The Break-Up Artist

Last night, I finished yet another uncorrected proof from NetGalley. This time, the book is The Break-Up Artist by Philip Siegel.  It is published by Harlequin Teen and is scheduled to be released on April 29th.

The Break-Up Artist features a girl, sixteen-year-old Becca Williamson, who’s over the whole love thing. In fact, after dealing with the fallout of her sister being left at the altar and seeing how single girls are treated at her school, Becca opens up her own business. She becomes the Break-Up Artist. For $100, she’ll use whatever means necessary to break up couples. Business is good for Becca, but things are about to get a lot more interesting…

Steve and Huxley are the school’s power couple, and nearly everyone is in awe of their relationship. Everyone except Becca–who has her own history with Huxley–and a mysterious “family friend” who wants to break up the twosome. This “friend” offers Becca $300 to break up Steve and Huxley, and, being the good businesswoman she is, Becca agrees. Not only can she make school bearable again for her fellow singletons, but she can make some serious cash and get a little revenge on her former best friend.

Almost immediately, things get complicated. It seems that this couple isn’t as easy to break up as Becca thought. Becca will have to infiltrate the enemy camp (the popular crowd) to really get things going. And Becca eventually makes progress, but is it really worth it anymore? When Becca witnesses some of the fallout of her machinations, she begins to question her role as the Break-Up Artist. Could there really be such a thing as true love, and do Steve and Huxley have that special something? Nothing is clear for Becca, and her own life isn’t making things any easier…

Becca’s best friend, Val, has recently started dating Ezra. Val went from being by Becca’s side almost constantly to being half of a couple who has zero problems with PDA. Becca feels cast aside, and that’s bringing up some bad memories and connections with her sister’s life. What’s going to happen, though, when Val’s boyfriend sets his sites on Becca? Becca knows Val and Ezra aren’t right for each other, but could Ezra be right for her? Is she willing to jeopardize a friendship for a guy?

Becca is about to learn that love is a complicated business, especially when her role as the Break-Up Artist is becoming harder and harder to handle. Will she be able to break up Steve and Huxley? What will she do about Val and Ezra? And how will she possibly be able to cope when everything starts to unravel? Find out when you read The Break-Up Artist by Philip Siegel.

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Before I get into the issues I had with The Break-Up Artist, let me say that I did find it to be a relatable, entertaining read.  I sympathized a lot with Becca.  I’ve always been the single girl in a crowd full of couples. As a matter of fact, I’m one of only four single people at work. I’ve even been the girl who was pushed to the side so my best friend could spend all her time with the new boyfriend. I was also the woman who lost her best friend (a guy) because his new girlfriend couldn’t deal with her man having a female best friend.  All of it sucks…but I still prefer being single to being part of a couple. I just wish I had more single friends, so I can totally relate to the character of Becca.

Even though I did like this book, I did have a couple of problems with it that have hopefully been sorted out in editing.

  • The formatting was inconsistent. Why are we indenting some paragraphs and not others? Why are quotes not indented at all, and why do we change speakers in the middle of a paragraph?  It was difficult to follow sometimes, and I found myself rereading several passages to figure out just what was going on. Maybe this happened only in the digital galley, but it still made for a very frustrating read.
  • Let’s have some noticeable breaks in between scenes, please! It’s jarring to move from a school scene to Becca plotting in her bedroom with no indication that our location has changed. Just a space between paragraphs would be nice.  (This was done sometimes, but, again, consistency would have helped.)

If you decide to purchase this book for your personal, school, or public library, please let me know if the final product was more readable than the galley I read. Just a few changes would have made my reading of The Break-Up Artist a thoroughly enjoyable experience. I’m hoping it will be for you!

The Break-Up Artist is the debut novel for author Philip Siegel. To learn more about this author, visit his website, Facebook, or Twitter.

Published in: on April 9, 2014 at 12:34 pm  Comments (1)  
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The Kiss of Deception

I love books with strong women at the forefront. I adore fantasy. I’ve also been known to enjoy a good love triangle. Well, I got all that and more in The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson, but…let’s just say it took me a while to get into this book.

My copy of The Kiss of Deception is an uncorrected galley (thanks to NetGalley), so I’m hoping that some of the things I had issues with will be worked out in editing. The book is scheduled to be released on July 15th, so I may have to pick up another copy to see if anything changed. Now, I’m not saying it was a bad book. Trust me, I’ve read LOADS of bad books, and this one definitely has the potential to be a truly outstanding book in a promising new series.

Our story begins with Lia, the Princess of Morrighan, preparing for her wedding to the prince of a neighboring kingdom. She’s never met the prince, but Lia wants no part of a marriage where love is never considered and she’s viewed as little more than a broodmare. So, on the eve of her wedding, Lia and her maid Pauline make a run for it.

