Book Review: Finale

Official Blurb: 91xyJ8LjggLWelcome, welcome to Finale, the third and final audiobook in Stephanie Garber’s number one New York Times best-selling Caraval series!

A love worth fighting for. A dream worth dying for. An ending worth waiting for.

It’s been two months since the Fates were freed from a deck of cards, two months since Legend claimed the throne for his own, and two months since Tella discovered the boy she fell in love with doesn’t really exist.

With lives, empires, and hearts hanging in the balance, Tella must decide if she’s going to trust Legend or a former enemy. After uncovering a secret that upends her life, Scarlett will need to do the impossible. And Legend has a choice to make that will forever change and define him.

Caraval is over, but perhaps the greatest game of all has begun. There are no spectators this time: only those who will win and those who will lose everything.

Welcome, welcome to Finale. All games must come to an end….

My Take: 5/5 Stars

Occasionally, there are minutes that get extra seconds. Moments so precious the universe stretches to make additional room for them.

~Stephanie Garber

FINALE was my second most anticipated read of the year (right after KING OF SCARS) and it did not disappoint even a little bit. By page 55 my heart was thumping, and I was in a frenzy. I squealed in glee, I gnashed my teeth in anticipation, I growled in frustration. I would put the book down so I could savor it only to start twitching, desperate to pick it back up. I read it, naturally, in one sitting. I was frustrated with myself for being unable to read faster yet irritated with my need-to-know nature because I knew I would be devastated by the time the book was over and my hands were empty.

Predictable. I am so, so very predictable. Because I did read it too fast, and I was upset when I had no more book. I felt like that inquisitive yet sad character in one’s mind who picks up the book and shakes its pages a little, hoping more story will fall out. Sadly, this was the end of the legend of Legend and Donatella and Scarlett. But I look back and realize that I loved every single moment of following them, which is surprising considering (in my humble opinion) it is hard to pull off a good close. This was a good close. Yet it left enough open that I thought about it and thought about it and considered reopening my fanfiction.net account for some good old fashioned wish fulfillment. Because, I don’t do spoilers here, but there was one someone I wanted to see more of. (As an aside, when you want to write fanfiction about a book, the author has done it right).

The world of Caraval has been magical, but the thing that pulled me back every time were the characters. Especially Tella. Fierce, stubborn, brilliant Tella. When I read Caraval, I loved Scarlett so much I could barely contain myself. I loved her because she was something you don’t see often in YA fantasy: she was soft and cautious and agency came slowly to her. Tella, in a nutshell, is a girl like me. So when I opened up Legendary, I was nervous at first to see it was from Tella’s point of view. But then I realized Tella was amazing in a different way. Tella was the girl I want to be. And seeing them both evolve and shift and grow and change has been a complete joy. Stephanie Garber is the kind of writer I aspire to me. The kind of writer who is unapologetic and honest. Whose characters draw you back time and time again.

I have no idea what is in store next for Stephanie, but whatever it is, you can be sure I’ll be lining up to get my hands on it.

This week’s question: What’s your favorite (finished) series?

To Enter Caraval Read These First: 

Caraval Buy Links:

Amazon

Audible

iTunes

Barnes & Noble

To Finish the Legend of Legend Read These:

Finale Buy Links:

Amazon

Audible

iTunes

Barnes & Noble

❤ Aimee

 

Book Review: Shortest Way Home

9781631494369_p0_v5_s550x406Official Blurb: Once described by the Washington Post as “the most interesting mayor you’ve never heard of,” Pete Buttigieg, the thirty-seven-year-old mayor of South Bend, Indiana, has now emerged as one of the nation’s most visionary politicians. With soaring prose that celebrates a resurgent American Midwest, Shortest Way Home narrates the heroic transformation of a “dying city” (Newsweek) into nothing less than a shining model of urban reinvention.

Interweaving two narratives―that of a young man coming of age and a town regaining its economic vitality―Buttigieg recounts growing up in a Rust Belt city, amid decayed factory buildings and the steady soundtrack of rumbling freight trains passing through on their long journey to Chicagoland. Inspired by John F. Kennedy’s legacy, Buttigieg first left northern Indiana for red-bricked Harvard and then studied at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, before joining McKinsey, where he trained as a consultant―becoming, of all things, an expert in grocery pricing. Then, Buttigieg defied the expectations that came with his pedigree, choosing to return home to Indiana and responding to the ultimate challenge of how to revive a once-great industrial city and help steer its future in the twenty-first century.

