Review: Over You by Amy Reed

Over You coverTitle: Over You

Author: Amy Reed

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Release Date: June 4th, 2013

Interest: Contemp / Mythology / Author

Source: ARC gifted from a friend

Summary (From Goodreads):

Max would follow Sadie anywhere, so when Sadie decides to ditch her problems and escape to Nebraska for the summer, it’s only natural for Max to go along. She is Sadie’s confidante, her protector, and her best friend. This summer will be all about them. This summer will be perfect.

But that’s before they meet Dylan.

Dylan is dangerous and intoxicating, and he awakens something in Max that she never knew existed. No matter how much she wants to, she can’t back away.

But Sadie has her own intensity, and has never allowed Max to become close with anyone else. And Max doesn’t know who she is without Sadie.

There are some problems you just can’t escape.

This is one of those books that I’m afraid I won’t do justice in my review.  Over You by Amy Reed is a very smart book that deserves more attention.  It’s the first book of Amy Reed’s that I’ve read, even though I have two of her other books in my class library, but I’ll definitely be reading all of her books now.

I’m not always sure when to describe a book as being literary, but I feel comfortable describing Over You this way.  Amy Reed juxtaposes multiple mythological allusions with different parts in the story to compliment what’s happening with Max and Sadie or how her characters are feeling.  This mythological tie-in is what originally caught my attention about this book.  One of the project options for my YA Lit II class requires students to read YA mythology books and study the myths included.  I loved the idea of sharing a contemporary realistic title with them that’s suitable for that project.  Amy Reed’s inclusion of mythology really works for this story and adds rich layers to the characters.  Besides the mythology, there’s also beautiful uses of imagery, similes, metaphors, etc.  The perspective of the story makes it seem like Max is writing to Sadie or speaking to Sadie, by saying things like “we” and “you”, which took me a bit to get accustomed to, but I ended up enjoying it.

There are plenty of conflicts in this book, but deep down I was interested in Max’s character development.  Obviously she isn’t going to develop as a character without the conflicts, but more than anything I liked being in her head.  She’s defined herself through Sadie, so when she’s finally released from Sadie’s influence, Max gets to find out who she really is and what she likes/dislikes.  This is incredibly hard for her to do.  She feels guilty, but she’s also excited.  Her highs and lows kept me reading because they’re real.  I never felt like they were over-exaggerated or unbelievable.  She very much reminds me of Grace in Like Mandarin by Kirsten Hubbard.  If you haven’t read that yet, I really hope you move it up in your TBR pile.  Over You is an excellent read alike to Like Mandarin.  The characters and their conflicts are similar and will resonate with readers.

I had a difficult time liking Sadie.  She’s lost just like Max, and much of it has to do with her parents (her mother in particular), but her character irritated me.  But honestly, I think we’re supposed to feel that way.  Max often feels that way.  Sadie is needy, immature, and manipulative.  But she’s also like family to Max.  I can see why Max cares so deeply for her.  I’m not exactly sure if Max’s feelings for Sadie are romantic because there are two scenes in particular that left me thinking that, but it really isn’t the point–or at least I don’t think it is.  Max is bi-sexual, but it isn’t really a core issue in the story.  Whether Max loves Sadie in a romantic sense or not, it doesn’t matter because so much of this story is about Max and Sadie’s friendship in general.  It’s about Max finding herself without Sadie.

There’s more that I could probably say about Over You and Amy Reed’s writing, but I’m going to stop because I feel like I’m rambling or about to start.  I’m so happy I finally read one of Amy Reed’s books and can’t wait to read the rest of them.

Waiting on Wednesday–The Chaos of Stars by Kiersten White

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine.  It’s designed for bloggers to spotlight the upcoming releases that they simply can’t wait to read.

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The Chaos of Stars, you had me at Egyptian gods.  The addition of ominous dreams sealed the deal.  I definitely want to read this new book by Kiersten White.

The Chaos of StarsTitle & Author: The Chaos of Stars by Kiersten White

Release Date: September 10th, 2013

Publisher: HarperTeen

Summary (From Goodreads):

Isadora’s family is seriously screwed up.

Of course, as the human daughter of Egyptian gods, that pretty much comes with the territory. She’s also stuck with parents who barely notice her, and a house full of relatives who can’t be bothered to remember her name. After all, they are going to be around forever—and she’s a mere mortal.

Isadora’s sick of living a life where she’s only worthy of a passing glance, and when she has the chance to move to San Diego with her brother, she jumps on it. But Isadora’s quickly finding that a “normal” life comes with plenty of its own epic complications—and that there’s no such thing as a clean break when it comes to family. Much as she wants to leave her past behind, she can’t shake the ominous dreams that foretell destruction for her entire family. When it turns out there may be truth in her nightmares, Isadora has to decide whether she can abandon her divine heritage after all.

Waiting on Wednesday–Antigoddess by Kendare Blake

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine.  It’s designed for bloggers to spotlight the upcoming releases that they simply can’t wait to read.

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Because of Anna Dressed in Blood, Kendare Blake has established herself as an author I will automatically read.  I love Greek mythology, so I’m extra excited to read Antigoddess.

