Book Hoarders Anonymous: Best of 2013

I haven’t done a Book Hoarders post in a while so I thought to close out the year I would do a little survey like I did last year and focus on some of my favorite personal literary moments of the year! Sorry in advance..it’s link and picture heavy 🙂

Book that reminded me that I love to read: The Sandman series did this for me. The graphic novels are so different from anything that I have ever read and I found myself enamored at the inclusions of different character from history popping up into stories. It really made me think and remember what knowledge I had of these historical figures, or superheroes, etc. and that made me love it even more.

Favorite BAMF: I think Daenerys takes the cake for this one. She is so incredibly young but so fierce. I love her so much. Especially when she says things like “Dracarys!”

Favorite companion: Ravens! Though not technically “fantastical” by nature but some of the ones I read of this year were pretty amazing. Matthew, from The Sandman series and Fiacha from my (ahem 4th? 5th? re-read) of Son of the Shadows by Juliet Marillier is one of my favorite companions, EVER.

Favorite debut author: For sure Cat Winters, the author of In the Shadow of Blackbirds. The book was absolutely fantastic and heartwrenching. Ms. Winters was so gracious and lovely after I reached out to her upon finishing the novel, and she moved quickly to the top of my auto-buy authors.

BFF: Hands down Sybella from Dark Triumph. She was so dark and brave throughout the novel, I couldn’t help but love her. Truly, some of my closest friends describe her as my “spirit animal,” and I can’t wait to see what she and the other ladies get in to in Mortal Heart.

Most swoon-worthy lad: Okay, I am doing it, I’m cheating. I tried to look elsewhere but the title of most swoon-worthy lad goes to Captain Carswell Thorne, hands down. I can not tell you how many pictures I took of his lines and how many flailing texts were sent to my friends while reading Cress. He has made my top 5 of best swoons EVER, and that is saying A LOT.

Favorite pick found while perusing: Dragon’s Bait by Vivian Vande Velde. I was handed this by a bookseller at The Book Barn because she noticed that I like Patricia C. Wrede and assured me that this title was a readalike. I was pleasantly surprised over the nostalgia, I obviously also loved the strength in the main lady and the swoons in the main dragon!

Fantastical creatures: Not sure if he counts but, Death personified! He was breathtaking in Keturah and Lord Death and I look forward to reading more novels with him in the center!

That bad boy you shouldn’t love, but…: UMM hello? THE DARKLING 4EVA. I love, love, LOVE him so very much…from his quartz like eyes to his brooding demeanor. I just picture him controlling darkness and I get all “humina humina” to MAH BONES. *swoons* Honorable mention goes to Morpheus from Splintered by A.G. Howard

Favorite male lead: KVOTHE. Ohhhh Kvothe…I spent so much time with him this year (umm..over 50 hours of audio – which reminds me, OH HAI, Nick Podehl <3) and my heart sang and broke for him at times. He is so interesting and witty and hello, he’s a ginger, how can I not love him so?!

Favorite female lead: Eleanor, from Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. For the good and the bad, she reminded me of me when I was in high school.

Best summary in less than ten words: Scary vampires in an Amish setting. (Thanks, Ame!)

A return to an old favorite (title, genre, etc.): WOO! ROBIN HOOD, BABY!! I chose Robin Hood as my focus for our Classics Retold event and I am so glad that I was able to go back to the story that I love in Hood by Stephen Lawhead. I am excited to read book 2 and 3 in the series as soon as possible!

So glad I judged by it’s cover: In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters. The piercing gaze of the girl on the front and the ethereal being behind her, I had to have this book. I am so glad that I jumped to request this from Netgalley upon seeing it because it was one of my favorite reads of the year.

Broke my Heart: The Fables installments from this year really got to me. I have become WAY too invested in the characters and have fallen in love with the story, I love these graphic novels so much but boy did they crack my heart a little. Let’s not even get started on A Song of Ice and Fire…

Heightened by the narrator: For sure A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket narrated by Tim Curry is first in my mind when thinking of narrators who make the series for me. I started reading this series years and years ago and never finished because as I grew older I had a hard time making it through these novels in print. However, the audiobooks are absolutely stellar. The parts that I tended to read over because of annoyance or lack of interest, sprouted from my speakers and made me smile and laugh out loud.

Gave me the creeps (which I love): The Ghost of Graylock by Dan Poblocki, I sincerely hope that this author starts writing adult horror because he is FANTASTIC.

It’s in the words..: The Woodcutter by Kate Danley was so lyrical and beautiful that I found myself bookmarking every few pages. It was a simple, yet gorgeous read.

Biggest disappointment: Hmm probably Towering by Alex Flinn. I have heard a lot of good things about this author and it might have just been a wrong book, wrong time sort of thing but I did not enjoy this novel AT ALL.

Worth the hype: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. First, I was lucky enough to meet Rainbow at BEA this year and she was so fantastic, she also has great hair. Second, I am not a contemporary reader, and the sickly sweet romances are not usually my thing…HOWEVER Eleanor and Park was recommended to me by so many people that I trust and I fell so deeply in love with it, I immediately added all of Rowell’s books to my TBR. Never has hand holding been so romantic.

