Category Archives: Series

Signs of Life

Finished Signs of Life by Selene Castrovilla.  I received a copy from the author for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

The tables are turned with a vengeance in this tour de force love story. Nearly a year has gone by and now it’s Dorothy who is fragmented and lost, while Joey keeps the promise he had made her to better himself —even though she’s gone. Joey talks about what is happening in the present while Dorothy describes what happened before— in the moments and hours after the Glock dropped. This time the stakes are even higher, as Joey forces himself to move forward while Dorothy is frozen in place. But when he learns of a devastating decision, Joey races to find her before it is too late. Truth, consequence, repercussion and modern medicine collide as pieces converge in this psychological, thrilling story which begs the question: Can love really conquer all?

Okay, so I absolutely loved Melt (the first book in this series) and I was mostly really excited to read Signs of Life but also a little nervous. What if it wasn’t as good? What if the characters weren’t as great as I remembered them being? What if it didn’t feel as viscerally true as Melt did?

Well, if I were Joey, I’d have to snap my wrist with a rubber band for those thoughts.  Not only does this live up to Melt, it even surpasses it.

Melt is somewhat similar to The Wizard of Oz, but this book takes a new inspiration: As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner.  I haven’t read it so I know for a fact that you don’t need to know it at all to fall in love with this novel.

Unfortunately, I can’t really discuss specifics at all, because we don’t learn very much about what’s going on with Dorothy until later in the novel.  So here’s what I can tell you: Dorothy and Joey are currently not together, although they are all the other person can think about.  Dorothy’s chapters are mostly flashbacks, showing how the separation occurred.  Joey’s are sometimes present day and sometimes flashbacks.  In the present day, we learn how hard he’s working to improve his life (he’s taking college classes! and reading! And learning how to speak better—I love Joey so much) and it’s so clear how much of that is because of Dorothy’s impact on his life.  (I can’t call her Doll as he does; it feels too intimate.)

Best news: this is now apparently a trilogy.  And thank God, because that ending is a cliffhanger and a half.

Highly recommended.

Hearts, Fingers & Other Things to Cross

Finished Hearts, Fingers & Other Things to Cross by Katie Finn.

Summary (from Goodreads):

WEATHER ALERT: SEVERE STORMS AHEAD

Gemma and Hallie’s world has come to a screeching halt. Their parents are engaged, which makes them step-sisters. Nothing in the world could possibly be worse for Gemma and Hallie–they won’t let it happen. Even if it means putting their own feud aside to separate their parents.

Events quickly escalate as a hurricane rips through the Hamptons leaving everyone (including Gemma’s two exes, her current crush, best friend, and her nemesis) bottled up in one house. One big, miserable group of exes and enemies together allow secrets to unfold and plans to be plotted. The calm before this storm definitely doesn’t exist.

Katie Finn pulls out all the stops for this fast-paced, dramatic conclusion in the Broken Hearts and Revenge series, Hearts, Fingers, and Other Things to Cross.”

I was so in love with this series, and seriously could not wait for this final installment.  With everything that happened in the first two books, I had no idea how they could be topped in this one.  Turns out that the only thing Gemma and Hallie are better at than scheming against each other is scheming against other people.  In this case, they want to “reverse Parent trap” their folks and get them to split up again.  (Shouldn’t be too hard; Gemma, especially, has excellent experience at this.)

As you probably know, Katie Finn is the pen name for Morgan Matson* and while this series is not as emotionally intense as her other YA novels, it is incredibly fun and juicy.  (Absolutely ideal for summer and the beach.)

I’m not sure if Katie Finn has any more books coming, but I certainly hope so.  They’re absolutely delightful and don’t give me crying hangovers.  (I’m still going to need more Morgan Matson, though.)

* = who actually blurbed this book

 

Sealed With a Secret

Finished Sealed With a Secret by Lisa Schroeder.

Summary (from Goodreads):

When Phoebe finds a beautiful antique at a flea market, she’s not sure whether it’s as valuable as it looks. But inside she discovers something truly amazing a letter written during World War II, from a young girl to her sister who’s been evacuated from London. The letter includes a “spell” for bringing people closer together: a list of clues leading all through the city. Each stop along the way adds up to magic.

