DNF at 50%. The prologue and the first few chapters sucked me right into what I thought was a YA style FARGO, but ultimately the narrator was so...odd...moreDNF at 50%. The prologue and the first few chapters sucked me right into what I thought was a YA style FARGO, but ultimately the narrator was so...odd that it ruined the story for me. I couldn't connect with her, and spent most of the story wondering if she had some mental disability or plot twist that would soon be revealed to explain why she was so bizarre.
I think this is one I'll remain curious about, and can see myself picking it up again in the future, but for now it's become frustrating to find the plot amid all the oddness. (less)
Maybe if I'd taken the time to read the blurb or ask what How to Love by Katie Cotugno was about, I wouldn't have read it. Or maybe morbid curiosity w...moreMaybe if I'd taken the time to read the blurb or ask what How to Love by Katie Cotugno was about, I wouldn't have read it. Or maybe morbid curiosity would still have gotten the better of me, but I'd have had an easier reading experience for being prepared.
Because there are some books you read for the pleasure of losing yourself totally, of becoming an entirely different person in a different time and a different reality. And there are some books you read to catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror, to see yourself reflected back from a new perspective.
I wasn't prepared to see myself staring back at me in the form of Reena Montero.
Before: Reena Montero has loved Sawyer LeGrande for as long as she can remember: as natural as breathing, as endless as time. But he's never seemed to notice that Reena even exists . . . until one day, impossibly, he does. Reena and Sawyer fall in messy, complicated love. But then Sawyer disappears from their humid Florida town without a word, leaving a devastated—and pregnant—Reena behind.
After: Almost three years have passed, and there's a new love in Reena's life: her daughter, Hannah. Reena's gotten used to life without Sawyer, and she's finally getting the hang of this strange, unexpected life. But just as swiftly and suddenly as he disappeared, Sawyer turns up again. Reena doesn't want anything to do with him, though she'd be lying if she said Sawyer's being back wasn't stirring something in her. After everything that's happened, can Reena really let herself love Sawyer LeGrande again?
In this breathtaking debut, Katie Cotugno weaves together the story of one couple falling in love—twice.
Full disclosure: this is going to be a very personal review from me, likely without even a hint of objectivity. Because I've been Reena. As you might know, I am a single mother. I became a mom much earlier than I intended to be, and I did have to put most of my plans on hold to raise a child by myself. So to say this book hit home is a pretty enormous understatement.
This book destroyed me.
I don't know if I've ever been more emotional. I ran the gamut from sorrow to despair, to frustration to PISSED OFF. I might still be a little pissed, to be honest.
Katie Cotugno got a lot of things right. The bone deep exhaustion of a single mother, the constant worry, the unending juggling act of trying to work full time, while still going to school and trying to raise a child without asking too much help from your family. The shame and the disappointment from your family, from your friends, and from everyone who wanted better from you. The resentment and the guilt tempered with the joy and wonder and absolute devotion you feel toward your child.
And most importantly, the armor you have to forge to get through those first few years without shattering under the weight of responsibility and fear and despair.
I identified with Reena so much, in both the Before and After points of view. The heady enormity of first love that eclipses every single thing in your life. That spark that, even in the After--after the worst kind of heartbreak--lingers, lives dormant under your skin just waiting to be ignited again.
A baby before my seventeenth birthday and a future as lonely as the surface of the moon and still just the sight of him feels like a homecoming, like a song I used to know but somehow forgot.
I know Reena. I was Reena. And I wanted better for her.
I won't go into the spoilery details of why How to Love threw me into a rage, but somewhere along the line it shifted from a story about how Sawyer left Reena to raise a baby by herself, to a story about how it wasn't Sawyer's fault.
For me, Sawyer was never redeemed. He never made an effort, or seemed penitent. He just slipped back into Reena's and Hannah's life like he belonged there, without having to earn his place at the table. I'm pretty sure he never actually said sorry, without an excuse immediately following it.
And uh... yeah, I may have been projecting just a teeeensy bit of my own issues onto a fictional character, but I was what you might call a Rage Monster for most of the last half.
