Bridger's father is dead, yet he manages to make contact with his son during one of his time travel training missions. His message to Bridger: Save Alora. Bridger has no idea who Alora is, but if it's important enough for his father to practically return from the grave to deliver the message, saving her must be worth risking everything. He leaves the academy and illegally shifts to 2013 when Alora lived.
Alora lives with her Aunt Grace in a small town in the southern part of the United States. There's a mystery concerning her origins. All she knows is that her father asked her aunt to take her in and said he'd be back someday. Where is he? Why hasn't he returned? Alora is ready to know.
The Edge of Forever is part time travel novel, part contemporary thriller, and part futuristic dystopia. The combination of genres works pretty well, and I liked the dual narrative and southern setting. Melissa E. Hurst's debut novel does suffer a bit from pacing issues. It starts with a bang and has a heart-stopping conclusion but lags a bit in the middle.
Robyn Schneider's new book takes place in an alternate reality where a drug-resistant strain of tuberculosis has developed. Once again the older methods of combating the disease, the so-called rest cure, are the only available treatment, and sanatoriums are once again a method for treating as well as isolating patients from the general population. Patients check into these facilities knowing they will only exit through one of two possible paths: the rest will help the TB go into remission and they can return home or they will die.
Lane arrives at Latham House, a sanatorium for teens, intent on keeping his head down until he can get back to his life. However, he soon discovers that waiting for the future was exactly what he was doing even when he was healthy. This revelation is delivered in the form of a tight-knit group of friends, and at its center is Sadie, a girl Lane meet at a summer camp when they were both thirteen.
Sadie's friends are paradoxically vibrant and full-of-life even as they are dying. And, in their presence, Lane starts living too, and once that happens he and Sadie fall in love.
Extraordinary Means is a beautiful book with beautiful writing. I am not really a highlighter, but I found myself marking many passages. Several of these passages were in the last couple of chapters and too spoilery to share here, so I'll just include one:
"Kissing Lane was like the first time you hear a song that you'll listen to on repeat a hundred times. It was like the first spoonful of ice cream for the whole cup." (Sadie, chapter fourteen)
The book is narrated by both Lane and Sadie who alternate chapters. Their antics and vulnerable liveliness reminded me of the characters in Even in Paradise. The setting is a combination of hospital, boarding school, and summer camp, and thus also combines the feel of each, creating a really unique ambiance.
I found the whole idea of the sanatorium setting to be really intriguing, perhaps partly because I grew up in Colorado Springs which was famous for its tuberculosis sanatoriums in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Also, this will reveal what I huge nerd I am, but I found the Acknowledges and Author’s Note completely fascinating as well. Robyn Schneider has a masters in bioethics (she mentions taking a Cinema of Contagion class) and wrote her dissertation on YA disease narratives! I want to meet her and talk about it.
Extraordinary Means presents issues of living and dying, disease, contagion, love in face of tragedy, and deep friendship so well, but, most of all, Extraordinary Means features a compelling story and lovely characters.
My singular (and very minor) complaint about the book is that all of the religious characters are crazy annoying. Some balance would be nice, but in a sanatorium or dying teenagers there would surely be some extreme religious movements.
One of the Guys is a your standard-fare, cute YA romance. Lisa Aldin's debut novel stars Toni Valentine. Toni has always been best buds with a group of guys. In her gang of four, she is the only girl, and that's where she feels comfortable. The crew, complete with nicknames (McRib, Ollie, Cowboy, and Loch), have been paling around for years, but this is the big one. Senior year. It's going to be great until an ill-conceived prank lands Toni in an all-girls' school. Toni struggles to connect at Winston Academy for Girls until she realizes that the girls need an inside scoop on boys' brains. Thus is born Rent-a-Gent. Toni and her new girlfriend, Emma Elizabeth, with rent out the boys as fake dates and boyfriends to the girls at Winston.
Close-calls and hi-jinx ensue. Along the way Toni's relationship with the guys is strained. Also there's are those awkward and inconvenient not-exactly-just-friends feelings she developing for Micah (Loch).
One of the Guys is cute. The parade of fake boyfriends makes for some funny situations. It's nice to see Toni make some girlfriends. The tricky growing pains of what happens after high school are handled nicely. As are the negotiations between friends and more more than friends. I loved all the scenes between Toni and Micah. They make a good team.
