Monday, September 30, 2013

QB1

QB1 by Mike Lupica
3.5/5 stars
Philomel Books, 2013
267 pages
YA Contemporary

Source: Received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I received this unsolicited from the publisher and decided to give it a chance after reading the back cover comparing its "glamour and emotion(s)" to that of the amazing Friday Night Lights. Well that's a pretty big standard so I was intrigued to see if the book could in fact live up to that.

I definitely got those comparisons as this book is deeply grounded in small town Texas and its fascination with high school football. The main character in this book is the son of a star high school quarterback and the younger brother of a star high school quarterback who is expected by those stars to live up to the same high standards. However he has some competition for the position of quarterback as well as feelings of inferiority over the fact that his father seems to prefer his brother to him.

To start with, the MC's name is Jacob Cullen. Um, what? I don't think the target audience for this book (probably middle-grade to young adult males) will have the same reaction as me but us bloggers might have some feelings about this choice :) The story itself is pretty straightforward covering an entire football season as they pursue glory. An obsession with football is well-documented with radio stations eagerly following the competition to be first-string quarterback and with restaurants offering 50% off after a win-everyone is heavily invested in these boys and their successes (or not) on the gridiron. And that's almost all there is. Plays are described in detail, really too much detail for me but I'd love to see what some football lovers think of it.

Personally I would have liked to known more about Jake. Apparently he pulls straight A's but we never see him in class or really doing anything but playing football, feeling things about his relationship with his dad, and angsting over a girl. Jake is a freshman with very clean thoughts about said girl, which is why I estimate that this might be appropriate for a middle-grade audience. I'm used to sport books having more language and sexual thoughts as they target older readers-this one is quite clean though.

Overall: A cute enough read but I'm not really the audience for it; I wanted more character depth and less football plays.

Other Opinions:
The Reading Date

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Ramblings and the Week to Come 29SEP13

Happy News:

Last month I referenced some sad news at work but was purposefully vague, possibly making you think there were layoffs or a death. Not quite as dire as that: just one of my closest friends at work was leaving my department for a different one. This left a vacancy and I applied for the position, meaning a promotion for me, and I got it! I found out earlier but it wasn't officially announced until this past week so I've been holding it in. I am so excited to stay in the same department with the same people I adore but to get to take on new responsibilities and grow more :) I haven't done anything new yet but my training supervisor knows I'm eager to get started once the work is there.

Books Received:

Amazon Vine-Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke and The Midnight Dress by Karen Foxlee

From Germany-Harry Potter and der Feuerkelch: I think it's pretty easy to figure out which book this is. Doesn't Harry look weird? It's just so different from the way Harry is drawn for the US version.

 Sports:

My Manchester United game started at a normal time this week (7 AM PST) and of course I was in front of the TV ready to watch. I was especially thrilled because my favorite player Chicharito actually got to start! Alas it was a loss :( Furthermore today my Eagles are visiting the Broncos so I don't have a good feeling about that. But at least the season for my Phillies is over today so no more losing for them! Oh and my softball team lost again. So basically it was not a good week for any sports team I support, making me feel a bit like a bad luck charm :(

Blogging:

So I don't mind the change in format for comments for blogspot blogs but I keep wanting to hit the "sign out" instead of the "publish" button. Is anyone else having this problem?

Also I'm trying to catch up on comments still but I think I'm just not going to comment on any posts older than a week if I don't get to it by tonight-I just feel too overwhelmed otherwise and it makes me not want to comment at all.

Week to Come: Quite a random week. Of course it's all YA except for the War and Peace update but it's touching on all kinds of topics and genres. I'm pretty excited about this week and look forward to discussing with you.

QB1 by Mike Lupica-makes me think of "Friday Night Lights" which is always a good thing.
War and Peace update
The Vow by Jessica Martinez
Pirouette by Robyn Bavati-after adoring Dancing in the Dark, I am excited for another ballet-related book from this talented Australian author.
All The Truth That's In Me by Julie Berry-have heard some creepy things about this book
Will in Scarlet by Matthew Cody, which looks like a cool take on Robin Hood.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

ARC Review: When the Marquess Met His Match

When the Marquess Met His Match by Laura Lee Guhrke
4/5 stars
Avon, 2013
363 pages
Adult Historical Romance
Scheduled to release October 29

Source: Received an ARC through Amazon Vine in exchange for an honest (and quite early) review.

Guhrke wrote one of my favorite romances of all time, one of the few I've actually bought for my Nook (rather than waiting for a free copy to become available): And Then He Kissed Her, read pre-blog so no review. I haven't followed her writing super closely since then but decided that I'd like to check out this newest because of how pretty the woman's dress is on the cover (what a lovely color!) and because it was about rich Americans coming to London to snag British peers for husbands, which is just a fun storyline.

So our first character here is Lady Belinda Featherstone (awesome last name) who was herself a young rich American who fell head over heels for a British lord only to discover after the marriage was consummated that he only married her for her money. This disillusionment has sustained her in her widowhood, serving as a matchmaker for other young innocent Americans, to provide a happier fate for them. Meanwhile she lives a life of absolute propriety, content as the marriage broker without love for herself.

Our male lead is Nicholas, Marquess of Trubridge, a shameless rake whose reputation was spotted from a young age and has lived an indolent life unrepentantly. Until his domineering father cuts him off, forcing Nicholas to seek a mercenary marriage to restore himself to his former fortune. However he intends to be honest about his need for money and seek a bride he has at least some affection for even if love will not be the foundation.

The two are instantly at odds with Belinda particularly concerned about a young American friend and desperate to prevent other girls from falling into the same miserable marriage she had while Nicholas feels judged without understanding. Of course antagonistic sparks soon give way to friendlier passionate sparks as the two are powerless to fight their growing feelings for each other. This book had plenty of snappy banter and light moments to keep me easily engaged. I feel like it's a typical length for a romance and though I grew a bit tired of the baggage each character had, at least it is shed by the end for the HEA.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Where the Stars Still Shine

Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller
4/5 stars
Bloomsbury Childrens, 2013
339 pages
YA Contemporary

Source: Received an e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Though I didn't love Doller's debut Something Like Normal, finding the main character rather dislikable and the book overall just a bit too short for everything that was in it, I was still interested in checking out more of her writing and decided I'd give this one a shot if I could. I am happy to report that it went better!

Callie has lived a life on the run with her up and down mother after being technically kidnapped and kept from her father. After a mistake by the mother, Callie is reunited with her father and the big boisterous Greek family she had missed out on knowing all these years. Of course it is not easy to acclimate to this new lifestyle with accountability from parental figures, friendships to negotiate for this loner, and a tentative romance with the dreamy Alex. Can she reach a place where the stars still shine?

I was surprised by how realistic this book felt to me, given that I had a very stable upbringing, am not drop-dead gorgeous, and have never crushed on the hottest guy in the room (funny guys please!) and yet I felt really bonded to Callie and her situation. Everything she thought she knew is uprooted and after ten plus years on the run, it makes for a big change. Especially startling for her is the romantic relationship as Alex turns out to actually be a decent guy unlike pretty much every guy she's known previously (I personally didn't think he sounded hot in a physical way but I tend to be in the minority among YA book bloggers and have seen others gush a lot about him.) One qualm there is that he's twenty-two to her seventeen and will have a birthday before she does-so that makes him my age and I wouldn't want to date a teenager. No one else really seems to have a problem with this but I would have felt more comfortable if he had been twenty, say.

