Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Review: All We Have Left by Wendy Mills

All We Have Left by Wendy Mills
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Release Date: August 9th, 2016
Purchase: Amazon
A haunting and heart-wrenching story of two girls, two time periods, and the one event that changed their lives—and the world—forever.

Sixteen-year-old Jesse is used to living with the echoes of the past. Her older brother died in the September 11th attacks, and her dad has filled their home with anger and grief. When Jesse gets caught up with the wrong crowd, one momentary hate-fueled decision turns her life upside down. The only way to make amends is to face the past, starting Jesse on a journey that will reveal the truth about how her brother died.

In 2001, sixteen-year-old Alia is proud to be Muslim... it's being a teenager that she finds difficult. After being grounded for a stupid mistake, Alia is determined to show her parents that that they must respect her choices. She'll start by confronting her father at his office in downtown Manhattan, putting Alia in danger she never could have imagined. When the planes collide into the Twin Towers Alia is trapped inside one of the buildings. In the final hours she meets a boy who will change everything for her as the flames rage around them . . .

Interweaving stories past and present, full of heartbreak and hope, two girls come of age in an instant, learning that both hate and love have the power to reverberate into the future and beyond.

My thoughts:

Two girls. Two stories. One event that shocked and changed the world.

Alia is trying to visit her father in World Trade Center when she gets stuck in an elevator with a guy called Travis. Was it just a malfunction? Could it have been an explosion? Is someone going to come and help them? What happens next is something no one ever expected to happen.

Jesse lost her brother almost 15 years ago at the September 11th attacks. While her parents are still together, they are both trying hard to keep quiet about Travis and what happened to him. Her mother keeps herself busy with work and other activities, while her father drinks and rages on the television. When Jesse befriends a group of graffiti artists, she ends up tagging an anti-Muslim message and gets caught. Forced to do community service at a Muslim Peace Center she starts to learn more about herself and also becomes curious about her brother, a young man who will forever be 18, a guy she never really knew and a person she has only come to known as the brother who died tragically.

I think the way Mills is able to balance the two stories and the two time periods is excellently done. As the novel processes, the two stories start to intricately weave together and more and more parallels are found between the two. Both Alia and Jesse are extremely interesting characters who both struggle with issues of confidence and finding your place in a world that is constantly changing. Alia's story is mostly tied up to the 11th of September, while Jesse's story spans a longer time and thus allows for more character development.

I was ten years old in September 11th, 2001 and I also have a clear recollection of where I was when I heard about the attacks to the World Trade Center. I lived in Finland at the time, so the events felt quite distant for me, but even then, I feel like I was aware of the fact that what had happened was extremely tragic and that it would change things. Not only in United States, but all over the world. In the novel, Jesse never really knew her brother. She was only a toddler when 9/11 happened, and for a long time she has been trying to figure out how to grief for someone she never really knew. She knows that she is supposed to be sad, and she is, but without knowing anything about her brother it feels to her like her sorrow is very superficial.She knows she makes a mistake when she generalizes that all Muslims are to blame for what happened to her brother, and I think she really learns from that mistake, in many different ways.

Due to its subject matter, this novel is obviously very sad. The events that happen in the tower and as well as the discrimination also Jesse engages in made me both angry and heartbroken. Both 9/11 and the treatment of Muslims in US are very controversial topics to write about, but I think Mills shows sensitivity in her treatment of both. The acknowledgements at the end of the novel thank both 9/11 survivors who have shared their stories, as well as Muslin families who have welcomed Mills to their home for research purposes, so I would like to assume that readers from both of those groups (survivors and Muslims) can read this book without feeling like they are wrongly or unfairly represented. I am really looking forward to reviews from young Muslim reviewers in order to read their thoughts on this one.

Thinking about the current political climate in the United States with the election coming and Donald Trump trailblazing his way forward, the way this novel depicts attitudes towards the Muslim population made me kind of sick at times. I think Mills has done wisely to include that discrimination here to show the reality of the situation, and I think she handles the treatment of it well. But just thinking that there are some so narrow-minded people out there baffles me. I won't go into more political discussion here, but if you are politically inclined, I think you might find this one an interesting read!

I have a feeling All We Have Left will be making waves once it is published. It is beautifully and sensitively written, sad but occasionally uplifting tale about human endurance, bravery, forgiveness and second chances.

Five Snowflakes

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Review & Giveaway: The Light of Paris by Eleanor Brown

Published: July 12, 2016
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
The miraculous new novel from New York Times–bestselling author Eleanor Brown, whose debut, The Weird Sisters, was a sensation beloved by critics and readers alike.

