Spotlight Friday (137)

Hello my lovelies!  I know what you’re thinking.  “What IS this?  A Spotlight on back-to-back Fridays?  Is the world ending?”  Hardy-har-har.  I’ve been actually madly productive the last couple of days as the reality sets in that school starts up again in less than two weeks.  WHERE DID SUMMER GO?  So to combat that, let’s think happy thoughts about new books.

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Release Date: September 1, 2015

Summary (from Goodreads): My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.

Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.

What’s To Like: I’m really excited for this book because it’s one of those what if stories.  Where something is taken to the extreme and played with.  With this story, I’m really looking forward to how the main character deals with her allergies and virtual imprisonment.  Also?  I have a huge weakness for boys named Oliver/Olly.

Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between by Jennifer E. Smith

Release Date: September 1, 2015

Summary (from Goodreads): On the night before they leave for college, Clare and Aidan only have one thing left to do: figure out whether they should stay together or break up. Over the course of twelve hours, they’ll retrace the steps of their relationship, trying to find something in their past that might help them decide what their future should be. The night will lead them to friends and family, familiar landmarks and unexpected places, hard truths and surprising revelations. But as the clock winds down and morning approaches, so does their inevitable goodbye. The question is, will it be goodbye for now or goodbye forever?

What’s To Like: This book is going to be cute and rough emotionally, I can feel it already.  It is so hard to be in a relationship with someone and clinically review your whole relationship and whether or not it’s going to work from this point on.  It’s a bittersweet pain, really, and i hope some of that makes its way into the story.  Smith usually does a good job of writing interesting characters who connect on a real level.  I’m interested to see where this book goes.

Lock & Mori (Lock & Mori, #1) by Heather W. Petty

Release Date: September 15, 2015

Summary (from Goodreads): In modern-day London, two brilliant high school students, one Sherlock Holmes and a Miss James “Mori” Moriarty, meet. A murder will bring them together. The truth very well might drive them apart.

Before they were mortal enemies, they were much more.

FACT: Someone has been murdered in London’s Regent’s Park. The police have no leads.

FACT: Miss James “Mori”Moriarty and Sherlock “Lock” Holmes should be hitting the books on a school night. Instead, they are out crashing a crime scene.

FACT: Lock has challenged Mori to solve the case before he does. Challenge accepted.

FACT: Despite agreeing to Lock’s one rule–they must share every clue with each other–Mori is keeping secrets.

OBSERVATION: Sometimes you can’t trust the people closest to you with matters of the heart. And after this case, Mori may never trust Lock again.

What’s To Like: You had me at modern day Sherlock Holmes.  I’m kind of obsessed with Sherlock after the BBC series and I’m giddy over this.  Moriarty as a girl?  In love with Sherlock?  Oh, this is going to be magnificent.  It’s like watching a Disney villain go from good to bad.  Don’t hyperventilate don’t hyperventilate don’t hyperventilate…

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Say What You Will

First Lines: Amy’s emails started in late July and kept coming all summer.  Each one made Matthew a little more nervous.

Ever have those books where you’re like, “I really don’t know what to expect from this book or what I’ll end up thinking of it, but I have just got to try it?”  That was this book.  It was so different that it caught my attention, but it was also so different that I was worried about what would happen.

For years, Matthew has noticed Amy.  Frankly, it’s hard not to.  Born with cerebral palsy, Amy can’t walk without a walker, can’t talk without a voice box, and can’t make normal facial expressions like everyone else.  After a chance encounter leads to a job opportunity for Matthew to help Amy, Amy is suddenly aware of Matthew in more ways that she should be.  And Amy begins to realize that some people are disabled in ways that aren’t as visible as hers.  They need each other, and they’re more alike than they realized.  As they begin to spend more time together, their friendship starts to turn into something they never expected.

First of all, what I love is the way this fits into the recent push for diverse books.  More and more, I notice books with characters who are disabled, suffering from mental illnesses, dealing with racial issues, etc.  And it’s so cool that Amy’s perspective gets told.  Because of her inability to talk, many people around her think she’s dumb.  But she’s actually smarter than they are.  I think that’s an assumption a lot of us make: if someone doesn’t/can’t talk, then they must not have much going on upstairs.  (Usually, the opposite is true, in my experience.)

Anyway, there was a nice connection between Amy and Matthew.  They played to each others strengths and weaknesses.  Amy’s weaknesses are somewhat more obvious, but Matthew definitely needs Amy’s help as well.  And I thought that was a great balance to their characters.  Amy, the perpetually helpless one, finally has someone that she can help.

Speaking of characters, I thought Matthew was really the heart of the story.  True, he is the narrator.  But even though most of this story is about Amy in one way or another, it’s Matthew who shines.  His actions speak so much louder than any words could.  It was kind of beautiful.

