Envy by Gregg Olsen

Set in Port Gamble, Wa

I found this gem of a book while I was celebrating my mothers 51st b-day over in the Kingston area. We were going to many breweries over there and while waiting for them to open we drove into Port Gamble, WA and walked around. If you don’t know Port Gamble is a historical town, where all the houses are number and look exactly the same as they did when the town was founded. Upon wandering around we found an amazing bookstore, The Dauntless Bookstore, and the proprietor recommended the book, Envy by Gregg Olsen. Of course, I had to buy it and read it as soon as I could.

Envy is the first book of a six book series, the Empty Coffin series that resides in the town of Port Gamble. Hayley and Taylor Ryan are 15 year-old twins who have grown up in this town. One day the town, shocked by the death of 15 year-old Kaitlyn, began to speculate. Everyone assumes that it is suicide or an accident because no one wants to believe that murderer could be living among them. Hayley and Taylor using, their somewhat magical “twin-sense,” know that this is not a suicide. There has to be something more and the twins go looking for it. With the magical help to their already outstanding intelligence, the twins, along with Hayley’s boyfriend Colton, try to solve what they believe to be the murder of their old friend Kaitlyn. As they uncover more about the suspicious death, they began to uncover a secret about themselves. The secret is big, one that their parents willingly lie to them about and as the book ends it only scratches the surface of the secret. All this leads up to the question, What is so special about Hayley and Taylor Ryan?

I enjoyed this book. From beginning to end, it kept me entertained and was a very interesting read. As it is a YA novel, I enjoyed a fresh take on the supernatural in this book. It wasn’t vampires or werewolves, there was just the supernatural when it came to the twin’s ability. The supernatural, to me, is a played out theme, especially in the last couple years. So this really surprised me by how well written it was and a that it was different from all other YA books that I have encountered. The overlay of real vs. supernatural was really striking in this novel. On the one hand you have the very real murder that needs to be solved and on the other you have the supernatural ability that the twins posses. The binary that this creates is very well-developed and interesting. Obviously, since this book is the beginning of the series, there are a lot of open-ended questions that will hopefully be answered when the series is finished. I, of course, know that there will be these questions at the end, but it still does not make it any easier when I want all the answer now! Alas, I have to wait for the next book to come out…sigh. The intricacy of the relationship the twins have with each other was interesting to read and it was enjoyable to have the main characters of the novel be twins. They are both witty, loving, and very much teenagers (which only enhances the novel in my opinion).  The one issues I had with the book, this issue made it almost hard to read, was that whenever Gregg would depict a text message (it would actually look like text message on the page) he made the character use the crazy text message speak of all short-handed words and weird spellings of things. It almost made Taylor and Hayley sound stupid, which we know that they are not. I really could not get past this when reading the book, it was very distracting to me. That being said, overall I did enjoy the book and will be definitely be picking up the rest of the series when they come out. 


Rating: 325 pages out of 500 pages. 

This novel is worth the time to read, but it is not my favorite YA novel that I have read. 

Hej då for now

Tori

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Signed Copy *gasp*

Since I read the Hunger Games Series I decided on a journey of reading into Young Adult Literature for the week. Stumbling upon, The Fault in Our Stars by John Green at my local Fred Meyer I decided to make that my next book to review. I have read John’s work before (Looking for Alaska) and fell in love with his with his superior wit and writing style. The Fault in Our Stars just reconfirmed his greatness.

The Fault in Our Stars is a portrayal of children’s cancer with the main character Hazel having cancer in her thyroid that has spread to her lungs. Hazel, a normal teenager, with cancer, whom her mother thinks is depressed. Her mother wants her to make new friends, get out of the house and live her life while she still can. Hazel, obviously, is reluctant, but to please her mother (her caregiver) she agrees to go to weekly support group. There she meets Augustus Waters, a 17-year-old with cancer who has been in remission for 14 months. Augustus is instantly attracted to Hazel and stares at her the whole time in group. Hazel, wary (as one would hope), does not know what to make of Augustus. She agrees to watch a movie with Augustus at his home and a bond forms between the two. They continue hanging out together, texting and talking on the phone, and overall enjoying each others company. As the book continues, these two fall in love and struggle with the fate of their love. Will they be remembered when they die? Is the love that they share ever lasting? Does having cancer change them or their views on the world? These are some of the questions these two try to answer together, all while the struggle with the battle with cancer.

