I didn't read No One Else Can Have You until just a few days before its release partly because I was a little hesitant to begin. Reviews started coming out and they weren't good. At all. There were even a few bloggers who share a very similar taste in books with me that couldn't stand this debut - some couldn't even finish it! Despite the reviews declaring this novel weird and odd I was still curious. Anyone who follows Kathleen on twitter can easily get a feel for her sense of humor; I personally love both it and her, so in true Leah fashion, I ignored the naysayers and dove in.
And you know what? No One Else Can Have Youis weird. It is odd. But it worked beautifully to create an overwhelming sense of unease that was PERFECT for a murder mystery. For a good portion of this novel I felt extremely uncomfortable and I loved it. Hats off to you, Ms. Hale!
There was a time when the tiny Wisconsin town of Friendship lived up to its name. Everyone knew everyone by name, families stretched back for generations, and no one locked their doors. One night - and one girl - changed everything. When Ruth never showed up at Kippy's house, Kippy thought she bailed on their sleepover. It wasn't until the following morning that the truth came out: Ruth had been brutally murdered - suffocated with straw - and posed to look like a scarecrow in a cornfield. Fingers immediately start pointing to Ruth's boyfriend, but Kippy isn't completely convinced he's responsible. Armed with Ruth's diary (Ruth's mother asked Kippy to read it first and Sharpie out all the sex parts) Kippy sets out to uncover the truth behind her best friend's death.
Kippy, with her wardrobe full of turtleneck sweaters, was far too awkward for me to connect with, but that only made her more intriguing. There were many scenes where she seemed very young both emotionally and mentally and her voice came across as strange. Also, for a good chunk of the book I was under the impression that Kippy had been in love with Ruth. It's not a stretch at all to say Kippy was obsessed with her best friend - and for a while I entertained the thought that perhaps Kippy had been the murderer.
I will admit this book definitely is NOT going to be for everyone. One of the main characters, Ruth's brother, has recently returned from Afghanistan minus a finger and suffers from PTSD. There's talk of domestic violence and abusive relationships. At one point Kippy is sent to an institution and the characters there are all shown for comedic effect.
Readers looking for an eerie, character-driven thriller will find just that in No One Else Can Have You. There's certainly no lack of deeply flawed townsfolk in Friendship, Wisconsin. While this novel may not be for everyone, the readers who enjoy it will really enjoy it. It's gruesome and dark and I couldn't get enough. Also: if that cover was an actual sweater I would be all over it.(less)
With a title like The Promise of Amazing, the jokes come all too easy - particularly when the book isn't quite what was, well, promised. To cut right...moreWith a title like The Promise of Amazing, the jokes come all too easy - particularly when the book isn't quite what was, well, promised. To cut right to the point, the book fails to deliver on its intriguing premise. If you're a long-time reader of the blog you might recognize the phrase Matthew Pearl Effect, a term I've applied to novels that sound fantastic, but just don't live up to expectations (after numerous attempts at Matthew Pearl's novels I've finally come to terms that it's definitely an It's-Not-Me-It's-You situation - Pearl's story ideas are incredible, but his execution is severely lacking). It certainly didn't help that early reviews were less than stellar.
Sadly, the ridiculously adorable cover wasn't enough to save The Promise of Amazing and it was only its fast pace and short chapters that kept me from filing it away in the DNF folder.
Wren is the typical Good Girl: she maintains good grades, helps out at the family's King Arthur-themed dining hall, and wouldn't ever think of going against her parents' wishes. Definitely the kind of girl you'd take home to meet your parents. Grayson, however, is the boy your mother warned you about. A self-professed playboy, he was kicked out of his academy after a term paper scheme was discovered. Then there's the little crime ring he and his buddies hatched: using false names they 'hunted' for rich girls and seduced them in an attempt to gain access to the mansions filled with jewelry and fancy electronics. Through connections they would sell the stolen goods and begin saving the money for a trip to Amsterdam.
Once Grayson was kicked out of St. Gabe's phone calls from his friends came less and less frequently until it was just Grayson, his father, and his stepmother. Visits to his mother are few are far between; although Grayson adores his two young stepsiblings, it's his stepfather he's not exactly keen on. His prowess on the lacrosse field once made him the apple of Laird's eye. His recent expulsion suddenly turned him into an embarrassment, someone never to be discussed with colleagues and golf buddies.
Wren and Grayson had two completely different lives and although Wren's brother attended St. Gabe's, her path would have never crossed Grayson's were it not for a cocktail weenie. When Grayson began choking at the Camelot, Wren did the first thing she could think of: she performed the Heimlich Maneuver. It was this scene, twenty pages into The Promise of Amazing, that kicked off a series of eyerolls:
Then I thought of Wren; her body pressed against my back, soft but strong, and fighting for me.
Connecting with her had felt different.
...burning up at the thought of how intimately I'd already touched him.
Since the night I saved him, I'd felt a magnetic pull toward Grayson so strong it scared me.
All of those quotes took place between pages 22 and 36 of my e-ARC. These quotes were only the beginning of my issues with this book. Someone choking is not sexy. Performing the Heimlich should NEVER be viewed as an intimate act. I have seen people choke. I have witnessed the Heimlich being performed in order to save a life. None of these instances got me all hot and bothered and it's disgusting that this was the case for The Promise of Amazing.
The moment Wren realized Grayson was choking she immediately leapt into action. She saved him, he promptly threw up all over her shoes, and then began thinking about the "connection" they just shared. Also, his father doesn't feel the need to take him to a hospital or have him checked out in any fashion. Nope. All good here. Instead the two take off - I honestly forget where they headed, either back home or out on the town, but it certainly wasn't somewhere I'd want to go if I had nearly died ten minutes beforehand.
This "magnetic pull" was so strong between Wren and Grayson that they only needed to go on one date before declaring their love for one another. Prior to their date this scene was the ONLY TIME the pair had interacted.
So The Promise of Amazing wouldn't be seen as solely romance (I'm guessing), Constantine decided to throw in an extremely weak subplot regarding a SOOPER SEKRIT PLAN. Unfortunately, like the rest of the book, there just wasn't anything there of substance and a plot that had the potential to be interesting took a heavy hit in favor of the lackluster romance. Using the name Mike ...something (I already forgot his assumed alias), Grayson ~wooed the laydays~ and when a girl brought him back to her house he immediately set to work planning his method of attack. How would the guys be able to get in - were the parents going on a trip? would the house be empty at some point? was there a keycode he could memorize? He also began snooping about, looking for things worth taking.
The previous summer Grayson had slept with a girl named Allegra and, in the process, stole a large flat-screen television. Instead of calling the police/doing ANYTHING about it, Allegra's parents simply shrugged it off and bought a new one. Grayson and his friends would party in their pool house whenever the family wasn't there and thought nothing of it. Shortly after Wren and Grayson begin dating (maybe three interactions at this point) Wren walks in on Grayson/Mike putting the moves on Allegra at the mall. Instead of breaking up with him or, you know, being angry or upset, Wren makes out with him in a dressing room. A+ move there, book!
There are even MORE subplots, one involving Grayson's friend kissing Wren, and when the climax happens, the boys (minus the one toting some pot) get off scot-free. These boys face NO punishment or consequences for their actions. In the end everything is a-okay.
"What he did was awful, but he sort of got karmic payback getting kicked out of school. Don't you think? And, well, he hasn't done any of this in a while, right? Like months. A guy with a past is hot."
Just remember girls, catching your boyfriend cheating and stealing only makes him even more swoon-worthy!!
The Promise of Amazing was a book I was looking forward to, but turned out to be such a disappointment. Steer clear of this one.(less)
"You grow up feeling the weight of blood, of family. There's no forsaking kin. But you can't help when kin forsakes you or when strangers come to be family."
After a handful of really fantastic YA reads, I wanted to get back to my roots: Thrillers. I've mentioned a few times that, before I began blogging, the majority of the books I read were mysteries and thrillers. Lately I haven't read nearly as many as I would like and the ones I do read are typically my go-to comfort reads during snow days or when I'm not feeling so great. I've made a conscious effort to have 2014 be the year I get back to the basics, the year I fall in love with reading again, and I knew that it would include my favorite genre.
Sixteen-year-old Lucy Dane has no idea what happened to her mother and those who were around back then aren't saying much. When Lila arrived in town, folk immediately disliked her: she was an outsider and her too-short shorts weren't doing her any favors in winning over Henbane. It wasn't long before she was labeled a witch, an evil seductress, and when she disappeared there weren't many people in town who were upset. Were it not for the neighbors - more like family - Lila's baby girl would hardly have survived; the moment she vanished, Carl shut down and hid away inside their bedroom with a bottle of Southern Comfort, in no way fit to raise a baby. Fifteen years have passed since then and Lucy finds herself experiencing loss once more.
One of Lucy's only friends, a girl named Cheri, is discovered in a tree down by the river. It wasn't a secret Cheri had a terrible homelife and no one was all that surprised when word got out Cheri ran away. The only person who suspected there might be more to the story was Lucy and Cheri's body leaves her with more questions. Lucy's determined to uncover the truth, even if that means striking against her own family.
For a debut novel to be compared to Gillian Flynn's works is pretty high praise and despite knowing better I gave in to the hype. I've never read any of Flynn's novels and, to be honest, if they're anything like The Weight of Blood, I don't think I'll be picking one up anytime soon. This novel wasn't bad, but it also wasn't great. Nothing about it wowed me, at no point did I feel the need to stay up late or rush to squeeze in just one more chapter. When it comes down to it, The Weight of Blood was an entertaining story while it lasted, but it's ultimately forgettable. I won't be gushing over the characters or excitedly pushing this book on customers and I already know there will never be a re-read in my future.
That's not to say there weren't things about it I really enjoyed! I'm a big fan of plots involving similar murders/disappearances/crimes committed a decade (or more) apart. I absolutely love the trope and it's what initially put this book on my radar. Small towns and their secrets are also instant winners for me and this aspect was incredibly well done. Bravo, Ms. McHugh! And my love for multiple narratives is blatant at this point - another plus for The Weight of Blood. While Lucy and Lila are the central figures, many others lend their voice and it was fascinating seeing the story play out through the secondary characters' eyes.
Sadly, it's there that my praise ends. The Weight of Blood isn't a terrible book at all and I truly was invested while reading, but nothing about the novel left a lasting impression. I can't imagine thinking back on this book a month from now. The Weight of Blood is a fairly bland story - it would make for a decent rainy day read, but I just don't see it becoming a book people are rushing out to buy.(less)
Newcomers to Carter's work take note: this is not an author who's afraid to tackle heavy subjects. Last year...morethis review will go live on the blog06/03
Newcomers to Carter's work take note: this is not an author who's afraid to tackle heavy subjects. Last year's Me, Him, Them, & It focused on pregnancy and now her latest, My Best Friend, Maybe sheds light on sexuality and what happens to a friendship when it's called into question.
