Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday: The Bitter Kingdom - Rae Carson & Crown of Midnight - Sarah J. Maas

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week, I'm waiting on The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson and Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Mass. I just couldn't choose between these two books, which is kind of appropriate considering I can't choose which I'm going to read on release day. Oh, cruel fate. AND that's my first week of classes. Sob.

The Bitter Kingdom
Rae Carson
Series:  Fire and Thorns, #3
Release Date: August 27, 2013
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Waited on by: Kiersten
On Goodreads

The epic conclusion to Rae Carson's Fire and Thorns trilogy. The seventeen-year-old sorcerer-queen will travel into the unknown realm of the enemy to win back her true love, save her country, and uncover the final secrets of her destiny.

Elisa is a fugitive in her own country. Her enemies have stolen the man she loves in order to lure her to the gate of darkness. As she and her daring companions take one last quest into unknown enemy territory to save Hector, Elisa will face hardships she's never imagined. And she will discover secrets about herself and her world that could change the course of history. She must rise up as champion-a champion to those who have hated her most.

If you've read my review of The Girl of Fire and Thorns (here), then you already know that I absolutely love this series. So much. The ending of The Crown of Embers wasn't quite a cliffhanger, but it definitely left me craving more. I am absolutely dying to find out the fate of Elisa, Hector, and the kingdom. Ugh, I'm just so excited for this. Seriously.

Crown of Midnight
Sarah J. Maas
Series: Throne of Glass, #2
Release Date: August 27, 2013
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Waited on by: Kiersten
On Goodreads

An assassin’s loyalties are always in doubt.
But her heart never wavers.

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?

When I read Throne of Glass, I fell in love with the sassiness of Celaena Sardothien. (I wish I was as cool as her). I loved learning about Celaena and how even though she was this ruthless assassin, she had a lot of heart. I can't wait to see what Celaena has in store for us now that she's the royal assassin!

What are you waiting on?
Let us know in the comments!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Release Day Review: Under the Empyrean Sky - Chuck Wendig

Under the Empyrean Sky
Chuck Wendig 
Series: The Heartland Trilogy, #1
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Word Rating: Weird.
On Goodreads

I picked up an uncorrected proof of Under the Empyrean Sky, which I tend to call The Corn Book, at BookExpo America back in June, and finally got around to reading it now. The description on the back cover looked interesting enough, but I didn’t quite know what to expect with this.

If I had to sum up The Corn Book in one word, it would be weird.

Under the Empyrean Sky was undoubtedly weird. It was strange. It was odd. But that does not mean it was bad.

The beginning of the book threw me off a bit, and I definitely didn't think I’d like it judging from the first chunk of the book. The diction and description was rough and he used very odd phrasing. For example, he described the corn stalks as “pregnant with cobs” and the sails of his ship as “pregnant with wind.”
Or, at one point, he writes 
“He’s got vision like a hawk. Or an owl. Or some kind of hawk-owl hybrid that the Empyrean scientists are probably working on for shits and giggles.”
Even the more well-described parts are strange. This one description sounds like the boat is being turned on and the readers are walking in when they aren’t supposed to.
“Cael feels Betty’s belly vibrate . The sound of the hissing corn is lost beneath the grinding of gears as his brand-new hover-panels tilt down and back—
A coruscating ripple of light bursts from beneath Betty, and she suddenly leaps forth like a horse with a nettle screwed hard in its ass”
I’m not sure whether the diction improved or whether I just got used to it, but I see where Chuck Wendig was going with it – even though it’s third person, it is being told from the point of view of a 17 year old boy.

Speaking of said 17 year old boy, Cael, I should mention that I really didn’t like him. In fact, I didn’t really form a connection with any of the characters. There were Lane and Rigo, his partners, and Gwennie, his lover and first mate. There was Wanda, his Obliged (I’ll get to that in a minute), and Boyland, his arch-nemesis. Anyway, the characters just seemed to fall flat to me. Again, the effort was there, but it just fell short. Cael was the most developed, and even though I strongly disliked him as a person – he was self-absorbed, irrational, and very immature – I was glad that I could form some sort of opinion. I also really liked Gwennie, and how she was so aloof and dynamic. The rest of them just didn’t feel completely there to me. When I read about characters that are developed and in-depth, I forget that they are fictional characters. With these characters, throughout my whole reading of the book, I was reminded of the fact that I was doing just that – reading a book. I knew Lane and Rigo were good at their jobs, but not much about their personalities. I knew Wanda tried being really nice to everyone, but was often irritating. I knew basic facts but nothing about who they really are.

Anyway, so the beginning of this book was filled with odd language and flat characters and I almost did not want to keep reading. But I did, and I finished the book, and here is what I have to say.

It got better.

Once I got into the actual plot and the dynamic of the world that they lived in, this book improved greatly. The general public lives in the Heartland, which is basically a wasteland now. Their jobs are to cultivate corn, but not just any sort of corn. This corn seems to have a mind of its own and it whips and scars those trying to harvest it, and it dominates any other type of crop planted. It’s aggressive and it’s dominant, and had more depth than most of the characters (both literally and figuratively). So what do the Heartlanders do with all this corn? Well, they don’t eat it. It goes straight to the Empyrean, the rich and elite who live above them, up in the sky, and control everything they do.

Cael hates the Empyrean. He hates them with a burning passion. And this hatred is what fuels his need to change something, to go after the Empyrean and improve their lives. (And now we have something called substance. Yay!)

And then he finds the garden. The impossible garden, growing onions and peppers where there should only be wild, savage corn. Oh, this garden is interesting indeed. And it serves as a catalyst for what happens next.

I think now would be an appropriate time to mention one of my favorite parts of the book, and that is Cael’s dream of flying. It was wonderfully constructed, with phrases like
“it drifts and shifts and twitches, leaves whispering against leaves, tassels like reaching hands. The sky above him is a blue so pale it looks as though someone squeezed the color out of it, like a rag sitting too long in the sun, bleached by the light.”
And then the end, which is the best part:
“And it ends with him falling.
Cael falls.
Towards the reaching corn.
The endless corn.
The everything corn.
Cael dies, and with him the dream.”
Cael and flying is a recurring theme throughout this novel and I think this dream accurately portrays a lot of what this book is about.

There were a few more things I thought really made this book interesting. For example, the Obligation ceremony. It happens every year, to all the 17 year olds in the Heartland. They are matched up (I believe randomly) to a member of the opposite gender. The next year is their engagement period in which they get to know one another. The year after that starts their marriage. They have no choice in the matter and are paired with who the Empyrean chooses, whether they like it or not. And with Cael and Gwennie being lovers, they most definitely do not like this system. Cael ends up being Obliged to Wanda, the aforementioned girl who is irritatingly peppy. Gwennie, however, gets Obliged to Boyland, Cael’s competitor and enemy. (This is when things got fun.) I really liked the way Wendig portrayed this ceremony, and the fact that is existed at all. It showed just how controlled their lives are, and shined a little more light on the nature of their government.

