Review: Camp by Elaine Wolf

Title: Camp

Author: Elaine Wolf

Publisher: Sky Pony Press

Interest: Bullying / Mother-Daughter Relationship

Release: June 15th, 2012

Source: Finished copy received from the author

Summary (From Goodreads): Going to sleepaway camp can be one of the most wonderful experiences for a young girl. But for Amy Becker, it’s a nightmare. Amy, whose home life is in turmoil, is sent away to summer camp for the first time as a teenager. Though she swears she hates her mother, who is unduly harsh with Amy’s autistic younger brother, Amy is less than thrilled to be leaving home. When she arrives at camp, she is subjected to a horrifying initiation and bullying by Rory, the ringleader of the girls in her cabin. Then a cousin reveals dark secrets about Amy s mother, setting in motion a tragic event that changes Amy and her family forever.

CAMP is a compelling coming-of-age novel about bullying, mothers and daughters, and the collateral damage of family secrets. It’s a powerful mother-daughter story for mothers and daughters to share.

Camp by Elaine Wolf is a quiet book that will resonate with many readers.  It’s a fast read; I read it within a couple hours of starting it.  The story keeps a steady pace and held my interest from beginning to end.

Amy Becker doesn’t have a cozy life at home, at least when it comes to her mother.  From the very beginning of the book, Amy’s mother struck me as cold and distant.  Amy does, however, have a very close relationship with her brother who, even though it’s not stated, I believe has autism.  Her father tries to be loving and involved, which is why he signs Amy up for summer camp, but he can’t always do this completely since he’s often “siding” with Amy’s mother.  It’s a tense atmosphere in the Becker home.  Amy’s mother isn’t thrilled about Amy attending summer camp because her husband’s brother is running it.  This raised my first red flag because her reaction wasn’t typical; it was quite guarded and cautious.  Despite all of this, Amy doesn’t want to attend camp, mostly because she worries about her brother.

Poor Amy is at a disadvantage as soon as she gets to the bus leaving for camp.  Her aunt and uncle sent a list of things to bring, and it said nothing about clothes from home, so she’s in her camp uniform.  Lots of giggling from other campers ensues.  At this point in Camp, the reader gets to see more of Amy’s insecurities.  Amy’s mother is very concerned about appearances, so it was considered appropriate that Amy attend camp appropriately.  For a girl who didn’t want to attend camp in the first place, this is a horrible way to start that experience.  On the bus ride to camp, quite a bit of foreshadowing is included to give us an idea of the bullying Amy’s going to face.

The bullying in Camp is a prominent theme in Elaine Wolf’s novel, but it wasn’t the primary focus because all of it ties to Amy’s relationship with her mother.  It is important to note, however, that the majority of Camp takes place during Amy’s stay at summer camp and how she deals with Rory.  There were so many times while reading that I became angry because of what Amy goes through.  It was a good kind of angry though because my feelings were a direct response to the story.  Rory has some serious and disturbing issues which influence her actions.  On the other hand, I just wanted Amy to get a backbone and stand up for herself.  This is where her relationship with her mother ties in.  Amy’s “bullied” by her mother on a regular basis.  Her mother fixates on Amy’s appearance and weight.  She makes comments about Amy needing to lose weight, especially if she wants boys to pay attention to her.  Amy feels like she can’t do anything to make her mother happy, and almost the entire time she’s at camp she’s “hearing” her mother’s criticisms and judgments.  How can Amy possibly stand up to Rory when she can’t stand up to her mother?

Camp becomes more complex as serious family secrets are revealed, mainly about Amy’s mother.  We get more insight to her background and why she’s so cold.  The only problem I had with this, is that many of the major secrets are revealed at the end of the book.  I know, it makes sense for secrets to be revealed at the end, but the way they were revealed didn’t work for me.  Without spoiling the book, something goes on with Amy’s mother and the Beckers which instigates the revelations.  It felt like this portion of the book was rushed, or like some parts were added to the story for convenience (primarily regarding Amy’s mother).  These are my only qualms with Camp.

Camp by Elaine Wolf is definitely a book that should be read and discussed.  It’s intense, surprising, and chock full of emotion.  It could easily be added to units on bullying and/or familial relationships.

