Saturday, May 23, 2015

Saint Anything

Saint Anything is the most recent brilliant YA concoction by Sarah Dessen, probably my favorite living author! This book was actually just released this month. Sydney is one of only two children in a well-off family, but her brother is always the one around which others revolve. When her brother is sent to jail after a drunk driving accident, Sydney feels invisible and doesn't know where to turn. No one seems to understand her point-of-view. She decides to switch from private to public school and becomes instant friends with siblings Layla and Mac, whose family accepts her as one of their own and really listens to what she has to say. This is a story of friends and family, trust and love, and ultimately, honesty.

(picture taken from Goodreads;
jacket photo: Beowulf Sheehan / Getty Images;
jacket design: Cara Petrus)

First Impression: Every time I read something by Dessen, I'm struck by how realistic her characters are. They're well-balanced and dealing with honest situations. I can relate to Sydney--not because of some infidelity with the law in her family, but because she is sometimes ignored but always depended upon--the younger sister of someone more dynamic and adventurous than herself. The Chathams instant and affectionate relationship to her is very sweet. I'm curious what the cataclysmic conflict will be in this story (because there has to be one) and who will be directly involved. Ames is creepy, but part of me still hopes he won't try anything. I'm also curious what Peyton will do when he becomes a more active part of the story. And Mac! I want Mac to talk more, but he's shy and sweet with two dynamic sisters of his own with which to contend. I loved his "Anger Management" shirt at the beginning as Dessen's little homage to Just Listen. It's so fun when she makes little references to her past books for those of us who have read them!

Conclusion: Sarah Dessen never disappoints me. Her characters are well-developed people you wish you knew, and she's always coming up with new ideas--all realistic situations in which a teenager might find herself. I keep coming back to how sweet this book is. A little less confrontational than some of Dessen's other books (ironically, given the topic). Like Sydney's relationship with Mac--simple and sweet. Dessen has a great talent for conveying the truth of a situation and how all of her characters would react in that situation. She surprised me by not bringing Peyton into a more active role, but I guess I thought his sentence would end earlier than it did. Probably for the best. If he had been introduced late in the book, it might have started a whole new storyline where Sydney is adjusting to having him home. I liked the ending. There is a good middle ground found there that seems a fitting end to the harshness of the climax.

Recommendation: If you like YA with a sprinkling of romance over a lot of family conflict and new friendships, this is the book for you. There's some discussion of alcohol and drug use, but not to a disturbing level (except where it affected characters in a legal way in the past).

Monday, May 18, 2015

Empire of Night

Empire of Night is the second book in the Age of Legends series by Kelley Armstrong. As you know, I've been waiting for this book since last July! And it was totally worth it, even though it doesn't count for the TBR Pile Challenge. Here's my review of the first book, Sea of Shadows.

(picture taken from Goodreads)

First Impression: This one starts a little slowly, and I miss Gavril. That being said, I like how Armstrong ties this one to the first one. She makes comments here and there to remind the reader about what happened before but not in a way that feels overly repetitive. I also like how she uses sorcery and the shadow stalkers in both similar and different ways from the first book--making them living elements of the storyline that change but stay similar enough to be recognizable. Tyrus is a great character, but I wish he wasn't a love interest for Moria, because...Gavril! Hello! The dynamic between the sisters, Ashyn and Moria, plays out perfectly the aftermath of their separation in the first book. I'm curious to see how the war and the relationships will play out.

Conclusion: As my son would say, "What are you [Armstrong] doing to my brain?!" Seriously, she should write for TV shows. These cliffhangers are going to kill me, but this series is amazing and totally worth it. I love how the author can go from action to discussion, intrigue to open honesty between characters without a beat. The story flows so smoothly switching between Ashyn's and Moria's experiences. And they each have an interesting part to play in what happens. Gavril and can I say that won't give anything away if you haven't read it? Okay, all I will say is this: Moria doesn't do what I want her to do as a character; she does what I would probably do if I were really in her situation. I am so ready to read the third book, and Armstrong doesn't even have a publication date scheduled for it yet! I've heard rumors that this will end with the next one, but I really hope she makes the series longer, because I feel like there's so much she could still do with such interesting characters. I can't wait!

Recommendation: Read Sea of Shadows first, or this book will not make much sense.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Great Book Giveaway Bonanza!

Happy Mothers' Day everyone! To celebrate, I'm spending time with my family and getting excited about Hamlette's Great Book Giveaway Bonanza!

It starts on June 15, and I will be participating! Don't forget to check back and see what a bunch of us are giving away. And if you have a blog or know someone who would like to participate, send them to The Edge of the Precipice through the picture link, and they can join, too!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Audiobook / TBR Pile: The Silmarillion

The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien takes place before The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. It is a collection of tales of Valinor and Middle Earth, as well as their creators, inhabitants, and visitors.

Audio: Martin Shaw is a great narrator for this book. His reading is clear and concise, and he translates the importance of certain events and people by the tone of his voice. I really enjoyed his narration.

(picture taken from Goodreads)

First Impression: This book reads a lot like the Old Testament of the Bible. You get all the parts about the creation of the world and the multitude of confusing names. Maybe the context is closer to Greek myths, but it's not exactly written that way. There's no cap on the story like, "And that is how the stars came to be;" it's a continuous line of evolving and interlinking stories. Although it's hard to keep all of the characters straight without their names listed in front of me (especially when some of them have multiple names), I'm enjoying the storytelling quality of the book very much. The shaping of knowledge and of the world through song is beautiful and unique. I wonder if this book is easier to understand if you've read Lord of the Rings? I've only read The Hobbit, and that was a long time ago. I guess I'll find out after I read the rest of them.

Conclusion: Tolkien was a fantastic author of epic fantasy. Even though The Silmarillion is hard to follow at times, it is a wonderful work of art. Tolkien weaves his tale around the reader so that I felt connected to the characters and their various stories. I felt the weight of each battle and death, as well as the joy of each celebration and creation of life. It seems so crazy that each tale...each character, even, is unique and memorable. I loved this and will probably need to re-read The Hobbit now before my maiden voyage through Lord of the Rings.

Recommendation: I would recommend this to anyone who is interested in the creation and history of Valinor and Middle Earth, the settings behind Lord of the Rings. Also if you just enjoy an old English style of fantastical worlds and battles, this would be a good choice.

This book is my fifth read for the 2015 Audiobook Challenge and my tenth read for the 2015 TBR Pile Challenge.