Which is not to say that this book only focuses on romance, as the above paragraph may have made you think that romance was the only thing going on here. I just feel like the romance is really important for Callie to move forward because she had a lot of messed-up ideas about relationships due to her mother's poor example. There is also Callie making a friend (or rather renewing a friendship) and taking on her first job as well as excursions to what sounds like an amazing bookstore that I'd love to visit. And the big thread is Callie trying to find herself a new place in a family as her father had remarried with two sons. I actually feel like more could have been done her. For example, Callie and the stepmother don't start off on the strongest footing and more of that tension could have been explored before moving toward resolution.

As a reader who likes things to be neatly resolved, I still feel like there are a few too many loose strings (especially regarding the mother and Callie's childhood abuse because I'd really like her to get some counseling or something to help her process it.) Other complaints would be wanting more of that big Greek family-there's really only about two scenes with them though they're on the outskirts for others. It's a more concentrated story, really focusing on Callie and what she's going through so I understand that the family couldn't naturally be integrated more but it's still something I would have liked.

Overall: If I kept writing this review, I think I would have picked at more flaws in the plot that left me feeling somewhat disappointed but in general I did really like the writing, the character of Callie, and just the flow of the book, which keep me interested in more writing from Doller.

Other Opinions:
Books Are Vital
Great Imaginations
Once Upon a Prologue
Rather Be Reading
Reading Extensively
The Flyleaf Review

Thursday, September 26, 2013

ARC Review: Engines of the Broken World

Engines of the Broken World by Jason Vanhee
2/5 stars
Henry Holt and Company, 2013
262 pages
YA Horror
Scheduled to release November 5

Source: Received an e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I'm not entirely sure why I decided to give this a read as I'm normally someone who assiduously avoids horror, being quite the scaredy cat. But I must have seen something intriguing to get it on my review calendar.

The book was very hard to get into and I found the plot a bit difficult to follow. Merciful and her brother Gospel Truth have just seen their mother die. As the world ends, they say goodbye to their two remaining neighbors, wrestle with the Minister, a preacher in animal form, and deal with the fact that their dead mother's body still seems to be moving around singing a haunting lullaby.

In fact the mother's body seems to be possessed by someone else and that is where my difficulty lies as I became confused about the rules of the possession. There also is a deadly fog and the disintegration and depopulation of earth so that only these four people are left alive (and not all of them even make it to the end.) So I would also classify this as a darker book, not just as in the horror genre but also for the themes it brings up and wrestles with. I think there were supposed to be some questions about faith and God especially in a Christian context but though I am Christian, I didn't really follow these conversations. I really did find the writing style confusing and distancing.

Well, what about the characters? They're okay-I don't see many unique personality traits to distinguish them among the sea of other characters I've read so don't go looking here for a character-driven narrative. I feel like this one is maybe a bit more philosophical, which may be another reason for my distaste.

Overall I respect what this book is doing and its very different writing style and subject matter; however it is very much not my kind of book and I did not enjoy reading it nor would I recommend it to people with similar reading taste.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Rogue

Rogue by Gina Damico
3.5/5 stars
Graphia, 2013
324 pages
YA Paranormal
3rd in trilogy

Source: Received an ARC through Amazon Vine in exchange for an honest review.

Though the previous books in this trilogy Croak and Scorch didn't really impress me, I was still caught up enough in this trilogy to want to complete it when I had the chance. My thoughts aren't super detailed and I wouldn't want to give spoilers anyway so below are some things I did and didn't like about this book.

To be perfectly honest, I don't really like Lexie or the other characters very much. I was disappointed with her damning choices in Scorch and while she is challenged on that in this book, I never really clicked with the characters as presented. On the flip side, I love this quote from the author's acknowledgements: "'I admire your willingness to kill off your characters,' which is really just a polite way of saying, 'I think you might actually be a serial killer, and I'm fine with it" (V-VI). These were hilarious acknowledgements and I do admire Damico's willingness to kill off killers-basically no one is safe especially since the book is told in third-person. Whenever a book is told in first-person, I'm fairly certain the narrator isn't going to die; less certain if it's alternating first-person.

That humor also rings throughout the book. There are many snappy quips that help to lighten what is in many ways a pretty dark book. As in Scorch, I apparently like visiting new places. In that book, I loved checking out DeMyse and here we have Necropolis. Though the characters spend perhaps more time there than the plot could handle, they were also my favorite scenes as they attempted to find a portal. In general, I thought the plot was very unpredictable and able to spring into any direction.

Something I didn't like was my difficult recalling characters. If you wanted to read these books back to back, that would be a very good decision because when old characters are brought back, they do not receive much introduction. It is assumed that you will be able to recall who they are. I think I have a handle on everyone but I'm not entirely sure (and since I don't love the characters, I don't mind that uncertainty.)

Lastly we have the ending, which I can see people being very split over though it's nowhere near as controversial as Andrea Cremer's Bloodrose (wow-there are some angry reviews on that one!) Personally I found it satisfactory. I'm not really sure how I wanted the series to end and this was an acceptable solution that is mostly optimistic though leavened by the sadness and losses of battle.

Overall: Read this if you want to finish the series-you really should read them in order as I do not think you would be able to follow them otherwise.

Cover: Definitely fits in with the others-this time though I find the bright green of the title and blue of the scythe a bit jarring against the more muted color palette of the background.

Other Opinions:
A Reader of Fictions
Chapter by Chapter
Singing and Reading in the Rain

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Starry Nights

Starry Nights by Daisy Whitney
4/5 stars
Bloomsbury Children's Books, 2013
226 pages
YA Fantastical Contemporary

Source: Received an e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I must give credit to Heather from The Flyleaf Review (review linked below) for her beautifully enthusiastic review of this book, which totally prepped me for the book by sharing about her art history background, something I do not possess. While I like looking at paintings, I do not have that passion for them that others have and can use the additional knowledge and love.

Julien loves art and realizes how fortunate he is to be able to roam the halls of the Musee d'Orsay after hours due to his mother's position there. In turn she appreciates his keen eyesight that catches possible sun damage before anyone else. His knowledge is uncanny and his talents are even rarer as he realizes that he can bring paintings to life, including the enchanting young woman in a recently rediscovered Renoir painting. Unfortunately he also starts seeing paintings around the world start to break down and he must race against time and his own desires to restore the art for the world's enjoyment.

Honestly the premise for this book is a bit weird-I mean, paintings coming to life? But Julien's love of the artwork is so real and compelling that it is easy to follow again. I mean, if I stopped to think about it, I'd find it quite bizarre but while reading, I was just swept away. Are most teenagers that interested in art (even French ones)? Probably not but I did like how he has this unique passion and the means and determination to follow it. Julien learns some pretty interesting things about himself over the course of this book that will definitely shape his future.

