Book Review: Burial Rites

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Hannah Kent
Historical Fiction based on true events
Published: September 10th 2013
5/5

                Set against Iceland’s stark landscape, Hannah Kent brings to vivid life the story of Agnes, who, charged with the brutal murder of her former master, is sent to an isolated farm to await execution.
                Horrified at the prospect of housing a convicted murderer, the family at first avoids Agnes. Only Toti, a priest Anges has mysteriously chosen to be her spiritual guardian, seeks to understand her. But as Agnes’ death looms, the farmer’s wife and their daughters learn there is another side to the sensational story they’ve heard.
                Riveting and rich with lyricism, BURIAL RITES evokes a dramatic existence in a distant time and place, and asks the question, how can one woman hope to endure when her life depends upon the stories told by others?

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                Burial Rites is based on the true life account of Agnes Magnusdottir the last person executed in Iceland on January 12th, 1830. She, and man named Friorik Sigurosson where charged for the murder of Nathan Ketilsson, and Petur Jonsson that took place on March 14th, 1828. They were executed by beheading.
                This was a fascinating and beautifully told story. Burial Rites is one of the best tales I’ve read in a few years. It is one of those novels that leave a mark on your soul; the story will linger with you long after you’ve finished reading it.
                The writing was beautiful; I found myself becoming immersed in the language and haunting thoughts of Anges as she awaited her fate. I found her relatable; my heart was broken for her most of the story. I wished the book would end differently; despite knowing that it was based on a factual event.
                Anges was a great lead character. I really enjoyed reading about her life from childhood up until she ended up on the farm. By the end of the book I felt like I knew her personally, but not in a way that I found myself overwhelmed by information in regards to the development of the plot.
                I also ended up liking the family at the farm by the end of the book. It was beautiful to see them all come together. The courage and strength the lent Anges in the end was unfathomable in it’s greatness. Despite the coldness and perhaps even hatred they all felt towards her in the beginning, it was so lovely to see some of them turn around and offer her pity, understanding and compassion in the end.
                Overall I thought the book was well written and developed and though we don’t know how the actual events took place it was interesting to read one possible side to the story. I greatly recommend this book to my blog readers, I don’t think you’d regret it!
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Book Review: Sea of Shadows

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Kelley Armstrong
YA Fantasy
Publish Date: April 8th 2014
*Received an Advanced Reader Copy in good reads giveaway
** This Opinion is 100% my own.

            In the Forest of the Dead, where the Empires worst criminals are exiled, twin sisters Moria and Ashyn are charged with a dangerous task. For they are the Keeper and the Seeker, each year they must quiet the enraged souls of the damned.

            Only this year, the souls will not be quieted.

            Ambushed and separated by an ancient evil, the sister’s journey to find each other sends them far from the only home that they have ever known. Accompanied by a stubborn imperial guard and a dashing condemned thief, the girls’ cross a once empty wasteland, now filled with reawakened monsters of legend, as they travel to warn the emperor. But a terrible secret awaits them at court – one that will alter the balance of their world forever.

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            I’ve only recently started reading Kelley Armstrong’s work. I’ve already invested in her new series Cainsville and was really excited to try her young adult fiction. I definitely was not disappointed with Sea of Shadows!
            I really, really, really enjoyed the backstory and all the lore. The whole concept of the Keeper and Seeker, and even the Forest of the Dead really drew me into the story and hooked me. I’ve been getting into fantasy novels a lot in the past year or so, largely in thanks to my Husband and I am super pleased to be adding this series to my collection!
            It’s dark, edgy and has a strong sense of purpose. There is a point and reason as to why each scene in is in this novel and I find that extremely refreshing and uplifting that there were no needless fillers. The main characters each have their own voices and strongly defined personalities. There is personal growth for each character in Sea of Shadows which doesn’t always happen with series, so it was great to see that already taking off.
            The romance aspect is great and seems really natural. It never seems too forced or too rushed for me to find it awkward and unrealistic. I definitely have a favorite couple and a favorite character at this point in the story but will reserve on ‘fan-girling’ all over this book review.
            I’ve noticed that this book isn’t getting the best reviews currently and am hoping that will soon change as I think this series has a whole lot of potential and has a very fascinating story and cast of characters that I personally cannot wait to get to know even better. I love it when things are revealed over time and when you’re not bombarded with information and I think Kelley Armstrong’s writing style is really suited to my reading style and what I want from out of a novel.
            I am looking forward to the second part of this story and am deeply saddened by how long it is I’ll have to wait for it. Thank goodness Kelley Armstrong has many more books and series for me to try out while I wait!
           

