Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin Review

Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin
Published by Feiwel & Friends
Publish Date: October 7, 2014

240 Pages
Source: Publisher
Find It: Goodreads / Amazon / B&N 

Rose Howard has OCD, Asperger’s syndrome, and an obsession with homonyms (even her name is a homonym). She gave her dog Rain a name with two homonyms (Reign, Rein), which, according to Rose’s rules of homonyms, is very special. Rain was a lost dog Rose’s father brought home. Rose and Rain are practically inseparable. And they are often home alone, as Rose’s father spends most evenings at a bar, and doesn’t have much patience for his special-needs daughter.

Just as a storm hits town, Rain goes missing. Rose’s father shouldn’t have let Rain out. Now Rose has to find her dog, even if it means leaving her routines and safe places to search. Rose will find Rain, but so will Rain’s original owners.
 (excerpt from Goodreads)

Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin

My Thoughts:  I have to say that it was a no-brainer that I would read Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin as soon as it became available to me - like a ton of you, I have been a fan of this author's books forever and still love them. The thing is -- I had no idea the JEWEL of a book this would be when I began it. It is the perfect combination of heartbreaking and heartwarming, and it is fantastic.  

Meeting Rose Howard is such an interesting trip. She tells us a story in this book, and she is very forthcoming about her obsession fascination with homonyms; she can see prime numbers where other people see only other words or other people. It is incredibly obvious that Rose has obsessive issues with sticking to the rules and perhaps even more with other people not sticking to rules. Rose's ability to function at such a high level with her Asperger's is both positive and negative at times -- as someone that does not routinely cross paths with a person on the autism spectrum, this story meant several really great things to me. 

A few of these things:

  1. Rose has a large heart. She feels everything so, so much and she understands far more than people give her credit for. Even so, she has an extremely difficult time managing her reactions when she becomes overwhelmed. I feel like Rose's Uncle Weldon may understand her more than anyone else -- for this reason, I especially loved their interaction and special relationship. 
  2. Rose attends a regular classroom in a regular school but the difference between Rose and her peers is that she has an aide that stays with her at all times because of her frequent uncontrolled outbursts and obsessive behaviors. Having an aide embarrasses Rose because it is a constant reminder that she is different AND YET it is necessary for the (often)times that Rose has trouble in the classroom. 
  3. Rose has a relationship with her father that is emotionally exhausting. Rose loves him deeply and wants to make him proud - this is obvious by how well she takes care of him - but she has difficulty compensating for the fact that taking care of a child "like her" is stressful for him, particularly because of his single-father status and because of his own childhood which is revealed throughout the story. 
  4. Rose's relationship with her dog Rain is incredible in the very best ways - both young readers and adult readers like myself that have very little-to-no experience with autism can see how a pet can be extremely beneficial to someone like Rose. 
The relationship between Rose and her dog is eventually able to bridge the gap with her fellow students but it also affects her relationship with her family in different ways. Most importantly, Rain gives Rose a sense of purpose when she needs one and an interesting topic to talk about with other people when she is nearly-maddeningly obsessive about prime numbers, rules, and homonyms. It's as if Rain is the best thing that has ever happened to Rose...

...until the day that Rain disappears...during a hurricane...when Rose is already overwhelmed because of the weather. This is when I found myself holding my breath for this sweet girl. I am a creature of habit myself - I thrive on a bit of loose routine to move comfortably around my day, and I am in no way in need of it the way that Rose is. To see Rose stretch herself and do hard things out of necessity made me smile and cheer for her, and by the end of the book I almost felt exhausted from her ordeal (even though things do end up working out in the ending). 


The structure of Rain Reign lends itself to demonstrating exactly how Rose's mind works, and the simple story-telling by Rose herself makes it very easy to connect to her on a deeper level. Rose tells her story in a way that flows well and is organized, gives plenty of background information, and enables you to create a vivid image in your head that shows exactly what is playing out on the pages as it is being told. 

In truth, I believe wholeheartedly that this book needs to be in as many middle school classrooms as possible and I would love to see libraries everywhere have it on their shelves. I will be asking my children to read it as part of their school curriculum this year because I can see the value in learning about children/people like Rose. I think that while this is an incredibly enjoyable story about a girl and her dog, it is also much more than that. I am not at all surprised that this is a work by Ann M. Martin - I have grown up reading books by this author and will read and re-read them forever. I cannot even begin to share with you all how thrilled and excited and overjoyed that I am to be able to share a book this incredible with not only the reading public, but with my own family. 

