Book Review: There Will Be Lies by Nick Lake

There Will Be LiesI got this book over the summer at the American Library Association Annual Conference in Las Vegas. There is a lot in this book I can’t give away, so excuse me if this seems a little short. Here’s your synopsis from Amazon:

In four hours, Shelby Jane Cooper will be struck by a car.

Shortly after, she and her mother will leave the hospital and set out on a winding journey toward the Grand Canyon.

All Shelby knows is that they’re running from dangers only her mother understands. And the further they travel, the more Shelby questions everything about her past-and her current reality. Forced to take advantage of the kindness of unsuspecting travelers, Shelby grapples with what’s real, what isn’t, and who she can trust . . . if anybody.

Award-winning author Nick Lake proves his skills as a master storyteller in this heart-pounding new novel. This emotionally charged thrill ride leads to a shocking ending that will have readers flipping back to the beginning.

1. The writing is phenomenal, beautiful, and any other good adjective I can attach.

I never read Nick Lake’s Printz Award winning novel, In Darkness, but it is definitely on my list. This is my first experience with his work, and I love his words. He makes even the most mundane things seem poetic and beautiful, which I loved. My only issue (and possible non-issue) with his writing was the extreme hyperboles. I say it may also be a non-issue because we are reading from a teenager’s point of view and teenagers hyperbolize a lot. There is one scene where Shelby talks about crying and then says that she does it for 2,000 years. This narrative is rife with these. As much as it annoys me, it adds to the realness of Shelby. Other than that, though, I really loved the way his writing got me fully invested in this story.

2. I still can’t make up my mind about the main character, Shelby.

I have an issue with main characters like this. In some instances, I love them, but in most instances, I hate them. Shelby is really brave along her journey in the book. Sometimes, though, she really annoys me. I had to keep in mind that she is still a teenager going through…a lot of rough things. There is so much I can’t tell you because I want you to read this so badly! So, let’s just leave it at that. Make up your own mind about Shelby, because she really is quite complex.

3. There is this parallel universe thing happening that may or may not be in Shelby’s head, and I hate it.

So, this parallel universe is full of symbols for Shelby which the reader sees immediately, but Shelby does not see until the end. Every time she fell into the Dreaming (that’s what the parallel universe is called), I rolled my eyes. If these parts were taken out of the book, this would’ve been a five star book for me. I would have like to see Shelby deal with all she deals with without the use of the Dreaming. We never find out about whether or not the Dreaming is real, so I’m going to assume it’s her consciousness dealing with her issues in a way she can handle; it’s a way for Shelby to escape her current situation when she needs escape the most.

4. I started reading this book right after I was done with an American Literature course. So, of course, I immediately recognized all of the Native American legends!

It’s so cool how Lake blends Native American mythology with the actual world. The things that happen to Shelby (minus the Dreaming) could happen to anyone and it’s scary. But, throughout the book, Coyote is a huge character. If you don’t know, Coyote is a trickster in Native American mythology. He is a liar, but he never lies for sport. All of the mischief he causes ends up doing good. That may help you in whether or not you pick this up. It was really refreshing and different to see something blended so well like this story was.

OVERALL: 4 stars!!! I really, really liked this book. I warned you before – this review is short, only because there is a lot more I want to say, but I promised you no spoilers. So, you’ll have to get this to see for yourself. Shelby is a great main character, even if she irritated me some. The story was engrossing and really interesting, so I think you will enjoy this as much as I did. This book comes out on January 6, 2015 so click the link to pre-order!

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Book Review: Atlantia by Ally Condie

AtlantiaI love Ally Condie’s Matched trilogy, so I thought I was in for a treat, here. I was sadly mistaken. Here’s your synopsis from Amazon:

Can you hear Atlantia breathing?

For as long as she can remember, Rio has dreamed of the sand and sky Above—of life beyond her underwater city of Atlantia. But in a single moment, all Rio’s hopes for the future are shattered when her twin sister, Bay, makes an unexpected choice, stranding Rio Below. Alone, ripped away from the last person who knew Rio’s true self—and the powerful siren voice she has long silenced—she has nothing left to lose.

Guided by a dangerous and unlikely mentor, Rio formulates a plan that leads to increasingly treacherous questions about her mother’s death, her own destiny, and the corrupted system constructed to govern the Divide between land and sea. Her life and her city depend on Rio to listen to the voices of the past and to speak long-hidden truths.

