Friday, August 22, 2014

Puddle Jumping

Book: Puddle Jumping
Author: Amber L. Johnson

When it comes to love there’s no such thing as conventional.

Everyone thinks Colton Neely is special.

Lilly Evans just thinks he’s fascinating.

Once friends when they were younger, their bond is cut short due to her accident prone nature and they go their separate ways. Years later, they meet again and Lilly learns that there is something special about the boy she once knew, but she has no idea what it all means. And she’s not sure if she’s ready to find out.

When he walks through the corridor of her school the first day of her senior year, she knows that it’s time to get to know the real Colton Neely. The more she learns, the deeper she falls.

Their friendship grows into love, even as Colton does not express it in words. But one decision threatens to break down the world that Lilly has tried so hard to integrate into and she must figure out if the relationship can survive if they are apart.-Goodreads

Review: This is a cute romance about Lilly, a teenage girl prone to accidents and Colton, an artistic genius with Aspergers. Lilly is a believable protagonist and Johnson nails her teenage narrative. I think adding Colton's narrative would have made this story stronger as well as some chapters highlighting them doing more things as a couple. It was too short and needed more 'meat' to the story. 

Overall, sweet story. 

Grade: 3/5

Say the Word

Book: Say the Word
Author: Julie Johnson

"The heart isn’t like the liver. It doesn’t regenerate, no matter how much time passes. Once it’s gone, it’s gone for good. I’d left mine with Sebastian when I walked away that day, and I hadn’t seen it in the seven years since." — Lux Kincaid

At eighteen, Lux is forced to make a choice. One that nearly destroys her.

She breaks a boy’s heart.

She breaks her own, too.

Seven years later, Lux never expects to see Sebastian again — especially not when her career as a journalist is hanging by a thread and she’s stumbled onto the story of a lifetime. As she chases down leads and explores the dark underbelly of Manhattan, Lux will put her life on the line. But after crossing paths with a still-unforgiving Sebastian, it’s her heart she’s most worried about.

Amidst the blame and the betrayal, the hurt and the heartbreak… can two lost lovers ever find their way back to one another?

Lines will be blurred. The past will be unearthed. And Lux will find out that some secrets aren’t meant to be kept…-Goodreads

Review: Oddly enough, I just finished a book where the main character had a twin with terminal cancer. So imagine my surprise when this book featured a similar story line (although this was not the main theme of this book). Imagine my further surprise when I COULD NOT PUT THIS BOOK DOWN. Told in alternating timelines, we follow Lux as a teenager and Lux in present day. As a teen, Lux is a poor girl from the wrong side of the tracks who finds herself in love with a Senator's son. I really enjoyed their love story as we well as the friendship with her brother. They have a breakup fueled by secrets the devastates both of them. Present day, Lux lives in New York and works for a popular fashion magazine. She hasn't so much as googled Sebastian in the last seven years but her feelings for him have never changed. When they find each other again, they do not immediate reconnect. Bash is still very upset with Lux and she feels that she cannot be honest with him about their past. I really enjoyed the cat and mouse between them, the tension and their intensity. There is a plot involving sex trafficking that was slightly ridiculous but good fun all the same. I wish there was more 'romance' between Bash and Lux, but overall I loved this. 

Grade: 4.5/5

Loving Mr. Daniels

Book: Loving Mr. Daniels
Author:  Brittainy Cherry

To Whom it May Concern,

It was easy to call us forbidden and harder to call us soulmates. Yet I believed we were both. Forbidden soulmates.

When I arrived to Edgewood, Wisconsin I didn’t plan to find him. I didn't plan to stumble into Joe's bar and have Daniel's music stir up my emotions. I had no clue that his voice would make my hurts forget their own sorrow. I had no idea that my happiness would remember its own bliss.

When I started senior year at my new school, I wasn’t prepared to call him Mr. Daniels, but sometimes life happens at the wrong time for all the right reasons.

Our love story wasn’t only about the physical connection.

It was about family. It was about loss. It was about being alive. It was silly. It was painful. It was mourning. It was laughter.

It was ours.