The next thing I really liked was the Blight. The Blight was a disease found in the Heartland, and the description of it chilled me to the bone.
“It’s the tumors, in part. Her whole body is covered with them, and they lie against at atop one another like tar paper shingles on an uneven roof. They remind Cael of calves’ livers. A heaping mess of them. They’re heavy – a burden on skin, muscle, and bone. Because of them, her arms and legs and back have all atrophied. She cannot stand; she can’t even sit up.”
I should mention, the she in this passage is Cael’s mother. Yeah.

Again, this disease that is taking over so many of the citizens of the Heartland that it’s commonplace to see, just adds another element of desperation to their situation.

Overall, 3.5 stars for a great plot that definitely got interesting as I went on, but a slow and mediocre beginning, and sub-par characters (except Gwennie, Gwennie is A+) .

- Noor

How would you deal with an all-controlling government?
Let us know in the comments!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Debt Collector Blitz: Season One on Sale for $0.99 - One Day Only! + Mini Reviews


What's your life worth on the open market? A debt collector can tell you precisely. Lirium plays the part of the grim reaper well, with his dark trenchcoat, jackboots, and the black marks on his soul that every debt collector carries. He's just in it for his cut, the ten percent of the life energy he collects before he transfers it on to the high potentials, the people who will make the world a better place with their brains, their work, and their lives. That hit of life energy, a bottle of vodka and a visit from one of Madam Anastazja's sex workers keep him alive, stable and mostly sane... until he collects again. But when his recovery ritual is disrupted by a sex worker who isn't what she seems, he has to choose between doing an illegal hit for a girl whose story has more holes than his soul or facing the bottle alone--a dark pit he's not sure he'll be able to climb out of again.

The nine episodes of the Debt Collector serial are collectively 125k words or about 500 pages. This dark and gritty future-noir is about a world where your life-worth is tabulated on the open market and going into debt risks a lot more than your credit rating. For more info about the Debt Collector serial, see Contains mature content and themes. For young-adult-appropriate thrills, see Susan's bestselling Mindjack series.


Delirium - Debt Collector 1
Agony - Debt Collector 2
Ecstasy - Debt Collector 3
Broken - Debt Collector 4
Driven - Debt Collector 5
Fallen - Debt Collector 6
Promise - Debt Collector 7
Ruthless - Debt Collector 8
Passion - Debt Collector 9

Book Links

Debt Collector Season 1 on Amazon
Debt Collector (Episodes 1-3) on Amazon
Debt Collector (Episodes 4-6) on Amazon
Debt Collector (Episodes 7-9) on Amazon
The Debt Collector Official Webpage
The Debt Collector Facebook Page

About the Author

Susan Kaye Quinn is the author of the bestselling young adult SF Mindjack Trilogy. The just-released Debt Collector series is her more grown-up SF, meant for ages 17+. Susan grew up in California, got a bunch of engineering degrees (B.S. Aerospace Engineering, M.S. Mechanical Engineering, Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering) and worked everywhere from NASA to NCAR (National Center for Atmospheric Research). She designed aircraft engines, studied global warming, and held elected office (as a school board member). Now that she writes novels, her business card says "Author and Rocket Scientist," but she mostly sits around in her pajamas in awe that she gets paid to make stuff up. All her engineering skills come in handy when dreaming up dangerous mindpowers, future dystopic worlds, and slightly plausible steampunk inventions. For her stories, of course. Just ignore that stuff in the basement.

Susan writes from the Chicago suburbs with her three boys, two cats, and one husband. Which, it turns out, is exactly as much as she can handle.

You can find her on Facebook way too often. Or you can reach her the old-fashioned way:

Author Links

The Mini Reviews

I'm actually a huge fan of Susan Kaye Quinn, so when I saw she was doing a blitz, I knew I had to sign up. I first stumbled upon her work when I was looking for cheap ebooks on Amazon, which lead me to her Mindjack series. For some reason I haven't read the third book in that series yet, but the first two books were absolutely wonderful. As for the Debt Collector series, I've only read the first episode so far, but I absolutely loved it.

As soon as I saw the premise of this series, I knew it was something I would be interested in; so I was very excited when I found out I won a copy of this from a giveaway the author was holding. Susan Kaye Quinn always delivers on interesting premises, as I learned in her Mindjack series. Even though Delirium was completely different from the Mindjack series, it was equally absorbing.

This first installment in the Debt Collector serial follows Lirium as he collects a dying man's debt and goes through his post-transfer ritual. Lirium has a way that he goes about his days, but all of this gets knocked upside down when he meets Apple Girl.

Delirium may not give a lot of insight into who the characters are, due to its length, but it starts to show the world they live in as well as their motives. I can’t wait to continue on with this serial and find out more about the world as well as the characters.

Overall, Delirium was a great opening for the Debt Collector series, earning 5 stars from me. I highly recommend getting season one of the Debt Collector series - especially at such a great price of $0.99 for all 9 episodes!

- Kiersten

WHY WAS THIS NOT THE ENTIRE NOVEL?????? As someone who is impatient with just about everything, I am crazy upset that I don't have the other 8 episodes of this to read right now. When Kiersten first sent this to me I wasn't expecting anything too spectacular, but honestly, Delirium surpassed my expectations and more.

The idea of "debt collecting" seems complex but Quinn explained it really clearly in the first forty pages: she was concise, but informative. As Kiersten said, it was too early to see who the characters really are, but I'm excited to get to know them. Lirium's job of transferring energy from the dying is interesting and creative - I've never read anything quite like this. The dark world Quinn has created intrigues me, and I cannot wait for the next episode. Without any deadly cliffhangers, Quinn leaves us wanting to know more in a way that doesn't make me want to die of the feels (thanks for being so considerate Quinn, you're awesome, ily). Delirium was fabulous, 10/10 would recommend - 5 stars.

- Amrutha

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Review: The Night Circus - Erin Morgenstern

The Night Circus
Erin Morgenstern
Series: N/A
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Magical Realism, Paranormal, Romance
Rating: 4.75 out of 5 stars
Word Rating: Brilliant
On Goodreads

The Night Circus was an impulse buy, so I was expecting anything between Twilight and Cirque Du Freak. And honestly by the cover I wasn't lead to believe anything different. If this was some softcore erotica, I wouldn't have been surprised. I'd never even heard of Erin Morgenstern, nor did I like circuses.

And then, of course, I peeled open the beautifully made cover and I met the introduction. Like a particularly rusty nail meets a sledgehammer.
The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it, no paper notices on downtown posts and billboards, no mentions or advertisements in local newspapers. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. The towering tents are striped in white and black, no golds and crimsons to be seen. No color at all, save for the neighboring trees and the grass of the surrounding fields. Black-and-white stripes on grey sky . . . with an elaborate wrought iron fence encasing them in a colorless world. (Morgenstern, 3)

The diction is and proceeds to be deceptive. Deceptive, because it is so simply written you could hear it being said, yet so vivid you sometimes can't wrap yourself around it. I find the introduction does well to describe the basic structure for the novel.

