Month: April 2015

Book Review: Born Wicked

You know that feeling like you’re missing something but you can’t quite figure out what it is? Welcome to how Cate Cahill feels and when her life really begins to be turned upside down.

Hiding magic in a society where magic users are hunted isn’t exactly easy but Cate Cahill and her sisters have been doing itborn wicked for years. Witches used to be in power until a group known as the Brotherhood determined that they were all wicked and deserved to die. Now, New England is bereft of almost all magic and slowly turning into a submissive cult where women are the lesser beings…which is pretty much spot on with history.

This book, Born Wicked, follows the extraordinary life of Cate Cahill as she attempts to be a normal girl with ordinary problems and strives to do little more than effectively protect her sisters, from others and even themselves. The setting is a little archaic (in a good way) and it takes you back to a time when the Salem witch trials had just died down but the fear and persecution were still happening, especially the inconvenient women who crossed powerful men.

Cate tries to protect her sisters and prevent them from heavily practicing magic, but one event after another begins to topple her world view and her perspective on the whole scenario, beginning when the motherless household gains a governess. It slowly comes to light that magic is much more pervasive than Cate realized and everyone is keeping a secret (or three), including her deceased mother, some of them deadly.

Not to mention that time is running out for Cate to make a decision about the next step in her life. She has six months to take a husband, or take the vows of the Sisterhood; neither seems like a good option. Especially after she begins to fall for a man of a lower social class and continues to make other gaffes which do little for her reputation.

There is a marriage proposal (or two), a love story (or two), emotional backlash between siblings, interference from the Brothers, and more women who practice the arts than you would think. The plot builds and builds until you can no longer look away, although it isn’t quite clear from the beginning where it is going. I like a good intrigue and surprise, although some of it became predictable, that didn’t detract from my enjoyment.

The book is well written, the characters are engaging, and the love story wasn’t sappy or overwhelming. It was a little old world and history with curves thrown in; what the past of New England may have been like if witches had ruled for awhile, and we never moved past the 18th century. The relationships between the sisters and the fears described are quite real and relatable, making this story worth reading.

Goodreads rating: 5 stars

My personal rating: 92

  • Writing style – 10
  • Plot – 8
  • Dialogue – 10
  • Personality of Main Character(s) – 9
  • Love story – 8
  • Invokes emotion – 8
  • Synopsis accuracy – 9
  • Consistent level of interest – 10
  • Stays on topic – 10
  • Accuracy of genre/genre blending – 10
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Book Review: The Forgotten Seamstress

the forgotten seamstressHistory and fiction bound together in a tight plot of love, loss, family, royalty, war, and grief that I could not put it down. Every turn of the page was an experience to behold and I never wanted it to end.

The book follows two intersecting story lines. That of Maria, a young orphaned girl who becomes a seamstress at the British royal palace just before WWI, and present day Caroline, a recently dumped and fired woman who is trying to figure out what to do next when she comes across the most beautiful quilt at her mother’s house.

I randomly found this at the library and picked it up. Like all of the books I select this way, I begin reading the first couple of papers to see if it will intrigue and suck me in; and this one did! It’s always exciting when that happens because it’s usually the discovery of a new author or diving in a genre I don’t normally read. This book is filled with such drama and exciting story-telling that it was hard to let go of at night.

The plight of Maria, as told through a series of tape recordings when she is in her later years, are colorful and witty, and then heart-breaking and slowly spiraling into misery only to again turn uplifting and triumphant. Caroline’s issues begin from the first pages and continue on through the story, she hits so many roadblocks that you begin to cringe and hurt at every unanticipated one.

And then the stories begin to intersect, I’m sure the words “quilt” and “seamstress” can give you a hint as to how, but it slowly becomes more and more the plight of the female (and human) condition. Not in some sort of feminist way, but just unique problems that used to and/or continue to plague women. There is stress and triumph, difficult decisions, lasting friendships, and new adventures.

Both leading ladies are stronger than they realize and though it takes them time to recognize and adapt to their circumstances, they are resilient and hardy, adjusting when they need to and becoming more solid over time, rather than weaker and falling to whims. There are men and love and even the mention of children, but I wouldn’t say it’s a romance. It’s more of a fictional look at things that likely could have happened. There are some twists that you can sort of peek at around the bend, but all the threads don’t really fall into place until last couple of chapters, making it worth the wait.