AntigoddessTitle & Author: Antigoddess by Kendare Blake

Release Date: September 10th, 2013

Publisher: Tor Teen

Summary (From Goodreads):

Old Gods never die…

Or so Athena thought. But then the feathers started sprouting beneath her skin, invading her lungs like a strange cancer, and Hermes showed up with a fever eating away his flesh. So much for living a quiet eternity in perpetual health.

Desperately seeking the cause of their slow, miserable deaths, Athena and Hermes travel the world, gathering allies and discovering enemies both new and old. Their search leads them to Cassandra—an ordinary girl who was once an extraordinary prophetess, protected and loved by a god.

These days, Cassandra doesn’t involve herself in the business of gods—in fact, she doesn’t even know they exist. But she could be the key in a war that is only just beginning.

Because Hera, the queen of the gods, has aligned herself with other of the ancient Olympians, who are killing off rivals in an attempt to prolong their own lives. But these anti-gods have become corrupted in their desperation to survive, horrific caricatures of their former glory. Athena will need every advantage she can get, because immortals don’t just flicker out.

Every one of them dies in their own way. Some choke on feathers. Others become monsters. All of them rage against their last breath.

The Goddess War is about to begin.

Blog Tour & Review: Sirenz Back in Fashion by Charlotte Bennardo & Natalie Zaman

I love Greek mythology and I love cute, funny books which is why I agreed to be part of the Sirenz Back in Fashion blog tour.  Charlotte Bennardo & Natalie Zaman released their debut, Sirenz, last spring and just this month released the sequel, Sirenz Back in Fashion.  Both books are great, so I’m excited to help promote their recent release!

Title: Sirenz Back in Fashion

Authors: Charlotte Bennardo & Natalie Zaman

Publisher: Flux

Release Date: June 8th, 2012

Interest: Sequel / Blog Tour

Source: Finished copy received from the authors for review

Summary (From the authors):

In Sirenz, boarding school roomies Meg and Shar learned the hazards of making a deal with Hades, Lord of the Underworld. The wearing of a Tiffany’s diamond ring in Sirenz Back In Fashion reactivates their contract, they find themselves back in his employ as sirens. And things are a little different this time; Shar is whisked off to the Underworld to play hostess as the dark god attempts to win her affections, while Meg is stuck topside, obligated to send spoiled rich girl Paulina Swanson to the Underworld. Hot gods, mere mortals and the Underworld have their secrets. Will Meg and Shar ever ditch Hades, and keep their wardrobes and souls intact?

First of all, if you haven’t read Sirenz yet, I think you could read Sirenz Back in Fashion with little confusion.  The authors did a nice job referencing enough from the first book, without bogging the beginning with summary, that a reader could continue with the sequel and not be confused the entire time reading.  That being said, I still think you should read Sirenz first simply because it’s such a fun book!

Sequels are always tricky to review because it’s tough avoiding spoilers, so I’m going to try my best.  First, I love that we get both Shar and Meg’s points of view in Sirenz Back in Fashion.  Their voices are so distinct that it’s never confusing when the chapter changes and the character switches.  Even when I was reading Sirenz I kept trying to determine which character was my favorite, and I still don’t know.  Shar is hilarious the way she pines over great shoes and clothes, but she’s also smart enough to get herself through tough situations.  Meg isn’t as thrilled by fashion as Shar, but she’s coming around and trying to make herself stand out a little more.  I like Meg’s character because she’s loyal and witty, much like Shar as well, and quick on her feet.  Even though these two characters are drastically different in their appearance and style, they make a good team.  The way both characters work off each other really makes their dialogue and scenes together pop.

Another plus to Sirenz Back in Fashion is the way Charlotte Bennardo and Natalie Zaman tied in Greek mythology once again.  We really get to know Hades and Persephone in Sirenz, but in the sequel we get to interact with demi-gods and other gods like Eurydice.  The gods read like modern day people as opposed to how they’re often presented now in YA mythology novels.  I don’t mind when other novels keep the gods “in character” so to speak, but I like that the authors took what they know about the different gods and used that information to form their characters.  For instance, Hermes shows up looking like a runner and Hades, like in Sirenz, is dark and handsome and alluring.  He’d need to be if he’s going to lure people to the underworld and trick them into doing things they normally wouldn’t.  It’s just a fun twist on the mythology which I enjoyed immensely.

Sirenz Back in Fashion is a sequel to Sirenz, but it’s still it’s own book and story.  The girls are tricked yet again by Hades, but this time the story has a new twist.  If you’re looking for something light-hearted and fun to read this summer, I highly suggest reading both Sirenz and Sirenz Back in Fashion because they’re quick, enjoyable reads; perfect for summer!  Greek mythology is always a hit in my classroom, so I expect this sequel to be just as popular as the first book was.

Links and About the Authors!
Nat: When not playing with pointed objects, Natalie Zaman is usually writing. She lives in central New Jersey with her family and several fine looking chickens.

Char: Lover of sparkly things, Char doesn’t have as many shoes as she’d like, but wouldn’t have time to wear them anyway with her three boys, husband, cat with issues, demented squirrels and insistent characters all demanding her time. She is represented by Natalie Lakosil of the Bradford Literary Agency and is hoping to get all her characters into print just so they’ll be quiet.