Elected at twenty-nine as the nation’s youngest mayor, Pete Buttigieg immediately recognized that “great cities, and even great nations, are built through attention to the everyday.” As Shortest Way Homerecalls, the challenges were daunting―whether confronting gun violence, renaming a street in honor of Martin Luther King Jr., or attracting tech companies to a city that had appealed more to junk bond scavengers than serious investors. None of this is underscored more than Buttigieg’s audacious campaign to reclaim 1,000 houses, many of them abandoned, in 1,000 days and then, even as a sitting mayor, deploying to serve in Afghanistan as a Navy officer. Yet the most personal challenge still awaited Buttigieg, who came out in a South Bend Tribune editorial, just before being reelected with 78 percent of the vote, and then finding Chasten Glezman, a middle-school teacher, who would become his partner for life.

While Washington reels with scandal, Shortest Way Home, with its graceful, often humorous, language, challenges our perception of the typical American politician. In chronicling two once-unthinkable stories―that of an Afghanistan veteran who came out and found love and acceptance, all while in office, and that of a revitalized Rust Belt city no longer regarded as “flyover country”―Buttigieg provides a new vision for America’s shortest way home.

My Take: 5/5 Stars

“Good policy, like good literature, takes personal lived experience as its starting point. At its best, the practice of politics is about taking steps that support people in daily life—or tearing down obstacles that get in their way. Much of the confusion and complication of ideological battles might be washed away if we held our focus on the lives that will be made better, or worse, by political decisions, rather than on the theoretical elegance of the policies or the character of the politicians themselves.”

~ Pete Buttigieg

This book was actually hard to give a rating if I’m honest. It was excellent, but not in the way I usually expect excellence from a book. It wasn’t fast paced and action packed. It wasn’t moving or emotional. But it was smart, extremely smart, and it was thoughtful. It made me think… a lot. It made me lift my head and pause my audiobook and go, “Hm.” It made me slow my regular jaunt on the elliptical and stare out the window at my office gym in silent contemplation. And for that, I give it five stars.

I caveat my five star rating with that introduction, though, because even for memoir, this book was different. Memoir, in my experience at least, usually involves some kind of riveting subject matter: fanatical religions; conversion therapy; abusive parents; famous figures; hilarious anecdotes; and cooky adventures, things of that nature. SHORTEST WAY HOME features exactly none of that. Yet, it still held me. It held me in a way Michelle Obama’s book Becoming held me. It held me because it was smart and thoughtful and… normal. It held me because Mayor Pete has good, sound ideas, and because he is refreshingly honest. He is human in a way that is endearing, as anyone who has seen him do an interview probably already knows. His memoir is quiet and contemplative, yet not without passion. In fact, it has a surprising amount of passion for a surprising array of subjects. Interestingly enough, this book had me excitedly texting my father (an environmental engineer) about its extensive discussion of how South Bend, Indiana, used the minds at nearby Notre Dame to help develop a new sewer system which saved not only the environment, but also money. But it’s this fact––that the book makes the ordinary seem extraordinary––that made it deserve all the stars.

In addition to that, Mayor Pete himself is startlingly impressive, though I bet he is too humble to claim such an adjective. Yet, there is no other that fits him quite right. He is only 37 years old (six years older than me, but who’s counting?) and he’s already accomplished so much. He went to Harvard, then was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford. He worked for a big consulting firm, worked on various campaigns (including for John Kerry and President Obama), then before he was even thirty, was elected mayor of South Bend, Indiana. He was also an intelligence officer in the Navy Reserves, serving a tour of duty in Afghanistan (while he was mayor, people). Oh, and he wrote and published this book I’m talking about. P.s. he’s also running for President of the United States as the country’s first openly gay candidate. Like… what? This man, I’m telling you.

Anyway, like I said, you might not be glued to your seat, eyes wide as your fingers tremble to turn the next page, but Shortest Way Home is a must read for any policy nerd who loves America and wants to be challenged into rethinking some of our most deeply held beliefs. Oh, and I listened on Audible and Mayor Pete narrated it himself and for a first timer, he did a great job!

Today’s Question: Tell me about a book that was really good but for a different-than-usual reason!

Buy Links:

Amazon

Audible

iTunes

Barnes & Noble

Hope you’re having a great week!!!