Phoebe is stunned. Not only has she found a priceless piece of history, the letter is exactly what she needs — she’s also separated from her sister, though not by distance. Alice leaves for university soon, but in the meantime, she wants nothing to do with Phoebe. They used to be so close. Now that Phoebe has this magical list, maybe she can fix everything! That is, unless she accidentally makes everything worse instead…

From the author of My Secret Guide to Paris comes an unforgettable trip through London, with secret treasures around every corner!”

If you’ve ever talked to me on Twitter or Facebook, you’ve probably figured out that Lisa Schroeder is one of my favorite authors.  She writes these amazing YA novels, but she also writes these equally amazing and adorable middlegrade books.  (She and Eileen Cook were my gateway into middlegrade, should that ever come up on Jeopardy!)

This book was no exception. It’s technically a companion novel to My Secret Guide to Paris (and centers around the sisters that Nora meets in Paris) but can function just as well as a standalone.  I loved Phoebe, who just really wants to be close to her sister Alice again.  It’s such a sweet wish, and when she finds that spell, she thinks it’s the perfect way to make that happen.

I’m not sure how to describe this without using the word “charming.”  But at any rate, if you know how it feels to be left behind, this book is for you.

Highly recommended.

The Outliers

Finished The Outliers by Kimberly McCreight. I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

It all starts with a text: Please, Wylie, I need your help. Wylie hasn’t heard from Cassie in over a week, not since their last fight. But that doesn’t matter. Cassie’s in trouble, so Wylie decides to do what she has done so many times before: save her best friend from herself.

This time it’s different though. Instead of telling Wylie where she is, Cassie sends cryptic clues. And instead of having Wylie come by herself, Jasper shows up saying Cassie sent him to help. Trusting the guy who sent Cassie off the rails doesn’t feel right, but Wylie has no choice but to ignore her gut instinct and go with him.

But figuring out where Cassie is goes from difficult to dangerous, fast. As Wylie and Jasper head further and further north into the dense woods of Maine, Wylie struggles to control her growing sense that something is really wrong. What isn’t Cassie telling them? And could finding her be only the beginning?

In this breakneck tale of intrigue, betrayal, and deeply buried secrets, New York Times bestselling author Kimberly McCreight brilliantly chronicles a fateful journey that begins with a single decision—and ends up changing everything.”

I am a huge, huge fan of Kimberly McCreight’s and have been since I read Reconstructing Amelia.  So when I found out that she was writing a YA novel, I was beyond excited.  (There are actually no words for how excited I was; it’d basically be a line of bolded, italicized, underlined exclamation points in probably size 100 font.)

And when I got the chance to read it, it was everything I wanted.  It’s really fast-paced but there’s also a lot of depth there. It’s a grieving book, at its core, as Wylie is missing the loss of both her mom and her best friend.

And once she goes on the run to try and find/save Cassie, things get even crazier.  Threre’s so much going on and no one seems particularly trustworthy.

The only downside to this book is that it’s the first book in a series and you will want the next installment immediately.  I hope it’s out soon.

Highly recommended.

The Glittering Court

Finished The Glittering Court by Richelle Mead.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Big and sweeping, spanning from the refined palaces of Osfrid to the gold dust and untamed forests of Adoria, The Glittering Court tells the story of Adelaide, an Osfridian countess who poses as her servant to escape an arranged marriage and start a new life in Adoria, the New World. But to do that, she must join the Glittering Court.

Both a school and a business venture, the Glittering Court is designed to transform impoverished girls into upper-class ladies who appear destined for powerful and wealthy marriages in the New World. Adelaide naturally excels in her training, and even makes a few friends: the fiery former laundress Tamsin and the beautiful Sirminican refugee Mira. She manages to keep her true identity hidden from all but one: the intriguing Cedric Thorn, son of the wealthy proprietor of the Glittering Court.

When Adelaide discovers that Cedric is hiding a dangerous secret of his own, together they hatch a scheme to make the best of Adelaide’s deception. Complications soon arise—first as they cross the treacherous seas from Osfrid to Adoria, and then when Adelaide catches the attention of a powerful governor.

But no complication will prove quite as daunting as the potent attraction simmering between Adelaide and Cedric. An attraction that, if acted on, would scandalize the Glittering Court and make them both outcasts in wild, vastly uncharted lands…”

I know this book seems to be getting mixed reviews, but I was exactly in the mood for it.  It reads as this weird hybrid of True Grit (think setting, not plot) and The Selection, and it all absolutely worked for me.

