Category Archives: ARC
Book: Dirty Little Secret by Jennifer Echols, MTV Books, On Sale July 16, 2013
Book Info: YA Contemporary Romance, HC 288 pg, received for review from the publisher
Rating: 4 / 5 Stars
This book is so cute, y’all! Jennifer Echols is back with a new summer contemporary romance, and this one has a country western flavor. I’m a big fan of the TV series Nashville, as well as music-themed YA, so I was excited to see what Echols would do with a country music theme. In the book, the main character compares her relationship woes to a country song and that’s a pretty fair description of Dirty Little Secret. There’s lots of drama, music, and heart in this one. My favorite Echols book is still Such a Rush, but all the same Dirty Little Secret put a smile on my face.
In Dirty Little Secret, Bailey is a talented fiddle player, and one half of a sister duo. That pairing goes up in smoke when Bailey’s sister Julie gets her own record deal, and that’s seemingly it for Bailey’s career. She goes to live with her grandfather in Nashville, and plays fiddle at the mall in tribute bands featuring Elvis, Dolly Parton, and Johnny Cash. That’s where she meets Sam, and dares to hope for another chance to make it in the country music circuit.
The music scenes and Nashville setting made the book a standout for me. Bailey lives and breathes music and puts her all into writing songs, performing on stage, and even working at the mall in her Dolly Parton band getup. Bailey has perfect pitch and I thought it was so interesting how it was a blessing but a curse for her. It really bothers her when musicians are off-key!
Sam the love interest is quite the charmer, even though you’re never really sure if you can trust him. He’s so ambitious I couldn’t tell if his motives were true.
From the ARC:
He was the devil in disguise, the handsome but low-down, no-good sneaky guy from a thousand country songstresses’ revenge plots.
If you are familiar with the show Nashville, Sam is kind of a cross between Avery and Gunnar. His scenes with Bailey crackle with chemistry, and Echols does write fantastic kissing scenes for them.
The drama with Bailey’s parents, sister, and the record label, was a little far-fetched for me. I couldn’t understand why Bailey couldn’t do her own thing with music, and why her parents couldn’t support both of the sisters in their musical aspirations.
I’d pick up Dirty Little Secret for the great Nashville music vibe and the romance. There are also some great colorful characters, and dramatic tension to keep you turning pages. It left me hankering for more country music themed books.
Book: The Wild Ones by M. Leighton, Berkley Trade, On Sale Now
Book Info: Contemporary Romance, Review copy courtesy of the publisher, Paperback 336 pages
The Wild Ones is the first book I’ve read by author M. Leighton. You know I’ve been on a New Adult kick lately, so that plus the horse ranch setting got my attention. There’s a forbidden romance vibe about the book and I liked that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s a fun and fast paced ride with charismatic characters.
The Wild Ones centers on Trick and Cami, two people from different worlds that are drawn to each other like magnets. Cami is the wealthy daughter of a horse breeder, and Trick works in their stable to support his family. Trick has a gift with wild horses but the boss is not too impressed with him and wants him to stay away from his daughter. Can their love beat the odds?
We get to know Trick and Cami through alternating POV. Since the two haven’t known each other long it’s interesting to learn more about them through their own POV. They each have their friends, and personal and family dramas that give insight into their character. When the pair is together their scenes crackle with chemistry. I wanted to root for them, even though they have an insta-love/attraction.
There is a twist that makes the forbidden love aspect even more forbidden. I have to say I was relieved to find out what the twist was- my mind was making it darker than it was. It’s a little soap opera-y like an episode of Nashville, though the story is entertaining.
I like the unusual nickname Trick for Patrick and how the author has fun with the trick or treat name with some of the dialogue:
Pick ‘treat’. Please, for the love of God, pick ‘treat’. -Trick
The Wild Ones is a cute read, and I liked the wild horse tie-in and that it makes the most of the ranch setting. It’s heavy on the romance and written in a casual style with a strong character voice. If you like cowboy romance or New Adult type books give The Wild Ones a try. Trick and Cami’s story wraps up in The Wild Ones, but there is a sequel in the works about another couple in the story, Rusty and Jenna. Look for The Wild Child in the fall.
To learn more behind the scenes info, check out my interview with author M. Leighton.
