Book Review: An American Marriage

Book-cation Location: Atlanta, Georgia

screenshot_20180622-195732_instagram.jpgBook: An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
Genre:  Fiction, Contemporary, Literary Fiction
Print Date: February 2018
Goodreads Score: 4 stars

Short Review: A captivating and sad story of the American justice system!

Book Summary

Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive, and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. But as they settle into the routine of their life together, they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit. Though fiercely independent, Celestial finds herself bereft and unmoored, taking comfort in Andre, her childhood friend, and best man at their wedding. As Roy’s time in prison passes, she is unable to hold on to the love that has been her center. After five years, Roy’s conviction is suddenly overturned, and he returns to Atlanta ready to resume their life together.

Long Review: This was a book club pick that everyone was excited to read after being an Oprah Winfrey pick. This isn’t a genre that I normally browse for so I am always excited when the book club picks something like this for me to read. I’m not exactly sure what I was expecting, but it ended up being nothing that I anticipated at all.

Celeste and Roy were both wonderful characters. You found yourself connecting to both and wanting the best for their relationship from the start. I personally liked Roy more than Celeste from the beginning, and this just continued to increase as the story went on. One character that I absolutely did not like was Andre. I will let you be the judge, but I feel he was the most deceitful in all of this because he missed his shot and then pounced when Celeste was at her weakest. What was great about this book was the way that the author choice to really introduce you to the characters. Just when you think you knew all their secrets and internal thoughts, more was revealed.  She also did a wonderful job of writing it to wear while I really liked Roy, I found myself questioning if I should be blaming Celeste as much as I was. It was very intriguing to see how each character dealt with the adversity they were facing.

I especially liked the way the author chose to write the story from multiple people’s perspective. You were able to get a better grasp on each character by getting straight into their minds. I also loved the addition of the letters to each other where you could see the marriage falling apart on paper. While this was far from a happy read, it was so well written and you couldn’t help but keep reading in hopes that things would end the way you hope.

This book made for some amazing discussions during my book club meeting after we had all finished. It was interesting to see where everyone felt strongly about the same plot points, and while others we all interpreted slightly differently. Overall this is a well written and thought provoking story.

BOOK-CATION IDEAS!

As I mentioned above the Book-cation location for An American Marriage is Atlanta! While the majority of this book was a sad read, I decided to pick some fun spots for the book-cation!

  • High Museum of Art. This is a must on your stop to go along with this book. Celeste was an artist so this had to be the first stop on my list! https://www.high.org/
  • Atlanta History Center.  For all you history buffs out there add this stop to your itinerary. It is situated on 33 acres with several historic buildings. They also offer tours from here of historic homes in the area and goes through the Buckhead neighborhood. This is wear I imagine that Roy would have worked until retirement had things not gone so wrong.
“Much of life is timing and circumstance, I see that now.” 
~ Tayari Jones, An American Marriage
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Book Review: The Cruel Prince

cruel-prince-cover.jpgBook-cation Location: Forests!

Book: The Cruel Prince by Holly Black
Genre: Young Adult, Fiction, Fantasy
Print Date: January 2018
Goodreads Score: 5 stars

Short Review: An epic fantasy that you will not be able to put down!

Book Summary

Of course I want to be like them. They’re beautiful as blades forged in some divine fire. They will live forever.

And Cardan is even more beautiful than the rest. I hate him more than all the others. I hate him so much that sometimes when I look at him, I can hardly breathe.

Jude was seven years old when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.

To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.

In doing so, she becomes embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, discovering her own capacity for bloodshed. But as civil war threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.

Long Review: First off I have to say that I LOVE the cover of this book!  My cover is the Exclusive OwlCrate edition! I am so happy this is the version that I have in my book collection. I held off on buying this book because I just knew it was going to be the one that was in the January OwlCrate. I’m just bummed that it took me this long to get to it!

This book has everything and then some that you would want in a fantasy. A tragic backstory for the main character, mythical creatures, good vs evil, battles, magic, spies, royalty, mystery, and betrayal! My eyes devoured every word of this one and I wanted more by the time I turned the last page. The twists were dramatic and exciting and the characters are amazing.

