The Patron Saint of Butterflies

patron-saint-of-butterfliesFirst Lines: “Please tell me what to do,” I whisper, staring at the crucifix on the wall.  “Is there any other way to get out of here right now without telling a lie?  Could you just give me a sign to let me know?  Maybe blink your eyes or nod your head or something?”

This has been on my to-read list for ages.  Even though I really don’t consider myself to be religious anymore, I’m still drawn to books where people struggle with it.  (As evidenced by my recent review of Things I Can’t Forget, which also has religious themes.)  I bought this from a used book sale a while ago and it seemed like a nice break from the sci-fi and fantasy lineup I have.

Agnes and Honey, two best friends, could not be more different.  Agnes loves life on the commune as a Believer.  She desperately wants to live up to the standards her favorite saints have set.  But Honey sees what’s really happening at the commune.  She hate their leader, Emmanuel, and she’s desperate to escape.  The only bright spot about life in the commune is the butterfly garden, where she can study the different species that visit.  When Agnes’s grandmother comes for an unexpected visit, she discovers a dark secret that the Believers are desperate to hide.  And when Agnes’s little brother is seriously injured and Emmanuel refuses to take him to a hospital, Nana Pete takes the three kids and escapes.  Even though it’s what Honey wanted, is it really the right thing to do?  Even though it’s the last thing Agnes wants, can some good come from leaving?

This was solid.  It starts off a little slow because, like Nana Pete, we know that something’s going on but we’re not entirely sure what it is.  We figure it out about the same time she does, but it takes a little while to get to that point.  But after that, the story gets more exciting.

Agnes and Honey have vastly different world views, even for having grown up in the same place and being best friends.  It’s interesting to see how different they are but also how similar they are.  The story alternates between each of their narratives, which brings more drama and understanding into the story.  You see why Agnes and Honey are the way they are.

The story is definitely dramatic.  There are a lot of secrets to be kept and a few unexpected twists as well.  (Some of those are really well foreshadowed and others just kind of pop up at you, which shook things up.)  I liked that the story was unpredictable.

Ok, and maybe it’s just me, but the fact that communes like this exist in the US kind of weirds me out.  A lot.  (I’m the kind of person who can watch hours of Supernatural without nightmares, but 1 episode of Criminal Minds and I’m not sleeping for a week.)  It creeps me out that people actually allow these things to happen, that they can rationalize away these behaviors.  Ok, yup, I’m weirding myself out all over again.  Moving on.

Overall, this is a surprisingly gripping read with an interesting cast of characters.

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Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass, #1)

throneofglassFirst Lines: After a year of slavery in the Salt Mines of Endovier, Celaena Sardothien was accustomed to being escorted everywhere in shackles and at sword-point.  Most of the thousands of slaves in Endovier received similar treatment–though an extra half-dozen guards always walked Celaena to and from the mines.  That was expected by Adarlan’s most notorious assassin.  What she did not usually expect, however, was a hooded man in black at her side–as there was now.

I like to consider myself fashionably late to this party.  I don’t like to read books when everyone’s talking about it because then I don’t enjoy it as much.  (Totally happened with Toy Story 3.  I didn’t like it.)  So when the chance arose for me to read this, I thought now might be a good time.

At 18 years old, Celaena has become infamous as the most dangerous assassin in the land of Adarlan.  But, imprisoned, she hasn’t had much of a chance to do anything other than survive.  But when Crown Prince Dorian comes to visit Celaena, he offers her a deal: she can earn her freedom if she fights in a competition to find the nation’s new royal assassin.  Her fellow competitors aren’t particularly threatening, even if they are other thieves, warriors, and killers.  If she can beat them all, she will be given her freedom after 4 years of service.  While training with Captain Westfall is exhilarating, life at court is boring.  But it does get more interesting when Dorian begins to show interest in her…but Westfall understands her.  When competitors begin turning up dead one by one, mauled by some vicious beast, the competition turns dangerous.  Can Celaena figure out who (or what) is killing everyone before she’s next?

There’s a lot of excitement in this book.  I love assassin stories, and Celaena is excellent for the part.  She’s witty and clever while being strong and tenacious.  Her stubborn streak even gets her into trouble a few times, which I always find entertaining.  She’s feisty, which is a great counterpoint to some of the other characters in the story who aren’t necessarily so daring.

