WARNING: Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson is NSFW. That is… Not Safe For Work. And it’s not due to the usual reasons th...morePosted to Almost Grown-up:
WARNING: Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson is NSFW. That is… Not Safe For Work. And it’s not due to the usual reasons that things are deemed NSFW. Nope, no gratuitous sex in THIS incredible book. Second Chance Summer is of the ugly-crying NSFW variety. But we will get to that. I promise.
Earlier chapters of Second Chance Summer may not be sob-inducing, but they pulled at my heart an equal amount.
And there are a variety of reasons for that.
First of all, there’s Morgan Matson’s masterful handling of a terminal illness. Taylor’s dad seems fine as the summer starts, but his diagnosis hangs over them even in happy moments. A dark cloud on a sunny day, so to speak.
But those happy moments are there. Matson develops a cast of characters around Taylor who are quirky and wonderful. Her family is loving, but isn’t some cliche of the all-American family. They don’t seem like caricatures of an idea; they are all so human and real.
Taylor reunites with her former best friend, Lucy amidst a great deal of awkwardness (they haven’t spoken in years after something Taylor did to both Lucy and Taylor’s ex-boyfriend), but when they get back to the friendship point? I wanted to squish them in a hug. Even when they were fighting, for that matter, I still respected them. Lucy wasn’t nice to Taylor, by any means, but she doesn’t fall into that trap of being “mean girl.”
Then… oh, guys, then there is Henry. Taylor’s ex-boyfriend. Her first love. The boy who brings swoon to the page in Second Chance Summer. The way he and Taylor come back together is so realistic and just… do they actually make boys like this in real life? Because I would like one.
We get into NSFW territory (again, from ugly-crying) as Taylor’s father begins his decline. I started off the cry-fest by wiping the few tears that trickled out of my eyes. But soon after that, I gave up wiping them because they kept on coming; there was practically a WATERFALL on my face. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that there was a point when I was crying so hard that I couldn’t breathe.
Overall rating: 5/5. I literally have no criticism of Morgan Matson’s Second Chance Summer. This is a fabulous book and left me with… just… so many feelings.(less)
I finished Never Fade weeks ago. And it’s been hard trying to properly document the feelings that I have for it. I could probably leave you with keyboard smash here (asdlksufchhcfawgfug) and you’d have a pretty good idea of what the book did to me.
It’s particularly hard because Never Fade takes so many twists and turns. I would never want to spoil anyone because I want you to FEEL ALL THE FEELS the way that I did, and if I TELL you what’s coming, I don’t think it will be REAL for you the way that it was for me.
And friends, it was real to me. Alexandra Bracken is spectacularly talented and, time and time again, it was like she reached into my chest to check the tuning on my heartstrings. I texted many texts full of caps lock to my friend Steph, and inadvertently coined the phrase “emotiobs.”
Another text included the plea: “Help me, I’m dying.”
The characters that we meet in Never Fade, both old and new, never feel less than 110% authentic. And they’re AMAZING. It’s so great to see characters that seem like they’re truly growing or changing. Obviously this goes for our main character, Ruby, but it’s true of many of the other characters as well.
AND THE WORLD. We have to talk about it again, because lordy be it is the ~darkest. In The Darkest Minds (aka book 1), we saw it from one side… which was as dark as hell. But now, in Never Fade, we see another angle of Alexandra Bracken’s world and it’s twisty and messed up and it was TRULY fascinating to have the world expanded in this book.
Bottom line here, folks: if you haven’t already read The Darkest Minds, you should get on that so you get GET PUMPED for Never Fade with me. It deserves eleventy bajillion stars.(less)
Scarlet. Where do I begin, you guys? I’m just coming down from a reread of Scarlet, so how about with the tried and true FANGIRL FLAIL? It is so rare that within a week I have two reviews going up of books that I love this much, and I’m LOVING it.
I suppose the fair thing to do would be to start my review of Scarlet by talking about one of the main characters, and the book’s namesake, Scarlet Benoit. I’m loving how Marissa Meyer managed to make a second kick-ass female MC in this sequel to Cinder, and has a second mystery for us to unravel– the mystery of her grandmother’s disappearance and past. Scarlet and Cinder are both the main POVs in Scarlet and both have distinctively strong personalities. I would want to be BFFs with either one (or both), easy and it was amazing to see their stories come together.
Having talked about the kick-butt girls, I would now like to talk about the boys. GUYS. This is another “Where do I begin?” scenario because there is a cornucopia of swoony boys present in the pages of Scarlet. There’s this guy named Kai (IDK, you may remember him from the first book?), but IN ADDITION, let us add: Captain Carswell Thorne who is so quirkily funny and cocky and perfect.
But Thorne’s day in the sun has yet to come, so really the person we need to talk about here is WOLF. And may I just say? Rawr. (Ah-ooo?) He’s so quiet and mysterious, and it’s a really interesting contrast with the ferocity that he unleashes from time to time. Plus, despite the fact that the events in Scarlet take place in a very short amount of time and the book is extraordinarily fast-paced (Seriously, NEVER A DULL MOMENT), the relationship between Wolf and Scarlet manages to feel fully-developed, without the insta-love element that often drives me mad.
Other things that cannot go without a mention: Marissa’s amazing world-building, for one. I talked about this in my review of Cinder, but now that the world (so to speak– this is a sci-fi novel after all, and there is more than just one world to contend with) is expanding we learn more, and it’s never presented in an info-dumpy way. It grows more and more fascinating.
I also want to nod to the way that Marissa caught her readers up with what happened in Cinder. This was something I noticed on my reread, but it’s so perfectly mixed into the book’s opening. Again, none of the boring info-dump that is a commonality in many series from book to book. The “catch-up” is part of the action.
But one of my favorite things about Scarlet is the humor. I legitimately laughed out loud multiple times. And the dialogue! It’s so snappy and on-the-money. So perfect.
To sum up: Whether you read it once, twice, three times, or ten times, I think you’ll find something new to love about Scarlet on every read.(less)
My first inkling that I was going to be in for an emotional wallop with Lady Thief came when I tweeted about starting it in the need of some escapism, and Gillian responded with “LIGHT, ESCAPIST FARE. #sarcasm.” Many others heaped on their agreements.