Lia and Pauline evade everyone looking for them–soldiers, barbarians, bounty hunters–and arrive in Pauline’s hometown of Terravin. Here, the two are no longer princess and maid. They are now girls who work in an inn for their wages…and Lia has never been happier. She’s finally escaped a destiny that was mapped out for her, and she’s the one in charge of her life.

What Lia barely considers, however, is that there are people out there looking for her…and two have found her.  The prince she left at the altar and an assassin sent to end her life.  They have tracked young Lia to the inn where she now lives and works, and each of them is determined to see his own agenda through…but they don’t count on their own feelings for this girl. Lia has captivated both young men, Kaden and Rafe, and it seems they will do nearly anything to earn her favor. But what will Lia do when she discovers who these young men truly are? Will she be able to trust either of them when so many lies stand between them?

Soon Lia is faced with an untenable choice. Should she stay in her somewhat comfortable life in Terravin, or should she come out of hiding and face her past and her future? Lia does what she must in the hopes of preventing war, but that choice will lead her into troubles that she could scarcely have foreseen, troubles that could endanger her very life.

Will she be able to get out of alive? Who can she trust to help her? And what will Lia do when she realizes that she’s more important than anyone ever thought? Is she strong enough to fight–and win–the battles in front of her?

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So, in the little recap above, I think I’ve made The Kiss of Deception sound pretty good, and I’ve captured the highlights without giving too much away.  It is a good book, but here are a few things that bugged me a little:

  • I didn’t figure out what a Remnant was or what was so special about it until about halfway through the book. Since this is book one in The Remnant Chronicles, I thought a little more explanation at the beginning of the book would have been nice.
  • Sometimes, the story seemed to drag on. There was a lot of time spent on donkey- or horse-back, and I felt like I experienced every single one of those miles. I could have done without some of that.
  • A pronunciation or translation guide would have been helpful for all of the foreign words and phrases in the book. Sometimes, they just weren’t explained adequately by using context clues.
  • It wasn’t exactly clear where or when this book was set. Is it post-apocalyptic Earth? Is it an alternate history? I just wasn’t sure, and that was a little aggravating.

All that being said, I do think the main character, Lia, is one to be admired. That girl has a backbone of steel, and I’ll probably read the rest of this series just to see her make mincemeat of the Neanderthals around her. (The next book, by the way, is The Heart of Betrayal and will be out sometime in 2015.)

I also liked reading the chapters from the prince’s and assassin’s points of view. Eventually, we learned their names, but it was still unclear which one was the royal and which was the killer. Personally, I had the two mixed up, so the big reveal was a bit of a shock for me. I’m sure other readers will feel the same way.

I hope you’ll give The Kiss of Deception a try.  I’ve been impressed with a couple of Mary E. Pearson’s other books (The Adoration of Jenna Fox, The Fox Inheritance), so I knew this would be a good book. With a little polishing, I think it could be a great one.

Published in: on April 4, 2014 at 4:03 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Better Off Friends

It’s becoming pretty clear that I’m going to like any book that Elizabeth Eulberg writes.  I’ve now read four of her books–Prom & Prejudice, Take a Bow, Revenge of the Girl with the Great Personality, and Better Off Friends–and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every single one. Last night, I finished reading Eulberg’s latest, Better Off Friends. This book takes aim at that age-old question: Can a guy and a girl really just be friends?

The two main characters in Better Off Friends, Macallan and Levi, have been friends since they first met in the seventh grade. In fact, they’re best friends. They have a special bond that seems to be unbreakable…even when Levi starts dating one of Macallan’s other friends. (As you can probably imagine, this doesn’t really end well, and Macallan is forced to choose between friends. Quite the pickle.)

As Macallan and Levi exit middle school and enter the exciting world of high school–dances, team sports, serious relationships–their strong friendship is tested. No one really gets the closeness between Macallan and Levi, and that leads to problems with boyfriends and girlfriends.

As this dynamic duo examines just why their other relationships fail, they’ll be forced to face how they really feel about each other. This is not exactly a comfortable process. In fact, at one point, Macallan escapes to Ireland for the summer just to avoid facing her feelings for Levi! Levi, meanwhile, is trying to balance being a guy’s guy with having a girl for a best friend…a girl who he may love as more than a friend.

Life is quickly becoming an emotional whirlwind for both Macallan and Levi. When mushy feelings are thrown into the mix, their friendship undergoes some changes. Sometimes, the two can’t even speak to each other without arguing. At other times, the two are inseparable.  Their newly-discovered feelings for each other–feelings that each one denies at one point or another–are quickly making a mess of everyday life, and something’s got to give soon.