I recommend Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin to readers that love Middle Grade Contemporary Fiction, readers that love fantastic characterization, readers that love stories featuring pets, and readers that enjoy stories featuring characters facing mental challenges. 


Rain Reign will appeal to fans of:

Middle Grade, Contemporary Fiction
Strong Female Leading Character
Books featuring pets: Dog
Mental Challenges/Illness: Autism/Asperger's

Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin
will be available for purchase on October 7, 2014. 


Have you ever read any books by Ann M. Martin? 

What are your favorite books featuring main characters with mental challenges or diagnoses? 

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Friday, September 12, 2014

The evolution of my reading habits. {2}

Image: Asheley @ Into the Hall of Books

Last time I discussed how my reading habits have changed, I talked about how I have started reading series books back-to-back and how my Series Finales Fear has lessened and maybe even disappeared. 
These things have changed my life and I kind of like it. 



Here is another way my reading routine has changed lately:

Before: I have always read a little bit of everything, even though I've had my favorites. 
Now: I still read a little bit of everything, but I'm reading a ton of MIDDLE GRADE. 

This actually doesn't bother me at all. I love Middle Grade books. I LOVE Newbery Medal winners and Newbery Honors books. I just cannot remember when I have read this many of them in such a short amount of time...except for when I was actually a middle-grader myself. 

The deal is this: I'm homeschooling this year. We've been a little on the slow-side to settling in around here, which is totally fine. But instead of throwing everyone 
(ages: 11, 11, and 8) into new schools with all that is going on around them - we're just homeschooling this year. It is working out really well! 

I've more or less always been a "read what they read" kind of gal. I like to know what they're reading, but REALLY I JUST LIKE TO DISCUSS THE BOOKS WITH THEM. I want to engage them and see what their young minds think. Also, you guys, I will discuss books with anyone that will listen to me...

...this includes tweaking a homeschool curriculum to make it heavy on the literature and then reading AMAZING Middle Grade books with my young people and THEN making them talk about it with me. 

It's actually quite lovely. 

We've already read a few and loved them. 
Right now we're all reading this: 

If you've read this, THEN YOU KNOW. 
(sobs * kleenex * sobs)
This is a re-read for me! Layla, Greta, and Jack are all reading for the first time. 
One finished this morning, tearfully. One is currently biting her nails, almost finished. 
The other is trying to figure out the ending and asking me if he is correct. 


As I said, I'm still reading other books, but it is just taking me a little longer to get through them - especially if I do not have an audiobook version to listen to. But that's okay! I had nearly forgotten how much I love some of these books that I read a bazillion years ago and I am ALWAYS up for middle grade and Newbery. I just didn't expect it to be so much, right now.  


What are your favorite middle grade books?

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Series Review: Revenants by Amy Plum [No Spoilers]

Die For Me / Revenants #1 / May 10, 2011 / 341 Pages / GoodreadsAmazon / B&N 
Until I Die
Revenants #2 / May 8, 2012 / 353 Pages / GoodreadsAmazon / B&N
Die For HerRevenants #2.5 / April 2, 2013 / 60 Pages / GoodreadsAmazon / B&N
If I Should DieRevenants #3 / May 7, 2013 / 405 Pages / GoodreadsAmazon / B&N

I read the first book in this series ages ago and liked it, but I never got around to picking the other books back up. Since the series is now complete and since my library carries them all on audiobook as well as digitally, I decided that I would read them/listen to them as I unpacked my house after my recent move. I started over with Die For Me as a reread and followed with the rest of the series back-to-back. 

It didn't take me long at all to remember what I liked about Die For Me once I began reading it. I liked the interesting take on zombie lore in the form of Revenants. I liked the backstory of main character Kate - why is she a young American living in France with her American sister and French grandparents? I LOVED the setting and how vivid it is - reading this series, set in Paris, felt realistic and sensory even as the book is a paranormal romance with urban fantasy undertones. 

I think I liked Die For Me a little better the second time, but I find this is often a case with an audiobook reread. 

