SeriousSeriesLove · YA

The Arc of a Scythe Trilogy by Neal Shusterman

I know, I know. This book came out in November of 2019. What took me so long?!? It wasn’t self-control (because we all know I don’t have any when it comes to books). I just didn’t know how it would end and I was stressed about the whole thing. If you haven’t read The Arc of a Scythe Series, there are spoilers for the first two books below. They are minor, but they are there. There are no spoilers for The Toll though!

Scythe

SYNOPSIS


scythe
A figure in a hooded red cape holds a scythe looking like a futuristic grim reaper.

A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery: humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now Scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control.

Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own.

Scythe is the first novel of a thrilling new series by National Book Award–winning author Neal Shusterman in which Citra and Rowan learn that a perfect world comes only with a heavy price. Scythe from Amazon.


REVIEW


Initially, I didn’t really find any of the main characters appealing. Both Citra and Rowan are teenagers in a world that no longer has natural death. Which is why, back when I first tried to read it, I put it down after three chapters. As the story unfolded I began to comprehend the apathy to which these people must have acclimated to in a world where there is no reason to worry, no purpose in hard work, and the ability to die only to be whisked off to a revival center and brought back to life. If there is no threat of old age then do you lose the thirst and hunger of youth? Certainly, when Citra and Rowan are faced with a permanent cessation of their lives their personalities change dramatically into characters that I grew to love.

And there in lies the magic of this story. At first glance I believed this was another annoying futuristic tale and the cautionary story of a world without death. Instead, I became slowly aware, along with the characters, of the importance of death in giving life value and purpose. As I watched Citra and Rowan struggle with that realization and the lengths they would go to in order to continue to live, even if that meant taking lives, I found myself completed immersed in the story. And now, as so frequently happens, a book I thought I wouldn’t enjoy has become a series I could not wait to continue.


Thunderhead

SYNOPSIS


Scythe#2
Two figures, one in black and one in turquoise hold scythes with their backs to each other.

Humans learn from their mistakes. I cannot. I make no mistakes.

The Thunderhead is the perfect ruler of a perfect world, but it has no control over the scythedom. A year has passed since Rowan had gone off grid. Since then, he has become an urban legend, a vigilante snuffing out corrupt scythes in a trial by fire. His story is told in whispers across the continent.

As Scythe Anastasia, Citra gleans with compassion and openly challenges the ideals of the “new order.” But when her life is threatened and her methods questioned, it becomes clear that not everyone is open to the change.

Old foes and new enemies converge, and as corruption within the Scythedom spreads, Rowan and Citra begin to lose hope. Will the Thunderhead intervene?

Or will it simply watch as this perfect world begins to unravel? Thunderhead from Amazon.


REVIEW

At the conclusion of Scythe we see the Thunderhead, the all knowing brain of the world, speaking directly to Citra. Until that moment, the reader has no idea how involved the Thunderhead is with a typical citizen’s day to day existence. Ponder this issue no longer! In this second book we meet Greyson Tolliver. A lonely young man, Greyson has been raised by the benevolent voice of the Thunderhead all his life. When Citra’s life is in danger, the Thunderhead sends Greyson to save her and forever changing Greyson’s life. Meanwhile, old foes continue to threaten the delicate balance of the world. The real question is what role Rowan, Citra and Greyson will play the ensuing chaos.

As with ScytheThunderhead is crafted to keep you entertained. The shifting narratives begin completely disconnected and as they dodge and weave their way towards intersection – the action climbs. The final pages of this book will leave your heart pounding and, if you are anything like me, you will immediately try to figure out when the third installment is being published (no date yet!!).

Unlike ScytheThunderhead has almost no quiet and reflective moments. This second installment is action packed. Furthermore, the second book spends much less time reflecting on life and death and more on the balance we seek and the role we take to achieve that life. The author is not afraid to take you on an adventure. Honestly, that ending….whew!


The Toll

SYNOPSIS


thetoll
Two green cloaked scythes stand on either side of a person wearing a purple robe.

Citra and Rowan have disappeared. Endura is gone. It seems like nothing stands between Scythe Goddard and absolute dominion over the world scythedom. With the silence of the Thunderhead and the reverberations of the Great Resonance still shaking the earth to its core, the question remains: Is there anyone left who can stop him?

The answer lies in the Tone, the Toll, and the Thunder.

The Toll from Amazon.

 

 

 

 

REVIEW


At over 600 action packed pages this was a marathon read. But, much like a long workout, I felt nothing but satisfaction when I finally finished.