That being said, I think--my issues not withstanding--How to Love is a beautifully written book with strong characters (some stronger than others *cough*), and an important story about what life looks like after the teen pregnancy. (less)
This review appears on The Midnight Garden. Check back Monday, 6/10/13 for a guest post by author Katja Millay!
I’ve been in a book rut. I’d started no...moreThis review appears on The Midnight Garden. Check back Monday, 6/10/13 for a guest post by author Katja Millay!
I’ve been in a book rut. I’d started no less than five books, and finished exactly zero of them. Nothing grabbed me. Nothing excited me, or made me feel anything but vague annoyance, boredom, or mild confusion.
So, I did what anyone would do in such dire straits: I took my plight to the twitters, who told me almost in unison to read Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay. I was skeptical. New adult, you say? High on the angst, is it? Originally self-published? Hmm.
But I remembered Wendy recommending it during our conversation with Leigh Bardugo, so I picked it up.
And I didn’t put it down until I lay in bed with an aching chest and bittersweet tears rolling down my cheeks at two in the morning. I went to sleep with a shaky smile and a satisfied sigh because yes, THAT was what I had been looking for.
Sea of Tranquility isn’t an easy story to read--on any level. The beginning was extremely slow for me; I think at least 20% of it could have been excised for a tighter story, and a trimmer pace. I’d flounced books for much less, but something about Nastya and Josh Bennett’s story kept me reading, reaching for more.
I wanted to know them. I may have thought Nastya made ridiculous decisions, and rolled my eyes at her affectations--but I wanted to know the why of them. I wanted to know what happened to make her so brittle and brash. I could feel the throb of her bruises just under the surface of the story, but I needed to know their shape.
“I am pressed so hard against the earth by the weight of reality that some days I wonder how I am still able to lift my feet to walk.”
Katja Millay does an excellent job of keeping the reader in almost total darkness about Nastya’s past, giving us just enough to know without knowing, to feel without seeing.
Sea of Tranquility is an unquestionably heavy read, but leavened with just enough humor and romance to keep the reader from drowning, and Millay excels at writing characters who feel and sound authentic, and infusing them with a depth that is often surprising. (Here I am speaking of Drew, of course, who may be my favorite.) Every single character has an arc, and grows in some way over the course of the story.
And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Josh Bennett. Josh f*cking Bennett--it says so right on his birth certificate. Has there ever been a swoonier guy? With the chair. (THE CHAIR.) And the pennies. (YOU GUYS, THE PENNIES.) And the EVERY. SINGLE. THING. ABOUT. HIM. (Except for that one thing. The one that made me want to barf.) He is supremely flawed, and damaged, and sad, but just so... so... good. Josh is a good person in the way real people are good, in the way you can be good but not always nice. “I’m going to walk over to you,” I say, taking one step at a time in her direction like I’m talking down a jumper. “I’m going to put my arms around you and I’m going to hold you,” I pause before taking the last step, “and you’re going to let me.” I think what I appreciated most about Sea of Tranquility was that love was not the answer to every one of their problems. Nastya and Josh’s issued didn’t dissolve because they fell in love. They helped each other, in some ways they healed each other, but they couldn’t fix each other. Not by themselves.
When their issues had been written in such stark, unflinching realism, I appreciated that the resolution wasn’t a tied-with-a-bow happily ever after. It was just as romantic and bittersweet as it needed to be.
And the last two words of the story? They made every stomach twist, heart ache, tear trickle, and next-day-puffy-eyes worth it. MY. HEART.
So, Sea of Tranquility ended my Book Rut. But now I have a different problem: the Book Hangover. How can anything else I read possibly measure up? I guess I’ll have to take this to twitter again...(less)
I've read this exact book at least three times before. Rich guy with secrets steamrolls some young, naive girl with issues into a Dominant/submissive...moreI've read this exact book at least three times before. Rich guy with secrets steamrolls some young, naive girl with issues into a Dominant/submissive relationship. Yawn. (less)
I find myself fascinated by BDSM stories, though often more intrigued and entertained by the psychological aspects than the sexual. Unfortunately, mos...moreI find myself fascinated by BDSM stories, though often more intrigued and entertained by the psychological aspects than the sexual. Unfortunately, most BDSM fiction is shallow at best, abusive at worst, and leaves me rolling my eyes and wishing I hadn't started yet another disappointing attempt at the new erotic trend.
