Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Book Review + Giveaway: A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray (US)

A Thousand Pieces of You (Firebird #1) by Claudia Gray
Source: Hardcover via HarperTeen
My Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars :star :star :star :star :tup
Published: November 4th, 2014

Marguerite Caine’s physicist parents are known for their radical scientific achievements. Their most astonishing invention: the Firebird, which allows users to jump into parallel universes, some vastly altered from our own. But when Marguerite’s father is murdered, the killer—her parent’s handsome and enigmatic assistant Paul—escapes into another dimension before the law can touch him. Marguerite can’t let the man who destroyed her family go free, and she races after Paul through different universes, where their lives entangle in increasingly familiar ways. With each encounter she begins to question Paul’s guilt—and her own heart. Soon she discovers the truth behind her father’s death is more sinister than she ever could have imagined. A Thousand Pieces of You explores a reality where we witness the countless other lives we might lead in an amazingly intricate multiverse, and ask whether, amid infinite possibilities, one love can endure. 

My Review

*I received a couple of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.

During a time of my life when I am beyond overwhelmed and have zero time to read, this book lured me away from grad school apps, working full time, and family issues-- just so I could dwell in it's amazing multi-dimensional glory. 

The cover of this book is what initially intrigued me. Immediately I shelved it on my "cover-lust" shelf on Goodreads and then once I read the blurb I felt I NEEDED to read it. The topic of alternate dimensions is one that fascinates me. Although it may be common in the adult sci-fi genre, I feel that within YA it's scarce. This is perhaps because it's such a difficult  thing to pull off. All the inevitable questions that come from creating a world where the MC jumps between dimensions need to be answered without taking away from the story. To be able to address these questions and set up a world where the feasibility of it is less sci-fi, more "advanced tech" is something that Claudia Gray actually pulled off. 

The beginning was the "slowest" part for me. I saw slow only in comparison to the rest of the book. We jump right in to a familial situation at the peak of despair. The main character, Marguerite, is dealing with the sharp grief of losing her father. Sharper still, he seems to have been murdered by a close member of the family (one of their live-in interns). The suspect, Paul Markov, seems to have done the deed and jumped to another dimension to escape. Despite this set up, the book doesn't have the cold and clinical atmosphere that sci-fi often leaves with me. 

Marguerite joins Theo, the other intern that her parents took in years ago to help them with their research. Theo and Paul are like brothers, but Paul's betrayal cuts too deep and leaves Theo with the determination to chase him across dimensions and demand and answer and then-- Paul's death. Marguerite catches him and demands to go with him, her youth showing when she doesn't think to leave a note or explanation to her grief-striken mother or sister, Josie. Although, her mom, a brilliant physicist figures it out pretty quick. ;) Marguerite is the black sheep of the family. She is an artist among physicists; but she is far from ordinary, far from unintelligent.

Each universe was incredible. The detail and atmosphere was conjured up so quickly by Gray that within a single page I already had a picture of what Marguerite was seeing. It was such a wonderful escape to travel to these alternate dimensions with Marguerite. She went from her own dimension (aka our world now) to a society extremely more advanced than our own. I loved the cool tech in this one, and how you could talk and receive messages by pushing a button on your ring and a screen would show up in front of you. My initial concern: what happens to Marguerite of that dimension when our Marguerite jumps into her dimension? Gray explains this fairly easily and believably (at least, I thought so) by saying how that dimensions Marguerite would simply be "asleep" and would wake up when she jumped out. Any action or consequence that occured while she was checked out-- well, Marguerite of that dimension would have to deal with whatever was done.

My favorite parts of the novel occured when Marguerite follows Paul to Tsarist Russia. There she is actually a princess because her mother didn't marry her dad. Instead she married a Russian man and became royalty. Marguerite has completely different siblings, and her life as a princess is ...different. Paul is her guard in that dimension. Paul Markov in the Russian dimension was very dreamy. I felt their romance developed naturally.

