Football is a way of life for most people in the South. During the fall, we eat, breathe, and sleep the sport. In small towns all over the United States, fall signifies not only the leaves changing and the weather getting cooler, but the appearance of high school football. People put aside their worries and flock to stadiums on Friday nights to get their fix and support the home team. If you're lucky, the home team is also the winning team and you'll have bragging rights until the next season rolls around. There is something wonderful about this sport that brings people together. It's always been a huge part of my life (probably because my Dad is a high school coach) and I find myself counting down the days until the first game of the season. I can't speak to the dairy portions of this novel, but I can say the football is spot on.
To help tide me over this spring and summer, I started looking for contemporaries that had football connections. I read this one and Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally around the same time; I ended up loving them both. While you make think these two novels are a lot alike, I need to set you straight on that point. Aside from a girl playing football, a father who doesn't always understand, and a small town setting, D.J. and Jordan don't have a lot in common. These two characters are very different girls, but both are well worth getting to know.
D.J. lives on a diary farm in Wisconsin. Her family is falling apart and she is trying to keep everything together. After an argument, her older brothers rarely come home. They have both thrown themselves into their college football careers and preparing for the NFL. D.J. is left to help her father with the manual labor around the farm after an injury keeps him from working. Her mom is hardly ever home due to her job as a teacher and a fill in principal. D.J. isn't very good at asking for help so she keeps working her tail off to keep the farm going and starts to ignore everything else - like her grades.
Everything starts to change when the quarterback of a rival team. Brian Nelson, is sent to the farm to work. His coach thinks it will help him train and learn how to be a leader. D.J. isn't so sure Brian is willing to learn anything from her. There is a socioeconomic clash and a few personality conflicts before these two really start to gel. D.J. helps Brian with his physical training and he helps her with jobs around the farm. The two form a friendship, but all that changes when Brian finds out that D.J. plans to try out for her high school football team.
Like in Catching Jordan, D.J. faces a lot of discrimination as a female football player. Males doubt her athletic ability and girls question her sexuality. I've always thought it was sad that people can't express their interests without being judged by others. There is some significant commentary on homosexuality in this one. While D.J. is straight and just loves football, there is another character who is struggling with being themselves in a close minded, small town. This is not the focus of the book, but I do think its an important and relevant element.
In addition, D.J.'s family will appeal to a lot of readers who have less than perfect homes. Nobody in this family talks - they just assume they know everything about the other members. The lack of communication is slowly causing the foundation of their family to crumble and it seems like nobody is willing to step up and fix the solution. D.J. often remarks on how she never knows what to say during the moment and by the time she thinks of something it's way too late. I think a lot of readers will relate to D.J. and the issues she's having at home. I did appreciate that the characters grow as the story unfolds and they do begin to seek solutions to their problems.
Also, there is a bit of romance, but it's realistic and there's no triangle in sight!
Overall, I loved this novel. I adored D.J., in spite of her quirks and self deprecating attitude. She learns to stand up for herself and go after her dreams. I need to make some time to finish this series.
On the Audio:
I think Natalie Moore did a beautiful job of bringing D.J. to life; she even does an admirable job with a Wisconsin accent. Her voice became D.J.'s in my mind. In fact, I'll probably listen to the whole series instead of reading it myself.
One Last Gripe: D.J.'s self doubt was a bit much at times.
My Favorite Thing About This Book: D.J.'s character growth
First Sentence: This whole enormous deal wouldn't have happened, none of it, if Dad hadn't messed up his hip moving the manure spreader.
Favorite Character: D.J.
Least Favorite Character: D.J.'s Dad frustrated me for most of the book.(less)
I loved Splintered - it's one of my favorite reads - so I was super excited to sink my teeth into Unhinged. This installment begins one year after the conclusion of Splintered. Alyssa and Jeb have returned to their lives, but Jeb retains no memories of his time in Wonderland. Alyssa wants to tell him about their adventures and her dark cravings for another world, but she is afraid of driving a wedge into their relationship. Her silence will come at a heavy price.
Alyssa has more to worry about than just her relationship with Jeb and her looming high school graduation. Her mother has been released from the asylum; finding ways to function as a family after being broken for so long is difficult for all the members of the Gardner household. To make matters worse, Morpheus is lurking in the human realm. A battle is brewing in Wonderland and he insists that Alyssa is the only one who can quell the sinister forces bent on his home's destruction. Can Alyssa trust him or is he only manipulating her to fuel his own selfish desires?
Unhinged had everything I loved about the first book, but added some new complex layers. The course of true love never did run smooth and Alyssa's relationship with Jeb will hit some rocky terrain. The devotion these two have for one another will melt your heart, but their disagreements sent me into full panic mode. There are so many elements that could force these two apart, but I keep rooting for them to triumph over the odds. Morpheus poses the biggest threat to their happiness. I typically hate love triangles, but for some reason, the one in this story works for me.
Alyssa is growing into her strength. She isn't the meek, quiet girl I met at the beginning of Splintered. She still struggles to balance the lightness and darkness in her soul, but she also is beginning to embrace the magic that lurks within her veins.
There are so many elements I'd love to gush about, but I don't want to spoil the read for anyone. I will say that this novel's setting is mainly the human realm. I missed the landscapes of Wonderland, but plenty of its inhabitants manage to sneak onto our side of the looking glass. Fans of Splintered will enjoy this installment for sure. Secrets are revealed, danger is experienced, and romance swirls throughout Unhinged. Howard's world and characters would make Lewis Carroll proud.
One Last Gripe: Holy cliffhanger, Batman! I'm seriously supposed to wait until 2015 to find out what happens next? So. Not. Fair.
My Favorite Thing About This Book: I enjoyed finding out more about Morpheus.
First Sentence: My art teacher says that a real artist bleeds for her craft, but he never told us that blood can become your medium, can take on a life of its own and shape your art in vile and gruesome ways.
Favorite Character: It's still a three way tie between Alyssa, Jeb, and Morpheus.
All Our Pretty Songs is a gorgeously written paranormal tale with a heavy sprinkling of Greek mythology. Add in a Pacific Northwest setting (I'm pretty sure it's Seattle, but it's never stated) and you have a recipe for success. I love stories set in the Pacific Northwest; I also appreciated that there is a not a vampire or werewolf in sight. This story deals with something even more chilling.
I liked that I went into this one relatively blind. I knew that the story included paranormal and mythology elements, but I had no idea what to expect beyond that. I loved trying to piece together what sort of beings I was dealing with and I want other readers to have the same experience. I won't tell you what is in store for you, but it was the sort of thing that made shivers run up and down my spine. There were a few parts that seriously freaked me out.
Sarah McCarry's writing is beautiful and I instantly fell in love with her use of language. This reads more like a piece of literature than your typical YA novel which was a nice change of pace. However, there were times when the story was difficult for me to immerse myself into and the characters were not easy to love. In fact, I don't think I really liked any of them. The main character is simply the narrator. She has an identity and I did connect with some of her emotions, but I never truly clicked with her. Her existence is so different from my own and I wouldn't want to trade places with her. All of the characters are damaged on some level.
This is the sort of story I needed to be in the mood for - it's dark and depressing. There is always a time and place for those stories, but it wasn't the story I needed at the time. That doesn't mean I didn't enjoy it - I did - it just wasn't one of my favorites from 2013. I'm also perplexed that this is the first book in a trilogy. I felt like everything was resolved in this novel; it was bittersweet, but I felt like there was closure. I'm interested to see where McCarry will take the story and I do plan to read the upcoming novels. There is a lot of potential and creativity lurking within these pages.
If you're looking for a light paranormal romance, this is not the novel for you. If you're craving something a little darker and more serious, then you need to pre-order. I could see rereading this one in the dark evenings of fall and loving it.
One Last Gripe: I wanted to know more about Cass and Mia's relationship with Minos.
My Favorite Thing About This Novel: I loved all the musical connections. I couldn't help comparing Jack to the story of Robert Johnson.
First Sentence: Aurora and I live in a world without fathers.
I loved Arclight so I have been anxiously awaiting Meridian. The wait was well worth it. McQuein jumps quickly back into the action. There isn't a lot of elapsed time between the first novel and this one. One of the things I love most about these novels is the action; there are few dull moments in this world. I also like that there is a new sort of being in this one. Like the Fade in Arclight, I won't comment too much on this being as I feel its best experienced firsthand without previous knowledge. It's really hard to review this series without spoiling anything, but I have managed. I also tried to be somewhat vague in this review so I didn't spoil the first novel for those who haven't read it yet.
As with the first novel, I loved the dynamic between Marina, Rue, and Tobin. It's so hard to firmly choose a male's side because I feel that they both are important to Marina. I do favor Rue slightly more than Tobin, but it is by a narrow margin. I like that while there is a love triangle - it's not your typical, run of the mill variety. This one is a lot more complicated.
In addition to the romance angle and the fast paced plot, I love the friendship between Marina and Anne-Marie. It's always nice to see a strong friendship among females in a YA novel - especially one that doesn't involve fighting over a guy. I love Marina's tenacity and Anne-Marie's loyalty. Many of us could stand to learn from the bravery these two exhibit in the face of unsurmountable obstacles.
I also found Marina to be a more likable character in this one. She is no longer the blank slate that she started Arclight as, but rather she has formed a personality and has layers of complexity present. Her character is constantly evolving as the series progresses.
As with Arclight, Meridian kept me guessing up until the very end. I really enjoyed the twists and turns in this one; I loved watching secrets unravel and impact the characters.. I can only hope there will be another book. While this one has an end and doesn't leave you hanging, there is certainly room for more story.
Overall, I enjoyed this novel as much as the first one. The creativity, action, and character development was enough to entertain and provide some thought provoking moments. I particularly enjoy thinking about ethics while reading this series.
One Last Gripe: This one like the first one took me a little time to settle into the narration.
My Favorite Thing About This Book: The introduction of the new being
First Sentence: We're at Day 49 AF - the days since the Arc fell.
This was perhaps one of the most imaginative science fiction books I have ever read. The world that Josin L. McQuein creates is chilling. In the future, the world no longer exists as we know it. There are patches of Darkness where the Fade live and patches of Light where humans congregate in small settlements trying to keep the Darkness at bay. In between the Light and Dark, lies the Gray, a vast area where neither Fade or human wishes to linger. I loved the way McQuein structured her setting and unraveled its mysteries.
I won't speak too much in this review about the Fade. I went into this book knowing virtually nothing about it other than what I gleaned from the tiny blurb on the back cover. I found that this made my reading experience frustrating and exhilarating at the same time. My frustration arose for two main reasons and I admit that it was caused more by me than the writing or the story. First, McQuein throws you right into the action with very little information for you to orient yourself. I had no idea what was really happening when all hell started breaking loose in the first chapter. Some readers probably enjoy being thrust into a story's action, but it took me several chapters to fully gain my bearings. Second, I had trouble visualizing the Fade. McQuein does an admirable job of describing this group, but I just couldn't seem to conjure the right image as I read. I feel that this might be why I felt this was more of a science fiction novel and less of a horror one.
The fun part really begins when Marina, the main character, befriends Tobin. I started to really fall into the groove of McQuein's writing and the flow of the story. Arclight is action packed and moves at a break neck speed. The creep factor lessens after the opening scenes when things start to become clear. There were some twists I saw coming, but other that snuck up on me gradually. It's so hard to review this novel without spoiling anything, but I promise it will be better if you experience this novel for yourself.
I did have trouble liking Marina at first. It's hard to like a character who doesn't know who she is and often functions like a blank slate. I felt that Marina didn't have much personality beyond the things she picked up from those around her. As the novel progresses, she changes and grows. By the end, I was firmly on her side and rooting for her. I also enjoyed Rue and Tobin; I won't say anything about these two, but they are worth getting to know.
In addition, I really liked that the characters in this novel mimicked the landscape. Many of them lived in an ethical gray area even when they appeared to be firmly entrenched in the Light or the Dark. It makes me think of all the times in fiction when the notion of both Light and Dark living within us all is referenced. It was interesting to watch that dynamic play out within individuals and the society as a whole. None of the characters were completely what they seemed.
Arclight is certainly something special. It was not only entertaining (even to a self professed non-Sci Fi reader like me), but it also raised some intriguing questions. I found myself pondering ethics, medical research, and societal judgments. It also reminded me that too often we judge what we do not understand and fear what is different.
One Last Gripe: I figured out the big twist easily.
My Favorite Thing About The Book: The Setting
First Sentence: Someone's attention shouldn't have physical weight, but it does.
I'm not always drawn to straight up fantasy novels. I tend to enjoy a little paranormal aspect thrown in the mix. There are moments though when my typical reads begin to get a little stale and I crave something new. This was the perfect novel to cleanse my reading palate. It's a vastly different sort of story than those I typically reach for, but it was immensely entertaining.
Ailsbet and Issa are both princesses, but they come from very different kingdoms. Ailsbet is the daughter of the powerful king of Rurik. The kingdom is run with an iron fist and those who do not meet the king's approval are often persecuted. King Haikor, Ailsbet's father, believes that neweyr, "the magic of life that [binds] women to the earth" (pg. 2), is only for women and men should only be graced with taweyr, "the magic of death and war" (pg. 4). He does not accept those who are born with the opposite gender's magic. These people, the ekhono, are forced to flee Haikor's kingdom or be killed.
Issa's existence in Weirland is very different. The ekhono are not feared or persecuted; they are given sanctuary in Issa's land. Wealth is not as prevalent as it is in Rurik, but the people live in peace. They fear that one day King Haikor will begin a way to reunite Weirland to Rurik. Once upon a time, these two islands were one great kingdom, but an ancient story details how they came to be separated. In addition, an ancient prophecy speaks of the one who can successfully rule both kingdoms.
In spite of their different homes and cultures, Ailsbet and Issa have more in common than they ever could have imagined. Neither girl is allowed to follow her heart. Their free will is non-existent and their fathers make all the decisions for their lives. Each of them is betrothed to men they do not love. Each must do what their fathers feel is for the good of the kingdom. I really enjoyed the commentary on the treatment of women in this story. In the end, it is the women that have more power. I loved seeing two strong female protagonists. Neither Ailsbet or Issa is a damsel in distress - these ladies can hold their own.
Another fascinating component of this novel was the magic. I found the explanation behind the various forms of magic to be intriguing. King Haikor's hatred of differences made me think of many contemporary issues. The treatment of the ekhono was heartbreaking and unfair. The notion of social justice in novels is one that always intrigues me. Novels with these elements provide many conversation points.
The structure of the novel was also a strength. Each chapter is told from the perspective of one of the princesses. I liked being able to get inside both of their heads so I could understand their actions and motivations better. I preferred Issa, but Ailsbet also has many admirable qualities.
While I did enjoy this novel, I did struggle with the middle. The beginning instantly hooked me and the conclusion kept me reading at a frantic pace, but the middle was tedious. There were moments when I felt bogged down by details. Other moments left me feeling bored. Pushing through these chapters were well worth the heart pounding ending. I'm not sure if there will be another book, but I can only hope for one. I need to know more about Issa and Ailsbet's fates. There is a sense of resolution, but a few dangling threads could easily weave another story.
One Last Gripe: I wasn't a fan of the romance elements in this one.
My Favorite Thing About This Book: I really enjoyed this world. Harrison explains every detail and writes in such a way that this novel feels like historical fiction instead of fantasy. It's gorgeous.
First Sentence: "Princess Ailsbet, your father demands your attendance at court this morning," said Duke Kellin of Falcorn, bowing.
I have to admit that I originally only picked this one up because of the cover. Isn't it gorgeous? The vivid colors drew me in originally, but then my mind started to wonder. Who are these people? What is their story? How are they connected? Aliens aren't typically my sort of reading fare (no, I haven't read Armentrout's Lux series and yes, I know I need to), but I was willing to give this a go. I'm so glad I stepped out of my normal reading comfort zone to try something different. Alienated was immensely entertaining and thought provoking. Besides, who can resist a gorgeous alien?
Cara Sweeney is a normal high school girl living in a typical Midwestern town. She has a loyal best friend, a hot boyfriend, the best grades at her high school, and a bright feature. Everything changes for Cara when she learns that she has been selected to participate in the L'eihr exchange program. A L'eihr (aka Alien) will be coming to live with her for one year and then she'll go to visit the L'eihr home planet. Cara knows this program will stir up anti-Alien sentiment, but she can't give up the chance to learn about a foreign culture. Plus, she could really use the scholarship money that goes along with the program. Cara also finds herself feeling obligated to participate since without the L'eihr species, her mother wouldn't be alive.
Cara gets more than she bargained for when the devastatingly handsome, Aelyx, is assigned to be the Sweeney's L'eihr student. He understands human customs in theory, but putting them into practice is more difficult than he imagined. Cara must help navigate the treacherous waters of high school and humanity. Along the way, Cara and Aelyx from a close knit bond that will be tried in numerous ways.
I really enjoyed the premise behind this novel. The L'eihr, while an Alien species, have a similar DNA structure as humans. I found the information about the L'eihr to be fascinating. I applaud Melissa Landers for her creativity with this one.
In addition, to learning about L'eihr culture, I also enjoyed the relationship between Cara and Aelyx. These characters are vastly different, but somehow they manage to find common ground and become true friends. I was awed by Cara's resilience and tenacity. She is a girl I would certainly want on my side in an argument; Cara speaks her mind and stands up for what she feels is right - even when things are difficult. I don't know that I could have handled everything Cara faces from HALO with as much poise and grace as she manages. Of course, there are moments when she wallows in her grief over how things in her life have spiraled out of control, but I didn't begrudge these moments. Who wouldn't be remorseful when things that were important no longer exist?
Aelyx is also an interesting and complex character. He comes to Earth so sure of himself and what is right for his people. He has strong opinions about humans and doesn't really want to allow himself to mingle with them, but there is something about Cara that forces him to see things differently. He begins to realize that in spite of all the negative things the human race has done and continues to do, that there is a lot of goodness and potential there as well.
Furthermore, I enjoyed the balance between the fun and serious. Cara cracked me up; her banter with Aelyx constantly brought a smile to my face. In spite of the humor, there were some difficult topics to think about such as discrimination and xenophobia. While we may not have the L'eihr attending our schools, we do have students that must deal with prejudice on a daily basis. I couldn't help comparing Aelyx's plight to others that I have studied about during the Civil Rights Movement. The riots in front of the school and the armed escort between classes conjured up memories of the Little Rock Nine. Discrimination and bullying are very real concerns for modern students. I found Landers' commentary on these issues to be thought provoking and relevant in spite of the science fiction backdrop.
I also felt like there was a bit of the nature vs. nurture debate going on in this one. Cara serves as a symbol of nurture while Aelyx is the symbol for nature. Cara is raised in a family that shows affection and supports one another. On the other hand, Aelyx was born from an artificial womb and raised in a commune with little affection from his care takers. The personalities of these characters and how they evolve throughout the novel fascinated me - especially as I pondered this scientific debate.
Alienated was certainly an unexpected breath of fresh air. My biggest complaint is the lengthy wait for the next book. I want more of this society and these characters sooner rather than later.
One Last Gripe: I did find some of the conversations in the earlier chapters to be a bit silly. They didn't feel entirely realistic to me, but this problem does not linger for long.
My Favorite Thing About This Book: I love the concept of a foreign exchange program with aliens.
First Sentence: Winning.
Favorite Character: It's a tie between Cara and Aelyx.
I have been excited to read this one since the moment I heard about it. I adore Seattle and long for the days when I lived near the city. One of my favorite parts of the city was Lake Union and its floating homes. I was mesmerized by the homes and wondered about the lives of the people who lived in them. As the story was being written, I also enjoyed watching Sarah Jio post pictures of her time renting a houseboat. I would love to own one of these homes. Reading Morning Glory allowed me to experience (if only for a little while) what it would be like to be a resident of Lake Union.
I'm also a huge fan of Jio's work. She has a way of writing stories that suck me in every time. I love how her books always bounce between the past and the present. Jio's novels always deliver an intriguing contemporary and a thrilling historical mystery.
Morning Glory's present story line follows Ada Santorini as she moves from New York City to Seattle. Ada's entire world was shattered when her husband and daughter die in a tragic accident. Everywhere she turns in NYC, a memory lurks. Ada fears she can never work through her pain in a city that haunts her. She decides on a whim to try something totally different and moves to Lake Union in Seattle. Her experiences on her rented houseboat plunge Ada into a mystery that has plagued her dock since the 1950's.
The historical story takes place in the 1950's. This was different since typically Jio's stories take place during the WWII era. I liked seeing her deviate from her previous works a little. The history was just as intriguing as the historical portions of her previous novels. I do enjoy her contemporary sections, but it is truly the historical sections that allow Jio's writing to shine. Research and a strong emphasis on historical details makes the novel feel authentic. Her characters (in both the past and present) feel like they could waltz off the page. I don't want to talk too much about this aspect and give anything away, but I did enjoy the mystery. I never saw the twist coming, but looking back there were clues along the way. I wasn't sure how things would end up which led to some anxiety. I read this one quickly because I had to know how things would end.
Overall, my favorite part of this novel aside from the characters was the setting. Seattle is truly a captivating city and one that will always have my heart. Lake Union is the perfect setting for one woman to to move beyond her grief while another one in the past seeks to find her heart's desire. I appreciate that Jio shares her love for the city in her fiction. It allows me to take mental vacations whenever life gets a little too hectic and stressful. My only complaint is I love Jio's novels so much that I can't read them slowly.
One Last Gripe: I wanted to change some aspects of the ending.
My Favorite Thing About This Book: I always enjoy trying to figure out how the strands of the past and present will tie together.
First Sentence: I step down onto the old dock and it creaks beneath my feet, as if letting out a deep sigh.
This book was nothing like I expected. Based on the title and cover, I was expecting some sort of paranormal story. Sadly, there isn't a vampire, werewolf, or other supernatural being in sight. This is a straight up mystery with some thriller components. That doesn't make this a bad story, but it is misleading. The summary is vague (which after reading the book makes sense) and provides no clues as to what is happening at Cimmeria School. Others on Goodreads have this novel shelved as a vampire book. Trust me, there are no fanged ones.
So what is this novel really about if there is no paranormal connection? It's the story of Allie Sheridan, a troubled London youth, who is sent off to boarding school in the English countryside. I couldn't help reminiscing about Hogwarts and wondering if the two schools would have anything in common. That train of thought was quickly derailed and Cimmeria took on a life of its own. I love boarding school settings and this one added a dark, creepy layer that was immensely satisfying. The school is almost a character itself and the architecture plays a significant role throughout the story. Physical aspects aside, I also loved the culture and lore of the school. This element was one of the strengths of this novel.
An additional strength was Carter West. I adored him! I can't really say too much about him or his role in the novel without spoiling something, but he is certainly someone you should get to know. Many of the other characters, including Allie, drove me batty with their silly decisions and personalities, but Carter I loved from minute one.
The pacing of this one was a bit difficult for me. There are chapters upon chapters explaining the school's history and all of the characters. There is a lot of secrecy swirling throughout the school grounds. The entire notion of Night School is intriguing, but you have to read the majority of the novel before you find out what's up with that. The informational chapters were necessary to introduce this world to readers, but left me feeling bored and restless. I constantly found myself daydreaming or putting this book aside in favor of other activities. It's never a good sign when I would rather do something else than read. In spite of the slow, methodical pace that dominated a majority of the pages, there are bursts of action that broke up the monotony. It was these moments that changed my opinion of Allie and allowed this story to shine.
My biggest complaint about this novel is with Allie. She has tremendous emotional baggage and a criminal record when she arrives at Cimmeria. She's obviously a troubled young woman seeking answers; this is not something that is easy to get over. Yet, Allie seems to push these feelings aside almost over night. She begins to make friends and throw herself into her school work. She stops thinking about her brother and stops getting into major trouble. It didn't seem realistic to me that she could make such a drastic change in such a short period of time.
All in all, I ended up enjoying this novel, but it took a lot of effort. I had to force myself through the slow moments to be rewarded with the action. I also had no idea what Night School was all about until the big reveal later in the novel. I still have so many questions about it, but since this is the beginning of a series, I am sure those will be answered in the future. I'd recommend this novel to people who enjoy mysteries or boarding school settings. I also think this novel would be a great one to curl up with in the winter time because of it's dark nature.
One Last Gripe: There is a bit of a love triangle. I'm kind of over that element in YA.
I noticed this book a few times, but couldn't decide if it was something I wanted to read. I don't always enjoy Science Fiction and I have so many other books pleading for my attention. This one arrived with some other books from the publisher and I decided after reading the first chapter to keep turning the pages. I'm really glad I did because while this does have some Science Fiction elements, it doesn't read like a Sci-Fi book at all, it feels more like a contemporary.
Abby Barnes is a girl after my own heart. She's driven, loyal, a little unsure of herself, and an Atlanta resident. While she may be a Georgia girl, this isn't really a southern novel and there isn't a lot of southern culture present in the narrative. That's okay and realistic. The city of Atlanta does have southern underpinnings for sure, but it has its own unique culture that is more wordly and open minded than other parts of the south. I digress - back to the topic at hand...
Abby has always had a plan for her future. It's been mapped out since 7th grade and she can't imagine a future that isn't in her life plan, but a minor detail changes everything. The seemingly unimportant decision to take a drama class changes the course of Abby's life. She ends up living in Los Angeles and working as an actress in big budget action movie instead of moving into a dorm room at Northwestern. How could this have happened? Could this one little choice truly change everything? The plot centers around Abby's choices and a collision that throws her reality into the hands of her parallel self. The other Abby chooses different paths and impacts the present Abby.
There was a lot of science in this book and I fully admit that I have no idea how much of it is realistic. It sure sounds good though and does a decent job of explaining the parallel universe issue. More science minded people might have picked this explanation apart, but I was content to trust the author and go along for the ride.
I have often pondered what my life would be like if I had made different choices. Would I have still ended up with my wonderful husband? Would I still be in the same career? Would my life be similar to the one I have now or vastly different? I think we all have those musings from time to time. I love my life; I am blessed beyond measure and have few regrets. I just find this an interesting way to spend time when I'm bored and can't get my hands on a book. Since this is something I have considered, I found it immensely interesting to read about a character that not only has the same sort of musings, but finds herself in a situation that allows her to experience how her life would change if one tiny detail had been changed. It truly makes you consider which moments in your life are the most crucial, which ones define who you will become.
My biggest complaint with this novel was that it did take some time to adjust to the narrative structure. It bounces between the past and present, switching almost every chapter. It was a little jarring at first - especially when you start to get the memories of the parallel Abby. Those memories alter the present and change the direction of the story. Once I settled in and got my bearings, I really enjoyed this story. I did have issues with some of Abby's choices, but overall I liked this novel a lot. The romance elements - particularly the ones concerning Michael - bothered me as well. This novel takes complicated love triangle to a new level.
One of my favorite things about this novel is the concept of soul-mates I loved how this topic is evaluated and how Abby learns more about herself by identifying these crucial people. I also liked that soul-mates are just of the romantic variety. It says a lot about the nature of friendship. I loved the connection between Abby and Caitlin. Their friendship is the sort that I longed for as a teen, but was never lucky enough to find during that phase of my life. There was one aspect about the relationship that did irk me. Caitlin seemed to believe Abby's story about what had happened to her a little too easily. It seemed a bit far fetched considering the circumstances.
If you're looking for a little Sci-Fi light with a healthy dose of contemporary voice, then this is a novel you should pick up. It was the perfect blend of fantasy and reality. Lauren Miller's writing is engaging and fun; this is an impressive debut. Parallel will leave you thinking about your own life and how things would change if someone else was calling the shots. This is a perfect spring read as nature reawakens and new possibilities lurk around every corner.
One Last Gripe: The ending bothered me a little. It felt rushed. I did like the message it conveyed, but I wanted just a little bit more.
My Favorite Thing About The Book: The concept of the novel was engaging and intriguing.
First Sentence: I hesitate, then point my gun and pull the trigger.
I read Temptation before it was released and loved it, but Belonging is even better. The tragedy at the end of Temptation made me eager to dive into this one. I had to know what was in store for Noah and Rose next. Rose realizes that she cannot live with Noah and decides to join the Amish in order to be with him; her father isn't crazy about the idea, but he is convinced that Rose will come running home after a few weeks of the rigid lifestyle. He couldn't be more shocked that she seems to be adapting to her new circumstances. The major conflict within this novel arises when different people try to keep Rose from joining the church.
The romance in this one is certainly swoon-worthy. I enjoy the relationship between Noah and Rose. Their circumstances often seem impossible, but they continue to fight against the odds to be together. There are some Romeo and Juliet moments running throughout the course of this novel, but I do like that the societal structures are what is truly making love difficult between these two. The ending of this one delivers a pretty big shock that will have you longing for the final book, Forever.
In addition to the romance, I like the emphasis on friendships and family in this one. A new character, Summer Sage, is introduced and she becomes an integral part of the story. Summer is one of those girls we should all be lucky enough to have as a friend. She is loyal, smart, and doesn't take any crap from people. Her friendship with Rose becomes crucial as the novel progresses.
I found myself frustrated with Rose and her family from time to time as I read. Rose makes some pretty dumb decisions - particularly towards the end of the book - that irked me. I wanted her to trust in her heart and Noah's a little more. It bothered me that she didn't choose to fight harder when her family makes things difficult for her. I had to remind myself that she is only seventeen and that does impact her behavior. The frustration with her family stemmed from the fact that Rose's father and Sam do some pretty shady things to try to keep Rose and Noah apart. I understood that their actions resulted from their love from Rose and their desire to have her return home, but that didn't make their methods okay.
All of the conflict and tension kept my stomach in knots. I honestly didn't know how things would end up, but I needed to know so I kept reading at a frantic pace. There is something addicting about this series and these characters. I also enjoyed learning more about Amish culture. At this point, I can only hope that Noah and Rose will get their happily ever after.
All in all, I loved every moment I spent with this novel. The series has certainly earned a spot on my favorites shelf and Karen Ann Hopkins' future works will be highly anticipated. I love the realness of her characters, the way she explains the emotions that accompany first love, and the delicious anxiety her plots cause me to feel.
One Last Gripe: Levi is such a creep. I have to hand it to Hopkins for making such a creepy villain sort, but his scenes really freaked me out.
My Favorite Thing About This Book: The relationship between Noah and Rose, but I also really enjoyed getting segments from Sam's perspective as well
First Sentence: Peeking out the window, I watched Noah limp down the pathway behind his mom.
Somehow I missed this novella when I was working my way through the series. I was not eager to leave this world behind so I kept pushing this further down my reading list. I knew this would truly be the last time I would spend time with Kate and Henry without knowing how things would end. Michele B. was fortunate enough to meet Aimee Carter and several other Harlequin writers last week so I decided it was time to take the plunge.
I have often wondered exactly what Kate and James did during their six months in Greece. The Goddess Hunt seeks to explain one of their adventures involving Castor and Pollux. The twins are on the run and have been hiding from the Council for centuries. This will be the first time that Kate will use her power as an immortal. She takes the side of the twins and goes up against Hades and Zeus.
I loved seeing the stubborn, spunky side of Kate. This is the Kate I adore. I found that as the series progresses and she changes, she loses some of that gusto. It was nice to see it appear. Her words with Zeus cracked me up. She is a spitfire!
I also found the story of the twins to be an intriguing one. It raises many issues as well. Should we continue to make decisions based solely on our pride? How often do people choose to continue down a path, knowing its wrong, simply because they do not want to admit they made an error? It seems Greek Gods are not the only ones who struggle with hubris. Humans often allow this mode of thinking to drive their decisions.
All in all, I really enjoyed this, but it did leave me wanting more. There was an entire six months of Kate's time in Greece and this story is a small snapshot of one day. I want to know what happened during the rest of her time.
I'm sad that this series has finally come to an end for me, but I am excited to read Carter's upcoming new series.
One Last Gripe: Zeus is so frustrating and pigheaded.
My Favorite Thing About This Novella: I was not familiar with the twins' story. It was interesting to learn something new about Greek mythology and see Carter's spin on it.
First Sentence: The cave wound upward through the earth, and Pollux grasped Castor's hand as he led him across the uneven ground.
Fiona O'Connell lives in a world where organized crime rules the world and her father is the leader of one of the largest syndicates in the United States. Fiona is a weapon that he loves to control, but can she truly do everything her daddy says? When her father orders her to assassinate the daughters of another syndicate leader, Fiona and her mother go on the run. They are tired of being criminals and risking their lives to please a man who never truly loved either of them. Hidden in the Arizona desert, both women seek to move on with their lives and live for themselves. All of this would be a lot easier if Fiona wasn't invisible. Fiona can't risk being caught by her father; an invisible assassin would be a perfect weapon and she'd never be free.
In Fiona's world, people are born regular or gifted. Those called gifted have genetic mutations that allow them to do incredible things - some minor and others major. For example, aside from Fiona's invisibility, one character has super human strength while another can fly. I won't go into too much details about the variety of mutations that crop up in this book, but they are fascinating. Like in the X-Men, those with mutations are feared by those who have none and are desired by criminals who want to use their gifts for nefarious purposes. The origin of the mutations was a source of intrigue for me. I loved the creativity behind it and the historical connections.
In addition to the fascinating world, I loved these characters. Fiona is a truly an independent, take charge kind of girl. She is coming into her own and by the end of the novel, I feel like she is truly comfortable in her own invisible skin. She learns to trust others and to value her own strength. In the beginning, she struggles with how her invisibility makes her different from everyone, but by the end of the novel she begins to realize that she has a lot in common with her new group of friends. I loved The Pack and Fiona's brothers too. I have a particular fondness for Brady and Seth. In general, I adored all the characters - even the villains were well written and people I loved to hate.
Transparent was a fun read that kept me riveted from start to finish. The story is fast paced and exciting. It does have flaws, but they didn't impede my enjoyment. I think the key to loving this one is loving Fiona. She has her selfish moments and she's quite stubborn. If you're on her side, then you'll enjoy the novel.
One Last Gripe: There were some plot elements that irked me. For example, if you're trying to hide from your crime boss father, why do you enroll in public school?
My Favorite Thing About This Book: The mutations
First Sentence: I nearly died the second I was born.
March is Women's History month. I'm always seeking great nonfiction reads to recommend to my students this month that feature strong women and can help them learn more about social history. I have always been fascinated by Women's History. For so much of written history, the story of the female experience was largely ignored. Modern historians have realized how important the contributions of women were to the creation of a successful nation. You cannot ignore the stories of a whole group of people unless you want a biased account of events. I, for one, am so pleased to see more nonfiction books shining spotlights on the previously unheard stories.
Women of the Frontier spotlights the experiences of women who braved the frontier in order to expand the United States and create homes in new lands. I cannot imagine the amount of courage these women possessed to leave behind everything they had ever known and travel into the unknown. I don't know that I would have been able to do such a thing. A portion of myself longs for their sense of adventure, but I would prefer to do the moving and traveling with modern conveniences. I would not have been cut out for this time period and this form of adventure.
One of the strongest aspects of this text is that it doesn't just tell the stories of white women. I loved that it included women from minority groups as well. I was particularly interested in the portion of the book that dealt with Native American women. The merging of White and Native cultures is something that I have studied at length. I enjoyed finding more stories and perspectives concerning this topic. In the past, a bulk of my studies have been focused more on the male experience.
The mixture of primary and secondary sources provides an entertaining read. I found myself immersed in the lives of these women. I would highly recommend this book to fans of Women's History and Westward Expansion. Also, this would be an excellent nonfiction resource for a classroom library; this text could be used to address various Common Core standards.(less)
This novel seems to be one of those you either love or hate. I fall into the love category, but I can totally see why this read is not everyone's cup of tea.
For starters, it does not read like a typical YA novel. The content and language are vastly different from mainstream YA. In my opinion, this makes the novel have a more literary feel. I could totally see this novel being used in high school English classes. It isn't the sort of thing most people pick up to read for entertainment. History nerds (like me) and those who are interested in Mary Shelley's life might pick this one up for fun, but the general masses may shy away.
In addition, the author's choice to write in verse may also be difficult for some readers to enjoy. I loved it because it felt like I was reading journal entries or getting a front row seat to Mary's stream of consciousness. Verse novels are limited in many ways that can be frustrating for a reader. For example, there isn't really space or time to flesh out setting. In Hideous Love, Mary is constantly moving. Her life is not stationery, therefore, the setting is in constant motion. We never truly get to settle into one place or event as the reader. Also, aside from Mary, I didn't feel like I truly knew any of the other characters. That was a non-issue for me because I wanted to read this to learn more about Mary.
One of the things I loved about this book was that I learned a great deal about what life was like for Mary Shelley. She had a life full of travel, excitement, tragedy, and scandal. I always just assumed that she and Percy Shelley had such a normal courtship and marriage, but that couldn't be further from the truth. It was all quite scandalous for the time period, but I would argue it would turn heads even today. Percy and Mary fall in love while he is still married to another woman and they run away together. While I have to admire Mary for going after what she wanted in a time period when women were second class citizens, I did have trouble understanding what she found so fascinating about Percy. He seemed to be a womanizer who couldn't truly offer Mary a strong relationship. Both Percy and Lord Byron seemed like giant creeps to me.
I also really enjoyed the women's history elements that run throughout this one. I often forget that Mary Shelley is the daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft, one of the first feminist writers. Her parents taught her to think and voice her opinions when that was frowned upon coming from the "fairer sex". Mary does not allow society to force her into a corner, but rather she fights against the gender caste system with her words. It saddened me that when Frankenstein was first published that Mary's name did not grace its cover. She had to publish it anonymously due to the way society viewed her based on her relationship with Shelley. It irked me to no end that he was still able to enjoy a publishing career, but she was seen as the evil one. The double standard made my stomach churn.
All in all, I enjoyed the time I spent with Mary's story. I am even inspired to reread Frankenstein as it has been ages since I read it last. I think it's amazing that Mary Shelley crafted such an iconic novel during her teen years.
One Last Gripe: I wanted Mary to wake up and see that the man she loved was a selfish jerk.
My Favorite Thing About This Book: I loved learning more about Mary's life.
First Sentence: I want to be beauty, but I am not.
I think this novel needs a certain kind of reader. While I think there is merit to this novel, I wasn't the right sort of reader. I was pulled in by the mention of Batman in the novel summary. I haven't read a ton of YA novels that have a super hero slant to them so I jumped at the chance to read this one. I adore comic book movies and was so excited to see it come to life in print. I didn't stop to think about how dark super hero stories often are and I wasn't in a place emotionally this week that allowed me to enjoy a darker story. I truly believe a reader's mind and emotions can make or break a novel. I hope to reread this one in the future when the dark nature of the story won't be a deterrent.
In spite of my meh response to the novel, I was shocked and excited by some of the twists. Kahaney did a nice job of keeping things hidden from the reader so the reveal was all the more shocking. The ending was a fast paced thrill; if the entire novel had affected me the way the end did, then I would have adored it.
I also really enjoyed how Anthem becomes more than human. It's a tragic story, but I found the medical experiment part to be intriguing. As modern technology continues to advance medicine, I am constantly amazed by what scientists and doctors are able to accomplish. It seems like anything is possible. I found the mechanics behind Anthem's heart to be awe inspiring.
In addition, Kahaney does a nice job of creating a tense, gothic atmosphere. The town of Bedlam is reminiscent of Gotham. In fact, the town seemed so real that at times the events kind of freaked me out. I had some pretty wicked dreams while reading this one.
So, if I loved the twists, technology, and setting, why was this just an average read for me? I kept pondering that as I read. I wanted to love this one, but something kept holding me back. I know a book is not going to make it onto my favorites shelf when I'd rather do something other than read. After a lot of thought, I have decided that I have two main issues with The Brokenhearted. Number one - the pacing was a bit odd. Some moments rushed by while other seemed to drag. The beginning was difficult for me; it takes awhile to set up this society and introduce the characters. I understand the necessity of the opening chapters, but that didn't make it any less tedious. Number two - I never really got to a point where I liked the main character, Anthem. Her actions don't always make sense. I also felt that in many ways she was selfish. She knew she was putting herself in danger over and over, but she did it anyway because she felt like an infatuation with a guy she hardly knew was more important than her safety and the feelings of her family.
All in all, I felt like this was a fun read, but I am not sure it will appeal to everyone. I do feel like there is a reader out there for every novel and I know there will be many who love this one. I would just prepare yourself for Anthem. She isn't a heroine that is easy to love.
One Last Gripe: Anthem's parents irked me.
My Favorite Thing About This Book: I really liked the concept of a female super hero.
First Sentence: Here's the choreography: school, ballet, homework, sleep.
Origin, Jessica Khoury's debut, was one of my favorite reads of 2012, so I had super high hopes for Vitro. While Vitro is not truly a sequel of Origin, they do have some common ground. Both novels focus on science being used to further advance the human race using ethically questionable methods. Both novels also feature characters who learn that everything they thought was true isn't reality. I'm actually happy that this wasn't a direct sequel as I felt like Origin ended perfectly.
Vitro takes the notice of in vitro fertilization and pushes it to the limit of technology. The scientific process is allowing labs to grow people and program them to be a certain type. For example, some Vitros are trained to be bodyguards while others are academic sorts. I found the notion of creating a human for specific purposes to be darkly thrilling and terrifying. I can only imagine what would happen if this technology truly existed and it makes me blood run cold. I have come to love the dilemmas that Khoury poses for her readers to ponder. What is truly more important: progress or free will? I found myself debating this issue frequently as I read.
In addition to the thought provoking material, I also adore Khoury's writing style. Her descriptions are lush and vivid, her pacing is spot on, and she creates beautiful figurative language. Reading her novels is an experience that is difficult to describe. I am mesmerized by the settings she uses almost as much as the ethical debate. While I missed the jungles of the Amazon that I had grown to love while reading Origin, I know have added visiting Guam to my bucket list. Khoury does a fantastic job of making the island seem both alluring and mysterious. I'd love to see the sites that I experienced through Sophie, Jim, and Lux's eyes first hand.
While I did enjoy the writing and the story focus, I have to admit that I didn't like this one as much as Origin. I spent some time trying to figure out what made this one less appealing when so many of the things I enjoyed were present. I finally arrived at the conclusion that it was the characters. I didn't dislike Sophie and Jim, but I didn't form a connection with them like I did with Pia and Eio.
Overall, I liked Vitro and would recommend it to fans of science fiction. It poses some interesting questions that are relevant. Medicine and science continue to evolve; I for one, find that stories that use realistic elements to stretch the imagination on these topics, immensely enjoyable.
One Last Gripe: Because I got this ARC through First to Read, I had to read it on my laptop. I found this tedious and annoying. I found myself reading this one quickly which allowed for little time to savor the rich writing. I prefer to read on my Kindle and plan to reread this one in the future at a more leisurely pace. This is truly a personal gripe and in no way impacted my review.
My Favorite Thing About This Book: the purpose and creation of the Vitros
First Sentence: "Skin Island," Sophie said for what felt like the hundredth time.
I have been lusting for this book since we participated in the cover reveal months ago. There was just something about this artwork that begged me to pick this book up. As the cover suggests this novel is both dark and beautiful; I found it to be compelling and unique.
Elizabeth, the main character, isn't a typical teenager. While many in their teen years are ruled by emotions and hormones, Elizabeth is an emotional blank slate. She feels nothing - not pain, not sorrow, not love. She is a shell who goes through life forcing interactions with others to hide her deficiency. Elizabeth doesn't know how or why she is the way she is, but she suspects it has something to do with the car accident that occurred when she was little. Nobody wants to talk to her about the accident and her parents don't want anything to do with her. After the incident, her father turned to alcohol and her mother refuses to believe Elizabeth is her daughter. There are many troubling elements that arise with Elizabeth's family that may be difficult for some readers. She must endure physical and emotional abuse at the hands of her father while her mother and brother do little to intervene. Some of the abuse scenes were so traumatic that I contemplated putting this novel aside.
Elizabeth is also a difficult character to like. As a reader, I prefer novels where I can empathize with the main character. I was not able to connect with Elizabeth for about 70% of the novel. Her lack of emotions made it difficult for me. I felt a sense of empathy for her concerning her home life and the bullying at school, but I was frustrated that she didn't feel anything concerning those issues. She just suffered through them as if they didn't matter. I know that she couldn't control that, but it was still uncomfortable to witness. In addition, her lack of feeling also makes the beginning difficult. I was worried that I wasn't going to like the novel, but I kept reading because I had a desire to understand why Elizabeth acted they way she did. This compulsion kept me reading at a break neck speed; I polished this novel off largely in one sitting.
I don't want to say too much about the plot because this is one of those novels that is best if you go into it blind. Avoid reviews with spoilers! I loved the world Kelsey Sutton has created; it is an interesting and unique spin on fantasy that I haven't read before. This is the strongest element of the novel. I'll give you one hint: allegory.
Furthermore, there is a bittersweet romance. I wasn't sure I was going to be on board with the right guy, but in the end I was totally won over.
All in all, I was really impressed with Kelsey Sutton's writing and creativity. This is a strong debut novel and bodes well for her future projects.
One Last Gripe: I read another blogger's review that discussed the treatment of Autism in this book. While the character referenced is a minor character and this is a small portion of the book, I also was frustrated that it was viewed as something that needed to be fixed. I agree that having those thoughts in my head put me on my guard, but I still feel I would have come to this same conclusion even if I had not read another's thoughts on the matter.
My Favorite Thing About This Book: I loved all the symbolism and creativity.
First Sentence: Fear is coming.
Favorite Character: Joshua - He was the one character I liked from start to finish.
Least Favorite Character: Elizabeth - I ended up liking her in the end, but it took a lot of effort on my part. I urge you to give her a chance.(less)
I received this novel prior to its release, but things have been so hectic that I was just able to work it into my reading schedule. This was the perfect read for me; I was getting a little burnt out on YA fiction. Catherine McKenzie delivers another immensely entertaining story with characters that are so real they could be sitting next to you at your local Starbucks.
Forgotten is the story of Emma Tupper, a brilliant lawyer who is driven be her need to make partner at her law firm. She doesn't always stop to smell the roses - she's more of a drive over them in a hurry to get to work and leave an apology note sorta girl. Everything in her life is planned out. Things change drastically when her ailing mother dies and leaves Emma a ticket to a month long safari in Africa. What is Emma supposed to do? She can't just leave work for a whole month. Or can she? When her firm tells her it's not a good idea, her stubborn streak rises to the surface and Emma decides to take the vacation her mother always dreamed of but never got to take. An illness and an earthquake leave Emma stranded in Africa for six months (instead of one) and her life changes forever.
When Emma returns home she finds a strange man living in her apartment and all of her things missing. She starts to piece together what was happening in her old life while she was away and she's shocked to learn that everyone presumed she was dead. Emma faces the daunting task of piecing together her life, but will she want to go back to the way things were?
I adored Emma and saw a lot of myself reflect in her. She's driven, stubborn, and logical, but at times common sense is not her strongest virtue. I didn't envy her situation, but I did envy that she had the chance to start fresh. There are moments when I wonder if I had chosen a different career path if my life would be more fruitful. I also have too much fear holding me in place. Risk taking is not part of my genetic make-up. Emma also struggled with taking risks. She wasn't sure if the old way was best or if she needed to trade up to a shiny new model. I loved being along for the ride as she discovered who she really was and what she wanted from life.
The story did contain some predictable elements, but overall the premise was unique. I found the notion of Emma's presumed death and reappearance to be fascinating. It made me ponder how I would react in the same situation.
Furthermore, I really enjoyed Emma's relationship with Dominic. Things with those two were not easy or predictable, but it felt very authentic to me.
After reading two of McKenzie's novels (and loving both), I can safely say that she is an author I will continue to read without hesitation. I have Arranged sitting on my shelf and can't wait to read it. I'll be saving it for one of those YA saturated moments when I am craving a change of pace. I read this largely in one sitting because I was so enthralled. Well, that and because I was trapped in a car for seven hours on a long drive. Spending time with Emma made the car ride seem much shorter.
One Last Gripe: I wanted to know more about Emma's dad, but never got much information on that front.
My Favorite Thing About This Book: Emma's character growth
First Sentence: My mother's funeral was a small affair on a hot Tuesday.
Molly McAdams is one of those authors that I adore. She always writes complex characters who invade my heart and mind. The situations she places her characters in are never easy ones, but sadly, they are all too realistic for many college age students. Like with her previous novels, this one tackles some pretty tough issues including date rape, emotional abuse, and grief. While these issues aren't pleasant to read about, I do appreciate that Molly doesn't shy away from difficult topics. Her characters are resilient and I love watching their development unfold.
Forgiving Lies is the first novel in a new series. I had heard that this one was slightly different than the previous stories Molly has written, but I wasn't sure exactly what to expect. I did find that this one is a lot darker than the previous novels. In addition, this one made me more anxious than the previous novels as well. McAdams does a beautiful job of keeping the reader in suspense. Forgiving Lies is a contemporary romance, but it also has some mystery/thriller elements that add tension to the plot.
I was also happy to see that the main female in this one strong and independent. Rachel isn't a damsel in distress and she's happy being single. I love reading about this sort of girl. Romance is great (and Molly knows how to write one that sizzles), but it falls flat for me if the female character isn't anyone outside of her relationship. I love that Rachel and Kash are just as strong on their own as they are together.
The relationship in this one was also a lot of fun to read. The banter between Rachel and Kash had me laughing out loud. I saw a lot of myself in both of these characters - perhaps that is why I enjoyed the story so much. I also liked that their relationship developed a little more gradually. There is often a lot of love at first sight in a McAdams novel so this was an interesting change. McAdams is also a master at creating hot leading male characters. Kash is certainly one of my new favorites. Gage (From Ashes) is still my number one McAdams guy, but Kash is a very close second. I also appreciate that we get two narrators - Rachel and Kash - which allows the reader to get a full perspective of the events and emotions.
The one thing I was frustrated with was the ending. There is a cliffhanger that made me want to throw my kindle. The next book is coming out in the spring, but that seems so far away.
Overall, I adore McAdams' novels. They are my form of book candy. I love losing myself in her characters and their lives. I wish she would write faster because I simply cannot read her stuff slowly.
One Last Gripe: I was frustrated with Kash for not figuring things out sooner. I did see that twist coming and thought he should have too. You'll know what I'm talking about when you read this one.
My Favorite Thing About This Book: Rachel and Kash's relationship
First Sentence: "Candice, you need to focus."
Favorite Character: Rachel
Least Favorite Character: Candice - she annoyed me in so many ways(less)
I would highly suggest NOT reading this review if you haven't had the pleasure of reading Taking Chances. Instead go read my review of that novel and then READ IT. I allude to something that happens in the first novel and TRUST ME, you do NOT want to be spoiled.
Before I begin, I think I should admit that I am Team Brandon. Chase gave me emotional whiplash in Taking Chances; I was so frustrated with him for being stubborn. He always felt like he knew what was best for Harper instead of letting her choose for herself. Harper isn't totally blameless - she has her frustrating moments too. I did get to a point where I really liked Chase, but it took Stealing Harper for him to truly steal my heart. I still am Team Brandon, but at least now I understand the allure of Chase.
This novella does a beautiful job of putting the reader into Chase's mind. I understood his actions and choices a lot more. Even though I didn't always agree with how he chose to handle things, I can at least see that he was coming from a place of love. He truly wanted the best for Harper, but he couldn't always handle it when that meant that she was with Brandon instead of him.
The plot doesn't stray from Taking Chances, but there are a few new scenes (particularly at the tattoo shop) that were not in the original story because Harper was not present. I will say the dreaded ending was more painful and poignant than the original one. I kept hoping that somehow, some way Molly would change things this time around. I wept like a baby when I read Taking Chances, but Stealing Harper evoked the ugly wail. My heart was broken and Brandon wasn't even there to stitch it back up again.
This is a MUST read for all Taking Chances fans. It's still hard to let Chase go, but it was nice to keep him with me a little bit longer. At this point, my only complaint is that Molly can't write fast enough for my tastes. I adore her characters and wish that I could spend more time with them. Molly is my go to when I am craving a New Adult read.
One Last Gripe: Finding out how the accident actually happens infuriated me. How could Chase have been so stupid?!?!?
My Favorite Thing About This Book: I enjoyed watching Harper and Chase evolve from his perspective. And I might have enjoyed the preview of Forgiving Lies... :)
First Sentence: "That it?" I asked one of my housemates, Derek, as we passed each other in the hall.
Favorite Character: Harper
Least Favorite Character: Trish - ugh, still loathe that witch(less)
I am a Molly McAdams fangirl. I seriously will read anything she writes. To quote Hazel from The Fault In Our Stars, "I'd read [her] grocery list." I wasn't as excited about this one as her previous works for one major reason: I knew going in that adultery would play a dominant role in the plot. I have a serious problem with cheating; I don't understand it and I don't condone it. I get it if you're unhappy in your relationship, but sever ties and then move on. I decided to suspend my thoughts on the issue and give this one a chance because of my deep love of all things McAdams.
I found that I did enjoy the two main characters, Kamryn and Brody, and their complicated relationship. I didn't agree with a lot of their decisions, but I could understand their predicament. Brody's marriage is anything but happy and his wife, Olivia, is ridiculous. I intensely disliked Olivia; I didn't understand her motivations. In spite of not liking Olivia and loving Kamryn, I felt like Brody should have made more of an effort to dissolve his marriage before forming any sort of relationship with Kamryn. I know that real life is messy, but the back and forth between Brody and Olivia was a bit much. My biggest complaint with the novel was that there was too much repetition: Brody can't stay away from Kamryn, guilt ensues, Olivia calls and begs Brody to come home, Brody tells Olivia he is unhappy, Olivia has a crazy outburst so Brody will stay - rinse and repeat. This progression of events happened multiple times throughout the novel and I just found myself wanting things to move along to something different.
With all of that being said, I did enjoy the last few chapters immensely. I love that McAdams' novels are character centered. You learn the ins and outs of these fictional beings until they seem like they could walk off the page and into your living room. I wasn't a fan of every element of the plot of Sharing You, but I did love most of the characters.
I also have come to expect amazing, strong friendships in a McAdams novel. The friendship between Kinlee and Kamryn might be my favorite out of all the BFFs in McAdams world. These two truly connect; they are an excellent model for how a friendship should operate. In addition, I enjoyed the relationship between Jace and Brody - particularly toward the end. In some ways, these relationships were stronger than the romance aspects in this one.
All in all, I enjoyed Sharing You, but not as much as some of the other McAdam's titles. I would still recommend this one to fans of McAdam's previous work and those looking for a non-traditional romance.
One Last Gripe: I had trouble landing on a rating for this one. I debated between 3.5 and 4, but decided my frustration with the repetitive elements warranted the 3.5. On a side note (this had no bearing on the rating), I loathe this cover.
My Favorite Thing About This Book: I liked watching Kamryn evolve; it was nice to see her stand up for herself and her goals.
First Sentence: The sound of three familiar, masculine laughs stopped my retreat to my room, and I quietly tiptoed back toward the study.
Wow. These Broken Stars took me completely by surprise. I'm always a little nervous to read science fiction novels, but this one is so much more than that. These Broken Stars is a fresh, innovative spin on YA romance. This is an addicting read that is told with vivid prose that will have your heart pounding and your fingers racing to turn the page. I lived and breathed this story the entire time I was reading it. I have to admit, I'm a little sad that it's over. These Broken Stars is easily one of my favorite 2013 reads.
What made this one so special? For starters, I loved the characters. The dual perspectives allowed me to connect with both characters on a deeper level. Lilac and Tarver come from such different backgrounds, but they also see something in the other that attracts them from the first moment. Lilac is the daughter of the wealthiest man in the galaxy, yet she doesn't seem to truly fit into the socialite heiress role. She wants to make her society a better place and she has a soft spot for those in need. Tarver, on the other hand, is not from the upper crust of society. His mother is a poet and his father is a history teacher - this means that Tarver comes from a lower to middle class family. There is no way that Lilac and Tarver would be allowed to form a friendship or anything more in this futuristic society that harkens back to Victorian social structures. However, everything changes the moment the Icarus crashes and strands the pair on an unknown planet. The decorum of proper society takes a back seat to survival.
There were some elements of Pride and Prejudice laced throughout the evolving relationship between Lilac and Tarver. They each think they know what is best for the other and they make assumptions constantly. Each of the characters casts quick judgments about the other as well. As the story progresses, they both begin to see that they may not have been completely fair to the other. This is not a retelling of P&P, but I can't help noticing when a relationship develops in Elizabeth and Darcy fashion. I'm not complaining by any means - I love these sorts of relationships. There is also a tiny element of Romeo and Juliet going on, but it's not quite as a tragic as the Shakespearean work. That isn't to say that there weren't some moments that made me want to cry with hurt and frustration. I also wasn't sure how things would end, but I just took a deep breath and decided to trust the authors.
In addition to the characters, I really enjoyed the creativity that went into creating this world and this story. I can't recall the last novel I read that truly took me by surprise. It was nice to not see all the twists and turns coming. Every time I would think I had something figured out, I would find that I was completely off base. Kaufman and Spooner certainly know how to keep readers on their toes. This story is complex and multi-layered. I loved every minute of it.
I also couldn't help comparing the Icarus to the tragic fate of the Titanic. Lilac's father builds a ship that is the largest and most extravagant in the universe. Furthermore, he decides to name his spaceship after a person who wanted to fly, but got too close to the sun and crashed. This act feels a bit too much like tempting fate. Many sources discuss the naming of the Titanic and how it was claimed to be an unsinkable ship. Like with the great ocean liner, tragedy strikes. I would be interested to know if the fate of the ship in 1912 played any part in the inspiration for this story.
If you're in the mood to read a romance with some intriguing moral implications and a commentary on social structure, These Broken Stars should be at the top of your "to read" list. This one combines the elements of tragedy, survival, and romance in an intoxicating mixture. These characters aren't likely to leave my mind any time soon. I'm excited to see where this trilogy will head in the future. My hope is that Lilac and Tarver will make an appearance in the other books since they are supposed to be companion novels and not direct sequels.
P.S. - This is also one of the first books were the girl in the pretty dress on the cover actually goes along with something in the story.
One Last Gripe: I wanted more explanation about the whispers. I had a lot of trouble visualizing that aspect.
My Favorite Thing About This Book: The prose is so well done that I watched this one play out in my mind like a movie. The writing is vivid and compelling. Love, love, love it!
First Sentence: Nothing about this room is real.
Favorite Character: I can't choose between Lilac and Tarver. I loved them both equally.
This is quickly becoming one of my favorite series. I love the creativity, characters, and romance in this one. I am fascinated by the Archive and how it operates. I loved finding out more about the Librarians, Keepers, and Crew in this one. While this series does have elements that are typical in YA, I think the intriguing world certainly sets it apart. The writing is also beautiful and haunting. I love when YA novels don't sacrifice good writing simply because the main character is a teenager.
Like with the first novel, Mackenzie has a lot of emotional baggage. She still hasn't fully recovered from her brother's death; I am not sure that her family can ever recover from such a tragedy, but her parents are making an attempt to put the pieces back together. Mackenzie's elusive nature and strange disappearances have both of her parents worried. They hope that the beginning of the school year will help Mackenzie get back to her new normal, but when you're a Keeper there is never a "normal". To make matters worse, Mackenzie is attending a private school with Wesley. She never expected to see him outside the halls of the Coronado or the Narrows. Things are super awkward between these two at first, but their friendship grows throughout the story. This is the stuff that true romance is made of - it is one of the most realistic, well written relationships in YA literature.
In addition, I also enjoyed meeting a new cast of characters that come into play at school. This allowed me to see Mackenzie interact with people outside of her family and the Archive. It also provided a chance for me to see Mackenzie in a new light. She doesn't let down her guard, but she does begin to let people befriend her.
The plot of this one also kept my mind working. It appeared that things were looking up for Mackenzie with the Archive at the end of the first book, but things begin to happen that put her job and her mind at risk. Agatha is back and she makes a truly creepy villain. She takes far too much pleasure in sorting through peoples' minds. I won't provide any specifics on the plot because I don't want to ruin the twists and turns, but I loved every minute. The last few chapters made my heart race.
The Unbound is a rare gem - it doesn't suffer from second novel syndrome. In some ways, it's even better than The Archived. I can only hope that there will be a third book.
One Last Gripe: I understand Mackenzie's inability to trust others, but I did find it frustrating that she wasn't more forthcoming with Wesley in parts.
My Favorite Thing About This Book: I love this world.
I love novels that have a southern setting, but I harbor a soft spot for those set in the Appalachian region. I was perusing the audiobook shelves at the library looking for a new one to take home when I stumbled upon this one. I had never heard of the novel or the author, but I decided to take a chance when I realized it was set in Kentucky. Furthermore, I was intrigued by the synopsis. The story focuses on two 7th graders, Ivy June and Catherine, who are involved in a student exchange program.
Ivy June is from a small mountain town in Kentucky called Thunder Creek. She has a large family and lives with her grandparents. Her life provides a glimpse into what life is like for those in rural Kentucky. In addition, her grandfather is a coal miner. I found this aspect of the novel to be interesting because I don't know much about this profession aside from the fact that it is extremely dangerous. I have often wondered why men would do a job that can result in illness, injury, and death so easily. Ivy June's grandfather explains that it didn't have many options that would pay as well. His sense of familial responsibility is admirable and realistic. I found that the portrayal of the Mosely family, in general, was very true to the experience of many who live and work in the Appalachians.
Catherine couldn't be more different than Ivy June. She lives in Lexington, a city known for it's wealth and horse farms. Catherine has everything she could ever want or need; she doesn't have to save money and doesn't have to do chores. Her family has a housekeeper to help out with the domestic duties.
Both girls sign up to be part of the exchange process to satisfy their curiosity and inquisitive minds. I loved watching the girls interact and take stock of the world around them. Each of them ends up realizing how much she has to be thankful for while learning about a new way of living. Readers not only find out what's going on from the main narration, but also from the journal entries of both girls. I was fascinated as I listened to the girls' original notions about one another and how those views changed after living in a new place for two weeks. The experience was invaluable for them both and shed some light on long held stereotypes.
This novel allows for reflection and thought on how stereotypes influence interactions with others. There are also moments when you realize that regardless of where we're from and how much money we have, there are so many commonalities in life. I think it's a highly thought provoking novel that young readers will appreciate. There are so many conversations that could be had based on the ideas brought to light in this book.
At it's heart, this is a novel about friendship. You just might find that it can blossom between even the most unlikely of pairs.
One Last Gripe: I found myself daydreaming during some of the slower parts. I don't think this would have happened as easily if I had been reading it myself.
My Favorite Thing About This Book: Ivy June's grandparents reminded me of my own.
First Sentence: They'll probably be polite - crisp as a soda cracker on the outside, hard as day-old biscuits underneath.
I adored Sarah Strohmeyer's YA debut, Smart Girls Get What They Want, so I was eager to get my hands on this one. I was expecting an interesting premise, strong female characters, a healthy dash of romance, and some wit. Strohmeyer delivered! If you're looking for a sweet, clean summer romance - this is the book for you.
Zoe is still reeling from the death of her mother, but she decides to pack away her grief for a summer working as an intern at fairy tale inspired theme park. Her best friend and cousin, Jess, will be along for the summer and the two girls plan to have fun in the sun. It also doesn't hurt that $25,000 is on the line to the intern who does the best work over the summer and exhibits the best "WOW" characteristics. This felt almost like a summer camp novel and my mind immediately went to others that I have read about camps or summer internships. In true Strohmeyer style, this novel isn't a repeat of the same plots that I have read before AND I dare you to not fall in love with these characters. Zoe, in particular, is one who I would have loved the befriend at that age. I also have to admit, I wish that I could have had an experience like Zoe's when I was a teenager. It seemed like such a fun way to spend a summer.
Zoe isn't perfect - she has her flaws like everyone else - but she has a good heart. She is intensely loyal, intelligent, and always gives 110%. In fact, she is a great inspirational character, and not just for adults. In her shoes, I don't know that I could have worked with the Queen and tried to help people behind the scenes. Not once did she worry about herself. She truly wanted everyone else to be treated fairly and get the rewards. It's not often that you see such a selfless character in YA fiction. It was refreshing and endearing. Strohmeyer does a fantastic job of writing strong female voices and Zoe is no exception.
Furthermore, I loved the romance in this one. My lips are sealed, but I promise it's sweet and light. It's that perfect dose of cotton candy perfection that I crave when the days start getting warmer. It conjures up the memories of summer love and stolen kisses.
The setting makes this novel. I loved the theme park/summer camp/boarding school vibe. It's always interesting to me to observe characters in a setting other than their home. I find that they interact in different ways than I would expect. The lack of parental authority also causes some characters to change in drastic ways and show their true colors. The structure of the park was also interesting and allowed for a lot of behind the scenes drama. It makes me wonder how much of that type of behavior goes on behind the scenes in real life. I don't think I'll be able to look at Cinderella, Prince Charming, or any of the other characters in the same way after reading this book. My mind will be too caught up in what happens when they switch our of their costumes and don their true selves.
Zoe and her dreams were the perfect thing to put me in the mood for summer. She is definitely worthy of a spot on your TBR list. This was good, clean summer fun.
One Last Gripe: I rated this a 4.5 instead of 5 because it felt disloyal to the Smart Girls not to do so. I loved this novel, but it took me a few chapters to get into it. Smart Girls, on the other hand, hooked me from the first chapter.
My Favorite Thing About This Book: The plot - it felt familiar and unique all at once
First Sentence: The day after we finished our junior year at Bridgewater-Raritan High, Jess and I hopped into her dad's 1998 Honda Bobmobile and hightailed it down the Garden State to Fairyland with the windows open and our hair flying, Springsteen blaring at full volume.
Favorite Character: Zoe
Least Favorite Character: One of the Prince Charmings who shall remain nameless(less)
This novel is not a direct sequel to the first novel, but previous characters do make an appearance. I was hoping for a direct sequel since I loved Elliot and Kai so much, but I was happy to find that I enjoyed Persis and Justen just as much.
Persis Blake is a socialite from a wealthy family and the best friend of the princess of Albion. She spends her days discussing fashion, receiving spa treatments, and being a silly girl, but secretly she is the greatest spy her country has ever known - the Wild Poppy. As her alter-ego, Persis saves those who are being treated horribly by their government on the neighboring island of Galatea. This novel was inspired by The Scarlet Pimpernel, a classic that I have yet to read. I am familiar with the basic plot of the classic and I was able to see its influence on Persis' story. I also kept comparing the revolution in Galatea to the French Revolution. In the French Revolution, the wealthy were often targeted by the peasant masses. Many of these people had committed atrocities against their countrymen, but innocents were also pulled into the violence. In addition, I also kept thinking of Lauren Willig's novels (highly recommend those if you haven't read them).
I also really enjoyed Justen Helo. He is struggling with some events from his past which lead him to flee his home and take refuge in Albion. While there, he must pretend to be in love with Persis. He finds her to be silly and preoccupied with all the wrong sorts of things. He doesn't care about wealth and fashion. He simply wants to right his wrongs and help those who suffer. As time progresses, Justen learns that Persis is not all she seems to be and he finds that he is intrigued by her. The relationship between these two was gradual and realistic. Their feelings seemed more genuine than some other YA couples as a result. There also were some Pride and Prejudice moments between Justen and Persis; I loved watching relationships of that nature unfold.
In addition to enjoying the characters and plot, I am still in awe of the creativity that Peterfreund exhibits in this series. The world that she creates in New Pacifica is lush and magical. I find that even though she uses classic novels for inspiration, she is able to add a unique spin to the story. I love that this novel reads like a blend of historical fiction, classic literature, and science fiction. There are so many beautiful, intricate details in this one. The complexity is a nice change from the typical and predictable. I loved comparing and contrasting this society with the one presented in the first novel.
One Last Gripe: I felt like some parts of the exposition were a little slow.
My Favorite Thing About This Book: I love the commentary on gender and social class that runs throughout this story.
First Sentence: If the Wild Poppy dared return to Galatea, Citizen Cutler was ready.