BEYOND EDEN, while far from perfect, explored the dynamics between slave and Master, and the lengths to which a Dominant will go to please and protect his submissive. The relationship between Danny, Evie, and Paul, while codependent to an unhealthy degree, was more interesting than any other BDSM book I've read.
The emotional spectrum explored--from the needs of a masochist, to the chameleon-like role of a Master, to the new initiate, to the switch, to simply lovers, and the implications of admitting your chosen lifestyle--held a depth I've rarely read in this genre.
I'll definitely be reading more from this author.(less)
A fun, sexy, sweet read that I devoured in less than an hour. Friends to more is totally my jam, and Ian is a sweetheart. I had a smile on my face the...moreA fun, sexy, sweet read that I devoured in less than an hour. Friends to more is totally my jam, and Ian is a sweetheart. I had a smile on my face the entire time. Definitely looking forward to more from Brighton.(less)
It was refreshing to read a BDSM erotica that featured a heroine already familiar with the lifestyle, and cognizant of her needs.
I was so thankful to...moreIt was refreshing to read a BDSM erotica that featured a heroine already familiar with the lifestyle, and cognizant of her needs.
I was so thankful to see the clear demarcation between what is abusive and what is a safe, sane, and consensual form of BDSM, when so many others in this genre have blurred the line to make it almost unrecognizable. And although I'm not an expert al all, it seemed a bit more realistic than anything else I've read.
However, the writing itself was very clunky, and the dialogue completely unnatural. I think the story would have been more interesting without the focus on the melodramatic side plot.(less)
I really have no idea how I'm going to review Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell without just, well... fangirling. Cath's story touched me on a very real level...moreI really have no idea how I'm going to review Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell without just, well... fangirling. Cath's story touched me on a very real level, and I'm still not quite sure how to put into words how I feel about it. So, I guess I'll start at the beginning.
Cath is a Simon Snow fan. Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan, but for Cath, being a fan is her life--and she's really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it's what got them through their mother leaving.
Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.
Cath's sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can't let go. She doesn't want to. Now that they're going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn't want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She's got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words . . . And she can't stop worrying about her dad, who's loving and fragile and has never really been alone.
For Cath, the question is: Can she do this?
Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?
Oh, Rainbow. Rainbow, Rainbow, Rainbow. How do you do this to me every time? With each book I think I can't possibly love you, or your characters any more than the last, and you prove me wrong. Every time.
You gave me brutal, agonizing, terribly perfect first love in Eleanor & Park. Giddy grins and a serious thing for shoulders in Attachments. And this time, in Fangirl, you gave me part of myself.
This is an important book, written at a very important time. I don't know if it's just the case of the internet making everything more visible, but it feels like more people than ever are becoming involved in one fandom or another lately. It's fascinating, and a little crazy, and I think so so wonderful.
Fangirl is the first book I've read that contained the word 'fandom' and used it correctly--with all the connotations i holds, of community, and passion, and obsession, and just pure, outright love. It's the first book that not only mentioned fanfiction without derision, but spoke of the intention and devotion behind it.
It's the first book I've read that truly understood and celebrated the growing culture of fandom, and in doing so, I think became an incredibly meaningful story for those who give so much of their lives to it.
Certainly for me. I don't know if I've ever read a character I could identify with as much as Cath.
Cath who lives off peanut butter and granola bars for the entire first semester, because the thought of going to the cafeteria makes her anxious.
"In new situations, all the trickiest rules are the ones nobody bothers to explain to you. (And the ones you can't google.) Like, where does the line start? What food can you take? Where are you supposed to stand, then where are you supposed to sit? Where do you go when you're done, why is everyone watching you?...Bah." (Been there.)
Cath who is awkward and weird, and not really all that interested in making new friends.