I enjoy historical fiction now and then, especially if I can keep all the names straight, and this one was an easy, although not necessarily light, read. I would definitely recommend picking it up if you see it, and even seeking it out.

Goodreads rating: 5 stars

My personal rating: 95

  • Writing style – 10
  • Plot – 10
  • Dialogue – 10
  • Personality of Main Character(s) – 9
  • Love story – 9
  • Invokes emotion – 9
  • Synopsis accuracy – 10
  • Consistent level of interest – 9
  • Stays on topic – 9
  • Accuracy of genre/genre blending – 10

Words of Wisdom Wednesday

Hi everyone! It’s been a long while since I did one of these posts and it’s not Wednesday anymore but that day got away from me, so instead, you get TWO posts today! YAY!

As you know, I’m in grad school. As you may not know, I am taking a leadership class. For this class, I had interview someone that I saw as a leadership for the end of the semester paper. I chose one of my good friends who is not only an amazing person but also a fantastic leader. He and I skype for nearly two hours, catching up, exchanging ideas, and having me pick his brain about his leadership style, difficult situations that he has faced, things he has learned, and just generally what his journey has been like so far.

And boy, did I learn a lot!

There are lovely nuggets that I want to share with all of you today, things that really resonated with me and made me question everything that I have been doing lately.

#1: Question everything.

Doesn’t matter who said it, where it comes from, or how it is happening, question it. Don’t just take things at face value, don’t be afraid to dig deeper and discover what is really going on. “Question the artificial barriers we have built up in our minds.” Question rules, people. Question your own excuses.

who did you notice more#2: Be observant; look for patterns.

Everything has a sequence of events, anything that happens to you and your reaction to it is a result of a previous circumstance. When you see someone who is successful or beautiful, write down why you think that. Do it over and over again until you can see the pattern and figure out why you think that someone is successful or beautiful and then figure out how you can do it in your own life.

#3: Take the blame.

No one wants to do it, to accept responsibility for their mistakes or those of their team but you will earn respect by doing so. By publicly stating it was your fault, no one can say it behind your back and make you feel bad about it. Own the blame, say it loudly and often; this is especially important as a leader, no one cares about the excuses, they want results.

#4: Create a clear plan.

Give yourself steps to success. Create bite size, manageable steps to get closer. Don’t do meaningless things or things that won’t matter until you accomplish something else; do what needs to be done next and give yourself a victory, even if it’s small so you can move forward.

#5: Stand out.

Don’t be afraid to be different from everyone else. People will notice someone who stands apart more than they will someone who blends in with the crowd. Take your idea and really push it, be unique.

So, thanks to Brian, I have begun to question everything that I am working for and deciding if it’s really where I want to be, what I want to be doing. Life isn’t life unless you are happy and I need to do more of the things that make me happy and help work towards my personal goals. Mainly, this means going back to working on getting my manuscript published, even looking into self-publishing again, to see what can be done about it. I might be in grad school because it presents great opportunities for real world jobs, but do I really want to just have a fall back? What do I really want to be doing and why am I not doing it?

If you’d like to know more about my friend, who is an entrepreneur, leader, and great inspiration; here is a link to his Web site: http://www.brianlofrumento.com/

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten TuesdayBecause this week, The Broke and the Bookish wish to torture us: April 21: Top Ten ALL TIME Favorite Authors.

I decided to make my list by number of books I’ve read by the author…not that that is an absolute indicator of how much I love them:

lightningthiefSherrilyn Kenyon (15+) – Dark-Hunter series (including Were-Hunters), Chronicles of Nick. Love her style and her story-telling; never fails to make to recognize that there are two sides to every story…even if it’s hidden deep down.

Rick Riordan (11+) – Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Heroes of Olympus, Kane Chronicles. Funny and entertaining but also sometimes sad and serious, gives me new perspective and ways of looking at the world…maybe that’s just the Mist talking.

Patricia Briggs (11+) – Mercy Thompson series, Alpha and Omega series. So many shapeshifters, so little time. The characters always have great courage, humor, and are more capable than they realize, making me want to emulate their style and become better.

