Bitter of Tongue

I’ll dispense with the pleasantries. At this point, if you haven’t read all of the Shadowhuntery goodness by Cassandra Clare, stop whatever you’re doing and correct that situation. (Also, I’m silently judging you from the comfort of my desk chair.)

Now, let’s move on to the seventh installment in Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy, Bitter of Tongue

In Bitter of Tongue, we continue to follow Simon Lewis, former vampire, through his second year at the Shadowhunter Academy. Things seem to be going well for Simon. He’s stronger and happier than he can remember being. (Given the state of his memory, I’m not sure how much that says.) His relationship with Isabelle Lightwood is starting anew, and he’s coming to terms with his future as a Shadowhunter.

Or so he thinks…

While on a mission to capture a faerie, Simon unwittingly finds himself thrown into the faerie realm. He is imprisoned, and his only hope of escape comes in the form of Mark Blackthorn, former Shadowhunter and current member of the Wild Hunt.

Even though the Clave (the Shadowhunter “government”) has essentially turned its back on Mark because of his faerie blood, he decides to help Simon escape…but not without first sharing a bit of his pain and misery over being separated from his family.

Simon takes in everything Mark says, and he vows to do something about it. He’ll not only keep an eye on Mark’s family, but Simon will also work to change how Shadowhunters view themselves and others. He won’t simply accept that the Shadowhunters are all-powerful or superior to mundanes and Downworlders. Not anymore.

Simon is reawakening to the truth of his new life, and he may have some powerful allies on his side. Will they be able to make a difference? Time will tell…

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When I first started reading Bitter of Tongue, Simon really bothered me. He wasn’t his usual snarky, sarcastic self, and I didn’t like the change. Luckily for me (but maybe not for him), that didn’t last long. I guess being captured by faeries will do that to you. By the end of this story, Simon was back to seeing Shadowhunters as they are instead of how they should be. The rose-colored glasses were off once more, and Simon realized that battling prejudice remained a huge problem with Shadowhunters.

I’m sure I’m not alone in this, but I loved seeing more of Mark Blackthorn in this story, even though what I saw was heartbreaking. Seeing the Blackthorn siblings through Mark’s eyes brought tears to my own and made me even more eager to read Lady Midnight, the first book in the highly-anticipated Dark Artifices trilogy (due out on March 8th, 2016).

Before we get to Lady Midnight, though, we still have three more installments in Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy. Story #8, The Fiery Trial (released on September 15th), involves the parabatai ceremony of Emma Carstairs and Julian Blackthorn. Story #9, Born to Endless Night (out on October 20th), features my favorite warlock and yours, Magnus Bane! The tenth and final story, Angels Twice Descending (expected on November 17th), is the tale of Simon’s Ascension and should be quite the nail-biter. I can hardly wait!

If you, like me, love the world of Shadowhunters and want to learn more, you may want to check out Shadowhunters.com and the ABC Family site for the upcoming Shadowhunters TV show. Exciting stuff!

Published in: on August 20, 2015 at 2:51 pm  Comments (1)  
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Trouble Is a Friend of Mine

Given that school starts this week and I still have 795, 463 things to do, I’ll endeavor to keep this post short. Here goes…

If you or any teen readers you know like Sherlock, then you definitely need to give Trouble Is a Friend of Mine by Stephanie Tromly a try. If Sherlock Holmes were a 16-year-old American boy, he would be Digby…and awesome. In this highly entertaining book, Zoe (a teen girl version of Watson) encounters Digby after moving to a new area, and life as she knows it is about to get a lot more interesting.

Zoe Webster is just biding her time. All she really wants to do is transfer to the elite Prentiss Academy and get out of this new town, but she’s got to deal with her present circumstances first. A clueless mom, a new school, and no friends.

Well, the “no friends” thing may be easier to change than Zoe thinks. One day, a weird kid named Digby shows up at her door and basically informs Zoe that they’re going to be friends. Almost against Zoe’s will, Digby is right. Even when it leads her directly into the path of trouble, Zoe follows Digby into odd and often dangerous situations, but this strange and brilliant young man usually manages to talk their way out of nearly anything.

Digby and Zoe, along with a couple other colorful characters, manage to find themselves involved in a mystery that includes drugs, kidnapping, cults, attempted murder, and more mayhem than they ever could have expected. (Well, Digby may have expected some of it. Not much gets by him.) They’ll have to break every rule on the books–and some laws of common sense–in their attempt to uncover what’s really going on.

But why is Digby so invested in this stuff? And why does he insist on bringing Zoe along? Is Digby just a manic genius, or is something more going on? Read Trouble Is a Friend of Mine to find out.

