The Wizard Returns

Warning! Read Dorothy Must Die, No Place Like Oz, and The Witch Must Burn before continuing with this post. The Wizard Returns is the third prequel novella in the Dorothy Must Die series, and I’d hate to ruin this magical journey for you!

So, it’s the first day of my Spring Break, and I kicked things off by finishing The Wizard Returns this morning. (I would have posted on the novella sooner, but I decided to take two naps today. Priorities, people.) This prequel is the perfect lead-in to the second full-length novel, The Wicked Will Rise, which comes out on Tuesday.

In No Place Like Oz, we learn how Dorothy made her way back to Oz and rose to power. In The Witch Must Burn, we see the new power struggle through the eyes of Jellia Jamb, and we learn more about Glinda’s thirst for control. Now, in The Wizard Returns, we’re (obviously) off to see the Wizard.

Everyone thought the Wizard headed back to Kansas when his hot air balloon left the Emerald City. Everyone was wrong.

It is only as his balloon was leaving Oz behind that the Wizard realizes he doesn’t really want to leave. Well, it seems there are powers at work that also want him to remain in Oz, and, mysteriously, the Wizard never quite makes it back to the Other Place. Instead, he crash lands in a field of poppies…

Fast forward twenty-five years, and the Wizard wakes up…with no memory of who he is, what he’s done, or how much time has passed. He’s met by a curious figure named Pete. This boy gives the Wizard (who doesn’t know he’s a wizard) the name of Hex and takes steps to ensure that no one will recognize him. Why? Has Hex done things so horrible that being recognized would put him in danger? (In a word–yes.)

Pete informs Hex that he’ll have to pass three tests–tests of Wisdom, Courage, and Love–to have his memories restored, but Hex isn’t sure if all this trouble is really worth it. If he was such a horrible guy, does he really want to remember everything? Maybe it’s better to have a fresh start.

Unfortunately, those who were victimized by Hex’s actions don’t have the luxury of forgetting, so Pete guides Hex through the tests that will determine his fate. Hex must prove that he is willing to put the good of Oz over his own interests, but that proves easier said that done.

Something in Hex wants the power he knows he once had. He hungers for the magic that flows through Oz. Have these trials revealed and repaired the weaknesses in the Wizard’s character, or have they made him more convinced of his own superiority than ever before?

Will the Wizard do his part to restore Oz to its pre-Dorothy glory, or will he be this magical land’s ultimate doom?

_______________

In Dorothy Must Die and the previous novellas, I was unsure about the Wizard’s motives in everything that was going on. After reading The Wizard Returns, I’m even more unsure. Sometimes, he really seemed sincere, repentant, and more concerned with others’ well-being than with his own. At other times, he was clearly looking out for his own interests. I just don’t know where that leaves us going into The Wicked Will Rise. Hopefully, things will become clear as I read that book.

One thing I will say about the Wizard is that his behavior toward the monkeys was thoroughly despicable. *Spoilers* When I learned how he essentially sold them into slavery to the Wicked Witch of the West, I was horrified. He seemed to feel the same way when he got snippets of his memory back, but I don’t know if that was enough to change his behavior. He still seemed to have a bit of a superiority complex, and I predict that will get him into trouble.

So, what’s going to happen to the Wizard when things come to a head with Dorothy, Amy, and the Witches of Oz? I don’t know, but I look forward to seeing how this intense power struggle plays out. Only a few more days until this wonderful series gives us some answers!

If you’d like more information about The Wizard Returns and the other Dorothy Must Die stories, visit author Danielle Paige on Goodreads, Twitter, or Facebook. Enjoy!

Published in: on March 28, 2015 at 9:09 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

The Witch Must Burn

If you haven’t read Dorothy Must Die or the first prequel novella, No Place Like Oz, I urge you to do so before reading prequel novella #2, The Witch Must Burn. That is all.

Welcome to my new obsession. I have quickly fallen in love with Danielle Paige’s Dorothy Must Die series, and that adoration only continues with The Witch Must Burn. It is absolutely fascinating to see the political maneuvering and machinations behind Dorothy’s rise to power upon her return to Oz. Yes, Dorothy is horrible, but she’s not the only one. In The Witch Must Burn, we get a closer look at Glinda, who seems to have forgotten that she’s supposed to be a “Good Witch.” The lines between Good and Wicked aren’t exactly clear anymore.