Book: Escape Theory (Keaton School #1) by Margaux Froley, Soho Teen, On Sale Now
Book Info: YA Contemporary, ARC via Edelweiss, Hardcover 272 pages
Rating: 4 / 5 Stars
There’s a crop of YA mystery type reads out lately, and the boarding school setting of Escape Theory makes for even more fun. In TV scribe Margaux Froley’s debut, high school junior Devon Mackintosh is a new peer counselor at a California boarding school who talks to students about everything from drugs to shoplifting to grieving. The school is reeling from the shocking suicide of Jason Hutchins (“Hutch”), the Keaton legacy student and all-around good guy. Devon feels the suicide is out of character and aims to set the record straight. Escape Theory is the first book in the Keaton School series, and is funny, mysterious and a little dangerous.
Hutch is “the boy that got away” from Devon. Ever since they shared a late night snack of Nutter Butter pancakes one night freshman year, they’ve had a bond. They ran in different circles, though they kept track of each other over the years. Something doesn’t sit right about his alleged suicide, and Devon in her peer counselor role is in a unique position to do some digging.
Escape Theory is set at Keaton School, a fancy-pants California boarding school. Devon is a scholarship student and feels like an outsider among the privileged student body. She does make friends though, and adds some new connections to her circle that she meets after Hutch’s death. The good life at Keaton includes parties, surfing and easy access to pharmaceuticals. As a peer counselor, she learns that there’s more than meets the eye to the troubled students of Keaton.
I liked Devon; she’s hard working, analytical, and tries to see the good in people. She has a good sense of humor and a strong moral compass. Devon makes some allies in her search for the truth, and I especially took to Cleo, the gossipy kleptomaniac who becomes a sleuthing sidekick in Devon’s Nancy Drew type investigation.
Even though the book begins with Hutch’s obit, we get the chance to meet him through flashbacks. He was one of my favorite characters and his personality lights up the page. It is interesting to get insight into his character through Devon’s eyes. He had more facets to his personality than she realized.
The book is eminently readable and engaging. The dialogue is snappy and the plot moves at a brisk pace. I liked the use of flashbacks to tell the story and the way that setting is used to full advantage. I was turning pages quickly towards the end to find out what happened to Hutch.
Escape Theory is entertaining and witty, and has pop culture references that made me smile. From the book blurbs I expected a Pretty Little Liars/Gossip Girl type book, and there are some similarities, though this book reads a little older to me. If you like boarding school settings, or YA contemporary mysteries like Also Known As or Heist Society, give Escape Theory a try.
To learn more behind the scenes info, check out my interview with author Margaux Froley.
Book: Also Known As by Robin Benway, Bloomsbury, On Sale February 26, 2013
Book Info: YA Contemporary, ARC via NetGalley, Hardcover 320 pages
Rating: 4 / 5 Stars
I’m a big fan of Robin Benway’s YA contemporary gem Audrey, Wait and have been waiting for lightning to strike twice. Also Known As also features Benway’s trademark humor and this time centers on a family of spies. I found it highly enjoyable, witty and fresh, and AKA even made me LOL at times.
Also Known As (AKA) is the story of a teen safecracker named Maggie. She is always on the move with her spy parents, making the world safe from bad guys. Her current assignment is her first solo outing, and it ‘s a big one. Maggie has to go undercover as a student at a Manhattan prep school to get close to fellow student Jesse Oliver. Jesse’s wealthy dad has the names and photos of Maggie’s family and other members of the spy group known as the Collective. If Maggie can’t retrieve the file in time, their identities will be leaked to the media. What Maggie didn’t bank on is falling for Jesse for real, and finding a real friend (not air quotes friend) in Roux.
I expected AKA to be a kind of funny Heist Society type novel, with lots of gadgets and dangerous missions. Where this book is a little different is that the main character gets to experience a normal life for the first time. She’s always lived the life of an international spy, never putting down roots anywhere. Now she’s getting her first taste of high school and being around teenagers, and it’s out of her comfort zone but in a good way.
There’s a great cast of characters in AKA. Maggie has a mentor and coffee buddy in the forger Angelo, and Maggie’s parents walk the line between over-protective mom and dad, and stern bosses. Maggie is clever and sarcastic and is used to talking to adults all day. Her new friends are independent and loner types (but the filthy rich kind) like her. But together they click as a band of misfits.
I loved the smart and snappy dialogue in AKA. The novel flows in a conversational and easy way and is a quick and fun read. Benway’s wit shines through the pages, and the story is full of action, friendship, and heart. The New York setting is also used to advantage with several scenes taking place in familiar landmarks. I found it humorous that Maggie has to be a “spy” for her Halloween costume and doesn’t know how to dress the part.