But…I had some issues with the plot.  The first half was fine, great even.  I loved watching Matthew and Amy work through their awkwardness to find their very real friendship.  That was good.  But the second half became frustrating.  It was a culmination of many things.  Some of it had to do with my expectations of where the book should go.  I thought one thing would/should happen, but it didn’t.  Or I kept waiting for a thing that would never be.  And part of it was because the book drifted into The Land of the Cliche for the last quarter or so.  Sigh.  I was hoping that an original story like this would be more…original.  It got to be a bit of a slog near the end.

Overall, I think it’s at least worth checking out for Amy’s story.  (And Matthew’s.)  But the plot just wasn’t all that I was hoping it would be.

The Ruby Circle (Bloodlines, #6)

First Lines: Married life wasn’t what I’d expected.

Wow, finishing two series in the span of about a week?  Achievement badge, please!  *makes grabby hands*  Ok, seriously though, I was nervous to finish this series off.  I got hooked on Vampire Academy at least 6 years ago…and this book meant the end of that world.  In some ways, it was like the feelings I had when Harry Potter ended (though not quite to that level).

*Potential Series Spoilers Ahead*

With their relationship now out in the open, Sydney and Adrian have to face the consequences.  The Alchemists are furious and the Moroi are disgusted.  But when someone they both love goes missing, they will both lay everything on the line to find the guilty party and bring them to justice.  It means facing an old nemesis.  It means discovering secrets better left untold.  It means new responsibilities neither one of them are ready for.  Can they protect those they love and avoid their enemies in the process?

For those of you who have read the other books in this series, it’s pretty consistent with them.  You can count on Sydney outsmarting people, Adrian being snarky, and snippets of life for those we fell in love with in Vampire Academy.  You can expect action and baddies.  So in that respect, this book did not disappoint.

But…it wasn’t as exciting as I expected a series finale to be.  I mean, based on how Last Sacrifice went, I was kind of hoping there’d be something huge at the end.  But there wasn’t exactly.  That big moment came well before for the halfway mark for the book.  This wasn’t as unexpected and action-packed as I’d expected it to be.  There was definitely action and danger, but there was also this underlying feeling that everything would turn out hunky-dory in the end.  So the danger didn’t feel as dangerous, if you know what I mean.

For all of that, though, the epilogue was beautiful.  I really needed to see that all the characters I loved were settled, even if it was not necessarily happily or how I’d expected.  I mean, these characters do feel like friends after so long.  And it’s been fantastic to see them change so much over time.  Like Adrian, who has undergone massive transformations since his introduction in Frostbite.  Or Sydney, who first appeared in Blood Promise.  They’ve changed so much, and I have this sense of pride in their transformations, even though I had absolutely nothing to do with them.  Still, I love seeing them settled.  I think I smiled through the whole epilogue.

So while it may not be the most unpredictable book in the series, it’s still a good conclusion to the series.  I will miss this world.  (Though if I know myself at all, I’ll reread these books again someday.)

Champion (Legend, #3)

First Lines: Out of all the disguises I’ve worn, this one might be my favorite.

Is it horrible if I say I feel like a champion for finishing this series?  (Ok…not my best pun…)  But seriously, I do feel kind of awesome about it because not only did I finish a series (which usually in itself feels kind of awesome so long as the author didn’t kill off 20 characters) but I finished this while in the midst of my Outlander haze.  (It. Always. Sucks. Me. In.)  I also wanted to read this because this series is a big hit with my middle schoolers and it’s about time I finally knew how it ended.

*Potential Series Spoilers Ahead*

Sacrifice.  It has defined June and Day for some time.  Both have sacrificed much for the Republic, in different ways.  Now, June is training for the government position of Princeps-Elect and Day has a high-level military position.  Neither of them could have expected how they would be reunited.  The country is on the brink of war; the peace treaty in shambles.  A deadly virus is working its way through the Republic and the Colonies.  June may be the only one who can save the Republic.  But to do so means Day may have to give up everything he loves…Is it worth it?

I willingly admit that I am something of a slacker with this series.  It’s been ages since I read Legend, and it’s thrown off my understanding of Prodigy and Champion because I am too lazy to go back and reread Legend.  Just keep that in mind, because that likely will color my review, at least a little.  (But not much, I don’t think.)

While I don’t remember all that much of what June and Day were like at the beginning of this series, I still definitely saw their growth as characters.  (I do remember Prodigy, at least!)  It was cleverly written.  Especially with Day’s part, because he totally has to make some of the hardest decisions.  It actually made him a more enjoyable character.  I believe with Prodigy, I was more interested in June, so it was a nice reversal.