Jellia Jamb has lived in the royal palace of Emerald City as long as she can remember, and she’s worked her way up to the position of head maid. Jellia has seen lots of changes during her time at the palace, but the current state of things give her cause for great worry.

When Ozma, the land’s true leader, was in power, life was idyllic. Now that Dorothy’s in charge, however, things are different. Everyone walks on eggshells, people are punished–and often disappear–because of the smallest infractions, the Scarecrow is conducting strange experiments, and much of the magic has gone out of Oz.

Jellia, who has her own magical abilities, does what she can to ease the way for herself and the other maids, but a mighty force soon realizes that Jellia’s gifts may be more powerful that even she realizes. Glinda sees something in Jellia, something she can possibly use to mine the magic deep within Oz’s core.

Glinda borrows Jellia from Dorothy and spirits her away to her own estate for the summer…a summer that will throw Jellia into a situation more dangerous than she ever could have foreseen. She’ll learn that Glinda is the real force behind Dorothy’s rise to power, and she’s working to gain more magic and control than ever before. Jellia will also discover that a revolution is in the works…a revolution that is trying to restore Oz to its former glory.

Jellia is now in a position to help those who seek to put an end to Glinda’s–and Dorothy’s–reign of terror. Is she willing to trust these people–the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked–who know more about Jellia than she does herself? Will she put her fate and that of Oz in their hands? And what may she learn about herself and her own abilities in the process?

Join Jellia, a seemingly simple maid, as she navigates the power struggles in Oz. What can she do to turn the tide? Read The Witch Must Burn to find out!

_______________

I’m so glad this novella is told from Jellia’s perspective. We see this character in Dorothy Must Die, and, by the end of that novel, we know that she plays a much bigger role than originally thought. It’s wonderful to see how that role developed. Given what happened at the end of Dorothy Must Die, though, I wonder how much intel Jellia was able to gather and how that will help Amy Gumm and the Order overthrow Dorothy, Glinda, and their associates. That’s something to ponder before the second novel, The Wicked Will Rise, comes out on March 31st.

Before we get to The Wicked Will Rise, there’s still one more prequel novella to dive into. The Wizard Returns is next on my to-read list, and I will begin reading it as soon as I finish a couple other reads-in-progress. The Wizard has made appearances in the other Dorothy Must Die stories, but his loyalties and motives have been a little suspicious. I’m hopefull that The Wizard Returns will clear things up a bit. We’ll just have to see.

For more information about The Witch Must Burn and the other Dorothy Must Die stories, visit author Danielle Paige on Goodreads, Twitter, or Facebook.

 

Published in: on March 22, 2015 at 1:47 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

No Place Like Oz

Warning! Even though this post is on a prequel to Dorothy Must Die, I strongly urge you to read that book before proceeding with this post or with No Place Like Oz. And if you have a special fondness for Dorothy Gale from The Wizard of Oz…well, that’s about to change.

For those of you still with me, you’ve probably guessed that I’ve become slightly obsessed with Danielle Paige’s Dorothy Must Die series. The first book simply took my breath away, and I just had to dive in when I learned there were several prequels detailing events leading up to Amy Gumm’s journey to and through Oz. Last night, I finished the first of those prequel novellas, No Place Like Oz, and it was everything I could have possibly hoped for.

In No Place Like Oz, we see almost sixteen-year-old Dorothy in Kansas. Her adventurous trek through Oz is over, and she’s back to her humdrum life on the farm.

When Dorothy was in Oz, all she wanted was to get back home. Now that she’s actually home, though, Dorothy dreams of going back to Oz. In Oz, she was important. In Oz, she was the hero and had some very close friends. In Kansas, she’s the girl with the crazy stories. In Kansas, she’s poor, has no friends, and is always left wanting. Why wouldn’t she want to go back to Oz?

Well, it seems that someone out there wants the same thing for Dorothy. On her sixteenth birthday, Dorothy receives a pair of shoes. Now, these are not just any shoes. (They’re never “just shoes” when it come to Oz.) These towering red heels were supposedly sent to Dorothy from Glinda, and they fill Dorothy with a feeling of magic–of power–the minute she puts them on. The shoes are so powerful, in fact, that Dorothy is able to use them to take her–and Toto, Aunt Em, and Uncle Henry–straight to Oz.

