Book Review: Shadow and Bone (The Grisha #1) by Leigh Bardugo


Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.
Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.
Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.

Release Date: May 7, 2013
Age Group: YA
Source: Purchased
Reviewed by: Madi B
Wow. Just wow. This book was amazing. AMAZING!!! I’m just blown away!! I haven’t read a book this good in a while! It was the type that consumes your life and makes you feel like you just can’t go another moment without reading more! And did I mention that this was the author’s first book?!?!?!? Wow. The characters, the concepts, the plot, the world the author created, everything was just wow. I absolutely loved the whole Russian feel of the setting. It put me off at first (the first sentence has the word malenchki in it… MALENCHKI!) but I got used to all the names and the setting!! I really loved the whole Grisha concept. The whole people having powers thing is not a new concept, but Bardugo made me feel like it was one.
I absolutely LOVED the characters! Alina was perfect. I loved how relatable her character felt and how she dealt with her struggles. The Darkling was awesome. He was this dark and lonely character that you can’t help but root for. Mal was Alina’s best friend that gave me mixed feelings at first because he was totally oblivious to Alina’s feelings for him!!! Not cool!!! But then he grew on me with all his loyalness etc.
At a glance, this book may seem like a typical YA. Love triangle, magic powers, etcetera etcetera but let me tell you, Shadow and Bone puts the stereotype to shame. Filled with fantasy, adventure, and plot twists galore, it’s sure to keep you on your toes, and far from your responsibilities.


Book Review: Since You've Been Gone by Mary Jennifer Payne

Is it possible to outrun your past? Fifteen-year-old Edie Fraser and her mother, Sydney, have been trying to do just that for five years. Now, things have gone from bad to worse. Not only has Edie had to move to another new school, she's in a different country. 

Sydney promises her that this is their chance at a fresh start, and Edie does her best to adjust to life in London, England, despite being targeted by the school bully. But when Sydney goes out to work the night shift and doesn't come home, Edie is terrified that the past has finally caught up with them. 

Alone in a strange country, Edie is afraid to call the police for fear that she'll be sent back to her abusive father. Determined to find her mother, but with no idea where to start, she must now face the most difficult decision of her life.
Release Date: February 17, 2015
Age Group: YA
Source: NetGalley
Reviewed By: Kelli
I really liked the premise of Since You've Been Gone.  I think that Payne had a lot of potential to make this a really great story.  And it was a good read, but I think it could have been better as a longer novel.

I liked Edie from the start, and felt so much sympathy for her and her mother's struggles.  They are constantly on the run from Edie's abusive father, and Edie keeps having to change schools as they keep moving.  The story is told from Edie's perspective, and I liked that I got to really know her through her thoughts and memories.

What I didn't like about Since You've Been Gone was that the story felt choppy and rushed.  I think that there were several plot points that could have been fleshed out to make for a longer, more intensive look into Edie's life.  As it was, I felt like I got only a glimpse of Edie, and would have liked to know her better.  Lastly, the conflict resolution was rushed and I would have loved an epilogue to really see Edie happy and settled after the big conflict was over.

Overall, I did enjoy Since You've Been Gone and would recommend it.  I look forward to reading more from Mary Jennifer Payne.


Book Review: To My Hero: A Blog of Our Journey Together by Danielle Sibarium

It would’ve been different if I had courage, even an ounce of it. But I was a coward from the day I met you, Ryan Crowley. I still am. In the end it doesn’t matter. The bottom line is the same. It’s my fault.

When the unthinkable happens Carly Cavanough is left beaten, betrayed, and devastated. Her best friend doesn’t understand. Her parents won’t listen. Everyone in her life turns against her. She’s alone. Completely alone, except for Ryan Crowley, the boy she’s been crushing on for years. She won’t admit to him what she can’t admit to herself. But he understands without words. He knows more about what she’s going through than she can possibly imagine and he knows what it will take to start the healing.

