Sunday, September 30, 2012

A Good Week in Books (24)


So, good doesn’t even come close to describing my week in books. My book week was pretty epic. It started with a trip to my favorite used bookstore where I found two YA books I’ve been wanting for a dollar each! I then got a giant box of books in the mail that I won by entering my book club in a contest. I won 10 copies of one book along with exclusive copies of short stories by the author and a letter from the author to my book club! Another book I’ve been eying for a while now was free as a Kindle book this week on Amazon. I purchased two brand new books I’ve been dying for. And then I received three books in the mail for review (two from Harper Collins and one to review for RT Book Reviews).
Can you believe I got these both for a dollar each???

The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen
Shooting Stars
by Allison Rushby
I won 10 copies of these, along with the copies of an exclusive short story, and a letter addressed to my book club courtesy of Amy Garvey and Harper Collins.
 
Cold Kiss
by Amy Garvey
As part of Epic Reads/Epic Deals, this book was free for my Kindle (on Amazon):
 
Sweet Venom
by Tera Lynn Childs
I purchased these two new books this week (even though I told myself I wasn’t allowed to buy new books for a while). But come on, look what they are. I have been anxiously awaiting both of them. And while one technically isn’t YA, I will probably reviewing it here because of the author:

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling (!!!!!!!)
Scorch by Gina Damico
The next three books are all finished hard cover copies of books for review. Thank you, Harper Collins. And thank you, Romantic Times! I’m so excited for these books (one of which, I already started):

Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone
The Turning by Francine Prose
After: Nineteen Stories of Apocalypse and Dystopia edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling

Friday, September 28, 2012

Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard


So, I finally gave in…I absolutely adore this TV show. I’ve fallen in love with The Lying Game books and show (though, I am a book behind in this series). And I’ve been watching “Pretty Little Liars” with the intensity that I watch shows like “Castle” or “Bones.” Seriously, this show is addicting! I started reading this first book in the series a long time ago. I read the majority of the book in a bookstore, waiting for a ride, but for some unknown, mysteriously dumb reason I never picked it up again. What was I thinking?
I’m not sure if I like the books or the show more. Granted, I have that visual aid problem where you watch the show or movie first, and then of course picture all the characters exactly as the actors portray them. So, when Emily was supposed to have red/blonde hair, I was like, “Ew. No.” But that’s okay.
For those of you who live in a cave, or just haven’t given in yet (by the way, you should!), Pretty Little Liars is the story of four girls. The four girls were once five, but on one night in seventh grade, one girl (Alison) goes missing. Aria is the artsy, funky, and unique girl who goes through various phases and various hairstyles. Emily is the athlete. Hanna is the girl who wishes she were Alison. And Spencer is the over-achieving Ivy-bound student. Alison brought them all together. She was super social, bossy, over-achieving, smart, athletic, and unique. She had all the best qualities of all the girls in one package. Yet, she was also kind of evil.
She got the girls to do a lot of things they regret now. And there were a lot of mean girl games they played and people who suffered because of their meanness. When Alison goes missing, the girls’ group pretty much disintegrates. Alison kept them all together. She also was the one who knew the most about everyone. She seemed to somehow always be the one there with one of the girls when something terrible happened or the one to be told the terrible thing first. For instance, she was there with Aria when Aria saw her dad “involved” with a younger woman/student in his car. And Alison was the only one who knew that Spencer had a little thing with Melissa’s (Spencer’s sister) boyfriend. And Alison was the only one to ever know that Emily preferred kissing girls. She was also the only one who knew that Hanna would sometimes binge eat and then make herself throw up.
So when Alison was out of the picture, all the girls lost the one person who knew their deepest secrets. And they kind of all stopped talking to each other. Aria and her family moved to Europe for while (with her dad who took his sabbatical). Spencer went back to focusing on school. Hanna went from fat girl to most popular girl in school (with a new best friend, Mona).  She kind of does become the new Alison. And Emily mostly just hangs out with her swim team. Stuff all changes though when Aria moves back to town.
All the girls start getting messages sent to them (usually in text message format) from someone who sounds too much like Alison and who signs their name, A. And all the girls start getting into serious trouble for things they weren’t getting in trouble for before. Hanna gets busted by the police for shoplifting. Emily makes friends with the new girl who has moved into Alison’s new house and begins to think that she shouldn’t be dating her boyfriend any more. Spencer gets involved with her sister’s new boyfriend. And Aria falls in love with her English teacher, who seems to love her back. And while all this is happening, they all receive messages from A, telling them to watch their backs, and letting them know that not only does someone know what they are doing, but someone knows all their past secrets that only one person was supposed to know as well.
And when it gets to the point where the girls pretty much all think A can be no one but Alison, and Alison must have come back, Alison’s dead body is found in the back of her old house.
The suspense, the drama, the blackmailing, the dead body, and the secrets all add up to make one seriously addicting story! And what really makes this story work are the characters. The girls are each so different and each have some serious problems that they bring to the drama table. There are moments when I was pretty sure I hated all of them, and then there were other moments when I cried for each of them. I still can’t get over the fact that Spencer was the one who got in trouble for messing around with her sister’s boyfriend. Why didn’t the boyfriend get in trouble? Seriously, her parents were so pissed at Spencer, when technically if the guy slept with her it would be considered rape. What parents could be that awful and that pissed at a rape victim? They wouldn’t even listen to her. Granted, she didn’t actually sleep with the guy, but still, it came pretty close.
I also kind of hate Aria and Ezra’s (the teacher) relationship. And based off the show, I know they stay together a long time. Aria would be my favorite character if she weren’t promoting a sexual relationship with her teacher (which would also technically be considered rape if/when sex gets involved). If anything this story really says how much older guys are into teen girls…
What I like that the book does better than the show is the character development. It was really interesting to read about each girls’ separate lives away from the drama. It seems like a much longer period of time before they re-connect in the book. Maybe I’m wrong, but I feel like in the show, not as much time has passed since Alison first disappeared.  And in the book, this allows for their individuality to stand out even more; it shows how the girls kind of each have to grow up alone.
I really enjoyed this book. It does seriously give some bad messages to girls about a lot of things. Here’s a list: eating disorders, popularity, bullying, relationships with teachers, relationships with adults, shop-lifting, driving drunk, drinking, smoking (which is not something they do in the show!), and I can actually keep going…I can see why some parents would be hesitant to encourage their young teenage daughters from reading this. However, it makes for some amazing drama! It’s realistic. The author doesn’t sugarcoat things. There is some amazing character writing. The suspense can get anyone, and I mean anyone (boy, girl, young, old) hooked. The intense topics add to the overall feel of the book in a good way despite the bad messages. And overall, I still give this a 9/10. It’s just so much fun to read, and so, so unputdownable.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Waiting On Wednesday (13)


Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that allows bloggers to share which books we are most anticipating.
This week, I am waiting on The Reece Malcom List by Amy Spalding (2/12/13):

Description on GoodReads:
Devan knows very little about Reece Malcolm: she's a bestselling, media-shy author, she lives in Los Angeles, and, oh yeah, she's Devan's mother. Each of these facts are short entries on the list Devan's been composing since her father died and she was shipped off to live with a woman she's never met.