Cinda Williams Chima (7+) – Seven Realms series, The Heir Chronicles. Such diverse and complex characters who takeLegend-200x300 on responsibility before their time. Magic, strength, and mayhem; always an enjoyable read even if some of the surprises are cringe-worthy

Anne Bishop (6+) – The Black Jewels triology + other books in that realm. I think I have reread these books more than Harry Potter, which is definitely saying something. We get to learn and grow with all of the characters and experience new magic and realms and ways of life; simply break-taking every time.

Marie Lu (4) – The Legend Trilogy, The Young Elites. Gold, simply gold. Gold stars, gold medals, all of it. The story themes seem basic but the style and the energy and the characters give all the books a huge edge. Her back and forth between perspective as well as her play on true good vs evil make everything she touches gold.

cinderMarissa Meyer (4) – The Lunar Chronicles. I honestly had no idea what to expect when I began reading this series but it quickly sucked me to the point that I even read the novella, Fairest, which I normally do not. Meyer is engaging and complex, her twist on fairy tales and evil make you think and yet the action is always enough to keep it grounded.

Seth Grahame-Smith (2) – Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, and Pride & Prejudice and Zombies. Hysterical and amazing. His ability to take real works or historical facts and twist them to suit his own reality is astounding. I cannot put his books down when I come across one.

Herman Melville (1+) – Moby Dick. I took a course where this was the final focus book so understanding the themes and meanings behind it made me recognize more than just reading it on my own would have. His style is long and a little drawn out in terms of background and research but the undercurrents are what really make it worthwhile.

Edgar Allan Poe (unknown) – No idea how many shorts and poems I have read by this author but most of it strikes cords within me that few others do. He is a little dark, and usually creepy and gloomy but it makes you think about the world around you, how people live and interact, and how much of this boils just beneath the surface, waiting to be unleashed.

Note: anything with a “+” after it, means I may have read more, including short stories, but I couldn’t think of any others when writing the list.

I complied the list based on people whose works I devour regardless of what they write. I have favorite books by other authors, i.e. J.K. Rowling, Nora Roberts, Nancy Martin, and Gail Carriger, but I wouldn’t necessarily rush out to by the next book that they have written or everything they have ever written. This list, however, is the people who have me on the edge of my seats for months waiting for the next work to arrive.

Honorable mentions: Sara Raasch, James Dashner, Holly Black, Orson Scott Card, Jillian Hunter, Stefan Petrucha, and Heather Killough-Walden

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten TuesdayCourtesy of The Broke and the BookishApril 14: Top Ten Inspiring Quotes from Books (anything that inspires you, challenges you, makes you think, encourages you, etc.)

There are many quotes and ideas which spark interest in my heart and hold my thoughts and make me question my beliefs. Personally, if I’m reading something and this doesn’t happen, that’s when I become concerned or disinterested. It could be as simple a new twist on history or a myth, a new interpretation of the past or vision of the future. Books are there to expand the mind, even books of images and poetry. Some of the quotes below appear in more than one work by the author and others simple stuck out in my mind. It’s amazing how your views change as you grow up and your life changes, you are able to see the world in new and different ways, to expand your perception of people and places. Morals and religion come heavily into play in many of books I’ve read and that has always fascinated me, along with the study of human interaction and the human condition.

“One of the oddest things about being grown-up was looking back and something you thought you knew and finding out the truth of it was completely different from what you had always believed.” – Patricia BriggsBone Crossed 

“Everything has a price.” – Anne BishopThe Dark Jewels Trilogy 

“But it’s not enough to know right from wrong. You need the strength to what’s right, even when what you want most in the world is the wrong thing.” – Cinda Williams ChimaThe Exiled Queen 

“I guess Satan was the first superhero…In his first adventure, he took the form of a snake to free two prisoners being held naked in a Third World jungle prison by an all-powerful megalomaniac. At the same time, he broadened their diet and introduced them to their own sexuality.” – Joe Hill, Horns

“The soul is an irrational, indivisible equation that perfectly expresses one thing: you. The soul would be no good to the devil if it could be destroyed. And it is not lost when placed in Satan’s care, as is so often said. He always knows exactly how to put his finger on it.” – Joe HillHorns

“Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.” – Sherrilyn KenyonThe Dark Hunter series

“We have three kinds of family. Those we are born to, those who are born to us, and those we let into our hearts.” – Sherrilyn KenyonBad Moon Rising

“You know the incredible thing about hearts is their unbelievable capacity for forgiveness. You’d be amazed what people will overlook when they love someone.” – Sherrilyn KenyonDevil May Cry

“If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.” – J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

“Books are the treasured wealth of the world and the fit inheritance of generations and nations.” – Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Don’t be afraid to explore something new or bite off more than you can chew when it comes to books, knowledge, and ideas. Try one of these books or authors and see what experiences and emotions come your way.

