Sunday, February 19, 2017

Review Sunday: A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis


Stand-alone to date

Goodreads Blurb:
"Grace Mae knows madness.

She keeps it locked away, along with her voice, trapped deep inside a brilliant mind that cannot forget horrific family secrets. Those secrets, along with the bulge in her belly, land her in a Boston insane asylum.

When her voice returns in a burst of violence, Grace is banished to the dark cellars, where her mind is discovered by a visiting doctor who dabbles in the new study of criminal psychology. With her keen eyes and sharp memory, Grace will make the perfect assistant at crime scenes. Escaping from Boston to the safety of an ethical Ohio asylum, Grace finds friendship and hope, hints of a life she should have had. But gruesome nights bring Grace and the doctor into the circle of a killer who stalks young women. Grace, continuing to operate under the cloak of madness, must hunt a murderer while she confronts the demons in her own past.

In this beautifully twisted historical thriller, Mindy McGinnis, acclaimed author of Not a Drop to Drink and In a Handful of Dust, explores the fine line between sanity and insanity, good and evil—and the madness that exists in all of us."


Review:
I've never read a book set in an insane asylum before so this was definitely a first for me!  Overall I really liked this book (and I may even get a hard cover for my personal collection) but there were a few things that kept it from 5 stars.  Let's get into it, shall we?

1.  The plot.  Like I said, this is my first time reading a book that's set in an insane asylum.  Not to mention it's also historical fiction (set in the 1860s I believe) so insane asylums were pretty scary places.  I'll talk about the atmosphere later though.  The setting really provided that extra push for me to really get into reading this.  At first, it's more of a mystery novel to figure out why Grace is there in the first place, then it switches to a feeling of redemption, then back to mystery, then self-discovery.  It's quite full of twists and turns which made it interesting but for me, it also made it lose focus a bit.  When you finally grasp onto the whole point and mood, it switches and flips back to something else.  It provides a lot of variety that's present in everyday life, but it did feel a little mushed together.  It didn't feel like there was one main plot line with other, intertwining secondary plotlines.  It was more of an equal thickness spider web, with each storyline of equal importance.  It's not a bad thing to be sure, but it didn't do the book any favors for me personally.

2.  The characters.  I have to say, Grace is one of my favorite characters.  I love her tenacity, but also her willingness to admit that madness isn't the end of the road and that everyone has their own personal madness.  The characters in general were all so nicely fleshed out and  I really grew attached to them.  On one point in particular I'm very grateful to the author: the lack of romance.  I was just waiting for it to happen and it didn't which I am extremely grateful for.  Not only did it provide me with a break from romance, it also provided a more realistic viewpoint that not all male-female partnerships have to develop into romances.  That's one of my favorite parts of this book.

3.  The setting.  My other favorite part is by far the setting.  Like I've said, I haven't read a book that's set in an insane asylum before, especially not in the 1800s, so this was really fascinating for me.  The atmosphere and mood of the book was so flawlessly executed and I could feel it seeping out through the pages.  I personally love historical fiction and adding the madness element in perfected it.  Every setting is so wonderfully described and painted in just the right colors.  I could picture every detail.

4.  The madness/the theme.  This is the element that made the book.  I've mentioned it in the other sections and that's a testament to how much it truly played a role.  It's not just a setting or a plot point.  The author did such a great job of forcing me to ponder the meaning of madness and what is truly considered insane.  She makes a point to question the norms we as a society have set up as parameters for the sound of mind.  Madness is a societal construct, after all.  Who's to say those in insane asylums weren't the sane ones?  I have to say this is one of my favorite themes that I've come across in a book in a good long while.

The Final Verdict:
A novel with a thought-provoking theme, flawless settings, and superb characters.  The one issue that bleeds throughout the novel is the over equivalence of the plot lines and how one particular plot line never truly rises above the others.
4 stars


Favorite Quote:
“Quite the opposite; my definition is too broad. I think we're all quite mad. Some of us are just more discreet about it.”