1. Let’s start with something positive: I really loved the world and Atlantia itself.

So, those who live Below (which, obviously, is below the sea) live in a city called Atlantia. The world is beautiful. It has whimsical colors, beautiful metal trees, and gorgeous architecture. Our protagonist, Rio, is sitting in the temple with her sister, Bay. The book opens on a day where each person of a specific age must choose to stay Below, or to sacrifice their lives in the Above. Bay asks Rio if she can hear Atlantia breathing. And, throughout the book, the readers themselves can hear Atlantia breathing. It really and truly is beautiful world building. I can very clearly picture Atlantia in my head and all of its different sections, temples, and living quarters.

2. I hate Rio more than I’ve hated any main character in recent memory.

Okay, so I hate Rio. She is annoying, repetitive, and cowardly. She is not anything how I wanted this heroine to be. She’s the worst. I hate her. I was really hoping that she would die at some point, and that’s one of the main reasons I even finished. She’s so whiny and all she focuses on is her sadness. I mean, I get it, you’ve lost your family, but at least you’re still alive, right?! You’ll have to read the book to get what I mean, but really, she sucks.

3. With as much as I hated Rio, I did not expect to love her boy toy, True and her aunt, Maire.

So, I updated multiple times in Goodreads how much I hated Rio. Then, as the story progressed, I updated many times about how I wish the story were about True and Maire. I would read those books, because at least those characters are interesting. Maire is supposed to be painted as a villain. She is untrustworthy and unknown to Bay and Rio at first. Then, she shines. She is probably the best character in the book, which is only accentuated by her flaws. Next, True. I thought True was going to be the most basic, ground level love interest for Rio. However, True is smart, insightful, compassionate, and he is never annoying like Rio when it comes to his grief. See? He’s grieving, too! And I actually liked him! Trust me when I say I understand grieving, but for more than half the book I had to listen to Rio whine about how lonely she is. Get over it already.

4. The best part about this book was the end.

I was so bored through most of this. I was really hoping that I wouldn’t be, because the synopsis totally grabbed me. The sirens are so interesting and I’ve always adored the mythology of sirens. I loved the siren part of this book, especially when it came to Maire. But Rio is the worst. Anyway, most of the book is Rio trying to get Above to find her sister. It is insanely repetitive and boring; I was looking forward to the parts where True would show up and tell Rio how stupid she is. The end of the book was the best. It felt like more of the adventure this book should have been instead of the bore-fest I encountered.

OVERALL: 2.5 stars. I’m giving it the extra half star because I loved the last maybe 50 pages. However, I was extremely disappointed in this. I love Ally Condie. I went to ALA over the summer and chose Marie Lu’s line over Condie’s, and I believe I made the right choice 1000%. Click the link below if you’d like to read it. I know you shouldn’t have to take my word for it!

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Book Review: Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman

Challenger DeepWow. I’m still a little bit floored by this book. I received a digital ARC of this book from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. Here’s the synopsis from Edelweiss:

Caden Bosch is on a ship that’s headed for the deepest point on Earth: Challenger Deep, the southern part of the Marianas Trench.
Caden Bosch is a brilliant high school student whose friends are starting to notice his odd behavior.
Caden Bosch is designated the ship’s artist in residence to document the journey with images.
Caden Bosch pretends to join the school track team but spends his days walking for miles, absorbed by the thoughts in his head.
Caden Bosch is split between his allegiance to the captain and the allure of mutiny.
Caden Bosch is torn.

Challenger Deep is a deeply powerful and personal novel from one of today’s most admired writers for teens

1. This book is hard to read. Not because it’s bad, but because it’s heartbreaking.

This book is all about a 15 year old boy navigating the waters of his mental illness. While his diagnosis is always fluctuating, Caden always knows that something is wrong. This book has over 100 small chapters – about a page and a half on average. The layout of this book alone takes you through Caden’s journey with him. The chapters start out alternating between Caden’s real life: school, friends, homework and his life on the mysterious ship with the captain, navigating the way to Marianas Trench and Challenger Deep – the deepest point on the earth. While at first, the chapters on the ship are confusing, it becomes clear the farther along in the book that the ship and the characters on it are manifestations of Caden’s illness. Don’t worry, you’ll get it.

2. “Dead kids get put on pedestals, but mentally ill kids get hidden under the rug.”

As a future teacher, I feel like this book (and the quote above) is extremely important. Kids with mental illnesses DO get pushed under the rug. It is dismissed as ADD or anxiety disorder or teenaged depression. A lot of times, that is not the case. In the book, Caden is lucky that he has parents who notice the emotional changes happening to him. He pretends to join the track team just so he has an excuse to walk for hours. He is under the impression that if he stops walking, something bad will happen. He is worried about someone murdering his family, hurting his friends at school, or a deadly earthquake happening in China if he stops walking. His mind makes these things so real to him that he has no choice – he must obey. As a firm believer in bibliotherapy, I will definitely be stocking this book in my classroom. It is one of the most important books on mental illness I have ever read.

3. Let’s revisit the chapters, shall we?

Okay, so as I mentioned, the chapters are insanely short. This is one of those books where the chapter titles matter, too. I think at one point, on Goodreads, I wrote that the layout of this book was making me feel like I was going crazy. You feel like you’ve been through so much with Caden, then you look down, and you’ve only read 30% of the book. It’s so well done in making me feel like I’m living Caden’s life with him. Between the hospital, the scenes on the ship, and Caden’s mind, readers never actually know which is real and which is the delusion.

4. The acknowledgement is one of my favorite parts of the book.

So, this review seems short, because it is. There is a lot that happens to Caden and the acknowledgements give you a little insight to what Shusterman has gone through with mental illness personally. In the beginning, you see that all illustrations are done by Brendan Shusterman – Neal’s son. Only after seeing a few of the drawings did I piece together that this story is rooted in truth. I’m leaving it there. That’s all.

OVERALL: 5 STARS!! This book was so poignant and real and heartbreaking and full of hope all at the same time. Going through Caden’s journey gives you the feeling that you know exactly how he feels, even if you have never had any experience with mental illness. You have to feel for the kid. He’s doing the best he can. I definitely plan on using this as a book in bibliotherapy in the future. This was my first time reading Neal Shusterman, and I can say that I’m now a fan and I need to work through the rest of his books. He’s fantastic. This book comes out on April 21, 2015, so if you want to be as blown away as I was, you’ll need to pre-order. Click the link!

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Book Review: Endangered by Lamar Giles

EndangeredHoly hell I love Lamar Giles. I’ve loved Lamar Giles ever since I read Fake I.D. in one sitting. This book hooked me, too, so gird your loins. I received this digital ARC from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

A psychologically twisted tale from celebrated author Lamar Giles
The one secret she cares about—keeping her identity—is about to be exposed.
Unless Lauren “Panda” Daniels—an anonymous photoblogger who specializes in busting classmates and teachers in compromising positions—plays along with her blackmailer’s little game of Dare or…Dare.
But when the game turns deadly, Panda doesn’t know what to do. And she may need to step out of the shadows to save herself…and everyone else on the blackmailer’s hit list.

1. This is and always will be a “We Need Diverse Books” title, but I think this is done beautifully.

There have been a few Diverse Books titles that I have read that are totally in your face. Diverse Books does not necessarily mean the world has to be so vastly different from anyone else’s world. I really like how Giles’s stories have elements of diverse characters and families without assuming any racial stereotypes (i.e., black families being poor). If you haven’t read Fake I.D., you totally should. The story is amazing. But anyway, back to Endangered. Our main character is Panda (that’s not her real name) and she’s a photography vigilante. She is mixed race – her mom is German (white) and her dad is a black man in the military. She got her nickname at a young age when she was teased for being a mixed race. Her mother showed her pictures of panda bears and she felt like they were her kindred spirits, hence the name Panda. She also has a friend named Ocie (or Mei) who is half black and half Chinese. They do this cute and endearing thing where if they’re in agreement with each other, they say, “that’s our black,” meaning they’re similar. If they’re doing something the other disapproves of, they say, “you’re being so other right now.” I love it. The diversity in this book is amazing, and I love how Giles communicates his diversity.

2. There is a lot of blurring of lines between good and bad.

This is the biggest theme in the book. Panda is a photography vigilante. If that doesn’t make sense to you, I’ll explain, without giving away spoilers. So Panda seeks out people who do wrong, photographs them doing dastardly deeds, and posts them on her alter ego’s website, Gray Scale. This effectively ruins their social life forever, and she is able to sleep at night with the satisfaction that she has saved her adoring public from another villain. However, this begs the question: when do these Robin Hood -esque deeds become mean, instead of helpful? That is something Panda needs to find out about herself over the course of the book. I really loved Panda’s character development because (and I know I have said this so many times before, but it’s true) it makes her feel real. I have a thing about feeling like characters in books are real and Panda feels like an actual person instead of a work of fiction. The way Panda realizes her flaws and comes to accept herself is the way an actual person would. At least, it seems like a way I would do things. I loved her.

3. The sidekicks in this book are super awesome. They aren’t annoying or clingy, and every action they make is justified.

So, there are two sidekicks in this book: Ocie and Taylor. Taylor was Panda’s first victim on her Gray Scale site. Over the course of the book, Taylor needs to earn back Panda’s trust because she just cannot stand him. Anyway, Ocie is short for OCD, which Panda thinks she has. It’s a term of endearment. Ocie and Panda are a great team. It is obvious they have been besties for a long time, and they are some of the best literary best friends I’ve seen. Regardless of the fact that they’re both black and “other,” they seem to be each other’s lifeline and that is beautiful to see, especially in teenagers their age. Their high school is unforgiving when it comes to rumors and gossip – after all, they live in a small town – and these two stick together through it all. Taylor, on the other hand, is kind of a jerk. He had a relationship with Panda, she turned him down when she wasn’t ready to move further, and he ruined her by telling people the opposite. When he comes back into the picture as someone Ocie is tutoring, Panda feels betrayed. But, as a testament to their friendship, Panda gets over it and proves again how mature their friendship is.

