Heart of Tin

Those who regularly visit this blog likely know that I’ve become slightly crazy about Danielle Paige’s Dorothy Must Die series this past year. (For those who are new here, this series recounts what happens when Dorothy returns to Oz.) Well, my obsession has only gotten worse, and the latest novella in the series, Heart of Tin, is to blame.

For those who are new to this series, I highly recommend you read the following stories before proceeding with this post. There could be spoilers ahead, and I really don’t want to ruin this wonderful series for you.

Now, let’s move on to this latest story, shall we?

If it’s not already obvious, Heart of Tin takes a closer look at the Tin Woodman (or Tin Man, if you prefer). Now, anyone who’s ever watched (or read) The Wizard of Oz knows this character to be a bit of a softy who longs for a heart to beat in his metal chest. And, of course, the Wizard grants his wish…eventually. What we don’t see, though, is what happens to the Tin Woodman after Dorothy leaves Oz behind…or the impact her departure had on one of her closest companions. All of that is about to change…

Oz has been rather quiet of late. The Tin Woodman rules over the Winkies and rarely visits the Emerald City anymore. Why would he? Not long after Dorothy and the Wizard left, Ozma, the true heir to the throne of Oz, returned to claim her rightful place, and the Scarecrow, Lion, and Tin Woodman were left to their own devices. But the Tin Woodman just received startling news that changes everything, and his quiet life with the Winkies is coming to an end.

Dorothy has returned.

The Tin Woodman’s heart immediately tries to beat out of his chest. His Dorothy is back, and he finally has the opportunity to show her how much he loves her. He just knows she’ll return his feelings and want to make a life with him. He dashes off to the Emerald City to see his sweet Dorothy, but his welcome is not quite as warm as he would have hoped.

Dorothy is not the darling girl she once was. She’s grown up quite a bit, and, with Glinda at her side, she’s learned to harness the magic of Oz. The Tin Woodman isn’t sure that Glinda (or the Scarecrow) have Dorothy’s best interests at heart, but he’ll do whatever he can show Dorothy–and all of Oz–just what she means to him…even if it means allowing others to twist and manipulate his precious heart.

The Tin Woodman, in his quest to prove himself to Dorothy and ensure her protection from potential enemies, turns his heart–and the Winkies–over to Glinda and the Scarecrow, and he becomes someone capable of unspeakable acts…all in the name of of “love” for a girl who is using his obvious feelings to further her own wicked agenda.

Even though he is uncertain about what’s really happening in Oz, the Tin Woodman will do absolutely anything for his beloved Dorothy, even if it means losing his heart in the process…

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So, the previous stories in this series have made me despise Dorothy, Glinda, the Scarecrow, the Lion, and the Tin Woodman. Well, Heart of Tin didn’t eradicate my negative feelings about the Tin Woodman, but it did change things a little. I now pity him. Glinda and the Scarecrow–both of whom are nothing short of evil–use his love for Dorothy to turn him into a monster. Yes, Dorothy is partly responsible as well, but I think she’s also being manipulated, particularly by Glinda.

At any rate, the Tin Woodman is, on some level, a victim here. He reasons that something’s not quite right about Dorothy’s rise to power, Glinda’s involvement, and the Scarecrow’s creepy experiments, but he’s blinded by what he thinks is love, and others use that weakness against him. No, I’m not claiming love is weakness–at least I don’t think I am–but I am saying that the Tin Woodman’s unrequited, obvious longing for Dorothy allowed others to use him for their own nefarious purposes. Will that continue to be the case in future stories? I have no idea, but I am eager to find out.

The next short story in this wickedly fabulous series is, according to Goodreads, supposed to come out on November 10th. I’m not sure how true that is, what the title will be, or who it will be about. (That’s not very helpful, is it?) The next full-length novel should be out in March of 2016 (maybe?). Goodreads has a little information on this one, but there’s no cover or title available yet. I’m on pins and needles here! I need the info!