In addition to Maggie torn between the spy world and wanting a normal life, there’s also a mystery to solve and the clock’s ticking. The stakes are high for her family and for the first time Maggie has friends that she doesn’t want to let down.
I think anyone that enjoys humorous YA contemporary books will love Also Known As. The spy twist is fresh and a blast to read. And even though there is a sequel in the works, this book has a satisfying conclusion on its own. I’m looking forward to the next installment.
Thanks to Bloomsbury for inviting me to participate in the Triple Threat Blog Tour and providing a review copy of AKA!
Check out Robin Benway’s Also Known As Spotify playlist, and read more about where the songs take place on her blog.
Book Info: YA Contemporary, ARC via NetGalley, Hardcover 316 pages
Rating: 4 / 5 Stars
High school student “Butter” is a lonely obese guy who can’t get out of the over-eating cycle. He needs to lose weight for his health but lacks the support at home and motivation to stick to the plan. Butter is usually ignored at school but has also been a bully target at times. After a particularly bad day, Butter’s thoughts turn to self-harm and he determines to eat himself to death live via webcam on New Years Eve. He announces his plan on his website and is startled to find his classmates embrace the idea and encourage him with comments, invitations to parties, last meal suggestions, and friendship. But if they are his friends, how can they let Butter go through with his plans?
The premise is so morbid that I was worried I’d be able to get through this one. But the writing is so compelling I had to keep reading to see how it all turns out. It’s hard to read about Butter’s depression and his treatment at school, but there have been stories similar to Butter’s on the news unfortunately. Though many of them make mistakes along the way, the adults and kids in the story are not all good or all bad and makes you think about how you’d handle the situation if it happened to you.
One thing that makes this read a little easier to digest is that Butter has a great sense of humor. He wants people to see past his appearance and get to know the real him. He’s a nice guy, clever and talented – he’s a gifted saxophone player and the band teacher really wants him to join their music group, but he doesn’t want to put himself out there that way. One person who does like him (personality-wise) is a girl he chats with online anonymously. She is a popular girl at school named Anna and doesn’t give him the time of day there. But, she falls for him online and wants to meet face to face, something Butter of course is reluctant to do.
The subject matter is intense and hard to read at times and brings feelings of anger at the people in Butter’s life and at Butter himself too for letting the situation get so out of control. The whole situation really makes you think and would make for a great book club discussion. The bullying, depression and eating disorder topics are relevant to today and should resonate well with readers of realistic fiction. Erin Jade Lang writes a powerful book with strong characters and a great message.
Book Info: YA Science Fiction / Romance, ARC via Edelweiss, Hardcover 336 pages
Rating: 5 / 5 Stars
I’m always excited when there’s a new David Levithan book out, and Every Day may be my favorite yet. The concept caught my eye immediately – a being who wakes up every day in a new body, wow! It works as both a science fiction book and a contemporary love story and really draws you in.
“A” is a genderless entity and spends every day in someone else’s body- going through the motions of their life and trying not to disrupt anything. No matter what, the next day there will be a new body, could be male, female, straight or gay, a drug addict, a loner, an athlete, or a social butterfly. A has learned to adapt, and race, gender, and sexual orientation is no big deal to A. A can access the host body’s memories to get by, but still has a unique personality and thoughts, just without a physical body. It’s lonely never being able to form attachments or stay in one family for more than one day. Everything changes one day when A falls in love and begins to question everything. Sounds like a cool concept, yes?
This exercise of A’s really made me think when I was reading it, trying to imagine what it would be like to experience the world through someone else’s eyes every day and all the good and bad that comes with it. It’s a big responsibility to hold someone’s life in your hands for a day! It definitely takes someone kind and compassionate with a good moral code to handle that role. There is the temptation to meddle in the life of this temporary body, but should you?
Given A’s situation of being without a permanent body, the romance is on the angst-y side. It takes a special person to be accepting of their partner regardless of their ever-changing appearance and gender. It is really sweet to see A make a go at romance and let someone in on the secret. Talk about relationship challenges!
I liked learning about all the different characters A personified and seeing how A handled the reactions of others to each different body. The situation inspires a great deal of empathy. A is respectful of each character’s choices, but the different experiences can’t help but color your view of the world.