When I got to Until I Die, things were a little different. The lore was established for the most part - as was the romance - but it didn't feel to me like it built too much from there in the lore department. There was probably a little more in the way of the history of the Revenants and the politics of the groups, but for the most part this book felt like a slower book of events. Things happened - particularly toward the end - but it was just a little on the slower side. The romance was a bit better as Kate and Vincent became more comfortable around each other - loved that. ALSO! the last part of the book left me feeling a little bit like WHAT and OH MY and WOW I'M GLAD I WAITED UNTIL THE SERIES IS COMPLETE. I like it when an author isn't afraid of taking risks and apparently this author is one of those! 

I don't really know if I would call Until I Die a book that suffers from a second-book slump, but it is certainly different from the first book and then WHAM! that ending. Ahem.

Finally, If I Should Die was a bit more on the fast-paced side as everything from the previous books begins to come together. Main character Kate is more confident about her place within the group: she understands how things work within the international rankings of Revenants and she understands the dangers that lie with having that much power. There were a few things that I felt were predictable but there were also some things that I would have never predicted. I was surprised as some characters stepped up into different and pretty impressive roles, and I was surprised to see that some really great characters didn't survive the series. (Again, the author takes risks! Love that.) I think the series ended in an okay place although there are one or two characters that I would have liked to know a little more about because they filled my secondary-character-loving heart to capacity (looking at you, Jules and Georgia). 


Ultimately, this series is a lot of fun. I'm glad that I pushed through and read/listened to it. Is it my favorite series? No, but I really can't remember a time that I have read one back-to-back, all three full-length novels + the novella, within a period of a few days either, so that must count for something, right? I was captivated enough by the Revenants lore to want to know more, I liked the romance plenty, and I could have stayed in that setting for a really long time. Plus, there must be some sort of pretty-cover award for these books because I could stare at them for days. Actually, the covers are what caught my attention the first time I read Die For Me years ago, and the covers have continued to stop me in the library every time I've walked by them for the past few years. I will probably always love girl-in-pretty-dress covers. 

I understand why the big fans of this series love it so much.

**Regarding Die For Her, the novella: This is a little story that is written from Jules' point of view. Because it is numbered #2.5, it would fit between the second and third book technically, but I read it after I completed the series and that didn't affect anything at all. In fact, TO ME, I think I liked that quite a bit. WHY? Because I didn't feel a love triangle at all while reading the full-length novels BUT the Die For Her novella expands on Jules' crush enough that it makes me feel like if it were any longer or if Jules' POV were written into the books, it could potentially be considered a love triangle by some of my die-hard anti-love-triangle friends. Because I felt so happy with the relationship between Kate and Vincent, and because they were true to each other throughout the series, I'm thrilled that I didn't add any more of Jules' feelings until after I had completed the trilogy. Don't get me wrong -- Jules is one of my favorite characters (along with Kate's sister, Georgia), but one of my favorite things about him was his ability to have a small crush on Kate without letting it affect him or his relationship with Kate and Vincent. Die For Her gives a short glimpse of exactly how hard this was for him, and it made me a little sad. Great novella, but I am glad that I read it after completing the trilogy, and since it does not really contain anything essential to the plot of the trilogy, this was perfect for me. 

Audiobook Notes:  The audiobook formats of Die For Me, Until I Die, and If I Should Die by Amy Plum are published by HarperAudio and are 9 hours and 20 minutes, 9 hours 50 minutes, and 11 hours 7 minutes Unabridged (respectively). They are all narrated by Julia Whelan who is fantastic and a favorite of mine. She has voiced popular audiobooks such as Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn as well as books by Dan Wells, Jandy Nelson, Nora Roberts, and Cate Tiernan AMONG OTHERS. I recommend these audiobooks as first reads or rereads because this voice actor is awesome. 


The Revenants Series will appeal to fans of:

Paranormal Romance with a slight Urban Fantasy feel
as the series progressed
Strong Characterization
Romance:  No triangle. Not too steamy but more kisses and such 
as the series progressed
FANTASTIC use of Setting: Paris
Completed Series with Novella

The Revenants Series by Amy Plum
is currently available for purchase. 


Have you read this series or any of these books? 

Don't you love these covers? 