However the two parts that stay with me most don't really have anything to do with him. For example, my favorite parts were definitely Julien's interactions with a young ballet dancer-he can hear music coming from her, signs of her future career. As a musician, it is probably not surprising that those sections resonated so strongly with me especially because the referenced music is incredibly famous. My other lingering impression from this book is that Renoir is kind of a jerk-a sexist elitist jerk and I don't like him much. He does not come off well for sure and the parts that annoyed me the most are confirmed in the author's note as being true.

Unfortunately there is a romance and not just between Julien and art in general. No it is with that girl in the painting, Clio. Clio has been stuck there for years and that seems to have worn away her personality as in she didn't have much of one. I understand that she's beautiful but I need a bit more to get on board a train of human and painted creation, you know? So the romance is where this book really lost its luster for me as well as how the chapters leading up to the ending sort of dragged. This would also be an instance of a book where I did not want a traditional happy ever after and the path that this book took was too far away from what I wanted and expected to happen, leaving me dissatisfied about that.

Overall: Though my rating is on the positive side, I do find this book a bit slow and was very unhappy with the way the romance was handled. Still if you enjoy lightly magical stories and have an appreciation for art, this may be something you'd enjoy.

Cover: I feel like the cover is a bit cheesy (why yes it *is* set in Paris) but I've heard lovely things about the book in print so I'd like the chance to glimpse that for myself.

Other Opinions:
A Reader of Fictions
Alexa Loves Books
In Bed with Books
Into the Hall of Books
Jen Ryland/YA Romantics
The Flyleaf Review

Monday, September 23, 2013

Asylum

Asylum by Madeleine Roux
4/5 stars
Harper, 2013
310 pages
YA Horror Thriller

Source: Received an ARC through Amazon Vine in exchange for an honest review.

I am a complete sucker for books with historical photos included so upon discovering that Asylum was one of those books, I was eager to check it out. As an ARC, it was missing a few pictures but for the most part they were present and really added to the creepy vibe.

The whole premise is pretty dark and creepy though to be honest. Dan is thrilled to be spending his summer attending a college prep course, to be surrounded by other people with a healthy intellectual curiosity instead of being derided for his smarts. Almost instantly he hits it off with two people, one being the prettiest girl he's seen. That night they decide to explore the office of their dorm, formerly a mental asylum for the seriously deranged. This triggers many unpleasant occurrences and leads them to fear for their lives as they attempt to unravel the dark history of this asylum and end up fearing for their own mental health.

See-doesn't that premise promise some thrills? And while I'm admittedly a wimp, I thought this book was very atmospheric and successful in delivering on that. I had no idea what was going on as ghosts seem to threaten their lives...or is it all in Dan's imagination given his own fragile mental state? I had my suspicions and the fast pace of the book and easy writing style quickly confirmed or shot them down.

I don't think this book could be characterized as being heavy on drawing the characters' personality being more interested in spooky going-ons so if you're a reader who likes vivid characters whose souls you get to know inside out, this probably isn't the book for you. If you like a breakneck pace though, you can slip easily into this book for a few hours, coming out at the end with your neck tingling. Could be a fun read for October/Halloween!

Other Opinions:
Ems Reviews Books
Good Books and Good Wine
Moirae (the fates) book reviews
Once Upon a Twilight

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Ramblings and the Week to Come 22SEP13

Real Life:
Man have I had a busy week! Work (about which I will have exciting news next week), workouts, and other commitments have taken up a lot of time that might have otherwise been spent reading and blogging. Thus I committed this weekend to those pursuits with the goal of reading four books. So far I have only finished one so I expect I will only finish two more today. I also need to work on commenting, my perpetual quest.

Also how are we almost done with September when each day seems to be taking forever? I'm thrilled because I won a dress and two books (will talk about them more when they arrive.)

Sports:
First up my softball team got our first win this week...mostly because the other team forfeited! I cannot tell you how often just showing up has paid off for me and this is another example I see in my life. Instead we had a nice batting practice and I even scooped up some ground balls from second base.

I feel like such a bad fan for forgetting that Manchester United was playing their first Champions match of the year. It was a very Rooney-centric victory so I didn't mind too much. Then I forgot my Eagles were on Thursday Night football but since they lost, it was probably for the best for my nerves. Furthermore my ability to watch football has been seriously eroded due to soccer's commercial-free pace. I was watching football last Sunday when it came back from commercials for about 30 seconds with no plays only to then return to commercials! I definitely prefer watching soccer now.

In other excitement, my dad is traveling to Germany on a business trip and is hoping to pick up a German World Cup jersey for me, which would be so cool! While my number one team is the US, if they are knocked out early (probable), I will turn my fandom toward Germany.

Received:
What Goes Around by Courtney Summers-won from I Want to Read That-thank you!
Will in Scarlet by Matthew Cody
Bracelet-instead of getting two books from Amazon Vine, I only got the above and a bracelet. This should make writing my reviews a bit less time-consuming.

Week to Come:
Asylum by Madeleine Roux-standalone mysterious thriller with photos
Starry Nights by Daisy Whitney-fantastical contemporary featuring the art world
Rogue by Gina Damico-conclusion to the Croak trilogy
Engines of the Broken World by Jason Vanhee-YA horror
Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller-intense sounding contemporary
When the Marquess Met His Match by Laura Lee Guhrke-adult historical romance

Hope your reading is going well-have a lovely week!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Impersonator

The Impersonator by Mary Miley
4/5 stars
Minotaur Books, 2013
311 pages
Adult Historical Mystery

Source: Received an e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

This book only popped on to my radar after receiving an email from Netgalley informing me of its premise and assuring me that I'd enjoy its mystery and lively prose. The synopsis sounded intriguing and I do love a good adult mystery involving stage and pretense so I decided to give it a shot.

When Leah feels the watching eyes of a man on her while onstage, she is somewhat startled. Afterwards he approaches her and makes a proposition: she pretends to be his long-lost niece to inherit a fortune. After her luck runs out in vaudeville, she is desperate enough to give this a try. With Uncle Oliver's aid, Leah is transformed into Jessie Carr and reunited with her grandmother, aunt, and four cousins who are consequently disinherited. The more time she spends as Jessie though, the more convinced she is that the real Jessie was murdered and the more determined she becomes to find out who did it.

So it definitely took a while for this book to get going. But once it did, it was good! There's really quite a bit about Leah's vaudeville life, which was interesting especially the references to familiar names but I preferred seeing her become Jessie, absorbing all that knowledge and turning it in to her finest stage performance yet. As she settles in to the life, she also grows closer to Jessie's family and seeing those relationships form and deepen is what really won my heart. Her kindness to her young cousins Caro and Val especially charmed me-she taught the girls poker, some vaudeville routines, and just brightened their very sheltered lives. This also allows the reader to see her deeply held principles and commitment to justice. She feels very certain that Jessie was murdered and as evidence builds about a prime suspect, she relentlessly pursues the leads despite great personal risk for herself.

An important subplot is Prohibition including the fact that Oregon, the state in which this is set, went dry in 1916, before National Prohibition, something I did not know! I loved getting that and some other little tidbits that helped immerse me in 1924. Bootlegging plays a huge role in the story and it was cool to trace that. Though I've read quite a few books set in the 1920s, they tend to be YA and didn't feature alcohol as prominently as this adult book does.