But satisfaction isn’t quite the same as gasping with delight and clapping my hands. The trilogy answered all my questions but The Toll also provided me even more that had to be resolved in book three. There were whole sections that felt a little long and drawn out and there was a significant imbalance between the amount of time we spent with Greyson and Citra compared to the parts of the story dedicated to Rowan. This didn’t bother me at all since Greyson Tolliver is my favorite character in the series but if you are coming to this third book for a huge helping of Rowan you are going to be disappointed.

There were also numerous new characters, some good and other evil, that bogged down the storyline a bit. While it was totally worth it for Jeri, the ship captain who swiftly became my favorite new character of book three, other people felt superfluous. Similarly, there were plot points that only made the story take longer (not last longer).

Still, the magic of the Sythe trilogy was present even with these flaws. Book three will answer all your questions, wrap up all the issues, and bring you the closure you have been seeking since landing on Endura in Thunderhead. All in all, it was an excellent trilogy.


Tell me, please!

Have you read the Arc of a Sycthe Triology?


 

humor · YA

Denton Little’s Deathdate by Lance Rubin

Tomorrow is the day I’m going to die.

I don’t mean to get all dramatic about it.

I saw this book while Christmas shopping and I just couldn’t resist buying it for myself. I love gallows humor and this book certainly didn’t disappoint. Of course, the fact that Denton Little’s Still Not Dead was shelved right next to it reassured me how the first book would end.

dentonlittle's

SYNOPSIS


Denton Little’s Deathdate takes place in a world exactly like our own except that everyone knows the day on which they will die. For Denton, that’s in just two days—the day of his senior prom.

Despite his early deathdate, Denton has always wanted to live a normal life, but his final days are filled with dramatic firsts. First hangover. First sex. First love triangle—as the first sex seems to have happened not with his adoring girlfriend, but with his best friend’s hostile sister. (Though he’s not totally sure—see, first hangover.) His anxiety builds when he discovers a strange purple rash making its way up his body. Is this what will kill him? And then a strange man shows up at his funeral, claiming to have known Denton’s long-deceased mother, and warning him to beware of suspicious government characters. . . . Suddenly Denton’s life is filled with mysterious questions and precious little time to find the answers.

Denton Little’s Deathdate from Amazon.

REVIEW


Poor Denton. Imagine trying to fit so many firsts into a time period that means they will also be your lasts. But Denton doesn’t have time to feel sorry for himself. When he wakes up hung over (on Schnappes no less, barf) and alone in a bed that isn’t his just two days before his Death Day does he lay there dwelling on it? No. He pulls himself together in a way only a person who understands that time is truly limited can.

As Denton tries to replay the prior evening he gets more and more confused. Watching him try to piece everything back together with his best friend Paolo are some of the funniest moments in the book. I mean, who amongst us has been either hung over, confused about what has happened to their life, or both? But Denton doesn’t have time to ponder or leave these things unresolved. He only has two days.

Certainly, with the discussion of death there must be some poignancy. Even though in Denton’s world nearly everyone knows their Death Day from an early age, there is still uncertainty as to how it will happen and exactly when during the day your death will occur. That small amount of unknown creates the panic that we all feel when we contemplate death – how do we want to be remembered? How will we spend those last precious few moments?

And I must mention that watching his step-mother deal with loosing her son was difficult for me. This changed the book from a straight humor book to something with more depth and I was frequently sad for her (after all, she doesn’t know about the second book!). What kept it from being too maudlin was my excitement in seeing her reaction when Denton survived.

There was romance, mystery, intrigue and humor. But the best part was the pure loveliness that is Denton. As a character I just really liked him. He loved his family, was connected to his friends and community, and at such a young age was a genuinely good person. I can hardly wait to see how his adventure will continue in the next book.


Tell me, please!

Do you enjoy Gallows Humor?


 

YA

The Deceivers by Kristen Simmons

thedeceiversAm I finishing off my reading goals for 2019? Nope. This weekend I caught a nasty cold and used the down time to read but, as usual, I read totally without purpose. I really need to work on this for 2020!

Still, my wandering brought me to a book on my own massive physical TBR shelf: The Deceivers by Kristen Simmons. Billed as a cross between Pretty Little Liars and Ocean’s Eleven I wasn’t sure what to expect. Especially since I had never seen Pretty Little Liars.

 

Welcome to Vale Hall, the school for aspiring con artists.

When Brynn Hilder is recruited to Vale, it seems like the elite academy is her chance to start over, away from her mom’s loser boyfriend and her rundown neighborhood. But she soon learns that Vale chooses students not so much for their scholastic talent as for their extracurricular activities, such as her time spent conning rich North Shore kids out of their extravagant allowances.