4. The twisted murder plot comes out of nowhere, and unless you’re psychic, it’s hard to guess up until the end.

I can’t say a lot about this point, because I don’t want to give anything away. I want you all to read this book, because Lamar Giles is amazing. Anyway, if Fake I.D. and Endangered are any indication, Giles has a fantastic mind for crime stories. This is definitely a murder mystery with a huge twist, especially when it comes to Panda. I feel like I’m getting dangerously close to spoilers, here, so I’ll stop.

5. I mentioned the high school previously, but I want to talk about it more.

So, Portside High is where all of Panda’s friends and enemies attend school. When she first gets involved in Gray Scale, it is to protect people who cannot protect themselves. Her most recent target, Keachin (I know, horrible name), is the opening of the book. Keachin is an awful human being and Panda is determined to exhume her secrets because of what she did to a classmate who has Cerebral Palsy. It is difficult to feel like you’re a hero when no one else feels the same. Panda ends up dealing with a lot. Their high school is like any small high school. It is a beehive, and Keachin is the queen bee. I don’t know how Giles can write teenagers so well, but even his high school population is dead on. I’m a student teacher, so I’m in a high school every day, and the bullying, bad mouthing, gossiping, and friendship are all so familiar in this book, that I felt the high school was mine. Just slap a different name on it. Anyway, if you’re into social dynamic, you will love this book’s setting – high school and otherwise.

OVERALL: FIVE STARS!!!! I honestly loved this book so much. And, as I’ve said before, you really should read Fake I.D., too. It engrossed me so much that I finished it in a day. If you love mysteries and crime and detective work, Giles’s books are for you – especially Endangered. This book comes out on April 21, 2015 and trust me when I say you’ll want this on release day. So, click the link to pre-order and seriously, enjoy this. It’s a fun, wild ride.

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Book Review: Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan

Blood of OlympusIf you haven’t read this series at all, then you need to turn around, go read them, then come back to this, because there will be a ton of spoilers and I don’t want to hear any whining. Here’s your synopsis:

Though the Greek and Roman crewmembers of the Argo II have made progress in their many quests, they still seem no closer to defeating the earth mother, Gaea. Her giants have risen-all of them-and they’re stronger than ever. They must be stopped before the Feast of Spes, when Gaea plans to have two demigods sacrificed in Athens. She needs their blood-the blood of Olympus-in order to wake.

The demigods are having more frequent visions of a terrible battle at Camp Half-Blood. The Roman legion from Camp Jupiter, led by Octavian, is almost within striking distance. Though it is tempting to take the Athena Parthenos to Athens to use as a secret weapon, the friends know that the huge statue belongs back on Long Island, where it might be able to stop a war between the two camps.

The Athena Parthenos will go west; the Argo II will go east. The gods, still suffering from multiple personality disorder, are useless. How can a handful of young demigods hope to persevere against Gaea’s army of powerful giants? As dangerous as it is to head to Athens, they have no other option. They have sacrificed too much already. And if Gaea wakes, it is game over.

1. Rick Riordan is hands down one of my favorite authors.

Seriously, there are so many times I’m reading and I shake my head and mutter, “that darn Rick.” He’s one of the only authors alive that can make me giggle during an intense fight scene. His characters are so well developed and realistic – even though they’re demigods – that they honestly feel like longtime friends. Maybe they feel like friends because I’ve been traveling with them for however many years he’s been writing them. Not only are his characters hilarious and amazing, but his research is so extensive and impressive. I took a mythology class a year ago, and I already knew most of the myths because I had been reading Riordan’s work. I cannot wait for the new series coming next year. *flails*

2. The mythology. If you love mythology, you are going to love not only these books, but pretty much everything Riordan writes.

Every myth in this series (and all of Riordan’s series) are absolutely correct. I knew more about mythology than I ever knew just from reading Riordan’s books. So there’s this series, then there’s Percy Jackson, then The Lost Hero, then the Kane Chronicles. All of them have serious, serious research involved. I didn’t understand how much research went in until I took that mythology course. I was blown away before, but then I was completely flabbergasted. This is why I couldn’t ever be an author. It is too much research for me to even comprehend.