The mystery was fairly straightforward I feel-there really weren't too many suspects and Jessie latches on to the right one pretty quickly though a twist in the last chapter made me gasp (for those who've read the book: David). The real spark to the mystery is a paranormal element where she seems to feel the ghost of the real Jessie urging her on and giving her strength when she needs it. Those parts were a bit weird to me but I assumed it was just Leah's strong faith in them rather than the author actually positing that such spirits were real.

Overall: I quite agree with the publisher promising an engaging mystery and lively prose-that is what I expected and what I received. The actress playing Jessie is a very sympathetic protagonist once you get past her role as con artist and the book moves at a good clip. Definitely worth checking out if you like the sound of the story as well.

Friday, September 20, 2013

ARC Review: Not a Drop to Drink

Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis
3.5/5 stars
Katherine Tegen Books, 2013
309 pages
YA Dystopia
Scheduled to release September 24

Source: Received an ARC through Amazon Vine in exchange for an honest review.

I wasn't very sure about this one because I do tend to like happier books and I've been a bit burned out on dystopias. But I find water scarcity scarily plausible and since I was able to get a copy shipped directly to me, I figured I'd take a shot.

The summary, to me, makes this sound like a day to day survival story for one young Lynn. In some ways this is true; Lynn has a pond and will kill to protect it for herself. But in other ways, the book has a lot bigger focus, looking more at community as Lynn meets new people and lets her guard down so they can surprise her. I thought the book would be more in her head when it's actually told in third person following several characters as they band together. Since I really liked the ways Lynn bonded, I was happy with this unexpected turn.

Sadly though I just never quite clicked with the book despite finding it a very easy read (completed in just a few short hours). I felt moments of dread as strangers threatened Lynn's water and I felt moments of compassion when she reached out but it was not as intense as I expected. I suspect it might be at least partially due to the narration. Thanks to the prevalence of first person in YA, I do tend to find myself partial to it. The way the plot played out was also fairly predictable with only one part (SPOILER: Eli's death) managing to surprise me. My eyebrows raised at that part because I figured after that character did so much, something else would occur.

I did appreciate that this is a standalone and that the epilogue brings some closure and even manages a bit of optimism in this bleak not so distant future. I liked all of the characters well enough. I just don't have very passionate feelings about this book. If you really like dystopias, definitely check it out. If you don't really want romance, check it out. If you want to read a self-contained story that doesn't have a cliffhanger ending, check it out. I feel like the water scarcity is a different angle so that's another reason to check it out.

Other Opinions:
Bloody Bookaholic
Inspiring Insomnia
The Best Books Ever
The Broke and Bookish
Young Adult Book Haven

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Edge of Normal

The Edge of Normal by Carla Norton
4/5 stars
Minotaur Books, 2013
313 pages
Adult Thriller

Source: Received an e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Have you ever read a book where something kind of silly just makes it difficult for you to connect? That happened for me here as the main setting for this book is Jefferson City, Jefferson County, CA. Well, there's no such place as I know abundantly from my work (random factoid: North Carolina has 100 counties-don't ask why I know that) and every time the county was mentioned, I grimaced. It was a little tic that got me constantly throughout the book especially because San Francisco and some other (real) big cities are mentioned indicating that the location is supposed to be plausible.

The premise for this book is quite chilling as is made abundantly clear by the cover. Reeve is a survivor of a kidnapping and captive situation; she has worked hard for six years to move past her time in captivity. Thus she is not thrilled to be called in to give support to another girl just rescued from her captor. She wants to move on, she doesn't want to receive more media attention but she can't just ignore another girl in such a similar situation. Once she's there, she also begins to play detective and stunningly makes several excellent deductions that may just end the work of a serial killer for good.

Moving on to the book's actual qualities, I was very impressed. As the story wore on, I was able to start making a lot of connections where earlier pieces of information paid off in satisfying ways. The characterization wasn't as deep as I'm used to in first-person centric YA narratives but I got a good picture of Reeve and her bravery as well, unfortunately, of the creep perpetrating these crimes. Reading from his perspective was creepy and yet so engaging because of his knowledge (of surveillance tactics for example), strategic abilities (planning out the abduction and torture of at least three girls without being caught), and determination to complete his course. And the most terrifying part is how ordinary he seems instead of looking like the disgusting pig he is.

One thing I was sad about is how Reeve's psychiatrist Dr. Lerner plays increasingly less of a role as the book progresses. He is an important character from the start and is the reason Reeve ends up in Jefferson City and involved in the case in the first place. But because she gains more confidence and because she has such a unique experience, he ends up out of the picture. I liked him so that made me sad. Another disappointment was the incorporation of Reeve's abductor whose menace hangs over her and who resurfaces from his continuing stint in a mental hospital. But nothing really happens from him and it felt choppily integrated. I would have liked his appearance to have more of a point to the plot.

Overall: Very chilling-the pace definitely ramps up as the book progresses, making you desperate for every word just the way a thriller ought!

Cover: Love the key-this has a really great meaning as the book progresses.

Content: The book is pretty clean except for some choice words and discussion of rape that may be triggers.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Promise Me Something

Promise Me Something by Sara Kocek
3.5/5 stars
Albert Whitman & Company, 2013
298 pages
YA Contemporary

Source: Received an e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

For some reason, I thought this book was about a girl in foster care. Instead it is the seemingly more prosaic story about a girl in high school, wrestling with friendship and popularity issues albeit with some weird twists. That is exactly the kind of story I tend to like IF I can connect with the writing and the main character. Well, yes to the first and not so much for the second here.

Reyna is starting at a new high school without any friends but is soon adopted by Olive, the weirdest girl around. A few months pass with their friendship solidifying until Olive's secret is revealed whereby Reyna bails on her, seeking to gain entry to a different circle of friendship, one that relies upon mocking Olive and other unfortunates pushing Olive to desperate lengths.

I have long had a soft spot for high school settings so it's no surprise that this book caught my eye. While I notice many similarities with other contemporaries, there was something about the writing and plotting that set it apart. Perhaps it was the time devoted to friendships: Reyna still attempts to remain in touch with her third best friends who now attend a different high school, her rocky relationship with Olive, and her new friendship with mean girl Gretchen and her clique. Though there is a romance, it pales in comparison to navigating the tricky waters of girl world. My summary isn't the best, quite honestly but I hope that it captures some of the plot and it leads me to my feelings about the MC.

They are not positive to be blunt. Reyna is pretty cowardly and largely unable to take a stance, afraid to make any waves. I'm not saying this is unrealistic but I found it frustrating as Reyna consistently waffled about acting. Because she generally knew the right thing to do; she was just afraid to do it. And this is sadly so realistic especially in the cases of bullying as represented in this book. Furthermore Reyna's mother died when she was 7 and her father has lately been dating a new woman who also bears a lot of Reyna's anger and aggression. Though this was more understandable (the woman also caused an accident that seriously injured Reyna's father), it certainly didn't help my mental picture of Reyna as someone pretty unpleasant. Again, it's not fair, I was not a pleasant teenager either, but that's how I viewed it.