Of course I questioned why A has this role, and if there are others like A, etc. But I also was really interested in the story Levithan was trying to tell and not too concerned with the whys. Every Day is really gorgeous, thought provoking and special, a little melancholy and intense. This is a good choice for fans of Levithan or John Green, and should appeal to young adults and adults of both genders. I liked the ending too, but can’t help thinking about what happens next…
Every Day is in stores Tuesday August 28. Hope you check it out!
I’m thrilled to be part of the Once blog tour, and share a review, playlist and giveaway of the book.
About Once – Spoiler alert for Eve:
When you’re being hunted, who can you trust?
For the first time since she escaped from her school many months ago, Eve can sleep soundly. She’s living in Califia, a haven for women, protected from the terrifying fate that awaits orphaned girls in The New America.
But her safety came at a price: She was forced to abandon Caleb, the boy she loves, wounded and alone at the city gates. When Eve gets word that Caleb is in trouble, she sets out into the wild again to rescue him, only to be captured and brought to the City of Sand, the capital of The New America.
Trapped inside the City walls, Eve uncovers a shocking secret about her past—and is forced to confront the harsh reality of her future. When she discovers Caleb is alive, Eve attempts to flee her prison so they can be together—but the consequences could be deadly. She must make a desperate choice to save the ones she loves . . . or risk losing Caleb forever.
In this breathless sequel to Eve, Anna Carey returns to her tale of romance, adventure, and sacrifice in a world that is both wonderfully strange and chillingly familiar.
Once is the middle book in the Eve trilogy by Anna Carey. If you haven’t read Eve yet, you can still follow along with the events in Once, but as always it will be a better reading experience if you start from the beginning.
I found Once to be even more enjoyable and surprising than Eve. The story picks up a few months after the events of Eve, and Eve is getting acclimated to her new life in the safe haven of Califia. She’s missing Caleb though and plotting to see him again. Things are going pretty smoothly but it’s not long before there’s a game changer that moves the plot in an unexpected direction that throws Eve off balance.
The new setting and characters are an exciting change of pace and I liked how I couldn’t predict what was going to happen next. Sometimes middle books can be a disappointment and feel like they are stalling for the final book. But Once is intense and so much happens that got me invested in the story and wanting to know more.
I liked all the references to California locations, and the City of Sand/ Las Vegas. The new characters kept things interesting and surprising but I was glad to see familiar characters pop up too. The story is very much about Eve’s journey though, and she has grown a lot through all her experiences. I enjoyed learning more about her and her past this time around.
Once the emotional story gets going it’s hard to put down. The pacing is good and a nice mix of action and romance. The romance is surprising and bittersweet, and the cliffhanger ending will have you dying for the last book in the trilogy, Rise (April 2013). If you like romantic dystopia, give this series a try.
Anna Carey put together a playlist for Once, and after reading the book I think these songs are a great fit for the emotional story.
The Eve Trilogy: Once playlist
Bon Iver, Skinny Love
The novel opens with Eve living in Califia. She’s spent months thinking about what happened to Caleb, wondering if he’s alive and where. This song reminds me of that churning, torturous place she’s in—wanting to be with him, but hating the pain of the situation.
Ani DiFranco, Swan Dive
There’s a moment in the beginning of Once when Eve sets out to find Caleb. This song perfectly captures the risks inherent in loving someone. Eve knows it’s dangerous, but cares about him more than she does herself.
Jose Gonzalez, Crosses
The imagery in this song reminds me of the first night Eve goes to meet Caleb in the City, how the streets are dark, how there are shadows in the windows above. His is the reassuring voice that sees her through.
Ryan Adams, So Alive
This song is all energy. There’s a scene in Once that takes place under a bridge, and I could nearly hear this song playing as I wrote it. It speaks to how exhilarating it is to be in love.
Passion Pit, Sleepyhead Acoustic version
Sleepyhead was originally one of my favorite dance songs, but when I heard the acoustic version it nearly made me cry. Slowed down it’s so tender and intimate, and the lyrics capture this simple, private moment between two people.
Iron & Wine, The Trapeze Singer
Eve makes several painful decisions throughout the course of the story. In one, she says good-bye to Caleb indefinitely. This song is one of the most painful and beautiful love songs I know. “Please, remember me” is repeated eight times.
Sia, Breathe Me
There’s a scene at the end of Once where Eve is in intense pain, and can’t fully comprehend what just happened to her. This song articulates that confusion and loss.
Florence and the Machine, Seven Devils
This song builds to a slow, simmering rage, and reminds me of the last chapter in Once. I can’t say more than that for fear of giving too much away…
The giveaway has ended. Congrats to Natasha and Anne – they have each won a copy of ONCE!
