Every Exquisite Thing

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From Goodreads: Star athlete and straight-A student Nanette O’Hare has played the role of dutiful daughter for as long as she can remember. But one day, a beloved teacher gives her his worn copy of The Bubblegum Reaper– a mysterious, out-of-print cult classic– and the rebel within Nanette awakens.

As the new and outspoken Nanette attempts to insert her true self into the world with wild abandon, she befriends the reclusive author and falls in love with a young, troubled poet. Forced to make some hard choices that bring devastating consequences, Nanette learns the hard way that rebellion can sometimes come at a high price.

This is honestly the hardest book I’ve ever tried to review. I read this book months ago. This review has been sitting in my drafts forever. I’ve written and deleted paragraph after paragraph, not quite coming up with the words I really want to use. I’m not sure why. The more I think about it, the more conflicted I am with what I want to say. I liked this book. Or at least parts of it. I remember thinking as I read and as I finished that there was so much within this book that was relatable and important. But attempting to write about the book has been a lot harder than I thought.

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As I read through, I found myself saying, “Wow! This is an amazing quote! This is such an important theme!” But when it came time to write about it… Nothing.

But I keep coming back to this review, still trying to write something about it, because I still feel like there are words in there somewhere.

(*Note– By the end, I found a lot of words. For having nothing to say, this is probably the longest review I’ve written. Be warned.

Also, there are some minor spoilers, but no major plot line reveals. So it’s semi-spoiler free?)

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The Female of the Species

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From GoodreadsAlex Craft knows how to kill someone. And she doesn’t feel bad about it. When her older sister, Anna, was murdered three years ago and the killer walked free, Alex uncaged the language she knows best. The language of violence.

While her crime goes unpunished, Alex knows she can’t be trusted among other people, even in her small hometown. She relegates herself to the shadows, a girl who goes unseen in plain sight, unremarkable in the high school hallways.

But Jack Fisher sees her. He’s the guy all other guys want to be: the star athlete gunning for valedictorian with the prom queen on his arm. Guilt over the role he played the night Anna’s body was discovered hasn’t let him forget Alex over the years, and now her green eyes amid a constellation of freckles have his attention. He doesn’t want to only see Alex Craft; he wants to know her.

So does Peekay, the preacher’s kid, a girl whose identity is entangled with her dad’s job, though that does not stop her from knowing the taste of beer or missing the touch of her ex-boyfriend. When Peekay and Alex start working together at the animal shelter, a friendship forms and Alex’s protective nature extends to more than just the dogs and cats they care for.

Circumstances bring Alex, Jack, and Peekay together as their senior year unfolds. While partying one night, Alex’s darker nature breaks out, setting the teens on a collision course that will change their lives forever.

Rarely is there a book that I’ve read lately that I’ve finished and wanted to scream “READ THIS!!!!!” at everyone I see. One that I want to carry with me at work at all times so I can hand it to every single person who asks for a recommendation. Rarely has there been a book that I’ve thought so hard about and has stayed with me for so long after I finished it. And one that is so incredibly timely in light of recent events. But here it is. Seriously. READ THIS.

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Hotel Ruby

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From Goodreads: Stay tonight. Stay forever.

When Audrey Casella arrives for an unplanned stay at the grand Hotel Ruby, she’s grateful for the detour. Just months after their mother’s death, Audrey and her brother, Daniel, are on their way to live with their grandmother, dumped on the doorstep of a DNA-matched stranger because their father is drowning in his grief.

Audrey and her family only plan to stay the night, but life in the Ruby can be intoxicating, extending their stay as it provides endless distractions—including handsome guest Elias Lange, who sends Audrey’s pulse racing. However, the hotel proves to be as strange as it is beautiful. Nightly fancy affairs in the ballroom are invitation only, and Audrey seems to be the one guest who doesn’t have an invite. Instead, she joins the hotel staff on the rooftop, catching whispers about the hotel’s dark past.