First, the circus is not there. Everything you are introduced to for a few pages seems utterly inconsequential. Here's a little girl, there are some magicians . . . you almost expect something to jump out at you. It's interesting, but only because of the subtle dialogue and the curiosity it leaves you with. But the diction is so addicting. I couldn't help but fall in love with Erin Morgenstern's voice from page one, and it lit up her first scenes like candlelight.

Second, the circus is alive. And it lights up the night in its monochromatic wonder. Morgenstern's description of the circus and all of its workings alone are the second best bit of this novel for me. The circus itself is as much a part of the show as the performers. For instance:
The edges are metal, oxidized to a blackish tinge, but the side panels and the lid are clear glass, so [the contortionist] is visible the entire time as she bends and twists and folds herself into the tiny space. She does it slowly . . . And then the glass box with the woman trapped inside slowly fills with white smoke. It curls through the tiny cracks and spaces . . . The smoke thickens . . . (140, 141)

Fourth, that number quickly changes.

Third, the circus has no followers.

Oh, yes, did I mention the novel is told in a few different perspectives from varying timelines? No? Well it's quite important. Because it's something else that seems so utterly inconsequential. I could hear myself think "I absolutely don't care about these little kids get back to Chandresh, please" the first time the narration was interrupted in this manner, even though I was utterly lost in the beautiful descriptions of the circus when it was completed.

But that's the thing about this novel. It's slow. If you like action, and plots the speed of light then this novel is not for you. No, this novel is like baking a cake and eating it. It is a time-consuming, careful process. And it becomes delicious. Scratch the cake, you're building the circus a piece at a time and you can't spare a second to look at the whole thing because the individual pieces are crafted so beautifully.

So like that little splotch of color in the black and white circus, there is a romance. And a fair warning: much of it is very underplayed. This is where the book seems dialogue heavy, and where narration seems spared for the vivid and beautiful words. The two main love interests are kind of thrown together. Their love, as I see it, is almost a necessity. They have days together where they craft it like one of their exhibitions, long days that you lose yourself in. No one else could hope to understand them but each other. Their creations are the most exposition we are allowed of them. It is how we infer on their growth when they're apart. And like everything, this romance a slow process with twists and turns, scrapes and bruises but beautiful nonetheless. A full appreciation for the romance can only be felt at the end of the novel . . . that's all I can say.
I don't think you're meant to be imagining how to please your opponent. (344)

The only ship I'll ever ship though is Poppet and Baily <3

And finally, my absolute, achingly favorite favorite part of this novel: the secondary characters. They have so much depth it actually hurts to call them secondary characters. They have the best lines, the saddest smiles, the coolest quirks, the most heartbreaking hearts, and the darkest secrets. But as usual, check them out for yourself! Especially the twins, Poppet and Widget.
The past says on you the way powdered sugar stays on your fingers. (263)

As a side note, I see quite a bit of hate on the character development and exposition of the characters by other reviewers. In reply, I would like to point out my favorite character: Chandresh. If his isn't a magnificent dynamic that serves to twine the whole of the plot and countless amounts of characters together, then I honestly don't know what is. I do agree that Marco and Celia could have grown considerably more as lovers and even as competitors. Not only did I long for moments when their love could flourish around the middle of the novel, I also saw myself wanting more and more of their game. I wanted it to become a terrible, horrible, tragic thing. But that's not what this book is about. So though I agree, I disagree. Hence the .25 star reduction. Sue me.

- Swordfish

What's your favorite circus act?
Let us know in the comments!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Stacking the Shelves [2]

Stacking the Shelves is an event hosted by Tynga's Reviews where bloggers share the books they bought, won, borrowed, or received. These are the books we've gotten throughout the past two weeks.


Everyday I tag in to look through the Kindle Daily Deals. Because I was on vacation for a week without internet access, I missed those deals. (A tragedy, I know). So in the past two weeks I've only bought these books through Amazon Kindle daily deals:

Kiss & Make Up - Katie D. Anderson
No Peace for the Damned (The Damned Series, #1) - Megan Powell
Sketchy (Bea Catcher Chronicles, #1) - Olivia Samms

I bought The Immortal Circus: Act One a few months ago, so it seemed appropriate to get book two since it was only $1.99 on Kindle (Act One is only $3.99).

The Immortal Circus: Act Two (Cirque des Immortels, #2) - A.R. Kahler

I've also picked up the habit of frantically buying free ebooks on Amazon (as if I have nothing else to read...) I might have a problem. These are the free Kindle books I got in the past two weeks:

Amethyst (Guardian, #1) - Heather Bowhay
Banished from Grace (Fall from Grace, #1) - Aria Williams
Broken Butterflies (Broken Butterflies, #1) - Shadow Stephens
Cobbogoth (Cobbogoth, #1) - Hannah L. Clark
Crow (Prequel, Episode One, and Episode Two) - Alex Owens
Dark Matter Heart (Cor Griffin Bloodsuckers, #1) - Nathan Wrann
Deadly Kisses - Kerri Cuevas
Deja' Voodoo - Leslie Brown
Dreaming of Beauty - Kristen White
Forgotten - Fay Cunningham
The Game - Shane Scollins
The Glass Wall (Return of the Ancients, #1) - Madison Adler
Goddess Legacy (Goddess Series, #1) - M.W. Muse
Green (Life Force Trilogy, #1) - S. Briones Lim
The Keeper and the Rune Stone (The Black Ledge Series, #1) - Paige W. Pendleton
The Locket (The Locket, #1) - K.J. Bell
Lost (Lost & Found, #1) - Nadia Simonenko
Love is Darkness (Valerie Dearborn, #1) - Caroline Hanson
Love, Lies & Friends - Ellis Maron
Moonlit - Jadie Jones
Once Again (Sky Cove, #1) - Amy Durham
Only Love Survives - Renee Charles
Prank Wars - Stephanie Fowers
Roses and Black Glass: a Dark Cinderella Tale - Lani Lenore
SAVE - Ella Col
The Secret Diary of Adrian Cat - Stuart Macfarlane & Linda Macfarlane
The Seven Devils - Sara Danvers
Shine On - Allison Jewell
Sleepers (The Swarm Trilogy, #1) - Megg Jensen
The Survivors (The Survivors, #1) - Amanda Havard
Sweet Oblivion (Sweet, #1) - Bailey Ardisone
Veiled Eyes (Lake People, #1) - C.L. Bevill

I really need to stop getting so many books when I can't read them that fast... I think I hoard ebooks. But it's only because I don't want to pass over any gems! Or at least I'll just tell myself that. Yeah... Anyway, I also bought The Midnight Heir because I'm a sucker for Magnus Bane as well as Octavian's Undoing and Raksha.

