nemetona when barbed roots breach the veil of a forbidden land and poison woodsmen, including 15-year-old Lia’s beloved father. Lia and three others embark on a quest to the forbidden land of Brume to gather ingredients for the cure. But after her elder kinsman is attacked and poisoned, she and her cousin, Wynn, are forced to finish the quest on their own.

Lia relies on her powerful herbal wisdom and the memorized pages of her late grandmother’s Grimoire for guidance through a land of soul-hungry shades, trickster creatures, and uncovered truths about the origin of Brume and her family’s unexpected ties to it. The deeper they trek into the land, the stronger Lia’s untapped gift as a tree mage unfolds. When she discovers the enchanted root’s maker, it forces her to question everything about who she is and what is her destiny. Ultimately she must make a terrible choice: keep fighting to save her father and the people of the lands or join with the power behind the deadly roots to help nature start anew.

I also recommend:

My Review:

Let me start this review off by saying that I had no idea that Arrow of the Mist was an Amazon Break-Through book – meaning, I had absolutely zero idea that the book was, essentially, self-published.  And, as I started to read it on the plane during a recent trip I took, I was so impressed with the world building and the beautiful story that I found myself sucked in  – in spite of the sheer uncomfortable nature of being stuck on a plane for six hours.

The story of 15 year old Lia begins with sheer terror.  Villagers, including her own father, are struck down with a terrible disease that has roots behind the veil of a forbidden land.  Lia sets off with her young cousin, her grandfather, and her cousin’s friend, to navigate some seriously dangerous territory in the hope of finding the cure.

At the root of this Celtic-style fantasy is one of the core elements of any good fantasy novel: the quest.  The starting character can be male or female, but ultimately the strength of the story depends on the strength of the quest and what the potential outcomes are.  In Arrow of the Mist, the quest is simple, which makes it work, it is tied up with some pretty tricky family history, and the end result if Lia fails is the death of her father.  The result if she succeeds is not only the life of her father, but the deliverance of her village from being struck again.

Christina Mercer incorporates verse from Lia’s grandmother’s grimoire to drop clues through the quest. She incorporates fantastical creatures like the fae and the unicorn to add spice to the world and give it that mysterious feeling.  There’s danger with dark woods and evil roots, and there’s temptation with an offer of power to Lia from some powerful women. But not all is danger and questing paths, there is also a bit of romance as Lia struggles to understand her feelings toward a certain young man who has accompanied them on the journey.

I really, really enjoyed this book and found it to be extremely well done.  It’ snot often that a fantasy book in this age group focuses so heavily on the fantasy and not quite as much on the romance angle, so it was a breath of fresh air for this reader.  If you haven’t checked out Arrow of the Mist and it sounds like something you would enjoy, I would suggest you pick it up soon.  From what I understand, the next book is due out soon!

Book Review: The Hypothetical Girl by Elizabeth Cohen

The Hypothetical Girl by Elizabeth Cohen

  • Method of Obtaining: My copy was provided by the publisher.
  • Published by:  Other Press
  • Release Date:  08.06.2013

Love meets technology with a dash of quirk in this collection of highly original short stories
An aspiring actress meets an Icelandic Yak farmer on a matchmaking Web site. An online forum for cancer support turns into a love triangle for an English professor, a Canadian fisherman, and an elementary school teacher living in Japan. A deer and a polar bear flirt via Skype. In The Hypothetical Girl a menagerie of characters graze and jockey, play and hook up in the online dating world with mixed and sometimes dark results. Flirting and communicating in chat rooms, through texts, e-mails, and IMs, they grope their way through a virtual maze of potential mates, falling in and out of what they think and hope may be true love.

With levity and high style, Cohen takes her readers into a world where screen and keyboard meet the heart, with consequences that range from wonderful to weird. The Hypothetical Girl captures all the mystery, misery, and magic of the eternal search for human connection.

I also recommend:

My Review:

If you are single and an adult in this day and age, chances are you have either seriously checked out, flirted with, or used the services of some sort of online dating service.  Elizabeth Cohen recognizes this modern-day trend and, in a series of short stories, outlines some of the sadder and more pitiful stories that can emerge from the online dating world.  The Hypothetical Girl is a collection of short stories that is witty, funny, and sometimes painfully accurate in portraying life in the modern, technological world.

