Unforgiven (Fallen #5) by Lauren Kate

High school can be hell.

Cam knows what it’s like to be haunted. He’s spent more time in Hell than any angel ever should. And his freshest Hell is high school, where Lilith, the girl he can’t stop loving, is serving out a punishment for his crimes.

Cam made a bet with Lucifer: he has fifteen days to convince the only girl who really matters to him to love him again. If he succeeds, Lilith will be allowed back into the world, and they can live their lives together. But if he fails…there’s a special place in Hell just for him.



I thoroughly enjoyed this addition to the Fallen series. I always liked Cam, even though he was the “bad guy.” I always thought there was something more to him and it turns out I was right. There is something quite romantic about the idea of a man willing to make a deal with the Devil and risk his immortal soul to save the woman he loves. Of course, that is so easy task, and I rather enjoyed having to watch Cam work to regain Lilith’s trust, forgiveness, and love. If you are a fan of this series, than you will enjoy this one. I would recommend reading the other books in Fallen series before picking this one up as it makes reference to characters and events from the previous books that would serve as spoilers, but in the end I think by doing so you will end up with a richer reading experience because you will be able to fully appreciate Cam’s transformation and redemption.


Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

When Tess Durbeyfield is driven by family poverty to claim kinship with the wealthy D'Urbervilles and seek a portion of their family fortune, meeting her 'cousin' Alec proves to be her downfall. A very different man, Angel Clare, seems to offer her love and salvation, but Tess must choose whether to reveal her past or remain silent in the hope of a peaceful future. With its sensitive depiction of the wronged Tess and powerful criticism of social convention, Tess of the D'Urbervilles is one of the most moving and poetic of Hardy's novels.


Let me start by saying that I was, “that student.” You know, the one who ALWAYS read the assigned readings no matter how awful they were or how easy accessing the cliff notes were. So, when it came time to chose a book for my 2015 reading challenge in the category of “a book you were supposed to read in school, but didn't,” I was at a bit of a loss, as I have never not read a book that I was assigned. So, I decided to take a different approach. I instead chose a book that I felt like I should have been assigned to read in school, but never was. Hence, Tess of the D’Urbervilles, one of Thomas Hardy’s most famous works.

I am a huge fan of classic literature. I love the language and how authors used to take a whole page to say one thing. I love the descriptions of places, social norms, and everyday life. I really thought that Tess would be right up my alley. Tess has all of the hallmarks of classic literature, but I have to admit that, at times, I had a hard time getting through this novel. Granted, it has over 300 pages, but generally that isn’t an issue for me. Some parts of this novel felt like a chore to get through.

“Never in her life - she could swear if from the bottom of her soul - had she ever intended to do wrong; yet these hard judgments had come. Whatever her sins, they were not sins of intention, but of inadvertence, and why should she have been punished so persistently?”

Tess is certainly a tragic character, who is certainly a victim of circumstance, naivete, and the whims of others. However, I have a hard time seeing her as just the innocent victim. Certainly there were horrible things that happened to her and she paid the price for the actions of others, but she also made bad choices and was weak-willed. She chose to wallow in self-pity and was so easily deterred from taking steps to rectify her circumstances that she can not be deemed entirely blameless for how her story ends. I felt compassion for her and agree that she got a raw deal in life, but there were other times that I wanted to strangle her for some of the choices she made that opened her up to further pain.

As for the men in this novel...I know Angel Clare is the “ideal,” but I found him to be snobbish, hypocritical, judgmental, and stubborn. I cannot say that I believe he deserves such a title. He judges Tess so harshly for something that was not her fault, even after admitting that he himself had pre-marital relations (a consensual relationship, too!). He then runs off to lick his “wounds,” never once giving Tess an ounce of compassion. He acts as if he is the violated one, not Tess. He focuses only on how Tess’s revelation affects him, and never once stops to consider how hard it must have been for Tess. How can he say that he really loved Tess and act this way? It seems that he was far more in love with the idea of Tess that he had created in his mind than the real Tess, if such a confession could rock his feelings so deeply. While I believe that he does redeem himself some at the end of the novel, I still say that he is far less perfect and far more flawed than Tess’s opinion gives him credit for.

As for Angel’s counterpart, Alec D’Urberville, I cannot say that there is much that is “ideal” about him. Except for the bit where Alec appears to learn the errors of his ways (which doesn’t last long when faced with temptation again…), Alec does not put up any pretenses. He is a womanizer and takes advantage of Tess’s weak will to get her to ignore her better instincts. When Tess believes that Angel is lost to her forever, Alec wastes no time playing on her insecurities and doubts to once again get what he wants. Tess is a plaything to Alec, and Tess, because of a lack of will or poor self-esteem, allows him to take advantage of her again and again. I would say that his only redeeming quality is that he does not judge Tess for her past (although this might be because he played a hand in it) the way Angel does. In the end, I think he got what he deserved.

