Waiting on Wednesday: The Things You Kiss Goodbye

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine!
___________________

Title: The Things You Kiss Goodbye
Author: Leslie Connor
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Release Date: June 24, 2014

Bettina Vasilis can hardly believe it when basketball star Brady Cullen asks her out, and she just about faints when her strict father actually approves of him.

But when school starts up again, Brady changes. What happened to the sweet boy she fell in love with? Then she meets a smoldering guy in his twenties, and this “cowboy” is everything Brady is not—gentle, caring, and interested in getting to know the real Bettina.

Bettina knows that breaking up with Brady would mean giving up her freedom—and that it would be inappropriate for anything to happen between her and Cowboy. Still, she can’t help that she longs for the scent of his auto shop whenever she’s anywhere else.

When tragedy strikes, Bettina must tell her family the truth—and kiss goodbye the things she thought she knew about herself and the men in her life.

Leslie Connor has written a lyrical, heartbreaking, and ultimately hopeful story about family, romance, and the immense power of love.

To be honest, I feel in the with the font used on the cover of The Things You Kiss Goodbye before I read the description, but the mention of a cowboy, a tragedy, and the immense power of love reminded me of my favorite things about country music and I was hooked! I’ve got high hopes for this one!

Advertisements

Review: The Beginning of Everything



Title: The Beginning of Everything 
Author: Robyn Schneider 
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins 
Pub Date: August 27, 2013
Genre: YA 
Rec. Age Level: 13+ 
More by author: The Social Climber’s Guide to High School

 Picture Me Gone

   
Ezra Faulkner had it all: gorgeous girlfriend, popularity, and athleticism and skill that held the promise of a full-ride to university. He had these things, but, after a fatal night where he first lost his girlfriend and then quickly lost everything else, Ezra’s present and future are forever altered. Enter Ezra’s one-time best friend (of roller coaster decapitation fame) and a mysterious new girl with a smile full of secrets and Ezra’s life is suddenly taking off into unforeseen directions. Maybe what seemed like the end, is really the beginning of everything.

The most common statement I’ve heard in reference to Robyn Schneider’s The Beginning of Everything is that it is perfect for John Green fans. This is absolutely true, but I also have to point out that Green’s books, while they are very good reads with fantastic characters and plots, all feel very similar to me. Robyn Schneider, on the other hand, brings many things that I love about Green’s books – male POV, sarcastic wit, nerdy romance, etc – while injecting her own voice and magic to the premise. So, yes, Green fans will enjoy The Beginning of Everything as it shares the same spirit as books like Looking for Alaska, but it is distinctly different in terms of premise than anything I’ve read from Green.

Notable Quotes:

“Life is the tragedy,” she said bitterly. “You know how they categorize Shakespeare’s plays, right? If it ends with a wedding, it’s a comedy. And if it ends with a funeral, it’s a tragedy. So we’re all living tragedies, because we all end the same way, and it isn’t with a goddamn wedding.”

 “Words could betray you if you chose the wrong ones, or mean less if you used too many. Jokes could be grandly miscalculated, or stories deemed boring, and I’d learned early on that my sense of humor and ideas about what sorts of things were fascinating didn’t exactly overlap with my friends.”

 “You have this maddening little smile sometimes, like you’ve just thought of something incredibly witty but are afraid to say it in case no one gets the joke.”

Support local and small businesses by shopping indie! Purchase this book via IndieBound using link below.
Shop Indie Bookstores

Review: Another Little Piece by Kate Karyus Quinn


The spine-tingling horror of Stephen King meets an eerie mystery worthy of Sara Shepard’s Pretty Little Liars series in Kate Karyus Quinn’s haunting debut.

On a cool autumn night, Annaliese Rose Gordon stumbled out of the woods and into a high school party. She was screaming. Drenched in blood. Then she vanished.

A year later, Annaliese is found wandering down a road hundreds of miles away. She doesn’t know who she is. She doesn’t know how she got there. She only knows one thing: She is not the real Annaliese Rose Gordon.