Would becoming a couple change everything that is special about their friendship, or would it make them stronger than ever? Should Macallan and Levi explore their feelings, or are they better off friends? There’s only one way to find out…

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Part of me wanted this story to steer clear of anything romantic. I think guys and girls can be just friends, and I think it would have been refreshing to see that play out. However…

SPOILERS!

That’s not what happened here. Love–and not the platonic kind–got thrown into the mix, and I’ll admit it made for a great read. I imagine every reader will wonder when Macallan and Levi are going to wake up and see that “The One” is right there in front of them. This struggle made for some tense moments, but I held out hope that these two would find some way to eventually be together.

I did have reason to believe things would turn out okay for Macallan and Levi. In between chapters, readers see conversations between these two–mostly reactions to what happened in the previous chapter or hints about what’s about to happen–so we know that, at the very least, they remain friends. That was definitely a comfort when their friendship hit a few low points.

If you’re looking for a fun, often hilarious, romantic, light read, I urge you to give Better Off Friends (and other books by Elizabeth Eulberg) a try. Even though the book doesn’t really answer the question of whether guys and girls can be just friends, it does show that sometimes the best relationships start with amazing friendships.

Published in: on March 27, 2014 at 12:43 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Crash

I’ve been a fan of Lisa McMann‘s work since I read the first book in her Wake trilogy way back in 2008. I’ve since read that entire trilogy (Wake, Fade, and Gone), Cryer’s Cross, and Dead to You, all fabulous books by an equally fabulous author. (She’s also written a middle-grade fantasy series, The Unwanteds, that’s on my to-read list.)

Yesterday, I finished the first book in McMann’s Visions series. The book is Crash, and it was just as strange, compelling, and captivating as the other books I’ve read by this author.  It’s a very quick read that will definitely appeal to boys, girls, reluctant readers, and those who will devour any book in sight.

Jules Demarco tries to keep her head down. Any girl who usually smells like pizza, drives around in a truck sporting two huge meatballs on top, and has a father who is a hoarder would probably do her best to go unnoticed…but that’s growing more difficult by the day.

Jules recently started having visions of a horrible, fiery crash, and she sees this vision everywhere. On billboards, TV and computer screens, windows, books…everywhere. In the not-too-distant future, an out-of-control truck is going to run into a building and explode, killing as many as nine people. But when? And where?

Jules tries to look for clues as to when and where this crash will eventually happen, and she’s shocked by what she discovers. Someone she truly cares for–a guy from a family that hates her own–will die if she doesn’t find a way to halt this tragedy.

But what can Jules possibly do without people thinking she’s crazy? How can Jules convince anyone to take her seriously when even she doesn’t really understand what’s going on? Especially someone whose family flips out if he so much as glances at Jules?

One thing is certain. Time is running out, and Jules will have to do everything in her power–including putting her own life at risk–to stop the worst from happening. Will she succeed, or will her vision of this crash ultimately take everything from her?

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This book reminded me a little of the Num8bers series by Rachel Ward. (This British YA series revolves around a few people cursed with seeing everyone’s date of death hovering over their heads. Creepy but cool.) Like Num8ers, Crash–and the rest of the Visions series, I guess–deals with catastrophic future events that a young person is trying desperately to change. I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that a power like that could come in handy…but I’m not sure I’d want the responsibility.

Crash is a YA novel with some bad language and adult (though not necessarily sexual) situations that may make this better for high school students, but mature middle school students may be able to handle it. I don’t know. You know the tweens and teens in your life better than I do. Use your best judgment.

Crash is the first book in the Visions trilogy. The second book, Bang, is already out, and the third book, Gasp, has a June 3rd publication date.

 

Published in: on March 26, 2014 at 11:26 am  Leave a Comment  
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Endure

A word to the wise: If you haven’t read the first three books in Carrie Jones’ Need series (Need, Captivate, and Entice), it might be a good idea to do that now.  And if it’s been about three years since you’ve read these books, a refresher might be in order before proceeding with the fourth and final book in the series, Endure. (Should have taken my own advice on that one.)

So, I’m spending part of my reading this year catching up on various series. It’s hard to keep up when most of what one reads is part of a series.  Three years ago, during a week-long snowstorm here in South Carolina, I read the first three books in the Need series by Carrie Jones.  Fast forward a little over three years, and I finally started reading the fourth book, Endure, during yet another freak snowstorm in South Carolina.  (When I say “freak” here, I’m talking like 6 inches of snow…which basically shut down the entire state.  It was a big deal, and I didn’t leave my house–or my pajamas–for days.) It seemed to fit as this series takes place in Maine, and pixies have brought on some sort of super-winter as a prelude to Ragnarok. (Don’t know what Ragnarok is? Look it up. That’s my sassy librarian answer for you.)

