August Wrap-Up

What the Diva read in August…

Five Days Left

Five Days LeftTitle: Five Days Left
Author: Julie Lawson Timmer
Genre(s): Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 346
Published by Putnam Adult on 2014-09-09
Format: eARC
Source: Penguin First to Read

FTC Disclosure: Regardless of how I received this book, this is an honest review based on my own opinions. Read my full disclosure here.

 
This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, controversial topics, and/or violence.
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From the back cover...

Destined to be a book club favorite, a heart-wrenching debut about two people who must decide how much they’re willing to sacrifice for love.
Mara Nichols, a successful lawyer, and devoted wife and adoptive mother, has recently been diagnosed with a terminal disease. Scott Coffman, a middle school teacher, has been fostering an eight-year-old boy while the boy’s mother serves a jail sentence. Scott and Mara both have five days left until they must say good-bye to the ones they love the most. Through their stories, Julie Lawson Timmer explores the individual limits of human endurance, the power of relationships, and that sometimes loving someone means holding on, and sometimes it means letting go.

My Review

Words like “wonderful” and phrases like ” I loved it” seem somehow wrong.  Both of those things are true, but there is so much bittersweet emotion that these words seem like the wrong descriptors for this book.

Five Days Left tells two tales, the stories of two people who know each other only in the most anonymous of ways.  In ways that neither of them realize, they are each significant in the other’s life and journey.  Their journey’s are very different, but both are full of heartbreak, love, humanity, hard questions, and sacrifice.

Scott is a middle school teacher who teaches in a rather disadvantaged area, his eyes and heart opened up to the plight of the kids he sees every day.  For the last year, he and his wife have cared for Curtis, the younger brother of a former student whose mother is in jail.  Scott’s heart is huge and he loves Curtis as much as if he was his own son, often to his own detriment with his pregnant wife.  Mara is a once successful attorney, diagnosed with a dehabilitating disease.  Her disease has progressed rapidly and she is unwilling to become a burden to those she loves so much.

This is such a thought-provoking read.  Could I handle letting someone I loved go, even if it were perhaps for the best of that person?  What would I do in the face of my own terminal illness?  Am I making the right choices?  Are those choices for me, or for those I love?  So many questions, so many perspectives.  It was a beautiful book, even as it was often heartbreakingly sad.  I cried all the way through it, an extremely emotional and touching read.

Things to love…

  • The depth of emotion.  The stories of Scott and Mara touched me, as did the stories of those around them.
  • The cab driver.  A minor character, but one who filled an important role in Mara’s journey.
  • The love between Scott and Curtis.  It was pure and beautiful.

My Recommendation

This is not an easy read, but one full of deep emotion and hard questions.  But it is a book that I think is important to consider, to think about, to absorb.  The beauty is often dark and bittersweet, but no less powerful.

 

Rating Report
Plot
Characters
Writing
Pacing
Cover
Overall: 4.9

About Julie Lawson Timmer

Julie Lawson Timmer grew up in Stratford, Ontario. She now lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan with her husband Dan, their four teenage children and two badly-behaved labs. She is a lawyer by day, a writer, mom/stepmom, fledgling CrossFitter and dreadful cook by night. FIVE DAYS LEFT is her first novel.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

Ascend

AscendTitle: Ascend
Author: Amanda Hocking
Series: Trylle #3
Also in this series: Switched, Torn
Genre(s): Fantasy & Magic, Love & Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 326
on 2012-04-24
Format: Paperback
Source: personal purchase

FTC Disclosure: Regardless of how I received this book, this is an honest review based on my own opinions. Read my full disclosure here.

 
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From the back cover...

Wendy Everly is facing an impossible choice. The only way to save the Trylle from their deadliest enemy is by sacrificing herself.  If she doesn’t surrender to the Vittra, her people will be thrust into a brutal war against an unbeatable foe.  But how can Wendy leave all her friends behind…even if it’s the only way to save them?