Samantha McAllister does a good job fitting in. She's one of the popular girls, gets decent grades, and is hoping to earn a athletic scholarship.
What no one at school knows is that Samantha has to work really hard to keep her Purely-Obsessional OCD a secret. Her toxic friends, who won't even call her Sam despite her requests, only make her condition worse, but she can't imagine leaving her group. Because if there's one thing worse than toxic friends, it's not having any friends at all.
After a rough run-in with her so-called friends, Samantha meets Caroline, who calls her Sam, doesn't judge, can empathize with her health issues, and lends an understanding ear. Caroline introduces Sam to Poet's Corner, a secret club that is devoted to verse and one another. Sam is particularly draw to AJ, the guitar-playing leader of the group.
Every Last Word has many beautiful moments. The issues of friendship and acceptance of self are applicable to anyone. I so appreciated Sam's wonderful therapist, Sue, and her supportive family. And I felt so relieved for Sam as she found a true friend. Caroline opens up Sam's world. She introduces her to Poet's Corner, a place that may just change her life. Once there, Sam makes more true friends, starts writing, and plucks up her courage. She also gets to know AJ.
Tamara Ireland Stone's novel is clearly well-researched and that matters. Sam's health issues are handled so, so well. Even more important, this book delivers some powerful emotions. Some of the poetry really hit me hard. And then I found myself silently wiping away tears for the whole last third of the book. This book surprised me in more ways than one.
When Ari's boyfriend Win dies, she goes to the local hekamist and purchases a memory spell. Just like that all of her memories of Win are gone. In thiWhen Ari's boyfriend Win dies, she goes to the local hekamist and purchases a memory spell. Just like that all of her memories of Win are gone. In this work of magical realism, hekamists offer a variety of spells, for a fee. But, like a fairy's blessing or a genie's granted wish, the spells have a way of twisting into unforeseen and unpleasant consequences.
I liked a lot of things about The Cost of All Things. I really loved how focused and quiet this book is. Is has a similar tone to other works of magical realism, such as Bone Gap and The Vanishing Season. The Cost of All Things is about six friends and one summer. It almost feels like a case study on this slightly strange world. I loved how everyone's spells were twisted together with layers upon layers of complications--just as layered spells create amplified side-effects.
The tale is told in alternating perspectives, and it shifts back and forth in time. The reader must assemble the clues into a full picture.
Maggie Lehrman's debut deals with some serious issues--depression, untimely death, lies--in an original and beautifully crafted tale.
Christine Dadey is a student at the Rouseau Academy of Dance in Houston with dreams of becoming a professional dancer. Her life is becoming increasingly frantic thanks to a new boyfriend and the troubles at home. With a big audition coming up, Christine needs as much help as she can get, and Erik, a reclusive former dancer, offers exceptional coaching and a listening ear. The catch, she must meet him in secret and can never see his face.
Phantom's Dance is a fabulous adaption of The Phantom of the Opera. The dance world lent itself perfectly to the creepy tale. Lesa Howard's story has well-developed characters, fluid writing, and plenty of dramatic tension. I liked this book even more than I thought I would.
Set in 1957, 84 Ribbons stars 18-year-old Marta Selbryth who joins the Intermountain Ballet Company. Upon her acceptance into the company, Marta moves far from her family and must establish herself in Billings, Montana.
A professional ballet career is challenging in any era, and Marta struggles with self-confidence, injury, and eating disorders (I could have done without that last one). She also must navigate a budding relationship with a handsome young newspaper reporter.
Overall, I liked Paddy Eger's story. I found the plot to be fairly compelling, and despite my reservations with the book, I kind of want to know what happens to Marta next. However, I found myself longing for a few more period details to root the story more securing in its setting. My biggest problem is that the dialog is rather stilted and didn't allow the characters to fully shine. I could never forget that I was reading about fictional people.
Tiny, Pretty Things follows Gigi, Bette, and June, three of the top dancers at an elite New York City ballet school. Gigi is the new, perfect girl. Bette is the displaced queen bee, and June is forever the understudy.
Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton's debut novel is pretty cutthroat. All three dancers are hiding something pretty huge. There is all kinds of crazy backstabbing in this book, and I think it would be entirely appropriate to put it in a Mean Popular Girls post, but I also felt a (tiny) bit of sympathy for every character.
I really love how the authors navigated three unreliable narrators; the book ended, and I was still unsure about a lot of things. I'd read a sequel.
I listened to this lecture series while teaching Art History I. The first half of the course is roughly chronological, and the second half is more topI listened to this lecture series while teaching Art History I. The first half of the course is roughly chronological, and the second half is more topical. This seemed to be a good way to organize things, and I appreciated getting some cultural history as well as the political history.
The course is very easy to listen to, and I'm pretty sure I'll listen to parts again whenever I need a refresher....more
Lauren Owen's debut novel is a rambling historical fantasy that I would describe as "vampires for adults."
The Quick begins like a work of historical Lauren Owen's debut novel is a rambling historical fantasy that I would describe as "vampires for adults."
The Quick begins like a work of historical fiction that reminds me of a work of fiction that was actually written during an earlier time. We follow James Norbury and his sister Charlotte from childhood. They have a few creepy and sad moments a la Jane Eyre.
The book then moves to London where James is trying to establish himself as a writer. He falls in love, but that affair ends tragically thanks to The Aegolius Club.
It took me forever to read The Quick. The reason being that I checked out the audio book through Overdrive and then couldn't get through all of it before it was returned. (It's long.) Then I had to wait in line all over again before I could finish.
There are two types of people in our book club: those who love Brandon Sanderson and those who have never read anything by him. So the members of theThere are two types of people in our book club: those who love Brandon Sanderson and those who have never read anything by him. So the members of the former category decided to rectify that situation by picking this book for discussion. (I belonged to the latter group.)
I feel like Warbreaker might not have been the best introduction to Sanderson. Overall, I felt like the book was really interesting but unnecessarily long. It didn't help that I had to read it in four days.
However, I can see that this book did have the great world-building and really interesting magic systems that everyone loves about Sanderson....more
I enjoyed Timebound, the first in the series, but in Time's Edge everything ramps up a notch. The intensity in this book is palpable. I had a hard time ripping myself away from the audiobook.
Kate is racing through time to collect the keys from the stranded Chronos members in hopes that this will slow down the Cyrist's plan for world domination. One wrong move and the Cyrists will know exactly what she's up to. The only other person who can jump is former Cyrist, Kiernan. Kiernan's affection for the Kate from another timeline, Kate's growing affection for him, and his annoying habit of doing things on his own makes him a complicated ally. Meanwhile, Kate has a boyfriend who can't remember her, a grandmother who continues to ail, and a mother who has gotten a mysterious research grant in Italy; oh, and don't forget that her school has merged with a Cyrist school and her best friend might be a spy. Clearly Kate has a lot on her plate.
The time travel shenanigans in this book are fabulous. Rysa Walker exploits time travel to its full potential. There's a lot of movement back and forth, the morality of letting bad things happen is fully explored, and some serious mistakes have to be undone. I loved it all.
I also really enjoy how rooted in American history The Chronos Files are. In the last book Kate jumped into the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. This time she spends time in Boston and in the Deep South.
I'm itching to get my hands on the next book in the series. I hope it's as heart-pounding as this one is.
Material Girls takes the saying "A Slave to Fashion" to a whole new level. In this near-future, the creative industries (fashion, music, gaming, etc. Material Girls takes the saying "A Slave to Fashion" to a whole new level. In this near-future, the creative industries (fashion, music, gaming, etc.) are highly regulated. Teens are tapped to become arbitrators of fashion. Marla Klein sits on the Superior Court at a top 5 Fashion House. Her vote helps determine the new trends. Ivy Wilde is a teen pop star. She helps launch the trends at her publicity shoots.
Elaine Dimopolous's debut novel is true dystopia, and I loved that about it. While the structure of this world looks sleek, shiny, and exciting on the exterior, it is decidedly more sinister than it seems. In a very entertaining manner, Material Girls confronts trends, wasteful consumerism, and the cult of youth.
I love the inventiveness of this story, The combination of fashion and fame with a dystopian setting is brilliant. Some of the trends were really out there (ahem. torture. ahem). Marla and Ivy are both interesting characters in their own right. I like how the story toggles between their two points of view as it allows the reader to develop a connection and a sympathy for both girls.
