Ember In The Ashes: A Review

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An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Since the third book is coming out in June, there was a lot of hype around this series. So, I thought I would check it out. I really enjoyed this first book and look forward to the rest of the series. It’s a YA fantasy series written by Sabaa Tahir that has a lot of Roman Empire influences.
It’s told from two different perspectives. Laia is a Scholar, a group who have been conquered and mostly enslaved by the Martials. Laia has tried to keep a low profile, but when her brother is taken to prison, she finds herself involved with a Rebel group and became a spy in hopes to rescue her brother. Elias is a Martial, the oppressive ruling group. He is a student at a harsh, dangerous school for elite soldiers and plans to escape. But events change his plans and fate brings these two perspectives together.
The plot was fast-paced. And it’s pretty dark. I like the theme of faith, not just believing in yourself, but believing in a bigger part of a story you can’t see. Faith is something personally important to me. It’s how to function through dark or tough times.

There is some light profanity. They used “hells” and “bleeding” as curse words. Also, as far as sexual content, there are a couple of kissing scenes which imply more graphic sexual desire. Also, there are some threats of rape or sexual assault. And there are a lot of instances of violent content. There are fights to the death throughout the story, some to answer the question what would you sacrifice for the greater good?

It’s a well-written book that I really enjoyed. It’s not very in depth, but I felt like it hit the theme points pretty well. I’m hoping I will enjoy the rest of the series just as much! It’s a recommend from me!

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Thunderhead: A Review

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Thunderhead
by Neal Shusterman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I will try to write this review without any spoilers. I really enjoyed this book, the second in the Arc of the Scythe series, The Thunderhead. It picks up about one year after the first book ended. I felt like the first book was more focused on how the Scythes interacted with civilians and gleaned (killed) to curb population growth since death and illness had been conquered on Earth. The second book was more focused on political intrigue, the inner workings of the Scythedom as well as a closer look at the computer system, The Thunderhead, that managed, cared for and protected civilians, but is separate and apart from the Scythe world.
The continued world building in this book is fascinating. One thing the author does in a lot of his series is included journal entries or letters between chapters. In the first book, they were the entries of Scythes, but this time, it was primarily entries from the Thunderhead, itself. The Thunderhead was pretty quiet in the first book, so this was really fascinating. Also, we are introduced to Greyson Tolliver, who also gives more insight into the Thunderhead as well.
The book moves pretty fast and was pretty plot driven. I enjoyed all of the new settings and how they fit in and interacted with the rest of the world. And some of the plot twists I did not see coming.

I don’t remember there being any profanity in this series. There really wasn’t much sexual content in the book either, other than one person ogling another person. There is one scene where a character throws themselves at another character in a very vulnerable way, but there isn’t anything graphic. But the violence is pretty substantial. The books are, after all, about a group of people who kill people to help curb the population growth. So, keep that in mind.

Even though the premise is morbid, I still recommend the series. And the second book is even better than the first. I am looking forward to the third book in the series!
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The Book of Dust: A Review

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The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

To be fair, I didn’t read the Darkest Materials series, but I was familiar with the storyline and the controversy around that series being a bit preachy and pro-atheism. But this book was recommended to me and it had great reviews on Goodreads, so I decided to go for it. It is part of a second series that is running parallel to his original series, and this book takes place before the first series started. So it’s kind of a prequel.
It follows a boy named Malcolm who lives on the river in an inn owned by his parents. Across the river is a priory of nuns and he visits and helps them frequently. When the nuns take in a baby that gets the attention of both the religious circles and a spy network, Malcolm finds himself in the middle of it all. After a natural catastrophe, Malcolm, along with a girl who works at the inn, Alice, have to go on an adventure in an effort to protect this baby.
Maybe it’s because I didn’t read the first series, but I found this book to be a little convoluted. The first half of the book read like a spy novel, and I was really intrigued. But then, it abruptly turns into a completely different book after a natural disaster takes place. It became more like a fantasy folklore story.
Also, even though Alice is in the synopsis in the back of the book, she only makes a few appearances throughout the first half of the novel. Granted, she does play a more pivotal role as the story progresses, but I was confused during the first half of the story just why she was included in the story’s summary. Malcolm’s character does have some transforming experiences throughout the book, but it takes quite a dark turn towards the end.

I don’t remember a whole lot of profanity, but there were some mentions of urination in public to describe the unsettled evil of the story. As far as sexual content, there is a sex scene that is used to show how manipulative one of the bad characters was. And there are some implications for Alice being alone with a man. For violent content, there is a good bit. The natural disaster was a flood, and there are mentions of dead people and animals floating in the water. Plus, there is a lot of fighting, shooting, and killing among the characters.