The stakes have never been higher, because her kingdom isn’t the only thing she stands to lose. After falling for both Finn and Loki, she’s about to make the ultimate choice…who to love forever. One guy has finally proven to be the love of her life—and now all their lives might be coming to an end. 

Everything has been leading to this moment.  The future of her entire world rests in her hands—if she’s ready to fight for it.

My Review

I have really enjoyed this series and I am sad to see it end!  I thought Ascend was a perfect conclusion, especially with the bonus short story at the end.  The world that was created was so interwoven with our own that it made it hard not to believe in the possibilities!

Wendy is a different person in this book than in the first.  She grew so much as she accepted her destiny and made it her own.  This is one of the things that I loved about her.  She accepted her destiny, but she also refused to accept those things about her new society that she felt were wrong.  Instead, she strives to make change, to make a rather stagnant society grow with her.  She has met with a lot of opposition from those traditionalists, but she stays true to herself.  The message there is inspiring.

There is a lot more action in this book, lots of twists and turns.  There were also some deeply emotional moments that truly tugged at the heart strings.  My feelings for various characters constantly changed throughout the book… loving them one moment and annoyed by them the next!

My Recommendation

I loved this series and its premise and I am sad to see it end!

Rating Report
Plot
Characters
Writing
Pacing
Cover
Overall: 4.5

About Amanda Hocking

I live in Minnesota, and I write young adult paranormal romance and urban fantasy mostly. The My Blood Approves series is about vampires in Minneapolis, and its available now. I also wrote the Trylle Trilogy, which is a paranormal romance without vampires, shifters, mermaids, fae, angels, dragons, ghosts, or ninjas.

My latest book is Hollowland – a zombie urban fantasy set in the dystopian near future. It’s a bit more violent and gritter than my other books, but there is still romance. Mostly though, Remy kicks a lot of butt.

I also enjoy Red Bull, Jim Henson, Batman, Jane Austen, Star Wars legos, and I absolutely hate long walks on the beach out of my intense fear/hatred of wet sand

My favorite authors are Kurt Vonnegut, Chuck Palahniuk, Bret Easton Ellis, Alan Moore, and J. D. Salinger, but I don’t write anything like them. I have an obsession with River Phoenix, and I’ve seen Silence of the Lambs more than any other movie, even The Dark Knight. If I were trapped on a deserted island, the one thing I’d take with me would be a boat capable for taking me home.

I’m also the guitarist in a band called the Fraggin Aardvarks, and even though its even twice as cool as it sounds, we haven’t had a practice in like two years, so I’m not sure that technically we are still a band. But we never broke up, and it’s an awesome thing to tell people, so I’m sticking with it. (We even had a synethesizer!)

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

Torn

TornTitle: Torn
Author: Amanda Hocking
Series: Trylle #2
Also in this series: Switched, Ascend
Genre(s): Fantasy & Magic, Love & Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 336
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on 2012-02-28
Format: Paperback
Source: personal purchase

FTC Disclosure: Regardless of how I received this book, this is an honest review based on my own opinions. Read my full disclosure here.

 
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From the back cover...

When Wendy Everly first discovers the truth about herself—that she’s a changeling switched at birth—she knows her life will never be the same. Now she’s about to learn that there’s more to the story…

She shares a closer connection to her Vittra rivals than she ever imagined—and they’ll stop at nothing to lure her to their side. With the threat of war looming, her only hope of saving the Trylle is to master her magical powers—and marry an equally powerful royal. But that means walking away from Finn, her handsome bodyguard who’s strictly off limits…and Loki, a Vittra prince with whom she shares a growing attraction.

Torn between her heart and her people, between love and duty, Wendy must decide her fate. If she makes the wrong choice, she could lose everything, and everybody, she’s ever wanted…in both worlds.