I also need to add that I had read some reviews that criticized the book because Marguerite is hunting down her father's killer and hopping dimensions only to fall in love. That the romance somehow took away from the book. I feel I need to respond to this: I am not a big romance reader. More than once I have been known to dislike a book where the romance plays too dominant a role, but only when the plot suffers. I think it's important to say that this is not the case with this novel. The plot is only further enriched by the romance. As for those of you with concerns this is a love triangle book. DO NOT FRET. I can't say anything more, but it's not that type of thang. It makes sense when you read it. Marguerite is a smart young woman who braves the unknown to find out exactly who killed her beloved father and why. Along the way she really does discover what was hiding in her heart.

I can't wait to read the sequel. I have no idea what the premise will be, although I'm betting on the alternate dimensions and that the Firebird will be involved. I recommend this novel to anyone who finds the theory of alternate dimensions fascinating. Those of you who want a brilliant novel that centers around a smart and independent woman, with a historical and also futuristic feel-- you need to read this book.


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Sunday, November 23, 2014

Graphic Novel Review Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (Persepolis #1-4)

The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (Persepolis #1-4)
Source: Paperback borrowed via Library
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars :star :star :star :star
Published: October, 2007

Persepolis is the story of Satrapi's unforgettable childhood and coming of age within a large and loving family in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution; of the contradictions between private life and public life in a country plagued by political upheaval; of her high school years in Vienna facing the trials of adolescence far from her family; of her homecoming--both sweet and terrible; and, finally, of her self-imposed exile from her beloved homeland. It is the chronicle of a girlhood and adolescence at once outrageous and familiar, a young life entwined with the history of her country yet filled with the universal trials and joys of growing up. Edgy, searingly observant, and candid, often heartbreaking but threaded throughout with raw humor and hard-earned wisdom--Persepolis is a stunning work from one of the most highly regarded, singularly talented graphic artists at work today.

My Review

It's definitely been years since I first heard about Persepolis. Everyone who had read it loved it, and every one who knew me felt that I needed to read it. They said they had never knew so much about Iran, and had never had a glimpse into the turbulent paste from an actual Iranian living during the time of the revolution. I was flooded with questions about my mom and her family. My mother moved to America on one of the last flights from Iran during the revolution. She was 25 years old, younger than I am now. I can hardly imagine what that must have felt like. 

For some reason I forgot that Persepolis was a graphic novel memoir. I feel like that is such a unique unheard of concept that I'm surprised it didn't stick out in my memory. For those of you out there who are skeptical about this mash-up, I was too. I didn't know if it would work, and I was doubtful of everything about this book. For that reason I put off reading it for a long time. That's not the only reason, I also was scared. I don't like emotional books to begin with. Put me in front of a book that really hits home and details that pain that my family went through during Iran's not-so-distant past? I was like, no thanks. I didn't have the courage and I wasn't ready. I was terrified the author would screw it up too. All these people reading it (because it was so popular and famous) and they're getting  not getting the truth? Or maybe it would be too rosey or too exaggerated? It's safe to say, I had a lot of fears going into this book.

I'm really glad I happened upon the full version in the library a few months ago. If not for that, I probably would have let this one sit on my TBR forever. It was an amazing experience reading this book, and I'm going to try to review it without making it too long because I don't want to give away too much. 

Like I mentioned, the story is about the author Marjane's life growing up in Iran during the revolution. Her childhood may have been foreign and harsh to many readers (including myself!!) BUT Marjane as a kid was the best. She infused her childlike curiousity, emotions, and wit into everything and I laughed out loud a lot during the first portion of the book that was about her youth in Iran. 
Marjane's parents were very liberal. I know it is mentioned in the book, but I feel I need to further explain this a little bit. Her story was so interesting to me not only because of the time period and her insight; she stayed in Iran when my mother and grandparents left, only some uncles and cousins remained, but also because her family is even more liberal than my own! She didn't have to pray, her mother didn't pray, and I don't think even her grandmother did. Her parents were on her side and gave her an extraordinary amount of freedom, letting her go out when she was a teenager in those dangerous times..it just wasn't done. I thought that was pretty awesome.