They were not wrong.
It took me about three weeks to get through Lady Thief and it wasn’t because of any lack of enjoyment, but because of an abundance of pain. I had to take breaks in my reading because, oh my goodness, friends, Lady Thief hurts so good. Our characters are suffering from the events of the first book, Scarlet, and my does it show. There is guilt and there are nightmares. There’s pain, anger, longing, and resentment.
But there’s honor too. And there’s love.
It struck me how well Gaughen doles out her doses of happy moments amongst characters riddled with (not-undeserved) angst. I clung to them. Robin and Scarlet have precious few happy moments, but when they shine together, it’s a blinding affair. I nearly had to be caught as I fell to the ground from swooning and shipping so hard.
And that’s big for me because while I really loved Scarlet, I remember not being overly impressed with Robin– I liked him well enough as a character, but not as a love interest. His jealous streak and commands didn’t do it for me. Nor did the love triangle between them and John, which thankfully was resolved early in Lady Thief. But now… Robin loves Scarlet so much and it’s way easier to understand his protectiveness when he’s not fighting her tooth and nail on each decision.
As the summary tells us, Scarlet returns to court as Gisbourne’s wife, the Lady Marian Leaford. And guys, Gisbourne was kind of… interesting this time around. He has moments that verge on niceness. The layering of his character as anything other than pure, unadulterated evil was interesting and worked. It didn’t make him sympathetic by any means (dude’s a legit villain), but it did make him a more dimensional character.
Since we’re talking about Gisbourne, let’s talk about some of the abuse dialogue that Gaughen skillfully wove in. Gisbourne asks Scarlet why she “makes him hurt her” and she rightfully responds that she doesn’t make him do anything. Similarly, Scarlet speaks of an injury as the first time she’s hidden one of the injuries: “it seemed like I were ashamed they’d done it.” Seamless writing and encouragement for abuse victims that the abuse is never their fault and they’re far from the ones who should be ashamed. Brava.
Another beautiful thing about Lady Thief: courtly intrigue. And a tournament! Huzzah! I can get behind mysteries and power plays, guys. I can get behind powerful ladies bonding and keeping secrets (I sort of guessed said secret and I was so proud). For fear of spoiling you, I’ll say no more, but the secret hints are dropped in a way that’s semi-obvious but not all IN YO FACE. It works.
I really also enjoyed Scarlet struggling to be the Lady Marian Leaford again and sort of giving up on that. She knows who she is and speaking differently doesn’t change who she is or how she sees the world. I loved her take on the tournament and court life.
Aaaaand finally… we have to talk about the ending because I swear to baby Jesus I am still upset over this. In the way that Gaughen intended, but still. Still. The action (and naturally this isn’t the only instance of action, but it stands out particularly in my mind) is written so well in this final climax. People are crashing together, there’s chaos, and then…
THEN I WAS SCREAMING.
And then there was a bit more as I begged Lady Thief to reverse the pain, REVERSE THE PAIN.
And then Lady Thief ended.
And I was left reeling.
Basically what I’m saying is this was an amazing book. All the feels.
I don’t even know where to begin to review Code Name Verity. My hopes were high as I began reading due to all of the hype surrounding the title, which always feels like a bit of a gamble. But my hopes could have been even higher and Code Name Verity would not have disappointed me.
The phrase from the summary– “intricately woven”– is amazingly apt. As Verity writes her confession, trading her knowledge with the Nazis for a few more precious days, I felt vaguely ill, imagining the horrors that were to come. When Verity, referring to the war, “You always feel a little bit sick inside, knowing the worst might happen at any moment,”* it felt as if Elizabeth Wein knew what I was going through as I read her book.
Though seemingly a traitor, Verity is an amazingly brave and sympathetic character. Her captors are breaking her as best they can with the knowledge that her best friend has died, the screams of other prisoners, and her own torture. But she’s obviously angry over the great injustice taking place and she still she seizes on small moments of defiance. She also has her moments of caustic humor and times when her incredible intelligence comes through.
Historical novels– well-done ones– are a weakness of mine. and Code Name Verity absolutely qualifies. Elizabeth Wein did a clear amount of research to bring the terrifying times of World War II to life in excruciating detail.
Elizabeth Wein is also the master of surprise. I found myself sobbing rather violently through Code Name Verity’s resolution as she took me on a rollercoaster plummet of emotions.
Overall rating: 5/5. Masterfully written, Code Name Verity is a World War II novel that will break your heart.(less)
I hate writing bad reviews. HATE IT. Because I'm very aware that the author has accomplished a difficult feat...moreTo be posted on Almost Grown-up: 10/3/11:
I hate writing bad reviews. HATE IT. Because I'm very aware that the author has accomplished a difficult feat: writing a book in the first place. It's not as though she sat down and said "Today, I'm going to write a book that will make readers want to throw it across the room."
But unfortunately that's what was accomplished.
The premise of The Mephisto Covenant sounded really interesting to me. It seems like angels are the new craze and I haven't read many books depicting them, so I was curious about this one.
The first few pages had me really interested with Sasha suspicious of her mother's boyfriend and trying to solve the mystery behind her father's death. If the book had been about that a little bit more I might have been able to get behind it.
Instead, Sasha is quickly lured into the den of the Ravens, a pseudo-cult that worships Eryx. And Jax, a Mephisto, saves her.
But because Sasha is Anabo, when Jax smells her, he's basically in luuuuuuv.
Personally I have never known a smell that powerful. I love the scent of Curve for Men as much as the next girl, but it's never convinced me that I am meant for the guy for eternity. Anyway, the Insta-love (just add destiny!) effect was probably my biggest pet peeve in this book.