"Underneath this veneer of slightly crazy and mildly socially retarded, I'm a complete disaster." (Yep.)
Cath who loves to write, and is so good she qualifies for a senior level writing class, but can't seem to focus on anything but her Simon Snow (think Harry Potter) fanfiction. Because that's safe. That she knows she can do, and do well. Because when nothing else in her life makes sense, she can always fall back into the world of Simon and Baz, and lose herself in the familiar.
Cath who goes to great lengths to be alone, but who never feels alone when she has her computer near.
Until, of course, she falls for a boy who makes her question whether there isn't more to life than Simon Snow.
What I love most about Fangirl is that even though Cath undergoes immense emotional growth throughout the story, never once does she stop being herself. She doesn't make friends, and fall in love, and then suddenly realize she didn't need Simon Snow after all. She didn't leave her world; she expanded it.
And I think that's such an important difference.
Okay. I've tried to be all analytical and actually talk about this book like a normal person, but really all I want to say is Fangirl made me so happy, and I swooned really hard, and since when am I attracted to receding hairlines and obscene eyebrows, oh I guess since Rainbow Rowell wrote Levi, and anyway everyone needs to read this.
Ahem. Okay. It's out of my system now. Sorry about that. (less)
Interesting premise that started strong, but eventually petered out with flimsy explanations that did not suspend disbelief in the slightes...more2.5 stars.
Interesting premise that started strong, but eventually petered out with flimsy explanations that did not suspend disbelief in the slightest, and romantic moments that felt forced and out of place amid the life-or-death setting. (less)
A harrowing sci-fi thriller about a teen who's survived horrors but lost her memory, for fans of Veronica R...moreThis review posted on The Midnight Garden.
A harrowing sci-fi thriller about a teen who's survived horrors but lost her memory, for fans of Veronica Roth, Stephen King, and Justin Cronin.
When I read that description, I actually groaned. Comparing anything to those authors is just as bad as every new dystopian being coined the next Hunger Games; it nearly always sets up the reader for disappointment. What could possibly live up to those standards?
Well, Arclight kind of... does. It's got the dystopian feel of Divergent, the King creep-factor, and a serving of government experiment gone horribly wrong courtesy of Cronin.
Marina woke up in the Arclight hospital, with no memory of how she got there. All she knows is what she's been told: they found her in the Grey, hiding from the Fades, and brought her back to the compound. She doesn't know who she is, or where she came from before that--no one does.
The Arclight trains its children to fear the dark, but I can't fear the familiar. Darkness is all I know, and the passing weeks don't change that. I don't remember a world before the fluke of my survival was deemed a miracle.
I don't feel like a miracle. I feel like a scared and lost little girl who doesn't remember her way home.
As far as anyone in the Arclight knows, they're the only remaining survivors of the Fade, the vicious parasites who live in the dark and prey on humans, using their bodies as hosts.
Or are they? When a Fade is captured and brought into the compound for observation and research, Marina senses that not everything is what it seems.
Arclight is full of twists and turns, and while I did figure out where we were headed fairly early on, the end was still a surprise for me, which is hard to accomplish. McQuein built a solid world, and gave a depth to her characters that had me consistently changing my opinions. But what I enjoyed more than anything was the grey area she developed between good and evil, right and wrong.
Dystopian/post-apocalyptic stories were what first drew me to YA, and my interest has yet to wane. But even so, I've been tiring of the same post-war/natural disaster, or social experiment gone wrong scenarios. With the addition of a sci-fi element, Arclight brings a refreshing change to the genre--one that tip-toes over the line of plausibility, but still has you asking yourself what if?(less)
As most of you probably know, Wendy is our resident zombie / horror lover, while I'm more likely to be found cowering un...morePosted at The Midnight Garden:
As most of you probably know, Wendy is our resident zombie / horror lover, while I'm more likely to be found cowering under the blankets because I saw thirty seconds of a horror movie trailer. Three hours ago.
So when I read the summary for Reboot by Amy Tintera, I thought, "sentient zombies? I can totally handle that."