Review: Of Poseidon by Anna Banks

Title: Of Poseidon

Author: Anna Banks

Publisher: Feiwel and Friends

Release: May 22, 2012

Interest: 2012 Debut Author

Source: Signed copy purchased at author event

Summary (From Goodreads): Galen, a Syrena prince, searches land for a girl he’s heard can communicate with fish. It’s while Emma is on vacation at the beach that she meets Galen. Although their connection is immediate and powerful, Galen’s not fully convinced that Emma’s the one he’s been  looking for. That is, until a deadly encounter with a shark proves  that Emma and her Gift may be the only thing that can save his kingdom. He needs her help–no matter what the risk.

I went to the Fierce Reads author event in Lansing on Friday planning on buying only two of the books featured.  Of Poseidon by Anna Banks was featured, and I didn’t plan on buying it because I didn’t know much about it and I’m not always sure about “mermaid books.”  Once it was Anna Banks‘ turn to discuss her book, however, my plans changed.  She started out saying that she wanted to write a Sasquatch love story but didn’t think the world was ready for that yet.  I knew at that moment that I wanted to read her book.  Her sense of humor only continued to get better and by the end of the event my friend who came with me and I decided that we were reading Of Poseidon first.

When I began reading Of Poseidon I could easily hear Anna Banks’ voice and sense of humor coming through.  This book isn’t a laugh riot or anything, but it’s extremely entertaining and full of moments that made me snort with laughter, as unattractive as that is.  The blend of romance, mythology, mystery, and humor makes Of Poseidon a book that’s difficult to put down.  Another appealing aspect to Banks’ debut is that the chapters alternate between Emma and Galen’s points of view, but Emma’s is told in first person and Galen’s is told in third person.  It took me a second to realize that shift from first to third person point of view, but it never bothered me like third person will sometimes.

The characters in Of Poseidon are endearing and really come alive on the page.  I love Emma’s witty sense of humor and how awkward and clumsy she can be, but also how smart she is too.  Understanding her Gift isn’t easy at first, especially since her feelings for Galen keep distracting her.  Galen is really protective of Emma because he’s drawn to her, but also because she and her Gift are so important to the Syrena (don’t call them mermaids).  It’s refreshing that while Galen is protective of Emma, she isn’t completely submissive and he isn’t overbearing.  The tension between these two characters is palpable and had me saying out loud, “Just kiss her already!”  I even texted my friend that while I was reading because I knew she was ahead of me in the story.  Galen’s sister Rayna and her “mate” Toraf are fun minor characters.  They add that extra bit of humor and intrigue that made Of Poseidon so much fun to read.

I do need to warn you though.  Anna Banks left her readers with a crazy cliffhanger!  I’ve already written it down as an ARC to look for at NCTE this fall.  I’ve made a number of predictions about the ending and what’s going to happen next, so hopefully I’ll be lucky and get to read an ARC.

If you’re looking for a light, engrossing book to read this summer, I highly recommend picking up Of Poseidon by Anna Banks.

Book Trailer Thursday (62)–Struck by Jennifer Bosworth

I’m getting ready to start reading Struck by Jennifer Bosworth, so I was pretty darn excited to see the trailer.  The cover for this book is really cool, and even though it has a girl on the cover, I think my guys in class will read it without hesitation.  The whole premise sounds fun and exciting, and the now the trailer has left me wanting to read it even more.  A lightning addict?  What a concept!  I’m wondering if Mia will be like Storm from X-Men (probably my favorite comic book series).

What do you think of the trailer?  Is Struck part of your TBR list?  If you’ve read it already I’d love to know what you think!

Struck Book CoverSummary (From Goodreads): Mia Price is a lightning addict. She’s survived countless strikes, but her craving to connect to the energy in storms endangers her life and the lives of those around her.

Los Angeles, where lightning rarely strikes, is one of the few places Mia feels safe from her addiction. But when an earthquake devastates the city, her haven is transformed into a minefield of chaos and danger. The beaches become massive tent cities. Downtown is a crumbling wasteland, where a traveling party moves to a different empty building each night, the revelers drawn to the destruction by a force they cannot deny. Two warring cults rise to power, and both see Mia as the key to their opposing doomsday prophecies. They believe she has a connection to the freak electrical storm that caused the quake, and to the far more devastating storm that is yet to come.

Mia wants to trust the enigmatic and alluring Jeremy when he promises to protect her, but she fears he isn’t who he claims to be. In the end, the passion and power that brought them together could be their downfall. When the final disaster strikes, Mia must risk unleashing the full horror of her strength to save the people she loves, or lose everything.