Dorothy is thrilled to be back in Oz, but Aunt Em and Uncle Henry don’t find the place as wonderful as Dorothy does. They only want to go back to Kansas, but Dorothy honestly has no intention of returning to that boring, dreary life. She plans to stay exactly where she is, and she’s willing to do just about anything–including using the mysterious power and magic of her new shoes–to make that happen.

As Dorothy becomes more obsessed with staying in Oz, her true nature (?) becomes apparent. She’s tired of always wanting. Shouldn’t she get something out of saving Oz? Shouldn’t she be revered and given anything she wants? Of course, she should! And with her special red shoes, anything she wants is possible…even taking over Oz herself.

But what price will Dorothy pay in her quest for fame and power? Is she that willing to do anything (and I do mean anything) just to feel special? Why was she given her magical shoes in the first place, and is there more at work in Oz than even Dorothy knows?

Learn how a seemingly innocent farm girl from Kansas is transformed into a megalomaniac bent on showing everyone just how special she truly is when you read No Place Like Oz by Danielle Paige!

_______________

When I was reading Dorothy Must Die several days ago, I wondered how Dorothy left Kansas once again and came to rule over Oz. Well, this novella went a long way in answering my questions. It showed how Dorothy progressed from innocent (but still kind of annoying) farm girl to the power-hungry monster she grew to be. I was captivated from start to finish, and I’m hoping the other prequel novellas–two of which are already out–continue to clarify how the current state of things in Oz came to be.

The next two novellas, The Witch Must Burn and The Wizard Returns, are pretty high up on my to-read list, and I’ll tackle those as soon as I can…hopefully before the next book is released. The Wicked Will Rise, the second full-length novel in the series comes out on March 31st, which is the second day of my Spring Break. Woohoo! A fourth prequel novella, Heart of Tin, will be out on July 28th.

If you’re interested in learning more about this wonderful series, visit author Danielle Paige on Goodreads, Twitter, or Facebook.

Published in: on March 17, 2015 at 11:42 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

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!

_______________

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!

Dorothy Must Die

I grew up loving The Wizard of Oz. I watched the movie almost incessantly, and I read the book as soon as I was old enough to understand most of the words. As I got older, though, I was less intrigued with Dorothy’s journey and more interested in the Wicked Witch. (Dorothy seemed like kind of a goody-two-shoes to me. Boring.) That interest only intensified the first time I saw Wicked (which remains my absolute favorite musical).

It shouldn’t surprise anyone, then, that I thoroughly enjoyed reading Danielle Paige’s Dorothy Must Die, a book that delves into what happened after the Wicked Witch was gone and Dorothy returned to Kansas. It seems that Dorothy didn’t stay in Kansas very long, and she didn’t exactly remain the good girl that everyone remembers…

Amy Gumm’s life in Kansas is less than stellar. She’s something of an outcast at school. She gets in trouble for fighting with a pregnant girl (who totally started the fight in the first place). Her relationship with her mother is strained to say the least. She’d dearly love to escape her many worries. Well, Amy should probably be careful what she wishes for…

When a tornado rips through town, it takes Amy and her home with it. And where does Amy land? Oz, of course. (Where else would a girl from Kansas caught up in a tornado land?!) But this is not the Oz Amy remembers from film and books. No, this Oz is terrifying, bleak, and seemingly devoid of the magic that should be all around. What happened here?

Well, as it turns out, Dorothy happened here. After her time in Oz, life in Kansas just couldn’t compare, so she found her way back…and proceeded to completely take over. Now, the monkeys, Munchkins, and other creatures are essentially enslaved. They do Dorothy’s bidding or they find themselves in for a world of hurt. That “hurt” comes from the Scarecrow (who performs horrifying experiments on those who anger Dorothy), the Tin Woodsman (who has knives for fingers and leads an army of tin soldiers), and the Lion (who has left cowardly behind and delights on feeding off of others’ fear). And let’s not forget Glinda, the “Good” Witch, who is now Dorothy’s adviser and oversees many of the twit’s projects. So, yeah, it’s not a great time to be in Oz.