The ending was also a little hard to swallow. I found it hard to believe that Angel, judgmental and righteous as he is, was so easily able to forgive Tess’s final transgression, one that I believe far surpasses her so called previous one. I also found it weird that Tess basically tells Angel to basically replace her with her younger sister, which he apparently does. He’s rather fickle, in my opinion. As for Tess, I don’t know if there was ever another ending for her story. After so much conflict, a tragic end seemed rather inevitable for Tess. Anything less would have seemed disingenuous to her story.

While I can appreciate this novel for what it is, and can understand why it continues to stand the test of time, I can’t say that it will ever be listed among my other classic favorites. Nor do I ever see myself wanting to reread it again and again like some of my other favorites. I am glad that I took the time to read it, and would certainly encourage other classic lit lovers to give it a chance. In the end, it just wasn’t my cup of tea.

2015 Reading Challenge: A book you were supposed to read in school, but didn't


Quidditch Through the Ages by J.K. Rowling

Did you know that: there are 700 ways of committing a foul in Quidditch? The game first began to evolve on Queerditch Marsh - What Bumphing is? That Puddlemere United is oldest team in the Britain and Ireland league (founded 1163). All this information and much more could be yours once you have read this book: this is all you could ever need to know about the history, the rules - and the breaking of the rules - of the noble wizarding sport of Quidditch.


This little book gives the reader the history behind one of the wizarding world’s most exciting sports, Quidditch. It also breaks down the rules, positions, and equipment. The annotations added by Harry and his friends are cute, and any fan of the Harry Potter series will enjoy perusing this book’s pages.

Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them by J.K. Rowling

A copy of Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them resides in almost every wizarding household in the country. Now Muggles too have the chance to discover where the Quintaped lives, what the Puffskein eats and why it is best not to leave milk out for a Knarl.

Proceeds from the sale of this book will go to Comic Relief, which means that the pounds and Galleons you exchange for it will do magic beyond the powers of any wizard. If you feel that this is insufficient reason to part with your money, I can only hope that passing wizards feel more charitable if they see you being attacked by a Manticore.

- Albus Dumbledore


This little reference book is literally an A-Z guide of magical creatures, including descriptions and facts, and contains no story line. I would have liked more pictures, but the little notations from Harry and his friends were a nice touch. It is a fun little extension of the wonderful world J.K. Rowling introduced us to in her Harry Potter series, and any fan of the series will get a kick out of this book too.

The Best Goodbye (Rosemary Beach #13) by Abbi Glines

The look on Rose’s face had screamed that she was hiding something. Hell, she’d practically run away from me. There was something to that. I knew there was...

After ten years in the employ of a mysterious crime boss, River “Captain” Kipling is ready to leave his sordid past—and his cover occupation as an upscale restaurateur—behind him. The only thing standing in the way of his “retirement” is his commitment to launch a new restaurant in the resort town of Rosemary Beach. With his sister, Blaire, nearby, Captain can delay his dream of running a humble bar on the waterfront, but the unwanted attentions of his head server, Elle, have him itching to get out.

Until he notices Rose Henderson, the new server at the restaurant. All he knows about the pretty redhead with the cute glasses is that she’s a hardworking single mom from Oklahoma. But there’s something overly familiar about her laugh...something strange about the way she looks at Captain...


Another great installment in the Rosemary Beach series. Ever since Abbi first introduced us to Captain, I have found him an intriguing character. There was an aura of mystery surrounding him that made it clear that there was a story to be uncovered. I was even more intrigued after Abbi’s little bombshell revelation about Captain that was dropped on us in Mase’s last book. Captain and Addy’s story is just what you would expect from a Rosemary Beach novel - plenty of drama, passion, and a happy ending. The only reason this one earned 4 stars instead of my usual 5 stars is because I felt the ending was a bit rushed. Other than that, I loved it.


Zero Tolerance by Claudia Mills

Seventh-grader Sierra Shepard has always been the perfect student, so when she sees that she accidentally brought her mother's lunch bag to school, including a paring knife, she immediately turns in the knife at the school office. Much to her surprise, her beloved principal places her in in-school suspension and sets a hearing for her expulsion, citing the school's ironclad no-weapons policy. While there, Sierra spends time with Luke, a boy who's known as a troublemaker, and discovers that he's not the person she assumed he would be—and that the lines between good and bad aren't as clear as she once thought.


