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My name is Ardis and I am an avid reader and budding writer. I want to share my love of books with others. I work with kids and am interested in finding and creating books that will ignite the reader in everyone. Contact me at: ardis.atkins@gmail.com

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Friday, July 31, 2015

July Reading Roundup



I love vacation time!  I had the whole month off from work, and was able to read 17 books during the month of July.  There were so many wonderful books.  Some of my favorites were: A Court of Thorns and Roses, by Sarah J. Maas,  Dreams of Gods and Monsters, my Laini Taylor, and The Queen of the Tearling, by Erika Johansen.  I also had a chance to read ( and listen) to some inspiring memoirs by Kristen Chenoweth, Mindy Kaling, and Rachel Dratch. Also, I found some fun books such as Forsworn, by Emily Wibberley  (an ARC I was lucky enough to review), Amy & Roger's Epic Detour, by Morgan Matson, and The Selection, by Kiera Cass.  Finally, I rounded out the month with some classics such as To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, and The Age of Innocence, by Edith Wharton.  
I doubt I will be fortunate enough to read this many books in August.  But reading all those books in July is my idea of a great stay-cation.


Here are all the titles, in no particular order:
   


  

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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Book Review: Amy & Roger's Epic Detour



Description:

Amy Curry is not looking forward to her summer. Her mother decided to move across the country and now it's Amy's responsibility to get their car from California to Connecticut. The only problem is, since her father died in a car accident, she isn't ready to get behind the wheel. Enter Roger. An old family friend, he also has to make the cross-country trip - and has plenty of baggage of his own. The road home may be unfamiliar - especially with their friendship venturing into uncharted territory - but together, Amy and Roger will figure out how to map their way. 

Buy it:
Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Book Depository

Review:

Summer time:  a time for books, music, and Road Trips!  Amy & Roger's Epic Detour is  like a frozen custard, sweet and rich.   Amy and Roger both begin this road trip with lots of emotional baggage.  Amy blames herself for her father' death, while Roger pines after the girl who just dumped him.  There are many references to explorers and adventures that send the message that the journey, and not the destination, is what life is all about. 

I enjoyed this book.  It had a breezy, fun style with a scrapbook theme (complete with actual playlists) that was like a little treasure hunt with all the small details waiting to be discovered.  There were certainly big issues going on in the lives of the two main characters, and they were dealt with realistically.  Some problems were resolved, but others were left open.  I found this refreshing.  Too often, books have a need to wrap up everything neatly at the end.  By leaving some issues unresolved, one could tell Amy & Roger will still have many life adventures ahead.


This is a great book to read on vacation.  I found myself jumping onto iTunes to see if I could find all the songs on the playlists (I could), and feeling like I was seeing America's heartland along with Amy and Roger.  It definitely has made me want to hit the open road and explore what is out there.  Read this book and you will find yourself yearning to make your own cross-country journey.  Make sure to include three important things:  snacks, tunes, and a good book!



Rating:  
Source: Public Library
Format:  Hardcover
Recommendation: YA Romance fans will enjoy it.


Will I read more from this author:  Yes!
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Monday, July 27, 2015

Book review: A Court of Thorns and Roses



Description:

When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin--one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.
As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she's been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow over the faerie lands is growing, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin--and his world--forever.
Review:

What makes a story Great?  I am thinking a lot about this question as I write this review.  I don't give out five star ratings willy-nilly.  As I write more and more reviews, my criteria to be impressed changes and grows.  Is a book worthy of a wonderful review simply by being entertaining and different, or does there need to be more?  I am still learning the answer to that question.  For me, being emotionally moved by a book is what does me in.

ACOTAR transcends into a great book because Sarah J. Maas uses the events in the story to discuss complex topics such as parenting, family ties, and dignity in death.  As I read the book, I could relate to some of the situations on a very personal level, particularly when Feyre states that no one should have to die alone.   I identified with Feyre's complicated feelings towards her family, and cried and cried over a death scene that, for all it's fantasy aspects, was tender and realistic. 