Rereading and Currently Reading

While so some people, rereading is a tiresome task, for me, it is a comfort. I took an unofficial challenge to reread at least 12 books this year and am trying to keep up that promise. I know many people have signed up to do this officially but considering I missed the deadline while setting in to the new school year, I decided to do it on my own.

Here’s what I have reread so far this year:

Night Play (Dark-Hunter series) by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Infinity (Chronicles of Nick) by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Invincible (Chronicles of Nick) by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Infamous (Chronicles of Nick) by Sherrilyn Kenynon

….yea, apparently I’ve been sucked back into Kenyon amazing storytelling world. Her characters are just so vibrant and her stories melt my heart and empower me at the same time. I also just finished the newest addition to the Chronicles of Nick, Instinct, which was sort of an action placeholder meaning the next one will be amazing. Also, if you’re interested in Kenyon, I recommend starting with the Dark-Hunters (there is a reading order on her Web site in the links above) which have individual and long-range plots in them. Her League series is also supposed to be really good, a little more sci-fi though.

Currently, I am also in the process of rereading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling. It may not be much just yet, but at least I’m relatively on track to complete my goal, plus I’ve read 18 books towards my 50 for the year.

Plus, on my current list are also the following:

Happy Reading!currently reading 4.12.15

Top Ten Tuesday

It’s been awhile since I did one of these but this should be fun! And as always, these prompts are from The Broke and the Bookish. 

April 7: Top Ten Characters You’d Like To Check In With (as in, later down the road to see what they are up to)

Fair warning: Potential SPOILERS Ahead!!

blood of olympusPercy Jackson from Percy Jackson and the Olympians/Heroes of Olympus – I just can’t get enough of him, sorry not sorry. Percy is highly entertaining to me and I could read an entire other series of him…especially to find out more about his life as an adult, has it changed? Is he with Annabeth? TELL ME MORE!

Elizabeth Darcy from Pride & Prejudice – Do opposites really attract forever? How will the kids be raised? Has life in riches changed Lizzie Bennet at all? Questions I would love answers to and more.

The Pevensies from The Chronicles of Narnia – Okay, so we get some glimpses into what happens to them later in life but Susan seems to defect from everyone else and Lucy seems to still be awesome. Did they go off and get normal jobs? What were they? Did they have kids? Did they tell the kids about Narnia?

Neville Longbottom from Harry Potter series – I’ll say it, Neville is kind of an underrated badass. He is way braver than we think he is and based on the tidbits from Rowling, he seems to have turned out great and be genuinely happy. I would love to see a story of him as a Professor interacting with the latter Potters and Weasleys.mockingjay

Gale from The Hunger Games – What happened to this guy? Seriously, Katniss and Peeta, we know what happens to them but Gale’s ending is so much more vague. Is he happy? Did he find love? Did he help win the war effort even more? Also, what happens after they off Snow? Gahh!

Eragon from The Inheritance Cycle – Okay, so he was fated to this life away….but are he and Saphira happy there? Is he like Brom teaching the next generation? Does he EVER have kids of his own? Do the dragons make a magical comeback? Does Saphira have babies!?!?

Marco and Polo from The Grand Escape – Recently, I found out this book is actually a series. So I guess I can find out what else happens to them but I always wondered if they ever left the house again after this one fateful adventure. (For those of you not in the know, this is a book about two housecats who escape into the city and have to find their way home; kind of like Homeward Bound.)

hornsCarver Young from Ripper – This book drives me crazy! It is so good and I’m obsessed with the writing and the characters and there is nothing else after it. Does Carter become a detective? Does he catch bad guys? Does he leave the orphanage??

Pandora from Doomed – So you avoided the apocalypse (unlike most other books) and hooked up with a hot guy and now you have to go back to high school?? What happens then? How long until society can knit itself back together? Do you adjust well? What career path do you follow?

Iggy from Horns – Are you finally at peace?