Stella Samuel is a photographer, a Minnesotan, and a triplet. She's n The Heartbreakers is an incredibly enjoyable fame, celebrity, and romance story.
Stella Samuel is a photographer, a Minnesotan, and a triplet. She's not a fan of the boy band The Heartbreakers. However, Stella's sister Cara loves The Heartbreakers, and, because Cara is in the midst of another round of cancer treatments, she is missing their concert. This is how Stella finds herself standing in line for The Heartbreaker's autographs with her brother Drew.
What starts as just an autograph turns into a whole evening of fun, and, Stella quickly discovers that she may not like their music, but she sure likes these boys. Especially Oliver Perry.
The Heartbreakers is completely implausible, but that doesn't mean it's not incredibly fun.
I am a sucker for a book with a well-written group of boys. (See my love of The Raven Boys) I loved Xander, Alec, JJ, and Oliver. Their relationship with one another is spot on. I love how goofy and crazy the boys could be. I loved the energy of the group.
I also loved the relationship between the three siblings, Cara, Drew, and Stella.
Hello, I Love You by Katie M. Stout sounded so promising. It's about the daughter of a famous music producer who, in seeking an escape from her fami Hello, I Love You by Katie M. Stout sounded so promising. It's about the daughter of a famous music producer who, in seeking an escape from her family's fame, decides to attend a boarding school in Korea. There she meets a famous KPOP singer. First they hate each other, then they are best friends, then hopefully something more. Tons of potential right? I love board school. I love study aboard. I love a hate to love love story. And fame, celebrity, and romance stories are usually pretty fun too. Unfortunately, this one kind of fails of all counts.
My biggest problems with this book is that it's pretty boring. I felt like absolutely nothing was happening. Also, Grace and Jason are so closed off from each other, keeping these big secrets, that as a reader, I felt like I barely knew them at all. There was no spark or sizzle between the two.
Reviewers have been complaining about a lot of things when it comes to this book. And it's all justified.
1. Not evocative of South Korea. True. It could take place anywhere.
2. Grace is stuck-up, judgmental, and down-right racist. True. However, I will give Grace this: she changes and for the better.
3. Not for KPOP fans. True. Even Jason doesn't like his own music. It's kind of sad. I have some friends who are super into KPOP, and I was looking forward to recommending this book to them.
4. Lackluster romance. I already complained about this....more
Cameron sets her homage in the distant future where our current technology has failed and the development of new technology is forbidden. As in the original tale, Sophia is betrothed to a man, Rene, whom she doesn't trust, but this time it's Sophia and not the fiance who is the Pimpernel.
What I enjoyed most about this book were the interactions between Sophia and Rene. Rene is smart and dashing and always one step ahead of Sophia. Sophia, on the other hand, is brave and often brash. The two could make a good team; if only Sophia would recognize it.
The Sunken City, which was once Paris, is a moody and atmospheric place. LeBlanc is creepy and utterly insane, which is always a good recipe for a villain.
I also enjoyed the references to our present society. Rene is a smuggler of plastics. Sophia's brother Tomas collects ancient artifacts which are really things like Coke bottle and toothpaste tubes. He stores them all in what I think must be a subway station. I loved trying to puzzle out what little bits of our culture these little treasure actually are.
However, there was much about Rook that reminded me of Diana Peterfruend's retelling of the Scarlet Pimpernel, Across a Star-Swept Sea, and not necessarily in a good way. Both are set in futuristic, post-apocalyptic societies, and in these societies technology is feared or outlawed. Furthermore, both are gender-swapped versions of the tale. Frankly, Across a Star-Swept Sea is the better of the two, and if you are only going to read one Scarlet Pimpernel retelling, that's the one I'd recommend you go with.
I read quite a few glowing reviews of Naomi Novik's Uprooted. Angie at Angieville, for instance, rarely steers me wrong, so I knew I had to get my hands on a copy. I got in line over at the library, and pretty soon I was downloading the digital audiobook. (I love Overdrive.)