When she grew up she ended up moving (in the blurb- not a spoiler!) to Vienna for high school. She's far from her family and she's dealing with some serious Iranian hate goin' on. Not to mention, most of her friends are Anarchists who romantisize war. War..something Marjane has actually been through and seen up close. She doesn't really know who she is. She doesn't fit in. If she's herself, everyone seems to hate her. If she blends in, everyone talks crap about why she denies her nationality.

Inevitably, and through a lot of tough lessons she finds an appropriate balance. The story ends full circle with a reunited family, who forgives all and loves her unconditionally. I really loved how her father let her make her own mistakes, instead of forcing his opinion on her. I don't think I've ever heard of a father abstaining from sharing his true feelings on big stuff, just because he knows his daughter so well he wants her to make her own mistakes because telling her not to do it will not change her mind. ;) Her mother is extremely smart and political, and although in many ways an unconventional "persian mom" it still reminded me of my mom and I really liked that.

I learned a lot of things I didn't know about Iran in this book; mainly details I didn't know about the regime. I know my family doesn't like to dwell on their negative past in Iran, and why should they when they have so many happy and funny stories to share? At the same time, I am glad I read this. I felt connected to Marjane in the way that she didn't really know who she was or where she fit. It's a feeling a lot of us can relate to. The illustrations were really great, and I loved how she fit Farsi into the speech bubbles! ^_^

I recommend this graphic novel to anyone in search of a wonderful life story that draws you in with it's humor, emotion, and reality. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Graphic Novel Review: Sherlock Holmes: The Hound of the Baskervilles By John Green

Sherlock Holmes: Hound of the Baskervilles by John Green
Source: eARC* via Netgalley | Dover Publications
My Rating: 1 of 5 stars :star
Publication Date: November 19th, 2014

The intrepid detective and his faithful assistant take on a supernatural challenge in one of Arthur Conan Doyle's most popular mysteries. This graphic novel's original illustrations accompany an easy-to-read account of Holmes and Watson's investigation of a family curse. Readers will be irresistibly drawn into the search for a giant spectral hound that haunts the fog-shrouded moors. This Dover Graphic Novel Classic offers readers ages 8 and up an exciting introduction to a time-honored tale. Expertly abridged and packed with dramatic illustrations, this version offers a streamlined narrative that retains all of the storytelling essentials.

My Review

I'm a known graphic novel lover. I love the mix of a good story with brilliant illustrations. I also recently read Sherlock Holmes for the first time, and loved it. So I was eager to read this form of The Hound of the Baskervilles when I saw it, because hello, graphic novel! I figured the amazing drawings could make a great story even greater.
Unfortunately, for me this whole thing fell short in pretty much all the ways it matters.

  1. The Text - The text was EXTREMELY simplified. Something was lost when they tried to edit it down to size. I realize this is a difficult thing to do. However lately I've read a lot of really great graphic novels based on classics/long stories and they seem to do it effectively and seamlessly. *shrug*
  2. The Graphics- Big problem here, people. Code Red, abort! Abort! >.< Seriously though, this was very "meh" for me. Admittedly, I'm one for color in my graphic novels. This is actually why I don't often read Manga, I miss the color. So maybe part of this is due to my preference for color, but that's only part of it. 
  3. The Graphics - The graphics were also just very blah and boring. Sherlock and Watson were drawn very stylistically old fashioned and in a way they have been depictred for, like, a hundred years. *yawn* If you want kids or whoever to pick this up, you got to put a spin on this a little bit. Do SOMETHING different (anything!) with the looks of the main characters. If I wanted to see this story drawn in the way it's always been drawn I would pick up a battered copy with illustrations (they have those, you know). It would look the same. 
  4. The Ending - The ending seriously moved this from 2 stars to 1. That's a lot, and it's because it was as serious WTF moment for me. The last page had more text than any of the other pages had. It was rushed. It was confusing. It was clearly there to quickly tie the story together to fit the allotted page number or whatever. It made the novel even more choppy. 
So those are the reasons I didn't care for this graphic novel version of The Hound of the Baskervilles. Save yourself some time and read the original version while watching the BBC version played by the glorious Benedict Cumberbatch. 

