Book Review: Uses For Boys by Erica Lorraine Scheidt

11958608Uses For Boys
by Erica Lorraine Scheidt
January 15, 2013
St. Martin’s Press
240 pages
Source: Around the World ARC Tours

Anna remembers a time before boys, when she was little and everything made sense. When she and her mom were a family, just the two of them against the world. But now her mom is gone most of the time, chasing the next marriage, bringing home the next stepfather. Anna is left on her own—until she discovers that she can make boys her family. From Desmond to Joey, Todd to Sam, Anna learns that if you give boys what they want, you can get what you need. But the price is high—the other kids make fun of her; the girls call her a slut. Anna’s new friend, Toy, seems to have found a way around the loneliness, but Toy has her own secrets that even Anna can’t know.

Then comes Sam. When Anna actually meets a boy who is more than just useful, whose family eats dinner together, laughs, and tells stories, the truth about love becomes clear. And she finally learns how it feels to have something to lose—and something to offer. Real, shocking, uplifting, and stunningly lyrical,  Uses for Boys  is a story of breaking down and growing up. (Goodreads Summary.)

My Take On It

If I had one word to describe Uses For Boys it would probably be unexpected. You look at that sweet and pretty cover and you think you have some idea of what the book might be about (even if the title is somewhat suggestive.) Well I am here to tell you that this book is not at all what I thought it would be. But that is not necessarily a BAD thing. Here is what I can tell you about this book: if you are looking for light, light subject matter or light romance, then this book will probably disappoint you. But if you are interested in looking at a very unglamorous version of how a young adult girl copes with being neglected and essentially abandoned by almost everyone in her life, then I think Uses For Boys will be a book that you find pretty unforgettable. You may not love it, but I think it will definitely be thought provoking.

When we first meet the protagonist Anna, she is a young girl living with her single mom with whom she is very close. Anna recalls how safe she feels snuggling with her mom as she tells her the story of how alone she was and how she had always dreamed of having a little girl so she wouldn’t be alone anymore. To Anna the life she and her mom share is perfect. But Anna is just a child and as she gets older things begin to change. Her mom begins dating lots of men, always searching for the perfect one. Anna watches as her mom moves from man to man, and eventually husband to husband, growing more distant from her daughter in the process. By the time Anna is 12 or 13 years old, her mom is rarely around, and Anna is more alone than ever. Around this time, as is usually the case, boys begin to notice Anna. And Anna, who has been invisible for so long, relishes the attention. Unfortunately, due to Anna’s upbringing, she has a completely warped view of what constitutes a healthy relationship. And the reader is made witness to this over and over again.

Uses For Boys is a pretty graphic book, you guys. It’s gritty, raw, and uncensored. I don’t know that I would say it’s appropriate for the younger YA set. A lot of it made me very uncomfortable, and I am a grown woman. But look, the fact of the matter is stuff like what happens to Anna happens in real life. You know those documentaries you sometimes see on  channels like MSNBC about teenage runaways? The ones that make you cringe and can leave you feeling depressed yet really thankful that you never had it so bad? Well that’s kind of what reading Uses For Boys was like for me.  I know that there are many, many kids who find themselves in similar situations like Anna’s every day. And I think even though it made me squirm to read it, it’s important that somebody is out there telling their story as well.

Character wise, Anna is a tough one.  On the one hand I have the utmost sympathy for her situation. She is definitely a product of her environment and is thrown into an adult world with adult relationships, far too soon. There were many times that I wanted to reach right into the book and rescue her, just get her OUT.  On the other hand I literally bristled at some of her actions. I know that many of the reasons she is the way she is, and the reasons she does what she does is because that’s all Anna knows, but I’d be lying if I said I totally connected with her character. But what I can say is that as the story progresses, Anna does mature, wise up, and grow as a character.

So when Anna meets Sam, Sam who has everything in a home life that Anna doesn’t, I did really pull for them. As far as Sam’s character goes, I wish he had been fleshed out more. In fact all of the other characters in the book, Anna’s mom, her friend Toy, her many boyfriends and hook ups, all needed some work in that department. But story wise, I was pretty riveted. I had to know what was going to happen to Anna.

The book ended on what I would call a hopeful note. No cut and dry resolutions, but hints that perhaps Anna’s next sixteen years would be better than her first.

All in all Uses For Boys was a thought provoking story.  It definitely took me out of my comfort zone as a reader, not because of the graphic nature of the book, but more because of how it looks at personal relationships. Uses For Boys does not romanticize sex in any way shape or form. And it doesn’t romanticize any other relationship, be it the one between Anna and her mom or Anna and her best friend Toy, either. And even though I am a romantic at heart, I can’t help but be impressed with the stark authenticity that author Erica Lorraine Scheidt has written into this book.  I know this book will not be for everyone, but I am glad that I gave it a shot. I think it will be a book  that I won’t soon forget.

Book Review: Unteachable by Leah Raeder

by Leah Raeder
July 26, 2013
Velvet Pony Press
268 pages
Source: Purchased


This novel contains graphic sexual content and strong language. It is intended for mature readers. 

I met him at a carnival, of all corny places. The summer I turned eighteen, in that chaos of neon lights and cheap thrills, I met a man so sweet, so beautiful, he seemed to come from another world. We had one night: intense, scary, real. Then I ran, like I always do. Because I didn’t want to be abandoned again.

But I couldn’t run far enough.

I knew him as Evan that night. When I walked into his classroom, he became Mr. Wilke.

My teacher.

I don’t know if what we’re doing is wrong. The rules say one thing; my heart says screw the rules. I can’t let him lose his job. And I can’t lose him.

In the movies, this would have a happy ending. I grow up. I love, I lose, I learn. And I move on. But this is life, and there’s no script. You make it up as you go along.

And you don’t pray for a happy ending. You pray for it to never end (Goodreads Summary.)

Opening Line(s)

When you’re eighteen, there’s fuck-all to do in a Southern Illinois summer but eat fried pickles, drink PBR tallboys you stole from your mom, and ride the Tilt-a-Whirl till you hurl. Which is exactly what I was doing the night I met Him. 

My Take On It

Well it’s a hard fact that I am a sucker for forbidden romance storylines. And I also really like those forbidden romances that push the envelope, i.e., feature taboo subject matter.  I blame it on early exposure to Flowers in the Attic and The Thorn Birds. Yeah, I feel a bitpervy saying that out loud but considering how many books there are with these themes, I’m pretty sure that I’m not alone in my feelings.

I have read quite a few student/teacher romance books–it’s probably my favorite of these risqué type reads. So when Unteachablestarted showing up on some of the blogs I took notice. And when three of my favorite bloggers gave this book sparkling reviews, I knew I had to get on it. I am really glad that I did. Unteachable is, without a doubt, the best teacher/student romance I have read. But you know what? It’s also one of the better romances I have read. The characters and their story are deeply compelling. It’s sexy with a kind of seedy edge but in a really good way somehow. And best of all–it tackles a thought provoking subject and raises questions–or it did in this reader– and THOSE are the type of books that stick with you for a long, long time.

The synopsis above is actually really good, and gives you an idea of what you can expect when you start this book.
But here are 5 things that I loved in particular about Unteachable:

1. The bad girl protagonist on a journey of self discovery

Bad-girl protagonists win me over EVERY SINGLE TIME.  But here is the thing–I think that Maise, our main character and narrator, only reads as “bad” because she is a) sexually empowered and b) owns up to all her actions–even the questionable ones. She has few regrets. So is she really “bad” then? Eh… It’s debatable. She’s not an innocent when it comes to her sexuality. But she is quite naive in many other ways. Guys, Maise is such an INTERESTING heroine.  There is so much about her that I adore–admire even. She has a freedom of attitude that is sorely lacking in most female teenage YA characters. She’s strong and self reliant. She goes after what she wants and she has dreams that extend beyond her small town, wrong-side-of-the-tracks upbringing.

But on the other hand, she’s definitely a broken girl in many, many ways. She has had a harsh childhood, her mom is a meth head, among other things, and Maise essentially raised herself along with assuming the parental role. Maise was forced to grow up very early but there are parts of her that show she is still a child. This maturity countered with a naivete brings Maise’s character to life.

The great thing about Unteachable is that you have this very compelling YA heroine that undergoes that familiar journey of self discovery that we love to read about in young adult fiction–but achieves it through unconventional means–and does it while in a relationship with a man nearly twice her age who also happens to be her film studies teacher. Much of the narration is introspective, Maise is constantly questioning herself and her choices. And even though some of those choices might not be the “right” ones in many ways, or might not be the same choices you or I might make,  I was still able to connect with her as she stumbled along the path to finding out who she was and what she wanted from life.

His eyes moved over me, but hovered mostly on my face. That was almost worse. Who am I without this? I thought. Without the seduction I wear like armor, without my bravado and cocksure confidence? Am I really just a little girl under it all? 

2. The Couple

So, what about this couple, Maise and Evan? Well, I have to say, I am a fan. Is it a shady thing? YES. Do they break all kinds of rules, both from a legal standpoint and an ethical one? Maybe not so much legally as morally, so yes. Did it make me feel uncomfortable at times while I was reading? You bet. But did I also feel like their romance, which started off as purely physical, developed into something much deeper and more meaningful over time? ABSOLUTELY.

Let’s talk about Evan a little. Our introduction to him is…interesting. Here is this 32 year old guy (though we don’t learn his actual age until later), hanging around the local town carnival and striking up conversation with a CLEARLY younger girl (although Maise doesn’t disclose her age either.) I know–it sounds all sorts of sketchy already, doesn’t it?  But there is more to their meeting than that. Maise may not have gone to the carnival to pick up and seduce an older man–but she definitely went there to play her favorite game of “going for the full Lolita effect.”  When Maise and Evan meet, things progress VERY fast. Evan isn’t the one who instigates this–but he certainly doesn’t put the brakes on either. But I gotta say, even from that very first encounter, Evan comes across as very different. Yes, there is sketchiness to his actions–just as there is with Maise’s–but there’s much more to him than meets the eye–and I definitely got a sense of that right away.