Octavian's Undoing (Sons of Judgment, #1) - Airicka Phoenix
Raksha (Blood and Fire, #1) - Frankie Rose
The Midnight Heir (The Bane Chronicles, #4) - Cassandra Clare & Sarah Rees Brennan


The past few weeks have been oddly busy for me (I usually just bum around all day) and I've barely had a chance to sleep in my own bed, nevermind go out and buy books (I don't go crazy with ebooks like Kiersten does. I tend to go for physical copies), and as a result, my only purchases for the past two weeks have been The Midnight Heir, an eagerly awaited volume of the Bane Chronicles, and Isolation, a mini-book in the Partials sequence that I had to read before starting the next book.

The Midnight Heir (The Bane Chronicles, #4) - Cassandra Clare & Sarah Rees Brennan
Partials (Partials Sequence #0.5) - Dan Wells


Like Noor, my last few weeks have been unprecedentedly busy, so I haven't bought much (I'm also a physical copy kind of girl). Although, I'm also not a huge fan of buying books that I'll finish in a few hours and just put on my bookshelf (library kinda girl holla), I do succumb to the occasional impulsive Wegmans buy. I'd read a review of Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple in the Times and recognized it while scanning the shelves for a Danielle Steele novel to flip through while my mom shopped. My impulsive Wegmans buys are not always successful, but this one surely was.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette - Maria Semple

Also, Kiersten sent me a digital copy of Zoo by Tara Elizabeth and the first episode of the Debt Collector by Susan Kaye Quinn.

Zoo (The Enclosure Chronicles, #1) - Tara Elizabeth
Delirium (Debt Collector, #1) - Susan Kaye Quinn


Haha. Books. I've been out of the loop so no books for me. I've been busy reading and attempting to write. So that's why Slaughterhouse Five, Beautiful Darkness, and a whole mess of books are around me that I've had for a while and not read. In lieu of new books:

Here's a poem
The books that I haven't bought this week

With their uncracked spines on dustless shelves
Like a thousand planets stuffed in a supermarket aisle
While I'm in bed wasting another day in a heat wave
Half reading six books at once
And it's no excuse
But I'm sorry anyway.


What books have YOU acquired recently?
Let us know in the comments!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Cover Reveal + Giveaway: Searching for Tomorrow - Katie Mac


What happens when you find the one person who completes you, and then life conspires against you? How do you set your grief and anguish aside? How do you pick up the shattered pieces, put those pieces back together again, and try to move on?

Katie and Tripp met on the playground the first day of third grade when Tripp tried to rescue Katie from Zack, her twin brother. A lifelong friendship that later blossomed into love began that day.

Broken beyond her own ability to repair, Katie boxes her grief up and attempts to raise her three girls the best she can on her own. As time slowly passes, Katie relives her times with Tripp while struggling most days to even get out of bed. She is reminded of him at every turn.

Zack is Katie's twin brother and was Tripp's best friend. Having lost his own love, he dedicates himself to helping Katie put her life back together. Throw in a mother-in-law who torments at every turn and poor Katie can't even find a chance to breathe, much less a desire to somehow search for tomorrow.

Author Interview:

Tell us 5 surprising things about yourself.
1. I am a PK. If you know what that means, then you know what that means.
2. I have always wanted to be a red head with long, beautiful corkscrew curls.
3. No matter what I’m doing, I would rather be outside, day or night, hot or cold, rain or shine.
4. I was awarded two separate scholarships when I graduated high school. One was a teaching fellowship and the other was for writing.
5. I love to cook, almost as much as I like to eat. I spent a couple of years as a private cook for a local family and loved every minute of it

What is your writing environment?
At the moment, I have a makeshift office in my pantry! If need be, I can shut the door and cut off part of the noise. I hope to have a more permanent space soon.

One of your favorite quotes:
To whom much is given, much is required.

Random things about my novel.
Just a bit of nonsense. I am Kathryn Anne, and my two sisters are Rebekah Elizabeth and Sarah Margaret. My husband is Channing, and my son is Zachary. One of my daughters is Elizabeth, and I still have to work my daughter Brittany into the book. Highlands is my most favorite place in the world to go when my soul need refreshing. Last, but not least, I actually had a great-grandma Tiddy!

Flirting Questions

What does love feel like?
Warm, fuzzy, secure, safe, sheltered

How did you meet your significant other?
In the lobby of the bank that I worked in. I was on all fours under a Christmas tree tightening the screws in the base. What can I say? Baby got back!

If you could take a romantic trip, where would it be?
Any trip I take with Hubs is romantic. One of his favorite things to do is to whisk me away to wine and dine me.

Do you believe in love at first sight?
Absolutely! Ask me how I feel about my grandson Grayson!

Author Links


I am a small-town Southern gal who loves flip flops, chocolate, sweet tea and dirt between my toes. I would rather work in my garden than clean my house. As far back as I can remember, I've had a book in my hand. Reading has carried to places I will never go. It has introduced me to people that I will never meet. When life is great and when it is rough, I've always been able to find a book to carry me through. I finally decided to write down some of the stories in my head and heart after dawdling around and wasting years dreaming. I hope you enjoy reading those stories as much as I love writing them!

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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Review: Where'd You Go Bernadette - Maria Semple

Where'd You Go, Bernadette
Maria Semple
Series: N/A
Genre: General Fiction
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Word Rating: Whip-Smart
On Goodreads

As you will see in this week’s Stacking the Shelves, Where’d You Go, Bernadette was a total impulsive Wegmans buy. I had seen in it in the Times Book Review Section, but hadn’t even entertained the possibility of getting it – as shallow as it sounds, I almost never fall completely in love with a book that has no romance, and nothing to ship. There are only a few books that I’ve ever fallen for without the aspect of romance, and honestly, Where’d You Go, Bernadette by the fabulous Maria Semple is one of them.

The novel is an epistolary, a word I picked up in Lang this year and never quite got around to using, and frankly, I never thought I would use. Where’d You Go, Bernadette is the story of an eighth grader, Bee, and how her mother disappears after a series of tragic accidents. Bee, the intelligent little thing she is, puts together every school memo, email, invoice, and fax into this charming novel to help retrace her mother’s steps.

The blurb of the novel made it seem like it’d be the run of the mill stressed-out-mother-needs-a-little-break, but truthfully, this book was one of the most insightful, well thought out books I have ever read. There are plot twists around every corner, and as much as I pride myself on being able to predict most plots, I couldn’t (even remotely) predict this one. It was so very creative and outside the box that I cannot get over it. I don’t know who you are or what you’re looking to read, but I guarantee you’ll be very happy with Bee’s compilation of clues.