Madeleine is trapped—by her family's expectations, by her controlling husband, and by her own fears—in an unhappy marriage and a life she never wanted. From the outside, it looks like she has everything, but on the inside, she fears she has nothing that matters.

In Madeleine’s memories, her grandmother Margie is the kind of woman she should have been—elegant, reserved, perfect. But when Madeleine finds a diary detailing Margie’s bold, romantic trip to Jazz Age Paris, she meets the grandmother she never knew: a dreamer who defied her strict, staid family and spent an exhilarating summer writing in caf├ęs, living on her own, and falling for a charismatic artist.

Despite her unhappiness, when Madeleine’s marriage is threatened, she panics, escaping to her hometown and staying with her critical, disapproving mother. In that unlikely place, shaken by the revelation of a long-hidden family secret and inspired by her grandmother’s bravery, Madeleine creates her own Parisian summer—reconnecting to her love of painting, cultivating a vibrant circle of creative friends, and finding a kindred spirit in a down-to-earth chef who reminds her to feed both her body and her heart.
Margie and Madeleine’s stories intertwine to explore the joys and risks of living life on our own terms, of defying the rules that hold us back from our dreams, and of becoming the people we are meant to be.

My Thoughts
I was so excited to be offered a copy of The Light of Paris by Eleanor Brown. Any story that transports me to that lovely city is one I’m always eager to dive into. Having never been and journeying with these characters as Margie had the experience of a life time makes me long to visit one day! Eleanor Brown truly knows how to catapult her readers into her story and have them feel like they are traveling right alongside her characters.

In this story, Madeleine finds herself in a marriage that wasn’t quite what she envisioned for herself. It’s a loveless connection to say the least, but she’s also sacrificed quite a bit to accommodate her family’s expectations. Madeleine has given up the things she loved the most, especially expressing herself through painting. So when she travels to her hometown to visit her mother, she comes across her grandmother’s journals that have her connecting with Margie in a way that awakens her desire to live according to her own terms once again. Margie is a character that took a risk during a time that women had minimal say in how their lives turned out, but a few months in Paris showed her that independence and chasing your dream is more important than any expectation society can place on a girl.

I really enjoyed getting to know Margie and Madeleine. There were moments in the beginning of the novel that I longed for stronger characters, but it was quickly made clear that The Light of Paris is a story about self-discovery and growth, which ultimately happened for these two ladies. Seeing their steady transformation as the novel progressed was both rewarding and gratifying.

Reading about the cafes, theatres, libraries and people of Paris was absolutely magical. Eleanor Brown did an amazing job of making Margie’s journey come to life. I often felt like I was strolling the streets of Paris right alongside this amazing character.

Overall, The Light of Paris is a story that is filled with commendable characters and memorable moments, all alongside a backdrop of the perfect city. What I wouldn’t give for a season in Paris! Lovely!!
4 Snowflakes

If this sounds like a story you would enjoy, I am giving away a hard bound copy of The Light of Paris by Eleanor Brown to one lucky WinterHaven follower. This giveaway is open to US residents only. Please fill out the rafflecopter and share with us what dream city you would like to visit one day. Good luck!

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Review: The Museum of Heartbreak by Meg Leder

The Museum of Heartbreak by Meg Leder
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: June 6th, 2016
Purchase: Amazon / B&N
In this ode to all the things we gain and lose and gain again, seventeen-year-old Penelope Marx curates her own mini-museum to deal with all the heartbreaks of love, friendship, and growing up.

Welcome to the Museum of Heartbreak.

Well, actually, to Penelope Marx’s personal museum. The one she creates after coming face to face with the devastating, lonely-making butt-kicking phenomenon known as heartbreak.

Heartbreak comes in all forms: There’s Keats, the charmingly handsome new guy who couldn’t be more perfect for her. There’s possibly the worst person in the world, Cherisse, whose mission in life is to make Penelope miserable. There’s Penelope’s increasingly distant best friend Audrey. And then there’s Penelope’s other best friend, the equal-parts-infuriating-and-yet-somehow-amazing Eph, who has been all kinds of confusing lately.

But sometimes the biggest heartbreak of all is learning to let go of that wondrous time before you ever knew things could be broken.

My Thoughts:

After a slight break from reading YA contemporaries (I just wasn't in a mood!) I decided to pick up Meg Leder's upcoming novel The Museum of Heartbreak. My interest for this novel was mostly ignited by its awesome cover, and now that I have read it I am happy to say that the cover actually fits perfectly with the novel because all of the items pictured in it play a role in the story of Penelope (or just Pen), Eph, Audrey and Keats.

