Realms of an Open Mind

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Review: The Passage by Justin Cronin

The Passage - Justin Cronin

An epic and gripping tale of catastrophe and survival, The Passage is the story of Amy—abandoned by her mother at the age of six, pursued and then imprisoned by the shadowy figures behind a government experiment of apocalyptic proportions. But Special Agent Brad Wolgast, the lawman sent to track her down, is disarmed by the curiously quiet girl and risks everything to save her. As the experiment goes nightmarishly wrong, Wolgast secures her escape—but he can’t stop society’s collapse. And as Amy walks alone, across miles and decades, into a future dark with violence and despair, she is filled with the mysterious and terrifying knowledge that only she has the power to save the ruined world.



This book began with a flash and multiple bangs, blowing my mind and making me thank the book gods for such an incredible feat of writing. It's amazing, filled with complex characters, grotesque circumstances, and difficult choices. It's the end of the world, and we definitely know it. 


Cronin can write. And write. And write. At almost eight hundred pages, you better be in this for the long haul. Took me three weeks to read this baby, and when I finally finished the workout that was The Passage, well... To be perfectly honest, I'm not sure how I felt.


All of the above is true. I was completely enraptured by the first 300 pages. I couldn't stop talking about this book. My husband was vaguely annoyed. But then it was like someone else took over and kicked Cronin to the curb, because I truly did not recognize it anymore.


Flash forward, and we've got a brand new time a century down the road and a slew of new characters. I don't mind a change of pace, but this went from breakneck speed to when....will....something....happen...?


Cronin seemed to lose that sharp focus that had me hooked in the beginning. This new cast of characters didn't connect and lacked the development of their predecessors. There seemed to be a lot of unnecessary filler, describing, over-sharing. There wasn't a balance between the characters and the world-building, and as a result, the second half of the book lacked that vibrancy that I fell in love with from first page. In my experience, I connect to the world through the characters, and most of them felt like cookie-cutter versions of cliches. 


So enough of the negative... Cronin worked too hard to create this epic novel for his daughter who asked him to write a book about a little girl who saves the world. And that in itself melts my resolve, and I've already started The Twelve, the second book in this trilogy. I'm a sucker. But I'm glad I've moved forward, because The Twelve, even only one hundred pages in, is.... incredible


Even with my less than satisfied mood in regards to the second half of The Passage, overall, I've gotta give it four stars. Cronin's created a real world here, and while I wished for more from some of his characters, he's got something amazing to work with, and I can't wait to see what else he has to offer. 


If my impression of The Twelve so far is correct, I think it's going to be, for lack of a more appropriate word, epic.





Reading progress update: I've read 481 out of 784 pages.

The Passage - Justin Cronin

When shit hits the fan, what do you do? Just keep reading, just keep reading... 

Anyone else?
Anyone else?

35% Through...

The Passage - Justin Cronin

And I can't bring myself to put this baby down. It's been a while since a book so wholly captured my every waking moment. 




Angelfall: 1 (Penryn and the End of Days) by Ee, Susan (2013) Paperback - Susan Mallery

I am so in love with this series that I feel the need to spread it around. Enter to win a paperback copy of the first book in the series, Angelfall by Susan Ee. {US only}

Review: End of Days by Susan Ee

End of Days - Susan Ee

End of Days is the explosive conclusion to Susan Ee’s bestselling Penryn & the End of Days trilogy.

After a daring escape from the angels, Penryn and Raffe are on the run. They’re both desperate to find a doctor who can reverse the twisted changes inflicted by the angels on Raffe and Penryn’s sister. As they set off in search of answers, a startling revelation about Raffe’s past unleashes dark forces that threaten them all.

When the angels release an apocalyptic nightmare onto humans, both sides are set on a path toward war. As unlikely alliances form and strategies shift, who will emerge victorious? Forced to pick sides in the fight for control of the earthly realm, Raffe and Penryn must choose: Their own kind, or each other?