I'm not even getting in to the heart of the story, which is only alluded to in the publisher summary on goodreads as that would entail some significant spoilers. Suffice it to say that I thought this book took a weird turn but that it kept me engaged throughout and thankfully Reyna does show some growth especially in recognizing the ways in which she acted ungraciously. If you like offbeat contemporaries, this might be an interesting read for you.

Cover: The railroad tracks are surprisingly relevant-wouldn't want to spoil anything though!

Other Opinions:
Book Cupid
Gecko Girl Reads

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

ARC Review: Chasing Shadows

Chasing Shadows by Swati Avasthi
Graphics by Craig Phillips
4/5 stars
Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2013
305 pages
YA Contemporary
Scheduled to release September 24

Source: Received an ARC through Amazon Vine in exchange for an honest review.

I was drawn to this book by its novel approach which incorporates graphic novel drawings into the text because one character starts to visualize life as such. These pictures really brought the text to life and made me more sympathetic to her situation so I applaud the creators for that decision. I also found the pictures helped me to get through the darker moments of the narration because this story has some very difficult emotional moments.

The book opens with Corey, Holly, and Savitri freerunning around Chicago. Their joy is shattered when a lone gunman opens fire on twins Holly and Corey in their car as Savitri watches in horror from ahead. Corey heroically drapes himself over Holly, sacrificing his own life but leaving the two friends behind to cope as best they can. Savitri decides she will be the best friend she can be even if that means following along behind Holly's crazy path. Holly, for her part, believes she can bring Corey back by serving up his murderer. The lengths she takes to do so seriously fray their friendship and both of their families.

My description here doesn't really do the book justice with its many themes and layers as well as the sheer emotional punch it packed. Though I didn't mention it above, my favorite aspect was Savitri's Hindu heritage, which plays a huge role in Holly's imaginings and the drawings. She is named for an important legend and I loved getting to hear the story of that. It fueled my love for Hindu legends, developed after taking a course in school.

The book alternated between the narration of the two girls. Holly begins and I really struggled as she likes to Capitalize Random Words and I didn't understand that about her. When the narration switches, Savitri observes this about her and immediately it helped bring Holly into perspective. In general, I preferred Savitri's more calm narration because Holly's impulsiveness is quite different from my own personality. Additionally Savitri continues to be more balanced as Holly grows increasingly erratic and determined to track down the killer. This was thrilling to observe but it was difficult to be in Holly's head. The pace of the book is pretty fast and once I glommed onto Savitri, I was hooked.

I don't want to get too in-depth about the plot because I want to leave some surprises for you but overall I really enjoyed this book. Its complex female characters, its decision to add graphic novel touches, and its incorporation of Hindu mythology among other well-done writing and characterization made this one a winner!

Other Opinions:
Haven't seen too many yet-hopefully more to come as the release date approaches!

Monday, September 16, 2013

ARC Review: The F- It List

The F- It List by Julie Halpern
4/5 stars
Feiwel & Friends, 2013
248 pages
YA Contemporary
Scheduled to release November 12*

Source: Received an e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Based on the title, I expected this book to exhibit a lot of attitude, which is true. However I had not looked closely at the cover or synopsis so I did not realize it was about a best friendship where one person gets cancer and the other helps her with her bucket list as renamed for the cover.

Becca and Alex have been friends for years. But when Alex's father dies and Becca does something hurtful to Alex in the aftermath, they take the summer off. When Alex walks into the first day of school, she anticipates resuming their relationship only to be thrown for a loop when she discovers that Becca has cancer. Immediately she jumps back into friendship as they go through a wild and crazy year, with Alex attempting to fulfill Becca's bucket list on her behalf.

As a long-time proponent of female friendship in YA books, I was drawn to this book's friendship angle as soon as I determined that it was part of the book. Becca and Alex have their ups and downs just like any real relationship but they also love each other, totally get each other's senses of humor, and put up with the good and the bad about each other (for example Alex is very droll and sarcastic while Becca can be a bit softer). This relationship is at the core of the book. But there is also the family relationships and romantic interests for both girls (yes Becca has a cute neighbor who can stop by). I knowing the family relationship was there though I felt they weren't explored as much as they could have been. Obviously Alex's family is in turmoil with her mother and younger twin brothers dealing with the loss of their husband/father to the best of their abilities while Becca's mother copes with the diagnosis by turning to God and her rabbi. Maybe I wasn't as pleased with the portrayal of Becca's mother's faith after reading a couple of books that more intimately explored the Jewish faith last week-this one felt more mocking than sympathetic in any way. Alex's family was mostly presented in the coping stage and were nowhere near as well-developed as Alex herself.

The romantic relationships were much more satisfying. Shortly after the cancer news breaks, Alex hooks up with Leo and their relationship took so many interesting twists and turns. The physical plays a huge role and I thought it was very well-written though the fact that it doesn't fade to black may be a turnoff to some readers. The emotional comes second as Alex takes forever to face the truth. Becca's love story gets less page time but it has some cute moments as well.

Overall: Not your typical cancer story with humorous moments far outweighing the sad though melancholy tinges every interaction. I was surprised by how much I laughed at Alex's snarky comments and her exchanges with Becca and co. I thought it was a surprisingly funny story and I hope you all will enjoy it.

Content warning: A lot of swearing and sexual exploits; tons of attitude; I would recommend this for the older YA audience.

Other Opinions:
Istyria Book Blog
Read, Run, Ramble
Readingjunky's Reading Roost
The Bookaholic Blurbs

*Sorry for the super early review but this was just archived on Netgalley; when books are archived early, they get reviewed early too-it's the only way I'll stay on top of things.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Ramblings and Week to Come 15SEP13

Sports:
My softball team sustained ANOTHER loss, making us 0-3 :( The bummer is that we had four really good innings (including an amazing double play by our shortstop; as 2B, I had a great view of that). Unfortunately those four innings came after two absolutely awful innings where the other team scored most of their runs. Still I remain hopeful that we will eventually win a game. My dad agreed to help me practice catching grounders and I checked out some books from the library about softball basics in order to improve my own abilities (who's a nerd? This girl! Because if you can't learn it from books, is it really worth learning?)

Meanwhile in the professional world, Manchester United notched their second win (which is great as my boss had teased me after their draw-he's a City fan). Today my Eagles are hosting the Chargers and I'm hoping for a second win. Honestly I would be happy if the Eagles went 5-11 (though the optimist in me is hoping for 8-8) since we were 4-12 last season.

Shopping:
Yesterday was very fun as my mom and I hit an awesome mall a bit away from us. We visited Loft, The Limited, and J. Crew, among others, where I got some great things (and nudged her to start preparing for my birthday :) This mall also has a Cheesecake Factory so I got a delicious piece of chocolate mousse cheesecake-yummy!

Blogging:
Last week was crazy-I basically read the entire book and wrote my review the night before it went live. I'm used to being about two days ahead (when I first started my blog, I was up to a month ahead! The beauties of college compared to working full-time.) Then you all keep writing amazing discussion posts and reviews and I want to comment on all of them but struggle to fit it in. Does anyone comment through their phone? What do you use? I would definitely be able to comment a bit more if I could go through my phone.

