I wanted to read Ashes on the Waves from the first time that I heard Mary Lindsey talk about it. I...moreFirst reviewed on Portrait of a Book
Really 4.5 stars
I wanted to read Ashes on the Waves from the first time that I heard Mary Lindsey talk about it. I love Poe and I love retellings, so a retelling of Poe's poem Annabel Lee with Celtic mythology added in sounded like the recipe for a great book. And it was.
Liam has lived a hard life on the island of Dochas. Crippled from birth, he is shunned by the other inhabitants and haunted by the wails of Bean Sidhes. The only happiness he knew was when he played with the heiress Annabel Leighton as a child. But at seventeen, he had resigned himself to only seeing Anna in magazines. But one day Anna returns to the island, exiled there by her family. With Anna back on the island, Liam is once again happy. But there are forces threatening to tear them apart, both human and otherworldly. Will their love survive all of the trials that they are forced to endure? And more importantly, will they?
If you have read Mary Lindsey's first book, Shattered Souls, you may think you know what to expect in Ashes on the Waves. But Mary has truly outdone herself with this book. From the very first page I was transported to the mystical island where the love story of Liam and Anna unfolded. There were Poe quotes at the beginning of each chapter that set the stage and told the story in their own way, and out of them grew a wonderfully tragic narrative. The writing is both lyrical and vivid, and everything about the island came to life in a story that I didn't want to put down. Even though Anna and Liam seem like an unlikely pair at first, you can't help but be swept away by the depth of their love. The story is told from Liam's perspective, and his devotion to Anna as well as the hard life he's lived and the way he overcomes it make him completely swoon-worthy.
In addition to the sadness that pervades this book, there is also magic and mythology. I liked the portions for Muireann's perspective, and I loved how the real and fantastical worlds blended. The magic world housed a lot of secrets, and I enjoyed uncovering them along with Liam and Anna. Despite everything that happens, there is always an undertone of hope, reinforcing the idea that love never dies. I hated turning the final page, because even though I knew that the story was over, I still wanted more.
Ashes on the Waves is a beautiful, haunting novel. It is definitely a not-to-be-missed read! (less)
This book is hard to rate, let alone review. Even months after reading it I still have mixed feelings about it. Although it has its good points and is...moreThis book is hard to rate, let alone review. Even months after reading it I still have mixed feelings about it. Although it has its good points and is certainly a worthwhile story, part of me feels that it could have had more of an impact if told differently.(less)
This book had a lot of buzz around it, and the night that I picked it up to read, it seemed like it would be the r...moreFirst reviewed on Portrait of a Book
This book had a lot of buzz around it, and the night that I picked it up to read, it seemed like it would be the right mix of poignant and sweet. Unbreak My Heart explores different sides of heartbreak and the pain that any loss can cause, but as the title suggests, it also shows healing.
Clementine Williams' sophomore year was fine...until people found out that she had fallen for her best friend Amanda's boyfriend. Because of that, Clem was shunned by her friends and looking forward to a summer with no plans, until her parents tell her that they will be sailing along the river. Clem is looking forward to escaping into her room with her music, but her family's first stop on the journey changes that. She meets a boy her age, James, in a store, and soon they are running into each other quite frequently. But Clem knows she isn't a good person - after all, her lifelong friends still won't talk to her. Neither her parents nor her little sister Olive can cheer her up. But could James be just the medicine that her heart needs?
Unbreak My Heart is told with a dual narrative, alternating pieces of Clem's sophomore year with the events of the summer on the river. I loved that the story unfolded gradually and that we still learned more about Clem as the book went on. I also enjoyed getting to know her family. Her parents were involved and caring, and her little sister Olive was adorable - just like what I always imagined a little sister would be like. Then there was James. I have to admit that I am a sucker for tortured artists - and with James being an incredible artist who was hiding secrets, I found him incredibly swoon-worthy. Their relationship felt real and was developed over time, and it was by no means issue-free. I appreciated how Clem gradually realized what was really bothering her and started learning how to be okay with the way thing were. And as for Ethan...even though he seemed perfect at first, he is also a great example of how the perfect person isn't always perfect for you.
Even though this book was full of emotion and definitely worth the read, it wasn't as moving as I was expecting. Perhaps it was a case of my expectations being too high, or perhaps it was because I had issues with some of the characters. Amanda disappointed me, and to be honest, I wish that Clem would have stood up for herself better. Even so, the story was sweet, and I enjoyed reading about the summer on the river.
Whether you're looking for something about first love or recovery from first crushes, Unbreak My Heart is a great summer read. Now that I've read this, I will definitely have to read Melissa Walker's Small Town Sinners and any other books that she might write!(less)
The first Gallagher Girls book surprised me - in a good way. Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy brough...moreFirst reviewed on Portrait of a Book
Really 3.5 stars
The first Gallagher Girls book surprised me - in a good way. Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy brought me back to the world of intrigue, covert operations, and the group of girls that would be great friends.
Cammie and her friends are back for another semester at Gallagher Academy, and true to form there is never a dull moment at school. Cammie, Bex, Liz, and Macey quickly stumble across a secret Cammie's mom and Mr. Solomon are hiding. In true spy fashion, a little detective work reveals that Gallagher Academy will be playing host to several students from another school - an all-boys school. And one of these students seems to have an interest in Cammie. After her previous experience with boys, Cammie is determined to keep her distance, but at a boarding school that is easier said than done. As if the addition of boys isn't enough for Cammie and her friends to deal with, there seems to be a much more sinister plot that could undermine the foundation of the Gallagher Academy. Can Cammie and her friends save the day?
It was so much fun to be back in the world of spies with Cammie and her friends. While the first Gallagher Girls book focused on life outside the school (or Cammie's attempt at having one), this book was dedicated to life inside the school. The classes were more intense and the schemes were more daring when there were being carried out under the noses of trained spies. It is no surprise that there are secrets, like Blackthorne, and the addition of the boys made this book even more fun than the last. No review would be complete without mentioning one boy in particular - Zach. It was hard to get a read on him sometimes, but after all, he is a spy. His interactions with Cammie were by turns sweet and maddening, but I definitely hope that we see more of him in the future. I don't want to say much more than this and give anything away because...well...where's the fun in that? Being a spy is all about secrets...
All of the things that I admired in the first book, like the realness of the world and the way the girls came to life, held just as true in this book. Once again I loved the classes and all of the high-tech gadgetry, and even Mr. Solomon is starting to grow on me. Once again this proved to be a quick, fun read and the perfect escape for a summer day.
The beauty of starting a series so late is that I don't have long waits in between every book. I am looking forward to reading Don't Judge a Girl By Her Cover!(less)
Every once in a while I read a book and have to wait for days to write the review because the book...moreFirst reviewed on Portrait of a Book
Really 4.5 stars
Every once in a while I read a book and have to wait for days to write the review because the book has left me speechless. Shadow and Bone is one of those books. So much happens in it that I am still not completely sure what to say, but I'm going to give it a try.
Alina Starkov is a cartographer for the army, traveling with her regiment to cross the Shadow Fold, a barrier separating Ravka. When she can, she spends time with Mal, a tracker for the army and a lifelong friend from the orphanage where she grew up. When the time comes for the army to cross the Fold, they are attacked by volcra, winged monsters who feast on humans. One attacks Mal, triggering a long-dormant power in Alina...a power which does not escape the notice of anyone. Soon Alina is brought before The Darkling, the head of all the magical beings in Ravka, and told that she is the country's hope for salvation. Alina finds herself in a new life in the Little Palace, being trained to harness her power and growing closer to the mysterious Darkling. But in a warring country filled with magic, secrets are everywhere...
I haven't read high fantasy in a long time, and I am so glad that I chose Shadow and Bone to get back into the genre. I loved everything about this world. From the well thought-out concepts and magic to the Russian influences, I felt like I was truly in another country with Alina and Mal. Beyond that, this book took me through so many emotions and provided so many unexpected twists. I think Leigh Bardugo must be a master manipulator with the journey that she took us on in this book. My heart broke for Alina when she believed that Mal had deserted her, but I was so proud of her when she finally realized her own strength. And the Darkling...oh, the Darkling. What a character he is. He is very well developed, and I am curious to see how he plays into the next books.
