The Devil and Winnie Flynn

First Lines: “The devil hunters are here for wardrobe.”  A small, wiry woman with frizzy, loose-cotton hair darts toward me.  Jane is what her name is.  Production manager, which means she’s the boss.  Right under Aunt Maggie, anyway, who is basically the boss of this whole weirdo world.

I received an ARC of this from the publisher in return for a review.  (The official release date is October 13, just in time for some Halloween fun!)  The premise of this completely grabbed me and there was no way I was turning down a free ARC.

Before this summer, Winnie had never met her famous aunt Maggie, a high-profile reality TV producer.  And Winnie still wouldn’t have met Maggie if Winnie’s mom hadn’t committed suicide that leaves Winnie stunned and lost.  Maggie takes Winnie in for the summer as a production assistant on her show Fantastic, Fearsome, a reality show about ghost hunters.  At first, it seems like it’ll be somewhat fun.  But things start to get increasingly weird on set as Winnie can’t explain away some of the things she’s seeing and hearing.  A nonbeliever to the core, Winnie doesn’t know what to think.  But what will Winnie do when the things she’s hearing and seeing start to look like they’re coming from her mother?

Let me outline for you what I thought was cool about this.  1) a fairly cynical look at ghost reality shows.  I loved watching them as a teenager, from the more believable Ghost Hunters to the more hilarious Ghost Adventures.  I was all in for this, especially with Winnie’s cynical nonbeliever stance on the whole thing.  2) unexplained things happening on set.  I kind of love stories where nonbelievers have to deal with things that may make them believe in exactly what they don’t want to believe in.  Call me odd.

What was awesome about this book was that it really did stay true to Winnie’s cynicism about the whole reality TV thing.  She thought it was fake and crap; and it was.  And Winnie’s in a place mentally where she’s struggling to know what she believes, since her mom’s suicide was so sudden and unexpected that she keeps questioning how she missed the signs.  But it’s awesome because even though you know all this stuff on set is fake, there’s still something about it that makes you edgy.

This book also definitely plays into cliches from horror films.  But it does so really well.  Winnie is a fan of horror films, so she keeps trying to apply what she knows about the genre to what she’s seeing on set.  She points out the tropes and how she doesn’t want to be like a girl in a horror movie.  I really appreciated that this book played with this because it felt really tongue-in-cheek and it didn’t feel so cliche when Winnie was pointing them out.

I did struggle a little with the format of the story.  It’s mostly told in something like a letter or a journal to Winnie’s friend back home, Lucia.  So just about every page, something is addressed to Lu or Lucia.  On top of that, most chapters also break out of that into scripts, transcripts of interviews, or letters from characters other than Winnie.  It was sometimes hard to make that switch from one to the other and figure out how we got to that jump.

Oh, there are also pictures in this book, near each chapter.  In that way, it’s kind of like the Miss Peregrine books, but with drawings instead of photographs.  Because I have an ARC, I don’t think all of the pictures were in.  (Also, my Kindle is at least like, 4 years old, so pictures aren’t exactly its strong suit.  So I want to reserve my judgement on the pictures.)

But overall, it’s a ghost story that is just a little unsettling and a lot fun.

4 Roses

(Technical difficulties.  Once I get them figured out, I will put the picture in.)

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The Summer I Found You

First Lines: “I just don’t really see us going anywhere, Kate.”  Shelton leans sideways against the locker.  He shouldn’t be leaning, not when he’s so obviously breaking up with me–even if his eyes are apologetic.

This was a book I discovered through another book by this author.  I read the blurb and thought, “Huh, this actually sounds better than the book that got me here!”  So I decided to try it out.  One last summer fling, if you will.

Kate’s boyfriend–driven, determined, and definitely going places–just broke up with her and she still trying to come to terms with her diagnosis of type 1 diabetes.  Aidan’s dream career–lifetime soldier–shatters underneath him when he loses an arm on his first deployment to Afghanistan.  When they meet, neither Kate nor Aidan are looking for anything.  But what happens when they may be right for each other?

Honestly, it’s just a cute story.  (And ironically, doesn’t take place in summer…I just realized that.)  Pretty much what you’re expecting is what you get.

The characters were interesting.  Kate is in some serious denial about her diabetes, and I can’t entirely blame her for it.  That’s a serious lifestyle change, and at a time when everyone just wants to be “normal.”  There’s no way for Kate to blend in when she constantly needs to check her blood sugar levels.  And there’s really no way for one-armed Aidan to blend in with…only one arm.  It was cute that these were the things that drew them together.