As for how it was as a series finale, it was elegantly done.  We all have those series that didn’t end well or just went for maximum impact rather than staying true to the world/characters.  This was well done.  There were heightened stakes and reasonable sacrifices made.  But I also didn’t have questions by the time we got to the end.  Not that everything was wrapped up in a pretty little bow, but everything was satisfactory.

In fact, I actually loved the way the book ended.  The epilogue I mean, but the whole end bit.  It was heartfelt, emotional, and hopeful.  It’s the way a series should end.  I don’t know everything about their lives or exactly how happy the “ever after” will be, but I can imagine it.  And I like what I see.

Overall, an impressive ending to the series.  It’s well written, exciting, and the characters are marvelous.

Spotlight Friday (136)

Hello my lovelies!  It’s Friday and that means NEW BOOKS!  😀  I love new books, don’t you?  So let’s take a look at what else we can read before school starts back up again!

Oblivion (Nevermore, #3) by Kelly Creagh

Release Date: July 28, 2015

*Potential Series Spoilers Ahead*

Summary (from Goodreads): This electrifying conclusion to the Nevermore trilogy takes one last trip to the dream world of Edgar Allan Poe to reveal the intertwined fates of Isobel and Varen.

The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins? —Edgar Allan Poe

The fine line between life and death blurred long ago for Isobel Lanley. After a deadly confrontation with Varen in the dreamworld, she’s terrified to return to that desolate and dangerous place. But when her nightmares resume, bleeding into reality, she is left with no choice. Varen’s darkness is catching up to her. To everything. Threatening to devour it all.

Isobel fears for her world. For her sanity and Varen’s—especially after a fresh and devastating loss. To make matters worse, the ghostly demon Lilith wants Varen for her own, and she will do anything to keep him in her grasp—anything.

Can Isobel ever find her happy ending? Worlds collide and fates are sealed in this breathtaking finale to the Nevermore trilogy.

What’s To Like: Finally, the end of this trilogy!  Do you know how long I’ve been waiting for this?  Now, I’m a big Poe fan, simply because he was an artist with words and his stories are the stuff of deliciously dark nightmares.  (Yeah…that makes me sound as weird as it sounded in my head.)  But I love that there’s all kinds of creepy things in these books.  Some I can’t even wrap my head around!  But that’s half the fun.

How To Say I Love You Out Loud by Karole Cozzo

Release Date: August 4, 2015

Summary (from Goodreads): Words are strong. Love is stronger.

When Jordyn Michaelson’s autistic brother joins her at her elite school, she’s determined not to let anyone know they’re related. Even if that means closing herself off to all her closest friends, including charming football stud Alex Colby. But despite her best intentions, she just can’t shake the memory of kissing Alex last summer, and the desire to do it again.

Can Jordyn find the courage to tell Alex how she really feels—and the truth about her family—before he slips away forever?

What’s To Like: This is different than a lot of books.  There are a lot of books where a sibling stands up/takes care of their special needs sibling.  But here, Jordyn’s not doing that.  It’s such a minor thing, but when I read the summary, I just stopped and blinked at it.  But I like that throughout this book, she’s going to learn to accept her brother and–hopefully–realize that her friends are there for her.  This looks cute.

Lair of Dreams (The Diviners, #2) by Libba Bray

Release Date: August 25, 2015

*Potential Series Spoilers Ahead*

Summary (from Goodreads): After a supernatural showdown with a serial killer, Evie O’Neill has outed herself as a Diviner. Now that the world knows of her ability to “read” objects, and therefore, read the past, she has become a media darling, earning the title, “America’s Sweetheart Seer.” But not everyone is so accepting of the Diviners’ abilities…

Meanwhile, mysterious deaths have been turning up in the city, victims of an unknown sleeping sickness. Can the Diviners descend into the dreamworld and catch a killer?

What’s To Like: Certainly not that cover.  (I don’t say this very often, but this cover is astonishingly hideous.  I cannot understand why anyone would decide on this.)  What I do like is that this FINALLY continues this series.  (And who doesn’t like a new Libba Bray book?)  I’m excited to see what supernatural goodies this story has in store for us.  And at 704 pages, I sure hope this baby’s worth it.

Water Song: A Retelling of “The Frog Prince”

First Lines: “What a fool I was!” Emma Winthrop muttered, furious at herself as she stared down at Lloyd Pennington’s handsome face in the photo in her opened locket.

I managed to squeeze in a little book between my Outlander books (which takes so much time, but they are delightful).  I figured a good little fairytale retelling was just what I needed.