I did not want to give any spoilers in the synopsis, so it might sound a little cliché and not very synopsisy (my new word), but it was worth it to not spoil the book for you. I feel in love with Augustus and Hazel, two of the most hilariously unique characters I have ever had the pleasure of reading. You know you have a great character whom you will remember always, when in the first two chapters Augustus is playfully attacking the support groups leader for incorrect use of “literally.” From that moment Augustus had me hooked (even more hooked when he coined this gem “existentially fraught free throws”). Hazel or Hazel Grace as Augustus calls her, is right up there in witty phrases or Venn diagram humor, but she really tugs at your heart through out the novel. I could not put this book down! Yes it deals with cancer, but cancer is not the main point of the novel. As Hazel states “cancer books suck” this book is a far cry from a “cancer book.” John delves deeper into the struggle of life, death, love and just the plain old struggle of being a teenager is at heart the point of the novel. Both Augustus and Hazel are wise beyond their years and create a wonderful story. John Green has a way with characters that completely change how you view life. Hazel and Augustus’ story made me laugh, cry, frown etc. I experienced every emotion and truly felt connected to them even though they are fictional. So pick up this book ASAP, you will not regret it.

Side note: Be for warned though, grab a box of tissues.

All hail John Green, as one of the most amazing writers of Young Adult Literature. I am deeply compelled to tell you, my readers, to get your hands on any book by John Green and read it as soon as you can.

Rating: 500 pages out of 500. This book is too good to pass up!

Doeg for now

Tori

The Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins

3 books, 2 days

So I finally finished this series and am probably the last one to do so, but at least I read them. I started them last thursday and finished them on saturday. I could not put any of the books down! So this post is about the whole series, due to the fact that I did not want to do 3 separate blog posts. If you don’t want spoilers don’t read the overview, skip to just my review of the series at the end!!!

Book 1 The Hunger Games: The world as we know it is gone and a new world has taken its place, Panem. A capital surrounded by 12 districts (there once was 13 but now…) with the districts each producing something (coal, agriculture, fishing, etc.) that supports the capitals needs. From District 12, the poorest district, we get the story of the series. Katniss lives in 12 with her mother and sister Prim. Every year there is a perverse game called the Hunger Games that chooses two tributes (girl and boy ages 12-18) from each district to compete to the death in the games with only one winner. These games are overseen by the capital, so they can control the districts and to show them what happens if they try to rebel. Katniss, 16, knows what to expect with the reaping (picking of the tributes) but for Prim this is her first year. At the reaping the unbelievable happens Prim is the girl tribute for District 12. Katniss can’t let that happen so she volunteers for the position and is now a tribute for the Hunger Games along with fellow tribute Peeta. Life is never the same for Katniss and Peeta after the reaping. They are whisked away to the capital to prepare for the games, which includes training to survive, makeovers, and interviews. When the games began Katniss knows she has to survive for Prim and is going to do everything she can to win. Her strategy, thought up by her mentor Haymitch, is to run as far way from the others and find water. The tributes start dying of one by one and she knows to win she has to take out a group of tributes who have banded together. By destroying their food source, she makes them officially join the games. However, there is a twist to the games, if the two tributes from one district are the two left near the end then they both can survive. Katniss becomes determined to save herself and Peeta. They make it to the end but for one tribute…he gets killed by a pack of rabid mutant wolves and it is Katniss and Peeta left. They think they have won, but in a perverse and horrifying twist the capital decides that only one can survive. Both of them refuse to kill the other (they are a bit in love with each other) Katniss decides that to trick the capital. They both are going to kill themselves with poisonous berries, which Katniss assumes that capital won’t allow. They win…much to the chagrin of the capital and are going home. But nothing is ever the same for Katniss and Peeta…