When Maise and Evan meet again, it’s in her high school classroom. This is usually the big “Uh, OH” moment. But Evan’s reaction to this turn of events surprised me, again. As the book moved forward I grew to like him more and more.

Does that mean that I think he was completely right in his actions? No. Does that mean that I let him off the hook just because Maise pursued him, she was of legal age, and they actually fall in love? Surprisingly, no. But that’s the thing about this book and these characters. Even though a lot of what happens is questionable– there is the age factor–and that the two of them are at different stages in their lives, and the fact that he is a person of authority–this bothers me more than the former, by the way, I still found myself completely buying into the idea that these two people might be absolutely perfect for each other, and good for each other, in so many ways.  It’s a fine line they walk in their romance–and it’s a fine line I walked as a reader, always questioning whether I could or should support this idea that the two of them should be together.

3. Forbidden romance 

Let’s delve a bit deeper into this romance. First off, as you can see from the disclaimer in the above synopsis–this book has a lot of sex in it. It’s not erotica, but it is graphic. And it’s not all love and deep declarations of love kind of sex either.  This works for me because, hey, not all sex in real life is love and deep declarations, so why does it have to be in YA or NA or even adult contemporary romance? That doesn’t mean that all the sex in Unteachable is meaningless or lacking in emotional depth, because it’s not. I’m only saying that, just as in life, there are many sides to Maise and Evan’s sexual relationship and I applaud Leah Raeder for writing it that way.

So back to all the sex. Clearly, Evan and Maise have a very physical connection. I mean like, WHOA. Sparks flying and chemistry and total, total hot and heavy ACTION.  And I don’t think the book would have worked as well for me had it not been written this way. I loved that Raeder really got into the nitty gritty of their sexual relationship–and not just for the cheap thrills. Even when Evan and  Maise’s relationship moved beyond just physical–once they started connecting, discovering who each other were and actually starting to fall in love –there was always, always this taint to their romance. Raeder never let’s the reader forget that this relationship started on very shaky, questionable grounds. One way she achieves this is by having Maise switch back and forth between calling Evan, by his first name, and then referring to him as her teacher, Mr. Wilkes. I thought that this was a brilliant move. Even when Maise and Evan are well into their relationship, Maise will go back and refer to him in the manner that denotes he is an authority figure.  I don’t think I have ever read a teacher/student romance that does this–and the effect was that you never once forgot how illicit this affair really is. Whereas most characters in a teacher/student romance are trying to justify their relationship, Unteachable takes a different approach. And it also raised questions about just what Evan’s motivations, as well as Maise’s, are in this relationship.  There is a darker aspect to this romance– psychologically speaking. There is an acknowledgement of the taboo aspect of the relationship on both Maise and Evan’s parts–and the admission that that is one reason it is so exciting to them both. There’s more to this line of thought but I’ll stop here. I’ll just say that this was a really interesting examination of a forbidden romance–and it was very refreshing and unlike the other teacher/student romances I’ve read in the past.

But it definitely has full blown, swoony moments too.

He reached over and lifted my face and kissed me, so intensely I let the bike fall against him. This was an old-time, black-and-white movie kiss, with the orchestra swelling in my chest, hot tungsten lamps carving out our shadows. My bones turned to air, nothing holding me up but the fierceness of my desire. God, I just wanted to get into that car with him. Forget this whole fucked-up life and disappear somewhere together. I had to push him away, fight for my breath. Too much. I gave him an agonized look. When he spoke, his voice was guttural. 

“I can’t hold on to you. You’re like that shooting star. Just a trail of fire in my hands.”

And the Oscar goes to Evan Wilke, for putting the first fine, hairline crack in the ruby of my heart.

You can tell a few things from that passage. One, there is some intense chemistry and passion between these two. And two, both Maise and Evan are pretty out of control when they are together. And when they aren’t together they are wanting to be together. I don’t think that addiction, or obsession, is too strong a word in this case.  But again, that’s not to say that a more meaningful connection doesn’t form between the two of them as the book progresses.

4. Authenticity

And speaking of authentic and refreshing! Guys this book is raw and intense and gritty and SO, SO REAL. This book, this romance, these characters are not prettied up for mass market appeal. It’s complicated and messy and utterly unforgettable. You know there is so much wrong–but yet there is also so much right with what they are doing. You empathize with both Maise and Evan–but you are torn at the same time because of the taboo nature. I easily identified with both Maise and Evan, even Maise’s best friend Wesley. I’ve either been them or known people like them.

What the hell am I? I thought. Too old to be a real teenager, too young to drink. Old enough to die in a war, fuck grown men, and be completely confused about what I was doing with my life.

And never once while I was reading did I think that this book was going to wrap up with an HEA. But as I continued to read I began to feel like it may not end it complete destruction either. There isn’t a lot of black and white in this book, guys–just many, many shades of gray. And you know what that says to me? That says “true to life.”

5. The writing

The writing in this book! I’m not the first to mention this–most of the reviews I have read have already mentioned it, but I was really floored by how beautiful it is. It’s not that it is simply “lyrical” (God, that term is so overused these days, isn’t it?) it’s just really HONEST and TRUE.

When he drove away I took a picture of the receding tail lights, and after his car was gone I stood there holding the photo up to the street, pretending. What is this feeling? I wondered. What is this hunger that grows worse the more I feed it?

 They’d come up with a name for it a long time ago. But you already know what it’s called, don’t you?

Unteachable is told from Maise’s first person perspective, which is my favorite POV because we really get deep into her head and her thoughts. But the narrative is a bit different in that Maise seems to be recounting the story to the reader–she foreshadows events to come in her narration–and you get the sense that she is in some future time, telling us this story–as a friend or parent might recount a story to someone. Is it a life lesson–a warning? You aren’t quite sure because you aren’t quite sure how this will play out. I will say that I read much of the book biting my nails–waiting for the inevitable–waiting for the bottom to drop out. I don’t think I’ll be spoiling to report that IT DOESN’T. At least not in the way that I expected.  That’s not to say there isn’t drama along the way–there is. There is actually some drama that felt a little off center and overblown but not enough to distract me or cause me to feel that this book isn’t truly amazing in any way.

Mostly the writing surprised me. This is not a dig at the majority of New Adult books out there–God knows I enjoy reading them–but Raeder’s book, which I think straddles the line between YA and NA, is really in a class all it’s own in terms of writing. I have read several other reviewers say it first but I have to repeat it: it is what I wish most New Adult could be and what I wish a lot of Young Adult books would be. I love the realness of it. I love the honesty. I love that’s it’s a fresh take on a well written subject. I love the questions that it poses. I love that it is begging to be discussed in book clubs and reading groups.

I’m not going to do the whole rollercoaster/falling in love metaphor. I didn’t fall in love with him up there. Maybe I fell in love with the idea of love, but I’m a teenage girl. This morning I fell in love with raspberry jam and a puppy in a tiny raincoat. I’m not exactly Earth’s top authority on the subject. 

But when we crested the first peak and the world sprawled beneath us like a tangled-up string of Christmas lights and then we plunged toward it at lightspeed, the guy and I reached for each other’s hands spontaneously and simultaneously.

And I felt something I’ve never felt before.

You can call it love, or you can call it freefall. They’re pretty much the same thing.

There is much more to Unteachable. There is a complicated and heartbreaking relationship between Maise and her drug addicted mom. There is a really wonderful friendship between Maise and another classmate, Wesley, that was awesome to read. There are fantastic film themes in the book. There are big, revealing secrets with some of the characters. There is a strange little subplot with another student and a sketchy character who her mom owes money. But really the meat of this story is Maise, her character growth and development, and the relationship between she and her teacher, Evan.

The ending of this book left me with mixed feelings. On one hand I liked it –but on the other I wondered if it wasn’t just a little off. I won’t say any more than that but I will say this: Unteachable is a book that will STICK WITH YOU. And it’s a book that I will read again. It’s a book I have and will recommend to friends–because I want to talk to them about it. I want to dissect it and analyze it further. It’s gotten under my skin in a big way.

And you know what? This is Leah Raeder’s DEBUT. I am seriously excited about this author. I feel all giddy that I have gotten a chance to read her early stuff while it’s still, you know, early:) I have no idea how she plans to follow up Unteachable,  but I can’t wait to find out. If you have’t figured it out already, I totally endorse this book for you fans of NA out there and I really hope that you YA and Adult Contemporary Romance fans will give it some serious thought as well. I do not think you will be disappointed.

Book Review: Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi

13104080Unravel Me
(Shatter Me, #2)
by Tahereh Mafi
February 5, 2013
465 pages
Source: Around the World ARC Tours


tick, tick, tick, tick, tick
it’s almost
time for war.

Juliette has escaped to Omega Point. It is a place for people like her—people with gifts—and it is also the headquarters of the rebel resistance.

She’s finally free from The Reestablishment, free from their plan to use her as a weapon, and free to love Adam. But Juliette will never be free from her lethal touch.

Or from Warner, who wants Juliette more than she ever thought possible.

In this exhilarating sequel to Shatter Me, Juliette has to make life-changing decisions between what she wants and what she thinks is right. Decisions that might involve choosing between her heart—and Adam’s life.(Goodreads Summary.)