While Devan tiptoes around getting to know her mother and settling into the home Reece shares with her boyfriend, she's at least thrilled to find a place for herself in a high school for the arts nearby. Joining show choir and getting a lead part in the fall musical are easy when you're as talented as Devan -- making friends and pining for fellow new-student Sai are more delicate mine-fields to maneuver.

As opening night draws near, Sai and Devan's friendship gets more complicated, and the Reece Malcolm list gets a shocking new entry. The problem with being so close to having it all is the pain of losing everything.
I actually only just learned of this book today while “wasting” some time on GoodReads. I fell in love with the cover. What’s not to love about a girl laying down outside, holding a book out? Also, I love that it involves musicals and a performing arts school. It just sounds like a good, fresh contemporary YA, and we can always use more of those!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Other Normals by Ned Vizzini



I’m reviewing an ARC sent to me by the author (!) I’ve been a fan of Ned Vizzini since I was in high school, and I feel so lucky to be have been able to get this review copy. Thank you, Ned. And thank you, Eti, for just being awesome as always. The finished book comes out today.
This book stands out from Vizzini’s other books for me because it involves a lot more fantasy. But, like his other more contemporary novels, he writes very real, believable characters. And while I swoon for a lot of the male characters written in the typical YA fantasy, there’s a part of me that always knows these love interests are impossible. Even the characters with tails and sparkly nails (that are not painted that way) in The Other Normals, just have this feeling of realness to them.
Any way, it’s about Perry, a guy obsessed with the made up RPG (roll playing game), Creatures and Caverns. Too bad for him, his parents seem really intent on sending him to an overnight summer camp, where he will have to socially interact with real people as compared to the made up characters he creates in game. Perry doesn’t really have any friends, his parents refer to him as a late bloomer, and the only person he genuinely seems to interact with (besides a sometimes friend who plays Creatures and Caverns with him, next to an Emergency Exit) is his brother who has a drinking problem.
On the first day at camp, Perry’s Creatures and Caverns supplies (one giant book and one pewter figurine) get confiscated and Perry gets into a fight with a gang member. And just as it seems nothing will ever go right for poor Perry, he sees a creature he knows to only exist in his game. Perry than follows the creature (aka: Mortin Enaw) into the Land of the Other Normals, where he meets some good friends, goes on adventures, and learns that to save a princess in that world which would in turn stop a lot of violence from happening, he will need to be brave in the real world. He will have to actually kiss the girl he had just met before traveling to the World of the Other Normals, in order to save the princess.
Apparently people in the world Perry has grown up in correspond to people in the World of the Other Normals, and what you do in one world effects how things work in the other. Between learning how to socially interact in his world and trying to get a certain girl (who corresponds with the princess) to kiss him, Perry goes back and forth between worlds and problems. He and his friends never seem to manage to stay safe long in the World of the Other Normals. There’s a lot of captures, there’s magical creatures (with fish heads and human bodies or dog heads and human bodies and so forth), there’s prison scenes, camping trips, people barbeques, whorehouses, and friends with substance abuse problems (in the form of pebbles).
And then in the “real” world, Perry deals with standing out as the one white, nerdy guy at camp. There’s a lot of fighting (sometimes with war hammers and sometimes with knives). There’s also a lot of teen boy thoughts! Perry definitely sounds like a real teenage boy with real sexual thoughts. And there was this great mixture of fantasy elements on top of the realistic ones. I loved all the times Perry would compare his life to the game he played. He kept giving himself numbers for what he though his strength would be or his honor would be, as characters are ranked in RPGs. I loved how going to the World of the Other Normals spiked Perry’s confidence in his own world. I mean he legitimately learned how to carry himself, how to make friends, how to talk to girls, how to fight, and how to really grow up because of his experiences with the World of the Other Normals (and the game).
I also loved that when it came down to kissing the princess, he actually didn’t want to (though I won't tell you if he did or not)! He didn't want to because he was too head over heels for a different girl. I loved how quickly Sam was willing to believe what was happening to his friend, and I loved how real all the side characters, like Sam, were too. They helped make this whole story work as well as it did. Also, the language was spot on! This author is definitely not afraid to talk like a teen or make teenagers look bad at certain points; he doesn’t sugarcoat anything. And again this just adds to that realness.
It took me a little while to get into it in the beginning. I think this is because it took me a little while to like Perry. I immediately felt sorry for him. How can you not feel bad for a kid who plays an RPG by himself in a stairway? But, he was a little to naïve/ignorant of things for me to actually like him. However, as the story goes on and Perry learns more about actual people, I grew to love him as a main character, and once I loved him, I couldn’t put the book down. His willingness to eventually see that there were a lot of things he needed to learn made him so much more likeable.
I also really, really love that someone has finally written a book for gamers! I seriously think there is a giant underrepresented group of teens in YA literature. I knew so many teens growing up who could have been Perry. I do think those not familiar with this bit of teen culture might not understand everything. I already read someone refer to Creatures and Caverns as an online game, which is not how I saw it at all. I saw it as another Dungeons and Dragons.
While I feel like there will inevitably be some misunderstandings with an older crowd, I’m glad Vizzini didn’t over describe things like character sheets and the logistics of these kinds of games because a lot of the young people who will be reading this, and hopefully be drawn to this, will already know that stuff. And too much detail in that respect can be an easy way to loose young people.
All in all I thought this was such a fun read! I loved the mixing of fantasy and contemporary fiction. I loved that it was about a gamer. The characters were amazing. It took me a little time to really like the main character, but I eventually grew to think of him as awesome too. This gets a 9/10 from me.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Dearly Departed by Lia Habel