Week to Come:
The above is a screenshot from my Netgalley shelf, showing four of the books up for review this week.

We're starting with The F-It List by Julie Halpern-its provocative title first drew my attention. Then we move to Chasing Shadows by Swati Avasthi, an intriguing blend of words with illustration in the form of graphic novel. For Wednesday, it is Promise Me Something by Sara Kocek, which I have not started yet but appears to be contemporary.

The Edge of Normal by Carla Norton looks very intense-I hope I know what I'm getting into! Friday's read is also intense: Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis. I've read quite a few reviews mentioning its dark premise and powerful writing. We'll end on The Impersonator by Mary Miley, which sounds very lively.

And that's the week! How is your reading going?

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Bones of Paris

The Bones of Paris by Laurie R. King
3.5/5 stars
Bantam, 2013
432 pages
Adult Historical Mystery

Source: Received an e-ARC from the publisher through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

Apparently I may sometimes lack reading comprehension because I totally thought this was the latest Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes book. I kept waiting for them to pop up and orient me in the story! Then I finally looked at it on goodreads and discovered that it is a second book (which helps explain why I felt a bit off balance while reading-presumably someone who has read the first book would be able to follow it more easily.)

The book opens with Bennett Grey, who played a big role in the introductory book but meant nothing to me so it was not until we meet Harris Stuyvesant and I realized that he was the main character that I was able to settle into the story. Harris is a down on his luck private investigator who has been hired by a young woman's worried uncle and mother to track her down as she hasn't been seen in months. Harris had previously had a relationship with the girl (lasting some few days) and is desperate for money so he jumps at the chance. While investigating, he goes deep into Parisian culture during these bright hectic 1929 days (we're approaching the stock market crash in hindsight) and uncovers a bloody trail.

As is often the case when I read historical fiction incorporating real-life personages, seeing how the author chose to render them was a pleasure. Though most only merit brief mentions like Hemingway, I got a thrill every time I recognized a name and enjoyed looking up the others on wikipedia (I had never heard of Man Ray for example; how is "Man" a first name? Isn't it merely a noun?) Another part I liked was the references to the Great War, which hang over all of our characters. Though peace has been in place for eleven years, many are still haunted by those dark days. A third element I liked was the depiction of Paris itself. Yes, there is glitter but there is also the fact that the city is built on bones and women are sadly a dime a dozen for a potential serial killer.

Meanwhile when I consider the mystery itself, I am shocked at how quickly it became so complicated while at other times, it seemed to be almost forgotten when Harris unexpectedly reunites with an old love. This enthralling woman and her possible connection to the case were interesting enough but I didn't care for them as much as Harris did. Other character relationships were not well-developed though I sensed there was potential between Harris and Bennett, a relationship that probably would have been much richer if I had read the first book.

Overall: I loved the atmosphere of Paris and how the darker underbelly was exposed but found the character relationships too muddy as well as the tone's darkness conflicting with my penchant for a light comedy. I'd wait for the next Mary Russell installment.

Friday, September 13, 2013

ARC Review: My Basmati Bar Mitzvah

My Basmati Bat Mitzvah by Paula J. Freedman
4/5 stars
Amulet Books, 2013
246 pages
MG Contemporary
Scheduled to release October 1

Source: Received an e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

What a cute book was basically my thought when stumbling upon this book as well as upon finishing. It is technically in the middle-grade category focusing on a 12-year old preparing for her bat mitzvah and will probably work best for those in that age range as us older readers will likely have already had exposure to the cultural and spiritual issues it explores. Still it was a fun and very quick read.

Tara Feinstein has a great mixed heritage. Her father's family are Jews firmly rooted in New York; her mother's family hails from India, bestowing on Tara a Hindu cultural background. Much of this book focuses on Tara navigating her feelings and the expectations of others around about this mixture while also looking at best friend travails and a little bit of time is spent on boys. Unfortunately I tended to find those moments extraneous especially the part that plays out as a bit of a love triangle. The family time and Tara's exploration of her heritage were far more interesting to me.

Yep my favorite moments were definitely Tara's questioning as she readies for her bat mitzvah-we read several conversations between her and a rabbi who encourages her curiosity and doesn't try to spoon feed her answers. Other well-done moments were Tara's fears that she might erase one part of herself. If she goes through with her bat mitzvah, does that mean she's turning her back on her beloved Hindu grandparents? And if her mother converted to Judaism, is Tara also Jewish or does her mother have to have been born a Jew? These and other questions were sensitively handled.

But this book also seemed a little overstuffed. There is a lot of drama among friends with one girl in particular having a lot of issues that were only touched upon. Also one of Tara's passions is Robotics Club, a plotline which begins promisingly but then seems to taper off. I wish a bit more time had been spent on it just to further develop the relationships in the book.

Overall: A very cute read, especially great for its target audience. I suspect older readers will find much of the content very familiar especially if they've made it a point to seek out novels about Judaism and/or Hinduism and/or Indian history and culture. Still that is no reason not to buy/read this one and to be pleased with its accurate cover!

Other Opinions:
Meloframa 
Tea and Writing...
The Reading Nook Reviews
The Streetlight Reader

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Touched by Fire

Touched by Fire by Irene N. Watts
4/5 stars
Tundra Books, 2013
197 pages
MG Historical

Source: Received an e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I'm a huge historical fiction fan so I always try to stay aware of the newest books for young readers especially when they're in an atypical time period. We've seen a lot of the Edwardian age and the 1920s lately, especially seeing some glamour from the period but a lot less about the darker side like the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire that anchors this book.

The book opens in Kiev 1905 and follows a Jewish family escaping a pogrom by moving to Berlin where they plan to save up to eventually reach America. This occurs in 1910 when daughter Miriam arrives and quickly gains employment at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory where the infamous fire occurs.

Honestly I thought a lot more of this book would focus on the fire but the majority of it is on their life in Europe, facing prejudices, looking forward to a freer life in America. It covers all the work they do to save up enough money and the rumors they sift through about what life might be like once they arrive. I thought some elements definitely seemed sugarcoated or simplified for its target audience. As a sometimes cynical reader, I was consistently surprised by how nice everyone was. I kept thinking maybe someone would try to rob Miriam or physically threaten her and while such occurrences are referenced, she is mostly safe as she can be.

The ending was especially interesting. It is an epilogue jumping forward to 1933 Nazi Germany and looking at Miriam's nephew. I loved how it reinforced the themes of bigotry against Jewish people which has been so important throughout the book as well as following up on some foreshadowing from earlier in the book. At first I thought it was odd or that it was serving as set-up to a sort of sequel to this book but upon further reflection, I found it satisfactory.

While I found this book quite pleasant, it didn't have the emotional punch to the gut I would have liked to really connect with its contents. Everything just felt so young. I feel like this may be better suited for its target audience, which I would classify as middle-grade. It could serve as an introduction to the period, to antisemitism, to life for immigrants, to labor conditions, etc.

Other Opinions:
Flashlight Commentary
Ms. Yingling Reads

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

If You Could Be Mine

If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan
4/5 stars
Alqonquin Young Readers, 2013
247 pages
YA Contemporary LGBTQ

Source: Received an e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

This book grabbed my attention with its setting in Iran. Doubling my interest was the plot about two young girls in love-a love that could lead to punishment as severe as execution if discovered. It was actually a topic of conversation with people in real life. One of my coworkers isn't much impressed with my reading material (he tends to like hard sci-fi and epic fantasy) but he was very thrown to hear my summary of the book as follows.