And I was half right. It wasn't scary at all, but I don't think my initial assessment was all that accurate. Reboots aren't zombie-like in the least. Well. At least, not when normally.
When the KDH virus swept through the population, people began dropping like flies. Except... they didn't stay dead. Their bodies rebooted (heh, get it?) after death, coming back stronger, faster, healthier--a more perfect version of their previous selves. And, naturally, the government used this to their advantage, rounding up all the Reboots and training them to be super soldiers, keeping the peace and the boundary lines, to keep the virus from infecting the larger population.
Wren is the strongest Reboot in her facility, having been dead a whopping 178 minutes before rebooting. Though she's the smallest, she's faster, stronger, and more ruthless than any of the others. And colder, too. Being dead so long means she feels less. Or so she thinks, until she is given a new recruit to train--Callum, a lowly 22, who has no skill and even less taste for the violence that is now his job, and the only reason he's allowed to live.
When Callum's life is threatened, Wren must choose between the safety of the only life she can remember, and the possibility of a better life beyond the walls of the HARC facility.
What I liked:
It was a fun, fast-paced read. I liked that the smallest girl was the strongest, and the most respected--if feared. I liked that Wren was decisive and assertive, but still soft and vulnerable enough to feel human and relatable. The new twist on the post-apocalyptic genre was great, and the foreshadowing of greater zombie-esque things to come definitely has me intrigued.
Things I Wished Were Better:
I wished for more set up, and less romance in this one. (This is very out of character for me, heh.) While I liked Callum, his quippy personality quickly became over the top and out of place, and his constant fumbling was very annoying. In some scenes, it felt as though his only purpose was to show how strong and capable Wren was in comparison.
I never entirely understood his and Wren's attraction to one another. It came out of nowhere, and they seemed to act on it in the oddest of moments. Perhaps immediately following a firefight, and while still recovering from third degree burns isn't the best time for a make out, eh kids? Ah, hormones...
All in all, a good start to what I hope is a very interesting series. (less)
"Sometimes I think that everyone has a tragedy waiting for them... That everyone's life, no matter how unremarkable, has a moment when it will become extraordinary--a single encounter after which everything that really matters will happen."
This is the first paragraph of Robyn Schneider's The Beginning of Everything, and basically the entirety of the story.
Ezra Faulkner was the golden boy of his high school. He was the star of their tennis team. The Junior Class President, and dating the most popular girl in school. And he got there, somehow, because of "a bad case of tragedy" Toby, his former best friend, came down with in seventh grade.
When Ezra experiences his own tragedy--a car accident that shatters not only his knee, but his place in the world--he begins to realize that though he had everything, it was nothing he actually wanted. Without the role of popularity that had been thrust upon him, and the expectations that came with it, he begins to learn not only who he really is, but what he actually wants.
He reunites with Toby, and meets a girl so startlingly different from everyone he knows, he can't help but fall for her. Cassidy pushes him to be different, to see the world from a different perspective, and to break from the mold that has been cast around him.
But there's a sadness that surrounds her, and a wall around her he can never seem to scale. Will falling for Cassidy be yet another tragic lesson, or the beginning of everything?
Things I Liked:
The story is told in first person, from Ezra's point of view, and the seventeen year old boy voice is absolutely spot on. Schneider did an excellent job of writing an authentic teenage guy; never once did I pause and ask myself if a guy would really say/do something like that, which happens more often than not when reading YA.
Not only was Ezra's voice awesome, but the dynamics between the friends was perfect as well. Schneider really excels at dialogue, and I found myself laughing out loud more times than I can count.
Toby. He may have been my favorite character, even above Ezra. I mean. He wears bow ties and quotes Doctor Who, for god's sake.
The setting was basically my home town, and I got giddy more than once when a landmark was mentioned.
The Floating Movie Theater. Is that a real thing? I would have been totally into that in high school. (And by high school, I obviously mean still.)
The way it ended. (Which is all I'll say in order to keep this spoiler-free.)