Anyway, I say I started this fourth book during Snowpocalypse 2014, but I didn’t finish it until a bit later.  It was difficult to get invested in the series again after spending so much time away from it.  To put things in perspective, it took me about three weeks to get through the first 30 pages of Endure…but I read the last 230 pages in the span of a single evening. Once I refamiliarized myself with the characters and story, I was enthralled, but it did take some time…and a mention of my favorite Norse god, Loki (who I will always and forever picture as the glorious Tom Hiddleston).

Zara White is not exactly a normal girl. Not anymore, anyway. After turning pixie to save Nick–her boyfriend and a werewolf–from Valhalla, Zara has hopes that things can return to some kind of normal.  But normal’s not really possible when you are tied to a pixie king, being hunted by another one, your grandma–a weretiger–is missing, people all over your town are being abducted, and you’re at the center of it all.

As if Zara didn’t have enough to deal with, Nick wants nothing more to do with her now that she’s a pixie–a pixie queen, as a matter of fact–and Zara’s growing feelings for Astley, the good pixie king, are more confusing than ever. It’s quite the conundrum, but Zara will have to put her love-life on the back burner for now…especially if she is to have any hope of halting the apocalypse. No pressure.

Zara is facing some tough choices. How can she train her human friends to fight evil pixies? Can she retain her humanness while taking her place as Astley’s queen?  What does that even mean, and what will Zara do when some things are completely taken out of her hands?  Will she still be a strong leader? Will she still save the world from certain destruction? How? What sacrifices will Zara have to make to protect those she loves the most…and will those sacrifices be enough? There’s only one way to find out. Jump headfirst into trouble…

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Now that I’ve finished the entire series, I must say that the first book was probably my favorite, and this last one came in a distant second. (It would have been a close second, but it just took me way to long to get re-invested. The perils of loving to read serial fiction.) The entire series turns pixie lore on its ear, and it pays homage to Norse mythology. That’s something I appreciate.

On top of all that stuff, the Need series features some very strong female characters. Yes, Zara is the protagonist and is seen as the strongest of the series’ female characters–which I think she is–but there are many other strong women and girls given time in this series, and each one has her own brand of strength. From Zara to her grandma to Issie to Cassidy and several more, the females in this book do not depend on men to do their fighting for them. These ladies go out and make things happen, and they are fully capable of stopping the end of the world on their own, thank you very much. (The guys do help some, but the action definitely centers on the girls in the group, in my opinion.)

All in all, the Need series is a great read if you’re into supernatural stuff with a bit of good, old-fashioned mythology thrown in. You may need to look up a few things if you’re unfamiliar with Norse mythology, but that’s part of the fun! (Granted, my idea of “fun” may need a bit of work.)

For more information on the Need series and author Carrie Jones, check out her website at http://www.carriejonesbooks.com/. You can find links to all of Carrie’s social media pages there.

Published in: on March 4, 2014 at 2:38 pm  Comments (2)  
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This Is What Happy Looks Like

I love snow days. I’m not terribly fond of having to make them up later, but I’d wager most educators get just as excited as their students when the white stuff starts falling. And if you happen to be in the south, it’s a much bigger deal than almost anywhere else in the U.S. Snow has been falling here in Upstate South Carolina since yesterday morning, and estimates indicate that we could see nearly a foot before it’s over. I haven’t seen snow like this since I was eight years old, and, while I have no desire to go out and play in the snow, I am experiencing my own brand of fun while I’m out of school. That fun involves Netflix, sleeping, and, of course, lots of reading.

Yesterday, I finished reading Jennifer E. Smith’s This Is What Happy Looks Like. I had high hopes for this book after reading The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight a couple of years ago, and, to a certain extent, my expectations were met.  This is a love story that throws a few obstacles in the paths of our two main characters, Graham and Ellie. They have to overcome a great deal just to be together, and, even at the end, it’s not exactly clear that things will work out. Some situations in this book are resolved way too neatly, but the romance between Graham and Ellie still feels somewhat tenuous at the book’s conclusion. Maybe that’s a good thing.

Everything begins because of a typo. One teeny mistake, and two young people begin emailing each other, not knowing who they are really talking to. There is a certain freedom in that–a freedom to express things that are too often kept inside. But, as is often the case, this “freedom” can’t last, especially when one person decides to take things to the next level…

Graham Larkin is Hollywood’s latest teen heartthrob. He’s hounded by the paparazzi, he feels alone most of the time, and his manager wants to set him up with his latest costar. All Graham wants to do, though, is find a way to connect to the girl he’s been emailing, Ellie, and his status as a star may just help him do that. He suggests Henley, Maine, as a location for shooting his new film. What he tells no one is that Henley is where Ellie lives. Not even Ellie, a girl he’s never actually met, knows he’s coming. Will she be glad to finally meet him? Will she be awed by his celebrity status? Or will he get a different reaction altogether?

