The Queen

Note: If you plan to read The Queen, a Selection novella by Kiera Cass, you really must read the books and novellas that preceded it…even though The Queen really serves as a prequel to all of them. Check out my posts on The Selection, The Elite, and The One if you’re curious about this series. You also may want to read The Prince and The Guard, two more novellas that I didn’t get around to posting on (probably because I’m lazy). All of this reading will help to put The Queen and its main characters in context.

Before she was the Queen and mother to Prince Maxon, she was just a girl named Amberly…

When Amberly was chosen to take part in the Selection, she somehow knew destiny was at work. She’d been in love with Prince Clarkson for most of her life, and now she would have the chance–however slim–to become his wife. But could he look past her work-roughened hands, her near-constant headaches, and her caste? Could a prince possibly care about someone like her?

Somehow, Amberly manages to catch Clarkson’s eye, and she’s sure that he is at least beginning to return her feelings. She makes it clear that the Prince is the absolute center of her world, but is that enough to make her a future Queen?

Forces are working to keep Clarkson and Amberly apart–Clarkson’s mother, the increasing threat of rebellion in Illéa, and a crisis that will jeopardize all of Amberly’s plans for her future–but these two young people are nothing if not determined.

Clarkson will be the future King of Illéa, and he wants Amberly by his side. How will everything unfold? Read The Queen to find out!

_______________

So…if you haven’t read The Selection series (and the obviousness of the novella’s title escapes you), I’ve just spoiled this story for you. Yes, Amberly does become the Queen of Illéa, but it is interesting to read just how that happened.

This story also goes a long way in explaining why Amberly stayed with Clarkson when he was being such a butt-faced jerk in The Selection. When I read The Selection trilogy, I admit that I judged Amberly for sticking by Clarkson when he was acting like an asshole. (Sorry for the cursing, but that word is the most accurate one I could think of.) While I still judge her a bit for appearing to be a doormat, I at least understand her reasoning a little better. I don’t approve, but I do understand.

To those who have read the entire Selection series, I think you’ll be interested in how Amberly handled her place in the Selection versus how America dealt with things. Each girl had her own way of doing things, and each one faced their own set of unique circumstances, but there were some parallels in their backgrounds and in the way they interacted with their princes. Which girl had the better approach? I can’t really say, so I’ll leave that for you to ponder.

_______________

If you still haven’t gotten enough of The Selection, have no fear! Kiera Cass is gracing us with more from this captivating world. The Favorite, another novella, will be released on March 3rd (my birthday!), and this one gives readers a glimpse at Marlee and her life with Carter.

Also–*insert fangirl squeal here*–The Heir, a whole new Selection novel, will be out on May 5th! Let’s take a look at the absolutely gorgeous cover, shall we?

Pretty, pretty, pretty. Apparently, this book revolves around Princess Eadlyn, the daughter of America and Maxon, and her own Selection for a prince. If The Selection was The Bachelor on steroids, I guess now we’re giving The Bachelorette her turn. I can hardly wait!

For more information on The Selection saga and author Kiera Cass, check out her website, Twitter, and the Selection Facebook page.

 

Published in: on December 11, 2014 at 3:23 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , ,

My True Love Gave to Me

When I heard the author lineup for My True Love Gave to Me, an anthology of YA holiday stories, I immediately knew that I would have to read what I was sure would be an outstanding collection. With favorite authors like Ally Carter, Gayle Forman, David Levithan, Stephanie Perkins, Rainbow Rowell, Laini Taylor, and Kiersten White–among others–contributing short stories, I was hooked before I even started reading. And when I didn’t think anything was ever going to get me in the holiday spirit this year (Humbug!), this book managed to fill me with a bit of cheer.

My True Love Gave to Me is a collection of twelve holiday stories that kind of touch on everything: New Year’s, winter solstice, Hanukkah, Christmas, and even Krampuslauf (something I’d never heard of before). There’s really something for everyone (except Festivus for the rest of us), and I think this would be a perfect gift for any teen reader…or adult reader who loves YA lit.

Now, I’m not going to go through each and every story here. That would take forever, and, honestly, it would probably spoil a couple of the stories for you. Instead, I’ll briefly highlight a few of my favorite stories from this collection.