At first, Brynn jumps at the chance to help the school in its mission to rid the city of corrupt officials―because what could be better than giving entitled jerks what they deserve? But that’s before she meets her mark―a senator’s son―and before she discovers the school’s headmaster has secrets he’ll stop at nothing to protect. As the lines between right and wrong blur, Brynn begins to realize she’s in way over head. Kristen Simmon’s Website.

I’m not sure who wrote the blurb for this book but this is what I would have written instead:


Meet Brynn Hilder. Brynn knows that the only way out of dead end neighborhood is college. And the only way to pay for college is to con for money. Certainly her night cleaning job at the museum isn’t going to pay for classes.

But when her Mom’s drug dealing low-life boyfriend finds her stash of cash for college and demands she start dealing to earn back his trust, Brynn is out of options. A sudden offer to join the elite academy called Vale Hall seems too good to be true. A safe place to sleep, a plush room full of clothes, classes that challenge her intellect and real friends? It’s a dream come true. But when it becomes clear that the director of Vale Hall is keeping his own secrets, Brynn will have to figure out what is true and gain control of her future once again.


Either way, the storyline took a backseat for my love of the main character. Right from the beginning I was invested in Brynn. I think this is the magic of YA books, there is no build up or slow simmer. Instead, the attachment to the characters is immediate and the action follows swiftly. It was my interest in Brynn that really carried me through the book because, diving in, what you think you’ll get out of this book is completely different than where you finish.

I did have two small (tiny really) issues with the story. First, very little of the story takes place at Vale Hall. I’m actually going to start a petition for another book to be added to this series because I really want to see more of the day to day of Vale Hall. And I want details on all of the cons the kids were practicing! I mean, what is a pigeon drop?

Second, there were a lot of characters whose backstories we just had to assume or accept with little to no detail. I want to know why one of the students doesn’t sleep well at night! And what was up with the weird backstabbing girl? I need answers!

Neither of these things bothered me enough to effect my enjoyment of the book. Actually, the author could resolve the second problem with another book (hint hint). But, I know I am a fairly forgiving consumer. For example, plot holes in Marvel movies are something I notice but I just don’t care. But, if these things bother you, it might detract from the story.

This book did what all excellent books do. It kept my interest and attention (I could not put it down!) and still managed to leave me wanting more.


Tell me, please!

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts?


 

Romantic · Science Fiction · SeriousSeriesLove · YA

The Illuminae Files

The chance of this not being my favorite series of the year is so slim it’s not worth mentioning. But, since I already brought it up… This is the best series I’ve read this year.

These books are winners, each and every one of them. I am obsessed with these books. I formally apologize to each and every person that recommended them to me for delaying in reading them. I’m sorry. Let me take you out for coffee so we can gush. Wait, first, perhaps I should calm down.

Ugh. I’m being obnoxious. (Clears throat). Let’s start over. The Illuminae Files…..? shrug. They were good. (So freaking good)

IlluminaeFiles

I am going to do everything in my power to avoid spoilers but this is so difficult to do in a series review. I’ve included the book jacket descriptions but even then, there are spoilers. I’ll let you know before you get there.

Note: the books look huge but don’t be put off by their size. They are not a straight forward narratives but rather, a collection of documents. I initially passed on reading the books because I thought they would take too long. That was silly of me. These stories are so ingenious and artfully crafted that the pages almost flip themselves.

Also, while books take place in space and in the future they each have a timeless feel. The romance in each book feels genuine and the balanced inclusion of action, mystery, and straight up terror keeps the story from any feeling of familiarity. Not to say they are as scary as say, Misery, but being locked on a spaceship with a virus, or being stuck on a space station with bugs are high, high, up on my own personal nightmare list. The romances are sweet and fairly clean but the language is not. Hilariously, the words are redacted, but that just made my brain work a teeny bit harder to come up with the most appropriate expletive.

Illuminae


This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do. This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.

BRIEFING NOTE: Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes. (Goodreads)

This is the book that introduced me to the format and wonder that is The Illumnae Files. I have said it before but it is important to note that I read and listened to the full cast audiobook and it brought the book to a whole other level for me. If you have the chance, I highly recommend doing both. Please don’t make me pick between the audiobook and the physical copy – I doubt I could manage to choose.

Kady, the strong female lead of our dreams, is an talented computer hacker while still in high school. Her brusque manner belies the depth of her caring. In fact, this book introduces a cast of characters for the ages. My own personal obsession is Analyst ID 7213-0089-DN. Hello Mr. Hilarious observations!

Gemina


Moving to a space station at the edge of the galaxy was always going to be the death of Hanna’s social life. Nobody said it might actually get her killed.

The sci-fi saga that began with the breakout bestseller Illuminae continues on board the Jump Station Heimdall, where two new characters will confront the next wave of the BeiTech assault.