It was hard to respect Sasha when internal dialogue called someone the "town ho" and her outer dialogue responded to news with a solemn "That's heavy." Has anyone outside of surfer-dudes used that expression since the seventies? Then there's this awkward bit where Sasha does this "I like Jax, no I don't, no I shouldn't, but I want him, but he's leaving, but I like him, no I don't..." thing that just irritated me beyond belief. (To be fair, for his part, Jax had an equally annoying "I love Sasha, I want to do Sasha, I know better than Sasha, I am so wise, but woe is me for we cannot have the sexy times, and she will never stay conmigo' thing)
And let's not forget the sex scene, which was surprisingly graphic for a YA book. Graphic enough that if the characters weren't teenagers attending high school, I'd say that this didn't belong in the YA category. I had a clue that things were going to take that turn when before the book was even halfway through Jax describes Sasha's "perfect pink nipples." (And then I vommed in my mouth because it was so awkward)
Which he saw because he popped into the dressing room without permission while she was changing. Which is totally okay. And going on her Facebook without permission to look at her wall and private messages is okay too. Because, y'know, it's for her own good.
You guys, honestly I had so many problems with this book, I think I'm just going to bullet some of them (already went over a few but...)
Inconsistencies Graphic sex in YA Insta-love Gratuitous assumptions that all members of a gender think the same way Man knows best mentality Unrealistic dialogue Characters that fall flat
Rating: 1/5. If it wasn't for wanting to finish it for a more accurate review, there is absolutely no way I would have finished reading this book. However, I can see it being pretty popular because Insta-love tends to be.(less)
From everything I’ve heard about his books, I was expecting Big Things from Every Day by David Levithan and the author certa...morePosted to Almost Grown-up:
From everything I’ve heard about his books, I was expecting Big Things from Every Day by David Levithan and the author certainly didn’t disappoint.
Levithan’s prose is deceptively simplistic, but crafted in a way that even the simplest sentences have a poetry to them.
This book manages to teach us lessons without getting preachy. Things like the fact that love is love.Whether a person is thin, heavy, model gorgeous, average, male, or female. No matter which body A moves to every day, A loves Rhiannon. Love has no gender, race, or size.
MILD SPOILERS AHOY: (view spoiler)[ Here’s a harder truth that Every Day addresses: sometimes, love isn’t enough to make things work. As much as we want it to, it doesn’t conquer all because other circumstances affect relationships.
And even if you can see a happy ending for yourself, if it means that you have to do something that you knowis morally wrong, you should do the right thing as opposed to granting yourself that happy ending. People will respect you more for it.
God knows I respected A more for it. A was self-sacrificing, giving Rhiannon a chance to be happy even though A had to move on. That’s a big love; caring more about the other person’s happiness. (hide spoiler)]
Overall rating: 5/5. Every Day was simply beautiful. This is another one of those books that I hope makes it onto required reading lists someday. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I have literally been looking forward to this book for years. I grew up reading Meyer’s Sailor Moon fanfiction and followed her livejournal account of her writing adventues. She was one of my favorite fanfiction authors. I think I can safely remove the word “fanfiction” from that title after reading Cinder. Meyer’s become one of my favorite authors, full stop, with her debut novel.
As one could probably infer from the title, Cinder is a futuristic reimagining of the fairy tale of Cinderella. The tale begins when Prince Kai asks Cinder to repair his android and, in the very same day, plague strikes close to home. Enjoy the quiet peace of the first few pages of the novel. Things quickly turn into a roller coaster ride of a book.
The relationship between Kai and Cinder is one that you really have to appreciate. Unlike so many other books out there, it isn’t part of the insta-love phenomenon that is the bane of my existence a little unrealistic. We grow to know both Kai and Cinder in their own right, understand the various pressures that they both find themselves under. And then, we see that seed of attraction that we can spot early on grow.
There is definitely enough romance to make lovers of it swoon, but I also loved being taken along for Cinder’s ride full of self-discovery. She learns things about her mysterious past that I never saw coming, and Meyer threw twist after twist that just left me reeling.
And let’s have a look at Meyer’s world-building for a moment: It’s more than fitting that for a futuristic novel, the villains are ones that we can’t even find on earth. It’s fitting also that the unusual “draft” only affects cyborgs who aren’t considered entirely human because of technology, and that arguably Cinder’s closest friend is an android named Iko (I totally want an android like Iko to give me fashion advice, by the way. She was adorable!). The way that the day-to-day technology is written, such as “coms” or “netscreens,” makes it seem day-to-day. I was never wondering what exactly they did, every device just seemed like something that belonged there.
Fair warning, the book ends on a wicked cliffhanger. You will want Book 2: Scarlet in hand promptly and, if you’re like me, will want to thrash around on the floor, beating your fists, crying “WHY?!” as in “WHY don’t I have Scarlet yet?!”
But it’s worth it. Meyer’s writing has all of the charm of a traditional fairy tale with the extra zap! of technology and wonderful characters to give it pizazz.
Overall rating: 5/5. I have a new favorite series. Move this book to the top of your TBR pile NOW. But don’t come crying to me over the cliffhanger please. I’m just barely recovering myself.(less)
I listened to all the people who DEMANDED I read Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour by taking advantage of the two free Audible books that I got this year. And guess what I learned?
Morgan Matson is extremely skilled in the art of MAKING ME CRY.
Because so many people recommended it to me, I didn’t bother looking up a summary of the plot before diving in. I thought that I was simply in for a fun, roadtrip-filled ROMP.
And while there was lots of romp-like fun to be had, what I didn’t count on was that Amy would go on such a personal journey as she and Roger made their way across the country. She finds her way back to herself and the mother and brother she’s grown increasingly distant from in the wake of her dad’s death, which she blames herself for.
She also finds her way to Roger.
Coincidentally, Morgan Matson is also extremely skilled in the art of making me swoon.
You guys… just. Roger. I recall feeling similarly about Second Chance Summer‘s Henry, but these are just… such nice boys. Cute nice boys. Nice boys who are cute. And funny. So hard to find and even if he wasn’t being particularly “romantic” with Amy during most of the novel, they had such chemistry and he was so sweet and damaged in his own little way that I… well, I swooned.
Initially, I felt very ‘meh’ about the audio, but I totally warmed up to Suzy Jackson as the voice of Amy. She didn’t do special “voices” like I’ve come to expect from other audiobooks, but her voice had all of the emotion that Amy felt in it. It was like Amy was really telling me her story. I know that if I ever reread the book in textual form, I’ll hear Jackson’s voice in my head because she was so very Amy.