If Heart of Tin and the entire Dorothy Must Die series sound like your cup of tea and you’d like to learn more, you can connect with the wonderful Danielle Paige on her website, Twitter, Goodreads, and Facebook. I love this woman’s work, and I can hardly wait for more!

Published in: on August 2, 2015 at 9:52 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Never Always Sometimes

Yesterday, I finished reading Never Always Sometimes by Adi Alsaid. (You may recognize the name from his previous book, Let’s Get Lost.) Anyway, this latest book, which comes out next Tuesday, is sort of a coming of age story that John Green fans will probably eat up. In fact, at various points, this book reminded me a bit of Paper Towns. If you’re a Nerdfighter, that’s probably all the recommendation you need.

In Never Always Sometimes, readers are introduced to Dave and Julia, best friends who have done their best to avoid becoming high school clichés. Before they even darkened the doors of high school, Dave and Julia made a Nevers List, a list of things they vowed never to do during their time in high school. Some of the items were:

  • #2 – Never run for prom king/queen, student body president, or any other position that would have its own page in the yearbook.
  • #5 – Never dye your hair a color found in the rainbow.
  • #8 – Never pine silently after someone for the entirety of high school.
  • #10 – Never date your best friend.

Now, almost four years later, just months before graduation, Dave and Julia have done a fairly good job of sticking to their Nevers List. Or so it seems.

Dave, for his part, has been in love with Julia for what seems like forever–breaking Never #8–but he keeps his feelings a secret so that he won’t ruin his relationship with his best friend.

One day, thinking she and Dave are missing out on the authentic high school experience, Julia suggests that they use the time before graduation to cross off every Never on their list. As is usually the case, Dave goes along with Julia’s crazy idea, and pretty soon, the two are dying their hair (and Dave is shaving his shortly thereafter), stalking a teacher, running a campaign for prom king, going to wild parties, and doing all the other things they’ve been disdainful of all this time.

Through all of this, Dave starts to realize that maybe he really has been missing out. This typical teenage stuff isn’t so bad, and it’s even pushing him to be social with people–girls–other than Julia. One girl in particular, Gretchen, catches his eye, and Dave begins to think that, as much as he still loves Julia, maybe he should let that hopeless crush go and move on.

What Dave doesn’t know (yet) is that Julia is coming to her own realizations. Maybe she too wants something more from her best friend, the guy who knows her better than anyone else. Maybe they should finally cross of Never #10 and see what happens. What could possibly go wrong?

_______________

How do I feel about Never Always Sometimes now that I’ve finished it and reflected a bit? Well, I’m still not sure. I think it’s a good book, maybe a tad unrealistic, but I kind of wanted to punch the main characters in the face several times when I was reading. Especially Julia. (I guess it’s good that I got so emotionally invested.) She seemed so self-centered to me throughout most of the book, and she tended to drag Dave down with her. Granted, he went–if somewhat unwillingly–most of the time, but I wanted both of them to wake up and see just how codependent they were.

As for the ending of the book, it took some doing, but it was sort of satisfying. I wouldn’t exactly call it happy, but given the events that preceded it, it really couldn’t be a totally happy ending for everyone. If anything, I would say that it was fitting and leave it at that.

For those wondering if Never Always Sometimes is suitable for middle grade readers, I would advise against it. It’s great for a YA audience, but the “sexy times” and rather unrepentant alcohol use and rule-breaking make the book much more suited to older teens. Whatever the reader’s age, I’d hope that all of them would have sense enough to know that some of the items on the Nevers List–like “never hook up with a teacher”–should remain Nevers.

As I said previously, Never Always Sometimes will be released to the masses on August 4th. (Many thanks to NetGalley for letting me read it a bit early.) If you’re interested in learning more about this book and author Adi Alsaid, you can connect with the author on Goodreads and Twitter. You may also want to take a look at the book trailer below. It’s a pretty good intro to Never Always Sometimes, but it doesn’t give too much away.

Happy reading!