So what is Amy to do in this frightening, unfamiliar Oz? How can she get back home? She doesn’t exactly have the warm-ish welcome that Dorothy enjoyed all those years ago. All she knows is what she remembers from the book and movie based on this place, and there’s no resemblance to that now. Even the yellow brick road is crumbling.

Amy does the only thing she can think of. She starts toward the Emerald City…but that may not be the smartest thing to do these days. Amy encounters many dangers–and a couple of potential friends–along the way, and she finds herself in the clutches of Dorothy herself (who turns out to be the most evil, sadistic you-know-what imaginable).

Luckily (depending on one’s point of view), Amy eventually receives help from a rather interesting source. The Revolutionary Order of the Wicked. This group of Wicked Witches rescues Amy from certain death at the hand of Dorothy and the Scarecrow, but the witches’ help is not without its price. They want Amy’s assistance with something. Something that only Amy, a girl from Kansas, can do.

They want her to kill Dorothy.

Even though Amy has seen Dorothy’s cruelty first-hand, she doesn’t quite know how she feels about killing her. (The lines between Good and Wicked are becoming blurrier by the second.) Even so, she trains with the Order and discovers she’s got a bit of magic of her own. Amy’s new-found skills and powers give her confidence, something she’s never really had before. She’s strong, and she knows she can put an end to Dorothy’s reign of terror…but will she?

Amy’s resolve is soon put to the test, and, as she learns more and more about what’s really going on in Oz, the more determined she becomes to see this thing through. But will things be as straightforward as she’s been led to believe? Who can she depend on to have her back when things go sour? And is she really getting the whole story from the Order, or is more going on in Oz than even they know?

Read Dorothy Must Die, the first book in a thrilling series by Danielle Paige, to see just what Amy encounters when she goes “over the rainbow.” No happy little bluebirds here, folks.

_______________

If it wasn’t already apparent, I adored this book. I can hardly wait to dive into the three prequel novellas that are already out (and waiting on my Kindle). If you’re curious, those are No Place Like Oz, The Witch Must Burn, and The Wizard Returns. The second full-length novel in this series, The Wicked Will Rise, comes out on March 31st, and a fourth prequel novella, Heart of Tin, will be out on July 28th. Lots to look forward to!

Dorothy Must Die is a perfect read for those who enjoy fractured fairy tales or readers who always wonder what happens after the story ends. This wonderful book tells us that it’s not always the happily ever after we envision…which is kind of cool.

I have to admit that this book has forever changed how I look at The Wizard of Oz. I don’t think I can ever view the Scarecrow as the lovable dolt I’ve always known. No, both he and the Tin Man are now the stuff of nightmares. The Lion is in another category entirely. He is beyond nightmare status, and I really wish he’d stayed cowardly.

I don’t know yet where this series will lead or how it will further change my perception of Oz and its inhabitants, but I look forward to the journey!

If I still haven’t convinced you to give this book a try, check out the book trailer below. You may also want to connect with author Danielle Paige on Goodreads, Twitter, or Facebook.

Published in: on March 9, 2015 at 1:42 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , ,

Blood of My Blood

Warning: Before proceeding with this book, you MUST read I Hunt Killers and Game. Preferably during daylight hours. Or with every light in the house on. And maybe a baseball bat by your side. And a therapist on speed-dial.

Normally, I like to think a bit about a book before I post on it. That is not the case with Blood of My Blood, the third and final book in Barry Lyga’s Jasper Dent trilogy. No, I have to get my thoughts on this book out right now…and then watch a Disney movie or look at pictures of baby pandas before I try to go to sleep.

To say that Blood of My Blood is horrifying and upsetting is a gross understatement. That being said…it was a great book and completely lived up to its predecessors. It continues the story of Jasper Dent and his search for the truth about his father, one of the world’s most prolific serial killers, Billy Dent.

When last we left Jasper (also known as Jazz), his girlfriend Connie, and his best friend Howie, each of them were facing life-threatening situations. Jazz was seriously injured and trapped in a storage unit. Howie, a hemophiliac, was bleeding out on the floor of Jasper’s grandmother’s house. And Connie had just come face-to-face with her worst nightmare–Billy Dent himself. But that’s really just the beginning of the horrors to come.