**Big Spoilers Ahead for Shatter Me and Destroy Me. 
You Have Been Warned!!**

My Take On It

This book! Dude, Tahereh Mafi can write some addictive YA fiction! First and foremost: do yourself a giant favor and purchase Mafi’s novella Destroy Me (it’s like $2.99 at Amazon and you can download to your e-reader.) I didn’t read this first, I went back and read it afterwards, and I can tell you that you will get so much more out of Unravel Me if you read this novella from Warner’s POV first. So go download it, okay? And by the way, want to read an awesome review of that novella? Go check out my friend Asheley’s post from earlier this week. You can find it HERE.

This is going to be a very slippery review to write because there is HUGE potential to spoil and I definitely don’t want to do that. But I am going to talk about the events in Shatter Me and some in Destroy Me, so as my warning above states, read this at your own risk.

Unravel Me begins shortly after the ending of Shatter Me. Juliette, Adam, Kenji and Adam’s little brother James have escaped Warner’s forces and are hiding in the underground rebel retreat of Omega Point. Juliette has been approached by Castle, the charismatic leader of Omega Point, to join he and all the other gifted that are working to overthrow Warner and the Reestablishment. Juliette has been trying to learn to control her power, not her power to kill with a single touch, but the other power she discovered in Shatter Me,  that she can literally blow up concrete walls and tear apart steel doors with her bare hands.  Castle wants Juliette to focus her powers but Juliette is completely lost as to how to accomplish this.

To make matters worse, Adam and she spend most of their days apart, sleep in separate quarters, and are slowly growing apart. Adam has become distant and Juliette doesn’t know why. When Castle comes and gives Juliette a stern talking to about how she’s not assimilating with the others and not working hard enough, Juliette begins to slip into weepy, self-pity territory. This kind of stuff is NEVER fun to read, you guys.  But I get why Juliette feels so down, her horrible life and inability to touch anyone has endowed her with zero social skills and major trust issues. It can’t be easy to be told to suck it up and make friends when you are Juliette. And being apart from Adam, one of the only two people that can touch her, is only intensifying her depression.

Thankfully it doesn’t last too terribly long. Enter the awesome Kenji Kishimoto, who definitely steals many a scene in Unravel Me.LOVE Kenji. He  is adorably  pompous and arrogant, yet somehow pulls it off without being irritating.The moments that he tells Juliette off for acting like a cry baby are definitely some of my favorite in the book. Ms. Mafi, I am hereby formally requesting a spin off series with Kenji Kishimoto as the star. *crosses fingers and toes*

Once Juliette and Kenji start working together, Juliette begins to crawl out of her pity party and starts to make slow progress on channeling her powers. Then a bombshell: Adam discovers that he too has a gift, and guess what? It’s not  one that works so well with Juliette’s. I won’t say more except that this discovery puts even more strain on their already fragile relationship.

So, are you wondering where Warner fits into all this? I was as well by this point. It was more than 100 pages into the book and still no sign of Warner. Let’s backtrack a bit. In Destroy Me, we see Warner healing after being shot by Juliette  and witness the fallout from her, Adam and Kenji’s subsequent escape. As you recall, Warner, like Adam, can also touch Juliette without being killed. And only she and he (Warner) know this. In Destroy Me we also meet Warner’s father, the supreme commander, and boy, you thought Warner was bad? Warner is NOTHING compared to his father. It becomes very clear who the real enemy is once you meet Anderson, and it also becomes very clear why Warner is the way he is too.

In Destroy Me we witness firsthand Warner’s obsession with Juliette. But after he finds her notebook, the same notebook she wrote in during her incarceration at the insane asylum, Warner’s obsession begins to change into something else. Through Juliette’s painful, heartbreaking journal entries, entries that describe her loneliness, and her fear that she is actually going insane, Warner discovers that he and Juliette are more alike than he ever imagined.

I tell you this because there are some overlapping scenes in Destroy Me and Unravel Me  and the novella really puts Warner in perspective. When Warner does finally make an appearance in Unravel Me, he has been reading Juliette’s notebook for a month and has memorized much of it. The Warner from Shatter Me is a very different person than the one we now meet  in Unravel Me.

All you Team Adam people aren’t going to like what I have to say but here goes: Mafi makes it very hard for the reader to believe that Adam is the ONLY person in the world for Juliette. Very hard. Guys, after reading  Shatter Me I was very pro Adam and Juliette. I thought Warner was a cool character and he was intriguing, but I truly felt that Adam was the one who should be with Juliette. After reading Unravel Me, I’m not sure about that anymore. Prepare yourself when you read this book. Whether you are an Adam fan or a Warner fan, I think your emotions and feelings about these two guys will be challenged no matter who you side with.

Mafi’s beautiful writing is back in force and so is her unbelievably steamy and swoony dialogue. If you thought Shatter Me was hot, look out. Mafi turns up the heat even more in Unravel Me. Seriously, this is some very sexy YA. I wish I could include some of my favorite steamy scenes as excerpts but it’s too spoilery. Let me just say I read them TWICE. They were that GOOD. I’ll include a very small snippet that will make no sense to you until you read it, but it’s vague enough not to spoil:

“I want this up…and I want these down.” 

Yeah. Let your imagination run wild on that one for a bit. 🙂

Unravel Me definitely devotes more time to Warner ( NO complaining here) but in the interest of fairness,  I’m hoping that the scales will balance out more in the final installment of the book and Adam will get his time too. What I would really like to see is a novella from Adam’s POV this time. I hope Mafi has something like that in the works before the release of Book Three in the series.

Unravel Me does end on a cliffhanger (sorry!) but it also ends on a note that leads me to believe that Juliette’s character is going to experience some real and true character growth in the final book. And I am READY for that, boys and girls. I am ready to see Juliette embrace her bad-ass self and morph into the ultimate kick butt heroine I know she has the potential to be. Who’s with me??

In conclusion,  to say that I THOROUGHLY enjoyed Unravel Me  would be an understatement. I enjoyed all the revelations, all the surprises, all the sexy, swoony, pants-on-fire romance.  I cannot wait to see what is next for Juliette, Warner, Adam, Kenji and the rest. It is going to be an awfully long wait until the final book’s release.

Book Review: Unraveling by Elizabeth Norris

by Elizabeth Norris
Balzer + Bray/ April 24, 2012
445 pages
Source: ARC Courtesy of DAC ARC Tours


Two days before the start of her junior year, seventeen-year-old Janelle Tenner is hit by a pickup truck and killed—as in blinding light, scenes of her life flashing before her, and then nothing. Except the next thing she knows, she’s opening her eyes to find Ben Michaels, a loner from her high school whom Janelle has never talked to, leaning over her. And even though it isn’t possible, she knows—with every fiber of her being—that Ben has somehow brought her back to life.

But her revival, and Ben’s possible role in it, is only the first of the puzzles that Janelle must solve. While snooping in her FBI agent father’s files for clues about her accident, she uncovers a clock that seems to be counting down to something—but to what? And when someone close to Janelle is killed, she can no longer deny what’s right in front of her: Everything that’s happened—the accident, the murder, the countdown clock, Ben’s sudden appearance in her life—points to the end of life as she knows it. And as the clock ticks down, she realizes that if she wants to put a stop to the end of the world, she’s going to need to uncover Ben’s secrets—and keep from falling in love with him in the process.

From debut author Elizabeth Norris comes this shattering novel of one girl’s fight to save herself, her world, and the boy she never saw coming.(Taken from Gooodreads.)

Opening Line:

“I can tell the exact moment Nick steps on the beach.”

My Take On It:

Holy. Cow. This. Book! This book was not at all what I expected it to be. I’m going to be echoing those sentiments the entire review so I offer my apologies now. But it is SO true. The synopsis above alludes to something paranormal-ish or supernatural-ish, right? And it is, to a degree. But, what it doesn’t tell you, and I don’t believe that I am giving anything away here, it is also some straight up awesome science fiction (does a little happy dance), which I LOVE and which seems to be a popular trend in YA lit right now (does a second little happy dance.) But wait! There’s more! It also reads a lot like a contemporary at times. This book has it all! Still not sold? Read on, friends.

First a question: If you are like me, you love YA (you are reading this blog after all, and that’s pretty much all I review) but, tell the truth, how  many of the heroines featured in YA lit annoy the crap out of you? I’m talking about the ones that seem not only completely inept at times (fumbling and stumbling in the presence of a hot guy) but can be whiny and clingy and make the most RIDICULOUS decisions regarding EVERYTHING (especially guys) over and over again? I’m not saying that everyone doesn’t make mistakes. Sometimes making mistakes results in great stories. And I’m not talking about being perfect. Perfect characters can be BORING. But you know those handful of examples of totally kick ass heroines in YA Lit that you can think of off the top of your head? (Here’s my quick list: Katniss, Katsa, Evanjalin, Tris, Rose, Taylor, and Karou) Well, take my advice, just go ahead and add Janelle Tenner to that list. Because not only is she kick ass (her dad is an FBI agent who used to take her to target practice for kicks) but the girl knows what she wants, when she wants it, and goes right after it. Hallelujah to the strong-willed as well as strong-armed heroine!!

When first introduced to Janelle Tenner, I thought she was a bit superficial, she’s got the hot lifeguard boyfriend, and she plays all the games that high school chicks seem to play to get said hot lifeguard boyfriend. But then I began to see other dimensions to Janelle’s personality. Like the side of her that takes care of her younger brother almost single handedly because her mother is mentally ill and her father  works all the time (and uses his work as an escape from the mentally ill mother.)  And Janelle is smart. Like super smart with a streak of detective in her.  When the accident occurs, Janelle is hit by a car and sustains life ending injuries. It could be lights out right there, until the mysterious Ben Michaels steps in, and somehow, saves Janelle’s life.