Ellie O’Neill never thought that the guy she’d been emailing could be the one and only Graham Larkin, and she’s totally unprepared when he suddenly shows up in her life. Almost immediately, he sends her entire world into a tailspin. Things aren’t as easy as they were when they were just two teenagers on opposite sides of the country. Now that Graham is in Henley and wants to pursue some kind of relationship, things are getting messy. Her best friend gets upset because Ellie’s been keeping secrets. Ellie’s mom fears the media circus that could surround them all if this relationship with Graham continues. And it seems that Ellie’s mom has good reason for her fears…

Ellie and her mom have been keeping a pretty big secret–a secret that could have a huge impact on the life they’ve built in Maine. Graham doesn’t want to do anything to make Ellie or her mom uncomfortable, but he may not have a choice in the matter.  In Graham’s world, secrets have a way of being revealed no matter what. Are Graham and Ellie strong enough to handle the fallout when their relationship–and Ellie’s secrets–go public?

In their quest for love and happiness, Graham and Ellie will have to decide what’s really important to them. Is it the glitz and glamour of Hollywood? The simplicity of a quiet life in Maine? Or is it being true to themselves and doing whatever they can to make a go of this rather unlikely relationship? I’ll leave that for you to discover…

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This Is What Happy Looks Like is a fun, light read that I think would be fine for middle grade and young adult readers alike. It might be a hard sell for male readers, but it’s an entertaining read no matter what.

Like I said before, it’s a little too neat in places, but the ending kind of leaves things open. This might be a great opportunity for someone to try his/her hand with a bit of fanfiction. How do things play out for Graham and Ellie after the novel is over? I have my own ideas about this, but I’d love to read some other possible endings.

If you’d like more information on this book or others by Jennifer E. Smith, check out the author’s website at http://www.jenniferesmith.com/. Enjoy!

Published in: on February 12, 2014 at 10:09 am  Leave a Comment  
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Love Is Hell

No, this is not my standard anti-Valentine’s Day message. For the month of February, my book club decided to read books with “love” in the title. I didn’t want to trot out a book I’d already read, so I dove into my sizable to-read pile and pulled this anthology out.

Don’t let the title fool you or turn you away. Love Is Hell features five short stories from some pretty wonderful authors: Laurie Faria Stolarz, Scott Westerfeld, Justine Larbalestier, Gabrielle Zevin, and Melissa Marr. I kind of expected some light-hearted love stories with paranormal twists, but I got so much more than that.  Each of the stories explored the darker sides of love, and they were so well-told that I found myself wanting more. (Scott Westerfeld’s story, in particular, would be great fleshed out into a full-length novel…or series.)

The first story in this anthology is Sleeping with the Spirit by Laurie Faria Stolarz, and, as the title suggests, this is something of a ghost story. Brenda, the main character, is experiencing some fairly intense nightmares that leave her with mysterious bruises.

Brenda later learns that her house is haunted, and her bruises are being caused by a ghost, Travis, who is trying to hold onto her. Brenda, then, must determine just what this ghost wants and how it will impact her own life and past. As you would expect in a supernatural love story, romance is brewing between Brenda and the ghostly Travis…which creates some interesting situations for Brenda, especially when she finally helps Travis with his “unfinished business.”

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Scott Westerfeld’s Stupid Perfect World is probably my favorite story in this book. I think it can best be desribed as a futuristic tale. (When I described it to my friends, they said it sounded sort of dystopian, but I don’t think I totally agree with that.) In this story, teleportation is a common mode of transportation, research is done in something called “headspace,” sleep is unheard of, and most diseases have been wiped from the earth. Young people learn about what life was like in the past in a class called “Scarcity.”

A big project is coming up in this class, and each person will have to pick just one thing from the past to experience for two weeks. Some choose to experience diseases (which is no big deal, really, since they can have procedures to correct everything when the project is over), some choose to do without teleportation, but two students are doing something a bit different.  Maria decides to do without the standard hormone regulators. She wants to experience teen angst and all that it entails.  Kieran doesn’t know what his project will be at first, but, with a little help from William Shakespeare, he decides to allow himself to sleep. He’ll have to learn about the cycles of sleep, how the body prepares for sleep, and all that other wonderful stuff…but it’s not as easy as he thought it would be. At least not until Maria helps him a bit.

Maria’s hormones start messing with her pretty quickly. She starts feeling “twirly” and noticing Kieran in a very special way. Poetry seems to explode from her brain, and it’s this poetry that brings Maria and Kieran together. Maria reads Kieran to sleep every night, and, before long, Kieran starts to dream about Maria, a girl he never would have noticed before this project.

All is not moonlight and roses for these two, however. Maria is becoming rather emotional, and those raging hormones don’t exactly make her rational all the time. This leads to some problems with Kieran. I’ll let you discover if these two make it and what will happen to them when this project ends.