Things are looking bleak for Jasper Dent. Yes, he’s helped the NYPD track down a team of serial killers, but at what cost? An FBI agent is dead, and fingers are starting to point at Jazz. His father, the infamous Billy Dent, is on the loose, and some are beginning to wonder if father and son are working together. Jazz can’t convince the police of his innocence–even when it is revealed that his girlfriend has narrowly escaped Billy’s clutches–so he does the only thing he can think of. He goes in search of Billy himself.

Jazz tries his best to disconnect from everything he’s ever loved in his hunt for Billy, but his past keeps creeping in. He thinks of his loyal best friend, Howie, and Connie is never far from his mind. Jazz also thinks about his mom, a woman who left when he was just a child but who may now be in Billy’s grasp once again. Can he protect all of these people, do what he feels needs to be done, and still hold on to his humanity? Is that even a possibility anymore? Or is Jazz really turning into his father’s son?

As Jazz gets closer and closer to Billy, pieces of his past are becoming clearer, and neither Jazz nor those around him may be prepared for what is eventually revealed. It seems that Billy is not the worst evil to be encountered. No, a malignant force called the Crow King is bearing down on Jazz and will change everything he’s ever believed about his father and himself.

How will it all end? I’ll leave that for you to find out…

_______________

After reading the first two books in this series (and thoroughly enjoying them), I knew I had to read Blood of My Blood. While I’m glad I finally found time to devote to this book, I have to say that I thought it was the most disturbing of the entire trilogy. At times, I really had to resist the urge to throw up. It wasn’t that the imagery was particularly graphic–although it was at times. No, what really got to me were Jazz’s traumatic memories. I won’t go into details here, but I will say that this kid never really had much of a chance. From Billy’s “teachings” to the other snippets of a horrible childhood, it’s a wonder Jazz didn’t turn into a raging psychopath.

I don’t know what more I can say about this trilogy as a whole. If you like psychological thrillers or enjoy shows like Criminal Minds, this might be the series for you. I warn some readers that the content can be upsetting. I doubt I’d recommend this book for middle grade readers or those who scare easily.

If you’d like to learn more about Blood of My Blood and the other books in this trilogy, check out author Barry Lyga’s website.

Now, I must watch a light-hearted Disney movie to get all these thoughts of murder and serial killers out of my head. (And now that I’m thinking about it, there aren’t many Disney films without crazed killers. Maybe I’ll just watch a few episodes of Friends on Netflix.)

Published in: on February 28, 2015 at 10:34 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , ,

I Was Here

It’s difficult to describe my feelings on Gayle Forman‘s latest book, I Was Here, but I’ll do my best. Don’t be surprised, though, if this post is a bit different from most others.

I Was Here deals with something that is hard to discuss. Suicide and those left to pick up the pieces. I won’t go into how suicide has touched my own life, but I will say that this book brought back all of the feelings of pain, grief, and guilt. No matter what anyone says, suicide doesn’t just impact the one contemplating or going through with it. It leaves total wreckage behind, and that’s what Cody, this book’s protagonist, is facing.

Cody and Meg were once as close as sisters, so how is it possible that Cody had no idea that her best friend was suicidal? Is there anything Cody could have done to stop Meg from carrying out the elaborate plan that would end her life? How can Cody go on without her other half, the friend who meant the world to her? And how can she figure out just what drove Meg to do the unthinkable?

All of these questions are plaguing Cody, and she is determined to find the answers that she needs. Her search leads her to Meg’s college apartment and a life that Cody was never a part of. She talks to Meg’s roommates and her friends in Seattle, including the enigmatic Ben McCallister, a young man with his own guilt about what happened to Meg. No one seems to know why Meg would have committed suicide, and Cody is growing frustrated with what seems to be a fruitless quest for the truth…until she discovers an encrypted file on Meg’s computer.

With a little help, Cody discovers exactly what Meg was hiding, and her investigation becomes even more intense. Cody becomes obsessed with Meg’s journey to suicide, and she’s getting drawn into something that is taking over her own life. She needs to find a reason for Meg’s decision, someone to blame for this horrible act that threw everything she thought she knew into a tailspin.

But will Cody really be prepared for what she uncovers? What will she do with the information? Will it change anything? And who will be there to help Cody pick up the pieces of her shattered life now that her best friend is gone?