This is where the story really takes off. Janelle is determined to find out how Ben did this, and the most incredible, mind blowing story begins to unfold. All these different occurrences, from Janelle’s accident, to a series of unexplained murders that her father and the FBI are investigating, to a mysterious and ominous countdown present themselves and just when I was kind of scratching my head wondering what the heck any of these things meant, BAM! Everything begins to connect and the book takes off in an entirely new and completely unexpected way. And somehow, somehow, author Elizabeth Norris manages to accomplish all of this seamlessly, without confusing me (or even  irritating me) at all. I am still kind of stunned at how she manages to pull it off!
So we have a rockin’ MC and we have a really amazing plot, hmmm… what am I forgetting. What about the ROMANCE? Well. It’s there friends, it is SO there. Ben. Ben Michaels.The hero.The savior. Sound cliché? Hold up! There is more to this boy than meets the eye. Yes, he’s the mysterious, bad boy type. And Janelle thinks she has him all figured out, until she discovers she doesn’t. Holy cow you guys. Can Elizabeth Norris write some engaging scenes between these two characters. My favorite scene: the exchange between the two in English lit class when they are discussing a passage from Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens. (I have never read this but I’m going to now:)

“So this isn’t a marriage proposal you would say yes to?”  Ben says. he’s giving me that half smile again. Like he already knows the answer. 

 I can’t help but smile back. 

“No, it’s not.”

“You wouldn’t want some guy confessing his love for you, and saying he’d do anything for you–even die–that wouldn’t be enough for you?” 

My face floods with heat again, I can’t believe Ben Micahels is making me feel like I’m not smart enough to argue. I think I might hate him.

“What, you want some guy to propose by putting an announcement on the Jumbotron at a baseball game or something?” Ben asks.

“Oh please, that’s ridiculous. I don’t want someone announcing to the whole world that he’s proposing to me. It shouldn’t be about the whole world–it should be about just the two of them.”

“So your perfect proposal, what would it be?”

“Seriously?” I look at Poblete and she shrugs, obviously enjoying the real-world application. “I don’t know. It would just be the two of us and I guess I’d want him to say something honest, not overly romantic, not something that would make a great story to tell his friends. I’d just want him to lean over…” as I say it, I lean slightly toward Ben, close enough that I can feel the warmth of his body radiating into the empty space between us, and drop the volume of my voice, “…and say ‘Janelle Tenner, f- ing marry me.” 

{Except she doesn’t say f-ing, she says the real word, and you know what? I’m not a big advocate of curse words in YA, especially when they are shoved in there for no reason, but here it f-ing works. And yes, there is more language like that in Unraveling (at least there was in the ARC I read.) Not ALL the time, just interspersed, you know, like real life teenagers talk. No big deal.}

And that moment between Janelle and Ben is just the beginning. There are so many more passages that I absolutely swooned over. I wish I could include all of them here for you,  because seriously, this was some of the hottest, yet at the same moment both heartfelt and honest, romance I have read in a long time. I LOVED it.

And I can’t tell you how impressed I am by this debut author. Elizabeth Norris has somehow managed to capture the unique tone of a young adult, her writing rings true with authenticity. Her words don’t sound like an adult imitating a teenager. I don’t think that’s as easy to pull off as it seems, in fact I know it isn’t, judging  by some of the YA books being published today. Sorry, if that’s harsh but it’s the truth.

Unraveling  isn’t a quick read, at 445 pages, and with such an intricate and complex story line, it’s not what I would call a ‘light’ read. But don’t let that dissuade you from reading it. There are parts to the story that, at the time I read them, I thought “Why is Norris including this? It doesn’t seem to move the book further along or it doesn’t seem relevant.”  But at some point later in my reading I would have one of those “A ha!” moments and I’d suddenly understand, so that’s why it’s there! Nine times out of ten it developed the plot, or gave teeth to Janelle’s character in some way.

Unraveling is full of action and not afraid to take chances. It kept me guessing throughout, and surprised me over and over again. I started out thinking I knew what this book was going to be about, thinking I knew the direction it was going to take, only to discover that was not the case at all. In short: Unraveling blew my mind. I can’t wait for the book to release later this month so I can hear what the rest of the world thinks because this book kept me up late thinking about all it’s twists and turns and open possibilities. Unraveling is the first book in a planned series (thank goodness, because if this was the end… Gah! I’m not even going to go there…) My advice: Pre-order it and get ready for the ride:)

Update: Elizabeth Norris is giving away a signed copy of Unraveling  to one lucky winner! Hop over to her blog to enter:)

5/5 Stars (because this book surprised me from start to finish!)

Cover Thoughts

I like the cover, I like the model who is portraying Janelle (more so than the version of Ben) and I like the sort of hall-of-mirrors in-a fun-house effect:) Plus that girl’s leather jacket is killer.

The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone by Adele Griffin Blog Tour Stops HERE!

18811411The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone
by Adele Griffin
August 12, 2014
Soho Teen
256 pages 
Source: A copy was provided for blog tour purposes. Thanks Soho Teen!

National Book Award-finalist Adele Griffin tells the fully illustrated story of a brilliant young artist, her mysterious death, and the fandom that won’t let her go.

From the moment she stepped foot in NYC, Addison Stone’s subversive street art made her someone to watch, and her violent drowning left her fans and critics craving to know more. I conducted interviews with those who knew her best—including close friends, family, teachers, mentors, art dealers, boyfriends, and critics—and retraced the tumultuous path of Addison’s life. I hope I can shed new light on what really happened the night of July 28. (Goodreads Summary.)

Opening Line

I only met Addison Stone once. 

My Take On It

Guys I was really excited to be approached to be a part of this book’s blog tour. I’m doing so few tours these days–not to mention so few reviews and blogging in general!– that a book really has to stand out from the crowd and grab my attention enough to make me commit to a tour.  The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone did just that. Once I read that synopsis I was hooked. Beautiful, misunderstood young visual artist dies tragically under mysterious circumstances? That in itself would’ve sold me. But add to that the unique way in which author Adele Griffin chose to write the fictional account of the life and final
days of Stone–interview format–complete with original art and photographs–that is a winning combo in my opinion.

The reader knows from the beginning the final outcome–we know that Addison dies by taking a nose dive off the Manhattan bridge one hot July night–but what intrigued me more than the mystery of how she met her end (Was it suicide? A tragic accident? Or was one for her two love interests somehow involved?) was the mystery of who Addison Stone really was. Through the various interviews in the book a picture of Addison is revealed, but which one is the “real” Addison? Who knew Addison the most–who’s account is the most accurate rendition of the complicated, multi-faceted personality that comprises Addison Stone?

We hear from Addison’s parents, her brother, her closest friends, her romantic interests, her art agent, her teachers and mentors and her doctors allowing the reader to form her own opinion of Addison. I found it really interesting how all of these people were convinced that only they knew the true Addison.  I think that Griffin did a bang up job telling this story–I loved reading all the different interviews–I loved how realistic it all felt, it truly does feel like you are reading an investigative article of this young woman, and all the photographs (woo hoo for visual aids in books!) gave it the feel of a documentary–Behind the Music for a visual artist instead of a musician, if you will.

I also ADORED Addison’s artwork which was included because hey, I am the holder of one art history degree and I feel that if you want some insight into an artist’s mind there’s no better way to gain it than to take a look at what they are creating.  For me this book would not have worked nearly as well had all these visual additions not been included.

I wasn’t expecting there to be some jaw dropping revelation at the end of this book and there isn’t one–because this isn’t a book that is meant to be written that way. The book wraps up with Addison’s death, and there is no real resolution–but I have my own opinions about what happened to her in the end–as I think most readers will. But if you are the type reader who wants everything wrapped up nicely with all questions answered by book’s end than The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone might leave you feeling a little bit unsatisfied. But for me it was an absorbing character study of a complex and tortured young woman and I really enjoyed it– I loved how unique it is compared to so much YA out there–and of course I loved the art themes. Griffin’s writing is smooth and engaging and because of the visual elements it really was a joy to leaf through and peruse.

In closing, I really enjoyed this one. It’s different and it’s tragic and it’s totally engaging. Art lovers should definitely check it out– but I think it’s accessible to many more readers as well. I hope you like it as much as I did.

You can purchase The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone now.