And for those reasons alone, I would never apologize for loving Mr. Daniels.

-Ashlyn Jennings-Goodreads

Review: Wow-this book was such a wonderful surprise. From the description, I thought this was simply a forbidden romance between a high school student and teacher. In reality, it's a story about two people who have experienced extreme loss and find each other. It was funny, heartfelt and heart breaking. I laughed, I cried and I really hoped for Ashlyn and Daniel to heal. I loved how the book ended and the epilogue. I think my only complaints were how flowery Daniels' language was sometimes (he's an English teacher, so he has a way with words but he was over the top cheesy) and how he was able to talk his way out of a few situations (I'll avoid spoilers but there is the possibility of a confrontation with Ashlyn's father and it's resolved off page). 

Overall-very good book that I couldn't put down. 

Grade: 4/5

The Girl You Left Behind

Book: The Girl You Left Behind
Author: JoJo Moyes

What happened to the girl you left behind?

In 1916, French artist Edouard Lefevre leaves his wife Sophie to fight at the Front. When her town falls into German hands, his portrait of Sophie stirs the heart of the local Kommandant and causes her to risk everything - her family, reputation and life - in the hope of seeing her true love one last time.

Nearly a century later and Sophie's portrait is given to Liv by her young husband shortly before his sudden death. Its beauty speaks of their short life together, but when the painting's dark and passion-torn history is revealed, Liv discovers that the first spark of love she has felt since she lost him is threatened...

In The Girl You Left Behind two young women, separated by a century, are united in their determination to fight for the thing they love most - whatever the cost.-Goodreads

Review: This is a beautifully written story told in alternating narratives. Similar to other books I've read recently, I enjoyed the historical portion (in this case, WWI) more than the modern story line. Sophie's struggles during wartime and her love for Edouard were fascinating to read. I'll avoid spoilers but I understand the sacrifices she made for her family and I wanted a happy ending for her. Moyes did a great job tying the stories together and I understand Liv holding onto a house she couldn't afford and a painting that may or may not have been legally hers. However, I wish the relationship between Liv and her husband had been more developed. There were very few flashbacks to their time together as a couple, and as such, I never 'felt' their love for each other. I also never warmed to Liv as a character and found her very annoying. 

Overall-loved the historical portion of the book but was not as huge of a fan of the modern section. 

Grade: 3.5/5

Monday, August 18, 2014

Boycotts & Barflies

Book: Boycotts & Barflies
Author: Victoria Michaels

After an endless string of bad dates and a generally pathetic love life, Grace Park and her friends decide to boycott men for six weeks. With a fantastic pair of shoes on the line for the woman who makes it to the end without breaking any rules, the competition gets fierce. Sparks fly a few days into the bet when Grace and her friends cross paths with a sexy bartender named Michael Andris who happens to have a little bet of his own going with his friends.... In this hilarious debut novel, Victoria Michaels brings us a colorful and relatable cast of characters. She sends them on a sweet and sexy escapade as they sidestep one booby trap after another, manage the best of misguided intentions, and exert a whole lot of willpower and self control as they race down the path to true love. Winning isn't everything...or is it?-Goodreads

Review: Three best girlfriends meet three best guy friends: they are all beautiful, fall into pretty much instant love but cannot officially date or even french kiss because the girls are boycotting boys for a few weeks due to a bet. So, what do they do? They pretty much date (find work-arounds to not call them dates) and try not to jump each other. I really wanted to like this book and I was hoping for a funny read but that was not the case. This is poorly written and the characters are completely flat.  I had zero connection to any of them because (other than Grace's self esteem issues) they were pretty much perfect and devoid of real personalities. There was no real plot or obstacles in the way of any of the couples. They all fell pretty much instantly in love and the main story arc was which girl would win the bet. The bet being a pair of shoes, this just wasn't a strong enough story line to keep the book going. And this book was long for such a thin plot-I feel like at least a 100 pages could have been edited out. 

Skip this one. 