Book 2 Chasing Fire: Following their win at the games, Katniss and Peeta get to live in Victors’ Village. Peeta is no longer talking to Katniss (love triangle alert) because she was playing at loving him in the games and still enamored by Gale from back home. They believe that their lives with the games are over, that they now can live in semi-peace in District 12. Boy are they wrong. Katniss receives an unexpected visitor, President Snow, the act that Katniss set up at the end of the games (killing each other instead of allowing a winner, which made the capital let them both win) displeases him greatly. That spark of rebellion is causing the other districts to rebel against the capital or so President Snow thinks. He blames Katniss and wants her to prove him wrong, prove to him that she did it because she was so in love Peeta she couldn’t let him die (they both know that is a lie). On their victors tour, Katniss and Peeta try to show the other districts that they are in love (evening pretending to be engaged) and were not rebelling against the capital. It doesn’t work and to punish Katniss further, that year is the 75th anniversary of the Hunger Games so they must have a Quarter Quell, which is essentially the Hunger Games but with a twist. This years twist…only past victors will compete in the games. So Katniss and Peeta are back in the games trying to survive all over again. Both of their strategies are to save the other one at the cost of their lives. They team up with other past victors and are close to bringing down some tributes when all hell breaks loose. Katniss and Peeta lose each other, a tribute attacks her, and then she makes the decision to break the force field surrounding the games because once again she rebels against the capital. After getting whisked away by a hovercraft and she thinks that she the capital has captured her. In actuality she the rebel leaders (including Haymitch) have her because this was all planned by the rebels who have been working from District 13 (surprise! there actually is a district 13). Katniss is furious to not know that the rebels were planning something and even more furious when she figures out that they did not save Peeta, the Capitol “saved” him. At the end you learn that District 12 is gone, all the refuges are at District 13 (including Gale, Prim and her mother) and Katniss has to make a choice: fight for the rebels or not?

Book 3 Mockingjay: The rebels want Katniss to become the symbol of the rebellion, the Mockingjay (which is the pin she has been wearing throughout the games as a symbol). She has been badly injured and has no real will to do much of anything. She comes to realize that in order for anyone to have a life she needs to fight. She chooses to be the face of the rebellion with a list of demands (Peeta, who people think of as a traitor to the rebellion, has to be given immunity along with all other victors from the games in book 2 and she gets to kill President Snow). Coin, the leader of district 13, reluctantly goes a long with these demands and is willing to use Katniss in whatever way she sees fit. Katniss gets a makeover to look like the Mockingjay and sent out into the rebellion to make propaganda ads to run in the capital. She is fine doing this with Gale by her side until she gets injured again in District 8 and is in the hospital and sees Peeta on tv doing an interview. They have tortured him severely and she suffers from a semi-mental break down. The leaders of the rebellion decide to rescue Peeta and others, but when they are safely returned to 13, Peeta isn’t the same. The form of torture used by the capital on Peeta, hijacking ( where they take the good memories you have of something and make you fear those memories) is all he knows. He now believes that Katniss is that she is something to fear and he tries to kill her. Peeta becomes locked up and worked on incessantly to try to get the old Peeta back, which Katniss has written off because she does not want to face a life with out Peeta in it. Meanwhile, Katniss trains to be a solider so she can actually fight in the rebellion along side Gale and others. Her new contingent is the sharp shooters and Coin ships them to the capital to not really do much because they don’t want them involved in the actual fighting. Obviously Katniss is furious and vows to go off on her own to kill the President. Peeta, after realizing that not all of what he thinks he knows is real, comes to the capital on Coin’s orders. They place him under heavy guard for fear of him killing Katniss and then the rebellion really starts. The sharp shooters, followed by a camera crew to take propaganda ads, when most of the crew dies by capital soldiers or mutants that capital is sending after them. It comes down to Gale, Katniss, Peeta and two members of the camera crew. They split off to try to get into the President’s mansion. Gale and Katniss together, with Peeta following behind to be used as someone to create a distraction. Gale equals captured, Peeta is nowhere to be seen and Katniss reaches the mansion, but realizes that surrounding it is wall of capital children, who are then bombed from the sky. Medics (from the rebel side) rush to their aid and Katniss realizes that one of those Medics is Prim. A huge blast of fire comes in to finish the rest of them off, Katniss engulfed by flames, fights to survives, barely. Snow is captured, Coin is now president of Panem and Katniss is in denial about everything. She ends up visiting Snow by accident and he tells her that the killing of those children was the rebels idea not his. Katniss doesn’t know what to believe, but when it comes to the time to kill Snow she kills Coin instead and Snow dies as well. Katniss is on trial for the murder and is eventually acquitted and return to district 12. Where she does not leave her house for months…she can not comprehend what happens and is in a mental void.  She eventually breaks out of the void with help of a doctor and Peeta. As im sure you all have guessed Peeta and Katniss are in love and stay together at the end of the series and even have children together.

