Review: The Museum of Things Left Behind by Seni Glaister

  
This book is clever and a little bit fascinating, but it also has some bits that produce eye-rolls. 

A newcomer arrives in Vallerosa, a tiny, self-sufficient, and overlooked European country. Through her eyes we see some Animal-Farm-esque bureaucracy and authoritarianism, as well as the hidden niches where things really get done. 

I thought the symbolism and use of characters was smart – in an obvious way. I loved the ending, where we see that the citizens are willing to sacrifice personal time for the good of their country – even without pay or recognition. I liked that the president was made to literally sweat in fear that he wasn’t living up to his constituents’ expectations. 

But I didn’t like the slams on America, nor the stereotyped American characters. And I didn’t like how so much of the story had to be contrived — and then the ending seemed to swing so far from the way the plot was heading. I almost feel like the author was trying to prove a point to a hostile audience. I don’t want to be lectured for several pages on the necessity of honeybees or the reasons why a wife might be too tired to spend time with her husband. I read for escapist pleasure, so a lecture in my fiction just ain’t my bag, baby. 

I think maybe more could have been done with the museum in the story – or the title should’ve been changed to something tea-related. And I definitely wished the tea had more magic. 

All in all, a bit long-winded and idealistic, but definitely an interesting commentary on society, government, roles of men and women, education, employment, and agriculture. The character development was terrific, as was the dialogue. And though I’m not sure it was important to the story, I was very, VERY happy to see all that pastry finally available for breakfast. 

-calliope

Buy THE MUSEUM OF THINGS LEFT BEHIND

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Review: Huckleberry Spring by Jennifer Beckstrand

Huckleberry Harvest was released Tuesday! My review is coming soon, but you still have time to catch up on the earlier books in the series. 🙂

Random Book Muses

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So, Book 4 in the Matchmakers of Huckleberry Hill series. Oh that grandmother Anna can be sly. And grandfather Felty is definitely not on board with the deceit. But the matchmaking keeps succeeding, so they keep on doing it.

Spring brings Emma to the farm to help grow a pumpkin. Then Anna tells a few white lies to get her grandson Ben back to Wisconsin from Florida. He had escaped there after breaking off his engagement to … yes, Emma. And the re-matchmaking begins.

This time, it’s more than just hearts on the line. Ben has a medical issue he’s not willing to share. Emma has strength of spirit but also a will to not get her heart broken again.

I just love the innocence and Godly love in Beckstrand’s Huckleberry Hill books. I appreciate the family loyalty and the harmless jokes. And there’s always a sense of adventure!

I…

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Review: Nowhere But Here by Katie McGarry

01 nowhere “The only way to break free is to understand the past so you don’t continue to follow in their footsteps.”

Oh my gosh!! Katie McGarry has done it again! I love MC series and Katie’s books. So when you combine them, this is a match in my book nerd heaven.

SYNPOSIS
Seventeen-year-old Emily likes her life the way it is: doting parents, good friends, good school in a safe neighborhood. Sure, she’s curious about her biological father—the one who chose life in a motorcycle club, the Reign of Terror, over being a parent—but that doesn’t mean she wants to be a part of his world. But when a reluctant visit turns to an extended summer vacation among relatives she never knew she had, one thing becomes clear: nothing is what it seems. Not the club, not her secret-keeping father and not Oz, a guy with suck-me-in blue eyes who can help her understand them both.

Oz wants one thing: to join the Reign of Terror. They’re the good guys. They protect people. They’re…family. And while Emily—the gorgeous and sheltered daughter of the club’s most respected member—is in town, he’s gonna prove it to her. So when her father asks him to keep her safe from a rival club with a score to settle, Oz knows it’s his shot at his dream. What he doesn’t count on is that Emily just might turn that dream upside down.

No one wants them to be together. But sometimes the right person is the one you least expect, and the road you fear the most is the one that leads you home.

This is a story about being proud of where you come from. It’s about love and forgiveness and being true to yourself. Emily has been told ties all her life, but she never knew it, until she came back and was thrust into her biological father’s world. Now she is slowly unraveling the lies and falling more in love this life and these people who she’s been told to fear.

Oz made a mistake and has been put a babysitting duty, of the leader’s daughter. He knows she’s bad news and wants her to go home as soon as possible. But the longer he stays near her, she brings out feelings that he has no right to feel. But no matter how hard he tries, he can’t deny that this MC princess is going to be his downfall, if he doesn’t get a hold of himself.

In true Katie McGarry form, this book is perfect for mid teens. There is no over the top sexiness. There was a fair amount of tension, but nothing explicit. Oz and Emily try and fight their attraction, but sometimes the heart doesn’t work with what we want.

“I thought your job was to prevent me from learning the truth…”

“No. My job is to love you.”

This book was full of excitement and had an emotional story line that will tug at your heartstrings a bit. I found myself even tearing up a bit at the end. You fall in love with these characters and don’t want any harm to befall them. But sometimes life isn’t perfect. So if you find people who love you, except their love and hold on tight.

