Top Ten Books That Were Hard For Us To Read

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's Top Ten list is
"Top Ten Books That Were Hard for Us to Read"

Nicole's Top Five

All of these books are amazing, but handle some tough subjects. 
1. If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch
2. Kindness for Weakness by Shawn Goodman
3. Hate List by Jennifer Brown
4. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
5. If I Lie by Corinne Jackson

Ashley's Top Five

I do not read as many contemporaries as Nicole, so it was a bit tougher to 
come up with books that had tough subjects, so I have a couple of books that were difficult
to read for some other reasons!
1. Tough Subject: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
2. A lot of POVs and Scary: Welcome to the Dark House by Laurie Faria Stolarz
3. Tough Subject: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
4. Too Many characters and POVs: Game of Thrones by George R.R Martin
5. Main Character has the same name as my dog: Teardrop by Lauren Kate

What are your top ten?


Silver Shadows by Richelle Mead

Title: Silver Shadows
Author: Richelle Mead
Series: Bloodlines #5
Publisher: Razorbill
Release Date: July 29, 2014
Source: Purchased, Audiobook

Summary from Goodreads:
Sydney Sage is an Alchemist, one of a group of humans who dabble in magic and serve to bridge the worlds of humans and vampires. They protect vampire secrets—and human lives.

In The Fiery Heart, Sydney risked everything to follow her gut, walking a dangerous line to keep her feelings hidden from the Alchemists.

Now in the aftermath of an event that ripped their world apart, Sydney and Adrian struggle to pick up the pieces and find their way back to each other. But first, they have to survive.

For Sydney, trapped and surrounded by adversaries, life becomes a daily struggle to hold on to her identity and the memories of those she loves. Meanwhile, Adrian clings to hope in the face of those who tell him Sydney is a lost cause, but the battle proves daunting as old demons and new temptations begin to seize hold of him. . . .

Their worst fears now a chilling reality, Sydney and Adrian face their darkest hour in this heart-pounding fifth installment in the New York Times bestselling Bloodlines series, where all bets are off.


Note: This review contains spoilers for The Fiery Heart

Silver Shadows was just the book to get this series back on track, after The Fiery Heart's lackluster performance. Sydney is in an Alchemist re-education center and is struggling to stay true to herself and her beliefs while still managing to appease her captors enough to survive. It's no easy feat, as she is mentally and physically tormented, but she is the strongest she's ever been. I loved watching her try to outsmart and outmaneuver the Alchemists and she does a damn fine job of it. Meanwhile, the Palm Springs crew is devastated over her disappearance but nobody is suffering as much as Adrian is. His feelings of helplessness and loss eventually overwhelm him and he slips into his old destructive behaviors. I admit, I expected the worst of him when I started this book so I was a little relieved by what I saw but I still wanted to shake some sense into him until about 30% of the way through.

This book just got better and better as I read - with Sydney working from the inside and Adrian working from the outside - everything just came together so well to culminate in one action-packed conclusion. Since the outcome of The Fiery Heart was pretty predictable, I worried that Silver Shadows might read the same but I am happy to say that it still managed to surprise me (and left me a little smitten). I am pretty pleased with the progression of events and the ending of this book. But I admit that I have high expectations for the final book, fair or not. I feel like the scope of this story has expanded with each book but we haven't really received any closure yet on what's been introduced. I hope everything is tied up nicely in the end, and if I had to venture a guess, I think it will be.

In summary, Silver Shadows was a great follow up to The Fiery Heart and a nice set up to The Ruby Circle. I was thoroughly entertained while reading, more and more so as the book progressed. And Sydrian fans are in for a treat! I can't wait for the next book (and fortunately, I only have to wait until February)


Stacking the Shelves (91) - Sept 27th

Stacking the Shelves - hosted by Tynga at Tynga's Reviews - features books that you bought, borrowed, rented from the library, received for review, etc.

In a Handful of Dust by Mindy McGinnis

Title:In a Handful of Dust
Author: Mindy McGinnis
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Release Date:September 23rd 2014
Pages: Hardcover, 384 pages
Source: ARC, traded through YA Book Exchange

Summary from Goodreads:
The only thing bigger than the world is fear.

Lucy’s life by the pond has always been full. She has water and friends, laughter and the love of her adoptive mother, Lynn, who has made sure that Lucy’s childhood was very different from her own. Yet it seems Lucy’s future is settled already—a house, a man, children, and a water source—and anything beyond their life by the pond is beyond reach.