Pen is 17 (she is 16 at the beginning of the novel but turns 17 during it) and a junior in high school. She lives in New York (THE GREATEST CITY IN THE WORLD.... 10 points if you get the reference), loves Jane Austen and drinking hot chocolate. She has two best friends, Audrey and Eph, and sees no reason for extending her social circle. Then Keats, a handsome new guy shows up and Pen starts majorly crushing on him. Once both Audrey and Eph start to seem busy to hang out, Pen tries to control her anxiety about changes - why do Audrey and Eph feel like something needs to change when she feels like things are just as they should be?

All and all Pen is a very likable character and one I was able to identify with. At points she feels very young (she is 16/17 so she is allowed to feel young!), but she also matures a lot during the novel, so 10 points for character development and growth! I was able to relate with her dislike of change because I am totally the same - I have had the same few friends ever since I was young and I always feel strange in situations when new people are inserted to our hangouts etc. I know I should be more open, but it just fights against my nature in so many ways.

Let me just begin by saying that Keats is a total A-hole! He does not read "lady novels", obsessed over Kerouc and generally acts like an idiot for most of the time. But I do think that he is necessary for the novel because through relations with him Pen learns more about herself and about the people that she has surrounded herself with. Eph, on the other hand, is pretty perfect and totally made my heart flutter. Aubrey is a character I did not get much out from, and there are some decisions that she made I couldn't really agree with! Cherisse is the standard "mean girl", which is a trope I am getting kind of tired of, but I guess she is necessary for the story as well. I just wish there were more novels where girls didn't fight with each other for a boy, because in very rare cases it is worth it.

I wished there would have been more glimpses into the family life of Pen because I think her parents, especially her father, seem really interesting! It seems like the older I get the more interested I get about learning something about the parents of YA characters. I also loved the scenes with Pen and her new friends and the process Pen goes through in finding something that she might want to do in the future.

Meg Leder writes well and the novel was a quick one to read. The Museum of Heartbreak made me both laugh and cry, and I think that is always a positive sign when it comes to young adult contemporary novels. There were a few things here that bothered me (the mean girl storyline, etc) but all and all I really enjoyed it.

4 snowflakes

Friday, July 1, 2016

Meghan Rogers special cover reveal and giveaway!!!!

You guys, I am SO beyond excited to share this special cover!!  Meghan Rogers completely stole my reading heart with her debut novel Crossing the Line and when she asked if I would reveal the second book in The Raven Files series I just about exploded!  I have been dying to see where this story would go and what my number one favorite character Jocelyn would have to do next to keep one step ahead of her old boss!!  Well let me tell you this cover and summary has my curiosity piqued and I cannot wait to get my grabby hands on a copy!!  
Take a look and see just what I am squeeing about and don't forget to scroll to the bottom for an extra special surprise!!

  Enemy Exposure (The Raven Files, #2) by Meghan Rogers
Publisher: Philomel Books
Release Date: March 14, 2017
Pre order: Amazon
Jocelyn Steely may have escaped the clutches of KATO and won the trust of the IDA, but she isn’t out of danger yet.

Her cover is blown and KATO agents are after her, but that won’t stop Jocelyn. After all, her goal was never merely to escape KATO. She wants revenge.

Dead set on rescuing the one girl that she—and the IDA—failed to save, Jocelyn is forced to recruit other KATO agents to her side. She must hand over just enough intelligence to gain their trust, while still preventing her plans from getting back to her former tormentors. Is she out of her league in this battle? Or does she have what it takes to derail KATO once and for all?

This high-stakes spy thriller will have readers on the edge of their seats until the final mind-blowing realization.
  This cover is EVERYTHING!  I love that it's all spy like and honestly gives me the chills because I'm wondering who is tracking Jocelyn!!  If you haven't read the first book, Crossing the Line, you really need to get on that because this one looks to be EPIC!

So remember that special surprise I told you about???  Well the wonderful and truly amazing Ms. Rogers has graciously offered to send one lucky reader an advanced copy of Enemy Exposure!!!!! 
I am insanely jealous already of whoever wins!!!  
Open to US and Canada residents only
Good Luck!

About Meghan:
Meghan Rogers
Meghan Rogers has been telling stories since she could talk and writing creatively since she was first introduced to the concept in third grade. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Rosemont College. She lives in Morton, PA.