 

Review: Something Like Normal by Trish Doller

Title: Something Like Normal

Author: Trish Doller

Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s Books

Release Date: June 19th, 2012

Interest: 2012 Debut Author / Guy appeal

Source: E-book ARC received via NetGalley

Summary (From Goodreads): When Travis returns home from a stint in Afghanistan, his parents are splitting up, his brother’s stolen his girlfriend and his car, and he’s haunted by nightmares of his best friend’s death. It’s not until Travis runs into Harper, a girl he’s had a rocky relationship with since middle school, that life actually starts looking up. And as he and Harper see more of each other, he begins to pick his way through the minefield of family problems and post-traumatic stress to the possibility of a life that might resemble normal again. Travis’s dry sense of humor, and incredible sense of honor, make him an irresistible and eminently lovable hero.

I’ve read quite a few rave reviews for Trish Doller’s debut Something Like Normal, so I looked it up on NetGalley to request a copy.  As soon as I received the approval email I downloaded Something Like Normal to my Kindle and started reading.  If I hadn’t started it while visiting my grandpa in the hospital, I would have finished this in one sitting because it’s that good.  If I could get away with writing a review that says “READ IT!” I would just do that because it’s hard to form words for such a wonderful story.

Over the years I’ve learned about myself that if I can’t connect with a character then I won’t enjoy the book.  I’ve also learned that I mostly prefer first-person point of view.  Something Like Normal fits both of those preferences, plus it features a male protagonist which is something I’m always looking for.  Travis is on leave from the Marines and he’s really suffering after witnessing the death of his close friend Charlie.  He’s also dealing with coming home to a family that’s been falling apart since his deployment.  I really like that Trish Doller wrote Travis the way she did because he’s not written as a hero.  He’s written as a suffering young man who’s trying to recover and make amends.  He’s trying to become a better man, a man he can be proud of.  I can see a number of teenage guys relating to Travis, especially if they’re considering joining the Marines or another part of the armed forces.  Many of my seniors that enlist do so because they hope it will shape them into a better person; they hope it will provide some guidance in life.  Travis says he really doesn’t know why he joined, but his character made me think of past seniors I had in class that enlisted because they wanted guidance or a sense of direction in their lives.  I always appreciate a story with a hero, but there’s something about a story with a flawed character that a reader can’t help but love.  Travis’s voice is real and authentic; it’s how I imagine many teenage guys think and feel and act.

I’ve noticed that more Y.A. novels are featuring characters who have graduated from high school.  I hope to see more published like this because it’s an excellent way for upperclassman to relate to what’s in their future.  It’s also a way to keep teens reading Y.A. beyond high school.  Even though Travis is done with school and has been in situations and done and witnessed things most adults never will, he’s still dealing with family drama and common relationship insecurities/dilemmas.  I doubt Travis returned home expecting to fall for a girl, especially when his ex-girlfriend has moved on to his brother.  His life is complicated, but after running into Harper everything starts to turn around.  As I was reading Something Like Normal, I didn’t know what to expect from Harper, but I ended up loving her character.  Really, I love Travis and Harper together as a couple.  They form the kind of relationship where they work off each other.  They mesh in that perfect, awkward, kind of rough around the edges way, but those edges begin to smooth over.  Travis isn’t perfect, far from it actually, but his effort to become better is endearing.  We see these efforts in his relationship with his mother and with Harper.  Both of these women make Travis want to become a better person which is when we see the rough edges smooth over.

Trish Doller includes flashbacks and nightmares in Something Like Normal which give us an idea of the suffering and experiences Travis goes through.  I appreciate these scenes for two reasons.  My first reason is because it breaks up the family and relationship drama Travis is going through at home.  I know many readers enjoy romance and relationship issues in the books they read, but for the readers that want a little less of that, these flashbacks and nightmares will add a welcome break.  The second reason I like these scenes is because it gives us a more well-rounded idea of who Travis is and what life is like for soldiers in Afghanistan.  I can’t imagine returning home and constantly searching the floor for bombs.  Or preferring to sleep on the floor rather than my bed.  Or feeling vulnerable without my gun in my hands.  These scenes are an invaluable layer to the story.

My only issue with Something Like Normal is that I’m done reading it and I don’t have another book by Trish Doller to read next.  I feel like I haven’t expressed enough how completely fantastic this debut is.  There isn’t anything I disliked or would change.  It’s an engrossing story that I predict will be a huge hit in my classroom.  Actually, I wish it released earlier than June 19th so my current students could read it since I don’t have a physical ARC to share with them.