Apart from their own coming-to-terms-with-reality moments, there were some other really cute things about this book.  Aidan and Kate are cute together.  Their scenes are adorable.  And there’s also some good stuff about being with the one you’re meant to be with, not just the first guy who finds you.

Really, my only strike against this book is that I thought the ending came too fast.  The first 3/4 of the book felt pretty well-paced.  And then the ending was like BAM!  It just wrapped up too quickly.

(Ok, and there may be a little bit of instalove, but certainly not as bad as some books write it.  I thought it was fine.  Some other reviews did not.)

Spotlight Friday (139)

Hello my lovelies!  It’s that time again where we look at amazing new books that are going to be coming out soon!  This week, we’re all about series–and a couple of these are going to be edge-of-your-seaters.  I’m so excited!

Library of Souls (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children, #3) by Ransom Riggs

Release Date: September 22, 2015

*Potential Series Spoilers Ahead*

Summary (from Goodreads): Time is running out for the Peculiar Children. With a dangerous madman on the loose and their beloved Miss Peregrine still in danger, Jacob Portman and Emma Bloom are forced to stage the most daring of rescue missions. They’ll travel through a war-torn landscape, meet new allies, and face greater dangers than ever. . . . Will Jacob come into his own as the hero his fellow Peculiars know him to be? This action-packed adventure features more than 50 all-new Peculiar photographs

What’s To Like: I love trying to describe this series to my students who look at me like I’m insane.  “Ok, so there’s this boy, and he ends up going back in time to a home for kids with special powers.  Like, this one kid has a whole hive of bees inside of him…No, it’s cooler than it sounds!  Anywhere, there are like, talking animals and these really creepy photos and stuff…”  I’m just so pumped to see how this series ends.  No matter what happens, I really think it’ll be epic.

Wild Crush (Wild Cards, #2) by Simone Elkeles

Release Date: September 22, 2015

*Very slight potential for series spoilers, but I’m putting a warning here anyway*

Summary (from Goodreads): When the only girl you want is the one you can’t have…

Bad boy Vic Salazar breaks all the rules except one: Don’t make a move on your best friend’s girl. It’s a Guy Code that Vic lives by. It doesn’t matter that he’s had a crush on her for years. Monika Fox is off limits.

Monika has a secret of her own and when a tragedy throws her and Vic together, the only boy she trusts is the one she shouldn’t confide in. Vic.

As Vic struggles to keep his distance, and Monika struggles with her secrets, will their wild connection violate every rule both vowed never to break—about relationships, about friendship, about love?

What’s To Like: Besides the fact that this is a Simone Elkeles book, I’m drawn to this for A) what makes Vic break his own personal code and B) what the tragedy is that Monika endures.  Do I remember what happened in the previous book?  Nope, not really.  (Just a flash of a memory, here and there.)  But I love a good romance every now and then.  This should hit the spot.

A Mad Zombie Party (White Rabbit Chronicles, #4) by Gena Showalter

Release Date: September 29, 2015

*Ok, yeah, this time, DEFINITE SERIES SPOILERS AHEAD*

Summary (from Goodreads): Ali Bell and Cole Holland’s crew of zombie slayers thought they’d won the war against Anima Industries, the evil company responsible for capturing and experimenting on zombies in an effort to discover the secret to immortality. In the last epic clash, the slayers lost many of their crew and closest friends. But Frosty, the ice man himself, has not recovered from one casualty in particular—the love of his life, Kat Parker.

On the path to self-annihilation, Frosty receives a message from beyond—Kat’s spirit returns, insisting he partner with rogue slayer Camilla Marks. Frosty will do anything for Kat. Except that. Camilla is the one who betrayed them all, leading to Kat’s death.

But when Anima rises from the grave to become a force the slayers may not have the strength to overcome, Frosty, Camilla and all the slayers will have to work together to survive. And one broken slayer will learn that sometimes, the line between hate and attraction is blurred…and the road to redemption isn’t through revenge, but in letting go of the past and grabbing hold of the future.

What’s To Like: This is that unexpected book you never knew you wanted.  I thought I’d be happy after the third book, but then it was like, “WOAH.  We get a book from FROSTY’S perspective?!  WHERE HAS THIS BEEN ALL MY LIFE?”  I am legitimately freaking out over this.  I will snatch this off the library shelves in my best cat-burglar imitation.

