The Museum of Intangible Things

First Lines: I am a freshwater girl.  I live on the lake, and in New Jersey, that’s rare.  The girls on the other side of town have swimming pools, and the girls in the south have the seashore.

I love when the library gets a new haul of books.  (If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m all about libraries.  They are fabulous.)  This was, I think, the first book I grabbed upon entering.  I’ve been looking forward to this book since I heard Wendy Wunder was writing a new book.

Life hasn’t been kind to Hannah and Zoe.  Together, they’ve really had nothing good in their lives except each other.  So when Zoe tells Hannah that she needs to escape–their deadbeat parents, their awful love lives, their hardships–and head west, Hannah doesn’t hesitate.  Together, they go on an adventure to learn what life is really about.  Loyalty.  Saying Yes.  Lust.  Envy.  Fear.  Through experiences like storm chasing, Zoe teaches Hannah that there’s more to life than they’ve been living so far.  Dream bigger.  Do better.  Be great.

Alright.  So, straight up, this is kind of a weird read.  It doesn’t quite go the way you think it will at all.  You look at that summary and think, “Oh, it’s just a road trip between two friends where they have a lot of fun and learn a lot.”  WRONG.  (Well, not totally wrong, but close.)  It’s a bit unsettling, right?

Here’s the thing: Zoe is dealing with a mental illness.  That completely shifts the tone of the story now, doesn’t it?

I went into this book thinking it would be about friendship and somehow be funny and serious at the same time.  Well, the serious part was there at least.  But there wasn’t as much humor as I was looking for.  I needed a lot more humor than I got to break the tension.  I constantly found myself having to put the book down for a while just to clear my head/emotions.

I don’t really read many books where mental illness is a driving part of the story.  It doesn’t show up much in paranormal reads.  (There’s a lot of other stuff going on in those.)  So I was interested in this once it got going because I could never quite predict what Zoe would do next.

I really could understand Hannah’s plight.  Zoe’s her best friend, but Zoe’s not exactly stable either.  But some of the stuff the girls did while on their adventure just rubbed me the wrong way.  I felt my bristles go up.  They made choices that I know I wouldn’t have made at that age, and that I didn’t quite agree with.  It just made it harder to sink into the story when I didn’t want to be reading what I was reading in that particular scene.

Overall, it wasn’t a bad story at all.  I thought it gave a good portrayal of two girls who come from broken families and want more out of life than life has given them thus far. And it has some good lessons in it.  It just felt too serious for me, especially since I thought there would be more humor in it than there was.

Finale (Hush, Hush, #4)

First Lines: Scott didn’t believe in ghosts, dead men stayed in the grave.  But the tunnels crisscrossing under Delphic Amusement Park, echoing with rustling, whispered sounds, made him rethink.

This was the last of the books I had picked up on my last library extravaganza.  If that trip did anything for me, it was getting me caught up on like, 4 different series.  That is always a plus.  I was really glad to have the chance to finish off this series, especially since it’s been 2 years since I read Silence.  (…oops…)

*Potential Series Spoilers Ahead*

Nora and Patch thought that their troubles were over, but even from the grave, Hank is creating trouble for them.  In his absence, he made Nora the leader of the Nephilim army and must finish what Hank started.  Which means destroying the fallen angels, destroying Patch.  Nora is determined to make sure that never happens.  They concoct a plan where they’ll pretend they’ve broken up and work each side from the inside.  But even the best plans can go wrong.  Nora finds that she agrees with the Nephilim side more than she first thought, and the power of being a leader is addicting.  With the battle looming, Nora and Patch will have to decide if their differences will destroy them or bring them together.

As previously mentioned, it’s been 2 years since I read Silence.  I actually had to look that up on my Goodreads account because I couldn’t remember some of the story.  Like, I remembered how the book ended and a lot of Hush, Hush, but the finer details were gone.

In that respect, it made the beginning feel really slow to me.  I couldn’t remember who some of the characters were and I started getting frustrated.  Throw on top of that all the trouble Nora was getting into and I was a little lost.

Soon, though, that leveled out.  I started getting familiar with the story again and sinking into the groove of the story.  I like it when I can sit and predict what I think is going to happen next.  It’s my favorite part of reading because I feel like I’m in the mind of the characters and the author at the same time.  It’s the sweet spot.

Anyway, it’s hard for me to talk in this one about character growth like I normally do, because I can’t remember what they were like in the previous book.  Actually, I can say that one person had some really phenomenal growth: Vee.  That was quite awesome.  I  really like Vee anyway, and it was nice to see her come a little more into focus.