There is so, so much more that I want to say about this book, but I don't want to give anything away. This is one book that you have to read for yourself and allow yourself to get lost in the magic of the world. There is so much happening that you will find yourself debating whether you should race ahead to see what happens next or savor the story as it unfolds. Finally, I will say that I appreciated that this book was wrapped up in a way, but I am still can't wait to see what comes next for Alina.
In Shadow and Bone, Leigh Bardugo has crafted a fantastic debut novel. I am eager for more of this world, more of these characters, more of this trilogy! (less)
Some sophomore novels have a tendency to fall flat after the first book in the series, but that is not the case wi...moreFirst reviewed on Portrait of a Book
Some sophomore novels have a tendency to fall flat after the first book in the series, but that is not the case with Goddess Interrupted. If anything, this novel is even better than the first, complete with more action, more insight into the characters, and an engrossing story.
Goddess Interrupted begins six months after The Goddess Test. Kate has been tested, but it seems that the tests were nothing compared to what is waiting for her now. Her homecoming is not what she expected. Henry seems less than enthusiastic to see her again, and then her coronation is interrupted by none other than the King of the Titans. After he abducts Henry, Kate is determined to save him. With the help of James and Ava, she begins a journey through the Underworld to find Henry. To help her - or perhaps haunt her - she is also having visions of Henry and his imprisonment, each one only pushing her to search harder. But with her life in danger and no concrete plan of how to save Henry, Kate has to turn to the one person she never wanted to see: Persephone. But Persephone's presence will do more than help Kate on her quest; it will send Kate on a quest for Henry's heart.
Having recently read The Goddess Test, I was eager to dive into this book and see what else was in store for Kate. Now that I knew the characters and secrets from the first book, I found that I could really invest in them and in the world Aimee Carter created. Not only does this book have more action than The Goddess Test, but also it has so much more emotion. The King of the Titans is certainly a force to be reckoned with, and his power is pervasive throughout the novel. The battles Kate and the others face with him are mental as well as physical, making for an exciting read. In addition to this, the relationship between Kate and Henry is truly put to the test. I have to admit that Henry frustrated me to no end for most of the novel, and my heart broke for Kate. Henry's dark, brooding nature was intriguing in the first book, but now it was almost off-putting. Kate's emotions throughout this were honest and real, and I suffered along with her.
In addition to the King of the Titans, the other new character we spend a lot of time with is Persephone. I had mixed feelings about her, but by the end of the book I really came to like her. Speaking of the ending...I think Aimee Carter must enjoy being evil. I can't believe there is another year to wait after that last page! Kate and all of the gods are preparing for an epic battle, and I am eager to see how it plays out.
Goddess Interrupted was everything I could have wanted in a sequel and more. From start to finish I couldn't put the book down. I am looking forward to reading The Goddess Legacy, a collection of five novellas about the gods, and The Goddess Inheritance! (less)
With as many jokes as there are about the zombie apocalypse, I expected this book to be different. Although there...moreFirst reviewed on Portrait of a Book
With as many jokes as there are about the zombie apocalypse, I expected this book to be different. Although there is some zombie action, there is much more depth to the story. This Is Not a Test is a story of how to find meaning in life even when there doesn't seem to be any.
Sloane Price is counting the days until she turns eighteen - or she used to. Since her sister Lily ran away from home, Sloane doesn't see much of a point to anything. What she doesn't know is that the world is coming to an end anyway. Zombies have taken over, and they are eager for blood and converts. Sloane takes refuge in Cortege High School with five other students, and together they try to wait out the zombie attacks behind barricaded doors. As the days pass, the barricades hold, but their own inner walls start to crumble. Unlikely relationships are forged, unexpected visitors arrive, and secrets come to light. Sloane knows how easy it would be to die and leave everything behind. After all, what else does she have to live for?
This Is Not a Test is as dark as you might expect a book about the end of the world to be, eploring reasons to stay alive when you've lost everything and definitely focuses on heavy themes. Rather than the action that I thought this book would have - though it certainly does have some - this book shows the aftermath of the zombie attack, focusing on the characters, and not just Sloane. Even still, my heart broke for her and all that she had been through. It was easy to understand her mindset but also to hope that things would change for her. The other students had their own stories just as Sloane did. I loved the bond between Grace and Trace, and Grace proved over and over how sweet she was. She is someone I would want as a friend. Rhys was also sweet in his own way. In the midst of suspicion, anger, and hurt, the bond formed between him and Sloane was a light in the darkness.
As with any compelling book, there have to be surprises, and this story was no exception. There were definitely things that I was not expecting, from the story itself and from characters like Harrison. Despite that, though, the book did seem to drag at times - after all, there is only so much you can do when you're trapped inside a school. However, I do wonder if there will be a sequel; the story and the ending definitely left me wanting more.
This Is Not a Test turned out to be so much more than what I was expecting. Despite the sorrow and sadness that pervades the novel, there are beautiful moments of hope and life. I will look forward to reading more from Courtney Summers!(less)
Amy Plum's first novel, Die for Me, swept me away to the streets of Paris for beautiful romance, and Until I Die d...moreFirst reviewed on Portrait of a Book
Amy Plum's first novel, Die for Me, swept me away to the streets of Paris for beautiful romance, and Until I Die did exactly the same thing. After anticipating this book for a year, it was wonderful to be back in the City of Love with Kate, Vincent, and the other revenants.
Kate and Vincent have already faced obstacles to being together, but it seems that the trials aren't over. As a revenant, Vincent has the urge to die to save others, but Kate cannot bear the thought of watching him die repeatedly. Because of this, both Kate and Vincent are searching for ways that they can be together without Vincent denying his nature or Kate reliving her nightmares. Yet even while they are on this quest, they still face threats from numa. Suddenly it seems that the revenants may be in more trouble than they ever imagined. With guidance from two new revenants, Kate must work quickly if she will have any hope of helping the revenants she now calls family.
My favorite things from Die for Me were the romance and the setting, and I loved both of these in this book as well. Everything about Paris was once again incredibly vivid, bringing the city to life, and Vincent was as swoon-worthy as before. I also loved all of the art, cinema, and history references sprinkled throughout the book. Aside from the culture, however, there was a fast pace with constant action, not to mention the characters we already know and love. Jules and Ambrose were just as funny and good-hearted as always, and we learn more about John Baptiste and Gaspard. In addition, there are two new revenants introduced here, Violette and Arthur. Violette became a good friend to Kate, and it was nice to see Kate have someone other than her sister to confide in. Until I Die has even more mystery and intrigue than the previous book, and it made for a very compelling story - during the last 100 pages especially it was impossible to put the book down.
As for Vincent and Kate's relationship, I appreciated that it wasn't all sunshine and roses. Even though there was no love triangle introduced (thank goodness!), they still had troubles and issues to work through. And after everything that happened in this book - especially the ending - I cannot wait to see what happens in the final installment of the trilogy.
Once again Amy Plum has crafted a dazzling tale complete with everything you could want in a paranormal romance book. I will be impatiently awaiting the third book, If I Should Die! (less)
Confession time: I have a soft spot for books with beautiful covers and stories that tug on your h...moreFirst reviewed on Portrait of a Book
Really 3.5 stars
Confession time: I have a soft spot for books with beautiful covers and stories that tug on your heartstrings. Because of that, I was really looking forward to reading All These Lives. Although this book didn't turn out to be exactly what I was expecting, it certainly brought a fresh voice to the YA market as well as a worthwhile story.