Now Annaliese is haunted by strange visions and broken memories. Memories of a reckless, desperate wish . . . a bloody razor . . . and the faces of other girls who disappeared. Piece by piece, Annaliese’s fractured memories come together to reveal a violent, endless cycle that she will never escape—unless she can unlock the twisted secrets of her past.

___________________________________


Kate Karyus Quinn explodes onto the YA horror scene with her compelling debut, Another Little Piece.I’m not usually one to read horror, as I’m a bit of a wimp, but I couldn’t put this book down. Scary, fast-paced, and mysterious, Another Little Piece starts with a bang and never truly slows. Readers will struggle with Annaliese as she searches for answers and be unable to look away as the answers are revealed, regardless of how creepy and bloody the answers are.

Annaliese has been missing ever since the night she got the things she desired most in the woods outside of high school party: the attention and affection of a boy who barely acknowledged her existence before she made a very special, very dark agreement. The last time anyone saw Annaliese she was drenched in blood and screaming and no one, not even Annaliese, knows what happened next. She awoke miles from home with no recollection of what happened to her and was returned home and expected to resume her life, but she doesn’t seem to recall that part of her life either. In fact, everything just feels off… She can’t even be sure she is Annaliese. She feels no connection to the girl she’s supposed to be. But if she’s not Annaliese, who is? And what happened to the real Annaliese?

This book so, so good. It has such a crazy, creative plot with lots of twists and turns and memorable characters. As I mentioned before, I don’t read much horror – I don’t even really watch scary movies – but this book had just the right amount of creepiness. There was blood and gore, not to mention some pretty scary ritualistic behavior, but it was balanced out by the other elements of the plot. There’s some romance, mystery, the complications of returning to a family that expects things of Annaliese that she has no recollection of. It’s so odd and a little bit twisted every time she calls her parents “the mom” and “the dad.” She just feels so alien, but then, all of a sudden, she seem totally normal and like any other teen. I think that’s the creepiest part of this book, never knowing just who… or what… Annaliese is.

Another Little Piece is a fantastic debut from Kate Karyus Quinn. Scary, gory, and oddly romantic with a main character readers will alternately feel drawn to and horrified by, Another Little Piece is must read addition to the YA horror genre.

Review: Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis

Regret was for people with nothing to defend, people who had no water.

Lynn knows every threat to her pond: drought, a snowless winter, coyotes, and, most importantly, people looking for a drink. She makes sure anyone who comes near the pond leaves thirsty, or doesn’t leave at all.

Confident in her own abilities, Lynn has no use for the world beyond the nearby fields and forest. Having a life means dedicating it to survival, and the constant work of gathering wood and water. Having a pond requires the fortitude to protect it, something Mother taught her well during their quiet hours on the rooftop, rifles in hand.

But wisps of smoke on the horizon mean one thing: strangers. The mysterious footprints by the pond, nighttime threats, and gunshots make it all too clear Lynn has exactly what they want, and they won’t stop until they get it….

With evocative, spare language and incredible drama, danger, and romance, debut author Mindy McGinnis depicts one girl’s journey in a barren world not so different than our own.

___________________________________

Post-apocalyptic novels are usually populated with badass characters, but, even so, Lynn from Mindy McGinnis’ Not a Drop to Drink, stands out. Raised by her mother to survive, she’s more likely to shoot first and ask questions later and quickly learns to trust no one except herself. When Lynn’s mother dies in a horrible accident, leaving Lynn completely alone, she can only rely on the lessons her mother taught her and her wits to survive. But Lynn isn’t her mother and she sees shades of gray where her mother only saw black and white. Suddenly, the  lessons she thought she could rely on to guide her actions don’t seem to apply and Lynn is a facing a whole different kind of danger: friendship, love, and duty. Lynn develops relationships that introduce her to new found emotions and an unfamiliar sense of connectedness… and, suddenly, her survival might not be the most important goal.

I immediately felt a connection with Lynn. I think I was especially drawn to her no nonsense attitude and the practical skills she’s been taught by her mother, things I feel the women in my own family also inherit from generation to generation. She’s a strong, resourceful, intelligent individual who thrives in the barren life she’s been given. She has no experience with other people, apart from her mother, yet she has an innate sense of compassion, seemingly at odds with the bleak, solitary lifestyle she’s necessarily adopted. This coupling of hardness and almost maternal softness make for a compelling mix.