The more Audrey learns about the new people she’s met, the more her curiosity grows. She’s torn in different directions—the pull of her past with its overwhelming loss, the promise of a future that holds little joy, and an in-between life in a place that is so much more than it seems…

Welcome to the Ruby.

After Audrey’s mother dies suddenly, her family life spirals out of control. While she’s acting out, her father is closing himself off. After a wild party where Audrey loses control, her father decides to send her and her older brother Daniel to live with her grandmother. But first they stop at Hotel Ruby for the night. The hotel may be out in the middle of nowhere, but it’s far from boring. A one night stay turns into days as Audrey and her family get caught up in the hotel life and all it has to offer, including love. Maybe staying at Hotel Ruby wouldn’t be such a bad thing. After all, the motto there is Stay tonight. Stay Forever.  Continue reading

30 Second Reviews

I mentioned earlier that there were quite a few books that I read that I never wrote a review on. (Nearly a dozen…) They just sat there, mocking me, begging me to share my thoughts. And then I just gave up completely, and let them go. But some of those books were good. Some of them I want to at least acknowledge and give a nod to like a good blogger and reviewer. So here it goes. My very concise, condensed version of a book review– or as I may begin to call them, 30 second reviews.

The Wild Robot by Peter Brown

The Wild RobotFrom Goodreads: When robot Roz opens her eyes for the first time, she discovers that she is alone on a remote, wild island. Why is she there? Where did she come from? And, most important, how will she survive in her harsh surroundings? Roz’s only hope is to learn from the island’s hostile animal inhabitants. When she tries to care for an orphaned gosling, the other animals finally decide to help, and the island starts to feel like home. Until one day, the robot’s mysterious past comes back to haunt her.

This is a middle grade novel from one of my favorite children’s illustrators, Peter Brown. I was stoked when I saw that he had a novel coming out, because his picture books are some of my favorites to read during storytime at work. This one didn’t disappoint. It’s an adorable, heartfelt story about what it means to be a friend, a community, and a family. There’s action and adventure, with humor and heartbreak thrown in to round it out. With Brown’s illustrations scattered throughout, I was hooked. I loved following Roz through her journey, navigating her new home, making new friends, and finding out what it means to love.

Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke

23203106From Goodreads: Every story needs a hero.
Every story needs a villain.
Every story needs a secret.

Wink is the odd, mysterious neighbor girl, wild red hair and freckles. Poppy is the blond bully and the beautiful, manipulative high school queen bee. Midnight is the sweet, uncertain boy caught between them. Wink. Poppy. Midnight. Two girls. One boy. Three voices that burst onto the page in short, sharp, bewitching chapters, and spiral swiftly and inexorably toward something terrible or tricky or tremendous.

What really happened?
Someone knows.
Someone is lying.

This was one that sat for so long, I kind of forgot what happened. I was drawn in by the cover (how gorgeous is it??) and by others who raved about it and its plot twist. I’m a sucker for a good plot twist, so I picked it up. I remember reading it. I remember being drawn into the world and the characters. I remember thinking, “this is insane” at some parts. And then I remember not being completely blown over by the twist. It was twisty, definitely, and I didn’t see it coming, but I wrote in the notes on my phone “more of a whimper than a bang.” Still a good story though. A very quick read that I’m glad I read. Just not one of my absolute all-time favorites.

The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas

25639296From Goodreads: There are ghosts around every corner in Fayette, Pennsylvania. Tessa left when she was nine and has been trying ever since not to think about it after what happened there that last summer. Memories of things so dark will burn themselves into your mind if you let them.

Callie never left. She moved to another house, so she doesn’t have to walk those same halls, but then Callie always was the stronger one. She can handle staring into the faces of her demons—and if she parties hard enough, maybe one day they’ll disappear for good.

Tessa and Callie have never talked about what they saw that night. After the trial, Callie drifted and Tessa moved, and childhood friends just have a way of losing touch.

But ever since she left, Tessa has had questions. Things have never quite added up. And now she has to go back to Fayette—to Wyatt Stokes, sitting on death row; to Lori Cawley, Callie’s dead cousin; and to the one other person who may be hiding the truth.