Jena has cancer, and she doesn't seem to be getting any better. Dani, her twin sister, would give anything to help her, but Dani isn't a match to donate bone marrow for the transplant Jena needs. Instead, Dani looks for other ways to help her sister. Her mother has always said that they have nine lives, and Dani hopes that maybe she can transfer some of them to her sister. As her family tries to cope with their reality, Dani begins taking big risks, trying her best to release some of her lives into the universe. However, with all of the tension of living life constantly waiting for good news, something has to give. And Dani might find that she gives up one life too many...
All These Lives certainly has an interesting premise - could some people really have nine lives or are they just extraordinarily lucky? Dani has walked away from situations that other people wouldn't have, but how far does that grace extend? This book tests that in an interesting way. It has a different view on how cancer affects people. The family struggled to be normal, but instead they were only a hairsbreadth away from dysfunction. Despite that, there were moments where they pulled together and their relationships, especially between Dani and Jena, shone through. Dani was quite a dynamic character; she had a unique, fresh voice that certainly made its impact. I enjoyed her snark and her good-natured teasing of Jack. At the same time, however, she was occasionally difficult and appeared more callous than sympathetic. By the end of the book, however, the depth of her emotion and her love for her sister shone through and gave the book a very powerful ending.
However, this book did leave me wanting more. While I appreciated that romance didn't take over the story, it seemed as though the possibility was there but left unexplored for the most part. I also would have loved to have seen more of the relationship between Dani and Jena. The cancer may have been secondary to Dani's personal journey, but she seemed so alone for most of the story. It would have been nice to see her have a better support system. All of that being said, Dani does grow a great deal throughout the course of the story, and her eventual realization was a good one.
All These Lives is a moving story about making the most out of life. I'll be curious to see what Sarah Wylie writes next! (less)
I've had The Goddess Test for a while, but I only recently read it. I'm so glad I did! I really li...moreFirst reviewed on Portrait of a Book
Really 3.5 stars
I've had The Goddess Test for a while, but I only recently read it. I'm so glad I did! I really like mythology, and this book brings Greek myths to life in an inventive new way.
For years, Kate's life has revolved around caring for her mother, who is dying of cancer. It's always been the two of them against the world, and Kate is dreading the time when her mother passes away. Her mother's last request is to move back to Eden, the town where she grew up, and so Kate bids goodbye to New York City and goes to Michigan with her mother. In the process of trying to make new friends, however, she meets Henry instead. After he does her an impossible favor, he tells her that in exchange she will need to come with him on the autumnal equinox to the Underworld. It seems that Henry - or Hades - has plans for Kate, plans that include making her his future queen. But for her to become queen, Kate will have to pass seven tests. Seven tests that have killed eleven other girls... Can Kate leave the world behind and to join Henry, even if it means saving her mother. And more importantly, if she does...can she pass?
At first glance, it might seem like The Goddess Test is a simple retelling of the Hades and Persephone myth, but it is really so much more than that. Though the myth is incorporated, it is only a basis for the story, not the story in itself, and Kate is not the long-lost reincarnation of Persephone. Instead, this is a story about love, sacrifice, and courage. I loved that Kate didn't simply accept Henry's story about being Hades. She was not ready to run off with him to the Underworld just because of his good looks. She questioned him, wanted proof, and even throughout their time together she continued to challenge him and push him. Kate was a strong character who would do anything to protect those she loved she loved, including risking her life to save her mother. In addition, I really appreciated that even though there was attraction between Henry and Kate, there was no insta-love. They did talk, though admittedly Henry was rather quiet sometimes, and over time they built their relationship. Because of this, and because of Henry himself, I found myself being drawn to him just as Kate was.
That being said, I wanted to know Henry better than I did. Eventually his secrecy ceased being intriguing and began to be frustrating. There were lulls in the plot at times and the tests were not quite what I was expecting. However, there were just enough twists in this novel (though some were fairly easy to guess) to continue to keep me interested. And even though the ending tied up many things, I am curious to see what will happen in the next book of this trilogy.
The Goddess Test brings a fresh twist to classic mythology, drawing you in and keeping you turning the pages. I will look forward to Goddess Interrupted! (less)
I haven't read Morgan Matson's first book, Amy and Roger's Epic Detour, but after reading Second Chance Summer I k...moreFirst reviewed on Portrait of a Book
I haven't read Morgan Matson's first book, Amy and Roger's Epic Detour, but after reading Second Chance Summer I know that I need to move that book up on my to-read list. Second Chance Summer is, in a word, beautiful.
For the past several years, Taylor has spent her summers away from home, and she thought this one would be no exception. But when her dad gets the news that he has stage four pancreatic cancer, his one request is that the family spend their last summer together at their lakehouse in the Pocono Mountains. Reluctantly Taylor and her siblings make the trip along with her parents, but Taylor dreads this summer even more than her siblings. While Gelsey will only miss ballet classes and Warren can study anywhere, Taylor has a lot of history at the lake, history that she would rather not relive. However, the past always has a way of catching up with you, especially in a small town. Taylor has to confront her old friends, which also means confronting her own faults. At the same time, she realizes she is only now beginning to know her father, and their time is running out. Soon Taylor learns that if you're lucky enough to have a second chance, you have to make the most of every moment...
Reading books in which the outcome is easily surmised can sometimes be hard, disappointing, or even boring. Second Chance Summer was none of those things. In fact, this book, with its unassuming yet somehow still profound writing, suspended time, and while I was reading it, I forgot about everything else. I loved the setting of Lake Phoenix - it was the perfect atmosphere for this story (and also made me want to go to the mountains). Along with the setting, the characters truly came to life. I felt like I knew them all, from Gelsey's passion for dance to Warren's penchant for reciting facts to Taylor's dad's puns. Taylor herself was quite real and relatable - even though she was not always able to express her emotions, I was always able to feel them. Through flashbacks scattered in the novel we learn what happened between Taylor, her former best friend Lucy, and her first boyfriend Henry. Even though these three were young at the time, the story speaks to the power and depth of childhood friendships and first loves.
So many emotions and relationships were portrayed in this novel. We saw joy and sorrow, tears and laughter, aspects of parent-child and sibling relationships, friends, and even romance. Because of that, this book is the total package. In addition, Taylor's emotional journey gives a great message of courage and strength. I loved who she became by the end of the novel. This story really tugged on my heartstrings and had me tearing up in a few places. The story might have been hard to read sometimes, but it is one of the best books I have read so far this year.
I said this earlier and I will say it again: Second Chance Summer is beautiful and a book that I know will stay with me a long time. I am eager to see what Morgan Matson writes next! (less)
What do you get when you cross the 1300s, the 1920s, Paris, New Orleans, and inspiration from Poe? A retelling of...moreFirst reviewed on Portrait of a Book
What do you get when you cross the 1300s, the 1920s, Paris, New Orleans, and inspiration from Poe? A retelling of Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin, a spellbinding story presented with a gorgeous cover.
Araby lives a fairly comfortable life - at least compared to others in the city. Her friend April, the niece of the city's rule Prince Prospero, has decided that Araby should accompany her on all sorts of excursions to the Debauchery Club in her steam carriage, privileges which others can only dream of. Araby looks forward to these only for the relief that they bring from her misery. But at the club, she finds more than she bargains for. There is Will, who works at the club and who Araby finds herself thinking about, and there is Elliott, who seems to be harboring secrets behind his smooth appearance. Soon Araby finds herself facing challenges she never imagined and forced to make seemingly impossible decisions. But will she be able to keep her promises, her friends, and most importantly...her life?
The writing in Masque of the Red Death truly takes you to another time and place. Even if it is hard to visualize a specific city, the world presented is bleak and chilling, one in which corpses litter the street and the rich tower above the poor - literally - in an effort to breathe clean air. And yet the nightlife of debauchery is just as vivid, full of glittery, fanciful designs, making the contrast between fantasy and reality that much more striking. This setting lends itself to intrigue and secrets, and indeed there is an air of mystery that pervades this novel. Both Will and Elliott are especially enigmatic, and though pieces of their character are revealed as the story progresses - and they both have qualities that make me really care for them - there are still unanswered questions. Is Elliott truly Machiavellian? And is there more to Prince Prospero than simply being an evil overlord? I am looking forward to learning these answers as the story progresses.