I love Adelaide, the countess who chooses to give up her title and comfortable lifestyle to take a chance over in Adoria as part of the Glittering Court.  I love her new friends, Tamsin and Mira (and I hope there’s some companion novels to come from Mira’s perspective, because I love her the most) and I especially love Cedric, the swooniest guy ever.

I had no idea what was going to happen (beyond the fact that Adelaide and Cedric would end up together because OBVIOUSLY) and this book still kept taking me by complete surprise.

This is the first book in a series and I cannot wait to see what happens next.

Recommended.

What You Always Wanted

Finished What You Always Wanted by Kristin Rae.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“If Only . . . he was the boy she’s been dreaming of. The If Only line continues in this fun high school theater-themed romance!

Drama girl Maddie Brooks has always had high standards for guys. But she has yet to find one who can live up to the romantic, classic Hollywood heartthrobs, especially the dreamy song-and-dance man Gene Kelly. When Maddie begins to carpool with Jesse Morales, her new neighbor and star pitcher of the baseball team, she’s struck by his wit, good looks, and love for his family–but a guy so into sports is definitely not her style. Then Maddie discovers that Jesse was raised as a dancer and still practices in the community theater dance studio to keep in shape. Perhaps her perfect dream guy exists after all! But when it becomes clear that baseball–not dance–is Jessie’s passion, can Maddie find a way to let her dream guy go and appreciate the charms of the amazing guy in front of her?”

If you are a fan of classic Hollywood, you need to read this novel.  It’s also true if you love adorable contemp YA.  And if you love both? This is going to be a new favorite of yours.

Maddie is a huge fan of classic movies, especially musicals—and especially musicals starring Gene Kelly, the love of her life.  It’s not that she doesn’t like real life and real boys; it’s just that they can’t really compare.  (Especially when you watch Summer Stock or An American in Paris.)

And then she meets Jesse, who seems to be everything she wants (well, he’s a baseball player, granted, but he also can act, sing and dance…even though he doesn’t, currently, do those things).  Soooooo…is it worth it?

And yes, if you’ve ever seen a romantic comedy or read one, you know exactly what will happen.  And that’s okay.  This book is absolutely adorable and you’ll have the best time taking a journey with it.

Recommended.

The Outliers (Harper Teen 2016 Summer Tour!)

HarperTeenSummer2016Tour

Okay, first, you probably want to know my key word, right? Because you’ll need that for one of the prizes.  It’s will.

There are two contests you can enter.  The first is a prize pack of 45 books (not including The Crown by Kiera Cass, Escape from Asylum by Madeline Roux, Sing by Vivi Greene, The Countdown by Kimberly Derting or United as One by Pittacus Lore).  One person will win the entire summer catalog (except for those five) and four other people will be able to pick three books they want from the catalog.  To enter that contest, click here.

The second contest is for five finished copies from the winter catalog (Front Lines by Michael Grant, Revenge and the Wild by Michelle Modesto, The Lifeboat Clique by Kathy Parks, Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin and The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig).  To enter this, you need to collect all the daily words from each stop (a total of 50) and then email them to HarperTeenTour@gmail.com.  Again, my word is “will.”  For a link to all participants, skip to the end of this post.

Prize Rules:

  • Winner must have a valid US mailing address to receive the prize
  • Winner must be over 13
  • Only one (1) entry per person for Prize #2 – duplicates will be deleted.
  • Only a completed phrase will be accepted as an entry – do not email each word/phrase daily. Wait until you have the complete saying and then email in.
  • All email submissions must be received by 11:59 PM EST 3/31/2016.
  • Winners will be selected 4/1/2016 and will have 48 hours to claim their prize before another is selected.
  • Participating blogs and bloggers are not responsible for unsent, damaged, and/or stolen prizes offered by the publisher.

outliers1

The Outliers is by Kimberly McCreightClick here to add it to your Goodreads.

Summary (from Goodreads):

From the New York Times bestselling author of Reconstructing Amelia comes a fast-paced teen series where one girl learns that in a world of intrigue, betrayal, and deeply buried secrets, it is vital to trust your instincts.

It all starts with a text: Please, Wylie, I need your help. Wylie hasn’t heard from Cassie in over a week, not since their last fight. But that doesn’t matter. Cassie’s in trouble, so Wylie decides to do what she has done so many times before: save her best friend from herself.

This time it’s different, though. Instead of telling Wylie where she is, Cassie sends cryptic clues. And instead of having Wylie come by herself, Jasper shows up saying Cassie sent him to help. Trusting the guy who sent Cassie off the rails doesn’t feel right, but Wylie has no choice but to ignore her gut instinct and go with him.