So in Iran, it is a sin, punishable by death to be a woman in love with another woman (similarly if both parties are male). However if someone feels like a man trapped in a woman's body, it is desirable, encouraged, and even funded by the government to perform gender reassignment surgery to correct the "flaw." This is the basis for the story of Sahar, long in love with her best friend Nasrin as the latter prepares for her arranged marriage. Sahar desperately conceives of a plan to become a man in order to stay with Nasrin. Isn't that a unique premise? I want to read more multi-cultural books and I don't want to become blase to all the exciting stories being told in YA so I'm really glad that I checked this one out.

Honestly the hardest part of this book for me was seeing Sahar slack on her previous stellar academic record because she was so obsessed with her love. I hate seeing that in a character. What I did like though was that Nasrin is just as in love with Sahar as she can be despite Sahar's astonishment that that could be true. I'm such a sucker for romances where each person thinks they're the luckiest person in the world because how could that wonderful other person be willing to be with them? However I did put a caveat that Nasrin is as in love as she can be; the spoiled girl likes attention and the easy life and isn't necessarily willing to be Sahar if it means disobeying her wealthy parents.

Another important subplot was Sahar's cousin Ali, who is carefully navigating his sexuality in intolerant Iran while also building a thriving mini-empire. He connects Sahar with so many people and opens up her eyes to a whole new world. Her father is also important. After the death of her mother five years ago, he has basically withdrawn from everything, leaving Sahar to fend for herself. His development over the course of the book is remarkable as he finally starts to wake up to his life again.

I wish there had been a bit more discussion of religion beyond Sahar's casual references. However the political side was more of note. For example, I loved Sahar's imagination of Ayatollah Khomeini and Ayatollah Khamenei as grandfathers alternately angry and disappointed in her. It made me want to read a lot more about the Iranian Revolution of 1979 as I am very unfamiliar with it.

As for the ending, it's not the ridiculous happy ending that one might hope for but it is very fitting and I found it quite satisfying. It felt realistic and optimistic. I hope Sahar finds her place!

Other Opinions:
A Reader of Fictions
Blkosiner's Book Blog
Great Imaginations
In Bed With Books

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

ARC Review: Dead Girls Don't Lie

Dead Girls Don't Lie by Jennifer Shaw Wolf
3/5 stars
Walker Children's, 2013
331 pages
YA Contemporary Mystery
Scheduled to release September 17

Source: Received an e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I had heard good things about this author's previous book Breaking Beautiful so I decided to go for it and check out her latest to see if I'd want to circle back and read the other one. Based on the plot and writing of this one, I would be willing to check out the first book from the library. I can't say I was head over heels in love to want to buy it.

Jaycee missed the last text of her best friend Rachel's life, caught up in her first kiss and lingering anger from a fight between the girls six months previously. This haunts her as she starts to believe there was more to Rachel's death than is being shared and confirmed when she receives unlikely aid from a friend of Rachel's, sending her down a path of gangs, hazing initiations, jealousy, and racial tensions in a small insular Washington town.

For me, this book's big strength was its fast-paced. I read it all in one frantic day, barely able to put it down as each chapter only impelled me to read further. I credit this to the writing and plotting of Wolf-she really kept me on the edge of my seat.

Also of interest was peeling back the layers of racism and mistrust between the old timers of the small town and the migrant workers, some of whom may be there illegally. When Rachel is murdered, it is all too easy to lay the blame at the feet of someone who allegedly has ties to a gang or whose skin is a different color from yours. I'm not sure this was handled as thoroughly as it could have been but it might be enlightening for some people and it helped to ratchet up the tension in the beginning of the book.

But its weakness for me was its timid and naive narrator, though as the book progresses the reader gets a sense of her strong moral fortitude. I guess you could compare her to Fanny Price of Mansfield Park. She lives within her father's stringent rules and doesn't try to push the bounds of what it means to be a good girl, accepting her fate as one of the uncool. But her best friend considers her the best person she knows, someone who knows right from wrong and will diligently work to expose the truth and render justice (not vengeance, a key distinction). Saying that, even as I admire those kinds of people, they don't tend to be my favorite book characters. I like a bit more flamboyance and wit a la Elizabeth Bennet. The naivety is especially frustrating when it came to the culprit; I started having my suspicions probably later than others but it was eons before Jaycee with her trusting heart.

Overall: I am eager to hear the opinion of people who have read Wolf's previous outing as well as those who are well-versed in YA mystery/thrillers. How do you think this stacks up? Personally I think this is a can-miss. Give it a read if the concept sounds intriguing to you but otherwise, don't feel bad about passing over it.

Other Opinions:
My Guilty Obsession
Once Upon a YA Book
Proud Book Nerd

Monday, September 9, 2013

Conjured

Conjured by Sarah Beth Durst
3.5/5 stars
Walker, 2013
358 pages
YA Horror Fantasy

Source: Received an e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I feel like I saw a lot of wildly varying opinions for this book before starting it. Personally I was drawn mostly by the reputation of the author, someone I think of as writing very atypical books that don't fit a YA mold. And now that I am finished with this, I stand by that assessment. I'm not really sure where to go in my review or how to sum up this remarkable book.

Eve is in the witness protection program with no memories, which is a problem as it seems that she is the only one who could bring a serial killer to justice. Adding to her woes is her mysterious ability to do magic, which completely saps her of energy leading to days or even weeks with memory loss. Meeting Zach though changes all that as he seems to be a way to channel her magic. But the forces after the serial killer cannot afford to let Eve rest and will push her until the killer is caught, no matter the cost.

My summary may make this book seem a bit more focused than it felt while reading; personally I felt like it meandered a bit and then gave us loads of details before everything came into view (basically when Eve gets closer to the killer, not long before the end.) Man, did those pages drag! I tried to be patient, having read some reviews and wanting to trust in the author but that is just not the kind of reader I am.

The bright spot was definitely Zach, a total chatterbox and bookworm, filled to bursting with imagination and knowledge. He's not going to bring the swoon to the blogosphere because he's not dark and mysterious; instead he's remarkably open and honest and completely loyal to Eve through all her uncertainties. I wish we had gotten some more development of him though as I feel he started and ended as the same.

There are a ton of mysteries here (Why can't Eve remember? Why does she keep passing out? What is her history? Who has been killing people? Will Eve survive the forced remembering or succumb to the serial killer?) and I'm not really sure anyone could solve them. As the pieces were revealed, I was gasping at some of the revelations and I really enjoyed how everything played out. This book gets pretty dark and horrific, drawing many gasps from me.

Overall: A refreshing divergence from the usual YA fare despite not quite being to my taste. The reader who perseveres through the slow beginning is definitely rewarded though so don't be put off by my assessment of that-see if this one sounds to your taste!

Cover: Not really sure how I feel about this though my initial thought of what to put on the cover would be pretty spoiler-y.