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The third story, Thinner Than Water by Justine Larbalestier, was rather disturbing. It revolves around a girl, Jeannie, who lives in a very primitive culture…a culture that puts on a show for tourists who come to town. Jeannie lives in a family of bakers, and that’s basically all they focus on. They expect Jeannie, who is only sixteen, to marry soon and begin having children.

Jeannie wants to run away from her family, but something–or someone–stops her. Robbie, the town outcast, expresses interest in Jeannie and promises that he’ll “handfast” with her during the coming Lammas Day celebration. (Essentially, they’ll get engaged and live with each other for a year before they decide to commit to marriage.) Jeannie agrees and sees this as a way out of her family (made up of truly horrible people).

Well, that’s what happens…but Jeannie’s family isn’t exactly eager to let her go to Robbie, a boy they believe to be one of the “fair folk.” They think he is evil and is spreading his curse to Jeannie.  Jeannie doesn’t really believe in all that stuff, but she knows her family is serious about this…especially when they take Robbie from her in the most brutal way possible. And when Robbie inexplicably returns just when Jeannie is rebuilding her life, what will happen? Will Jeannie take Robbie as he is now, or will she try to build a life for herself?

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Gabrielle Zevin’s story, Fan Fictions, is probably every fangirl’s deepest nightmare. I know we all joke about having “book boyfriends,” but this story takes things a bit further. It’s a rather uncomfortable read, and I honestly don’t know what to do with how the story unfolds.

Paige is the epitome of an average girl. She often goes unnoticed, she sits in the middle of the classroom, and she waits for someone to really see her. One day, it actually happens. After spending some time in the school library (and getting a book recommendation from the new librarian), Paige feels someone looking at her. She turns and sees a gorgeous guy, Aaron, who doesn’t seem to fit into her neat little world.

Aaron is everything that Paige could want in a guy. He’s mysterious, he dotes on her, and, most importantly, he notices her in a way that no one else ever has. But there are some things that don’t add up. Aaron never talks about his family, he doesn’t eat, he’s always absent from school. Paige really knows very little about him or his past. None of her friends have met or even seen him. Paige wants things to change, but Aaron is resistant, and Paige soon learns why. Aaron is not totally human (of course).

Soon enough, things begin to unravel for Paige and Aaron. And when Paige learns that everything she believed about this “relationship” is contrived, she will come totally unhinged (if she wasn’t before). The lines between fantasy and reality will become blurred, and Paige will be unable to deal with the fallout. (It’s easy enough to relate to this. I felt sort of similar Sunday night when I thought my beloved Sherlock had a girlfriend. Sigh.)

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The final story in this anthology, Love Struck by Melissa Marr, involves selchies (or selkies, if you prefer). These creatures live as seals in the sea and shed their skin to live on land as humans. In this story, Alana (a human) is seemingly entrapped by a selchie, Murrin, who wants to make her his beloved.

Alana wants none of it, and she definitely expresses this to Murrin. Murrin, though, is sure he’s found the love of his life, and he does everything in his power to convince Alana to stay with him. But Murrin does not figure on his brother, Veikko, using Alana–and her growing feelings for Murrin–to settle an old score.

Love and lies collide in this tale filled with longing, deception, and overcoming obstacles. What will Alana and Murrin ultimately do to remain true to all that they hold dear?

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It should be obvious that I thoroughly enjoyed this anthology. (I really didn’t expect to.) I was prepared for fluff, but I’m pleased to say that I got some real meat here. I fully intend to explore the other Short Stories from Hell anthologies, and I can only hope that those stories live up to those I found in this installment.

Published in: on February 4, 2014 at 2:53 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Boundless

Warning! If you’re new to Cynthia Hand’s Unearthly series, you may want to change that before continuing with this post. You’ll need to read, at the very least, Unearthly, Hallowed, and Radiant (an ebook novella), before reading Boundless, the third and final book in the series.

So, nearly three years ago exactly, I started the Unearthly series, and yesterday, thanks to a rather unexpected “winter event” in the South, I had time to finish reading Boundless, the series finale. (Today’s post is also the result of an unexpected day off. It seems we can’t handle snow and ice here in South Carolina.)

Boundless picks up right where Radiant–and, to a lesser extent, Hallowed–left off. Clara is about to embark on yet another adventure. She’s starting her freshman year at Stanford, but, if you’ve followed this series at all, you know that Clara is no typical college freshman. She is a Triplare, the rarest of the angel-bloods. (Her mom was half-angel, and her dad, Michael, is 100% angel.) Clara and her fellow angel-bloods Angela and Christian are dealing with visions of an uncertain future where it seems they will have to fight the dreaded Black Wings (fallen angels) that would seek to destroy them.