Until three years ago Colette and Sadie were best friends and virtually inseparable. Then everything changed just before high school. Suddenly Sadie went out of her way to avoid Colette and, while the two could have talked non-stop for hours just a few years before, any chance encounters in the school halls are now met with awkward and forced hellos. For Colette this sudden change in Sadie is met with confusion and hurt - what did Colette do? Was there something Colette didn't do that made Sadie all but abandon their friendship? What - if anything - can be done to fix things?
The hole left by Sadie has been hastily patched over with a church youth group and a new boyfriend, Mark - a boy Colette's parents heartily approve of; Sadie's free-spirited mother and laid back attitude toward rules never failed to raise an eyebrow. Colette's relationship with Mark is practically perfect: he always treats her like a princess, showers her with gifts, and never goes further than the chastest of kisses. With a youth group trip quickly approaching, Sadie presents an invitation that changes everything. Colette must choose between spending the summer with Mark on a retreat or visiting the Greek Islands with her ex-best friend - and possibly find some answers.
Slowly but surely GLBT themes are emerging in Young Adult literature and I welcome it with open arms. Sadly, all too often a character's sexuality is glossed over or revealed for little more than shock value and adds absolutely nothing to the story. Even worse is the sitcom-style ending: everything is wrapped up nicely in a pretty bow and any bullying/harsh remarks/bigotry is forgiven and forgotten. While My Best Friend, Maybe left me wanting more, the portrayal of the characters was wonderful and heartbreaking.
My Best Friend, Maybe is told through Colette's perspective and until the ending we only know her side of the story as to what happened the night her friendship with Sadie fell apart. What Carter did extremely well was keep me guessing. The back cover of my ARC states: "A beautiful and multi-layered story of friendship, romance, and sexuality..." and, naturally, I expected these would all come into play between two characters. Carter caught me off guard though and I really enjoyed that. Yes, there's friendship, romance, and sexuality, but the storylines aren't one and the same.
Over time the reader discovers more of Sadie's side of the story as well as her reasoning for inviting Colette along. While I was rooting for Sadie the entire time, her motives gave me pause. Colette's Bible-thumping mother also plays a large role and her actions were appalling and gut-wrenching. Although I finished the book in a single sitting (something I rarely do) I had to walk away more than once because of Colette's mother. It certainly says something about Carter's abilities as a writer that she was able to stir up such emotion in me.
Even though I felt the ending was a bit too sweet and sitcom-y, I devoured it in a handful of hours. The day I received My Best Friend, Maybe in the mail I immediately sat down to read it and didn't stop until I was finished. Caela Carter made a name for herself with her debut and her sophomore effort proves she's not a one-hit wonder. My Best Friend, Maybe is an absolute joy of a novel and definitely one to pick up! (less)
I'll get this out of the way by saying I would have enjoyed The Dirt Diary so much more if it hasn't been watered down with simple language more suited for a Kindergarten class. Writing a Middle Grade (or even Young Adult!) novel does not mean the language needs to be dumbed down. Some of the most thought-provoking and powerful novels I've ever read have been targeted toward children, authors!! The characters in The Dirt Diary are in 8th grade, gearing up for high school. Let that sink in. High. School. The way 14-year-olds speak and interact is far different than the interaction of a group of five-year-olds, yet it's all the same to Ms. Staniszewski. Admittedly, there were two characters who said 'hell,' but the main character sticks to Helsinki and holy bean dip. Even ignoring the characters' speech, The Dirt Diary's writing is extremely juvenile. The novel breaks the cardinal sin of literature over and over: it tells rather than shows.
As for the story itself...the summary is a bit misleading. It makes the story sound a bit Harriet the Spy-ish, which isn't the case at all. Rachel's parents recently split, her father moving to Florida to start up a scuba diving business. Her mother is now faced with having to take a second job - a cleaning business - and asks Rachel to tag along and help out. That money Rachel stole? She used it on a plane ticket. She concocted a plan to fly down to her father (all the while keeping it a secret from her mom) and somehow making him realize he needs to come home and be a family again.
Because the houses Rachel and her mother clean are in their neighborhood, many of the children go to Rachel's school...and that's not a good thing. It's one thing picking up the dirty underwear of the twin boys in the grade below her, but it's another thing entirely to scrub the toilets of her mortal enemy. Especially when there's a cute brother involved (who refers to Rachel as Booger Crap). The more Rachel visits these houses, the more she uncovers about her fellow classmates' lives and what she discovers could be dangerous.
The Dirty Diary is a super easy read; I finished the book in one sitting. The plots move along quickly enough, though they're a bit disjointed and half-hearted. Mixed in with the divorce storyline and these secrets Rachel uncovers, there's a story I wished had been explored further. Rachel's passion is baking. She channels her emotions through cupcakes and brownies and keeps a notebook full of recipes (the majority being her own creations). The previous school year Rachel had entered a bake sale and wound up taking second place. This year she's determined to take first. I loved this storyline and wanted to see it progress. The goodies Rachel bakes had my mouth watering the entire time (hello, banana nutella swirl brownies!), but it was spoiled with the hurried conclusion. The bake sale arc wrapped up so quickly I was caught off guard.
My largest problem with The Dirt Diary was how Rachel reacted upon discovering secrets (or, in some cases, what she misinterpreted). Her first reaction is to giggle and make fun of people. One of the resident Mean Girls is depressed and Rachel discovers it's because her father recently passed away. Rather than comforting her, Rachel thinks about how this girl will no longer be popular - she's wearing sweatpants to school! Upon discovering a package of adult diapers at her vice principal's house, Rachel immediately thinks about how juicy this is and has to stop herself from laughing in his face the next time she sees him. That scene nearly pulled me out of the book completely. Rachel's actions were awful and disgusting.
While the story itself was enjoyable, so many things about The Dirt Diary made me upset, and in some instances, positively livid. Initially this had been a three-star book, but the more I wrote and the more I thought back on this story, the angrier I got. I can see a younger crowd liking this book, but unfortunately, The Dirt Diary just wasn't for me.(less)
Two of my guilty pleasures are a good detective story and biographies. Pinkerton's Great Detective delivers bo...morethis reviews goes live on the blog11/18
Two of my guilty pleasures are a good detective story and biographies. Pinkerton's Great Detective delivers both in one tidy package, proving once again that sometimes the truth really is stranger than fiction.
James McParland, renowned sleuth, had such a mastery over his secrets that his own birthday is not known. Early on in the book Riffenburgh addresses this by admitting that for a biography, there might be more than a few inaccuracies. Because of this, Pinkerton's Great Detective winds up being less about that great detective, and more about Pinkerton, his agency, Charlie Siringo (a fascinating man in his own right!), and the cases McParland investigated: the Molly Maguires, Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch. Even Sir Arthur Conan Doyle makes an appearance.
Pinkerton's Great Detective begins in Ireland where McParland was born and raised along with eleven siblings. While McParland was still a baby the Great Famine struck, devastating Ireland's potato crops and leaving millions of people starving - if not dead. When he was still young, McParland left his home for America, a land not exactly warm and welcoming to the Irish at that time. The Civil War left entire cities ravaged, yet James was still determined to strike a new life - literally.
In his undercover work in the Molly Maguire case, James adopted the name Jim McKenna and constructed an entirely new identity. He lived and breathed McKenna, going so far as to invent false arrest records. This was the case that made his career and Riffenburgh clearly did his research: a sizeable portion of the novel is devoted to the Molly Maguires - or MMs as McParland referred to the gang - and rightfully so. McParland's time spent in the Old West is also covered in remarkable detail.
Readers hesitant to try non-fiction need not worry: although Pinkerton's Great Detective is painstakingly researched, Riffenburgh doesn't lose focus of the story. The book isn't bogged down with technical jargon or unnecessary details. While the ambiguity and inaccuracy does detract from the story at times the book remains action-packed and entertaining. After all, how could a story about a spy be boring?
Pinkerton's Great Detective will easily appeal to fans of a wide range of subjects: history, the Old West, detectives and true crime. Are you a reader new to or curious about non-fiction? Pinkerton's Great Detective is a wonderful starting point with its easy-to-follow narrative (Erik Larson's books come to mind) and intriguing characters.(less)
Cracked is a novel that came out of nowhere and took me by surprise. Initially I wasn't expecting more than a run-of-the-mill YA Paranormal. By the end of the first chapter, however, I was completely hooked!
Meda isn't quite sure what she is, but she knows it isn't good. See, Meda eats souls. And she likes it. Meda's mother always knew Meda wasn't like the other children - public schooling (or any schooling, for that matter) couldn't handle Meda and her tendency for violent outbreaks. Her mother's gruesome death has left Meda to fend for herself and Meda is more than capable of doing so.
After gaining admittance to an institution, Meda finally has her target cornered. She's had her sights on this man for a while, and now it's time for action. Unfortunately, there are others - some like Meda, some not - who arrive with plans of their own. When she's 'rescued' by a well-intentioned young man, Meda decides to make the most of it; Chi is a Crusader, a Templar seeking to rid the world of Demons. These demons he fights sound startlingly familiar to Meda. Here's her chance to find out just what she is - and possibly catch a snack or two in the process.
Cracked was, well, delicious. It was a fun, take-no-prisoners novel that I hadn't realized I needed. Meda was a fantastic character - though readers will either love her or hate her. She's snarky and rude and doesn't hide the fact that she is what she is. She had very few redeeming qualities - if any at all - and it's this anti-hero trait that made her so refreshing and enjoyable. The Knights themselves were all a great bunch too: Chi, the fearless leader who's just a few crayons short of a box; Jo, the no-nonsense girl who's haunted by a wound; Uri, the most adorable 12-year-old who practically worships Chi. I found myself truly caring for these characters and one scene even left me teary-eyed.
Not only did Crewe turn the likeable main character idea on its head, but she also did an absolutely wonderful job with the romance. The romance is between two secondary characters and I was rooting for them the entire time. If you squint a bit, there's a sliiight chance that Meda might have her own romance in the next book, but it really could go either way - and for once, I don't mind. Meda's character and the story itself are strong enough on their own to where I'm fine with the lack of a love interest.
Cracked was a short story, but one I was fully invested in and enjoyed immensely. If you're looking for a story that's outside the usual YA Paranormal, check this one out. This is a great start to a new series and I can't wait for the sequel!(less)
2013 has been an awakening of sorts for me. After a disaster of an introduction to contemporary I had been a bit hesitant to try again and swore the genre off for months. Eventually I gave in and soon discovered some of my new favorite books.
When I heard about Love Overdue it sounded like a book practically written for me: small town librarian, hot pharmacist, the inevitable awkward-yet-hilarious moment when they realize they had a fling eight years ago. I was READY for this one. Unfortunately, Love Overdue left me frustrated more than giggly and irate when I should have been all starry-eyed.
