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Friday, December 19, 2014

Kalahari Jessica Khoury *ARC Review*



If you're wondering whether the third novel in the Corpus 'series' is worth your while, even if you perhaps disliked either Vitro or Origin...YES, yes it is. This story will seize your heart (and possibly make your blood pressure spike on occasion).

*I received access to an e-galley through Penguin's First to Read program. Woot woot!*

Before you dive into Kalahari, it'd be a good idea to block off a solid chunk of do-not-disturb-unless-there's-a-fire reading time, because this novel's too good to put down. 

I started reading during naptime at work (about an hour), and after I got off work, I read...and then, well, dinner and stuff...and then I read more. I finished just shy of midnight because it was just too compelling to save for tomorrow. 

I was torn as to whether or not this would be my new favorite novel from Khoury because, while it definitely surpassed Vitro in my eyes (though I enjoyed Vitro immensely), Origin has a special place in my heart. As I debated the why-I-love-these-books-and-don't-know-which-I-love-more, I came to realize I love both equally for different reasons. 

I love Origin because it blends sci-fi and fantasy seamlessly—the ideas, the themes, the prose and the setting...it's the wonder of it all that made me fall in love with it.  

I love Kalahari because the sci-fi edge is cutting, because the plot is riveting, and because I connected deeply with these characters and journeyed through the desert (oops, I mean...semi-desert) with them hoping they were all going to make it despite the treacherous landscape and deadly wildlife. And, as always, the prose is beyond brilliant. 

Characters
In her previous novels, I perceived Khoury's character-building to be acceptable, but not anything particularly remarkable (T_T sorry). But in Kalahari, I felt her characters were operating on a completely different level. These characters will surprise you. If you've read the sample chapters, you may be thinking...no, no they won't. But trust me. They will. This includes villains. 

I suppose it's odd to have a sense of pride as a reader, but I do. Khoury earned it, big time.

Setting/World-building
There are few instances I've felt such a sense of presence while reading a novel. I have an uncanny ability to 'disappear' into a world, into a character's mindset, and live that out while I'm reading (I say uncanny because I often take on the attributes of a character while reading, even if I'm taking a break to cook dinner or something. I just get really into it I guess lol)...but I've never been so thoroughly invested as I was while reading Kalahari. 

It was really weird...and totally cool...when I took a human needs break and seriously thought I was in the middle of the Kalahari (despite my surroundings). *Mini spoiler, yet not spoiler:* I even thought for a second after scratching that I'd been infected, horror included, until I looked in the mirror and realized, 'Oh yeah. I was just reading.' It was a lot like when you have a dream but aren't really sure if it WAS a dream because it was so real.

Yeah. I know it's hard to understand how in the world that even happened...but I'm telling you, Khoury almost literally brings the Kalahari to life. 

Favorite!
My favorite part of the novel wasn't the incredible prose, the gorgeous—and deadly—setting, the breakneck—and crazy suspenseful—plot, but the relationship Sarah had with her mother. Khoury dedicated this novel to her mother...and if I was her mother, I'd be more than honored to know how much love is displayed in these pages. The bond Sarah shared with her mother—it's not something you could understand without having experienced it. I envied and delighted in their connection, and loved that her mother's wisdom and joy was woven into the plot and the relationships (platonic and otherwise). 


Kalahari is utterly astounding—put it on your tbr shelf if you haven't, and go get this book!!

Final Verdict: 



(Fyi: A sneak peek or two of Kalahari is available on Wattpad!)

About the Author

Jessica Khoury wrote her first book at age 4, a fan fic sequel to Syd Hoff's Danny and the Dinosaur, which she scribbled on notebook paper, stapled together, and placed on the bookshelf of her preschool classroom. Since that day, she's dreamed of being an author.

When not writing, Jess enjoys spending time with family, playing video games, and traveling the world in search of stories and inspiration. 
Jess currently lives in Greenville, South Carolina. She is the author of Origin, Vitro, and forthcoming Kalahari.



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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Ruin and Rising Leigh Bardugo *Review*



After finishing Siege and Storm, one of my favorite fantasy reads of 2013, I was more than ready to see how Bardugo was going to end the series...and despite other reviewers' not-so-favorable thoughts, I loved Ruin and Rising. 

Frankly, I don't understand why so many people who loved Siege and Storm found Ruin and Rising to be a disappointment.

Sure, there was the occasional over-chattiness...and some strange/confusing relationship stuff...but compared to the brilliance of the plot; the mysteries behind Morozova and the Darkling; and Alina's character arc (BRILLIANT!), those things seem beyond paltry to me. *baffled shrug*

Anyway... 

In Ruin and Rising, we get to see the aftermath of devastation through Alina. She's changed tremendously since Shadow and Bone—flipping from pale to dark beauty in a relatively short, albeit believable, period of time. I loved the rawness and realism behind this transformation, and I rooted for her as she struggled to find herself amidst this change.  

The horror she witnessed/witnesses (and, in part, caused), the blame and scorn she carries, the internal conflict she faces in the realization that she is 'that orphan girl' no longer (yet, what does it mean to be a Saint? A Summoner?)—all of these things have shaped, and continue to shape, Alina throughout the final installment of the Grisha trilogy.   

Tension is executed superbly through the eyes of the young woman seeking to save the world from further devastation at the hands of the Darkling, and the plot twist(s) will keep you guessing throughout. I had my theories about what was going to happen with which characters, who Alina really is/was, what the connection between Mal/Alina/the Darkling/Firebird was...but I missed a lot of stuff >.>!