Agnieszka loves her quiet village, but it is threatened by the corrupted Wood on the border. The people of her valley rely on the wizard known as the Dragon to protect them from the malevolent Wood. In payment, the Dragon selects a village girl to take to his tower every ten years. Agnieszka never thought he would pick her.
Uprooted is a gorgeous original fairy tale that contains many common fairy tale motifs. I'm impressed with how Novik is able to make the story feel so familiar and yet utterly new at the same time. The setting, for instance, is very Russian or Slavic in feel. Names, like Agnieszka and Kasia are just one of the tip offs to this inspiration. (It didn't hurt that the reader of the audiobook has a Russian accent, either.) A threatening, wild, dangerous forest is certainly a familiar element in fairy tales, and Novik creates a Woods that is worthy of the capital W and really is a character in its own right. I love how moody and evocative the forays into the Wood's domain are. Plus, the Woods are scary. It becomes a villain on par with any fairy tale villain, and yet, it's both scarier due to its intangibility and more easily disregarded because they are just trees, after all.
Here are some of the other connections I noticed:
Beauty and Uprooted: I've seen lots of comparisons between Robin Mckinley's work and Uprooted. I've also seen Uprooted described as a retelling of Beauty and the Beast. It's a very loose retelling, but the wizard is known as the Dragon, after all. Also, the rose!
Howl's Moving Castle and Uprooted: Both books feature a notoriously reclusive and cantankerous wizard in a secluded castle/ tower.
Crimson Bound and Uprooted: Ever encroaching, malevolent, terrifying woods and a main character who is determine to beat them back.
The Paper Magician and Uprooted: A reluctant magician in training falls in love with her teacher.
Enchantment and Uprooted: Both books have ties to Slavic fairy tales. Baba Yaga is a presence in each.
The False Princess and Uprooted: A member of the royal family has been missing for over a decade. When she is found the plot thickens.
For me, the setting really made the story, but I also loved the characters. Agnieszka just does not take no for an answer. She's headstrong and feisty and willing to try new things. She's a breath of fresh air among all the stodgy ancient wizards. I also liked that her magic was different than the other wizards, less stiff and scholarly and more tied to intuition and an almost forgotten ancient tradition. I liked the Dragon too. He's frightening and misunderstood. Honestly, I wish there were more a him in the story. Although I appreciated how Agnieszka's time in the capital city helped her come into her own, I missed the Dragon. The magic those two can do together is truly astounding.
The book's finale really took my breath away. The climax and conclusion brings story full circle and yet was also so unexpected.
Daniel James Brown tells the story of the winning oarsmen in the 1936 Olympics. Everything about it is incredibly interesting to me.
1. The time period: Brown goes back in time and gives us the biography of Joe Rantz. His life during the Depression would have made this book readable on its own.
2. The rowing: I love reading about racing sports. I know some people found the technicalities of rowing to be a bit much, but I loved it all. I love reading about George Pocock, the craftsman of the boats. I loved reading about the workouts and the construction of the team. I love learning about Joe's fellow oarsmen. I loved hearing all the details of all the races.
3. Nazi Germany: I thought the quick chapters in Nazi Germany really set the stage for the final race. I have seen some of Leni Riefenstahl's footage of the 1936 Olympics and learning a little about her background was very interesting.
4. Edward Herrmann: I listened to the audio version of this book, and it is narrated by the late Edward Herrmann, which was a real treat.
This book made me so nostalgic for the way that sports used to be. None of the champion oarsmen had ever rowed before their first day of tryouts at the University of Washington. Three years late they were at the Olympics. Now sport seems to be so full of scandal, and I, for one, kind of feel jaded by it all. The Boys in the Boat is all about the amateur athlete, and I loved that.
Harper's father invented Memtex, a medical procedure that can "soften" distressing memories. Originally pioneered for sufferers of PTSD, Memtex is now available to the general public. When Harper's horse dies she plunges into a deep depression, and she goes against her father's wishes to cure herself with Memtex. After the procedure Harper does feel better, but she has some new and confusing memories that make her question everything she knows about her family.