Other books in The Raven Files series:
Crossing the Line (The Raven Files, #1)

Monday, June 20, 2016

Blog Tour: And I Darken by Kiersten White

 Today on WinterHaven Books I am participating in the blog tour for And I Darken by Kiersten White!

And I DarkenAnd I Darken by Kiersten White
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Release Date: June 28th, 2016
Purchase: Amazon

And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets.

Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, who’s expected to rule a nation, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion.

But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.
My thoughts:
I absolutely love this!  I've seen a few books where there has been a gender swap, but this one did it so right and in such a way that I honestly think I prefer this version.

Kiersten White has definitely found her niche with this story.  I really enjoyed her previous series, Mind Games, but this one really grabbed me and pulled me in.  The story was really fun and something I didn't expect.  This has been compared to Game of Thrones, but I think this is actually pretty different.  I can see a few comparisons like the brutal world that Lada lives in, but for the most part the stories aren't all that similar and And I Darken definitely stands out on its own without the comparison.  I think people will be shocked at how dark this is, but they will love it just as I did.

Lada was a great character and I loved how strong she was.  I have to say what she went through was heartbreaking.  She didn't deserve what happened to her and it was just because she was a girl.  Not cool!  I loved how fierce she was though and how she overcame her hardships.  She used that hate and turned it into strength and man was she dark and awesome!  I love books and characters like this!

I think my favorite thing about this was the setting and history that White has woven into the story. It was truly brilliant and pulled me into the story so much more than just the overall plot.  Don't get me wrong I loved the plot (except the love triangle. That I loathe but I can forgive the author since I love her and I have hope it will be a quick triangle.)  but I loved the setting.  It was rich and vivid and totally showed Whites creativity off!

I have said before that this is the year of the fantasy books and And I Darken is definitely one to add to your list for this year!  It was amazing and I can't wait for the sequel!!

4 snowflakes

About Kiersten White
KIERSTEN WHITE is the New York Times bestselling author of the Paranormalcy trilogy; the dark thrillers Mind Games and Perfect Lies; The Chaos of Stars; and Illusions of Fate. She also coauthored In the Shadows with Jim Di Bartolo. She lives with her family near the ocean in San Diego, which, in spite of its perfection, spurs her to dream of faraway places and even further away times. Visit Kiersten online at kierstenwhite.com and follow @kierstenwhite on Twitter.

Don't for get to visit the official And I Darken website!
CLAIM THE THRONE. Visit AndIDarken.com to order now!

Check out the other amazing blogs on the tour!
Monday, May 30th through Friday, July 8th (Mondays through Fridays)

Monday, May 30th: Icey Books, Review
Tuesday, May 31st: Bookiemoji, Guest Post (Character Profiles)
Wednesday, June 1st: Seeing Double in Neverland, Review
Thursday, June 2nd: Alexa Loves Books, Playlist Post
Friday, June 3rd: Awesome Book Nut, Review

Monday, June 6th: Jessabella Reads, Review
Tuesday, June 7th: The Eater of Books!, Top Five Roundup
Wednesday, June 8th: Across the Words, Review
Thursday, June 9th: Pandora’s Books, Sneak Peek for Book Two
Friday, June 10th: Tales of the Ravenous Reader, Review

Monday, June 13th: A Midsummer Night's Read, Review
Tuesday, June 14th: The Irish Banana Review, Top 10 Guest Post
Wednesday, June 15th: Stories & Sweeties, Review
Thursday, June 16th: Jenuine Cupcakes, Author Mystery Guest Post
Friday, June 17th: The Soul Sisters, Review

Monday, June 20th: Winterhaven Books, Review
Tuesday, June 21st: Two Chicks on Books, Q&A (4-6 questions)
Wednesday: June 22nd: The Book Swarm, Review
Thursday, June 23rd: Read. Sleep. Repeat., Top Five Fantasy Books Kiersten Loves to Re-Read
Friday, June 24th: Please Feed The Bookworm, Review

Monday, June 27th: Comfort Books, Review
Tuesday, June 28th: Fitshun, Q&A
Wednesday, June 29th: Addicted Readers,Review
Thursday, June 30th: Lindsay Cummings, Movie Casting Post
Friday, July 1st: Rabid Reads, Review

Monday, July 4th: Reading Teen, Review
Tuesday, July 5th: YA Bibliophile, Guest Post (Trip to Romania)
Wednesday, July 6th: Carina’s Books, Review
Thursday, July 7th: Mundie Moms, Author Mystery Guest Post
Friday, July 8thMy Friends Are Fiction, Surprise Post!