Ken Jennings's Maphead was a fun book club pick. Maphead chronicles all that is weird and wonderful about maps and the people who love them. It gave Ken Jennings's Maphead was a fun book club pick. Maphead chronicles all that is weird and wonderful about maps and the people who love them. It gave our book club lots to discuss:
- The state of geography education. - Our own interest in maps and geography as children and adults. - Geocaching - Map Collections - The National Geographic Geography Bee - Fantastical maps and imaginary countries
While I was reading the book, I felt like I should be taking a geography quiz. It would be awesome if one was included with the book. When I mentioned this to my book club my fellow members whipped out their iPads and opened the National Geographic Society's GeoBee app. Now, I am kind of obsessed with the GeoBee game. I'm thinking about studying up so I can make it past level 11....more
After Laia's brother is taken by the Martials, Laia seeks the help of the rebels, but their price is steep: Laia must become a slave to the Commandant, the head of Blackcliff Military Academy, in order to spy for the rebels. Elias is an Aspirant, one of four who could possibly become the next emperor. Elias has a secret. He wants out. He wants freedom.
I love the dark and violent Ancient Rome-inspired setting. The catacombs were a particularly nice touch. I also really enjoyed the challenges the Aspirants faced. It was hard to stop reading in the middle of a challenge. The Commandant is insanely scary and violent. She is basically a complete nightmare. And I thought she was an awesome villain.
I listened to the audio version of this book, and it was fabulous. It has two different readers. One for Laia and one for Elias. The readers did a great job amping up the intensity of the story.
Alex Ridgemont is schizophrenic. Daily she battles her mind trying to determine what is real and what is a delusion. Made You Up chronicles Alex's senior year of high school which also happens to be her first year at a new school. Their she meet Miles Ritcher, a boy that she thinks she recognizes as her first friend, but wasn't he a delusion? She doesn't know. As the year progresses, Alex falls in with a community service club run by Miles and populated with a interesting assortment of students. Weird things keep happening at Alex's school, but weird things always happen to Alex. How can she know what's real and what isn't and how can she get anyone to believe her?
I liked Made You Up. A lot. It was such a weird experience reading it because I truly had no idea what was real and what was delusion. Alex is the ultimate unreliable narrator after all, as she doesn't even know what is real. And, while I think I did a better job untangling reality from the delusions than Alex did, there were plenty of things that I got wrong. Overall, what I loved most about reading this book, is that it was such a different type of reading experience. In some ways, it was very conscious, and the book made my brain work in a different way than it normally does while I'm reading.
I also really enjoyed these characters. Alex and Miles are a unique pair. I was really rooting for them. The scenes with the two of them crackled with intensity. The cast of secondary characters is a lot of fun too. All the kids in the club are interesting, quirky people.
And, can I just talk about how impressed I am that Francesca Zappia wrote the bulk of this novel in middle school and high school. Middle school, people. I don't know what type of story lines I was coming up with in middle school, but there certainly wasn't anything that I would have ever considered sticking with until it was publishable.
Finally, I can't fail to mention this gorgeous cover. I'd hang it on my wall.
Caden Bosch is coming unmoored. He is trapped between two worlds. In one world he lives with his parents and younger sister. At least he's pretty sure they are who they say they are. In another world he is on a voyage to explore Challenger Deep in the Marianas Trench aboard a ship full of misfits and contradictions. Reality, for Caden, is slipping away.
Challenger Deep is amazingly good and incredibly compelling. Neal Shusterman presents Caden's story in extremely short chapters that bounce back and forth between Caden's reality and his delusions. The story is told primarily in first person so it takes some effort on the readers part to put the pieces together when Caden cannot.
I found this book to be brilliantly written with an intentionality that is rare. The writing itself echoes Caden's experience. For example, the book begins in first person, and it's a bit confusing. Then, as Caden gets sicker he starts to feel like his mind is connected to everything in the world, and the narration switches to second person. The second person portions of the book are so disorienting and really help to convey the intensity of Caden's problem. When the narration once again returns to first person, it's an indication that Caden is beginning (he has a long way to go) to get better. At this point things start coming together for the reader, as well, an indication of Caden's increased clarity.