Dorothy Jarrow - DJ - is introduced to her new staff and they're more caricatures than characters and left such a weak impression I forget their names already. There's the Cranky Old Woman who thinks she runs the place because she's been there for years and refuses to relinquish her hold, Overly Bubbly Woman is nearing 30 yet speaks like a 12-year-old, Wounded Soldier can't be healed (until, of course, when he meets a woman, then it's as if PTSD never existed), and James. James was by far the best character and he hardly had any screen-time. He's autistic and prefers to have things run a certain way. DJ's arrival and subsequent upheaval of the library's organization is too much for him to deal with but he has such a shining moment and I loved him.
The other characters in town weren't much better: Scott's mother was terrible. I hated her and was so put off by her actions. She hires DJ in order to set her up with her son. That's it. She had DJ move across the country because she wanted to play match-maker. A year ago she lost her husband and puts on an act. I never understood why she did this - she just lost her husband. It's okay to cry and grieve. There's no need to have the town see you as bright and bubbly and her obsession with purple (she only wears purple clothes, drive a purple Mini Cooper, and painted her HOUSE purple) was downright disturbing. She also spends the majority of the novel planning suicide only to have all thoughts of it magically vanish in one scene.
My other big issue was the Ending That Wasn't. Right from the start the reader knows all about the spring break hook-up - there are scenes interspersed throughout the novel and both DJ and Scott think back on that night quite often. When they first meet DJ instantly knows who he is and over the next few months Scott's totally oblivious. There are moments when DJ reminds him of that girl he once knew, but he never fully puts two and two together until the 'ending.' Eight years ago he bought her a belly chain and she kept it all this time. One night he sees it, the lightbulb goes off in his brain, and The End. There's a pitiful attempt at an epilogue and the book is over.
Extremely sexist dialogue (Scott boasts about how his women roll over and sit at the snap of his fingers), horrible characterization, and a frustrating payoff on a 400+ page romance simply didn't work for me. Judging from other reviews Love Overdue has found plenty of fans, but unfortunately I am not one of them.(less)
Bright Before Sunrise was a completely new experience for me. Until now I had never read any 'takes place in...morethis review will go live on the blog2/18
Bright Before Sunrise was a completely new experience for me. Until now I had never read any 'takes place in one day' books and, honestly, wasn't sure how it would be possible to tell a decent and plausible story in a matter of hours. I typically don't enjoy being proven wrong, but Ms. Schmidt stomped all over my reservations and crafted a remarkably wonderful novel.
Brighton Waterford is perfect. She's pretty, she's popular and kind, everyone loves her. Five years ago her father passed away and since then she's made it her goal to achieve his record back in high school: he managed to get every single person in his grade to volunteer for various projects and drives. Brighton's goal is in sight - there's only one person she still needs to sway. Unfortunately for her, that boy has no interest in anything to do with the snooty town of Cross Pointe.
Jonah Prentiss is not shy about his feelings toward his new life. His mother's recent marriage (and a new baby) upended his world. Sure, he might not have been able to afford a shiny new car or the latest video games, but back home he was happy. He had baseball, great friends, and a girlfriend he adored. Now he feels like a stranger in his family and an alien in his new school where his classmates are on a first-name basis with clothing designers. Things go from bad to worse when Prim and Proper Waterford starts getting on his case about signing up for a book drive. It was bad enough trying to avoid her at school, but that night he goes home to discover his mother had hired her as the babysitter for the evening. It's shaping up to be a long, long night.
I'm a total sucker for dual narratives. Bright Before Sunrise's point of view alternated each chapter and gave a glimpse into the real Brighton and Jonah. I wouldn't exactly call them chapter titles, more like headings? subtitles? Regardless of their technical term, these peeks below the surface allowed me to connect with these two characters and see them on a different level. While she shows off a happy smile, Brighton's still struggling to deal with her father's death. The following day the family will be holding a memorial and every chapter of Brighton's ticks down the time until then: 22 hours, 45 minutes left is chapter six, 14 hours, 9 minutes remaining by chapter 22. Jonah's frustration and utter lack of care shines through: How do you say "fifty minutes of torture" in Spanish? and I'm late for an appointment with Nyquil shooters & my pillow.
Brighton and Jonah were thrown together multiple times over the course of one day and I loved that, for once, there was no attraction at the beginning. They didn't like each other at all initially - Jonah thought Brighton was a stuck-up princess and Brighton only saw Jonah as rude. Their romance was slow and gradual (or as slow as you can get in a story that only lasts 24 hours). The only problem was Jonah's girlfriend. Yep, he was in a long-term relationship before he had even left his hometown. He and Carly grew up together and her family treats him as their own. Carly was a great character and I really felt for the girl. Jonah refused to let her into his new life, this flashy world of Cross Pointe. Of course she was angry and hurt! She felt Jonah thought she wasn't good enough now, that she'd embarrass him and when she discovered one of Brighton's flyers in his car she immediately accused him of cheating (though he hadn't). It was an easy-out and a way to finally push Brighton and Jonah together.
Despite the hurried break-up (I just can't picture Jonah moving on that quickly after being with Carly for years) and some stereotyping, I enjoyed Bright Before Sunrise. Schmidt's writing kept me entertained and the pacing had me constantly turning the page. This was my first of hers and I'm excited to say it won't be my last!(less)
Prior to reading Buzz Kill, Beth Fantaskey was an author I knew very little about. Sure I had heard of Jessica...morethis review will go live on the blog5/6
Prior to reading Buzz Kill, Beth Fantaskey was an author I knew very little about. Sure I had heard of Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side and the following books in the Jessica series, but I had never read them. It's always a little concerning when an author switches genres - will they be able to pull it off? In this case, Fantaskey makes the move from paranormal to a contemporary mystery. And I have to hand it to her, she surpassed all expectations!
When Millie Ostermeyer discovers the murdered body of Coach Killdare, she's not exactly losing sleep. Killdare wasn't the most popular person at Honeywell High. Not by a long shot. What does surprise Millie is that her dad, Mayor and assistant coach, is the number one suspect. Eager to clear his name and find the real killer, Millie launches an investigation using her position on the newspaper staff to get up close and personal with the local police. Along the way she's joined by Chase Albright, a boy carrying dark secrets of his own, and frequently consults the prime source on all things teen sleuth: Nancy Drew.
Wow. WOW. If Fantaskey's books are all this readable, I seriously need to get crackin'! Buzz Kill was a thoroughly entertaining novel, one I wanted to read and read and read as well as slowly enjoy. In true Nancy Drew fashion, there's a list of suspects from the get-go, as well as two besties, lots of eavesdropping, and general sneaking around. This book definitely believes in the "don't judge a book by its cover" adage; characters that are initially deemed villains turn out to be misunderstood and vice versa - wait until you discover Chase's secret! Talk about a tortured past!
My reviews usually contain more substance, but there's nothing more than needs to be said for Buzz Kill. I devoured it in a single sitting - though I really did try to make it last! A quick pace, short chapters, and gripping mystery made this an extremely fun read. My only concern was with Millie herself. More than once I forgot she was a senior. Her voice and actions came across as someone much younger. Regardless, I had a blast with this book. If your childhood revolved around Nancy and her friends, you'll want to check out Buzz Kill!(less)
You know those books that feel as though they were written for you? That the author had you in mind while craf...morethis review will go live on the blog3/2
You know those books that feel as though they were written for you? That the author had you in mind while crafting the story? Say hello to A Death-Struck Year. I'm morbidly fascinated with plagues and deadly viruses. Nothing makes me giddier than reading about a world-threatening illness and few can touch the scope of the Spanish Influenza.
A Death-Struck Year covers two terrifying months in Portland. Cleo Berry is a seventeen-year-old preparing for her final year of high school. While marriage and raising families were still on girls' minds, it was becoming more commonplace for young women to attend college and Cleo is fretting over where her future lies.
The newspapers report the deadly Spanish Influenza that has touched down on the East Coast, leaving hundreds of thousands of Americans barely clinging to life if not already dead. When the virus reaches the West Coast, cities are all but shut down - including Portland. Suddenly Cleo has nowhere to go (her parents were both killed in a horrific accident when she was a child, her older brother and his wife are overseas celebrating their anniversary, and the housekeeper has gone home to visit her family) and rather than stay inside her quarantined school, Cleo makes a hasty decision to answer a Red Cross ad and volunteer. The hospital along with the makeshift ones are overcrowded and bodies are being discovered days later inside homes. Suddenly Cleo is in way over her head as all around her, people are dying and she quickly learns that death is not selective; no one is safe, no amount of money can guarantee immunity.
A Death-Struck Year was a one-sitting read and wonderfully researched. Makiia Lucier is not afraid to get down and dirty. This novel is not for the squeamish! Symptoms and facts haven't been sugar-coated; Lucier lays it all out in stark detail. We've all read novels where the main character is too rich and too spoiled for her own good and can't do a single thing on her own. It isn't like that at all with this book. Yes, in the beginning Cleo can come off as fairly petty, but once the Spanish Influenza hits Portland, she rises to action. She drags bodies out of homes and doesn't think twice about running to aid a person who's bleeding profusely. Before this novel she would have been the type to raise a fuss over a bit of dirt on her dress. Seeing such a large amount of death forced her to grow and mature and I like her all the more for it.
The secondary characters were lovely as well, from the fellow Red Cross volunteers and nurses to Cleo's classmates and even some of the victims. It's a shame her brother and his wife took the absentee parents route. The few interactions Cleo had with both of them were wonderful and I would have loved to have seen more. Even Edmund, a wounded Lieutenant and medical student, was great although I could have done without the romance. I'll admit that it was nice to not have a case of instalove, but I would think that the Spanish Influenza with a death toll of 50 million people worldwide would make the romance take a backseat. It didn't seem realistic that Cleo would have been interested in flirting and fawning over a boy at that time.
At the end of the novel Lucier has a few pages of historical notes which I absolutely loved. She also included a list of books for further reading that looks extremely interesting. While I've read loads of historical Young Adult novels set during the early 1900s, I had never come across one dealing with the Spanish Influenza and I have to hand it to Makiia Lucier: she did an incredible job with both her research and this novel. Whether you're a history fan or are looking to get out of your comfort zone, check out A Death-Struck Year. This is Lucier's debut and I cannot wait to see what she does next!(less)
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Today history will be made. In a few hours' time, the state will vote on...morethis review will go live 02/02. for the full review and more stop by the blog!
Today history will be made. In a few hours' time, the state will vote on whether or not California will secede from the United States and become its own entity, a new republic. Despite this momentous moment, Doctor Julie Walker has a more pressing matter at hand: her husband wants a divorce and her once-estranged sister is in labor. In the midst of it all is Dennis, a man Julie first met years ago who's obsession with her is nothing short of terrifying. After taking several nurses and attendants hostage, Dennis insists the only person he wants to speak to is Julie - and he wants to hear a story.
Golden State is a slim thing of a novel - barely over 250 pages - with chapters averaging 2-3 pages. Despite its near-nothing length and blinding pace, there's a lot of story packed in these pages: Dennis and the hostages; Heather's quickening contractions; the divorce; California's possible secession. Through it all Julie's memories begin to bubble up from their hidden depths. Memories of the night she met Tom, the child that once made them a family, and what Heather did to ruin everything.