My favorite story in the collection comes from the book’s editor herself, Stephanie Perkins. Her story is titled “It’s a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown.” This short story, like Perkins’ longer works, introduces readers to a true gem of a guy. North Drummond, like Étienne St. Clair, Cricket Bell, and Josh Wasserstein, is almost too good to be true, but that just makes me–and Marigold, his “love interest”–adore him more. He seems to really “get” Marigold, even though her life is less than traditional. He works to make her world a better one after knowing her only a short while. Every girl should be so lucky. (I’m militantly single, and even I felt my cold heart melting for North.) If you enjoyed Stephanie Perkins’ enchanting novels, you’ll likely feel the same way about this lovely story.

One of my other top picks from this collection was “Midnights” by Rainbow Rowell. (If you follow this blog at all, this should come as no surprise.) This story involves two best friends who seem to just miss being together at midnight each New Year’s Eve. This year, though, things might just be a little different. (Since this is essentially a YA holiday romance anthology, you can probably guess what will happen. Even so, the story is heart-warming and brings on the feels.)

Finally, I have to talk a bit about “Star of Bethlehem” by Ally Carter. This was the only story in the book that actually made me cry. The basic premise is this: Mysterious girl exchanges plane tickets with someone else, pretends to be someone she’s not (in order to hide from her own life), gets found out, and ultimately finds something she never knew she needed. Such a moving story that I had to grab a couple of tissues. There was a romantic element to this one, but, at least for me, this particular story was about the love that can be found with friends, family (not always blood relatives), and people who deeply care about what’s really best for those they love.

Those were just three of the stories that really spoke to me. Truthfully, there’s not a stinker in the bunch, and every story resonated with me in some way.

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Yule, Krampuslauf, or no holiday at all, this collection is an outstanding, moving, entertaining read for anyone who believes in the power of love…in all of its many forms.

Published in: on November 17, 2014 at 1:10 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Isla and the Happily Ever After

For the past couple of years, I’ve been impatiently waiting to read Stephanie Perkins’ latest, Isla and the Happily Ever After. Finally–FINALLY–I got my chance this week. My signed copy of the book (along with some lovely swag) arrived last weekend, and I read it during my limited spare time this week. (School resumed for teachers in my district this week, so “limited” is the perfect way to describe my time of late.)

Just like Perkins’ previous books, Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door, Isla and the Happily Ever After was outstanding. I loved the characters, how they interacted with each other, how they grew throughout the story, and how they connected with characters in the preceding books. I cannot say enough good things about this book. It was so worth the wait, and part of me wants to find Stephanie Perkins and give her a hug for creating such memorable and lovable characters. (A bigger part of me, though, shies away from human contact, so Ms. Perkins has no worries about random embraces from strangers. At least none from me.)

Isla Martin has been in love with Josh Wasserstein since the start of their freshman year at the School of America in Paris. Fast forward to senior year, and it seems that Isla may finally have a chance at being with the guy who’s always seemed out of her reach.

After a rather odd encounter in Manhattan over the summer, the two finally reunite at school, but Isla can’t get over her nervousness around Josh, and it looks like Josh is trying to keep his distance. Trying…but not succeeding. Isla and Josh are growing closer, and when Isla clears up a misunderstanding that was keeping Josh away, they’re finally able to start the relationship that both of them so desperately want.

Isla and Josh become nearly inseparable, and they want to spend every spare minute together. Sometimes it’s as simple as being in the same room–Josh sketching or working on his graphic novel, Isla studying or reading–but being together is what’s important. They explore their favorite spots in Paris. They learn all the important little things about each other. And during one memorable, romantic weekend, Isla and Josh break all the rules and journey to Barcelona to take in a few sites. It’s this weekend, though, that ultimately tests how strong their love really is.

When Isla and Josh return to Paris, they realize that their impulsive actions have devastating consequences. Josh is taken away from school and Isla, and this heart-breaking separation takes its toll on the couple’s burgeoning relationship.

The more time they spend apart, the more Isla begins to doubt if Josh’s feelings for her are real. She knows she loves him, but what does he really see in her? Why would he want to be with someone who doesn’t know what she wants to do with her life? Is she just a placeholder for his ex-girlfriend and all of his friends that have moved on? Isla just doesn’t know, and her doubts soon lead to an epic confrontation that may destroy any hope of a future with Josh.