What a crazy, wonderful book! It was recommended to me a long time ago (Thanks, Christina!), and I knew I would love it because: zombies, Victorian time period mixed with the future(…explain more later), dystopia elements, girls fighting past their limited boundaries, and spread of a virus/aka: zombie apocalypse, all equate to awesome in my book. The one weird thing about the description that was sort of off-putting was the zombie/living girl romance. The publishers really pushed this as a new forbidden romance type YA book (Hello, pink cover!). And it kind of prevented me from reading it sooner.
The book was way less romance heavy than I thought it would be (based off of the description and girly cover), and I was thankful. It was more about this crazy society in the future that actually chose to live in a Victorian-esque life style versus a more modern one. There’s modern technology like computers and TV’s; it’s just that’ the TV’s are in the horse drawn carriages. And while people have cell phones, women still need to wear corsets and aim to marry good husbands.
I very much related to Nora, the main character, though this probably was because I kept substituting the “a” for an “i,” and making the main character named Nori, instead of Nora. Though, it’s also hard not to immediately feel empathy for someone who just lost her father and prefers to watch old war documentaries to going to dances and husband searching. Unfortunately, Nora lives with an aunt who is all about husband searching. She apparently has already spent most of the money Nora’s father had left for her family, and is now relying on Nora to do what any attractive lady should want to do.
Everything changes when Nora’s house is attacked by zombies. She climbs up a rose bush, finds her father’s gun, gets to the top of the roof of her house and is a pretty good shot, considering she doesn’t know that the only way to kill or even defer a zombie is by shooting them in the head (or cutting their head off).  Soon, Nora is rescued by a band of more normal-seeming zombies.  There’s a big section of the book where Nora learns to trust that not all the zombies are the same. A lot of zombies are very much like the humans they were before they died. And all the good zombies Nora grows to befriend are connected with her father’s work.
Apparently, the father she has been mourning for a year is actually alive, or well, undead. The government has been hiding its knowledge of the spreading zombie disease. There’s all sorts of political problems involving the prime minister. The bad zombies also have an army, and their major intent is to destroy Nora and her father. There’s also the somewhat brain dead zombies that just want to eat people. There’s the Royals (the people living in Victorian society) and there’s the Punks (those that live outside it), and there’s soldiers and zombies it seems on both sides. Overall, it’s a very good thing that Nora knew her military information.
Also, Habel likes to switch point of views a lot. And at first this really annoyed me. I loved Nori (cough…), I mean Nora and was angry whenever I had to read about anyone else. And before you go thinking that this means it only goes back and forth between Nora and the good zombie she’s meant to fall in love with, don’t make assumptions. Habel goes into the minds of Nora’s best friend, Pamela, who by the way is completely awesome. She does things how she assumes Nora would and in doing so, saves the lives of multiple people, gets her family to safety in the midst of a zombie apocalypse, kills zombies without even realizing the rule about needing to decapitate them, defies the Victorian female stereotypes all over the board, and really just made the book so much more fun than it would have been without her!
Sometimes the chapters are in a bad soldier’s point of view, which allows readers to seriously see how prejudiced people can be against all zombies (good and bad). And sometimes the point of view shifts to Nora’s undead father, who has been captured and blackmailed into scientifically figuring out a cure. And well, how can I not get sucked into blackmail, captures, revolutions, backstabbing, zombie cures, an apocalypse, and rescue missions? Seriously, this book has it all.
One of the common threads I see in people’s reviews who don’t love this book as much as I do, is that there is too much going on. And I get what they’re saying. Sometimes there is so much going on, I lose track of my focus and I’m never really sure where the author wants me to focus –what threads are important and necessary for my overall understanding and enjoyment? But, I kind of liked the mayhem. I liked figuring out for myself what direction to go in. However, I understand this totally not working for a lot of readers.
I absolutely loved the characters in here. I loved the points of view shifts (even when it goes into the head of the bad guy). I loved the fighting. I loved the politics. I even loved the somewhat off-putting zombie/person romance. In the case of Nora and Bram, it just worked. You’ll have to read it to understand. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that Bram just is completely amazing and has such a kind soul. The book does go a little overboard with its various components, but for me this added to the overall fun and zombie craziness as a whole. I give this one a 10/10. Just know going into it, that it is a little chaotic and that it is so not all about romance. Also, you can’t be squeamish with this one.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

A Good Week in Books (23)



I’ve had pretty light book week. My week has been a little crazy with work, family things, and holidays, but next week is already looking really good. I know I have some good review books coming! This week, I received one new book on Net Galley (Thank you, Penguin Young Reader’s Group). I actually checked out a physical YA library book (lately the library books I go for have been digital or have been picture books to prepare lesson plans with). And I won a book I have been dying to read (Thank you, Christina!).

Sirens by Janet Fox (eGalley)
Every Day by David Levithan (library book)
The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa (won from A Reader of Fictions)