This book is thoughtful, but is also a lot of fun.  ACOTAR is a fresh take on the Beauty and the Beast tale, with many twists, the most striking of which is that the Beauty, Feyre, is no delicate, cultivated flower.  Oh, and the Beast is a Faerie Lord!

This is definitely an Adult fairy tale.  With surprising bluntness, the passion heats up between certain characters, but is handled tactfully.   The scenes were steamy but never strayed into Mommy Porn territory.

With gifted storytelling, and a cast of memorable characters, A Court of Thorn and Roses is the beginning of a saga that will leave fans clamoring for more.

Rating:  
Source: Purchased by me
Format:  Hardcover
Recommendation: Romance/Fantasy fans will enjoy it.


Will I read more from this author:  Yes, Yes, Yes!!!
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Book Review: Gates of Thread and Stone, by Lori M. Lee



Description:

In a city of walls and secrets, where only one man is supposed to possess magic, seventeen-year-old Kai struggles to keep hidden her own secret—she can manipulate the threads of time. When Kai was eight, she was found by Reev on the riverbank, and her “brother” has taken care of her ever since. Kai doesn’t know where her ability comes from—or where she came from. All that matters is that she and Reev stay together, and maybe one day move out of the freight container they call home, away from the metal walls of the Labyrinth. Kai’s only friend is Avan, the shopkeeper’s son with the scandalous reputation that both frightens and intrigues her.

Then Reev disappears. When keeping silent and safe means losing him forever, Kai vows to do whatever it takes to find him. She will leave the only home she’s ever known and risk getting caught up in a revolution centuries in the making. But to save Reev, Kai must unravel the threads of her past and face shocking truths about her brother, her friendship with Avan, and her unique power.

Buy Now:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Book Depository

Review:


Gates of Thread and Stone begins with a dystopian setting.  My first impression was , "Oh no, not another one of these."  I was prepared to hate this.  But I found a lot to love about this book and my opinion flipped to recommending it.


Kai's main focus was finding her surrogate brother Reev, after he had been kidnapped.   Together with her friend Avan, Kai must travel outside the city walls to find The Black Rider and save Reev.  There is a good amount of sexual tension between Kai and Avan to get the reader to root for them, but it is not overdone.  As Kai learns who she is, there were many plot twists that I didn't see coming. 

There were a few plot devices I thought were unnecessary such as the Tournament and the fighter training (does every heroine have to be a butt-kicking super warrior?).  I did like that Kai wasn't an instantly amazing fighter.  I felt the book had so much going for it already, Kai should have been able to rely on her brains more than anything else to survive.  The events of the Tournament are not central to the plot and only act as a means of getting Kai and Avan into the capital city of Ninurta to find Reev. 

There are several richly detailed settings that bring the story to life.  From the North district with it's boxcar housing and gritty neighborhoods to the gleaming, pampered city of Ninurta, this is a world I haven't seen before.  There is the ever-present vague suggestion of a world-wide disaster, but there is also so much more,  including magic, immortals, and time bending.  I could also really imagine the poverty, hunger, and desperation in this world.  And I appreciated that the main character, Kai, always was mindful of the basics (food, shelter, security) and was grateful.  

This book was fun, and imaginative.  I look forward to reading book two in the series, The Infinite.

Rating: 
Source: Bought by myself
Format:  Kindle
Recommendation: Fantasy fans will enjoy it.

Will I read more from this author:  Yes, looking forward to the sequel!
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Saturday, July 25, 2015

Book Review: Dreams of Gods and Monsters, by Laini Taylor




Description:



By way of a staggering deception, Karou has taken control of the chimaera rebellion and is intent on steering its course away from dead-end vengeance. The future rests on her, if there can even be a future for the chimaera in war-ravaged Eretz.
Common enemy, common cause.
When Jael's brutal seraph army trespasses into the human world, the unthinkable becomes essential, and Karou and Akiva must ally their enemy armies against the threat. It is a twisted version of their long-ago dream, and they begin to hope that it might forge a way forward for their people.
And, perhaps, for themselves. Toward a new way of living, and maybe even love.
But there are bigger threats than Jael in the offing. A vicious queen is hunting Akiva, and, in the skies of Eretz ... something is happening. Massive stains are spreading like bruises from horizon to horizon; the great winged stormhunters are gathering as if summoned, ceaselessly circling, and a deep sense of wrong pervades the world.
What power can bruise the sky?
From the streets of Rome to the caves of the Kirin and beyond, humans, chimaera and seraphim will fight, strive, love, and die in an epic theater that transcends good and evil, right and wrong, friend and enemy.


