If I Stay (If I Stay, #1)

First Lines: Everyone thinks it was because of the snow.  And in a way, I suppose that’s true.

I was simply astounded when I realized I didn’t have a review up for this book.  Then, when I looked back at my Goodreads records, I noticed it was because I first read this book back in 2008 and again in 2010, which was still a year before I created my blog.  So, in honor of the movie coming out Friday, I had to post a review about this after I reread it.

Mia never expected to be faced with the choices she’s currently facing.  Does she pick music, her first and truest love, or Adam, her boyfriend and the one who makes her the happiest she’s ever been?  But one February morning, everything changes.  Now, her old hard decisions don’t matter.  The only one that does is this: Will Mia stay or will she go?

This is one of those books I knew changed my life the moment I read it.  Even though it’s been six years, I still remember reading this the first time.  I cried hard.  Now, when I just reread it yesterday, I didn’t cry.  But I think that’s because I know the story and I knew how it was going to end.  However, I know the movie’s going to tear me to pieces.  The trailers make me cry, you guys.

I don’t envy Mia her situation in the slightest, but I admire her courage.  This is truly the hardest decision anyone could ever have to make (or at least the hardest decision I can ever fathom anyone could have to make).  Mia is a strong character, even though she doesn’t think she is.  She’s a quiet cello player who would prefer to blend in with the wallpaper than stand out in a crowd.  And I can relate to that.  I respect her for that.

The story flips back and forth between the present and the past, as Mia struggles to come to terms with what happened and what it means for her now.  So many things stir up old memories and she relives them as she goes along.  While it’s sometimes frustrating because it’s constantly bouncing between the two, it really does help us understand Mia better.  I don’t think the story could work any other way.

This story is just so full of wisdom and heart.  I love it so much.  I even have a poster that I’ve put up in my classroom for this book.  I’m definitely seeing this movie as soon as I possibly can.

The Caged Graves

First Lines: Even facing probable death, Private Silas Clayton couldn’t stop thinking about that leather satchel.

Hello my lovelies!  Wow, I disappear for five days and it seems like everything here at WordPress changes!  I greatly apologize over my absence, but I have just been in the most exhausting and overwhelming week of my life: I was hired as a 7th/8th grade English teacher and, two days later, had my first class.  So it was a lot to take in and handle in a very short amount of time.  But I’m still here!

It’s 1867.  Verity expected a warm homecoming when she returned to her birthplace of Catawissa, Pennsylvania after 15 years away.  She’s accepted a proposal from a local farmer she only knows through letters.  Instead, she gets a father who doesn’t seem to know what to do with a teenage daughter and a fiance who doesn’t seem anything like the man she fell in love with in writing.  But the worst surprise is her mother’s grave, which is covered by an iron cage.  No one will say why, but rumors abound.  Witchcraft.  Buried treasure.  Or maybe it was to keep the dead in the ground.  Determined, Verity sets out to find out who exactly her mother was in life and why she’s ostracized in death.

I love historical fictions.  They are divine.  And this was just so curious because it’s based on actual caged graves in Pennsylvania.  No one really knows why they’re caged.  The historical note says that historians have been looking for years, but if there’s an answer out there, no one has found it yet.  And I was captivated by this.

I really liked Verity.  She was a strong lead, strong-willed in a time when women were still looked down upon.  I really liked that she was so determined to find answers when no one else wanted to look.  Obviously, it was personal for her, but still.  And she still managed to fit the norms of women of the time.  Does that make sense?  Verity was a typical women of 1867 (or as typical as I know it to be) while still being a strong and admirable lead today.

The betrothal between Verity and Nate was really interesting.  I kind of loved that it defied expectations.  Verity thought she knew this guy well enough to want to marry him, and then he’s so radically different in person.  I liked that a book wanted to work through that, since so many books talk about sparks and love at first sight.  This was definitely not love at first sight.  It was more realistic in that respect.  

And the graves.  I know I’ve talked about them already, but still.  It’s just so fascinating, you know?  And Salerni presents a reason why those cages exist in her story.  It’s a bit fantastical and somewhat hard to believe, but it’s still a theory.  I liked that it made the story exciting and tied itself back to history in that way.  I could have easily just been a historical romance, but it through in a mystery too.

I just want to add that there is a love triangle in the story as well, but it is handled very differently than many stories.  It was kind of charming in that respect, even if it was frustrating.  I truly didn’t know who I liked more until the end.

A fun historical read with a great mystery behind it.  It’s charming and awkward and suspenseful.  I had a lot of fun with this book.

Broken Soup

First Lines: It wasn’t mine.  I didn’t drop it but the boy in line said I did.