What Could Have Been Improved:
Cassidy. Though I really wanted to like her, I never saw her as a real person. She was more caricature than character. Ethereal, eccentric, and talking in mostly metaphorical circles, she never seemed fully formed to me. I was always waiting for the point of her to present itself, for the other shoe to drop.
And when the shoe dropped? It was at once completely predictable, and completely unbelievable. Nothing about it really made sense, as though the entire scenario was concocted just to tie everything together neatly. The story didn't need that kind of circular resolution, and it only served to reinforce my feeling that Cassidy was less character, and more plot device.
This has nothing to do with the book itself, but I do wish they'd kept the original title and cover. Severed Heads, Broken Hearts is a much more memorable title (I kept forgetting The Beginning of After), and I think the old cover is much cuter.
That being said, The Beginning of Everything was a fun read with surprising depth, and the perfect way to spend a breezy summer afternoon. (less)
1) It will make you laugh. 2) If you are at all into musical theatre, it will make you sing. If you’re not i...moreThings I know About The Reece Malcolm List:
1) It will make you laugh. 2) If you are at all into musical theatre, it will make you sing. If you’re not into it, it’ll probably give you the urge to check it out. 3) It will make you want to go to LA (even if you live in Southern California, and hate the traffic, like me). 4) It will make you a little giddy. 5) It will make you cry. (But mostly in the happy way.)
This might be my favorite read of 2013, so far. I went in with zero expectations, but finished with cheeks that ached and were sporting a few tear trickles.
Devan grew up in St. Louis with her dad and stepmother, knowing absolutely nothing of her mother--not even her name. It wasn’t until she happened upon one of her mother’s books with the dedication made out to her, that she began to suspect. And research.
When her dad dies unexpectedly and she’s shipped off to LA to live with her stranger of a mother, she knows exactly five things: 1. She graduated from New York University.2. She lives in or near Los Angeles.3. Since her first novel was released, she’s been on the New York Times bestseller list every week.4. She likes strong coffee and bourbon.5. She’s my mother.
Things with Devan and Reece are awkward at first. Reece has no idea how to be a mom, and Devan has no idea how to relate to her famous, and a little abrasive mother. The only bright spot is her mother figuring out she’s into musical theatre, and enrolling her in a fancy performing arts high school.
Which is pretty big for her. She’s always had a natural talent and affinity for performing, but going to school with other kids just as passionate as she is is a new for her. She’s used to being part of a small niche of geeks on campus--but now her entire school is made up of people just like her.
And she’s one of the best.
She expects to be treated with jealousy and bitterness for being the talented new kid, but instead finds she has friends almost immediately--another first for her. As is the fact that the seriously beautiful (and yet seriously nice) Sai, a fellow new kid, even talks to her, let alone pursues her friendship.
While she finds her place in school, she and Reece begin to find their place together as well. Devan soon finds herself comfortable, if not on her way to actual happiness.
Until she learns something about her mother that could break the tenuous bonds they’ve begun to forge.
I really loved the relationships Amy Spalding created here. Devan isn’t the damaged, angry mourner I expected. She’s a lot awkward, and a little self-involved, both of which I found refreshingly accurate for a sixteen year old. And Reece may be a thirty-two year old famous author, but she’s almost as clueless as her daughter. She isn’t the absent, negligent parent we see in most YAs--she’s just not really sure how to go about being a mom. But she’s trying, and I liked watching them dance around one another until they found their rhythm.
I loved the musical theatre focus, and can see it appealing to fans of Glee, even if they aren’t into theater. And although I think some may be turned off by Devan’s voice, as it’s very teenage girl, I found it endearing and authentic. (But maybe that’s just because I live in Southern California and have never quite outgrown the Valley Girl in me.)
“Knowing they’re in, like, True Love is a weird thing to comprehend. I feel a weird surge of happiness for them, along with a lame zap of jealousy that I could have made it to sixteen without any boys even wanting to kiss me.
Also, ugh, really? Dad is dead and my long-lost mother would have totally preferred to stay long-lost, and I’m feeling sorry for myself about boys?”
Devan has the voice, and the wants / fears / dreams of a normal sixteen year old, but doesn’t come across superficial or vapid. Just real.