Lets start with Jude first. Jude is a wonderful main character. She is perfectly balanced and as the book went on you were able to get inside her head even more. I loved the strength that she has, about her circumstances, about her goals, about the big twist that I can’t talk about as I don’t want to spoil anything! I really enjoyed her relationship with Madoc too. She really should hate him with every fiber of her being yet she doesn’t. She has been treated as one of his own even tho she is mortal so it provides an very interesting dynamic to her story.

Speaking of relationships with her family members, lets talk about her twin Taryn. I don’t particularly care for her. It’s hard to imagine that she is of the same blood as Jude as they are so different. I can’t say much else about her other than her lack of spine in all the situations that involved Cardan and his group really bothered me. I would never have acted that way if my sisters were the ones being threatened.

As for Cardan and his group, I both liked and hated most of them at some point. I’ve read enough books to know that Cardan isn’t what he seems in the beginning and yet he still didn’t end the book where I thought he would. He has a very complicated yet pampered life as one of the heirs to the throne. I loved the twist in this book that it’s not the first born heir that automatically takes the throne, the current King chooses. Tiny spoiler alert…but once you read you will know this is revealed early on…the King doesn’t choose Cardan!

The author did an exceptional job building this world and I can’t wait to go back to Elfhame when The Wicked King comes out next year!

BOOK-CATION IDEAS!

As I mentioned above the Book-cation location for The Cruel Prince is Forests! Obviously you can’t really visit the realm of the Faerie, but I know of a few forests that will give you a bit of that magic!

  • Hoh Rain Forest. This forest is located in Washington near the town of Forks. (Yes that Forks, WA where the sparkly vampires are.) The crystal clear streams and moss covered trees are beautiful to behold. Some of the trees even have mushrooms that are wrapped around the tree trunks and reminded me of steps for little creatures that belong in a fantasy world.
  • Black Forest.  The birth place of the Brother’s Grimm fairy tales is the Black Forest in Germany. There are so many places to visit here that you can visit castles and stay in small bed and breakfasts along the way!
  • Hallerbos Forest. The final forest on the list that I have for you is located in Belgium. The floor of this forest is blanketed in bluebells in the spring time and makes it a magically beautiful site to behold. If you are there when it is foggy out you will also get a glimpse of the darker side of fairy tale forests.

“Because you’re like a story that hasn’t happened yet. Because I want to see what you will do. I want to be part of the unfolding of the tale.”
~Holly Black, The Cruel Prince

Book Review: The Initiation

9781682615935.jpgBook-cation Location: Abandoned Undergrounds

Book: The Initiation by Chris Babu
Genre: Young Adult, Fiction, Dystopian, Sci-Fi
Print Date: February 2018
Goodreads Score: 4 stars
Giveaway: Print Copy of The Initiation
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Short Review: If you like books like Hunger Games and The Maze Runner you will love this one!

Book Summary

Everyone is equal. But no one is safe.

In a ruined world, Manhattan is now New America, a walled-in society based on equality. But the perfect facade hides a dark truth.

A timid math geek, sixteen-year-old Drayden watches his life crumble when his beloved mother is exiled. The mystery of her banishment leads him to a sinister secret: New America is in trouble, and every one of its citizens is in jeopardy.

With time running out, he enters the Initiation. It’s a test within the empty subway tunnels—a perilous journey of puzzles and deadly physical trials. Winners join the ruling Bureau and move to its safe haven. But failure means death. Can Drayden conquer the Initiation, or is salvation out of his grasp?

Long Review: I love a good sci-fi/dystopian style novel! The reason that Drayden’s New America exists is all thanks to a super bug and what I liked about that is it’s such a plausible reason for the world to descend into chaos. This new world that is a giant quarantined area is divided into sections and Drayden just happens to live in the worst of them, the Dorms. The other sections include the Lab, Precinct, and Palace. While they are constantly telling you that all sections are equal, I immediately have my doubts and want to know what The Palace zone looks like. The start of the book you find out a little bit about New America and the family life of our hero, and then he enters the Initiation and everything gets real from that point on. I could not stop reading after it began. You have adventure, back stabbing, plots of murder, and so much more!