Book Info: YA Contemporary Romance, HC 320 pg, received for review
Rating: 5 / 5 Stars
Such a Rush is a perfect summer read and probably my favorite Jennifer Echols book. Prior to reading Such a Rush I had only read Love Story by this author, but after finishing her latest I immediately picked up (and finished) Going Too Far and Forget You. Not even my painful broken wrist could keep me from finishing this one! Echols’ blend of romance, interesting characters, witty dialogue and dramatic intrigue makes her latest book a favorite of mine.
Echols writes romantic dramas and romantic comedies, and Such a Rush is her latest drama. One thing I’ve enjoyed in her books is the interesting careers/hobbies she features, from law enforcement, swim team, and creative writing, and with Such a Rush, aviation.
In Such a Rush, the cards are stacked against Leah Jones. Her mom frequently leaves her alone in the trailer they share in Heaven Beach, South Carolina. To help make ends meet, Leah takes a job as a receptionist at the nearby airport. But soon Leah falls in love with airplanes and sees flying as her ticket out of town. Leah’s boss Mr. Hall sees potential in Leah and agrees to give her flying lessons. Flash forward a few years, and Leah’s flying is coming along great, but she suddenly loses her mentor, and Mr. Hall’s teenage sons Grayson and Alec want to take over. Leah’s welcome to stay and fly for the brothers, but there are strings attached, and the added complication of a long-time crush Leah’s had on Grayson.
I love the concept of this one – Leah has had a rough time of it no question, but flying is her escape. She goes to school with kids wealthier than her and has to buy her own groceries and help her mom pay the bills. She has a certain reputation at school that has given her peers the wrong impression. She has one close friend named Molly, but there’s always a divide between them as well. Flying planes is the best thing that has happened to her, along with learning from her mentor/father figure Mr. Hall. Leah is strong and wants to make something of her life, even though she has a lot of obstacles in the way. She’s not the type to ask for help and I admired her work ethic and self-motivation.
The twin brothers Grayson and Alec also made some assumptions about Leah that make their working relationship awkward. Grayson is arrogant and reckless but is trying to change his ways, while Alec is the more sweet and even-tempered brother. Not to worry though, there is not a traditional love triangle per se, which is not to say things are not complicated between the three of them.
Echols knows how to write romantic tension and this book is exploding with it. Besides the flying and family drama going on with Leah, sparks will fly and there is plenty of heat. It is on the A side of YA so keep that in mind.
The scenes with Leah flying planes are awesome and made me feel a sense of freedom right along with her. The airport setting works really well and along with the romance delivers the rush that the title promises.
Echols’ fans will eat this one up, and if you’re looking for the perfect summer beach read look no further. It even snapped me out of a mini reading rut. Such a Rush is fun and exciting but has some depth to it as well. Look for Such a Rush to hit shelves on Tuesday July 10. Look for Echols’ first romantic comedy for adults called Star Crossed in February 2013.
Congrats to Brittany who has won a copy of SUCH A RUSH!
Book Info: YA Contemporary Romance, Review copy courtesy of NetGalley, Avail. in HC 395 pg.
Rating: 4 / 5 Stars
This book cover just screams summer, doesn’t it? My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick arrived just when I was in the mood to do a little escapist reading, and the more I read about it the more I couldn’t wait to start reading. This coming of age is appealing with the forbidden love and opposites attract aspects, though there are also some deeper issues to explore in this debut novel. I found myself on a recent warm spring day devouring this book and falling in love with the family next door, just like Samantha.
Samantha Reed lives in a coastal New England town with her mom Grace, who is a State Senator, and her older sister, Tracy. It’s always been just the three of them, and they have managed very well on their own. When the oversized Garrett family moves in next-door, five lively kids and counting – Grace Reed just knows that their family won’t keep house to her pristine standards, certain their cluttered ways will bring down the neighborhood. Grace has made it clear that Samantha is not to socialize with “those Garrett’s.” But Samantha can’t keep from watching the Garrett family on the sly, wondering what it would be like to be on the other side of the fence. One day, Jase Garrett spots Samantha spying and climbs up the trellis to say hello, opening the door to a summer of moonlight swims, stargazing, and family time with the Garrett’s.