To sum up: Though I can recommend the audiobook version without any reservations, mostly I just recommend that you read this book in whatever format you prefer. As long as you read it.(less)
As soon as I heard that Beth Harbison had a new book coming out, I knew that I would be reading it. I've read a f...morePosted on Almost Grown-up on 9/19/11:
As soon as I heard that Beth Harbison had a new book coming out, I knew that I would be reading it. I've read a few of her other novels and absolutely adored them and from an author of her caliber, I was looking forward to a good read.
Beth Harbison hooked me within a few paragraphs. As soon as I read the words:
"Everyone has a first love, one person they never completely got over, right?
She had me. I was swallowed up by this book, unable to put it down.
Harbison uses a back and forth narrative. In one chapter we're reliving Erin's relationship with Nate against a backdrop of 80s music and in the next, we're with her in her job as an event planner with a man that she likes but doesn't feel passion for. When he proposes she starts to wonder if being just content with her life is enough. And then fate throws Nate back into her life...
If you can bring yourself to believe that first love can be True Love, pick this one up.
Rating: 5/5. Superbly written. If you like chick lit and romance, this book will tug at your heartstrings and make you remember that first guy who meant anything.(less)
I’m going to start my review of Ashes by saying this:
I could not be happier that Ashes was the book that I used to kick off Dewey’s 24 hour readathon. I was instantly drawn in to Ashes. The novel opens on a scene that feels almost bittersweet. Our main character, Alex, is terminally ill with cancer and is off on a last hike to spread her parents ashes, having decided to live out the remainder of her life without treatment. She speaks with her aunt on the drive up and their conversation and Alex’s ruminations brought a sad smile to my face.
Then Ilsa Bick hit me with a blow, ending the chapter by letting me know that things would not have a happy ending. In a twisted way, that was one of my (many) favorite aspects of the book. Right when I think “Oh, okay, this is kind of happy, and relax a teeny bit,” Ilsa Bick STEALS my relaxation away, letting me know with one chapter-ending statement that it won’t be okay and it won’t be happy. It’s a little masochistic of me- but I loved that.
Bick manages to develop multiple characters in Ashes. There’s Ellie who starts off as a brat that I can’t STAND, even if I was trying to understand what she was going through, and turns into this poor little girl that I just thought needed a hug. There’s more to Tom than initially appears and finally of course, there’s our main character in Ashes.
Alex goes from being resigned to death to being desperate for life and she is so smart that she’s a heroine I can totally respect. And love in an I-want-to-be-BFFs-and-have-her-teach-me-wilderness-ways kind of way. Alex, take me camping please. My indoor-oriented self could never handle it without a seasoned pro like you.
The most incredible thing about Ashes to me? How friggin’ gritty it was. Things are atmospheric and chilling. There’s this sort of stark realization that they’ve basically lived through the damn APOCALYPSE and honestly they’re kind of worse off for it. Society is all but non-existent and when a semblance of society is finally found… it’s dystopian and leaves a lot to be desired, but it is unfortunately the best option for those who want to survive.
Overall rating: 5/5. Incredible, gritty and thrilling. Ashes is an amazingly intense post-apocalyptic novel.(less)
I got SO SUPER EXCITED when I was approved for The Bitter Kingdom and my excitement was more than warranted....morePosted to Almost Grown-up:
I got SO SUPER EXCITED when I was approved for The Bitter Kingdom and my excitement was more than warranted. I read and loved The Girl of Fire and Thorns and Crown of Embers by Rae Carson, so I was chomping at the bit for The Bitter Kingdom.
Guys, thinking about Elisa’s character arc almost brings a tear to my eye. Scratch that, forget the almost. I’ve fixated on it now and there are FEELINGS in me. She has come SO amazingly far from where we met her The Girl of Fire and Thorns. From an insecure princess who does what she’s told without demanding to know why to a freaking QUEEN– a confident one who’s learned to love herself. She considers other people’s advice, accepts allies but MAKES HER OWN DAMN DECISIONS. Even when they come from the main man in her life:
HECTOR. Oh Hector, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
1) You don’t get your man parts in a major tangle over Elisa coming to your rescue
2) You treat her as an EQUAL and let her do what she needs to– even if it means you’re not at her side CONSTANTLY.
3) You’re kick-ass yourself
4) You have some of these LINES that make me all weak in the knees
Okay, I must chill with the Hector love. Because yes, I love him, I love Elisa, and I love him and Elisa together, but I think you guys GET THE PICTURE NOW.
So onto other The Bitter Kingdom goodness. Like the world-building that continues in this book. I think world-building in general is a big challenge of writing fantasy, but I’m continually amazed at how well some authors are able to expand those worlds in ways that are realistic and amazing. You see the different cultures present in Elisa’s world in this book and it’s positively fascinating.
I also love how DIMENSIONAL even secondary characters are. You see what their motivations are and understand their flaws and WHY they do the things they do.
In short, The Bitter Kingdom was an incredible book and a phenomenal conclusion to a beloved trilogy. I’ll miss Elisa, Hector, and their world like whoa.(less)
Dang, Mortal Fire by Elizabeth Knox was damned refreshing.
I adore magic in the books I read and there’s certainly nothing wrong with spells, psychics, or magical worlds– heck they’re some of my favorite things to find in fiction. But it’s also nice to come across a book that has magic that is altogether different from anything I’ve seen before. And that’s what I got in Mortal Fire.
And that wasn’t the only thing different and refreshing about Mortal Fire. For one thing, we have a main character who’s got a little diversity for a change. She hails from the South Pacific and her mother is the daughter of an island chief. Canny, or “Akanesi” is a math genius and typically very solemn.
The 3rd person narration is a little distant and ordinarily my assumption would be that might make it difficult to connect with, but the prose of Mortal Fire was gorgeously written. I relished every word.(less)
Romantic comedy and chick-lit used to be my genres of choice, so I’m not sure exactly how I let it become so long since read...morePosted to Almost Grown-up:
Romantic comedy and chick-lit used to be my genres of choice, so I’m not sure exactly how I let it become so long since reading my last one. I’m not about to hop off the Young Adult train, but Carrie Goes Off the Map was a nice change from the usual.