~Melpomene

BuyNowhere but Here (Thunder Road)

Review: Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins

51gCLikAH0L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_As another school year winds down, one of the things I’ve been working on is a list of possible books for my kiddos to read over the summer. And no, it’s not a required reading list. Most of you probably know how I feel about those. Instead, it’s a suggested list of titles that I know were good for me, so I can guess that they’ll probably appeal to younger readers as well. And no compilation of such books would be complete for me without The Overlander Chronicles series written by none other than Suzanne Collins, author of The Hunger Games.

Gregor is an unlikely hero, a young boy of just eleven. But when his young sister crawls into an air vent in the laundry room of their New York City apartment building, he doesn’t hesitate before going in after her. So begins their journey into the Underland, a mystical magical land right under the feet of New Yorkers. As magical as the Underland is, however, it’s also a land on the brink of war. And it appears that Gregor is exactly the hero mentioned in the prophecy that guides the Underlanders as they ready themselves for battle.

Oh, and did I mention the giant cockroaches? Yes, that’s right. Cockroaches. Giant ones. And giant bats and rats and spiders. Here’s where some of the story’s deeper messages come into play, as there’s a definite hierarchy in the Underland as well as a lot of prejudices and stereotypes. There are also moral decisions to be made, and there are consequences to some of the choices made by the characters. While some of the books in the series are definitely better than the others, none in the series rated less than four stars out of five for me.

So if you’re thinking about checking out right about now, reasoning that a book of this sort couldn’t possibly appeal to you for whatever reason, please don’t. First and foremost, this is a story that will appeal to readers of all ages. Older readers will appreciate the simplicity and innocence of the story as well as the unbelievable world created by the author. Younger readers will fall into a fantasy world that’s rich in visual imagery and descriptions. And kids who aren’t yet ready to read this one on their own will gladly snuggle up with a grownup for this amazing bedtime story. And fear not, Gregor’s world is nowhere near as scary or as graphic as the one in The Hunger Games. So start with book one, jump right in. And be prepared to move on to the rest in the series one after the other.

~Thalia

Buy It Now: Gregor The Overlander (Underland Chronicles, Book 1)

Review: GUS by Kim Holden

01aaaa How do you go back to doing what you did before, when half of you is gone forever?

This book….This book is about so many things. This is about healing, moving on, forgiveness, love, just to name a few. This book will make you cry, and at the same time those tears will bring you healing. Your heart will be overflowing with so many emotions, the release will make you complete.

When I read Bright Side, I fell in love with Gus. I know the book wasn’t all about Gus, but I knew, I knew Gus was going to need someone very special after that. There is no way you can recover from that alone. But my heart was in no way prepared for what Gus would go through. His world was shattered. His heart was shattered. He was merely alive, but in no way living. It was going to take more than just him mom and band mates to bring him back.

On the outside, Gus is this hot rocker that likes to party all the time. He gets mixed up in all kinds of vices that are slowly tearing him apart, but he doesn’t care. His life is no longer bright, so he has lost the will to do anything anymore. Watching him self destruct was one the most painful things I’ve ever experienced. He was wrecked. There is nothing left, but a shell of a man in search of anything to fill him up.

Cue, Scout. Scout is hired on to be his keeper. Little does she know that in watching him, she is healing him. And in doing that, he is healing her as well. I loved Scout. I loved the fact that she wasn’t perfect. I loved the way that Gus brings her out of her shell. Her life was so far from ideal, that she wished for something better. I enjoyed watching her grow to realize that no matter how mismatched a family is, as long as their is love, that’s all that matters.

It cracked me up watching Gus try and figure her out. She had secrets that prevented her from living life to the fullest. But after a few rough patches, he found that making her smile was his new goal. That’s when the book became a little more funny. But don’t let that fool you. While this book had a nice dose of silliness and teasing, it had a hefty dose of reality. And sometimes reality sucks. It suck hard. But like I said before, this book will bring you healing. Just hold on tight, and perhaps grab a box of tissues before you start.

I was so thankful for a glimpse into the Bright Side characters. I needed to know that they were ok. I have to believe that even through something so devastating, with the right amount of time and love, healing can happen.

“Some people wear their scars on the outside. Others wear them on the inside.”

~Melpomene

Buy Gus

To fully understand where Gus is coming from, you must read Bright Side
You can thank me later.

Review: Life or Death by Michael Robotham

 

This crime thriller had me on the edge of my seat — and even though I saw through the bad-guy-posing-as-a-a-good-guy right from the beginning, the raveling of the tangled web was full of surprises. 

Audie Palmer is sent to prison for a crime he didn’t commit. But the story isn’t about the crime.  It’s about the guys who committed the crime, and the crimes they’re committing STILL. Life or Death is about being trapped, running for love, keeping promises, and the desire for freedom. It’s about trust, and the violence that begets violence when trust is breached. 

If you can withstand the dirty cops, even dirtier politicians, and plentiful murders in cold blood, don’t miss this excellent read. 