Grade: 1/5

Side Effects May Vary

Book: Side Effects May Vary
Author: Julie Murphy

When sixteen-year-old Alice is diagnosed with leukemia, her prognosis is grim. To maximize the time she does have, she vows to spend her final months righting wrongs—however she sees fit. She convinces her friend Harvey, who she knows has always had feelings for her, to help her with a crazy bucket list that's as much about revenge (humiliating her ex-boyfriend and getting back at her archnemesis) as it is about hope (doing something unexpectedly kind for a stranger). But just when Alice's scores are settled, she goes into remission.

Now Alice is forced to face the consequences of all that she's said and done, as well as her true feelings for Harvey. But has she caused irreparable damage to the people around her—and to the one person who matters most?-Goodreads

Review: I finished this book several weeks ago and I waited to review it because I have so many conflicting emotions about it. First things first-yes, this book has a cancer theme but it is by no means a copy of The Fault In Our Stars. I enjoyed TFIOS and will rate both books a 3/5, but this book has more realistic characters and a totally different plot. 

This book has two narrators and is told in two different timelines: the present, when Alice is in remission and the past-when she is diagnosed. Although Alice and Harvey's written voices weren't very distinctive, I enjoyed the writing style and the pacing. I think my favorite part of this book is that Alice stays true to herself throughout the cancer and remission. Cancer does not make her this automatic angel of a person who seeks to live life to the fullest. She's a bit of a mean girl and after her diagnosis, she creates a bucket list of sorts to get back at people that she feels have wronged her. Don't get me wrong-I didn't actually like what she was doing to people (she was pretty awful) but I could see a teenager girl actually doing these things. 

While the cancer and bucket list are definitely important parts of this book, I would say the main story arc was the dysfunction relationship between Alice and Harvey. In many ways I read the main character of this book as Harvey. Once childhood best friends, they grew apart in high school but Alice's cancer diagnosis brought them back together. And when I say brought them back together, this means her convincing Harvey to go along with her vindictive mean-girl activities even though he knows they are wrong. After confessing her feelings to Harvey when she thought she was dying, she cannot reconcile her feelings and the expectation of a relationship with him when she finds out she is in remission. This results in Alice treating Harvey like crap yet knowing how to string him along. He in turn knows she is using him but he loves her and cannot give up on her. 

One of my favorite scenes of this book is when Alice's mother calls her out on her bad behavior. It was fantastic. My second favorite scene was the ending, which may frustrate some readers but I thought was handled quite well.

Overall-I enjoyed this book, I appreciate the "real-ness" of it but I did not like Alice. 

Grade: 3/5

The Uninvited Guests

Book: The Uninvited Guests
Author: Sadie Jones

One late spring evening in 1912, in the kitchens at Sterne, preparations begin for an elegant supper party in honor of Emerald Torrington's twentieth birthday. But only a few miles away, a dreadful accident propels a crowd of mysterious and not altogether savory survivors to seek shelter at the ramshackle manor—and the household is thrown into confusion and mischief.

Evening turns to stormy night, and a most unpleasant parlor game threatens to blow respectability to smithereens: Smudge Torrington, the wayward youngest daughter of the house, decides that this is the perfect moment for her Great Undertaking.-Goodreads

Review: I really liked the old English manor setting of this book but the plot was very slow and boring. The book had a unique writing style, almost like a play instead of a novel. Several of the characters were initially likable but their treatment of the uninvited guests was deplorable. The mystery surrounding one of the guests was more weird/odd than actually scary or thrilling. 

Overall, an okay book.  

Grade: 2/5

Monday, August 11, 2014

We Were Liars

Book: We Were Liars
Author: E. Lockhart

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart.

Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.-Goodreads

Review: Cady is the eldest grandchild in a WASPY, wealthy family in New England. They look perfect on the outside but things are not always what they seem. Every summer Cady and her cousins meet up on their grandfather's private island, off Martha's Vineyard. They don't stay in touch during the school year but every summer they come together and have the time of their lives. After suffering a debilitating concussion the summer she is 15, Cady returns 2 years later to try to piece together what happened. 

This was such a surprising read and I loved every minute of it. I love the idea of the families coming together every summer and the dynamics of the various aunts and the grandfather. Cady's use of fairy tales was also appropriate at times. 