3. This story. I honestly thought he was going to run out of ammo in this series because so much happens.

I was so happy that I was so happy with this whole thing. There was humor and love and laughter, but also death and war and darkness. The past four books have been chock full of adventure and quests. One of the things I liked about this book was that there was no turn where there wasn’t adventure, but none of it seemed like it was forced and it never seemed like Riordan ran out of the actual story to tell. The whole thing was planned and carried out impeccably, and I couldn’t have been happier.

4. There is the small matter of death.

So, as in the Percy Jackson series, there is death. This is the big finale just like in the last PJ book, so of course there is a huge battle, but there is also death – as in any war. Most of the deaths occur to people we don’t like, which makes us cheerful. But, sometimes, as any honest writer must do, some of our friends die. One of the best parts of this book is that it is kind of like Game of Thrones, in that you never really know who will survive – or who is really dead.

5. The chapter narratives are frustrating and amazing at the same time.

So, I like to call Riordan the master of cliffhangers. I hate reading his books while they’re still currently releasing, because the end of the book is always a horrible cliffhanger and leaves me with a book hangover for weeks afterward. However, in this book especially, I noticed that we get cliffhangers at the end of EVERY. CHAPTER. The chapter narratives in this one are Jason, Piper, Reyna, Leo, and Nico. I thought this was an interesting choice for the points of view. I’ve heard some gripes that Annabeth and Percy didn’t get a narrative, but this series wasn’t about them. Yes, they were a part of the quest and the fated seven, but this series is trying to wean you off of Percy and Annabeth, so why would there be any narratives from them? I’m not saying they aren’t in the story – they most definitely are, but I love that they don’t have their own chapters. It was a great way to end this.

OVERALL: FIVE STARS!!! I really love all of Riordan’s work, and this was no exception. I am never disappointed in how he ends his series and this one was one of my favorites. I can’t even tell you how excited I am for the Asgard series coming next year. Anyway, if you love mythology, get this series NOW and binge it. Trust me, it’s worth it.

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Book Review: Suspicion by Alexandra Monir

SuspicionAgain, I have a lot to say, so here is your synopsis from Amazon:

“There’s something hidden in the maze.”

Seventeen-year-old Imogen Rockford has never forgotten the last words her father said to her, before the blazing fire that consumed him, her mother, and the gardens of her family’s English country manor.

For seven years, images of her parents’ death have haunted Imogen’s dreams. In an effort to escape the past, she leaves Rockford Manor and moves to New York City with her new guardians. But some attachments prove impossible to shake—including her love for her handsome neighbor Sebastian Stanhope.

Then a life-altering letter arrives that forces Imogen to return to the manor in England, where she quickly learns that dark secrets lurk behind Rockford’s aristocratic exterior. At their center is Imogen herself—and Sebastian, the boy she never stopped loving.

Combining spine-tingling mystery, romance, and unforgettable characters, Suspicion is an action-packed thrill ride.

1. Our main character is a tad annoying, but loveable at the same time.

This book starts with a bang. The first chapter has you hooked. Our main character is Lady Imogen Rockford, and she’s got problems. This starts with her needing to give a statement to police (we don’t know why, and I won’t tell you) which then melds into a flashback from when Imogen was 10 years old. No spoilers here, but her parents die. The how and the why are both things you need to read to find out, so again, I’m not going to tell you. The whole book is a mystery and had me stressed and guessing the whole time. This is basically a huge whodunnit type of mystery with a little magic thrown in. Anyway, Imogen has a lot of responsibility hoisted on her shoulders, and she is only 17 so I can understand her apprehension. However, I really didn’t like how she questions herself so much. Every single action she makes is pored over so much that it gets a little tedious. There were some points where I was yelling in my head, “just do it already! We both know you’re going to, so just go!” But she ends up being equal parts brave and cowardly which makes her super realistic, which I loved, especially in the world of this book.

2. Speaking of the world, it was pretty awesome. Old school class peppered with the modern world.

This world was pretty interesting. I’ve been getting into a lot of fantasies lately, and I expected this world to be more fantasy than reality. I’m pretty sure I was pleasantly surprised to see that this took place in the modern world with some old school English aristocracy. It made me feel bad for Imogen because I definitely couldn’t have kept all of these titles straight or go through etiquette training. There was a brief part of the book that reminded me of The Princess Diaries, but after the etiquette training and the big surprise to Imogen, that’s where the similarities end.

3. The magic in this book is a little bit pointless, and I wish there was more of it.

The biggest mystery in this book – well, one of the biggest mysteries – is the mystery of Imogen’s magic. We only see it a couple of times, and for half the book, she is afraid of it. Eventually, she embraces it (this is not a spoiler – if you read books, you know that at some point the main character has to embrace their flaws) and even after she decides not to be afraid, we don’t see a lot of magic. Her magic is pretty awesome, and I’m not going to tell you a lot about it because it is one of the biggest mysteries in the book, but I just wish there would have been more of it. As it was, Imogen’s abilities just seemed a little bit too convenient to feel magical.