With this series, Susan Ee has created a world that simultaneously scares the hell out of you and that you kinda want to see for yourself. It's terrifying yet fascinating, and it completely absorbs your every waking moment long after you turn the last page.


Penryn kicks ass. There's really no other way to put it. She's strong, snarky, loyal, and in spite of her fear, she does what needs to be done. And Raffe... Well, he experiences this beautiful and complicated struggle between what he's always known to be right and what he desires. Actually, if I think about it for a sec, Penryn does the same. Who doesn't love a mess like that?


I really can't keep myself from going on and on and on about the world building. It's pretty fantastic. Gruesome. A little disgusting at times. And most importantly, it feels real. Susan Ee doesn't sugar-coat it for us, and the brutality of it all just rounds out the apocalyptic nature of the world humans, angels, and demons have found themselves in.


That's not to say it's all cringe-worthy. There's triumph, love, humanity, and peace as well. Let's just say, this series has it all.


Now, I love this series. It's on my favorites list and will more than likely be a group of books I read a few times. BUT... I couldn't help but feel a little let down by the finale. Not that it wasn't awesome, but there just seemed to be something missing. 


Maybe it wasn't drawn out enough? Maybe the end happened too quickly? Maybe I wanted more moments between Raffe and Penryn? Maybe I'm just depressed that the story ended? I can't quite put my finger on it, but I remember thinking, "that's it? it's done? seriously?" 


That aside, I've read quite a few books surrounding the fallen angels theme, and this series is one of the best I've come across. I've tried others, hoping to touch on the same feelings I have for the characters and world that Susan Ee created, but none have come close as of yet. 


I will be looking out for anything and everything that this author writes. 








The Casquette Girls - Alys Arden






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Review: Opposition by Jennifer Armentrout

Opposition - Jennifer L. Armentrout
Katy knows the world changed the night the Luxen came.

She can't believe Daemon welcomed his race or stood by as his kind threatened to obliterate every last human and hybrid on Earth. But the lines between good and bad have blurred, and love has become an emotion that could destroy her—could destroy them all.

Daemon will do anything to save those he loves, even if it means betrayal.

They must team with an unlikely enemy if there is any chance of surviving the invasion. But when it quickly becomes impossible to tell friend from foe, and the world is crumbling around them, they may lose everything— even what they cherish most—to ensure the survival of their friends…and mankind.

War has come to Earth. And no matter the outcome, the future will never be the same for those left standing.



Finishing the final book in a series that you've followed for years is always a bittersweet moment which may be why I took my sweet time in getting around to Opposition. I've loved Daemon and Katy from Obsidian, and it breaks my heart to have to let them go.

That being said, I could only manage to pull three stars out for Opposition. I feel like the last book in a series can either make or break a series... And I can't quite put my finger on it, but I wasn't blown away by this last book like I was with its predecessors.

To put it frankly, I felt bored sometimes. I always loved the banter between Katy and Daemon, but this time around, I wasn't feeling it. Sometimes it seemed that I was reading the same scene over and over again... They worship each other... They're desperate for each other's bodies... Daemon has a one-track mind... yada yada yada... I love romance, and there were a few fantastic and heartfelt moments between them, but for the most part, I just couldn't get as into it...

The dialogue also bugged me. Most of the characters have this immature and, honestly, almost annoying way of speaking. Even Lotho, the supposedly badass, sort of evil Arum talked like a stereotypical 14-year-old girl... No offense to 14-year-old girls... I can appreciate goofiness or lightening the mood, but it all felt a little stilted...

What I loved about the book was the sacrifices that the characters were willing to make for each other... And how the love and memories between them were stronger than any other power that tried to overcome them.

Throw in a few unexpected surprises and a heart-attack-inducing ending, and you've got a solid finale.

Maybe my reluctance to say I loved the final Lux novel has more to do with me than the book. Maybe my preferences or tastes or whatever you want to call it are changing. 

