Saturday, July 9, 2016
They tell me that my memory will never be the same, that I'll start forgetting things. At first just a little, and then a lot. So I'm writing to remember.
Sammie was always a girl with a plan: graduate at the top of her class and get out of her small town as soon as humanly possible. Nothing will stand in her way--not even a rare genetic disorder the doctors say will slowly start to steal her memories and then her health. What she needs is a new plan.
So the Memory Book is born: Sammie's notes to her future self, a document of moments great and small. It's where she'll record every perfect detail of her first date with longtime crush, Stuart--a brilliant young writer who is home for the summer. And where she'll admit how much she's missed her childhood best friend, Cooper, and even take some of the blame for the fight that ended their friendship.
Through a mix of heartfelt journal entries, mementos, and guest posts from friends and family, readers will fall in love with Sammie, a brave and remarkable girl who learns to live and love life fully, even though it's not the life she planned.
My thoughts on the book:
The Memory Book was touching, depressing, and inspiring, all at the same time. Sammie was such a brave character and fantastic narrator. If you want a strong female lead in YA lit, then Sammie is your girl. I can't get over how brave she was. I know I already used that word, but the dictionary should be rewritten to say "Brave (adj): Sammie." If I had been in her position, I'm not sure that I would have been able to keep my sense of humor, go after the guy I had a crush on, or rekindle old friendships. She really made the most of her life, even though it wasn't the life she wanted or had planned to have. She was valedictorian, an amazing debater, and planned to go to NYU and become an attorney. Those dreams were shattered when she found out she had what basically amounted to be super-early-onset Alzheimer's, but did she just lay down and feel sorry for herself in a fit of depression? No, she didn't. It would have been justified had she done that, and I would have completely understood that, but she didn't. She carried on, trying to get as much out of her life as she could before she couldn't remember it any longer. And writing herself a journal to let her future self remember the good and bad times was a beautiful and inspiring way to deal with what had to be a terrifying diagnosis.
Avery's voice is strong, and I was hooked from the first page. The writing was wonderfully done, and the descriptions were vivid and beautiful. The relationships formed were realistic and touching, and everything that happened fit perfectly and felt natural. The pacing was spot on, and I wasn't bored for one second of this text. I'm not a huge contemporary fan, but I got this ARC at BEA and decided to give this one a try, and it did not disappoint. Avery is a fantastic author. This book broke my heart and gave me hope. I'd recommend it to anyone.
Sunday, July 3, 2016
This vividly rendered novel reads like HBO’s Game of Thrones . . . if it were set in the Ottoman Empire. Ambitious in scope and intimate in execution, the story’s atmospheric setting is rife with political intrigue, with a deftly plotted narrative driven by fiercely passionate characters. Fans of Victoria Aveyard’s THE RED QUEEN, Kristin Cashore’s GRACELING, and Sabaa Tahir’s AN EMBER IN THE ASHES won’t want to miss this visceral, immersive, and mesmerizing novel, the first in a trilogy.
NO ONE EXPECTS A PRINCESS TO BE BRUTAL. And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets.
Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, who’s expected to rule a nation, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion.
But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.
From New York Times bestselling author Kiersten White comes the first book in a dark, sweeping new series in which heads will roll, bodies will be impaled . . . and hearts will be broken.
My thoughts on the book:
I have a love/hate relationship with Kiersten White's books. I absolutely adore some of them, and I cannot stand some of the other ones. The main thing that kills me in her books usually is the characters, and in that, this book was no exception. White is an extremely talented author. She has a strong voice, writes beautiful descriptions, and paces her stories very well. The concepts are always intriguing, if not completely captivating, and the plot always makes sense and is engaging. However, some of the characters she writes are just atrocious, and that's a shame.
I hated every single character in this book. Lada was a freaking sociopath, and most of the story was told from her perspective - third person. She was just not a good person. I had no sympathy for her whatsoever. She was a bully at best. She also was apparently ugly, which to me just says that her outsides matched her insides. Radu was such a pansy. Oh my goodness, I just wanted to throat punch him (see? now I'm acting like a bully, haha). He just whined and cried and sniffled and couldn't handle anything. He needed to toughen up. It was really pathetic, and it disgusted me. This has nothing to do with him being a male character. I don't really buy into gender roles, but male or female, he was just a whiny brat. So this gender reversal brings up a bigger gender role issue. Would I have been okay with Lada had she acted like Radu? No. I would have wanted to throat punch her. Would I have been okay with Radu if he acted like Lada? No. I still would have thought he was a manipulative sociopath. Now, on to Mehmed, who was weak. stupid, and a bigot. I hate zealots. I hate people who want to conquer other lands. I hate people who think in terms of manifest destiny, which is more or less what the little bigot was doing. And he couldn't handle his own crap at all. Just yuck.