But figuring out where Cassie is goes from difficult to dangerous, fast. As Wylie and Jasper head farther and farther north into the dense woods of Maine, Wylie struggles to control her growing sense that something is really wrong. What isn’t Cassie telling them? And could finding her be only the beginning?

In this breakneck tale, New York Times bestselling author Kimberly McCreight brilliantly chronicles a fateful journey that begins with a single decision—and ends up changing everything.”

Or just buy it:

Amazon | B&N | IndieBound | The Book Depository

Here’s everyone else participating (click to see)!

http://www.linkytools.com/basic_linky_include.aspx?id=266379

I was also lucky enough to get to interview Kimberly McCreight.

What was the inspiration for The Outliers?

My daughter has always been uncannily empathetic. For the most part, this is something that has served her well. It has helped her in social situations and has strengthened friendships. It has certainly made her easier to parent. But being so in touch with other people’s feelings can be a burden, too. When you are so focused on other people’s feelings, you can lose sight of your own.

And I can relate to all of that because I tend toward the highly-sensitive myself. And as I thought about it over the years, I realized that is true for most of my closest female friends.

This led me to consider a possible connection between heightened emotionality and intuition, and to ponder the potential implications. To wonder what it would mean—for all of us—if we were to discover that women’s intuition were real.

At its heart, The Outliers is a mystery about one troubled teenaged girl overcoming her fears and trying to help find her best friend, but it’s also about what might happen—for all of us—if we redefined what it means to be strong.

Would you want to be an Outlier?

Definitely! Being an Outlier might be a burden in some respects, but I would definitely trade the hardships for that incredible potential. (Also, there is a slight possibility that I already think I am an Outlier. According to my husband, it is mostly downside, at least for him.).

This is both your first YA and your first series.  Which of those is a harder transition?

First off, I think writing is mostly a challenge, just in general. For me, getting from my very messy (hide under your covers) first draft to a working, readable-by-others version is one of the trickiest stages, while the very early days fresh off the blank page are easier for me. This may be because I never go back and read what I’ve just written and thus am able to lull myself into a false sense of security.

Also, I think what is easiest as a writer is whatever you are used to. Because I have has a teenage POV character in each of my adult books, I did not find the transition to a YA voice to be that substantial. However, this was the first time I did not switch POV’s. Learning to get in the necessary information for the mystery in one POV was a new challenge, but in the end it was really rewarding.

As for the trilogy aspect, I’ve completed my first draft of Book Two and I would say that it really does feel like an extension of Book One, and in that respect it has felt extremely natural.

Can you share the first sentence/paragraph?

Why are the bad things always so much easier to believe?  It shouldn’t be that way. But it is, every single time. You’re too sensitive and too worried, they say. You care too much about all the wrong things. One little whisper in your ear and the words tumble through your head like you’re the one who thought them first. Hear them enough and pretty soon they’re etched on the surface of your heart. But right now, I’ve got to forget all the ways I’ve come to accept that I am broken. As I sit here in this cold, dark room, deep in the pitch-black woods, staring into this lying stranger’s eyes, I need to think the opposite about myself. I need to believe that I am a person I have never known myself to be. That in my deepest, darkest, most useless corners lies a secret. One that just might end up being the thing that saves me. That saves us. Because there is a lot that I still don’t understand about what’s going on. So much, actually. But I do know this: despite all the fear in this woman’s eyes, we need to convince her to help us. Because our lives depend on it. And on us getting out that door.

 If you could make one book mandatory, what would it be and why?

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. Because it says so much about what it means to be a woman and a girl. You cannot read it without being forever changed.

What are your five favorite books?

Below are five of my favorite books. But I have a huge group of favorites—both books and authors—so this a small sampling, listed in no particular order:

The Hours, Michael Cunningham

Eleanor & Park, Rainbow Rowell

Bright Lights, Big City, Jay McInerney

Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn

To The Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf

 What are you reading now?

The fantastic Don’t You Cry, forthcoming by Mary Kubica. The riveting Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver and I’m listening to When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi.

 

 

Raging Sea

Finished Raging Sea by Michael Buckley.