❤ Aimee

 

 

 

Book Review: ???

Hi guys! I have no Five Star Only Review today because I ran out of backlog! I’ve read a lot of four star books lately, but nothing that made me go WOW.

Accordingly, I’m now seeking recommendations for books you think are Five Star Only Review worthy! If you’re new here, you can read some of my previous Five Star Reviews in particular genres by clicking the links below. The genres and age groups I read in most are as follows:

Young Adult Fantasy: I like my fantasy books with strong female characters (but not necessarily warrior-types, I like to explore different kinds of female power, including magic and emotional strength, not only badass lady warriors, though I like those too!) and a romantic element. The more romance the better to be perfectly honest, and I don’t care what kind of romance (either in trope or sexual orientation/gender identity). That means I’m good with love triangles, friends to lovers, enemies to lovers, cis romances, LGBTQ+ romances, whatever as long as it is fluffy and makes my heart flutter!

Young Adult Contemporary: I don’t read a ton of contemporary, and it isn’t usually what I go for first, so for me to really love it, it has to shine. If I’m going to read contemporary, I want it to be diverse (like the world around us), and usually like to see romance here, too, though I don’t necessarily expect it. I also really like authentic teen voices and problems in my YA Contemporary, because it’s a break from the fantasy I read wherein “save the world” is usually the task at hand.

Memoir: There are two kinds of memoir that intrigue me: The kind that deals with subject matter I know well; and the kind that deals with subject matter I know nothing about. For me to really love a memoir, the writing has to be moving and lyrical. This is where I go to read something heavy and deep that will stick with me for a long time after I’m finished.

Diverse Stories: I am always looking for diverse stories in any and all genres!

Though I hate to say there’s anything I won’t read, there are some things I won’t read. It is as follows:

Sci-Fi (any age group): I know fantasy and sci-fi are usually lumped together, but in my mind they could not be further apart. I am not interested in space, aliens, robots, tech, or dystopian futures. Sorry sci-fi fans! It’s just not my thing.

Erotica: I won’t lie, I’m a bit of a prude when it comes to sex. I think it has something to do with my trauma/touch aversion, but whatever it is, erotic is not for me. I love romance, just not the uh… culmination of it, I guess.

Middle Grade (any genre): I have tried to read a bunch of middle grade (again, no shame, but I’ve done this to boost my Goodreads numbers and get some more books knocked out quicker) but it’s just not for me.

That’s about it though! Otherwise, I’m willing to give anything a shot, so hit me up with your favorite books in the comments, and maybe you’ll see one featured here in an upcoming Five Star Only Review Tuesday!

❤ Always,

Aimee

P.s. My boyfriend and I are buying our very first house on Friday, and I am SO HYPE.books-4136388_1920

 

Book Review: King of Scars

Author’s Note: For those who are new here, and because I’ve never said it explicitly before, all my five-star-only reviews are non-spoiler reviews. I list the official blurb, then I talk about maybe the prose, maybe a brief overview of the content, but mostly how the book made me feel, and who I’d recommend it for. That said, I know this book is brand spanking new (less new by the time this auto posts but still), and I don’t want to spoil anything (even just feelings), so please feel free to pass over this one. It will not hurt my feelings at all. Seriously. I avoided Twitter and Instagram for a week while I finished reading this. I get it.

King of ScarsOfficial Blurb: Face your demons…or feed them.

Nikolai Lantsov has always had a gift for the impossible. No one knows what he endured in his country’s bloody civil war―and he intends to keep it that way. Now, as enemies gather at his weakened borders, the young king must find a way to refill Ravka’s coffers, forge new alliances, and stop a rising threat to the once-great Grisha Army.

Yet with every day a dark magic within him grows stronger, threatening to destroy all he has built. With the help of a young monk and a legendary Grisha Squaller, Nikolai will journey to the places in Ravka where the deepest magic survives to vanquish the terrible legacy inside him. He will risk everything to save his country and himself. But some secrets aren’t meant to stay buried―and some wounds aren’t meant to heal.

My Take: 5/5 Stars

“If men were ashamed when they should be, they’d have no time for anything else.” ~ Leigh Bardugo

KING OF SCARS was my most anticipated read of 2019, and it did not disappoint. For those who haven’t yet been introduced to the Grishaverse, get acquainted (start with the Shadow and Bone trilogy, then move on to the Six of Crows duology), then find your way back here. Also, know that I’m jealous you get to read these fabulous books with fresh eyes.