Check out of Goodreads Page Here!

Book Review: Eleanor & Park

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Rainbow Rowell
Young adult Contemporary
Published: 2013
5/5

                Two Misfits.
                One extraordinary love.

Eleanor… Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough… Eleanor.

Park… He know she’ll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs as her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There’s a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises…Park.

Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-old – smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.

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                It’s not often that a book touches me in the way that Eleanor & Park has. The simplest and realistic nature of their relationship was both heartwarming and beautiful. Rainbow Rowell has managed to deliver a love story that is timeless in its content and in its tenderness. Despite not having been born when this book took place, it easily reminded me of my first love, and all the heartbreak and confusion that came with it when I was sixteen.
                Rowell has delivered realistic characters with realistic obstacles. The beginning middle and end made perfect sense and I personally wouldn’t have wanted to see it written any differently. I liked the open ending, because life is open ended. Just because something happens or someone leaves or comes back doesn’t mean that’s how it’s always going to be. Even if someone has hurt you in the past that doesn’t mean that person won’t be your best friend someday or maybe even the person you marry of course the story won’t always end perfectly either. I’ve seen this story happen so many times in my life with my friends and of course, with my own life. This story is truly heartwarming and heartbreaking.
                Worth all the hype, completely and with honesty.    

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Book Review: Salem Falls

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Jodi Picoult
Adult Contemporary
Published: 2002
Publisher: Washington Square Press
4/5
A handsome stranger comes to the sleepy New England town of Salem Falls in hopes of burying his past: Once a teacher at a girls prep school, Jack St. Bride was destroyed when a student’s crush sparked a powder keg of accusation. Now, washing dishes for Addie Peabody at the Do-Or-Dinner, he slips quietly into his new routine, and Addie finds this unassuming man fitting easily inside her heart.
Amid the rustic calm of Salem falls, a quartet of teenage girls harbor dark secrets – and they maliciously target Jack with a shattering allegation. Now, at the center of a modern-day witch hunt, Jack is forced once again to proclaim his innocence: to a town searching for answers, to a justice system where truth becomes a slippery concept written in shades of gray, and to the woman who has come to love him.
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Salem Falls is a fast-paced page-turner with more plot twists than a rollercoaster. Jodi Picoult is not timid with those taboo topics such as the short comings of the legal system, people’s harsh judgement, rape, incest, etc.; in fact Jodi Picoult often tackles subjects that most people don’t want to think about let alone write about. Her stories don’t always have happy endings and they’re so full of truth that it’s almost painful to be a witness too. It’s true that the good guy doesn’t always win, sometimes evil does, and sometimes what we all believe to be right really isn’t in the end.
Salem Falls really calls into question what we believe and why we’re inclined to believe those things. That’s what I really love about Jodi Picoult’s books: I love that they’re filled with interesting characters and situations. I love that there is always two sides of the story and I really, really love that sometimes the side that you’d believe was wrong isn’t really as bad as you think it would be.
This isn’t one of her stronger books despite how much I love what she calls into question. The characters lack some realism and dimension which is why I’ve only rated this four stars instead of five.  There are definitely aspects to the main characters that have left me wanting more. Jack and Addie’s relationship falls flat in a lot of places and though it’s sweet and romantic they’ve found each other I just find that they don’t fit well together. However, that being said, Addie’s faithfulness and righteousness are very heartwarming. I love it when you have a main female character that hasn’t fallen apart and become a complete mess on the floor, however there are definitely aspects to her story that don’t make much sense and parts were I seriously questioned her mental sanity!
Also, wow! What an ending, I definitely did not see the interaction between two of characters at the end. I also wasn’t expecting to be so creeped out and disgusted by the behaviour of some people more than I already had been at that point. Though part of the ending made me feel slightly uncomfortable in the wake of its truth it was important to the story and to the understanding of intent of one of the main characters. It definitely help explains why what happens happened.
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Book Review: Crown of Midnight

