Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Review - The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann

When Alex finds out he is Unwanted, he expects to die. That is the way of the people of Quill. Each year, all the thirteen-year-olds are labeled as Wanted, Necessary, or Unwanted. Wanteds get more schooling and train to join the Quillitary. Necessaries keep the farms running. Unwanteds are set for elimination.

It’s hard for Alex to leave behind his twin, Aaron, a Wanted, but he makes peace with his fate—until he discovers that instead of a “death farm,” what awaits him is a magical place called Artimé. There, Alex and his fellow Unwanteds are encouraged to cultivate their creative abilities and use them magically. Everything Alex has ever known changes before his eyes, and it’s a wondrous transformation.

But it’s a rare, unique occurrence for twins to be divided between Wanted and Unwanted, and as Alex and Aaron's bond stretches across their separation, a threat arises for the survival of Artim that will pit brother against brother in an ultimate magical battle.

I read The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann back in February. Like I said in a previous review, I haven't really been up for typing up reviews, but I'm on a roll today so I figured I'd get this one in as well.

Now, I am a Girl Scout leader for a troop of Juniors and we did a Reading badge that month. One of the requirements for the badge was to bring in one of your favorite books and explain what you enjoyed about it. One of my scouts brought this in. It sounded like a fun read so she offered it to me for a week and away we went.

This particular story is kind of like a cross between the Hunger Games and Harry Potter and Divergent and The Giver... loosely, but that's all I can think of to compare it to. I loved reading it. It's one of those stories that sounds like it has every amazing thing you could have ever thought up as a child thrown in to it.

It doesn't start off well, but by that I mean there's a group of 13 year olds that have been deemed Unwanted by their society and they're being shipped off to what they believe is a death farm for elimination. To be labeled Unwanted, all you have to be is creative. The society that Alex lives in doesn't want people who sing or draw or dance. They want people who are easily manipulated... who can be turned in to soldiers for their "Quillitary". Anyone not completely void of emotion and ambition is simply seen as insufficient and is sent away.

I loved that each "unwanted" child finds strength in the things that they love doing the most. That their talent lies chiefly in the very thing that made them unacceptable to "society". It shows kids that just because they're different doesn't mean they're less. That they can be celebrated for doing the things that they're wonderful at doing. It shows that even if it doesn't feel like it, there are people who will appreciate them for things that other people might not, and that they should have the confidence to be who they are.

The Unwanteds was a fantastic read. And since it was a Middle Grade novel it was an easy one that I'd recommend for absolutely anyone. Children and adults alike.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Review - Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

The year is 1945. Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is just back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon when she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach—an “outlander”—in a Scotland torn by war and raiding border clans in the year of Our Lord...1743.

Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire is catapulted into the intrigues of lairds and spies that may threaten her life, and shatter her heart. For here James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, shows her a love so absolute that Claire becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire—and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.

I'm going to be honest. It's been a while since I read Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. I haven't really had it in me to write reviews lately, but I put a new one up today and decided that maybe it's time I write one for this too. Although, I have read 4 out of the 8 novels in the series since December, so details kind of blur together.

I will start off by saying, that I completely love this series. It is 100% one of my favorite series of all time and I love it to pieces. It did take me a bit to really get interested... the first bit of the first book was a little slow for me. But as soon as Claire goes through the stones and ends up in 1743... that's all she wrote for me. I couldn't put it down.

I have a bit of Scottish (and Irish!) heritage and I am married to a man with Scottish heritage. So this series has been particularly interesting to me. The way that Diana writes and the history that's just infused in every detail is amazing. I've never seen the TV show (don't have STARZ *sad face*) but I've seen clips on youtube and was able to read the stories with faces for the characters and voices to go with them.

Every scene is so descriptive and, apart from the very beginning, kept me completely enthralled the entire 2 weeks it took me to read the entirety of book one.

Since it's been such a long time since I've read the story, I won't go in to too much detail (like I said, they blur together). But Outlander is amazing. It's descriptive (and I mean DESCRIPTIVE) and wonderful. Claire is so incredibly smart and strong and resilient. Jamie is just heartbreakingly beautiful in every possible way imaginable. Although his family is frustrating (and by family I mean Dougal and Colum) it adds to the plot and pace of the story in just the perfect way.

The chemistry between Claire and Jamie is felt immediately. And the love that grows between them is so incredibly palpable that it's hard not to become thoroughly invested in their relationship so much so that you would see Claire forsake her first husband absolutely for the devotion of her second.

If you enjoy historical romances (LOTS of romance) then definitely read this series. It's captivating and wonderful and you won't be sorry!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Review: Starting Over at Steeple Ridge by Liz Isaacson

Tucker Jenkins has had enough of tall buildings, traffic, and business meetings to determine the next app that will change the world. He's sold his technology firm for billions and traded it for Steeple Ridge Horse Farm in rural Vermont.

Missy Marino has worked at the boarding stable and farm since she was a teen, and she's always dreamed of owning it. But her ex-husband left her with a truckload of debt, making her fantasies of owning the farm unfulfilled.

