Category Archives: Series

Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters

Finished Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters by Meredith Zeitlin.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Kelsey Finkelstein is fourteen and FRUSTRATED. Every time she tries to live up to her awesome potential, her plans are foiled – by her impossible parents, her annoying little sister, and life in general. But with her first day of high school coming up, Kelsey is positive that things are going to change. Enlisting the help of her three best friends — sweet and quiet Em, theatrical Cass, and wild JoJo — Kelsey gets ready to rebrand herself and make the kind of mark she knows is her destiny.

Things start out great – her arch-nemesis has moved across the country, giving Kelsey the perfect opportunity to stand out on the soccer team and finally catch the eye of her long-time crush. But soon enough, an evil junior’s thirst for revenge, a mysterious photographer, and a series of other catastrophes make it clear that just because KELSEY has a plan for greatness… it doesn’t mean the rest of the world is in on it.

Kelsey’s hilarious commentary throughout her disastrous freshman year will have you laughing out loud—while being thankful that you’re not in her shoes, of course…”

This book was adorable.  :)  I immediately loved Kelsey and her determination to make her freshman year the best year yet, and even though things keep refusing to go her way, she won’t give up.  EVER.

As many people have noted in their reviews, this book is almost guaranteed to make you laugh out loud if you have anything even remotely approaching a sense of humor.

I think I preferred Sophomore Year is Greek to Me (a companion novel, not a sequel) but both are excellent.

I hope Meredith Zeitlin has a new book out soon.  I love her books. :)

Recommended.

Days Like This

Finished Days Like This by Danielle Ellison.  I received a copy from the author for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Sometimes the only thing standing between fear and hope is you.

Almost a year ago, nineteen-year-old Cassie Harlen had a lot to deal with. A stack of college acceptance letters waiting for answers, a proposal from the boy next door, and a mother whose most recent bipolar episode left Cassie hurt and confused. Tired of cleaning up the messes caused by her mother’s disorder, of resenting her mother for not being there, and scared of being trapped by an inevitable future—which included marrying Graham Tucker—Cassie did the only thing she could think of to keep from ending up like her mother: she left.

Graham never knew why Cassie walked away. He woke up one morning and she was gone—along with the life that he’d created around her. After eleven months, Graham has a new plan for his future. One that doesn’t involve Cassie Harlen.

When Cassie’s mom nearly burns down her house, Cassie’s forced to return home. Back to a mother she’s tried to ignore and the guy she’s been unable to forget. Graham doesn’t know how he’s going to spend the whole summer living next door to the person who broke his heart without letting those old feelings push through to the surface.

Neither does Cassie.”

Okay, first a disclaimer: I am Danielle Ellison’s publicist at Spencer Hill, and we are friends.  (By which I mean that she is my friend and I am probably like her annoying-as-hell little sister.  As an example, when I heard about this, I whined and begged and pleaded and she let me read the book instead of blocking my email.  Danielle is awesome.)

It’s told from Cassie and Graham’s perspectives in alternating chapters and I absolutely love them both.  If you’ve ever read a love story, it’s pretty clear that they’re going to end up together, but it’s still so fun to see how and how long it takes.  (Because oh wow, this book.  THIS. BOOK.  I want to flail about it but I don’t want to ruin a second of it for you.  So hurry and read this and find me so we can discuss.)

I think this is my favorite NA novel ever.  (And yes, I read Colleen Hoover and Cora Carmack.  And no, not just because I know Danielle.  In fact, if I didn’t know Danielle, this book would make me Twitter-stalk her*)  It’s sweet and wrenching and just perfect.  (AND there will be two companion novels, and I absolutely plan to whine and beg and plead until I can read those two, as well.)

Highly recommended.

* = in a nice way.  I am not scary.

The Heir

Finished The Heir by Kiera Cass.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Twenty years ago, America Singer entered the Selection and won Prince Maxon’s heart. Now the time has come for Princess Eadlyn to hold a Selection of her own. Eadlyn doesn’t expect her Selection to be anything like her parents’ fairy-tale love story. But as the competition begins, she may discover that finding her own happily ever after isn’t as impossible as she always thought.

I was a huge fan of Kiera Cass’ Selection series, and I was very excited to learn that there would be a spinoff series focusing on Maxon and America’s daughter, Eadlyn.