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater


I’m reviewing an ARC, but the book just came out this week (so go, get it!). I absolutely loved Stiefvater’s werewolf books! I know the books have gotten a lot of mixed reviews, but I just fell in love with Stiefvater’s writing style and character development. Her characters (while capable of rather remarkable things) are always just so authentic; they read like actual people you might know. And I love soaking up her words like a sponge, reading her books nice and slow and letting everything sink in.
However, the one book everyone seemed to love but me was The Scorpio Races. I just didn’t get it. Why did everyone love this one, and not love the beautiful werewolf books? Seriously, I am still baffled by its reception. Any way, I had no idea what to expect with this one. Would it be more like her first series or more like the book I don’t get? I wasn’t sure I was even going to read it because the premise for it didn’t really grab me. It sounded so much like other things I have read, and I wasn’t sure if I could let any other books ruin my love for this author (who definitely knows her craft).
I am so glad that I gave this a try! I loved it! She has wowed me with her characters (no big surprise there), she has wowed me with her writing style again, and she’s finally wowed me with her story too! I’ve learned that this hasn’t been a good year for publishers trying to get across what their books are about. The description made this book sound like it would be another Sam/Grace type romance, but the romance was not a big part of this story at all. I mean, it was there, but it was mostly just hinted at with visions of the future and possible what-ifs to come later in the series.
Stiefvater goes back and forth among characters again. There’s Blue (I think I liked the name, Puck better), Gansey, Adam, and Whelk who all get some chapters to themselves, though mostly it centers around Blue, a girl who has grown up relatively normal amongst a family of psychics. Blue has grown up believing in the supernatural, well, because she lives in the supernatural. She knows her family (and the many women living in her house) can all do things that normal people cannot explain. And she also knows that she helps them do it. All Blue needs to do is sit in at a reading and she makes the readings go a lot more smoothly (or as her mother calls it, “louder.”)
She has also grown up in a house of women who have routinely told her never to fall in love. It has been predicted early on that whoever Blue kisses (and falls in love with) will die. On St. Mark’s Eve (April 24th), everything changes. Blue goes to the cemetery every year with her mother so her mother can see all the people who will die this coming year. She sees the ghosts of those who will soon pass away. And Blue helps her see them. This year though, Blue sees one ghost too.
She speaks to him and learns that his name is Gansey. There are only two reasons for why Blue would see this ghost (and none of the others, who apparently all walk through her and do something to her energy, making her go to sleep for a long time); either he is the boy she will fall in love with or she will end up killing him. Gansey also believes in the supernatural, or at least he really wants to believe in it.
Gansey is on this ultimate quest to look for Glendower, a medieval legend who is rumored to have never died, but instead to have been asleep for centuries. He’s supposed to grant one favor to the person who is able to find him. And the only reason Gansey is a Raven boy (named for his school) is because he has tracked down everything he has learned about Glendower to this location of the world.
Gansey has a crew of Raven boys who all work on this quest together. And while not a lot is said about what favor each boy wants, it’s fun guessing what it is each would ask for from the mysterious Glendower. Stiefvater magically connects everything! She connects the boys’ quest with Blue and her ability to magnify other people’s powers. She connects the energy of psychics to the energy of the earth. There’s family mystery, vague predictions, and so many different stories woven together. One story revolves around the teacher Whelk, who has his own experiences going after Glendower that are just so creepy.
There’s human sacrifices, mysterious fathers, and a lot of research and investigating! Believe it or not, Blue doesn’t fall for Gansey right away (even though I did!); she falls for his best friend: Adam, another Raven boy. She connects with him right away and he gets her involved with the adventures. Adam and Blue live on the same side of (the rather Foot Loose kind of divided) town. They both see money in a way that none of the other Raven boys do. But it soon becomes clear that even though Blue and Adam hold hands sometimes and like to work side by side while investigating magical forests, that Blue and Gansey are meant to be.
Adam’s story is powerful too though. He comes from an abusive family and he has such an interesting friendship with Gansey. And while I’m not really talking about the other boys, they were fantastic too. All of them were such interesting, unique characters. I loved the other story from the past about the two other boys looking for Glendower. I loved the mystery and obsession of Glendower himself. I loved the slight supernatural moments. I loved all the stuff about energy. I loved everything written about power and money and how everyone views it so differently. Blue’s family was so much fun to read about too!
But the best moments, hands down, were the ones were Blue and the boys were exploring and learning about Glendower together. Some of the scenes were pure magic. The prophecies, the predictions, the trees that speak Latin(!), the ghosts, the politics, and all the characters just pushed this story along so beautifully! I was on the edge of my seat wanting to know things the whole time. There was one big twist that I did not guess at all! I literally went back in my reading to make sure that Maggie wasn’t pulling my leg.
I cannot wait for the second book in this series, though as with the Shiver books, it’s hard not having a feeling for how it will all eventually have to go down, and you can’t help but hope for some other outcome. This was well written, the characters were fantastic, the story was intriguing, and there were so many smaller elements that all wove into everything so perfectly and made this book just stand out for me. I give it a 10/10.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (12)

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Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that allows bloggers to share which books we are most anticipating.
This week, I am waiting on Sapphire Blue by Kerstin Gier (10/30/12):

Description on GoodReads:
Gwen’s life has been a rollercoaster since she discovered she was the Ruby, the final member of the secret time-traveling Circle of Twelve. In between searching through history for the other time-travelers and asking for a bit of their blood (gross!), she’s been trying to figure out what all the mysteries and prophecies surrounding the Circle really mean.

At least Gwen has plenty of help. Her best friend Lesley follows every lead diligently on the Internet. James the ghost teaches Gwen how to fit in at an eighteenth century party. And Xemerius, the gargoyle demon who has been following Gwen since he caught her kissing Gideon in a church, offers advice on everything. Oh, yes. And of course there is Gideon, the Diamond. One minute he’s very warm indeed; the next he’s freezing cold. Gwen’s not sure what’s going on there, but she’s pretty much destined to find out.
So, I only just finished the first book in the series, and I’m already dying for book 2! I loved the first book way more than I was expecting to. And the sequel just sounds so good. I really want to know more about the mysteries and prophecies! And I want more Gideon, please! Also, I’m really liking the new covers. It’s hard to mess up a girl in a pretty dress, right?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Ruby Red by kerstin Gier