Can Isla wade through her doubts and finally learn to trust in Josh’s love? Does Josh even want to be with her after everything they’ve been through and said to each other? Is there any hope of a happily ever after for Isla and Josh? Only one way to find out…

_______________

I love this book so hard. I have zero complaints, and people who know me realize how rare that is. I think every girl (or guy) who reads this will absolutely fall in love with Josh. Many readers will likely identify with Isla and her deep-seated–and often unfounded–insecurities. Everyone will root for Isla and Josh to make it. Adult readers will probably want to go back and relive their teen years in the hopes of finding–or reliving–a love like the one we see between Isla and Josh.

After reading Anna, Lola, and Isla, I have to say that I will read anything that Stephanie Perkins cares to write. (I already follow her blog and Twitter, so I think I’m good to go there.) This lady is a master of YA romance, and I recommend her to every teen and adult reader who likes a good love story. I am eagerly anticipating her next book, and I can’t wait to see what she contributes to the upcoming anthology, My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories.

If you’d like to learn more about the fabulous Stephanie Perkins and her equally fabulous books, check out her website, Twitter, or Tumblr.

*Note: As much as I adore Isla and the Happily Ever After, I would be remiss if I didn’t give a small warning to librarians, teachers, and parents. This is a book for teen and adult readers. Isla and Josh are characters in a serious relationship, and their relationship follows a fairly natural progression. There are a couple of sexual situations, but they are not terribly gratuitous. Even so, I wouldn’t feel comfortable recommending this book to middle grade readers.*

Published in: on August 15, 2014 at 2:57 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , ,

Just One Year

A word to the wise: Read Gayle Forman’s Just One Day before continuing with Just One Year. In my opinion, you MUST know what leads up to Willem’s story prior to opening this companion novel/sequel!

So, I finally finished reading Just One Year late last night. I would have finished it sooner, but I was away at a conference. (To those who think a school librarian’s work ends at the start of summer, I say only “I wish!”) I got back yesterday afternoon and proceeded to devour the rest of this book. I absolutely adored the first book, told from the perspective of Allyson/Lulu, so I really wanted to see what became of Willem after their one day in Paris.

When Willem wakes up, he’s not sure where he is. All he really knows is pain and the need to find something he’s lost. When he finally recovers enough to think, he remembers the girl, Lulu, who’s waiting for him. They shared a magical day in Paris, a day that seemed to change both of them. Willem tries to get back to her, but it’s too late. She’s gone, and she probably thinks he left and didn’t give her another thought. And he can’t exactly do anything about that. He doesn’t even know her real name…and she doesn’t know very much about him either. As much as they discovered about each other during their day together, they don’t know how to reach each other again.

Willem tries to find Lulu in Paris, but he’s floundering. He retraces their steps through the city, but that leads nowhere quickly, so Willem decides to return home to take care of the business he’s been avoiding for so long–settling his father’s estate.

Almost immediately upon arriving in Amsterdam, Willem feels the need to escape. The memories are too much, and Willem is feeling the itch to travel…and continue his search for Lulu. When his travels are delayed, he takes solace in his friends and in the arms of a former flame. She’s not Lulu, but she keeps him from feeling so lonely all the time. Eventually, though, Willem simply can’t fake his feelings anymore, and he must move on.

Willem’s journey takes him all through Holland, Mexico, India, and then back to Holland. Through it all, he thinks of Lulu, their one day together, and how that day changed him. He’s feeling restless, but his nomadic existence doesn’t feel like enough anymore.  He wants a sense of family, he wants real, lasting connections with people, and he wants purpose. Even if he never finds his Lulu, she’s at least given him that. She opened his eyes to the world around him and his place in it. (He doesn’t know it, but he did the same for her.)

While Willem is on his journey of self-discovery, he never truly abandons his search for Lulu. He explores every connection he can think of, but she seems to constantly be just out of reach. He finds himself wondering if he should leave Lulu and their day in Paris in the past and move on.

But Willem has no way of knowing that fate has different plans. Lulu–or Allyson–has been doing some searching of her own, and she and Willem are about to come face to face once again. Will their connection be as strong now that a year has passed and so much has changed? There’s only one way to find out…

_______________

Now that I’ve read Just One Day and Just One Year, I find myself reflecting on my own reactions to each story. While I sympathized with Allyson, I was a little more judgmental of Willem. I know this says more about my own ideas and responses to emotional upheaval than anything, but I think that’s true of any book. We bring our own experiences to the stories we read, and we view the characters through those lenses. What I found really interesting, though, was how my views of Willem’s actions changed the more I read this book. Yes, he dealt with things a bit differently than Allyson did, but he had valid, and highly personal, reasons for doing so. And I think that’s the mark of a really great book. It makes you examine your own ideas through the experiences of another.