Not only was the plot topsy-turvy in a way that miraculously flowed together (seamlessly, might I add), the characters are beautifully crafted. They are each absolutely perfect and imperfect at the same time, and together, through the course of the emails/letters/memos/invoices/faxes, they gradually improve in their characters. Nothing annoys me more than static main characters, and Semple aimed to please. The main character, Bee, who interjects between conversations involving her mother, is delightful. She is fierce and awesome and absolutely fantastic. Words cannot describe how bad ass she is, you’ll just have to read it for yourself and find out. Her mother, Bernadette, is equally as cool – this mother daughter duo has killer best friend chemistry, which is fabulous. Rounding out the family is Elgie, who is both a tired, run of the mill husband, crazy workaholic, and loving husband and dad. Even the antagonists are not flat – although we as readers don’t like them in the beginning, we come to find that Semple has created beautifully 3D characters. Every person in this book has both their good and their bad qualities, which Semple uses to highlight how absolutely real every character is.

This book has so many little tid bits of information (fun facts! (I adore fun facts)) and is laugh out loud funny. Seriously, Bernadette’s hilarious and unfortunate mishaps had me giggling. Of course, Semple, with her ability to make things three-dimensional, didn’t leave it at a funny novel. She added a somber tone to many parts, and coupled with the so very realistic characters, I couldn’t help but feel their sadness too.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette is probably one of the best books I’ve read this year. It is charming and intelligent and has me begging for more of Semple’s work. I flew through this book, not noticing the hours that went by, and I believe you (no matter what your tastes are) will love it too. Definitely the best impulsive Wegmans buy I’ve ever made.

- Amrutha

How would you search for your loved one if they ran away?
Let us know in the comments!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Review: SYLO - D.J. MacHale

D.J. MacHale
Series: The SYLO Chronicles, #1
Genre: Young Adult, Apocalyptic, Action, Mystery, Science Fiction
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Word Rating: OK
On Goodreads

When looking through the author signings for Book Expo America, I stumbled upon SYLO and thought it sounded interesting. So, naturally, I went to the signing and got a copy.

SYLO follows Tucker Pierce, a high school freshman living in a small town on Pemberwick Island. At the beginning of SYLO, Tucker is warming the bench at a football game when one of the players, Marty Wiggins, mysteriously drops dead at the end of the game.
“It was the night of the death.
The first death.
And it was only the beginning.”
Creepy, right? So, at that point I was pretty interested in finding out how all this foreshadowing was going to turn out, especially after a special branch of the Navy called SYLO invades Pemberwick Island and shuts off all connection to the outside world. Of course, things only get weirder from there. As much as I was interested in finding out what was happening on Pemberwick Island, I found that SYLO dragged a lot for me. Yes, I wanted to know about SYLO and the battles in the sky. Yes, I wanted to know what Tucker and his friends were going to do to get off Pemberwick Island.

What I didn’t care about was all of the action chases and explosions. The funniest thing about it is that if you asked me in the beginning of the book, I would have told you that there was not enough elaboration on the sky battles, but nearing the end of the book, there was just too much. The entire second to last chapter is just explosions and turn this way, turn that way. That chapter almost made me abandon SYLO when I had less than 50 pages left. Of course, maybe I’m wrong about the explosions being in excess. I suppose some people would like that sort of thing. Besides excess, I found it a bit pedantic and mechanical, focusing a lot on directions and how the ships and planes worked rather than aesthetics of the action. There were a lot of very specific terms thrown out there that seemed unnecessary.

As for the characters, none of them really stood out to me as wonderful characters, but they didn’t bother me either. I enjoyed watching Tucker grow from lacking confidence and always playing it safe to a boy with confidence who takes risks. The only thing that notably bothered me about Tucker was that sometimes his narration didn’t match his character. I just don’t see Tucker Pierce using “for” as a conjunction. Just, no.

What I very much liked seeing was Tucker interact with Tori.

 photo winkjlaw_zpsf98c1ab5.gif

Yea… I ship that.

In the end, I was mildly annoyed. When SYLO ended, I felt like I knew very little more than I had 300 pages prior. The whole book, Tucker and his friends don’t know what’s going on, and guess what – at the end, they still don’t really know what’s going on. They know what’s not going on, but they don’t exactly know anything about SYLO or what is going on with Pemberwick Island’s quarantine.

Overall, I enjoyed parts of SYLO, but some of it moved really slow for me and made me generally less enthusiastic about the book. The story wasn’t bad, by any means – I certainly enjoyed it enough to read book two, Storm, when it comes out – I just didn't enjoy it as much as I hoped to and it wasn’t one of my favorite books I’ve read as of late. However, I would definitely recommend this to people who like science fiction and a lot of action.

- Kiersten

What would you do if your town was invaded by SYLO personnel?
Let us know in the comments!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Double Review: Beautiful Creatures - Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Beautiful Creatures
Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl
Series: Caster Chronicles, #1
Genre: Paranormal, Young Adult, Romance
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Word Rating: Fantastic
On Goodreads

Oh yes. Oh yes. Beautiful Creatures. My advice: watch the movie, and then stop about halfway, pick up the book, and finish where you left off. I am quite aware this is akin to sacrilege in the world of books, but honestly, the movie does so much better in introducing the characters and establishing their connections. If you're too hardcore for that option, however, the book's introduction only trails behind by a couple of stars.

Beautiful Creatures begins somewhat . . . predictable, yet at the same time not at all. The introduction of Gatlin immediately individualizes our narrator, separating him from the intolerable sameness that is his home. He wants what all teenagers would want: to get out. And immediately we have a connection. So far, so good. Then:
There was a curse. There was a girl. And in the end, there was a grave. I never even saw it coming. (Garcia and Stohl, 3)
I immediately thought this a bit tacky and lame . . . but by the end of the book I wholeheartedly stuffed those words back into my mouth. This is mainly because the authors are just brilliant at making the commonplace turn into something magical, to make the most boring town in history a perfect battleground. The authors do really well on tying these two extremes together. For example, I knew from the very beginning that Ethan and Lena were a thing, and that the world would do everything in its power to tear them apart . . . but I was still fascinated by how these two fall in love, and what exactly it was that the world had for in store for them.

Speaking of Ethan: it is a bloody relief to have a male narrate a romance. Props to the authors for that; romances are not one sided ordeals. Ethan does what humans usually do in a mysterious and magical novel: he keeps us grounded and gives us a view we can understand. And his view is quite special. In fact, Ethan's voice is what makes the romance so powerful.
Is that her name? Lena. . . . Did you hear anything else about her? (26)
It's adorable reading the scene around this excerpt. He's so flustered and absorbed by the thought of her. She's different. She's not Gatlin, and that excites him, and draws the line further between him and the others in his town. They hate her, he can't. He's immediately caught up on her, even when his most trusted authority, Amma, tells him to stay away from her. With a dead mother and a recluse for a father, he doesn't need more trouble. But he can't help himself. This is the start of a romance that builds and builds throughout the book, slowly at first and then bursting, blinking out and flaring up constantly. Soon enough, they're inseparable.
Say the word and we'll go, Lena. (150) 
Soon enough, he's willing to do anything for her. And it's not overwhelming. In effect, Ethan's feelings allow us a way to understand Lena, who can be so far out of Gatlin and the world of us ordinary humans. And that makes it so much more real. What's amazing about this novel is that it keeps the romance a focus and centerpiece rather than constantly letting it gush out disgustingly. What assists this is the back story (Ethan vs. history), the social commentary (Lena vs. bigotry), and the captivating lore of Casters.