The composition of the story also irked me a bit. The alternating points of view between Lada and Radu had no rhyme or reason, and honestly all it served to do for me was make me hate both characters equally. A teenager should not be crying for his/her nurse all the time. Grow up. Jeez. Aside from the POV issue, the writing was extremely well done. I was treated to beautiful descriptions of Transylvania and the Ottoman Empire. The world-building was fantastically written, and I felt I had a good grasp of what life could have been like in those days and in that geographic region. The gender issue was woven delicately throughout, and I fully agree that no one should have their life laid out for them easily, simply because of their gender. Women's rights in that time period were virtually nonexistent, and I felt that White handled that wonderfully and really brought the conversation to a modern context as well by assigning generally accepted "masculine" traits to Lada and generally accepted "feminine traits" to Radu. The pacing was wonderful, and I was engaged for the full story. The ending tied up a lot of loose ends and did a good job introducing the sequel.
Overall, this book was a good read, but the characters killed it for me. I felt like I spent hours with the most annoying people ever created, and that put me in a crappy mood. However, not everyone has the same taste in characters (or people for that matter), and the rest of the book was pretty solid. I may say give this one a try at the library first, just to make sure you can stand the characters, if you are huge on characterization like I am.
Saturday, July 2, 2016
The first book in a provocative new series from acclaimed author Donna Freitas—Feed for a new generation.
Humanity is split into the App World and the Real World—an extravagant virtual world for the wealthy and a dying physical world for the poor. Years ago, Skylar Cruz’s family sent her to the App World for a chance at a better life.
Now Skye is a nobody, a virtual sixteen-year-old girl without any glamorous effects or expensive downloads to make her stand out in the App World. Yet none of that matters to Skye. All she wants is a chance to unplug and see her mother and sister again.
But when the borders between worlds suddenly close, Skye loses that chance. Desperate to reach her family, Skye risks everything to get back to the physical world. Once she arrives, however, she discovers a much larger, darker reality than the one she remembers.
In the tradition of M. T. Anderson’s Feed and Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies, Unplugged kicks off a thrilling and timely sci-fi series for teens from an award-winning writer.
My thoughts on the book:
Unplugged grabbed my interest due to its use of Descartes' philosophy, better known as "the Matrix philosophy." I wanted to see how this book, where you could exist only in your head or in your body - with two fully developed worlds - portrayed that philosophy. It fell a bit short, to be honest. The world-building wasn't done in a way where everything made sense, which made it hard to achieve a willing suspension of disbelief. Some of the things that happened in the book also didn't really make sense, in a scientific way, and were not explained well at all. Furthermore, the "romance" was kind of god awful. A lot of questions were left unanswered throughout the story and even in the abrupt end (the book just kind of stopped without warning. Not a good conclusion for book 1 or lead-in for book 2), and it didn't add mystery as much as it created annoyance. The pacing was okay, and the concept itself was interesting, which kept me reading, but the writing wasn't that great. I'm not sure if I'll read book 2 or not.
The characters were okay, but none of them felt fully developed. Skye was maybe pretty or maybe not. Not sure, to be honest. She just kind of existed as this shell who liked the ocean and maybe or maybe not liked a boy. Rain was dull and annoying. I think the author was going for mysterious with him, but I just saw him as wishy-washy, kind of weak-minded, and bland. Lacy was maybe a mean girl or maybe she wasn't. Not sure. No one's personalities were really defined, much like the worlds (real and app) weren't really defined. I needed more information on all accounts to fully immerse myself in this world and story.
Overall, this book was just okay. It wasn't the best thing ever, but it also wasn't awful. I'd recommend checking it out from the library before buying it.
Saturday, June 25, 2016
Irene must be at the top of her game or she'll be off the case - permanently...
Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, which harvests fiction from different realities. And along with her enigmatic assistant Kai, she's posted to an alternative London. Their mission - to retrieve a dangerous book. But when they arrive, it's already been stolen. London's underground factions seem prepared to fight to the very death to find her book.