Hanna is the station captain’s pampered daughter; Nik the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. But while the pair are struggling with the realities of life aboard the galaxy’s most boring space station, little do they know that Kady Grant and the Hypatia are headed right toward Heimdall, carrying news of the Kerenza invasion.

When an elite BeiTech strike team invades the station, Hanna and Nik are thrown together to defend their home. But alien predators are picking off the station residents one by one, and a malfunction in the station’s wormhole means the space-time continuum might be ripped in two before dinner. Soon Hanna and Nik aren’t just fighting for their own survival; the fate of everyone on the Hypatia—and possibly the known universe—is in their hands.

But relax. They’ve totally got this. They hope. (Goodreads)

I didn’t think I could enjoy anyone as much as I did Kady but Hanna Donnelly is a woman after my own heart. Furthermore, she keeps a physical diary in which she draws her thoughts (Marie Lu Illustrates!) adding just one more layer to the experience of reading these books.

I was, admittedly, throw by the shift away from Kady’s perspective. It started to dawn on me that there was some connection between the stories when I saw my beloved Analyst’s reports start coming through. In the end, if this has been a standalone, I would have been thrilled but the way the two books connect turned me into that person on the bus that tells random strangers how fantastic their book is. That lady didn’t need to get off the bus to get away from me… Sorry lady! I hope that was your actual stop!

The book jacket for the third book contains series spoilers! If you want to avoid this: stop reading this post now!

Obsidio


Kady, Ezra, Hanna, and Nik narrowly escaped with their lives from the attacks on Heimdall station and now find themselves crammed with 2,000 refugees on the container ship, Mao. With the jump station destroyed and their resources scarce, the only option is to return to Kerenza—but who knows what they’ll find seven months after the invasion?

Meanwhile, Kady’s cousin, Asha, survived the initial BeiTech assault and has joined Kerenza’s ragtag underground resistance. When Rhys—an old flame from Asha’s past—reappears on Kerenza, the two find themselves on opposite sides of the conflict.

With time running out, a final battle will be waged on land and in space, heroes will fall, and hearts will be broken. (Goodreads)

I ignored every obligation in my life to read this book. I couldn’t even wait for the audiobook to read it to me – I cleared my calendar, holed up in my house, and read it page by delicious page.

People are not exaggerating when they talk about this series. It has something for everyone and delivers book after book. This series gets all the stars from me and will get a hug every time I see them out and about!


Tell me, please!

Have you read The Illuminae Files? Can we please talk about them??!!


 

FrighteninglyGoodRead · YA

FGR #1: The Price Guide to the Occult by Leslie Walton

Before I begin: this book is brimming with self harm. It is on nearly every page. If this is something that you struggle with then skip this book and consider heading here instead.


priceguidetotheoccult

I’m not even sure where I acquired this book. Quite possibly, it was for FrighteningGoodReads2018 since the book was published in October, 2018. And, I continued to be determined to work though that physical TBR so I pulled it off the shelf to kick off this year’s FGR. Just look at this glorious cover!

 

 

When Rona Blackburn landed on Anathema Island more than a century ago, her otherworldly skills might have benefited friendlier neighbors. Guilt and fear instead led the island’s original eight settlers to burn “the witch” out of her home. So Rona cursed them. Fast-forward one hundred–some years: All Nor Blackburn wants is to live an unremarkable teenage life. She has reason to hope: First, her supernatural powers, if they can be called that, are unexceptional. Second, her love life is nonexistent, which means she might escape the other perverse side effect of the matriarch’s backfiring curse, too. But then a mysterious book comes out, promising to cast any spell for the right price. Nor senses a storm coming and is pretty sure she’ll be smack in the eye of it. In her second novel, Leslye Walton spins a dark, mesmerizing tale of a girl stumbling along the path toward self-acceptance and first love, even as the Price Guide’s malevolent author — Nor’s own mother — looms and threatens to strangle any hope for happiness. Goodreads.

I’m not sure what I expected from this book but I know what I want more of: Nor’s best friend Savvy. Savvy was my favorite part of this book. We all deserve a colorful friend who ignores the secrets you keep and sacrifices the glory of Halloween to celebrate your birthday. This was a fantastic character.

On the other hand, I had trouble becoming interested or attached to Nor. She is fundamentally disconnected from her world. She revolves around things instead of interacting with them, including the boy she has a crush on and another she hates. Still, she had enough magnetism that I cared instinctively what happened to her. Or perhaps I was just curious what would happen to Nor because the arrival of her mother, Fern, was so terrifying.