Overall, the book wasn’t bad. It might just not be my kind of book. I didn’t, however, feel like it was anti-religion or pro-atheism. There were good and bad people on all sides. Maybe if I read the original series first I might have a different perspective. So, if you have read the original series, this might be a good book for you to pick up!

What Alice Forgot: A Review

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What Alice Forgot
by Liane Moriarty

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is an adult contemporary set in the year 2008 in Sydney, Austrailia. The protagonist, Alice, wakes up on the floor of a gym after a nasty fall, having lost her memories for the last ten years. She thinks it’s 1998 and that she is 14 weeks pregnant with her first child, newly married to her husband, Nick. When in reality, she has three children and is estranged from said husband. The story continues as a mystery that slowly reveals the last ten years, through flashes and pictures, strong feelings, and the anecdotes of her friends and family.
What I did not know going into this book was how much of it was also about pregnancy loss and infertility. Alice’s big sister, Elizabeth, is almost a second main protagonist, who is the first person that really shows up after Alice is brought to the hospital after the fall at the gym. She helps Alice navigate through some of those first memories, but finds it hard because it means that she also has to relive a lot of those memories as well. And her story is pregnancy loss and infertility. And it is so accurate from my own story. I related so much to her experiences and her thoughts. I mention this without really spoiling anything as a trigger warning, but I found this part of the story also therapeutic. This is what made the book a five out of five for me.
The writing jumps from three different perspectives. Alice is told in the third person, though we are privy to her thoughts and feelings, they weren’t always dependable and accurate. When trying to piece together the last ten years, she goes down a couple of dead ends. Elizabeth’s perspective is told in first person journal entries to her therapist. Of course, this is also limited by only what Elizabeth actually knows about Alice’s life as well. The third perspective is from their surrogate grandmother, Frannie, who gives a little more insight, but not much. It’s in first person correspondence as well, as her point of view is in the form of letters to an old flame, recounting her experiences in her retirement community as well as what is happening to Alice.
For the most part, the plot moves pretty quickly. The clues and glimpses kept me continuing with the story, wondering not only what exactly happened in the past, but how the future would turn out as well. And there is a lot of character transformation, especially with Alice and Elizabeth. As Alice looks into her present life from her younger self, the fresh perspective helps her evolve, and it also helps Elizabeth evolve as well.

There is profanity in the book, but not much, and I felt like the profanity was there to show how much had changed in Alice’s life – almost for a shock value, but a necessary one.
As far as sexual content, there is mention of sex and there are a few kissing scenes, but nothing really graphic or detailed. Since pregnancy was one of the main themes, I think it was also something necessary to mention and discuss.
And as far as violence, there are a couple of deaths mentioned, but nothing, again, in graphic detail. It focused more on the grief from death or loss.

I would recommend this book with the caveat of the fact that a good portion of it deals with navigating life with infertility and pregnancy loss. But I think it handles that subject really well. I didn’t really know that I would like this book as much as I did when I picked it up, but I’m really glad I did!

Scythe: A Review

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Scythe
by Neal Shusterman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a YA dystopian future novel. In this future, technology has advanced to the point that there is no sickness or death. People don’t experience hunger, mental illness or really any poverty. But in order to maintain the population growth, an ordained group of people called the Scythes are created to “glean” a certain quota of people each year. They are above the law, though they do follow their own set of laws. They can glean whoever they want, as long as it isn’t with prejudice.
The two main characters, Citra and Rowan, are chosen by Scythe Faraday to be his apprentices. At the end of the one-year apprenticeship, only one will be chosen to become a scythe. Each scythe has their own philosophy on gleaning, and there are two camps within the Scythedom. One gleans with compassion (though the compassion manifests in different ways) and the other gleans with efficiency (and slight enjoyment). Whoever becomes the new scythe will have to decide whose camp they belong to.
The book is written in the third person, mostly from the perspectives of Citra and Rowan. There were a few moments that were written from other characters’ perspectives in order to reveal something that wouldn’t be known by the two main characters. There were a couple of plot twists in the story as well, but most of them were pretty predictable.
Citra and Rowan’s characters definitely evolve in different ways by the end of the book. And their choices and experiences, as well as their lives before the apprenticeship, play a part in this transformation. The author does a really good job of showing how all of these things affect their outcomes.