Carrie is all set to get married to her fiance, Huw. He, unfortunately, has different ideas and dumps her on the night of his stag party. Months later, Carrie hears that Huw has rebounded quite easily and is getting married– that very day. So she hatches a plan for a getaway on a camper trip, though Huw’s old friend Matt wasn’t who she originally planned to bring along.
Phillipa Ashley has a terrifically funny voice. I found myself giggling out loud at Carrie, her antics, and her nicknames for people and at Matt’s behavior– there’s one scene when he’s shouting at the television in particular that stood out in my mind.
Also, confession time? I have a total weakness for romances where a character is obviously trying to fight off an attraction to another and Carrie Goes Off the Map fits the bill in that respect. Matt’s a pretty stand-up guy: a sexy doctor (rawr), but he saw Carrie in one of her worst moments and she seems to determined to hate him. I loved when she finally gave up on that. Yes, romantic comedies can be a bit predictable, but who doesn’t enjoy the ride of a romance?
I really liked how both Carrie and Matt don’t want to jump into a relationship to start off. Okay, I suppose really I liked that Carrie didn’t jump into one. Matt’s a little bit more of a “wild stallion” (and yes, I am as much in disbelief that I tried to pull off using that term as you are.). Carrie just got out of a really serious relationship, and she understandably explores some options first.
Overall rating: 4/5. Overall, a romance that left me grinning with the added bonus of Brits. I’ll be happy to explore more by Phillipa Ashley in the future.(less)
I was excited when I pre-ordered The Madness Underneath. There were two big reasons for this. 1) I loved The Name of The Sta...morePosted to Almost Grown-up:
I was excited when I pre-ordered The Madness Underneath. There were two big reasons for this. 1) I loved The Name of The Star and was excited to see where the story went next.
2) …it came with kick-ass stickers.
Stickers aside, I was relieved to find that my anticipation had not been for nothing. Maureen Johnson’s voice in Rory is just as fresh as ever. I wanted the girl to be my BFF from time to time because… well, I suspect Rory is secretly a Tumblr user when she explains her reason for doing something with “Because Stephen.”
The Madness Underneath is not QUITE as spooky or fast-paced as The Name of the Star. The sense of danger is as omnipresent because there’s a little less mystery about the killings. The Madness Underneath is more about Rory finding her own path, while still being a hilarious ghostbuster.
One thing I appreciate with Maureen Johnson’s series is that, when we have swoony times, it’s not all about the ONE TRUE LOVE thing. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love those books too, but Johnson seems keenly aware of reality in that her characters as teenagers and likely will not be with the first person they date forever.
BUT in regards to OTP happiness, never have my emotions swerved so quickly in 180 degree-type turn. One minute I’m overjoyed, the next, I was SCREAMING. And then the book ended. Because I think perhaps Maureen Johnson practices reader torture in her spare time.
To sum up: I loved this book, but lord am I WAILING over the end. I need a support line to call.(less)
I am a fantasy addict. Which, if you already follow this blog, you know. If you are new here, it’s a helpful thin...morePosted to Almost Grown-up:
I am a fantasy addict. Which, if you already follow this blog, you know. If you are new here, it’s a helpful thing to keep in mind. Because I read a lot of fantasy, and I love it, but Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha Trilogy and, in particular, this novel stand apart from the rest.
I won’t bore you again with what I thought about the world-building (stellar), but let’s jump right into Alina and her character arc. She’s come so far from the mousy orphan we met at the beginning of Shadow & Bone. Her struggle with adjusting to having power and what it means for her relationships with people is so interesting to “watch.”
SPEAKING of relationships, in the last book, I was underwhelmed by Mal. I sort of just felt like: “Okay, Alina likes him, whatever.” BUT GUYS, I GET IT NOW. Mal is kind of amazing and fears that he’s not important enough to Alina. But he’s so wonderful and funny and just wants to be useful and like– he’s drawn so well in this book. SO WELL.
And on the subject of characters that I’ve had flip-flopped feelings for: The Darkling. My love of him from the last book (that I choose not to examine too closely because whoa I don’t have time for that kind of psychoanalysis) is OFFICIALLY gone because OMG I don’t remember the last time I found a character so CREEPY. And ruthless. He’s completely terrifying.
To continue along this line of menmenmenmenMANLYmenmenmen, may I say: STURMHOND HALLO. I really enjoyed meeting this guy. He’s SNARKY and hilarious. I’ll analogize him a little bit to Marissa Meyer’s Thorne, but with a bit more of an EDGE. I could go on, but… anything else I might say would be spoilerific, so I think you should read and swoon for yourself.
Goodreads rating: 5/5 stars. If you like fantasy and you’re not reading this series, I don’t know what you’re doing with your life.(less)
There is a feeling very few authors and very few books give me when I finish reading them. And that is the feeling that they...morePosted to Almost Grown-up:
There is a feeling very few authors and very few books give me when I finish reading them. And that is the feeling that they use words so beautifully that I should no longer be allowed to attempt to wield them, as any meager efforts that I make fall short of their beautifully composed prose.
Laini Taylor is one of those authors and Days of Blood & Starlight is one of those books.
(Please know how hard this review is to write without writing some major spoilers for Daughter of Smoke & Bone)
Just as beautifully written as Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Days of Blood & Starlight has very little contact between our two main characters (and lovers) Akiva and Karou. And though I love the swoony angst-ridden moments, I was totally fine with them being separated. Because Days of Blood and Starlight is more about their personal paths for redemption and the struggles that they have along the way. Karou is reconciling the part of her that is Karou with that other part of her and Akiva… he’s trying to atone for his own sins.
Each character that Laini Taylor brings to the page has a distinct personality and… I want to say flavor here, even if that’s weird. From villains, to supporting characters (both returning and otherwise), all are fully-developed. And as far as returning characters go, may I just say? YAY, ZUZANA! I was so happy to see the return of the tiny, rabid fairy.
This was one of my most highly-anticipated titles this season– nay, this year– and it did not even approach the realm of disappointing.
In conclusion, I’d just like to say that Laini Taylor may take my words away… because she uses them so much better than I do.
