The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

I had really high hopes for this book, which may be why I finished it slightly disappointed. Another factor may be that it took me a while to read, since it’s a very long book and I was short on time. Maybe my disjointed reading of it contributed to the fact that I didn’t feel particularly engrossed in the novel. However, I also think that this book did not live up to the hype it generated.

The Paying Guests is set in a town outside London, just after the end of World War I. Because of economic turmoil following the War, Francis Wray and her mother are forced to take in boarders. In enter, Leonard and Lillian Barber, a young married couple, who are to be the Wray’s tenants. As the novel progresses, friendships are formed, limits are pushed, and the entire household changes forever. This is a book meant to ignite passion and invite intrigue.

There’s no doubt in my mind that Sarah Waters is a good author. This book, albeit at times slow, was wonderfully written. The images and scenery described really gave me a good understanding of the time this novel was set in. I’m trying to pinpoint why I didn’t exactly like this book and I have to say I am not entirely sure what it is. It could be that the plot seemed to be drawn out or that the climax of the book wasn’t as shocking as I thought it would be. I think I wanted to be more enthralled in this book than I was.

This is not one of those books where I will say – don’t waste your time, it’s not worth the read. What I’ll say is this: this book is beautifully written, but the plot is not as gripping as you may expect, so read at your own risk.

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We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

This book will take you on one crazy ride. Be prepared to be confused, to be lied to, to be on edge, and to be a little freaked out when reading this book. Now, that may not seem like a glowing recommendation, but I swear it is. This book was great.

We Were Liars transports you into the mind of Cadence Sinclair, a teenage girl who spends the summer months with her wealthy family on a private island near Cape Cod. However, one summer Cadence mysteriously suffers a head trauma and can no longer recall the events of that summer. This novel takes us through Cadence’s thoughts, as she struggles with depression, pain, and confusion surrounding the events of that summer. We Were Liars explores the relationships between Cadence, Mirren, Johnny, and Gat (aka the Liars) and how all of their stories lead to the discovery of what caused Cadence’s amnesia.

E. Lockhart writes a very compelling and intricate story that will keep you guessing until the last page. Definitely check it out, but also I want to make sure that everyone knows there may be triggers in this book in regards to depression and harmful thoughts/behavior.

The Lunar Chronicles (Books 1-4) by Marissa Meyer

This series is one that you just won’t be able to put down. I reread them all in less than a week, every spare moment I had was spent on my nook reading, even though I already knew what was going to happen. These books are just that good.

Book one is called Cinder – a play on the fairy tale Cinderella, where our main character (Cinder) is a cyborg mechanic who lives with her stepmother and two stepsisters in New Beijing. A plague outbreak, a visit from the prince, and a crazed queen on the Moon throw Cinder into the midst of what might turn out to be an intergalactic (I love that word) war.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: cyborgs and moon queens – sounds a little too sci-fi for my tastes. I promise you that this book gives you the perfect dose of futuristic sci-fi action mixed with an incredibly intriguing plot line and wrapped up with just enough romance to make you feel that special spark. It’s a book for anyone who loves YA dystopian-esque or action novels. It’s awesome.

Scarlet and Cress are the subsequent novels in the series, both of which focus on another character mentioned in the previous books. These novels show a distinct progression in time, meaning it is not the same story told from three different viewpoints. I don’t want to give a lot away, so I won’t go into detail about them here, but feel free to ask me any questions you may have about them in the comments!

Fairest is the fourth book in the series, which gives us the back story of Queen Levana, a central character in all of the other novels. It’s a short story, less than 200 pages, but necessary to read in order to fully grasp how Levana came to be. It also gives you a great insight into the central character of the fifth and final novel called Winter.

All I can say is that these novels will keep you captivated and I cannot wait for Fall 2015, when the final book comes out!

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

What a beautiful read. All the Light We Cannot See is such a magnificent book. Anthony Doerr’s incredibly descriptive writing transports the reader into the past and into the midst of World War II. Full disclosure, I usually love all books WWII related because that is one of my favorite time periods.

This novel, like many of the ones I read, has a few different correlating storylines (which don’t come together until the final third of the book). We meet Marie-Laure, a blind sixteen-year old girl, who flees Paris as the war starts for the coastal town of Saint-Malo to live with her eccentric great uncle. Doerr introduces us to Werner, a young man with a knack for fixing radios, who is drafted into the Hitler Youth and travels through Russia and makes his way eventually to Saint-Malo, where his and Marie’s paths converge. We also go inside the mind of a Nazi officer as he searches for a precious stone removed from Paris’ Museum of Natural History that is said to bring immortality to its holder.

It took me about two weeks to read this book (if you know me, you know that’s a long time for me), due to work and travel issues. But in some ways that made this book even more amazing for me. Every time I picked it up, it was like getting a little snippet of the story and each part was so enticing. I cannot stress how descriptive and imaginative this writing was. Definitely recommend it if you like historical fiction and beautiful writing.

Department of Speculation by Jenny Offill

This is one of those books that is so innovative and wonderful that I almost have nothing more to say than to tell you to just read it. Almost.

Department of Speculation is a really tough book to describe. It follows the inner thoughts and feelings of a married woman, as she navigates life with her husband and her child. We never learn her name, yet we are able to connect with this wife in a way that is incredibly moving and almost magical. As readers, we are taken through this woman’s life, she recounts her happiest moments and moments that cause your heart to break. We experience her pain as her own imperfections and those of the ones closest to her are thrust into the spotlight.