When disease burns through their community, the once life-saving water of the pond might be the source of what’s killing them now. Rumors of desalinization plants in California have lingered in Lynn’s mind, and the prospect of a “normal” life for Lucy sets the two of them on an epic journey west to face new dangers: hunger, mountains, deserts, betrayal, and the perils of a world so vast that Lucy fears she could be lost forever, only to disappear in a handful of dust.

In this companion to Not a Drop to Drink, Mindy McGinnis thrillingly combines the heart-swelling hope of a journey, the challenges of establishing your own place in the world, and the gripping physical danger of nature in a futuristic frontier.


WOW, McGinnis did not disappoint, I really enjoyed Not a Drop to Drink and was thrilled to hear she was writing a companion novel.  In a Handful of Dust brought all the intensity, fear, and strong characters from the first book and added a life threatening adventure.

Lucy and Lynn had to embark on a cross country trek to run from disease and to find a safer water source. The two strong willed and independent women headed to California on foot.  Just thinking about it is stressful; the two had all the water, food, and supplies they could carry,  I think one of my favorite aspects of the story is the strength of both Lynn and Lucy.  The character development for not only the two main characters but also the secondary characters was fantastic.  As reader I could feel the worry and stress that they faced while holding my breathe and rooting for their success.

Romance takes another back seat in this companion novel, even though there are hints of some romance it fades rather quickly.  The focus of the plot is the survival and overall journey to a better place.  Similar to Not a Drop to Drink, the entire premise of having no safe drinking water is a scary futuristic thought; In a Handful of Dust does not hide the dark depths individuals will go for survival.

The author is not afraid to take risks and make some hard/tough decisions.  While I cannot say that I was happy about all the choices made, I can respect and appreciate the unexpected plot points.  If you enjoyed the first book or are interested in reading a brutal story of survival, I highly recommend this book!


My Favorite Time of Year!

Welcome to Thoughts for Thursday! This feature is our outlet to talk with you about whatever we currently have on our minds. It might be bookish, it might not! Now for this week's thought:

My Favorite Time of Year!

September through December is my absolute favorite time of year. While many are mourning the ending of Summer, I am relishing the start of Fall and the coming of Winter. Here are some of the reasons why I love these 4 months of the year so much:

1. Cool Weather! I get sick of the heat much more quickly than I get sick of the cold so by the time September rolls around I am blessing the cooler days. My perfect weather is ~70 degrees F and there are so many of these "perfect" days during the Fall in New Jersey. But I am in love with snow too. Snow brings snowboarding and snowmen and snow fights and snow days and all that good, fun stuff.

2. Warm Things! With cool weather comes sweaters and boots and scarves and blankets and warm drinks and soup and fireplaces and all of these warm comfy things that I just can't get enough of. I went a little overboard recently and bought 6 pairs of patterned tights in my overjoyed state but I can’t wait to pair with big comfy sweaters, scarves and boots. And one of my favorite places to read is in front of the fire with a blanket and warm mug of tea. So much comfiness awaits me, I can’t even handle it.

3. It's Beautiful! Fall, to me, is the prettiest of seasons! I love when the leaves start to change colors and the sky is clear and the air is crisp. And decorations start to go up for the various holidays which only adds to the beauty and spirit of the season. It also gets a lot quieter around my neck of the woods as the animals/insects start to go away, which in turn is so peaceful. And the Winter sky is my favorite. ^.^

4. Holidays Galore! In just 4 months I get to celebrate Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years, which are basically 4 of the “big” 5 Holidays I celebrate. That means time-off work and friends & family and parties and food and dress up and gift-giving and decorations and more food. :) There is so much to be happy and excited for this time of year. I am pretty much a ball of excitement the entire season.

5. FOOTBALL! I am a HUGE football fan and Fall means football. Lots and Lots of football. Sunday Funday just got a lot more fun, and Monday and Thursday nights just got a lot less boring. And when the Eagles are doing good, all the more to be cheerful about. :D

6. Seasonal Treats! Fall has more season-inspired flavors than any other season. Like pumpkin spice, and cinnamon spice, and apple cider, and my absolute favorite – EGGNOG. And with bathing suit season behind us we can shamelessly indulge in all of it! Nom Nom my friends!

7. TV Shows Return! So although I am TERRIBLE at keeping up with shows and generally DVR everything and catch up later, this is still an exciting time of year. No more waiting in suspense over last season’s cliffhangers. TELL ME WHAT HAPPENED TO DAMON SALVATORE NOW!

8. Everything Else! Everything I forgot to mention about these perfect 4 months but that makes this season so magical.

The only, ONLY thing I dislike about this time of year is the fleeting daylight hours. I am already now waking up when it is dark out, which is awful, and soon it will be dark when I leave work too. But I will gladly sacrifice some sunlight for all that this season brings with it.