Published in: on July 28, 2015 at 3:25 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Happy Again

If you haven’t read Jennifer E. Smith’s This Is What Happy Looks Like (which is a nominee for the 15-16 South Carolina Young Adult Book Award), do so before reading this post or Happy Again. Spoilers ahead!

So, last year, I read This Is What Happy Looks Like, a great contemporary YA romance by Jennifer E. Smith. After that last page, I wondered where things would go with Ellie and Graham. If you’ve read the book–and, at this point, I’m assuming you have–you know that things weren’t tied up in a neat little bow for them at the book’s conclusion. Well, now we have Happy Again, a sequel novella, to help clear things up a bit. Let’s dive in, shall we?

It’s been over a year since Ellie O’Neill has seen Graham Larkin. After they said their goodbyes on the beach in Henley, Maine–and Graham jetted off to finish his latest film and press tour–they stayed in touch for a while. Phone calls, text messages, and constant emails. But eventually, their emails stopped being personal and started to seem sort of emotionless, and they faded to nothing after a while.

Now, Ellie is a freshman at Harvard, and she only keeps up with Graham by glancing at the tabloid headlines. One weekend, Ellie uncharacteristically joins her roommate on a trip to New York City. When she sees a commotion near the Ziegfield Theatre, without even really knowing what’s going on, something tells Ellie that Graham is nearby. And she’s right. As fate would have it, she’s stumbled upon the premiere of the movie that brought them together.

Almost immediately, Ellie has the urge to run. Part of her desperately wants to see Graham, but another part is scared of what might happen if she comes face-to-face with him once again. As it turns out, that decision is kind of taken out of her hands.

Ellie and her friends are invited into the premiere, and, soon enough, there he is. Graham Larkin. He finds Ellie in the crowd, and insists they talk about the past year. What follows is a spontaneous trip through Manhattan, a trip where Ellie and Graham clear the air about why they stopped communicating, what’s been happening in their lives…and where they go from here.

Can Ellie and Graham find the happiness they felt last year in Henley, or has too much passed between them? Does this one extraordinary, fateful meeting have the power to bring them back together, or will this be their final goodbye?

_______________

If This Is What Happy Looks Like was a little too open-ended for you (as it was for me), Happy Again definitely gives a bit of closure. But even this story leaves readers with some questions about whether Ellie and Graham will end up together. The ending in this one isn’t completely nice and neat, either. I like to think that things will work out for Ellie and Graham this time around, that they’re willing to work to be together, but that’s not crystal clear. And that’s okay. This gives me–and other readers–the opportunity to continue the story for ourselves, in whatever way we like.

All in all, I found Happy Again to be a pretty satisfying conclusion (?) to the unlikely love story of Ellie and Graham. Will we hear more from this duo? I have no idea, but I like to think that, whether their story continues in print or not, that they’ve found happiness together once again.

If you’d like more information on Happy Again, This Is What Happy Looks Like, or other books by Jennifer E. Smith, visit the author’s website and Twitter. For what it’s worth, I’ve yet to encounter a book by this author that I didn’t like. I hope you feel the same way.

Published in: on June 28, 2015 at 7:17 pm  Leave a Comment  
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To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before has been on my radar for a few months, and I finally made time to read it this week. (I actually devoured it in less than 24 hours.) This wonderful book by Jenny Han introduces readers to Lara Jean Song Covey, a somewhat fanciful sixteen-year-old girl who gets over her crushes by writing them letters. She writes the letters and then moves on with her life. But when the letters actually get sent, Lara Jean’s life gets kind of complicated…

Lara Jean is a devoted sister, a loyal friend, and a reliable daughter. She’s not much of a rule-breaker, she doesn’t go to many parties, and she’s kind of invisible at school…and she mostly likes it that way.