Overall-fab. One of my favorite YA books reads. 

Grade: 5/5


Book: Panic
Author: Lauren Oliver

Panic began as so many things do in Carp, a dead-end town of 12,000 people in the middle of nowhere: because it was summer, and there was nothing else to do.

Heather never thought she would compete in Panic, a legendary game played by graduating seniors, where the stakes are high and the payoff is even higher. She’d never thought of herself as fearless, the kind of person who would fight to stand out. But when she finds something, and someone, to fight for, she will discover that she is braver than she ever thought.

Dodge has never been afraid of Panic. His secret will fuel him, and get him all the way through the game, he’s sure of it. But what he doesn't know is that he’s not the only one with a secret. Everyone has something to play for.

For Heather and Dodge, the game will bring new alliances, unexpected revelations, and the possibility of first love for each of them—and the knowledge that sometimes the very things we fear are those we need the most.-Goodreads

Review: All I knew about this book was that it was about kids in a small town who do crazy stunts to win some money. It sounded fun and exciting. I was expecting a high school version of fraternity/sorority hazing activities but it was actually a coming of age story told in alternating narratives. Heather and Dodge both decide to participate/play Panic, but for very different reasons. I think the craziest thing about Panic is that it isn't really a game-several of the activities are life threatening and kids have died in previous years. Heather spontaneously joins the game when her boyfriend dumps her. Her motivations for playing change as her home life becomes very challenging. Dodge's older sister was paralyzed playing Panic years earlier and he is playing for revenge (although she seems happy and content with her life). I'm from a small town in upstate NY (nowhere near as poor or small as Carp) but I felt a kinship of sorts with the characters. Drinking by the water, cliff jumping, hanging out by the mall-these are all things we used to do in high school. I liked the alternating narratives and the writing style. The characters themselves were okay and the twist relating to a main character was easy to figure out early on, but this was still a fun read. I'll avoid spoilers but there was also a subplot involving lions (yes, you read that correctly, LIONS) that was so ridiculous, crazy and cheesy fun at the same time. 

Grade: 3.5/5

Silver Shadows

Book: Silver Shadows
Series: Bloodlines #5
Author: Richelle Mead

In The Fiery Heart, Sydney risked everything to follow her gut, walking a dangerous line to keep her feelings hidden from the Alchemists.

Now in the aftermath of an event that ripped their world apart, Sydney and Adrian struggle to pick up the pieces and find their way back to each other. But first, they have to survive.

For Sydney, trapped and surrounded by adversaries, life becomes a daily struggle to hold on to her identity and the memories of those she loves. Meanwhile, Adrian clings to hope in the face of those who tell him Sydney is a lost cause, but the battle proves daunting as old demons and new temptations begin to seize hold of him. . . .

Their worst fears now a chilling reality, Sydney and Adrian face their darkest hour in this heart-pounding fifth installment in the New York Times bestselling Bloodlines series, where all bets are off.-Goodreads

ReviewI wasn't a huge fan of the 4th book in the series but I could not wait to read this one. I'm happy to report that this was a huge improvement and overall a fun read. The book starts slow and is told in alternating narratives. Sydney is stuck (held prisoner would be more accurate) in re-education and I absolutely loved her sections. Several new characters are introduced and while I didn't particularly bond with of any of them, I enjoyed seeing Sydney keep her wits about her, try to work the system and figure out a way to help those around her.

After being unsuccessful in his attempts to reach Sydney, Adrian finds himself back at court and falling back into some bad habits. He starts partying heavily and has a new best friend, Nina who is looking for more than friendship. I think Mead missed an opportunity here to have someone (maybe a Moroi who is feeding information to the Alchemists in secret) to take photos of Adrian and use this to try to "turn" Sydney. I think that would have added a great element to the story.

**minor spoiler alert**

Marcus Finch ends up teaming with Adrian and Eddie (I don't believe Eddie would have left Jill for one minute, but this was a necessary to the finale of the book) to help break out Sydney and it was nice to see the boys in action. Once Sydney is broken out of of re-education, the books gets really good. Sydney and Adrian are on the run from the Alchemists and the cards are stacked against them. The Alchemists are intelligent, focused and well funded. They will stop at almost nothing to take Sydney. Bottom line-they are a strong enemy and pretty evil. Watching them play cat and mouse with each other was fun. While the resolution with Adrian and Sydney was cliche, I can't wait to see how it plays out in the next book.