To sum up: If you haven’t already read the first book, Daughter of Smoke & Bone, what are you even doing with your life? And if, in addition to that, you still haven’t picked up Days of Blood & Starlight, rest assured… I am making a judgy face at you.(less)
You know how you read some books because blogs have been buzzing like CRAZY about them? The hype has built them up so...moreTo be posted on Almost Grown-up:
You know how you read some books because blogs have been buzzing like CRAZY about them? The hype has built them up so far in your mind that you expect them to absolutely BLOW YOUR MIND. And then you read them and things don't quite add up. They're nothing like what the reviews said and you don't understand. They got all of these positive reviews, how could they fall so short?
Listen to me when I tell you that The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer is not one of those books. Because it did blow my mind. And then some.
Mara Dyer is a psychological thriller in that the protagonist, Mara experiences frequent hallucinations and symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Sometimes the hallucinations are gory, which was creeptastic (it's a word because I say so).
Since the story is told from a 1st person point of view, as a reader, you're never really sure what is real and what is not real. The use of an unreliable narrator was a total mind-warp. And you know? I liked it. A lot.
Then there are the characters. A problem that I often have in novels is that the protagonist is friends with people who don't seem to deserve their friendship. Or the familial relations either fall flat or don't matter to me. But the relationships in this book are different.
Mara has a complicated relationship with her mother. They try to connect with each other but have difficulty after Mara's experiences. And Mara's brothers, Daniel and Joseph obviously care about her but also have the sense of humor that seems to be coded into the DNA of the Dyer children.
And the only friend Mara makes upon moving from is Jamie, who is a genius but outcast from the rest of Croyden, the school she's started at since moving to Miami. Hodkin said at her launch party that Jamie is probably her favorite character outside Mara and I completely understand why. Jamie is a genius, and hilarious, and yes, probably a little bit crazy, but that's part of his charm.
And Noah. Oh, Noah. You know, I really really wanted to hate Noah. He's a cocky arrogant asshole who usually treats girls like crap from what we know about him. But I couldn't because dammit... he was sexy. Like really sexy. And when we see his vulnerable side? Yeah. I couldn't help liking the d-bag.
Another minor problem I had with this novel was the sexual obstacle that Noah and Mara encounter when we're nearly at the end of the book. I didn't see it as an important plot device. It reminded me a various series that I am not a fan of. And there's almost an insta-love/meant to be angle, but Hodkin manages not to be a cliche with her unique voice.
Speaking of the voice: Mara. I want to be this girl's best friend in some ways. She's hilarious at times. And she knows what nom de plume means in high school. Yeah, I could have been best friends with her. You spend the book empathizing with her, worried for her. She's trying to get over some pretty terrible stuff and she's not sure if she's crazy, just has PTSD, or if these things are actually happening.
This review is beginning to get a bit rambly, so I'm going to sum up: I love this book. Go. Buy. It.
Rating: 4.5/5. I adored this book and while I did like Noah, I couldn't get over how much I wanted to hate him. And the obstacle at the end did really irritate me. Still, great book.(less)
When I started For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund, all that I knew about it was that it was a retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion. Word had not yet reached me that it was science-fiction… or, more importantly, THAT IT WAS AWESOME.
But I am here to vouch for the fact that it is one awesome, sci-fi, dystopian-esque, Austenite retelling.
I found it a little confusing at first as the world and characters were set up, but I’m telling you, guys, if you’re reading For Darkness Shows the Stars or plan to read it, muscle your way past that because it is so SO worth it. Once you get it, the world clicks into place and the story becomes so textured and gorgeous.
I love the world that Diana Peterfreund constructed in For Darkness Shows the Stars and I think that that is a big part of what gives the story such an amazing feel. It’s the future, yes. And yes, it’s science fiction. But the society is constructed in a way that hearkens back to class systems of the old days with the Luddites playing the part of the nobility. Although, HOLLER for a society that isn’t totally patriarchal in this case because women can be Luddite lords just as easily as men.
And, as I said, I think that vibe of old-timey-ness, from the fashions to the fixations on titles and estates, is what gives such an authentic feel.
Also, Luddites? They believe in keeping things “as God intended.” That means basically no scientific improvements. Really, it means no progress. Diana Peterfreund carries that element of nature through with some of her gorgeous metaphors and descriptions. They’re made all the more effective by the fact that the North estate is a farm and thus even more tied to nature than some other Luddite estates might be.
So now we come to Elliot, the daughter of the Baron North. And guys? I adore Elliot. She’s got this great and passionate love in the form of one, Kai alias Malakai Wentforth, but her father and sister are terrible at running the land and taking care of the people on it. She indulges herself in her feelings– she’s only human, but she is so heartwrenchingly mature about the decisions she feels she must make for the good of others.
Further, Elliot is so conflicted because Luddite ideals are entering a stage for her when they don’t completely make sense. They have the tools for improvement, but the protocols have been put in place to keep them all safe… right? It’s heresy– it’s arrogance to think any other way.
And then… guys, then there is Kai. And he is so cold and standoffish to Elliot and it breaks my damn heart when I compare it to the letters (placed between chapters) that their younger selves exchanged. Their scenes have so much underlying tension that–
No lie, I just stopped typing to clutch at my heart. It’s that amazing.
Now. I have not yet read Persuasion. HOWEVER. Diana Peterfreund executed her version of the story so beautifully in For Darkness Shows the Stars that I’m adding it to my classics must-read list.
Overall rating: 5/5. For Darkness Shows the Stars is a positively gorgeous retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion with superb language and layered characters.(less)
Rae of Hope by W.J. May is exactly the kind of book early teenage years-me would have adored. You’ve gotchyer boarding schoo...morePosted to Almost Grown-up:
Rae of Hope by W.J. May is exactly the kind of book early teenage years-me would have adored. You’ve gotchyer boarding school, you’ve gotchyer magical powers, you’ve gotchyer swoony boy and yer highly suspect villain.
Plus I have a heart-shaped birthmark that I probably would have convinced myself was secretly a magical tatu. That’s the kind of thing 14 year-old me did. I was awesome like that.
To be honest, even as an adult, it had me a little in its thrall.