I have been through the online dating world miseries, and I have friends who have been, or are currently going through them as well.  It’s not a pretty world out there and some of Cohen’s more hilarious stories put that into perspective well.  Imagine, instead of cultural differences, two completely different creatures tried to work it out like… say a Bear and a Deer?  Their story is explored with a humorous yet touching feel and I found myself laughing, sympathizing, and wondering all at once what in the world I was reading.

Then, there was “Animal Dancing.”  In this short story we follow the hopes and dreams of a woman who just hopes that the man she has been attracted to online will be everything she imagines in person.  She has talked to her family about him, she has raised her hopes, imagined a life with him, yet when the moment comes…what happens?  Read the story to find out (but I bet you know, if you know anything about online dating).

I really enjoyed these stories, much more than I thought I would.  The cover is what caught my eye and, once I dove into the first story I found myself unable to put the book down.  There were a few duds in the mix, but I expect that of most short story collections, and while The Hypothetical Girl isn’t the most serious of literature, it’s still a fun look at the jungle that is the online dating world.

Book Review: Renegade by J.A. Souders

The Winter Prince by Elizabeth E. Wein

  • Method of Obtaining: Purchased.
  • Published by:  Tor Teen
  • Release Date:  11.13.2012

Since the age of three, sixteen-year-old Evelyn Winters has been trained to be Daughter of the People in the underwater utopia known as Elysium. Selected from hundreds of children for her ideal genes, all her life she’s thought that everything was perfect; her world. Her people. The Law.

But when Gavin Hunter, a Surface Dweller, accidentally stumbles into their secluded little world, she’s forced to come to a startling realization: everything she knows is a lie.

Her memories have been altered.

Her mind and body aren’t under her own control.

And the person she knows as Mother is a monster.

Together with Gavin she plans her escape, only to learn that her own mind is a ticking time bomb… and Mother has one last secret that will destroy them all.

I also recommend:

My Review:

I have a confession to make.  I did not even know this book existed until I received its sequel from Tor Teen.  I looked at the cover of this pretty hardback that I was set and wondered just what I was in for.  When I saw it was the second book of the series, I looked up the first book, as any normal person would do, to see if I could get a quick overview of what had happened.  I wasn’t sure, you see, if I wanted to drop the cash on picking up the first one.  But what I read in the summary, and what I could see of the writing in the sequel had me convinced.  I needed to read the story of Evelyn and I needed to do it right, so I picked up an e-copy of Renegade by J.A. Souders and dove in.

First, before I talk about the story, can I just say that a small part of me is so sad that I didn’t spring for the hard copy.  In the interest of wanting to read the book right away and not having to wait oodles of time for it (that’s what happens when you live on an island in the middle of the Pacific, by the way), I decided to go with the e-copy.  In doing so, I missed out on this gorgeous cover.  The follow-up doesn’t disappoint, don’t get me wrong.  But there’s something to say for having a matching set displayed on my bookshelf, you know?

Anyway, enough about the cover.  Let’s talk about the story, and I want to talk about the one thing I didn’t like first to get it out of the way.  What I didn’t like was the tense used.  I’m never a fan of first person present tense. It’s awkward and clunky and it just doesn’t work for me.  However, the story moved at a quick enough pace and held enough interest for me to get over that dislike after about 50 pages or so in.  Also, I understand why Souders did things the way she did.  We’re basically inside of Evelyn’s mind throughout the story and it’s made scarier and more intense by the style of writing utilized.

Now, let’s talk about the plot.  I adored the idea of a world under the water.  It brought to mind Atlantis and the myths of mermaids and everything I loved as a child.  But those are not present in the story – instead, what is present is a sort of Utopia that features female assassins, a scary “Mother,” and a whole lot of brain-washing.  Sound interesting?  It should – it certainly hooked me.  While Renegade has a bit of that “instant-love” that I’m really not a fan of, I appreciate that there is a reason behind it and that, ultimately, Evelyn is struggling against something that is outside of her own power.

I don’t know why Renegade flew under my radar.  I had never heard of it before its sequel showed up on my doorstep, but I’m very glad that it did.  This is a fantastic, dystopia story that really is quite different from anything I’ve read thus far.  It’s filled with action and heartbreak and I think it’s quite the worthy addition to the genre.