If you read and loved Jennifer Armentrout's Lux series from book one, I can say with a decent amount of confidence that you'll enjoy the finale. 

3.5/5 Stars


Review: The Law of Moses by Amy Harmon

The Law of Moses - Amy Harmon
If I tell you right up front, right in the beginning that I lost him, it will be easier for you to bear. You will know it’s coming, and it will hurt. But you’ll be able to prepare.

Someone found him in a laundry basket at the Quick Wash, wrapped in a towel, a few hours old and close to death. They called him Baby Moses when they shared his story on the ten o’clock news – the little baby left in a basket at a dingy Laundromat, born to a crack addict and expected to have all sorts of problems. I imagined the crack baby, Moses, having a giant crack that ran down his body, like he’d been broken at birth. I knew that wasn’t what the term meant, but the image stuck in my mind. Maybe the fact that he was broken drew me to him from the start.

It all happened before I was born, and by the time I met Moses and my mom told me all about him, the story was old news and nobody wanted anything to do with him. People love babies, even sick babies. Even crack babies. But babies grow up to be kids, and kids grow up to be teenagers. Nobody wants a messed up teenager.

And Moses was messed up. Moses was a law unto himself. But he was also strange and exotic and beautiful. To be with him would change my life in ways I could never have imagined. Maybe I should have stayed away. Maybe I should have listened. My mother warned me. Even Moses warned me. But I didn’t stay away.

And so begins a story of pain and promise, of heartache and healing, of life and death. A story of before and after, of new beginnings and never-endings. But most of all...a love story.


The first few words of every story are always the hardest to write. It's almost as if pulling them out, putting them on paper, commits you to seeing it all through. As if once you start, you are required to finish. And how do you finish when some things never end?

This. Book. Just... You know when you love an author so much that you don't even read the excerpt to see what their next novel is about, you just read it? That's how I started The Law of Moses, and if I didn't love Amy Harmon before, I think I might be obsessed with her writing now. 

One thing I can say for certain is that Harmon isn't afraid to break your heart. And I don't mean a couple of tears here and there... I mean the full on sobbing and needing time to grieve and get over your pain kind of shattering. But after all that, she finds a way through her characters to allow you to come to terms with what's happened and even find happiness amidst a tragedy. 

Georgia and Moses come together in a way that most young people do. But Moses is different. He's hidden and mysterious and does things that make no sense, things that get him into serious trouble. But he's innocent, and I think Georgia sees that, and despite all the warnings, she can't help but want to break through to him, know him, and see what's beyond the sarcasm and harsh words he insists on using. 

Whatever it was, when Moses came to Levan, he was like water - cold, deep, unpredictable, and, like the pond up the canyon, dangerous, because you could never see what was beneath the surface. And just like I'd done all my life, I jumped in head first, even though I'd been forbidden. But this time, I drowned.

Most of Amy Harmon's books seem to have a touch of paranormal to them, and it's an element at the core of The Law of Moses. It seems to be the reason for everything. Bad and good and all in-between. 

"You seeing things that other people can't doesn't make you the problem, Mo. It just means there are fewer secrets. And that can be dangerous."

Moses has a gift or curse, depending on what moment you're seeing in his life. And while this novel is definitely a love story, I think it's mostly about Moses and what brings him to come to terms with who he is. 

From the moment that he and Georgia meet, her world revolves around him in some way or another. Even though she'd like to, she can't let him go, not completely, and it's not only this connection, but the incredible loss between them that, surprisingly, saves them both. 

Nobody told me that resisting would feel like trying to breathe through a straw. Futile. Impossible. Unrealistic.

I'm going to stop there because I've been as vague as I can manage and honestly don't know what else to say without giving away vital details. I'll finish by saying that Amy Harmon is an incredible storyteller and her writing literally makes me have to stop and take a breath sometimes. It's just that beautiful. 

Read this book. 