Book Trailer Thursday (69)–Of Poseidon by Anna Banks

I posted my review for Of Poseidon by Anna Banks yesterday, so I decided to feature the book trailer today.  I didn’t know there was a book trailer for her book until I went to the Fierce Reads author event and each book trailer was shown to introduce its author.  The event started with a Fierce Reads Tour trailer, so I’m featuring that as well today :)  Enjoy!

Here’s the tour trailer to start:

 

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.

 

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.

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

In My Mailbox (24)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme sponsored by The Story Siren.  It’s a way for bloggers to share what books they’ve received for review, borrowed from the library, or bought from the store.

Today’s my birthday, so I’m keeping this post short and simple! :)

Won from Good Books and Good Wine (Thank you, April!):

  • Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor (Goodreads)
  • Fury by Elizabeth Miles (Goodreads)
  • Down the Mysterly River by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham (illustrator) (Goodreads)
  • Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins (Goodreads)

Purchased:

  • I’m Not Her by Janet Gurtler (Goodreads)
  • Chain Reaction by Simone Elkeles (Goodreads)
  • Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake (Goodreads)

Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini

Josephine Angelini Starcrossed

487 pp.  HarperTeen (HarperCollins Publishers)  2011  ISBN: 978-0-06-201199-2

Interest: 2011 Debut Author

Source: Purchased at author signing

Summary (From the publisher):

How do you defy destiny?

Helen Hamilton has spent her entire sixteen years trying to hide how different she is—no easy task on an island as small and sheltered as Nantucket. And it’s getting harder. Nightmares of a desperate desert journey have Helen waking parched, only to find her sheets damaged by dirt and dust. At school she’s haunted by hallucinations of three women weeping tears of blood . . . and  when Helen first crosses paths with Lucas Delos, she has no way of knowing they’re destined to play the leading roles in a tragedy the Fates insist on  repeating throughout history.

As Helen unlocks the secrets of her ancestry, she realizes that some myths are more than just legend. But even demigod powers might not be enough to defy the forces that are both drawing her and Lucas together—and trying to tear them apart.

I went to the Dark Days of Supernatural author event at Schuler Books & Music knowing that I wanted to buy a copy of Starcrossed and get it signed.  The summary piqued my interest and the cover had me in a daze.  The picture simply doesn’t do it justice; you MUST see it in person!  The cover is like Aphrodite’s cestus, it has me completely entranced and in love.  Anyway, once I heard Josephine start speaking about how her ideas came together to write this book, I knew I was going to like it.  She told us she was thinking about what would the Illiad be like in modern day?  What if you tied in a little Romeo and Juliet?  I was with my friend who also teaches English and our wheels started turning.  Starcrossed could work as a wonderful ladder helping teens connect with those classics.

Helen’s story starts off with mystery.  She’s living with her single dad because her mom up and left.  All of the pictures are gone, but Helen does have a necklace with a heart charm that her mother gave her.  The bigger mystery at the beginning of the story is when Helen starts talking about how odd she is because she’s constantly growing taller and has more strength than normal.  The tension increases when the Delos family moves to town and Helen can’t explain why she hates Lucas so much that she wants to kill him.  Plus, there’s the whole walking through a desert in her dreams until her feet bleed while three ladies wail and cry tears of blood.  Yep, I was hooked.

I’m not an expert on mythology by any means, so I can’t say how accurate the mythology included in Starcrossed is.  I’m going to go out on a limb and say it’s pretty accurate considering Josephine’s author bio says she studied the classics and at the signing she spoke about the research she did.  It made me want to learn more about Greek mythology.  Including this history, however, didn’t make for a fast read.  I often found myself slowing my pace down and re-reading sections to make sure I understood what the characters were explaining.  The pace in which she includes it was great because I never felt like I was reading a book on Greek mythology.  Everything fit and felt like it was the right place to include some history.

There are many characters in Starcrossed to keep track of, but so worth it.  I enjoyed Helen as a character.  She isn’t very self-confident at first because she doesn’t understand what’s happening to her.  As the story continues and Helen learns more about herself, her self-confidence grows.  She’s very determined and compassionate, which I loved.  The story between Helen and Lucas had me hooked the moment they meet–it wasn’t quite the introduction I expected!  And it blossoms from there.  I’m guessing there’s going to be a sequel, and I can’t wait to see what happens between them considering the secrets and truths at the end of the book.  The supporting characters are excellent.  I especially love Ariadne and Hector.  Ari is a healer and someone Helen can confide in.  Hector is stubborn and aggressive.  Both of these characters’ traits really help drive the story forward.

My only nit-picky complaint is the length of the chapters.  Some were 30+ pages long.  I don’t know why chapter length is an issue with me, but it is.  I’m sure some readers could care less how long the chapters are, but for me and most of my students it’s an issue.  If there’s a second book, hopefully the chapters will be a little shorter.  Other than that minor detail, I really enjoyed Starcrossed.  I’m looking forward to more books by Josephine Angelini!

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