Summary (from Goodreads):

In the first book of Michael Buckley’s Undertow trilogy, the Alpha arrived and the world was never the same. At the start of the second book, most of south Brooklyn is in ruins and the nation is terrified. Nearly everyone that Lyric Walker loves is either missing or presumed dead, including the mesmerizing prince Fathom. It’s up to Lyric to unite the Alpha before the second wave of a cataclysmic invasion wipes out mankind for good. The Undertow trilogy is an unforgettable reading experience that author E. Lockhart calls, “Allegorical and romantic, the book nevertheless reads like an action movie with especially awesome CGI.”

I am so in love with this series and this one is even better than Undertow.  I’m not sure when book three comes out, but I hope that I can read it soon because I am actually desperate for it.

I love Lyric and the way that she’s evolved as a character.  In Raging Sea, she’s a complete badass and it’s not at all a stretch to believe that she’s the best hope for her people to survive.

She’s become absolutely fearless.  And she’s become completely powerful. She’s learned how to harness her power and can do pretty much anything.

The only problem is that we’ve probably got a year to go before book three.

Highly recommended.

The Break-Up Artist

Finished The Break-Up Artist by Philip Siegel.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

ome sixteen-year-olds babysit for extra cash.

Some work at the mall.

Becca Williamson breaks up couples.

Becca knows from experience the damage that love can do. After all, it was so-called love that turned Huxley from her childhood best friend into a social-world dictator, and love that left Becca’s older sister devastated at the altar. Instead of sitting on the sidelines, Becca strikes back—for just one hundred dollars via PayPal, she will trick and manipulate any couple’s relationship into smithereens. And with relationship zombies overrunning her school and treating single girls as if they’re second-class citizens, business is unfortunately booming. Even Becca’s best friend, Val, has resorted to outright lies to snag a boyfriend.

One night, Becca receives a mysterious offer to break up the most popular couple in school: Huxley and raw football team’s star player, Steve. To succeed, she’ll have to plan her most elaborate scheme to date—starting rumors, sabotaging cell phones, breaking into cars…not to mention sneaking back into Huxley’s good graces. All while fending off the inappropriate feelings she may or may not be having for Val’s new boyfriend.

No one said being the Break-Up Artist would be easy.”

I love this book.  I was pretty sure that I would a few pages in when I encountered minor characters named Lelaina Ryder and Troy Hawke (Reality Bites reference FTW!) and there were a few more references to various other 90s movies (and yay to all of them!).  Even more than that, though, this is a sweet and incredibly clever story.

I think everyone knows how it feels to lose a friend to a new relationship and it always feels worse in high school, as many things seem to.  But Becca has her own way of dealing with the situation: she will break up couples.  (For $100 a pop, which seems kind of expensive, although maybe kids have access to more money than I did as a teen?)

I am excited to read the sequel (The Revenge Artist) and hope to sneak that in sooner rather than later.

Recommended.

Missing Dixie

Finished Missing Dixie by Caisey Quinn.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Fighting for redemption…

I’ve lived most of my life in darkness, beneath the shadows of secrets and addictions. The last thing I ever wanted to do was hurt the only girl I’d ever loved-the one who brought me into the light. In my entire life I’d made one promise-a promise I’d intended to keep. I’ve broken that promise and now I have to live with the fallout. Dixie Lark hates me, and I have to tell her that I love her. I also have to tell her a truth that might destroy us forever.

Can she love me even if she can’t forgive me?

Learning to move on…

Gavin Garrison broke his promise to my brother and he broke my heart in the process. I may never love anyone the way I’ve loved him, but at least I won’t spend my life wondering what if. We had our one night and he walked away. I’m finally beginning to move on when my brother’s wedding and a battle of the bands brings us back together.

Our band is getting a second chance, but I don’t know if I can give him one. How do you hand your heart back to the person who set it on fire once already?”

I have absolutely loved this entire series—so much so that I’ve almost deliberately held on to this book because I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to Gavin, Dixie, Dallas and Robyn.

I wasn’t prepared for how much I’d love this last book and how much it would break (and then fix) my heart.

I feel like it’s almost cliche to point out that something like “They’re not perfect but they’re perfect for each other” but it’s so true for Gavin and Dixie.  They seem to get each other to the point where they can communicate without words.  Their romantic relationship hasn’t lasted for very long but they’ve known each other for years—since they were kids—so it’s one of those things where you can have whole conversations without speaking.

When the book opens, of course, they’re not together.  And it’s a love story so obviously I knew it would change…but just how it does and what happens is a delight that I won’t ruin for you.

Highly recommended.