Despite the allure of Will and Elliott, I found the heroine Araby difficult to connect to. In a way she seemed completely distant from the world, and while I could sympathize, this also made her seem aloof, especially in the beginning. Gradually, however, Araby became more human as we learned about her loss of her brother and the sacrifice she made for him. By the end of the book she has grown into a stronger character, one who understands more about the harsh realities of life and the necessity of making the most of the time you have.
Masque of the Red Death may be based on Poe's work, but the writing and characters make this story new and captivating in its own right. I cannot wait to see what happens in the next installment! (less)
I was drawn to this book for the cover, especially the phrase on it: "Does time heal all wounds?"...moreFirst published on Portrait of a Book
Really 3.5 stars
I was drawn to this book for the cover, especially the phrase on it: "Does time heal all wounds?" After reading the synopsis, I knew that this would be an emotional book, but I didn't realize just how many aspects of life this book would touch.
Since the night of the car accident involving her and her boyfriend, Allie has mostly stayed in her room, hardly talking to her parents or her twin Andrew, merely tolerating her friend Blake's presence when he comes to deliver her homework for the day. But when a new detective is brought to town to continue the investigation and learn what really caused Trip's (Allie's boyfriend) death, Allie realizes that she will have to go on with life as best as she can. Slowly Allie starts to rebuild her life, dealing with the sympathy from her fellow students and trying to maintain the pretense that she is alright, but she still cannot escape her memories. She knows that Trip was abusive, but she doesn't know what exactly happened the night he died. As her memories gradually return, she begins to question not only her friends but also herself. And through the course of her journey, she finds that things are not always black and white...
Breaking Beautiful does have an element of mystery and suspense, but what really makes this book are the characters. Although it was difficult to connect with Allie at first because she was so numb, as the story progressed, her thoughts and feelings became much more clear. I appreciated seeing the flashbacks of the night of the accident, as well as other times with Trip, as she came to remember them; these scenes really added to the story. I loved her relationship with Andrew; they were friends and tried to protect and care for each other rather than being simply bickering siblings. I also enjoyed Blake's character - who could help but fall for the tortured artist who clearly cared so much for Allie? He evoked almost as much sympathy as Allie, in his own way. Finally, I really liked Caitlyn's character and what she stood for. Throughout the book, Allie, Blake, Andrew, and Caitlyn could all be seen as victims in their own different ways, reminding us that everyone has their own burdens to bear and has to find their own ways to overcome them.
This book may have dealt with heavy, serious topics, but there were moments of startling normalcy and lightheartedness scattered throughout the story that relieved the tension and allowed me to really connect with the characters. After finishing the book, I have to admit that I am conflicted about one detail of the ending. Even though I understand why things happened the way they did, I wonder what the consequences might have been of that decision.
Breaking Beautiful is certainly a worthwhile read, full of meaning and important messages. I will look forward to reading more from Jennifer Shaw Wolf! (less)
Confession time: As a child, whenever I was at a pool or the beach, I always wanted to pretend to be a mermaid. I...moreFirst reviewed on Portrait of a Book
Confession time: As a child, whenever I was at a pool or the beach, I always wanted to pretend to be a mermaid. I thought it would be awesome to be Ariel and swim around with friends like Flounder and Sebastian. Now, whenever I see tales about mermaids, I want to read them. Of Poseidon is certainly a story that lives up to its gorgeous cover and all of its possibilities.
Despite living on the Jersey shore, Emma has never been a huge fan of the water. But when she goes on vacation with her friend to the beaches in Florida, not only will she be forced to swim, but also this swim will change the course of her life. Galen thinks that Emma could be just the person he is looking for, but convincing Emma that she is will be no easy task. Emma may have a lot to learn about herself and Galen's undersea world, but Galen has just as much to learn about Emma. Sparks might fly between them, but there are other plans that might threaten Galen and Emma's happiness. Can Emma accept the truth and embrace her destiny? And if she does...what will happen to Galen?
Forget any preconceived notions you may have of paranormal YA books where the heroine doesn't know she's paranormal. Of Poseidon will blow them all out of the water...literally. We are almost thrown into the middle of the story with Emma running into Galen, and the fast pacing, snappy banter, and sizzling romantic tension never abates for the remainder of the novel. I enjoyed watching Galen trying to navigate life on land with a little help from Emma and Rachel, and with Toraf, one of Galen's Syrena friends, in the picture, there is no shortage of laughter. I also loved learning the history and lore of the Syrena and reading about the underwater adventures that Galen and Emma shared. Also, being able to read from both Emma and Galen's perspective was quite interesting; I felt like I came to know both of them better and it allowed me to understand Galen's world in a way I wouldn't have otherwise.
Did I mention that Of Poseidon doesn't follow so many conventions that other novels do? I liked that Emma did not merely acquiesce to what Galen wanted and told her. Instead, she wanted her own answers and, prince or not, she wasn't one to let him order her around. I also appreciated that not everything was perfect between Emma and Galen. There were real obstacles, but moreover, there were real feelings, which made loving their relationship so much easier.
Of Poseidon will draw you in and have you floating away with the story, and after that ending, I am dying to know what happens next! This is a fantastic debut from Anna Banks that you will not want to miss. (less)
The Immortal Rules in one word: Unputdownable. Everything about the story left me dying to know wh...moreFirst reviewed on Portrait of a Book
Really 4.5 stars
The Immortal Rules in one word: Unputdownable. Everything about the story left me dying to know what would happen next. I am ashamed to admit that I haven't read Julie Kagawa's Iron Fey series, but after reading this book you can bet that I will be remedying that very soon.
The world may be run by vampires, but Allison Sekemoto refuses to let them control her. Rather than be a Registered who gives blood twice a month, she chooses to be Unregistered and live in the Fringe, banding together with other Unregistereds to scrounge for food and eke out what living they can. But all of that changes one night in an instant. Soon Allie is faced with a choice: Die or become a vampire. Determined to stay alive however she can, Allie becomes a vampire. Under the tutelage of her maker, she learns the rules and laws of her new existence. Yet not even Kanin could truly prepare Allie for what she would eventually face. Allie has always been used to fending for herself, never forming true relationships with others. But when she finds herself joined together with a group of humans, Allie will learn that, no matter what Kanin might have said, sometimes you have to throw out the rulebook and follow your heart...
The Immortal Rules is anything but your typical vampire book; instead, it is a compelling blend of paranormal creatures with a dystopian world. Allie is everything that you could want in a heroine. She is strong but compassionate, a good fighter (with a little help from Kanin), and she isn't afraid to take risks. Her journey wasn't an easy one, but I think she found her way quite admirably. Her time with Kanin was very interesting. I loved learning about the vampire hierarchy that Julie created, and the addition of rabids brought yet another dimension to the story. I will be interested to see what else Kanin knows in future books. When Allie leaves her home and journeys beyond the city and into unfamiliar lands, she is constantly confronted with the disparity between who she is and who she can pretend to be. Allie's internal struggle was just as gripping as the external one. Her constant fight to control the Hunger, especially around the group of humans she comes to join, is incredibly tough. With Zeke, however, if she can control her Hunger, she might finally have a chance to learn what relationships based on something more than just convenience mean.
One of the best things about the characters in this book is that they are always more than they seem. With every page there was something new to discover. I said earlier that this book was unputdownable, but the last 100 pages were especially so. With so many confrontations and revelations, it was almost cruel and unusual punishment for this book to be over when it was.