After finishing Just One Year last night, I immediately downloaded and read Just One Night, the last chapter of this love story. (Best $0.99 I’ve spent in a while.)

This ebook novella gives readers a look at what happened when Willem and Allyson/Lulu were finally reunited and had the opportunity to share their new selves and how they found their way back to each other. There’s also a fair amount of kissing (and other displays of affection), a bit of Shakespeare (like the preceding novels), and talk of the future. Will Willem and Allyson have a happy ending to their story? I’ll leave that for you do discover!

I failed to mention this in my Just One Day post, but I do believe that this series is suited to young adult (and adult) audiences. There are some mature themes, and I just don’t think most middle grade readers have the maturity or life experience to understand some of the content. As always, though, use your best judgment when recommending any book to young readers.

If you’re in or around South Carolina in November and want to learn more about Gayle Forman and her fantastic books, I urge you to attend YALLFest, a two-day celebration of young adult literature in Charleston. Gayle is scheduled to attend, and I know she’ll have lots of interesting things to say! (I had the privilege of hearing her speak last year, and I loved hearing her talk about her craft.)

For those that can’t attend YALLFest but still want more information about this series and others by Gayle Forman, check out her website at http://www.gayleforman.com/. Happy reading!

Published in: on June 20, 2014 at 5:17 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Just One Day

Last night, when I should have been packing for a conference, I was instead devouring Just One Day by the fabulous Gayle Forman. This book had been on my to-read list for quite a while, but I didn’t make time for it until this weekend. Oh, how I wish I had read it sooner!

Like If I Stay and Where She Went, Just One Day shows that Gayle Forman is a master at writing love stories that pack an emotional punch. Even more important, in my opinion, she’s excellent at giving readers examples of young women who, while navigating the perilous waters of relationships, also work to discover their own inner strength.

Allyson is nearing the end of a whirlwind tour of Europe, and, to be honest, the trip has been something of a disappointment. Yes, she’s oohed and aahed at all the appropriate moments, she’s seen some impressive sights with her best friend Melanie, and she’s even gotten a haircut to mark what should have been the start of the greatest vacation ever. But Allyson feels like she’s just going through the motions. She should be excited about this extravagant graduation gift, but something just doesn’t feel quite right.

Everything changes, though, when Allyson and Melanie deviate from their rigid plans and are persuaded to take in a performance of Twelfth Night in a Stratford-upon-Avon park. It is here that Allyson’s life changes forever. She meets Willem, a Dutch actor in the play, and she’s immediately drawn to him. There’s something about him that makes Allyson want to break free of limits and responsibilities. Maybe it’s because Willem doesn’t really know her. He doesn’t even know her name. He calls her Lulu because she reminds him of Louise Brooks, the silent film star. Maybe it’s that little bit of anonymity that gives Allyson the freedom to do something that’s so out of character. The freedom to eschew her plans to spend just one day with Willem in Paris.

One day in Paris. One day to see the sights and experience all that the City of Light has to offer. One day to fall in love with Willem, a young man who is so different from the Allyson she’s always been. Here she’s Lulu, a girl who takes things in stride, who has the attention of someone who could be–and probably has been–with dozens of other girls. It’s not easy to leave her good girl image behind, but Allyson wants to be someone different with Willem, and she’s coming to think she can be different when she returns to her real life.

All of that changes, though, when Allyson’s one day in Paris comes to a shattering end. After waking to find Willem gone, Allyson’s entire world seems to explode, and she doesn’t really know how to put the pieces back together. Nothing seems to fit anymore, and Allyson is struggling. It’s hard to admit that one day, one boy could have such a huge impact on her life, but Allyson will have to face what happened and the still unanswered questions if she has any hope of moving on with her life.

In the year after her day in Paris, Allyson must come to grips with how all of this has changed her. She has to deal with going back to being the “good girl” everyone expects and all of the pressure that entails. She faces the undeniable truth that she’s not the person she once was, and she’s no longer content living out someone else’s dreams. She must do what feels right to her…even if that means standing up to her parents, becoming more independent…and returning to the “scene of the crime” and discovering just what happened to make Willem walk away from her.