-calliope

Buy LIFE OR DEATH

Review: Behind the Falls by Brenda Z

25400942This book starts out with Noah in a car traveling halfway across the country with his parents to go live in his grandmother’s house. Because I kinda know this author and because I did not ask what this book was about (remember I try not to know anything about the book I am about to read)….I half way expected old granny to be kept in the shed in the back garden feeding on live chickens. Yes….a zombie book wouldn’t have surprised me at all…..however, once Noah gets to school and sees all the *pretty* people in the lunch room, I thought I might be wrong and it would have been some posh vampires that were feeding on grandma….

However, I couldn’t have been farther from the truth….

Although…..this book is full of *real-life* monsters….

I must admit, at times I did feel that the author was long-winded. That the stuff going on inside Noah’s mind was just so bogged down with details….however, after reading it….well I have to wonder….If I felt overwhelmed at times and over sensitized….well just imagine how Noah felt….

This book brings more than a few very important issues to light….and it’s a hard read….not because it’s hard to understand….it’s just a tough subject….and the ripples this book leaves you with….well they are far reaching…it’s blatantly obvious after reading a book like this that we are all so often look at just the one person in life. We often isolate them in our minds and we neglect to see the ripple effects that issues cause with not just one person, but all of those around them.

If someone has cancer….or is killed in an accident….or hurts another person…..well that doesn’t just effect them….Mrs. Z does an outstanding job displaying this throughout the entire novel (ALL 698 PAGES OF IT!!!)

Now there’s just no way for me to continue this review without providing spoilers….so I am asking you now…if you haven’t read this book, please stop reading now and go try to find a copy….This book isn’t a subject matter I would ever imagine myself reading….let alone giving top ratings to. I almost hesitated to give 5 stars because I almost feel guilty….I don’t want anyone to think I did so because I know the author….I do so because this novel deserves it….although as I said, I felt it was too many words at sometimes….however the subject matter and the way it was handled, the way I felt at the end….the way I stayed up late and woke early to finish it….well, I would be dishonest if I gave it anything less….

But again….spoilers now! so if you haven’t read it….piss off and go do so….please don’t let my need to voice all of my feelings ruin this great book for you!!!

First the ending…..uffda….again….ripples….this book is full of them, innit? I realise some people will hate the ending….fuck it…..I hate the ending…..but I would have hated an ending that wrapped it all up and created a stopping point even more…..again…..ripples! Key word here…..RIPPLES…..I just can’t stop thinking about all the ripples that closing scene is going to make in the hours after the reader finishes….

How can you not love a book that the characters feel so real that you finish the last page and you still are concerned for ALL of those involved. How can you not love a book where you physically hurt for what they have to go through?

Another thing I want to point out to anyone that has read the book….I am sure many think of the father behind the closed-door at the end….and they are disappointed perhaps….Me? I know 100% that he has closed that door because he is disappointed in himself….that he is blaming himself for not being there as he thinks he should have been….even though I know 100% that Noah feels it is shut because of his father’s disappointment in Noah…..

Again, this whole book….just wow….it’s so complex…and the more you think about it….well the more confused you become….

Mental illness….sexual identity….these are such tough issues….why do we feel such a need to label everything in life? Perhaps not the labels themselves, but the stigma that goes with them…I’ve always been a strong proponent of letting people live their lives as they see the need to. I try very hard to not pass judgement….

This novel points out that not only is it very important to not put stigmas on labels….but it’s also now blatantly obvious that the stigma we put on our own labels used to define us….well they can be the most cutting of all..I’ve always tried to remember that we never know what people are going through in their daily lives…so we should never judge…..this novel pushes me belief system even further….I now realise that it’s not just what’s going on in their lives…it’s also sometimes more important about what is going on in their heads….and those are things that sometimes we are *never* made aware of….

At times this novel is so tough to read….the implications of what mental illness does to a person….well when you pile it on top of the worries of the mental illness…and how you will be perceived by others….well at some point you have to stop and ask….which is which….which one does the most damage…and which one causes which….are they all interchangeable? Can you have one without the other? If one did not exist would the other cease as well?

The second major issue of the novel….sexual identification…..that is all so….well…..it does come down to labels here….and this is the thing I struggle with the most….I always have….but now it makes me angry….it seems that more society opens up….the more it shuts down….if Noah wants to kiss boys or girls…why should he have to announce it? Why should it matter? I realise that identity is very important to teenagers…however….I really wish society would change how we define ourselves….it’s tough I know….but I just wish in my heart that Noah had given a few less fucks how people defined him….the only opinions that should guide and define us are those of people who truly love and know us….but most importantly…our own….we should all be allowed to be happy with whom we are….

again…ripples….the beautiful person that Noah is….it’s so easy to see and define the ripples that brings to others around him….even if he is, sadly, unable to see those ripples himself….however, the lack of Noah sharing what’s really going on in his life? Those ripples? They are far more outreaching and long-lasting then he will ever realise….

Those ripples will be residing in me for a very long time to come….x

Until next time…

Urania xx

ARC provided by the author for an honest review

Buy it now Behind the Falls by Brenda Zalegowski