Friday, February 17, 2017

50/50 Friday (20): Character Most/Least Likely to be a World Traveler


50/50 Friday is a meme hosted by Carrie @The Butterfly Reads and I and focuses on the opposite sides of books (best/worst, differing opinions, etc).  Every week will have a new topic and several advance topics will be listed in the tab labeled 50/50 Friday!

Today's Topic: Character Most/Least Likely to be a World Traveler


Most:

Goodreads Blurb:
"One boy. One dragon. A world of adventure.
When Eragon finds a polished blue stone in the forest, he thinks it is the lucky discovery of a poor farm boy; perhaps it will buy his family meat for the winter. But when the stone brings a dragon hatchling, Eragon realizes he has stumbled upon a legacy nearly as old as the Empire itself.

Overnight his simple life is shattered, and he is thrust into a perilous new world of destiny, magic, and power. With only an ancient sword and the advice of an old storyteller for guidance, Eragon and the fledgling dragon must navigate the dangerous terrain and dark enemies of an Empire ruled by a king whose evil knows no bounds.

Can Eragon take up the mantle of the legendary Dragon Riders? The fate of the Empire may rest in his hands."

Eragon traveled around a lot with his dragon when he was on his quest fighting the forces of evil.  While he does miss his old town, I have a feeling that in old age, Eragon wouldn't want to stay in one place for too long and he'd still want to see the world (or, at least, what he hadn't already seen).


Least:

Goodreads Blurb:
"Winning will make you famous.
Losing means certain death.


The nation of Panem, formed from a post-apocalyptic North America, is a country that consists of a wealthy Capitol region surrounded by 12 poorer districts. Early in its history, a rebellion led by a 13th district against the Capitol resulted in its destruction and the creation of an annual televised event known as the Hunger Games. In punishment, and as a reminder of the power and grace of the Capitol, each district must yield one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 through a lottery system to participate in the games. The 'tributes' are chosen during the annual Reaping and are forced to fight to the death, leaving only one survivor to claim victory.

When 16-year-old Katniss's young sister, Prim, is selected as District 12's female representative, Katniss volunteers to take her place. She and her male counterpart Peeta, are pitted against bigger, stronger representatives, some of whom have trained for this their whole lives. , she sees it as a death sentence. But Katniss has been close to death before. For her, survival is second nature."

Like Eragon, Katniss traveled a lot during her quest but she, unlike Eragon, didn't savor the journey and always wished to be home with her loved ones.  After Mockingjay, I think she would definitely want to simply rebuild her life and cultivate her own garden, so to speak.


What characters do you think would be world travelers after their adventures?  Do you agree with my picks?  Make a post and link up down below!


Next Week's Topic: Most/Least Intricately Built World

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

R&R Review Wednesday: Lessons on St. Barts by Emme Cross


St. Barts #2 (see the review for the first book in the series, Love on St. Barts, HERE)

Goodreads Blurb:
"Sunny’s happiness with Sven is threatened by a murderous stalker
Sunny O’Hara thought everything was going smoothly with her sexy movie-star boyfriend Sven. He initiates in her all the ways of love and seems to have stopped sleeping around. But everything is threatened by a vicious stalker who wants her out the picture.

Will Sunny survive, and if she does, can her relationship with Sven last?

This is the second book in the St. Barts Romance series by Emme Cross. Set on the island of St. Barts, eight square miles of gourmet restaurants, designer shops, yachts . . . and sultry secrets."


Review:
Thank you to the author, Emme Cross, for gifting me with a copy of Lessons on St. Barts in exchange for an honest review!

I felt pretty much the same way about this book as I did reading the first book but I'll reiterate my feelings for the sake of clarity.  There are some differences, however, and I'll be sure to highlight those.  Let's get to it!

1.  The romance.  I liked the romance just as well in this book as in the first one.  Sven and Sunny are so cute together and their relationship is adorable.  I did chafe a bit at Sven's assumption that Sunny would just follow him wherever he went.  He has a unique lifestyle, being an actor, but it's still a large assumption to make of someone.  Otherwise, I loved how they support each other and help each other grow in their respective fields and passions.  Another thing I should mention, this book is solidly in NA territory because of the explicitness of the sex scenes.