And let's not forget Uncle Macon. Brilliant, brilliant character. Imagine if Gandalf was just cranky and snappy all the time, and you've got Uncle Macon. He acts, initially, as just comic relief and mystery along with Amma, and I won't tell you how it escalates because Macon is a journey you have to trek yourself. In fact, most of the secondary characters are just brilliant. Marian delivers the best line of the book:
Teenagers -- everything's so apocalyptic. (320)
Amma's the nanny you wish you had, Ridley is a kind of evil you've got to get addicted to.

By the middle of the novel, everything has picked up and mysteries are unfolding and suspense is pouring and basically everything hates Lena except the things that want to kill Lena. It's brilliant, and how it unfolds . . . well, go and find out (hint: it's flawless and roiling with emotions and my applause goes to the authors for tying everything in this novel so well together at the end because Ethan is right: you never see it coming).

- Marlon

Kiersten's Beautiful Creatures Review
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Word Rating: Awesome

I'm inclined to disagree with Marlon on the part about the movie being much better than the book. Sure, the movie has magnificent dialogue, but so much was changed in the movie adaptation. The movie had much less of the magnificent mystery that Garcia and Stohl worked up and much more of a dramatic love story. Don't get me wrong, I loved both the movie and the book, but the book just adds a lot more onto the characters than the movie. For example, one of my favorite characters Ridley. In the movie, you see the confident side of Ridley and her cowardly side, but you don't see her sensitivity or her relationships with the other characters like you do in the book.

Anyway, this book pulled me in from the second I started reading all the way until the end. Even though my initial thought of the book, based on the synopsis and the movie advertisements, was that it was simply a love story about a Caster and a normal boy, once I started reading, I realized how wrong I was. The mystery aspect of the book really kept me enticed and anxious to find out the secrets behind Lena's family. I, also, really enjoyed the characters, especially nearing the end. Ridley and Amma really became fuller characters at the end of the book.  Overall, I really loved Beautiful Creatures. It was unlike anything I've ever read before and gave a really interesting twist on witches.

Oh, and random thought. The soundtrack for the Beautiful Creatures movie is so amazing. You should definitely check that out. Alice Englert (Lena) has a song on it and it is A+mazing.

- Kiersten

Have you ever been the new kid in town?
Let us know in the comments!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Review: The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight - Jennifer E. Smith

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight
Jennifer E. Smith
Series: N/A
Genre: Young Adult, Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Word Rating: Genuine and Adorable
On Goodreads

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight is a very light, heartwarming read. It centers around teenage girl Hadley Sullivan, who is on her way to London for her father’s wedding. Of course, she misses her flight by four minutes, and even though she’s put on the next one, she’ll have to make a mad dash from the airport to the wedding if she wants to have any chance of making it there on time. Those four minutes end up making all the difference when she ends up sitting next to a handsome British boy, Oliver, on the plane ride over. This results in a whirlwind of a day, not the boring flight Hadley was expecting.

The prologue of this novel did a very good job giving the audience some insight into who Hadley is. There are a lot of “ifs” as she thinks about how she managed to miss her flight.
“If the wheel of her suitcase hadn’t been off-kilter.”
“If she’d run just a bit faster to the gate.”
Hadley’s anxiety and panic is clear from the get-go. And it continues throughout the book. She is claustrophobic and prone to panic attacks and really does not want to go to this wedding. As a character, I really liked Hadley. I thought her anxiety-ridden demeanor was amusing, and she was pretty smart and witty, too. She kept up a witty banter with Oliver – her companion on the plane – and was a very three dimensional character. She overthought everything and had a fear of mayo and most of all, she resented her father for getting married to a woman who wasn’t her mom and leaving their little family broken.

And then we have Oliver. He’s a college student at Yale who also says he’s on his way to a wedding. Oliver is as lighthearted as Hadley is serious, as outgoing and laid-back as she is reserved and worrisome. However, they seem to click and bond over their plane ride and it becomes clear that Hadley is a lot more open than meets the eye. She also isn't afraid to say what she thinks and while Oliver seems to not have a filter, either, he definitely has his secrets.

The novel was full of great dialogue, which was personally my favorite thing about it. We have Hadley and Oliver’s amusing conversations, like
“I’ve been to all [the states] but one actually.”
“You’re kidding.”
Hadley shook her head. “Nope, we used to take a lot of family road trips when I was younger.”
“So you drove to Hawaii? How was that?
She grinned. “We thought it made more sense to fly to that one, actually.”
“So which one have you missed?”
“North Dakota.”
Of course, when asked where he’d want to go if he could be anywhere in the world, he just had to reply with North Dakota.

In fact, he seems to give joking responses to every question he’s asked. A recurring one throughout the novel is what he’s studying for his summer research project. He gives her every possible topic, from different styles of dancing to the fermentation process of mayonnaise to the statistical probability of love at first sight.

Hadley and Oliver hit it off right away and Hadley finds herself thinking:
“Is it possible to not ever know your type – not to even know you have a type – until quite suddenly you do?”
The plane ride is filled with getting to know each other. Jennifer E. Smith uses flashbacks and dialogue to tell the audience more about her character’s, which really makes the readers connect to them. We learn about exactly how angry Hadley is at her father, but glimpses of her childhood show that he isn’t a terrible person, just someone who has made some mistakes. Hadley makes her fair share of mistakes, too, one of them being losing sight of Oliver in the airport. During their time apart, she thinks:
“He’s like a song she can’t get out of her head. Hard as she tries, the melody of their meeting runs through her mind on an endless loop, each time as surprisingly sweet as the last, like a lullaby, like a hymn, and she doesn’t think she could ever get tired of hearing it.”
At this point, Hadley’s feelings are becoming clearer, but Oliver’s are a bit more of a mystery. I love that even though this was in third person point of view, Smith kept the focus on Hadley’s thoughts and left an air of mystery surrounding Oliver.

Overall, this book was very cute and I was drawn in by the story line. I loved the characters and I found myself passionately feeling Hadley's resentment and her father's despair and Oliver's own anger, too. It was a good way to spend a few hours and I would definitely recommend it to others.

- Noor

Do you have any interesting travel stories?
Let us know in the comments!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday: Panic - Lauren Oliver

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week, I'm waiting on Panic by Lauren Oliver

Lauren Oliver
Series: N/A
Release Date: March 4th, 2014
Publisher: HarperCollins
Waited on by: Noor
On Goodreads

Panic began as so many things do in Carp, a dead-end town of 12,000 people in the middle of nowhere: because it was summer, and there was nothing else to do.