I found The Reece Malcolm List very reminiscent of Anna and the French Kiss in some ways, which is about the highest praise I can give a contemporary YA. It’s not as swoony as Anna, as the main focus isn’t on the romance (though the romance is there, and it is swoony), but it left me with the same giddy, happy feeling as Anna did.
Which is pretty much my favorite way to end a book.
The Reece Malcolm List is Amy Spalding's debut novel, and will be followed up this December with Ink is Thicker Than Water, which sounds equally fun. (less)
Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith does what should be impossible: be at once completely batshit crazy and unbelievable, while also painting a pretty accur...moreWild Awake by Hilary T. Smith does what should be impossible: be at once completely batshit crazy and unbelievable, while also painting a pretty accurate portrait of the modern teenager.
Kiri Byrd's parents left her by herself for six weeks while they went on a cruise around the world, but she has a plan: she will water the plants, and check the mail. She will practice piano religiously and be perfect at her Showcase performance. She and her best friend Lucas will practice every day and win Battle of the Bands and then he will realize he's in love with her.
Of course, things don't exactly go to plan, since that would be a pretty boring book. Kiri gets a call from a random stranger, saying he has her sister's things and if she doesn't come pick them up, he'll throw them away. Her sister. The only one who ever truly understood her. Her sister who's been dead for five years. Kiri knows it's a bad idea, but she can't stop obsessing about what things the strange guy might have.
What she finds sends her spiraling into a reckless kind of mania that is as destructive as it is freeing. While she begins to uncover the secrets her family has kept from her, and grieve for her sister anew, she discovers herself in the process.
Her seriously insane, but ultimately really cool self.
Wild Awake was an absolutely hypnotizing read. From an objective point of view, few things about it are at all realistic, and Kiri is kind of an idiot who makes spectacularly poor decisions, but somehow it all made for a fascinating read.
I found Hilary T. Smith's treatment of mental illness, and her depiction of the descent into mania very realistic, but I do wish she'd glorified it a bit less, or given more weight to the talk of treatment in the book's conclusion. As is, it paints Kiri's behavior as a summer lark, or a period of self discovery rather than serious issues that need to be dealt with.
But all in all, Wild Awake's descent into madness was a fun way to spend a Saturday afternoon. (less)
I found SECRET to be an emotionally engaging and fun erotic read, and a very refreshing divergence from the Dominate Male Seducing the Weake...more3.5 stars.
I found SECRET to be an emotionally engaging and fun erotic read, and a very refreshing divergence from the Dominate Male Seducing the Weaker Female trend in recent romance and erotica. I'd like to see more written in this vein. (less)
While I enjoyed the premise of PIVOT POINT very much--I loved the idea of a secret city housing a mentally advanced population with X-Men-esq...more2.5 stars
While I enjoyed the premise of PIVOT POINT very much--I loved the idea of a secret city housing a mentally advanced population with X-Men-esque abilities--I found it ultimately lacking in execution. The plot was buried for nearly 80% of the book, focusing instead on Addie's relationship with two different boys, and football conspiracies. I kept waiting for the actual story to start, but I suppose in the end that WAS the story--just not the one I was expecting given the summary, or frankly, would have ever chosen to read.(less)
I wasn't really sure what I was in for when I started Mind Games. I'd only read the first in Kiersten...moreThis review also appears on The Midnight Garden.
I wasn't really sure what I was in for when I started Mind Games. I'd only read the first in Kiersten White's Paranormalcy series, and while it was cute with great world-building, it wasn't enough to get me invested in finishing the rest of the series. Evie just felt so young. (You know. Like how young sixteen year olds are, compared to a wizened spinster of 30...)
But, you guys? Fia is no Evie. Not even close.
"The moment he bends over to help the sorrow-eyed spaniel puppy, I know I won't be able to kill him.
This, of course, ruins my entire day."
Sophia (Fia) is a trained assassin. A spy. A thief. She is whatever Keane needs her to be; an indentured villain with perfect instincts she doesn't always understand, but always follows. And she will never, ever be able to escape.