Book Review: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

8591107The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer 

by Michelle Hodkin

Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing/ September 27, 2011

452 pages
Source: Library loan
Mara Dyer doesn’t think life could get any stranger than waking up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there. It can. 
She believes there must be more to the accident she can’t remember that killed her friends and left her mysteriously unharmed. There is. 
She doesn’t believe that after everything she’s been through, she can fall in love. She can. (Taken from jacket flap.)
Opening Line:
“My name is not Mara Dyer.”
My Take On It:
So, where to begin. This is going to be difficult to write. You see it is my first negative review. Let me start by saying I really, really wanted to like this book. All the hype and glowing reviews that have been circulating the blogosphere since the book’s release last fall didn’t go unnoticed on my part. I’m a big fan of paranormal reads. And I adore some good old fashioned romance and swoonworthy love interests. I love thrillers and mysteries and I like surprises and lots of “A ha!” moments. I love big, “Holy crap, did that just happen?” endings. All of that. Which is what about 90% of the reviews I  read seemed to indicate happened in this book. But unfortunately, my thoughts were of a very different variety. It went a little something like this: “I’m confused, what?” and a whole lot of “That’s really beginning to annoy me” accompanied by an eye roll and lastly “Good God, it’s just a freaking kiss!”
The good, the bad, and the ugly…
Ok, first the good. I liked most of Mara’s inner snark. I thought she was quick and witty (for the most part) and that’s always fun to read. I did catch myself grinning at some of her zingers. I also liked the relationship between Mara and her brothers. Even though Daniel is a pompous ass and know it all, especially when it came to his “superior intelligence” and influence over his parents, he does seem to love Mara and want what’s best for her. Ditto for Joseph. He’s sort of a non entity throughout the majority of the book (except for a couple of specific scenes) but Mara seems to have genuine love and concern for him. However both of these characters, as with most in this book,  felt flat and one dimensional in my opinion.
I also enjoyed the scenes when Mara isn’t sure what is reality and what is her warped mind playing tricks on her. I’m thinking of the after the club/ party scene back at her house. I thought it was disturbing and a little chilling, and that was a good thing since this book was billed as being super creepy.
The bad. Well, there was of course a whole lot of insta- love going on with this book. But, I can get past that sometimes. Why didn’t it work for me in this case?  One reason was all the bickering and mixed signals. The  “I hate you! (but really I love you)” type sentiments that went on ad nauseum between Mara and Noah. Look honey, you aren’t convincing anyone of that. Especially after the first 20 times you said it. Not him. Not yourself, and most definitely not me. Enough with all the mixed messages already.
I also didn’t like how Noah wouldn’t leave her alone. The following her around, sitting in on her classes, and all the STARING. It didn’t seem sexy to me. It seemed creepy.  I know she didn’t really want him to leave her alone (or did she? Again, mixed messageseven though she told him that over and over,  but shouldn’t he have at least tried to seem less stalkerish and back off a little? Maybe it’s just me, but it rubbed me the wrong way.
And then there were those moments that really elicited far too many eye rolls on my part. The first one that comes to mind: the art class scene. The one where he happens to walk in (again uninvited) and proceeds to show off his abs much to the delight of all the female students. It reminded me of a similar scene in Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Except I prefer that version (and what ended up happening to the smug prick who tried that move on Karou) much better. Here again, it didn’t feel sexy. It didn’t feel hot. It felt cheesy. And I am pretty sure I muttered something not so polite under my breath and quit reading for the night.
And for the love of God, I know that it is YA, but what is with the no kissing thing? I know, I know, there is some sort of explanation as to why she can’t kiss him, but it really felt like nothing but a ploy to try and drag out the sexual (or non-sexual in this case) tension between Mara and Noah. And frankly, I found myself beginning not to care whether they ever kissed or not. More than that, I was starting to feel resentful and just plain shafted. I know a kiss does not romance make, but for all the Noah Shaw love and adoration I witnessed among readers and reviewers, I was hoping for more.
And the ugly. And that, really, was the crux of the problem for me. The potential for this book to knock my socks off was there. Instead it just left me wanting more, but not in a good way. The story, the characters, the romance, all felt like they could have been more. I kept reading, hoping something would make me fall in love with this book, but in the end it just wasn’t meant to be.
1/5 stars

The Tsarina by J. Nelle Patrick Blog Tour Stops Here:)

by J. Nelle Patrick
February 27, 2014
331 pages
Source: A copy was provided courtesy of the publisher for blog tour and review purposes. 
Thank you, Razorbill/Penguin:)


Imperial Russia swirls with rebellion.

The Reds are gaining ground, and the loyal Whites struggle to hold Saint Petersburg. But Natalya isn’t afraid. Wrapped in fur and tucked inside her lavish home, she feels safe. Alexei Romanov, heir to the Russian throne and her first love, has told her a secret: Hidden within the Winter Palace lies a Faberge Egg enchanted by the mystic Rasputin. With it, the Romanovs will never fall from power. The Reds will never take the country. And one day, Alexei will ascend the throne and Natalya will be beside him— the tsarina of Russia.

But when the Reds raid the Winter Palace, the egg vanishes and the Romanovs are captured. Natalya must find the egg to save Alexei, her way of life, and her royal future. To do so, she’s forced to ally herself with the enemy— a young Red named Leo who wants the egg for his own purposes. But as they brave a war-battered landscape of snow and magic, Natalya realizes that the world isn’t as simple as it seemed back in Saint Petersburg. Nothing– not friends, not politics, and not love– are as clear as Red and White.

My Take On It

My only experience with author Jackson Pearce’s books (J. Nelle Patrick is a pseudonym) was the first in her fairy tale re-imaginings,Sisters Red—which is based on Little Red Riding Hood. I liked that book—loved the cover—but haven’t read any others in that series. Nor have I read her contemporary title Purity from 2012. So my experience with Patrick/Pearce’s writing is rather limited. But after reading the synopsis for Tsarina, I knew that I had to read it.  I am absolutely LOVING the trend in young adult literature towards Russian and Soviet settings—and come on—who out there isn’t fascinated by the tragic history of the Romanov’s, the last monarchy of Russia before the country fell to Lenin and the Red Army?

But you should know this going in, Tsarina— while featuring an aged-up TsarevichAlexei Romanov (who in reality died at the hands of the Red Army at age 13) —is not meant to be a chronicling of the last days of the Romanov’s. Tsarina is a historical fantasy—and a very well written one at that—and is the story of Natalya, a Russian aristocrat living in the last days of a declining Russian empire. Natalya is Alexei’s intended—but this story is not just about her relationship with the Tsarevich— at it’s core, it’s a story about Natalya’s love for her country, and her desire to see it at peace

I’m writing this because I think that a lot of readers who have had some problems with Tsarina feel that way because they are expecting more of the Romanov story. In fact, Alexei’s actual page time in this book is brief, occurring only in the very beginning, although his influence on Natalya remains strong throughout the book. I know a lot of readers would welcome a book that really delves deep into the Romanov’s—as I said—their’s is a fascinating story. I think most of us have a morbid curiosity with the tragedy that befell them. Tsarina isn’t that book, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t an awesome piece of fantasy interspersed with some fascinating Russian history. Guys, Ms. Patrick has done her homework in writing this book. You will absolutely feel like you have stepped back in time to the turbulent days of 1917 St. Petersburg, Russia.

You will feel the cold Russian winter seeping into your bones. You will experience the tension in the air as the Reds protest and riot against the imperialistic regime. The contradiction between those in power and those not causes a feeling of unrest and foreboding that pervades the entire book—you know (or should, from your history lessons!) that Natalya is sitting atop a powder keg ready to explode.

So let’s talk characters. Natalya is a contradiction in many ways. The Natalya we meet at the beginning of the book struck me as superficial, shallow and rather obtuse—it felt like she was blindly closing her eyes to what was going on around her. Too caught up in the parties and balls–too caught up in the happily ever after she envisioned with Alexei–whom she has known since childhood and who everyone expects she will marry before his ascension to the throne. But that pipe dream is temporary because once the October Revolution occurs and the Reds take the city of St. Petersburg, there is no denying the seriousness of the situation. As the story progresses, Natalya changes—and I really grew to like her as a character. As Natalya becomes more involved with the political atmosphere surrounding her, she really evolves. One by one her hopes and dreams as the future Tsarina are dashed–but what becomes quite clear is that through it all Natalya retains her love and devotion to Russia. When nobles are rushing to abandon the city for the safety of Paris, Natalya finds herself pausing, hesitant to leave her country and her people–even when her safety is on the line.

We  do get a glimpse of Alexei, and I have to say that the moments between he and Natalya are bittersweet–because we readers know that their time together is limited. I think one of the most endearing parts of the story is when Alexei and Natalya admit their feelings for each other–and admit it without saying “I love you.” The two have a saying, a phrasing of words, that tears at your heart because you know how things are ultimately going to end between them.

I did like the brief glimpses of Alexei,  but the boy we get to know even better is Leo Upensky. I really liked Leo’s character. His personal beliefs are compelling and he is interesting to compare and contrast with Natalya. I think it’s best to not know a lot about Leo going in so I’m going to leave it that 🙂

I also liked Natalya’s best friend Emilia. Like every character in this book—there is much more to her than meets the eye. I was always surprised at how clever she is, how, once again like so many of the book’s other characters, she isn’t easily pigeonholed into a certain type.

I’ve spoken about the setting and the characters—I’ve also alluded to how well written Tsarina is. But there is a supernatural element to the book—a mystical element that centers around a Faberge egg:  The Constellation Egg. Turns out that The Constellation Egg is very real. It’s the last egg Faberge ever made, commissioned by Empress Alexandra, but it was never finished due to the Tsar’s abdication. Like Patrick’s version in Tsarina, the egg is made of cobalt glass and has  Alexei’s astrological symbol, Leo, etched into it. Rose cut diamonds were placed in the “stars” of the egg, just as in Tsarina–but the real life egg was meant to hold a timepiece.  The egg was lost to history until 2001 when it was discovered in it’s unfinished state at the Fersman Mineralogical Museum in Moscow.

The real life Constellation Egg, beautiful as it is, holds no special powers–unlike the egg in Tsarina. I’ll let you discover for yourself just what those powers are:)

I really enjoyed this aspect of the book. Other minor characters are introduced that tie into this subplot including a group of mystics headed by Maria Rasputin—daughter of the notorious mystic Grigori Rasputin, more on him in a bit.

And this leads to another aspect of Tsarina which I found very interesting: the unexpected surprises involving some of the liberties Ms. Patrick took in in writing this work of fiction.

As previously mentioned, Patrick aged up Alexei Romanov in Tsarina. His exact age in the book isn’t given–but I’m guessing he was somewhere between 16 and 18–around the age of Natalya. We know that in real life Alexei was only 13 when he died, and didn’t have an “intended.”  But Patrick has included some aspects of the real life boy in her version. For example Alexei was a hemophiliac in real life–a constant source of stress for his parents–and his mother in particular. Patrick works this into her portrayal of Alexei in Tsarina. It was Alexandra’s fear for her son’s health that led her to fall under the sway of the religious fanatic Rasputin.

Today Rasputin is generally viewed as a charlatan who took advantage of a mother’s fear for her son’s life. Many also believe he held undue influence over Alexandra–who in turn influenced the Tsar–and  more believe that he played a role in the eventual downfall of the monarchy.