I love the concept of this book and the fact that Eadlyn is so determined to be a good queen that she’s willing to do the Selection in order to bring some peace to her country.

This is also an incredibly interesting book in terms of the fact that many of Maxon’s changes since becoming king initially worked and now seem to be leading to even greater unrest.

Here’s my problem with the story: I didn’t like Eadlyn.  At all.  She treats people horribly, and seems to genuinely believe that she is better than everyone else, simply because she is going to be queen someday.  She loves her parents and brothers, but everyone else is taking up time and space that should belong to her.

And then it occurred to me that if Eadlyn were, say, a boy named Aaron, I wouldn’t have these problems.  Eadlyn is passionate about being a good queen and doesn’t really care about being liked.  I think that if she had been a guy, I would’ve been annoyed but not to the extent that I was.

I definitely want to read the second book and think that Eadlyn will eventually grow as a person.  I hope.

All Played Out

Finished All Played Out by Cora Carmack.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Amazon):

“In the third book in New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Cora Carmack’s Rusk University series, a good girl is about to find out what happens when she creates the ultimate college bucket list and she sets her sights on a jock.

First person in her family to go to college? CHECK.

Straight A’s? CHECK.

On track to graduate early? CHECK.

Social life? …..yeah, about that….

With just a few weeks until she graduates, Antonella DeLuca’s beginning to worry that maybe she hasn’t had the full college experience. (Okay… Scratch that. She knows she hasn’t had the full college experience).

So Nell does what a smart, dedicated girl like herself does best. She makes a “to do” list of normal college activities.

Item #1? Hook up with a jock.

Rusk University wide receiver Mateo Torres practically wrote the playbook for normal college living. When he’s not on the field, he excels at partying, girls, and more partying. As long as he keeps things light and easy, it’s impossible to get hurt… again. But something about the quiet, shy, sexy-as-hell Nell gets under his skin, and when he learns about her list, he makes it his mission to help her complete it.

Torres is the definition of confident (And sexy. And wild), and he opens up a side of Nell that she’s never known.  But as they begin to check off each crazy, exciting, normal item, Nell finds that her frivolous list leads to something more serious than she bargained for. And while Torres is used to taking risks on the field, he has to decide if he’s willing to take the chance when it’s more than just a game.

Together they will have to decide if what they have is just part of the experiment or a chance at something real.”

I am a huge fan of Cora Carmack and, while this is the first time her newest book hasn’t become my immediate favorite, this is still a very fun addition to my library.

I very much liked Nell, who is basically the world’s most intellectual person.  (Generally, the quiet smart girls are the ones I identify with but Nell is on a whole other level.  I don’t think I’ve met anyone quite like Nell.)

And Torres.  I wasn’t expecting how awesome Torres was. :)

I’m hoping there are more Rusk University books (especially because I want Stella to have her own book and love story).  Recommended.

Revenge, Ice Cream and Other Things Best Served Cold

Finished Revenge, Ice Cream and Other Things Best Served Cold by Katie Finn. I received a copy for review from the publisher.

Summary (from Amazon):

“After the humiliating events on the 4th of July, Gemma’s trying to grapple with the fact that Hallie knew her true identity all summer, and that she was the one who stole Teddy from her.

Gemma vows revenge, but things immediately get more complicated than she planned. Her dad forces her to get a job, and the only one she can find involves scooping ice cream all day. Ford, Gemma’s longtime crush, has arrived in the Hamptons, and is cuter than ever. Josh is refusing to speak to her after finding out she lied to him. And to top it all off, Teddy is back in the picture, and closer to home than Gemma would like.

Gemma and Hallie find themselves locked in an escalating revenge cycle involving everything from strawberry syrup to stolen identities. But just when Gemma thinks she has the upper hand, the biggest bombshell of all is dropped. And it’s one that threatens to change her life forever.”

I am so in love with this series, I can’t even tell you.  This is the second book in a trilogy and I am both desperate to know what comes next and very sad at the thought that there’s only one more.

At the end of the first book, we received a bit of game-changing information, and that completely changed the way this book went. I love books that can completely change everything but in retrospect, you’re like, “OF COURSE!”  That happens a few times in this one, too.

The best part is the fact that in the first book, I was completely rooting for Gemma and Josh.  In this book, we meet Ford.  (And, like Gemma, I am now much more interested in Ford than I was in Josh.)