With Ryan’s help Carly begins to piece together the fragments of her once perfect life and embarks on a journey of love and healing, just long enough for the rug to be pulled out from under her again. Can she find the strength and will to pull herself together to save Ryan and herself when their lives are on the line?
Release Date: April 23, 2013
Age Group: YA
Source: Review copy from author
Reviewed By: Kelli
To My Hero was an emotional, powerful book that I really enjoyed.  Carly is a high school student in an abusive relationship.  She is the victim of an assault, and no one in her life will support her.  Her parents don't believe her side of the story, her friends take the attacker's side, and she's all alone.  Except for Ryan.  Ryan has liked Carly for forever---unbeknownst to Carly---and she's liked him too.  Ryan is Carly's rock as she recovers from her attack, and their friendship is her saving grace as her world falls apart around her.

I can't believe I'm admitting this publicly, but I didn't read the entire title before starting this book.  Or, if I did, I forgot.  Usually, that wouldn't be a big deal, but it was in this case.  The part of the title that says "A Blog of Our Journey Together" is instrumental to the story.  I didn't actually grasp that the entire book is written as a blog post until the end of the story.  And then, the writing style----Carly is writing to Ryan, recounting events----made perfect sense.  Until that point, I was a little put off by the unusual writing style.  And so I'm telling you so you'll be prepared if you read this book---which I hope you do, because it was great!

The premise of To My Hero is a powerful one.  I liked that Sibarium treated Carly's attack with the proper gravity and depth.  I also liked that Carly behaved somewhat irrationally after her attack: not taking Ryan's advice about going to the hospital or police.  I wanted her to act differently, but I felt like she was acting realistically and that made the book feel even more authentic.  The ending came as a shock but was perfect for this story.   

To My Hero is an emotional and deep story.  I really loved it, and look forward to reading more from Danielle Sibarium.



Book Review: Fates by Lanie Bross

One moment. One foolish desire. One mistake. And Corinthe lost everything.
She fell from her tranquil life in Pyralis Terra and found herself exiled to the human world. Her punishment? To make sure people's fates unfold according to plan. Now, years later, Corinthe has one last assignment: kill Lucas Kaller. His death will be her ticket home.
But for the first time, Corinthe feels a tingle of doubt. It begins as a lump in her throat, then grows toward her heart, and suddenly she feels like she is falling all over again--this time for a boy she knows she can never have. Because it is written: one of them must live, and one of them must die. In a universe where every moment, every second, every fate has already been decided, where does love fit in?

Release Date: February 11, 2014
Age Group: YA
Source: Review copy from publisher
Reviewed by: Madi B

I’m not quite sure how I feel about this one. It’s a paranormal that’s a bit typical. The main character Corinthe (Yeah I know. Corinthe) is an Executer. Does jobs-Executer not kill people-Executer. (Confusing, I know) So she has the job of leading humans to their fates. Cool right? She got exiled to Earth for an amazingly stupid reason and now has to earn her way back to her home planet. Then she has to kill this dude Luc who happens to be her age. (GASP) And hot. (GASP) And whom she has this immediate magnetic attraction to. (GASP!!!!!) Killing him would be her ticket to home but she just can’t seem to do it. This my friends is yet another case of insta-love. Their relationship didn’t really go deeper than appearances and I didn’t really believe their love. Neither of their characters had much personality. Luc was loyal and steadfast in trying to find his sister which was notable but he didn’t have that much of a personality. Corinthe wasn’t full of personality either. She was a “fallen fate” so it makes sense that she’s a bit of a blank slate. I just wish both of them had a bit more...something.

The plot was interesting too.  The first couple chapters it was cool because Corinthe was all “Do I kill him? But he’s cute. But he’s human. But he’s cute. I should kill him” and so forth. But after chapter 9 it just got weird. Luc jumps through a portal and lands in this freakin weird planet with two suns then everything goes south. This scared me off the first time I read it and I didn’t’ pick it up again until recently. Once you got used to the weirdness then it was interesting. (Land of Two Suns? Blood Nymphs? Weird.)

I really liked Luc. He was so devoted to his sister and even though he had so much bad crap happen to him, he was still marching on.

Overall I kinda liked Fates. It had a really cool concept, but there was a lot I didn’t like.