Adding to the jeopardy, this world is chaos-infested - the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic. Irene's new assistant is also hiding secrets of his own.
Soon, she's up to her eyebrows in a heady mix of danger, clues and secret societies. Yet failure is not an option - the nature of reality itself is at stake.
My thoughts on the book:
The Invisible Library is a unique and intriguing read. I wasn't sure if I would like it or not, especially after seeing mixed reviews, but I actually enjoyed the book as a whole. It wasn't perfect, and the world and characters weren't fully developed, in my opinion, but it held my interest enough that I liked reading it, and I'm looking forward to the sequel. It is a well-written, genre bending book. I hope I get to learn more about the characters and the world in the next installment.
Irene grew on me, even though her emotions were kind of stifled. I know she was meant to be portrayed this way, but because of that, even though the POV was third person, limited, we didn't get to see any of the emotions of the other characters, either. I mean emotional reactions were mentioned some, but there was a lot more that could have been done. However, the story, and Irene herself, wouldn't have been as prim and stereotypically librarian if that had been the case. Kai was interesting, and I really want to learn more about him. Vale was super fun, and I look forward to seeing him again as well. The big bad guy of the story was kind of vague. I would have liked a bit more from him.
Like the characters, the world-building was a bit vague. I'm not sure I 100% understand the rules of the world, why the Library exists, and what all of the implications are. This may be intentional, because part of the underlying themes in this book is should you question old institutions if they are doing no harm. However, it did make it difficult to fully immerse myself in the story. The plot was intriguing and fast-paced, but the romance was a bit dull/non-existent. I'd like to see a little more romance in future installments. The writing was pretty well done, and the dialogue was fairly realistic. There was a lot of action going on, but the action/fight scenes were never described in a way that made me completely absorbed in them. I felt that a lot of stuff was glossed over more than it should have been. The ending tied up a lot of loose ends and set the next book up well.
Overall, I'd recommend this book to someone who is looking for something unique to read. I enjoyed the novel, and I am looking forward to the sequel.
Wednesday, June 15, 2016
Kiki Nichols might not survive music camp.
She’s put her TV-loving, nerdy self aside for one summer to prove she’s got what it takes: she can be cool enough to make friends, she can earn that music scholarship, and she can get into Krause University’s music program.
Except camp has rigid conduct rules—which means her thrilling late-night jam session with the hot drummer can’t happen again, even though they love all the same TV shows, and fifteen minutes making music with him meant more than every aria she’s ever sung.
But when someone starts snitching on rule breakers and getting them kicked out, music camp turns into survival of the fittest. If Kiki’s going to get that scholarship, her chance to make true friends—and her chance with the drummer guy—might cost her the future she wants more than anything.
From the music app on my phone, Ani DiFranco belts out a choice insult just as Brie bursts through my dorm room door, crosses the room, and plops a giant cardboard box on the other bed.
“I guess we’re roommates,” she says. There were a bunch of boxes in the room when I arrived, and I wondered who they belonged to. I suppose that mystery is solved.
I scramble to stop Ani from singing anything else we both might regret later and I look up just in time to see Seth Banks crossing the threshold into my dorm room, carrying another larger, heavier box over to Brie’s side.
“Hi,” he says. “Kiki, right?” He knows my name. Seth Banks somehow knows my name.
I nod, and sneak a glance at the mirror on the wall next to my bed, assessing myself against the two model-caliber people in my dorm room. I’m still wearing the cat dress. My frizzy hair is up in a messy bun, but the effect actually works with my blue-plastic glasses. I look eccentric, but artsy, which may not be the best look of all time but it is, in fact, a look.
(You’re probably wondering who my celebrity twin is. Well, there aren’t a lot of women in pop culture who have my body type, i.e. dumpy. I’m too fat to be thin and too thin to be fat. Head-wise, I have the glasses and mouse-like features of Mary Katherine Gallagher from Saturday Night Live with hair like Hermione before someone gave her hot oil help between the second and third movies.)
Brie cocks an eyebrow at me and tucks her bottom lip under her top teeth as she picks up my backpack and drops it on the ground with a perfunctory thud. I had tossed it onto the blue papa-san chair in the middle of our room after I got back from the auditions. “That’s my chair,” she says. “My. Chair.” And then she proceeds to place a six-pack of Diet Coke into the fridge—My. Fridge.—because apparently that’s how fairness works.