Review: Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters by Meredith Zeitlin

Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters CoverTitle: Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters, 288 pages

Author: Meredith Zeitlin

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons

Release Date: March 1st, 2012

Interest: 2012 Debut Author / Humor

Source: ARC received from the publisher

Summary (From Goodreads): Kelsey Finkelstein is fourteen and FRUSTRATED. Every time she tries to live up to her awesome potential, her plans are foiled – by her impossible parents, her annoying little sister, and life in general. But with her first day of high school coming up, Kelsey is positive that things are going to change. Enlisting the help of her three best friends — sweet and quiet Em, theatrical Cass, and wild JoJo — Kelsey gets ready to rebrand herself and make the kind of mark she knows is her destiny.

Things start out great – her arch-nemesis has moved across the country, giving Kelsey the perfect opportunity to stand out on the soccer team and finally catch the eye of her long-time crush. But soon enough, an evil junior’s thirst for revenge, a mysterious photographer, and a series of other catastrophes make it clear that just because KELSEY has a plan for greatness… it doesn’t mean the rest of the world is in on it.

Kelsey’s hilarious commentary throughout her disastrous freshman year will have you laughing out loud—while being thankful that you’re not in her shoes, of course…

I teach mostly freshmen every year, so when Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters was pitched to me I knew it would be a good fit.  I saw the book trailer before I read the book, and after watching it I knew I needed to read Meredith Zeitlin’s debut right away.  Kelsey Finkelstein is melodramatic, and I loved it!  I couldn’t get enough of Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters; I started it and finished it in one day.

Kelsey Finkelstein is now one of my favorite snarky characters.  Like I said, she’s incredibly melodramatic.  Like many of the girls in my freshmen classes, and very much like I was at fourteen, Kelsey makes seemingly insignificant things into a big deal.  One example of this is how upset she gets over the mysterious photographer that keeps including less than flattering pictures of her in the school newspaper.  I enjoyed her reactions to these pictures because most of them aren’t even actually of Kelsey, but she’s usually in the background.  Of course Kelsey’s mortified and her friends won’t let her live the pictures down.  I know I’d feel the exact same way, especially about the picture where she looks like a cafeteria worker.  I really liked everything about Kelsey.  She doesn’t always make the best decisions, but she still faces consequences in one fashion or another.  Even the way she describes things is enjoyable.  Kelsey has a little sister named Travis who she finds incredibly annoying.  Nine pages in we meet Travis and Cassidy, one of Kelsey’s best friends, is cooing over Travis’s pajamas.  “‘You look so adorable! What a Twizzler?’ Oh, lord.  My sister is like a spaniel–once you feed her, she’ll never leave.”  I had already laughed a couple of times before this page, but this Kelsey quote made me snort.  The snorting and laughing continued through the entire book.

Meredith Zeitlin did a really nice job including realistic issues that not only teens face, but freshmen face as well.  In the beginning of Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters, the girls are discussing how they’re going to start their freshman year and make it the best year ever.  They’re really focused on having a good high school experience.  I’ve been working with freshmen for five years, so I know many of them have the same thoughts and feelings as Kelsey and her friends.  I see it in their faces on the first day of school.  I hear it in the halls. (My classroom doesn’t have a number next to the door, so I’m always reeling lost and frantic freshmen into my room on the first day of school.  Getting lost is one of the girls’ concerns.)  I’ve touched on some of the insecurities in regards to Kelsey and the random photos.  Kelsey and her friends worry about their appearance, losing their friends, boys, etc.  There are fights and the threat of losing a best friend, feeling disgusting and smelly while wearing protective sports padding, and the worry associated with being a bad kisser.

I’m positive that I’ll be able to hand this to most of the freshmen in my class without complaint because Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters appeals to so many readers.  My sports fans will enjoy reading about Kelsey’s soccer experiences.  My drama fans will love how everything goes down in the school’s version of Fiddler on the Roof, including a beard that looks like a “skinned rodent” and all.  My readers looking for romance will enjoy Kelsey’s highs and lows in the romance department.  And if any of my students want to read something funny, I’ll instantly think of this debut.  I’m actually really considering Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters as a read aloud at some point.

I couldn’t get enough of Meredith Zeitlin’s fabulous debut, and I look forward to reading more of her work.  Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters is a must read.

Similar Reads: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart (Frankie is another favorite snarky character) / Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins (Sophie and Kelsey have similar personalities, even though Sophie’s a witch)

 

Review: Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood

Title: Born Wicked, 330 pages

Author: Jessica Spotswood

Publisher: Putnam Juvenile

Released: February 7th, 2012

Interest: 2012 Debut Author

Source: Purchased

Summary (From Goodreads): Everybody knows Cate Cahill and her sisters are eccentric. Too pretty, too reclusive, and far too educated for their own good. But the truth is even worse: they’re witches. And if their secret is discovered by the priests of the Brotherhood, it would mean an asylum, a prison ship–or an early grave.

