BOOK REVIEW | Saint Anything

download

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Find the Book!

Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Amazon

Connect with the Author!

Twitter | Official Website

Summary from Barnes and Noble:

Sydney has always felt invisible. She’s grown accustomed to her brother, Peyton, being the focus of the family’s attention and, lately, concern. Peyton is handsome and charismatic, but seems bent on self-destruction. Now, after a drunk-driving accident that crippled a boy, Peyton’s serving some serious jail time, and Sydney is on her own, questioning her place in the family and the world. 

Then she meets the Chatham family. Drawn into their warm, chaotic circle, Sydney experiences unquestioning acceptance for the first time. There’s effervescent Layla, who constantly falls for the wrong guy, Rosie, who’s had her own fall from grace, and Mrs. Chatham, who even though ailing is the heart of the family. But it’s with older brother Mac—quiet, watchful, and protective—that Sydney finally feels seen, really seen, at last.

Review:

Sarah Dessen has a knack for taking hard hitting topics and making them seem relatable, even if you have never been in the situation covered or known someone who has.  These books take you to a place where you can remember a feeling you had once upon a time and allow you to empathize with a character and family you have never meet in your lifetime.  They allow you to relate to a situation that many hope to never experience.  That in itself is incredible, especially when many think that Young Adult contemporary literature is made of fluff and rainbows.

Saint Anything focuses on the life of Sydney, a girl who seems to be stuck in the shadow of a brother who is an addict, a brother who made choices that set his life on a drastically different path than hers.  Throughout the story it becomes very apparent that to her family Peyton, her older brother, is the sole focus and to some extent that is needed.  Dessen makes the reader aware of how one person’s choices effect the choices and decision of those around us by examining the relationship between Sydney, Peyton and their parents. Sydney from the start is seen as invisible to her family and in some cases she likes it that way.  But soon it became very much a story of finding a way to be seen and heard through the chaos.  Sydney is a character that finds a way to speak her mind and make herself seen to those around her simply by finding herself and in true Sarah Dessen form, ends up being a character that pulls at the readers heart strings and makes them empathize with a character whose traits they have seen in the people around them, if not in themselves.

Although Sydney is the main character is this story, the other characters find themselves becoming the prominent character throughout different parts of the book.  I have always felt that Dessen had a flair for making readers aware of the strings that hold everyon’es lives together.  When one string is cut or tugged or tied to another it sends ripples through the rest of the strings we are touching.  Saint Anything captured the most intensely beautiful idea that there is always at least one other person who can, if you will, feel when our string is being tugged or cut.

As a final thought I think it’s important to add that books like this in the YA contemporary genre start a discussion. They present the reader with the idea that YA contemporary can be fluff and rainbows but it can also dissect the lives of those around us.  Saint Anything presents situations like substance abuse, terminal illness, friendship and finding who you are and makes them relatable to the general public.  Books like this cause us to think and examine the relationships we form with those around us and why we chose the people that we did.  Dessen and so many other authors in the YA contemporary genre use books like Saint Anything to allow people to have their voices heard and to me that is the greatest and most incredible thing literature can do. I encourage everyone to pick up this incredible book.

TEACHER RESOURCE SERIES | Announcement

Presenting a new series here on Rooftop Reading the blog and the YouTube channel! This series will be the teacher resource series and will provide early childhood educators with a go to spot to find books, fine motor activities and gross motor activities for certain themes in their classroom.

Each resource post will include:

  • A Story Time session of one book in video format
  • Finger Play Songs (Fine Motor) and Movement Songs (Gross Motor) that fit the theme
  • A list of themes that can be associated with the particular book

Since I started working at the Thinkery in Austin I realized that I really loved doing Story Time for kids and parents and I wanted to bring the option of an outside source to early childhood classrooms that might not be able to bring in programs to do that.  I also wanted to give early childhood educators the opportunity to use books that might be harder to find, might be more expensive or might be ones that are brand new and they haven’t had the chance to acquire them yet! I will be starting this series with one of my favorites which will go up tomorrow.  In the mean time if there are books that you have been wanting to get your hands on let me know!  Please feel free to share this with teacher friends and get the word out!

Adventures in Austin | Book Edition

As my time in Austin comes to an end I have been trying more and more to adventure into the best museums, bookstores and restaurants that Austin has to offer.  This city is built of amazing hole in the wall places so I will not have a shortage of places to explore before my time here is up.  Recently my roommate and I discovered that the museum on the university campus, the Harry Ransom Center, had an Alice in Wonderland exhibit going on.  Since I find that Alice in Wonderland is one of my favorite nonsensical classics I was really excited to go see this exhibit.

For those of you who are unaware of what Alice in Wonderland is about, its a classic that focuses on the adventures of a little girl named Alice through a land that’s not really real called Wonderland.  She follows a peculiar rabbit, meets several incredible creatures like an opiate smoking caterpillar, a cat with a cheshire grin and twins who are definitely very strange named Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum.  While this book’s plot is rather not there, it has been the basis for many movies, cartoons and even some “spin-off” books like Jabberwocky, a book of nonsense.