Only the closer Tessa gets to the truth, the closer she gets to a killer—and this time, it won’t be so easy to run away.

This is another one that I read, then promptly forgot. Much like Wink Poppy Midnight, it was dark and twisty and you spent most of the time trying to figure out what was happening and who did what. But also like Wink Poppy Midnight, the twist came and I just didn’t care that much.

Burning by Danielle Rollins

BurningFrom Goodreads: After three years in juvie, Angela Davis is just a few months shy of release, and she’ll finally be free from the hole that is Brunesfield Correctional Facility. Then Jessica arrives. Only ten years old and under the highest security possible, this girl has to be dangerous, even if no one knows what she did to land in juvie. As strange things begin happening to Angela and her friends that can only be traced to the new girl’s arrival, it becomes clear that Brunesfield is no longer safe. They must find a way to get out, but how can they save themselves when the world has forgotten them?

This seemed like it had such potential to be a creepy psychological thriller– my FAVORITE. There were scenes that had so much creep-factor that I thought, “Wow! This is amazing!” And then it got weird. And not in a way I really enjoyed. The side characters were incredibly stereotypical–think every bad movie or show you’ve seen about prison–and the plot went in a direction that left me completely disconnected from the story. I wanted to like it from the synopsis, but… Meh.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Six of Crows (Six of Crows, #1)From Goodreads: Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone…

A convict with a thirst for revenge.
A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager.
A runaway with a privileged past.
A spy known as the Wraith.
A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums.
A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.

Kaz’s crew are the only ones who might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first.

This might turn into a bit more than a 30-second review because I can’t believe I let this book sit on my desk for as long as I did without writing about it. I LOVED this book. It’s an Ocean’s 11-style heist story set in a bit of a fantasy Russia backdrop. I was hesitant to pick it up at first because it revisits the world Bardugo created in her Grisha Trilogy (Shadow and Bone, Siege and Storm, and Ruin and Rising), which I haven’t read. I wasn’t sure if I would understand and be able to keep up in a world that I knew nothing about, but I shouldn’t have worried. It may have been helpful to read the trilogy beforehand to understand the Grisha, who they were, and the prejudice that others have against them, but it wasn’t necessary. Six of Crows stands well on its own.

When the world is threatened with destruction by what amounts to magical biological warfare, Kaz and his crew of misfits and thieves are offered a very handsome reward to essentially save the world. But in order to do that, they have to break into the most heavily guarded vault in the center of a military training facility in the most protected court in the world. And get out alive.

I want to see this as a movie, because it would be amazing. It’s gritty and dark and filled with action. At one point, I wrote in my notes, in all caps, “HOLY SHIT HE JUST _______________” I won’t spoil what happened. But it was gruesome. And it kind of sealed the deal on my love for this book. I can’t WAIT to pick up Crooked Kingdom to find out how it all ends.

Alright. That’s about half of the books that I haven’t reviewed yet.. So stay tuned for another installment of 30-second reviews!

Photo Credits: All cover photos are from Goodreads.

This is the Story of You

This is the Story of You by Beth Kephart

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On Haven, a six-mile-wide stretch of barrier island, Mira Banul and her Year-Rounder friends have proudly risen to every challenge. But when a superstorm defies all predictions and devastates the island, when it strands Mira’s mother and brother on the mainland and upends all logic, nothing will ever be as it was. A stranger appears in the wreck of Mira’s home. A friend obsessed with vanishing is gone. As the mysteries deepen, Mira must find the strength to carry on– to somehow hold her memories in place while learning to trust a radically reinvented future.

— From the book jacket of This is the Story of You

Six miles long. One-half mile wide. One school in what was once a bank. 14 kids in the class of 2016. One bridge in and out. One letter short of Heaven. One superstorm to change it all forever.