For those who don’t know, Leigh Bardugo is one of my favorite authors of all time. I literally took the day off work to start in on King of Scars. When it arrived, I ran to the door, grabbed the package from off the floor (while the astounded Amazon deliveryman stared at me with wide, blinking eyes) and started to scream. I mean, little kid on Christmas scream. Between these giggles and high pitched shrieks, I thanked the man, dashed inside, and continued to dance around my living room and kitchen, clutching the package and hopping up and down like a little bird trying to take flight. I was that excited.

I was this excited because Leigh Bardugo, without fail, writes stories I want to read, stories I feel were made just for me. Her characters are rich and her world building beautiful. She explores things I’m interested in: different cultures and customs; different languages; different relationships; different loves. But most of all, she is honest. Her writing is honest, and so are her realities. Even in a fantasy realm, she doesn’t cop-out. She doesn’t engage in dishonest tropes and parlor tricks simply to appease the masses. She keeps it real. Oh, and she’s funny. Did I mention how funny her writing can be?

King of Scars was no different. Within the first chapter, I was transported. Whisked away, back to Ravka, back to Nikolai, back to the home of the Grisha. I loved King of Scars because it was familiar in a way that Leigh’s writing has become familiar to me. It’s not only the characters, but it’s the truth she speaks. It’s a familiarity that changes,  too evolving naturally, because Leigh is one of those writers who seems to always get better. With every story she spins, I see her evolution as a writer, and to me, that is more enchanting even than the Grishaverse. Leigh is the kind of author I aspire to be. And King of Scars is the kind of book I want to write. Let’s just hope that when I do, I can get a cover half as eye catching!

Buy Links:

Amazon

iTunes

Barnes & Noble (where you can get an exclusive edition)

How did everyone feel about Leigh’s new book? And tell me, what is your most anticipated read of the year?

❤ Aimee

Book Review: Girls of Paper and Fire

Trigger/Content Warnings: Sexual abuse, sexual assault, rape, physical abuse, slavery, and homophobia (which is addressed on page)*.

*Please note that this is an own voices book, I am not a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, and I will make no determinations as to what the homophobia makes someone of that community feel except to say you should look to own voices reviewers (most of whom seem to love the representation).

girls of paper and fireOfficial Blurb: 

In this richly developed fantasy, Lei is a member of the Paper caste, the lowest and most persecuted class of people in Ikhara. She lives in a remote village with her father, where the decade-old trauma of watching her mother snatched by royal guards for an unknown fate still haunts her. Now, the guards are back and this time it’s Lei they’re after — the girl with the golden eyes whose rumored beauty has piqued the king’s interest.

Over weeks of training in the opulent but oppressive palace, Lei and eight other girls learns the skills and charm that befit a king’s consort. There, she does the unthinkable — she falls in love. Her forbidden romance becomes enmeshed with an explosive plot that threatens her world’s entire way of life. Lei, still the wide-eyed country girl at heart, must decide how far she’s willing to go for justice and revenge.

My Take: 5/5 Stars

“I know what it means to dream about the past. To dream about things you have loved, and lost.” ~ Natasha Ngan

From only a few sentences in, I knew I was going to love GIRLS OF PAPER AND FIRE. I was so sure this would be one of my five-star reviews that I basically started crafting this post right around Chapter Three. Natasha Ngan’s stunning, Asian-inspired fantasy grabbed me with both its content and its characters. Ngan’s world building is unique and rich,  her characters multi-faceted and complex. There wasn’t a single person (or demon) I met that I didn’t want to know more about, who I didn’t want to sit and imagine.

But more than anything, I loved the fact that this was a book about girls saving girls, in every way imaginable. There was no knight in shining armor, because there didn’t have to be. There was plenty of courage and magic and badassery in Paper House. There were strong female friendships and romances, but there were also complicated rivalries; something I love seeing on the page. Ngan’s characters are complex, and that complexity makes them messy. Anyone who knows me knows I love a little mess in my literature. Because messy is emotional, and emotions will have me coming back for more, which is a good thing, since this is only book one!

Buy Links:

Amazon

iTunes

Barnes & Noble

Who else read this one? And who else feels like it didn’t get the hype it deserves??

❤ Always, Aimee