Starting off, I wasn’t quite sure that that would be so. The main character, Rae Kerrigan seemed– well… kind of bitchy in the beginning. A little angry at the world and judgmental of everyone around her.
But that fades a great deal as she settles in at Guilder and starts to learn about about what exactly lead to her attending the school. Everyone at Guilder has a unique power given to them through a tatu that forms on their sixteenth birthday. I was fascinated learning all of the different powers everyone had and watching Rae’s develop.
Some elements were very vaguely reminiscent of Harry Potter, which I LOVED– the most obvious being the magical boarding school, but much more focus is on the teenage elements than world-building or a mystery. We see the crush that Rae develops on her tutor Devon, she makes friends with her “roomie,” gets to know herself, that sort of thing.
Though she’s pretty much made up her mind that she likes Devon, it seems like EVERY other boy at school likes Rae, which is not only one of my “push buttons,” but also added to me having some difficulty keeping the guy characters straight in my head. I did know who Devon was the whole time though and it was nice to have a male lead that I respected because of the way he handled his relationships.
Several references felt outdated to me, such as a repeated Macgyver reference. I’m not sure that that show is even aired any more (at least, not where I live), so it felt off for Rae, a modern teen, to make the comparison. That happened with a few other shows she mentioned as well.
W.J. May managed to throw me completely off on who to suspect as “against” Rae, another thing that had me drawing a (slight) Harry Potter parallel. I couldn’t have been more surprised as the book reached its climax and the antagonist was revealed in a truly thrilling conclusion.
Despite a few (small) flaws, I genuinely enjoyed Rae of Hope and think it’s a great novel, most especially for YA readers who are actually teenagers.
Overall rating: 3.5/5. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed Rae of Hope. One of the better indie published books that I’ve had the pleasure to read.(less)
I haven't seen the movie yet, but this is among my favorite books. Good girl goes for everything, risks it all, makes HUGE mistakes and still winds up...moreI haven't seen the movie yet, but this is among my favorite books. Good girl goes for everything, risks it all, makes HUGE mistakes and still winds up with love. Not entirely realistic, but a really wonderful read.(less)
You know when you “mood read?” Say you finished a really great book about spies (just, y’know, for example), and you pick up a book that you haven’t heard anything about because the only thing you do know about it is that is has that element that you want more of. In this case: spies.
So you start the book. And then comes that moment. That moment when you start a book and expect to like it– and wind up loving it instead.
Also Known As by Robin Benway was described as “perfect for fans of Ally Carter” and WORD UP. It was. It really really was. I’d like to add that it especially reminded me of the early Gallagher Girls books. The main character, Maggie is a fun, normal teenage girl– who just happens to have been a safe cracker from a very young age. Moving around on missions with her family is all she knows. Only now she’s expected to have her own mission and navigate the treacherous waters of a private school, make girl friendships, and get all flirty with the son of newspaper owner.
And it IS PERFECT.
Maggie’s character arc in Also Known As is fabulous. She goes from thinking: spyspyspyspyspyspyspy, to considering relationships with people besides her parents amidst said spy chicanery. And working towards unscrambling a mystery, mostly on her own. She’s conflicted about lying to people– both her parents and her new friends. Her friend Roux is both sad and funny, and the swoony moments between Maggie and Jesse are too cute for words.
By the way, I have to stop and point out that I loved seeing Maggie’s parents play so active a role in this story. It’s something not a lot of YA books have at play and it worked really well.
In addition to the interesting spy aspects, guys, Also Known As is so hilarious. Like… LAUGH OUT LOUD funny. I’m told that this is a THING which Robin Benway is very good at, these LOLs, so I will most definitely be looking up more of her work.
To sum up: I enjoyed Also Known As by Robin Benway to a tremendous degree, so much so that I read it in one sitting within a few hours– at which point I was very sad that it was over. (less)
So. Ummmm… 172 Hours on the Moon was terrifying. In a totally good way, of course, but my God. If this had been a movie bein...morePosted to Almost Grown-up:
So. Ummmm… 172 Hours on the Moon was terrifying. In a totally good way, of course, but my God. If this had been a movie being played in front of me I probably would have had my knuckles turning white while I tried not to scream. Or I would have been screaming. EITHER OR.
The novel begins with plans to send another voyage to the moon and as part of a publicity stunt, the powers-that-be decide to hold a lottery across the world to allow three teenagers to join in and spend 172 hours on the moon aboard the moon base DARLAH 2. We’re introduced to Mia from Norway, Midori from Japan, and Antoine from France.
Though we don’t get any major character building, Midori was by far my favorite mostly because I got to see her being adorable in Japan and her name is Midori, just like one of my my favorite drinks. Plus I thought Mia was a little bit of a brat and Antoine was a TOTAL CREEP. I guess it kind of makes sense that if any characters hook up, it would be the two of them, even though it happens so out of nowhere that it feels contrived.
But there’s hardly time to think about that because while 172 Hours on the Moon was mildly intriguing, things started to GO DOWN around a quarter way through. And once they get to the moon? OH MY GOD GUYS, things get REAL. Every twist the book, took I was struck by the urge to flail and yell “WHAT IS HAPPENING?!”
I was comforted by what I knew from the synopsis, but then that comfort gets TORN AWAY. It ends in a way I just did not see coming and when I finished the novel I felt vaguely dumbstruck.
And still a little scared. In fact, I’m a little scared just remembering my reading of it now.
Overall rating: 4/5. A great book to scare the pants off you, if that’s the sort of no pants time you’re into. If I thought my heart could take it, I’d definitely read more translated works by Norwegian author Johan Harstad.(less)
Oh wait, I’m supposed to tell you WHY you should go buy this book first, right? Well,...morePosted to Almost Grown-up:
GOOD MORROW, FRIENDS.
Go buy this book.
Oh wait, I’m supposed to tell you WHY you should go buy this book first, right? Well, then, let’s hop to it!
We all know what a big fan of Tamora Pierce I am, right? Which is why a pitch that includes her name is guaranteed to draw my eye. But nothing besides the quality of a story will guarantee that it will hold my attention.
And boy oh boy, did The Cadet of Tildor hold my attention.