As a school teacher myself, I found the concept of this novel very interesting. Most of the school I have worked in have “zero tolerance” policies when it comes to drugs and weapons, and I would say that for the most part, I am a supporter of these policies. However, as this novel points out so well, people and situations tend to be far more complicated. While I don’t agree the main character, Sierra, should have been punished for her honest mistake, I can see the school’s side of the story and the desire to apply the school policy equally in the name of fairness. Nevertheless, life is not black and white. There are gray areas, and I think it is in these gray areas that we learn the most about ourselves and the world around us. I think this one is a worthy edition to YA section of any library.


Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson

On May 1, 1915, with WWI entering its tenth month, a luxury ocean liner as richly appointed as an English country house sailed out of New York, bound for Liverpool, carrying a record number of children and infants. The passengers were surprisingly at ease, even though Germany had declared the seas around Britain to be a war zone. For months, German U-boats had brought terror to the North Atlantic. But the Lusitania was one of the era’s great transatlantic “Greyhounds”—the fastest liner then in service—and her captain, William Thomas Turner, placed tremendous faith in the gentlemanly strictures of warfare that for a century had kept civilian ships safe from attack.

Germany, however, was determined to change the rules of the game, and Walther Schwieger, the captain of Unterseeboot-20, was happy to oblige. Meanwhile, an ultra-secret British intelligence unit tracked Schwieger’s U-boat, but told no one. As U-20 and the Lusitania made their way toward Liverpool, an array of forces both grand and achingly small—hubris, a chance fog, a closely guarded secret, and more—all converged to produce one of the great disasters of history.

It is a story that many of us think we know but don’t, and Erik Larson tells it thrillingly, switching between hunter and hunted while painting a larger portrait of America at the height of the Progressive Era. Full of glamour and suspense, Dead Wake brings to life a cast of evocative characters, from famed Boston bookseller Charles Lauriat to pioneering female architect Theodate Pope to President Woodrow Wilson, a man lost to grief, dreading the widening war but also captivated by the prospect of new love.

Gripping and important, Dead Wake captures the sheer drama and emotional power of a disaster whose intimate details and true meaning have long been obscured by history.


Dead Wake tells the story of the the passenger liner, Lusitania. The narrative takes a slight deviation from Larson’s usual style. Instead of weaving together two distinct historical events, Larson weaves together the perspectives and experiences of those connected to the Lusitania and its fateful last journey, including the captain of the Lusitania, William Thomas Turner; the captain of the U-boat, Schwieger; the British intelligence office in charge of tracking the activities of the German U-boats; President Wilson of the United States; and the passengers and crew who would lose their lives when the ship foundered. The result is an exciting and suspenseful narrative. I even learned some new things about the Lusitania! Definitely worth a read.


Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Willow Chance is a twelve-year-old genius, obsessed with nature and diagnosing medical conditions, who finds it comforting to count by 7s. It has never been easy for her to connect with anyone other than her adoptive parents, but that hasn’t kept her from leading a quietly happy life... until now.

Suddenly Willow’s world is tragically changed when her parents both die in a car crash, leaving her alone in a baffling world. The triumph of this book is that it is not a tragedy. This extraordinarily odd, but extraordinarily endearing, girl manages to push through her grief. Her journey to find a fascinatingly diverse and fully believable surrogate family is a joy and a revelation to read.


I really enjoyed this novel and its quirky main character. It’s collection of misfit characters makes for an amusing and heartfelt narrative. While at first glance, the story would seem to be dreary and depressing, the narrative is actually full of light, love, and hope. To be sure, the novel does deal with heavy loss and anyone who has experienced loss or change can easily relate to Willow, but the story is much more about hope than loss. It is definitely a worthy edition to any YA library.

Pocket Prayers: 40 Simple Prayers that Bring Peace and Rest by Max Lucado

This is a short little collection of prayers (about 40), covering various topics, each of which starts with a Bible verse. If you are new to prayer, I think it’s a good place to start. The prayers are not complicated or verbose. I would not say that it is an essential part to a Christian library, but if you are looking for a simple collection of prayers, it is not a bad little book.


The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

The last novel Ernest Hemingway saw published, The Old Man and the Sea has proved itself to be one of the enduring works of American fiction. It is the story of an old Cuban fisherman and his supreme ordeal: a relentless, agonizing battle with a giant marlin far out in the Gulf Stream. Using the simple, powerful language of a fable, Hemingway takes the timeless themes of courage in the face of defeat and personal triumph won from loss and transforms them into a magnificent twentieth-century classic.


Confession...I have not read many books by Ernest Hemingway. I have always meant to, but for some reason I have never gotten around to it. This makes me feel slightly guilty. I mean, how can I be a true bookworm without having read anything by one of my country’s greatest writers? So, as I embarked on my reading challenges for the year, I vowed that I would add more Hemingway to my to-read list. The Old Man and the Sea is my first Hemingway novel. The story is simple. It’s about an old man chasing down a fish. The old man is a tragic character. He’s down on his luck, poor, and in desperate need of a break. His luck appears to change when he hooks a large fish. The fish does not give up easy and the majority of the book is about the man’s struggle to catch the fish.

