Saturday, January 31, 2015

Dear Mr Knightley - Katherine Reay

Title: Dear Mr. Knightley
Author: Katherine Reay
Paperback: 317 pages (my version eBook)
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Published date: 2013
FTC: Checked out ebook from library

Towards the end of last year I was sent an ARC copy of a book that had been on my to-read list. It was Katherine Reay's second novel Lizzy & Jane.  I loved the premise and for some reason the covers just captured me. I had remembered reading about Dear Mr. Knightley and that it had received great reviews and I liked the Jane Austen homage in both books.  I decided I had to check out her first book first before I could read Lizzy & Jane.

I am so glad I did because I am now a Katherine Reay fan.  -- Which is awesome because I was offered the chance to interview her AND have a giveaway.  Through miscommunication I was hoping to have it around Christmas but I think these books would be perfect gifts to give a bookish person for Valentine's Day.

Stick around for my review of Lizzy & Jane, the interview with Katherine Reay, and a giveaway!

Back of the Book:

Dear Mr. Knightley is a contemporary epistolary novel with a delightful dash of Jane Austen.

Samantha Moore survived years of darkness in the foster care system by hiding behind her favorite characters in literature, even adopting their very words. Her fictional friends give her an identity, albeit a borrowed one. But most importantly, they protect her from revealing her true self and encountering more pain.

After college, Samantha receives an extraordinary opportunity. The anonymous “Mr. Knightley” offers her a full scholarship to earn her graduate degree at the prestigious Medill School of Journalism. The sole condition is that Sam write to Mr. Knightley regularly to keep him apprised of her progress.

As Sam’s true identity begins to reveal itself through her letters, her heart begins to soften to those around her—a damaged teenager and fellow inhabitant of Grace House, her classmates at Medill, and, most powerfully, successful novelist Alex Powell. But just as Sam finally begins to trust, she learns that Alex has secrets of his own—secrets that, for better or for worse, make it impossible for Sam to hide behind either her characters or her letters.

My Thoughts:

I absolutely loved how Katherine Reay wrote this novel as a series of letters.  For the most part they are diary type reflections sent from Sam to her unknown patron who asks for anonymity and goes by Mr Knightley.  I thought it was insightful of Reay to make Sam unleash her thoughts in diary/letter form. Her character is so introverted due to her background but since she would lose herself in books and wanted to be a writer, it was the perfect venue for her. Some might think that it wouldn't be plausible for someone to divulge diary type feelings to someone they don't know but I think that was the point. She was writing to someone who wouldn't respond, would never meet, or hear back from.  

I really connected with Sam as the heroine of her story. She had such a rough background that she sheltered herself by living through books. Almost literally.  When nervous she'd quote from books and compare real life people to characters in her book. This was definitely a wall she put up around herself to protect herself from reality.  I read some reviews on Goodreads who didn't like Sam or thought her introverted and sort of sheltered viewpoint wasn't realistic. I totally disagree. I thought her defense totally plausible and loved that she was flawed. She was irritating a lot, made mistakes, and was completely self-focused a lot.  But she grew. And isn't that what we want when we read? I also liked that she was a runner, which totally fit her character. Running can be a solitary sport where a lot of people (myself included) can spend time thinking and unraveling thoughts. It made sense that this aspiring writer who was so trapped in her head would enjoy running.  While there is a love story involved, I enjoyed that the novel was really a coming-of-age tale where Sam has to get over letting her past define herself and come to know who she really is. 

While the novel has a Jane Austen's Emma reference (which totally makes sense when you read the book) it's actually a modern re-telling of a book written in 1912 by Jean Webster called Daddy-Long-Legs. I've heard this is a really amazing book and I'm going to have to check it out. I've only ever seen the old Fred Astaire/Leslie Caron movie. 

When I finished Dear Mr. Knightley I immediately picked up Lizzy & Jane which is a modern story of two sisters.  Yep. I'm a Katherine Reay fan.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Legend Series - Marie Lu

Move over Hunger Games and Divergent and make way for Legend.  If you haven't checked out Marie Lu's Legend series you must pick it up. I really enjoyed The Hunger Games (my review) and Divergent (my review) ...BUT...I had tiny problems with both. I was a little let down by the last book in The Hunger Games series - although I am loving the movies so maybe it'll make up for that. And Divergent - if there's a series that makes you want to chuck a book it's the last book in that series. Seriously.  So I was a tad skeptical to get sucked into another series that would let me down. Marie Lu definitely doesn't. I adored and loved all three of the books in this series.  And the fan art! Check out Marie Lu's Facebook page or Pinterest page for the series and you can find some pretty coolstuff.  I would love to see this series as a movie. I can not wait to read her new series The Young Elites.

Legend (Book One)

Back of the book:

What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic's wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic's highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country's most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem.

From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths - until the day June's brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family's survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias's death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.

My Thoughts:

I would totally love to do a re-read of this series. I just fell for June and Day. What an awesome hero and heroine Marie Lu conjured up.  June - the soldier and Day - the rebel. I liked the back story - realistic enough to understand and believe but not really necessary to divulge a whole lot to the back story. (More info is filled in later in the series.) 

Prodigy (Book Two)

Back of the Book:

Injured and on the run, it has been seven days since June and Day barely escaped Los Angeles and the Republic with their lives. Day is believed dead having lost his own brother to an execution squad who thought they were assassinating him. June is now the Republic's most wanted traitor. Desperate for help, they turn to the Patriots - a vigilante rebel group sworn to bring down the Republic. But can they trust them or have they unwittingly become pawns in the most terrifying of political games?

My thoughts:

You know how sometimes book two just kind of...disappoints? Well not in this series. It wasn't a rehash of book one and it definitely progressed the story in a necessary way.  No worries. I won't give away any spoilers but it's one you will definitely be reading after Legend, gobbling up, and then grabbing the third book.

Champion (Book Three)

Back of the Book:

June and Day have sacrificed so much for the people of the Republic—and each other—and now their country is on the brink of a new existence. June is back in the good graces of the Republic, working within the government’s elite circles as Princeps-Elect, while Day has been assigned a high-level military position. 

But neither could have predicted the circumstances that will reunite them: just when a peace treaty is imminent, a plague outbreak causes panic in the Colonies, and war threatens the Republic’s border cities. This new strain of plague is deadlier than ever, and June is the only one who knows the key to her country’s defense. But saving the lives of thousands will mean asking the one she loves to give up everything. 

With heart-pounding action and suspense, Marie Lu’s bestselling trilogy draws to a stunning conclusion.

My Thoughts:

The ending? Perfect. Well done Ms Lu.  It wasn't realistic and disappointing (ahem Hunger Games series) because let's be honest, I'm reading a dystopian YA and I don't want reality.  It wasn't tragic (ahem Divergent series) because I want, well, not a happy ending but something happy right?  Without spoilers, the perfect way to have a happy ending without having one. You'll just have to read it.