In Tsarina Rasputin is already dead–his death is mentioned again and again–the fact that he was poisoned, shot, and eventually drowned by Russian nobles. What’s surprising is that Rasputin is nearly painted in a sympathetic light in this book–in fact most of the mystics are presented as a group of people, who while manipulative and downright dangerous on the one hand, are also just trying to preserve their way of life.

I found this to be fascinating. I don’t think I have ever read a book or watched a film where Rasputin is made a sympathetic character. I’m not sure why Patrick went this route with this historical figure, but it was definitely different and something I wanted to mention in my review.

I also enjoyed how Patrick presented both sides of the Russian Revolution’s conflict–and does so in a fair manner. We see through many of the characters the positive sides of the monarchy–but we also are presented with the negatives. The same can be said for the Reds. What Patrick does beautifully is present the human side of the conflict–the good, the bad and the ugly –and in doing so shows that though the differences between the two can be vast, there can still be common ground as well.

The author’s guest post below does a fabulous job of presenting the arguments that the Reds had with the reigning Whites… I’m excited for you all to read it. I’ll end my review by saying I really, really enjoyed Tsarina. I loved getting to know the characters, I enjoyed all the research that Patrick did to place readers in an authentic Russian setting–but I also admire the liberties she took. I  loved the romance (yes, there is some of that too!) and the friendships. Most of all I am so excited to see this author writing historical fantasy, it’s become a genre I love to read, and I think Patrick has a real knack for it. I’m anxious to see where she goes from here!

Book Review: This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales

15777621This Song Will Save Your Life
by Leila Sales
September 13, 2013
Farrar, Straus and Giroux BYR
288 pages
Source: Around the World ARC Tours


Making friends has never been Elise Dembowski’s strong suit. All throughout her life, she’s been the butt of every joke and the outsider in every conversation. When a final attempt at popularity fails, Elise nearly gives up. Then she stumbles upon a warehouse party where she meets Vicky, a girl in a band who accepts her; Char, a cute, yet mysterious disc jockey; Pippa, a carefree spirit from England; and most importantly, a love for DJing.

Told in a refreshingly genuine and laugh-out-loud funny voice, THIS SONG WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE is an exuberant novel about identity, friendship, and the power of music to bring people together (Goodreads Summary.)

*This is an ARC Review.
 Any quotes or excerpts are taken from an unfinished copy and are therefore subject to change**

Opening Line

You think it’s so easy to change yourself. You think its so easy, but it’s not. 

My Take On It

When I read the synopsis for This Song Will Save Your Life I KNEW. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that this was a “Heather” book. It’s contemporary YA for starters and it’s about a DJ. A GIRL DJ. If you follow this blog then you are probably aware of how much I loooove music themes in the books that I read.  I had already heard very good things about Leila Sales previous book, Past Perfect, so I was positively thrilled to be able to read an early copy.

Wow. You guys, this book BLEW ME AWAY. Heads up: this IS going to be a super fangirly review,  complete with a ton of excerpts, so prepare yourselves. There are so many things that I loved about this book it’s actually kind of hard for me to get started (you guys know what that’s like, amiright?)

So, here’s what you should know that I didn’t when you start This Song Will Save Your Life: our introduction to protagonist Elise is not exactly light and airy. Elise is in a dark place at the beginning of this book. Much darker than I anticipated from that brief synopsis above.

You think it’s so easy to change yourself. 

You think it’s easy, but it’s not. 

What do you think it takes to reinvent yourself as an all-new person, a person who makes sense, who belongs? Do you change your clothes, your hair,your face? Go on, then. Do it. Pierce your ears, trim your bangs, buy a new purse. They will still see past that, see you, the girl who is still too scared, still so smart for her own good, still a beat behind, still–always wrong. Change all you want; you can’t change that. 

I know because I tried. 

You soon learn that Elise is a true outcast. Shunned at school not only by the popular cliques but by all the others as well. The funny thing is there doesn’t seem to be any real reason WHY Elise is treated this way. Elise says it herself. She can’t pinpoint any event or occurrence in her past that led to her to being like this–astray as she puts it. She was ALWAYS astray. Always different.

Now look, I’ve read a lot of YA books about unpopular kids in high school. It’s a real life thing so it’s something that is picked up on in young adult books all the time. But I have never read anything like the loneliness and utter hopelessness that Elise describes in that first chapter. Guys, it was HARD to read. Elise tries to fit in. She tries, as the excerpt says above, to reinvent herself. She spends an entire summer studying how to be “cool.”  And when her plans failed it hit me so sharply that it made my teeth ache.

You think it’s so easy to change yourself but it’s fucking impossible. 

Thankfully, the next chapter, though still dark, allows readers to see another side of Elise: a lighter side, her sense of humor. Elise is a bruised girl on the inside, but damn if she isn’t funny too.

I didn’t really want to die to MP3’s. I wanted to die to records. The sound quality is better. 

It turns out that even though Elise was ready and willing to change her look and most of her interests to fit in and belong with ANY group, to fit in just enough to make a friend, there was one thing she refused back down on: her love of music. And not that crappy pop stuff that all the other sheep at her high school listened to, HER type of music. GOOD music.  In fact, Elise is pretty much a music connoisseur. Her father is a musician, the bassist in a “one hit wonder” band. And it’s clear that Elise’s vast musical knowledge, she’s just as big a fan of James Brown as she is The Smiths and The Strokes, is inherited from her dad.

But it’s a chance late night meeting with two girls that will change Elise’s life forever.

Pippa and Vicky take her to Start–an underground club located in warehouse not far from her house. For Elise it’s an experience that leaves her reeling.

The door opened to reveal a packed dance floor of sweaty, flailing bodies illuminated by occasional flashing lights in the otherwise dimly lit, high-ceilinged room. “Dancing in the Dark” was blasting from the speakers twice my height, and most of the crowd was singing along like their lives depended on it, except for a guy who was taking photos with an expensive-looking camera, a few girls who were waiting in a bathroom line, and two guys who were hardcore making out, complete with ass-grabbing and saliva-drenched French kissing. 

“This is a nightclub?” I asked, then repeated, louder, when I realized no one could hear me. 

“It’s Start!” Vicky replied. Her normal speaking voice was loud enough that she didn’t even have to try to project over the music. “The greatest underground dance party in the world!”

Meeting Vicky and Pippa that night is the turning point in this story as Elise, who has never once in her life felt that she truly belonged, finally finds her niche. She soon meets Char, short for DJ This Charming Man, so named after The Smith’s song, who introduces her to the world of nightclubs and DJing–among other things. Char teaches Elise the technical aspects of DJing, matching beats and using a mixer, as well as the more important ability to be able to know your audience, read your crowd. And Elise takes to this like a duck to water, you guys. For once in her life, Elise knows what it means to belong.

I know that humility is a valued trait, but there’s no way to be humble about this one: I was on fire. It wasn’t just that I had mastered the technical skills, thanks to my hours and hours of practice over the past week. It was more that something had clicked, and now I understood what Char meant about reading the crowd. They will tell you what they want. They will tell you vocally sometimes, with loud requests shouted into your ear at the least convenient times, right as you are trying to transition between songs, or with Post-its stuck to you. And they will tell you silently, by dancing or not dancing, smiling or not smiling, listening or not listening. 

Tonight I had Start in the palm of my hand. They loved me, and I loved me too.


I loved how authentic This Song Will Save Your Life is. Elise is painfully awkward at times, she says the wrong things at the wrong time–she feels way out of her league at others. But you can see her BLOSSOM in this book. And when you are reading about her highs and reading about her lows, I GUARANTEE you will be cheering this girl on every step of the way.

Let’s talk about the second best person in this book: Vicky Blanchet, rock star. Oh you guys, I am a total sucker for secondary characters- TOTAL SUCKER- and Vicky is one of the best I have ever, ever read.  Vicky, lead singer of the band the Dirty Curtains, is larger than life, and embraces Elise from the start. She is funny. She is wise. She’s the best friend we all wish we had and, most important, she is EXACTLY what Elise needed.

Here for your reading enjoyment, a few of my favorite Vicky-ism’s:

 “This will all resolve itself on the dance floor.”

“You can’t shred on drums, dipshit, ” Vicky told him. “Only guitarists shred.”

“He’s there to document our glory days.”

“He’s such a waste of a good haircut.”

I’ve kissed way too many boys at Start already,” Vicky confided to me, sounding world-weary. “I’m over them. They’re all in bands.”
“But you’re in  a band, ” I pointed out.
“Exactly. So why would I need them?”

Vicky is just what the doctor ordered. She ROCKS plain and simple. That is all.

And there are others amazing characters. There’s Mel, the insightful bouncer/door guy with a heart of gold; there’s Pippa, who has her own set of problems but you just can’t help but like her anyway; and there’s Harry, who I can’t help but wish we had a bit more of because the little we do get is awesome:)  And Elise’s family plays a very large role in this book. Her dad is completely awesome and guess what? They act like REAL parents. They are present in Elise’s life. They may be a little unaware at times, but they make up for it all in the end. Woo hoo! for including the parentals Leila Sales! Thanks for not tossing them to the wayside like so many other YA books do:)

And what of the romance?? Well, Char is a complicated character– do you dislike two-dimensional, seemingly unattainable, perfect love interests? Then I think you are going to enjoy reading about Char. I’m not going to go into a ton of detail but I think he’s a great character overall. Is he the most likable all the time? No. Am I fan of him and all his decisions? No. But he’s REAL. He’s got hang-ups and issues like all of us. And he teaches Elise how to spin, he opens her up to new possibilities, so for that reason alone I am, after all is said and done, a Char fan. He’s swoony for sure:

Char and I alternated songs for the next half hour or so. I played some oldies; the Contours, James Brown, stuff like that. That was my dad’s favorite sort of music to play, and I wondered how he spent a Thursday night at home without me. Char was playing more eighties: Prince, Edwyn Collins, Transvision Vamp.  He put on New Order’s “Temptation,” and we both took off our headphones and relaxed for a moment, leaning against the booth’s railings. “Temptation” is a long song.