Fans of linear storytelling will want to steer clear of Golden State. From the beginning you're thrown into this story with no clue as to where - or when - the next chapter will take you. Time skips and flashbacks are used to great effect, though it took me a few chapters to get a feel for it and to acclimate myself with Ms. Richmond's style of writing. Once I did, however, it was smooth sailing and everything was, well, golden.
Throughout the entire story I wanted answers. Why was Dennis holding up the hospital? What did Heather do? Who was this boy Tom and Julie loved and what could have happened to him? In the end everything plays out beautifully, and the ride there makes it all worthwhile. Tom's radio show provides a soundtrack of sorts to the novel. Al Green, Wilco, and countless others receive mentions and their songs further the story. Even with their pending divorce Tom continues to send messages to Julie through his song choices.
While reading I couldn't help but draw parallels to one of my favorite books of 2012, Karen Thompson Walker's The Age of Miracles. Fans of that novel are sure to enjoy Golden State for one simple fact: the Big Event takes a backseat to the characters. In The Age of Miracles the Earth's rotation was bringing about an apocalypse of sorts, yet the story focused on a 12-year-old girl as she went to school and made friends. Golden State doesn't exactly downplay the secession plot, but it certainly doesn't take centerstage. Instead this is more a novel about a marriage, a family, and moving on from the past.
I'm not one to stay up reading into the wee hours. Golden State's purely addictive writing made it impossible for me to put it down. What's another chapter when the chapter is only 2 pages? Before I knew it it was going on 2AM and I was hooked. Golden State digs deep into what it means to let go and live and I loved every minute of it. Michelle Richmond is now firmly on my radar and I'll be sure to check out her previous novels.(less)
One of the first reviews ever posted on the blog (back in August, 2011!) was Don't Breathe a Word, a deliciously creepy novel about the disappearance of a little girl who went off to marry the King of the Fairies and never returned home. That novel was my introduction to Jennifer McMahon and has stuck with me ever since, a perfect combination of horror and reality and how blurred the lines separating them really are.
Two years later I've got another McMahon novel under my belt and I'm itching for a third (and fourth and fifth...). Going off the two I've read so far it's clear McMahon has something of a formula, a recipe of sorts, that she uses when writing. Don't Breath a Word had a cop-out ending that I didn't care for at all - the final destination made the entire journey feel a bit worthless - and was a little worried the same would hold true for The Winter People. Despite my worries, I jumped right in and discovered a novel even better than the first.
She remembered her parents' warnings when she was little: Stay out of the woods. Bad things happen to little girls who get lost out there.
The first thing you should know about me: I love dual time periods in novels. I live and breathe multiple eras so right off the bat The Winter People was looking good. The second thing you should know about me: the more character perspectives there are, the happier I am. The Winter People had a huge cast of characters, and the story played out over many of their points of view. Giddy from the get-go, I only came to love this book more and more the further I read.
An old farmhouse in West Hall, Vermont holds its share of secrets (some, literally). In the late 1800s, Sara Harrison grew up in the house with her siblings, father, and Auntie. Auntie's strange and otherworldly beliefs ostracized her from the rest of the townsfolk, yet when they needed a surefire way to win the eye of someone or needed a remedy the doctor couldn't provide, she was the person to go to. While growing up, Sara had heard whispers of sleepers, those returned from the grave, and on one occasion saw a classmate in the woods not long after having attended her funeral.
Now grown and with a child of her own, Sara Harrison Shea still lives in her childhood home. Unfortunately Gertie is in a terrible accident and her untimely death is too much for Sara to handle. As she sinks deeper and deeper into depression (or, as her husband and brother-in-law believe, madness) she faithfully pens her diary, filling it with knowledge Auntie had passed down.
Since then, multiple families have come and gone, and now Alice and her two daughters reside in the old farmhouse. As far back as the girls can remember, Alice has made it clear they are never to go into the woods, especially not the Devil's Hand as the locals call it, and if anyone should ever knock on the door they are never to open it. Never. Alice's sudden disappearance one morning sends the girls on a manhunt through states and decades as they discover hidden diary entries and realize the town's legends might be real after all.
The Winter People had me thoroughly creeped out in the middle of the afternoon! I think that's a pretty good testament to McMahon's skill as a writer, don't you? Broad daylight with the sun shining through my windows and there I was, jumping at every sound. More than once I steered clear of the closets, fulling expecting to be greeted by a sleeper. This novel is very much a winter read and not just because of the title. There's a stark coldness that's ever-present, and a resounding sadness that left me thinking in shades of blue and grey. Death is also a key theme and the novel explores the lengths some people would go to in order to see a loved one for one more day - or, in this case, one more week.
It's been a while since a novel has captivated me from beginning to end, but The Winter People did just that. In one case I was reading well into the night (not my best decision!) simply because I could not put the book down. I came to know and care for these characters: Ruthie and her little sister Fawn; Katherine and her anguish over the loss of both her husband and son; Sara with her sorrow and excitement. Despite the number of characters and eras, McMahon wove the story together flawlessly.
Again, however, the ending loses a bit of its magic. Ruthie doesn't so much make a decision as accept what's thrown upon her. While it does leave room for a possible sequel, I had hoped for more. Despite that minor bump I absolutely loved The Winter People and highly recommend it. If you're in the mood for a quick and compelling novel that will keep you guessing, this is it.(less)
Sky Jumpers was available as a Read Now on netgalley and y'all know I can't pass up a good Middle Grade. Sad...morethis review will go live on the blog10/11
Sky Jumpers was available as a Read Now on netgalley and y'all know I can't pass up a good Middle Grade. Sadly I didn't make it more than a few chapters in before setting this book aside.
World War III nearly wiped out civilization. A small settlement was formed in White Rock, Nebraska - in a large crater - and has since flourished. The war was devastating, not only wiping out nearly every bit of technology, but also leaving behind deadly pockets of gas known as Bomb's Breath. Many people have died after walking into the gas, yet the kids view it as a toy. Leaping off cliffs and into the gas - holding your breath, of course! - slows your fall and feels like flying.
There was far too much going on in the chapters I read. All technology has been wiped out in a matter of years and it's up to 12-year-old Hope's class to come up with new inventions. There was some cliff-jumping, lots of exposition detailing the loss of technology, and a large info-dump explaining that this poisonous Bomb's Breath was actually the result of a green bomb - US citizens learned their lesson after WWII and created a 'green bomb' in an attempt to save people..? I didn't get it.
Perhaps I didn't read enough - admittedly I stopped about four chapters in (though that was a sizable portion of the less-than-200-page book) - but Sky Jumpers just didn't cut it. I had a difficult time grasping the idea of this new world and, quite frankly, didn't care enough to read about the new inventions these children were creating.(less)
After being left alone for three days, twins Edmund and Sis have run out of what little food they have. Although they were under strict orders from th...moreAfter being left alone for three days, twins Edmund and Sis have run out of what little food they have. Although they were under strict orders from their aunt to stay indoors, Edmund makes the decision to head out in search of food. Unfortunately, when he returns, he discovers his sister is nowhere to be found. With his mother, aunt, and sister missing, Edmund is on his own with only a strange man to help him. Who is this man, where are his family members, and just what is the man writing?
I went into this thinking I'd have a great time. I know Avi is beloved by school kids the world over, but I honestly can't recall ever reading any of his works. With the reissue of The Man Who Was Poe, plus the fact that, hello, it's POE, I figured this would be the perfect place to start.
Boy was I wrong.
I'm all for artistic license and taking liberties when it comes to historical figures, but come on. Avi made Poe seem like a complete lunatic. He was borderline at best, jumping from mood to mood - and even identity! He insisted Edmund address him as Auguste Dupin, one of Poe's characters. He completely lost it whenever Edmund slipped and called him Poe. He also came across as, well, kind of an ass. One of my most treasured books I own is The Poe Log (a bit hard to find these days & the ones available are a tad bit pricey, sadly). It's a painstakingly detailed account of every single day of Poe's life and then some. Letters, articles, conversations are all compiled into one volume and it's a wealth of information for any fan of Poe's. On occasion I'll flip through it (& it was my best resource for some term papers in college!) and any account I've read from Poe's friends and family make mentioned of how soft-spoken and polite he was. He definitely had a drinking problem, but the novel turned him into a Jekyll/Hyde character anytime alcohol was involved.
Initially Poe - or Dupin - is willing to help Edmund find his sister, but the Crazy Train pulled up. I still don't know what happened with this one. PoeDupin is writing a story about Edmund's life and insists it can only end in death, so he decides the sister is dead and gives up his search. Naturally Edmund is distraught and bewildered and I was confused right along with him. Throw in some maybe-maybe-not ghosts, a surprise!stepfather, and a couple of bad guys for good measure and you'll get The Man Who Was Poe.
Although this was such a short book it was NOT the fun, quick read I was hoping for. Perhaps I would have enjoyed it more when I was 8, but to read it as an adult made my head hurt and brought for the rage. The pace was so quick I was overwhelmed and found myself struggling to keep up at times. After a very graphic chapter early on in the book (Edmund has to identify a body found in the river), The Man Who Was Poe shifted gears and was a complete disappointment. I really wanted to enjoy this one.(less)
For many bloggers - myself included - The Coldest Girl in Coldtown was one of 2013's most anticipated release...morethis review will go live on the blog8/30
For many bloggers - myself included - The Coldest Girl in Coldtown was one of 2013's most anticipated releases. Seriously, read over that summary again. Sounds awesome, right? Unfortunately, this was a case where the idea was way better than its execution. I've come to dub this the Matthew Pearl Effect after the author Matthew Pearl whose books all sound FANTASTIC, but trick me every single time. A.E. Rought's Broken suffers from this as well. Sadly it looks as though The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is the latest victim of the MP Effect.
Tana's world is very similar to ours but with the addition of vampires and secured cities called Coldtowns. These Coldtowns are a prison sentence for the humans living inside - there's no way to get out. Once you're inside a Coldtown, you're inside for good. With popular livefeeds and reality shows vampires have reached celebrity status and many humans are actively looking to become infected and turn Cold. The idea of living forever and attending the Eternal Ball is all too glamorous to pass up.
What started as a normal house party quickly turns into a nightmare after Tana wakes to discover a bloodbath - literally. Blood paints the walls, the floors, flies have already started making their move. After discovering her ex-boyfriend chained to a bed and a chained-up vampire on the floor, Tana makes a decision to save them both. Soon the three are making their way to the closest Coldtown and Tana slowly comes to terms with the possibility of not only being infected, but also never seeing her family again.
This review is hard for me to write and I've been struggling to get my thoughts down. To be honest, not a whole lot happened in this book. I usually get through a book in two days - a single sitting if it's extremely entertaining. With Coldtown I spent a WEEK chugging away, slowly getting nowhere. How could a vampire story be so boring?
Admittedly there were some really interesting ideas presented like the turning process and the Coldtowns themselves. Everything else seemed to bog down the story with unneeded details and derails. Certain chapters felt as through they were thrown in as an afterthought - there was simply no organization or reasoning to some scenes.