Book Review: A Beauty So Rare (Belmont Mansion #2) by Tamera Alexander

Plain, practical Eleanor Braddock knows she will never marry, but with a dying soldier's last whisper, she believes her life can still have meaning and determines to find his widow. Impoverished and struggling to care for her ailing father, Eleanor arrives at Belmont Mansion, home of her aunt, Adelicia Acklen, the richest woman in America--and possibly the most demanding, as well. Adelicia insists on finding her niece a husband, but a simple act of kindness leads Eleanor down a far different path--building a home for destitute widows and fatherless children from the Civil War. While Eleanor knows her own heart, she also knows her aunt will never approve of this endeavor.

Archduke Marcus Gottfried has come to Nashville from Austria in search of a life he determines, instead of one determined for him. Hiding his royal heritage, Marcus longs to combine his passion for nature with his expertise in architecture, but his plans to incorporate natural beauty into the design of the widows' and children's home run contrary to Eleanor's wishes/ AS work on the home draws them closer together, Marcus and Eleanor find common ground--and a love neither of them expects. But Marcus is not the man Adelicia has chosen for Eleanor, and even if he were, someone who knows his secrets is about to reveal them all.
Release Date: March 25, 2014
Age Group: Adult
Source: Purchased
Reviewed By: Kelli
A Beauty So Rare was one of those books that I simply couldn't put down.  I loved it from the first page to the last, and didn't want it to end.

Eleanor was immediately likable, and so easy for me to relate to.  I really felt for her in her struggle to become her own woman and not depend on a man to survive.  Eleanor is honest, hardworking and dependable.  She is considered an old maid at age 29, and has reconciled herself to the fact that she'll never marry.  However, Eleanor's great dream is to own a restaurant and she does everything in her power to make that dream a reality.

Marcus was an enigma from the start.  I liked him too, but Eleanor was my favorite.  I liked the air of mystery surrounding Marcus, and the tension between he and Eleanor was palpable.  I wanted them to fall in love so badly! 

Alexander's books are Christian fiction, however the Christian element is handled with a light hand.  By that I mean that they aren't in-your-face Christian and if someone were not a fan of faith-based reads, I don't think that would stop them from enjoying these novels.  I think of Alexander's novels as clean historical romance.  I love how she conveys emotion and feelings between characters without going into the physical side of a relationship.  She does it perfectly, without feeling too sweet, yet the feelings are so raw they are palpable.

I loved everything about A Beauty So Rare and immediately bought another one of Alexander's books upon finishing it!

Children's Book Review: Peppa Pig and the Muddy Puddles

There’s so much rain! When Mummy Pig and Daddy Pig tuck them into bed, Peppa and her little brother, George, dream of all the puddles there will be to jump in the next day. Little do they know that the rain is turning their house into an island surrounded by water — making for a different kind of adventure for everyone!
Release Date: April 29, 2013
Age Group: Children's
Source: Purchased
Reviewed By: Kelli
Kaitlyn is a huge Peppa Pig fan, so Peppa Pig and the Muddy Puddles was an instant hit with her.  One of Peppa's favorite things to do is jump in muddy puddles, and Kaitlyn now loves to do the same (oh, joy). 

The story was cute, but the illustrations are what makes this book special.  Peppa and family are all drawn exactly as they appear on the TV series, with stick arms and legs and plain outfits.  As my husband likes to say, they look like a child drew them. 

What Kaitlyn enjoys so much about Peppa Pig and the Muddy Puddles was seeing each of Peppa's friends' houses.  She loves pointing out where each friend lives, as Peppa and Grandpa Pig stop by each friend's house to deliver items they've purchased from Mrs. Rabbit's store. 

The best part of the book, in my opinion, are the last two pages, which feature a two-page spread of all of the characters jumping in a huge muddy puddle.  Kaitlyn immediately wanted to know each character's name (and I didn't know them all right away) so we looked them up on Wikipedia.  Now she likes to quiz me and make sure I have all the characters' names correct. 