Remember reminded me a little of Cat Patrick's books, and that is definitely a compliment. I wanted to know what was behind all the strange secrets in Eileen Cook's story.
Adam Silvera's debut novel has been lighting up best-of and summer-reading lists for a very good reason.
Aaron Soto lives in the Bronx. Life is really rough there, and it's been particularly bad for Aaron lately. His father committed suicide, and Aaron plunged into a harmful depression. Now, on the other side of that, things seem to be getting better. Aaron has a great girlfriend and a new best friend, Thomas. Maybe Aaron can be happy.
Then Thomas and Aaron start to get really close. Their friendship starts to create tension between Aaron and his girlfriend and Aaron and his old friends.
As things sour, Aaron starts to think that the Leteo Institute's memory-alteration procedure is the only way that he'll be able to get his happy ending.
Adam Silvera took this book in a really unexpected direction, and seeing him work that magic was so incredible. The book just got better and better with every page.
I knew More Happy Than Not was about a gay teenager who would consider a memory procedure in order to alter his sexuality, but, in the end, it was so much richer than I expected. It has layer upon layer of tough stuff, but it's not oppressively dark. It is, however, gutsy, and I think that both Adam Silvera and his main character, Aaron Soto, really just lay it all out there.
The Night We Said Yes has a great premise. Exactly a year after Matt and Ella met and six months after Matt left, he returns and the two run into each other at a party. The book then tells the story in alternating chapters of the night Matt and Ella met and the night they met again.
I was a little disappointed with this book. It think it had a lot of potential, and I loved the idea of telling the two stories simultaneously, but, in practice, it became rather repetitive and dull. I did like Ella's friends quite a lot. And Lauren Gibaldi definitely struck gold in the cover department. I love the silhouettes and the handwritten script.
Despite the mixed reviews, I quite liked this one. I think the key is expectations. Do not go in thinking you are getting the equivalent of a romantic-comedy. The romance that's in there is secondary to the coming-of-age.
Molly's tangled romance with two brothers, Patrick and Gabe, had her fleeing to boarding school where she hid from the boys and the family she hurt. Now she's back, and she has to survive 99 days in a hometown that's turned against her. Worst of all, she has to face Gabe and Patrick all over again.
I really liked Katie Cotugno's messy book, and I think a lot of people will be able to relate to Molly's situation and the mistakes she makes. Beyond the romance, I enjoyed Molly's business mind and was happy to see her have some success in other areas of her life. I so appreciated the book's true-to-life ending.
This is going to be the big YA contemporary of the summer. It's that good.
When he was seven Oliver was kidnapped by his father. Now, ten years later,This is going to be the big YA contemporary of the summer. It's that good.
When he was seven Oliver was kidnapped by his father. Now, ten years later, he's back. Emmy and Oliver, next-door-neighbors and childhood best friends, just might get a second chance at friendship and maybe more.
First, Emmy & Oliver deals with serious issues. Oliver's kidnapping impacted all of the characters in the book profoundly. Oliver and his family, of course, but also Emmy and her family, and their other friends struggle with the lasting repercussions of Oliver's disappearance. Nothing about his return is easy or straightforward. There are emotions to deal with and relationships to rebuild. Benway navigated Oliver's complicated feelings about his father, his mother, and his return so well. I really felt like Oliver was free to be himself and free to feel what he needed to feel.
Second, despite all of that, this book is funny. I love Emmy's sense of humor. It's sarcastic and clever. Her interactions with her parents are particularly great. The humor kept the novel from getting too bogged down with all the serious stuff. Along with the humor, I love Emmy's little group of friends. This book is full of fabulous side-characters.
Third, the romance between Emmy and Oliver is sweet and honest. These are two characters who care about each other, and, although they may be keeping secrets from their parents, they are open with each other and good for each other. As a reader, nothing is more satisfying.
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.
I loved Extraordinary Means so much. I don't want to commit to 5-stars, but this is a really, really strong 4-stars.
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 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.