Jenny Offill’s writing style is unique – this book’s chapters are atypical and separated as we experience changes in the wife’s thoughts. I want to describe it as stream of consciousness, but I still have such negative connotations to that writing style because of Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying. But it’s not written at all like a typical novel, it’s almost like a long-form short story, if something like that can exist. I read this book in one afternoon, it’s not very long, but it is fantastic. I know it is one of those books that I’ll be able to read again and again, each time delving deeper into it.

Sheltering Rain by Jojo Moyes

I’ve reviewed a couple other of books by Jojo Moyes on this blog and have thoroughly enjoyed her work. However, Sheltering Rain was not nearly as good as the others I have read. I knew going into the book that it was some of her earlier writing and I could definitely sense that as I read the novel. Her writing has certainly changed and matured into something beautiful over the years. So, in a sense, reading Sheltering Rain was really fascinating, because I got to see how much Jojo Moyes has developed as a writer over the years.

Sheltering Rain has a few different plots, maybe even too many. We have three main characters (I think): Joy, Kate (Joy’s daughter), and Sabine (Kate’s daughter and Joy’s granddaughter). However, most of the story focuses on Sabine, who was sent to live with her estranged grandmother, Joy, in Ireland. Kate sent Sabine to Ireland, so that she could attempt to get her life together after she broke up her longtime live-in boyfriend. Throughout the novel, we get bits and pieces of both Joy’s and Kate’s childhood, as well as an in-depth look at Sabine’s life at her grandparents’ house in Ireland.

I think my issue with this novel was that the stories jumped back and forth with too little development. I really only felt connected to Sabine as a character, so when big secrets were revealed about Joy and Kate, I was not particularly interested. It definitely wasn’t a horrible book, I didn’t hate reading it, but it would not be something I would suggest you need to read right away. If you’ve got time and have read and liked Jojo Moyes’ other works, then it might be something you want to check out.

Please proceed to step out of the woods.

This doesn’t really go with the theme of my book blog, but I think everyone could use a piece of writing like this today.

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You are more than the things you tell yourself on repeat. 

My god, you have no idea how badly I want to believe in those words. I want to say them on repeat. I want to grab people in public places and just shake them real good while those words shoot out of my mouth like promises I know I can keep.

You are more than the things you tell yourself on repeat. 

I wrote them in my palm. I kept opening and closing up my hand just so I could see those words, suck them in, believing for longer than a second that the words are true. They’re written in ink. I never want to stop reading them. I keep thinking they’ll act like a cloak that hangs over my shoulders and keeps me protected from the doubt and the insecurity that try to come crawling beneath my…

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Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld

I love YA books. I love YA books. I love YA books. Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld is no exception. I loved this book. I’ve enjoyed Scott Westerfeld’s books in the past, especially the Uglies series, so I was really excited to read Afterworlds.

I cannot stress how clever and interesting the layout of this novel is. It is split into two distinct yet related worlds. In some chapters, we learn the story of Darcy Patel, a young novelist who moves to New York City after her first book gets picked to be published. In others, we are able to read Darcy’s novel, aptly named Afterworlds, which follows a teenager named Lizzie who narrowly survives a terrorist attack and learns she has the ability to drift between the world of the living and the world of the dead.

Scott Westerfeld’s brilliance shines in Afterworlds. I was equally excited to read the parts with Darcy as I was with Lizzie, which isn’t always the case when I read split story novels. I could not put this book down and when I finished, all I could think was “I hope there’s a sequel.”

Definitely worth a read if you are a fan of YA fiction, good books, a little bit of paranormal activity, and the lives of writers.

Reunion by Hannah Pittard

Over the weekend I finished reading Reunion by Hannah Pittard. And I think I really liked it.

Reunion begins with the news that our main character’s estranged father has taken his own life. Boom. That’s the information given to you in the opening lines of the novel. Hannah Pittard does not ease you into this story, rather she throws you in and hopes you get lost in it, which I certainly did.

Kate Pulaski, our main character and narrator, is not in a great place in her life. She hasn’t produced a viable screenplay in years and her husband is demanding a divorce. When her brother and sister tell her that she’s to join them on a family trip back to Atlanta to pay respects to their father (who was not a great man), Kate is less than thrilled. In Atlanta, family secrets are exposed, including those that Kate has held dear.

While reading Reunion, I felt transported into the slightly-crazed mind of Kate as she dealt with personal and familial drama. I could imagine so clearly the scenes, the fights, and the emotions that Kate experiences back in her hometown. Hannah Pittard is an incredibly gifted writer with a talent for creating characters who the reader can connect with, even if he or she may not have a lot in common on the surface.

Worth a read.

Don’t Worry, I’m Still Here

Happy New Year!! I hope 2015 brings you love, joy, and good books.

I wanted to let all my dedicated readers know that I’m not done with book blogging, I promise! It’s been a wild couple of weeks and I haven’t been in my reading prime. I also may have decided to re-read the All Souls Trilogy after writing the review of it because I missed it so much. (Suggestion: Go read that now.)

Anyways, I’m now back to chugging my way through the 10 library books I have sitting on my bedside table. Expect a new review on Monday!