The Immortal Rules is the thrilling start to a new series from Julie Kagawa. I can't wait to read the next installment! (less)
Don't let the happy, girly cover fool you. This book is actually rather serious, and told from a guy's point of view. That being said, this book packs...moreDon't let the happy, girly cover fool you. This book is actually rather serious, and told from a guy's point of view. That being said, this book packs a punch that I wasn't expecting. If you are looking for an emotional story about finding your own place in life and following your heart, this is the book you want to read.(less)
It's no secret by now that I love books in foreign or exotic settings, so when I saw that this boo...moreFirst reviewed on Portrait of a Book
Really 4.5 stars
It's no secret by now that I love books in foreign or exotic settings, so when I saw that this book took place across Central America, I knew that I had to read it. Although Wanderlove didn't turn out to be exactly what I was expecting, in this case, that was a good thing.
Bria has never been one for traveling, but the summer after she graduates from high school, she is determined to change that. When her two friends back out on their planned trip through Europe, Bria finds another option - a tour of Central America with the Global Vagabonds. Bria is expecting teens ready for fun and adventure there, but instead she finds middle-aged tourists with every minute carefully planned. So when she has the chance to leave the group and follow true backpackers Rowan and Starling, she takes it. Only Bria isn't prepared for true backpacking, in more ways than one. But more than that, she isn't prepared for the emotional journey that this trip will become. As she comes to know Rowan, Bria learns not only about him but also about herself, about the person she can be and what it means to put the past behind you.
I've tried to take some time to process this book before writing this review, but I'm still not sure where to start. Wanderlove is beautiful, breathtaking...just a fantastic novel. Everything in this book became real to me, from the character to their emotions to the settings in Central America. It was incredibly easy to sympathize with Bria, to feel her pain. I love that her story is revealed gradually over the course of the book rather than presented all at once. The same holds true for Rowan. The physical and emotional journey that these two characters take is nothing short of amazing. They both have a lot to move past, and I loved reading what philosophies they used while making their attempts to move on. There is also Starling - I would have liked to have seen her more, but I enjoyed getting to know her when I could. These were characters I was not ready to say goodbye to at the end of the book.
This book made me think about a lot of things; it gave me new perspectives and ideas to consider. There seemed to be a lot of profound truths buried in seemingly everyday conversation. Wanderlove was the first book in a long time that I've wanted to read again right after I finished so that I could soak up anything I might have missed on my first read. I want to relive the experience and the journey of this book over again.
Wanderlove was everything I could have wanted in a travel novel and more. From the beautiful and vivid depictions of the scenery to the emotional journeys of Bria and Rowan, I fell in love with everything about this book. I can't wait to read more by Kirsten Hubbard!(less)
Talk about eye-catching - and slightly creepy - covers. I knew I wanted to read this book from the...moreFirst reviewed on Portrait of a Book
Really 3.5 stars
Talk about eye-catching - and slightly creepy - covers. I knew I wanted to read this book from the first time I saw it. The premise was no less intriguing, and the story itself kept me thoroughly engrossed throughout the book.
Since losing her parents in the devastating Spore Wars, Callie has taken it upon herself to care for her younger brother Tyler. Along with her friend Michael, Callie and Tyler have a makeshift home in an abandoned building, scrounging the streets for food and desperately trying to avoid the marshals that would send them to prison. But life is hard with no money, especially when Tyler needs medicine, so Callie turns to her last resort: Prime Destinations, an organization that rents out young (Starter) bodies to the older generations (Enders) for days or weeks at a time. Even though Callie has serious reservations about this, she needs the money. At first everything seems to be fine, and Callie sees no reason why she won't get her money. But then something goes wrong with one of her rentals. Suddenly her mind is back in her body even though the rental isn't over. To make matters worse, the renter's voice is still somehow inside her head. Soon Callie finds herself caught up in a plot that could affect the fate of thousands...
Remember how I said that the cover for this book was a little creepy? I think the premise is too - letting other people take over your body and do whatever they want with it? I don't know about you, but I have no desire to sign up for something like that. It speaks to how bad conditions were for Callie and other Starters that they turned to Prime Destinations; Lissa Price does a very good job of portraying Callie's situation so that you can't help but hope that things work out for her. After one of Callie's rentals goes awry, it's a complete reversal - instead of the renter borrowing Callie's body, now Callie is borrowing her renter's life. She's suddenly living in the lap of luxury, making new friends (even if the friends are other Ender renters), and growing closer to Blake, a senator's son. But once Callie starts hearing the voice of her renter, she realizes that something much more was motivating this particular rental. There are two dimensions to the story - that of Callie's new life and what's going on behind the scenes. I really enjoyed both aspects and the way that things eventually came to overlap.
There is so much that I could say about Starters, but part of the fascination of this book is solving the mystery along with Callie. There are shocking twists, things that I never saw coming, and scenes that had me yelling at the book for various reasons. Two people I do have to mention though - the Old Man, who definitely contributes to the creepy factor of this book, and Sara, who is one of my favorite characters of the story. Why, you ask? Well, like I said...you'll have to read to find out :)
Starters adds a fresh story to the dystopian genre, full of mystery and suspense. Even though there is some closure at the end of this book, there is definitely more to this story. I will look forward to reading Enders!(less)
For a long time I heard great things about Wither, but for some reason I still didn't pick it up u...moreFirst reviewed on Portrait of a Book
Really 4.5 stars
For a long time I heard great things about Wither, but for some reason I still didn't pick it up until recently. I don't know what I was waiting for! Wither is an original and compelling dystopian novel that had me intrigued at the very beginning with its premise but kept me reading for the characters.
A genetic experiment gone awry resulted in all women dying at age 20 and men at 25. The first generation, the first attempt to make a perfect race, will live for a long time, but each subsequent generation suffers from early mortality. Because of this, young women are kidnapped or taken from orphanages and sold as brides to wealthy young men, in the hopes that a new generation will produce a cure. When Rhine is kidnapped, she and two other girls all become brides for the rich young Linden. Rhine immediately resents Linden and longs to escape and find her way back to her brother Rowan. Yet with Housemaster Vaughn controlling everything, escape seems improbable. As Rhine continues to search for an opportunity, she grows closer to her sister wives and to the servant Gabriel. And eventually Rhine comes to learn that not everything is as black and white as she thought.
Even though dystopian novels seem to be filling the market, so many of them manage to stand out because of their excellent writing and compelling story or characters. And Wither was no exception. Even though there was not always much action in this book, I loved watching the different relationships develop. Rhine becomes friends with her sister wives, and I think that Jenna's strength was something to be admired. I think this strength helped Rhine as well, and it was touching to see the ways they could help each other. Then there was Gabriel, the servant that Rhine comes to like. I wish they had had more time to be together - they had some sweet moments and there is much more to be told here. Finally, there is Linden. I have to admit that I am intrigued by where his part of the story will go. He seems to be a victim as well and I cannot help but wonder what will happen if he ever learns the truth of everything.
This book was tough to read at times because of the situation Rhine, Jenna, and Cecily found themselves in. I wasn't spared feeling for them at all, nor are we spared the evilness of the man that is Housemaster Vaughn. Wither is emotional to say the least. Because of that, although at times I wanted the plot to move forward a bit or wanted even more from the characters, I stayed completely invested in the story.
Wither may have have the same action-driven story of other dystopians, but don't let that stop you from reading it. With Rhine close to her twentieth birthday and with Housemaster Vaughn being who he is, I can only imagine what is in store for Fever. The Chemical Garden will be a trilogy not to be missed!(less)
Even though I'd heard good things about the Gallagher Girls, I had never given much thought to rea...moreFirst reviewed on Portrait of a Book
Really 3.5 stars
Even though I'd heard good things about the Gallagher Girls, I had never given much thought to reading the books. But one night, I wanted something different to read, something that would be good but also light and fun, and I thought that the Gallagher Girls books might be just the ticket. And I was right.
Cammie Morgan is just like any other girl...except for the fact that she attends spy school. The Gallagher Academy, unlike its facade of being a boarding school for rich girls, trains girls in martial arts, computer hacking, and various languages (to name a few subjects) so that they can work for the CIA or other similar organizations. And this year, Cammie and her friends Liz and Bex get to start Covert Operations - real field training. Cammie has always been like a chameleon, able to blend in and slip by unnoticed. It serves her well in her spy training. But it also means that, when a boy notices Cammie on a test mission, it shakes her. Because this boy, Josh Abrams, is not just another boy. And although Cammie knows fourteen languages and how to incapacitate any attacker, she soon learns that her toughest mission will be navigating life outside the Gallagher Academy.