Newest addiction: Audiobooks!! As some of you may know, I am incredibly picky when it comes to audiobook narrators. Jim Dale is an obvious love and I fell into loving Neil Gaiman as soon as I heard his free audiobook Click, Clack, the Rattlebag but I had a hard time finding someone else to enjoy. I seem to have a problem with the jarring tone of a female narrator and and I felt sort of lost for a while until Heidi and Amy convinced me to try Nick Podehl, the narrator of The Kingkiller Chronicles. Well WOO BOY am I happy that I gave him a listen! over 50 hours of audiobook later and I am IN LOVE! I was also lucky enough to find some audiobooks narrated by Tim Curry, The Series of Unfortunate Events and a lovely version of Dracula, while perusing!

Favorite villain: Krampus wins this one, I think, though I don’t know for sure that he is considered a villain despite his “evil” ways. This novel by Brom is absolutely enthralling, I read it almost a year ago and I still can’t stop thinking about it.

Favorite laugh out loud moment: Like last year, I have to go with a Duncan moment from the second installment of The League of Princes: The Hero’s Guide to Storming the Castle. “Oh, I disagree,” Duncan added. “It makes me think of cow-owls. And those are horrifying. MOO-WHO! MOO-WHO!” This series is honestly fantastic and I can’t wait for book three!! Honorable mention goes to the final installment of A Tale Dark and Grimm: The Grimm Conclusion by Adam Gidwitz, this one had me laughing out loud as well!

The kissy bits: WOO Shadow & Bone had some yummy moments, as did Dark Triumph by LaFevers, Splintered by Howard, and Eleanor and Park had some epic hand holding (also CRESS because seriously..*faints*) Seriously, you guys…*FANS SELF*

Biggest ugly cry moment: Ya know, I didn’t really have any ugly cry moments this year..I don’t usually read those kinds of books so I somehow missed out. I did, however, tear up a few times while reading Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein. They were both lovely books, though I did not love them or get as attached as other readers.

Favorite new to me genre/book: Historical fiction! Between In the Shadow of Blackbirds, and The Caged Graves, I quickly jumped on the historical fiction bandwagon and asked Hannah and April for some suggestions. Needless to say, my TBR pile grew a lot and I am excited to move into some non Tudor England historical reads!

Mind. Blown.: Man, I feel sorry that I can’t explain myself better here but…that THING that happens in A Storm of Swords (and it’s not the thing you think)..yeah, I did NOT see that coming. I am so thrilled that I read this series, I can’t even begin to explain how worth it it is to take on the epicness that is A Song of Ice and Fire.

Thank you, Netgalley!: Splintered by A.G. Howard was a titled that I found on a whim while looking through Netgalley. The cover was gorgeous and the synopsis sounded awesome – a twisted fairytale, Alice in Wonderland meets Tim Burton in novel form? Sign me up! The world was vivid and the swoons were aplenty.

Non-bookish THINGS that I loved in 2013:

LOKI: Now, you all know that I love the villains SO MUCH and Loki isn’t really NEW on my radar since I have read and LOVED Norse mythology for as long as I can remember, but I started working hardcore on my WIP this year and…well..there are some Loki like bits in there. That got me delving more into his character, which only made me love him more. Also look how cute my new shirt is…

Game of Thrones: Again, not so new, but some of you may know that I participated in a Song of Ice and Fire Read Along this year and though it was very time consuming…it was AWESOME. Honestly, it is totally worth it, the series is so epic and you just fall so into the world, I definitely recommend giving it a go.

Neil Gaiman: Okay, I may have mentioned him a time or…five..but I was lucky enough to see Neil Gaiman THREE TIMES this year, and I MET HIM FACE TO FACE a few months ago and it was just a once in a lifetime experience. He is so amazing and gracious, and genius. Also his wife, she is pretty fantastic as well. No words.

Literary Lushes: I started a second website with my best friend Brittany (The Book Addict’s Guide) which focuses on ARC tours and Twitter chats. It has been such a great experience working with someone that I love and it has really opened me up to new bloggers and experiences which makes me incredibly happy!

Going forward I would like to introduce some new fun features on the blog – (including a new review feature!) and obviously share some wonderful reviews with you all! What about you guys, what can you tell me about your favorite literary moments of the year? I look forward to seeing you all in 2014!! As always, thanks for reading!

Review: The Hallowed Ones by Laura Bickle

Title: The Hallowed Ones

Author: Laura Bickle

Publishing Information: September 25, 2012 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Vampires, Dystopia

Series information: First in a series

Format: Paperback, 320 pages

Source: Borrowed from Amy (Tripping Over Books)

Recommended For: Fans of a very different kind of vampire tale.

Katie is on the verge of her Rumspringa, the time in Amish life when teenagers can get a taste of the real world. But the real world comes to her in this dystopian tale with a philosophical bent. Rumors of massive unrest on the “Outside” abound. Something murderous is out there. Amish elders make a rule: No one goes outside, and no outsiders come in. But when Katie finds a gravely injured young man, she can’t leave him to die. She smuggles him into her family’s barn—at what cost to her community? The suspense of this vividly told, truly horrific thriller will keep the pages turning (Via Goodreads).

When Amy first told me about this book I was skeptical. Amish…and vampires? I am over the vampire thing and…well, the Amish community doesn’t really do it for me. She ensured that I would love it and that it wasn’t THAT kind of vampire story so I gave it a go, and you guys, she was right. The Hallowed Ones was in a word, surprising. The plot was incredibly engaging and the atmosphere was just perfect. I didn’t really fall into the “horror” of the novel, but I have a very high threshold. I did enjoy seeing the vampires as monsters and not humanized characters, it was really different from the norm and kept me on my toes.