Review: Angelfall by Susan Ee

Angelfall - Susan Ee
I have a soft spot for stories about angels, fallen or otherwise. Maybe it's because the topic of them can be somewhat controversial or heated. Or that the possibility of them truly existing is far greater (to me) than any other kind of supernatural being. Also, it could be that the term "angel" shouldn't exactly be synonymous with sweet and innocent. 
Whatever the reason, I love the complexity that comes with angels. They are expected to be full of faith and duty, to follow the laws set before them without the leisure of free-will. But the possibilities of what would happen if they were to demand and take that free-will are endless and somewhat terrifying. Humanity could be completely obliterated, but...
Humanity has a way of surviving doesn't it? I think it has something to do with its ability to make those around it fall completely in love with it - the good, the bad... everything about it. It's endearing and addicting and it provokes a sense of protectiveness in those who come to know it. 
Maybe I'm going off the deep end with this review, but books that explore "what-ifs" tend to do that to me. Specifically dystopian novels that have a touch of the biblical.
What's my point? I love this book. There's so much unexpected that it seriously blows your mind.
The world of angels vs. humans... It's epic, and Penryn is the kick-ass character at the center of it all. She just wants to take care of her family, but finds herself, begrudgingly, playing the hero. She is courageous and determined, but has an attitude and a strong will. She has her priorities straight despite the difficulties she's faced with, and I admire her for that. 
Penryn's relationship with Raffe is hilarious and a bit tense. They build this gradual trust and bond that gets stronger with every situation they bail each other out of. It's awesome to watch these two undeniably different people become close in a way that is realistic and believable. Nothing about their relationship is forced or rushed, and with the epidemic of insta-connections, I found it refreshing. 
The world-building is incredible. From the intricate and political society of the angels to the rebellious and growing group of humans ready and willing to fight for their home... It's madness. Then there's the little things like Penryn's nearly broken family and Raffe's longing to be whole again. It's emotionally taxing... but fulfilling at the same time. It really is one of those stories that has it all.
Read it. 

Review: The Selection of Kiera Cass

For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in a palace and compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon.

But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn't want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.

Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she's made for herself--and realizes that the life she's always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.
I know there is or was a certain amount of drama surrounding this book, and due to my recent ignorance of the goings-on in the book world, I'm happy to say that I was allowed a reaction based strictly on the content of the story.
Honestly, my impression is aligned with the majority. While The Selection was a quick and easy read, I can't say that offered a whole of inspiration or stimulation. 
What did I expect? I was looking for something along the lines of a dystopian version of the bachelor, with the addition of blood, rebellion, and maybe a few catfights. What did I actually get? A watered-down and obvious love triangle that left me emotionally empty - as in I didn't feel a thing. That's really all there was to it.
Which really sucks, because this book has so much freaking potential. The concept is fantastic - a world full of castes and royalty and oppression. Alas, the world-building was less than stellar, so all in all, it felt forced and fell flat. The transition from the world's past to the present is less than streamlined, and when we do get some background, it's thrown at us via a history lesson. As in an actual history lesson that the girls attend. 
Does the history lesson explain all that we need to know? Not really. So not only do we not get to feel and experience this world as it is, but the information we do receive doesn't exactly line up or answer all the questions of how and why. 
I tried to get to know the characters in an effort to like them, but there was really nothing to them. America doesn't really have any substance of which to speak. She stuck up for her maids and took out her aggression on Maddox, which was kind of cool, but I couldn't really tell who she was. She'd label others shallow and stuck up, then turn around and act the same way towards them. This happened constantly, and her hypocrisy made it difficult to take her seriously.
And the love triangle! I don't mind a good love triangle, but I couldn't feel this one. When you can't connect to the characters, how do you pull for one side or the other? Maddox is all surface material and Ash... Well.. we don't really get to know him either. I guess what it all boils down to is that there is no depth to the characters, so I really couldn't care less what happens to them or who America ends up with. 
There's a slew of other characters, but they aren't worth mentioning. Most of them get kicked out by the end of the novel anyway (I'm not spoiling anything, promise). I think it's supposed to be a monumental moment in the book, but I did little more than *shrug* and ponder the fact that the story had ended and nothing had really happened. 
I may or may not read book two in hopes that things get better. Like I said, the concept is there, it's just poorly executed in this first book of the series. Maybe this was a foundation novel and the really juicy stuff comes later? Could be... 
But for The Selection itself, I'd have to rate:




It's the kind of situation most people would dread. Starting at a new high school, in the middle of my senior year, in a new town, in a new state. I know no one. No one knows me. That's what I'm counting on.