Read I Was Here by Gayle Forman to learn how one young woman tries to live while attempting to find out why her best friend wanted to die.

_______________

I Was Here was not an easy book for me to read. I had to put it down several times because I was, quite simply, getting too emotional. I’m still not exactly sure how I feel about some parts of the book. I guess some things may have hit a little too close to home. I will say, however, that I think this is an important book. It deals with subjects–suicide and depression–that many young people are facing…but not talking about. Nothing is glossed over or treated with the least bit of glamour (something the media tends to do with suicide). I Was Here is an honest look at what’s left behind when loved ones end their own lives. The feelings of guilt, loss, and hopelessness. It’s something that never really goes away.

I hope that this book, like Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why, opens up a dialog about depression and suicidal thoughts. Young people need to realize that they are not alone, and, as trite as it sometimes sounds, things really do get better. The darkness will eventually pass. The road may not be easy, but it’s worth it, and no one has to walk it alone.

If you or someone you know is dealing with depression or suicide, please talk to a trusted friend or adult. Seek help. Call the National Foundation for Suicide Prevention lifeline at 800-273-TALK. Go to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s website to learn more about warning signs and how to find local support groups for survivors.

 

Published in: on February 22, 2015 at 11:05 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , ,

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.

_______________

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  
Tags: , , , , ,

I’ll Give You the Sun

Sometimes, when it takes me a while to finish a book, it’s because I just couldn’t get into it. (See my previous post.) Other times, however, my reasons are more complicated. My latest read, I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson, took me about six weeks to get through, but the problem definitely wasn’t that I couldn’t get into it. Just the opposite, in fact.

I’ll Give You the Sun–like the works of John Green, Gayle Forman, and Rainbow Rowell–is one of those books with the power to completely take over everything, causing me to forget to sleep or eat and making me resent going to work. So, I had to force myself to only pick up this book when I could devote all of my attention to it…and I was finally able to do a lot of that this weekend. I consider it a weekend well spent…even with all of the ugly crying going on.

This amazing book tells the story of Jude and Noah, twins who have been torn apart by heart-breaking circumstances. Told in alternating perspectives–the earlier years by Noah and the later years by Jude–this story allows readers to see both sides of a tarnished (yet still beautiful) coin.

Through Noah’s eyes, we see Noah and his obsession with the pictures in his head, the enigmatic boy next door, and his fear that both he and his art are simply not good enough. We see Jude, her wild ways, and Noah’s confusion over why she’s drifting away from him. We also see the pain of being different, Noah’s struggle to find–and accept–his own identity, and how secrets big and small have the power to rip a boy’s soul to pieces.

Through Jude’s eyes, readers see what the twins are like just a few short years later. Jude is no longer the wild child of the bunch. That honor goes to Noah. Jude is now the withdrawn, artistic twin, and she wants to find some way to reach her brother and force him to really be his true self. All the while, Jude is also wrestling with her own ghosts and seeking a measure of peace in her life.

What could have caused such a drastic personality switch in these once-close twins, and is there any way to heal the wounds of the past and move toward a happy future?

With the help of a couple of people with odd connections to the twins’ past, there may be hope for these two siblings to once again find each other. The journey will not be without its painful revelations, but, if they can make it through to the other side, they may just find everything they thought they’d lost.

_______________

As so often happens with books that grab me and won’t let go, this post doesn’t begin to do I’ll Give You the Sun justice. I laughed, I cried, and I roared at the vindictiveness of siblings, twins who claim to love each other more than anything. I’ll Give You the Sun was an intense, emotional roller coaster, and I honestly wasn’t ready for the ride to end. That may be another reason I took my time with this one. On some level, I knew that this book would be one to savor.

For more information on author Jandy Nelson and this amazing book, I encourage you to visit the author’s website, Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.

*This amazing book is being touted as one of the great new YA reads, and I totally agree with that. I would, however, caution some librarians, teachers, parents, and others that recommend books to young people that I’ll Give You the Sun does explore some mature themes–sexual identity and alcohol abuse being two of them. Those themes may be par for the course for many teen readers, but I doubt I’d recommend this book to anyone below the high school level…unless that reader showed incredible maturity. Of course, you know the young people in your lives better than I do, so do what you will.*

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 255 other followers