Wed, September 17, 2014

Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White Review

Illusions of Fate book cover

Illusions of Fate book cover

Illusions of Fate
By Kiersten White
Publication date: Sept. 9, 2014
Harper Teen, 288 pages
Source: Publisher

Downton Abbey meets Cassandra Clare in this lush, romantic fantasy from New York Times bestselling author Kiersten White.

“I did my best to keep you from crossing paths with this world. And I shall do my best to protect you now that you have.”

Jessamin has been an outcast since she moved from her island home of Melei to the dreary country of Albion. Everything changes when she meets Finn, a gorgeous, enigmatic young lord who introduces her to the secret world of Albion’s nobility, a world that has everything Jessamin doesn’t—power, money, status…and magic. But Finn has secrets of his own, dangerous secrets that the vicious Lord Downpike will do anything to possess. Unless Jessamin, armed only with her wits and her determination, can stop him.

Kiersten White captured readers’ hearts with her New York Times bestselling Paranormalcy trilogy and its effortless mix of magic and real-world teenage humor. She returns to that winning combination of wit, charm, and enchantment in Illusions of Fate, a sparkling and romantic new novel perfect for fans of Cassandra Clare, The Madman’s Daughter, and Libba Bray.

— Goodreads.com description

Illusions of Fate reveals quite a different side of author Kiersten White — where her Paranormalcy trilogy is effervescent and funny, this new venture is mature and dark.

Which is really great. I appreciate an author who tries something new and takes risks and, you know what a big risk is? HISTORICAL FANTASY! Whaaaaat! It was a cool mix.

And — hello — main character Jessamin is a person of color. It’s nice to see some diversity for once in YA.

But my favorite favorite favorite part of the book? Eleanor, an unforgettable best friend, written in that Kiersten White voice we’ve all come to love. She is such a standout.

So, yes, some exciting stuff. But, big ole warning: The book gets off to a weird start — the two main characters meet in a really bizarro way that totally turned me off. Honestly, I put the book down twice before it sucked me in.

I never 100% recovered from that awkward first start in terms the romance stuff — I think you’ll either love Finn or hate him. I definitely see his faults…but whatever, I totally swooned when he and Jessamin were together. I have no spine.

Another bummer was the big “reveal.” I didn’t quite guess it, but let’s just say things were tied up in a quick and pretty predictable way.

Clearly not a favorite-of-all-time read for me, but Illusions of Fate is definitely a book this serial book quitter is glad she gave another try.

Anna Reads young adult book blog

Posted by: Anna   •   In: fantasy, historical, kiersten white, romance
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Mon, September 15, 2014

Rites of Passage by Joy N. Hensley Review

Rites of Passage book cover

Rites of Passage book cover

Rites of Passage
By Joy N. Hensley
Publication date: Sept. 9, 2014
Harper Teen, 416 pages
Source: Publisher

Sam McKenna’s never turned down a dare. And she’s not going to start with the last one her brother gave her before he died.

So Sam joins the first-ever class of girls at the prestigious Denmark Military Academy. She’s expecting push-ups and long runs, rope climbing and mud-crawling. As a military brat, she can handle an obstacle course just as well as the boys. She’s even expecting the hostility she gets from some of the cadets who don’t think girls belong there. What she’s not expecting is her fiery attraction to her drill sergeant. But dating is strictly forbidden and Sam won’t risk her future, or the dare, on something so petty…no matter how much she wants him.

As Sam struggles to prove herself, she discovers that some of the boys don’t just want her gone—they will stop at nothing to drive her out. When their petty threats turn to brutal hazing, bleeding into every corner of her life, she realizes they are not acting alone. A decades-old secret society is alive and active… and determined to force her out.
At any cost.

Now time’s running short. Sam must decide who she can trust…and choosing the wrong person could have deadly consequences.

— Goodreads.com description

If Rites of Passage doesn’t have a sequel — or even a novella followup — I’ll scream. And right now, I don’t see one listed on Goodreads.

Yup, it was THAT good for 3/4 but also THAT abrupt and torturous of an ending. Which makes me not even know how to respond to the book as a whole…gah!

I loved the storyline — it’s very much a better, more grownup Cadet Kelly. (Please tell me someone else gets this reference!)

And I liked Sam. Her tenacity and those who supported her really shined in Rites of Passage.

As upsetting as it was to read, I also think Hensley did a really great job detailing how ridiculously intense and, yes, literally torturous things got for Sam.

It’s the type of book you flinch at and devour and can’t put down…but lord, there had better be a sequel or I can’t even…

Anna Reads young adult book blog

Posted by: Anna   •   In: angst, boarding school, joy hensley, romance, torture
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Tue, September 9, 2014

A Little Something Different by Sandy Hall Review

A Little Something Different book cover

A Little Something Different book cover

A Little Something Different
By Sandy Hall
Publication date: Aug. 26, 2014
Swoon Reads, 272 pages
Source: Library

The creative writing teacher, the delivery guy, the local Starbucks baristas, his best friend, her roommate, and the squirrel in the park all have one thing in common—they believe that Gabe and Lea should get together. Lea and Gabe are in the same creative writing class. They get the same pop culture references, order the same Chinese food, and hang out in the same places. Unfortunately, Lea is reserved, Gabe has issues, and despite their initial mutual crush, it looks like they are never going to work things out. But somehow even when nothing is going on, something is happening between them, and everyone can see it. Their creative writing teacher pushes them together. The baristas at Starbucks watch their relationship like a TV show. Their bus driver tells his wife about them. The waitress at the diner automatically seats them together. Even the squirrel who lives on the college green believes in their relationship.