Though the description of Not a Drop to Drink mentions the romantic elements of the novel, I must caution that the romance is definitely not the focus of the story. While I did enjoy this aspect of the plot, it was, overall, a side story. I have to say that I actually preferred it this way. Having Lynn fall head over heels and lose herself in her feelings for a boy wouldn’t have felt genuine. Lynn is not the type of girl to completely lose her head, in any situation. Instead, the romance functions as a way to show another side of Lynn – a side she herself didn’t even realize existed – and offers comfort and connection in a harsh, sharp-edged landscape.

While most of Not a Drop to Drink takes place in the empty wilderness, there is mention of more populated cities where things are much different than the world Lynn knows. A world where technology still exists and, at least for the wealthy, some luxuries. I’m curious to see what else we’ll learn in subsequent novels, as well as what will become of Lynn and her new family, as Not a Drop to Drink ended with some intense, game changing events. 

Mindy McGinnis has wowed me with her debut. Not a Drop to Drink introduces readers to an intense, unforgettable world and an incredibly strong main character sure to win readers’ hearts with her courage and compassion.

Review: Eat, Brains, Love by Jeff Hart


Two teenage zombies search for brains, love, and answers in this surprisingly romantic and laugh-out-loud funny debut novel with guts.

Jake Stephens was always an average, fly-under-the-radar guy. The kind of guy who would never catch the attention of an insanely popular girl like Amanda Blake-or a psychic teenage government agent like Cass. But one day during lunch, Jake’s whole life changed. He and Amanda suddenly locked eyes across the cafeteria, and at the exact same instant, they turned into zombies and devoured half their senior class.

Now Jake definitely has Amanda’s attention-as well as Cass’s, since she’s been sent on a top-secret mission to hunt them down. As Jake and Amanda deal with the existential guilt of eating their best friends, Cass struggles with a growing psychic dilemma of her own-one that will lead the three of them on an epic journey across the country and make them question what it means to truly be alive. Or undead.

Eat, Brains, Love is a heartwarming and bloody blend of romance, deadpan humor, and suspense that fans of Isaac Marion’s Warm Bodies will devour. With its irresistibly dry and authentic teen voice, as well as a zombie apocalypse worthy of AMC’s The Walking Dead, this irreverent paperback original will leave readers dying for the sequel that’s coming in Summer 2014.

___________________________________

To be honest, I expected Jeff Hart’s Eat, Brains, Love to be a bit fluffy and definitely silly… Blame this assumption on the cover. Because, while there is a certain goriness to concept of the cover, it really didn’t give me reason to assume that the book was really deal with the typical gory zombies. I will happily admit that I was completely wrong in my assumptions about Eat, Brains, Love: it’s funny, it’s romantic, and it’s gory in the very best ways.

Eat, Brains, Love is told from two different perspectives: Jake, the recently undead, and Cass, the psychic government operative who hunts the undead. Jake’s on the run with Amanda Blake, his super popular classmate, who just happened to turn zombie during the same lunch period as he did. After eating half of their friends and peers in a zombie haze, Amanda and Jake revert back to the normal, clear-headed selves with no other option but to flee. Enter Cass, who works for a secret government team that cleans up situation like the one just created by Jake and Amanda. The team tracks down and takes out the zombies, but not before altering the memories of the humans involved so they overlook that zombies exist at all. Cass has been doing this job for years and she’s proud of it – she keeps people safe and gets rid of monsters – but, with Jake, Cass finds herself doubting everything she’s always believed. Cass’s psychic abilities allow her inside Jake’s head and she’s surprised by what she finds there. Sure, he’s a zombie and he’s killed a growing number of people, but he’s also just a guy. A guy that Cass can’t help but like and who, at least most of the time, doesn’t seem like a zombie at all. While Cass struggles with her connection to Jake, he and Amanda are struggling with the unexpected turn their lives have taken, the guilt from having massacred their friends, and the hunger that sometimes fades, but always returns.