4. The synopsis is right when it tells you that this book is like Hitchcock directing Downton Abbey.

Again, I am not giving any spoilers, but this book is a HUGE mystery. I am kind of unclear as to if there’s going to be another book, but the ending left the possibility open. However, from the second we the readers arrive at Rockford, you are totally freaked out. This house is creepy, the family history is even creepier, and the mystery surrounding this book is the creepiest. There are many twists and turns that you might try to call, but you won’t be able to. The biggest twist in the book floored me so much that I had to stop reading for a minute to make sure I had read what I did. I needed to process a little. It was so crazy and it gave me goosebumps while it was happening.

OVERALL: 3.5 STARS! I couldn’t tell you my favorite part about this book because I honestly enjoyed the whole thing. I started it last night and finished it in about 24 hours. It was engrossing, fun, and kept me guessing the whole time I was reading it. It is definitely a different take on aristocracy and the lengths some will go through to keep what they have. If you’re a fan of good, fast paced stories, then this is definitely the book for you. This comes out on December 9, 2014 so click the link below to pre-order!

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ARC Review: A Cold Legacy by Megan Shepherd

A Cold Legacy***SPOILER ALERT*** IF YOU HAVEN’T READ THE FIRST TWO BOOKS, THERE ARE MAJOR SPOILERS CONTAINED IN THIS REVIEW. DON’T SAY I DIDN’T WARN YOU!!

I got a copy of this e-ARC from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. Here’s your synopsis from Amazon:

With inspiration from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, this breathless conclusion to the Madman’s Daughter trilogy—perfect for fans of Libba Bray—explores the things we’ll sacrifice to save those we love . . . even our own humanity.

After killing the men who tried to steal her father’s research, Juliet—along with Montgomery, Lucy, Balthazar, and a deathly ill Edward—has escaped to a remote estate on the Scottish moors. Owned by the enigmatic Elizabeth von Stein, the mansion is full of mysteries and unexplained oddities: dead bodies in the basement, secret passages, and fortune-tellers who seem to know Juliet’s secrets. Though it appears to be a safe haven, Juliet fears new dangers may be present within the manor’s own walls.

Then she uncovers the truth about the manor’s long history of scientific experimentation—and her own intended role in it—which forces her to determine where the line falls between right and wrong, life and death, magic and science, and promises and secrets. Juliet must decide if she’ll follow her father’s dark footsteps or her mother’s tragic ones—or make her own.

1. Here we go. I really hope you’ve read the first two, and if you haven’t, go read them now and come back to this review when you’ve finished, okay?

I absolutely love this series, for many many reasons. The first book – if you haven’t read it – is based on The Island of Dr. Moreau – while weaved into this fantastic tale of Juliet Moreau. The second book is based on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and both of these books are amazing. This final book in the trilogy is no different. This one is based on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and I couldn’t have been more happy. Have you ever read a series and been so disappointed in the last book that you end up just loathing the entire series? It’s happened to me too much. However, not here. This kept me enthralled through all 400 of its pages. Now that we’re past this lengthy introduction, I’m going to get into the meat of it.

2. The themes of fate and one’s own wickedness and morality are still highly at play here – which is one of the reasons I adore Juliet as our heroine.

So, Juliet Moreau constantly struggles with the memory of her father. Her father’s blood runs in her veins, but so does his intelligence live in her brain. She struggles throughout the trilogy because she doesn’t want to end up like her father. However, his ghost and the ghost of his work follows her always. Will she decide her own path, or will she end up a madwoman as her father was a madman? Will she be able to overcome her ghosts and fears in order to become her own person? I can’t tell you that; the book will tell you all of these things. This is one of the many reasons why I love Juliet. She is so flawed and so haunted that she is so realistic. Don’t we all struggle with our own demons? She definitely does, and she does it in a corset.

3. I hate love triangles. There is a love triangle through the series, but it is shattered in this third book.

So, when we left Juliet and Montgomery, they were engaged, riding in a carriage with a chained up Edward (who has just swallowed an insane amount of arsenic in order to get rid of the Beast), and a distraught Lucy – who we’re pretty sure is in love with Edward. Enter the discovery of Elizabeth’s “von Stein” roots being those of Victor Frankenstein and owning a manor in the north of Scotland, and you’ve got yourself one crazy story. So we know Juliet totally banged Edward out of loneliness, longing, and need. But, we also know that she LOVES Montgomery (and honestly, who doesn’t?) and she would do anything for him. At the end of the second book we’re kind of left wondering what will happen between Juliet, Edward, Montgomery, and Lucy. But here in the third book, there are clearly lines drawn. Of course, we have to see the reappearance of the Beast, but Edward is still Edward and Lucy continuously takes care of him while he is chained and ill. I fear I may give away some spoilers, so just know, Edward and Lucy are totally together and Montgomery and Juliet are totally together. No more love triangle. Boom.