As Allyson attempts to make sense of everything that has happened in the past year, she’ll also discover that she’s stronger and more capable than she thought. Even if she never discovers why Willem left her, her quest for answers may just leave her with the peace and determination to become exactly who she was meant to be.

_______________

I think you can safely assume that I adored this book. If I weren’t so held back by my own fears–much like the Allyson we see early in this book–I would take off right now on a Parisian vacation, hoping to find my own sense of peace. Unfortunately, I am a big chicken, and that just won’t happen. (Not to mention the matter of not having the money and having to attend a conference for most of this week.)

I’d love to have a journey of self-discovery like Allyson experienced. I imagine that many readers will feel a similar longing. Even with the lows that Allyson dealt with after her day in Paris, she learned so much about herself. She learned that she had to let go of some things, even friendships, her parents’ expectations, and her own need to please those around her. I’m thirty-five years old, and I wish I could do that. Maybe one day.

While I’m envious of Allyson breaking free of her own boundaries, I’m also insanely jealous of her travels through Europe. The only time I’ve been out of the U.S. was when I went on a cruise to the Bahamas. I’ve wanted to travel to Europe, particularly Great Britain, for as long as I can remember, but finances, health issues, and a hefty dose of fear have always held me back. Allyson has inspired me, though. I’m somehow finding a renewed determination to make my dreams a reality. I’ve now got the beginnings of a plan in my head–a plan to save some money, lose some weight, and finally turn my desire for travel into a reality. How long with it take to put this plan into motion? I have no clue, but at least I’m getting started. Thank you for that, Allyson and Gayle Forman!

So, I finished Just One Day late last night, and I fully intend to start reading Just One Year, the companion novel from Willem’s perspective, within the next hour or so. (I have a two-hour ride to Atlanta ahead of me, so I should be able to make quite a dent in the book.) After that, I will read Just One Night, an ebook novella and the final chapter in the captivating story of Allyson and Willem. I can hardly wait to get started!

If you’d like more information on Just One Day or the other amazing books by the brilliant Gayle Forman, check out her website (which has quite a bit of info on the upcoming movie adaptation of If I Stay), Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr. You may also want to take a quick look at the Just One Day book trailer below. I hope you enjoy the journey as much as I have!

Published in: on June 16, 2014 at 10:59 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

City of Heavenly Fire

If you’ve come here looking for spoilers, you have definitely come to the wrong place. As a matter of fact, I’m not going to tell you much of anything about City of Heavenly Fire, the long-awaited conclusion to Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series. Do yourself a favor and read it. And the rest of the series. And the prequel trilogy. And anything else that Cassie Clare writes. Even if it’s her grocery list. I’m pretty sure even that would be epic.

For those not caught up with all things Shadowhunter, you absolutely MUST read the first five books of the Mortal Instruments saga before picking up City of Heavenly Fire. Those books are City of Bones, City of Ashes, City of Glass, City of Fallen Angels, and City of Lost Souls. (And no, seeing the movie adaptation of City of Bones is not a substitute for reading the book. In my opinion, the movie was absolute crap and didn’t begin to do the book justice.) I’d also highly recommend reading the prequel series, The Infernal Devices (Clockwork Angel, Clockwork Prince, and Clockwork Princess). There’s a fair amount of crossover, and you may not get the importance of certain things if you don’t have the background provided in the prequels. (Hint: Brother Zachariah for the win!)

I honestly don’t know what I can say about City of Heavenly Fire without giving too much away. From the very first page, I was enthralled, and I’m still processing a lot of what happened. Throughout this 725-page tome, I laughed, I cried, and I got angry. It was an emotional journey, and one that I won’t soon forget…especially since I was extremely worried about my favorite character for much of the latter part of the book. (If you’ve read my other posts on these books, you likely know who I’m talking about.)

Those of you who’ve read the series thus far will get everything you’ve come to expect in a Mortal Instruments book. Snarkiness, sadness, redemption, action, emotional upheaval, intense battles, loss, fear, laughter, and love overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds. The characters we met in the first book–Clary, Jace, Simon, Alec, Isabelle, and Magnus–have grown so much, endured so much, to get where they are, and this final war with Sebastian, Clary’s own brother, is their greatest battle yet. They are being tempered in a great fire, and, if they emerge, they will be stronger than ever.