The exhibit at the Harry Ransom Center did an incredible job of detailing the history of Alice in Wonderland through some original art, 150 years of Alice covers and some truly incredible art pieces by artists like Salvador Dali. I did get a chance to vlog the experience, with permission of the museum of course, for your viewing pleasure as well.  I didn’t vlog the entire experience because then there would be no point in going but I got enough to show some of the awesome pieces that were curated for the exhibit. So sit back and enjoy! My roommate Olivia also vlogged the adventure so feel free to check out her video as well.

BOOK REVIEW | Outlander

Outlander-cover

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Find the Book!

Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Amazon

Connect with the Author!

Twitter | Official Website

Summary from Barnes and Noble:

“The year is 1945. Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is just back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon when she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach—an “outlander”—in a Scotland torn by war and raiding border clans in the year of Our Lord . . . 1743.
 
Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire is catapulted into the intrigues of lairds and spies that may threaten her life, and shatter her heart. For here James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, shows her a love so absolute that Claire becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire—and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.”

Review:

Going into this book I was expecting it to be an adjustment.  Up until this book most of my reading has been YA focused with a smattering of Adult Fiction (usually contemporary fiction).  So when I picked up this book I was assuming I would need to switch my mindset to a similar one needed for reading books like Game of Thrones.  I was very very wrong.  This book combines history, romance and battle between countries and clans with elegance that reminds me very much of the All Souls Trilogy written by Deborah Harkness (a trilogy that is one of my favorite works of Adult Fiction).  It uses just enough historical reference to allow the reader to adjust to not one but two different time periods while not being overwhelming. The plot in Outlander keeps the reader on their toes with events that last long enough to keep the reader held in the author’s grasp without making the reader wait three more books to get to the bottom of what’s happening. I will say though that my favorite part of this book, and the part I’m looking forward to in the next books in this series was the characters.

Gabaldon does an incredible job creating characters that the reader connects with instantly.  I don’t think there was a character in this book that didn’t create some sort of emotion for me, good or bad.  And when the characters were meant to be loathed it was easy as a reader to get that and then come to that feeling in our own time as we watched their actions unfold *cough* Jack Randall *cough*.  I keep saying it but these characters were brilliantly written.  Even towards then end, and in some of the events that happened throughout the book, I found myself genuinely caring about the choices that each character made and how it affected them as a person.  Absolutely brilliant.

I also thoroughly enjoyed the fact that the female lead in this book, Claire, is kickass.  She might be out of her own time period, might not speak Gaelic and definitely doesn’t know close to anything about how to function in the time period she got thrust into but damn if it stops her from being a strong independent woman who does what she needs to to take care of herself.  The fact that she can rely on other people while still being able to make decisions for herself is one of the many reason that she has become one of my all time favorite female characters in ANY book.

And can we just talk for a second about James Fraser? I will say that I’m usually wary of quick romances in books because sometimes they can get out of hand and end up turning a well written novel into something focused romance instead of plot.  But the introduction of James Fraser introduced an entirely new aspect to this book that I LOVED. And let’s be honest after reading this book everyone wants a Scotsman like James Fraser in their life! The amount of raw emotion that Gabaldon put into this one character was amazing and made me admire her writing style even more than I already did, if that’s even possible.

While I will say as a warning to those reading this that this book does contain adult material and also at least one scene that might be triggering for some people, this was well worth every bit of trauma I might have from it.  I highly recommend this book to people who are interested in reading historical fiction books or just anyone in general.  And now I’m off to pick up the next book in the series.

BOOK REVIEW | Shatter Me

71GXQFa+RRL

Rating: 4/5 stars

Find the Book!

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Goodreads

Connect with the Author!

Twitter | Official Website

Summary from Barnes and Noble:

“You can’t touch me,” I whisper.

I’m lying, is what I don’t tell him.

He can touch me, is what I’ll never tell him.

But things happen when people touch me.

Strange things.

Bad things.

No one knows why Juliette’s touch is fatal, but The Reestablishment has plans for her. Plans to use her as a weapon.

But Juliette has plans of her own.

After a lifetime without freedom, she’s finally discovering a strength to fight back for the very first time—and to find a future with the one boy she thought she’d lost forever.

Review:

This is actually the second time I have read this book.  The first time I read it I don’t think I found anything especially memorable about the plot or the characters.  However this time around I found myself getting much more into the characters, the world and the plot throughout the book.