Heather never thought she would compete in Panic, a legendary game played by graduating seniors, where the stakes are high and the payoff is even higher. She’d never thought of herself as fearless, the kind of person who would fight to stand out. But when she finds something, and someone, to fight for, she will discover that she is braver than she ever thought.

Dodge has never been afraid of Panic. His secret will fuel him, and get him all the way through the game, he’s sure of it. But what he doesn't know is that he’s not the only one with a secret. Everyone has something to play for.

For Heather and Dodge, the game will bring new alliances, unexpected revelations, and the possibility of first love for each of them—and the knowledge that sometimes the very things we fear are those we need the most.

I absolutely loved Lauren Oliver's Delirium trilogy and I quite liked her novel Before I Fall, so when I saw that she was writing a new book, I got very excited. Reading the blurb made me very interested in this book, and the whole time I was thinking: What exactly is Panic and why is it so high-stakes? And how far are a bunch of teenagers willing to go for some game? It's always refreshing to see a novel stand out among the crowd of other YA books, and Lauren Oliver has sure done that in the past. My interest has been piqued for Panic and I'm eagerly awaiting its release next year!

What are YOU waiting on?
Let us know in the comments!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Review: The Girl of Fire and Thorns - Rae Carson

The Girl of Fire and Thorns
Rae Carson
Series: Fire and Thorns, #1
Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal, Young Adult, Romance
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Word Rating: Spectacular
On Goodreads

Oh, The Girl of Fire and Thorns, how I have loved thee.

What makes this book just so different from anything else I have ever read is the religious aspect. Elisa’s whole life centers on her being the bearer of the Godstone – a stone that appeared in her navel from a ray of light on her name day. Now, this all might sound a little strange, but believe me when I tell you that the way Elisa’s religion and status as bearer weaves its way through this story is truly remarkable. From the history of Godstone bearers to different forms of her religion, Carson masterfully created a believable and well thought out religion on which Elisa’s society was built.

And that brings us to Elisa. There’s something so wonderful about how Carson jumps right into the insecure mind of our main character, Elisa, from the very first page of this book. At the start, we know that Elisa is a young and coddled princess, but she grows tremendously by the end of the book. Elisa is so different from main characters I’ve read in other books in a way that I could actually relate to her more. Elisa loves to eat, and I am not using the word loves lightly. Moreover, she’s fat. The fact that Elisa is fat actually drives a lot of her character in the beginning of the story. Elisa worrying about her weight and what a cute guy thinks of her appearance is so normal for a 16-year-old girl, and it made me love her so much more. One of my favorite lines:
If my gown isn’t going to fit anyway, I might as well soothe my pounding head and rumbling stomach with a warm pastry.
A girl after my own heart – couldn’t have said it better myself.

Of course, weight is not the only thing driving Elisa – there’s also the Godstone, and how she must fulfill her act of service to God as a chosen bearer. Throughout The Girl of Fire and Thorns, Elisa struggles with her faith and how everyone thinks they know what God’s will is while she remains utterly clueless. Elisa truly evolves through her search to figure out what she is meant to do, allowing her to learn how to act on her own and building her confidence.

Don’t call my name, don’t call my name… Alejandrooooooo. Ok, now that I’ve gotten that out my system, onto the lovely king to whom Elisa is married at the beginning of The Girl of Fire and Thorns. There really isn’t much to say about Alejandro’s personality: he’s indecisive, weak, and shady, but also quite friendly at the same time. His relationship with Elisa isn’t much – in the beginning, he tells her he wants to be friends, but he is largely absent, barely giving Elisa the time of day. At the same time, the way he conducts himself allows Elisa to grow into her role as Queen. Because Alejandro is indecisive, Elisa learns a bit about leading, and because he pays no attention to her, Elisa learns that what he thinks of her doesn’t really matter in the long run – she must do what she needs to do in order to rule and fulfill her act of service.

Now we have the guy who actually cares about Elisa: Humbeurto. From the moment we meet Humbeurto, we see him caring for Elisa and protecting her. The only downfall about Humbeurto, for me, was that we only really see him as a person who revolves around Elisa. We know he’d do anything for Elisa and all that, but there isn’t a lot of any of his other motivations (besides revenge). However, the fact that Humbeurto loves Elisa to such an extent and that he defends her not only to physical harm, but also to her doubts, allows Elisa to feel powerful.

Cosmé, on the other hand, works against Elisa for much of the book. Cosmé constantly looks down on Elisa, belittling her. Despite the way she antagonizes Elisa, the two become friends. Cosmé’s nagging at Elisa becomes motivation for Elisa to work harder and prove herself. I was really surprised by how much I grew to like Cosmé. If someone had told me I would like her by the end when I first met her in the book, I would have laughed. Hysterically. But Cosmé becomes so much more than Elisa’s hand maiden who she doesn’t trust – she becomes someone Elisa can rely on, someone she trusts whole-heartedly.

Another interesting character is Ximena, who is largely a mystery to both Elisa and the reader throughout The Girl of Fire and Thorns. Ximena is Elisa’s nurse and the closest thing Elisa has ever had to a mother. Ximena will do anything for what she believes is best for Elisa or Elisa’s protection. Ximena is so devoted to Elisa; their bond, so sweet.

Of course, there’s the matter of a war and crazy Inviernos out to take over Joya d’Arena. The Inviernos are crazy. I know if I was Elisa, I would be terribly frightened by them, but she stands her ground. How Carson describes the battle scenes is wonderful, adding drama and suspense and making the reader anxious to know the outcome.

Overall, I truly loved The Girl of Fire and Thorns. It’s original premise and wonderful character building truly pulled me in and made this an unforgettable read.

- Kiersten

How would you feel if you were expected to fulfill an act of service like Elisa?
Let us know in the comments!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Double Review: Mortality by Christopher Hitchens

Well, kiddies, today we'll be munching on Mortality:

Christopher Hitchens
Series: N/A
Genre: Memoir, Religion, Death, Philosophy
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Word Rating: Ugh, I can't even.
On Goodreads

Yum! See the horrible irony is that the author died from esophageal cancer. I just realized this. I am terrible.