I will say that the ending, while heart-breaking at times, was rather satisfying, and didn’t leave me with–you know–the urge to throw the book across the room or egg the author’s house. (I cannot say the same for my feelings when I finished reading Allegiant.) I felt it was a very fitting end to a beloved series, and it served well as a new beginning for many of the characters who’ve come to mean so much to me.

The official City of Heavenly Fire book trailer was released a few weeks before the book, and it captures the basic mood of the book. (I will admit I’m not crazy about the trailer. Something about it felt a bit off. The same is definitely NOT true of the book!) Check it about below, compare it to the book, and judge for yourself.

I first met these characters six years ago, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of the time we’ve spent together. Luckily, I don’t really have to say goodbye. I’m fairly certain I’ll see them again in Cassie Clare’s next Shadowhunter series, The Dark Artifices. We definitely get glimpses of what we’ll encounter in the new series, starting with Lady Midnight in 2015. Our newest adventure will center around Julian Blackthorn and Emma Carstairs in the Los Angeles Institute, and, if what I saw in City of Heavenly Fire is accurate, we can expect another thrill ride from these young Shadowhunters!

***************

I know this post didn’t give you a ton of information about City of Heavenly Fire, and I do apologize for that. It’s just that this series means a great deal to me, and I find it rather difficult to put my thoughts on it into words. Those I’ve used here don’t feel adequate in any way. If you take anything away from this, though, I hope it’s this: Read anything you can find by Cassandra Clare. She will wrap you up in an intense story, give you characters you grow to love, and teach you a little something about caring for your fellow man (or vampire, werewolf, warlock, whatever) along the way. Her books–this one and any others–are not to be missed.

The series is complete...for now.

The series is complete…for now.

Bang

Read Crash, the first book in Lisa McMann’s Visions series, before proceeding. These are definitely not stand-alone books. The second book, Bang, will be extremely confusing if you haven’t read book one.

I’m not going to give much of a prelude to Bang, the second book in the Visions trilogy. (I just closed a book fair–which I unknowingly scheduled during the full moon–and I’m so far beyond tired that I can barely think straight.) If you enjoyed the first book, I think you’ll love Bang just as much…if not more.

In Crash, we met Jules DeMarco, a sixteen-year-old plagued by disturbing visions of the future. She saw a truck crashing into a rival Italian restaurant and exploding, killing up to nine people. Thanks to lots of investigating and a bit of luck, Jules was able to prevent a horrible tragedy. One of the lives she saved was Sawyer Angotti, the son of her father’s most hated enemy.

Now, Jules and Sawyer are a couple, but this couple is facing something that most don’t. It seems that Sawyer is now having visions of the future. Jules doesn’t know how or why this mess was passed along to Sawyer, but she’s determined to help him figure things out and do whatever she can to stop another tragedy from occurring.

While Jules saw visions of a truck running into a restaurant, Sawyer sees something very different, and he’s having trouble coping with his visions and how he can possibly turn things around. He sees what appears to be a classroom, a gunman in black, and bodies piled all around. Yes, his vision seems to be pointing to an eminent school shooting, and the thought that it’s up to Sawyer to stop it is enough to send him into a panic.

Jules knows how Sawyer feels, but she’s also frustrated that she can’t see the visions herself. All she can do is guide him as best she can and trust in this boy who has come to mean so much to her.

Even though they have the odds stacked against them–visions of a disturbing future, a family feud, abusive parents, etc.–Jules and Sawyer do what they must to be together…and to stop a lunatic from taking innocent lives. Will they be able to solve this mystery before tragedy strikes again, or will they get embroiled in a situation so dangerous that they are caught in the crossfire? Read Bang by Lisa McMann to discover the truth for yourself!

_______________

If possible, I think I enjoyed Bang even more than I did Crash. I liked seeing how the relationship between Jules and Sawyer developed. Things were quite steamy at times, but I honestly believe this was a realistic depiction of two teenagers in love, especially when the relationship is essentially forbidden by their parents. (There’s definitely a Romeo and Juliet vibe here…but, you know, without the senseless suicide.) They had to sneak around to be together, lie to the people around them, and take whatever time they could get. I think all the secrecy added yet another element of danger to their relationship–because the terrible visions weren’t enough–that made their being together even more appealing.