I clicked with this book right away, swept up with the family drama and summer romance. Coming from a small family I was also curious about how it would be to live in a large family. There is a stark contrast between the austere Reed home and the chaotic yet tons of fun Garrett household. Sam is on her own during the summer while her mom is out campaigning with the creepy new man in her life, politically and romantically. And her sister is out of town for the summer too, paving the way for Sam to spend lots of time with Jase and his family.
The Garrett’s are bubbly and alive and a welcome breath of fresh air to Samantha. There are eight (!) Garrett kids in all but it was surprisingly not confusing to keep track of them all. Jase is the third oldest, and Samantha bonds right away with one of the younger boys George. All of the kids sparkle with personality, and life at the Garrett’s makes life at the Reed’s look dreary in comparison. Coming from such a different household it was interesting to see how well Samantha fit in with the Garrett’s even taking a turn at babysitting.
Besides the Garrett family, the blossoming romance between Jase and Samantha takes center stage. You will fall in love with Jase, and I predict he will be your new favorite book boyfriend. He really is too good to be true and the novel stands on it’s own just based on their romance, despite any other stumbling blocks. He loves animals, dreams big, he’s great with kids, and can fix anything. They are a root worthy couple and Fitzpatrick hits all the right notes developing their relationship.
Samantha is hard working and intelligent – she has two summer jobs, including one waitress job with a funnily inappropriate sailor uniform. She faces some moral dilemmas in this book that take the story beyond just a summer romance, and especially with her mother’s political career on the line. There are friendship issues that arise with her friend Nan and her brother Tim- not my favorite story direction in the book, but Tim’s story is interesting as it develops.
While much of the book is smooth sailing and a fun relaxed romance, I waited for the inevitable other shoe to drop, which it does. I kind of wish Fitzpatrick didn’t have to create the situation she did, though I understand you have to have some kind of conflict in the book. In this case though, the conflict tarnished the book for me and seemed a little too manufactured. It does make for some interesting discussion, though I wish there was another way.
I found My Life Next Door very memorable and a worthy summer read. Though the story could use a little tightening up and the conflict wasn’t my favorite, I still found a lot to enjoy about the book. The story has stayed with me and I’m sure I’ll reread it at some point. This contemporary romance has depth and layers to explore and is perfect for a day at the beach.
Book Info: YA paranormal, Review copy courtesy of Edelweiss, Available in HC 357 pages
Rating: 4 / 5 Stars
Until I Die by Amy Plum is the second book in the Revenants trilogy, and the sequel to last year’s Die For Me. In this series, Kate has recently lost her parents and moved to Paris with her sister to live with their grandparents. She meets a mysterious boy named Vincent who is actually a revenant, which in this book is a good zombie basically. But like any paranormal couple they have their problems, as well as the bad revenants called Numa who are always after them. In the sequel Kate and Vincent have a reality check about their future as a couple and we learn more about the revenants history.
I liked Until I Die just as much as the first book and was thoroughly entertained. There are character reveals and surprises that kept me guessing, and some hints about where the trilogy conclusion is heading. Until I Die is one of the better “middle” books and I didn’t feel like there were any slow parts- the only negative is where Plum left the story hanging at the end!
The book picks up where Die For Me left off. Kate and Vincent are happy together but hanging over their heads is the idea that their romance can’t last forever. Kate will eventually grow old and die and Vincent’s role is to sacrifice his life for humans again and again. They work independently to try to find a way to make it work as a couple, but their investigation is causing even more danger for themselves and their loved ones.
Even though it’s been a year since I read the first book I easily fell back into the story and immersed myself into the world of the revenants. The Paris setting is very charming, and the author uses the setting to her advantage by having the characters explore all the city has to offer. All of the characters are back in the sequel, and the revenants characters are my favorite, especially Jules and Ambrose. There are new characters as well that help explain more about the revenants back-story.
There is a whodunit mystery this time around, and even though I’m usually slow to figure these things out, in this book I called it early on. There are also some unsubtle hints about the direction of the series and the characters, and I can’t wait for the final book to find out if my suspicions are correct.
This is one of my favorite new paranormal romance series and the characters and the setting make it a delight to read. And Amy Plum lives in France so she knows her stuff and makes it feel like you are on a Paris vacation. The book is evenly paced and hard to put down, especially as you get close to the end. Like I said earlier though, Plum ends this one in a frustrating spot and it left me really anxious for the final book. If I Should Die is expected May 2013.