*A copy of this graphic novel was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

20 things you might not know about me [Tag]

I was tagged by the gorgeous Jess @ My Reading Dress

I'm an Aquarius

I have many Aquarian traits; I was born on the cusp of Capricorn/Aquarius.  Independent, eccentric, idealistic, quirky, rebellious, and intelligent are some Aquarian traits.[If you believe in that sort of thing, which, I do!]

I'm 1/2 Persian (Iranian)

the rest is a mix of Irish, French, Scottish, German, etc. My mother was born in Iran and moved here when she was 27 years old.

I speak Farsi 

I learned as a baby (even before English!), forgot when I moved away, then had to reteach myself at 18. I took a course at my University and learned the basics of reading and writing, which helped my speaking skills a lot! I'm actually quite proud of it. :$

I'm left-handed

It's true what they say that left handers are a bit "off" haha ;)

I love to paint in my free time

My favorite movies are old horror B-movies

If Vincent Price and Robert E. Lee are involved, count me in. I grew up watching them with my dad and haven't kicked the habit yet. 

My favorite vacation was when I traveled to Paris

I wish I could live there. I was 20 and stayed for ten days. I was celebrating my golden birthday, and it was the most magical experience! :star

I secretly love school 

...I know school, especially college isn't for everyone. I always loved school and even doing homework and studying! Which kind of explains the next thing..

I'm currently applying for graduate school

I hope to get my master's degree in Library and Information Science. There are only 2 programs in the state that are certified. The first application is due Dec 10th! No wonder I haven't been posting a lot?!!?!?! lol xD

I love smoking hookah

I smoke a hookah every night after work to de-stress. It tastes good (unlike cigarettes), doesn't have any tar or any of the really bad chemicals in cigarettes either. It's kind of a Middle Eastern thing xP 

I feel weird if my toe nails aren't painted 

I have no idea why.. It feels like I'm unfinished I can't describe it :$

My love of cartoons has grown in 

my adult years

From kid-centered to adult, my love for animation is all encompassing. Some favorites are: Samurai Jack, Scooby Doo (classic and Mystery Incorporated), The Venture Brothers, The Simpsons, Camp Lazlo, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, Gravity Falls, and Teen Titans! :L

I grew up in Wisconsin

..in small town called Sheboygan. (everyone laughs when I say the name). I lived there from preschool to the end of high school. Although my Wisconsin accent has faded mostly, it comes out when I say certain words!

I'm incredibly indecisive

Which leads me to the next fact...

I don't have any tattoos 

There are so many I want, I can't decide. I decide, then at the last minute think something else might be better...Le sigh :|

My cat Sasha is my best friend

She's a book lover too :P

In High School & University dream was to become a lawyer

That changed only recently!

I suffer from Lupus (SLE). 

In 2012 I ended up discovering this after being in the hospital. It took over two years to get on the right medication, during which I couldn't work and could barely function. Perhaps the most difficult time, it was the time I started this blog and the book community really helped get me through :rainbow

I drink a can of Diet Coke every day

It's my guilty pleasure. It has caffeine (which I need daily!) and just tastes so refreshing from a can! *sips* Yes I happen to be drinking one right now... lol 

Dogs just started liking me!

Seriously. They hated me most of my life (I think they latched on to my fear of them, which started with a bite from a dog while I was doing my paper route at 14. Since then I've been bitten a total of 5 times by different dogs. So when they started to like me and refrain from biting..I noticed how cute they are :k

There you have it! 20 Things you maybe didn't know about me. That was a lot harder to come up with than I would've thought.

I TAG anyone else who wants to complete this post! 
If you do, make sure you come and leave your link! I'd love to learn more about ALL of you.