My favorite part about the Initiation was the challenges as I was trying to solve them right along with all the other pledges…I didn’t even come close to figuring most of them out though. I would not have even made it past the first one! When the book started I wasn’t sure how I felt about Drayden, but as the book went on I began to really cheer for him. He starts out so unsure of himself with the weight of the world on his shoulders after his mother is exiled and he ends with him realizing he can do more than he ever realized. I do wish that there would have been a little bit more character development, especially for some of the other pledges. I want to know more about Catrice than what I was given in the book. I also would have liked more backstory on why Alex is the way he is before entering the Initiation.

I don’t want to spoil anything else so I will just say that overall this is a great read and I can’t wait for the sequel!

Chris Babu Author Photo.jpgAbout the Author
Chris Babu grew up in North Haven, CT, playing soccer and the violin in his free time. After devouring The Shining under the covers with a flashlight when he was eight, Chris was hooked on fiction. He’s always had a thing for young adult books. But he’s also a major science and math nerd – physics being his favorite – and he has a math degree from MIT.

For nineteen years, he worked as a bond trader on Wall Street, riding the subway to and from work every day. He traded mortgage-backed securities for Bank of America and then Deutsche Bank, where he eventually ran the MBS trading desk. Now Chris writes full-time, always with his trusted assistant Buddy, a 130-pound Great Dane, who can usually be found on his lap. They split their time between New York City and the east end of Long Island. Their omnipresence at home drives his wife Michelle and daughter Lily crazy. The Initiation is his first novel.   WebsiteGoodreadsTwitterFacebook

BOOK-CATION IDEAS!

As I mentioned above the Book-cation location for The Initiation is Abandoned Undergrounds! The actual location of that the book spends a lot of time in does exist, however it’s still filled to the brim with people. To feel like you are a pledge in the Initiation I recommend taking a few of these tours!

  • Beijing’s Underground City. This abandoned city is from the 1970’s and was built as a bomb shelter. It’s made up of approximately 33 square miles with various tunnels and includes places such as a roller skating rink, warehouses, schools, and restaurants.
  • Seattle Underground.  Due to a fire and repeat floods happening it was during the mid-19th century that Seattle decided to build up their streets leaving the old city underground. The buildings at one point in time were used for a variety of things such as gambling halls and speakeasies. Portions have now been restored for tours.
  • The Speakeasy Tunnels of Moose Jaw, Canada. Originally built so workers did not have to endure the harsh winter weather when going from building to building. During the prohibition the town became a hub for rum running and gambling and filled the underground tunnels and hideouts with all sorts of characters.

To enter the giveaway Click Here!

“You have five minutes to solve the riddle…”
you force heaven to be empty
5:00…4:59…4:58…4:57…

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Book Promo: Sparrow Squadron

Sparrow Squadron 1117.jpgBook-cation Location: Moscow, Russia

Book: Sparrow Squadron by Darius Jung
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction
Print Date: February 2018
Goodreads | Amazon

Book Summary

“There was a time when flying didn’t mean looking over my shoulder for death coming at me.”

World War II. June 1941. Hitler’s war machine turns to the Soviet Union.

Escaping her hometown ahead of the Nazis, 16-year-old Aelya Makarova seizes a chance to live her dream. Obsessed with flying, she joins a women’s fighter squadron to defend her homeland against the invaders. She’ll go faster and higher than she’s ever gone before.

But the harsh reality of Air Force life shatters her expectations and forces her to grow up fast. The squadron is split by petty rivalries, male pilots treat them like a joke, and the ideal country she thought she was fighting for doesn’t really exist.

Finally given a chance to prove herself in battle, Aelya is pushed to breaking point. With all her talent, the help of her comrades, and a lot of luck, she might just make it through. But will there be anything left of her humanity?

With fast-paced action and a heart-rending mix of humor and tragedy, Sparrow Squadron is an adventure novel for young adults that brings an overlooked episode of history to life.

I don’t know about you, but this book sounds amazing! I’m a sucker for Historical Fiction and can’t wait to dive into this book! Check out the excerpt from the book below.

Aelya leaned back and focused on connecting the scenery below with what was on her maps. Flat, grassy terrain, cut with many rivers stretching to every horizon. She hated being a passenger, but that couldn’t stop her from taking in all that she loved about flying: shadows cast by intermittent clouds distorting the landscape, the sway of the plane, the thrum of the engine.

Stitches was right; it required the utmost concentration not to get lost under these calm conditions, let alone during combat. Far off, dark clouds of smoke marked the one unmistakable feature: the ruined city of Stalingrad.