One thing that struck me as odd throughout the novel were the many references to sites like Twitter, Flickr, and Youtube. While it works today, I'm worried that The Coldest Girl in Coldtown will feel terribly dated in a few years.
I had extremely high hopes not only for this book, but for Holly Black. This was my first novel of hers and I had been hearing wonderful things about her work for years. While I'm not ready to pass judgement on her just yet, I think it'll certainly be a while before I pick up another book. As for The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, it will certainly have its readers. Unfortunately, its target audience was not me.(less)
After an extremely impressive streak with YA Thrillers (Find Me & Dead Girls Don't Lie are two of my favorite 2013 releases!) I was feeling pretty confident about Poor Little Dead Girls. A boarding school's secret society has ties to the deaths of two girls - what's not to love?
Unfortunately, Poor Little Dead Girls spectacularly crushed every single expectation I had, including the hope of actually finishing (spoiler alert: I did, but it was a fight on both our parts).
Sadie is a star lacrosse player on her high school team back home in Portland. When she receives a scholarship from the elite Keating Hall - students of the school are all but guaranteed acceptance to Ivy League universities - she doesn't hesitate for a second. She quickly becomes fast friends with Jessica (seemingly the only other student who isn't uber wealthy) and her royal roommates. After their hard partying habits brought shame upon Britain's royal family, Trix & Gwen were shipped off to America where they'll hopefully stay out of the public eye. Don't worry about getting to know these two though - their presence is only acknowledged in passing and piles of dirty laundry until the very end when Friend pulls out the shocker: Gwen is into girls! Really now? Gwen's sexuality added nothing to the story, particularly since it came about at the very end, and felt tacked on simply to bring some sort of life to an otherwise dead story.
In the very (and I mean very) beginning, things looked promising. Sure, the characters were little more than stock personalities (particularly the Mean Girls), but that was something I could live with. Within a few chapters, however, I realized this book and I weren't going to become bosom buddies. Chapter 6 - an entire chapter - was devoted to discussing all the ~hot boys~ on the football team. An. Entire. Chapter. Also - and this should come as NO surprise - it is in this chapter that Sadie falls head-over-heels for a boy she has yet to speak to, and when she finally does, this is the conversation they have:
"Is yours [a test] on Monday?" "Yeah." "Ours, too."
When Jeremy turns to walk back to his own school, Sadie's stomach was 'now flipping around like a kid three doses behind on his Ritalin.' I suppose I could overlook this if the scene took place in the middle of the day after a class or something. Instead, this happened in the middle of the night after Sadie had been chased. Ain't no thang though - she simply forgets all about that now that there's a SUPER HOT BOY!!
Once Jeremy shows up, classes are no longer a priority. Instead, she obsesses over his jawline ("A part of her - the same part that led her subconscious through the same cheesy dreamscape every night - wanted to lean in and lick it"). Riveting stuff, guys.
But, Leah, I thought this was a murder mystery I hear you say. Turns out there's a SOOPER SEKRET SOCIETY. More than once Sadie wakes to find bruises on her body and doesn't think anything of it. Later - much, much later - we discover she was being drugged and kidnapped this entire time. Those bruises are from having her blood taken and analyzed to prove she's ~worthy~ and of course she passes. Believe it or not, here's where the crazy comes in. This society is two hundred years old - Thomas Jefferson founded it. Its members are among the richest people in the world and they plan on creating a new world power. Sadie's mother (who had died when Sadie was a child) was a part of this group although she broke all ties with them and her family to marry Sadie's father (see, to make sure genetics are pure, the society arranges marriages for its members). The other girl who had died at the school was also in the society - and also related to Sadie. At one point its revealed SADIE'S EGGS WERE HARVESTED. Just in case Sadie were to die or run away, another heir could be created.
Poor Little Dead Girls tried to pack WAY too much into a tiny story. There were multiple story lines that were introduced and went nowhere: Sadie witnessed a rape and shrugged it off like it was nothing and a fellow student (and one of Sadie's friends!) was being beat by her boyfriend but he's hot so it's okay. There was no consistency or coherency to be found and all of the action happened off-screen: "An hour later she finally stopped talking [explaining basically the entire plot to Jeremy - but not the reader]" "The next three hours were so much fun she started to get nervous."
The author couldn't even get the ending right. Sadie receives hush money ($1M is all this group could come up with? These are supposed to be the richest families in the world.) and begins applying to college with her bestie Jessica and looks forward to spending more time with Jeremy. ...and that's it. There isn't any kind of resolution or closure. Much like with the rest of the story, Sadie shrugs it off, leaving a very unsatisfied reader.
Other readers have mentioned Friend at least succeeded in nailing the voice of these girls, but I have to disagree. Instead of calling each other by, you know, their names, Sadie and her friends refer to one another as hooker, skank, hobag, etc. Yeah, I've never called my friends any of those. This name-calling caused some serious eyebrow-raising once the rape & abusive boyfriend plots were introduced.
Poor Little Dead Girls isn't a book I would force upon anyone. Trust me on this: stay as far away from this book as you possibly can. I SUFFERED SO YOU WOULDN'T HAVE TO.(less)
Everything you need to know about The Reluctant Reaper can be found in its summary: on her 25th birthday, Ki...morethis review will go live on the blog10/18
Everything you need to know about The Reluctant Reaper can be found in its summary: on her 25th birthday, Kirsty d'Arc was accidentally reaped when she jumped in front of a scythe meant for her boss. The man who was more like a father to her had offered up her soul in exchange for fame and fortune and now the Reaper has come to collect. Suffice it to say things didn't exactly go according to plan. Kirsty's body is technically still alive, though in a near-vegetative state, meaning she's stuck in Hell until Reaper management can sort out the whole mess.
The Reluctant Reaperscreamed guilty pleasure and I was really looking forward to spending a giggle-filled afternoon with it. Just like Dante's reaping, however, things went awry. Speaking of, that reaper Dante? Turns out he's the Dante Alighieri. Perhaps you've heard of a little work called The Divine Comedy? Yeah, that's him. Only now he's wavy-haired and hunkalicious. His undeniable mastery over the written word is sorely lacking in this novel, causing him to come off as more of a lovesick teenage boy than the famed poet.
If Dante's poetry was the worst thing about The Reluctant Reaper I would have been happy. Instead I was thrown pun after pun, to the point where it was no longer punny (I am so sorry). I'm all about cheesy. Witty phrases and plays-on-words are so my thing. Here, though, they were taken a step too far and after a few chapters it began to feel as though a conversation (or Kirsty's running narrative, for that matter) couldn't happen without a handful of puns. In the beginning I truly giggled and thought they were clever. A few chapters in they began losing their luster and by the end of the book I was flat-out frustrated. Sybil Serpent (and her union!), gee-gnomes and metro-gnomes, the GI's (Good Intentions) that line the roads, Sue Sayer and Claire Voyant, and Dante's gargoyle Jenni (because her fur gets all over - Jennifur harhar) all made multiple appearances. There were times the author must have been feeling especially clever because she would set up a paragraph of dialog - that usually had nothing to do with the current topic - just so she could whip out a phrase. Enough is enough, madam.
If it wasn't such (I accidentally typed suck at first - that should tell you what my mind thought of this book!) a short, quick read I highly doubt I would have finished. I went into The Reluctant Reaper expecting a fun, light-hearted story. Instead I got a story VERY heavy on the jokes and not so interested in actual plot. Kirsty spent the majority of the novel wandering around Hell simply taking in all the sights and sounds. I wanted to like this book, but sadly it wasn't for me.(less)
Wilds Cards is, unfortunately, a prime example of an intriguing plot that had a horrible execution. Southern...moreThis review will go live on the blog09/19
Wilds Cards is, unfortunately, a prime example of an intriguing plot that had a horrible execution. Southern boy Derek has found himself in the headmaster's office after a prank-gone-wrong. The prestigious school have given him numerous chances and this is the last straw. After fessing up and taking all of the blame, Derek's told he has 48 hours to gather his things and leave. With his dad stationed overseas and a spacey 25-year old stepmother, Derek isn't exactly looking forward to heading home. Things go from bad to worse when Brandi announces she's pregnant and until Derek's father returns, they'll all be heading to Chicago to move in with Brandi's estranged family.
As the only girl on the high school football team, Ashtyn has developed a tough skin. She had to earn the respect of the guys and now she's considered one of them. Her boyfriend is the star Quarterback and it's all but guaranteed he'll be elected Captain come their senior year. Ashtyn's sights are set a little further in the future: she's aiming for a football scholarship and the chance to play on a college team.
While things have never looked better on the field, Ashtyn's home life has seriously declined. Her mother abandoned the family years ago, her sister vanished as well, and her dad just doesn't seem to care anymore. Now her sister has returned, bun in the over, and with her son and stepson in tow. They simply arrive at the door and announce they're moving in.
Wild Cards had two things going for it: its BLINDINGLY fast pace and football. The football plot especially interested me, even moreso that it was a girl who played. YES PLEASE! Sadly, that's where the good ends. This is a book that suffers from an extreme case of telling rather than showing. We're told Derek is a bad boy, we're told Ashtyn is some super awesome fantastic football player/tough chick. I never got a feel for just who these characters really were and their relationship was downright confusing.
It seems all Derek does is paint the shed and cut the grass. I wouldn't have batted an eye if he helped a little old lady cross the street or rescue a kitten in a tree. Yep. Real troublemaker there. As far as Ashtyn's football prowess goes, she never actually plays. Or, sure, she practices, but that's it. There aren't any games - the novel takes places during summer vacation - so that angle was a complete letdown. At one point Ashtyn goes to a week-long football clinic where only the best high school players from around the country go, but even there we only read about a handful of drills (of course each one is sabotaged by boys who aren't interested in having a girl play).
I read a lot of YA and am getting into New Adult. I know how it goes and I've come to expect quick romances if not flat out instalove. What baffled me about Wild Cards is that, while the character are in love (in a weird quasi-incestuous way - she's his stepmother's sister after all), they refused to voice their feelings for nearly the entire book and they aren't in a relationship at all. The dual narrative allows the reader to know exactly how Ashtyn and Derek feel and it's very love/hate. Ashtyn thinks Derek's hot. Derek thinks Ashtyn has a great body. Ashtyn wants Derek to hold her. Derek wants Ashtyn period. Ashtyn hates how Derek is flirting with her friends and thinks he's a jerk. Derek hates how guys look at Ashtyn. This went on and on the entire book and their only interactions were arguments. Somehow this was supposed to be romantic? I just couldn't get into it.