Check out the book trailer:
Book Info: Young Adult Contemporary, Review copy courtesy of NetGalley, Available in HC 224 pages
Rating: 4.5 / 5 Stars
I’m continuing my journey into reading more contemporary with Trish Doller’s debut novel Something Like Normal. This book has received a lot of positive buzz from bloggers and I had to take notice. I recently read Miracle by Elizabeth Scott, a book that addresses PTSD, and In Honor by Jessi Kirby, another book about the aftermath of a military death, and this book seemed to fit right into my current reading mood. The book’s tagline, War is only half the battle, fits the story to a T as the main character Travis is maneuvering through a number of difficult personal challenges. The military aspect is very topical and makes for a rich subject matter to explore. Something Like Normal is another great entry into the new adult category and I couldn’t put it down.
In Something Like Normal, Travis is just returning home for a month’s stay after serving the last year in Afghanistan. He’s haunted by his best friend Charlie’s death and having a hard time adjusting to family life. Life at home seems trivial compared to his last year in Afghanistan. It’s hard to come home again, especially when his younger brother has taken over his old life by stealing his girlfriend and his car. His mother has thrown herself into the role of military mom whole-heartedly and meanwhile her marriage is crumbling. A ray of hope arrives when Travis reconnects with Harper, a girl he has a bad history with but who is now his saving grace. Travis needs to battle his PTSD and find some inner peace before he can go back to being a Marine again.
19-year-old Travis has a refreshing voice, and he’s not perfect by any means but it’s still easy to relate to his struggles. We learn Travis’s story via flashbacks, visits from old friends, and through his complicated family life. His military experiences have brought on a new maturity that helps him see his family and friends back home in a new light. Travis’s military flashbacks seem realistic, though I’m no expert on the matter. The PTSD episodes ring true as well, and fit seamlessly into the story. Travis is a really interesting character and I was rooting for him to get better and find some happiness. Thank goodness he had his awesome mom on his side, since his dad is just the worst. Harper is a great girl for Travis, and sensible, fun and smart – someone you want to be friends with. Their story ends a little too soon for my taste, and I could have happily kept reading about their journey a while longer.
Consider picking up Something Like Normal if you like contemporary, new adult books, or YA with a male point of view. The PTSD and military themes in the book are handled realistically and with respect and make for an engaging read. Travis’s road to healing is touching and insightful. I’m a new fan of Trish Doller and look forward to her next book.
Book Info: Young Adult Paranormal, Received via NetGalley, Available in HC, 384 pages
Rating: 3.5 / 5 Stars
This year mermaids are poised to make a splash on the YA book scene. (Sorry, couldn’t resist) And there are several mermaid-themed books I have my eye on to read this summer. The Vicious Deep sets itself apart by featuring a merman rather than a mermaid. Lifeguard Tristan is a confident, flirty, sarcastic guy with a dry wit who has a crush on his unattainable best friend Layla. But he has bigger things to worry about when he wakes after a freak near drowning and finds himself in a fishy situation. Now this merdude is in line to inherit the sea kingdom should he accept the challenge.
Zoraida Cordova’s debut starts off with a bang and won me over right away. Cordova nailed the voice of the male protagonist Tristan and the story starts off fresh and funny. Tristan’s dialogue is witty and realistic and he acts like such a dude, flaws and all. I thought his inner dialogue was really clever and one of my favorite parts of the book. Loved his reactions to his new circumstances.
In addition to Tristan, there are several other sea creatures to help him on his quest. A couple of merfolk posing as his cousins come to Brooklyn to mentor him, and join him in high school. I always like the fish out of water scenario and it reminded me a little of Splash at the beginning. I especially liked Tristan’s charming cousin Thalia. There is a large cast of colorful sea and otherworldly creatures that Tristan encounters and in fact, it was hard to keep track of them all at times.
I really liked the first half of the book and Tristan getting acclimated to his situation. After the first part though it felt like the book veered off track and I had trouble staying invested. The story makes quick jumps to different settings and situations and the pacing just felt off. There is a lot of story potential there with the sea kingdom and romantic situation but towards the end it just wasn’t holding my interest and I was skimming pages. There is more action in the second half of the book but I think I just preferred the humorous tone of the first half.
Despite the pacing, there are some interesting characters and fresh dialogue in the kickoff to the Vicious Deep series. I will be curious to see how things play out in the sequel The Savage Blue.