*Note: The “sexy times” in this book, while not terribly graphic, are frank. Jules, the book’s narrator, doesn’t hold her feelings back, and the reader sees just how Jules feels about her first foray into a romantic relationship. Some middle grade readers–I hope–are probably not ready for this, so use caution when recommending this book to tweens and younger teens.*

Another thing I appreciated about this book and its predecessor was how close Jules was with her siblings, Trey and Rowan. That closeness extended to Sawyer when he was experiencing the lowest of lows in his life. These kids had to deal with more than most their age, and they did it with maturity. Sure, they had to break some rules, lie, and sneak around, but what do you expect when their parents are unreasonable, crazy, and even downright abusive?! I’d probably do the same thing! Through everything, though, they stuck together and presented a united front. I find that admirable.

I am looking forward to Gasp, the next book in this series. Given that these strange visions are seemingly passed from person to person, I’m curious to see who will be cursed with this “ability” in the next book. I guess I’ll find out on June 3rd!

If you can’t wait until June 3rd to learn more about Bang, Crash, and more from author Lisa McMann, check out the author’s website, Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.

Published in: on May 16, 2014 at 2:39 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , , ,

The One

Stop right now if you haven’t already read The Selection, The Elite, The Prince, and The Guard by Kiera Cass. I finished The One, the final book in this series, last night, and I’d hate to give anything away if you haven’t read any of the previous books yet! (FYI: The Prince and The Guard are Selection short stories. It’s not totally necessary to read them before reading The One, but it does help to put certain elements of the series in perspective.)

What can I say about The One without giving too much away? I honestly don’t know. I’m kind of flying by the seat of my pants here. I started reading this highly-anticipated book two nights ago, and I proceeded to devour it. I finished it last night, so I’ve had just a little while to process things. (I did dream about it last night. That was kind of weird.) Anyhoo, I’m not entirely sure how I feel about what transpired in this book. Did it end the way I expected it to? Partially. Were some curveballs thrown my way? Um, yeah.

In The One, readers are once again swept away into the world of America Singer. America is now in the top four of the Selection, and, though she knows the king despises her and would be glad to see her leave, Maxon, the prince and heir to the throne, wants to keep her around. Does he love her? Well, he’s never said so…but, then again, neither has America. America is never quite sure where she stands with Maxon, and she’s hesitant to give her heart to him if he’s considering choosing someone else to be his future queen.

America is also holding on to her past. Her former boyfriend, Aspen, is still in her thoughts. With Aspen being a guard at the palace, it’s hard to separate from her past and look toward a possible future with Maxon. And what if Maxon doesn’t choose her? Should she throw Aspen aside when he could be the one she needs when the Selection is over? Is that thought even fair to Aspen, Maxon, or herself?

Added to the pressures of the Selection and her own confusing feelings, America and Maxon have also become embroiled in a quest to change things in the kingdom of Illéa. The Northern rebels seek to form an alliance with Maxon and America, but that could mean thwarting the king…and possibly ensuring that America win this competition for the crown. America is also about to realize just how deep the rebellion against the tyrannical King Clarkson goes…

Turmoil reigns in Illéa, and soon everyone has to decide what side they’re on. Secrets are revealed, lives are lost, and everything is about to change. Will the rebels succeed in their mission? Will the caste system in Illéa finally see its end? What could that mean for Maxon and the girl chosen to be his future queen? Will that queen be America, or will circumstances–both in the rebellion and of America’s own making–endanger her chances of becoming the Selection winner…and claiming Maxon’s heart forever? Does America really have a chance to be the One?

_______________

Before I get to any issues I had with this series finale, let me say that I did enjoy this book. Most of it was fairly satisfying. (It must have been, or I wouldn’t have zoomed my way through it in less than 24 hours.) I found myself anxious, mad at times, and hopeful for a happy ending. And while all of the ending wasn’t exactly happy, I think the series ended the way it was supposed to.

All that being said, I did feel like things were a little rushed at the end of The One. I had about 30 pages to go, and I thought there was no way things could be resolved before the book’s conclusion. I was wrong, but it seemed like there could have been a little more explanation of what happened during the events in those last pages. (I won’t tell you what happened in those pages, but I will say that Kiera Cass packed A LOT of action into a small fraction of the book.)

Also, if you found America to be kind of wishy-washy in The Elite, you’re in for more of that in The One. I wanted to scream at her to get over herself sometimes, but I also kind of got why she was so back and forth. She was under immense amounts of pressure, and things definitely didn’t get easier for her in this book. If anything, her life was much more complicated, and that included her love life. I think a certain amount of confusion is understandable.