About the Author:
Julie Hammerle is the author of The Sound of Us, which will be published by Entangled Teen in the summer of 2016. Before settling down to write "for real," she studied opera, taught Latin, and held her real estate license for one hot minute. Currently, she writes about TV on her blog Hammervision, ropes people into conversations about Game of Thrones, and makes excuses to avoid the gym. Her favorite YA-centric TV shows include 90210 (original spice), Felicity, and Freaks and Geeks. Her iPod reads like a 1997 Lilith Fair set list. She lives in Chicago with her husband, two kids, and a dog. They named the dog Indiana.
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Friday, June 10, 2016
The comical, fantastical, romantical, (not) entirely true story of Lady Jane Grey. In My Lady Jane, coauthors Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows have created a one-of-a-kind fantasy in the tradition of The Princess Bride, featuring a reluctant king, an even more reluctant queen, a noble steed, and only a passing resemblance to actual history—because sometimes history needs a little help.
At sixteen, Lady Jane Grey is about to be married off to a stranger and caught up in a conspiracy to rob her cousin, King Edward, of his throne. But those trifling problems aren’t for Jane to worry about. Jane gets to be Queen of England.
My thoughts on the book:
I will admit that I was a bit hesitant when it came to this book. I am a history dork (my minor was history), and I am absolutely obsessed with Medieval Europe especially the Tudor and post-Tudor era. Therefore, I wasn't really sure how I'd take a revisionist, comedic history written about Lady Jane Grey. However, Ashton, Hand, and Meadows are three of my favorite authors, and I knew that if anyone could pull this off, they could. As it turns out, I was absolutely enthralled with this novel. It is light, funny, and a ridiculously engaging read. I couldn't put it down. I read it all over the course of 3 days after work, and considering it's over 500 pages, that's a pretty big feat. This was simply a lovely story.
I'm always a bit nervous when I hear about historical fiction reworking actual historical figures, rather than setting a book in a certain time period and creating one's own characters. The authors rarely get the characters "right," in my opinion, and any history buff would say the same thing. We could all nitpick everything to death until the end of time. However, this book didn't really *try* to get the characters right. Since it was a comedy, and the narrators made it clear that it wasn't to be taken seriously, I was able to completely delve into their world, the characters, and the alternate version of the time period. Yes, the language was off, and yes, one of the characters wanted to be called G, which would just never happen in that day and age, but I loved all of the characters, nonetheless. Jane was a strong heroine, and I really loved their version of Elizabeth I. I feel like they actually had Bloody Mary pretty spot on, to be honest. Edward was more engaging than he would have been had they stuck to his actual personality. I wasn't a fan of what they did with Mary, Queen of Scots, but that's because I'm a huge fan of the Scottish Queen.
The writing was cute and casual and incredibly engaging. They had little side notes and parentheticals throughout the novel to let the reader know that they were the ones telling the story. I enjoyed that, and their random (some real, some fake) historical facts, too. They didn't try to pass this off as anything close to authentic for a single second, and I loved that. It took a lot of courage and wit to pull this off. The pacing was quick but not rushed. The ending was adorable. The romances were cute and appropriate for all ages of YA readers. Each author took one one character, and the book was told from 3 perspectives. I have an idea who wrote which character, but I don't want to ruin it for other readers, so I won't hazard my guesses here. In my opinion, this was a courageous, witty, and fun modern day fairy tale. We don't get many actual fairy tales nowadays, and I appreciate these ladies writing one for us.
I'd recommend this book to anyone. Whether you're a fan of romance, historical fiction, comedy, fantasy, or all of the above, you are sure to be charmed by this book.
The River Styx is really intimidating. Like, seriously.
I honestly never really realized it until now, being without someone who knew how to guide the boat for me. I had only taken a boat out a couple of times, but never this far, and never with this much risk. Now that I stood there, waiting for the others, I found myself questioning my decision a little bit. Not enough to turn back, but enough to realize that Father was going to be really pissed if he found out I had hijacked a boat and left the Underworld with two of my friends. I guess I knew that already but it was hitting me hard now.
I had left a note for him, telling him we were going to visit Maka and not to worry, that we would be back in a few days. He knew I needed to let off a little steam and that leaving me alone was the best choice. At least, I hoped.
I was already wearing my ring and waiting to give A.J. and Huntley theirs. I was almost past the point of no return, making a decision that could get me in the worst of trouble.
And it felt exhilarating.