The characters in The Hallowed Ones were all fantastic. I really enjoyed Katie and her rebellious yet not too rebellious ways. I found her to be believable and engaging, she didn’t rebel against the restrictions of her society for anything less than what she believed was right. In other words, she wasn’t the typical teenager who rebelled against limitations because WHY NOT, but she rebelled because she knew that letting someone die for their differences wasn’t right, and following your heart is sometimes just as important as following your head. Katie’s parents were a tad infuriating to me but I especially enjoyed Ginger, the “outsider” who was forced to remain in the Amish community after the “attacks” started. Elijah annoyed me, he was a tool and I didn’t like how he treated Katie, he clearly knew little about her despite spending his entire life by her side. Then there is Alex…wooo boy did I love him. Alex is another “outsider” and boy does he turn Katie’s world upside down. Also, he has mythical tattoos that are yummy in my mind’s eye and also protect him from the bad things. Also, I can’t talk about characters without mentioning the Hexenmeister. That’s right, this book has it’s very own Hexenmeister. How awesome is that?! I loved this guy, I pictured him like an angry hermit who screams at kids to GIT OFF HIS LAWN but then also teaches them life lessons and how to shoot a shotgun. Kind of like Rafiki…but human and maybe kind of magical.

You guys I have to be honest, the blind faith thing? I can’t abide it. It really grinds my gears and makes me want to shake my fist and scream like an Amazonian woman. It is safe to say that I am not in the majority here but going into this book I was prepared to feel the rage over the limitations and blind following of the society presented. You know what though? I wasn’t rage filled (for the most part) and I really enjoyed the way Laura Bickle represented the Amish society. I grew up in a very small town in Pennsylvania, and I have some experience with this sort of lifestyle so it was really fun to read about it and see the connections. The “Elders” pushed my buttons a little bit, but they were supposed to and I found my inner rebel (LOL she isn’t buried too deeply) screaming at them a time or two. The thing that really got to me about this novel though was the idea that hallowed ground is what kept certain people safe. All hallowed ground. That means that the Catholics in their church? SAFE. The Wiccans holed up in their sacred space? SAFE. The Amish in their community? ALSO SAFE. It really made me feel good to see this universal message of “What you believe, you become,” and support of faith and not just ONE FAITH.

The Hallowed Ones was a captivating read, I didn’t expect any of the big reveals, which is always a win for me. Laura Bickle has a knack for character and atmosphere development and I absolutely cannot wait to pick up the sequel;, The Outside, as soon as possible. For those of you looking for something that stands out in the young adult, paranormal genre, pick up The Hallowed Ones immediately. It had everything I needed, all of the best things, shock, mystery, and a delicious splash of romance.

Review: The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab

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Hello fellow readers! Fortnight of Fright continues with a review of The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab!

Title: The Near Witch

Author: Victoria Schwab

Publishing Information: August 2, 2011 by Hyperion Books

Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Witches, Romance

Series information: Standalone – though a prequel can be read for free here

Format: Hardcover, 282 pages

Source: Obtained an ARC from the author a Book Expo America

Recommended For: Fans of fairy tales and lyrical, imaginative prose

The Near Witch is only an old story told to frighten children. 

If the wind calls at night, you must not listen. The wind is lonely, and always looking for company. 

And there are no strangers in the town of Near.

These are the truths that Lexi has heard all her life.

But when an actual stranger-a boy who seems to fade like smoke-appears outside her home on the moor at night, she knows that at least one of these sayings is no longer true.

The next night, the children of Near start disappearing from their beds, and the mysterious boy falls under suspicion. Still, he insists on helping Lexi search for them. Something tells her she can trust him.

As the hunt for the children intensifies, so does Lexi’s need to know-about the witch that just might be more than a bedtime story, about the wind that seems to speak through the walls at night, and about the history of this nameless boy.

The first thing to talk about when discussing The Near Witch is the way in which Victoria Schwab integrates gorgeous imagery into her prose. The Near Witch is reminiscent of fairy tales of old, invoking images of deep forests, dark moors, and misguided villains. What Schwab excels at is weaving absolutely beautiful descriptions with layered characters, and plot, she teetered on the line between too much and too little throughout the novel and I find that for me, The Near Witch was just right.

I thoroughly enjoyed the strength shown by the characters in The Near Witch, Schwab has an excellent way of showing the reader glimpses into multiple characters without becoming too overwhelming with detail. Lexi is our main character and though she is growing up in a small village ruled by men, she does her best to stand out and follow her own path. This is done in a beautiful way as we are shown the integrity in her character when she is willing to trust a stranger when no one else will. The aforementioned stranger is a rather mysterious young man who has a bit of a shadowy past, though he is doing his best to not let that affect his future. The relationship between the two characters was indeed sweet, if not a little rushed.  The secondary characters of the novel were also layered and interesting, the two “witches” of the village, Dreska and Magda, stole the show on more than one occasion, and I simply adored Lexi’s mother, though in truth I would have liked to see more of her throughout the novel.