Similarly, there were characters that didn’t get enough backstory. The boys in Nor’s world, Gage and Reed, have almost no dimension. But her Grandmother, Judd, is a wonderful character. A pipe smoking Giantess with the “burden” of healing, Judd is the mother Nor deserved. But Fern is what she received. And Fern is the scariest mother I have encountered in fiction in years.

Eventually, I spent enough time trying to figure out what was happening that I felt myself slowly pulled into the story until I could not stop until I reached the end. And even with some of the pace and character issues I have remarked upon, this story was chilling and consuming.

This is a perfect witchy story of the price some will pay and the lengths others will go in order to make their dreams a reality.


Tell me, please!

Do you ever love a cover even more after you read the book?


 

fiction · Over 18 · Romantic · YA

The Joy of Romance Books and the Struggle with Recommending Them

I’ll be honest. I have a hard time recommending romance books to a general audience. If someone asks me for recommendations, I have many.  But I have questions first. That’s because romance is personal. One person’s romantic gesture is another individual’s suffocating display of affection. Furthermore, what appeals to a reader at one point in their lives may not appeal at all later. I don’t want to speak for all women but I can certainly attest to the fact that what I found romantic at 20 is nothing like what appeals to me now.

Ultimately, though, there are some factors that are universally romantic. Kindness is necessary. Admiration for another individual’s true self (which leads to total acceptance and unconditional love) is so much more than ogling a single body part. A willingness to put another person’s happiness before your own is a foundation in romance. On top of that, most quality romances add a problem or misunderstanding to test the strength of the new couple. Realistically, what we are looking for in a romance is the same thing we look for in most books – good people making morally sound choices which results in unconditional love. One of my favorite romance authors, Jennifer Crusie said this,

“My feeling on this, which I have expressed loudly and often, is that the romance novel is based on the idea of an innate emotional justice in the universe, that the way the world works is that good people are rewarded and bad people are punished. The mystery genre is based on the same assumption, only there it’s a moral justice, a sense of fair play in human legal interaction: because the good guys risk and struggle, the murderers get punished and good triumphs in a safe world. So in romance, the lovers who risk and struggle for each other and their relationship are rewarded with emotional justice, unconditional love in an emotionally safe world.”

If I were being honest, what I find fun to read in a romance book is not at all the same as what I am looking for in real life romance. I will read any book or watch any movie featuring a love triangle. I sit and sigh imagining inspiring two people to fight for my attention. I’ll remain riveted to the story until the “right one” is chosen. I love those stories. In real life, I would absolutely die if I had to handle more than one person at a time. How dishonest is it to cling to two people simultaneously? Talk about leading a person on….

Similarly, I love an enemies to lovers story. Watching the characters challenge their understanding of another person as they slowly fall in love can be so enjoyable. In real life, once a guy does something unforgivable the chances of me looking at him romantically fall to zero. “Oh, you loved me all this time but you were just behaving terribly….? Well in that case no I will never date you.” I have become friends with people who made terrible first impressions but never dated one. I do not find real life bad behavior attractive. Now, fictional bad boys, those are just fine.

Romance books are no different than thrillers – they put you in positions that are fun to think about but would be a nightmare to deal with in reality. They are a beautiful escape from everyday life. Let’s take a look at some romance books I have enjoyed this month.


What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera

whatifitsusArthur is only in New York for the summer, but if Broadway has taught him anything, it’s that the universe can deliver a show stopping romance when you least expect it.
Ben thinks the universe needs to mind its business. If the universe had his back, he wouldn’t be on his way to the post office carrying a box of his ex-boyfriend’s things.
But when Arthur and Ben meet-cute at the post office, what exactly does the universe have in store for them?
Maybe nothing. After all, they get separated.
Maybe everything. After all, they get reunited.
But what if they can’t quite nail a first date . . . or a second first date . . . or a third?
What if Arthur tries too hard to make it work . . . and Ben doesn’t try hard enough?
What if life really isn’t like a Broadway play?

But what if it is?

This book had me sighing all the way through. First loves are always fun to watch unfold and Arthur and Ben were uniquely likable both individually and as a possible couple. I don’t know what magic spell Becky Albertalli weaves through her stories but they always manage to stay with me long after I turn the last page. Adam Silvera is new to me but I cannot wait to acquaint myself with his other works. This books features some closed door romance which makes it perfect for YA audiences (and those that enjoy YA books).


A Bride Test by Helen Hoang

bridetestKhai Diep has no feelings. Well, he feels irritation when people move his things or contentment when ledgers balance down to the penny, but not big, important emotions—like grief. And love. He thinks he’s defective. His family knows better—that his autism means he just processes emotions differently. When he steadfastly avoids relationships, his mother takes matters into her own hands and returns to Vietnam to find him the perfect bride.

