Jessica's books

The One and Only Ivan
Revolutionary War on Wednesday
Leprechaun in Late Winter
Ella Enchanted
The Courage of Sarah Noble
Plain Murder
Gone-Away Lake
Circling the Sun
Maggie and Max
The Haunting of Sunshine Girl
The Night Sister
Tuck Everlasting
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Bedknob and Broomstick
Mister Monday
Alice Through the Looking Glass
The Birchbark House
The Hobbit
The Witch's Daughter

Jessica's favorite books »

Friday, January 31, 2014

Book Review: Siege and Storm (The Grisha #2) by Leigh Bardugo

Synopsis (from Goodreads):  Darkness never dies.

Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land. She finds starting new is not easy while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. She can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long.

The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her--or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm.

My Thoughts:  I just finished Shadow and Bone and was extremely happy that I had Siege and Storm ready to read.  I jumped eagerly into it and devoured the story and now I have to wait four long months for Ruin and Rising.  Four.  Long.  Months!  This will be torture!

We left Mal and Alina escaping on a whaler boat at the end of Shadow and BoneSiege and Storm picks up shortly after the have left the boat (with a "Before" chapter explaining, briefly, their time on the boat) and have hidden out in a small village.  They are just normal people living at a boarding house and working in the factories.  This book starts off with a bang as Alina feels something is off one day as her and Mal return home from their jobs.  Sadly, her feelings were correct and Mal and Alina were caught by the Darkling.  Now they have to fight for their way to safety and try to defeat the Darkling again while trying to save Ravka.

I was a little annoyed with Alina several times throughout this book but at the same time, I still loved her.  She definitely figured out how to embrace her power (maybe a little too much?) and proved that she wasn't the meek little orphan she had been.  However, there were times (I can't really describe when because I don't want to spoil it for those who haven't read it yet) that I thought Alina should just suck it up and let Mal know what was going on.  Maybe he could have helped her figure it out.  I also thought she was a little too obsessive about the Firebird at times.  I couldn't decide if she was turning "dark" or really trying to do the best for Ravka.

I liked Mal more in this book than I did the first one.  He obviously does not belong at the Little Palace and while he makes it known to Alina that he is unhappy, he deals with it the best he can.  It might not be the best way to have dealt with it but he tried.  I absolutely did not blame him for the way he treated Alina sometimes.  I was just as frustrated with her!  Mal proved to be loyal but he didn't take crap from Alina.  

The Darkling, while a bad, bad man, was still seductive and I still found myself liking him (for a bad guy).  He still knows what to say to get you to fall for him but his little "friends" made him seem a lot more unlikeable.  I struggled with him because I know he's bad and I don't want to like him but I feel for him a little bit.  

Sturmhond was awesome and by far my favorite character.  Again, I don't want to say too much in case there is anyone out there who hasn't read this book but I did not predict who he was and loved that twist in the story.  I think he truly has Ravka's best interest at heart and I didn't feel like he was using Alina.  I liked their relationship throughout the book and I am anxiously awaiting for the next book to see what happened to him.

Rarely can I honestly say that I enjoyed the sequel more than I enjoyed the first book but in this case, I did.  I thought Shadow and Bone was amazing but Siege and Storm kept me captivated and amazed me even more.  I am very anxiously awaiting the third and final in this series to see how Alina's story ends.  Did I mention I was going to have to wait FOUR long months??  


Thursday, January 30, 2014

2014 TBR Pile Reading Challenge

I am joining the 2014 TBR Pile Reading Challenge hosted by Evie at Bookish.  It's one month into the year but better late than never, right?  
I have SO many books on my TBR pile that I thought this year I am actually going to cut back on my ARCs and do a little more of my TBRs.  I am actually going to be very ambitious and sign up at the "Could This Be Love?" level, which is to read 41-50 TBRs.  So, here is a preliminary list of the books I plan to read:
1.  Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
2. Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo
3.  Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
4.  Bad Girls Don't Die by Katie Alender
5.  The Pledge by Kimberly Derting
6.  Obsidian by Jennifer L. Armentrout
7.  The Madman's Daughter by Megan Shepherd
8.  The Coldest Girl in Cold Town by Holly Black
9.  The Gathering Storm by Robin Bridges
10.  Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins
11. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
12.  Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally 
13.  Sixth Covenant by Brock and Bodie Thoene 
14.  Onyx by Jennifer L. Armentrout 
15.  The Elite by Kiera Cass 
16.  Opal by Jennifer L. Armentrout 
17.  Origin by Jennifer L. Armentrout
  18.  Bones to Ashes by Kathy Reichs

Hopefully I can bring my TBR pile down a little!  Wish me luck!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Book Review: The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant by Joanna Wiebe

**I received this book from NetGalley for review**

Synopsis (from Goodreads):  So many secrets for such a small island. From the moment Anne Merchant arrives at Cania Christy, a boarding school for the world’s wealthiest teens, the hushed truths of this strange, unfamiliar land begin calling to her—sometimes as lulling drumbeats in the night, sometimes as piercing shrieks.

One by one, unanswered questions rise. No one will tell her why a line is painted across the island or why she is forbidden to cross it. Her every move—even her performance at the school dance—is graded as part of a competition to become valedictorian, a title that brings rewards no one will talk about. And Anne discovers that the parents of her peers surrender million-dollar possessions to enroll their kids in Cania Christy, leaving her to wonder what her lowly funeral director father could have paid to get her in… and why.