The ending really took the cake though. (view spoiler)[After all the talk of Ashtyn being an amazing football player - and not seeing any proof - it turns out that Derek is the one who is really the star. Prior to the death of his mother he took his team all the way to the state championship and had a really promising career ahead of him. In the end it was about Derek's phenomenal skills rather than Ashtyn's. (hide spoiler)]
Wild Cards was such a disappointment. I went in fully prepared to love every moment, but nothing worked for me. The characters were flat, the football plot just wasn't there, and the romance was borderline aggravating. This is the first in a series, but I'm tapping out of this one. I have no interest in seeing what's in store for these characters. If it wasn't for the easy-to-read pace, I doubt I would have finished.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Wren Gray has always been the classic Good Girl. She's followed her parents orders, studied hard, and swore off boys that would distract her from her schoolwork. An early acceptance letter to Emory was part of her parents' plan. What her parents don't know, however, is that Wren is hiding a secret: she withdrew her acceptance to college and made plans to do volunteer work in Guatemala.
Charlie Parker has had a string of foster families. His current family - foster parents Chris and Pamela and younger brother Dev - are perfect and accept him as their own, yet his past won't let him belong. His memories haunt him still, but with high school coming to an end, Charlie wants to make a change.
The Infinite Moment of Us is my first Myracle novel and I expected great things. The first half of the book was flawless. The second half however...that's a different story.
Wren and Charlie come from two very different backgrounds: Charlie is the poor foster kid whose family is struggling to make ends meet while Wren is the Perfect Child every parents wants. Wren comes to the realization that she's been living her life for her parents and wants to break away, become a new person in a new country. When Wren and Charlie first meet - though meet isn't exactly the right word; they had gone to school together and Charlie had a bit of a crush on Wren - it's sweet albeit a little too fast for my taste. Not instalove though.
Things aren't sunshine and rainbows for the couple - Charlie's sort-of ex is wildly possessive (even though they're no longer together) and sends him a barrage of texts and calls whenever Charlie's with Wren. She even goes so far as to call him with an 'emergency' in an attempt to get him away from Wren. Naturally Wren begins to doubt his feelings - why would he say he loves her, yet run off to be with another girl? There were even times when Charlie lied about getting calls from Starrla. He'd say they were calls from his family (Dev is handicapped and it's not uncommon for the family to make impromptu trips to the hospital). While Charlie is no longer in love or even infatuated with Starrla, his constant visits to her apartment bothered me. He justifies his action by claiming they're both broken and they know each other and their problems. No. Sorry, Charlie, you didn't win any points from me with that one.
A large part of this book focuses on sex and I'm all about sex-positive YA/NA. That said, a comment from Wren completely shocked me and it was at this point the book began heading downhill:
"I don't want my first time to be with a condom unless we have to."
Oh, Wren. Seriously?
The Infinite Moment of Us has an ending that's overly sappy and insanely selfish on Wren's part. To recap, Wren and Charlie began chatting their last day of school. So, what, June? They've been dating two months at this point. Wren is still determined to head to Guatemala and she's upset that Charlie won't come with her. She feels he spends too much time with his family and that he chooses them over her. She does acknowledge how selfish she's being, which is good, but she refuses to answer his calls and texts. The ending caught me off guard - and not in a good way. I had hoped for a different sendoff and the book let me down.
Despite its flaws, The Infinite Moment of Us was an enjoyable, entertaining read. The secondary characters absolutely shine and the dual narrative makes me so giddy. Whether you're a fan of Myracle or are looking for a quick beach read, The Infinite Moment of Us is sure to please.(less)
New Adult is a genre that's still relatively new to me. I've only read a handful and when you strip them down, they all seem to have the same set of bones: girl in college meets boy and they have a lot of sex. Is New Adult erotica-lite? The names and settings change, but the core remains the same and I've come to be fairly disappointed with this supposedly innovative and exciting new genre.
That said, imagine my surprise when I absolutely adored Foreplay! It follows the New Adult 'formula' to a t, but it works. I was engaged and entertained and when it comes down to it, that's what a successful book is all about. Since Pepper was a little girl she has been madly in love with her best friend's brother, Hunter. When Hunter moved away for college, it was a no-brainer for Pepper: she would do everything possible to get a scholarship so she could be with him. Now that her dream is beginning to become a reality (along with the news that Hunter recently broke up with his girlfriend), there's just one problem: Pepper knows next to nothing about relationships. There was one disaster of a kiss years ago and that's it. Naturally Pepper's two suitemates come up with a solution: find a no-strings-attached, experienced guy who can show Pepper the ropes. Luckily for Pepper, they have just the guy in mind - the super hot bartender. Unfortunately even the perfect plans can go wrong.
Reece is a pierced and tattooed boy from the wrong side of the tracks. He dropped out of college in order to keep the family's bar running after his father's accident. The stares of college girls is nothing new to him, but Pepper's proposition is certainly a surprise. More amused than anything, he agrees to bring her up to speed if you will, but it's only a matter of time before Pepper sees the real Reece. Literally. That love-'em-and-leave-'em reputation? Turns out it belongs to Reece's brother and Pepper and her suitemates mistook one for the other. Oops.
Despite Pepper's goal being another guy, Foreplay doesn't suffer from a love triangle until toward the end and it's all resolved fairly quickly. I was a bit disappointed with how calm and cool Hunter was about the whole thing, but the rest of the story more than made up for it. My only gripe is that for a book set at college, there's very little in the way of, you know, classes and general campus life. There's a coffee shop Pepper frequents, but the majority of the novel takes place in Reece's bar. I would have loved to see a bit more of Pepper's college life!
Foreplay was great all-around: well-written characters, a fun plot, and a quick pace. I'm not sure who the couple will be in the sequel, Tease, but I can't wait to find out! If you're like me and have a fairly lackluster track record with New Adult, do yourself a favor and read Foreplay.(less)
Between that beautiful cover and - hello - SHANNON HALE, Dangerous was one of my most anticipated releases of 201...morethis review goes live on the blog3/4
Between that beautiful cover and - hello - SHANNON HALE, Dangerous was one of my most anticipated releases of 2014. Unfortunately I could only make it 147 pages in before throwing up a white flag and quitting. How is this from the same author of Princess Academy and The Goose Girl?? The only explanation I can come up with is that Hale has five books coming out this year. F-I-V-E. Clearly that had something to do with the lack of quality of Dangerous; this is not the Shannon Hale I know and love.
Maisie Danger Brown (yes, that's her real name) enters a sweepstakes on a cereal box for astronaut camp. Much to her surprise she wins and it's there the story goes downhill. Within 20 pages we have already met the two love interests (and she's already made out with one of them!). Had I known Dangerous was going to be a romance I wouldn't have bothered. Maisie's dream is to become an astronaut, yet once she meets Wilder, she can only think about him, her dream totally forgotten. Jonathan Ingalls Wilder (yes, that's his real name) is awful. He's dripping with wealth and despite his groupies that follow him everywhere, Maisie has somehow caught his eye. Get a load of this charmer:
"A home-schooled, black-eyed Latina." He whistled. "You are turning into a very ripe fruit for the plucking."
This comes from their first conversation. Wilder flip-flops with his feelings: he can't get enough of Maisie, yet any time she proves to be smarter than him, he immediately turns cold and starts chatting up another girl. What a guy.
The camp is run by a brilliant scientist I couldn't stand. I think she was supposed to be an aloof, head-in-the-clouds kind of scientist, but instead, she spends all of her time juggling. The greatest mind of our time, folks. She managed to build the Beanstalk, basically an elevator from Earth to an asteroid. Five campers are chosen to make the trip - Maisie, Wilder, Smart Asian Girl Who Likes Slushies, Beautiful-But-Mean Redhead, and French-African Boy Whose Cursing Is Bleeped (yep. bleeped.). While in space these five kids get to see alien artifacts and wind up absorbing their powers. Now instead of being human caricatures, they're human caricatures with super powers. Redhead turns into a Juggernaut-esque behemoth and can't stop eating. Slushie Girl can shoot things from her palms. Maisie discovers an ability to understand technology and build. The first thing she builds? A robot arm, thus rendering her disability (she only had one arm) completely pointless. Why bother having a disabled character if you're going to give her a special robot arm?
Things Happen (a fight breaks out and characters die) and the kids are on the run. Once Maisie's back home I lost any interest in Dangerous and judging from the reviews I've read, I didn't miss much by not finishing. Dangerous was SUCH a disappointment. Every single character was a personality trait rather than a person. Maisie's best friend Luther exists for the sole purpose of being another love interest. In his first scene Maisie comments on "how muscley" he's become - 7 pages into the book. There's a page-long joke that goes nowhere. All of the other campers virtually vanish once these five gain their powers.
Although the camp is for anyone 12-17, the writing felt more like a beginner's chapter book. Very short and simple sentences and any kind of explanation regarding space or technology is glossed over. Also, I'm still unclear as to when this novel takes place. At first I assumed the present day, but now I'm wondering if maybe it's set in the future? The characters discuss the Rolling Stones and the Beatles though so I'm not entirely sure.
If Shannon Hale's novels hold any kind of nostalgic feelings for you, do yourself a favor and avoid this one.
We were quiet, two tiny specks glued down by gravity, peering at a universe that didn't notice us back. The quiet and dark made me feel mysterious and stilled, a thing that glints in the dark, an object that can only be understood by careful study. Something like a poem.
Following her successful The Orphanmaster, Jean Zimmerman returns with a marvelously detailed - and at times, downright gruesome! - tale of the Gilded Age, high society, and a feral child.
In 1875, the Delgate family, among the upper crust of Manhattan society, takes a tour of the American West. While in Nevada, they stop for a local sideshow attraction, Savage Girl. It's said the girl was raised by wolves and is presented on stage for the curious audience to gawk over. Mr. and Mrs. Delgate are collectors of a sort. Mrs. Delgate has in tow two helpers, or servants, that she refers to as her pets: a Chinese woman named Tu Li and a Zuni berdache ('two-spirit', identifies with both genders). Nothing would make Mrs. Delgate happier than adding a feral child to her brood, particularly since this girl is around the same age her own daughter would be had she not died as a baby. For Mr. Delgate, the social experiment - is it possible to teach and mold this girl, to debut her - is far too exciting to pass up.
Almost immediately from the start the plan begins to crack, but the Delgates press on, teaching this girl - Bronwyn, they discover she could write her name - to write and read, the proper way to eat, and how to curtsy. Back in Manhattan, Bronwyn meets all the right people, learns all the correct dance steps, and soon becomes a media darling. Her debut was a Must See and any dress she wore immediately set the current trend.
Bronwyn had a power over people and no one was immune - not even her 'brother,' Hugo Delgate. Hugo was studying anatomy at Harvard and had a promising career ahead of him until Savage Girl came along. After one murder too many, Hugo's suspicions are tested and it's Hugo who tells this story as he's sitting in a holding cell. Savage Girl is his confession for murders and mutilations stretching the length of the United States.
From the opening chapter I knew I was in for a good time. Savage Girl's imagery is so rich and detailed I had no trouble at all believing I was in the newly-settled West or mingling with millionaires in New York. It certainly didn't hurt that Zimmerman included many historical figures as cameos (my favorite was a college-aged Teddy Roosevelt)! Although I wasn't quite sure how I would enjoy having Hugo narrate the story, my worries quickly vanished. Hugo had it all before Savage Girl came along. His studies were going well and everyone was waiting for the moment he would finally propose to Delia Showalter. Once Bronwyn appeared, however, everything fell apart. So strong was his infatuation that he confessed to a series of murders he didn't commit - although his near-descent into madness and worry that perhaps he did murder all those men was fascinating and morbidly enjoyable.