Lara Jean does have some secrets, though–secrets those closest to her know nothing about. Lara Jean has had five crushes in her life. In order to move past these crushes, she writes each boy a letter, addresses it, and places it in an old hat box under her bed. No one knows about these letters except Lara Jean, and she has no intention of every mailing the letters…especially since one of them is written to her sister’s ex-boyfriend, Josh.

One day, Lara Jean realizes that the hat box under her bed is missing, and the letters she’s written to her crushes have actually been mailed out. When she understands what’s happened, Lara Jean panics and worries about what all of this could mean for her. A couple of her former crushes are no longer around, so she’s not terribly concerned about them…but some of them confront her about what she wrote, and that’s where things get a little messy.

In order to save face around Josh, Lara Jean devises a plan to make him think that she’s totally over whatever feelings she may have once had for him. She conspires with Peter, also one of her former crushes, to make everyone think that they’re now together. It’s a win-win situation, really. Lara Jean can avoid a big confrontation with Josh, and Peter can make his ex-girlfriend jealous. What neither Lara Jean nor Peter count on, however, is how this fake relationship will affect both themselves and those around them.

Lara Jean is growing closer to Peter, and she’s beginning to wonder if maybe he has some feelings for her. What started as a fake relationship may quickly be evolving into something real. Does Peter actually care about her, or is he still just using her to make his ex jealous? Does Peter, who knows the whole story of the letters, believe she still has feelings for Josh? How does Margot, Lara Jean’s beloved older sister and Josh’s ex-girlfriend, figure into this mix?

Lara Jean will soon have to face the realities of all of her relationships–those with Peter, Josh, and her sisters. What will she do once everyone knows the truth? We’ll just have to see…

_______________

I found To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before to be a fast, fun read that definitely gripped me and wouldn’t let go. Even though I thought Lara Jean’s voice was a tad grating at times, I felt that her character was realistic. It’s a nice change from all of the rule-breaking party girls in a lot of contemporary YA. Teens who respect their parents, like to stay in at night, and follow rules need to see themselves in fictional characters, too, and I was happy to see such a character in this story…even though she did play fast and loose with the truth from time to time. (Even us good girls can relate to that, though.)

I do have to admit that the end of this book nearly sent me into a panic. I kept glancing at the page count at the bottom of my ereader and wondering how in the world I was going to get a happy ending with so few pages remaining. And, while the ending was somewhat satisfying, it did leave things kind of open…which makes sense when one realizes there’s already a sequel.

The next book featuring Lara Jean and company, P.S. I Still Love You, is already out, and it is near the top of my lengthy TBR list. I can hardly wait to see what happens with Lara Jean and Peter.

For those wondering if To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before would be a good fit for middle school library collections, I’d have to say that it may be okay for upper middle school. There is some language, alcohol use, and talk of sexual situations, but there is nothing terribly graphic. In truth, Lara Jean could actually serve as something of a role model for some readers. She sees a lot of this stuff going on around her, and while she does feel some pressure to fit in, she remains true to herself and her values. Do with that what you will.

If you think To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before sounds like the book for you, I encourage you to learn more about in on Goodreads or the author’s website. You can also connect with Jenny Han through Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Enjoy!

Published in: on June 25, 2015 at 5:47 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Geography of You and Me

Before I get to my latest read, indulge me for a bit. Today marks Knight Reader’s 7th Blogoversary, and I’d like to thank everyone who’s taken the time to visit my little blog over the years. When I think about hanging it all up (which is about every two days), you guys are the ones who keep Knight Reader alive. I couldn’t do it without you, and I hope you’ll continue to stick with me.

Now, on with the show…

A couple of days ago, I finished another great read by Jennifer E. Smith. I’d previously read and enjoyed three of her other books–The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, The Comeback Season, and This Is What Happy Looks Like–so I figured that The Geography of You and Me would be no different. I’m happy to report that I was right (as usual).