Before her mother died, Cate promised to protect her sisters. But with six months to choose between marriage and the Sisterhood, she might not be able to keep her word… especially after she finds her mother’s diary, uncovering a secret that could spell her family’s destruction. Desperate to find alternatives to their fate, Cate stars scouring banned books and questioning rebellious new friends, all while juggling tea parties, shocking marriage proposals, and a forbidden romance with the completely unsuitable Finn Belastra.

If what her mother wrote is true, the Cahill girls aren’t safe. Not from the Brotherhood, the Sisterhood — not even from each other.

Prepare for some gushing because I positively loved Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood!  I read a number of glowing reviews for Jessica Spotwood’s debut, but I wasn’t sure if it would work for me.  It’s weird, but even though I have a minor in history, I don’t always enjoy historical fiction.  The paranormal twist in Born Wicked really grabbed my interest, so I decided to give it a whirl.  I’m happy to say that within the first couple chapters I was hooked!

Jessica Spotswood has written a novel with lush imagery.  The Cahill sisters live outside of town in the country.  Cate loves to be outside working in her garden, so we get wonderful descriptions of the roses, the trees, and the rest of her garden.  Cate and her sisters often practice their magic in the rose garden, so I often felt like the setting was another character in the novel.  Much of the story takes place in the fall, but with the girls’ magic it often transformed into a spring garden.  I’m always impressed when an author takes the time to describe the setting, especially when this is done without being verbose.  I love the late 1800s time period; Cate’s world is one I’d like to spend a day in.

Like I said, I’m not always instantly drawn to historical fiction, but Born Wicked had me captivated.  A  number of my students really enjoy historical fiction, but it isn’t as popular as paranormal fantasy.  The easy blend of these two genres in Born Wicked could easily appeal to both my historical fiction fans and paranormal fantasy fans.  I’m actually really considering using this debut in my Young Adult II class which will focus on the study of different genres.

I’ve never read Sense and Sensibility, but I love the movie with Kate Winslet and Emma Thompson.  I bring this up because I kept thinking of this movie while I was reading Born Wicked.  The Cahill sisters reminded me of the Dashwood sisters because both sets of sisters are in need of finding a good husband.  The restraints are similar in the sense that they need to marry well-off men, appearances are everything, and women don’t hold much power.  Born Wicked is similar in this regard, but the added supernatural twist and the lore of the Brotherhood and Sisterhood really add to the plot.  Because Cate and her sisters are witches, they are even more intimidated by the Brotherhood because they know they’ll be severely punished if their secret is discovered.  It’s not easy being witches, especially since they’ve grown even more into their powers since their mother’s death.  There are so many secrets and suspicions that really drive Jessica Spotswood’s novel.  Cate doesn’t have many marriage prospects because she’s more concerned with protecting her sisters, but if she doesn’t choose soon she’ll either have a husband chosen for her by the Brotherhood, or she can join the Sisterhood.  Because both groups focus so much on religion and are against witchery, neither options are very appealing to Cate.  It doesn’t take long for some very interesting options to become available and some very unsettling secrets to be unveiled.

I couldn’t put Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood down, and then when it ended I couldn’t believe it.  There’s a jaw-dropping ending that has left me feeling desperate for the second book in the series.  The world of YA is saturated with paranormal fantasy, but Born Wicked is not one to pass up or ignore.  I highly recommend reading it as soon as possible!

Review: Embrace by Jessica Shirvington

Title: Embrace, 367 pages

Author: Jessica Shirvington

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Release Date: March 6, 2012

Interest: 2012 Debut Author

Source: ARC received at NCTE

Summary (From Goodreads): It starts with a whisper: “It’s time for you to know who you are…”

Violet Eden dreads her seventeenth birthday. After all, it’s hard to get too excited about the day that marks the anniversary of your mother’s death. As if that wasn’t enough, disturbing dreams haunt her sleep and leave her with very real injuries. There’s a dark tattoo weaving its way up her arms that wasn’t there before.

Violet is determined to get some answers, but nothing could have prepared her for the truth. The guy she thought she could fall in love with has been keeping his identity a secret: he’s only half-human—oh, and same goes for her.