I don't know about you, but there was a time when I was younger that I thought it would be awesome to be a spy. (This may very well have coincided with my seeing the movie Harriet the Spy, but I digress.) With the first book in the Gallagher Girls series, I got to revisit that dream. Ally Carter has done a fantastic job of creating a world within a world. The Gallagher Academy sounds like such a fun school despite all the work that they're doing. It was fun to live vicariously through the girls - I wish that I could crack codes or speak fourteen languages or do any number of things that these girls could do! After reading about the things the girls had to do in this book, I can't wait to see what is in store for them in the next one. I'm sure there have to be more spy secrets, and I want to know what they are! Beyond this, I enjoyed the interaction between Cammie and her friends as well as exploring Cammie's relationship with her mother. This book touches on a lot of issues while still maintaining its light, fun feeling.
As for the relationship between Cammie and Josh, I really liked that it was sweet and innocent. Josh is the kind of guy that every girl could fall for and would want as a boyfriend. Despite this, I appreciated that the romance aspect didn't completely take over the story. And yet not everything was easy and perfect. Cammie and Josh had and may still have some major issues to work through, which should be interesting.
Reading the first Gallagher Girls book has definitely left me wanting to read more by Ally Carter. This is the perfect book to read when you was something fast-paced and entertaining. I'm looking forward to reading Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy!(less)
When I first heard about Cinder, I wasn't sure that it was something I would want to read. Cinderella meets cyborg...moreFirst reviewed on Portrait of a Book
When I first heard about Cinder, I wasn't sure that it was something I would want to read. Cinderella meets cyborgs? It seemed a little out there. But after hearing so many good things about it, I decided to give this book a chance, and I am so glad that I did. Cinder is an incredibly inventive spin on a fairy tale and one that will keep you captivated from beginning to end.
Cinder is one of the most well-respected mechanics in New Beijing, but she also has a secret - she's a cyborg. She does everything she can to hide this from others, including always wearing gloves and boots in the market. Her family knows the truth, though, and her stepmother constantly uses Cinder's nature against her. But things begin to change the day that Prince Kai comes to the market. Because not only does Prince Kai come, but also the deadly plague that is sweeping the country strikes those near to Cinder. When her stepmother blames Cinder for her sister's illness, Cinder finds herself handed over to the government to be a research subject for an antidote to the plague. But everyone involved in that research will learn more than they bargained for. And on top of everything else, Cinder's struggles with her family and the plague research, there's still the matter of the prince and the ball...
Cinder is nothing like your usual fairy tale retelling. The basic tenets of Cinderella are there - the wicked stepmother, stepsisters, a prince, a ball - but the similarities end there. Cinderella was merely a starting point for Marissa Meyer; she expanded the tale into something new and wonderful all on its own. I really enjoyed Cinder's character, cyborg nature and all. Then again, I really enjoyed all of the characters (wicked stepmother and stepsister aside - those two I wanted to strangle). And Iko, even if she was an android, was such a great best friend. I loved how this story had multiple layers, encompassing not only Cinder's struggle with her family and the plague research but also political crises and the hardships that Prince Kai had to endure. Because Prince Kai...who wouldn't want a prince like that? He loved his people and was so dedicated to doing what was best for them. From family tragedy to political unrest he had to deal with more than any teenager should. And yet, with his kindness, he completely won my heart just like a real prince should.
There are many surprising twists and turns along Cinder and Kai's respective journeys, though one important plot twist is fairly obvious early on in the story. Despite that, the many layers and especially the sci-fi elements kept me intrigued and made it nearly impossible to put this book down. The only thing I did wonder about was the setting - it seemed that New Beijing could have just as easily have been any other city if the Chinese names and appellations had been omitted. Because I love foreign settings, I was slightly disappointed by the lack of vivid setting, but everything else in the book more than makes up for that.
Cinder is a great debut novel from Marissa Meyer and one that will keep you turning the pages because you just have to know what happens next. I can't wait to read the next book in the Lunar Chronicles!(less)
This book had me intrigued before I even opened the pages. From the great cover to the synopsis, Graffiti Moon see...moreFirst reviewed on Portrait of a Book
This book had me intrigued before I even opened the pages. From the great cover to the synopsis, Graffiti Moon seemed like it could be a very sweet book with a great love story. Unfortunately, it didn't live up to my expectations.
Lucy has been admiring Shadow's graffiti for a long time, but more than that, she admires him. She knows that whoever is behind this beautiful artwork has to be the guy for her, and to celebrate her senior year being over, she is determined to find him. Her friends, however, have other plans for her - plans that include going to a party with Ed, a guy with whom she had an awful date a while back. Lucy agrees to go along with her friends as long as they still look for Shadow. As luck would have it, Ed is friends with Shadow and offers to help Lucy find him. Together they explore the city, finding some of Shadow's best work and talking as though their bad date had never happened. But what Lucy doesn't know is how many secrets are between them...and all good things must come to an end...
Let me begin by saying that I think I am in the minority when it comes to reactions to this book. Even though it had it's good points, I had more issues with it than I was expecting. It took me a while to get into this book. What I considered to be a major plot point was revealed fairly early (read: in the first ten pages), and that threw me off a bit. Beyond that, though, not much happened in the first third of the book. However, during the setup, a lot of the dialogue was hard to follow, forcing me to reread passages several times to determine who was saying what. And although I did like Ed and could sympathize with him, I found it difficult to connect with the other characters.
What kept me reading this book (because I did consider putting it down) was Crowley's writing style. She used some beautiful imagery, and I enjoyed seeing how Shadow's graffiti translated into Poet's words and then into Lucy's interpretation. I also liked the extra poems that were interspersed with the chapters of Ed and Lucy's point of view. Yet even though I did finish the book and liked the ending, I never felt the connection to the story that I was hoping for.
As I said before, I am in the minority with my feelings about this book. Though Graffiti Moon didn't meet my expectations, I wouldn't discount reading something by Cath Crowley in the future for her writing style alone. For other opinions of this book, I suggest checking out these reviews from Ginger at GReads! and Tara at Fiction Folio.(less)
I'll admit it - I first wanted to read this book because of the cover alone. In a sea of books with covers full of pretty girls in elegant dresses, th...moreI'll admit it - I first wanted to read this book because of the cover alone. In a sea of books with covers full of pretty girls in elegant dresses, this book stood out. (In fact, I did a whole feature on this book because of it's cover - you can see that here.) However, once I started reading, it became clear that this book stood out for many more reasons, including great writing and an engrossing story.
If Penelope "Lo" Marin had to be described in one word, it would be this: obsessive. She collects beautiful trinkets, stealing them when she has to, and arranging them all just so in her room. She suffers from obsessive compulsive disorder and feels an urge to tap and whisper to herself (in multiples of three, of course) to make everything alright. And finally, when she learns that a young girl named Sapphire has been murdered when it was almost her instead, Lo won't rest until she finds out who the murderer is. However, finding the murderer takes Lo to a new world, an area of the city known as Neverland. There Lo meets Flynt, a street artist who has the possibility of becoming so much more than just a tour guide. Even with Flynt's help, tracking a murderer isn't easy, despite her clues. But these clues could reveal more to her than she ever imagined...
I know what you're thinking - another murder mystery that can be easily solved. Think again. The Butterfly Clues might be a mystery, but it is more than that: It is truly a story of the characters. Almost everyone that we meet has their own story to tell, and I love that we get to learn them all through Lo's memory and investigation even if we don't meet them directly. Lo herself is such a memorable character. Not only is she forced to deal with constant relocation and the death of a sibling, but also she suffers from OCD; I'm sure I will remember her constant "tap, tap, tap, banana" for a long time. Because Lo is on her own and an outcast, she views the world differently, and this was refreshing to read. I also loved getting to know Sapphire. Her journal entries added so much to the story, making my heart break for her and for her life cut short. Finally there is Flynt...but I think I will leave you to find out for yourself about him.