As a mixed-race girl living in the slums of Ho Chi Minh City, Esme Tran has always felt out of place. When the opportunity arises to come to America and meet a potential husband, she can’t turn it down, thinking this could be the break her family needs. Seducing Khai, however, doesn’t go as planned. Esme’s lessons in love seem to be working…but only on herself. She’s hopelessly smitten with a man who’s convinced he can never return her affection.

With Esme’s time in the United States dwindling, Khai is forced to understand he’s been wrong all along. And there’s more than one way to love.

This is the second in Hoang’s popular The Kiss Quotient series and features Micheal’s cousin Kai. Many readers have complained that Esme is unlikable because she leaves her child behind in Vietnam. This didn’t bother me. Countless families are often forced to make difficult decisions in an effort to secure a more promising future for their children. I felt Esme was doing exactly that. After all, back home, Esme, her mother, her grandmother and her daughter all share one room. Convincing Kai to marry her would provide them all with a better life. But the more she tries to win him over the more she find herself falling in love with him.

I sucked this book down like a delicious milkshake. In reality would I want to leave my child behind to travel with a stranger I met in the bathroom to marry another stranger? Nope. But I enjoyed watching Esme take that chance on a better life. More lovely was that Esme grows tremendously as a person. As does Kai. This book, like many contemporary romances, has some open door sex scenes that feel slightly gratuitous. This book has less sex than The Kiss Quotient and I was glad that the author established a basic relationship before including physical romance. I don’t consider myself a prude but I will say, if I am prudish it is when reading stories of characters I don’t know having sex with each other. It makes me feel like a Peeping Tom. Books with sex scenes are the most difficult romance books for me to recommend because sex is even more complicated than romance. With that said, the book was ridiculously enjoyable.


Meet Cute by Helena Hunting

meetcuteTalk about an embarrassing introduction. On her first day of law school, Kailyn ran – quite literally – into the actor she crushed on as a teenager, ending with him sprawled on top of her. Mortified to discover the Daxton Hughes was also a student in her class, her embarrassment over their meet-cute quickly turned into a friendship she never expected. Of course, she never saw his betrayal coming either…

Now, eight years later, Dax is in her office asking for legal advice. Despite her anger, Kailyn can’t help feeling sorry for the devastated man who just became sole guardian to his thirteen-year-old sister. But when her boss gets wind of Kailyn’s new celebrity client, there’s even more at stake than Dax’s custody issues: if she gets Dax to work at their firm, she’ll be promoted to partner.

The more time Kailyn spends with Dax and his sister, the more she starts to feel like a family, and the more she realizes the chemistry they had all those years ago is as fresh as ever. But will they be able to forgive the mistakes of the past, or will one betrayal lead to another?

I did a full review here so just a quick overview is needed here. I picked this book up because I thought it was Helen Hoang’s new book. It’s yellow and the alliteration of their names confused me! This is an adorable book and vastly different than the other books I saw by the author available on Amazon. This one really focused on character development and watching each of them change their lives as their relationship develops was more fun than any solo sexy time scene. This has some open door sex scenes but they are not graphic and are romantic in nature. Oddly, I already had another of her books on my Kindle that I had DNFed. I returned to The Good Luck Charm after enjoying Meet Cute.


The Good Luck Charm by Helena Hunting

thegoodluckcharmLilah isn’t sure what hurt worse: the day Ethan left her to focus on his hockey career, or the day he came back eight years later. He might think they can pick up just where they left off, but she’s no longer that same girl and never wants to be again.

Ethan Kane wants his glory days back. And that includes having Lilah by his side. With her, he was magic. They were magic. All he has to do is make her see that.

Just when Lilah might finally be ready to let him in, though, she finds out their reunion has nothing to do with her and everything to do with his game. But Ethan’s already lost her once, and even if it costs him his career, he’ll do anything to keep from losing her again.

Helena Hunting has a series of romance novels that don’t appeal to me but both Meet Cute and The Good Luck Charm are standalone books and each has a very sweet theme. Furthermore, like Meet Cute, the most enjoyable part of this book is the character development of the the main character, Lilah. I feel like there is open door scenes but honestly, I was all about Lilah in this book and less interested in her relationship with Ethan than her own personal transformation.


Each of these books has all the hallmarks of an enjoyable romance story. Two people trying to make morally sound choices so that they are deemed deserving of true love. There is also a problem for them to overcome either together or alone that puts the strength of their new love to the test. And, of course, kissing!


Tell me, please!

Do you read romance books? If so, what do you look for in a “good romance?”