A centuries-old battle between fallen angels and the protectors of humanity has chosen its new warrior. It’s a fight Violet doesn’t want, but she lives her life by two rules: don’t run and don’t quit. When angels seek vengeance and humans are the warriors, you could do a lot worse than betting on Violet Eden…

I’ve read quite a few paranormal angel novels, and while I’ve enjoyed many of them, too many of them follow the same plot.  When I was speaking with the women working at the Sourcebooks booth at NCTE, I was told how awesome Embrace by Jessica Shirvington is and that I should give myself time to start it and finish it in one sitting.  Based on my past reading experiences, I’ll admit that I was hesitant to start reading Embrace, but I’m happy to report that I worried for no reason at all!  Embrace puts a fresh spin on the paranormal angel plot with a different take on the lore and a strong female protagonist.  And the women at Sourcebooks were right: I needed uninterrupted reading time because I didn’t want to put Jessica Shirvington’s debut down.

Violet is different from many of the other female protagonists in paranormal Y.A. because she’s independent and strong.  Does she feel conflicted about her purpose and her love interests?  Yes.  But she’s still smart enough to make her own decisions and own her choices, even when she makes choices that she might end up regretting.  Too many of the female protagonists in this genre fit the damsel in distress archetype.  Violet breaking that mold is probably the most refreshing part of Embrace.  She spends a large chunk of time in the novel conflicted over her feelings for Lincoln, but I never felt like she was being overly dramatic.  Violet often weighs her feelings before taking action.  She’s still a teenager, so some drama is expected, but overall I was really impressed with how she’s written.  The one flaw I found is the number of times Violet swears.  Normally that doesn’t bother me, but it didn’t feel necessary.  I’m fine with a well-placed swear word, but there were times when it felt forced or out of character for Violet.

The mystery and action are perfectly paced.  Not too much is revealed too soon or too slowly.  Readers will appreciate this because from the very beginning I was drawn in and the mystery only kept me reading and turning the pages.  There are plenty of life or death situations, mixed in with romance, intrigue, and self-realization.  There wasn’t a moment in Embrace that I was bored or feeling the need for something more.

Overall, I definitely recommend reading Jessica Shirvington’s debut.  It’s already been released in Australia, so the first three books are already finished.  This means that the books will be released within six months of each other!

Review: Everneath by Brodi Ashton

Title: Everneath, 370 pages

Author: Brodi Ashton

Publisher: Balzer + Bray (HarperCollins)

Released: January 24th, 2011

Source: ARC received at NCTE

Interest: 2012 Debut Author

Summary (From Goodreads): Last spring, Nikki Beckett vanished, sucked into an underworld known as the Everneath, where immortals Feed on the emotions of despairing humans. Now she’s returned- to her old life, her family, her friends- before being banished back to the underworld… this time forever.

She has six months before the Everneath comes to claim her, six months for good-byes she can’t find the words for, six months to find redemption, if it exists.

Nikki longs to spend these months reconnecting with her boyfriend, Jack, the one person she loves more than anything. But there’s a problem: Cole, the smoldering immortal who first enticed her to the Everneath, has followed Nikki to the mortal world. And he’ll do whatever it takes to bring her back- this time as his queen.

As Nikki’s time grows short and her relationships begin slipping from her grasp, she’s forced to make the hardest decision of her life: find a way to cheat fate and remain on the Surface with Jack or return to the Everneath and become Cole’s…

I have been a big fan of Greek mythology since it was introduced to me in my 8th grade reading class.  There’s been an influx in Greek mythology in YA, which I love.  Admittedly, Everneath was on my “maybe I’ll read it” list, but after reading a few reviews and listening to people at NCTE talk about it, I decided to give it a shot.  I was hooked right away, but about half-way through the novel, the story fell apart.

Everneath has a great hook in the prologue.  Nikki is in the Everneath with Cole, and it’s obvious that she and Cole have a strong connection for reasons unknown until later.  She’s with Cole and doesn’t seem to remember much about her life, but there’s an image of a guy that’s keeping her connected to her life before the Everneath.  She’s remembering a guy named Jack.  I loved this because I wanted to know more about how Nikki arrived at the Everneath, who Cole is and why they’re connected, what the Feed is, and who Jack is and why he’s important to her.  Brodi Ashton did a great job with the prologue and kept up that mystery by alternating between present day and Nikki’s memories of when she met Cole and ended up with him at the Everneath.