Even though Lo's OCD habits took some adjusting to and the mystery could be predicted, there were definitely still surprises. Beyond that, though, the story was very well-written with both wonderful descriptions and insights. The dark, seedy world of this book came to life and made me fear for Lo's safety, and yet the characters and their stories were still moving. The mystery might be solved, but the characters' lives weren't, and I would have loved to know what the future had in store for them.
The Butterfly Clues was a fantastic debut novel from Kate Ellison, providing just what you would want in a murder mystery and more. I'll look forward to reading more from this author!(less)
I picked up this book one night because I wanted a story that would really make me think about lov...moreFirst reviewed on Portrait of a Book
Really 3.5 stars
I picked up this book one night because I wanted a story that would really make me think about love. Even though this book didn't turn out to be quite what I was expecting, I still read it in one sitting and found it to be a very good story.
After her mother moves her across the country, Marcie has to begin to make a new life for herself in Hew Hampshire. Even though she misses her dad and her old friends, she can't help but find a connection with a boy in her new school. There's only one problem - she still has a boyfriend back home. But when her mother isn't much of a mother and she feels nothing but loneliness, Marcie can't help but seek what comfort she can. Yet the truth can't stay hidden forever. Marcie has to learn how to handle all of the different relationships in her life, and she learns a lot about love - of all kinds - along the way.
This was my first novel told in verse, and I have to say that I really enjoyed this style. I appreciated that not all of the poems fit a particular mold but still relayed the story very well. The idea of these poems being part of Marcie's journal immediately made me feel connected to her. I could understand Marcie's need for a connection with someone in New Hampshire, even if I didn't agree with all of her choices. Marcie's search for answers is one that I think everyone can relate to, because "love" is so hard to define - it is almost unique to each situation, and with time Marcie comes to realize that. This book might have had its sad moments, but it also had moments of laughter and moments that made me smile.
However, from the summary, I was expecting this book to make me think a lot more than it did. Even though I appreciated the message that it conveyed, to me it just didn't have the revelation or the "wow factor" that I was hoping for. Although I definitely did enjoy it; I just wanted even more from the book.
In Love and Leftovers, Sarah Tregay has crafted a story that is both lyrical and moving. Filled with an exploration of love of all kinds, this is one novel that is guaranteed to warm your heart. I look forward to reading more from her!(less)
Even though this book sounded interesting, I didn't give reading it much thought because I don't like football. An...moreFirst reviewed on Portrait of a Book
Even though this book sounded interesting, I didn't give reading it much thought because I don't like football. And when I say I don't like football, I mean that I won't even watch the Superbowl to see the commercials because it's a football game. But Cari from Cari's Book Blog insisted that I had to read this book, so I did. And once I started reading, this book became one of those "drop everything and read" books for me.
Jordan Woods is not your typical girl. Instead of wanting to date a football player, she wants to be one - and she's one of the best. She's the quarterback and captain of her high school team in Tennessee with her sights set on playing in college at Alabama. Jordan doesn't see any reason why this won't happen or any reason to change the friendships she's always had with the other guys on her team. Then Ty shows up and changes everything. He's a quarterback too, and for the first time Jordan has to worry about her position. That's not all - she might actually like him, a guy on her team, when she's never liked a guy before. And when one thing changes, it seems that everything changes. As Jordan deals with her feelings, she comes to realize that unlike in football, in life, there is no playbook...and no rules.
First things first. Even if you don't like football, don't let that stop you from reading this book. I think I constitute the worst football fan ever (if you didn't get that before), but none of the football scenes in this book bothered me (I even got the references to players and plays. Go me!). That being said, Catching Jordan is about so much more than football. It's about relationships on many levels - those we have with a significant other, those we have with our friends, and those we have with our family. I loved Jordan as a character. Her love for football and her status as "one of the guys" made her different from a lot of the female protagonists in YA, but even still she had to deal with the same issues that we all do, which make her very relatable. I really enjoyed watching Jordan explore the different relationships, especially the one with her dad, and I could appreciate how she came to realize that sometimes there isn't only one path to making your dreams come true.
Another thing I loved about Catching Jordan was how honest and real everything felt. All of the main characters had their own stories that made me love them that much more. Not only did the characters come to life, but also the emotions were raw and acutely felt. Jordan's poems especially added so much depth to the story. Both Jordan's struggles and the characters themselves have stuck with me even though I've read other books since then.
Catching Jordan is a fantastic debut novel with a story that will by turns tug at your heart and make you smile. I cannot wait to read more from Miranda Kenneally!(less)
I haven't read many darker contemporary books, but when I was looking to read an emotional, powerful story, I turn...moreFirst reviewed on Portrait of a Book
I haven't read many darker contemporary books, but when I was looking to read an emotional, powerful story, I turned to Don't Breathe a Word. And I was not disappointed. This book is not for the faint of heart, but if you can read past the heartbreaking moments and the grim reality that what is portrayed here is life for some teens, you will be left with a truly poignant story.
Joy Delamere struggles to breathe - literally and figuratively. She suffers from asthma, and because of several near-death experiences, she suffers from overprotective parents who nearly smother her in their effort to make sure she is okay. She also suffers emotionally from her relationship with Asher. Eventually it all becomes too much, and Joy knows what she has to do: disappear without a trace. She runs away from home, finding a new life on the streets of Seattle. There she is befriended by several "Ave Rats" - Creed, May, and Santos - and with their help she learns how to survive on the streets. But Joy soon learns what harsh realities this life brings. She is not the only one with a secret, with things to escape from. People aren't always who they seem to be. And on top of everything else, winter is quickly approaching, bringing with it cold, sickness...and possible death...
Where do I even begin to talk about this book? I am amazed that Holly Cupala could write this story to be heavy, intense, and yet not completely depressing. She doesn't shy away from any issues that kids on the streets (or teens in general) face, but a book like this needs the gritty truth rather than a glossing over of these unpleasant aspects. It's impossible not to be drawn into the world that Cupala has set up for these teens and to hope that they all do find a way to survive (preferably off the streets). At the same time, the relationships they forged, the family they created themselves, was incredibly touching. The fact that these teens who seem to have seen little true love in their life are capable of loving and taking care of themselves and others is inspiring to see. The four main characters in this book - Joy, Creed, May, and Santos - all have their own story and their own secrets to tell, and learning about all of their secrets and how they'd had to deal with them was nothing short of heartbreaking. I cared for each of them and I hope that, even though the story is over, they all continue to find their way.
Surprisingly, the character who bothered me the most in this story was Joy. Even though we learn the most about her story through flashbacks, I wasn't quite as moved by her story as by the others. However, I did appreciate that her time on the streets helped her to grow into a stronger person. Despite my issues with Joy, this book is worth reading for the stories of all the characters, especially Creed, and for insight into lives that most of us cannot even begin to imagine.
Don't Breathe a Word has both a story and characters that will draw you in and not let you go. It is not an easy read, but it is certainly a good one. I will look forward to reading more from Holly Cupala!(less)
The idea that someone could clinically die and still return to life has always been intriguing to...moreFirst reviewed on Portrait of a Book
Really 3.5 stars
The idea that someone could clinically die and still return to life has always been intriguing to me. Would that person see the world differently? How would their life change? Fracture explores some of these questions in a perhaps unexpected way.
Delaney Maxwell spends eleven minutes trapped in an icy lake before she is rescued. Miraculously, she makes a full recovery from her coma, yet her MRI shows that something isn't right with certain areas of her brain. Despite this, Delaney seems fine, and eventually she is released to go home. But everything doesn't go back to normal. Delaney feels an unexplainable pull to those who are dying, and no matter how she tries, she can't seem to resist the urge to follow the pull. Soon Delaney meets Troy Varga, who also recovered from a coma and feels a similar pull to the dying. But Troy may not be exactly who he seems. As Delaney struggles to come to terms with her new life, with her feelings for her neighbor Decker, and with her tense relationship with her mother, Delaney learns a lot about human nature, life, and even death.