In addition to learning to fight the bad guys, Clara and friends are also dealing with some other heavy stuff.  Clara is still torn between Christian, a fellow Triplare who is always there for her and makes her stronger than she would be alone, and Tucker, the human she left behind. She has feelings for both boys, and she doesn’t really know how to reconcile those feelings with the visions of a not-exactly-happy future.

Clara is also worried about her brother Jeffrey. After their mother’s death, Jeffrey seemed to lose a bit of himself, and Clara wants to help him find his way back to the light, but it’s not easy. Jeffrey resists all attempts to help and rarely even speaks about what happened in Wyoming. Clara doesn’t know what to do, but she knows she has to at least try to be there for her brother…even if he pushes her away.

Clara’s friend Angela, meanwhile, has gotten herself into a bit of trouble, and that trouble is going have some pretty huge ramifications, both in Angela’s own life and in the coming war between angel-bloods and Black Wings.

What does all this mean for Clara and her destiny? Is she meant to be with Christian or Tucker? Does she even have a choice in the matter? What will happen with Jeffrey? With Angela? Can they hope to defeat the Black Wings when their lives are in so much turmoil? War is brewing, and Clara and company will have to face their deepest fears and journey through hell to emerge victorious. Will they succeed? I’ll leave that for you to discover…

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After finishing this entire series, I have to say that I want more. The ending was sort of satisfying, but–spoilers!–not every character gets what I would call a happy ending. Some of the ending was a little too neat for me, but other parts were left at loose ends. I won’t tell you which parts I’m talking about. I’ll leave that for you to figure out. I will say that a spin-off series for one character in particular wouldn’t be totally unwelcome.

All in all, the Unearthly series was entertaining, and I would recommend it to teen readers who show an interest in angels. Now, I think I’ll continue this “angelic” theme of the week and binge on some episodes of Supernatural. (I do enjoy Castiel!)

For all of you visual people, here is a short book trailer for Boundless from HarperTeen. Enjoy!

Published in: on January 30, 2014 at 12:22 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Fangirl

It probably won’t surprise anyone that a book titled Fangirl really resonated with me. I am a proud member of multiple fandoms (Doctor Who, Sherlock, Harry Potter, Star Wars, The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings, Supernatural…just to name a few), and, while I don’t write fanfiction like this book’s protagonist does, I do spend a somewhat unhealthy amount of time lost in these fictional worlds and/or thinking about alternate realities for my favorite characters. I honestly don’t think any of my family or friends really understand how important my fandoms are to me. They don’t get that fictional worlds are often much easier to navigate–and manipulate–than the real world is. Rainbow Rowell gets it.

Cath and her twin sister Wren are off to college. For the first time since ever, the two girls will be separated…totally against Cath’s will. Cath thought that she and Wren would surely be roommates, but Wren had other ideas. Wren wants to live it up at college, and it seems she can’t do that with Cath along for the ride.

Cath, a devoted fan of the Simon Snow book series (which brings Harry Potter to mind), retreats into herself and the fanfiction that means so much to her. She goes to class, studies, eats protein bars in the comfort of her dorm room, stays out of her roommate’s way, and loses her self in writing Simon Snow fanfiction. Soon though, Cath’s roommate, Reagan, decides that Cath is not experiencing anything of college, and she and her friend Levi drag Cath into the “real world.”

Cath is stepping out of her comfort zone just a bit. She’s spending time writing with a cute guy at the library. She’s hanging out with Reagan and Levi more and more. She’s even eating in the cafeteria fairly regularly. Some things, though, are not so great. Cath’s twin seems to be drunk more than she’s sober, Wren is trying to reconnect with their long-lost mother (who Cath wants absolutely nothing to do with), Cath is struggling in her fiction-writing class, and she’s worried about how her father is handling things on his own. As it turns out, Cath has reason to worry…

When things really go pear-shaped, Cath takes solace in her fanfiction writing…and in the arms of Levi. Even when Levi gives Cath reason to write him off, she can’t let go of this boy who accepts her as she is and always has a smile for her (and everyone else he meets). She’s not totally comfortable with this new twist to their relationship, and she often questions what he sees in her and why he bothers with someone who has so many quirks.

As Cath’s freshman year in college progresses, she’ll learn a great deal about herself–her life as a daughter, a sister, a friend, a girlfriend, and a writer. She’ll discover a strength within herself that no one–not even Cath–ever expected. There’s more to Cath than being a fangirl, and, though Simon Snow and Cath’s fanfiction writing still mean a lot to her, she’ll discover that there’s room in her world for so much more.

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I feel like I’ve given too much away in this post, and I’m sorry for that. I hope I haven’t spoiled this book for anyone, especially since I think this book will appeal to so many who frequently visit this blog. It’s a fantastic book that many people–not just fangirls like myself–will find relatable.