What I can say about The Near Witch in terms of plot is that it is an extremely straightforward novel, there are no hidden agendas or surprise elements. In fact, I had a hard time not thinking ahead and making up my own twisty endings for the novel. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I did find that it made the novel lack some depth. Perhaps my expectations of a reader are too high but upon completion I did feel as if the novel was missing a certain something to place it on my favorites shelf. With that being said, I must mention that despite the lack of depth, The Near Witch was a beautifully detailed fairy tale that spoke to my heart. I recommend it to those of you looking for something less enthralling, but more comfortable, it evokes a feeling of putting on your favorite sweater on the first cool day, after a very long summer.

Review: Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke

Title: Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

Author: April Genevieve Tucholke

Publishing Information: August 15, 2013

Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Gothic, Horror, Romance

Series information: Book 1 in a planned series

Format: Hardcover, 368 pages

Source: Obtained an ARC from the publisher via Edelweiss

Recommended For: Fans of highly atmospheric and gothic novels, such as The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin, and Amber House by Kelly Moore

You stop fearing the devil when you’re holding his hand…

Nothing much exciting rolls through Violet White’s sleepy, seaside town…until River West comes along. River rents the guesthouse behind Violet’s crumbling estate, and as eerie, grim things start to happen, Violet begins to wonder about the boy living in her backyard. Is River just a crooked-smiling liar with pretty eyes and a mysterious past? Or could he be something more? Violet’s grandmother always warned her about the Devil, but she never said he could be a dark-haired boy who takes naps in the sun, who likes coffee, who kisses you in a cemetery…who makes you want to kiss back. Violet’s already so knee-deep in love, she can’t see straight. And that’s just how River likes it.

I am a sucker for any novel described as being a gothic horror; it is one of the few things that make my eyes glaze over when dreaming of the possibilities. A lot of times it is hard for an author to match what the reader wants, especially in terms of writing horror. April Genevieve Tucholke weaves the perfect amount of horror and mystery into this paranormal novel. I was very taken by the way in which the atmosphere of the novel plays into the action of its characters, there was a perfect balance between the two and it made for a much more dramatic reading.

Let’s talk characters, Violet is strong and careful, she is more mature and responsible than a typical 17 year old as she has practically raised herself since her parents have been gone, she also misses her dead grandmother terribly and often talks to her as if she were still alive. Her brother Luke is somewhat reckless and where Violet has matured in their parent’s absence, Luke has developed a more obvious “craves attention” sort of personality. Sunshine is their neighbor, and is described as beautiful with sleepy and seductive brown eyes. If I am being honest, I didn’t like Sunshine at all, and I didn’t like the way that Violet compared herself to Sunshine constantly, though it did give the reader insight to Violet’s lack of confidence in herself. It was perhaps because of this confidence that Violet fell so fast for the gorgeous River West. River is good looking in a “vintage” way, with a gorgeous crooked smile. He is a very manipulative character, which obviously plays into the story, but I have to be honest I was a little frustrated with him and his constant evasiveness. Their relationship was pretty seductive, even though it did read somewhat like the paranormal romances we are used to. You know the kind where the girl “can’t stand” this guy and his ways yet she just can’t stop kissing him? I can’t complain though, because those kissy scenes? Oh, they were worth it.

Lot’s of people have bad stories, and if they wail and sob and tell their story to anyone who’ll listen, it’s crap. Or half crap, at least. The stuff that really hurts people, the stuff that almost breaks them…that they won’t talk about. Ever.

Though overall I adored Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, it wasn’t perfect. I didn’t really appreciate the so often seen “absent parents,” and how Luke and Violet are still in high school yet they somehow manage to learn to live on their own with no guidance or structure. I see how it was necessary to leave the parents out of the main storyline, but I would have felt better about it had Violet and Luke been a year older or perhaps been taken care of by an eccentric family member. This didn’t affect my overall impression of the novel but it was something that bothered me while reading it.

On the whole, the novel was beautiful and atmospheric, the description of Citizen Kane, the large house where Violet and Luke live was absolutely breathtaking, I found myself wanting Violet to explore more so I could learn more about what was hidden in the corners of the attic. I also particularly enjoyed the ending of the novel. Some readers are saying that they felt the ending to be rather rushed, and though I can see that in a way, I also think it was necessary for the novel to progress in this way in order to set it up for the continuation of the series. I also did not see the ending coming, I had musings, to be sure, but the revelation at the end was quite a surprise.

I highly recommend Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea to anyone looking for a descriptive and atmospheric novel. It is filled with enough mysterious and creepy elements to keep even the most jaded reader looking over their shoulder, also let’s not forget about the swoony bits as those are aplenty as well!

Review: The Woodcutter by Kate Danley

Title: The Woodcutter

Author: Kate Danley

Publishing Information: November 6, 2012

Genre: Fantasy, Fairy Tale, Mystery, Young Adult, Adult

Series information: Standalone

Format: Kindle, 346 pages

Source: Gifted for my Kindle from Amy (Tripping Over Books)

Recommended For: Fans of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, John Connelly, and intense yet simplistic dark fantasy novels.

Deep within the Wood, a young woman lies dead. Not a mark on her body. No trace of her murderer. Only her chipped glass slippers hint at her identity.

The Woodcutter, keeper of the peace between the Twelve Kingdoms of Man and the Realm of the Faerie, must find the maiden’s killer before others share her fate. Guided by the wind and aided by three charmed axes won from the River God, the Woodcutter begins his hunt, searching for clues in the whispering dominions of the enchanted unknown.