The other thing that I really love about this book is how Caden's delusions are connected to his physical world. The reader begins to piece this together much sooner than Caden does. Those delusions are also so vibrantly real. I think one could argue that they act as an allegory for mental illness. Caden's voyage, the ship's crewman, the sea monsters, and the threat of mutiny convey the struggles of mental illness and the fight for recovery with a physicality that would not otherwise be possible.
The notes at the end of the book about Shusterman's family's own experiences with mental illness--the drawings were all done by his son Brendan during his illness--make the tale that much more poignant.
Wilhelmina Korte is an outlaw, but she should be a queen. Ten years ago the Indigo Kingdom invaded the kingdom of Aecor. Now Wilhelmina and the Ospreys (the other orphaned children of Aecor) have a plan to take back their kingdom. For the first step, Wil and her best friend Melanie will infiltrate the palace, posing as refugees from Liadia. There, as spies, they will gather the information they need to launch their attack.
Jodi Meadows' novel is a sophisticated fantasy. In addition to the spying there's so much good stuff in here: there's magic that's illegal, a deadly magical fog that's creeping toward civilization, an uneasy balance of power between Wil and the leader of the Ospreys, a dying king, a stuck-up prince, a handsome guard, and the Black Knife, a vigilante that fights crime in the city of Skyvale.
Black Knife was my favorite part of the story. I love how this book is kind of a mash-up of high fantasy and superhero comics, like Batman or Spiderman. Black Knife is completely secretive about his identity and getting the story from Wil is kind of like hearing Lois Lane or Mary-Jane's side of the story. Except that Wilhelmina, besides having an awesome name, has some serious fighting skills, as well.
The stakes really ratchet up as the book nears its conclusion. The set up for the next in the series is fabulous. I had heard that the book has a serious cliff-hanger, and boy, does it ever.
Remember last year when everyone was crazy about Rosamund Hodge's debut novel Cruel Beauty? Well, her sophomore novel is out now, and it is even better than her first! We had originally understood that Crimson Bound would be a companion novel to Cruel Beauty. It is not, and that didn't bother me one bit. Its world is entirely its own. And it is a rich world, indeed.
I've read several reimaginings of the Red Riding Hood tale, but this may be my very favorite. Rachelle Brinon has always known that the forest holds danger. She was apprenticed to her aunt, the village woodwife, and excepted to spend her days weaving charms to protect her village from the ever-encroaching forest. But Rachelle was not content to just stave off the forest. She wanted to end its and its Lord's (the Devourer) dominion forever. This was her fatal error, for in seeking the knowledge needed to kill the Devourer, she is marked by a forestborn. Now she is a bloodbound, no longer quite human she will someday transition into a ruthless forestborn. With the Devourer on the rise, the forestborn grow bolder, and Rachelle vows to take down as many as she can before she loses herself.
Several Red Riding Hood tale's recast the title character as a kick butt fighter, but Rachelle is my favorite of the bunch. She is a complicated character, who has grabbed onto life with all she has, but who, at the same time, is willing to risk it all in her fight against the forest. Rachelle also is both prickly and vulnerable, which somehow makes the best type of warrior (think Celaena Sardothien).
The characters of Armand Versailles (whom Rachelle is employed to guard) and Erec d'Anjou are also incredibly complicated and full of surprises. Armand's silver hands (though not a new invention as his character is inspired by Grimm's tale, "The Girl with No Hands") completely fascinated me. And Rachelle's relationship with each is not at all straightforward.
I also can't emphasize enough how much I loved the vaguely seventeenth-century French setting. The palace, and the customs, and the king who believed he'd never die, as well as the names and the just overall feel of the book referenced this era again and again, and yet it was also absolutely its own. The land's religion played a large part in the story, as well, and I love a fantasy with a strong religious system. I was particularly struck by one scene that featured Rachelle and the Bishop.
(view spoiler)[After Rachelle confesses all her sins: "For your penance," the Bishop said finally, "say three rosaries, one for each year of your sinful life, and offer them for the people you have harmed." "That is not remotely enough," she snapped. "Do you need also to confess doubts about the power of God to forgive sins?" "Yes," she admitted after a few moments. "In that case, for your penance, say only one rosary." (hide spoiler)]
Rosamund Hodge weaves everything together into a plot that is thicker and more complex than I expected it to be going in. The way she wove the details into the story's conclusion really made the novel for me. I could tell that everything was carefully considered in its construction.