Fangirl, in addition to speaking to the fangirl in me, also spoke to me because Cath reminded me a lot of myself in college. I was never the party girl, I was pretty focused on my studies, I had just a few close friends, and I spent much of my time alone. Don’t get me wrong here. I loved almost everything about college, especially my undergraduate years at Winthrop University. (Go Eagles!) Like Cath, though, new situations tend to throw me into a panic, and I’ll usually withdraw into myself rather than enter into an unfamiliar situation. (As you may have gathered, not much has changed since college.) For instance, if I didn’t have a friend to go to the college dining hall with me, I’d stay in my room and nuke some Top Ramen. (I became quite the Ramen connoisseur in college. That cafeteria was kind of intimidating.)

I cannot say enough good things about this book. Like Eleanor & Park, Fangirl really captures what it is to be a young adult. Rainbow Rowell is an author who seems to truly remember what it was like to be a young adult, and that definitely comes through in her books. Her characters are dynamic, sympathetic, and so well-developed that I feel like they’ve become my friends.  I can’t wait to read more from this fabulous author.

For those who’d like to learn more about Fangirl and author Rainbow Rowell, visit the author’s website, Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, and Goodreads. Also, here’s a very short book trailer for Fangirl that you may enjoy!

*Note: Unlike many of the books I post on here, Fangirl is probably not suitable for a middle school audience. The book focuses on a freshman in college, and those of you who’ve been college freshmen probably know what this means:  alcohol, cursing, sex, etc. Not that I’m saying that all college freshman are drunk, promiscuous, or prone to spewing profanity. I’m just saying that, for some, college is the time when young people rebel a bit and push against boundaries. Be prepared for that when you read/recommend this book.*

With that, I bid all of you a fond farewell. I hope you all have a very happy holiday. I’ll be busy with family today and tomorrow, but I hope to return with a brand-new blog post on December 26th. We’ll see how it goes. Merry Christmas Eve!

Published in: on December 24, 2013 at 11:23 am  Leave a Comment  
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Eleanor & Park

My latest read landed on my to-read list after a glowing recommendation from a friend.  (Hi, Jen!)  For some reason, though, I didn’t pick it up immediately.  Then, a couple of weeks ago, this blog hosted an interview with author Rainbow Rowell. I took that as a sign to read her books as soon as I could.  Well, yesterday, I finally finished Eleanor & Park, and I must say that I wish I had read it sooner.  I don’t know if words can express how much I loved this book.  (Don’t worry. I’m going to try.) It was almost like being immersed in a John Hughes movie, and any child of the 80s can tell you how awesome that is.

When Eleanor and Park first met in August of 1986, it wasn’t immediately all moonlight and roses. (As a matter of fact, their relationship was never all that smooth.) Eleanor was a new girl; kind of strange and with flaming red hair that made her a target of jokes. Park was the only Asian kid for miles, but he was on the fringes of the popular crowd. These two crazy kids met on the bus, and, when Park told Eleanor to take the empty seat next to him, he probably didn’t realize that his life would change forever…just because of one small (and kind of mean) gesture.

Eleanor and Park didn’t become instant friends. For the longest time, they didn’t even speak to each other. They eventually bonded, though, over punk music and comic books. That tenuous bond later grew into a rather rocky relationship. A relationship where Park was kind of embarrassed about his feelings for someone so far removed from his circle of friends. A relationship that Eleanor could never speak of to her troubled family.

As Eleanor and Park grew ever closer, they realized just how much they meant to each other. Park gave Eleanor a haven from all of the wretchedness at home and school. Eleanor gave Park the acceptance he craved after a lifetime of being so different from those around him. Theirs was a love like nothing either had ever experienced.

But sometimes love just isn’t enough. Sometimes things happen that force people into untenable situations. What could possibly happen to drive Eleanor and Park apart? And could love be strong enough to bring them back together?

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If you’re still reading, let me say that this post doesn’t even come close to describing the beauty and awesomeness of Eleanor & Park. I was sucked in from the very beginning, and I’m still contemplating everything that happened to these two characters who I came to love.  To put things in perspective, the last book that generated such strong feelings in me was The Fault in Our Stars.

This book isn’t one that only young adults can appreciate. I firmly believe that anyone who’s ever been a teenager in love will be able to relate–maybe in just some small way–to what Eleanor and Park experienced. Anyone who has ever bonded with someone over music and comic books will be especially drawn to this book. Also, if you grew up in the 80s and wanted your life to be like a John Hughes movie, this is definitely the book for you!

I cannot say enough good things about Eleanor & Park, but, for now at least, I’m going to stop. Read this book. You won’t be sorry.

For more information on this book and others by Rainbow Rowell, visit http://rainbowrowell.com/blog/.

Published in: on October 7, 2013 at 1:32 pm  Leave a Comment  
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