But quickly he finds that one murdered maiden is not the only nefarious mystery afoot: one of Odin’s hellhounds has escaped, a sinister mansion appears where it shouldn’t, a pixie dust drug trade runs rampant, and more young girls go missing. Looming in the shadows is the malevolent, power-hungry queen, and she will stop at nothing to destroy the Twelve Kingdoms and annihilate the Royal Fae…unless the Woodcutter can outmaneuver her and save the gentle souls of the Wood. (Synopsis from Goodreads)

One of the first things I noticed about The Woodcutter was the simplicity yet enthralling nature in which Kate Danley draws in the reader. Those of you familiar with more traditional fairytales will love the language of this novel. In lieu of proper names, the author uses the more ambiguous “Wife,” and “The King,” which set them apart from the named characters in an interesting way. Even The Woodcutter wears his title as his armor, he IS The Woodcutter and that title overpowers all things. In addition to this ambiguity, the novel is also filled with many “moral of the story” moments. The most important of these being that “true love conquers all.” As an avid reader I may have become somewhat jaded in terms of true love and characters who are “meant to be,” but this novel delivers these moments in a different and more subtle way that is reminiscent of the tales of old. 

In terms of plot, The Woodcutter was intense yet at the same time very subtle. I was surprise at how dark the novel was, not horror story dark, but just lacking a bit of light throughout. There is much conflict through The Woodcutter and like any epic hero he is forced to work through many different obstacles in order to succeed. The wonderful thing here is that as I stated above The Woodcutter does all for The Wood, he is the protector of the land and that is his priority, on the inside though, he only wishes to return home to his wife to live out his days by her side. This was interesting as the reader was able to see the internal conflict of The Woodcutter and how he worked to meet his vastly different goals.

One of the best things about this novel is that it isn’t just a fairytale retelling, it bridges genre (and age) gaps as is holds so many different elements. Not only is it filled with fairytale elements, there are also significant nods to mythology and traditional folklore, not to mention the bits of fantasy, mystery and horror throughout. As you read you gain more knowledge of the world and characters within it, and therefore you are able to journey with The Woodcutter as he learns about the land he protects.

If I can tell you anything to sway you to pick this novel up as soon as possible, know that Kate Danley’s writing is beautiful. She is a master at words and I found myself reading and re-reading many lines throughout. I highly recommend The Woodcutter to those of you looking for an enthralling and lovely read. Fans of The Book of Lost Things by John Connelly and traditional fairy tales will find this especially lovely.

Yes, true love’s first kiss
“The spell has been broken,” said the Woodcutter…The hellhound that stalked you will have lost your scent, for you are no longer that which you were and will forever be more than you ever thought possible…”
He knew they no longer needed him, for wild magic does not meddle with the hearts of those who have tamed it with true love.
For true love conquers all.

Review: The Caged Graves by Dianne Salerni

12394044Title: The Caged Graves

Author: Dianne K. Salerni

Publishing Information: May 14, 2013 by Clarion Books

Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Romance

Series information: Standalone

Format: Hardcover, 336 pages

Source: Received an ARC from the publisher via Netgalley

Recommended For: Readers looking for an intriguing, atmospheric, mysterious, and romantic historical fiction

17-year-old Verity Boone expects a warm homecoming when she returns to Catawissa, Pennsylvania, in 1867, pledged to marry a man she has never met. Instead, she finds a father she barely knows and a future husband with whom she apparently has nothing in common. One truly horrifying surprise awaits her: the graves of her mother and aunt are enclosed in iron cages outside the local cemetery. Nobody in town will explain why, but Verity hears rumors of buried treasure and witchcraft. Perhaps the cages were built to keep grave robbers out . . . or to keep the women in. Determined to understand, Verity finds  herself in a life-and-death struggle with people she trusted.

Verity is forced to leave the family she loves to marry a man she has never met, and live with a father she barely knows. What is a girl to do when she is the talk of the town for all the wrong reasons? Not only is she snatching up the most eligible bachelor in Catawissa, she is related to two women who were believed to partake in the devil’s work, and who were buried outside the graveyard, on unconsecrated ground. Bow her head and take it, I suppose? Not Verity Boone. Verity is determined to be in love with the man she marries, but she is even more determined to get to the bottom of the mystery surrounding her mother and aunt’s deaths, and Hell hath no fury like a woman who is told to “just let it go.”

The characters in The Caged Graves were wonderfully layered and personable, I found them all to be rather spirited and above all, believable. Verity is strong willed and brave, she has mastered that southern charm and when the ladies in town disrespect her she gives them an “oh bless your heart” right back. She’s not a fainter and it’s pointed out on quite a few occasions that she is “not a boy,” meaning, she doesn’t act properly all of the time and that means that she is a girl right after my own heart. Verity’s intended, Nate, is the man of the town, every lady had their sights set on him before Verity showed up, thus being the reason she needs to school quite a few of them in manners. In a nutshell, Nate is dark haired, devoted, sweet, and protective in a very tender manner. Where the ahem, other gentleman in Verity’s life, Hadley is a light eyed, ginger haired doctor who won’t hesitate to tell you what he wants and when he wants it. I’ll be honest, I didn’t like Nate at first, but I don’t think we are meant to. In fact, the first few meetings of Nate in comparison to the first few meetings of Hadley really show their differences and I wasn’t sure where my heart was headed for a while.

You may have heard a little something about a love triangle going on in The Caged Graves and readers, I can’t lie to you, it’s there. I can’t tell you how incredibly scared I was while reading (no seriously, ask my friends, it’s all I kept talking about) because I was so worried that this possible love triangle would turn into a SERIOUS PROBLEM, and my feelings would become conflicted with Verity’s and then at the conclusion I would be completely messed up wondering if I she made the right choice. Let me tell you, there were a few close calls, a few times I was wavering in my loyalties, but in the end I am thrilled with my Verity’s decision. So yes, there is a love triangle of sorts, but no, I don’t think that it controls the story at all. In fact, I think the relationships in the novel sit side by side with the mystery and they weave together quite nicely.

“You’re beautiful,” he said bluntly, “and I didn’t expect you to be.”

Ms. Salerni definitely has a knack for writing relationships of all kinds. I enjoyed the way Verity got to know Nate’s sisters, and her relationship with Beulah was rather fun and endearing. One thing I have to say is that I love, love, LOVE the way the author portrays the relationship between Verity and her father.  The best thing about it is how much it grows through the novel, though her father seems a bit awkward and standoffish at first, the reader is really able to glimpse how much he loves his daughter under his hard exterior. It honestly reminded me a bit of my own father and melted my heart quite a bit.

The setting and plot of The Caged Graves was completely enthralling. As we gain glimpses into the past through Verity’s mother’s diaries we are able to work out the mystery as Verity does, little by little. The action was continuous and intriguing and though I may have figured out small bits of the mystery as we’re meant to, the ending really caught me off guard. I love when that happens.

On the whole, this novel was just right. It had just enough history that I didn’t feel overwhelmed by incessant facts, just enough paranormal elements that made it still completely believable, just enough mystery that had my mind constantly working trying to figure out what was going to happen next, and most importantly, it contained the perfect amount of stolen glances, tender kisses, and undeniable swoons.

The Caged Graves is a different novel than I am used to reading, and it is hard to place it in one category as it encompasses so many wonderful elements. If you’re looking for an immensely atmospheric, mysterious, and romantic read, I highly recommend that you pick this one up immediately.

Swoonfest: Favorite Disney Men

The Top most swoon worthy Disney men

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In response to a recent post by BuzzFeed on the top 10 hottest Disney princes I decided to compile my own list since I disagreed with nearly every choice presented. I brought this to the bf and he argued that these princes didn’t really rank in manliness, and he had a point. So I went to Twitter and asked the masses, and more importantly, our expert blogger on manliness: Aaron from Real Men Read YA, head over to his blog and read his thorough and hard to argue with post. I’m going to go beyond the first glance and look for a well rounded male. Let’s see what we have…

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Prince Phillip – Let’s start from the beginning, he isn’t wearing any creepy poofy sleeves like some Disney princes and he doesn’t just sit in his palace hoping that his dad will put together a ball so that he can find a wife – he gets shit done. Like when he views a hot blonde singing and dancing with his cape (that’s right ladies, he wears a cape) he jumps right in like “HAI I’m Phillip, do you like the feather in my cap?!” Later, when a witch imprisons his beloved and is like “Yeah..imma let you in right after you slay this dragon.” HE DOES IT, then becomes so overwhelmed with LOVE for Aurora that he goes against ya know, MORALS and kisses her! SAVING THE KINGDOM! Also? Points for kissing someone he’s already betrothed too, no heartbreakers here!

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Prince Eric – Okay I have to admit, at first I wasn’t sure that he would even make the cut but then I started really thinking and Eric is totally swoon worthy. First, he plays an instrument – this shows us he has a sensitive side and those musical fingers – enough said, am I right?! Then there is the fact that he knows his way around a ship, I mean, he’s basically a pirate and who doesn’t wanna walk the plank for Captain Hook? *That’s circa 2013 – OUaT Captain Hook and not Neverland Captain Hook because when it comes down to cross dressing pirates, guy liner wins over wigs any day in my book. I digress…back to Eric – the guy isn’t pretentious, he isn’t one to promote a statue of himself and we all saw those muscles as he rowed Ariel to the middle of the lake. Finally, he is super protective of those he loves, he jumped in to save Ariel from a sea witch! Lets not kid ourselves, Urusula may be the queen of the BAMFs of Disney movies and Eric is like “That’s cool I’ll just use my pirate skills to steer my boat and pop a big ‘ol hole in your stomach!! Finally, I can’t lie to you guys, the moment when Eric goes back to the EXPLODING ship to save Max? I can’t. IT GETS ME EVERY TIME and even my tiny black heart skips a beat or two.

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The Beast – Is he a wolf? Is he a lion? Do we care? Didn’t think so. This is the kind of man we like to call “brooding” or “misunderstood.” He’s a serious grump most of the time but it’s just because no one “gets” him and this girl loves a challenge. His voice is so deep it melts the clothes right off and let’s not forget that he can fight a whole pack of wolves with just his hands! Oh my! In the end he is both protective of Belle and does that signature brooding guy move where he pushes her away because he knows that “she deserves better.” My favorite! Now if that wasn’t enough, he gives Belle a library. A whole library! With ladders! And marble! After giving her the most epic present in the history of presents, he plays with her in the snow, feeds the birds, and sits with her while she reads him Romeo and Juliet! (I’m not making this up, it’s in the deleted scenes on the new DVD – nerd alert!) *Note: This entry is for The Beast only. I’m not sure what Disney was thinking in transforming The Beast into a rather effeminate blonde. Guy was tall, and kept his blue eyes, but I’m still partial to The Beast, I don’t care how often I’d be vacuuming his hair off of the couch.

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Flynn Rider – The only man to come along and make me doubt my love for our number one Disney male. I’ve heard some people complain that Flynn was a thief, but look – the guy had a hard childhood and anyone with the first name Eugene is someone who can be trusted. Lets get into the pleasantries: That hair! Those eyes! The GRIN! That SMOLDER! Props to Rapunzel because I’m not sure many of us could say that we could easily resist that compilation! Lets not forget his excellent singing voice, I personally stop what I’m doing to watch him dance his little jig and sing about enormous piles of money. The best part about Flynn is that we are able to watch him grow as the movie progresses. He starts off as a thief but who didn’t swoon a bit when he rows Rapunzel to the middle of the ocean and brings her a lantern to partake in the festivities?! That was above the line of duty, my friends. We could end with the fact that Flynn gives up his life for Rapunzel and therefore is the epitome of all Disney boyfriends but let’s be serious, it’s the fact that he has a “thing” for brunettes that really pushes Flynn to the front of the line. Pick me, Eugene!

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Aladdin – Ahh my first love. I know he could use a new wardrobe but have you seen those patches in his knees? That means the dude knows his way around a needle, ladies, and we all know we love a man who can take care of himself! Ain’t nobody got time to be sewing our husband’s favorite pair of pants while he’s out playing with his monkey – and I mean that literally. Moving on..he’s flexible, knows how to carry a tune and he not only stops stuffy princes from picking on small children, he gives them his last scrap of bread! Sure he stole it and he will most likely just pilfer some more but those kids were hungry, and I gotta be honest, I’d share a few nibbles but there’s no way those kids need a whole loaf when I’ve yet to have my breakfast. Now the fun stuff – he has a magic carpet! One who saves him on more than one occasion, because Aladdin is so awesome, even fabric stays loyal to him. Fancy a trip to England? Lets take a magic carpet ride, baby. We’ll be there in no time. Finally, his best friend (besides the monkey) is a genie! Now you might be thinking that Genie left to travel the world but let me assure you that he comes back, I saw the tv show so I know these things. Overall Aladdin is scrappy, clever, and undeniably good looking. I’ll show him a whole new world any day.

Honorable mentions (because I CAN):

Kronk from The Emperors New Groove – He’s muscly, knows his way around the kitchen, speaks the language of tiny forest animals, and succeeds in creating his own theme music.

Hercules – Any guy who can win over Megara (who is totes my home girl, btw) is a winner in my book. Not to mention those muscles and his bff is a flying horse – a guy who can drive, yes please!

Robin Hood – He’s an outlaw because he steals from the rich to give to the poor! Also? He jumps out of a flaming tower into a very shallow moat to escape hundreds of arrows being shot at him and survives.

Prince Naveen – The accent, ’nuff said.

Woody from Toy Story – Because every gal likes a cowboy.

Things to note:
  • As mentioned in the buzzfeed article Snow White’s Prince, though the first to be seen by the general public, has few redeeming qualities. Unless you need someone to confess his love for you while harmonizing perfectly and showing you up in physical attributes then immediately forgetting your address and refusing to ask for directions, move along m’dears, you can do better!
  • Simba could very well have made this list for the sole reason that his dad is Darth Vader and his uncle is Jeremy Irons. Unfortunately, having BAMFs as family members doesn’t help you if you’re Matthew Broderick.
  • Sure Tarzan looks nice but I can’t be bothered by a man who consistently uses improper grammar. “Me Tarzan.” “Yeah and me not have the patience.”

*I’m not saying that you should Google “disney men by david kawena” but it could be a good idea. Possibly.

Love is Louder

Love is Louder 2013

Some of you may have seen my Twitter post yesterday but to follow up, I just wanted to share a quick message with all of you readers about The Love is Louder Project. 

For those of you who don’t know, Love is Louder was started by The Jed Foundation, which works to promote emotional health and prevent suicide among college and university students. Love is Louder was started by this foundation and the actress Brittany Snow to support anyone feeling mistreated, misunderstood or alone.

From their website:

“It’s hundreds of thousands of people just like you who have turned this idea into a movement.  A movement of all types of people who have come together to raise the volume around the message that love and support are louder than any internal or external voice that brings us down. Individuals, communities, schools and organizations have embraced Love is Louder as a way to address with issues like bullying, negative self-image, discrimination, loneliness and depression.  Even as we work to stop negative words and actions that hurt us, we can strengthen our abilities to cope with hard times, focus on the positive, support the people around us and reach out for help if we need it.”

I’m not asking you to do anything with this information, I simply wanted to make you aware of a beautiful cause and provide you all with ways that you can participate. The high school where I work is joining the project and the picture above was put together by myself to support the movement, if you want to get involved in any way you can visit the Love is Louder website, follow them on Twitter and tweet using the hashtag #loveislouder or simply tell someone you know.

With your help, we are getting louder.

Top Ten Tuesday (29)

Top Ten Favorite Romances

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created over at The Broke and the Bookish which I adore and therefore chose to adopt into my weekly blog posts!

I know I don’t participate in Top Ten Tuesday every week but I couldn’t give up a chance to share my favorite romances with you guys! I actually made a hand written list of these favorites and then using very scientific reasoning I narrowed it down to only ten..so in no particular order…

Bran and Liadan from Son of the Shadows by Juliet Marillier – (Or every single couple in every single Marillier novel ever…) Like many of Marillier’s heroines, Liadan brings Bran back from the brink of madness. They both broke my heart and though I also love Clodagh and Cathal, Bran and Liadan were the first couple that I fell in love with. “I just knew, overwhelmingly, that if I did not touch him I would shatter in pieces. Jump, cried the wind. Jump over. I shut my eyes and moved toward him, and my arms went around his waist, and I rested my head against his chest and let my tears flow. There, said the voice deep inside me. See how easy it was?”

Bigby and Snow from Fables by Bill Willingham – Snow tames Bigby in a few ways and I just love how much he loves her. I devour all stories starring these two.

Karou and Akiva from Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor – This couple was heart wrenching in quite a few ways, their backstory and current love affair was beautiful and heart breaking. I can’t wait to see what happens with them in book two. “Your soul sings to mine. My soul is yours, and it always will be, in any world. No matter what happens. I need you to remember that I love you.”

Marco and Celia from The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – Oh those star crossed lovers who are doomed to duel to the death, the story, setting and characters all read like a love story to me. “As he kisses her, the bonfire glows brighter. The acrobats catch the light perfectly as they spin. The entire circus sparkles, dazzling every patron.” 

Anita and Jean Claude from The Anita Blake series by Laurell K. Hamilton – Anita has many lovers and boyfriends and though Jean Claude isn’t human I still can’t see anyone else as a better fit. Jean Claude understands Anita on all levels, though they are different in many ways, Jean Claude understands her rage and how it is a part of her better than anyone. “Je reve de toi..”

Cimorene and Mendanbar from The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede – I read these books a long time ago, before a good romance was a key element in my book choices and I fell in love with the witty banter between these two characters. Their love shows in subtle ways and to this day they are still one of my favorite couples. “Yes,” Mendanbar said, looking down. “I love you, and—and—” “And you should have said that to begin with,” Cimorene interrupted.

Jamie and Claire from The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon – Okay maybe I didn’t love the first book but the parts I did love revolved around Claire and Jamie. Specifically, around Jamie’s love for Claire and their interactions with one another. “Oh, aye, Sassenach. I am your master . . . and you’re mine. Seems I canna possess your soul without losing my own.” 

Robin Hood and Maid Marian – In every form, I love this couple. In the poems, novels, movies and songs their romance is beautiful.

Ismae and Duval from Grave Mercy by R.L. LaFevers – Ahh the slow burn romances always get to me! Through the whole novel I was on edge waiting for them to finally get together! “Whenever you are ready, or if you never are, my heart is yours….”

Wesley and Buttercup from The Princess Bride by William Goldman – How can this not be one of my favorites? Though I love the movie a tad more, their love is still beautiful! “Do I love you? My God, if your love were a grain of sand, mine would be a universe of beaches.” 

Review: The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan

 

Title: The Lover’s Dictionary

Author: David Levithan

Publishing Information: January 4, 2011 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction

Series information: Standalone

Format: Hardcover, 211 pages

Source: Borrowed from my local library

Recommended For: Readers looking for a very different type of novel focusing on the ups and downs romance

How does one talk about love? Do we even have the right words to describe something that can be both utterly mundane and completely transcendent, pulling us out of our everyday lives and making us feel a part of something greater than ourselves? Taking a unique approach to this problem, the nameless narrator of David Levithan’s The Lover’s Dictionary has constructed the story of his relationship as a dictionary. Through these short entries, he provides an intimate window into the great events and quotidian trifles of being within a couple, giving us an indelible and deeply moving portrait of love in our time.

This book is more like a set of poems than a regular novel and that is part of the reason that it is so beautiful. Each page of this book contains a different word and a “definition” for the word. The definitions mold together like clues to create a love story with both happy and heartbreaking parts. It shows both the ups and downs of the relationship and as you read you really feel with the narrator and relate to the angst and bliss he or she is feeling.

Though this book is a quick read it is still one that you should take your time with, read each page slowly and ponder its meaning to the author but also if/how it relates to your life. The language is superb, not too sad or too happy but the perfect mix that will really play with your emotions.

It is near impossible for me to explain the splendor of this book so instead I will provide some examples:

Basis, n.

There has to be a moment at the beginning when you wonder whether you’re in love with person or in love with the feeling of love itself.

If the moment doesn’t pass, that’s it – you’re done.

And if the moment does pass, it never goes that far. It stands in the distance, ready for whenever you want it back. Sometimes it’s even there when you thought you were searching for something else, like an escape route, or your lover’s face.

Elliptical, adj.

The kiss I like the most is one of the slow ones. It’s as much breath as touch, as much no as yes. You lean in from the side, and I have to turn a little to make it happen.

Love, n.

I’m not going to even try.

Scapegoat, n.

I think our top two are:

1. Not enough coffee.
2. Too much coffee.

I recommend this book to all; it is all things good and bad in relation to love and is extremely relatable.