Between the two male leads of Dorian and Westfall, I definitely have a favorite…not that I’m telling you!  They both have their strengths: Dorian is charming and funny while Westfall is more of the strong-but-silent understanding type.  They balance each other really well, which makes their friendship an interesting one.  Dorian’s boisterous side gets balanced by Westfall’s modesty.  It really works for them.

The plot was really interesting, but I thought there were times where it was too convoluted.  Not that it wasn’t good, just that there was a lot going on.  Like, we had the competition, the killings, Adarlan’s politics, and the slow build of romantic feelings between Celaena and the male leads.  There were times when it was just a lot and I started losing track of things.

Oh, and the narration tends to flip somewhat randomly between characters.  Celaena’s 3rd person view is our most common narration, but it does change without very much (if any) warning.  That also A) startled me and B) bored me when it was told from a character’s view that I don’t care about.

But overall, it has a little bit of everything in it.  It was fun to read, and a good way to spend my snow day.

Spotlight Friday (147)

Hello my lovelies!  It’s another Friday and I should be able to post a few reviews this weekend, so that’s something to get excited about!  So let’s have a little fun, relax, and start dreaming about what to spend a little money on.  🙂

23272028A Study in Charlotte (Charlotte Holmes, #1) by Brittany Cavallaro

Release Date: March 1, 2016

Summary (from Goodreads): The last thing Jamie Watson wants is a rugby scholarship to Sherringford, a Connecticut prep school just an hour away from his estranged father. But that’s not the only complication: Sherringford is also home to Charlotte Holmes, the famous detective’s great-great-great-granddaughter, who has inherited not only Sherlock’s genius but also his volatile temperament. From everything Jamie has heard about Charlotte, it seems safer to admire her from afar.

From the moment they meet, there’s a tense energy between them, and they seem more destined to be rivals than anything else. But when a Sherringford student dies under suspicious circumstances, ripped straight from the most terrifying of the Sherlock Holmes stories, Jamie can no longer afford to keep his distance. Jamie and Charlotte are being framed for murder, and only Charlotte can clear their names. But danger is mounting and nowhere is safe—and the only people they can trust are each other.

What’s To Like: As some of you may recall, I’ve already read this book.  But I just wanted to bring it back up because A) it’s official release date is next week and B) it’s actually pretty awesome.  You guys should totally give into to your Sherlockian side and dig into this.

the-steep-and-thorny-way-cat-wintersThe Steep and Thorny Way by Cat Winters

Release Date: March 8, 2016

Summary (Goodreads): A thrilling reimagining of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, The Steep and Thorny Way tells the story of a murder most foul and the mighty power of love and acceptance in a state gone terribly rotten.

1920s Oregon is not a welcoming place for Hanalee Denney, the daughter of a white woman and an African-American man. She has almost no rights by law, and the Ku Klux Klan breeds fear and hatred in even Hanalee’s oldest friendships. Plus, her father, Hank Denney, died a year ago, hit by a drunk-driving teenager. Now her father’s killer is out of jail and back in town, and he claims that Hanalee’s father wasn’t killed by the accident at all but, instead, was poisoned by the doctor who looked after him—who happens to be Hanalee’s new stepfather.

The only way for Hanalee to get the answers she needs is to ask Hank himself, a “haint” wandering the roads at night.

What’s To Like: Whoa, back up the school bus.  A reimagining of Hamlet with racial tension?  How does this not just scream awesomeness?  I have been madly in love with all of Cat Winters’s previous books, so I’m sure this will be just as amazing.  Throw in some Shakespeare and I’m already seriously afraid that I’m not going to be able to put this down.

a-drop-of-night-by-stefan-bachmannA Drop of Night by Stefan Bachmann

Release Date: March 15, 2016

Summary (from Goodreads): Seventeen-year-old Anouk has finally caught the break she’s been looking for—she’s been selected out of hundreds of other candidates to fly to France and help with the excavation of a vast, underground palace buried a hundred feet below the suburbs of Paris. Built in the 1780’s to hide an aristocratic family and a mad duke during the French Revolution, the palace has lain hidden and forgotten ever since. Anouk, along with several other gifted teenagers, will be the first to set foot in it in over two centuries.