 

YA

One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus

This book cost me four hours of sleep. I could not put it down or rest my eyes until I finished the last page. I have seen the book around and heard the buzz but, honestly, I didn’t expect to enjoy it. I certainly didn’t think I would become completely obsessed and compelled to finish it in one sitting. Save this one for when you have time because it is excellent!

oneofusislyingThe Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little Liars, One of Us Is Lying is the story of what happens when five strangers walk into detention and only four walk out alive. Everyone is a suspect, and everyone has something to hide.

Pay close attention and you might solve this.

On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.
Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.
Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.
Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.
Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.
And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.

Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention, Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose?
Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them. Goodreads.

There were two things that kept me from reading this book for so long. The first is the reference to The Breakfast Club. I’ll be honest, I despise The Breakfast Club. Second, the book is described as a YA thriller and I couldn’t quite tell what this meant. I suppose I guessed that it would be a little grosser or a little sexier than the average thriller.

Let me lay these two concerns to rest. First of all, the only thing this book and The Breakfast Club have in common are the are kids in detention. If Simon hadn’t died they would all have happily gone their separate ways. This was more like Jumanji than The Breakfast Club. And what “YA Thriller” really means is a highly addictive crime story set inside a high school featuring high school aged kids.

The story is told through the vantage point of all four major characters but this book stops just short of giving you the omniscient point of view. I constantly felt that I was just around the corner from solving the mystery (and I fell for two red herrings) and I was still shocked when the big reveal finally happened. The shifting narratives also gave me the opportunity to see these characters inside of school, at home, and watch them change as the impact of Simon’s death rippled deeper and deeper into their lives.

It is also important to note that I am always affected by tragedies in our schools. I think I avoided reading this book because I didn’t want to picture any of the high school aged students I knew having a life and death experience. Truthfully, the story is amazing but so ridiculously outside of the norm that the connection to the real world just didn’t happen. It was simply addictive reading. This is going to be my thriller to beat this year!


Tell me, please!

Have you read this? If not, what is stopping you?


 

fiction · YA

The Field Guide to the North American Teenager by Ben Phillippe

I can’t seem to stop reading cute high school romance books even though they are really not my favorite. I thought the premise of this book sounded fun – a fish out of water story told from the boy’s perspective – but when I cracked into it I know I emitted a loud sigh. High School was not my favorite. I absolutely see why someone in high school would want contemporary books but I don’t enjoy revisiting the endless drama. Then I noticed that the main character is from Canada. I can’t get enough of Canada! So, I forged onward.

northamericanteenagerThe Field Guide to the North American Teenager by Ben Phillippe is the story of Norris who grew up in Montreal, Canada. He and his Mom have relocated to Austin, Texas for her job after the divorce. And, of course, poor Norris now has to combat with the heat, the culture and high school. I know we have probably all read this story one-hundred times but paired with genuinely sweet friendships and a slow burning romance I found the story sweet and fun to read.

Admittedly, Norris is difficult to like at first. His quick wit and over use of irony and sarcasm give him a hard edge. This, oddly, is completely acceptable in a female character (usually white) who is dealing with high school life. I was really struck with how little patience friends of mine had for Norris as, apparently, dudes aren’t supposed to have all the feelings. I loved that Norris was unlikeable at first. It made him feel genuinely teenager-y. Now, if he hadn’t developed and changed as a person through the book that would be a different story but he did and it was enjoyable to watch. As his friendships grow and change Norris has to decide whether he is going to take a chance on being himself or not.

Like many books set in high school, the background cast of characters is essential to creating a balance to the story. This is especially true when the main character is abut off a butt. Surrounding Norris are my two waring favorites; Maddie, the cheerleading overachiever who guides him, and Neil, the awkward rich kid who wants to learn hockey. There is also Aarti Puri, the girl of Norris’s dreams and the character I actively didn’t like.

Unlike many other teenage stories, I really appreciated the constant presence of Norris’s mother. So many stories featuring kids in high school have a glaring absence of parental involvement. In The Field Guide not only is Norris’s Mom involved in his life in a consistent and positive manner, but his friend Maddie’s Dad is incredibly involved in her life. It was a relief to see a teenagers talking to their parents instead of just a stock character there for the kids’ to hide their emotions from throughout the story.

The Field Guide to the North American Teenager was a truly enjoyable read. Norris may not be perfectly likable from chapter one but the person this character develops into is worth the read.


Tell me, please!

What is your favorite fish out of water story?


 

historical fiction · YA

My Plain Jane by Hand, Ashton and Meadows

I will freely admit that my hatred for Jane Eyre is as long as the endless night I was forced to read the entire novel. Of course, perhaps I would have enjoyed it more had I not procrastinated myself into an all-nighter but what is done is done. Since that horrible incident I have had a massive chip on my shoulder for all things Bronte. But, I am constantly shocked by how differently I feel about the books I hated being forced to read when I pick them voluntarily (hello Great Gastby). So, when I received My Plain Jane from my OwlCrate subscription (in July) I vowed to read it with a fresh unbiased mind. And then I promptly shelved it for more than six months. But, when I cracked into it this weekend I did so with an open mind!