Unfortunately, my intrigue and wanting to continue reading only lasted for about half the novel.  Eventually Everneath lost momentum and my attention.  Nikki has returned from the Everneath and doesn’t remember much about her life on the Surface because even though everyone from home thinks she’s been gone for six months, that’s the equivalent of 100 years in the Everneath.  Much of the novel is about Nikki trying to get her life back and making amends for the next six months before she has to leave the Surface again.  During this time, she’s trying to gain back Jack’s trust because of her bond with him and the love she feels for him.  Cole follows Nikki back, because he wants her as his queen, but Jack is standing in his way.  This makes for the typical love triangle we find in paranormal YA, but I needed more.  I didn’t feel connected to any of the characters, so this love triangle had no effect on me as a reader.  Much of the focus of Everneath turns to Nikki’s feelings for Jack and her connection to Cole, instead of the story behind the Everneath and why Cole needs her to return.  Because I didn’t feel a connection to the characters, I needed more background about the mythology and how it connects to Nikki, Jack, and Cole.  I can’t explain why I didn’t feel for the characters, which still bothers me.  I can usually pinpoint the reason, but I’m at a loss.  The format of the story might be part of the reason because there’s no real build up; we’re thrown into Nikki’s memories about her whirl-wind connection with Cole and her friendship-turned-relationship with Jack.  It just didn’t work for me.

Like I said, I needed more Greek mythology.  I enjoy the story of Persephone, which is one of the reasons I read Everneath (**Note–After a comment I received, I should add that I know part of the myth connected to this story is about Orpheus and Eurydice**) .  The concept for this debut is intriguing, but it needed more connection with the myth.  Maybe it will be explained more in the second book, but I don’t think I’ll read the second novel because this one fell apart.  We gain more knowledge as the story continues, but at close to 400 pages, the myth needed to be explained sooner.  Also, if a novel is aiming for mystery, as a reader I don’t want to come to realizations before the characters.  At almost every twist in the story, I knew it pages before Nikki did.  Quite a few reviews have mentioned the great ending, but I saw it coming  chapters before it happened.  It’s a real let-down when I know the ending that far before it actually happens.

I’m disappointed that I didn’t fall in love with Everneath, because I really wanted to.  I’m including links to some more positive reviews so you’ll have the option for more balance if you’ve been considering this debut.

Reading Vacation

365 Days of Reading

The Brain Lair

Review: Love & Leftovers by Sarah Tregay

Sarah Tregay Love & Leftovers

448 pp.  Katherine Tegen Books (HarperCollins)

Release Date: December 27, 2011

Interest: Debut Author / Verse Novel

Source: ARC received from the publisher

Summary (From Goodreads):

My wish is to fall cranium over Converse in dizzy daydream-worthy love.

(If only it were that easy.)

Marcie has been dragged away from home for the summer—from Idaho to a family summerhouse in New Hampshire. She’s left behind her friends, a group of freaks and geeks called the Leftovers, including her emo-rocker boyfriend, and her father.

By the time Labor Day rolls around, Marcie suspects this “summer vacation” has become permanent. She has to start at a new school, and there she leaves behind her Leftover status when a cute boy brings her breakfast and a new romance heats up. But understanding love, especially when you’ve watched your parents’ affections end, is elusive. What does it feel like, really? Can you even know it until you’ve lost it?

Love & Leftovers is a beautifully written story of one girl’s journey navigating family, friends, and love, and a compelling and sexy read that teens will gobble up whole.

I always enjoy a well-written verse novel.  Some authors have a better knack for it than others; Sarah Tregay is one of those authors.  Love & Leftovers is an excellent and enjoyable debut verse novel that my students will love.

Marcie’s life has been turned upside down.  Her mother is moving her from Idaho to New Hampshire for the summer, but that becomes more permanent.  She’s away from her father and her boyfriend and her friends.  How does a teenager cope with such a sudden, life changing move?  It’s not easy for adults to endure, let alone teens.  Marcie’s mother is depressed, which has left Marcie pretty much on her own and being the adult all while trying to cope with these changes.  She feels alone and misses her life back in Idaho.

Marcie’s adorable boyfriend Linus misses her greatly and wants to make this long-distant relationship work.  I don’t know if many teens will relate to the long-distance relationship, but I know many will relate to Marcie’s uncertainty about love and what it is.  I remember thinking about this often when I was a teenager, even more when I was in college.  While Marcie is trying to regain some semblance of normal in New Hampshire, she meets the attractive and athletic J.D.  If she wasn’t doubting what love is like before, she certainly does when she meets and starts falling for J.D.  Questions about loyalty and betrayal become big issues in this first part of Love & Leftovers.  How far is too far with J.D.?  Is she betraying Linus?  Should she break it off with Linus?  Marcie’s exploration of love and lust and sexuality left me so impressed with Sarah Tregay.  It’s normal for girls to have feelings like Marcie does, and Love & Leftovers opens this up for girls to understand and relate to.