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Sarah J. Maas
Young Adult Fantasy
Published: August 2013
Publisher: Bloomsbury
4/5

            After a year of hard labor in the Salt Mines of Endovier, eighteen-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien has won the king’s contest to become the new royal assassin. Yet Celaena is far from loyal to the crown – a secret she hides from even her most intimate confidantes.

               Keeping up the deadly charade—while pretending to do the king’s bidding—will test her in frightening new ways, especially when she’s given a task that could jeopardize everything she’s come to care for. And there are far more dangerous forces gathering on the horizon — forces that threaten to destroy her entire world, and will surely force Celaena to make a choice.

              Where do the assassin’s loyalties lie, and who is she most willing to fight for?
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            Crown of Midnight was a prime example of how fantastic a sequel can be. Where other sequels fall flat, Crown of Midnight takes this complex story to new heights.  It is possible that perhaps Crown of Midnight is even greater than Throne of Glass.
            Celaena develops and becomes considerably darker than she appeared in Throne of Glass and I was eternally thankful for that. With the life that she had lead up until this point it seemed strange to me that in the first book that she was so footloose and fancy free. She starts to develop and question things that she had already known, and we find out a whole lot of things regarding her past that I actually hadn’t seen coming. She falls in love, she is betrayed, she is lost at times and finds strength to continue on even when everything becomes bleak. She amazes me with her ability to forgive but not forget, to let go but to still hold others accountable to their actions.
           The romantic encounters are more realistic, and at times made my heart swell up with intense happiness and other times deflate with sadness, it’s clear to me whom I want Celaena to end up with if she does indeed choose either Dorian or Choal. She’s a complicated character and so are both of these men, and no matter who she chooses in the end, I’d be happy just knowing that she’s found love, peace, and acceptance with someone.
            Crown of Midnight switches point of view within the chapters and normally I don’t enjoy that very much but I felt it was important and needed and kept me captivated despite by previous grievances with novels that do this. Sarah J. Maas did an absolutely fantastic job integrating characters and giving everyone their own personalities and voices, no one person sounded too much like the other.
             The book ends on a bit of a cliff hanger as Celaena embarks on a completely new quest and her story continues to grow. I’m eagerly anticipating the third book in this installment and this is definitely turning into a series I wish was already completed and published because I’m biting my nails with need and want for the next part of the story.
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BOOK REVIEW: Insurgent

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Veronica Roth
Dystopian YA
Publisher: Harper Collins
Published: May 1st 2012
4/5

 

One Choice can transform you… Or destroy you

                Every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves – and herself – while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.
                Tris’ initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grow. And in the times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable – and even more powerful.
                Transformed by her own decisions but also by her haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so