As a beautiful senior struggles to help Anne make sense of this cloak-and-dagger world without breaking the rules that bind him, she must summon the courage to face the impossible truth—and change it—before she and everyone she loves is destroyed by it.

My Thoughts:  Anne is 16 years old and has just been sent to Wormwood Island to attend an elite prep school.  She has no idea how her father, who is a mortician, is paying for the exclusive school but is happy to be able to have the chance to start over after her mom passed away two years ago.

Once at Cania Christy, Anne finds out that it's not at all what she expects.  It doesn't take Anne long to figure out that everyone is in the race for the Big V (to become Valedictorian) and will stop at nothing to get this accomplishment.  Anne also finds out that she will be assigned a Guardian and will have to come up with a PT, a statement that students have to live their life by.  Anne's Guardian turns out to be the creepy Teddy who, along with the headmaster, Villicus, will make your skin crawl!

Anne quickly realizes that their is a price more than just money to get your child into Cania Christy and that all is not what it appears.  With hints from her neighbor, Ben, she digs deeper into the background of this mysterious school.  What she finds out is almost more than she can believe.

I have to say, I did not expect the twist in the middle/end of this book.  I think I finally understood the secret of Cania Christy only pages before Anne did.  I am not sure if I was just slow getting it but whatever, I loved that I didn't get it until a few pages before the main character got it.  I'm not big on predictable books.  However, with that being said, I also felt that the book could have ended well before it did.  In fact, I actually thought I was almost done with the story when I figured out the twist and then realized I still had about 150 more pages to go.  

I got annoyed with Anne and her relationship with Pilot, Molly and Ben.  I felt that, with all the warnings about staying away from the villagers, Anne was a little too relaxed about hiding her relationship with Molly.  I was very irritated on the night of the dance with how Anne was with Molly, knowing full well that Teddy was in the house.   

There were so many times when Anne was with Pilot (her one "friend" at Cania Christy) that I thought she was just ridiculously stupid and/or naive!  I could see Pilot's every intention and could not believe that Anne could not see through that.  Maybe she was just desperate to have a friend at the school but she made me want to scream!  

Certain times I thought that Anne was really smart and strong and then I would turn the page and want to smack her upside the head.  Again, her reckless behavior with Molly was disappointing, to say the least.  I did love how she put Teddy in his place several times though.  She wouldn't take any garbage from him and I truly appreciated that.  

I loved the creepiness of this story and I was really glad it had nothing to do with vampires, werewolves, fairies or zombies.  It was just a bit refreshing, in that sense.  The cliffhanger at the end definitely has me wanting to read the next in the series, despite the issues I had with this book.  I would recommend checking this book out and seeing what you think!


Monday, January 27, 2014

Book Review: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Synopsis (from Goodreads):  The Shadow Fold, a swathe of impenetrable darkness, crawling with monsters that feast on human flesh, is slowly destroying the once-great nation of Ravka.

Alina, a pale, lonely orphan, discovers a unique power that thrusts her into the lavish world of the kingdom’s magical elite—the Grisha. Could she be the key to unravelling the dark fabric of the Shadow Fold and setting Ravka free?

The Darkling, a creature of seductive charm and terrifying power, leader of the Grisha. If Alina is to fulfill her destiny, she must discover how to unlock her gift and face up to her dangerous attraction to him.

But what of Mal, Alina’s childhood best friend? As Alina contemplates her dazzling new future, why can’t she ever quite forget him?

My Thoughts:  I took my time getting to this book because of all the hype when it came out.  I didn't want to be disappointed.  So I finally picked it up and guess what?  I was not disappointed in any way at all!  I finished this book within a day and a half.  For some, that might not seem like a big deal but I have three kids that I homeschool and my oldest is in 5th grade.  Have any of you done 5th grade math lately?  It's, for me to finish it that quickly means that I put off the housework and maybe even some of the schooling (my kids were thrilled) and I stayed up late to read it because I simply couldn't put it down!

Ravka has been torn in two by the shadow fold, a dark void filled with horrible monsters called Volcra.  The shadow fold was made by a Darkling gone bad.  Alina and Mal are in the army that is getting ready to cross the shadow fold.  Alina and Mal have been friends since they were in the same orphanage together in their youth.  Once the army is in the shadow fold, they are attacked by the vicious Volcra and Alina uses a power she never knew she had to save Mal from them.  

Now known to be a Grisha, Alina is sent to the Darkling.  Alina is whisked away from everything she has ever known...Mal, the army, her work as a map maker, and sent to the Palace to practice her powers.  While she meets new friends and enemies, she constantly thinks of Mal and misses him.  However, despite the letters she sends him, Mal doesn't seem to care.  Alina decides to put Mal out of her mind and once she does that, her power blooms.  Everything is going great until Mal shows up at the Palace and from there, Alina's world is turned upside down again.

I liked Alina even though she wasn't that strong at first.  She continues to grow and strengthen throughout the story and that is what I really enjoyed.  I loved that she didn't whine a lot or feel sorry for herself too much.  She overcame emotions and problems and she showed the Darkling what she was made of!

I liked that there wasn't a big love triangle between Mal and the Darkling.  I knew there was something up with the Darkling from the beginning but even I started to fall for him.  He said all the right things to Alina and really made you believe what he said. 

The ending completely surprised me too and I love an ending that I don't predict.  Honestly, I was so involved in the story that I didn't even really have time to predict an ending, which is even better, in my opinion!  
This book was certainly not at all what I was expecting!  It grabbed my attention from the first page and I couldn't stop reading it.  I loved every bit of it!