Or so she thought.

But nothing is as it seems, and the teens soon find themselves embroiled in a game far more sinister, and dangerous, than they could possibly have imagined. An evil spanning centuries is waiting for them in the depths. . .

What’s To Like: I love how ambitious this is.  It reminds me a lot of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None (or, as it was originally titled, Ten Little Indians).  So it’s got that kind of mystery/horror/suspense feel to it, especially with the whole madness in the French Revolution.  Which is where the history element gets added that I truly love.  But I’m also wondering if maybe this book is a bit too ambitious.  Can it really pull all of this off?  I guess we’ll see!

Things I Can’t Forget

thingsicantforgetFirst Lines: Girls like me do not buy pregnancy tests.

It’s been a while since I’ve read a Miranda Kenneally book, but she’s the kind of author I will find my way back to.  Catching Jordan is still in my list of favorite books of all time.  (You just cannot go wrong with a female football player who is as spunky as Jordan.)  So really, it didn’t even matter what this book was about; I was going to read it.

Kate has never been the kind of girl to break the rules.  She lives by the Bible and never tries to do anything that will threaten her future.  But Kate carries a dark secret, one that weighs heavily on her.  She’s spending the summer as a camp counselor at Cumberland Creek with the hopes of putting the past behind her.  It’s here that she finds Matt, a boy she knew from her own days at camp seven years ago.  No longer is he the geeky songwriter who loves the Hardy Boys, but he’s a buff lifeguard with a major ability to flirt–with her.  Things are changing this summer.  Can Kate move on from her past before it ruins her future?

I feel like some people who read this synopsis are immediately going to be put-off by the religious aspect of this story.  While Kate is deeply religious and the camp is basically a Bible camp in essence, the story is certainly not trying to convert anyone.  In fact, a lot of the story is trying to show you that not just one belief is right.  This was something that I rather enjoyed, seeing as I have a tricky religious past myself.  I related to Kate (and Parker from Stealing Parker, who has a fairly major role in this book).

So more about Kate.  Truly, she’s just a reserved and sweet girl, though her biblical beliefs do sometimes make her come off as judgmental just because she doesn’t know how to deal with people who do things she would never do herself.  She is deeply religious, which creates a lot of the tension in the story.  She has to question everything she thought she knew because they don’t make as much sense anymore.  I think that’s an incredibly relatable point because even if it’s not about religion, I think there comes a point in all our lives when we suddenly realize that these truths we thought we had about the world really aren’t truths for everyone.

The romance in this book was pretty yummy.  Matt is adorable and the perfect balance to Kate.  He is silly and charismatic, which is exactly what Kate needs to bring out her softer side.

This book does deal with a lot of darker topics that I can’t really go into without spoiling the first major twist in this story.  But there are times when you’ll want to cry for Kate.  (I didn’t cry, but I had that cold, sinking feeling inside a couple of times.)  She really is trying to grapple with really awful things.

But no matter how dark the story gets, it does balance the darkness with the light.  People like Matt and Parker (among others) do much to help Kate see that not everything’s doom and gloom.  It was really sweet.

It really does have a little bit of everything in it.  I really enjoyed this.

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride

caryelwes-asyouwishFirst Lines: Standing onstage at Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center, surrounded by cast members and some of the crew, many of whom I’ve not seen in years, I feel an almost overwhelming sense of gratitude and nostalgia.

Alright, y’all, I’m the first to confess that I have a massive crush on Cary Elwes, who is over twice my age but just as delightful and handsome now as he was 30 years ago.  I fell in love with him in this movie in high school, as well as his turn in Robin Hood: Men in Tights.  Then a few years later I discovered Lady Jane and came to appreciate his dramatic pieces as well.  But the list of lovable roles just goes on and on.  And it’s always awesome when I have no idea he’s in a movie and he takes me by surprise.  (I’m pretty sure I shrieked when I spotted him in Glory.)  So this book has been high on my to-read list for some time.

I’m copying the summary from Goodreads: From actor Cary Elwes, who played the iconic role of Westley in The Princess Bride, comes a first-person account and behind-the-scenes look at the making of the cult classic film filled with never-before-told stories, exclusive photographs, and interviews with costars Robin Wright, Wallace Shawn, Billy Crystal, Christopher Guest, and Mandy Patinkin, as well as author and screenwriter William Goldman, producer Norman Lear, and director Rob Reiner.

