50 Book Challenge 2016 – March

 

As far a genres go, March was all over the map for me. However, I read more than usual possibly because the weather is nicer and lifting my spirits – or – it was because I had a surgery at the end of the month and had nothing better to do than read.

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January – 4/4
1. Glass Ceiling by Julie LaVoie <SEE REVIEW HERE>
2. Library of Souls (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children #3) by Ransom Riggs
3. Cress (The Lunar Chronicles #3) by Marissa Meyer
4. The Iron Warrior (The Iron Fey #6) by Julie Kagawa

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February – 4/4
1. Immortal Beloved (Immortal Beloved #1) by Cate Tiernan <SERIES REVIEW>
2. Darkness Falls (Immortal Beloved #2) by Cate Tiernan
3. Eternally Yours (Immortal Beloved #3) by Cate Tiernan
4. Snow Like Ashes (Snow Like Ashes #1) by Sara Raasch

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March – 5/4
1. Annabeth Neverending by Leyla Kader Dahm
2. Clockwork Angel (The Infernal Devices #1) by Cassandra Clare
3. Godless by Pete Hautman <SEE REVIEW HERE>
4. Winter (The Lunar Chronicles #4) by Marissa Meyer
5. Queen (The Blackcoat Rebellion #3) by Aimee Carter

2016 Total – 13/50

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Book Review: Godless

Despite it being published over ten years ago, I’d never heard of Godless until I was browsing Book Outlet. It was a quick (under 200 pages) read that was filled to the brim with a healthy mix of satire and philosophy.
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Godless

by Pete Hautman
Release Date: November 2005
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Summary from Goodreads:

“Why mess around with Catholicism when you can have your own customized religion?”
Fed up with his parents’ boring old religion, agnostic-going-on-atheist Jason Bock invents a new god — the town’s water tower. He recruits an unlikely group of worshippers: his snail-farming best friend, Shin, cute-as-a-button (whatever that means) Magda Price, and the violent and unpredictable Henry Stagg. As their religion grows, it takes on a life of its own. While Jason struggles to keep the faith pure, Shin obsesses over writing their bible, and the explosive Henry schemes to make the new faith even more exciting — and dangerous.
When the Chutengodians hold their first ceremony high atop the dome of the water tower, things quickly go from merely dangerous to terrifying and deadly. Jason soon realizes that inventing a religion is a lot easier than controlling it, but control it he must, before his creation destroys both his friends and himself.

I knew from the blurb on the back of the book that I would enjoy Godless. I am a person who is intrigued with religion, comparisons, satire and everything else under that umbrella. I have a lot of respect for people who question the religions they grew up in as well as respect for people who have strong faith (as long as they aren’t fanatics about it.)

Godless commented on a number of concepts. Jason was bored of the religion of his father (Catholicism). He has a spiritual experience under the city’s giant water tower and decided to start his own religion. Very quickly, he learns that it’s easy to start a religion but not so easy to control it.

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Many people have a religion but no faith. Some people go to church, mosque or temple simply because it’s what their parents do. Very few people believe 100%, including myself. I appreciated this part of the commentary the most. Finding a spirituality (or lack thereof) that works for someone is such a personal experience, no two are alike.

Out of all the inanimate objects to worship, I would agree that the water tower does make a lot of sense, seeing how every living thing needs water to survive. As a Pagan, I believe that I understand this choice better than someone who comes from a stricter Abrahamic faith.

Pete Hautman explains in his notes that the inspiration for this book came from all the questioning he went through as a teen. During a debate with his friends (who were from other religions) someone just asked the question “What if the water tower is God?” Godless answers that question.

Godless is very deserving of the National Book Award, and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys a bit of blasphemy and a bit of soul searching.

 

Series Review: Immortal Beloved

Author Cate Tiernan is probably best known for her Sweep Series. When I had the chance to get all three of the Immortal Beloved books *in hardcover* at once, I quickly snapped them up, without ever having read anything by Teirnan before.
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The Immortal Beloved Series
1 – Immortal Beloved
2 – Darkness Falls
3 – Eternally Yours 

by Cate Tiernan
Release Date: 2010 – 2012
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Summary from Goodreads:

Nastasya has spent the last century living as a spoiled, drugged-out party girl. She feels nothing and cares for no one. But when she witnesses her best friend, a Dark Immortal, torture a human, she realizes something’s got to change. She seeks refuge at a rehab for wayward immortals, where she meets the gorgeous, undeniably sexy Reyn, who seems inexplicably linked to her past.
Nastasya finally begins to deal with life, and even feels safe–until the night she learns that someone wants her dead.

February was the month of digging into the lovely books I purchased on Boxing Day from Book Outlet. After reading many different books all over different series, I was in the mood to read a series from beginning to end and chose Immortal Beloved. The books are around 400 pages each, but they read quick. I actually read the trilogy in about a week, which is an achievement when you’re a mother and a full-time student.

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I loved Natasya (more on that later) and to be honest, I started the book completely jealous of her crazy, care-free immortal life style. That faded as I realized that her partying was her way of coping with 450-ish years of hell. I really bonded with her as a character, which is something I usually have more difficulty than I would like to admit. She’s so… REAL – and that is an aspect in leading roles that seems to be lacking in YA these days.

In my life, I have the privilege of things like war and famine being far away, in history or in the news. Going through the process of self-healing and discovery with Natasya and Rayn brought many feelings to the surface. I felt raw and sad, missing times that were well before my own. Sometimes I wished for 500 year old memories and then realized that living forever seemed more like a curse than a blessing. If there’s one thing that Cate Tiernan does perfectly, it was the flash-back. They were each so richly written that I felt as if I was holding a tiny time machine in my hands. She is a masterful writer.