Other Opinions:
Books and Things
Inspiring Insomnia
Jen Ryland/YA Romantics
Once Upon a Twilight
The Book Smugglers

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Ramblings and the Week to Come 08SEP13

Shopping:
I'm not sure this has ever come up but I'm a huge fan of Disney's Hercules with its amazing integrated songs and especially the sassy Hades and Meg. When I saw the above shirt on Pinterest, I had to have it. The only thing that would make me happier is seeing one with "I'm a big tough girl. I tie my own sandals and everything."

In Real Life:
It was a very busy week for me! Besides work, I had a boot camp three times this week plus softball on Thursday (a loss sadly though in consolation we were missing people and I hit three singles and scored two runs) and a 5K on Saturday. Consequently I'm a bit sore now but I'm trying to stay loose and stretched. At least all of these activities are fun!

Blogging:
After a pretty productive Labor Day weekend, I struggled to focus on reading. This is partly personal because I'm dealing with some things but also is partly me reacting to the weather, which is positively enervating. I know it usually gets hot in September in my area but I don't remember it being *this* hot last year. I don't really want to do anything: not read, not write, not comment, nothing! But I should have more free time today so I'm planning to finish two books and get their reviews ready in addition to starting a third.

Television:
I watch a pretty decent amount of television but don't always feel I have a lot to say about it. This week though marks the series finale for one of my family's favorite shows, airing on USA Network: "Burn Notice." Are any of you familiar with it? I love its mix of action, mystery, drama, and comedy into a satisfying end product. We are sad to see it go and very nervous about the finale as everything is ramping up to the extreme. Is someone going to die? Will we get the conclusion we really want?

He's also pretty cute, right ;)
 Football:
NFL football is back! My Eagles debut tomorrow. Our local paper predicted a 6-10 season for them but Sports Illustrated more optimistically predicted 8-8, which was my wish for this year given our pathetic 4-12 season last year. One odd note for me is that I feel like I'm in-between for sports. I know people who can quote statistics, play fantasy football, and are very knowledgeable on the game, etc. Then I know people who don't watch sports at all but might attend a viewing party. I care more than the latter kind of people but I am not as interested as the former. Does this in-between state sound familiar to anyone else (whether or not it's in regards to sport)?

Week to Come:
An eclectic mix, per usual. We're going across genres and time periods for the YA weekday reviews and then venturing into adult territory for Saturday. I've seen all sorts of ratings for these books and am excited to share where I fall on the scale (translation: I have not finished any of them yet so even I don't know what I think! I'm a fast reader though so I should be ready on this schedule.)

Conjured by Sarah Beth Durst
Dead Girls Don't Lie by Jennifer Shaw Wolf
If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan
Touched by Fire by Irene N Watts
My Basmati Bar Mitzvah by Paula J Freedman
The Bones of Paris by Laurie R King

So that's what's up with me-what's going on with you?

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Beginning of Everything

The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider
4/5 stars
Katherine Tegen Books, 2013
335 pages
YA Contemporary

Source: Received an ARC through Amazon Vine in exchange for an honest review.

I feel like I've been waiting for this book for forever as it experienced title and cover changes but it is here now! The first chapter does show very appropriately why it was originally titled Severed Heads, Broken Hearts with a rather graphic description of a decapitation with a young boy catching the head that serves as historical background for the story to come.

Ezra Faulkner was the golden boy-captain of the tennis team, involved in student government, dating the most popular girl in school. Until one night when he is hit by a car, permanently injured and walking with a cane, and abandoned by his so-called friends. The new school year sees him reuniting with Toby, the boy who caught the head so many years ago. More importantly he meets Cassidy Thorpe, refugee from a fancy boarding school, whose every thought and action fascinates Ezra. Spurred by their relationship, Ezra starts to discover himself as a completely different kind of person until tragedy splits the pair up...possibly for good.

This book is like a lot of contemporaries set in high school that don't have a defined plot. I mean, Ezra definitely takes a journey but it's not as defined as a typical fantasy or dystopia might be. What will really make or break this book for you is the writing, I suspect, at least based on reviews I've read. I love Ezra, Cassidy, Toby, and their crowd's way of speaking, filled with intellectual jokes and references to classical literature. From the reviews I've seen, some people were turned off or found it unrealistic. I don't think most people speak like that but I like imagining that we can all be as witty as characters written by skilled authors. I was also thrilled to see Cassidy introduce Ezra to the panopticon, something I studied in college and is basically the only thing I remember from one class.

As far as the plot goes, it moves pretty quickly with the brief flashbacks at the beginning and then picking up through the first day of school moving toward Thanksgiving. There is some mystery around Cassidy, all of which is revealed-it's pretty predictable to be honest but I thought the quirky writing style really shone through this book. That's what I loved, observing in my goodreads status update, and that is what I'll remember as I move forward.

Overall: I would say read an excerpt if you can-if the writing clicks with you, then give the full book a try!

Other Opinions:
Good Books and Good Wine
Once Upon a Prologue
Rather Be Reading
The Flyleaf Review
The Overflowing Library

Friday, September 6, 2013

ARC Review: Wild Cards

Wild Cards by Simone Elkeles
4/5 stars
Walker Books for Young Readers, 2013
288 pages
YA Contemporary
Scheduled to release October 1

Source: Received an e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I've seen Elkeles' books around but thought they just looked very melodramatic in a way that would not appeal to me. While this one did not seem any less melodramatic, it did promise a look at high school sports, which is one of my soft spots in reading (odd as I never participated in high school sports nor do I watch.)

Having finished this book, I think it is a bit on the melodramatic side with main characters Derek and Ashtyn having so many issues in addition to their alternating perspectives (reminded me of Pushing the Limits) but the weaving in of football and their sizzling sexual tension really won me over and kept me reading.

Derek seems to be a spoiled rich kid, getting kicked out of his fancy prep school and heading home, only to discover that his young stepmother Brandi is moving herself, her son Julian, and now Derek to her hometown outside of Chicago while Derek's father serves his latest assignment in the Navy. Derek is pissed about this change but the situation perks up when he meets Brandi's younger sister Ashtyn, who just happens to be his age and is the perfect melding of tough football-playing jock and all woman curves. She is less than thrilled to meet Derek and the two clash...repeatedly. Ashtyn for her part is pissed about the people in her life who leave and let her down, craving a real relationship that will last. Derek only goes after girls who are down for a good time as he avoids relationships following the death of his mother. Needless to say sparks fly!

The more I think about it, the more I like the comparison to Pushing the Limits. I suspect this book also shares some similarities with Elkeles' previous work but since this is my first (though certainly not my last) encounter with her writing, I cannot comment on that. My favorite part, definitely, was seeing Ashtyn going after what she wanted-battling her jerky ex's manipulations and fighting for a real relationship with Derek despite his repeated protestations that all he could offer was one night. Ultimately I thought the ending was a bit rushed with Derek's grandmother providing a too good to be realistic but welcome burst of energy and drive. Still I really liked all of the characters especially sweetheart Julian who was not featured enough for my taste. Happily it appears that this is the first in a series so we'll have more room to play in this world!

Other Opinions:
Good Books and Good Wine
I Swim For Oceans
Tattooed Books
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