The Fill-In Boyfriend

First Lines: In some part of my brain, probably the logical part that seemed to be missing at the moment, I knew I should let go and walk away, maintain some of my dignity.  Instead, I gripped his waist more securely by wrapping my arms around him and pressed my cheek against his chest.  Logic was definitely not ruling my brain right now.

After all the sci-fi and more actiony reads I’ve read recently, I needed something normal and cute.  Kasie West seemed like a safe bet for that.

For months, Gia has been looking forward to prom and introducing her college boyfriend, Bradley, to her friends.  She planned everything out…except for the part where Bradley dumps her in the parking lot right before prom.  She needs a new plan, stat.  She quickly enlists the help of a cute boy dropping off his sister.  It’s simple: be her pretend boyfriend for a couple of hours and then she can win back Bradley.  Only…after prom, it isn’t the real Bradley she can’t stop thinking about.  She doesn’t even know his name!  But tracking him down doesn’t mean they’re done pretending.  Gia owes him a favor and his sister intends to collect: his ex-girlfriend’s graduation party and then they can go their separate ways.  When Gia begins to think that she wants something real with this pretend boyfriend, Bradley comes back into her life in a move that exposes her lie and threatens to destroy her friendships and new relationship.

As for the premise, it’s cute.  I liked the idea of using a fill-in boyfriend to move this story along.  I mean, there’s not a whole lot to this plot that’s surprising.  It’s pretty much a standard rom-com, which is both a positive and a negative thing.  It’s positive because it’s pretty much exactly what I was looking for, but I say negative because it was just…cute.  Like, I wanted something more.

At the beginning of the story, I didn’t really like Gia.  She was the kind of mean girl I tried to avoid in school, the kind who cared more about her looks and social status than the people she stepped on to get there.  But she does change throughout the story, thankfully.

I really liked all the characters in this story.  I mean everyone from “Fill-in Bradley” (who shall remain nameless!) to Bec and her family.  Even if you didn’t like the characters, you could still appreciate how well-written they were.

The story was fun and a little bit emotional.  Overall, it’s a cute read with great characters.

Ignite Me (Shatter Me, #3)

First Lines: I am an hourglass.  My seventeen years have collapsed and buried me from the inside out.

When it comes to finishing a series, I kind of suck.  I walked passed this in the library for weeks before I was finally like, “You know, I should probably just read this now before I forget even more about the previous book.”

*Potential Series Spoilers Ahead*

With Omega Point destroyed, Juliette doesn’t know about the fate of her friends and Adam.  Her heart is broken, but she’s determined to avenge them.  And this time, she’s going to destroy the Reestablishment once and for all.  But her only ally is Warner, the handsome commander of Sector 45 and the one person she never thought she could trust…though he did save her life.  He promises to help her achieve her goal and save their country, but that’s not all he wants from her…

This was actually probably the cutest book in this series.  Not that I disliked the other books, but this was like, on a new level.

The writing style of this series is just so unique and I love it.  It’s almost stream of consciousness and I find myself racing through the pages just to keep up with Juliette’s thoughts.  And she always has the best imagery, like in the first lines when she compares herself to an hourglass.  Or this one later in the book about being a skeletal pile of bones with a beating heart.  The English nerd in me rejoices.

Like I said, this is probably my favorite in the series because it’s so cute and emotional.  There are so many emotions that come out in this one, and I love when they’re touching like that.

There’s an amazing twist in this book that I didn’t really see coming.  I mean, there are hints in the previous books, but I never actually thought it would happen!  But I loved it.  And the theme of second chances was brilliantly done.

The characters are amazing, as always.  Juliette is stronger than ever, Kenji is hilarious, and even Adam and Warner are at their prime.

Overall, it was a fantastic conclusion to this series.  I’m very happy with the way it ended.

Uninvited (Uninvited, #1)

First Lines: I always knew I was different.  When I was three years old, I sat down at the piano and played Chopin.  Mom claims I heard it the week before in a hotel elevator.  I don’t know where I heard it.  I just knew how to place my fingers on the keys…how to make them move.

Sometimes, there’s a book that just strikes you, you know?  Like it all comes together in a perfect storm that makes you just want to read it.  For me, it was this: perfect cover, interesting blurb, and simple fascination with the plot.