Peppa Pig and the Muddy Puddles is a lot of fun for Peppa fans.  There really isn't much educational value to this book, beyond the obvious benefits of reading, which is why it lost 1/2 star.  But overall, it's a very fun read which Peppa fans will surely enjoy.


Book Review: The Shape of My Heart (2B Trilogy #3) by Ann Aguirre

Some people wait decades to meet their soul mate. Courtney Kaufman suspects she met hers in high school only to lose him at seventeen. Since then, Courtney's social life has been a series of meaningless encounters, though she's made a few close friends along the way. Especially her roommate Max Cooper, who oozes damaged bad-boy vibes from every pore.

Max knows about feeling lost and trying to move beyond the pain he's been on his own since he was sixteen. Now it's time to find out if he can ever go home again, and Courtney's the only one he trusts to go with him. But the trip to Providence could change everything because the more time he spends with Courtney, the harder it is to reconcile what he wants and what he thinks he deserves.

It started out so simple. One misfit helping another. Now Max will do anything to show Courtney that for every heart that's ever been broken, there's another that can make it complete.
Release Date: November 25, 2014
Age Group: New Adult
Source: Purchased
Reviewed By: Kelli
I've loved every book in the 2B Trilogy, and The Shape of My Heart was the perfect ending to this steamy series.  (Read my reviews of I Want it That Way here and As Long As You Love Me here).

I didn't expect to like Courtney as much as I did.  She was so honest, so real, that I was drawn to her.  I loved her outlook on life, "take me as I am."  Courtney knows who she is and isn't ashamed of it.  

In that respect, I was surprised at how much I grew to love Max.  I thought I knew who he was from the previous books.  Imagine my surprise when he was totally different from the 'surface' Max I was introduced to in books one and two.  

Ann Aguirre has written this series so well.  The books feel fresh, the pace moves quickly, and the romance is so well-written.  I love the love stories and the conclusions are good but not saccharine.  I am so pleased with this series and look forward to reading more of Aguirre's contemporary fiction! 

I Knew This Day Would Come

I have a confession.  

I am still a Book Snob but I am now a "New Adult" Book Snob. 

I knew that one day (*cough as I got older) I might feel compelled to venture away from YA. And then I discovered, with Kelli’s direction of course, New Adult fiction. And Ladies and Gentlemen that was the beginning of a new affair. #imruined 

What is New Adult Fiction? 
Goodreads defines New Adult fiction as bridging the gap between Young Adult and Adult genres. It typically features protagonists between the ages of 18 and 26

USA Today wrote Navigating the exhilarating, sometimes dangerous chasm between adolescence and adulthood, these novels — aimed at readers out of high school — are roaring up the best-seller list. The setting often is a college campus and the vibe is intense as only young love can be.  

Let me make one thing really clear, I do not like NA because I like to read bedroom romance! Yes, I like the more mature nature but I don’t like trashy romance. This is one of the main reasons I don’t read a lot of adult fiction. I haven’t even watched a rated R movie since I was 17 years old. #imnotlame #ihavestandards  This is why Kelli has always done the “screening” process for me and part of how I’d So Rather Be Reading was born. I don’t want pages of smut. I know there is a section for that. 

I absolutely love the age range, the step-up in adult themes and all the authors that I now stalk on goodreads, twitter, really all social media avenues.  I just feel weird sometimes cheering on 16 year olds who find their “true loves” and then read as they contemplate having high school sex or going “far”. I teach college students, I’m about to turn 32 and I can’t relate to 16 year old love in that way anymore… I’m freaking getting old! 

I married Sweet Stuff pretty young (20) and I love to read about finding love in college because I can relate to it and it reminds me of my whirlwind romance. #itsagoodstory  So, needless to say, my auto buy list has grown. Christmas break was so bad (#great) that Sweet Stuff made several comments alluding to the idea that he liked when my Kindle battery was low. #puh-leaseimakesurethatbabyhasafullcharge I had discovered Colleen Hoover... and I butterflying love her! 