At the very barriers of space and time, what do gods and monsters dream of? And does anything else matter?

Buy it:
Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Book Depository



Review:



Dreams of Gods and Monsters, By Laini Taylor, is the third book in the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series.  I haven’t reviewed the other two books because I have been so anxious to keep reading each consecutive book, that I haven’t had a chance to process what i have been experiencing.  This series is so imaginative, so full of new worlds, creatures, and mythology, it will make your head spin!  


The last of the books, Dreams of Gods and Monsters, takes place in two worlds: Eretz and Earth.  As the story unfolds, Earth is about to be visited by the Seraphim, who look just like biblical angels.  Although they head straight for the Vatican, their purpose is hardly angelic.  They seek human weapons of mass destruction in order to finish the fight with the Chimaera back on Eretz.  Will the leaders of Earth be dazzled by the trappings of heaven?  Or will they have a hefty dose of scepticism?  It is fun to watch this scenario play out.


At the heart of the series is the relationship between star-crossed lovers Akiva and Karou. Akiva is a Seraphim, while Karou is Chimaera (resurrected as a human girl).  Their story is a bit like watching someone climbing a hill, only to see them stumble and fall just as they are about to crest the top.  What keeps things going is the feelings of unending hope that the couple express.  They have a shared dream of peace among their peoples, and it is this higher purpose that keeps them striving to move forward.  You can’t help but root for them to end up together.


I loved the many other characters in the book.  Mik and Zuzana are Karou’s human friends and their relationship is also charming in it’s normalcy.  They complete each other.  Zuzana is up for anything, even if it puts her in danger, while Mik is quiet and reasonable.  They are the reader’s eyes in the story. Liraz is another complex character, a warrior who must learn to live after war.  Can she find redemption and even love?


There are enough plot twists to keep the reader in their toes up until the very end of the book.  Just when you think the story has smoothed out, another wrinkle materializes.  Amazingly, I was so invested in the story that this was NOT annoying.  It simply added to a deep satisfaction with the ending of a wonderful book series.


Rating:  
Source: Public Library
Format:  Hardcover
Recommendation: Romance/Fantasy fans will enjoy it.

Will I read more from this author:  Yes, Yes, Yes!!!

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Friday, July 24, 2015

Book Review: Forsworn, The Last Oracle Book 2, by Emily Wibberley


Description:


Clio can see the future, but what she doesn’t know about her past could destroy her.
It’s been a year since Clio made her sacrifice to the Deities and embraced her destiny as the Oracle to save her people. The only family she has left is a brother who wants her dead. The prince, her oldest friend, is a king with his own agenda. And the man who once loved her, now hates her.
All she can do is try to forget about Riece, the enemy commander whose heart she broke to save his life, as she serves the Deities. Her days are filled with Visions and bloodshed in a never-ending war against the Untouched. To add to her problems, she must pose as King Derik’s mistress to conceal her forbidden powers from the Emperor’s spies.
When Riece unexpectedly returns to Sheehan with a new and beautiful ally, Clio knows she must put him out of her mind once and for all, but first, they are thrust together into battle against a mysterious Untouched warrior with otherworldly power. To reclaim her city, she must team up with the man she hurt, the man she still loves but can never be with, and finally confront the questions about her origin—questions with answers that Clio may not be prepared to face.


Buy Now:



Review:

Recently, I was able to read an advanced copy of Forsworn, the sequel to Emily Wibberley’s book, Sacrificed.  Often times, the second book in a series doesn’t live up to the first. But I would say in the case of Forsworn, it far exceeds the original.  