Like Smith’s other books, The Geography of You and Me tells the tale of an unlikely pair. These two young people are thrown together by chance, fate, whatever you want to call it, and that one event ultimately changes everything…

It should have been a routine trip on an elevator. Lucy was going up to her apartment after checking the mail. Owen was headed to the roof to escape the chaos of New York City. But a citywide blackout changes everything. Now, Lucy and Owen are stuck together, and they’re getting to know each other when they’d barely registered the other’s existence previously.

After they’re rescued–and it becomes apparent that the power isn’t returning to the city anytime soon–Lucy and Owen decide to spend the long evening ahead exploring the city around them and looking at the stars above. They tell each other things they never revealed to anyone else. Owen talks about moving to New York after the death of his mother, and how he and his father are still floundering. Lucy tells Owen how it feels to be left behind when her parents travel abroad. Both young people are lonely, and, unexpectedly, they find kindred spirits in each other.

When the blackout ends, however, it’s a little more difficult to keep their connection alive, especially when Owen is headed west with his father, and Lucy is moving to Europe with her parents.

Lucy and Owen communicate through postcards and sporadic emails, but they’re also continuing to live their lives. Lucy finds a boyfriend when her family settles in Edinburgh, and Owen begins a relationship with a girl he meets in Lake Tahoe. Through it all, though, Lucy and Owen continue to think about each other and wonder how the other is doing. And when their other relationships go south, Lucy and Owen return to the connection they formed in the dark of New York City.

Eventually, Lucy and Owen come back to each other in the place where it all began. In the year since the blackout that started their relationship, they’ve each traveled hundreds of miles, met new people, and learned more about themselves and their places in the world. Are they even the same people as when they first met? Has too much changed in the past year?

Can two people from such different worlds overcome the miles between them and form a real and lasting relationship? Is geography even a consideration when two people really want to be together? I’ll leave that for you to discover yourself…

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I’d recommend The Geography of You and Me to readers who are looking for a quick, sweet read that explores the complexities of first love and long-distance relationships. It’s also great for those who have a bit of wanderlust and want to experience more of the world around them. (FYI, that is not me. I’m a bit of a homebody. If I want to go somewhere, I’ll just open the pages of a book. BOOM. Instant vacation.)

The Geography of You and Me is a good selection for readers in middle grades on up. Yes, it is a teen romance, but there’s no graphic imagery, and the language isn’t terribly shocking. Everything is true to the story. (As usual, read the book for yourself before adding it to your school or classroom library. You know better what fits in your collections than I do.)

If you’d like more information on this book or others by Jennifer E. Smith, check out the author’s website and Twitter. I, for one, look forward to reading her latest, Happy Again, an ebook novella that continues This Is What Happy Looks Like. I’m also excited about her next novel, Hello, Goodbye, and Everything In Between, which comes out on September 1st.

Happy reading, everyone!

Die Once More

Caution! If you haven’t read every story in Amy Plum’s Revenants series–Die for Me, Until I Die, Die for Her (an ebook novella), and If I Should Dieturn back now! I’d hate to ruin this magnificent series for you…but I will.

If you’re still with me, I assume you’re caught up on all things Revenant. Today, I’ll be taking a quick look at the second novella in this series, Die Once More. This story, like Die For Her, is told from Jules’ perspective. It takes place just after the events of If I Should Die, which essentially wrapped up what was happening with the Revenants in Paris.

*For those of you who failed to heed my warning above and are still reading this, Revenants are less creepy versions of zombies. Good Revenants, or bardia, originally died saving another’s life and are reborn to continue that cycle for eternity. Bad Revenants, or numa, gain power through killing others or convincing others to kill themselves. There’s a bit more to it than this simplistic explanation, but this will have to do for now.*

Jules Marchenoir has left everything he loves behind. His country. His best friend, Vincent. And Kate, new Champion of the bardia, his best friend’s girlfriend…and the girl who stole Jules’ heart. It’s just too painful to be in the same city as Kate and Vincent, so Jules crosses the Atlantic and joins up with the Revenants in New York.