I also have made a switch to contemporary. Now, don’t get me wrong I still absolutely LOVE paranormal and dystopian but so many of the “epic” stories I have been following for the last few years came to an end in 2014 and I decided to try something new… then I found Tammara Webber. #againruined  The. Best. I now love the young Hollywood theme, thanks to Between the Lines

(*Side note: I am still anxiously awaiting the releases of my "top 3" dystopians for 2015: Hunted: Sinners #2, the sequal to Perfected- no name yet, and The White Rose: Lone City #2. Look for reviews on these hot series soon!)

So my new auto-buy NA authors include Tammara Webber, Collen Hoover and Jessica Park. And I am very pleased with this new love affair. #bringitladies
 *image source: Book cover images from and the fancy layout was made by Nat (me) on my phone, in an app that I bought and am addicted to.

Movie Review: Exodus Gods and Kings

Worst. Movie. Ever.

I am a Christian but I am no scripture master. With that said, I am a respecter of all different faiths and when I saw the trailer for Exodus (the retelling of the story of Moses)I was excited to see how it would be told!

I couldn't have been more disappointed. I guess I have made a lot of wrong assumptions. I assumed that the basics (the miracles) of the story of Moses wouldn't be too hard to screw up... but I was WRONG. 

Hollywood. Sucks.

This was a disgusting representation of Moses and I am still pissed I spent $19 to watch it.

What they got SO wrong:
  1. NO PRAYER. Only "visions" of Moses screaming back and forth with a child.
  2. The Great I AM is not a 10 year old that throws temper tantrums or was illusive with his plans for Moses. Every single attempt was made to remove God from this story.
  3. How in the world do you leave out Moses parting the Red Sea?! HOW? What a fail.
  4. Moses' part in the plagues was non-existent. In this film he didn't have any part in the plagues. No warnings given to the Pharaoh, no compassion or begging between "bothers". Most of the time Moses was surprised and waiting on the sidelines to see what would come next. He even seemed dumbfounded at times.
  5. The Nile River remained bloody... no Moses, no miracle.
  6. Aaron, Moses' mouthpiece, didn't exist. Instead Moses was an angry man who liked to scream and rally the troops aka beaten down Hebrew slaves.
I could go on and on but honestly, I'm tired of even thinking about this movie. I asked Sweet Stuff if we could leave in the middle of it but it was our freaking date night and we were too cheap to leave (yes, we had a conversation during the movie).

The Book is Better!

Book Review: Chasers of the Light: Poems From the Typewriter Series by Tyler Knott Gregson

The epic made simple. The miracle in the mundane.

One day, while browsing an antique store in Helena, Montana, photographer Tyler Knott Gregson stumbled upon a vintage Remington typewriter for sale. Standing up and using a page from a broken book he was buying for $2, he typed a poem without thinking, without planning, and without the ability to revise anything.

He fell in love.

Three years and almost one thousand poems later, Tyler is now known as the creator of the Typewriter Series: a striking collection of poems typed onto found scraps of paper or created via blackout method. Chasers of the Light features some of his most insightful and beautifully worded pieces of work—poems that illuminate grand gestures and small glimpses, poems that celebrate the beauty of a life spent chasing the light.
Release Date: September 2, 2014
Age Group: Adult
Source: Review copy from publisher
Reviewed By: Kelli
Chasers of the Light is a beautiful book, in every sense of the word.  The cover is simple, yet eye-catching and gorgeous.  The pages are thick and glossy, perfectly suited for showcasing Gregson's photographs and poems. 

I love the fact that Gregson writes on a typewriter---he can't go back and change his words like he could if he wrote on a computer.  This stream-of-consciousness style of writing makes for very expressive poetry.  The poems are meaningful and striking.  Many are written simply, yet this doesn't decrease their impact.

Chasers of the Light is the type of book to be enjoyed a little bit at a time.  I found myself picking it up here and there to read a few poems, as many as I had time for.  Some of the poems are quite sensual, and I found myself blushing more than once. 

I love the photographs and the way the poems are displayed on each page.  It makes the entire book feel like a work of art.  I enjoyed Chasers of the Light and would recommend it for fans of poetry.