The story takes place a year later from the end of Sacrificed.  The main character, Clio, has fought in many battles and is now a seasoned warrior.  She is also (secretly) the Oracle. Using visions of the future provided by the Deities, Clio fights to keep her city safe from the Untouched. Does fulfilling her role as Oracle mean she has no free-will of her own?
 
The villains of the book start out as straight-up baddies but as the story unfolds we learn that nothing is black and white.  When listening to Mannix, Daizon, and Vazuil, all are convincing in their reasoning that they are in the right.  Their methods and goals may be questionable, but they truly believe in their cause.  I enjoyed the ambiguity and complexity of these characters.


This book also brings in several additional female characters: Ashira, Ixie, Lireen, (Clio’s Vessels) and Princess Zarae.  The relationships between all these women bring added texture to the story.  Clio starts out thinking that, in order to survive, all women must be warriors like her.  Some of the women do become accomplished fighters, but Clio also learns that people can possess other gifts that are just as valuable.  She learns from these women.  One of my favorite quotes from the book is when Clio tells what she learned from Ashira, “Bravery is looking at the world around you, and seeing each moment for what it is-a choice.”


The action is fast-paced with romance and intriguing plot twists.  It will make you pine for the release of Book 3 (Soon Please!!!).


Rating:  
Source: Sent for review by the Author (Thank you)
Format:  Kindle ARC

Recommendation: Fantasy/adventure fans will enjoy it.
Will I read sequel/continue with the series:  Yes, Yes, Yes!!!

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Book Review: Sacrificed: The Last Oracle Book 1, by Emily Wibberley




Description:  

Knowing the future can save her city – but not her heart.

Born to serve the merciless Oracle, Clio wants nothing more than to break free. But when her entire family is murdered by Mannix, the king’s adviser, Clio inherits the Oracle’s power, a power she never wanted and doesn’t understand.
Hunted by Mannix, Clio is forced to flee her home in Sheehan and seek refuge in a foreign city where oracles are forbidden. If she’s found out, she will be sacrificed atop its great pyramid.
Clio has no choice but to win the trust of Riece, an enemy warrior. Despite the undeniable attraction between them, Clio knows that if he finds out who she really is, he won’t hesitate to execute her.
Clio tries to hide her budding powers, but the Visions she keeps having of Mannix and his barbarian army slaughtering her people torture her conscience. She alone has the strength and foresight to stop him, but only if she can embrace her destiny and sacrifice everything.


Buy Now:


Review:


As I read Sacrificed I was immediately drawn into the societies of Sheehan and Morek, where girls are sacrificed atop an Aztec-type pyramid and men hold all power and prestige. In order to survive, Clio must navigate through a labyrinth of politics, rituals, and family secrets while fighting her own attraction for a man who is one of the enemy.


Throughout this fast-paced adventure, Clio’s perception of her family changes from resentment to acceptance.  As children, most of us see only a fraction of our parents true selves.  We either idolize them or demonize them.  Then, as we mature, we begin to see more aspects of our elders.  I enjoyed watching Clio learn to see her mother as a real person who had to make impossible choices in order to protect those she loved.


Much of this book is dedicated to building the foundations of the romantic triangle between Clio, Prince Derik, and an enemy soldier, Riece.  It is a classic tangle of attraction vs. duty.  Her confusion over her feelings for childhood friend Derik and attraction to the hunky Riece seems, at times, forced.  Would one really be checking out the body of a guy in a life or death situation? Riece’s kindness in the face of cruelty is what should have won Clio over more than his rippled Abs.


Putting that part aside, I was entertained by the action, plot twists, and setting.  One of the joys of the book is watching Clio’s character develop from a rebellious, questioning teen into a strong, engaging heroine. This is definitely a world that I want to revisit in the future.


Rating:
Source: Sent for review by the Author (Thank you)
Format:  Kindle ARC
Recommendation: Fantasy/adventure fans will enjoy it.
Will I read sequel/continue with the series:  Yes

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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Review: A Little Bit Wicked by Kristen Chenoweth




I try to read a lot of books.  I generally get through a book about every three days.  I don't watch television or have other hobbies.  This is pretty much it.  Except for singing!  I love to sing and was once really good at it.  I'm too busy to perform now, so I get a big thrill when I can delve into the lives of well-known performers.  