The Princess Bride has been a family favorite for close to three decades. Ranked by the American Film Institute as one of the top 100 Greatest Love Stories and by the Writers Guild of America as one of the top 100 screenplays of all time, The Princess Bride will continue to resonate with audiences for years to come.

Cary Elwes was inspired to share his memories and give fans an unprecedented look into the creation of the film while participating in the twenty-fifth anniversary cast reunion. In As You Wish he has created an enchanting experience; in addition to never-before seen photos and interviews with his fellow cast mates, there are plenty of set secrets, backstage stories, and answers to lingering questions about off-screen romances that have plagued fans for years!

Look, I know this isn’t YA, but I totally have to share this.  You guys, this book is amazeballs.  And I don’t use that word lightly.  There is so much in this book to love!  Cary spills all.

The behind-the-scenes stuff is amazing.  Cary nails the neuroses of many of the actors and crew, from William Goldman’s nerves of turning his beloved script into a movie to Wally Shawn’s nearly debilitating fear that he would be replaced by Danny Devito.  He completely paints Rob Reiner as a lovable, nurturing father figure who allowed each actor a bit of space to do what they wanted while remaining true to the tale.  And he certainly creates an interesting and vivid picture of Andre the Giant, who may have been the most interesting person on that set.  (And that’s not a statement I would have made prior to this book.)

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And of course, Cary has so many stories to share of mishaps and giggles on set.  I swear to you, there was one part where I was literally giggling madly to myself over something Andre did.  And I promise you, I am never going to look at that particular scene the same way ever again.  But between Andre’s quirks to Billy Crystal’s improv, there’s really not a dull moment in this book.  (The bits about Miracle Max are hysterical.  God, I wish someone would release the footage of that!)

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I fell so much in love with this story, just as I did with the movie.  You can tell through all of this that Cary is certainly humbled by his experiences and the reception this movie has gotten.  It’s a fabulous group of people that worked together to make this, and this book just highlights how amazing they all are.

Cary will crack you up, and you will absolutely remember why you love this movie so much.  I have a serious hankering to watch it again now.

Pivot Point (Pivot Point, #1)

pivot-point-westFirst Lines: “Heads up,” a loud voice called from my right.  I looked up just in time to see a football smack me right right between the eyes.

I’m a total Kasie West fan for her contemporary romances.  I loved On The Fence and The Distance Between Us.  So I thought, hey, maybe I’d check out her debut novel, even though it’s a sci-fi.  It has to be full of yummy romance scenes, right?

Addison’s life is full of possibilities.  As a Searcher, she can see the consequences of every choice she makes.  It’s the best way to avoid a social disaster…or, that’s what she thought before her parents announced their divorce.  Now Addie has a choice: live with her mother in the Compound where she can continue to use her powers or live among the “Norms” with dad.  Addie loves the Compound, so the answer should be easy, right?  A quick Search proves otherwise.  One future has her adjusting to life outside of the Compound as a new girl in high school where she meets Trevor, a sensitive artist who gets her.  In the other, Addie is being pursued by the hottest guy in school–but she never wanted to be a quarterback’s girlfriend.  When Addie’s dad is asked to help with a murder inside the Compound, Addie is pulled into a dangerous game that threatens everyone she holds dear.  Choosing which path she’ll take comes down to what she can’t live without…

Due to school work, it took me almost 3 days to get more than 30 pages into this book.  That is ridiculously slow for me.  And yes, school work was a large part of why it was so hard for me to get into it, but I also struggled with the beginning.  I was really confused about the Compound and what Addie’s powers actually could do.  On top of that, the narration between the two futures Addie’s looking at took a while for me to settle into it.  It just threw a lot at me, I guess, and when I had a lot of other things I needed to be doing, it was really easy to push this aside.

But once I really started getting into the story, it grabbed me.  I really liked Trevor and the chemistry between him and Addie was ace.  And it was interesting to see how the two future paths lined up.  Similar events took place in each one, which helped me keep the timeline straight.