When she was discovered, Bronwyn had a few items: a Bible and Vanity Fair, both with many missing pages, and a dirty doll. It was clear that at some point before losing her family she had been taught to read and write, and under the Delgates's wings, she quickly picked up where she left off. Her story, once she decides to share the details with Hugo, was heartbreaking. She remembered bits and pieces of her childhood: her parents and a baby, she possibly came from Wales. She had been taken by the Comanche and it is this tribe that she considers to be her true family. They raised her as their own, taught her how to ride horses and hunt, gave her a new name. When settlers came along Bronwyn found herself alone once more, this time she truly had to fend for herself. For years she lived in a cave with a jaguar cub until a severe illness led her to being discovered and taken into town as a new attraction.
There were only two minor issues I had with Savage Girl. The story takes place over the course of a single year. In that time, Bronwyn was able to transform from a feral child to a debutante fully capable of holding her own in a philosophical debate. That this happened in such a short time frame seemed a bit unrealistic to me. My other issue was that, as the reader, I was constantly being told things that I'm perfectly able to figure out myself. On multiple occasions Hugo would pause his narration to explain what a snide remark was supposed to mean. In one case Delia spoke and the following sentence read: "This was Delia's pointed reference to the evening she saw..." This hand-holding became slightly aggravating as the novel wore on.
Despite my minor quibbles Savage Girl was a wonderful read. It's 400-page length kept me engaged and invested until the end and whenever I had to stop reading the book was constantly on my mind and I couldn't wait to get back to it. The best part of the story, however, was that I was kept guessing until the last page. Bravo, Ms. Zimmerman! If you're a reader who enjoys historical fiction and doesn't mind getting down and dirty (remember, these murders involved mutilation), I strongly recommend picking up a copy of Savage Girl! I loved it and am now interested in reading Zimmerman's previous novel!(less)
this review goes live on the blog02/03 along with a giveaway!
Shortly after obtaining her PhD yet still unable to find a job, Lee Lien returns home. H...morethis review goes live on the blog02/03 along with a giveaway!
Shortly after obtaining her PhD yet still unable to find a job, Lee Lien returns home. Her relationship with her mother is frosty at best, yet her beloved grandfather always finds a way to smooth things over. The family's latest restaurant, the Lotus Leaf, has a steady string of customers, and Lee is more than ready to try a few changes, switch things around in an attempt to really get business booming. The Liens' world comes to a halt with the unexpected return of Sam, Lee's brother. As the oldest (and the male), Sam is the golden child, the one who is set to inherit the restaurant (whether he wants it or not), and his actions are always forgiven. In his mother's eyes he can do no wrong. So when he empties the cash register - and his mother's jewelry box - to start a new life out west, Mrs. Lien cleans the entire house and waits for the day when he'll return.
With Sam's departure, Lee discovers a token he left behind for her: a small pin from a lifetime ago in Vietnam. Since she was a child, Lee has heard her mother and grandfather tell stories about their cafe in Saigon and how they were visited by a nice American woman. Whether she purposefully left the pin behind they can't say, but it has remained with them decades later, making the trip to America and a new life. As Lee digs deeper into the pin's story, she uncovers a hidden history that could potentially link her family to Laura Ingalls Wilder.
I had been looking forward to Pioneer Girl since I first heard about it last year and I'm thrilled to say it did not disappoint! In fact, it exceeded all expectations and then some! Essentially there are two stories in this novel: Lee's and Rose's. When I read novels where the focus is on multiple characters, I usually find myself preferring one over the other but I'm pleased to say that was not the case in Pioneer Girl. I was as invested in Lee's story as I was in Rose Wilder Lane's and because of that, I wound up breezing through the book much quicker than I would have liked (this is a novel to be slowly savored).
As interesting as Lee's family was, Rose was an equally fascinating woman in her own right. Prior to Pioneer Girl I had a rough idea of who the Wilder family was and what The Little House on the Prairie series was all about. Somehow I managed to skip these books as a child, but Pioneer Girl piqued my interest. Especially with the rumors that Rose was actually the writer, not Laura, and that Rose would fudge details and expand upon anecdotes for the sake of a good story. She even demanded that Laura write solely in third person in their letters!
Despite being a history buff (and spending many elementary school computer classes playing Oregon Trail), I tend to see the Old West and prairie life through rose-colored glasses. While reading Pioneer Girl it became all too evident that times were hard - if not downright brutal - for pioneers. Rose was the only child of the Wilders to survive to adulthood and she herself lost her only child after a few days. Her relationship with Laura was hardly affectionate and she wound up leaving home to make it on her own in a city. Rose married for sex and divorced the man a few years later, determined to lead an independent life. As her journalism career took off, Rose traveled the world - most notably to Vietnam where she covered the war in the 1960s. Her vocal political stance took on a life of its own and she's now considered to be one of the founders of the American Libertarian Movement, along with Ayn Rand.
If I could go back and read Pioneer Girl all over again (I definitely see a re-read of this book in the future!) I would take my time with it and really sink into this world of Vietnamese cuisine and farmsteads. Nguyen doesn't have many books to her name at this point: Short Girls and a memoir entitled Stealing Buddha's Dinner, but they're now on my radar and I can't wait to track down my own copies! Whether you're looking for diversity (her novels feature Vietnamese families and culture) or simply want a good book, Bich Minh Nguyen is an author to keep your eye on.(less)
I don't want to jinx myself, but I've been having insanely good luck lately with Young Adult Thrillers. Before I beg...moreReview goes live on the blog9/20!
I don't want to jinx myself, but I've been having insanely good luck lately with Young Adult Thrillers. Before I began blogging, thrillers were my go-to reads, but I never thought to try them in a YA flavor.
Wick Tate doesn't have a whole lot going for her: her felon father is on the run, cops are trying to squeeze information out of her, she's on her fourth set of foster parents, and her best friend acts like Wick no longer exists. The two bright sides to Wick's life are her little sister Lily and her hacking business - women hire her to get the dirt on their cheating boyfriends/husbands.
The morning following a detective's usual late-night stakeout, Wick finds a diary on the doorstep. Flipping through she recognizes the handwriting of her former best friend, Tessa. Scrawled on the cover however, are the words find me. That day at school Wick learns Tessa died - jumped off a building - and Wick refuses to believe the story ends there. The diary entries talk of more: a man Tessa was seeing, someone who learns Wick picked up his scent and now he's after her.
YA Thrillers might just be my new favorite thing. Find Me captivated me from the very first page and didn't let go until well after I finished. There's a sense of foreboding throughout the novel that I found riveting and more than once my breath caught and I lost myself to the scene. When I read thrillers or mysteries, I like to guess at Who Did It and I tend to be right. The same can be said for Find Me, but the way the mystery was revealed was so expertly done that I didn't mind one bit! I had actually been hoping for a different character to be the killer and was disappointed I was wrong, but the truth came out and when it did I immediately changed my tune; the bad guy was truly awful and I began to panic and had to set the book down. Having your reader experience such intense emotions takes some serious talent and Ms. Bernard let hers shine.
As per YA there's a romance involved, but what sets Find Me apart is that there was NOT a love triangle nor was this a case of instalove. Their relationship blossomed over time and it was such a welcome sight. Even better: the romance didn't take center stage. In the hands of a lesser author, this book about a killer-going-after-the-younger-sister could easily have turned into a starcrossed romance with a hint of an actual plot. No so here!
That this is Ms. Bernard's debut novel both impresses and excites me! Find Me enveloped me in its mystery - Who was this man Tessa was seeing? Will he get to Wick's sister? - and its hold refused to give. I highly recommend this book and you can bet I'll be waiting to see what Romily Bernard writes next!(less)
Jaycee's life was idyllic. She had a best friend, a boy who liked her, and a nice house in a quiet town. After what is...moreLink goes live on the blog9/17.
Jaycee's life was idyllic. She had a best friend, a boy who liked her, and a nice house in a quiet town. After what is declared a gang-related murder shakes things up, suddenly life isn't so perfect. Jaycee's best friend becomes more and more distant, hanging out with the wrong crowd and piercing nearly every inch of her body. As the two grow further apart, the texts become less frequent. Until the night of Rachel's death. The night where Jaycee chose to spend her time with Skyler instead of answering her phone.
Rachel's death turns the town upside down. Suddenly Rachel's Mexican heritage comes into play - despite the fact that Rachel spent her entire life with these people. Soon the mothers at church are whispering about Rachel and drugs and gangs and Jaycee doesn't know what to believe. She does know one thing though - she and Rachel broke into an old house and Rachel saw something. Something that changed her forever and Jaycee is determined to find out just what went on that night and who is really responsible for her best friend's death.
Okay, calling it right now: Dead Girls Don't Lie is one of my TOP READS OF 2013. It's that good, y'all. It had a distinct Pretty Little Liars vibe that I ADORED and a blindingly fast pace that kept me turning the page.
In order to solve the mystery behind Rachel's death, Jaycee first needs to come to terms with it. Naturally she's hesitant to visit Rachel's mother - especially as part of the clean-up crew the church organized (the drive-by left the porch and Rachel's bedroom in ruin). She's also unsure whether or not she should tell her secret: the night they were in the old house, Rachel left with blood on her hands.
When a video from Rachel gets sent to her phone, Jaycee decides something needs to be done. Under Rachel's instructions she teams up with Eduardo, much to the dismay of Skyler. With Eduardo - and occasionally Skyler - Jaycee pieces together the events leading up to Rachel's death and what she uncovers is shocking.
Dead Girls Don't Lie is one of those books I loved so much I can't fully put into words. Plot twists I genuinely didn't see coming and a constant parental presence were added bonuses to an already fantastic story. If you like smart - and delightfully creepy - mysteries, do yourself a favor and check out Dead Girls Don't Lie.(less)
BEWARE: this review amounts to little more than an incoherent, rambly love letter.
You know that one review that you sit on until you come up with the right words to say, only to wind up writing - and rewriting - the entire thing? That's how I was with My Basmati Bat Mitzvah. This is the novel I want to hand to Middle Grade/Young Adult naysayers who claim kids' books can't be thought-provoking and powerful. Even now I want to scrap this review and simply have a giant 72-pt blinking font that just reads "GO BUY THIS NOW."
Tara Feinstein is just like every other 12-year-old: she loves having Movie Nights with her best friend Ben-o (who just might like-like her), she has to deal with all the hurt and jealousy that comes with her other best friend Rebecca becoming friendly with Tara's sworn enemy, and the best thing about the new school year is getting to be in robotics class.