This book was so good! I’ve had my eye on it for a while. I kept almost buying the hard cover version in bookstores, but then changing my mind. I hated the original cover. But, when I saw this cover of the paperback version, I knew it was time to buy this. Really, it’s a gorgeous cover with a distorted version of London in the background. Also, the publishing company has never really done the story justice on the back and or side flap of the book. It’s so much better than they describe it to be.
I seriously read this in one sitting. It’s about Gwen, a girl who grows up relatively normal in a family of special. I’ve never read about time travel in this way before. There’s a gene that the girls in Gwen’s family can have that will allow them to time travel. And it’s been determined early on that the new generation of time travel will be inherited in Gwen’s cousin, Charlotte, who happened to be born on the right day to inherit the abilities. Charlotte has been the special one, attending secret meetings, training in sword-fighting and horseback riding, and overall just having a really unique and planned out childhood. And Gwen has been able to spend her time with her best friend, Lesley doing normal teen things.
As tends to happen in these YA books though, it’s not Charlotte who actually ends up having the gene. Apparently, Gwen’s mother lied about her birthday in order to let Gwen have a normal, safer, more carefree childhood. And also, she secretly hoped that Charlotte would be the one to carry the gene because she really didn’t want her daughter to have to go through so much. Well, as it turns out, Gwen ends up going back in time several times with no preparation or training to help her, which is actually really dangerous. She also has a hard time breaking it to her family, who have all been anxiously awaiting Charlotte’s first time travel.
The scene where Gwen’s aunt first sees that Charlotte (her daughter) is not the designated time traveler is priceless! Of course, Gwen is not as obedient as Charlotte either. For starters, she’s been listening behind doors since she could walk –to learn as much as she could about her eccentric family who never talk about their abilities. And she’s told her best friend, Lesley all about everything her family can do (including information about one relative who can see into the future). She’s not supposed to share this knowledge with the world. She also has not memorized entire chunks of history. She has no idea how to use a sword. And she has this thing where she always thinks for herself.
Gwen’s assigned time traveling partner, the handsome Gideon, quickly learns all these things about Gwen when they first travel together. However, nothing is as simple as Gwen is told it will be when she is finally briefed on how to behave. There’s a secret society, a creepy sounding rhyme that prophesizes a lot more power to come, plenty of historical facts thrown around, historical wardrobe changes, and so many rules about what you can take with you and what you are not allowed to change. Also, it doesn’t help that Gwen has some family members that have stolen some important time traveling machinery and gone back to an indeterminable time period with it.
Everyone wants the missing device. And everyone wants to fulfill the rhyme/prophecy. People are willing to die to make sure it happens (or doesn’t happen). There’s sword fights, carriage chases, fancy ball gowns, conversations with great great great relatives, there’s magic, and there’s a lot of growing up and learning to trust your instincts too.
I loved Gideon! So much sass for a boy! I hated Charlotte just enough. And I absolutely loved Lesley, the super smart best friend. I thought Gwen’s family made the whole book so entertaining! I loved all the secrecy, all the family mystery, and all the suspense about the stolen artifact!
The author had the magical ability to keep my interest just as much in the “normal” teen school scenes as she did in the scenes that took place in history. Really, I loved every second of this book. It was an easy/fluffy read, but easy/fluffy in all the right ways. My only complaint is that I wish the action started a little earlier. There was a lot of the typical needing to really accept that magical things were actually happening moments. And frankly, Gwen had been around her family too long to ever doubt what was happening to her, particularly for so long a time.
Other than that though, it was pure fun. I give it a 9/10, and I am so excited for the sequel to come out!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Scarlet by A. C. Gaughen


What a wonderful book! It was recommended to me by another blogger and I have read some good reviews for this one, but it’s been some time since its release this year and I haven’t seen much written about it since. I kind of forgot I even had it, but I am so glad I dug deeply into my TBR piles and pulled this one to the front. It’s just what I needed on the rainy day I picked it up.
Firstly, I must say that I have a strong addiction for books in which girls prove to the world that they are just as capable of doing anything boys can do. Scarlet is part of Robin Hood’s band of lovable thieves. Of course very few people know that Scarlet is in fact a girl because she dresses as a boy. She has learned that stealing, moving fast, and climbing trees is much preferable in pants and also that boy’s clothes are much easier to disguise oneself in. The band knows she’s a girl and while there are a lot of jokes had at her expense, for the most part, Scarlet is accepted for who she is.
On the other hand, no one really knows her. She’s the newest member of the band and Robin knows that she has some serious secrets. But, he accepts her because he knows she’s a good person and well, she’s really helped them in the stealing department. Robin and his band go around Sherwood Forest and the towns surrounding it, stealing money and valuables form the rich. They give a lot of things to the poor folk who cannot afford the high taxes set up by the sheriff. They help provide food, they rescue innocent people from prison, and most of all they stockpile goods to sell so everyone will be able to pay their taxes.
Scarlet isn’t too straightforward with the readers either. It’s clear from the very beginning that she feels a lot of guilt, that she has lost someone very close to her, and that she will do everything in her power to make up for whatever it is she has done. This works well with Robin who pretty much feels the exact same way. He was actually once a noble. He went off to fight in the Crusades, and while he was gone his father died. The government than was able to steal Robin’s rightful lands while he was away by claiming some false statements about it.  And instead of being justly angry when he returned, Robin seems soul-bent on making up for all the poor people he killed while at war.
The story really starts when the thief taker, Lord Gisbourne is hired by the sheriff to take down Robin’s men. It soon becomes painstakingly clear that Scarlet has had a past with Lord Gisbourne and that he seems to be the reason she has a scar on her face. A lot of action happens all at once. Between the arrests, the attacks, the fires, the injustice of the high taxes for the poor, and all the things from Scarlet’s past coming back to haunt her there’s never a dull moment.
There’s a bit of a love triangle that I loved every second of! There’s some amazing politics that are so relatable to today’s politics. It really has you thinking about the way the tax system works and doesn’t work. And Scarlet becomes more and more of a wonderfully complex character as the book goes on, and all of her secrets come out.
I love how cocky Scarlet is about stealing! And none of the male characters acted as though she didn’t deserve to be full of herself. She had rightly proven herself to a group of thieves! Her skills with knives were so much fun to read about. I wish there was more about her learning this skill than was mentioned just because I found it so much fun to read! I liked that her name was earned. She was scarlet, not just because of her scar, but because of he scarlet ribbons she used to tie to the end of her knives. I like that she’s based off of a real character (technically two characters) in the Robin Hood classic, and that most people really believed her to be a boy: Will Scarlet. And my favorite thing about her was her love of freedom! She refused to by trapped down by any man or set of beliefs and valued her freedom above almost all else.
I loved Robin too. He was such a leader and such a good person! I loved how people reacted to him, followed him, and trusted him so thoroughly. There’s this one scene when the gang stops a carriage with a noble lady inside. And before Robin says anything to the lady, she asks who he is. And when he introduces himself, the lady actually willingly takes off her jewels and demands her guards to step down and let Robin take what he may! Even some of the rich believed in what he was doing!
There was an epic ending with a tiny hint of a cliffhanger. I’m hoping the author will continue the story, but I can also see how it’s not totally necessary. I just think it would be a lot of fun if she did. I recommend this one to fans of Tamora Pierce and Maria V. Snyder. It was just so much fun from start to finish. It was rather predictable, but what Robin Hood retelling isn’t? Knowing the classic tale helped me to love this even more though by no means is it necessary to have read it first. This gets a 10/10 from me for sure.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

A Good Week in Books (22)



I have definitely had another excellent book week! I received a large haul of egalleys from Net Galley (special thanks to: Penguin Young Reader’s Group, Bloomsbury Children’s Books, Abrams, Curiosity Quills Press, and BenBella Books). I purchased one audio book over iTunes (and I’ve already started listening to it on my phone at the gym!). I purchased one of my favorite books of the year. And I received a finished copy of one book for review in the mail (thank you, Hyperion).
From Net Galley:
 
The Girl who was on Fire
by Lea Wilson
Ever by Jessa Russo (10/1/12)
Splintered by A. G. Howard (1/1/13)
Princess of the Silver Woods by Jessica Day George (12/11/12)
Flash Point by Nancy Kress (11/8/12)
Purchased:

The Diviners
by Libba Bray
Carnival of Souls
by Melissa Marr (audio book read by James Marsters –AKA: Spike from Buffy)!!!!