I wasn’t especially sad to see this series end.  I normally put off reading the last book in a series because I’m sad or because I suspect it’ll have a lot of strong emotions connected to it, but that really didn’t happen here.  Part of it could be because I’ve been so lazy about even reading this series.  But also part of it could be that the ending wasn’t as KA-POW as I thought it would be, if that makes sense.  I’m struggling with my words this morning, it would seem.

Overall, I thought this was a nice end to the series.  It was exciting and full of plot twists, but still brought us back to the same old characters that we’ve fallen in love with.

Spotlight Friday (107)

Hello my lovelies!  Friday has come around again, and with it, it has brought SPRING!  Oh my gosh.  The grass is turning green, the trees are flowering, and I see blooms EVERYWHERE!  It’s fantastic.  I love it.  You know what else I love?  New books!  (I am seriously surprised no one ever comments about my absolutely awful and corny segues.  Either y’all aren’t reading or you love them.)

Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson

Release Date: May 6, 2014

Summary (from Goodreads):

The Pre-Sloane Emily didn’t go to parties, she barely talked to guys, she didn’t do anything crazy. Enter Sloane, social tornado and the best kind of best friend—the one who yanks you out of your shell.But right before what should have been an epic summer, Sloane just… disappears. No note. No calls. No texts. No Sloane. There’s just a random to-do list. On it, thirteen Sloane-selected-definitely-bizarre-tasks that Emily would never try… unless they could lead back to her best friend. Apple Picking at Night? Ok, easy enough.Dance until Dawn? Sure. Why not? Kiss a Stranger? Wait… what?

Getting through Sloane’s list would mean a lot of firsts. But Emily has this whole unexpected summer ahead of her, and the help of Frank Porter (totally unexpected) to check things off. Who knows what she’ll find?

Go Skinny Dipping? Um…

What’s To Like: You have absolutely no idea how much I am flipping out inside because IT’S A NEW MORGAN MATSON NOVEL.  I know everyone goes ga-ga over Sarah Dessen (I love her too), but Morgan Matson just hits my heart harder than any other author I’ve read who writes realistic fiction about life.  I’m so excited!

My review of Since You’ve Been Gone

Everything Leads To You by Nina LaCour

Release Date: May 15, 2014

Summary (from Goodreads)A wunderkind young set designer, Emi has already started to find her way in the competitive Hollywood film world.

Emi is a film buff and a true romantic, but her real-life relationships are a mess. She has desperately gone back to the same girl too many times to mention. But then a mysterious letter from a silver screen legend leads Emi to Ava. Ava is unlike anyone Emi has ever met. She has a tumultuous, not-so-glamorous past, and lives an unconventional life. She’s enigmatic…. She’s beautiful. And she is about to expand Emi’s understanding of family, acceptance, and true romance.

What’s To Like: I’m interested in this because I haven’t read anything by Nina LaCour since Hold Still, which was powerful stuff.  And I’m interested to see how this shows the underbelly/hidden world of filmmaking, something I don’t know a whole lot about.  Really, this book just makes me curious to see what it’s going to do.

Take Me On (Pushing the Limits, #4) by Katie McGarry

Release Date: May 27, 2014

Summary (from Goodreads):

Champion kickboxer Haley swore she’d never set foot in the ring again after one tragic night. But then the guy she can’t stop thinking about accepts a mixed martial arts fight in her honor. Suddenly, Haley has to train West Young. All attitude, West is everything Haley promised herself she’d stay away from. Yet he won’t last five seconds in the ring without her help.

West is keeping a big secret from Haley. About who he really is. But helping her-fighting for her-is a shot at redemption. Especially since it’s his fault his family is falling apart. He can’t change the past, but maybe he can change Haley’s future.

Hayley and West have agreed to keep their relationship strictly in the ring. But as an unexpected bond forms between them and attraction mocks their best intentions, they’ll face their darkest fears and discover love is worth fighting for.

What’s To Like: First off all, I swear that even though I have looked at this cover before, I have never noticed the ghost woman just behind the guy.  WHAT IS THAT??  Seriously, though, what’s not to like about Katie McGarry?  She’s hit a homerun with every book she’s written so far.  And I just know I’m gonna like this.  Why?  Because I’ve already read the first chapter or two of this book in the back of another of her books, Crash Into You.  So yeah, this is going to be interesting.