This is the kind of book that is just perfect for vacation reading or on days when you wish you were on vacation.

Highly recommended.

Blessed Are Those Who Weep

Finished Blessed Are Those Who Weep by Kristi Belcamino.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“San Francisco Bay Area reporter Gabriella Giovanni stumbles onto a horrific crime scene with only one survivor—a baby girl found crawling between the dead bodies of her family members. Reeling from the slaughter, Gabriella clings to the infant. When Social Services pries the little girl from her arms, the enormity of the tragedy hits home. Diving deep into a case that brings her buried past to the forefront, Gabriella is determined to hunt down the killer who left this helpless baby an orphan.

But one by one the clues all lead to a dead end, and Gabriella’s obsession with finding justice pulls her into a dark, tortuous spiral that is set to destroy everything she loves …”

A lot of my friends are into mysteries, and all of a sudden, it seemed like everyone was talking about this book.  When that happens, I tend to pay attention.

This is the third book in a series, but it functions really well as a standalone.  (I do want to go back and read the first two books, though; the first one especially tends to ricochet all through the events of this one—it didn’t make me enjoy this any less, but it made me very curious to read it.)

I tend to really like books with journalists and this was no exception.  I’m not sure how long Gabriella would really last in the news business (she became part of the story in this book, and that tends to not work out so well in terms of keeping your job) but it was also obvious that she really loved her job and was good at it.

The mystery in this is incredibly well done and I can guarantee you that you won’t want to stop reading until you know exactly what’s going on.

Recommended.

Ruth’s Journey

Finished Ruth’s Journey by Donald McCaig.  I received a copy for review from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Authorized by the Margaret Mitchell Estate, here is the first-ever prequel to one of the most beloved and bestselling novels of all time, Gone with the Wind. The critically acclaimed author of Rhett Butler’s People magnificently recounts the life of Mammy, one of literature’s greatest supporting characters, from her days as a slave girl to the outbreak of the Civil War.

“Her story began with a miracle.” On the Caribbean island of Saint Domingue, an island consumed by the flames of revolution, a senseless attack leaves only one survivor—an infant girl. She falls into the hands of two French émigrés, Henri and Solange Fournier, who take the beautiful child they call Ruth to the bustling American city of Savannah.

What follows is the sweeping tale of Ruth’s life as shaped by her strong-willed mistress and other larger-than-life personalities she encounters in the South: Jehu Glen, a free black man with whom Ruth falls madly in love; the shabbily genteel family that first hires Ruth as Mammy; Solange’s daughter Ellen and the rough Irishman, Gerald O’Hara, whom Ellen chooses to marry; the Butler family of Charleston and their shocking connection to Mammy Ruth; and finally Scarlett O’Hara—the irrepressible Southern belle Mammy raises from birth. As we witness the difficult coming of age felt by three generations of women, gifted storyteller Donald McCaig reveals a portrait of Mammy that is both nuanced and poignant, at once a proud woman and a captive, and a strict disciplinarian who has never experienced freedom herself. But despite the cruelties of a world that has decreed her a slave, Mammy endures, a rock in the river of time. She loves with a ferocity that would astonish those around her if they knew it. And she holds tight even to those who have been lost in the ravages of her days.

Set against the backdrop of the South from the 1820s until the dawn of the Civil War, here is a remarkable story of fortitude, heartbreak, and indomitable will—and a tale that will forever illuminate your reading of Margaret Mitchell’s unforgettable classic, Gone with the Wind.”

I was very excited for this book.  Even as the reviews came in and they were not kind, I continued to want to read it.

I should’ve listened.  Now, because I am not a huge fan of getting people NOT to read, here is why the book didn’t work for me.  If these don’t sound like a huge deal to you, carry on.

1)  Ruth/Mammy is obviously the focus of this book.  I knew that going in, but I thought that it would have more to do with Scarlett than it did.  In fact, it’s mostly about Solange; we don’t even meet Scarlett until the book is about 75% over.

2)  She’s psychic.  REALLY.  I don’t think this was necessary and it really detracted from my enjoyment.

3)  Mammy’s dialect is godawful.  Obviously she didn’t get schooling, but I don’t think her English would’ve been as horrible as it was here.  (“We am going to the fields aryday.”)

This book was a disappointment on every level, and I was fully expecting to love it.  (I even liked Scarlett and Rhett Butler’s People.)