Book Review: The Winter Prince by Elizabeth Wein

The Winter Prince by Elizabeth E. Wein

  • Method of Obtaining: I received a copy from the publisher.
  • Published by:  Firebird/PenguinPutnam
  • Release Date:  04.04.2003

The story of Medraut – strong, skilled, daring, and never to be king…

Medraut is the eldest son of Artos, high king of Britain; and, but for an accident of birth, would-be heir to the throne. Instead, his younger half-brother, Lleu, is chosen to be prince of Britain. Lleu is fragile, often ill, unskilled in weaponry and statesmanship, and childishly afraid of the dark. Even Lleu’s twin sister, Goewin, seems more suited to rule the kingdom.

Medraut cannot bear to be commanded and contradicted by this weakling brother who he feels has usurped his birthright and his father’s favor. Torn and bitter, haunted by jealousy, self-doubt, and thwarted ambition, he joins Morgause, the high king’s treacherous sister, in a plot to force Artos to forfeit his power and kingdom in exchange for Lleu’s life. But this plot soon proves to be much more – a battlefield on which Medraut is forced to decide, for good or evil, where his own allegiance truly lies…

I also recommend:

My Review:

I love King Arthur legends.  Love, love, love them.  I took a class the beginning of 2013 that completely revolved around the legend and where we read everything from The History of the Kings of Britain to more modern pieces like The Mists of Avalon.  Our range of topics touched on everything from the myth itself and its historical roots, to the treatment of women, to the use of symbolism to reinforce the story.  When I saw that The Winter Prince was being offered for review, I recognized Elizabeth Wein’s name from her more recent works and decided to give it a go.  I am glad I did, for while I didn’t enjoy her more recent books as much as I wanted to, my time spent in The Winter Prince was so very rewarding.

One of the things readers of Arthur legends have to get used to is the substitutions and strange spellings of random names.  Someone picking up this book and expecting an Arthur story will be surprised at the emergence of an Artos instead.  But Elizabeth Wein chose the names she did for a reason, and told an extremely interesting story crafted around Medraut, also known in other stories as Modred. While the story of Arthur and the betrayal of Guenevere is often told in stories and in movies, the story of the betrayal of Arthur’s oldest son is not as often focused on, other than as a sad ending to an otherwise glorious career.

Wein really makes Medraut a character who can be sympathized with.  I am always interested in the other story – the side that doesn’t get told.  In fact, we joked in class that it would be interesting to see the story of Arthur as told from the opposing (see: defeated) side.  But those stories don’t exist because, as history tells us, the writers of history are always the victors.  Thank goodness, in this day and age, we can often imagine the opposing sides viewpoint through the imagination of skilled writers.  And that is what you get in The Winter Prince.

If you are an Arthur myth junkie like I am, then The Winter Prince is a must-read.  Wein’s writing is extremely mature, and this book is not to dismissed as an easy read due to any marketing it may do as a young adult novel.  It’s a meaty, delicious story that is a must-have for any Arthur fan and it holds a proud place in my library.

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten 2014 Releases I’m Dying to Read

I hope everyone had a fantastic Thanksgiving – I had  a fun one filled with lots of good food, wine, laughter, and joy.  I really enjoyed putting together my list of books that I am thankful for last week and feel ready and prepared to pull together this list for 2014 – the problem is…there are so many great releases to choose from!  So in my explanation about the book I’ll be including a bit of why I am looking forward to the title so much.

1. Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen

I love Sarah Addison Allen so much – magical realism plus a dose of southern comfort resides in each of her books and I absolutely cannot wait to read Lost Lake.  This title has been on my highly anticipated list for quite some time now.

2. Under the Wide and Starry Sky by Nancy Horan

I loved Loving Frank by Nancy Horan and until this title was released, she was on a short list of the authors I watch religiously to see when the newest title is being released.  I’m very excited to read about Robert Louis Stevenson and his wife, Fanny, and this title cannot come soon enough.

3.  The Crane Wife by Patrick Ness

I love, love, love Patrick Ness’s young adult novels, so when I saw that he was branching out into the adult world I put the book on my TBR list immediately.  So looking forward to reading this title and getting a review up!

4.  The Sun and Other Stars by Brigid Pasulka

I fell in love with Brigid Pasulka’s first novel, A Long, Long Time Ago & Essentially True several years ago, and I’ve been eagerly anticipating the announcement of a new novel.  The cover for this book is absolutely gorgeous and I am sure the story will be just as perfect.

5. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

My younger sister introduced me to Gabrielle Zevin and I have been obsessed ever since.  The premise of A.J. Fikry intrigues me and I cannot wait to crack this one open.

6. Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson

I have read almost everything Sanderson has written (I have to space them out or I gorge myself on the titles and then I have nothing left to read by him when I am feeling the mood hit).  I loved The Way of Kings – I even saw Sanderson talk about his creative process at DragonCon one year.  So I am beyond thrilled to see Book 2 being released early in 2014.

7. The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon

Jennifer McMahon is one of those authors that I love reading just because every book ends with a sucker punch.  I love that she can surprise me, and that her stories are so interesting that they are basically one-sit reads.

8. The Martian by Andy Weir

Andy Weir is a new author for me – but the premise of this book gives me little giddy feelings inside.  I love the idea of being stranded on a planet and what adventures that could lead to – even with the idea of death staring me in the face.  This is an ultimate survival tale that I am looking forward to so much.

9. The Swan Gondola by Timothy Schaffert

Timothy Schaffert is another new author for me – but the choice of this book as an anticipated stems from the settling.  I grew up in Omaha and left when I turned 17 so I cannot wait to learn a bit more about its history in addition to reading what appears to be a beautiful concept of a story.

0. Children of Paradise by Fred D’Aguiar

And finally, to end the list – a utopia society.  This book immediately caught my attention and I figure 2014 is gonna be the year that I read some great speculative fiction (so much good will be released – I hope!)  Perhaps I’ll start with this one, as I have an eARC currently sitting in my files! =)

What books are you looking forward to next year?  Chime in!

Book Review: The Iron Traitor by Julie Kagawa

The Iron Traitor by Julie Kagawa

  • Method of Obtaining: I received a copy from the publisher.
  • Published by:  HarlequinTeen
  • Release Date:  10.29.2013

In the real world, when you vanish into thin air for a week, people tend to notice.

After his unexpected journey into the lands of the fey, Ethan Chase just wants to get back to normal. Well, as normal as you can be when you see faeries every day of your life. Suddenly the former loner with the bad reputation has someone to try for; his girlfriend, Kenzie. Never mind that he’s forbidden to see her again.

But when your name is Ethan Chase and your sister is one of the most powerful faeries in the Nevernever, normal simply isn’t to be. For Ethan’s nephew, Keirran, is missing, and may be on the verge of doing something unthinkable in the name of saving his own love. Something that will fracture the human and faery worlds forever, and give rise to the dangerous fey known as the Forgotten. As Ethan’s and Keirran’s fates entwine and Keirran slips further into darkness, Ethan’s next choice may decide the fate of them all.

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My Review:

I have been a fan of Julie Kagawa since her first book release – I fell in love with her vision of the seelie and unseelie world, the idea of the the never, and Meghan and Ash’s journey through the first series of books involving this world.  I was thrilled when she chose to continue the story with Ethan and, in the process, introduces us Meghan and Ash’s teenage son, Keirran.  So, when The Iron Traitor was released for review, I quickly snapped it up and then waited for it to show up on my reading calendar with much anticipation.

What began as a bit of a slow start in The Iron Traitor  definitely pays off by the end – action wise, but it didn’t exactly leave me in a good place.  Let me take a moment to just say that I really, really hate major cliff-hangers; you know, where you spend the entire book thinking at least something should be resolved and, instead, not only is there no resolution but you are left hanging on a major cliff.  Like, there is life and death happening and now you have to wait a very long time.

It’s not right.  And for that reason, I’m a bit upset with Ms. Kagawa.  I wanted to be treated better but instead, The Iron Traitor fell into the role of that blasted mid-book, the story that progresses an overarching tale, but doesn’t give its reader any real satisfaction.

With that said, let me talk for a minute about Keirran.  I totally get teenage rebellion, but I’m beginning to think that Keirran is going a bit over the line.  There are moments in this book where he makes decisions and I wonder how in the world Ash and Meghan haven’t caught up to him yet – because they don’t.  I get that it’s vital to the story progression that Keirran avoids his parents, but with Puck and Grimalkin both making an appearance in this story, and finding Keirran pretty damn easily, I’m thinking that Ash and Meghan either A. have some purpose in letting him do his own thing or B. really aren’t all that powerful.

Like I said, I’m a bit fan of these books so I’ll be sticking with them.  Kagawa is one of my favorite young adult authors out there so I have faith in her, but I seriously hope her next installment can redeem some of the disappointing factors in The Iron Traitor .