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                Divergent ended with such a fantastic bang, that I knew despite already having purchased Insurgent I was going to be waiting to read it until Allegiant come out.  I was really excited when I could escape back into the fictional world that Veronica Roth created.  The world building and back story that she has created came through flawlessly in Insurgent, a book that was considerably more action packed than Divergent.
                Insurgent runs high on emotions as politics, family loyalties and friendships are called into question and tough choices have to made. The overall emotional intensity of this books sets it apart from other Young Adult fiction novels that I’ve read and I found that refreshing.  Veronica Roth has a way of exploring more mature themes but in a way that regardless of your age you’re able to identify and relate too.
                The relationship between Four and Tris is constantly tested throughout this book, and despite their differences, personal issues and their young age they deal with them maturely, with unconditional love and compassionate understanding once they allow each other in. They’re both hurting for different reasons and together they are stronger than they ever would be apart. Together, they are an unbreakable force, they are a team and one that I certainly wouldn’t want to tangle with.
                Four’s family background and beliefs are called into attention quite a few times in this book and we learn a lot more about him, mostly why he is the way he is today.  He had very strong character development through out this novel. His loyalty to Tris is unwavering, he is heartwarming to read.
                Over all Insurgent was a good read. It left you waiting for the next and final installment in the series.
                I will be posting the review for Allegiant tomorrow and then will be posting a discussion piece on the series as a whole.
                Let me know what you thought of this book! I’m interested in knowing.

Book Review: Inferno

InfernoImage
Dan Brown
Mystery Adventure
Published: 2013
Publisher: DoubleDay
4/5

                Harvard professor of symbology Robert Langdon awakens in a hospital in the middle of the night. Disoriented and suffering from a head wound, he recalls nothing of the last thirty-six hours, including how he got there… or the origin of the macabre object that his doctors discover hidden in his belongings.
                Langdon’s world soon erupts into chaos, and he finds himself on the run in Florence with a stoic young woman, Sienna Brooks, whose clever maneuvering saves his life. Langdon quickly realizes that he is in possession of a series of disturbing codes created by a brilliant scientist – a genius whose obsession with the end of the world is matched only by his passion for one of the most influential masterpieces ever written – Dante Alighieri’s dark epic poem The Inferno.
                Racing through such timeless locations as the Palazzo Vecchio, the Boboli Gardens and the Duomo, Langdon and Brooks discover a network of hidden passageways and ancient secrets, as well as a terrifying new scientific paradigm that will be used either to vastly improve the quality of life on earth… or to devastate it.
                In his most compelling and thought-provoking novel to date, Dan Brown has raised the bar yet again. Inferno is a sumptuously entertaining read – a novel that will captivate readers with the beauty of classical Italian art, history, and literature… while also posing provocative questions about the role of cutting-edge science into our future.

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                Dan Brown gets a lot of negative comments in regards to his overall story plots. They are the same in the sense that James Bond movies are the same. There is a basic formula that he uses to write his stories and in all honesty the formula works wonders for him. Inferno is a great example how a basic outline can be buffed up, and turned into something tantalizing, entertaining and easy to get involved with as you read. The twists and plot turns contained in Inferno were without a doubt fantastic, engaging, and in general written very well. If you can only look the basic plot dynamics you will indeed find yourself engrossed in an original story.
                Inferno is a great improvement over Dan Brown’s novel ‘The Lost Symbol’ which was released in 2009. Though I did enjoy ‘The Lost Symbol’ I would actually now consider changing the rating in regards to comparing the two novels. There was more suspense; action and mystery within the pages of ‘Inferno’ than there were in ‘The Lost Symbol’.  This book was a real winner for me, I’ve enjoyed Dan Browns work since I’ve read ‘Angels & Demons’ (The first book in the Robert Langdon series) and was very pleased that he seems to be back on track with his latest edition to the series.
                The scientific possibilities that were regarded within this book was really eye opening and made me do a lot of research on my own. Despite the drastic measures that were taken by Characters part of me really started questioning near the end if they were wrong. The issue portrayed is a real crisis that we as a race are currently facing, and there needs to be some kind of solution. I’m not advocating what the Characters do in regards to this issue or even the end results but I do agree that our world is floundering and we are in dire need of change. Obviously I won’t get too far into this as this is a book blog and you personally do not likely want to know what my person views are on current events.
                Definitely recommending this novel however, it is very eye opening, interesting and well written. Dan Brown writes likeable, identifiable and relatable characters and in all honestly that is sometimes what can make or break a novel.
                Check it out; it’s worth the read even if you’re a little unsure about it. If you don’t enjoy it at least it will inspire you to read ‘Dante’s Inferno’ in the future.