Almost immediately, Jules is struck by how the bardia of New York compare to those in Paris. Thought there are many more Revenants here than there were in France, things seem to be very efficient here. That’s thanks largely to Ava Whitefoot, a striking woman who seems to loathe Jules on sight.

Jules knows he’s never met Ava in his many years as a bardia, so he doesn’t understand why she dislikes him so much. Soon, however, both people will have to put any animosity aside as they work to take down the building numa threat in New York. The numa in France may have been defeated, but those in New York are gaining strength every day.

In a story that takes us from the streets of Brooklyn to the boulevards of Paris, Jules and Ava will learn much about what makes each other tick, and they’ll discover that first impressions may just be deceiving.

Will Ava be able to look past Jules’ womanizing reputation and see the man he is trying to become? Will Jules be able to support Ava when she needs it the most? Can these two bardia find a way to become friends–or more–with the numa threat and a new challenge facing them? Read Die Once More to find out!

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I know Die Once More is focused on Jules and his developing relationship with Ava, but I must admit that I would have liked to see a little more action at the end. We’re told that there’s this big battle with the numa, but we don’t see the actual battle. That was kind of disappointing.

Other than that one complaint, I did enjoy this quick read. I liked Jules immensely in the previous stories, so (SPOILERS!) I enjoyed seeing him begin to get over Kate, reunite with his brethren, and find a partner of his own. I also appreciated seeing familiar, loved characters from the original trilogy and how they were faring post-battle. Hopefully, we haven’t seen the last of the bardia (in either Paris or New York).

If you’d like to learn a bit more about this series as a whole, I encourage you to check out my reviews linked above. You may also want to visit Amy Plum’s website.

Au revoir!

My Best Everything

Today, thanks to NetGalley and the Great Southern Ice Event of 2015 (hopefully, the only ice event of the year), I bring you yet another post on a recent read. That book is My Best Everything by Sarah Tomp and is due to be released on March 3rd.

I finished reading My Best Everything at about 10:30 this morning, and I’ve been thinking about it since then. After a few hours, I’m still not sure how I feel about this book. It’s certainly an interesting read, but parts of it really bugged me. The entire scheme cooked up by the main characters seems thoroughly implausible to me, and the ending, while somewhat satisfying, was kind of anti-climactic. I expected a bigger fallout, especially considering exactly what our protagonists were involved in.

On a positive note, though, My Best Everything wasn’t at all the love story I was anticipating. It went much deeper than that. This book–which needs a better title, by the way–gave me a story that did touch on first loves, but it also delved into things like self-control, looking to the future, escaping one’s past, and making hard–and sometimes dangerous–choices to achieve one’s goals.

All Lulu can think about is getting out of her small town. She doesn’t want to be one of those girls who stays in Dale, Virginia, and never leaves. Lulu’s plans to go to college in San Diego, however, have just hit a major snag. Her father, a traveling businessman, has just lost all of Lulu’s college money. It looks like Lulu may have to stay in Dale after all.

Or will she? When a moonshine still is sent to the junkyard where Lulu works, Lulu and her friends cook up an insane–and totally illegal–money-making scheme. What if they make and sell moonshine this summer? How hard could it be?

Well, as it turns out, there’s more to making moonshine than Lulu, Roni, and Bucky thought, so they turn to Mason, a troubled young man whose family has a long history as shiners in Dale. Lulu is intrigued by Mason, his past, and his vast knowledge of moonshine, but she’s also drawn to the man he’s trying so desperately to become.

Even as she and her friends are getting more caught up in making moonshine, Lulu worries that her great plan could ultimately be Mason’s downfall. Can he, with all of his personal demons, handle what they’re doing? Can Lulu? And can their fledgling relationship survive all of the pressures to come? Lulu is still focused on leaving Dale forever, but what will that mean for Mason? Is she ready to say good-bye to this young man who has quickly become so important to her?

This summer, changes are on the way for Lulu, Mason, and their friends. Nothing will end up quite like they expect, and their moonshining venture will impact everything they thought about themselves and their plans for the future.