I don’t recall much in the way of profanity in the book. As far as sexual content, there is a kissing scene, but not much else. Primarily, this book has a lot of violence. Scythes can glean pretty much however they want to, so there are a variety of killings and deaths in the book. Also, there is a brief mention of people who jump off of tall buildings, knowing that they will be revived in the revival centers. It’s not true suicide, but more like high-risk activities. When people do get injured to the point of death, they are referred to as deadish but can be revived at the centers. The only way you cannot be revived is if you are gleaned.

There is a lot of talk about death and mortality, the last moments of someone when they find out they will be gleaned. It’s an interesting commentary on someone’s last moments before dying, even in the present world. The second book in this series came out at the beginning of the year, and I hope to get my hands on it soon to find out what happens next.

The Poet X: A Review

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The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo is a Young Adult Coming of Age Contemporary Fiction. It’s written completely in poetry form, which I thought was perfect for National Poetry Month in April. I received my copy in my Page Habit box. It’s not really something I might have picked up on my own, although the format was quite intriguing, and I might have gotten it much later in the year. The book came out in March.
The story follows Xiomara, a 15-year-old girl living in Harlem in the present day. Her family is from the Dominican Republic, but her and her twin brother were born in America. Her mother is a devout Catholic and her father a recovering womanizer who doesn’t speak much. Xiomara has to navigate high school, the neighborhood, her changing body and the remarks from boys and men alike about those changes, as well as her mother’s strict opinions and rules about faith.
I was actually surprised how much faith is the center of this story. Xiomara, in several of the poems, examines her doubt and her struggle with faith and her opinion of God. The line that caught my breath was “God just wants me to behave so I can earn being alive.”
Since the book is mostly written in poetic form, the plot goes pretty quickly. It covers from the end of summer to the beginning of the next spring. So much happens in that timeframe that develops the characters, especially Xiomara and her brother. The book is divided into three parts, and the third part I just breezed through because the plot speeds up and so much of the story really plays out in that last section.

There is profanity in the book, as well as a lot of sexual content. There is one poem about masturbation and several about her relationship with a boy in bio class. The conflict of sexual urges versus waiting to be ready is apparent through most of that relationship.
There are a few moments of violence, but nothing graphic. Xiomara, before she really gets into the poetry, relied on her fists to protect herself and her brother. But that really was more just referenced than spelled out.

I think it might be a good book to read with a mother and daughter. It definitely would spark conversation with the endless pressures young girls deal with in today’s society as well as within the church. I would recommend it, but with the caveats of the profanity and sexual content. But the ending of the book is so beautiful. Flawed, but completely beautiful, which is why I give it four stars and a recommendation.

Page Habit Review

My fascination with subscription boxes continues.  Instead of a food box, this time I asked for a book subscription box from Michael for Easter called Page Habit.

There are so many book subscription boxes to choose from.  There are ones that only send books for you to choose.  And there are several that have bookish items that sometimes follow a theme and sometimes do not.  Each box has a kind of gimmick to it.

Page Habit has two “gimmicks,” if you will.  First, with each box, they donate towards children’s literacy.  In my particular box, Page habit partnered with Books for Africa to donate books to the Kiangua community in Kenya.  They gave a little information about the area’s statistics.20180411_152611

The other “gimmick” that Page Habit has is that the book in the box is annotated with small notes from the author.  So, as you read through the book, there will be these little notes on certain pages that tell you what the author felt while writing that particular piece of the story (all of the annotations are put on post-it notes so your book is not actually written in unless you want to write in it).  Also, the book is going to be one that has come out recently.

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In this box, I received the book The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo, a YA contemporary written entirely in poetic form that was released in March.  I really liked this kind of storytelling, and it was perfect to read this month since it’s National Poetry Month.  I will probably have a review on my blog at some point in the future.

But that’s not all that it’s the box.  There were several other items included.  A letter from the author.  A pad of adult coloring pages.  A cable photo hanger.  A bookworm beanie.  Stickers.  And a Page Habit bookmark.  I was impressed with the selection of items as well as the quality.  The only item I wasn’t really interested in was the collection on stickers, but the rest I’m definitely going to use.

I got the YA box, but they have other genres as well – literary fiction, fantasy, mystery, horror, romance and historical fiction.  They also have quarterly boxes for YA (young adult), literary fiction and cookbooks.  The monthly boxes are $30.  If you want to try it yourself, you can use this link.   It is a subscription service, so it signs you up to automatically get one each month, but just like Hello Fresh, you can skip months that don’t pique your interest, and you can change genres if you like.  You get an email before the next box comes out describing the next book.  They don’t tell you what the title is, so the surprise isn’t ruined.

I really liked that there is a cause behind this box, plus the annotated book is a plus as well.  And it’s a neat way to be introduced to books you might not have heard of or may not have picked up.  It’s a definite recommend from me!