Monday, November 10, 2014

Book Review: Messenger of Fear by Michael Grant

Messenger of Fear by Michael Grant
My Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars :star :star :star 1/2
Source: eARC via Katherine Tegen | Edelweiss
Publication Date: September 23rd, 2014

I remembered my name – Mara. But, standing in that ghostly place, faced with the solemn young man in the black coat with silver skulls for buttons, I could recall nothing else about myself.

And then the games began.

The Messenger sees the darkness in young hearts, and the damage it inflicts upon the world. If they go unpunished, he offers the wicked a game. Win, and they can go free. Lose, and they will live out their greatest fear.

But what does any of this have to do with Mara? She is about to find out.

One of the genres I rarely read are thrillers; but a thriller with a supernatural element? Messenger of Fear had me interested because of the unusual braid of genres and the really cool cover (I love that color blue). I guess it doesn’t take much for me to step out of my comfort zone. Add a little of a genre I tend to love and a color-pleasing cover and I’ll try you out! But seriously though, I’m so glad I did.

“Yes, Mara,” he said with a sense of finality, as though now we could begin to understand each other, though I yet understood nothing. “I am the messenger. The Messenger of Fear.” It would be a long time before I came to know him by any other name.  -Loc 229

Michael Grant is a pretty well-known author when it comes to thrillers and such in young adult. I’ve never read any of his books before but did recognize the name because I see it around on Goodreads and in bookstores and stuff. That sort of thing really doesn’t influence whether I request/download the eARC, but after reading this book I can understand why he’s a popular author.

Messenger of Fear started off really good and I remember thinking, “this is an amazing premise for a book. If it delivers, it will be fantastic.” Although it wavered at times, the ending was so strong I definitely feel it fulfilled it’s ambitious premise of a supernatural thriller that kept me guessing until the end. 

What was I guessing about? So here’s the thing, let me tell you a little bit about the book (don’t worry—no spoilers!) We open with Mara waking up in a coffin. Of course a pleathora of questions are spued forth by her, is she dead? Is she alive? What happened? Why can’t she remember anything? While we don’t get clear cut answers, she does figure a few things out pretty quickly. She meets “the Messenger.” He’s a mysteriously handsome guy who is the only one that can see and talk to her. Slowly she is shown the life, death, and in between of a teenage girl named Samantha Early. She kills herself, but Mara needs to learn (slowly) why and she is shown all the details from both Samantha Early’s side AND the other people involved who may have encouraged the suicide.

Mara learns she is the protégé of the Messenger of Fear. She will take his place when the time comes. This is a position she clearly doesn’t want; but she quickly learns it’s a position she signed up for. The mysterious plot thickens. ;) 

“It is a terrible thing to watch evil unfolding. It’s a terrible thing to see doom coming to an innocent girl.” –Loc 925

I really liked how the issues of right and wrong, and the various degrees of evil and intent were explored in this book. It’s great for a philosophy buff like me, without being annoying or overwhelming. It just kind of makes you think. What makes someone evil, or do something evil? Can that person, or persons ever be redeemed? What should happen to them? Those are the things that the Messenger of Fear ultimately decides, by having access to the persons every memory and deepest, darkest fear. 

“Evil comes when those who know better, who have seen the pain they cause, nevertheless cause more pain.” –Loc 1926

Although I felt a wide range of emotions toward Mara, I appreciated the fact that there wasn’t a developing romance between her and Messenger. In the beginning I was a bit afraid that was going to happen, so when it didn’t I was extremely happy. The novel really didn’t need a sappy romance and I felt it was perfect without it. There was a crush, and love of another couple, along with some lust thrown in with an enigma known as Oriax. I’ll leave the details for you to discover when you read this book.

I recommend Messenger of Fear to lovers of novels that keep you guessing until the end. It’s less of an action-packed thriller and more of a supernatural thriller that is extremely well written.