Most of the characters were pretty interesting.  I respected Addie, even if I didn’t always like her.  She’s a bit indecisive, and it was sometimes hard to get a handle on her when you’re jumping between two different futures.  She acts a bit different in one than the other.  But I definitely like Trevor a lot.  That boy’s got it going on.

Was this my favorite read by Kasie West?  No.  That honor still belongs to On The Fence, easily.  But it was different and retained a lot of what I like about Kasie West’s writing.  And I will be reading the sequel soon, to see what happens.

Spotlight Friday (146)

Hello my lovelies!  It’s another Friday and that means even more lovely books coming out!  I promise you, I am working on reviews.  But between falling behind on grading, a recent romance novel kick, and my Hamilton obsession, reading YA has kind of drifted to the back burner.  (I know, it’s depressing me too.)

in-real-life-jessica-loveIn Real Life by Jessica Love

Release Date: March 1, 2016

Summary (from Goodreads): Hannah Cho and Nick Cooper have been best friends since 8th grade. They talk for hours on the phone, regularly shower each other with presents, and know everything there is to know about one another.

There’s just one problem: Hannah and Nick have never actually met.

Hannah has spent her entire life doing what she’s supposed to, but when her senior year spring break plans get ruined by a rule-breaker, she decides to break a rule or two herself. She impulsively decides to road trip to Las Vegas, her older sister and BFF in tow, to surprise Nick and finally declare her more-than-friend feelings for him.

Hannah’s surprise romantic gesture backfires when she gets to Vegas and finds out that Nick has been keeping some major secrets. Hannah knows the real Nick can’t be that different from the online Nick she knows and loves, but now she only has night in Sin City to figure out what her feelings for Nick really are, all while discovering how life can change when you break the rules every now and then.

What’s To Like: I’m actually a bit scared that this book is going to be full of Embarrassing Moments that will make me freak out in real life.  (Ahem…no pun intended.)  I can already see how this all goes badly, but I have hope that things are going to go well too.  Just not a lot of confidence to back it up for poor Hannah.

into-the-dim-janet-b-taylorInto the Dim (Into the Dim, #1) by Janet B. Taylor

Release Date: March 1, 2016

Summary (from Goodreads): When fragile, sixteen-year-old Hope Walton loses her mom to an earthquake overseas, her secluded world crumbles. Agreeing to spend the summer in Scotland, Hope discovers that her mother was more than a brilliant academic, but also a member of a secret society of time travelers. Trapped in the twelfth century in the age of Eleanor of Aquitaine, Hope has seventy-two hours to rescue her mother and get back to their own time. Along the way, her path collides with that of a mysterious boy who could be vital to her mission . . . or the key to Hope’s undoing.      Addictive, romantic, and rich with historical detail, Into the Dim is an Outlander for teens.

What’s To Like: As an avid fan of Outlander and history in general (particularly the British monarchy), I’m totally into this.  (It helps that my venture into genealogy has connected me to Eleanor of Aquitaine, which is really cool.)  I’m kind of interested to see how this time limit of 72 hours is going to impact the story, though.  That’s kind of rushed for a love story.

22056895The Forbidden Orchid by Sharon Biggs Waller

Release Date: March 8, 2016

Summary (from Goodreads): Staid, responsible Elodie Buchanan is the eldest of ten sisters living in a small English market town in 1861. The girls’ father is a plant hunter, usually off adventuring through the jungles of China.

Then disaster strikes: Mr. Buchanan fails to collect an extremely rare and valuable orchid, meaning that he will be thrown into debtors’ prison and the girls will be sent to the orphanage or the poorhouse. Elodie’s father has one last chance to return to China, find the orchid, and save the family—and this time, thanks to an unforeseen twist of fate, Elodie is going with him. Elodie has never before left her village, but what starts as fear turns to wonder as she adapts to seafaring life aboard the tea clipper The Osprey, and later to the new sights, dangers, and romance of China.

But even if she can find the orchid, how can she find herself now that staid, responsible Elodie has seen how much the world has to offer?

What’s To Like: You know kind of what this reminds me of?  Beauty and the Beast, at least the parts about the father and the flowers.  Although in the original fairy tale, I believe her father gets into trouble because he takes a flower, not because he didn’t take one.  Anywho, I’m really interested in the setting of this: 1861 China.  I have a feeling this is going to be exquisite.  Her writing is usually enthralling anyway.