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After reading Trouble Is a Friend of Mine, I must say that Digby is one of the most entertaining, charming characters I’ve encountered lately. He really keeps this book going simply because the reader never knows what he’s going to do or say next.

The parallels between Digby and Sherlock Holmes (as played by the delightful Benedict Cumberbatch) are unmistakable and wonderful. Digby has his own version of the Homeless Network, he bends the rules to get answers, he works with law enforcement (when it suits him), and he observes every little detail around him.

Zoe, for her part, is something of a stabilizing force for Digby, much like Dr. John Watson. Yes, she follows him into danger, but she also, in my opinion, keeps him grounded and lets him know that she’ll be his backup. Through the course of their friendship, both Zoe and Digby learn more about themselves, who they can really count on, and just how important their relationship is.

At various points, I think this story wanted to be a romance between Digby and Zoe. It didn’t quite happen, but I can see how it might if there were a sequel. (If there is one on the works, I haven’t heard about it yet.) Part of me wants Digby and Zoe to get together, but a bigger part wants them to be “just friends.” There are too many books out there that force a romantic relationship between two characters, and it would be nice to see a story–or series of stories–where male and female characters can keep things platonic. It would be refreshing, to say the least, and these two characters simply don’t need to hook up to continue being their hilarious, charming selves.

Trouble Is a Friend of Mine was released on August 4th, so it’s available wherever books are sold. I highly recommend it to any library serving teens (or older readers) who love Sherlock.

If you’d like more information on this excellent book, you can connect with author Stephanie Tromly on Twitter. As far as I can tell, Trouble Is a Friend of Mine is her first book. I sincerely hope this is only the beginning.

Published in: on August 16, 2015 at 3:47 pm  Leave a Comment  
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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?

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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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Pale Kings and Princes

Notice: If you haven’t already read the collected works of Cassandra Clare, especially the entire Mortal Instruments series and the first five stories in the Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy collection, you’ve got some work to do. Today’s post, a quick look at Pale Kings and Princes, the sixth story in the Shadowhunter Academy series, builds on what’s happened in past books…and gives a peek at what we may see in Lady Midnight.

It should come as no surprise to regular followers of this blog that I’ve already read Pale Kings and Princes (which came out today). I am slightly obsessed with Cassie Clare’s work, and I tend to devour everything she cares to publish. This latest Shadowhunter Academy story is no exception. Given that it relates directly to what will likely happen in Lady Midnight, the next full-length Shadowhunter novel, I am especially intrigued.

Now, if you’ve read the synopsis of this story on Goodreads or even Amazon, I have a bit of advice for you. Ignore it. Just about the only thing it got right is that we learn more about Andrew Blackthorn, his time with the faeries, and the birth of his children, Mark and Helen. Luckily for you, I’m here to get things right. Let’s jump in…

After a rather uncomfortable summer at home in Brooklyn, Simon Lewis is back for his second year at Shadowhunter Academy. Here, he doesn’t have to pretend to be “normal,” to put on a show for those who have no idea what kind of school he’s really attending. There’s freedom in not having to hide, a freedom that not all in the Shadowhunter world share, unfortunately…

In one of his first lessons back at the Academy, Simon and his fellow students meet Helen Blackthorn. Apparently, she’s been “asked” by the Clave to teach the Academy students about the perils of tangling with faeries.

Helen relates the story of how her father and his brother were ensnared by the Seelie Court and how she and her brother, half-fae, came into the world. Her tale is not a happy one, and Simon comes to understand that this is not something Helen wishes to talk about. The Clave is forcing it on her. Why? Well, part of it is to punish Helen for her faerie blood (which is not something she can help), and a bigger part is propaganda in the Clave’s increasing tensions with the faeries (many of whom took Sebastian’s side in the Dark War).

Simon is horrified on Helen’s behalf, and he’s outraged that the Clave would punish an entire race of Downworlders because of the actions of a few. Simon quickly learns, though, that he’s one of the few who feels this way.

In addition to what he’s discovering about Shadowhunter/faerie politics, Simon is also dealing with his own personal turmoil. He’s making a right mess of his relationship with Isabelle, and he’s sure that one wrong move will tear them apart once again. Fortunately for Simon, Isabelle isn’t one who gives up easily…

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After reading Pale Kings and Princes, I am even more eager for Lady Midnight, particularly when I consider what was revealed at the end of this story. (I’m not going to give anything away, but I will say that it could play a big part in all the faerie drama to come.) Sadly, Lady Midnight won’t be out until March 8th, so I’ve still got quite the wait ahead of me. At least I have the Shadowhunter Academy to keep me occupied.