Will Lulu make it to San Diego? Will she stay with Mason? What will become of their business as moonshiners? Can a small group of kids really make something like this work? Or will all of their efforts blow up in their faces? Read My Best Everything by Sarah Tomp to find out.

_______________

Maybe I’m alone in my sheltered little world, but I find the very thought of successful teenage moonshiners to be something of a stretch. In this book, though, the characters not only became moonshiners, but they also became pretty good at it. Yes, sometimes things didn’t go according to plan, and things didn’t quite end up like they’d hoped, but they really made a go of it. It was impressive…and disturbing.

Also, aside from the impact on the characters’ personal lives and relationships with others, there weren’t really any consequences for their highly illegal activities. I think that’s what bothered me the most about this book. The authorities weren’t even a real presence in the book, and some of the characters didn’t acknowledge being found out as a legitimate threat. I guess the rule-follower in me expected some sort of punishment for their actions, and, even though I would have likely rooted for the characters to escape the long arm of the law, I did want that arm to be present. Quite the conundrum.

I did like the way My Best Everything was written. Almost from the beginning, we know that the book is essentially a letter to Mason. But what kind of letter? Is Lulu telling him goodbye? Is she writing him a love letter? Is she simply trying to explain why things happened as they did? The reader never really knows, and that’s part of what I enjoyed about this book. Lulu lets us know that things didn’t happen the way she wanted them to, and, even at the end, we still don’t know what the future ultimately holds for her and Mason. It’s up to the reader to fill in those blanks.

For those who are considering purchasing this book for their libraries, I would urge some caution. My Best Everything is not a book I’d recommend to middle grade readers. In fact, I doubt I’d give this book to anyone under age sixteen. There are some complicated, adult situations–and loads of illegal activities–so this is definitely a book for older, more mature teen readers. Do with that what you will.

If you’re interested in learning more about My Best Everything and author Sarah Tomp, check out the author’s website, Twitter, and Goodreads. Enjoy!

Illusions of Fate

Last night, I finished reading yet another excellent story by Kiersten White. After reading her other works (the Paranormalcy trilogy, The Chaos of Stars, Mind Games, Perfect Lies, and In the Shadows), I was expecting a great book, and I’m thrilled to say that I got one in Illusions of Fate. The wonderful Ms. White did not disappoint.

In her latest novel, Kiersten White weaves an intricate tale of magic, suspicion, and intrigue. Illusions of Fate is something of an historical fantasy and reminds me a bit of Cassie Clare’s Infernal Devices trilogy (a mark in the book’s favor). In this stand-alone novel, however, the world seems to be entirely fictional. It bears some resemblance to Victorian England, but White’s nation of Albion has it’s own societal constructs, political maneuvering, and disregard–and even rebellion against–the status quo. That’s where our main character, Jessamin, comes in…

Jessamin is perfectly aware that she doesn’t fit in with the majority of people in drab, colorless Albion. In fact, she wouldn’t even be there if not for persuading her father to see to her education. And if Jessamin were still on her island home of Melei, she probably wouldn’t find herself in the midst of a power struggle like none she ever realized could exist. Then again, fate may have had plans for Jessamin all along…

Jessamin couldn’t know that her life is going to change forever when she decides to walk through an unfamiliar alley. That decision leads her to a young man named Finn, a noble with strange abilities who can’t seem to help his fascination with Jessamin. Both parties do their best to ignore the other, but fate, circumstances–and observant foes–continue to throw the two together. Soon enough, it becomes clear that Finn’s enthrallment with and connection to Jessamin have made her a target of perhaps the most dangerous man in all of Albion.

The nefarious Lord Downpike, also Albion’s Minister of Defense, wants something from Finn, and he sees Jessamin as his way to get what he wants. And what is it that Downpike desires? Control of all magical lines and limitless power. Only Finn stands in his way. Or so he thinks.