Going by the blurb, I was worried about insta-love between Natasya and Rayn, but I was pleasantly surprised. Now granted, there was some insta-lust, but I’m pretty sure I’d be giddy over this Viking God too. All of the characters blended together well and all grew at a good pace. Of course, Natasya had some of the best character development.

As i cracked open the second book,  Darkness Falls, I was mostly anticipating what would come for the  “villains”, Boz and Incy. Teirnan wrote these indulgent, self-destructive characters perfectly and I think even in our modern lives, we all know one or two people that remind us of Boz, Incy and the other wayward Immortals. I won’t put any spoilers in here but whoo-wee Incy! I love myself a bad boy … but he took it too far.

Unfortunately, what irked me the most was the inconsistencies in the Immortal’s world/backstory/rules. Half the time the reader got a “It is because I say so” or “It is because it is” answer to basic questions about where the Immortals come from and how they age. The information slowly built up over the course of the series, but many questions were still left unanswered. I would have liked their culture and past to have been a bit more well developed, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying the series.

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About the cover change. While the new editions of covers are lovely and cohesive and filled with “girl in a gown” goodness, I prefer the original 2011 covers. They seem to match the tone and topic matter of the novels better. My set at home has the 1st book in the original cover, and the other two in the more recent renditions. I’m glad I have at least one original, because I adore the pendant imprint on it. It’d make a sweet tattoo – just sayin’.

If there’s one thing I love most about Tiernan’s writing, it’s the tone. Natasya’s narration was the perfect mix of funny, sarcastic and self-serving, as I would expect an immortal “teenager” to be. There were several times that I laughed out loud and other times where I shook my head at her ridiculousness. Cate Tiernan has worked in children’s and teen publishing for a long time and she has mastered the technique of a perfect narrator.

There’s a lot more about this book that I could get into, but then this review would go on forever. Let’s just say that this book came to me exactly when I needed it. I’ve been going through some things myself lately and having Natasya go through them with me made me feel like I wasn’t so alone.

The question is now… what to read next? I probably won’t dive into Sweep, because I’ve heard that it can be quick offensive and eye-roll inducing for Wiccans. However, when shopping for this series, I also got my hands on Birthright, which seems like it will be a great read. But I also have a bunch of new releases to read.

If only I was Immortal, then I could finally have the time to read everything.

50 Book Challenge 2016 – January

I’ve decided to use 2016 as my year that I will get in touch with physical books again. Last year, I read mostly on my e-reader and I really have missed the intimacy of turning real pages.

As mentioned in my last reading post, I’ve decided to stick with 50 books as my goal for 2016. (This doesn’t include all the non-fiction I read for school!) I’ve also made a goal to do more reviews, and I’ll be linking my reviews in this monthly posts as well.

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January – 5/4
1. Glass Ceiling by Julie LaVoie <SEE REVIEW HERE>
2. Library of Souls (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children #3) by Ransom Riggs
3. Cress (The Lunar Chronicles #3) by Marissa Meyer
4. The Iron Warrior (The Iron Fey #6) by Julie Kagawa

Book Review: The Glass Ceiling

The Glass Ceiling 
by Julie LaVoie
Release Date: December 2015
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Summary from Goodreads:

Darkness can hide in the brightest of places…
Pickaxes, grime, and watery oatmeal are all sixteen-year-old Heart has ever known. Growing up in the tunnels, the only breaks in her muscle-aching monotony are the numerous nights spent cramped in a metal box. Stupid runaway mouth. But when strange visions and a hidden map hint there’s more to life than she’s been led to believe — boys being one of them — only one thing weighs on her mind. Escape.
Yet freedom is a tease. Heart merely trades her small prison for a larger one — a transparent dome controlled by the Guardian, an aging leader bent on creating a genetically perfect race. Heart’s birthmark on her shoulder? An abomination that carries a lifetime sentence of slavery for females.
Refusing to let a glass ceiling deter her, Heart searches for a way out of the dome. But unraveling the Guardian’s secrets is a risky endeavor. Human skulls atop crude sticks serve as a warning: treason is punishable by death. When her new friends are captured, and escape is just an arm’s reach away, Heart must decide. Take the freedom she so desperately wants or save her friends’ lives?

This book hooked me from the description and I was extremely happy to receive a free copy for to review, thanks to YA Bound Book Tours. Initially, I was worried that this might be another formulaic dystopian YA fiction, but I was pleasantly surprised. The author writes with a strong voice and by chapter 5 I was desperately hooked. I switched the file from my tablet to my phone so I could read it on the go, and in the kitchen, and in the bathroom … you get the idea.

The main character Heart, named for the birthmark on her shoulder, starts off as a headstrong trouble maker. All she’s even known is slavery in the mines and cares for the girls around her (even though they’re not all trustworthy). She fights the Matriarch and ends up getting put in a glass prison. Don’t want to risk any spoilers here, but it just snowballs from there with fast-paced adventure!

I expected more feminist themes, based on the title the Glass Ceiling. For those of you unfamiliar, the “glass ceiling” refers to an unofficially acknowledged barrier to advancement in a profession, especially affecting women and members of minorities. (definition by google) While I can see the connections, I was hoping for a bit more girl power and a bit less drooling over boys.

I had been taking breaks from the book tours during my first semester in school and fell behind in my reading. It feels great to get my hands on some ARCs again. Glass Ceiling was a wonderful read over the winter holidays and I’m looking forward to what the author has planned for us next.

*disclaimer* – I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a honest review. 
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