What do you think?

Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

Title: Lies We Tell Ourselves
Author: Robin Talley
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Release Date: September 30, 2014
Source: BEA

Summary from Goodreads:
In 1959 Virginia, the lives of two girls on opposite sides of the battle for civil rights will be changed forever.

Sarah Dunbar is one of the first black students to attend the previously all-white Jefferson High School. An honors student at her old school, she is put into remedial classes, spit on and tormented daily.

Linda Hairston is the daughter of one of the town’s most vocal opponents of school integration. She has been taught all her life that the races should be kept “separate but equal.”

Forced to work together on a school project, Sarah and Linda must confront harsh truths about race, power and how they really feel about one another.


I knew I had to read The Lies We Tell Ourselves as soon as I heard about it at BEA. Not only am I a huge fan of Historical Fiction but I love to read thought-provoking novels, such as this one, from time to time. Before this book, I have never read one with a focus on racial segregation and I wanted this new experience.

Sarah is one of a small group of African American students to be the first to attend and graduate from an all-white school. The horrors that she and her friends had to face every day for the right to a fair education – the physical and emotional harassment, bullying and abuse - were a testament to the evil that people are capable of and the danger of crowds, misconceptions, and ignorance. The bravery, determination and self-control that they showed was really moving. I don’t think I would have been capable of the same strength.

Meanwhile, Linda is a Caucasian girl well-known and well-liked at that school. Her father is one of the strongest opponents of integration and so she has been raised to echo those same beliefs. But when she is forced to work on a school project with Sarah, she starts to question everything she was taught. But fear of her father’s wrath slows her progress while she starts to think for herself and form her own opinions.

What the synopsis alludes to but doesn’t quite call out is that Linda and Sarah start to develop feelings for each other. Their relationship, which presented its own challenges, was a big focus of this book, almost equal to or greater than the focus on school integration. And while this will add to the experience for some, it detracted from the experience for me. Their complicated relationship was a story worth telling but I feel like the book lost some of its impact by being divided into two big issues because neither one was given enough attention. I was expecting a compelling novel about the fight for racial equality and I finished with a story about two girls of different races growing to accept that they liked each other as more than just friends in a time when mixed-race relationships were unacceptable and worse, same-sex relationships were considered sinful and evil. There is nothing wrong with this story, it just wasn’t the one I wanted more.

But not to be misunderstood, this is still a really good book that should be read. Everything that Robin Talley wrote is worth reading and thinking long and hard about. We are capable of some truly horrible and damaging things as human beings and we are still guilty for many of these same thoughts and behaviors today just in a different way. Our present might not be AS incriminating as our past but we still bully and harm people who are different than us and deny basic rights, like love, to people of our choosing. It is really quite sad.

So yes, I recommend you read this novel and listen to what Robin Talley is trying to tell us because we all need to hear it.

Top Ten Books On Our Fall To-Be-Read list

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's Top Ten list is
"Top Ten Books On Our Fall To-Be-Read list"

Nicole's Top Five


Messenger of Fear by Michael Grant

Title: Messenger of Fear
Author: Michael Grant
Series: Messenger of Fear #1
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Release Date: September 23, 2014
Source: BEA

Summary from Goodreads:
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 . . .


Messenger of Fear wasn't as epic as the synopsis suggests, but I still thought it was an enjoyable, and very unique read. 

Mara is the Messenger of Fear's new apprentice but she doesn't know what that means or how she got there. She can't even remember who she is and the Messenger won't give her that information freely. Her only option is to watch and learn from him as he serves out justice as one day she will do.  It's all a big test for Mara really, to see if she will come to understand and accept her new responsibility. 

Three different storylines are visited throughout the book, with the intent to teach Mara something different.  As such, the book pretty much hops around from one significant moment to another. There is no care for order in the sequence of events but this is part of what made it so great. Each storyline was very different and it was completely captivating discovering what events lead to others and what the consequences were. Even though I guessed at Mara's history about half way through, I wasn't any less absorbed, as there was still so much left unanswered. I think the serving up of information was nicely done. 

The entire book read with an ominous undertone to it and was downright scary at times. I think at one time I was so horrified I said that my nightmares were going to have nightmares. It also read with a dream-like quality since Mara and the Messenger transcended time and space, which I really liked. And it read very quickly. 

My only noteworthy negative is that, in the end, I didn't feel like the world was fully fleshed out or wholly supported. But I think this series has a lot of promise and I hope that we get to learn more about the other Messengers in sequels to come. Let's just say that the Messenger of Pleasure and Denial was... alluring. ;) 


Stacking the Shelves (90) - Sept 20th

Stacking the Shelves - hosted by Tynga at Tynga's Reviews - features books that you bought, borrowed, rented from the library, received for review, etc.


Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

Title: Isla and the Happily Ever After
Author: Stephanie Perkins
Series: Anna and the French Kiss #3
Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers
Release Date: September 16, 2014
Source: Purchased

Summary from Goodreads:
Love ignites in the City That Never Sleeps, but can it last?

Hopeless romantic Isla has had a crush on introspective cartoonist Josh since their first year at the School of America in Paris. And after a chance encounter in Manhattan over the summer, romance might be closer than Isla imagined. But as they begin their senior year back in France, Isla and Josh are forced to confront the challenges every young couple must face, including family drama, uncertainty about their college futures, and the very real possibility of being apart. 


Oh, Isla, Isla. Of course I loved this book. It’s Stephanie Perkins! She provided yet another beautiful romantic adventure with lots of love, laughs and personal growth. I’m completely smitten, yet again.

As others have pointed out before me, Isla deviates from Perkins’ previous two books in that Isla and Josh get together in the beginning. She’s been pinning over him for years now and by a twist of fate, discovers that her feelings are reciprocated. And it’s magical. Isla and Josh were unfreakingbelievably adorable together and I was smiles for days. But then some things ensue and Isla begins to doubt everything and then proceeds to ruin everything. This is where fans around the world wanted to shake some sense into Isla. But It wouldn’t be a Perkins novel (or titled as such) if this book didn’t have a happy ending. And a happy ending it was once Isla overcame her fears and insecurities. All of our favorites come together again - yes that means Anna, Etienne, Cricket, Lola, Isla and Josh. It was the perfect conclusion to a wonderful three books.

I loved Isla and felt the most similar to her out of all three girls. She was a little awkward and had these little freakouts over Josh that I could SO relate to (in fact I do this all the time). She also had a tendency to self-destruct because, as I mentioned above, she had a lot of insecurities and fears to overcome. She wasn’t sure she was someone worthy of love. She had to learn to lover herself first. As for Josh, he was another swoon-worthy guy, of course. The artsy type! And so incredibly sweet. I can't decide which guy I like best! I love how Stephanie Perkins' writes perfectly imperfect guys and I love them all.

I loved this book when I first read it but I love it even more now after having recently attended Stephanie Perkins signing. She talked about her personal journey while writing these books and how the themes in Anna (bravery), Lola (embracing what makes you special), and Isla (learning to love yourself), reflect what she went through in her own life at the time. It put the books in a whole new perspective and I admire her for sharing something so personal.

Anna, Lola, and now Isla are some of my favorite contemporaries out there and I couldn't recommend them enough although I think their reputation is well known by this point. If you haven't started or finished these books yet, get to it!

PS: Fun fact - Stephanie Perkins' next book will be a horror. O_O 


Seven Deadly Sins Tag

Welcome to Thoughts for Thursday! This feature is our outlet to talk with you about whatever we currently have on our minds. It might be bookish, it might not! Now for this week's thought:

Seven Deadly Sins Tag

We were tagged by Mel @ The Daily Prophecy!


What is your most inexpensive book? What is your most expensive book?
Nicole: Excluding free books, my least expensive books would be the ones I purchased from BOOKOFF, a bargain bookstore in NYC. I got a whole stack ranging from $1 to $5 each. As for my most expensive, not including textbooks (~$300), that would probably be S. by Doug Dorst at about ~$35, or the UK edition of The Diviners that I had shipped to me.

Ashley:  I think the least expensive book would be the ones I have bought from the used bookstore.  I believe I got the first three book in the Vampire Academy series.  The most expensive book I have bought would have to be a pre-order signed hard back copy of The Dream Thieves, it was bout $25. 


What author do you have a love/hate relationship with?
Nicole: Umm, the only author coming to mind is Rainbow Rowell but I hate having the word 'hate' even in the same sentence as her (and here it is twice!) but I LOVED LOVED LOVED Fangirl and yet didn't care for Eleanor & Park at all so I guess she fits. 

Ashley: I would have to say Amy Plum.  A bit random I know but I really really enjoyed the Revenants series yet just could not hand After the End.  So while I do not really have love/hate I have a strong like vs strong dislike.  


What book have you devoured over and over with no shame?
Nicole: So I don't have a habit of rereading even though there are quite a few books I intend to reread. I did relisten to Daughter of Smoke and Bone and Days of Blood and Starlight before Dreams of Gods and Monster's came out and it is a series that I can see myself rereading/listening to many times over. 