Unlike the majority of the kids in Tara's class however, Tara comes from a multi-cultural home. While both her parents are Jewish, her mother practiced Hinduism before converting. Apart from Tara's aunt and cousin, the rest of her mother's side of the family still lives in India. Even though she attends Hebrew School, Tara strongly identifies with her Indian side and a classmate's nasty comments raise some doubts about whether or not she wants to go through with her Bat Mitzvah. Will she have to abandon her Indian heritage in order to truly be Jewish?
When I first started reading this book I sat down on my couch and didn't move until I had finished. My Basmati Bat Mitzvah is such an incredibly lovely book that had it all: diverse characters (!!!), humor, a beautiful message. Tara came across as a real person, someone I could pass on the street. Her jealousy over playing third wheel to her bestie's new friend, panic over accidentally ruining a precious heirloom, all the confusion that comes with her best boy friend kinda-sorta-maybe wanting to be a boyfriend. It was all beautifully done. Tara had such wonderful character development throughout the novel - and she wasn't the only one! Other characters had an amazing amount of depth, particularly Mean Girl Sheila. & get this: not only were Tara's parents ever-present, but her grandmother, aunt, and even her friends' parents played key roles!
Perhaps what really won me over was that I could relate to Tara. I come from a Jewish-Catholic family and while I was raised Catholic, my family still observes certain Jewish traditions and holidays. I understood Tara's conflicting emotions. If she had her Bat Mitzvah, would she have to forget all about her beloved grandparents, her Nana and Nanaji? Would she be unable to enjoy her favorite Bollywood movies? Tara's personal journey to discovering herself was beautiful and I was cheering her on every step of the way. And if I didn't already love her to pieces, the fact that she wanted to wear a sari and serve traditional Indian food at her Bat Mitzvah totally would have won me over.
As an added bonus, at the very end of the book there's a multi-page glossary that covers a variety of Yiddish/Hebrew/Punjabi terms and of course I thought that was awesome! Seriously, I could prattle on about My Basmati Bat Mitzvah for days. It was a delightful, beautiful story about a girl discovering who she is and I loved it. I strongly recommend buying a copy!(less)
Ten years ago 17-year-old Leah McMahon ran away from her tiny Texas town. Suddenly the only life she had ever k...morethis review goes live on the blog10/25
Ten years ago 17-year-old Leah McMahon ran away from her tiny Texas town. Suddenly the only life she had ever known - and the boy she thought she loved - was gone and she found herself along and scared in Minnesota. The preacher's perfect daughter was pregnant with the town's bad boy. At the time adoption seemed the best choice, along with feigning ignorance as to the baby's father. Until now the open adoption has worked: Leah and her son maintain contact and have a special bond. Unfortunately, her father's surgery has called Leah back to Sultry Springs and they both know questions will be asked - and certain people can't be avoided in a town as small as theirs.
Going into Surrender to Sultry I hadn't realized it was the third - and last - novel in the Sultry Springs series. Thankfully, however, this is a series where each book focuses on a different couple, so I had no problem jumping in at the end. Leah's arrival back to Sultry Springs raises questions - and eyebrows. As far as the rest of the town is aware, a decade ago Leah and her father had a huge falling out and haven't spoken since. What they don't know is that Leah discovered she was pregnant with Colt's child. Through the wonders of Skype and the Internet, Leah and her father have remained in constant contact and he's even met his grandson.
When Leah left Colt's world fell apart. A stupid prank by a lousy friend caused the girl he loved to run away and he sort of lost it without her. In an attempt to fill the aching void, Colt spends more and more time with alcohol and strippers, quickly becoming someone he doesn't want to be. This small town sheriff still carries a torch for his first love and no one could ever come close to replacing her.
Leah's first night back in town results in being pulled over...by none other than Sheriff Bea. A decade is an awful long time to harbor pain and heartache. Now that Leah and Colt are older (and wiser?) could they find it in themselves to move past high school? Colt is more than ready to make up for lost time. Leah, however, is still reeling from the hurt and embarrassment Colt and his friends put her through - not to mention she's debating whether or not to tell him about their child.
Surrender to Sultry really took me by surprise. I wasn't expecting to like this story as much as I did! Admittedly, it took some getting used to reading my name over and over again - and, um, let's just say certain scenes were WAY awkward. HA! That said, everything else about this book was great. Leah and Colt felt real. They were both flawed and conflicted. What Colt and his friends did was completely inexcusable and I don't blame Leah at all for being so hurt. He wanted to see how far he could go with the preacher's sweet and innocent daughter, already aware she had planned on waiting for marriage before having sex. Colt bragged to Tommy and soon the entire school found out the two had slept together. By the time Leah discovered she was pregnant she was long gone. The pregnancy/adoption aspect was really nicely done, though the final conclusion was a bit too cutesy for me.
The couples from the two previous novels are featured in this book as well, though obviously they're not nearly as prominent as Leah and Colt. I'm eager to read the other books now, I'd love to see the beginning of the other relationships! If Happily Ever Afters are your thing, definitely pick up a copy of Surrender to Sultry!(less)
They come out of the sky and take you. Everyone knows that.
Six years ago, life in Riley's town changed. Without warning, the angels appeared and began taking people. That first year was the worst; no one knew what had happened or what was going on. Where did these people go? They weren't dead, they simply vanished after being taken into the sky. The second year, however, the town was ready. They knew what to expect, yet there was no way to stop it.
With each Taking, more and more friends and family vanished and the town viewed it as their own awful curse. It wasn't until Pastor Warren's arrival that things began to change. With his sermons and flashy way of preaching, he was able to convince the townsfolk that, no this wasn't a curse, this was a blessing. The Taking is actually the Glory and is something to be worshiped and desired. Soon the entire town - whether voluntary or involuntary - are under his spell and go along with his word.
One of the few members of the town not to accept the pastor's message is Riley Carver. Sixteen and a bit of an outsider, she'd all but shut down after losing her best friend in the previous year's Taking. When one of the angels shows up outside her bedroom window, she's ready to take action and in the process, shoots it. Unfortunately for Riley, the angel is no longer an angel. He's a boy, naked and confused and thinks he's still in the 1950s.
We all know to beware the hype machine, right? I know I've certainly given in multiple times, only to realize I actually HATE the book. Guys, Outcast is worth it. It deserves all the hype and then some! I'm typically not a big fan of paranormal, but this one was fantastic. Ms. Kress took these angels, turned them around, and made it believable. I know it's a little hard to picture a novel about angels stealing people as believable, but the novel does it in such a way that the paranormal elements aren't overdone and that is what makes it so great.
What really made the novel for me, though, were the characters. They were beautifully fleshed out and spot-on. Riley is still hurting over the loss of Chris and she battles with her newfound emotions for Gabe. Her internal struggle was incredible and made her shine as a character. Gabe had been one of those creatures until Riley shot him. Now he's a super hot Greaser who believes he's still in his present - 1956. Gabe was great and their friendship was wonderful. He's a total playboy, but doesn't hide his intentions. His sheer terror of the Internet was beyond adorable. Lacy, a stereotypical cheerleader; Father Peter, Hartwich's largely ignored Catholic priest; Pastor Warren, the slimy and oh-so-charming man who hovers during his weekly Commune. Each character was remarkably well-done.
An added bonus was the inclusion of Riley's parents. Both are featured heavily in the novel and even call Riley out on letting a boy come before schoolwork. Way to go, Mr. & Mrs. Carver!
The novel's only downfall was the ending. Well, endings. Plural. The first was absolutely heartbreaking and I kept hoping it wasn't going to happen. Sadly, it did, and I was left in pieces. That wasn't the end, however. There was still another chapter and another ending. It would have been more of an emotional impact if there had only been the first ending, but even with the second, I still had that punched-in-the-gut feeling.
An original plot, beautifully crafted characters, and emotions galore made Outcast a quick favorite. It's short and can easily be read during a bright and sunny weekend and I know it's one I'll be revisiting again soon.(less)
Astrid Krieger has everything: her family is wealthy & powerful beyond belief, she goes to an elite private academy, and she gets whatever she wants whenever she wants it. Unfortunately, her perfect life comes screeching to a halt the day she's expelled. Getting into trouble is nothing new for her - more than once she's spent the afternoon in jail - but this time her family decides they've had it.
It's time Astrid goes to a public school.
Naturally Astrid doesn't think this is a good idea at. all. and isn't shy about voicing her opinions on the matter. She's convinced she was set up, that someone intentionally had her kicked out of Bristol Academy and being stuck in a public school isn't how she planned on seeking her revenge. Now, instead of spending her time surrounded by stinking rich kids, Astrid sits next to Lucy, a constant hair-eater, Noah, a boy who isn't like the others, and Pierre who has been in love with her forever and transferred schools to be with her.
Going into Firecracker, I tried not to make assumptions. David Iserson, a writer for television's New Girl and Saturday Night Live, decided to try his hand at a Young Adult novel. So far, so good. Lots of actors/performers have been seeking to branch out a la Lauren Graham (Someday, Someday, Maybe). Unfortunately, it came to my attention that Mr. Iserson earned a spot on the Authors Behaving Badly list after a flurry of tweets came out attacking a reviewer for her honest review.
That said, I decided to give Firecracker the benefit of the doubt and see what it was all about. Right from the start however, it's clear Astrid is a brat - and that's putting it very lightly. She thinks she's God's gift to mankind and deserves to have everything handed to her. I'm sure we've all read books in the past that feature characters like her, only by the time those books end, said characters have a huge revelation and see the error of their ways. Not so with Astrid. Sure, she might have allowed herself to make a friend and save her sister's wedding, but the way she goes about doing these are so out-of-line. She thinks nothing of crashing someone's car, slamming a piano lid onto her cousin's nose, smashing a Twinkie into a girl's hair. I could go on and on, and sadly, not once does Astrid stop to think that maybe she's in the wrong. Instead she's fully convinced her actions are justified.
For a main character, Astrid's utter lack of character growth was disappointing. She's the same person she was in the beginning of the book with absolutely no redeeming qualities.
The supporting characters were all FAR more interesting. Lucy is a nerdy, unpopular girl who always has her hair in her mouth. She was one of the only nice people to Astrid and truly seemed to want to be her friend. Noah is another new transfer to the school and his absolute lack of interest sets him apart from the others. He was the character I found the most intriguing and once his story was revealed, I liked him even more. I would have loved for more chapters to have been devoted to his character. Pierre - his real name is Lukas but Astrid refuses to remember it - is from the Czech Republic and originally attended Bristol Academy with Astrid. He was hopelessly in love with her back then, writing poetry and singing songs every chance he got, and when she transferred he followed. I never quite understood why he loved her so much; she was absolutely horrible to him, yet he was completely entranced.
As for the plot, it just sort of moseyed along until reaching the end. I honestly wasn't expecting the betrayer to be who it was and I thought Astrid's last act of revenge a bit overkill. In the end, however, Firecracker was entertaining but I can see where readers from both sides of the fence are coming from. If you're looking for a quirky contemporary with redeemable and relatable characters, you should probably look elsewhere. That said, if you're looking for a quick and amusing afternoon read, Firecracker might just be the book you're looking for. (less)