I’m rather enjoying the unique perspective Simon brings to the world of Shadowhunters. He’s been a Downworlder, so there’s that to consider…but he’s also just a regular kid from Brooklyn. Simon makes connections to the world and historical events–especially treatment of Jews in World War II–that other Shadowhunters may not consider. He draws parallels between the Holocaust and current treatment of faeries that are rather disturbing, and he tries to help those around him see that the Clave is on a dangerous path. Will anyone listen to him? Well, I can’t really answer that, but I think you’ll agree that he makes some valid points.

When you add up the origin story of Mark and Helen Blackthorn, Simon’s outrage over their treatment, and, yes, the continuing drama of the Simon/Isabelle relationship, Pale Kings and Princes delivers yet another winner in Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy. I, for one, am ready for the next installment.

Speaking of the next installment, it is titled Bitter of Tongue and will be released on August 18th. According to Goodreads (which may or may not be accurate), Simon will encounter Mark Blackthorn and the Wild Hunt in this story. I really hope that’s true.

Published in: on July 21, 2015 at 4:59 pm  Comments (2)  
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The Beginning of Everything

Happy Independence Day to all of my American friends out there–and happy Saturday to everyone else. As fireworks are blasting all around me, I figured now was a good time to bring you my latest read. I’m not a huge fan of loud noises, so this is helping me to focus on something other than the idea that my neighbors have spent what seems like thousands of dollars in pyrotechnics. Thanks for that.

Yesterday, I finished reading The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider. This book, which is nominated for the 15-16 South Carolina Young Adult Book Award, is sure to be a hit with readers who love John Green, Gayle Forman, Jennifer E. Smith, and other wonderful authors of contemporary YA fiction.

“Sometimes I think that everyone has a tragedy waiting for them…That everyone’s life, no matter how unremarkable, has a moment when it will become extraordinary–a single encounter after which everything that really matters will happen.”

Ezra Faulkner was once the envy of nearly everyone around him. He had the beautiful girlfriend, he was a tennis star, and he was one of the most popular guys in the junior class. All of that changed, though, on one fateful night. One night–and one tragic car accident–that shattered his leg, his tennis career, and everything he thought he knew about himself.

After a grueling summer of surgeries, rehab, and physical therapy, Ezra is returning to school for his senior year. He knows that this year will be different, but he’s not quite prepared for just how different. He’s no longer the school’s golden boy. His former girlfriend has moved on–to the new captain of the tennis team. Some of his supposed friends act like nothing has changed, but Ezra knows that they can’t simply go back to the way things once were. Too much has happened in the past few months.

Now, Ezra is trading the tennis team for the debate team. It is here that he reconnects with Tobey, one of his best childhood friends, and he also meets a few new friends who are much more interesting than his former self would have believed. Ezra also meets Cassidy Thorpe, the enigmatic new girl who sparks his interest and forces him to think about the new direction his life has taken.

Ezra is completely taken in by Cassidy. He feels more for her than he ever did for his former girlfriend, he enjoys being with her, and he appreciates that she makes him think. But Ezra knows that Cassidy is holding something back. She won’t talk about why she’s transferred to his school or no longer competes in debate. She never invites Ezra to her house or introduces him to her family. Why? What exactly is this mysterious girl hiding? Why is she doing her best to drive Ezra away when he thought they were closer than ever?

When Ezra finally realizes what Cassidy has been hiding, the air is knocked out of him. The truth is almost too much for him–and Cassidy–to handle, and this new tragedy, much like the car accident that altered the course of his life, has the power to change everything.

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While I found The Beginning of Everything to be a tad predictable, I did enjoy it. I loved the character of Tobey, who I imagined as kind of a teenage version of Matt Smith’s 11th Doctor. I also liked how Ezra’s character developed throughout the book. Sure, there were times when I wanted to smack him for being wishy-washy, but he did come to realize that he had more to him than tennis and superficial popularity.

I’m hoping that readers will do further research on the the literary and philosophical allusions in this book. There were many references to the PanopticonThe Great Gatsby, Foucault, and other works and ideas that make The Beginning of Everything a much richer read because of their presence.

If I have one big complaint about this book, it was the way it concluded. I wasn’t crazy about the abrupt ending. It almost felt like there were a couple of chapters missing. I went from reading about Christmas of Ezra’s senior year to his first year of college in a matter of minutes. It was a little jarring. I get that the major events of the book had already happened, but a little more stuff would have given me a greater sense of closure that what I ended up with.