Not only was I impressed with Sarah Tregay’s writing, I was completely engrossed in her debut.  I started it later one evening and didn’t put it down or get up until I was finished.  Marcie is a wonderful, relatible character and I couldn’t get enough of her story.  I needed to know how her relationship with Linus was going to pan out because she didn’t know how to talk to him about J.D.  The first part of the novel is about her life in New Hampshire, while the second half is about her life back in Idaho.  I love when authors set novels up this way because you know right away that the story is going somewhere you’ll want to explore and know more about.  The majority of the story is about Marcie navigating love and friendship, but it’s also about her building better relationships with her father and mother.  The layers of her story are told fluidly in beautiful verse.

There are so many pieces of this novel that teens will relate to and love.  If you haven’t explored verse novels, Love & Leftovers would be a great way to introduce yourself to this style of writing.  I can’t wait to read more of Sarah Tregay’s novels.  If only it didn’t take so long to write and publish novels! 🙂

**This review has also been posted today on the Nerdy Book Club blog.**

Review: The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

Jennifer E. Smith The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight

236 pp.  Poppy (Little, Brown and Company)

Release Date: January 2, 2012

Interest: 2012 Debut Author

Source: ARC received from Jillian @ Heise Reads & Recommends

Summary (From Goodreads): Who would have guessed that four minutes could change everything?

Today should be one of the worst days of seventeen-year-old Hadley Sullivan’s life. She’s stuck at JFK, late to her father’s second wedding, which is taking place in London and involves a soon to be step-mother that Hadley’s never even met. Then she meets the perfect boy in the airport’s cramped waiting area. His name is Oliver, he’s British, and he’s in seat 18C. Hadley’s in 18A.

Twists of fate and quirks of timing play out in this thoughtful novel about family connections, second chances and first loves. Set over a 24-hour-period, Hadley and Oliver’s story will make you believe that true love finds you when you’re least expecting it.

My good friend Jillian and I hung out at the Little, Brown booth at NCTE waiting for them to break down so we could get a couple of the ARCs we had our eyes on.  The Statistical Probably of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith is the one that she was hoping for, and luckily she received the only copy.  Jillian read the entire book that night in one sitting because she loved it so much.  The next day at ALAN, she gave me the ARC so I could read it as well (thanks, Jillian!).  I started it on the train and read most of it during the ride.  I had fun reading Jennifer E. Smith’s debut, but I didn’t love it like Jillian did.  This is one of those books that I need to break it down into what worked for me and what didn’t work.

WHAT WORKED:

  • Oliver–Yep, I definitely enjoyed Oliver’s character. The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight would probably be good on audio because I’d get to hear Oliver’s British accent.  He’s just so ideal in general.  I love his wit and romantic side.
  • The scenes with Hadley and Oliver–I was instantly drawn into the story because Hadley meets Oliver early on in the book.  They have an instant chemistry that grows as they spend more time together.  I couldn’t get enough of their conversations and the tension between them.  If you enjoy a romance with characters that have an instant attraction, then I’m sure you’ll like Hadley and Oliver.

WHAT DIDN’T WORK:

  • Hadley’s conflict with her father–I was looking forward to reading The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight because I was in the mood to read a great romance.  I did get my wish when the scenes were focused on Hadley and Oliver, but so much of the book was spent with Hadley at her father’s wedding.  This element of the story made the book’s title and summary feel misleading.  If I had gone into the book wanting to read a novel about a father/daughter relationship, then I’m sure I would have enjoyed this book that much more.  In my opinion, too much time was spent with Hadley trying to deal with her father moving on to another woman and getting married.  The story would have been so much better if the focus was more on Hadley and Oliver’s blooming relationship.
  • The third-person point of view–To be honest, I prefer first-person point of view, but I still read and enjoy plenty of novels written in third-person.   The third-person is really choppy and jarring in Smith’s debut.  I found myself re-reading passages because I wasn’t sure what was going on and if we were in a flashback to when Hadley’s parents were together or not.  I’ve noticed that when other authors write in a similar manner, they’ll include a page break between these passages so the reader has a clearer signal that something is changing.  Having page breaks would have made a world of difference for me while reading.

Overall my likes and dislikes are pretty evenly balanced which is why I gave it 3 out of 5 stars and not something lower or higher.  I’m looking forward to passing The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight on to my students to find out what they think of it.  I imagine plenty of my students will love it.

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