Because if she tries, they'll hurt Annie, her sister who is blind to everything but the future. Her sister who is the reason they're trapped in the Keane Foundation anyway, whose abilities were the reason they were invited to the school after their parents' death. The reason they stayed even when Fia's instincts told her to run fast and far away from it.
So, she has to kill this boy. Adam. She has to do it or they'll hurt her sister. But she can't. She can't kill the boy who is sweet to a puppy, who looks at her like she's a real girl without blood on her hands. Like she's clean and sweet, and maybe he wants to touch her.
He wouldn't want to touch her if he knew.
She can't kill him. So she follows her perfect instincts to hide him instead. And...well, that's about all I can tell you without spoilers.
But I can tell you it's twisted and dark. It's sexy and violent--much more so than I would have previously expected from White. And it's sad. What impressed me the most about Mind Games was Fia's pain. Her absolute self-loathing and reluctance, even when she is vicious and ruthless. She hates herself, and part of her hates Annie too, but she'll do anything--anything--to protect her sister.
I think some might be turned off by the structure and style of this book, though I happened to really enjoy it. It's told from both Annie and Fia's point of views, shifting back and forth from past to present. Fia's narrative style is a bit stream-of-consciousness-ish, which can be hard to follow, but I found it a perfect representation of how unhinged she is.
And for me, Fia's borderline insanity is what makes the story live up to its title--well, that and the ending. Which was less a mind game and more a mind *expletive*.
Mind Games was a fascinating and frenetic read, and I can't wait to see what White has in store for its sequel.(less)
With her second novel in a year (busy girl!), Amy Spalding delivers on the expectations she set with her debut, The Reece Malcolm List–which, you migh...moreWith her second novel in a year (busy girl!), Amy Spalding delivers on the expectations she set with her debut, The Reece Malcolm List–which, you might recall, I adored.
In Ink is Thicker than Water, Spalding succeeds again in creating teenage characters that feel honest and authentic. They sound like teenagers, they think like teenagers, and their problems are those that real teenagers have to navigate in their daily lives. There’s something infinitely relatable about her character that I find nostalgic; her books remind me what it like to be a teenager.
I appreciated that the central conflict focused on Kellie’s family dynamics. While Kellie’s family is anything but the usual–straight-laced lawyerly dad whose approval she can never quite earn, hippie tattoo-shop-owning mother and stepfather, beautiful brainiac adopted sister–their problems are. Her sister, her confidante and parter, growing up and finding an identity outside of her role in their family. While the details may be unique to fiction, the feelings are the same that any teenager goes through–trying to find your balance while your foundation and sense of self shifts. The growth Kellie shows throughout the story is so well-written. As she, and almost everyone around her, discovers new facets to themselves, they become richer, fuller versions of themselves in a way that is fluid and natural and right.
Ink is much less romance-driven than Reece–or maybe it’s just that the romance is quieter and more realistic than swoontastic–but it fit the story perfectly. Oliver was adorable and weird. (Perfect for the adorable and weird Kellie.) There were no grand gestures, and no overblown drama. Just real, awkward, messy teenage romance. And I loved–LOVEDDDD–the way the topic of Kellie’s virginity was handled. It was so honest. No trite afterschool special language. No candles and rose petals. Just real life. And it was perfect.
Spalding has a natural and honest voice, and isn’t afraid to tackle the big issues on small scales that make up the life of a teenager so interesting. I’d recommend her to fans of Stephanie Perkins, Rainbow Rowell, and Sarah Dessen.(less)
My first read of 2013. A sexy, sensuous, light hearted read. I had a giddy smile on my face throughout, and lost count of the times I turned my face i...moreMy first read of 2013. A sexy, sensuous, light hearted read. I had a giddy smile on my face throughout, and lost count of the times I turned my face into my pillow to muffle my giggles.
A smart, fresh, and SWOONTASTIC erotic romance I couldn't help but devour in one sitting--even though I wished it would never end. I can't wait to read what Christina and Lauren write next.
Also, the line for Max starts behind me, ladies. I have dibs.(less)