Davy Hamilton has been known as many things: musical prodigy, girlfriend of the most popular boy in school, geek.  Never did she expect to be known as a killer…especially when she hasn’t killed anyone!  But Davy is a carrier of HTS–Homicidal Tendency Syndrome.  She may not have killed anyone yet, but the test says she will.  No one knows how to act around her anymore.  The only person she can turn to is Sean, a fellow HTS carrier.  She’s not sure if she can trust him, but maybe he’s not as dangerous as he seems.  Or maybe she’s just as deadly.

Holy Zeus, this was the most frustrating book I’ve read in ages.  (And I mean that in a good way!  I’ll explain soon.)  It’s been quite some time since a book as made me feel this confused, hopeless, and helpless.  There were times I truly wanted to take out my frustration by punching a wall or pulling out my hair.

Why, then, do I say it’s a good thing this was so frustrating?  Because it means the writing is fantastic.  I mean, from like the 2nd chapter, I was Davy.  There was no separation between me and her.  We were the same…when I could actually handle my frustration long enough to read the book.

There was so much that was frustrating.  As soon as someone is labeled as having the “kill gene”, they are isolated from everyone they know and their lives ripped away from them.  They are treated as subhumans.  If they make even the most innocuous remark (“I’d kill for a cheeseburger!” or “Are you looking for a knuckle sandwich?”) or the most innocent gesture that could be taken as a threat, they are immediately labeled as dangerous killers and tattooed to show how dangerous they are. It was so frustrating that any expression of emotion could be construed as a threat.  And there were a lot of emotions swirling around in me and in Davy that needed to be expressed.

Davy was the perfect heroine for this book.  In the beginning, she’s a model citizen: an A student and a prodigy accepted to Julliard.  She’s normal.  And then HTS happens.  Her friends abandon her, her rights as an American citizen are revoked, and that life she had planned for herself is now completely gone.  She was really easy to sympathize with.  And even when everything shattered around her, she still retained her strength.

Sean was definitely an interesting character to throw into the mix.  He’s very mysterious and secretive, but there was something about him that I tended to like right from the get-go.  I’m interested in seeing more of him in the next book.

Overall, it was a very gripping read.  Just be prepared to feel outrage on Davy’s behalf!

Jillian Cade: (Fake) Paranormal Investigator

First Lines: On the rare occasion that I meet a new guy, he inevitably has one of two reactions: he wants to save me or screw me.  Since I’m not up for either, I don’t get asked on a lot of second dates.  Technically speaking, none.

I was offered an ARC of this from the publishers in return for an honest review.  (Wow, it’s been a while since I’ve said that!)  It was something of a perfect storm for accepting this: I had time, it looked interesting, and I’ve had good interactions with this publisher before.  (FYI, it’s SOHO Teen.)

Jillian Cade’s father is a famous paranormal researcher, a fact that never ceases to make Jillian roll her eyes.  She doesn’t believe in the paranormal and only feels bad for the people her father dupes.  Still, she’s milking his reputation in order to earn a little money as a paranormal investigator–money she desperately needs since her dad left her to do “research”.  When Jillian takes on a missing persons case, it seems pretty normal…until Jillian suddenly discovers that the paranormal world may indeed be very real.  Jillian reluctantly takes on the help of Sky Ramsey, the new boy in school, who can’t shut up about her father’s work.  As they investigate the together, the case keeps getting stranger and stranger…as does their work relationship…

I was originally interested in this story for the irony of Jillian being a nonbeliever in the paranormal working as a paranormal investigator who then finds out she should’ve been a believer after all.  I like irony.  It spices things up.

It was a cute read.  Jillian is sassy and snarky, which is 100% a defense mechanism.  Her home life is complete crap, and so she uses sarcasm as a shield to protect her from the world.  I get it.  And it was funny when she’d throw a good zinger out at someone.  But it was interesting that this book did make it a point to show that it was a defense mechanism.  Some books don’t, simply making a character sassy because readers like those characters.

The mystery, while having a nice twist at the end, moved a bit slow.  The whole book tended to focus exclusively on the mystery, with little deviation to any kind of subplot.  Nothing inherently wrong with that, but it just didn’t feel like the story really went anywhere for a while.

And, ok, there’s something weird about the way Jillian feels toward Sky, and I’m not simply talking about romantically.  It was just…off.  I wish I knew what it was about it.  But something didn’t feel quite right.  I think it has something to do with her condescension and/or attitude, but I can’t say for certain.

There were a lot of little humorous scenes.  You know, goofy humor moments where someone does something silly.  I like weird humor.  So cute scenes to make me giggle are always appreciated as comic relief.

Overall, I thought it was an entertaining story, but it just moved a bit slow.