My Review

Torn begins as Switched finishes.  This is an apt title for this book, as it is all about Wendy being torn between the people she loves and her destiny.  She struggles to decide what the right choices are, knowing that the wrong choice could destroy her world… both of her worlds.

She is conflicted, unsure of what she should believe and who she should trust in her new world.  She is overwhelmed and confused and doesn’t really understand what is happening around her.  That drove me nuts.  For most of the book, various people are pulling at her in different directions, telling her what she should be doing without telling her why.  There are so many things going on under the radar in the kingdom, but no one will explain anything to her and she tends to rebel.  Elora and Aurora continue to snark at her, trying to mold her into something, someone she just isn’t.

I loved this book even more than the first.  Her struggles were real and I felt her frustration.  I wanted to jump into the book and slap those who treated  her so badly, even as they wanted her to save them all.  The caste system also drove me nuts in this book, how badly the trackers were treated.  These are the people expected to sacrifice everything for the nobles and yet they were treated as though they were disposable.  They were the soldiers of the society and I suppose that, as a former soldier myself, it bothered me that their lives were so worthless and unsupported, even as they were expected to risk themselves.

Willa, whom I really didn’t like in the first book, begins to come into her own.  She grows up and realizes that people are people, regardless of caste.  I loved that change, and it made me love her.  There are all kinds of new characters inn this book, Tove being one of my favorites.  He is starting to have a big role in the series and there is a bit of mystery about him.  Wendy, too, begins to change and I love that she still has that spark and bucks the traditions of the kingdom!

Bonus:  There’s a bonus short story in the newer editions of the book, One Day, Three Ways, set in the world of the Trylle!

My Recommendation

Love the cover, love the story!  This is my favorite thus far and I definitely recommend it!

Rating Report
Plot
Characters
Writing
Pacing
Cover
Overall: 4.5

About Amanda Hocking

I live in Minnesota, and I write young adult paranormal romance and urban fantasy mostly. The My Blood Approves series is about vampires in Minneapolis, and its available now. I also wrote the Trylle Trilogy, which is a paranormal romance without vampires, shifters, mermaids, fae, angels, dragons, ghosts, or ninjas.

My latest book is Hollowland – a zombie urban fantasy set in the dystopian near future. It’s a bit more violent and gritter than my other books, but there is still romance. Mostly though, Remy kicks a lot of butt.

I also enjoy Red Bull, Jim Henson, Batman, Jane Austen, Star Wars legos, and I absolutely hate long walks on the beach out of my intense fear/hatred of wet sand

My favorite authors are Kurt Vonnegut, Chuck Palahniuk, Bret Easton Ellis, Alan Moore, and J. D. Salinger, but I don’t write anything like them. I have an obsession with River Phoenix, and I’ve seen Silence of the Lambs more than any other movie, even The Dark Knight. If I were trapped on a deserted island, the one thing I’d take with me would be a boat capable for taking me home.

I’m also the guitarist in a band called the Fraggin Aardvarks, and even though its even twice as cool as it sounds, we haven’t had a practice in like two years, so I’m not sure that technically we are still a band. But we never broke up, and it’s an awesome thing to tell people, so I’m sticking with it. (We even had a synethesizer!)

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

Switched

SwitchedTitle: Switched
Author: Amanda Hocking
Series: Trylle #1
Also in this series: Torn, Ascend
Genre(s): Fantasy & Magic, Love & Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 336
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on 2012-01-03
Format: Paperback
Source: personal purchase

FTC Disclosure: Regardless of how I received this book, this is an honest review based on my own opinions. Read my full disclosure here.

 
| Amazon | B&N | Kobo |
| Goodreads | BookLikes | Shelfari | LibraryThing |

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From the back cover...

When Wendy Everly was six-years-old, her mother was convinced she was a monster and tried to kill her. It isn't until eleven years later that Wendy finds out her mother might've been telling the truth. With the help of Finn Holmes, Wendy finds herself in a world she never knew existed - and it's one she's not sure if she wants to be a part of.