All things considered, I found The One to be a fitting conclusion to this wonderful series. (And I’m not even talking about the addition to the series’ stellar covers.) It was an emotional read, and I think fans of the series will be happy with the way things ultimately ended…if not the path taken to get there.

For more information on The One, the entire Selection series, or author Kiera Cass, visit the author’s website, Twitter, or Facebook. Also, if you missed the book trailer for The One, you can check that out below. I hope you’ve enjoyed America Singer’s journey as much as I have!

Published in: on May 8, 2014 at 11:39 am  Comments (2)  
Tags: , , , , , ,

No One Needs to Know

Like many fans of YA literature, I like a good love triangle. I’ve read books with bitter enemies, best friends, and even siblings fighting over the same person. It’s usually two guys competing for the love of a girl, but my latest read kind of turned that on its ear. In No One Needs to Know by Amanda Grace, we do see two siblings with feelings for one girl, but this book features twins, one male and one female, vying for the attention of the same person. It’s an interesting dynamic, and one, to my knowledge, that hasn’t received a lot of attention in contemporary YA lit. Let’s dive in, shall we?

Olivia seems to have it all. She’s rich, she’s a gymnastics star, and she’s beautiful.  But Olivia is struggling. Her twin brother, Liam, is pulling away from her, her parents don’t seem to care about her unless it’s convenient for them, gymnastics doesn’t hold the appeal it once did, and anxiety is taking over her life. Even her best (and only) friend, Ava, can’t be counted on to be there when Olivia needs her. Olivia feels all alone in the world, but that’s about to change…

Zoey is the school pariah. A mistake during her freshman year made her a target of the school’s resident mean girl, Ava, and Zoey’s been public enemy number one ever since. Add in the fact that she’s one of the lone scholarship kids at a prestigious all-girls school, and it’s easy to see how Zoey would feel alone in a crowd. Not to mention that she has worries that her classmates just don’t. While keeping up her grades, Zoey must also take care of her little sister, keep things running at home while her mom works her fingers to the bone, and hold down a part-time job. These rich kids don’t know how good they’ve got it.

When Zoey and Olivia are paired up for a class project, both girls get the opportunity to really see “how the other half lives.” And when Zoey begins dating Olivia’s brother, Liam, she’ll realize that these rich kids don’t have it quite as easy as she once believed. Olivia will also see just how badly Zoey has been treated, and these two unlikely friends will grow closer than they ever thought possible…so close that the two eventually fall for each other.

Olivia knows that Liam is growing serious about Zoey, and she doesn’t know how to reconcile that with her growing, unexpected feelings. She knows that Zoey feels the same way about her, but neither of them wants to hurt Liam. How can these two girls hope to be together when it means hurting someone they both care about?

As Olivia and Zoey navigate the tough waters of this new relationship, they’ll have to decide what’s really important to them. Is being together more important than anything? More important than friendships or family? What will they have to give up to be together…and will it be worth it in the end?

_______________

No One Needs to Know is a quick read, and I think it’s a good addition to LGBTQ young adult lit collections. Even though the characters could have been fleshed out a bit more, I did care about them, and I wanted Olivia and Zoey to find some way to be together.

*Spoilers* In the end, though, I thought it was a little too easy. I doubt I would have been quite as understanding as Liam was. I get that he wanted his sister to be happy, but I felt there should have been a bit more conflict when the big reveal occurred.

Given that I read an uncorrected galley of this book (courtesy of NetGalley), I’m confident that most of the grammar, punctuation, and formatting errors will be corrected before the book’s release on September 8th. I’m also hoping that a decision will be made on what Zoey’s little sister’s name is. In one sentence, she’s Charlotte. In the next, she’s Carolyn. Pick one!

I know many school libraries are wary of including a lot of LGBTQ literature in their collections, but this is one that shouldn’t cause any kind of ruckus. The relationship between Olivia and Zoey never gets graphic, and it is, at its heart, a very sweet love story. That’s more that can be said about many books featuring heterosexual couples!

If you’d like to learn more about No One Needs to Know and author Amanda Grace (also known as Mandy Hubbard), visit either of these websites: http://amandagracebooks.blogspot.com/ or http://mandyhubbard.blogspot.com/.

Published in: on April 20, 2014 at 10:14 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , ,

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.

_______________

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)  
Tags: , , , , ,
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 251 other followers