I’m pretty squeamish when it comes to gratuitous gore, but I really liked Hart’s incorporation of blood and guts in Eat, Brains, Love. It was gross, but also funny, which I found smart and, oddly enough, charming. Remember that scene in Disney’s Lady and the Tramp where the two lovebirds are sharing a plate of spaghetti, when they find they’re both working their way up opposite ends of a spaghetti strand? Well, that happens in Eat, Brains, Love… with intestines. And I thought it was hilarious! That’s the kind of gore you’ll find in this book. It’s a zombie book, so it’s totally appropriate, and it’s not over the top.

I loved that Cass and Jake were the two telling the story rather than Amanda… or maybe I’m just biased because, in the context of the strange love triangle that was developing, I favor Cass. Like me, you might wonder how Hart will pull off a zombie-hunter falling in love with a zombie, but Hart’s zombies are unique in that, until they’re hungry, they’re pretty much normal kids. Kids that heal ridiculously fast and often have leftover blood and gore staining their clothes from the last meal, but kids nonetheless.

Eat, Brains, Love is nonstop action and, while the ending does offer some resolution, it also left me wanting more and very thankful that there is already a sequel in the works. I wholeheartedly agree with the assertion that fans of Warm Bodies will love Eat, Brains, Love, but I also think that this book has the potential to win over readers who aren’t as zombie-friendly with it’s wit and charm.

HarperTeen, October 2013, Paperback, ISBN: 9780062200341, 352 pgs.

Review: Arclight by Josin L. McQuein


No one crosses the wall of light . . . except for one girl who doesn’t remember who she is, where she came from, or how she survived. A harrowing, powerful debut thriller about finding yourself and protecting your future—no matter how short and uncertain it may be. The Arclight is the last defense. The Fade can’t get in. Outside the Arclight’s border of high-powered beams is the Dark. And between the Light and the Dark is the Grey, a narrow, barren no-man’s-land. That’s where the rescue team finds Marina, a lone teenage girl with no memory of the horrors she faced or the family she lost. Marina is the only person who has ever survived an encounter with the Fade. She’s the first hope humanity has had in generations, but she could also be the catalyst for their final destruction. Because the Fade will stop at nothing to get her back. Marina knows it. Tobin, who’s determined to take his revenge on the Fade, knows it. Anne-Marie, who just wishes it were all over, knows it. When one of the Fade infiltrates the Arclight and Marina recognizes it, she will begin to unlock secrets she didn’t even know she had. Who will Marina become? Who can she never be again?

___________________________________

I enjoyed Josin L. McQuein’s Arclight, but it took some time before it really grabbed me and there were many times throughout the novel when I just wanted answers instead of so much confusion! Arclight is a dystopian novel with strong hints of horror. 

Set in a future where, as far the reader knows, the remaining small population of humans live together in an enclosed settlement, which is appropriately named Arclight, as it is surrounded at all times by strong lights which create a protective arc meant to keep the darkness – and the monsters within it – at bay. These monsters, referred to collectively and individually as “the Fade” are said to be impossible to survive an encounter with… with one exception. The novel’s main character, Marina, was rescued from outside the settlement and, therefore, survived the Fade. This feat, which may seem impressive in its singularity, is met, for the most part, with fear, distrust, and anger regarding those lost during her rescue mission. Marina, who has no memory of her past, is left unsure of just where she fits in within the settlement and within the world as a whole. 

Overall, I liked the mysterious quality of Arclight. I was never quite sure what would happen next and the novel’s pace had a consistent ebb and flow. Things would be quite calm within the novel, then, without warning, everything would start happening at once. Alarms would sound, characters would panic, and the creepy Fade would attempt to breach Arclight. 

Things really started getting interesting when the Fade transitioned from strictly monsters to actual characters. This, however, is where the novel fell flat for me. It almost took too long for the Fade to become characters and, when they finally did, I wanted to know MORE about them. They stay a mystery throughout most of the novel and even the answers readers are finally given are very quick and without depth. I’m hoping McQuein has plans for a second novel that will answer some of my many questions! 

I do recommend Arclight – it has a unique enemy and protagonist – but I feel it requires a patient reader. The plot is slow to unfold and readers must be able to stick with the plot during the ebb between action scenes.