Okay, you may not be inclined to digest literature quite as literally as I am, but we've all got our methods. Though mine is probably a few galaxies (and a left turn) away from what is considered right... but my madness and fervent hunger for new books and ideas has delivered to me the works of Christopher Hitchens, (not) arguably the most influencing contrarian of the past few decades. Known as one of the Four Horsemen of New Atheism, this secular badass spent a great deal of his life combating all superstitions, false images (you should see what he's about Winston Churchill and the not-so Motherly Teresa), and the like. And of course this means that he had, before his own, spoken and written on death, the domain so historically claimed by the believers and their temples because of what is debated to come after. And that's where cancer rears in its ugly head:
Suddenly aware of his impending end, Hitchens rushed to pen his regards on the matter down. Thus, Mortality, one of the most powerful pieces of work I've ever read.
Enough with the lead in, let's get down to the guts of exactly why the above statement rings any sort of truth.
I have more than once in my time woken up feeling like death. But nothing prepared me for the early morning in June when I came to consciousness feeling as if I were shackled to my own corpse. The whole cave of my chest and thorax seemed to have been hollowed out and then refilled with slow-drying cement. I could faintly hear myself breathe but could not manage to inflate my lungs. My heart was beating either much too much or much too little. (Hitchens, 1)
In these opening lines, Hitchens is wrought with pain and sincerity. Anyone familiar with his work will probably immediately catch that his usual flair for a higher level of writing is dismissed altogether. In dying, he is brutally to the point. This reveals itself again and again in the piece, and it allows a much deeper connection to the lessons and insight the book has to offer. For instance:
I had time to wonder why they needed so many boots and helmets and so much heavy backup equipment, but now that I view the scene in retrospect I see it as a very gentle and firm deportation,taking me from the country of the well across the stark frontier that marks off the land of malady. (2)
Such lines award us with a very key term in the midst of a resigned view: retrospect. Retrospection is very key in this piece, because Hitchens quickly develops a pattern of what he saw and felt and thought before and after his illness, and how dying reveals another world entirely (Or rather, a "country"). But even in doing so he keeps his humor, though it can be on the darker side of comedy . . . but I'll leave that for you to discover.

There is also a sense of foreboding in the piece because the writer knows he is to die and you know the writer is to die and that he knows he is to die, and Hitchens does very well to capitalize on that (not deliberately), which serves to vary the piece so it doesn't strictly become a philosophical discourse, and in a way, becomes somewhat of an epilogue to his memoir. This sense of foreboding, originating from bits like "I hope to write next time if . . . I am spared" (9), continues throughout the piece and acts as suspense, and shows that even in such a terrible state, the author continues to desire crafting a good story.

All of this culminates in a philosophical book about death that you can't help but keep reading, because it's so damn right. Honestly, "Deprivation of the ability to speak is more like an . . . amputation of part of the personality" (48) keeps me up at night. And that's what this book, and the author, is about: keeping you up at night, questioning what you know about life and dying.

- Marlon

Noor's Mortality Review
Rating: 4.5
Word Rating: Elegantly articulated

How does one maintain dignity in death? Perhaps this question should have been asked to Christopher Hitchens, who, in Mortality, handles death with elegance and sophistication. Like Marlon said, he is straightforward and doesn’t beat around the bush when he writes about his inevitable death. He accepts his fate and this memoir sure shows it. The combination of his bluntness and acceptance create writing that is powerful and beautiful. He tackled his cancer with wit, which was displayed all throughout this piece His quips about his disease and his sarcastic remarks to the people he dealt with were clever and genuinely funny, not just remarks that people laughed at because they felt bad that he had cancer. When a person responds with “I seem to have cancer today” to the standard “How are you doing today?” question, you know they haven’t lost their metaphorical voice (even when they are sure to lose their physical one). And this voice was precisely what Hitchens’ book discussed. He wrote simply,
“What do I hope for? If not a cure, then a remission. And what do I want back? In the most beautiful apposition of two of the simplest words in our language: the freedom of speech.”
Throughout the memoir, he emphasizes that the thought of losing his voice is the most upsetting part of his cancer, to him. This thought propelled the piece, and in every word he wrote, the audience can see a growing concern, a hint of desperation masked behind the sophistication. The raw truth of everything he wrote shined through in every carefully penned word. His admittance of his deterioration also added to his appearance of mental strength.
My favorite part of this book was the very end. The last chapter of the book is a few pages of fragments and blurbs, intended to be part of the book, but left unfinished and unedited due to the unfortunate circumstance of his death. These jottings and notes are so real, so raw that t adds another dimension to Hitchens. Some of the fragments, like:
“Tragedy? Wrong word: Hegel versus the Greeks.”
seem to be short notes that were intended to be something bigger, and it leaves me wondering exactly what that short sentence could have become, if expanded upon. And then there are short exclamations, come filled with dark humor, some with contempt, such as:
“I’m not fighting or battling cancer – it’s fighting me.”
“Brave? Hah! Save it for a fight you can’t run away from.”
There are reports of his symptoms, giving an image of physical weakness, there are some thoughtful musings. As the book nears its end, the blurbs get shorter and shorter, until they are simply phrases, like
“Not even a race for a cure…”
“Paperwork the curse of Tumortown”
“'Gradual disclosure' not yet a problem for me”
And then the final jotting is a quote from Alan Lightman’s Einstein’s Dreams. Christopher Hitchens’s piece is ended with the following words.
“Such is the cost of immortality. No person is whole. No person is free.”
These words are powerful and thought-provoking and the reader realizes that this message has been scattered throughout the book. Christopher Hitchens’s book was ended with the words of someone else, just as his life was ended but his message is immortalized.

- Noor

How do you deal with death?
Let us know in the comments!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Stacking the Shelves [1]

Stacking the Shelves is an event hosted by Tynga's Reviews where bloggers share the books they bought, won, borrowed, or received. These are the books we've gotten throughout the past two weeks.


Last Stop (Watchers, #1) - Peter Lerangis
Jack of Hearts - Ricardo Bare
Branded (Sinners, #1) - Abi Kebner and Missy Kalicicki
The Curse - Touch of Eternity - Emily Bold
Stormdancer (The Lotus War, #1) - Jay Kristoff
Broken (Debt Collecter, #4) - Susan Kaye Quinn
Beyond - Maureen A. Miller
The Iron Wyrm Affair (Bannon & Clare, #1) - Lilith Saintcrow
Oberon's Dreams - Aaron Pogue
Spoiled - Heather Cocks
The Crown of Embers (Fire and Thorns, #2) - Rae Carson

Emospherica (The Destiny of Jasmine Blade, #1) - K.J. Madsen


The Ocean at the End of the Lane - Neil Gaiman
The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight - Jennifer E. Smith
Legend (Legend, #1) - Marie Lu
Prodigy (Legend, #2) - Marie Lu
American Gods - Neil Gaiman
The Wishing Spell (The Land of Stories, #1) - Chris Colfer
Fragments (Partials Sequence, #2) - Dan Wells
Isolation (Partials Sequence, #0.5) - Dan Wells
Leviathan (Leviathan, #1) - Scott Westerfeld
Behemoth (Leviathan, #2) - Scott Westerfeld
Goliath (Leviathan, #3) - Scott Westerfeld 
The Book Thief - Markus Zusak
The Little Prince - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
A Long Way Down - Nick Hornby


Death Comes to Pemberley - P. D. James


The Divine Comedy - Dante Alighieri
Slaughterhouse-Five - Kurt Vonnegut

What books have YOU acquired recently?
Let us know in the comments!