2.  The plot.  This book has a slightly different plot structure because it's focused more around finding Sunny's attacker and exploring Sunny's relationship with herself as she struggles to heal after the attack.  I really liked that journey and finding out who the attacker was.  The pace of this book was also a lot better than the first book and I had no trouble with wanting to keep reading.  One thing I'm not sure I agree with is the use of hypnosis to help Sunny.  There's a reason evidence obtained by hypnosis is inadmissible in court.  People are highly susceptible to suggestions when in a state of hypnosis.

3.  The characters.  The characters are once again the jewel of the book.  Sunny especially is such a wonderful character and I love reading her reactions and seeing her dreams come true through her villas.  Sven, Judith, Mimi, Phillipe, and all the rest are wonderful as well and like in the first book, they are all wonderfully developed.

4.  The setting.  I didn't mention this in my last review of the first book in the series but I love the effort the author puts into the description of the island.  Obviously, there was more of it in the first book (setting the scene is infinitely more important when introducing readers rather than bringing them back into a world) but there was still a good amount in Lessons and it was much appreciated.  St. Barts sounds like such a beautiful place (it's a real place, btw!) and I'd love to travel there someday.

The Final Verdict:
A wonderful sequel with stunning characters and setting.  While the plot and romance had a few iffy moments, on the whole, I truly enjoyed this book.
4 stars

Monday, February 13, 2017

Music Monday (5)


Music Monday is a weekly event hosted by Lauren over at Always Me.  Every Monday, you share one or two of your favorite songs you've been enjoying that week to help other people discover new music!  Here are my picks for this week:


I Don't Wann Live Forever - ZAYN and Taylor Swift

While I don't plan on seeing this movie, I really love the song!  I love both Taylor and Zayn's music and when you put them together, the effect is amazing.

Dear Maria, Count Me In - All Time Low

Carrie at The Butterfly Reader mentioned this band in her last Music Monday and I really liked the songs she featured so I listened to more of their music and I really liked it!  This song (along with a couple others) is one of my favorites so far!

Those Days - Lindsey Stirling ft. Dan + Shay

I received this entire album for Christmas and this is one of my favorite songs!  I love Lindsey Stirling's use of her violin and her melody lines.  My other favorites from the album are Brave Enough, Something Wild, and Lost Girls.


What have you been listening to recently?

Sunday, February 12, 2017

R&R Review Sunday: Love on St. Barts by Emme Cross


St. Barts #1

Goodreads Blurb:
"Everyone says he's wrong for her, but she doesn't care
Sunny O’Hara young, pretty, and terribly innocent returns to her childhood home of St. Barts, an idyllic island in the West Indies. She meets Sven Larson, a movie star with a bad reputation for breaking women’s hearts. She falls in love with him and begins a journey of emotional and physical discovery. But has Sven really changed? Can a good woman redeem a very bad boy?

This is the first book in the St. Barts Romance series by Emme Cross. Set on the island of St. Barts, eight square miles of gourmet restaurants, designer shops, yachts . . . and secrets."


Friday, February 10, 2017

50/50 Friday (19): Character Most/Least Changed By Their Hero's Journey


50/50 Friday is a meme hosted by Carrie @The Butterfly Reads and I and focuses on the opposite sides of books (best/worst, differing opinions, etc).  Every week will have a new topic and several advance topics will be listed in the tab labeled 50/50 Friday!

Today's Topic: Character Most/Least Changed By Their Hero's Journey


Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Review Wednesday: Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi


Under the Never Sky #1

Goodreads Blurb:
"WORLDS KEPT THEM APART.

DESTINY BROUGHT THEM TOGETHER.

Aria has lived her whole life in the protected dome of Reverie. Her entire world confined to its spaces, she's never thought to dream of what lies beyond its doors. So when her mother goes missing, Aria knows her chances of surviving in the outer wasteland long enough to find her are slim.

Then Aria meets an outsider named Perry. He's searching for someone too. He's also wild - a savage - but might be her best hope at staying alive.

If they can survive, they are each other's best hope for finding answers."


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