Finally, I must mention that cover. Isn't it amazing. It nicely mirrors Cruel Beauty with the spiral staircase, but it's also perfect for both Red Riding Hood (that single, bright-red cloak!) and the land of Gevaudan where the forest is never far away.
When Hayden committed suicide he left behind a playlist for his best friend, Sam, with the note, "listen and you'll understand." So Sam listens and listens and listens, but Hayden's death isn't becoming any clearer. What is clear is that Hayden had a lot more secrets than Sam realized.
In trying to unravel them and figure out what really happened the night of that awful party, Sam has to talk to other people. Something he and Hayden never really did. At least, as far as Sam knew.
Playlist for the Dead is a pretty great debut for Michelle Falkoff. It's been a long time since I've read a book with a male main character, and it was a nice change of pace for me. I liked being in Sam's head, and I enjoyed him as a character. The way that Sam dealt with Hayden's death felt honest to me. I was also quite compelled to figure out the more mysterious aspects of the story.
I also really liked how so many people had a story about Hayden's last night, and that Sam had to talk to all of them. It was an interesting way to explore how so many people touch each life and how impossible it is to know the full story.
Oakley's brother Lucas recently died of cancer, and she feels like the whole world has come crashing down. Needing a change of scene and time to recuperate, Oakley and her mother decide to take an extended vacation in California where they will stay with Oakley's Aunt Jo. There Oakley's mother gives her a notebook that Lucas made for her, full of thoughts, memories, and advice for his little sister. Between the sun and the sea and a cute surfer, Oakley just might learn to live again.
Love, Lucas was kind of a mixed bag for me. I think the premise and the characters worked just fine. I liked the surfing and the animal rescues. The conclusion of the story was unexpectedly thrilling as well. All this good stuff, however, was hampered, for me, by the language which felt stilted and wooden. The dialog, especially, just didn't work for me. Lucas's journal read like the work of a teenage boy, and I can't decide if that's a good thing or not. On the one hand, reading those journal entries felt pretty real, but on the other, they were full of the cliches and lame jokes that a typical teenage boy would include.
400 days ago Quinn Sullivan's boyfriend Trent died in a terrible car accident. It's been 400 days of just getting by, of counting the moments he's been gone.
Trent left some things behind, his donated organs, and Quinn has sought out all the recipients in hopes that meeting them will help her find peace with his death. Only one recipient never responded to her letters, and he has Trent's heart.
For some reason, the heart recipient feels more important than any other. Maybe it's because he's the only one to not reach out or maybe it's because he has Trent's heart. So, Quinn goes outside the system and seeks out the heart recipient on her own.
They were never suppose to meet, let alone talk, but once Quinn knows Colton there is no going back. How will she ever tell him the truth?
The more I think about Things We Know By Heart the more I like it. I like both Quinn and Colton, and I like them together. They are so good for each other even though there are huge secrets between them. I like how Colton brings Quinn back to life. I like Quinn's family. They are supportive and present. I especially love Quinn's sister, Ryan, who gives her the kick-in-the-pants that she needs. I love that Quinn is a runner. (As a runner, I love books about runners.) And I love that athletics, kayaking and running, play a big part in Quinn's recovery.
Well, I am definitely late to the game with this series, but I guess that means that I won't have to wait as long to finish the series.
Celaena SardothWell, I am definitely late to the game with this series, but I guess that means that I won't have to wait as long to finish the series.
Celaena Sardothien is Adarlan's greatest assassin. Well, that was until she was captured and sentenced to hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier. Her fortunes reverse when the Crown Prince, Dorian, picks her to serve as his champion in a competition that could win her freedom. First she'll have to defeat the other twenty-three competitors. When the competitors begin dying in gruesome ways, the stakes get even higher.
I finished Throne of Glass eager to pick up the next in the series, which is always a good sign. I love the complexity of Sarah J. Maas's world. Although we spend most of the book at the palace, there is plenty of action.