Recently, I listened to the audiobook of Kristen Chenoweth's memoir, A little Bit Wicked.  She is the wonderful performer who originated the role of Glinda the Good Witch in the Broadway show, Wicked.  She also has a busy career in film, and television.  Her book shares the LONG road to stardom beginning with her roots in Oklahoma up until her more recent role in the now cancelled T.V. show Pushing Daisies.

I found listening about her background and college experience intriguing, and it had myself pining to go back in time and change my major to Music.  She worked her tail off to get as accomplished as she is!  Of course, there are lots of anecdotes about the various shows she has been in.  I found most of these interesting but, for the reader who is not a Theatre Geek,  some of it could be tedious.  

Ms. Chenoweth also discusses her issues with stalkers (an unfortunately common occurrence among famous people), and missteps that led to unwanted controversy.  I especially liked her take on being a Christian in show business.  She wears her faith up front and is unapologetic about it.  But she also seems very open and does not condemn others for what they believe or don't believe.

I enjoyed listening to Kristen Chenoweth's own voice on the audiobook.  I think for memoirs it adds a whole new dimension to the book.  I think fans of Broadway will adore this, but unless you know a little bit about Kristen Chenoweth's career, you may find in a little dull.
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Monday, July 20, 2015

The Make Me Read it Read-a-Thon Results




The voting is finished and the results of the Make Me Read it poll are in.  I will be reading Court of Thorns and Roses first, followed by Invasion of the Tearling, Go set a Watchman, and finally, Mosquitoland.  

I'm a quick reader, but I also have several new things to read that are on a timeline.  I FOUR books are awaiting me at the library (I wait months, and they always seem to come in all at once!), one library book I am finishing up (the amazing Dreams of Gods and Monsters, by Laini Taylor), and an ARC that I will be posting about later this week.  I will try to finish out all of these in the next three weeks.  That's only a little over three books a week, no problem... Yea, right.

Whew!  Lucky for me I'm on vacation.
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Friday, July 17, 2015

Reading multiple books at the same time

I have a confession to make.  I have an entire shelf filled with 44 TBR books!  It's situated right next to my bed, so my eyes can drift over there throughout the night and I can feel guilty.  What guilt, you may ask?  For spending so much money on books, for buying a book I know will Rock, but then letting it languish on the shelf for months.

So, I have tried  to start reading multiple books at once.  Take a look at my GoodReads list right now, and I think it has 7 books under "Currently Reading".  Try as I might, I just can't seems to flip between all these different books.

My mom, Rita, was also an avid reader.  I would be astonished as went to the library to pick up her many books from the Librarian.  She seemed to have a system:  Put a different book near each chair she sat in along the day.  She then would sit in a chair and pickup that book.  Move to another room?  Start reading a different book.  It was like flipping between channels on the TV.

For me, I struggle to read more than one book at a time.  Firstly, if I get really into a story, I don't want to stop reading it.  I want to see the book through to it's resolution.  Secondly, reading two or more books at once feels to me like channel surfing; it is impossible for me to follow different stories at the same time, particularly since I tend to read mainly one genre.  Which dystopian society are we in now?  Which plan will they use to save the world?  Did this heroine have a superpower or a hidden talent?  It's just too confusing!

So, for me, I will be a one-book-at-a-time kind of girl.  How about you?  Leave a comment and tell me if you can do the reading shuffle.
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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

I'm doing the Make Me Read It Read-a-Thon


I have got a unseemly amount of TBR books staring at me on my bookshelves.  Luckily, I started reading the wonderful blog of The Innocent Smiley and saw this challenge.  Here is how it works:


What Is This Read-A-Thon About?

Look at the books you own, either physical, e-book or ones you've borrowed from the library and pick out a few you really want to read, or feel like you should read. It’s up to you how many you pick, personally I'd pick a few more than you expect to be able to read in a week. Example: if you think you’ll only read two, pick out five books or if you think you can read seven, pick out ten.