MyplainjaneMy Plain Jane is written by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows and is their second collaboration. Their first, My Lady Jane received rave reviews everywhere but I had not yet read it. Typically I enjoy formulating my own synopsis of the book but this particular novel has me stumped on just how to do so. There is a lot of adventure squeezed into this story! Therefore, I give you the official blurb:

 

 

You may think you know the story. Penniless orphan Jane Eyre begins a new life as a governess at Thornfield Hall, where she meets one dark, brooding Mr. Rochester—and, Reader, she marries him. Or does she?

Prepare for an adventure of Gothic proportions, in which all is not as it seems, a certain gentleman is hiding more than skeletons in his closets, and one orphan Jane Eyre, aspiring author Charlotte Bronte, and supernatural investigator Alexander Blackwood are about to be drawn together on the most epic ghost hunt this side of Wuthering Heights.

Alright, Jane doesn’t marry Rochester – color me intrigued! This has always been the worst part of Jane Eyre for me. Rochester is stupid. And the way My Plain Jane handles that gave me no end of joy. I also really loved both Charlotte Bronte and Alexander Blackwood and the cast of supporting characters that all came together to crate a fantastic collection of personalities.

I will admit that I had difficulty getting into the book which is most likely due to my previous experience reading Bronte. Also, there were times when I was slightly frustrated when the authors constantly broke the fourth wall and the ever present commentary about the corsets became a small annoyance. Typically I don’t mind a fourth wall peek-through but it was done a bit inconsistently and it threw me off. Still, I consumed this 450 page book in a little over two days and I just couldn’t put it down! There were enough twists and turns and those together with the lovely female friendships meant that I ended up having a great time reading this book.

I read Jane Eyre in high school and my memory of it contains only my disgust for Mr. Rochester. So, you do not need to have read Eyre to enjoy My Plain Jane at all, nor, does it seem do you need to check out My Lady Jane before picking up this book. But, if you are interested in a paranormal historical fiction this is an absolutely fun read!


Tell me, please!

Am I the only one that hated Rochester?


 

Fantasy · series · YA

The Wicked King by Holly Black

wicked kingThe Wicked King, the sequel to Holly Black’s fascinating dark faerie tale, debuted just after the New Year but because of my self-imposed book buying restrictions I had to wait until the library saved me a copy. Thankfully, my library is the best so I didn’t have to wait too long for the second in The Folk of the Air series.

I had a few complaints about The Cruel Prince, mostly in regards to the occasionally slow pacing. Like so many first in a series books, The Cruel Prince had to lay an extensive foundation for the entire series in book one and the action suffered as a consequence. However, as Holly Black had given me some truly remarkable and unusual characters all was forgiven. Not to worry, there were no such problems with pacing in the second book!

If you have not read the first book and you are interested in the series you can check my review here. It is nearly impossible to review a series book without spoiling the prior publications and so I must warn you: there are spoilers for The Cruel Prince below!

The Wicked King begins a few months after the Cruel Prince dramatic ending. Jude Duarte’s brother Oak may be the heir of the Faerie but Cardan has been crowed King. In return Cardan has sworn to follow all of Jude’s directions for a year and a day. That gives Jude a limited amount of time to ensure her brother’s safety and manipulate herself into a position of greater power. While she finds her human ability to lie invaluable, she can never forget that truth and lies often come in subtle shades of grey and the Fey live in a world of secrets. Between her attempts to control Cardan, her investigation into Maddox’s plots, and a threat that comes from the surrounding Oceans, is it any wonder that a traitor could tip the balance of power so completely? But who is plotting against Jude?

This second book was action packed! I consumed the book and, unlike the first one, I could hardly wait to see what would unfold. I also enjoyed that Jude was more confident which I enjoyed tremendously. Holly Black paints a perfect picture of having a crush on someone you despise as Jude attempts to ignore her feelings for Cardon.

If I had one (very minor) complaint it would be that all of this action and focus on Jude meant that nearly everyone else was a static background character until the last few pages. Still, I cannot imagine how the author could have given me such an explosive and surprising ending as she did without leaving me in the dark as to the other character’s movements and secret desires.

All of my childhood I wished that Fairies were real. Holly Black has convinced me of two things: I would hate these Fairies and I cannot wait to see what happens next.


Tell me, please!

If you could only pick one is the pace or the characters more important?