Grade: 4/5

Magic Breaks

Book: Magic Breaks
Series: Kate Daniels #7
Author: Ilona Andrews

As the mate of the Beast Lord, Curran, former mercenary Kate Daniels has more responsibilities than it seems possible to juggle. Not only is she still struggling to keep her investigative business afloat, she must now deal with the affairs of the pack, including preparing her people for attack from Roland, a cruel ancient being with god-like powers. Since Kate’s connection to Roland has come out into the open, no one is safe—especially those closest to Kate.

As Roland’s long shadow looms ever nearer, Kate is called to attend the Conclave, a gathering of the leaders from the various supernatural factions in Atlanta. When one of the Masters of the Dead is found murdered there, apparently at the hands of a shapeshifter, Kate is given only twenty-four hours to hunt down the killer. And this time, if she fails, she’ll find herself embroiled in a war which could destroy everything she holds dear…-Goodreads

Review: This book was fun, snarky and full of action. My favorite urban fantasy heroine Kate Daniels started this book seeming weaker than usual (compared with the previous books, she was still kick ass, just not as awe inspiring as she usually is) but the book finished strong. Andrew's began the book with a short story written from Kate's attorney's point of view and it was a good way to summarize the previous books in a few pages. I'm pretty sure that we (the reader) are supposed to hate Hugh, but so help me, he is one of my favorite characters. I'm glad he played a big role in this installment. He's such a great adversary for Kate-same training with crazy control over his powers and an elitist attitude. And I love his dialogue. Kate finally meets Roland at the end of the book and I'll admit I was expecting some big showdown but it was rather low key. Most surprising was that I found myself actually liking Roland and I love how the book ended. We also find out Ghastek's back story which I loved. 

There were a few things that stopped me from giving this a 5 star review-too much time spent joking about a donkey. I'll avoid spoilers but those who read the book will know what I'm talking about. Kate is also captured at one point and extremely weak but somehow manages to do all sorts of crazy magic (that's she never mastered before) and fight with her awesome warrior skills. I know she is capable of these things, it just didn't seem like it would be physically possible for her. There was also a (kind of) graphic love scene with Kate and Curran that felt out of place with the rest of the book. She also didn't shower or clean herself off in any way beforehand so there was a definite gross factor going on. 

Overall, a super fun read. I can't wait for the next one!

Grade: 4/5

To The Moon and Back

Book: To the Moon and Back
Author: Jill Mansell

When Ellie Kendall tragically loses her husband she feels her life is over. But eventually she’s ready for a new start – at work, that is. She doesn’t need a new man when she has a certain secret visitor to keep her company...

Zack McLaren seems to have it all, but the girl he can’t stop thinking about won’t give him a second glance. If only she’d pay him the same attention she lavishes on his dog.

Moving to North London, Ellie meets neighbour Roo who has a secret of her own. Can the girls sort out their lives? Guilt is a powerful emotion, but a lot can happen in a year in Primrose Hill...-Goodreads

Review: If you are looking for a cute romance with a realistic love story, you might enjoy this book. Ellie and Zack's relationship is a series of mis-communications but came across very real. Even though Zack feels an instant chemistry with Ellie, she doesn't reciprocate. She lost her husband just over a year before meeting Zack and she isn't even thinking about other men. I loved that they didn't experience an instant love connection and the relationship slowly developed.  Ellie's friend Roo was a character who was frustrating (she's having an affair with a married man) but in many ways my favorite because she brought a burst of energy onto the pages. Ellie and Zack were a tad dull so it was nice to read Roo's sections. There was a subplot involving Ellie's father-in-law that was interesting, although he seemed to have that instant love connection that I'm getting frustrated with in romance novels. 

Overall-very cute read that I enjoyed. This would be a good one for the beach.  

Grade: 3/5