I most especially like Celaena as a character. Celaena is so prickly but also so vulnerable. I really felt how much her time in the salt mines weighed on her psyche. I think the reader of the audio version really did a great job bringing her to life.
I also really liked Nehemia and Captain Chaol Westfall. (I'm having to look up how to spell all of these names, since I listened to the book. It might be worth listening to the audio version just so you know how to pronounce all these names!) While, I did feel like the book was setting us up for a love triangle, I have no doubt who I'm routing for.
And, a world with illegal magic is always an intriguing premise. ...more
Echo's adopted family is the Avicen, a race of winged-beings that live under the city of New York. As the ancient war between the Avicen and their age-old enemies, the Drakharen, heats up, Echo is sent to find the legendary Firebird, for it is said that whoever has the Firebird has the power to end the war. Echo's humanity and her experience thieving make her the perfect person to seek the Firebird.
Melissa Grey's debut novel reminded me of Daughter of Smoke and Bone and The Burning Sky. I didn't like it quite as much as those two, which are definite favorite. I did quite enjoy the romp around the world and Echo's motley little band. However, I was rather disappointed with the ending of The Girl at Midnight which felt both too convenient and too implausible. I disliked the ending enough that I'm now not too inclined to read the sequel. And that is ultimately why I decided to give this book two stars.
Grace has had an unusual childhood, to say the least. When she and her brother Parker were adopted they became integral parts of the family business: theft. That's right, Grace's parents are con artists who move from town to town in order to pull off jobs. The book opens as they land in Playa Hermosa, California in search of what could be their biggest con yet. The marks are the Fairchilds and Grace's job is to get close to Logan, their only child.
But the lies are starting to wear on Grace who feels like she leaves a bit of herself behind with every con and every move. And, as she goes about ingratiating herself with the right crowd at the local high school, she has a hard time staying focused on the job. That's even more true as she begins to fall in love with Playa Hermosa, Logan, and her new group of girl friends. Add in a very suspicious acquaintance and some troubles with Parker and is it any surprise that Grace starts to let some things slip? And mistakes have serious consequences in the con business.
I really enjoyed Lies I Told. Grace feels pulled in so many directions, and I thought that her inner conflict was very believable. This is the only family she's ever known, and she feels compelled to keep it together. But that same family taught her to steal and con, and she's beginning to question their way of life.
Lies I Told is a quick read, and when the pieces start to fall, they fall fast.
I read Courtney Summers's Some Girls Are several years ago and was hugely impressed. Summers has made a name for herself with her gritty realism and signature style. Summers doesn't shy away from tough, tough topics, and she does so unflinchingly. They are all stories that need to be told and issues that need to be met head-on. And I'm glad that Courtney Summers has the guts and the talent to do so. But you don't go into a Courtney Summers novel thinking it's going to be a fun read. It's going to be serious and tough to stomach at times.
All the Rage is about Romy Grey. She was raped by the sheriff's son, Kellan, but because Kellan is the son of the most prominent members of the community hardly anyone believes Romy. Romy is the type of girl that people make assumptions about because her family is poor and dysfunctional. I feel like the story is just as much about seeing beyond this second type of stereotype as it is about seeing beyond the first.
Then, the day of the big senior party, Romy's former friend, Penny, shows up at the diner where Romy works. And after the party, both girls are missing. Romy is found, and Penny is not.
Romy's life is pretty hellish. She's full of fear and anger. The whole thing is just truly horrible. Romy's classmates do awful, awful things to her. Things that should never happen to anyone. And, honestly, it's a little hard to read, but I knew what I was getting myself into. Through all of this Romy mostly deals by shutting down, putting on a mask, and blocking off that corner of her mind. But those walls can't last forever.
This book will make you think about how scary it can be to be a girl.
All the Rage is a difficult read because it is so dark. I was filled with dread every time Romy left for school. Also, I found the book to be a bit long. I would have liked the plot to advance a bit more rapidly. Some of the bright spot in this book: Romy's job at the diner. People cared about her there. Even after all the horrible stuff started happening they were on her side. The other bright spot might be a bit too new to really count--Romy's family is finally in a stable place--but I think it bodes well for Romy's recovery.