It wasn’t only that it held so many of my favorite elements: there was magic, a castle, and a strong female MC– it was that Alex Lidell crafted those elements so well.
For instance, our strong female MC, Renee de Winter is so proud of her future as a Cadet and so fearful that it won’t come to fruition– so she works at it. And the best thing about her is how much she grows as a character over the course of the novel. When the novel starts, she sees the world as very black and white. It was interesting as things changed for her so that she could see that there wasn’t always a clear answer.
Another character that I really enjoyed was Savoy, who was absolutely fascinating. He’s almost surly when he is called back to the castle in order to teach the cadets, but does a good job teaching. It was particularly interesting when we caught glimpses of what his character may have been like back when he was a student himself.
But the political unrest present in its pages is what gives The Cadet of Tildor life. The royal family fights against two crime families, who, in turn fight against each other as well. The seed of corruption runs deep in the world and as more was revealed about the families’ beliefs and the laws of the realms, I found myself actually understanding why different characters would ally themselves in certain ways.
The Cadet of Tildor is a fantasy novel that you’ll want sitting on your shelves alongside other YA fantasy favorites like Throne of Glass, Graceling… and yes, Tamora Pierce’s novels too.
The first scene of Before You Go by James Preller packs a punch. It’s rich in imagery and sensory detail and there’s an urge...morePosted to Almost Grown-up:
The first scene of Before You Go by James Preller packs a punch. It’s rich in imagery and sensory detail and there’s an urgency to the scene. Add that to how excited I was for the novel, and I was fully sucked in. I expected that would be the case for then entirely novel, but then I realized it was a flash-forward-style prologue. These work in some (RARE) cases, but in many, as was the case in Before You Go, it irritated me as a reader. I felt like I’d been promised high stakes from the get-go and they weren’t nearly delivered.
Unfortunately, things didn’t get much better. I kept waiting for characters to feel like real people instead of caricatures of actual teenagers. The dialogue feels forced, awkward, and inauthentic, peppered with obscure book and movie references that would have been effective once or twice, but not as much as they were used.
The plot could have done with some tightening; it felt like there was a lot of information or scenes that didn’t serve a purpose. I can think of at least two characters who seemed simply like devices to draw out the story as they didn’t further the plot at all.
The main character Jude still feels grief and guilt over the death of his sister Lily and feels disconnected from his parents. He starts a new job and is maybe even figuring out his first love. Plus, as noted in the plot synopsis, something occurs that throws Jude’s life into upheaval once again.
Obviously, the events involved in Before You Go all involved some extremely heightened emotions and I’d anticipated feeling some major pathos for Jude. But, there was nothing. Not a twinge.
I think a lot of that was down to the fact that Before You Go is written in a third person omniscient point of view, which distanced me from all involved. I was never really close enough to Jude to feel for him.
Overall rating: 2/5. I simply didn’t connect with Before You Go. Still love the premise and the way that the prologue is written, though.(less)
The back cover of Gods and Warriors by Michelle Paver boasts that it’s “perfect for fans of Percy Jackson.” I qualify under...morePosted to Almost Grown-up:
The back cover of Gods and Warriors by Michelle Paver boasts that it’s “perfect for fans of Percy Jackson.” I qualify under that category MOST ARDENTLY, so I was really really excited to begin reading. I don’t think it’s really perfect for Percy Jackson fans… but it might just be perfect for me.
One thing Gods and Warriors does have in common with Percy Jackson is the way that young kids have these really awful things happen to them and wind up in this impossibly huge situation.
But, like Rick Riordan, Michelle Paver still manages to make them sound their age. These are kids who would be in middle school in our era and they sound like it… to an extent. I mean they don’t sound anachronistic, but they sound like kids. There’s more than one point-of-view in Gods and Warriors, but they’re all necessary and advance the plot.
If there’s one thing that I admire, it’s the ability to bring a world to life. And Michelle Paver EXCELS at that in Gods and Warriors. It’s in little things from the way that Hylas refers to certain plants to the way that people from different places refer to things differently. Revolutionary, I know.
But the history of Gods and Warriors is brought to life so perfectly that the research that Michelle Paver conducted is evident. I love historical fiction, but I’ve never been particularly interested in the Mediterranean Bronze Age. I am now.
The language is simple, but really effective. The whole book is so tuned in with nature and spirituality that it’s absolutely beautiful sometimes.
Overall rating: 4.5/5. If all MG books made me like them so much, I’d read a whole lot more of them. Happily, Michelle Paver has many other books for me to dive into in the future.(less)
Fallon has been given a mission. Her first. She's told to kill one of the king's knights, Xander, and prove her loyal...moreTo be posted on PageTurnersBlog:
Fallon has been given a mission. Her first. She's told to kill one of the king's knights, Xander, and prove her loyalty to the Rebels and the woman who has raised her.
But to Fallon's dismay, when she meets her mark, an unbidden attraction springs up between them. Despite being a knight of the Force, Xander too wonders at what lies Outside. And he's never heard of the Rebels.
So why do they want him dead?
I love a good dystopian and though it's not a novel, the novelette Unveiled definitely fits that criteria. I am so very glad that Page Turners Blog was contacted for a review and that I was lucky enough to be able to read it!
The world that Trisha Wolfe has created is certainly intriguing. It's futuristic, but harkens back to an earlier time simply because the King has commanded it so. Both the history-lover and dystopian drama queen in me loved it.
I also found the characters of both Fallon and Xander to be utterly absorbing. Fallon wants so badly to prove herself and will do almost anything to do so. And Xander is both adorable and gallant, ever the gentlemen. Even when Fallon is doing her damnedest to kill him.
My one quibble is that Xander and Fallon seem to progress from attraction to full-blown relationship status awfully quickly. It only takes a couple of days. I would have liked to see more of development personally. But it didn't detract from my overall enjoyment of the story.
This novelette is fast-paced and absolutely jam-packed with action, intrigue, twists and turns. In the course of a night, life as Fallon knew it is turned on its ear and she must move forward with new knowledge and responsibilities.
I look forward to reading the upcoming novel set in this world and more of Trisha Wolfe's work. Unveiled was short, but riveting.(less)