When she meets Tucker, she starts having a new kind of fantasy—one where they work with the horses together. Tucker didn't come to the country to find a new wife, but he supposes a woman could help him start over in Steeple Ridge. Will Tucker and Missy be able to navigate the shaky ground between them to find a new beginning?

Sometimes I love romance novels. They're a nice break from what I usually read. So when I saw the description for Starting Over at Steeple Ridge (and let's face it, the cover got me too) by Liz Isaacson, I didn't think I could pass it up.

Missy had to say goodbye to her friend and mentor and, she thought, any dreams of owning the farm she's ridden/worked at for two decades. A city boy has swooped in and purchased the farm, sight unseen, and now she's working for him. Tucker, the city boy, really had no idea what he was getting himself into when he bought Steeple Ridge but he's definitely out of his element in the Vermont country.


I enjoyed both main characters. But unfortunately I felt like I didn't really get to know them. Even when they were getting to know each other it seemed like it was only ever skimming the surface. Neither was too interested in telling the other about their past and we didn't really see a lot of development in them individually.

Don't get me wrong, I did like the story. But I felt like it was incredibly rushed. Their was no fleshing out of their relationship. First they didn't like each other.... then magically (and very suddenly) they did. I understand that stuff like that happens... but it didn't really make sense in the book for me. Like I said, everything seemed to only skim the surface. All the other reviews that I've read said it was a short, simple and sweet romance novel... and they're 100% correct. It was all of those things. I just wish there had been more to it.

With that being said, again, I did enjoy it. Despite what I've mentioned above. I love horses. I love the country. And I would give anything to have been in Missy's position (working on a farm... not the falling in love with a billionaire city man). The small town feel and the friendliness of the people in Missy and Tucker's life is something I've desired in my own life.

Tucker was the gentlemanly, chivalrous cowboy type even before he was a gentlemanly, chivalrous cowboy. And Missy was dedicated and passionate and I could completely understand her feelings toward the farm and her horses. The two of them made a wonderful pairing, I only wish I had seen more buildup to the relationship.

If you're looking for a clean, easy, quick read this is definitely for you. If you love the country and/or horses then this is for you, too. If you are looking for a book you can sit out on the back porch and read while you drink tea or coffee, grab this one. It's a very lighthearted and sweet read.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Review - Condemn Me Not: Accused of Witchcraft by Heather B. Moore

“This woman was one of the most impudent, scurrilous, wicked creatures of this world; and she did now throughout her whole trial discover herself to be such a one. Yet when she was asked what she had to say for herself, her chief plea was that she had led a most virtuous and holy life.” —Reverend Cotton Mather, 1692
USA Today Bestselling author Heather B. Moore brings the life of her 10th great-grandmother to center stage. Susannah North Martin, accused of witchcraft in 1692, joins five women in the Salem Jail, all sentenced to death for their crimes. Amidst tragedy, Susannah finds hope and compassion as she remembers a well-loved life, and readers discover that love reaches far beyond the grave as Susannah faces the magistrates in Salem.
Condemn Me Not: Accused of Witchcraft by Heather B. Moore is an interesting historical fiction book in that it is based on the true story about the author's own flesh and blood.

Susannah North Martin was arrested for witchcraft and tried and hanged in 1692 during the witch hunting frenzy that was the Salem Witch Trials. Now, you know, and I know, that the accusations hurled at these women, men, and yes... even children, were complete and total crap. But reading this story sort of takes you out of time and places you in 1692. It gives you a kind of behind the scenes look at how these trials were conducted and what the accused had to endure and eventually what condemned them to death. Ridiculous accusations. All of it.

The absurdity of the examinations and trial are broken up, thankfully, just about every other chapter with Susannah in her younger years. We meet her as a 25 year old aspiring spinster as new neighbors come in to her life, immediately ruining her hopes of remaining alone forever. We also meet her (future) husband George, along with his ailing sister Eve, and, his daughter Hannah. Eve is friendly and kind and becomes fast friends with Susannah while Hannah is quiet and reserved, taking a considerable amount of time to warm up to Susannah. George... George is fantastic. And wonderful. And just.... just.

He's essentially the most eligible bachelor in Salisbury and everyone is fawning over him. Except Susannah. While I knew, based on the parts of the story that were told from the point of view of Susannah at age 71, that the two would eventually marry, reading about the two of them in younger years still made me want to ring her neck. Every time she avoided him or got angry at him. Every time she assumed his intentions or affections toward the other women in the town. The growth in their relationship was wonderfully written in my opinion and I absolutely loved watching them fall in love.

I've always been mildly curious about the Salem Witch Trials, knowing a little about the accusations toward the women who would eventually be sentenced to death. And knowing a little about their accusers. This story broke my heart though. Especially since I can't imagine how the author felt putting it together, know that Susannah was related to her and such horrible things were said and done to her. Yes, they are separated by more than 300 years, but to learn that a family member met such a fate at the hands of such evil people had to be a hard pill to swallow and subsequently turn in to the story it's become.

If you've any interest in the Salem Witch Trials or just that time frame in general, I'd suggest reading this story. While fictionalized, it is based heavily in truth and that makes it all the more compelling.


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