Received from the publisher:

Anything But Ordinary
by Lara Avery

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman


I got this book a long time ago. It’s been on my TBR list since its publication. My favorite reviewers/bloggers and even some of my favorite authors have done nothing but rave about this book. So of course, I dove into with high expectations, which can be a risky thing to do. And in this case, I think my expectations were a little too high.
I enjoyed it. It definitely stands out as a unique piece of YA fiction, but it wasn’t what I wanted it to be. I also think reviewing/summarizing it will be hard because there is just so much info I really don’t want to give away. And I’m sorry for any spoilers that might pop up in my review. I kind of see no way of going around them because the book starts in the middle. And the middle, as you can tell from the title, involves a lot of blood.
The middle: Nora going over to her best friend’s house to find blood everywhere, her best friend lying dead on the floor, her best friend’s girlfriend and therefore her friend mentally traumatized and pretty much comatose in shock, and her boyfriend MIA. Then everything goes back to a beginning where Nora, her best friend: Chris, Chris’s girlfriend Adriane, and Chris’s roommate, Max all get involved in the Latin translations of an ancient book.
Chris is a year older than Nora and Adriane (his girlfriend), and is at college. He gets Nora involved with the Latin translations because Nora is a Latin genius. Max is interested in Latin as well. And Adriane really doesn’t have much to do with the translations, but hangs out with everyone anyway –throwing in some yoga stretches every now and then. Nora is told to focus on some letters written in the time period of the book while the boys get to work with the actual book hands-on.
No one knows though that the letters are actually more important. The letters involve the key to finding the mystical device mentioned in the book, a device that allows human beings to literally converse with God. Everything is pretty much normal until the professor leading all the students with this project is attacked and all the manuscripts go missing.  From there comes break-ins, funerals, hospital visits, and a lot of confusion.
When Adriane finally comes to from her traumatizing experience, she of course remembers nothing. And the girls decided to continue on their class Paris trip even though the two boys they’d hoped on spending it with are gone. No one knows where Max is and the police seem pretty intent on keeping him as the prime suspect in Chris’ murder investigation. Luckily (or maybe not so luckily depending on how you look at it), Nora really connected to the woman who’s letters she was reading. The woman (century’s ago) had been really brave and eager to prove herself intellectually just like Nora, but more than that she had lost an older brother. Nora has lost her older brother too.
And because Nora felt that one particular letter was too private for anyone else to see, she kept it (illegally). And while this letter is the reason her best friend is dead, it also provides the starting point for one epic European goose chase. Nora and Adriane go off to search for the machine that so many people seem so willing to die and kill for. The book deals with death, mourning, murder, faith, science, education, love, friendship, and history. And I loved the scene where we finally get to see what the machine is or isn’t capable of! Yes, the girls make it that far, but that’s all I’m going to say.

So how could I not have loved this story? It was pretty epic. And I was dying to see how everything would turn out. I also loved how smart and relatable Nora was. I loved how believable and flirty Adriane was too.  I loved how the two of them sort of just became friends out of necessity even though they had nothing in common. I loved how every character valued knowledge so highly! Even Adriane who dumbs herself down sometimes for boys, was so clearly fascinated with where the letters were taking them.
I loved how smart this book was overall! I can see it being hard to read though for a lot of teens. There’s a lot of historical information and detail. There’s a lot of letters that kind of took me a little too far away from the real story sometimes and a lot of times felt unnecessary. It read like an adult book. And while I love adult themes in YA; the stuff seriously attracts more readers, I just see this kind of as an adult-ish book being hard for a lot of teens to finish. There’s so much detail, and it took me almost a week to read. My normal pace this past month has been a book a day. It didn’t take so long because it wasn’t interesting or wasn’t good. It just involved more work. Work can be good, but in this case I just wish it was little bit more fun. And believe me, I so think solving puzzles and translating ancient tomes is fun; it was just missing something, some spark that could make it more fun for young people.
The one thing that seriously bothered me (because its adultness/lack of spark still kind of worked for me) were the male characters. The only one I liked died. Chris was the only real guy for me. Max always seemed suspicious and unreal. And Eli just seemed too good to be true. And I never liked either of them. Nora was way too smart to fall for some of the stuff she did. I mean I just spent how many words talking about how adult the book was? Nora was so much an adult through everything that I found it hard to believe she was so childish when it came to all the boys who liked her.
And most of all, she was not angry enough about something one particular boy did! I just found her tolerance of what happened to be so unbelievable. She wasn’t given a lot of time to dwell, but still. There was so much dwelling on her brother and on Chris to the point where I really needed more progression in the book and considered putting it all down for good, and then when something major happens with her boyfriend, there’s no thinking about it at all.
Wasserman does get major credit from me for writing something so unique. I’ve seen this book repeatedly referred to as the YA The Da Vinci Code, and frankly, I think it was smarter than The Da Vinci Code, or at least more complex and thought out. I just wasn’t believing in or having any real empathy for the male characters. And there was a little too much focus for me on loss. It’s hard getting wrapped up in a thriller when there’s so much grief. I liked it sort of as a separate entity from the mystery, but by the end it kind of got in the way of my enjoyment of the mystery overall. I give this book a 7/10.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan


So, I have been on a serious reading frenzy, pretty much reading a book day for the last month or so (with one exception for a book I didn’t like as much as the others and will be reviewing later this week). This book by Brennan is kind of a book I wish I read more slowly and savored because it was just so wonderful and dark and funny and had the perfect amount of teen angst. It was also so British, and well I love all things British and it’s stuff like this book that reminds me why.
I’m reviewing my ARC copy, but the book came out Tuesday. And I think I may have to get a finished copy at some point. This is so a book I want to own a physical copy of. Any way, it’s about Kami, a girl who has grown up standing out in the small town, Sorry-in-the-Vale. She stands out because she is routinely caught standing by herself staring off into space and sometimes talking to someone no one else can see or hear. As a child, the town called Jared, the boy she was always talking to, her imaginary friend. But, you’re not supposed to have imaginary friends once you’re a teenager…
Kami tries to tone down her “imaginary” conversations when out in public, but the whole town already kind of sees her as crazy. This in no way, shape, or form prevents Kami from being one of my all time favorite YA main characters. She is so sarcastic and intelligent. She starts her own school paper, negotiates with the school to have a headquarters for the paper, and immediately goes into Lois Lane reporter mode. Kami is curious about everything and is so determined to figure out the mysteries of her centuries-old town. She has some amazing friends who all look to her as the leader because well, it’s always Kami who comes up with all the ideas and crazy plans to do things like steal files out of a lawyer’s office or investigate a hotel she’s not supposed to be in. She’s also the bravest one.
One of the reasons she’s always been so brave is because she has never ever really felt alone. When she discovers that someone in her town has been mutilating animals, does she run home like a normal person and tell the police? Well…, yes she does, but first she investigates. She likes to go into the woods by herself, breaks into a lot of places, and writes her stories. She has even been attacked by someone she couldn’t see, but refuses to stop investigating.
All this changes though, when the Lynburns move back to their giant manor. For starters, all the girls are in love with one or the other of the two Lynburn teenage boys who start school with them. For another, it becomes painstakingly clear that Kami’s mother is hiding something about the Lynburn family. Oh, and then there’s the scene in the elevator at the library where Kami realizes that the boy in her head, Jared, is actually a real person; he’s Lynburn. And she’s not actually crazy. (Hand’s down, this is the best scene in the book!)
Realizing she’s not crazy and simultaneously having to deal with Jared as a real person is a lot for a girl to have to mentally take care of. Also, it’s one thing to have no privacy from a possible figment of the imagination, and it’s quite another to have no privacy from a cute teenage boy, who you are most probably falling in love with. And Kami is definitely someone who likes her privacy, who likes being in control, and most definitely doesn’t like people knowing how she’s feeling all the time. And then of course the mutilated animals escalate to murdered human beings (particularly teenage girls). Throw in a little bit of paranormal sorcery and well this book takes awesome to a whole other level!
There’s a love triangle that is so good! Jared is such a fantastic character! All I want to do is help him! It’s clear that his family situation sucks. His mother never loved or wanted him and his father was an abusive jerk, leaving behind so many scars. And everyone seems so intent on hating him. I love his relationship with his cousin, Ash, and how competitive the boys were for Kami. I loved Kami’s lazy best friend who really only seemed interested in naps and spending time on couches. The sarcasm, the wit, and the humor in this book really had me laughing out loud for whole sections.

While there’s a love triangle and Kami is trying to figure things out romantically, it’s always clear to readers that boys do not come first. In fact, they don’t even seem to come in second. Kami definitely puts herself above everyone else(!!!!) She is such a strong, confident, leader and I loved her all the more for this. And she values her friends and family to the highest regard. It was also so nice to read about a main character who has two loving parents. Yes, her mom had some serious secrets, but still. Family was sacred to her.

There’s also this classic literature/gothic feel to the whole book that really makes it stand out for me. Brennan has this magical ability to sound like Charlotte Bronte, Libba Bray, Louise Rennison, and Maureen Johnson all at the same time. Seriously, her writing is just so amazing. To able to sound like a Gothic writing genius and somehow also be hilariously British, and have wonderful and believable teen drama too is just pure amazing. It was like a YA feast for the senses. I laughed, I cried, I gasped out loud at the end, and I am nothing but super impressed. I cannot wait for the second installment. In fact, I think I will be tracking down all other books written by this author and immediately adding them to my TBR pile. Of course this gets a 10/10. It’s one of my favorite books of the year.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (11)


Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that allows bloggers to share which books we are most anticipating.
This week, I am waiting on Wolf Pact by Melissa de la Cruz (9/25/12, though different sites are saying different dates):

Description on GoodReads:
“From the bestselling author of Blue Bloods, comes a series that will reinvent the myth of the werewolf in the same way that Blue Bloods did with vampires—with style and NYC flair!

Lawson and his brothers escaped from the underworld and now lead desperate, dangerous lives. They’re pursued by the Hounds of Hell from one town to the next, never calling any place home. But when the hounds finally catch up with them and capture the girl Lawson loves, the hunters become the hunted. Lawson will stop at nothing to track down the hounds, even if the chances of saving Tala are slim...

The only hope he has lies in Bliss Llewellyn. Bliss, too, has lost someone to the beasts and will do anything to get them back—even if it means joining forces with the insolent, dangerously good-looking boy with a wolf’s soul.”


How cool does this sound? I love all of the supernatural books that Melissa de la Cruz writes. Her Blue Bloods series is one of the best YA vampire series in existence, and I wasn’t sure if I was going to put the new Blue Bloods book coming out up for my WoW today or this one, but I decided to post about this book because it’s the start of a new series. Though, I love that it includes characters (Bliss) from the old series too. Romance, hellhounds, werewolves, vampires, and the setting of Manhattan all make this book sound super promising! It doesn’t have the best cover, but that’s okay; I will most definitely be purchasing this one.
Oh, and I think the publication date is iffy because I just realized the publisher is really pushing this as an eBook series. It’s going to come out in four parts (over the span of a couple of months, starting October 2, 2012). Each eBook will only be $2.99. And the paperback version of all the books either comes out this month or in April…Regardless of what format this is in, I will be reading it. Here’s what the first eBook looks like (and I’m still not a big fan of the cover, but now there are options…):

Monday, September 10, 2012

End of Summer/Need the Shelf Space Giveaway!



I have had 200 blog posts! It does not feel like I have been blogging this long, but I celebrated with a pumpkin spice late at Starbucks and, nothing feels so good!  I also have been piling up some YA titles that I would like to send to good homes, and what better way to do that than by celebrating 200 posts and embracing autumn?
What’s up for Grabs (click on the titles for the GoodReads descriptions):
In a Heartbeat by Loretta Ellsworth (Hardcover)
Hearts at Stake by Alyxandra Harvey (paperback)
The Geography of Girlhood by Kirsten Smith (Hardcover)
The Named by Marianne Curley (paperback)
Need by Carrie Jones (paperback)
The International Kissing Club by Ivy Adams (paperback)
Starling by Lesley Livingston (ARC)
The Hunter’s Moon by O.R. Melling (paperback), #1 in the series
The Summer King by O.R. Melling (paperback), #2 in the series
The Light Bearer’s Daughter by O.R. Melling (paperback), #3 in the series