Ruin and Rising is an incredible ride. And honestly, I couldn't have come up with a more suitable title. This one's a tearjerker T_T. It's full of ruin and grief...yet brimming with triumph and hope in the midst of despair. The ending was perfect: satisfying, glorious, and tragically beautiful. Everything has its time. 

You don't want to miss out on this stunning conclusion to the Grisha trilogy!

I can't wait for more from Bardugo!

Final Verdict: 


About the Author
Kevin Rolly
Leigh Bardugo is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Grisha Trilogy: Shadow and Bone, Siege and Storm, and Ruin and Rising. She was born in Jerusalem, grew up in Los Angeles, and graduated from Yale University, and has worked in advertising, journalism, and most recently, makeup and special effects. These days, she’s lives and writes in Hollywood where she can occasionally be heard singing with her band. Her new book, The Dregs, arrives fall 2015.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

On writing, depression, and suicide: an update

Hello all :). It's been a while.

Good news: Whispers and Murmurs is coming along—which is miraculous because of the state of mind I've been in for the past couple months—and I am reveling in the writing process as I learn new things about my characters and their world. (Also...fixing lots and lots of plot holes. Boo).



You probably weren't wondering what was going on with the serious lack of posting...but if you were:

I have PTSD. (Ok, really...that's enough to explain just about everything, but...) For some reason, instead of flaring up around the summertime as it usually does, it flared up this winter. Anxiety and stress levels skyrocketed and the blog was left on the backburner. Why did it flare up? Because it was never seasonal. I apparently fear the ending of things.

I know, right?

But it's true. When I found out my friend was pregnant this winter, I was devastated—not because she was pregnant, but because I wasn't too. I couldn't follow her on the road she was going down. I feared our friendship—or at least the depth of it—was ending. 

It's kind of hard to explain, but when you've walked along the same road(s) for so long, you form an unbreakable bond...but that bond, while always existing, won't always be deepening. I love this person more than almost anyone else in this entire world. I cried for days (lol). The medication (see below) did not help matters -_-.

I have some annoyingly persistent—and, as yet, undiagnosed or diagnosable—stomach/intestinal issues.  Translation: My stomach/intestines hurt pretty much...all. the. time. and aside from having an ulcer, no other problem has been found. On top of that, I kept getting sick with other things (fever, pink eye, cough that almost became bronchitis...it was a bit overwhelming o_o).

Some medication I had to take, in combination with my already problematic emotional/psychological state, made things much, MUCH worse.  You'd think the doctors, knowing I have PTSD, would be like, "Maybe it's a bad idea to give someone with PTSD this." But no. That might, you know, make sense. And because this gif captures my sentiments so perfectly:



Suffice it to say what I experienced went far beyond 'mood swings'.  

I've experienced a grand level of apathy and irritability before because of PTSD flare-ups, but usually I'd be better after a few days. With that medication, I lost all motivation to do everyday things--go to work; go outside; do housework; even eat, despite being hungry--for weeks on end

I just didn't care, and, not surprisingly, I contemplated suicide multiple times. Immediately after I stopped taking the medication, I felt loads better. Never will I ever take it again. (Obviously.)

So yeah...the blog had to be neglected for a bit ^_^'.
  
More thoughts...

I think people wonder why, as a Christian, I struggled along such a road. Supposedly God delivers and comforts, right? So what happened?

Well...for one thing, I'm finite and fallible, and man...sometimes I'm just so stubborn. When I get anxiety attacks, of course I pray, and I'm immediately ok. If I sought the LORD more fervently instead of drowning in my sorrow (because, let's admit it, we do that sometimes), I'm 100% sure it would've been easier. 

I'm not sure He would've removed me from the struggle, though. It's happened before, but this time, I think He saw value in the experience. Maybe that sounds crazy to you, but I've learned some things about depression and suicidal thoughts that only someone who has experienced them can: they're not controllable, complete with an on/off switch!  

So many people who go to church and proclaim to be Christians think 'oh, you just have to read your Bible more'. I'm not discrediting that entirely; healing and salvation are of the LORD, not man (God does use people to heal, though—psychiatrists and friends and those who have gone through what you're going through). But the people who say things like that don't know what it's like. They don't understand that sometimes, you just can't move, breathe, desire...whether mentally, emotionally, or physically.

The sunday school group I was in discussed depression the week before last, and I almost lost it after several people said things like that after stating they'd never struggled with depression or suicidal thoughts. And the irony is, one person in my group stated that after he lost his wife, he rejected comfort from those who hadn't also lost a spouse, saying, 'unless you've experienced what I'm going through, you really don't understand, and you can't help me'. *eye twitch*

I kinda felt like if they knew what I've struggled with, they'd think I was crazy. Or, at the very least, 'unspiritual'. (Dun dun dunnnn)

Anyway, I understood in that moment that if I hadn't gone through this, I'd never be able to minister to people who are grieving and contemplating suicide because I never really got it. Got them.

Christ IS the Solution. I will never deny this. But He is with us  in our grief. He understands our struggles, and doesn't berate us for having them. And by allowing me to walk in the midst of this particular struggle, I've been equipped to walk with others through theirs.

As a sort-of uh, closing statement, I'd like to share the chorus of a song that came to me after listening to a sermon about Jesus as our Shepherd while I was in one of the darkest places I've ever been:

When You give, it's like a spark from Heaven—
lighting up my entire world, lighting up the deepest parts
of my oft, torn/jaded/wounded heart
You are my Remedy
delivering me from apathy
video

The astounding quality of this video almost coaxes tears. I know, it's ok *pats back* 

(Sorry about going flat on that one note T_T...makes me cringe ). But hey, at least it gives an idea of the sound.