This was a book I bought at a used book sale for super cheap and, occasionally, I like to actually read them.  (In between library books and whatever I have on my Kindle.)  This little book was tiny in just about every way, and I figured it might be good to take with me to the lake to read.

When a stranger presses a photo negative into Rowan’s hand, assuring her it’s hers, Rowan doesn’t really know what to do but she doesn’t think too much of it either.  After all, her brother is dead, her dad left, her mom won’t get out of bed, and Rowan has to take care of her little sister because no one else will.  A photo negative that isn’t hers is the least of her worries.  But she can’t help but be intrigued by it and the boy who gave it to her.  Who is he and why was he so insistent?  When the photograph develops, Rowan discovers the last thing she ever expected to see in print.  Everything is about to change…and maybe for the positive.

So, just to put it out there, not a good beach read.

Objectively speaking, this was a good book.  It covers a wide array of real problems that young readers may have to deal with and shows them how they can cope with a sibling’s death or a mother who is depressed.  It never shied away from being realistic, even when I wished it would.

The little book is probably the heaviest thing I’ve read in a long time.  It deals with so many serious topics, like death and depression.  Rowan is only 15 and she’s dealing with way more than she should have to.  Obviously, I know this kind of thing happens in the real world all the time.  But it’s never happened to me, and that made this really hard to read at times.  It was a very serious book with very little levity of any kind.

There were a lot of secrets in the story, which did help drive the plot but they became somewhat predictable.  There were a few that threw me off my game, but I saw how many were going to go.

Also, because I wasn’t expecting it, this story is set in London.  I didn’t know that for many chapters and it kept confusing me.

Overall, it was a good book, but just so heavy and depressing.  This is not a happy book.  It deals with harsh realities, but it can be quite touching when it wants to be.  It wasn’t what I was expecting it to be and, I think, it probably wasn’t the right book for me.

Rebel Belle (Rebel Belle, #1)

First Lines: Looking back, none of this would have happened if I’d brought lip gloss the night of the Homecoming Dance.

I am in love with Rachel Hawkins’s writing style.  Ever since I discovered Hex Hall on a library shelf, I’ve been smitten.  So when I was looking for something funny to read, this was an obvious choice.  I just knew it was going to be a riot.

Harper Price was born to be the Homecoming Queen.  She’s crazy popular and in charge of more organizations than she can count.  But one weird run-in with a janitor changes that.  Suddenly, Harper is a Paladin, a guardian with super strength and lethal fighting abilities.  The worst part?  Harper is guardian to school reporter David Stark, her sworn enemy.  Only, maybe David isn’t so bad, as Harper finds out.  And if Harper can’t save David, the world could very well be destroyed.  No pressure.

As I suspected, this book was a hoot.  And so easy to read.  I started the book and the next thing I knew, I was 150 pages in.  It was a super fast read, lots of fun, and with many explosive action scenes.

Harper was a really cool lead.  As a Southern belle, she was always poised and perfect.  When obstacles such as this Paladin mess came up, she dealt with it with grace and determination befitting a lady.  She was all grit and ribbons, swords and lace.  She was tough and driven while still being refined and cultured.  It was a nice contradiction that actually worked.

I thought the premise was incredibly interesting.  It has a lot of the Southern culture in it along with magic and mythology to go along with the Paladins.  Can anyone ask for a more fun combination?  And the best part was that it worked.  The whole book was intriguing.  There was never a dull moment.  The pacing was darn near perfect, always keeping it interesting in every way it could.

There were two minor issues that I had with the story though.  The first is probably just me being picky, but the symbols used in the story are overused in YA books.  If you read many fantasy/mythology stories, you know what I’m talking about.  Symbols are constantly used and reused in YA and I knew what this one was supposed to be and mean the moment it was introduced.  Sigh.  It gets old.  Can’t anyone invent a new symbol?

The second is a little more major.  I felt that the girls were being portrayed as airheads.  Even Harper, who is supposed to be a contender for class valedictorian.  The girls just seemed…like airheads.  I don’t know how else to put it.  Clearly, Harper is a smart girl, but her interactions with other girls (and boys) just made her seem incredibly vain and dumb.  Like the whole thing in the first lines about the lip gloss.  Maybe it bothers me because I’m not a girly-girl, but I could have used with stronger girls who weren’t afraid to be smart.

Overall, I was enchanted by this story.  I couldn’t put it down!  It was entertaining and exciting with a lot of action and wit and a dash of heart.  I can’t wait to see where this story goes next!

The Summer of Skinny Dipping

First Lines: There are summers you’ll always remember and summers you’ve forgotten even before they’re through.  It’s never an in-between season.  Whole months can slip by, and you don’t know what you did or where you were.