The Distance Between Lost and Found is Kathryn Holmes's debut novel. It's the story of Hallelujah (Hallie) Calhoun. At last year's Youth Retreat, Luke, the son of her preacher, assaulted her and then lied about it. And, because he's the son of the preacher no one doubts his side of the story. Luke continues to torment Hallie so that she won't tell. And Hallie, she just shuts down.
Now, six months later, Hallie is back at Youth Retreat with Luke and all his friends except now she's a ghost of the girl she once was. She's just trying to be invisible until it's all over.
Then Hallie, her former best friend, Jonah, and new girl Rachel get lost in the woods. The nearness to danger and death forms a bond between these three, and Hallie, once again, finds life.
The survival aspects of this novel are all really well done. I am a very critical reader when it comes to survival books. Wasteland wanderings can be fabulous or horrifically repetitive. This one works. The "lost in the wilderness" portion of the novel is short enough that it doesn't get too repetitive but still feels very realistic. The kids do some things really wrong and some things right, and I appreciated that it wasn't a "everything that could possibly go wrong, does" type of novel.
Hallie's story is interspersed with the trio's tale of survival. She opens up little by little. And it's all handled with a deft hand.
The reader reviews for The Distance Between Lost and Found are all over the place. This isn't going to be a novel that works for everyone, and the big reason why not is because of God. These kids are in a youth group and God is part of the setting. I'm sort-of of two minds when it comes to the religion question in this novel. On the one hand, the kids are so open and honest about their questions, faith, and doubts. They are just trying to figure out if what they've been taught really makes sense. If you are religious or if you were raised religious, this will resonate with you. On the other hand, the religious adults in this novel are pretty extreme. (They did name their daughter Hallelujah, after all.) The lack of nuance and over-zealousness in their religious convictions is grating. I know it's meant to be, but it always bothers me when all the religious adults are of the same ilk. (Where are our nuanced, religious parents in YA novels? I don't know if I can think of one.)
When Daniel's cousin is killed in a Nazi mob, Daniel returns to Germany to bring his killers to justice and ends up being framed for murder himself. Gretchen then follows to help Daniel clear his name and escape, once more, from Germany.
So my initial reaction to the plot: "Wait. What? You're going back to Germany where you are basically wanted fugitives?" I realize that the events of the early-Nazi regime look a lot more sinister in hindsight, but Daniel and Gretchen escaped Hitler and his minions by the skin of their teeth in Prisoner of Night and Fog. For me, this book had a "don't go in the scary haunted mansion in the first place" feel to it.
Once I got over the fact that we were going back into Germany, I found the plot fairly compelling. I liked the new setting, 1930s Berlin. It was interesting to learn a little about the Communists and the Ringverein.
In this book and the last, I really had trouble connecting to the characters. It's hard to put a finger on why exactly. Perhaps the writing in general doesn't quite work for me. I did feel rather irritated by the "everything is so awkward between us" stage that Gretchen and Daniel went through. It felt very repetitive, and I have little patience for that these days.
What I like about this book is that Anne Blankman chronicles a time that we don't see in fiction very often--Germany just prior to World War II.
Maddie Hyde lives a privileged life in Philadelphia. She, her husband Ellis, and his friend Hank have always been a cozy threesome, but their pranks and attitudes are more suited for the 1920s than the 1940s. War has given Ellis a chip on his shoulder. He was unable to enlist due to his color blindness. The threesome's outrageous behavior at a New Year's Eve party in 1944 precipitates a falling out between Ellis and his father. Ellis, in his usual impulsive manner determines to go to Scotland and hunt the Loch Ness monster, war be damned, in order to restore his father's name (tarnished in his own attempt to find the monster) and make amends with his family, thus saving himself from financial ruin.
Scotland is nothing like Philadelphia. Those differences bring out the worst in Ellis and the best in Maddie. It turns out that Ellis isn't a very good person. As Ellis and Hank abandon Maddie nearly everyday in order to search of the monster, Maddie is left to her own devices.
I really enjoyed At the Water's Edge. Sara Gruen's writing is truly effortless to read. It feels like an extension of yourself. I appreciated Maddie's growth as she gained friends, purpose, and a greater understanding of the world at large and of herself. I loved all the side characters. Anna, Meg, and Angus each had a distinct personality and brought something essential to the story. The Scottish setting offered a different perspective on World War II that I quite enjoyed.