It seems that Jessamin isn’t as easily swayed as most of the young women of Lord Downpike’s acquaintance. She doesn’t take being tortured or threatened lightly, and she is determined to stand up to the evil bearing down on those she cares for. She won’t run away and hide as Finn suggests. She won’t allow Finn–a young man who is coming to mean more to her than anyone else–to fight this battle alone. No, she doesn’t have the magical abilities of Finn or Lord Downpike, but she does have her wits…and a smart woman can certainly be the downfall of an overconfident man. But how?

What will Jessamin have to do to outwit the evil Lord Downpike? What sacrifices will she have to make to prevent this vile man from taking away everything she loves? What secrets will Jessamin uncover along the way?

Will fate decide the path of Jessamin’s life, or will she be the mistress of her own destiny? Answer these questions and many more when you read Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White.

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I hope I’ve hit the highlights of this wonderful book, but I’m sure I’ve left out quite a bit. (Actually, as I’m typing this, I realize that I didn’t even mention the birds and what they meant to the plot. Kind of a big deal. Oh well.) There’s a lot going on in this book, so I can’t possibly address all of it in a single blog post. I wouldn’t want to anyway. That would ruin things, wouldn’t it? Suffice it to say, Illusions of Fate is a magical story that kept me enraptured from the very beginning, and I hope you will feel the same.

If you’re looking for one more book featuring a kick-butt female character, I urge you to add Illusions of Fate to your list. Jessamin experienced some true horrors at the hands of a powerful man, but she didn’t cower like some shrinking violet…even though that would have been infinitely easier. No, she stood up for herself and those she loved. She used her brain to outsmart those who would oppress, torture, or kill her. She remained true to herself, even when it meant defying those who sought to protect her. Did it all work out in the end? Well, I won’t tell you that, but I will say that Jessamin is a character to be admired, and I hope many teen (and adult) readers follow her example of doing what she must to halt the spread of evil.

For those who want to learn more about Illusions of Fate and other books by the fabulous Kiersten White, I encourage you to visit the author’s website and Twitter feed. As for me, I’ll just sit here and eagerly await Kiersten White’s next book.*

*Not really. I’ve got loads more books to read in the meantime, but I guarantee I’ll be on the lookout for the next great book from this outstanding YA author.*

Published in: on February 16, 2015 at 3:19 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

My school’s faculty book club decided to read the works of Kate DiCamillo this month. Even though I’d already read Flora & Ulysses, I wanted to read a few more of DiCamillo’s books for our meeting (which is tomorrow afternoon). Well, I only got around to reading one more, but it’s one that had been near the top of my to-read list for a while. That book is The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. My third grade students have been reading this book in class for the past couple of years, so I figured it was a good pick–both for my book club and to discuss with my students.

Edward Tulane, a china rabbit with a posh life and a rather inflated view of himself, loves no one. He is adored, and that is enough for him. Edward, though, is about to take a somewhat unexpected adventure that will change everything. While traveling at sea with his owner, a sweet girl named Abilene, Edward is tossed overboard, and his real journey begins…

This once-pristine rabbit travels from the bottom of the ocean to a stinky garbage heap. From the backpack of a hobo to serving as a scarecrow in a field. From the loving arms of a sick little girl to dancing on the streets for pocket change. Through all of these circumstances–some good, some bad–Edward finally begins to understand what it truly means to love.

When Edward opens his heart to the joy, hope, and even pain of loving others, he may one day, miraculously find his way home.

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When I first began reading this book, I didn’t expect a tale about a narcissistic toy rabbit to make me cry. How wrong I was. By the book’s conclusion, I was both mourning all of Edward’s losses and wishing for him to find a loving home. The ending of this unexpectedly emotional story had me at once jumping for joy and reaching for the tissues. I love it when that happens.

I can totally see why The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane is such a hit with my students. I just wish I’d read it sooner. I look forward to discussing this beautiful story with my book club tomorrow!

Published in: on February 11, 2015 at 3:45 pm  Leave a Comment  
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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!

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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.

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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  
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