If you think The Beginning of Everything sounds like your kind of book, you can learn more on the author’s website. You can also connect with author Robyn Schneider on Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, and YouTube.

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?

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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…

_______________

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!

Infinityglass

Caution: Read both Hourglass and Timepiece before proceeding. This post focuses on Infinityglass, the third and final book in Myra McEntire’s Hourglass series, and I promise there will be spoilers for those who are not caught up…and maybe some for those who are.

So…I finally made the time to finish the fantastic Hourglass trilogy this week, and this final book totally delivered. Infinityglass continues the intriguing story introduced in the first book, but it keeps things fresh with two all new narrators. In this book, readers see events through the eyes of Dune, a vital part of the Hourglass organization with his own tragic past, and Hallie, a sheltered girl with the potential to change everything.

The Hourglass, an organization made up of people with time-related abilities, is working tirelessly to find a way to repair the damage done to the space-time continuum. The ripples in time are getting worse, and they’re starting to take over the present. But there may be something out there that can help–the mysterious Infinityglass. This object could fix everything, but the Hourglass must figure out what it is and find it before their enemies do. There’s just one huge issue…

The Infinityglass is not a what. It’s a who.

More specifically, the Infinityglass is Hallie, a girl living in virtual isolation in New Orleans. Her only escapes come through dance and in the missions she takes on for Chronos, the secretive organization founded by her parents and the more nefarious counterpart of the Hourglass.

Hallie has always possessed the ability to manipulate her cells–transmutation, regeneration, etc.–but lately, things are becoming more intense. Her energy levels are off the charts, she no longer needs to eat or sleep, and she’s being pulled into the increasingly common rips in time. Her only real help in determining what’s going on comes from Dune, an Hourglass member posing as her new bodyguard.

Dune has been studying the Infinityglass for years, but he never imagined that he would find it in a person, especially a girl so magnetic that he can’t stay away from her. Almost from their first meeting, Dune and Hallie connect, and they each reveal things about themselves that they’ve never shared with another person. They work together to combat the danger facing them, and Dune provides Hallie with more love and support than she’s ever encountered in her young life. And Hallie’s going to need that support when she learns the horrifying truth about herself, her abilities, and what may need to happen to fix the very fabric of time…

Dune, Hallie, and the other members of the Hourglass are quickly approaching a showdown with those who started this mess, and none of them are truly prepared for what will be revealed…or who is really pulling the strings. But can these young people, all of whom have very special abilities, work together to defeat the evil among them and repair the damage done to time itself? What will Hallie, the Infinityglass, have to do–or sacrifice–to heal time? Do she and Dune have any hope of a future together when the past and present are trying so hard to tear them apart?

Time will tell…

_______________

I must say that Infinityglass is a very satisfying, if somewhat confusing, end to this wonderful trilogy. I didn’t always fully grasp what was happening with the ripples in time, but that’s okay. Confusion is often a given when you’re dealing with time, and this entire series made me feel like I was watching an episode or two of Doctor Who (arguably the greatest show in all of time and space). Both the Hourglass trilogy and the good Doctor make me think, and that’s never a bad thing.

The relationship between Dune and Hallie was probably the highlight of this book. Dune was a good guy, a self-professed geek who worked to overcome his own issues with his abilities, and he was a perfect match for Hallie, a sheltered girl who took every chance she had to escape her suffocating existence. Eventually, Hallie came to realize that no matter how scandalous she acted or what she said, Dune would always be there for her. That gave her a freedom to be her true self that she never had before. Similarly, Dune was able to let down his guard and reveal his deepest secrets and fears to Hallie. In a complicated quest for truth, Dune and Hallie found each other and a connection that transcended all of the chaos around them.

(For those wondering if Dune and Hallie had “sexy times,” yes, they did. There wasn’t anything explicit or gratuitous in the book, but it was apparent that they had a sexual relationship. The same could be said for the couples in both Hourglass and Timepiece as well. Those who are recommending these books to middle grade readers may want to take that into consideration.)

To wrap things up with the Hourglass series, I just have to say that if you’re looking for a series that combines romance, teen angst, unexpected humor, and all of the “wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey” goodness of Doctor Who, then this is the trilogy for you. I hope you enjoy seeing how Michael and Emerson, Kaleb and Lily, and Dune and Hallie work to build their relationships while dealing with their abilities and what they mean for the circumstances at hand. It’s a pretty wild ride, but it’s one that I think you’ll like. I know I did.

For more information on Infinityglass, the other Hourglass novels, and Myra McEntire, check out the author’s websiteGoodreads, and Twitter. Have fun!

Published in: on June 19, 2015 at 9:56 pm  Leave a Comment  
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