Mira has lived in Haven, a small island off the coast of New Jersey, her whole life. Living in the attic of the seaside cottage she shares with her mother and her brother, Mira enjoys the slow pace of being a Year-Rounder. Hanging out with her friends Eva and Deni, riding their “modes” from one end of the island to the other (Mira’s mode of choice– a pair of roller skates), and watching over her little brother Jasper Lee, Mira’s life on Haven is pretty normal.

When snippets of news float in about a storm out at sea, no one seems overly concerned. Haven is prepared for weather. They pride themselves on it. They’d be ready if it hits.

In the beginning it was just the beginning. The storm had no name. It was far away and nothing big, mere vapors and degrees. It was the middle-ish of September. Empty tables in restaurants, naked spaces in parking lots, cool stairs in the lighthouse shaft.

You could watch the sky, and it was yours. You could stand on the south end of the barrier beach and see Atlantic City blinking on and off like a video game. You could ride your wheels home, and the splat splat on the wide asphalt was your sweet siren song.

Everything calm. Nothing headed toward crumble.

— From the back cover of This is the Story of You

When Mira’s mother, Mickey, takes Jasper Lee to the mainland for his weekly treatments for the rare disease he was born with, Mira is left on her own. That night a mysterious stranger shows up at her door, looking for a way in. But soon the stranger is the least of her worries. The storm has also arrived, and it’s brought all its unimaginable fury with it.

In the light of morning, the devastation is clear. Mira’s home is flooded. Other homes are simply gone. Debris fills the beach and floats out to sea. People are missing, including Mira’s best friend Eva. And the bridge to the mainland–washed away. With no way to even contact the mainland, Mira has no idea how her family has fared. She’s on her own. But she’s not alone. She’s part of Haven, a community that watches out for each other.

In the days that follow the storm, there will be traedgy. There will be loss. There will be heartbreak and horror. But there will also be hope. Haven will rebuild, as it always has.

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Vanishing Girls

Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver

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Dara and Nick used to be inseparable, but that was before– before Dara kissed Parker, before Nick lost him as her best friend, before the accident that left Dara’s beautiful face scarred. Now the two sisters, who used to be close, aren’t speaking. In an instant, Nick lost everything and is determined to use the summer to get it all back.

But Dara has other plans. When she vanishes on her birthday, Nick thinks Dara is just playing around. But another girl has vanished, too– nine-year-old Madeline Snow– and as Nick pursues her sister, she becomes increasingly convinced that the two disappearances may be linked.

— From the book jacket of Vanishing Girls

Sisters Nick and Dara used to do everything together. That is until Dara started pulling away from Nick. Until she started living a life without her sister. Until she started dating Nick’s best friend, Parker. Until the drinking and the drugs and things Nick doesn’t even know about. Until the accident.

Nick doesn’t remember the accident. She doesn’t know why she was driving Dara down that rainy coastal road. She doesn’t know why her car suddenly slammed through a guardrail and hit solid rock. She’s tried to remember, but there’s nothing there. Just a blank space where the accident should be. All she knows is that in an instant, everything changed. Dara is no longer speaking to Nick, not even able to stand being in the same room with her. Nick hopes that this summer she can start to mend their broken relationship and get her sister back.

When Dara disappears on her birthday, Nick is sure that something is wrong. One girl, a nine year-old, has already gone missing, and Nick is positive the two disappearances are related. While she desperately searches for Dara in the dead of night, she realizes there’s much more to Dara’s story than she ever knew.

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I’ll Give You the Sun

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

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Jude and her twin brother, Noah, are incredibly close. At thirteen, isolated Noah draws constantly and is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude cliff-dives and wears red-red lipstick and does the talking for both of them.

But three years later, at sixteen, Jude and Noah are barely speaking. Something has happened to wreck the twins in different and dramatic ways…

— From the book jacket of I’ll Give You the Sun

I’ll Give You the Sun is the story of twins, Noah and Jude (or NoahandJude, as they often refer to themselves). Both are incredibly talented young artists–Noah draws, Jude sculpts–destined for the prestigious art school in town. When their mother is tragically killed, the twins drift further and further apart, not just from each other, but from the life they once had.

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