This book focuses on a girl named Juliette, who for whatever reason can kill people with her touch.  I found the idea of Juliette’s “powers” was an interesting component in this book.  Especially in a dystopian world where being around large amounts of other human beings can be rare.  The society is falling apart and many people have died, so to have someone who can kill another human accidentally just by touching them is intriguing and something that many people seek throughout the book.  The other portion of Juliette’s character that I found interesting was the distinct idea that while she felt helpless, when the situation called on it she was able to protect herself without relying too much on the people around her.  I enjoyed the idea that the author allowed Juliette to be confused and dazed but at the same time created a character that was willing and able to take care of herself and fight back when she needed to.

The other thing, in terms of characters, that I liked about this book was the fact that the romance between Adam and Juliette wasn’t center stage.  Granted it wasn’t particularly hidden in the plot but compared to some teen and YA novels where the romance takes center stage (Twilight I’m looking at you) this book created an environment where the actual problems were very apparent and a much more pressing concern than if Adam and Juliette would get together and live happily ever after.

I believe that the only main problem I had with this book was the fact that the ending just seemed to fall off for me.  After all of the build up from the second half of the book, the ending just seemed to plop into place rather than leave me on the edge of my seat or making me feel the need to run to the nearest bookstore and demand a copy of Unravel Me to help ease the burning desire to find out what happens next.  I wasn’t disappointed in the ending, I just wanted more.

Overall I have to say that I was extremely happy I re-read this book.  I’m not sure why I don’t remember much of reading it the first time around but this time it was definitely a worth while read.  While I won’t be rushing to the bookstore to pick up the next two books in the trilogy I will definitely be reading them and finishing the series sometime in the near future!

BOOK REVIEW | The Secrets of Life and Death

20588643

Rating: 4/5 stars

Find the Book!

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Goodreads

**I received this book as a review copy through Random House’s Blogging for Book program**

Summary from Barnes and Noble:

In modern day England, Professor Felix Guichard is called in to identify occult symbols found on the corpse of a young girl. His investigation brings him in contact with a mysterious woman, Jackdaw Hammond, who guards a monumental secret–She’s Dead. Or she would be, were it not for magic which has artificially extended her life. But someone else knows her secret. Someone very old and very powerful, who won’t rest until they’ve taken the magic that keeps her alive….

In Krakow in 1585, Dr John Dee, the Elizabethan Alchemist and Occultist, and his assistant Edward Kelley have been summoned by the King of Poland to save the life of his niece, the infamous Countess Elisabeth Bathory. But they soon realize that the only thing worse than the Countess’ malady, is the magic that might be able to save her…
As Jackdaw and Felix race to uncover the truth about the person hunting her, it becomes clear that the answers they seek can only be found in the ancient diary of John Dee’s assistant, Edward Kelley. Together they must solve a mystery centuries in the making, or die trying.

Review:

It took me a while to pick this book up off my shelf.  After initially requesting it I found myself not terribly drawn to it like I thought I would be.  But I was pleasantly surprised when I did pick it up.  I flew through this book in a matter of days and although it did drag in some places (let’s be honest what book doesn’t)  I still thoroughly enjoyed it.

Some of the things that worked the best in this book were the shorter chapters, which made the novel flow better and the twining together of the themes of the book.  From magic, alchemy and the occult I thought that the author did a phenomenal job of bringing each of these pieces together.  The only other book that I have read that accomplished a task like this was Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness and that book is now one of my must-reads for all of my bookish friends.  I felt that the fact that her book covered topics that have had a strong pull for people over a large span of time made the transition between the two time periods in the book much easy to comprehend.  Normally in books with time travel, or split time frames, it gets difficult to transition seamlessly from one time period to the next.  So I applaud this author for taking the time to make sure that her plot was not only interesting but was something that was relevant and intriguing for both time periods.

The other thing I really enjoyed about this book was the characters.  While sometimes I found the characters to be a bit dull, for the most part I was very drawn to all of the characters in this book.  The fact that each of the characters had desires, strengths, flaws and weaknesses that were very apparent in the way they acted and handled situations made the more interesting and allowed me to relate to the characters themselves.  These characteristics are what brought them to life and made them fly off the page.

Overall I gave this book a 4 out of 5 stars and would definitely recommend it to anyone who is interested in it!  Definitely a great read.

POPSUGAR CHALLENGE GROUP | 2015 Challenges

Book Challenge

Since it has been requested I have created a group on Goodreads for the PopSugar Challenge.  The group is open so anyone who wants to join is able to.  Feel free to add in friends that you have on Goodreads and introduce yourself on the “Welcome” thread so we can get to know each other.  I will be updating the threads tomorrow while I am at the airport so that each portion of the challenge has a thread so that people can discuss the books they are reading for each specific portion.  If there is anything else you would like me to add to this page please let me know and I would be happy to add it.

As with anything on the internet there is always the possibility that people may be unkind.  I have yet to experience this on Goodreads but please keep in mind that the group welcomes ALL people and is a place were we can discuss books and such in a safe environment.  I doubt that there will be any problems with that but I thought I would make the disclaimer when putting this group out there!  Hope to see all of you in the group and see what you have started reading for the challenge!