“So what’s your background?” Stitches asked. “When did you decide to fly?”

“I’m supposed to be watching the landscape.”

“I’m testing you. A good pilot pays attention to multiple things at once.” He laughed.

“Now you’re interested in my story? I thought I didn’t have enough missions.”

He turned his face so she could see his strained smile. “Much as I hate to admit it, I saw enough during that interception. You’re not without skill.”

“Thanks, I guess.” Was he telling her to be proud of herself? That was patronizing. The more she thought about it, the worse her performance had seemed.

“I don’t doubt your ability,” Stitches continued, “but combat’s not just about being good. Only luck will determine when you go out. Whether you get shot down next week or make it through this war without a scratch, the odds are the same.”

He seemed happy to hear himself talk. Stitches was a veteran. With four confirmed kills, he was almost an ace. She shifted to the edge of her seat, gripped with the urge to take advantage of this moment of openness.

“I probably could have done better.” A lot better. “Any suggestions?”

“It’s impossible to know what’s going on with so many planes in the air. Half the time I have no clue what anyone else is doing. To be honest, I have no idea how well you did, but that you dived into a swarm of Junkers and came out all right speaks well of you.”

“Wait . . . you saw enough to confirm I damaged one, right?”

“Caught me in a lie, I’m afraid.”

She slapped him on the shoulder. “I don’t need your pity.”

“It’s not pity.” He lowered his voice, and she strained to hear him over the canopy rattling against the wind. “It’s what we do for each other. Everyone plays up their numbers. Damaged planes don’t count for anything anyway, just kills. If you added up all the planes we say we shoot up each month, it would be more than all the planes in Europe.”

She had to calm down. Although it seemed patronizing, she realized that Stitches’s little lie meant she was one of the group. In some small way, she belonged.

“To be honest,” she said, “I barely hit anything before using up my ammo. Any ideas how to get better?”

“Practise?”

“Thanks, that’s very helpful. Doesn’t matter—I’m a crack shot in practice.”

“Do you hit the towed targets every time?”

“Yes.”

“When you fire in combat, do your tracers always fall behind the target?”

“How did you know?”

Stitches chuckled. “This happens to a lot of greenies. When you practise, you’re tracking the plane towing the target and not the target itself, aren’t you? That messes up your range. You fire too early and don’t lead your target enough. Wait until you’re close enough to see the rivets in the enemy plane—then fire.”

“But if I wait to get that close, won’t they have a chance to hit me?”

“Not if you get your positioning right. That’s the difference between an ace and a dead man. Positioning. And luck.”

Suddenly it was all making sense, although it didn’t explain why Roza or Tonya had no issues hitting their targets.

“So it’s not some sort of mental block? I thought I was going mad,” she said.

“It doesn’t hurt to be mad in this line of work.”

About the Author
DL Jung has been an enthusiastic student of history since grade school, when he spent lazy afternoons flipping through an old Encyclopedia Britannica set. He enjoys blogging about history and writing historical fiction. He also writes fantasy and horror fiction as Darius Jung.

Jung is married, with two children, and lives in Toronto, Canada. They are lucky enough to spend part of the time in New Zealand. Outside of writing, he has tried stints as an industrial engineer, a film and TV script supervisor, an IT consultant, a professional game show contestant, and a grossly under-qualified business wear model. Sparrow Squadron is his debut novel.
WebsiteGoodreadsTwitterFacebookInstagramAmazon Page

BOOK-CATION IDEAS

As I mentioned above the Book-cation location for Sparrow Squadron is Moscow! While the book wasn’t located in Moscow the entire time, when I think Russia I think Moscow. Check out my recommendations below!

  • Red Square. This is a must visit area of Moscow. A place of history and architectural beauty!
  • The Central Museum of Armed Forces.  What better place to immerse yourself in the actual history of Russia’s part in World War II and more than spending a day here.
  • St. Basil’s Cathedral. This is probably one of the most recognizable locations for most people when they think Moscow so this is a must see on your visit!
  • The Kremlin. 
“Fair maiden, do you come from Mars?
Borne on wings to softly dance through the air
You fly, crowned not with gold but stars,
To conquer and tame the skies that few men dare,
Practicing a warrior’s art,
And thus, you vanquish my heart.”
~DJ Jung, Sparrow Squadron

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