Surely Gabe and Lea will figure out that they are ment to be together….

— Goodreads.com description

Quirky and so so so adorable, A Little Something Different is just the book I needed to get me in a good mood.

Reading this story felt like being part of a fandom — not only are you, as the reader, rooting for Gabe and Lea to get together, but every narrator (from their families, teachers and friends to a bench and even a squirrel) is rooting for them as well. Now THIS is the way to do multiple points-of-view!

The college setting felt so spot-on it made me want to throw on an ILLINI hoodie and start tailgating. Ahhh, memories.

You guys, this book is a delight on all fronts. When you want a romantic but unique pick-me-up read, this one is a must.

Anna Reads young adult book blog

Posted by: Anna   •   In: romance, sandy hall
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Thu, September 4, 2014

The Jewel by Amy Ewing Review

The Jewel book cover

The Jewel book cover

The Jewel
By Amy Ewing
Publication date: Sept. 2, 2014
HarperTeen, 358 pages
Source: Publisher

The Jewel means wealth. The Jewel means beauty. The Jewel means royalty. But for girls like Violet, the Jewel means servitude. Not just any kind of servitude. Violet, born and raised in the Marsh, has been trained as a surrogate for the royalty—because in the Jewel the only thing more important than opulence is offspring.

Purchased at the surrogacy auction by the Duchess of the Lake and greeted with a slap to the face, Violet (now known only as #197) quickly learns of the brutal truths that lie beneath the Jewel’s glittering facade: the cruelty, backstabbing, and hidden violence that have become the royal way of life.

Violet must accept the ugly realities of her existence… and try to stay alive. But then a forbidden romance erupts between Violet and a handsome gentleman hired as a companion to the Duchess’s petulant niece. Though his presence makes life in the Jewel a bit brighter, the consequences of their illicit relationship will cost them both more than they bargained for.

— Goodreads.com description

BOOK MATH! The Jewel = The Winner’s Curse (slavery) + Eve (girls forced into surrogacy) + The Selection (really wonky social classes).

Things sort of evened out for me on The Jewel in terms of things I liked I things I didn’t. Let’s break it down…

Things I liked:
– Forbidden loooove
– Annabelle and Raven are AMAZING female friends to Violet

Things I didn’t like:
– Instalove
– Too many evil people! So depressing and scary!

The tie-breaker? A big-ole cliffie that recaptured my interest! Which I think pushed me over to the side of “liked it.” What about you? Do you like any of the books in my “book math”? Will you read this one?

Anna Reads young adult book blog

Posted by: Anna   •   In: amy ewing, dystopian, friendship, romance
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Wed, August 27, 2014

Can’t Look Away by Donna Cooner Review

Can't Look Away book cover

Can't Look Away book cover

Can’t Look Away
By Donna Cooner
Publication date: Aug. 26, 2014
Point, 272 pages
Source: Publisher

Donna Cooner establishes herself as our own Jodi Picoult in this timely tale of sisters, loss, and redemption.

Torrey Grey is famous. At least, on the internet. Thousands of people watch her popular videos on fashion and beauty. But when Torrey’s sister is killed in an accident — maybe because of Torrey and her videos — Torrey’s perfect world implodes.

Now, strangers online are bashing Torrey. And at her new school, she doesn’t know who to trust. Is queen bee Blair only being sweet because of Torrey’s internet infamy? What about Raylene, who is decidedly unpopular, but seems accepts Torrey for who she is? And then there’s Luis, with his brooding dark eyes, whose family runs the local funeral home. Torrey finds herself drawn to Luis, and his fascinating stories about El dio de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead.

As the Day of the Dead draws near, Torrey will have to really look at her own feelings about death, and life, and everything in between. Can she learn to mourn her sister out of the public eye?

— Goodreads.com description

I adored Donna Cooner’s Skinny (click to read my review) and was thrilled that I enjoyed Don’t Look Away just as much.

This book is about Torrey, a popular beauty vlogger who has quite a bit to deal with: a backstabbing ex-bestie, a new school, haters on the Internet, a struggling mother and, most of all, the recent death of her little sister.

Despite the serious subject matter, in reading over my notes, I used the word “adorable” an awful lot. LUIS! It’s all his fault!

Torrey, meanwhile, gosh what a SNOB. This book has a lot of mean girl action, but I enjoyed watching Torrey turn the other cheek, see herself and her actions more clearly and begin to work through her grief.

And I thought it was really interesting and unique how Cooner used the Day of the Dead motif to help Torrey heal.

Two books in, I can definitely say I’m a big fan of Cooner’s work. Fans of contemps, especially with interest in grief and/or Internet fame/bullying, you’ll like this.

Anna Reads young adult book blog

Posted by: Anna   •   In: death, donna cooner, family, mean girls, romance
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