Ashley: Similar to Nicole I am not a big rereader.  I have however reread Cinder three times and Scarlet twice.  I will probably reread or re-listen to the series before Fairest and Winter come out.  To me the series is like a Disney movie, easily read/watched over and over.  


What book have you neglected reading due to laziness?
Nicole: A Memory of Light, the 14th and final book in The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson. I read all 13 books back to back (and these are not short books, mind you) but then had to wait over a year for book 14 to come out. By the time I got my hands on it I realized I forgot a lot of the details (the scope of this world is huge) and was constantly Wiki-ing things so that I could get the most out of this conclusion. It was taking me forever and I kind of "put it on hold:" around page 400 but I haven't made any progress since then. I just need to commit a weekend to finishing it which I will keep neglecting to do for now...

Ashley: Dreams of Gods and Monster by Laini Taylor, the second book was so good yet I just keep staring at the final book.  I am behind my reading challenge this year due to being busy with wedding planning that the thought of the huge book just has me keeping it on the shelf.  


What book do you talk about most in order to sound like an intellectual reader?
Nicole: Uhh, so I don't really read anything that makes me sound all that intellectual, but if I were to bring up a more serious book I would probably mention one of my favorite historical fictions like Code Name Verity or Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein. Or The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.

Ashley: This was a hard question.  I cannot pinpoint a book that really fits this category.  The only ones that come to mind are books I had to read in high school and college.  Maybe Life of Pi or Catch 22.  I had to do a lot of Politic readings during college so sometimes I can quote those but that is about it.  


What attributes do you find attractive in male or female characters?
Nicole: I love guys who can make me laugh, which is why I am so attracted to Nikolai from The Grisha series, Thorne from The Lunar Chronicles, and Adrian from Vampire Academy/Bloodlines. It doesn't hurt that all of these guys are described as beautiful too. But it's also important to me that a guy is nice and respectful, so I am turned off by that bad-boy, jerk-type even if they wind up good in the end. As for female characters, I always like when they are independent, smart, strong and KICK ASS.

Ashley: I love sarcastic, witty, and strong characters.  Kami from Unspoken comes to mind as on of my favorite female characters.  I love to laugh while I am reading so in both male and female characters a good sense of humor and wit are attractive qualities! 


What book would you most like to receive as a gift?
Nicole: Endsinger by Jay Kristoff because it's freaking $20 on Amazon right now and I need this book. I also wouldn't mind a Harry Potter box set :D

Ashley: The entire Harry Potter series in Hardback!  I actually had this one my wedding registry :) I also would not mind Winter by Marissa Meyer

And We Tag:

Kay @ It's A Book Life
Brittany @ The Book Addict's Guide
Pam @ [YA] Escape from Reality


Pointe by Brandy Colbert

Author: Brandy Colbert
Publisher: Penguin
Release Date:April 10th 2014
Pages: Hardcover, 352 pages
Source: Library

Summary from Goodreads:
Theo is better now.

She's eating again, dating guys who are almost appropriate, and well on her way to becoming an elite ballet dancer. But when her oldest friend, Donovan, returns home after spending four long years with his kidnapper, Theo starts reliving memories about his abduction—and his abductor.

Donovan isn't talking about what happened, and even though Theo knows she didn't do anything wrong, telling the truth would put everything she's been living for at risk. But keeping quiet might be worse.


Pointe was not what I was expecting at all, do not let the ballerina on the cover fool you.  It was not a book about ballet with some side plots, Pointe took a serious and dark story line and supplemented it with some ballet as its bright light in the darkness. 

Theo faces some personal struggles which include anorexia, low self esteem, and a bumpy sexual past.  When her child hood best friend returns from four years of being held hostage by a kidnapper, Theo's life is turned upside down.  Not only does she need to face her best friend, she has to face the kidnapper that stole her best friend from her. 

If I were to describe Pointe in just three words it would be dark issues book.  Theo is trying to overcome and conquer a lot all while dealing with this giant curve ball.  I really felt for her, I wanted her to defeat all her inner demons and truly succeed.  Pointe draws you in and really makes you feel for every character, whether it be a loathing hate, a sense of worry or a desire for happiness. The romance was a tornado of events all wrapped up in the overall 'issues' Theo was facing through the story. 

My only reservation about the book was that it was quite heavy and had a lot going on in it. At times I felt weighed down by the darkness and sadness in the story.  The ending left you feeling hopeful for Theo's future but not smiling with happiness.

Overall, I would recommend this if you are looking for a darker, intense read about one girl's battle against her many demons.  There is a lot happening but it really makes for a powerful and real story. 
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