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Book Info: Young Adult Contemporary, Received from the publisher, Available in HC 224 pages
Rating: 4 / 5 Stars
Megan is the only survivor in a small plane crash, and now seen as a miracle in her parent’s eyes. Megan is shell-shocked from the experience, but continues to go through the motions as if everything is fine. Megan withdraws from soccer, her friends, and her classes, retreating because of the ghosts that haunt her. She finds comfort from some unlikely sources, including Joe the troubled boy next door, and Margaret, a war veteran church acquaintance, who can see through her miracle façade.
Miracle is Elizabeth Scott’s 11th book (I’ve read 4 of them so far) and is as intense and personal as I’ve come to expect. Miracle has a raw honesty as it delivers an authentic look at PTSD. I felt all the emptiness and isolation in Megan as she worked through the aftermath of the plane disaster. The book also takes a look at the individuals closest to Megan, who just don’t get what she’s going through, mainly because she won’t let them in.
The story is told through Megan’s POV and takes place right after the plane crash. She doesn’t remember the crash, but fakes that she does just so she can get out of the hospital already. Bits and pieces begin coming to her and make it impossible for her to resume her normal activities. All of the symptoms of PTSD were there, and it was interesting that those closest to Megan refused to see her obvious need for help. Where previously Megan’s sickly little brother was the focus of attention, the plane crash created a shift in the family dynamic, as the parents became all about Megan.
Two people recognize that not all is right in Megan’s head and become a support system in her healing journey. Joe, her gorgeous next-door neighbor, is one who is no stranger to survivor’s guilt. And though the book is not all about the romance, the two bond over their experiences. Margaret is another character who stood out for me, and her experience as a Vietnam vet makes her uniquely suited to recognize some of what Megan is going through. Both characters are societal outcasts in their own way and I really enjoyed getting to know them. Margaret especially stole the book, and I loved all the details about her character, such as her pushing milk on Megan, the homemade bears that littered her home, and her matter of fact personality.
Scott’s stripped-down prose is well suited to the story and subject matter and makes it an intense quick read. Megan’s experience is one that many who have experienced a loss may relate to. The journey is not easy and the characters don’t always behave the way you want them to. This portrait of a PTSD survivor is a gratifying reading experience.
Other Reviews of Miracle:
Genre/Format: Young Adult, Review copy provided by publisher, 352 pages
Rating: 4 / 5 Stars
The Rivals is the sequel to last year’s The Mockingbirds, a book about boarding school students who start their own justice committee when the school leadership turn a blind eye to student crimes. Gifted music student Alex took a date rape case to the Mockingbirds and now has a leadership role in the group to help other students. This time around the issue is a drug fueled cheating ring on the debate team and is a whodunit for Alex and the Mockingbirds to solve.
It has been a while since I read The Mockingbirds, but I got quickly up to speed in The Rivals. The students seem a little older in this series, so much so that I thought they were in college. Though they seem grown up, they make some bad decisions, which is where the Mockingbirds come in. The latest case is a tricky one for the vigilante group due to the relationship of the accused to members of the Mockingbirds, and that this time the victim is the entire student body. The Mockingbirds go on a wild goose chase to find the real culprit behind the cheating ring.
There are some growing pains for the Mockingbirds as they get used to their new group dynamic and their evolving role in the school. I think it makes sense that the group would be under scrutiny, when you have a small court making decisions for the whole school. Their role is interesting to me and I like that they have taken the responsibility of making student offenders accountable when the faculty is not doing their job. It did seem like too much for the students to take on though – I wouldn’t want my child to go to a school that doesn’t protect them.
Solving the crime is part of the fun in The Rivals. Every time I thought I had it figured out, there would be something new to shed doubt on another character. New as well as familiar characters at Themis Academy are under the microscope in the latest scandal. Alex has to make hard choices in her leadership role with all the conflicting evidence. She has grown a lot as a character even though she is realistically still dealing with the after effects of the date rape, and everything doesn’t go perfectly for her in her first case.
I like how Daisy Whitney incorporates the arts into the series through the characters interest in literature, music, dance and drama. The new characters fit in well, as there are new villains and allies in Alex’s world. In addition to the Mockingbirds and Alex’s road to Julliard, the romance story also heats up. And the introduction of a potential rival for Alex’s affections also caught my interest.
I liked the way this book got me excited to read more about these characters. In a way, both books in the series work well as standalone’s but The Rivals takes the drama to the next level and heightened my interest in the series. I don’t know if there is a third book but there are a few juicy storylines that I’m interested to see how they play out. If you like older YA books with ethical dilemmas or just enjoy a good mystery, give this series a try.