I have to admit that Fracture was not quite what I was expecting. I thought that Delaney would be looking for more from life, trying to piece things together as she wanted them. Instead, her near-death experience caused her to slowly break down and, as the title suggests, fracture. In some ways she struggled with survivor's guilt, but she also struggled to figure out what the pull to the dying meant and what she should do about it. With this, Fracture had an interesting blend of contemporary and paranormal elements. On one level, Delaney was trying to be a normal high school senior and sort out her feelings for Dexter, but on another level, she had a sort of sixth sense. I think that I enjoyed the contemporary aspect more than the paranormal. I could sympathize with the conflict that Delaney had trying to figure out her feelings for Decker as well as understand her relationship with her mother. The emotions were very intense and very well captured.
Then there was the paranormal aspect as well as Troy. Troy was intriguing at first, but then the fascination wore off. Even though I could understand his reasoning, I still had issues with it. In addition, while the paranormal aspect added something to the story, I think that it could have used a bit more fleshing out, and it still felt unresolved at the end. Despite this, the book definitely makes you think about what you would do with only one day left to live and makes you think about life in general.
Fracture is a compelling debut from Megan Miranda, one that I read in one sitting because I was so eager to know the full story. I will look forward to reading more from Megan Miranda!(less)
I knew this book would be moving and emotional just from the synopsis, and it certainly was. In Ne...moreFirst reviewed on Portrait of a Book
Really 4.5 stars
I knew this book would be moving and emotional just from the synopsis, and it certainly was. In Never Eighteen, Megan Bostic takes the reader on a physical and emotional journey right along with Austin, leaving us, like those he visited, changed at its conclusion.
Austin is sure that he won't live to see his eighteenth birthday because of the cancer. However, he also knows that many of the people around him have virtually stopped living even though they still have life. And so Austin decides that, before he dies, he wants to help others redirect their lives...he wants them to truly live even though he can't. Austin recruits Kaylee, his best friend, to be his chauffeur for the weekend, and they even visit a variety of people and even some places together. Somehow, during the course of the weekend, Austin's visits to say goodbye turn into so much more than that. It becomes a journey for everyone involved...and every journey begins with a single step...
Let me just say: Wow. For a book that is on the short side, Never Eighteen sure packs a LOT of emotion. With the exception of Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma, I don't remember the last time my heart broke for so many characters in a single book. Every stop on Austin's journey yielded a new story for him or for his friend, stories that were by turns painful, touching, and beautiful. In addition to the depth of this book, I loved the way in which it was told. The writing was a unique blend of conversation, quasi-stream of consciousness, and narrative, and I truly felt everything that Austin did. Everything flowed well together, even the moments that were difficult or awkward. And yes, I will admit that I did have tears in my eyes at the end of this book...and I know that I wasn't the only one.
The only thing I did want from this book was more. I would love to know how Austin's visits affected everyone in the long run. Even without that, I've found myself thinking about this book long after it was over. Never Eighteen has a powerful message and one that I think readers of all ages can appreciate.
Never Eighteen is a compelling debut by Megan Bostic, one that is full of more poignant moments than many books I've read. I cannot wait to see what this author writes next!(less)
I have been looking forward to Perception since Clarity proved to be such a great read last year. Although Percept...moreFirst reviewed on Portrait of a Book
I have been looking forward to Perception since Clarity proved to be such a great read last year. Although Perception doesn't have quite the same angle as Clarity, the story certainly doesn't disappoint.
Perception begins a bit after Clarity ends. Clare has returned to school and is trying to adjust to her newfound popularity. Instead of just bringing new friends, however, this popularity brings something else - a secret admirer who might also have a dangerous edge. As Clare tries to unravel her mystery, her brother struggles with one of his own. A spirit is trying to give him a message, but he doesn't know what it means. Clare wants to use her gifts not only to help determine her secret admirer but also to help police in the case of the missing girl in town, but would using her abilities really help or only put her in more danger? And as if Clare didn't have enough to deal with, there is still the matter of choosing between Gabriel and Justin...
As I began Perception, I was excited to return to Clare's small coastal town brought to life with vibrant descriptions and sometimes quirky but always memorable characters. Clare's life may have changed over the summer in Clarity, but she is still the same sharp-witted girl as before. However, she comes to grow even more over the course of this book. She develops a friendship with Mallory, a girl whom Clare previously overlooked in school. While I appreciated that Clare wasn't on her own in this book as much as the last one, I couldn't help but feel a twinge of sadness at the constant reminders that this was Clare's first true experience of female friendship. We also see a different side to Perry in this book; his thread of the story is almost as important as Clare's and certainly one in which I was invested. And as for Gabriel and Justin...it is impossible to truly dislike either of them, despite some of their actions, and the connections that Clare has with both of them are very fully felt.
Like Clarity, Perception is a well-crafted mystery and quite a page-turner. Kim Harrington has once again skillfully woven false trails and surprises throughout the novel despite the inclusion of some obvious (but incorrect) conclusions. I loved how everything came together in the end, even if it the story was over before I was ready to say goodbye.
Perception is a perfect sequel to Clarity and one that still left me wanting more of the world and of these characters. I will look forward to seeing even more from Kim Harrington! (less)
This was one of my highly-anticipated debuts for 2012, and thank goodness I didn't have to wait lo...moreFirst reviewed on Portrait of a Book
Really 4.5 stars
This was one of my highly-anticipated debuts for 2012, and thank goodness I didn't have to wait long into the year to read it! With an exotic Russian setting, an intriguing world of paranormal creatures in the royal court, and a boy worth swooning over, Robin Bridges created a fantastic debut novel and one that kept me up reading into the wee hours of the morning.
From her childhood, Katerina Alexandrovna has carried a dark secret with her: She is a necromancer and can reanimate the dead. In spite of this, or perhaps because of it, she dreams of attending medical school and becoming a doctor. However, she is also a duchess and expected to behave in the royal court and to marry well. Yet when the tsar's son is in danger from a spell, Katerina cannot help but use her power to protect him. Soon she is caught up in a battle that has lasted for centuries, a battle spanning all of the nobility as well as the living and even the dead. Katerina must try to unravel the plot and stop it before it is too late. But to make matters even more complicated, there are boys. Both carry their own secrets, and being with either one would greatly affect the course of Katerina's life. Katerina will have to embrace who she is and to make a choice...a choice that could affect Russia as she knows it...
I think my love for books with foreign settings has been pretty well established, and the setting of The Gathering Storm is no exception. I enjoyed traveling back in time with Katerina to the late 1800s and being part of the Russian nobility, attending balls and witnessing an era when chivalry was very much alive. The addition of the paranormal elements to this world was nothing short of ingenious. There were a variety of paranormal creatures in this book, from faeries to vampires and beyond, yet rather than being overwhelming, all of these elements worked together to create a truly fascinating world. I found myself caught up in the mystery and intrigue of both the paranormal world and the two boys right along with Katerina. I loved that she looked for the reason behind things - in line with her desire to be a doctor - instead of being a "normal" debutante and only looking for a husband. And for those of you who read "two boys" in the summary and immediately thought "love triangle," let me assure you, it's not what you would expect. There are, however, definitely romance scenes in here that will leave you smiling.
There were only two things I wanted with this story - a better way to keep all of the nobility straight, because the amount of names was a bit overwhelming at first - and more. More of the brilliant writing, more of the world, more interaction between Katerina and George. After the ending of this book, I cannot wait to see how everything works out for Katerina.
Blending elements of historical fiction and the paranormal, The Gathering Storm is a fresh new story that will capture you from the very first pages. I will be eagerly anticipating the next book in this trilogy!(less)