I’m just going to copy the synopsis from Goodreads because it does a good job: Young, beautiful, and wealthy, Emma Pennington is accustomed to a very comfortable life. Although war rages abroad, she hardly feels its effect. She and her mother travel from their home in Britain to the family estate in Belgium, never imagining that the war could reach them there. But it does.

Soon Emma finds herself stranded in a war-torn country, utterly alone. Enemy troops fight to take over her estate, leaving her with no way to reach her family, and no way out.

With all of her attention focused on survival and escape, Emma hardly expects to find love. But the war will teach her that life is unpredictable, people aren’t always what they seem, and magic is lurking everywhere.

I was actually pretty impressed with this book, especially given how hit-and-miss I’ve been with the fairytales in the Once Upon a Time series.  (Not to be confused with the TV show of the same name.)  This is a pretty loose retelling.  It’s the bare bones of the fairytale, but it’s completely its own story.

The setting for this was fascinating and way different than I expected.  It’s set in WWI in Belgium, just as the war starts to really heat up and get super deadly.  I mean, I can’t say I’ve ever read a fairytale before where mustard gas plays a part in the plot.  But that gave the story a solid grounding in reality while still having bits of magic in it.

While I enjoyed the characters of Jack and Emma, I thought there could have been a bit more character development for them.  They felt a little flat to me.  There were flickers of strong emotions that I felt coming from them a couple of times, but they were more rare than I would have liked.

Also, this is a super fast read.  I got it done in 2 hours with a few interruptions.  I love when you can sit down and just inhale a book from start to finish like that (especially since the Outlander books I’ve been reading take at least 2 days of solid reading to finish).

Overall, a very cool retelling with a unique setting and interesting characters.

The Ivy (The Ivy, #1)

First Lines: Dearest Froshlings: peons and future leaders of America, Move-in day is officially here, and the upperclassman cannot wait to welcome you to Harvard: our humble abode.

So I bought this for my Kindle ages ago, and frankly any book that ends up on my Kindle goes there to die, not to be read.  (Sorry, but it’s true.  I don’t use it!)  When this managed to make its way to the top of my to-read list (through randomness and chance), I decided it was time to resurrect it from the book graveyard.

Callie Andrews doesn’t fit the normal Harvard stereotype.  She doesn’t come from a famous parent, a Fortune 500 family, or international royalty.  But she’s made it to Harvard, and it’s everything she could’ve dreamed.  She friends with her spastic roommates and there are some really hot guys living across the hall…is that enough to help her survive her freshman year of college?

Turns out this zombie deserved to stay in the book graveyard.  I only read the first 56% before I had to give it up.

The characters in this book were the most vapid, shallow, and annoying characters I’ve read in quite some time.  I think in some ways this book was trying to honestly portray certain aspects of college that are usually frowned upon, but every character ended up coming out stock: girls were brainless, vengeful, and desperate to get any guy’s attention while the boys were rude and clearly only interested in getting into a girl’s pants.  Forget any facade of chivalry; it was just disgusting.

Look, I went to a “party school” for college.  I more or less know what goes on at these schools to earn them their reputations.  (Mini-rant: frankly, calling one school a “party school” over another school seems dumb.  My experience has shown me that any school that’s not a commuter school or a community college is basically a party school.)  But it was just awful when Callie and her roommates didn’t care at all about classes, just when the next party was and who would be there.  And these girls go to HARVARD.

The relationships between the characters drove me crazy too.  Exhibit A: when Callie first meets her roommates, they all more or less ignore her.  Mimi ignores her to hit on a guy, Vanessa ignores her to call her BFF a “whore” on the phone (I HATE THAT GIRLS DO THAT), and Dana was probably off spouting Bible verse, I don’t actually remember.  But then the next time they’re all together (which timeline-wise, I think was the next morning), they’re BFFs.  What?  I roomed with a girl who ignored me in school–we ignored each other virtually all year.  We didn’t become BFFs overnight, even after we had good days.

Oh, no matter what Callie said, she was totally there to get her MRS degree.  That girl had the attention span of a gnat when it came to guys.  Swear to Zeus.  Upon meeting one hot guy, she proceeds to nearly blurt out “I love you” while simultaneously forgetting she has a boyfriend.  Girl, get it together.  And at least one of these guys was a conceited jerks; and no matter how hot he is, a jerk is still a jerk and therefore unattractive.

The only real good mark I’ll give it is the humor from this magazine that starts off nearly every chapter.  It was sarcastic and witty, but seemed to have little to no bearing on the actual story.

As you may be able to tell, I got aggravated pretty quickly.  But really, when the whole plot of the book seems to be “Hey, let’s get drunk and flirt with this cute guy!” I’m going to have issues.  I was done.  56% was more than enough time for a plot to develop (or, you know, begin), and it didn’t.

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