I will say that once we got to the Scarlett and Gone With the Wind part (sort of—the book ends around the time Scarlett’s first husband died, and most of the part with Scarlett was Scarlett as a kid, which was actually really good), the book picked up.  But by then, it was pretty much over.

A Magic Dark and Bright

A MAGIC DARK AND BRIGHT
About the book: 
She meant to help a ghost…not unleash a curse.

Amelia Dupree hasn’t seen the Woman in White since the night her brother died.

The ghost seems to have disappeared from the woods surrounding Asylum, Pennsylvania—that is, until Charlie Blue moves into the creepy old MacAllister House next door. Amelia can’t help liking him, even though she spent her childhood thinking his grandmother was a witch. And she definitely can’t ignore the connection between his arrival and the Woman in White’s return.

Then Amelia learns that the Woman in White is a prisoner, trapped between the worlds of the living and the dead. Devastated by the idea that her brother could be suffering a similar fate, Amelia decides to do whatever it takes to help the Woman in White find peace–and Charlie agrees to help her.

But when Amelia’s classmates start to drown in the Susquehanna River, one right after another, rumors swirl as people begin to connect the timing of Charlie’s arrival with the unexplained deaths. As Charlie and Amelia uncover the dark history of Asylum, they realize they may have unleashed an unspeakable evil. One they have to stop before everything they love is destroyed.

Red Queen

Finished Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

The poverty stricken Reds are commoners, living under the rule of the Silvers, elite warriors with god-like powers.

To Mare Barrow, a 17-year-old Red girl from The Stilts, it looks like nothing will ever change.

Mare finds herself working in the Silver Palace, at the centre of those she hates the most. She quickly discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy Silver control.

But power is a dangerous game. And in this world divided by blood, who will win?”

First a warning: this book is going to absolutely dominate all your time until you finish it.  And once you do finish it, you will be desperate for the sequel.

I loved this book immediately.  The world and its class system (the Silvers are upperclass; the Reds are…well, I guess we can say somewhere around the level of serfs.  There’s no real middleground because even the lowliest Silver is worlds above the Reds and there are no Red subclasses) was fascinating to me.

And of course I love Mare.  I hate that so much of what happens is not within her control (as a Red, her entire life is basically her being a pawn for other people) but how she is determined to do what she can to make her family’s life better.

I can’t discuss too much more about the book because of spoilers, but suffice it to say that if you haven’t read this book yet, you need to.

Highly recommended.

An Ember in the Ashes

Finished An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir.  I received a copy for review from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Set in a terrifyingly brutal Rome-like world, An Ember in the Ashes is an epic fantasy debut about an orphan fighting for her family and a soldier fighting for his freedom. It’s a story that’s literally burning to be told.

LAIA is a Scholar living under the iron-fisted rule of the Martial Empire. When her brother is arrested for treason, Laia goes undercover as a slave at the empire’s greatest military academy in exchange for assistance from rebel Scholars who claim that they will help to save her brother from execution.

ELIAS is the academy’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias is considering deserting the military, but before he can, he’s ordered to participate in a ruthless contest to choose the next Martial emperor.

When Laia and Elias’s paths cross at the academy, they find that their destinies are more intertwined than either could have imagined and that their choices will change the future of the empire itself.”

Because I got this through Penguin’s First to Read program, I had to read it through this very specific app, BlueFire.  I mention that because the day I was reading this book, my iPad kept crashing every 10 pages (at best; 5-6 pages at worst) so I read most of this almost 450-page book on my phone.  And I didn’t even mind, because the alternative—waiting over a month until the book was released—wasn’t even an option.  That should tell you how amazing this book is, right? I would rather read 450 pages on a phone screen than wait and read a normal size book.

Because you guys, this book really is fantastic.  I don’t read all that much fantasy anymore, but holy crap, this world that Sabaa Tahir made.

I have heard complaints that Laia’s sections were boring, but I didn’t find that to be true at all.  Yes, Elias’ sections are more action-packed (he goes through the trials, after all) but that doesn’t mean that hers were boring.  She was risking her life spying for the rebels, and was at the world’s scariest place, in close proximity to the world’s scariest person.  (Seriously, read this book and tell me the Commandant doesn’t give you chills.)

I have heard that this may be a standalone, but given the ending, I refuse to believe that’s true.  There has to be a sequel, right? Please say yes.

Highly recommended.