Friday, November 7, 2014

DNF Graphic Novel Review: The Last Temptation by Neil Gaiman

The Last Temptation by Neil Gaiman
Source: eARC via Netgalley | Dynamite Ent.
My Rating: None*
Published: October 21, 2014

Neil Gaiman (Sandman, Coraline, American Gods) brings shock rocker Alice Cooper's concept album to life in a surreal sideshow of the soul! Join a young boy named Steven on a surreal journey of the soul, as an enigmatic and potentially dangerous Showman seduces him into joining his carnival. Celebrate the 20th Anniversary of this seminal Gaiman work, returned to print for the first time in over a decade. Fully remastered in color, this Deluxe Edition incorporates complete scripts to all three chapters, black-and-white thumbnail art of pre-colored pages, an original outline of the project by Neil Gaiman, and a collection of letters between shock rocker Alice Cooper and the author! "I'm really happy that The Last Temptation is coming out for a new generation of readers, who have not seen Michael Zulli's glorious drawings, or know of the Showman and his wicked ways," says Neil Gaiman. "I wrote this a long time ago, driven by love of Ray Bradbury's dark carnivals and of Alice Cooper's own pandemonium shadow show. It's time for it to shuffle out onto a leaf-covered street and meet the people who don't know about Stephen and Mercy and show what's coming to town."


I just couldn't get into this. In the first portion, I was intrigued with the set up. Introduction of anniversary edition by Gaiman was better than the entire portion of the book I read (I'm guessing the rest too, but I don't know).

I'm a fan of Gaiman. Not die hard, or anything, but I like his books. I like Sandman a lot, haven't finished it yet having been introduced to the series only a year or so ago. Anyway, I was hoping for something like that. Instead, I got a great idea and set up but it didn't follow through. I feel like the graphic novel didn't execute exactly what it aimed to fast enough. See, I lost interest. And I feel I'm a pretty patient reader but with graphic novels I think you need to grab the readers imagination and attention fully, and faster than with novels because of the visual element. It ups the anty (for me, anyway).

I wouldn't recommend this for those who want a super engaging and fast moving plot of a read. Graphics are good, but not great. I've seen better from Gaiman, even Gaiman twenty years ago. I'm not a big Alice Cooper buff, but I've heard better from Cooper then too.

To sum it up for a short DNF review: ambitious but not quite realized the expectations given with an anniversary release and fantastical (braggy) introduction. I was let down.

*I was provided a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.
** I didn't read enough of this to feel I could justifiably rate it.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Promo & Giveaway: A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray (US)


HarperTeen – November 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-006227896

Marguerite Caine’s physicist parents are known for their groundbreaking achievements. Their most astonishing invention, called the Firebird, allows 
users to jump into multiple universes—and promises 
to revolutionize science forever. But then 
Marguerite’s father is murdered, and the killer—her 
parent’s handsome, enigmatic assistant Paul—
escapes into another dimension before the law can 
touch him. Marguerite refuses to let the man who 
destroyed her family go free. So she races after Paul 
through different universes, always leaping into 
another version of herself. 
To accomplish her goal, she must learn how each world works, and confront the many 
people she has the capacity to become. But she also meets alternate versions of the 
people she knows — including Paul, whose life entangles with hers in increasingly 
familiar ways. Before long she begins to question Paul’s guilt—as well as her own heart. 
And soon she discovers the truth behind her father’s death is far more sinister than she 

A THOUSAND PIECES OF YOU explores an amazingly intricate multi-universe where 
the truth is elusive, and love the greatest mystery of all.

About the Author

Claudia Gray began her writing career with the EVERNIGHT

series: four YA novels set in an eerie gothic boarding school. The

EVERNIGHT books received critical acclaim from national

media, earned Claudia the title of New York Times bestseller,

and jumpstarted her career. She is also the author of the

popular and highly praised SPELLCASTER series.

Though she has worked as a lawyer, journalist, disc jockey, and

extremely poor waitress, she currently writes full time. She

resides in New Orleans.

Follow Claudia Gray on Twitter @ClaudiaGray


Hardback copy of A Thousand Pieces of You
US Only
Copy was provided by HarperTeen, shipped by myself.
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