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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews Review {with Audiobook Notes}

Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews
Series: Kate Daniels #1
Published by Ace/Penguin
Publish Date: March 27, 2007

384 Pages
Source: Book - Library, Audiobook - Library
Find It: Goodreads / Amazon / B&N 

When the magic is up, rogue mages cast their spells and monsters appear, while guns refuse to fire and cars fail to start. But then technology returns, and the magic recedes as unpredictably as it arose, leaving all kinds of paranormal problems in its wake.

Kate Daniels is a down-on-her-luck mercenary who makes her living cleaning up these magical problems. But when Kate's guardian is murdered, her quest for justice draws her into a power struggle between two strong factions within Atlanta's magic circles.

The Masters of the Dead, necromancers who can control vampires, and the Pack, a paramilitary clan of shapechangers, blame each other for a series of bizarre killings—and the death of Kate's guardian may be part of the same mystery. Pressured by both sides to find the killer, Kate realizes she's way out of her league—but she wouldn't have it any other way…
 (from Goodreads)

Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews

My Thoughts:  I've seen so many people rave about the Kate Daniels Series
There are a couple of things that I really liked about Magic Bites (Kate Daniels #1) and a couple of things that I am not really so sure about...SO! I'm going to make a short list and hopefully this will help me decide if I should keep going with the series...

Things I liked about Magic Bites

1. Main character Kate Daniels is awesome. Kate is a mercenary that is out for justice. She will not only tear your arm off and beat you up with it -- she will show her vulnerable side and weaknesses! She is a great mixture of strong and weak, and she knows how to go after what she wants. She is also very cheesy, and she wears it like it is glamorous. I really like her for who she is. Plus she makes that updated book cover look AMAZING. 

2.  I like the crazy world that Kate Daniels lives in. It's like this super-neat futuristic Atlanta metro-area that goes a little haywire depending on how magic ebbs and flows. Basically magic and technology can't reside in the same space all that well, so when magic flares up, technology shuts down for a while. 

Things that I didn't love about Magic Bites

1. You know, I began reading and listening to this book and found myself drowning in information. After I got about halfway through it, I realized that I was lost in what was going on beyond the first scene or two. I actually went to the author's website and spent some time reading about the world and the two main characters...THEN I restarted the book. This helped and the second time, I was less confused. 

2. Even though I liked the world that Kate Daniels lives in, I can't say that I think it was built really well for me. Does that even make sense? I can visualize the world as it is, but I cannot admit to having much knowledge about WHY it is that way or HOW it came to be that way. This frustrated me throughout the entire story, probably because I loved the idea behind the world so much. 

3. There is way too much descriptive language used in this book. OH MY GOSH. Every. Thing. is described in detail for us. Every. Thing. 


Here's the thing: some of my reading friends that love this series - y'all, if they love a book, I take it seriously. So THAT is why I restarted the book for a second time instead of DNF'ing it after getting halfway through it. YES, it helped, but I have to admit to still being a bit confused. I wonder if all of the books are the same way - very description and full of information? Is it just ME that had a hard time with this? I wonder if I should push through and move onto the second book? Taking away much of the description and adding some characterization and world-building would make Kate and Curran (the Beast Lord) and the world so much more full and fun.  


PEOPLE SAY THIS SERIES GETS BETTER. I've seen blog posts and reviews for the more recent books with tons of CAPSLOCK and !!!! in them, so perhaps I should stick around a little while longer? 

Should I stick with this series? I like Kate Daniels and her world quite a bit! I'm annoyed by a few things, but I will never know if the series gets any better (like everyone says) if I don't stick it out! 

If you've read these books - should I drop this series or keep going? Will I get a better feel for the world? Will I feel more of a connection with Kate? What about those pesky descriptions? 


Magic Bites will appeal to fans of:

Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance
Kick-Butt Female Lead
Romance:  I think she likes Curran? 

Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews
is currently available for purchase. 


Audiobook Notes:  The audiobook format of Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews is published by Tantor Audio and is 9 hours and 6 minutes, Unabridged. It is narrated by Renee Raudman who voiced a very believable Kate Daniels. I would easily recommend the audiobook format of this book for a first read or reread, and if/when I continue with this series, I will be listening to the audiobook format as I read along with a print/ebook copy. Recommended. 

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