“This one could be about you,” Char said, looking at me.

I tilted my head. “Why?”

He sang along with the song. “‘Oh, you’ve got green eyes, oh, you’ve got blue eyes, oh, you’ve got gray eyes.'”

“They’re usually blue,” I said. “Blue-ish gray.”

He sang again, “‘Oh, you’ve got green eyes, oh, you’ve got blue eyes, oh, you’ve gray eyes.'”

“They only look green when I wear a green shirt,” I said. 

“‘And I’ve never seen anyone quite like you before,”” Char sang along.

I joined in “‘No, I’ve never met anyone quite like you before.”

We both fell silent and looked at each other for a moment. 

And then he kissed me. 

I pulled away almost instantly, as if I’d received an electric shock. “What did you do that for?” I demanded, my hand flying to my mouth. 

Char reached out and gently removed my hand from my face. “Because I wanted to,” he answered quietly, and, still holding my hand in his, he kissed me again.

It’s sweet, right? It makes you want to listen to that song, doesn’t it? 🙂 And I include it because Char can be really awesome. But he can also be a real ass, too. And in the end he teaches Elise more then DJing, he teaches her some important life lessons as well, and Elise comes out better on the other side because of it.

But what about the MUSIC?? So, straight up the reason I wanted to read This Song Will Save Your Life was for the music. And it did not disappoint. My first serious boyfriend was a DJ. And I spent many, many nights with him in the DJ booth. This was when DJ’s still spun records, mostly 7 and 12 inch’s–the extended dance versions– and every record had a label with a number on it which told how many BPM’s (beats per minutes) the song had. That was how you beat matched before the days of MP3’s and digital recordings. He introduced me to so many amazing artists and songs–and I think he, more than anyone else, molded me into the music lover that I am today.

For me, reading This Song Will Save Your Life was a huge walk down memory lane. HUGE. The music that Sales mentions in the book, the descriptions of Start, the DJing skills that Char teaches Elise–all of it brought the biggest grin to my face as I was reading because I totally get WHY Elise feels like she does about music.  I understand the power that a song can hold. The passion that you feel over a piece of music and the feeling of certainty that that song was written JUST FOR YOU. And later, the nostalgia you feel when you hear a song from way back, a song that has the power to stir so many memories. A song that reminds you of that guy or girl who was the center of your world; or that song that reminds you of that awesome night you spent with your best friends; or the song that helped you get through that awful break up, the one you thought you would never get past. The Beginning of Everything author Kari Luna got it right when she said “Music is Memory,” and This Song Will Save Your Life was a nostalgia-filled walk down memory lane for me.

But music aside, the real beauty of Leila Sales’ book and Elise’s story is in the message it sends. The message that no matter what you are dealing with, isolation, loneliness, bullying, despair or heartbreak,  you should always remember that you are not alone. Those are experiences that most of us go through in our lives. And trying to change who you are isn’t the answer. As Elise must learn, you should never hold back from what makes you, YOU. It’s an empowering message– and one I think we could all benefit from.

Guys, after reading This Song Will Save Your Life I am a bonafide FANGIRL of Leila Sales. I’m reading all her books from now on. She’s on my auto buy list. I’ve already pre-ordered a copy of This Song because I read a touring ARC and sadly had to send my copy on. I just can’t speak highly enough about it–I really think that it’s THE feel good book of the year. And you may think I’m prejudiced because of the subject matter, but I think This Song Will Save Your Life has that certain something that makes it insanely readable and a book that anyone would enjoy. So GO GIVE IT A SHOT!  Pre-order this bad boy–it’s THAT good:)

Did you like the songs  and artists that were mentioned in this review–how about that New Order song from the swoony Char/Elise scene? Well Leila Sales and Fierce Reads created a playlist on Spotify that has that song and nearly every other song mentioned in This Song Will Save Your Life as well. It is FABULOUS! I own a lot of the songs already but there were some that were new to me and have become favorites (“Young Folks” by Peter Bjorn and John…I’m thinking of YOU!)

The Things I Can’t Forget by Miranda Kenneally Blog Tour Stops Here!

12551082Things I Can’t Forget
by Miranda Kenneally
March 1, 2013
Sourcebooks Fire
304 pages
Source: Around the World ARC
Tours/Xpresso Book Tours


Companion to Catching Jordan and Stealing Parker.

Kate has always been the good girl. Too good, according to some people at school—although they have no idea the guilty secret she carries. But this summer, everything is different…

This summer she’s a counselor at Cumberland Creek summer camp, and she wants to put the past behind her. This summer Matt is back as a counselor too. He’s the first guy she ever kissed, and he’s gone from a geeky songwriter who loved The Hardy Boys to a buff lifeguard who loves to flirt…with her.

Kate used to think the world was black and white, right and wrong. Turns out, life isn’t that easy…(Goodreads Summary)

* Things I Can’t Forget is the 3rd book in the Hundred Oaks Series. It is a companion novel to both Catching Jordan and Stealing Parker.You don’t have to read either of those books before starting Things I Can’t Forget, but there are returning characters and  I think you will get much more out of it if you do:)*

My Take On It
Like I mentioned in the above disclaimer, Things I Can’t Forget is a companion novel to author Miranda Kenneally’s first two books. Old favorites like Jordan, Sam Henry, and Parker and Will are found in this third installment. Our main character is Kate, a girl who attended both the same school and church as Parker Shelton.  I loved both Catching Jordan  and Stealing Parker (read my review of that one HERE) and I especially loved the character of Parker, a good girl who who has made a bad reputation for herself as she tried to deal with her mother’s coming out as a lesbian. Parker struggled with a lot in her book, and her personal relationship with God was one of her struggles. That theme is echoed in Things I Can’t Forget, as Kate, who is most definitely NOT a bad girl, finds herself in a similar situation after she agrees to help her best friend Emily who is in trouble.
I have  always had a major soft spot in my heart for a bad girl protagonist, I have even praised them in a recent discussion post. I loved the character of Parker, who really wasn’t so bad, just mixed up and confused and making some terrible choices as she tried to come to terms with a lot of stuff in her life. So imagine my surprise when Kenneally introduces me to Kate, who is the very definition of a good Christian girl, and I found myself really loving her just as much as my fave bad girl protags! Kate, who attends Parker’s Fundamentalist church, is so very good you guys. She reminds me of that line from Tom Petty’s song Free Falling: 

She’s a good girl, loves her mama,

loves Jesus, and America too…

she’s a good girl, crazy ’bout Elvis

loves horses, and her boyfriend too… 

That’s Kate.

Kate has a deep sense of faith, she is devout and firm in her beliefs. But when she agrees to help her best friend Emily, all of her beliefs are shaken, including what she thought to be true about herself. The Kate that we meet at the beginning of the story is ridden with guilt and feels lost and alone.

Now on the outset, Kate seems pretty ideal. She’s a good student, has a solid relationship with her parents, and loves God. But through the course of the book, Kate discovers that she has also hurt people by being judgemental and narrow minded. Yet, even with these flaws, flaws that everybody has, Kate is still such a good person, you guys. When she discovers that she’s hurt someone, it genuinely distresses her. And even though she is very religious and a bit preachy, something I generally don’t care for in characters I read, I can’t help but want to reach out and hug Kate as she struggles to find balance in her life. I can’t help but want her to get that guy who seems perfect for her in every way. I can’t help but want her to stop beating herself up over decisions she has made. I can’t help but want her to have her happily ever after. She is a wonderfully well crafted character, full of depth and many layers of personality. It is impossible not to root for her as you read this book.

So let’s talk a little bit about the boy. I love Kenneally’s heroines, but she is an incredible writer of romantic male leads as well. I loved Will, and I really loved Sam Henry, but Matt, the male lead in Things I Can’t Forget, is pretty much perfect.  Like Kate, he has a very good relationship with God. He has an awesome big, noisy, loving family. And being in college, and a member of a fraternity, he has a very close relationship with his brothers. He is unlike anyone that Kate has ever met, and when she starts to fall for him, even more questions arise in her. Kate has never had a real boyfriend, and longs for the closeness of that kind of relationship. But she feels very torn about her physical attraction to Matt. And Matt is just so awesome about all of it.  He realizes right from the start that girls like Kate are actually pretty rare and he has no problem with taking things slowly.  So you see, that makes Matt kind of a rare breed too:)

Matt and Kate have a relaxed easy banter between the two of them, they talk like real people, you guys.  In so many books I read the romance seems to get all caught up in game playing and posturing. But here the romance between the two just flows. It’s easy, real, honest and true.

And the SWOON. I had heard from the author that Things I Can’t Forget was going to be her raciest (and most controversial) book yet.  Boys and girls, I am here to to tell you that she does not disappoint! My heart was tripping all over the place as I read and witnessed Matt and Kate falling in love. It is a bit racy, but nothing that an older YA and New Adult crowd can’t handle. And heck, if you read this blog, you know my mantra is: the racier the better:)

But just as impressive as the sweet and steamy romance is the beautiful friendships that are written within. Kate and her BF Emily have had a falling out, and Kate, who is working as a camp counselor  the summer before college starts, is bereft without her close friend.  She meets new faces at the camp, and some not so new, and I loved watching her character grow and develop as she made new friends. My favorite of all was the unexpected friendship between Kate and anther girl that is very different from her. I loved how Kenneally allowed a strained acquaintance to slowly develop into a very meaningful friendship.