A year ago, Aurora "Rory" Pine was just a normal teenage girl - just as sweet and naive as the fairy tale princess she was named after.

But this isn't a year ago.

Rory is broken, and now suffering from a debilitating anxiety disorder, wrought with precarious triggers, she moves across the country to escape the source of her troubles. Her plan is anonymity, but that's easier said than achieved for the new girl having a panic episode outside of calculus. The worst part? There's a witness - and a gorgeous one at that.

Sam is a walking trigger for Rory. Incredibly handsome, built like the star athlete he obviously is, and undoubtedly popular, Sam outwardly represents everything Rory despises about high school. But as the fates keep throwing them together, a connection sparks that neither ever expected, and certainly couldn't ignore.

But Sam has issues too, and Rory's past won't just stay in the damned past. When friendship evolves into something deeper, can a girl utterly destroyed by the worst kind of betrayal and a boy battling demons of his own ever have a normal relationship? Is that even what they want? Find out in NORMAL, a gritty story of trust and abuse, heartbreak and salvation, and if they're lucky - love. This is not a flowery romance - not for the faint of heart.


I'm a sucker for having my heart broken. Let's just start there. This book does that a thousand times over, but as it shatters you into a million infinitesimal pieces, it rebuilds your hope one small section at a time. 
Normal dives into a subject matter that I usually try to avoid at any and all costs, as I'm sure most people do when it comes to rape. But while the author gives us what I can only assume is a realistic representation of what it's like to be a victim of emotional and physical abuse, she also gives us something to see beyond the horror. 
Hope. Surviving. Friendship. Support. Love. Determination. 
Rory is no doubt lacking in self-confidence, but she does cling to all the above mentioned, whether she always realizes it or not. But she doesn't have these things on her own - she has them because of the people around her. 
I'm not going to lie... Rory frustrated me beyond measure sometimes. She kept seeing herself as the victim rather than the survivor that she most definitely was, and she constantly puts the blame on herself for the actions of others, drawing conclusions that are so completely blind to the reality that people make their own choices. On the other hand, I could also empathize with what she had been through. Who's to say I wouldn't make the same decisions as she did if I had been through a trauma like she experienced? She'd been through a world of shit, and not just at the hands of her attacker. 
I love how this book focuses on the relationships that Rory forges. The forced ones, the real ones, and obvious differences between the two.  I feel like a lot of books focus on the romance between two people, but Normal extends to the friendships, emphasizing the importance of those relationships as well, and it's amazingly refreshing. Up until the freakish cliffhanger, I felt like every character was significant to Rory's story of survival; not only that, but vital to the story's development. 
This is a long, long read - one that had me up way to late and up way to early to finish. I will admit, I felt that some of it repeated the same sentiments, making some of the reading long-winded, but I can honestly say that it doesn't take away from the emotional upheaval that you will, without a single doubt, experience. 
Like I said, there's a cliffhanger and an annoying one at that. But LUCKY YOU, the second book was just released, so you don't have to go through the agony of waiting. 
Beware: This book, at its core, is about a survivor of emotional and physical abuse. I didn't know that when I started it, but once I did, I was in it with no way of escaping. I was slammed in the face with Rory's trauma, but while this book brought what are very real and abhorrent circumstances out in the open, it gave me hope, "like a fucking cliche." 
How could I not recommend this book? Please read it, but know that you're entire life outside the book will be put on hold as you do. 

4.5/5 STARS


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