My review of Take Me On

Nobody But Us

First Lines: He comes down the road in his Camaro sliding left to right on the freshly oiled gravel and skidding to a stop in front of my house.  He’s driving so fast that I’m sure my dad is going to rouse from his drunken stupor and catch me before I can get out of the house.

This was actually the 2nd book I picked up on my library extravaganza trip I took so long ago.  I remembered this being billed as a kind of modern Bonnie and Clyde story, and I was all over that.

Will and Zoe come from less-than-ideal backgrounds.  Will, a foster kid, has just gotten kicked out of the system thanks to the 18-and-out policy.  Zoe’s dad abuses her whenever he’s drunk…which is all the time.  Desperate to find a better life, Zoe and Will run away together.  But sometimes when you run, the world you left behind runs faster.

Ok.  So what I liked about this book was that it did have a realistic feel to it in many aspects.  I can see why Zoe and Will would want to escape their lives and why they would be optimistic to think they could find something better together.  I get it.  And I thought there were parts of their relationship that did feel pretty realistic.  Not all of it, but some of it.

And kind of what I (ironically, perhaps) liked about this story was that it wasn’t picture perfect.  Will and Zoe completely botch their escape.  And that makes perfect sense.  They’re young (18 and 15, respectively).  Of course they’re going to make mistakes.  And that oddly made me feel more at peace with the story.

One thing that did bother me was that Will and Zoe had only been together for 2 months when they ran away.  I suppose this goes back to them being young and impulsive, but really?  Two months?  We’re approaching Romeo and Juliet speed with that.  And that just made it feel a little less realistic.  (Partly because I’m hoping not many people run off on such short time together.)

Overall, I thought it was a pretty decent read.  Control slowly spirals out of their hands and things go from good to worse.  I enjoyed reading it, but it wasn’t perfect by any means.

Strange Sweet Song

First Lines: If you have been there that night, the night it happened, you might not have even noticed.  The strings and woodwinds shone fat and glossy in the concert hall’s perfect humidity, and the brass instruments sparkled in the gentle light of the chandeliers.

One of my favorite things to do is try new, untested authors to see if I like their stuff.  (I’m the same way with singers too.)  As a music lover, I knew I had to read this book.  I just wasn’t sure if I’d like it or not.

Dunhammond Conservatory is a prestigious music school with a strange story.  There’s a dark, forbidden forest just outside the conservatory that’s said to be home to a beast called The Felix.  Sing da Navelli has never put much stock in those stories.  She’s there to sing and become a star.  But no matter what she tries, something is missing in her voice.  What’s worse is that she’s cast as an understudy in her favorite opera, Angelique, written right at Dunhammond.  Legend says the composer was inspired by the legends surrounding the place.  But what if those legends aren’t quite legends?  Sing must work with the mysterious–and occasionally rude–Apprentice Nathan Daysmoor, who is both her biggest fan and harshest critic.  But Nathan has secrets, secrets that tie themselves to the legends of Dunhammond…

I went into this book thinking about Sing’s unfortunate name.  I wasn’t sold on it, and I thought it was going to be hard to get into a story where I didn’t like the character’s name.

But I knew as soon as I finished the book, and I mean literally as soon as I finished, I wanted to reread it.  It was that surprising and addicting.  It was fabulous.  It’s really got this contemporary gothic fairy-tale vibe going on, if there’s even such a thing as what I just said.

I loved that this had a fairy-tale edge to it, with a fairy tale I didn’t know.  And the writing really played into that.  It constantly flipped perspectives from Sing to someone (or something) related to the legends of the school.  Yes, at times it was really confusing, in good and bad ways.  It threw me off my game and left me open to surprises.  But it also confused me in that they were talking about the same people in Sing’s perspective and the other perspective and I had no idea.  I almost had to reread those parts just to characterize the people right.

And there is just something so haunting about the story.  It comes from the writing, since there’s nothing really definitive I can go, “YES. This is where it felt haunting.”  I can’t.  It was just the whole book.  And the whole book felt sort of somber.  Not depressing, just sad.  With glimmers of happiness.

I don’t usually wax poetically about the writing in a story, but this deserves it.  It’s rough to write about music because you’re relying on the audience to have knowledge of music in some way.  And the author did a beautiful job describing not only the music, but the feelings the music inspired in the characters.  A few times, it wanted to rip my heart out just to feed it to the music I couldn’t even hear.  That’s talent.