Ta-da my overview of the series equals done! On to my review, which I am keeping short because this is super long already. 

I was skeptical about these books at first, they did not seem very interesting to me. I am not big into post-apocalyptic novels and thought that this series was not for me. I was wrong! These books are so amazing, so poignant and strong. I could not put them down and had to read the next one right away. The truth to these books, that eventually this could happen or something like this, was amazingly real but scary. The complete perversity of the games and the capital to take control of the people of Panem, is what I feel this world could be heading to.  All of the crazy things the Suzanne Collins’ came up with (mockingjays, tracker jackers etc.) blew my mind. I bow down to her amazing imagination. Then there is the love triangle/love story. I know the big supporters of this series don’t want it to be about the love triangle, but it really is in certain ways. Katniss makes decisions based on her love for either Peeta or Gale and it is a driving factor to many of the main plot points of the novel. Now I am a Peeta fan and was very happy that they got together at the end, but I want to know what happens to the world of Panem after the rebellion. I feel a little bereft after all the leading up to the rebellion, the rebellion and then poof Katniss and Peeta marry and have children. I was little disappointed with the ending for that fact but over all this book blew my mind. PICK UP A COPY TODAY if you haven’t already read it or read it again…it is worth your while. 

My rating: 500+ pages out of 500!

Ciao for now!

Tori

Lord John and the Private Matter

This review was supposed to happen last week, but I have been a little derailed as to my reading schedule…work takes over my life. This week I will be back on track :).

Lord John and the Private Matter by Diana Gabaldon is as stated before, a spin-off series from the Outlander Novels. When the book opens Lord John Grey is at his club in England enjoying time away from his army career. They are due to be shipped out somewhere soon, so his is making the most of his time in England. At his club (the appropriately titled BeefSteak) he learns that his cousin Olivia’s fiance has the pox (and by pox I mean syphilis). Obviously this is disturbing and John decides to find a way to end the engagement. He discusses this with an army friend who is his Colonel Harry Quarry (not kidding on the name). Quarry makes a plan for them to take the fiance to a brothel and then see if the whore will tell him if he is poxed. With a plan set, John is a little relieved, but as it happens in novels there is more to come. With John investigating the threat of pox to his cousin,  his superiors reveal a plot of treason to John and he now needs to investigate that as well. All of this becomes connected, leading John to be at the heart of the treason. John must decide what is more important, treason to his beloved England or the threat to his cousin Olivia. 

This story made me excited to read it because I absolutely love the Outlander series and Lord John Grey is a favorite character from that series. However, this book just did not have the same attraction for me as the other books by Diana. Maybe it was because Jaime and Claire didn’t make an appearance (I knew they wouldn’t but a girl can dream right?). Or I was just expecting to much. This is not to say that it was not an enjoyable book, it was. It kept me guessing until the end on who was behind the treason and you also come to know John’s history. This book was hilarious, as all of Diana’s books are, from brothels, to molly houses (I have added a link for those who don’t know what these are), prison, apothecaries, and transvestites…Oh my! The intriguing part about this novel is it is almost a parallel world to Jamie and Claire. While they were together and living their life, this is what was happening elsewhere. Lots of similarities between the two and definite references to characters that populate Diana’s book world. Foreshadowing plays a major part in this novel for both the rest of this series and the Outlander novels that follow, after this book.  There ever was a dull moment and it definitely needs to be read by anyone who has read the Outlander books. John Grey, as always, is an engaging character and he makes me want to read the rest of his adventures from this series.  If you are looking for a shorter novel and enjoy historical novels, with a bit of a twist (think of the molly houses) then you need to read this book. I guarantee you disappointed is not an option. 

With help from one of my besties (thanks Beck!!!) I have come up with a rating system. I will now rate the books I review on her based on 500 pages. So my scale is 1 page–not worth reading to 500 pages–get your butt out to the store and buy this now! Also I reserve the right to not even make it to one page, if I only make it to the copyright you know it is bad. 

With that being said this book rates at 300 pages. 

Auf Wiedersehen for now

Tori