4. So there’s this super creepy kid named Hensley…

Hensley is the weirdest, creepiest character in this entire series in my humble opinion. I really can’t say more than that, even though I really, really want to! I get freaked out about creepy kids in movies and books. I hate zombie children, vampire children, or any mix of those undead things and children. Even kid ghosts. *shudder* All I’ll tell you is that he has one milky white eye and he creeps through hidden passages in the walls. That already sounds creepy, even as I’m just typing it. Just know, Hensley is a creep.

5. All secrets are revealed and we even see some faces from the past.

I HATE SECRETS IN REAL LIFE AND I HATE THEM EVEN MORE IN BOOKS. Everything is tied up so well. However, I will warn you, there is no epilogue. I was hoping and praying to the book gods for a epilogue because I desperately want to live in Juliet’s world and I want to be her best friend. Anyway, I digress. There is no epilogue, but it actually ends up being okay because we find out everything. Everything the Beast alludes to, everything Montgomery alludes to, and everything that happens in the past is tied up so beautifully. I loved how this ended. When I finished, I was in tears, but I won’t tell you whether my tears were happy tears or sad tears. You’ll have to have your own tears to figure it out.

6. The research done for this book is absolutely extensive and I have to pay mad respect to Megan Shepherd.

So, not only does Shepherd write this amazing book, but she OBVIOUSLY had to do a ton of research in order to write this and the preceding two. She had to research source material (I wonder how many times she read the source work, because it is blatantly present, which is impressive) but she had to do research on scientific experiments, surgery, and human anatomy. The science stuff is so over my head – it always has been, there’s a reason I’m an English teacher and not a science teacher – so I really can’t tell you whether or not it’s 100% accurate, but it sounded good to me! There is a particular scene with an inflamed gland and a bone saw that had my stomach churning, but I couldn’t stop reading. It was both realistic and tense, and it was AMAZING. Way to go Shepherd, you may have taught me some science.

OVERALL: FIVE STARS!!! I feel like I’ve been giving out a lot of five star reviews lately, but I’ve just been on one of those kicks where I’ve just been reading a ton of amazing books. So please don’t see this as I’m a bad reviewer. I’ll try to find a bad book soon, I promise. Anyway, you will not be disappointed in A Cold Legacy, especially if you adored the first two books as much as I did. As a teacher, I’m adapting The Madman’s Daughter into a unit to (hopefully) teach my high school students next year. The research done in these books is amazing, and I need my kids to experience this awesomeness. This book comes out on January 27, 2015. Click the link to pre-order. Believe me, you’ll want to start this on release day.

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Book Review: Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky

Gracefully GraysonThis book was phenomenal, so let’s get started. Here’s your synopsis from yours truly: Grayson is a boy, who feels as if he is a girl on the inside. That’s all I’m saying. This is amazing.

1. This book surprised me. I know that sounds bad, but it really did.

I requested this book from NetGalley,and I was waiting ever so patiently to get it. A book about gender identity from Disney-Hyperion? Yes, please. Anyway, the synopsis I saw caught me, and the story had me reading all night last night and all day today. Grayson is an amazing character. He is an orphan, living with his aunt and uncle, and in sixth grade. The struggles he goes through are struggles that grown people go through. He is able to recognize these things about himself in sixth grade. Go, Grayson, go!

2. There is an inspiring teacher, and I love inspiring teachers, since I happen to be a teacher. I hope to be this inspiring one day.

Mr. Finnegan is the best teacher I have seen in literature in a long time. He is not afraid of who he is, and he supports Grayson in becoming who he is meant to be. Grayson tries out for the school play about the Greek goddess Persephone. Instead of trying out for a male role like Zeus, he tries out for the main female role – Persephone. Instead of laughing Grayson off the stage, Mr. Finnegan supports him, while warning him of the repercussions. Grayson is a lonely boy, and he is finally involving himself in something, so Mr. Finnegan (the kids call him Finn) refuses to dim the spark in him. He’s amazing.

3. The theme of discovering who you are and being brave are in the forefront here, which most adults refuse to do.

Grayson is himself without apologies. He is an incredible character who I wish I was friends with. Personally knowing someone with this type of gender identity issue, I thought the things he goes through are horrible and beautiful and poignant. He struggles with how a “boy should act,” dressing “like a boy,” and which bathroom he should use. He consistently tries to hide himself, and theatre is his escape. Haven’t we all been there?