As a debut, I thought this was wonderful.  Of course, there are some fixes that could’ve been made.  I’ve already described the perspective issue, but also the ending felt a little rushed.  Still, those are just little fixes and not deal-breakers.

(Wow, I had to go all the way back to March 4th to find another book worthy of 5 Roses!)

Spotlight Friday (106)

Hello my lovelies!  Happy Easter Weekend!  It’s perhaps the one holiday everyone uses as the gateway to the spring.  And what’s spring (or really any season) without some new books to look forward to?  Here are three more to drool over!

The Taking (The Taking, #1) by Kimberly Derting

Release Date: April 29, 2014

Summary (from Goodreads):

When sixteen-year-old Kyra Agnew wakes up behind a Dumpster at the Gas ’n’ Sip, she has no memory of how she got there. With a terrible headache and a major case of déjà vu, she heads home only to discover that five years have passed . . . yet she hasn’t aged a day.

Everything else about Kyra’s old life is different. Her parents are divorced, her boyfriend, Austin, is in college and dating her best friend, and her dad has changed from an uptight neat-freak to a drunken conspiracy theorist who blames her five-year disappearance on little green men.

Confused and lost, Kyra isn’t sure how to move forward unless she uncovers the truth. With Austin gone, she turns to Tyler, Austin’s annoying kid brother, who is now seventeen and who she has a sudden undeniable attraction to. As Tyler and Kyra retrace her steps from the fateful night of her disappearance, they discover strange phenomena that no one can explain, and they begin to wonder if Kyra’s father is not as crazy as he seems. There are others like her who have been taken . . . and returned. Kyra races to find an explanation and reclaim the life she once had, but what if the life she wants back is not her own?

What’s To Like: I love the premise behind this story.  I mean, what would you do if suddenly five years have gone by and everyone’s moved on?  I think it’s one of our greatest fears as humans.  We hate the idea that we’ll be forgotten, and that’s almost what happens to Kyra.  While I’m not sold on this “little green men” thing beyond a drunk rant, I think there’s something pretty sneaky going on here.  And Derting has the writing chops to pull it off.

My review of The Taking

Tease by Amanda Maciel

Release Date: April 29, 2014

Summary (from Goodreads):

From debut author Amanda Maciel comes a provocative and unforgettable novel, inspired by real-life incidents, about a teenage girl who faces criminal charges for bullying after a classmate commits suicide.

Emma Putnam is dead, and it’s all Sara Wharton’s fault. At least, that’s what everyone seems to think. Sara, along with her best friend and three other classmates, has been criminally charged for the bullying and harassment that led to Emma’s shocking suicide. Now Sara is the one who’s ostracized, already guilty according to her peers, the community, and the media. In the summer before her senior year, in between meetings with lawyers and a court-recommended therapist, Sara is forced to reflect on the events that brought her to this moment—and ultimately consider her own role in an undeniable tragedy. And she’ll have to find a way to move forward, even when it feels like her own life is over.

With its powerful narrative, unconventional point of view, and strong anti-bullying theme, this coming-of-age story offers smart, insightful, and nuanced views on high school society, toxic friendships, and family relationships.

What’s To Like: This feels a lot like 13 Reasons Why in that the people left behind are forced to reflect on what they did–and didn’t–do to prevent someone’s suicide.  This is highly relevant stuff, and I feel like this is going to be an interesting read.  It’s going to be heartbreaking, I can tell.

After the End (After the End, #1) by Amy Plum

Release Date: May 6, 2014

Summary (from Goodreads):

World War III has left the world ravaged by nuclear radiation. A lucky few escaped to the Alaskan wilderness. They’ve survived for the last thirty years by living off the land, being one with nature, and hiding from whoever else might still be out there.

At least, this is what Juneau has been told her entire life.

When Juneau returns from a hunting trip to discover that everyone in her clan has vanished, she sets off to find them. Leaving the boundaries of their land for the very first time, she learns something horrifying: There never was a war. Cities were never destroyed. The world is intact. Everything was a lie.

Now Juneau is adrift in a modern-day world she never knew existed. But while she’s trying to find a way to rescue her friends and family, someone else is looking for her. Someone who knows the extraordinary truth about the secrets of her past.

What’s To Like: I love this plot.  I love it.  There are so many books that do the whole post-apocalyptic plot, but this is such an interesting twist on that.  It’s almost backwards.  We go from the extraordinary world to the ordinary instead of the other way around.  Also, I’m very interested in what Juneau thinks of our world, and how she describes what she sees.  I always find that hilarious.

My review of After the End