Make a list of these books on your blog, or make a video, or a Goodreads shelf or post a picture on Instagram—whatever is easiest for you. Then get friends, other bloggers/booktubers etc. to vote on which books you HAVE to read.

When the read-a-thon comes along, you read the books in the order of most votes. For example, if one book gets 10 votes—you read that first, then the one that got 7 and so on. If there's a tie, then it's your preference. The goal is to read as many as possible. 

So here is a look at the wonderful books I need to read:




Which one will you make me read first?  Do the Poll and see me obey your command!  There will be a tag #makemeread!
Polling ends On July 20th, at 8am.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

To Read, or Not To Read Go Set a Watchman



For over six months, I have been waiting with baited breath to begin reading, Go Set a Watchman, by Harper Lee.  I fell for a shining marketing campaign touting this as a long-awaited companion to one of my favorite books of all time:  To Kill A Mockingbird. Little did I realize the controversy that is surrounding the publication of this book.  According to Lauren DeStefano’s (author of The Chemical Garden trilogy) twitter feed, “Go Set A Watchman is abuse/exploitation of the elderly. Everyone involved with its acquisition is disgusting.”  
I was truly shocked by this revelation.  And I also felt incredibly stupid for not  already knowing the history of how this book was being published.  I had heard that this was indeed an old draft of Ms. Lee’s first novel.  But I was under the impression that she had an opportunity to edit this and refine it before publication.  
I now have very mixed feelings about reading this book.  On the one hand, I am still curious to read it as I am quite invested in these characters.  On the other hand, I feel terrible for lining the pocketbooks of whoever must be making a profit from this spectacle.  
As I pre-ordered it and it is too late to cancel, I will be reading this book, but now with a knowledge of the context in which it was written.  I listened to a report about the book on NPR and learned that the book was written in the early 1950’s, and so it should not be a shock that the Atticus character is portrayed as a racist.  The report also pointed out that To Kill a Mockingbird was written later as the Civil-Rights movement was underway, which obviously influenced the whole tone of that book.   

The USPS truck has now pulled up to my mailbox and the book awaits me.  I don’t know if reading it will delight me or enrage me.  Either way, I will still be moved, which is the true power of reading.
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Saturday, July 11, 2015

Modern Gothic: The Cemetery Boys


When reading YA books such as The Cemetery Boys, by Heather Brewer, one usually knows immediately what category of book it is:  romance, coming of age, fantasy, horror.  I would say that this book is a bit of each genre mixed together.  
The story centers around a seventeen-year old boy named Steven.  When Steven’s mother gets put in a mental hospital in Denver, He and his father must move to the small town of Spencer, Michigan (population 814) to live with Steven’s Grandmother.  In his new environment, Steven must navigate the set parameters of life in a small community, where everyone has made up their minds about each person already.  He falls into the company of a group of boys who like to party at the cemetery, aka “The Playground”,  and falls even harder for one of the boy’s sisters, Cara.
I enjoyed the mix of confusion, anger and longing that Steven experiences as he begins to learn the town’s secrets and questions the sanity of some of the residents.  You never know for certain if there is a supernatural element or if some of the characters are just plain psychotic.  As a reader, one is compelled not only to solve the mystery, but also to try and figure out who is sane or insane.  How far would you go to fit in?  What would you do to show your loyalty?  Who can you trust?
The book also showed a great sense of gothic dread.  I enjoyed the atmosphere and the relationships Steven had with his father and grandmother.  The ending was gripping, but I was a little surprised by how neatly everything was tied up.  Although, perhaps not realistic, it made for a satisfying conclusion.

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MsArdychan has read 2 books toward her goal of 180 books.
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MsArdychan's bookshelf: read

The Hummingbird's Daughter
Joseph Anton: A Memoir
The Most Beautiful Walk in the World: A Pedestrian in Paris
The Help
The Fry Chronicles
A Clash of Kings
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
A Game of Thrones
The Hunger Games
Catching Fire
Mockingjay
The Giver
Savvy
The Red Pyramid
Anne of Green Gables
The Complete Novels
Slam!
Slam
Hatchet
Scorpions


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