Greenwillow Books, April 2013,Hardcover, ISBN:9780062130143, 400 pgs.

Review: Born of Illusion by Teri Brown


ANNA VAN HOUSEN HAS A SECRET.

A gifted illusionist, Anna assists her mother, the renowned medium Marguerite Van Housen, in her stage shows and seances, easily navigating the underground world of magicians and mentalists in 1920s New York. For Anna, the illegitimate daughter of Harry Houdini – or so Marguerite claims – handcuffs and sleight-of-hand illusions have never been much of a challenge. The real trick is keeping her own gifts secret from her mother: because while Marguerite’s power may be a sham, Anna possesses a true ability to sense people’s feelings and foretell the future.

But as Anna’s powers intensify, she experiences frightening visions of her mother in peril, which lead her to explore the abilities she’s tried so long to hide. And when a mysterious young man named Cole moves into the flat downstairs, introducing Anna to a society that studies people with gifts like hers, she begins to wonder if there’s more to life than keeping secrets.

As her visions become darker and her powers spin out of her control, Anna is forced to rethink all she’s ever known. Is her mother truly in danger, or are Anna’s visions merely illusions? And could the great Houdini really be her father, or is it just another of Marguerite’s tricks?

From Teri Brown comes a world bursting with magic, with romance, with the temptations of Jazz Age New York — and the story of a girl about to become the mistress of her own destiny.

___________________________________

Teri Brown’s Born of Illusion transports readers to 1920s New York into a world of magic, lies, secrets, and the paranormal. 

The novel follows Anna, the daughter of a renowned medium and the rumored illegitimate daughter of the great Harry Houdini. Anna and her mother have spent their lives living show to show and evading the law, which they’ve been on the wrong side of a time or two. Finally, Anna’s life has taken a turn for the better and she and her mother seem to be standing on solid ground as their new show gains success and popularity. Together, they transfix their audience; Anna performing magical illusion and her mother showcasing her psychic abilities. Of course, the audience doesn’t know that, in truth, Anna’s mother is no more psychic than they are, though she is  gifted actress. In fact, it’s Anna that possesses psychic abilities. She can sense feelings, foretell the future, and talk to the dead. However, the stable existence Anna yearns for is still just out of reach as she begins having horrifying visions of her mother in peril and her own safety is threatened.

For me, one of the most compelling aspects of Born of Illusion was Anna’s relationship with her mother. Their relationship is a complicated one… Sometimes it feels as if their roles of mother and daughter have reversed, other times they appear to be nothing more than competitors. It was interesting to see how Anna reacted to her mother’s often immature and petty actions that seemed motivated by jealousy and her fear of her daughter besting her. Still, as soon as Anna (and the reader) thinks her mother’s motivations are clear, she seems protective and motherly, as if she only has Anna’s best interests in mind. 

It’s clear that much of Anna’s independence is born from necessity. Her mother, no matter her motivations, could never be called reliable. This independence serves her character and the book well. Anna is a capable and strong character, but not without weaknesses. She has a tendency to run from her things that overwhelm her and sometimes has irrational reactions to deep emotion, but she isn’t afraid to own up to her shortcomings and she always gathers the strength to do what needs to be done.

The novel features a bit of a love triangle, but it’s always clear who’s truly in Anna’s heart. Still, I liked that she considered both love interests. In some ways, Anna has lived a very adventuresome life (after all, she did travel with a circus troupe for some time), but, in what one may consider the “normal” life of a teenaged girl, she’s a bit inexperienced. The two boys, who are very, very different from one another, show Anna different sides of New York… and of herself. Also, I liked that fact that Anna is the one who makes a misguided mistake and has to apologize, not the boy involved int he situation. It often feels like the situation is always reversed and it was good to see something different.

I’ll definitely be reading the next book featuring Anna, Born of Deception, which is due out sometime in 2014. I don’t know anything about it except the fact that it features Rasputin, but that’s enough!


Support independent bookstores by shopping indie via the image below!

Shop Indie Bookstores
Balzer+Bray, June 2013, Hardcover, ISBN: 9780062187543, 373 pgs.