But perhaps the best relationship in Things I Cant Forget is the one Kate shares with God. Like I said earlier, Kate can be judgemental and preachy, but this book IS NOT preachy at all.  I love how Kenneally tackles these important subjects in her books. I love how she is able to break it down in a way that’s not overtly religious and “in your face.” But at the same time, Kenneally isn’t afraid to ask the tough questions. Sex before marriage and saving yourself, balancing personal relationships with others as well as with God , and not judging those whose beliefs and devotions are different are just some of socially relevant themes found within the pages.

And like Jordan with her journal, and Parker with her prayers, Kate’s inner dialogue and introspection is relayed through the sketches she draws. I love how Kenneally has carried this theme through in all of her books. And having my degree in art history, I LOVE that Kate is an artist and teaches art to the kids at camp. There is a scene where Kate discusses what art is and how it is reflective of the individual who creates it, that just made me smile. I can see Kate growing up to be a fabulous art educator one day:)

And lastly I have to talk about Kenneally’s writing and her voice.  I have come to love YA contemporary books more than anything else I read, and Kenneally’s authentic dialogue and honest writing is a shining example of why. I may not be a teenager anymore, but Kenneally’s writing captures the tone and the mood of what that period of my life felt like. And times may change, but there are still some universals.  Problems and struggles that teens encounter now aren’t that much different than the ones I encountered during my teen years. I can think of very few writer’s who capture all those crazy, scary, joyful moments that a young adult faces better than Miranda Kenneally.  I am so glad to have picked up that first book of hers, because each subsequent book that I have read makes me respect her writing more and more.  I’ll read anything she puts out there. If you loved Catching Jordan and Stealing Parker than go ahead and pre-order this one now. I sincerely feel it is her finest book to date.

Book Review: The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

448873The Thief
(The Queen’s Thief, #1)
by Megan Whalen 
October 31, 1996
Greenwillow Books
280 pages
Source: Library Loan


The king’s scholar, the magus, believes he knows the site of an ancient treasure. To attain it for his king, he needs a skillful thief, and he selects Gen from the king’s prison. The magus is interested only in the thief’s abilities.

What Gen is interested in is anyone’s guess. Their journey toward the treasure is both dangerous and difficult, lightened only imperceptibly by the tales they tell of the old gods and goddesses. (Goodreads Summary.)

Opening Line

I didn’t know how long I had been in the King’s prison.

My Take On It

Ok, a confession. I came REALLY close to not reading this book. Before I started book blogging, I had never even heard of this author or this series. Of course I was also unaware of Kristin Cashore and Melina Marchetta, both of whom have written two of my favorite fantasy series. When I did notice an awful lot of bloggers and readers going on about Megan Whalen Turner (MWT), the main character Gen, and this series, I went ahead and checked The Thief out from my public library (also a good sign because my small town branch library doesn’t carry a lot of YA books, and even fewer fantasy series–an indication that this one was worth spending their money on.)

The Thief is not a thick book, my little copy was only 280 pages (that is NOTHING.) So I set out thinking I’d have it read in no time flat. Well. I think I got about three or four chapters in and found myself struggling to continue. Frankly I was a little bored. So I put it aside thinking I’d come back to it. Six weeks later I returned it to the library unread (I HATE when I do that.) I figured this series just wasn’t for me.

Flash forward a few months and a new blogger friend Lauren tells me how much she is loving this series and how she really thinks I would like it too. So I decided to give it another go. When I decided to co-host the Summer Series Challenge, I knew that MWT’s Queen’s Thief series would be the one I would first tackle.  This time I was ready. I had heard from several readers that yes, the first half of the book is slow, but that the action picks up considerably after that.

GUYS. So very glad that I heeded that advice. Turns out they were right. All of them. It is slow going but it does pick up. And yes, it is exactly the type of book I love. Why? Characters, characters, characters. One in specific: Gen.  From the beginning I was curious about this self-professed thief who has landed himself in jail for not just stealing the King’s seal but being STUPID enough to boast about publicly. But over time this curiosity turned to full scale love and admiration. As anyone who reads this book (and series) will tell you: the characters in these books are not always as they would seem. And nothing could be more true when describing Gen the thief. Told in first person POV (my favorite!), Gen is the absolute epitome of an unreliable narrator, something else I am very fond of in the books I read. And don’t be fooled by his humble beginnings. He might be a sprung jailbird but Gen is also the hero of this book. Albeit a hero that is small in stature, scowls a lot, tells half truths at best, and outright lies at worst, cowers in fear quite a bit, and can’t stand sitting a horse. That last part makes me laugh. I’m not the first reader to pick up on this, but it’s true! How many fantasy’s do you read where the hero dislikes horses? And that really sums up Gen’s character on the whole. He is such an unlikely hero figure at the start of this tale. But as it progresses, Gen’s cleverness and cunning becomes clear. And as I was reading I began to feel pretty confident that Gen that would be getting the last laugh in the end.

But what I found quickly was Gen is not the only character of worth in this book. Most of the book takes place “on the road” as Gen and his traveling party move from one country to another in search of something that the King of Sounis desperately wants to procure.  We meet the leader of the party, the magus, who is the King’s wise scholar and counsel; two of his apprentices, Ambiades and Sophos; and a soldier who is accompanying them, Pol.  You guys, there is not one character among these that isn’t well written. All are complex and multi-layered. And all are surprising in their own ways.

In addition to the traveling party, we get a few glimpses of the three ruling parties, and though they are only touched on briefly, they too make a big impression. I knew that this meeting was really just the tip of the iceberg. As this is only the first book in a planned series of seven, there will undoubtedly be much more to come from these three characters. All I am going to say is that two seem as though they should not be trusted and the other I already like immensely:)

I’m not going to delve very deep into this book’s plot, because as a few of my reader friends told me early on, this book, and series, works best when you drop your speculations and approach it as organically as possible.  What you need to know is that The Thief is a fantasy with a quest storyline, set in land that from the start, reminded me of ancient Greece and Rome. At least as far as the descriptions of the countryside goes. The three kingdoms that are the primary focus, Sounis, Attolia and Eddis, have stretches of shoreline as well as rocky, hilly areas. Citrus and olive groves abound. Even the architecture, in particular the palaces and temples, were very Greco-Roman in description. It felt VERY Mediterranean to me. So when I later discovered that this area of the world was indeed part of what inspired Turner as she was writing this series, I felt vindicated. I took a whole heck of a lot of humanities, art history, western civilization and Latin classes in college. I felt right at home in this setting.

Also reminiscent of ancient Greece and Rome? The mythology found in The Thief. Again, I’m pretty up to date on my classical mythology, so I could definitely see correlations between that and the religion and myths that Turner has written into this book. Many of the gods and goddesses share similar names and attributes. Are Turner’s myths and pantheon of gods a perfect match for those found in classical mythology? No. She borrowed bits and pieces but the myths are wholly her own.

Found in The Thief are stories within stories, and I loved this about the book. In particular I loved the origin stories about Eugenides, the thief god, and for whom all thieves are named (including our Gen.) I was reminded very much of the Greek god Hermes, the Roman god Mercury, who was the trickster god, the god of travelers, and patron of thieves. Sounds very much like our boy, Gen, no? 😉

But you know one major difference between Turner’s book and that of ancient Greece and Rome?  You aren’t going to find any women rulers in those two ancient societies. ESPECIALLY ancient Greece. Greece may have been the first to come up with the concept of democracy, but women did not enjoy the same freedoms that Greek and Roman men did. But in Turner’s world, not just one, but two of the three countries focused on, are ruled by powerful (and very different) women. HECK YES, I love this about this series. The Thief may be told in first person, male POV of Gen, but you will never be able to discount the role that women play in this series.  And that, my friends,  just plain ROCKS.

So what are my qualms with The Thief? Well it really IS slow to start, but if you are willing to work through that, the pay off is BIG.

And again, I’m not the first to make mention of this next thing, but I’m going to mention it anyway. This book (and series) would be greatly enhanced if a MAP was included. I love visual aids, don’t you? I cannot say it enough: maps in works of fantasy should be MANDATORY, you guys. Especially books which have characters traveling between countries and foreign lands.

Well guess what my good readers? I went and FOUND a map for you. And I did this at great personal risk, traveling over to one of the series fan sites which is RIFE with spoilers every which way you turn. Seriously, I had to click around with one eye closed so I wouldn’t see something I shouldn’t. Anyway, here you go! A map of Gen’s world for your future reference. YOU’RE WELCOME. 🙂

It’s a fan’s interpretation but I think it’s GRAND. And I give credit where credit is due so thank you, Nice job!

In conclusion, I owe a debt of gratitude to my bloggy friends Lauren, Heidi, Keertana and Amanda, all of whom have encouraged me to pick this book and series back up and give it another shot. THANK YOU for that push. At the time of this review I have already read book # 2 in the series, The Queen of Attolia, and WOW. I now truly see where all the adoration for this series comes from.  I totally, totally get it.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I encourage any readers who have not yet gotten on the Megan Whalen Turner Love Train to stop stalling and climb aboard. And if you are still on the fence but are a fan of fantasy works, especially books like Kristin Cashore’s Graceling Realm or Melina Marchetta’s Lumatere Chronicles, the Queen’s Thief series should be required reading because BOTH of those ladies love this series. In fact, Marchetta credits The Queen’s Thief series for inspiring her when she was writing The Lumatere Chronicles.

And if you were like me, someone who attempted to read The Thief and put it down thinking it wasn’t for you, do yourself a favor, pick it back up for a second look. What a disservice it would have been  had I not.

Need I even say more? Yes? How’s this: Just. Read. It.  🙂