I was surprised that Huntley wasn’t fully on board with this, but more cautious than A.J. and I were. He was only coming because he wanted to make sure I was safe. But if A.J. thought it would be fine, I really doubted it was going to end badly.
At least I hoped that it wouldn’t.
A.J. was the cautious one out of the three of us, so if Huntley thought it was fine, it was probably going to be fine. I trusted him, especially after all this time. He cared enough to stay in the Palace for me, so he had to be speaking the truth.
A.J. and Huntley showed up, checking behind them to make sure there wasn’t anyone following them. I nodded to both of them and handed them the rings. They slipped them on their fingers, and we quickly climbed in the boat to travel around the River Styx into the sky that was Oceanus.
The boat was like an old gondola that might simply crumble if we were going over actual water. It was beyond old, probably the same age as the Underworld itself. It creaked and cracked as we stood on it, rocking slightly back and forth. The three of us each grabbed a stick and pushed off the peer of the palace and into the river we went.
“How does this actually work?” Huntley asked. “I mean, it looks like we are traveling on clouds.”
“You really going to ask questions of how things work in the Underworld? Not just accept that things work differently here?” A.J. replied. We had barely been gone for a couple of moments and they were already arguing.
“The rivers here are more like air currents, trapping things that have been lost in the mortal realm,” I explained. “The river we are on now is the River Styx, the River of Hatred. It is but one of five rivers. Most of the dead come to this world via Acheron, the River of Pain. It is where Charon runs his service. The other rivers flow through the Underworld and serve as transportation to places throughout. But without a boat, all of the rivers will curse those who try to escape, so make sure the water doesn’t touch you.”
Huntley glanced over the water, his eyes wide. I probably should have mentioned that earlier, but it had completely slipped my mind. When you knew something for such a long time, it was hard to remember to tell others who might not know.
“Don’t worry, you’re fine. But because of this, no god from the other realms can get through Oceanus, which is why Father has hidden me away for so long. That is, except Hermes, he can travel between realms. Why that is, no one really knows. He kinda just appears some days and Father can’t figure out how he’s doing it. As for my mother, well, it’s really rare for anyone to come to the Underworld and be able to go back to Earth. In some legends the hero can, or antagonist, depending on your point of view. The River Styx was their greatest obstacle.”
“But she sneaks men in here,” Huntley countered.
I nodded. “Yeah, but they don’t come by themselves. She pays Charon to escort them. He will escort anything as long as he gets paid.”
“Oh. So which one is the River Styx?” Huntley asked.
I gestured in front of us. “This one. We will be going around the Underworld seven times and then be dumped into Oceanus.”
“Seven times? Won’t that take forever?”
I shrugged. “Space is weird here. Doesn’t take too long actually and the farther we get, the faster it starts to go.”
“Oh, I guess that makes sense,” Huntley said. “Then where is Oceanus?”
I nodded up. “You see the blue clouds that covers the entire realm? That’s Oceanus.”
He looked up at the sky. The molten blue shimmered in the light of the morning. Where the morning light really came from, I still wasn’t sure. This world was weird, I had to agree.
“Shit. How are we supposed to get through that?” he asked.
“Hence the boat, moron,” A.J. commented.
Huntley pointed up. “Yeah, but that doesn’t have a surface that we can travel on.”
I shook my head. “That’s because we don’t travel on it. We travel through it. Oceanus is like a shell between this world and Earth.”
“Oh yeah, that’s going to be fun. Do you even know where we are going to end up?”
I was silent. I actually didn’t. I figured, probably wherever my mother was last, but I couldn’t be sure. It wasn’t like I had a preference. Anywhere was better than here. Finally, I shrugged.
“We don’t even know where we are going?” Huntley exclaimed. “Chrys, seriously, get some sense in your head. This is a bad idea.”
He was right, I really didn’t know what I was doing. I should turn back now, I had let my emotions get the better of me. I was turning into my mother.
And I didn’t want that.
About the Author
Dani Hoots is a science fiction, fantasy, romance, and young adult author who loves anything with a story. She has a B.S. in Anthropology, a Masters of Urban and Environmental Planning, and is currently in the Your Novel Year Program through Arizona State University.
Currently she is working on a YA urban fantasy series called , a historic fantasy vampire series called , and a YA sci-fi series called .
Her hobbies include reading, watching anime, cooking, studying different languages, wire walking, tinkering with her violin and concertina, and volunteering at the library. She lives in Seattle with her husband and two cats.
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