Usually, when summer comes around, I forget that I have books about summer that I should actually read during the summer.  Because if I don’t, then I’ll end up waiting another year to read it when summer comes back.  This is one of those books.  On my to-read list since 2010.  You’re welcome, book.  I’ve finally read you (and in the summer!).

Summer used to be a great time for Mia, as she visited her cousin in the Hamptons.  But she hasn’t seen them in 3 years…until this year.  And it isn’t the summer Mia expected.  There’s a pale boy who seems to glow against the dark waves.  There are secrets and pressures Mia’s never had to deal with.  One thing is for sure: this will be a summer Mia will never forget.

Sorry if I’m a little vague up there.  I knew next to nothing about this book before I started it, and I think that helped make it more interesting.  (That doesn’t work for all books, but it was cool here.)

I was incredibly surprised by this book.  It was so many things at once.  It wasn’t entirely a love story, nor was it entirely a problem novel.  It was just…life.  It was heavy and light all at the same time.  It was a story of love and growing up.  And I liked that.

I’m also not kidding when I say it’s a heavy read.  This isn’t your typical beach fluff.  It deals with real issues too.  Perhaps the most surprising and underutilized in YA lit was the issue of social class.  It was huge here.  It was a current that ran underneath nearly everything that happened in the story.  Who has money and who doesn’t meant the world to the characters.  I liked that it incorporated this because I don’t think it’s a topic that gets much coverage in books.  Outside of fairytales and historical fictions, at least.

And it was even more serious than that, but I can’t go into details without spoiling things.  Just take my word on this.

One issue that I had with the book was that even after I finished, I can’t really tell you who Mia is as a character.  She never really forms her own opinions about herself and relies on everyone around her to tell her who she is.  So she has a warped perspective of herself because everyone sees her differently.  I suppose that’s partly the point of the story, but it just drove me crazy because I could never quite pin down what she liked, what she disliked, and what she’d do next.

Overall, I was impressed with this story.  I was surprised by its serious nature as well as its fun moments.  Some parts of it were predictable or didn’t work as well as the author had wanted, but still a good summer read.

Sirensong (Faeriewalker, #3)

First Lines: I hate politics.  Too bad my father is a big-deal Fae politician, hoping to get bigger.

*Swish* Ah, does anyone else just love the sound of another series dunked and done?  I do!  While I sometimes miss the characters and the stories, I do enjoy knowing where they ended up.  So when the opportunity to finish this series presented itself, I jumped at it.

*Potential Series Spoilers Ahead*

If Dana thought that life in Avalon was getting easier, she was wrong.  She’s been summoned to Queen Titania’s court in Faerie.  Deciding to go is no easy thing.  Titania’s made it no secret she’d like to kill Dana, but she’s promised safe passage for this trip.  The decision gets a lot easier when Prince Henry implies that Dana could be arrested for conspiring with her Aunt Grace to overthrow Titania, something Dana never actually did.  The journey into Faerie is long and dangerous, but her friends are all close…if only Ethan and Keane wouldn’t constantly be at each other’s throats.  And this trip is hardly what anyone thought it would be.  An assassination attempt on Titania’s granddaughter makes Dana the prime suspect.  Now Dana must choose…will she run or will she try to prove her innocence?

I always get a kick out of Dana and her sarcasm, particularly when the Fae have absolutely no idea what to do with it.  It’s so much fun to read because Dana never has a dull–or serious–moment.

With this book, we finally get into Faerie, which was definitely cool.  I liked seeing how different Faerie was from our world, and how similar.  There are little surprises everywhere that were unique from other fae stories I’ve read.  Loved that.

It was really great the see the characters evolve in this story as well.  I liked seeing Dana make perhaps the most dangerous decisions she’s ever had to make.  But I really liked how the minor characters grew, particularly Dana’s dad and Ethan.  It was endearing.  And all our favorite minor characters had quite large parts in this story.  That was fun to see them all again.

I thought there were a good number of surprises and word play twists in this story.  Those are fantastic.  I love being surprised by paranormal stories because I feel like I read so many of them and they begin to lose their charm when they’re so repetitive.  But the ending to this definitely surprised me in a good way.

But the one thing that bothered me was how slow the beginning of the story was.  It was desperately slow, and the set-up felt like a huge info-dump.  I just kept waiting for us to finally get into Faerie, where the action picked up.  From time to time after that, it would slog again, but for much shorter periods of time.  Why this started happening in the last book of the series, I have no idea.  Normally, that’s found in books 1 or 2.

Overall, I thought it was full of action and sarcastic wit while still being heartfelt and a fitting ending to the series.