My Review

I loved the fantasy world that Amanda Hocking created in the worrld of the Trylle.  It is a complex society that lives within our own world, completely off the grid for most humans.  I read a lot of fantasy and rarely have I come across a world featuring trolls, especially depicted as socially cultured and refined creatures.

The society of the Trylle and the lore behind it reminded me a lot of Aprilynne Pike’s Wings series.  There is a very defined caste system which most are unwilling to change or challenge, different social groups of trolls who all function in specific ways.  The changeling theme is also similar, although that is a piece of the lore that exists in a lot of mythology.

But, despite those commonalities, the story is its own.  Wendy has had a rough childhood in a lot of ways.  Her father died when she was very young and her mother hated her, going so far as to try to kill her when she was only six years old.  She has never fit in and she was always more than a little difficult, no matter how hard she tried.  Even with all of that, she grew up with her aunt and her big brother, both of whom loved her unconditionally.  Despite the paranomal aspect to the story, there are some strong messages on family acceptance and love.

And then she meets Finn, who turns her world upside down when he tells her the unimaginable… that there is a reason that she is the way she is and that her life is in danger because of it.  She soon discovers that latter is true, although she has a tough time wrapping her head around the rest of it.

I love Wendy as a character.  She is strong and loving, and more than a little stubborn.  She loves her family fiercely and is strong in her own beliefs.  But she isn’t sure that her new life is better or worse than her old life, and neither was I as a reader.  Finn is a great character, strong and loyal.  He is a warrior and a protector and full of honor.  He is the epitome of the knight in shining armor, almost to a fault as he is willing to sacrifice even his own needs and wants for the greater good.  Elora (Wendy’s mother), however, is a conundrum.  She is regal to the point of being more than a little cold.  She and her biggest rival, Aurora, seem to take a great deal of pleasure sniping at Wendy.  Nothing she does is ever good enough and there is no compassion for the changes she has been through.  Elora is the woman we love to hate and Aurora is a raging snob!

Bonus:  There’s a bonus short story in the newer editions of the book, The Vittra Attacks, set in the world of the Trylle!

My Recommendation

Forget the fact that the cover is gorgeous… this is a fun book with a great premise.  There is a lot going on under the surface that we are only just getting hints at.  There are secrets and mysteries and intrigue and I can’t wait to read the second book!

Rating Report
Plot
Characters
Writing
Pacing
Cover
Overall: 4.2

About Amanda Hocking

I live in Minnesota, and I write young adult paranormal romance and urban fantasy mostly. The My Blood Approves series is about vampires in Minneapolis, and its available now. I also wrote the Trylle Trilogy, which is a paranormal romance without vampires, shifters, mermaids, fae, angels, dragons, ghosts, or ninjas.

My latest book is Hollowland – a zombie urban fantasy set in the dystopian near future. It’s a bit more violent and gritter than my other books, but there is still romance. Mostly though, Remy kicks a lot of butt.

I also enjoy Red Bull, Jim Henson, Batman, Jane Austen, Star Wars legos, and I absolutely hate long walks on the beach out of my intense fear/hatred of wet sand

My favorite authors are Kurt Vonnegut, Chuck Palahniuk, Bret Easton Ellis, Alan Moore, and J. D. Salinger, but I don’t write anything like them. I have an obsession with River Phoenix, and I’ve seen Silence of the Lambs more than any other movie, even The Dark Knight. If I were trapped on a deserted island, the one thing I’d take with me would be a boat capable for taking me home.

I’m also the guitarist in a band called the Fraggin Aardvarks, and even though its even twice as cool as it sounds, we haven’t had a practice in like two years, so I’m not sure that technically we are still a band. But we never broke up, and it’s an awesome thing to tell people, so I’m sticking with it. (We even had a synethesizer!)

Reading this book contributed to these challenges: