I was intrigued by the novel due to its historical roots and the focus on football. I have always been a huge football fan; Autumn is my favorite season as a result. I love the cooler temperatures and watching the college ball on Saturday and pro ball on Monday, Thursday, and Sunday. Football is one of those things that just makes my heart happy.
Not only was I impressed by the amount of historical research that dominates these pages, but Wallace really knows her football as well. She is a former employee of ESPN so I shouldn't have worried about that aspect. I have to admit I also love seeing women involved with football. It's nice to know that there are others who share my passion for the sport.
Muckers tells the story of a football team in a struggling mining town in Arizona. I found this one to be reminiscent of The Outsiders with a dose of Rudy mixed in. It was nice to read about a group of guys that were not wealthy or devastatingly gorgeous for a change. I liked that these characters were real and raw. The struggles of the town takes a toll on the main characters and I found their story to be inspiring. I have always enjoyed reading about the stories that have been largely ignored in the past. I particularly enjoyed that Mexican characters played a prominent role. I often have trouble finding novels that showcase this culture. I was so excited to finally find a well written book that would appeal to my male students of all races, but also one that would allow my Mexican students to see themselves reflected in the characters. Also, who doesn't love a great underdog story?
In addition to the great football moments and the realistic, multicultural characters, I found that Wallace also painted a portrait that focused on the historical and social issues of the 1950's. The Red Scare is in full swing and racism is deeply entrenched in many minds. Segregation is not just between whites and African Americans during this time period; I feel its important for teens to learn about other groups who faced discrimination. Issues of social justice and socioeconomic status also arise throughout this novel. The effects of the Korean War also take center stage from time to time. There are just so many juicy historical tidbits contained within these pages.
My only complaint was that it did take me awhile to settle into the narration. Part of this is solely my fault. I rarely read books with male main characters; it can be difficult for me to step into the male mind. I was thrown off by some of the conversations the boys had and kept having to remind myself that this is typical teenage boy behavior. Once I settled into the story and the male mindset, I quickly lost myself in this town and this team.
One Last Gripe: I mentioned my only complaint in the review. I have no gripes other than that one and again, I fully admit that was a personal issue, not an issue with the novel itself.
My Favorite Thing About this Book: It's a tie between the football and the rich historical details
First Sentence: I come to the shanty in the Barrio from behind, dipping under the broken shutters so the late-October moon won't cast a shadow and wake up Cruz.
Favorite Character: Red
Least Favorite Character: I didn't have one.(less)
I've really enjoyed reading this series and I'm sad to see it end. My favorite part of this series has been the friendship between Blake and Vivi. I've also loved watching their relationships evolve. I was expecting to get to spend a lot more time with them in the final book, but sadly that didn't happen. This novel is really Dallas' story. It's certainly not a bad read, but it is my least favorite in the series.
For starters, I haven't liked Dallas at all in the other books. It was hard for me to start seeing her as a sympathetic character. I did appreciate that we got to learn about who Dallas really is behind her television persona. I did feel sorry for her and I did end up liking her, but it took me a long time. I really struggled with the beginning of this one as a result. I was stubborn and much like Blake didn't give Dallas a fair chance. I still have trouble liking Dallas after some of her past actions - particularly where Harry was concerned.
Secondly, this novel was a lot more serious than its predecessors. It didn't feel as light hearted and humorous. I missed the banter between Blake and Vivi; it appears every now and then, but only in fleeting moments. I also was bummed that I didn't get to spend more time with Blake and Sonny.
There is a new leading man in this one, Cal. I did enjoy him and watching his feelings for Dallas change throughout the course of the story.
Lastly, I still love the setting and the football connection that runs throughout this series. I've never been to Tuscaloosa, but this series makes me want to grab my car keys and sweet tea.
All in all, this was a good read, but I just wanted less Dallas and more Blake and Vivi. I do think this was a perfect holiday read with some good food for thought.
One Last Gripe: The ending fell flat for me. I felt like there is so much more to the Sassy Belles' stories. I hope to see them again in future Albright novels.
My Favorite Thing About This Book: I love the sense of place in this series.
First Sentence: Dallas couldn't believe she was having another flare-up.
Favorite Character: Cal
Least Favorite Character: Dallas - although by the end I had warmed up to her(less)
It's over? Say it ain't so. I love this series and have enjoyed the crazy twists and turns. Kelly Keaton's series is one of my favorite paranormal reads. I love the way she combines supernatural elements with mythology elements. This installment doesn't just include Greek deities, but an Egyptian god will be awoken from a long slumber. All hell is breaking loose in New 2; Ari and her crowd are right in the thick of the action. Do NOT read past this point if you haven't read the first two novels in the series. It is impossible to talk about this novel without mentioning some items that could spoil the books for you. If you're into paranormal stories, get these books NOW.
The Wicked Within is non-stop action. Ari is racing against time and the Novem to find the Hands. Athena has promised that she will grant her immortality to anyone who brings her the Hands. Ari is desperate to be the one who finds the Hands because Athena will lift her gorgon curse if Ari can bring Athena's child, Archer, back to life. The child has been frozen in stone for thousands of years so it's a long shot, but Ari is willing to do pretty much anything to get rid of the curse that has plagued her family for thousands of years.
In addition, we get some chapters from Sebastian's perspective this time around. I loved these moments because he has been one of my favorite characters in the series. It was nice to get his perspective - especially as he is dealing with so many changes and emotions. Without these chapters, readers wouldn't be able to experience Sebastian's internal anguish first hand. I liked knowing that he wasn't as perfect and strong as he appears on the outside. He's vulnerable which makes him more realistic. I also really enjoy his relationship with Ari.
One of the things I love about this series is the relationships among the characters - particularly those between the kids who live in the house. Crank, Henri, Violet, and Dub are characters that will steal your heart and have you laughing. I've come to care deeply for all of them. I'm sad to let them go, but I know I will revisit them in rereads from time to time.
I appreciated that all those loose ends (like finding out what exactly Violet is) are resolved. I did enjoy that the prophecy for the Blood Wars leaves a direction for future novels if Keaton ever decides to write that spinoff. I would certainly want to read that story. I'm curious to find out how things turn out for Archer once he's older.
I love the New Orleans of Keaton's imagining and the rich characters. I loved picturing the New Orleans I have seen as New 2. If any city was going to be home to vampires, witches, and other supernatural beings, New Orleans would be it. The city has such an amazing gothic, creepy air about it. Keaton's writing has an addicting quality. This is a perfect read as the days get shorter and the witching hour approaches.
One Last Gripe: I was frustrated that I started to see Athena as a sympathetic character after disliking her so much in the previous books.
My Favorite Thing About This Book: I loved the fast paced plot.
First Sentence: The crunch of our shoes on asphalt, leaves, and debris was loud in the quiet of Coliseum Street.
I should have known that this would be a difficult read from the tagline: Worst.Summer.Ever. It surely wasn't a story that was fun and uplifting. Poor Emma! Not only is she racing against the clock to save poor Cooper from losing his soul to a nasty curse, but she's also dodging questions about a museum theft and trying to care for the ailing Miss Delia. To make matters worse, Miss Delia's great granddaughter, Taneea, has come to town and she has her eyes set on Cooper and Miss Delia's hoodoo book. Can Emma save the ones she loves and still manage to come out unscathed?
The sense of urgency in this one begins in the first chapter. There is very little down time between the end of the last novel and the beginning of Allure. I felt this incredible sense of panic as Cooper's birthday draws closer. He is one of my favorite characters and I didn't want to think about this sweet boy losing his soul to a dark curse. It just wouldn't be right. I kept encouraging Emma and Miss Delia to figure out how to break the spell before it was too late. This sense of urgency and foreboding had me reading at a frantic pace.
While I was invested in this story and the characters, I didn't enjoy this one as much as the Conjured. I believe part of this can be explained by Cooper's actions. For a majority of the book, he is not himself. He's acting differently, dressing differently, and pushing Emma away. This is not Cooper nor did I enjoy this version of him. Like Emma, I was put off by his behavior. I kept reading quickly though, hoping that somehow his strange attitude and behavior would be explained. Eventually, the reason behind Cooper's sudden personality change is made clear.
I also felt like Emma lost a bit of herself in this one. She's not the strong girl we see in the first novel. She's scared and frazzled. Emma also begins to long for the way things used to be which leads her down some depressing paths as she tries to figure out everything that is happening around her. I understood why she was feeling these emotions, but I missed the Emma I had grown to know in the first book. There are moments when that Emma does shine through, but there is so much stress and chaotic activity that those moments are few and far between.
My biggest complaint with this one was the pacing. Some moments seemed to race by while others meandered along. Some scenes seemed a bit too long and a bit too laden down with unnecessary details. I prefer novels that show rather than tell. I don't recall this being such an issue with the first novel. I still enjoyed the read, but not as much as I enjoyed the first one.
One Last Gripe: I've already commented on my issue with the pacing which is my only complaint about this one.
My Favorite Thing About This Book: I love the lore and culture.
First Sentence: A stiff, hot wind blows across the Beaufort River, carrying the scent of parched sea grass, mucky earth, and belly-up red fish* through the car window. * = my best guess at what this word should be, there were some odd issues going on in this e-ARC which I am positive were fixed before publication
I suppose I need to start this review by saying I have not watched Downton Abbey and know very little about England in the early 1900's. I decided to read this one when it was offered to me as a way to experience a new time period. My only experience with the early 1900's is learning about the Titanic and WWI. For whatever reason, beyond those two events, the early 1900's didn't interest me. I'm always on the lookout for well done historical fiction and I needed a little break from YA. It seemed like the perfect time to read Rutherford Park.
I loved that this novel does an excellent job of highlighting the differences between social classes during this time period. There are so many rules that decorum dictated must be followed. I had no idea that the only maids allowed to speak directly with the family were the ladies maids and the housekeeper. The chamber maids were supposed to be invisible at all times and never interact with their wealthy employers. I find this a bit odd since my life (thankfully) is not lived with such restraints.
In addition to the differences between social classes, I am always fascinated to see how women experienced certain time periods. This was still the time of marriages arranged to aid the family fortune and separate bedrooms. Marriage in this time period seems to be more about a business arrangement and less about romance. Octavia's character certainly embodies this idea. She wants nothing more than to be free to do as she pleases, but as the wife of a Lord that is hardly possible. Her beautiful home and sprawling grounds become her prison.
Men are given far more freedom in this society. That is apparent based on the actions of William and Harry. Both men often follow their desires and rarely take stock of the repercussions of their actions.
If you're interested in learning about England in the early 1900's or enjoy stories laden with family secrets, this is a read for you. I'm sure it will appeal to fans of Downton Abbey. Rutherford Park is beautifully written and intriguing.
One Last Gripe: It took me a little bit of time to settle into the narration.
My Favorite Thing About This Book: Learning more about the social rules of the time period
First Sentence: Snow had fallen in the night, and now the great house, standing at the head of the valley, seemed like a five-hundred-year-old ship sailing in a white ocean.
I love finding nonfiction books that showcase Women's History. For so much of historical record, men's stories dominated the focus. It's nice to see more and more women being showcased. I think this provides positive role models for young women. I also appreciated that this book features women from a variety of races. I can see several of my students really enjoying this one as a result.
When I think of women in aviation my mind immediately goes to Amelia Earhart. Hers is a story we learn when we are little. The mystery of her disappearance kept me fascinated. I loved coming up with hypotheses for her fate. I spent countless hours trying to figure out what nobody before had been able to discover. I expected to see her story lingering within these pages and I wasn't disappointed.
In addition to Amelia's story, there were also countless other stories that held my attention. Many of these women I have never heard of before, but their strength and courage is something to be admired. Many of the women in this book did amazing things in time periods where women were supposed to stay at home to be wives and mothers. These women craved adventure and something more than vacuuming and cooking dinner. It's hard not to be inspired by their stories.
I'd highly recommend picking this one up if you're interested in learning more about women in aviation or have a passion for Women's History.(less)
I was so excited to read this one. I have always been interested in learning more about the treatment in asylums in the early 1900's. The treatment of the mentally ill is an area of medicine that is constantly evolving. Sadly, throughout most of history, the treatment of the mentally ill was unfair and cruel. I was interested to see how this historical element would play out in this novel.
Asylum also steps up the creepy factor by including photographs. This element was by far the freakiest part of the book. There were some pictures I had to flip past quickly because they gave me the chills.
While I think this novel had a lot of potential, it didn't deliver for me. For one, the pacing is awkward. Some moments drag while other more crucial moments speed along. The pacing made the sense of apprehension waver. I was invested in the characters and I wanted to know how things would end up - otherwise I might not have forced myself to keep reading.
I also did enjoy the plot overall, but there were several large holes. So many elements were not fully explained. The ending frustrated me. I also found that not all of my questions were answered before this one ended. My frustration level was quite high while reading this one. The big reveal at the end was also predictable.
One Last Gripe: I'm still frustrated I never figured out what was going on with Jordan and all of his math.
My Favorite Thing About This Book: I think the premise had a lot of potential. I wish it had been executed better.
First Sentence: They built it out of stone - dark gray stone, pried loose from the unforgiving mountains.
Venice is a city that has always intrigued me. I mean how cool would it be to have a boat docked outside your front door to take you throughout the city? The concept of a city full of waterways instead of roads is something so far from my norm that I can't help but be mesmerized. When I heard about this novel, I instantly wanted to read it because of the setting. The plot, characters, and mystery were just an added bonus.
Cassandra Caravello is a young woman of the elite class living on a small island outside of Venice. On the surface she has everything a girl could want - a wealthy, handsome fiancee, a beautiful villa (although it is in need of some repairs), health, a wonderful best friend, and beautiful clothes. Underneath though Cass is in shambles. The death of her parents still haunts her - especially because their bodies were never returned to Venice. Her aging aunt does the best she can as her guardian, but she is no replacement for Cass' doting parents. To make matters worse, Luca may be handsome, educated, and wealthy, but Cass hardly knows him and isn't sure he's the man she needs to marry. Cass craves her freedom, but knows that society will keep her locked in a golden cage. It isn't proper for women to have freedom.
Things begin to change for Cass on the fateful night she makes a gruesome discovery in the graveyard bordering her property. Her fate becomes intertwined with a young artist, Falco. The two are on a race through the waterways of Venice to track a murderer and find a missing body. The action and suspense of this one kept me on my toes. The big reveal was truly a surprise; I never saw that ending coming! I'm already trying to figure out when I can squeeze in the next book, Belladonna, which just came out.
Other than the amazing descriptions of Venice, I also adored Cass. She's a strong, intelligent girl who has a stubborn streak a mile long. I also felt that her reactions to the sinister events were realistic. However, I did struggle with some of her decisions from time to time. For example, while in disguise as a courtesan she tells a man her real name. Really? How does that make sense? Especially when you are terrified of being recognized. Perhaps Cassandra was a common name in Venice during this time period, but I still think she could have given a fake name. There are other moments when Cass proceeds to do really stupid things. I liked her, but I wanted to shake her when these moments occurred. In fact, Cass' stupidity was the main reason I couldn't give this novel a 5 rating. Again, in spite of my frustration with her, I did enjoy this character. I predict we will see tremendous growth in her as the series progresses.
Another element I really liked about Venom is the connection to medical studies during this time period. Cass is a symbol of those with religious views about the dead while Falco is a symbol of those who favor science over religion. Falco believes that the body is nothing but an empty shell in death; he feels it should be used for artistic and scientific purposes. He doesn't think anything of doctors secretly digging up recently buried corpses to dissect. In this time period, the church forbade human dissections, but doctors wanted to further their craft.
Finally, I still have so many questions about the Eternal Rose. I felt like the novel skimmed along the surface of that topic. Since this is a trilogy, I am sure all my questions will eventually have answers.
All in all, this was a compelling historical fiction novel laced with murder, mystery, romance, and secret societies. I loved the setting, characters, and plot. I'd highly recommend this to lovers of historical fiction or those wanting to take a mental vacation to Venice. Venom is like the historical Nancy Drew, but with hotter boys and more chilling crimes.
One Last Gripe: It irked me that Cass kept talking about Luca's letter, but kept putting off reading it.
My Favorite Thing About This Book: The setting
First Sentence: "Man falls down before the Angel of Death like a beast before the slaughterer."
Grab a tall glass of sweet tea and cuddle up on your front porch - the Sassy Belles are back with a fun summer mystery packed with friendship, laughter, and down home southern comforts. Beth Albright does a beautiful job of capturing the feel of a southern summer; I could smell the blossoms and feel the humidity saturate my skin. This is a perfect summer read!
Life in Tuscaloosa is never boring when Blake and Vivi are around. This installment has the pair planning a joint baby/bridal shower and Vivi's wedding. In pure Vivi fashion, things have to be perfect and over the top. She has been waiting awhile to make Lewis her husband after all. She's hell bent on having everything finished long before her little one arrives, but things don't always go according to plan and Vivi soon learns this the hard way. She finds out that Lewis is already married! Apparently, taking a dare at a college frat party led to a legal marriage. Vivi is beside herself with worry, but Blake swoops in to save the day. Lewis' wife has a few secrets that will make your mouth drop open.
This installment also gives readers more information on Blake's relationships. Her marriage to Harry is over, but they are choosing to keep that a secret until after the election in November. Blake must play the perfect politician's wife when all she really wants to do is spend time with her current boyfriend, Sonny. Things get more complicated when you add Dallas, the snooping local reporter, to the mix. Dallas is out to prove that Harry and Blake's marriage is a fake. It's certainly time for a little Sassy Belle damage control.
I love these characters and this town. If you're in the mood for some southern charm, romance, and home-cooked meals with a dash of mystery - this is a must read series. Spending time with Blake and Vivi is like going home; these are exactly the sort of best friends I would want if I lived in this series. This one ends with a major issue coming to light. I can't wait to see how things go with that plot point.
One Last Gripe: I didn't enjoy the mystery element of this one as much as I did in the first novel.
My Favorite Thing About This Book: The characters
First Sentence: I still can't believe Myra Jean, the trailer park psychic, was right about everything!
Wow. This was one of the most disturbing novels I have read in awhile. In spite of the difficult subject matter, there were still some hilarious moments. I knew that this was supposed to be a YA murder mystery with a hint of Fargo thrown in, but I was somewhat shocked by the graphic nature of the crime. This was an interesting read that I would highly recommend to mystery fans, but I would strongly suggest not handing this to anyone under the age of sixteen. As it is, I might have a few nightmares.
Friendship, Wisconsin is one of those serene small towns were everyone knows everyone and people live their doors unlocked at night; the cop cars even have smiley faces on them. The idyllic peace is shattered the night eighteen year old Ruth Fried is brutally murdered on the way to her best friend, Kippy's, house. The town begins to turn on one another as they attempt to discover the murderer in their mist. When a suspect is jailed, something keeps nagging at Kippy that the police have the wrong man. Armed with Ruth's journal and a head full of theories, Kippy sets out to find the real killer and bring them to justice.
Kippy is one of those characters that I couldn't decide how I felt about for the majority of the book. She's awkward and unsure of herself. In many ways, I felt like Kippy was far too immature for her years. She often seemed like a twelve year old trapped in a sixteen year old's body. Her behavior and personality make a lot of sense once everything comes to light about her mother. Her upbringing isn't exactly what you'd call normal. As I read, I kept trying to figure out how Ruth and Kippy had stayed friends for so long when it was overly apparent that these two girls were vastly different.
My feelings about the novel overall closely mirrored my feelings about Kippy. I wasn't sure if I liked it for about 40% of the novel. I kept plowing along because I was invested in finding out the identity of Ruth's killer. I had my own theories about who had committed the crime; one of my theories turned out to be correct. Hale litters the text with clues, but doesn't make the killer's identity obvious. I'm glad I stuck with this one because I did enjoy reading this one and piecing together the clues.
I had trouble settling into the Wisconsin culture; this novel is littered with social cues and dialect. I've never visited that part of the country and have no prior experience with it beyond one other YA novel and Green Bay Packers football. It's certainly an intriguing part of the United States. I wonder, are people really that polite? (at least outwardly...)
I was shocked at how funny some parts of the novel were - especially because the subject matter was often gruesome and intense. Kippy is hilarious once you get to know her and her Nancy Drew like adventures provided a layer of intrigue and danger. I particularly enjoyed the scenes in which Kippy hands out with Albus.
Hale's debut novel is one that I would recommend to mystery/thriller fans or those looking for a little dark humor. As mentioned in the introduction, this is certainly a read for older teens. In addition to the gruesome details of Ruth's demise, there is a lot of language and discussion of intimate moments.
One Last Gripe: This one drags a little between 20-40% - keep with it, the action starts moving pretty quickly after that point. It also takes a little time to settle into Hale's writing style.
My Favorite Thing About This Book: I liked tracking down clues alongside Kippy.
First Sentence: A police officer comforts a woman on the shoulder of a rural highway.
I have to admit that I was a little nervous about reading this one after seeing some less than stellar reviews on Goodreads. I have been on a contemporary kick lately and decided I would go into this one with an open mind. I'm so glad I didn't let some negativity sway me from reading this one. I ended up wishing that Wren was my best friend, became completely smitten with Grayson, and polished this one off largely in one afternoon.
The Promise of Amazing is the story of the developing relationship between Wren and Grayson; the story is told from both characters' perspectives and gives readers a glimpse into both of their worlds. Wren is the shy, reflective sort. She exists on the fringes of her school and doesn't see anything within herself that makes her special. She has always been the calm, steady presence in her family. In fact, there are moments when I thought she was too responsible for her own good. I gravitated toward Wren because I saw so much of my high school self lurking within her. I often wish that I had been more outgoing so I kept wishing Wren would cast off her shell.
On the other hand, Grayson is Wren's polar opposite in many ways. He's loud and knows how to grab the attention of everyone in a room. On the surface, he's handsome, talented, and popular, but beneath this facade lies dark secrets. Secrets that make Grayson feel like he could never be worthy of a good girl like Wren. No matter how hard he tries, he can't stay away from Wren, but will his secrets pull the two apart for good?
The main reason I enjoyed this one because of Wren and Grayson. I cared about these characters and wanted them to get their happy ending. I think it would be hard for me to lose myself in this one if I wasn't on board with both of them.
Robin Constantine's debut novel is one filled with sweetness, first love, scorching kisses, and plenty of teen drama with a side of angst. Contrary to popular belief, high school is not always the best time in life for many of us. I certainly would never want to revisit my own high school days, but for some reason I love reliving high school vicariously through characters. There is something amazing about getting to experience high school life through the eyes of someone else.
The Promise of Amazing is the perfect Thanksgiving/Christmas read. The timeline in the story begins in November and wraps up in December. I always love seeing what's happening in my own life reflected in fiction - even if its only the time of year. Curl up with a mug of hot tea, a fuzzy blanket, and spend some time with Wren and Grayson this holiday season.
One Last Gripe: I felt like the writing was a bit sparse in the beginning, but things began to balance out towards the middle.
My Favorite Thing About the Book: I loved watching both Wren and Grayson evolve.
First Sentence: "None of you are going to Harvard."
E.J. Stevens has always written stories that suck me into them, but she truly has outdone herself with the Ivy Granger Series. It's deliciously addicting reading and the moment I finish one installment, I start to salivate waiting for the next. Stevens is one of those writers I wish could write faster. Sadly, I almost want her to put her YA series (which I love) on hold to focus on Ivy. Harborsmouth and its inhabitants are so compelling, I polished this one off largely in one afternoon.
This installment has Ivy dealing with her wisp heritage. She doesn't know how to control her fey side and its starting to become a problem - a glowing in public kinda problem. Fey are forbidden to show themselves to humans so Ivy has a huge issue on her hands. She must find her father - quickly - before another trait manifests and she can't keep it under wraps.
To make matters worse, Ivy also is struggling to find missing fey children. Dozens of children all over the city have gone missing in the dead of night. Ivy must track the clues and crack the case before she has the blood of innocents on her hands. As if this wasn't enough to keep a girl busy, Ivy is also dealing with Ceff's deranged ex, Melusine. That woman is seriously twisted.
In addition to the setting and plot, I love the relationship between Ivy and Ceff. They are quickly becoming one of my favorite paranormal couples. Their relationship changes in some interesting ways in Ghost Light, but I'll let you discover exactly what changes for yourself. I do love that Stevens knows exactly how much to write and how much to leave to the reader's imagination.
Ghost Light was a fun read with humor, suspense, and romance. I can't wait for Ivy's story to continue.
One Last Gripe: I found the mystery - while intriguing - to be a little predictable.
My Favorite Thing About This Book: I adore this world and its inhabitants.
First Sentence: What do names ghost light, friar's lantern, corpse candle, aleya, hobby lantern, chir batti, faerie fire, min min light, luz mala, spook light, ignus fatuus, orbs, boitata, and hinkypink have in common?
I have been a fan of this series from the very beginning when I received an ARC of A Beautiful Dark. I have been anxiously awaiting the final installment. I was so nervous about how things would end up for Skye. There is a lot of tension at the end of the second book and a battle is brewing. The wait for this novel was excruciating. I also can't discuss this one without mentioning some items that happened in the previous books. If you have not read the series, this is the point you should stop reading.
This novel opens up right after the moment that Skye has made her decision to side with the Rogues. She wants to carry on the battle that her parents started so many years ago. Her decision may mean the end for her relationship with Asher, but can she really let him go? Is she strong enough to hold onto her heart and fight on the side she knows is right?
I love the relationship between Skye and Asher. I was actually kind of bummed that Asher takes a backseat in this one. Skye is more focused on preparing for the looming battle and planning with the Rogues. She isn't sure that Asher will be on her side when things start to go down so she chooses to push him away. Eventually though, she realizes that running from her feelings won't solve her issues. In spite of his frequent absences, Asher's moments in this book were well worth waiting for him to wander back onto the page.
In addition, Devin is also back. Things have certainly changed for him after his epic decision in the last book. He is still tortured over how he treated Skye and wants to make things up to her. Devin will truly pull at your heart strings in this one. He never was my favorite - I have always been an Asher girl - but he does redeem himself in this one.
As always, one of my favorite things about this series is the emphasis on friends and family. I love the dynamics of Skye's relationship with her friends and her Aunt Jo. The addition of some new characters also adds some new complexity to Skye's social circle; Earth is my favorite newcomer. Raven is also still hanging around, but she has changed a lot since readers first met her. In fact, she has quickly become one of my favorite characters in the series.
My biggest complaint with this one is the battle. There was a tremendous build up that promised epic action and bloodshed, but in the end resulted in very few casualties. I actually predicted which characters I thought might not survive and was spot on. To me, this felt a lot like Breaking Dawn - so much build up for very little pay off. In fact, I didn't feel a sense of anxiety with this battle at all. There was a lot of potential here, but this aspect fell short for me.
In spite of my reaction to the battle, I did enjoy this one. I also feel like its a fitting end to Skye's story. All the loose ends are resolved. I can leave Skye behind and know that she will continue to be her amazing self. River Springs and its inhabitants will be revisited in the future. This is by far my current angel series to date.
One Last Gripe: I've already mentioned my major gripe within the body of the review. I wanted more from the battle.
My Favorite Thing About This Book: The romance
First Sentence: There are certain things they never tell you about love.
This beauty has been patiently waiting on my Kindle since its release. I kept pushing this one further down my TBR list in order to read publisher sent items and requests, but this summer I decided that I needed to do some reading for pure enjoyment. Summer is the perfect time to read contemporary romances. It always helps me capture the feeling of my own youthful summers.
Meant to Be is a fun filled romp through the streets of London with an unlikely duo on a school field trip. Julia is a control freak who would prefer to be buried in a book or swimming laps than interacting with other people. The alphabet curses her with being field trip buddies with Jason, the class clown. Jason is more into having fun than paying attention to the historical relevance of every nook and cranny London has to offer. These two couldn't be more different, but as they continue to spend time together, they begin to see one another in a different light. Jason learns to appreciate Julia's historical and literary tidbits while Julia learns to loosen up a bit.
Julia is an interesting girl who has her life planned out to the second. In her mind, we all have one great love in our lifetime. Her life plan includes Mark, her Meant to Be (MTB). In her mind, Mark is the perfect guy and she creates a fantasy of what their life together will be like. She doesn't stop to truly get to know Mark. Jason struggles to help Julia see that her vision of Mark is nothing more than an illusion.
I'm not sure if the author intended to write a Pride and Prejudice (P&P) influenced novel, but that's exactly what Morrill did. I like to think it was intentional as Julia is constantly discussing the P&P and her love for Jane Austen. Julia, like Elizabeth Bennett, thinks she knows everything about everyone. She judges people without really knowing them and doesn't always interpret their motives correctly. She's also so stubborn that she has to learn things on her own. Her prejudices towards Jason keeps them from becoming friends sooner. She always assumes that he is just an asshat, but she never takes the time to get to know him. Eventually, she does begin to see him in a different light.
Unlike Elizabeth Bennett, Julia was not as easy to like. Her constant judgements and pigheadedness got on my nerves. There were moments when I wanted to reach into the book and knock some sense into the girl. Don't get me wrong, I did like Julia, it just took some effort. She appeared to be so put together, but her decisions were often illogical. I suppose when matters of the heart arise, we all make stupid mistakes.
What did I enjoy about Julia? Well, in some ways, she's a girl after my own heart. Julia is a voracious reader and talks about books as if they are her dearest friends. She's happiest when she's reading, highlighting, or adding a sticky note to text. I also liked how much she knows about history and literature. The two of us would certainly have a lot to talk about if we were to ever meet. I also like that she's a hopeless romantic.
Jason is like Mr. Darcy in some ways. He can be standoffish - one minute he is dancing with Julia in a bookstore and the next minute he is pretending that she doesn't exist. Darcy gave me emotional whiplash the first time I read P&P and Jason follows suit. I couldn't figure out what his deal was, but I was annoyed that he never seemed to take anything seriously. That was the one trait that set him firmly apart from Darcy. Darcy was always formally serious while Jason treats seriousness as if it were a plague. I was surprised to learn more about him as the story unfolded; he has hidden depths.
There is also a character who put me in the mind of Wickham, but I won't talk about him in the review. I'll let you discover him on your own.
The romance in this one was sweet and I had a few swoon worthy moments. The scene in the rainstorm in the field - YOWZA. That moment sizzles off the page in spite of its relative chasteness. Every girl should have a kiss like that at least once in her life.
Meant to Be is a fun contemporary romance littered with historical and literary tidbits. I'd highly recommend this one if you're aching for a trip to London, but can't afford the airfare. This one does for London what Anna and the French Kiss does for Paris. Lauren Morrill's writing is solid and I'm excited to read her work in the future; she knows the right elements to make a contemporary romance addicting reading.
One Last Gripe: My reaction to Julia coupled with a bit of predictability in the plot kept this from getting a 5 rating.
My Favorite Thing About This Book: London - I adored this setting and can't wait to see it for myself one day!
First Sentence: There are certain things in life that just suck.
Necessary Lies is one of those novels that is powerful, heartbreaking, and intriguing. The novel is set in rural North Carolina in the 1960's. Due to the time period and the setting, there is a vast amount of conflict lurking within these pages. Socioeconomic status, race, gender, ethics, and mental illness all play dominant roles. I loved this book because of how much I learned, how much it made me think, and how much it burdened my heart. This is not an easy read, but it is one that I feel is well worth the time and emotional energy.
The novel is split between two main characters: Jane and Ivy. Jane is a young twenty something who has just graduated from college. Her whole life is ahead of her and everything seems to be going perfectly. She's engaged to a handsome, older doctor who can offer her everything her heart desires, but Jane isn't satisfied with merely being a wife. She wants a career and the chance to make a difference in the lives of others. When she gets a job as a social worker in a rural county, her husband is livid. He can't stand the idea of his wife working with those who live in poverty. He sees her vocation was a source of embarrassment. The complexity of the relationship between Jane and her husband was startling. I can't imagine living in a time period and society where my husband would have treated me as an embarrassment for working outside of the home. Jane has a thirst for social justice; I admire her strength of character. She doesn't allow anyone to dissuade her from what she knows is right - even when it becomes a source of conflict.
In addition, the second character who drives the narrative is Ivy, a fifteen year old girl who comes from a long line of poor sharecroppers. The dynamic of poverty for the tenants on large southern farms is heartbreaking in many ways. People born into this life rarely have the chance to claw their way out. Their social standing holds them firmly locked in a cycle of poverty. Ivy has big dreams and wants nothing more than to shake the dirt and tobacco stains off to head for California. She wants to live in a world where you can make you own way; she doesn't want people to continue to put her down simply because she was born to a poor family. Ivy is one of those characters that will suck you in emotionally. In spite of everything she lacked, she also had a strength about her.
Jane and Ivy are brought together when Ivy becomes Jane's client. Jane has a hard time balancing her professional side with her heart. She quickly becomes attached to Ivy's family and seeks to make their lives a little more comfortable. Jane's style of social work is not looked upon favorably by her husband or co-workers. She doesn't just see clients, but rather she sees people.
As a history teacher, I pride myself on knowing a vast assortment of historical information and trivia. I fully admit that there are many time periods, people, and events I have no knowledge about, but I'm always eager to learn new things. I honestly never knew a Eugenics Program existed in the United States. I was horrified as I began to read this novel and the nature of this program was revealed. The Eugenics Program was basically a way to sterilize people - sometimes with their consent and sometimes without. In most states, this program was used only for populations with institutions. I knew that in our nation's past, many people with a mental illness or physical disability were treated poorly and were at times sterilized; the treatment of these people has always been something that saddens me. As I continued to read, I learned that the program worked a little differently in the state of North Carolina. Residents of North Carolina were able to be sterilized based on petitions written by their social workers. This system became a way for people living on welfare to be prohibited from having too many children. I was saddened that such a system could be allowed - especially when minors were not consulted about the procedure.
I have long been an advocate for novels that tell the stories that previously have been silenced. Diane Chamberlain has shed light on a tragic element of the southern past and allowed the victims of the program to have others know their stories. While she used a fictional vehicle to help explain the historical event, there was a vast amount of research that went into the creation of this novel. She certainly has made the historian in me proud. Social justice issues are near and dear to my heart as is this novel and its strong female characters.
One Last Gripe: I was frustrated that it took so long for Baby William's paternity to come to light.
My Favorite Thing About This Book: I found this one to be deeply emotional and thought provoking.
First Sentence: It was an odd request - visit a stranger's house and peer inside a closet - and as I drove through the neighborhood searching for the address, I felt my anxiety mounting.
Amber Frost is the story of Grace Stevenson, a gorgeous and wealthy eighteen year old, who lives in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. I have to admit that part of the appeal of this novel was the setting. Victoria is a gorgeous place and I could totally see magic really lurking in the shadows. Grace has a seemingly perfect life, but being from a well-to-do family has its drawbacks. Her entire life is decided based on what her mother deems appropriate. Grace must dress in the latest designer clothes, befriend the right sort of people from the best families in Victoria, date the perfect boy, and always conduct herself as a lady. It's all too much for Grace to handle and inside she is lashing against her parents' control.
Grace doesn't have the courage to stand up for herself and change her life until she meets the handsome and secretive Sebastian in art class. The two bond over a stranger drawing of Grace's and strike up an unlikely friendship. Sebastian teaches Grace to find her backbone and she teaches him that he doesn't always have to do everything alone. The pair realizes all too quickly that their friendship isn't accidental and ancient mysteries swirl around them. Sebastian begins to remember details from a past life he never knew he had.
Hmmm, rating and reviewing this novel was tricky. While there were some elements I didn't like, there were many things I really enjoyed. I certainly think this series has lots of potential. I really enjoyed the fantasy elements of this story. The connection to Celtic roots was intriguing for me. I also liked that the fantasy elements weren't the same old predictable beings.
I'm interested to see if Suzi Davis' writing develops along the way as well. In many ways, it was simplistic and derailed my enjoyment. For example, in the beginning when we are meeting characters, instead of letting the reader learn about them gradually, we get grocery list descriptions. This form of telling instead of showing is a huge pet peeve of mine. This instantly put me on my guard and made me doubt my decision to read this story, but I wanted to give it a fair chance and kept plowing on.
Another thing that irked me about this novel was the romance. It was predictable and felt a little like a recycled version of Edward and Bella. Sebastian convinces himself that he can't be with Grace and immediately starts to push her away. He even prepares to move away to avoid her. Sound familiar? Furthermore, Grace falls for Sebastian rather quickly. Grace also was not a character I immediately liked, but eventually I got to a point where I liked her better. The exact same thing happened with Bella. Perhaps I am being unfair making these comparisons as Twilight was certainly not the first book to have this sort of relationship, but I expect other paranormal romances to step up their game a bit. Davis does a nice job of wowing me with the paranormal aspects, but I wanted something different in the romance department. I understood Davis' choices concerning her characters, but I couldn't stop my mind from going to these places as I read.
All in all, I ended up really enjoying my time in Davis' world. I warmed up to the characters and settled into the plot after the first few chapters. This is one of those novels that starts slowly, but ends with a bang. Your efforts will be rewarded if you can get through the first half of the book. I'll be picking up the sequels for sure. I'd recommend this title to those who enjoy paranormal romances and interesting lore.
One Last Gripe: Some of the dialogue - particularly Grace's mother's segments - didn't sound realistic.
My Favorite Thing About This Book: Sebastian's story
First Sentence: My pen carefully moved across the paper, twisting, flowing, black ink streaking in its wake across the virgin white surface.
The First Lie is a brief snippet to set up the forthcoming novel, Necessary Lies. I have never read Diane Chamberlain before, but I was pleasantly surprised.
The short story begins when Ivy, a preteen, sneaks into her house in the wee hours of the morning after being out her best friend. The pair had found their church unlocked and had stumbled inside, Ouija board in tow. After scaring themselves silly, the pair rush home before anyone wakes to find them gone, but Ivy walks into more than she bargained for when she finds that her older sister, Mary Ella, is about to deliver her baby. It's too soon and Ivy doesn't know what to do. Her grandmother's harsh voice hollers directions and Ivy races to get help.
I'm excited to continue reading Ivy's story when the novel is released in September. In this brief portrait, I was able to learn about Ivy and her family. These characters do not have an easy life. I can't recall reading any other novels about tenant farmers; this will allow me to learn more about that lifestyle.
Also, due to the time period and location (North Carolina in 1958), race will play a prominent role. There are glimpses of segregation in this story. Rumors swirl about the paternity of Mary Ella's baby. Folks say it belongs to Eli, a young African American man, that lives on the same property. Mary Ella refuses to tell the identity of the father, but the whole town is gossiping about her. At only fifteen, Mary Ella will have a difficult road ahead of her, but things will only be worse if her child is multiracial.
One Last Gripe: I understood the grandmother's reasonings for what she does to Mary Ella, but it upset me a lot.
My Favorite Thing About This Book: This is a side of the South I don't much about beyond what I've read in history books. It will be interesting to experience this lifestyle through the eyes of a fictional character.
First Sentence: I leaned my bike against our lopsided porch and tiptoed up the steps, still real shaky from the last few hours.
Favorite Character: Ivy
Least Favorite Character: This was too short for me to dislike anyone. (less)
Playing Nice is a novel that all high school girls should read. It's an intriguing look at bullying and how appearances can be deceiving. There also is a far amount of friend on friend warfare happening in these pages. Sadly, I can remember times when my friends and I were not always nice to one another. What is it about being a teenage girl that brings out our inner witches from time to time?
This novel wasn't anything I expected it to be, but it turned out to better than I predicted. Based on the cover and summary, I was expecting it to be about two girls who didn't get along and all the horrible things they did to one another. Instead the story follows Miss Manners and Sunshine, Marty, as she attempts to befriend the surly, dark new student, Lil. These girls are complete opposites in almost every way, but they learn that their differences actually make them really compatible as best friends. The friendship is looked down upon by everyone from classmates to townsfolk; Marty's parents are less than pleased with her new social decisions.
Rumors begin to swirl and Marty finds herself on the end of vicious gossip that cuts her to the core. Both Marty and Lil realize they could learn a lot from the other and change their lives for the better. Together they have to learn to avoid the rumors and the barbed words that are hurled down the school hallways. Sadly, too many teen girls will relate to this novel. Teenagers need to stop and think before the gossip. Bullying is a chronic issue that shows up in the news all too often. It needs to stop.
While this novel provides commentary on some serious issues, it is also a story about friendship. Friendship isn't always easy - like most things in life it has it's ups and downs. Being a teenager is a volatile time and people don't always make the best decisions. Playing Nice does a nice job of showcasing the conflict that can arise in teen friendships. The happy moments do afford lots of laughter. Be warned though - a lot of the humor is on the raunchy side and Lil curses like a sailor. These weren't deal breakers for me, but I would certainly say this novel is for high school aged teens as a result. The humor, dialogue, and situations are all realistic reflections of teenage life, however, as an adult reader I found the humor to be annoying at times. I reacted much the way Marty does from time to time when Lil would go off on one of her tangents.
Another element that I liked about this novel was the concept of first love and first crushes. We can all remember that first person that made our hearts do cartwheels every time they walked by our locker. We can all recall the weakness in the knees that always managed to show up when smiles and hellos were exchanged. The giddiness of that first crush and the longing to have the feelings returned saturates these pages. Rebekah Crane truly does a beautiful job of conjuring up those first crush feelings; she also laces them with a bit of unrequited love and daydreams. The lesson Marty learns about matters of the heart is a difficult one, but I appreciated seeing it reflected in fiction. It's unrealistic for their to be constant love triangles and boys tripping over themselves to woo the main character. I appreciated that the romance in this story felt real; I loved it all the more as a result.
Finally, Marty often keeps her feelings bottled up inside, but learns to channel her thoughts into poetry. The poems were one of my favorite aspects of this novel. I also related to this because I did the same thing as a teen. Marty's character growth is inspiring. I love when she finally finds her voice.
Playing Nice is well written, engaging, and thought provoking. Being a teen girl isn't always easy, but surrounding yourself with awesome people can help you navigate the rocky high school current a little easier. I love seeing real issues reflected in fiction; it is always therapeutic for me to see fictional characters struggling with issues that I struggle with (or used to struggle with) and finding a light at the end of the tunnel.
Rebekah Crane's future work is certainly earning it's way on my TBR list.
One Last Gripe: I was really frustrated by Marty's love issues. I think this will be easier for teen readers to relate to and I am sure as a teen I might have made the exact same choices, but I still wanted her to wake up and see reality.
My Favorite Thing About This Book: I loved the entire concept of appearances being deceiving. This theme pops up in so many ways throughout the story.
First Sentence: My mom likes to tell everyone that from the day I was born she knew I would be a nice person.
Favorite Character: Alex - He was the one character who truly knew himself and always did the right thing
I have been excited about this one since the moment I heard about it. Truth or Dare is one of those games that reminds us all of our youth. I can remember being so excited (and slightly terrified) to play this game at slumber parties. You never knew what was going to be asked or what people might make you do. I suppose part of the fun is not knowing, but I remember always being super anxious. I loathed dares so I always stuck to truth. I was excited to see how a YA author would take this right of passage and add a thriller factor to it.
Tenley and Caitlin have been best friends since elementary school - even during the years when Tenley was living in Nevada, hundreds of miles away from the peaceful Echo Bay. These two are your typical high school Queen Bees - one is vicious and beautiful while the other is Miss All Around Perfect. I constantly found myself thinking of Tenley as the devil on my shoulder and Caitlin as the angel. The friendship between these two has some issues, but overall I really enjoyed the relationship and how the girls complimented one another. Ultimately, it is their devotion to each other and their love of dares that sparks the entire creepy plot.
In addition to Tenley and Caitlin, Sydney, a loner from the less affluent side of town gets pulled into the dangerous game. None of the three girls know who is behind the dares, but as the stakes raise higher and higher, they each know things have to stop before someone gets hurt. There were moments when my mind went back to Burn for Burn by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian. I'd also say there is a heavy dash of Pretty Little Liars lurking in this one. While Truth or Dare has some commonalities with these other novels, it isn't just a recycling of those plots. I am certain though that it will appeal to fans of those series.
Don't less this one fool you - it is creepy. The idyllic seaside town setting adds a sinister element and coupled with the Lost Girls lore, I felt the occasional chill up and down my spine. I was so wrapped up in these girls that I couldn't stop reading until I had pieced everything together. I enjoyed the multiple perspectives, but found that Caitlin was my favorite narrator.
My biggest complaint with this one is I felt like the big reveal was a bit predictable. I had identified the culprit pretty early on. I didn't see that ending coming though. That was brutal! I'm interested to see where this series will go next. I think this could have been a great stand alone novel as well. To find out that it's a series, makes me think maybe the ending wasn't all it appeared to be.
All in all, this is a darkly delightful contemporary mystery that is the perfect read for the dwindling days of summer. I also think there is some valuable food for thought concerning bullying and socioeconomic status contained in this one.
One Last Gripe: I have a slight gripe with the ending, but I can't say what it is because it would give something major away. I'll just hope its answered in the next installment.
My Favorite Thing About This Book: I liked how the characters were connected - even when they didn't realize it
I'm a huge fan of this series and Miranda Kenneally's writing; I was ecstatic when I found out that Reading Lark had been chosen to be part of the Racing Savannah Blog Tour. I have come to expect an addicting story with complex characters and Kenneally certainly didn't let me down. My favorite novel in the series is still Catching Jordan, but Racing Savannah also has a special place on my favorites shelf.
Each of the novels in the Hundred Oaks series follows a female character as she navigates social situations and romantic currents. The path to true love never runs smoothly for Kenneally's ladies, but I love that by the end of the story, the girls have learned so much about themselves. I appreciate that the female lead in a Hundred Oaks book is going to be a kickass sort of girl. I'd happily have been best friends with any of the leading ladies from Hundred Oaks.
Racing Savannah takes place about four years after Catching Jordan. All of the main characters from the first three novels make brief appearances in this one, but they have all finished college and are beginning their adult journeys. In fact, there is even a wedding in this one. I won't mention which couple ties the knot, but I loved that part of the story. Many of the former characters' siblings take center stage in Racing Savannah. For example, Will's younger brother and Ty's younger sister are both high school students in this installment and play prominent roles in Savannah's story.
In Racing Savannah, readers are introduced to Savannah Barrows, a girl who has recently moved to Tennessee from West Virginia. Savannah's father has landed a job at the prestigious Cedar Hill Farms. Mr. Barrow and Savannah love caring for horses; Savannah also finds that she has a talent for riding and figuring out what makes a horse tick. She lands a job as an exercise rider for an irritable horse named Star. Savannah's work with Star allows her to spend a lot of time with the owner's son, Jack. There is an instant connection between Savannah and Jack, but the vast gap in socioeconomic status poses some serious hurdles for their relationship.
I really enjoyed the commentary on class issues. Even in 2013, people are still judged based on the amount of wealth in their family. My heart broke for Savannah when she didn't think that she deserved more than working in the stables. She had never even considered college a possibility. There are many students who find themselves in the same position as Savannah; she provides a positive role model for changing your fate and breaking the cycle of poverty. In addition, I was happy to see that Kenneally also made the point over and over again that Savannah's social status didn't make her less than her friends. In fact, Savannah is an extremely strong girl with the heart of a lion. She doesn't allow fear to keep her from striving to reach her goals - even in a world like horse racing that is dominated by males.
In addition, I enjoyed the romance in this one. Kenneally is the master of creating handsome boys who will steal your heart and steam up your Kindle with romantic kisses. I wish novels like this one existed when I was a teenager.
Racing Savannah is one of my 2013 favorites. In fact, I kept telling myself I would only read one more chapter, but when I looked up again it was past 1:00 am and I had finished the entire thing. I try so hard to read the Hundred Oaks novels slowly, but I find that to be impossible. I love living in this world with these characters; I find myself wanting to spend as much time there as possible. I highly suggest you spend some time getting to know this community and its inhabitants if you haven't already had the pleasure of Hundred Oaks High's southern hospitality.
One Last Gripe: I was bummed that I didn't get to spend more time with Jordan. I think it's time for a reread...
My Favorite Thing About This Book: Seeing my old favorites grow up and meeting new favorite characters
First Sentence: Welcome to Hell would be a more appropriate sign, considering Dad just uprooted me from West Virginia and hauled me to Tennessee two days before senior year.
Favorite Character: Savannah
Least Favorite Characters: The entire Winchester family(less)
My summer break began this week and I decided to celebrate with a novel I have been dying to read. I'm a HUGE football fan and I love contemporary romances. I wasn't sure what to expect from Miranda Kenneally's writing, but I figured any novel about football had strong potential.
I ended up loving this one! Jordan Woods, a high school senior, plays quarterback for Hundred Oaks High in Franklin, Tennessee. Ranked as one of the best quarterbacks in the United States should be any high school player's dream, but Jordan has a lot of battles to fight to stay on top. For starters, being the only girl on your football team isn't always easy. Jordan struggles with balancing her need to be a star on the field with following her heart off the field. She doesn't want people to judge her athletic ability solely based on her gender. College scouts either ignore her completely or only want her to be a poster girl for their football program. Jordan just wants to play and show the world that girls can play a sport that has been previously dominated by males.
Jordan is the main reason I loved this book. She is a tough, goal oriented girl who doesn't take no for an answer. She inspired me in many ways. All to often, I walk away from dreams because someone has told me I can't do that or I don't have enough faith in myself to persevere through the hard parts. Jordan is not like me at all in that sense. Someone telling her she can't makes her work even harder so she can prove them wrong. Jordan isn't perfect by any means and there were moments when I flat out disagreed with her decisions, but in the end I think she's a positive role model for teen girls.
I grew up around a football field; a majority of my childhood was spent on a field watching my father coach, standing on the sidelines handing out water bottles to players, and taping ankles. There is something magical about the combination of grass, sweat, hard work, and tears. It's a time in my life I will always treasure. Reading Catching Jordan brought back so many memories and reminded me of all the wonderful friendships that were forged between the hash marks. I never had the courage to play football myself, but I did everything possible to make myself an integral part of the game in other ways. It was nice to see a fictional girl who felt the same way I do about this sport.
In addition to the sports elements and the commentary on gender, there is a romance in this one. I'm usually not a fan of love triangles. They appear everywhere these days and often aren't realistic. Maybe many of you have experienced your own personal love triangle, but my own life was a lot more tame. However, the love triangle in this one did seem realistic and didn't annoy me. Jordan truly is faced with choosing between two wonderful guys. I honestly would not have wanted to be in her shoes. I did have a favorite, but I can't tell you his name because I don't want to spoil any part of that aspect of the story. I will say (for those of you who have read it) that I did get my way in the end, but there were plenty of moments when I wasn't sure how things would end up.
All in all, I suggest curling up with a tall glass of ice cold lemonade, a plate of chocolate chip cookies fresh from the oven, and reading Catching Jordan. It's the perfect summer time read. Jordan and her friends will have you cheering, laughing, and swooning. I'm already counting down the days when I can return to Hundred Oaks for the next novel in the series.
One Last Gripe: I was a little frustrated by how quickly Jordan's relationship progressed. It made me worry that she allowed outside sources to help her decide to move forward before she was ready.
My Favorite Thing About This Book: The football!
First Sentence: I once read that football was invented so people wouldn't notice the summer ending.
I have to admit that I totally judged this book by its cover. Every cover in this series is gorgeous. I wanted to read it solely based on that fact. I didn't even read the summary; I just immediately decided that this novel was for me. Luckily, this is one of those times when a pretty face actually has some substance as well. Brightest Kind of Darkness turned out to be an intriguing fantasy with paranormal and mythical influences.
Nara is a typical high school student on the surface. She worries about what other people think, struggles to find her niche, and just wants to do well in the classroom and on the soccer field. She's your typical average good girl, but her home life isn't typical. Her father abandoned her family without an explanation and hasn't made contact since. To cope with the abandonment, her mother throws herself into work and leaves Nara to largely fend for herself. These elements of the story inspired empathy for Nara. She's such a good person that I hated to see her feel like she wasn't loved by her parents. She doesn't even know how to truly accept affection from others and just expects to be treated poorly. Nara becomes a doormat, but luckily by the end of the novel, her backbone grows stronger.
There is one thing that makes Nara truly unique - she can see her future. Every night Nara dreams about the upcoming day. She can see everything - from what's going to be on the Spanish test to where she needs to be in the goal to prevent a soccer ball from scoring. As annoying as this gift could be, I did find myself thinking about the benefits of such a cool power. Nara tries not to abuse her gift, but when a school bomb threat appears in her dreams, she feels she has to act to protect her classmates. This event will trigger a chance meeting with the handsome new student, Ethan.
I really loved Nara's powers and how they are explained. I felt for her as she tried to decide when to intervene and when to let fate run its course. I honestly don't know how I would handle being in her shoes. On the one hand, I would want to protect others from harm, but every time Nara intervenes she changes the course of events. What if I triggered something horrific? The internal conflict in this story is superb. I enjoyed the ethical implications of Nara's actions.
In addition, I also enjoyed the chemistry between Nara and Ethan. There is an instant attraction, but there is not the instalove that I see so often in YA novels. Also, I almost applauded when I realized there was not a love triangle. It was nice for the story to focus on one girl and one boy. The emphasis is more on the plot than on the romance. I enjoyed that the relationship between these two began as friendship and took time to evolve.
My one big complaint with this story was the pacing. There were moments that I couldn't put it down because I needed to know what was going to happen next, but there were also plenty of times when I put the book down in favor of other activities because I was losing interest. There were times when I needed to force myself to plow through certain chapters.
In the end, this was well worth my time and effort. P.T. Michelle has created an intriguing story that has some fresh elements. This is not the same old recycled paranormal romance that I have read a hundred times. Michelle's writing had some beautiful moments and I loved her descriptions. She's certainly an Indie to watch.
All in all, I enjoyed the time I spent with Nara and Ethan. I'll certainly be reading more in this series in the future.
One Last Gripe: Some of the dialogue seemed a bit unrealistic. The teenagers often spoke like adults.
My Favorite Thing About This Book: I like the exploration of destiny and choice.
First Sentence: For me, being surprised was like my best friend's favorite shirt; cherished for its borrowed uniqueness.
I was not a huge fan of Connor Green in From Ashes. I was a little nervous to read this novella since it's his story which begins about six months after the end of From Ashes. I adore Molly McAdams' work though so I decided that I'd give it a try and hope that Connor could win me over. This is not a direct sequel to From Ashes. It could stand alone, but to truly understand Connor, I would recommend reading From Ashes first. Also, the page count is misleading because this one also includes excerpts from other works by McAdams. The novella itself is around 60% of the total length.
Connor is still reeling from how things ended with Cassidy; he isn't acting like himself - in fact he's become an emotional zombie. His friends and family worry that he's spiraling into a depression. It's not until a prank war with the girl-next-door, Macie, ignites that Connor begins to find himself once again. Maci is off limits to Connor since she's the younger sister of his best friends, but that doesn't stop the building attraction between Connor and Maci.
While I enjoyed the chemistry between Connor and Maci, I never truly bonded to these characters like I have with previous McAdams' characters. I think part of this stems from my initial reaction to Connor. It was hard to see him as a sympathetic character, but he did grow on me as this story progressed. By the end, I had learned to see him differently and even liked him, but he doesn't hold a candle to Gage.
The prank war between Connor and Maci was one of my favorite parts of this novella. I won't ever be able to look at Kool-Aid again without laughing.
My biggest complaint with this novella is that it was more about the steamy parts than the character development and storyline. Sure, many people read contemporary new adult for that purpose, but I like a little more substance with my steam. Typically, McAdams delivers the perfect mixture of well developed characters, witty banter, a compelling storyline, and steamy moments. This one does contain many of the elements, but due to the length, it felt like the intimate connection between Connor and Maci dominated the story. Again, this isn't a deal breaker and this wasn't a bad read by any means, it just kept me from rating this one a five.
Overall, I enjoyed reading this one, but it isn't my favorite McAdams. I do feel like many will enjoy getting to know Connor better. I also enjoyed this one because Christmas plays a prominent role in the storyline. This is a fun romance with a seasonal flair and should appeal to fans of New Adult contemporary romances.
One Last Gripe: I was slightly annoyed by Maci's brothers - particularly the twins. I know they wanted to protect Maci, but they ended up driving her away and insinuating that she wasn't smart enough to take care of herself.
My Favorite Thing About This Book: I enjoyed watching Maci learn to stand up for herself and go after what she wants.
First Sentence: Amber slapped a hand over her mouth and had to work at swallowing her coffee before she burst out laughing.
I don't think I would have picked this one up on my own. Dystopian novels aren't always my cup of tea and the cover is somewhat boring, but the author approached me about it and I decided to give it a try. I found that Perception is one of those Indie novels that has a lot of potential and was well worth my time.
Perception is set in the distant future in a time where people have mutations that link them to an animal counterpart. I found this element of the novel to be fascinating. The main character, Ana, is linked to a tiger named Rijan. The two females work together to navigate the often treacherous social current alongside their brothers. I found both Ardana and Rijan to be likable and strong. In some ways, Ana channels Katniss; I loved seeing Anas loyalty to her brother, Kade, and her fierce determination. This story is not a Hunger Games repeat by any means, but I couldn't help drawing some comparisons between the two works.
In addition to strong female characters, the political turmoil adds a layer of conflict that provided some intriguing tension. I would not want to trade places with Ana - in spite of how much I enjoyed reading her story.
Furthermore, Heather Cashman's writing flows well. She is a strong Indie writer who I would read again without hesitation. I think the creative world she weaves is one many will enjoy - particularly fans of high fantasy.
My biggest complaint with this one is it took me a little while to settle into the story. Cashman drops the reader immediately into the action. The fast paced momentum made this a quick read for me, but it was slightly confusing trying to figure out this world with little explanation.
One Last Gripe: I am not a high fantasy reader so this one was difficult for me at times - especially since I wasn't expecting those elements. It is a true case of "It's not you, it's me".
My Favorite Thing About This Book: I loved learning about the various ingenium.
I have had this one on my review list for quite awhile, but I'm trying to knock these lingering ones out. I read this one over the past few days and while it certainly has merits - this was not the book for me.
The main character, TJ, is still reeling from his parents' divorce and trying to figure out how life is supposed to work now that his family has been drastically altered. I found that he was a realistic character, but I had trouble connecting with him. There was nothing that made me truly want to spend time with him. I doubt this will be the case for many younger males. I can see how TJ and his story will appeal to their adventurous nature. I do feel that the author was trying to call attention to some serious issues like bullying and divorce through TJ's life. While I appreciate authors who add commentary about social issues to their stories, I need an emotional attachment to the character to make a read compelling.
In addition, I found the writing to be fairly simplistic. There is a lot of telling rather than showing. I find these sorts of stories to be tedious. Again, this is something a much younger reader might not be bothered by at all. I had to struggle to finish this one because my mind kept wandering away from the plot. In the end, I did finish, but it took a lot of effort.
One thing I did enjoy about this novel was the history. I loved watching TJ learn to interact with an environment that was unlike his own. Keene's passion for history is apparent and as fellow history lover, I can appreciate that. I found the Tennessee frontier to be an intriguing place to set a novel. Furthermore, I did like how TJ gets transported to the past and how that aspect of the novel worked.
There is an audience out there who will love this novel, but sadly it wasn't one I enjoyed.
One Last Gripe: I am not a fan of the cover.
My Favorite Thing About This Book: The history
First Sentence: As she passed by in the crowded hallway, the tall blond-headed teen spotted his prey.(less)