The old man is certainly a symbol of pride and perseverance, although they seem to work against him in this story. Yes, the man shows perseverance throughout the story, but it is quite obvious from the beginning that his efforts to catch the fish will not lead to success. He doesn’t have the strength nor the help to successfully capture such a large fish. However, the promise of such a large payoff is too good to resist. It is his pride that keeps him from releasing the fish and moving on. Even after he catches the fish and the sharks are attacking, his pride refuses to let him cut his loses, and as they say, “Pride comes before the fall.” In the end, he winds up with nothing. Even though it was obvious from the beginning that things would not work out the way he wanted, I still felt sympathy for him.

Ultimately, I thought the novel was okay. I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it either.

2015 Reading Challenge: A Pulitzer-Prize winning book

Thunderstruck by Erik Larson

In Thunderstruck, Erik Larson tells the interwoven stories of two men--Hawley Crippen, a very unlikely murderer, and Guglielmo Marconi, the obsessive creator of a seemingly supernatural means of communication--whose lives intersect during one of the greatest criminal chases of all time.

Set in Edwardian London and on the stormy coasts of Cornwall, Cape Cod, and Nova Scotia, Thunderstruck evokes the dynamism of those years when great shipping companies competed to build the biggest, fastest ocean liners, scientific advances dazzled the public with visions of a world transformed, and the rich outdid one another with ostentatious displays of wealth. Against this background, Marconi races against incredible odds and relentless skepticism to perfect his invention: the wireless, a prime catalyst for the emergence of the world we know today. Meanwhile, Crippen, "the kindest of men," nearly commits the perfect crime.

With his superb narrative skills, Erik Larson guides these parallel narratives toward a relentlessly suspenseful meeting on the waters of the North Atlantic. Along the way, he tells of a sad and tragic love affair that was described on the front pages of newspapers around the world, a chief inspector who found himself strangely sympathetic to the killer and his lover, and a driven and compelling inventor who transformed the way we communicate. Thunderstruck presents a vibrant portrait of an era of séances, science, and fog, inhabited by inventors, magicians, and Scotland Yard detectives, all presided over by the amiable and fun-loving Edward VII as the world slid inevitably toward the first great war of the twentieth century. Gripping from the first page, and rich with fascinating detail about the time, the people, and the new inventions that connect and divide us, Thunderstruck is splendid narrative history from a master of the form.


Erik Larson is one of my favorite historical writers. I love how he often combines two seemingly unrelated stories into one. In this case, he chronicles the development of wireless technology by Guglielmo Marconi and combines it with the story of Hawley Crippen, a medical man who commits murder. Although historical nonfiction, Thunderstruck reads more like a narrative and lacks the stereotypical “textbook” feel of other historical nonfiction. It is not simply a recounting or list of facts, but rather a story told using facts. Having said that, it is clear that the book is thoroughly researched, and I suppose Larson does take some artistic license, but for the most part the story appears to stay true to verifiable facts. This is the third book by Larson that I have read, and I will definitely be picking up more in the future.


The Christmas Shoes by Donna VanLiere

Sometimes, the things that can change your life will cross your path in one instant-and then, in a fleeting moment, they're gone. But if you open your eyes, and watch carefully, you will believe....

Robert is a successful attorney who has everything in life-and nothing at all. Focused on professional achievement and material rewards, Robert is on the brink of losing his marriage. He has lost sight of his wife, Kate, their two daughters, and ultimately himself.

Eight year old Nathan has a beloved mother, Maggie, whom he is losing to cancer. But Nathan and his family are building a simple yet full life, and struggling to hold onto every moment they have together. 

A chance meeting on Christmas even brings Robert and Nathan together-he is shopping for a family he hardly knows and Nathan is shopping for a mother he is soon to lose. In this one encounter, their lives are forever altered as Robert learns an important lesson: sometimes the smallest things can make all the difference. The Christmas Shoes is a universal story of the deeper meaning of serendipity, a tale of our shared humanity, and of how a power greater than ourselves can shape, and even save, our lives.


I swear I am like Pavlov’s dog when it comes to the song, “Christmas Shoes.” Every time I hear it on the radio, I instantly tear up. I can’t help it. It happens every single time, despite the fact that I have heard the song innumerable times. So, I suppose I shouldn’t have expected anything different from this little book based on the popular holiday song. It is a typical “Christmas story,” no different than say the holiday Hallmark movies that I can also claim an addiction to (Don’t judge...I love all things Christmas!). This story is perhaps a little more bitter sweet than others, but it’s still filled with the Christmas spirit. And in case you are wondering...yes, it did make me cry.

2015 Reading Challenge: A book set during Christmas