4. The writing is gorgeous and engrossing.

I’ll be honest: I don’t much like young protagonists like Grayson. I usually enjoy a character who is more mature. However, Grayson’s struggles make him so relateable and he seems much older than his sixth grade age suggests. He is incredible, and he is my hero. There are many people in the world struggling the same way he is, but do they all possess his bravery? That answer is no.

OVERALL: 5 STARS! This book is all about bravery and love and accepting yourself, regardless of what everyone else thinks. Grayson is unforgiving and he is accepting and he is perfect…or should I say, she? Of course bullying happens, but he gets by with a little help from his friends. I would not hesitate to use this book as a bibliotherapy title and I cannot tell you how much I loved this.

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Book Review: The Odyssey of Falling by Paige Crutcher

The Odyssey of FallingOkay, before I give you the synopsis, can we just ogle the cover for a moment? It’s beautiful. The cover honestly made me request this book, because I *do* judge books by their covers, even though I know I shouldn’t. Okay, here’s your synopsis from Amazon:

Meet Odd. Audrey “Odd” Ashworth is an exceptionally bright girl with a sympathetic heart. She’s in the top 4% of her class. She’s obsessed with getting into Manhattan School of Music, committed to following the “signs” the universe delivers, and infatuated with the boyfriend of her recently deceased best friend.

Life is a little strange for Odd.

Until she finds her best friend’s diary in her crush’s car, and decides to do the bucket list tucked inside the pages. As Odd seeks closure and a way to honor her friend, she discovers there’s nothing wrong with a little strange, especially if it helps you discover who you were meant to be. Along the way, Odd falls into trouble, adventure, and finally love.

1. Okay, first I really need to gush about the writing style of Crutcher.

Paige Crutcher, you beautiful wordsmith. This book is definitely a coming-of-age story, which I am more inclined to enjoy these days. But, the way it is presented is a work of art. The writing is so incredibly beautiful that I kept forgetting that this is a YA book. (You all know I love YA. I just mean that sometimes, the writing style can lack a little so the story can move along). Not with Crutcher, oh no. I honestly can’t even tell you how gorgeous the writing was, so you’ll have to read it yourself.

2. The main character was beautifully tragic, naive, hopeless, and heroic, all at the same time.

Audrey is amazing. First, she broke my heart. Then, she annoyed me. Finally, she broke my heart again in all the right ways. The whole basis of the book is that she is attempting to complete a list that her best friend (who dies before the events of the book take place) has set forth for herself to become the girl she wants to be. The only problem is, both Audrey and Meredith (the aforementioned friend) are both lost on who they want to be. Audrey finds the list and attempts to emulate her best friend – which obviously leads to shenanigans ensuing. She’s amazing.

3. The world is believably real and wonderful and sad, all at once.

I’ve been really into realistic books lately. There was no paranormalcy in this book, nor was there magic. Well, I amend that last statement. There was magic, but it is more along the lines of the miraculous, wonderful things that happen in real life rather than supernatural magic. Audrey’s friends do drugs, and her whole town is steeped in kids who are bored who smoke pot – among other things. There is a particularly funny scene with acid, and I was honestly cracking up for ten minutes, but I won’t ruin it for you. As someone who was addicted to drugs and works in a city that has high schools with drug problems, it is incredible to see a realistic take on the drug problem that teenagers face. It takes courage to stand up to your friends and believe in what is right. Audrey does that tenfold. She always stands her ground, even though she gets crap for it from her friends.

4. The book’s look at loss is beautiful and it spoke to me.

Recently, we lost my boyfriend’s mother (who was like a second mother to me). Her death was sudden and unexpected and we are still dealing with the loss of our mom. The book deals with the loss of Meredith through the entire story. There is one quote I’d like to share with you all that honestly brought tears to my eyes, because it is exactly how I’ve been feeling. “Life is unpredictable. It’s messy and confusing, and sometimes I want to give up. But other times, like in the middle of the worst moment in the history of moments known to mankind, something amazing happens and it all makes sense. It all comes to a point. It’s those times I live for, for the seconds I wish would last forever and for the people who make them feel like magic.” (Also, see what I mean about the writing?) Anyway, this book honestly helped me deal with the loss of my mother in a way I hadn’t even thought of before. It really did help, Ms. Crutcher, and I thank you from the bottom of my aching heart.

OVERALL: I am giving this book five stars because it is absolutely stunning. The story was fantastic, there was heart, there was loss, there was love, and there was dignity (or loss of, at some points). I don’t think I’ve enjoyed writing this much in a long time. Seriously, go grab this on your Kindle. It released today.

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