There will two winners! The first winner will have first choice at four of the above titles. And the second winner will be able to pick 3 titles from what is left. Whatever I have left after both winners choose, will be donated to my library!
My normal rules apply. The chosen winners will have 48 hours to respond to my email with their choices and their shipping address. If I don’t hear back within that time I will have to choose a different winner. Again, this is just for US followers because I cannot afford to ship these internationally. However, I am part of a giveaway hop coming up, where I am opening it up to international followers too!
Thanks for stopping by! And Good luck.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, September 9, 2012

A Good Week in Books (21)


This is actually my 200th blog post! I have a super sweet book giveaway planned that I’ll be announcing in the next few days. I needed some more shelf space at the end of the summer so I pulled some books I have multiple copies of or just don’t think I’ll read again, etc. And I think I’m going to have two winners, so come back and enter it!
But to my week in books, I got some good ones! I definitely went back to another Half Priced Books last Monday (to take advantage of the big Labor Day book sale), and I purchased two books (1 ARC). I won another ARC from an awesome blog. I received a new one from NetGalley. And I found this adorable, little bookstore, to spend some time in after I dropped my dad off in physical therapy. I sort of had 3 hours to waste before I picked him up. And where did I go? A bookstore and a Starbucks, of course. Not a bad 3 hours, I must say. Needless to say, I bought a book and then got into a 30 minute Harry Potter/Team Starkid discussion at Starbucks (where I just so happened to be wearing my Starkid shades!) Potter fans are the best!
I got this one from NetGalley (thank you, Harlequin Teen Ltd.):
 
Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares
by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan (I’ve actually read, reviewed, and loved this one already but now I have an ebook of it and can read it again!)
These are the three books I purchased this week:
 
Secret Letters
by Leah Scheier
Cold Fury by T. M. Goeglein
Grim by Anna Waggener (ARC)
And I won this ARC from TheReadiacs:

Wings of the Wicked
by Courtney Allison Moulton

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Springsweet by Saundra Mitchell


This is another one of those books I picked up months ago (at a conference) and only now have had the extreme pleasure of reading! I met the author when I picked this one up. She had no line in front of her, and I remember not even realizing who she was until I was right up in her face, by which point I was all, “I loved The Vespertine!” I honestly don’t remember much about what we talked about, but I know we chatted for a little while until she did develop a line (behind me), and I just felt so special being able to talk with Saundra Mitchell for a bit –because she is awesome.
She even signed the book in a pretty, light blue sharpie that matches with the colors of the cover. And these book covers are always so pretty! I really enjoyed the first book in the series, and I was a little surprised to learn of a sequel because I sort of remember the last book ending with a big bang of a fire, gun wounds, and a main character in ruins (with a final inkling of hope). It was a good ending. And I sort of went into this book thinking it would be a continuation of The Vespertine and it wasn’t. It’s about Zora, the best friend/cousin of the MC, Amelia, in the first book.
And I actually liked this book more than the first book because I really just liked Zora more. She really has become so much more than that girly best friend character. And frankly, whereas I remember Amelia coming off as rather weak, Zora is the epitome of strength. It begins with Zora in a not so good place. During the epic bang of the finale of the first book, Zora lost the boy she loved (who she was engaged to marry). She starts off much like how Amelia ended: really depressed. She gets it in her head though that she would enjoy moving out west to live with her widowed aunt.
She believes her cousin, Amelia, to be dead because of a letter written to her mother. And after a poor attempt at attending a dance, she purposely makes a spectacle of herself, and publicly kisses a stranger in front of everyone. Her mother then has to send her to go live with her aunt. And while Zora expects that the living arrangements in the west will be different and the work will be hard, she had no idea that she would be living in a one-room hut, and doing chores like making her own soap.
It turns out the guy Zora kissed at the dance, followed her to the west because he was already in love with her before they kissed. Too bad for him, Zora refuses to barely look at any males and spends a lot of her time focused on her dead fiancé. Or at least that is what she keeps telling herself to do whenever Emerson is near by. On her initial carriage ride to her aunt’s, Zora’s carriage is robbed, and instead of letting it all happen quietly like the rest of the carriage, Zora is foolishly brave and stands up for herself (and well, her belongings –mostly non-profitable memories of her dead boyfriend). The carriage then decides to leave her stranded. After walking for some time, with nothing, Zora is picked up by Emerson who saves the day.
Too bad the whole world seems to hate Emerson (particularly Zora’s aunt, who runs him away with her shotgun when he drops Zora off). The people in town think of him as a robber because he cheated people on land when people first arrived out west. Though, if it weren’t for Emerson, Zora would never have realized her supernatural ability to find water. She told him his well was in the wrong spot and when he jokingly asked her where it should be, she told him and it turned out she was right. And as the story moves forward and Zora learns to live along with her grief, learns to work hard, and learns to love her aunt and little cousin, she learns how to use her gift. She also learns that Emerson has an ability of his own. He’s really good at growing things, unnaturally good at it. He helps Zora’s garden grow in return for helping him with his water situation.
When Zora’s aunt realizes her skill, Zora is convinced to go around town to tell people where to dig their wells (for a fee of course!) And even though Zora knows how well going around town with a “magical” ability worked out for her cousin, she does it because her aunt really needs to the money to buy a cow.
There’s a small smidgen of magic, lots of grief, some wonderful new characters, a western lifestyle rarely mentioned in YA, more fires, some Western style land disputes, fights, and lots of love. The love and romance in this book is the slow developing kind, the kind where the characters really learn a lot about each other before diving into anything. Zora outright refuses to fall for Emerson’s charms until he tells her his story. And even though the guy who followed her cross country after a single kiss pretty much announces his intent to marry her, Zora refuses to take an easy out. She chooses love over comfort and money.
And I just love how much spunk Zora has! She never backs down in a fight. She refuses to let thieves get away with stealing! She cheats a cheater with her powers. She uses her abilities to help her family. She loves her family more than anything. And she adapts to a completely different kind of lifestyle without even trying. She’s brave and so strong in her convictions about what is right. I also loved Emerson and his rough kind of honesty. I loved Zora’s aunt and how strong she was too, barely older than Zora and raising a child on her own in terrible circumstances.
The best part though is the writing. Mitchell wrote about this setting and this time period so beautifully! Everything just flowed. And it was so easy to get lost in the language and the time of this story. The little supernatural elements blended in nicely and I liked that they were not the major focus of the book. I was really impressed with this. I loved the ending! There was a definite cliffhanger with hints of a book 3 that will include characters from both novels. I give this one a 10/10. I loved it.