Captive

Captive (The Blackcoat Rebellion #2) by Aimee Carter

CaptiveFor the past two months, Kitty Doe’s life has been a lie. Forced to impersonate the Prime Minister’s niece, her frustration grows as her trust in her fake fiancé cracks, her real boyfriend is forbidden and the Blackcoats keep her in the dark more than ever.

But in the midst of discovering that her role in the Hart family may not be as coincidental as she thought, she’s accused of treason and is forced to face her greatest fear: Elsewhere. A prison where no one can escape.

As one shocking revelation leads to the next, Kitty learns the hard way that she can trust no one, not even the people she thought were on her side. With her back against the wall, Kitty wants to believe she’ll do whatever it takes to support the rebellion she believes in—but is she prepared to pay the ultimate price? (Goodreads)

 

Captive is the sequel to Pawn. If you haven’t read the first book, I suggest you check it out…otherwise you may be just a teensy bit lost what with all the spoilers here and the rambling about characters you haven’t even had time to hate yet (Benji: hate. Knox: kiss).

 

Let’s get back up to speed:

 

Still masked as Lila Hart, Kitty is living under the reign of her evil Prime Minister uncle, Daxton Hart. As we learned in the previous book, Daxton is a big fat phony whose true identity is unknown because he’s been masked as well (meaning the real Daxton is probably dead). Cue that soap opera music! Augusta, the matriarch and true Evil Mastermind of the family, is a goner thanks to Kitty shooting her in the last book. Cecilia (Daxton’s sister) and the real Lila are in hiding now and the Blackcoats are moving forward in planning their rebellion. Knox, Lila’s fiancé (that Kitty has to pretend to be engaged to) is still deeply involved with the Blackcoats. He continues to play the game along with Kitty, trying to guide her through things, even helping her arrange private meetings with her snore inducing boyfriend Benji (whom he’s tagged as his personal assistant).

Feeling caught up?

In Captive, things pick up right where they left off. It’s Lila’s birthday soiree and Kitty is being her typical whiny self (I do like her, I swear) and moaning about how she wants to run away somewhere with Benji and live a boring happy life. Because that’s possible. Benji, ever patient, agrees to run away with her but the whole plan falls apart when they’re caught by Daxton himself. This is because Kitty breaks into Daxton’s safe and steals a file containing his true identity. Fake Daxton does not like that. Kitty hides the file somewhere no one can find it, leaving Daxton is furious. Let’s just say that someone ends up dead, someone turns out to be a major traitor, and someone else goes to Elsewhere (hence the book title).

This whole portion of the book was a little slow for me. Maybe it’s because, while I expected Kitty to continue to rebel, I imagined her doing it from the Hart home, right under Daxton’s nose. I didn’t want to see Elsewhere or imagine Kitty there. But things got very interesting. Elsewhere introduced a new group of characters, those you’ll instantly hate, those you’ll instantly love, and those you aren’t entirely sure you should trust. Kitty finds Blackcoats there as well, and she learns that while she’s still a prisoner, the fellow residents look up to her as a voice for their cause. Even Mercer, the hardened man who runs her sector, along with his wife, Hannah, offer her a place to stay (not that they’re nice). It’s difficult for Kitty to know who to trust, especially when her situation seems hopeless.

 

My Thoughts:

As I mentioned, even though I thought Pawn was great, this was a tough start for me. More than halfway through it I was interested but not fully invested. And then there was this moment where it all clicked and I couldn’t wait to pick it up again. There are many twists and turns and revelations. Kitty is better this time around because she grows to be very bold. She begins to worry less about herself and her happy ending with Benji and she sees the bigger picture. Hallelujah! Upping the stakes are a few new characters who are in a category unto themselves (Friend? Enemy? Frenemy?). I can’t even address the love triangle without serious spoilers (which stinks since that’s always my favorite part to discuss). Suffice it to say that there is some serious and well-deserved tension in Kitty’s relationship with Knox. Benji, on the other hand, is still the President of Snoozerville. I just nodded off while typing that.

If you liked Pawn I think this is worth your time. The end portion is particularly good, the kind of book I lost sleep over because I couldn’t put it down. Don’t you just love that?

Crush Intensity: 4/5 Captive grew on me. I’m eagerly anticipating the third and final book, Queen.

Where’d I Get It: This one was a Christmas present. It’s all mine!

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Best Books of 2014

As this year comes to a close I think its time to chat about our favorite books of the year. For me, this was a tough reading year. There were definitely some books I LOVED, but it feels like there was less that totally blew me away. Because of this I spent a megaton of time re-reading books (okay, I always do that, but still). This year I found myself more lost in love with certain classics, or certain series and stand alones I’ve read multiple times, and those books—ones like Jellicoe Road, Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone, Princess in Love, To Kill A Mockingbird, and the Jenny Han Summer series—often took center stage.

 

But fear not. I read some good new (or new to me) ones too.

 

The Stand Alones/ First in a Series

Better off friends

Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg

It was sold as a YA When Harry Met Sally and it really is all that and more. This was one of those books I wanted to start reading again immediately after finishing it.

 We were Liars

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

In a word, breathtaking.

 

To All the BoysTo All The Boys I’ve Loved Before (#1) by Jenny Han

This book was so cute, so fun, and something in it just resonated with me. I read it and adored it and then, within months, read it again and loved it just the same.

More Than ThisMore Than This by Patrick Ness

You really can’t go wrong with Patrick Ness. The big question here is why on earth did I wait so long to read this?

 wonder

Wonder by RJ Palacio

I avoided this book forever because I worried that as a mommy it would be unbelievably difficult to read. And you know what? It was every bit as amazing as I’d heard and more. Yes, there were tears, but there was so much joy, so much warmth. This one dug a hole deep in my heart. I think it should be required reading for all kids.

these broken starsThese Broken Stars ( Starbound #1) by Aimee Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

I loved this book from the first pages. It was unique and intriguing, and it took me on an entirely different journey than the one I’d expected. And the swoons were pretty excellent. Like, really good.

 

The Sequels

 

Blue lilyBlue Lily, Lily Blue (The Raven Boys #3) by Maggie Stiefvater

I can’t get enough of the gorgeous prose, of these characters, or of the crazy bananapants problems they encounter. After the fourth and final installment I’m certain to be grieving their loss.

Gods and MonstersDreams of Gods and Monsters (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #3) by Laini Taylor

Oh, this series. See what I wrote above about grieving? All the feels. I can’t even explain it.

 

Ignite MeIgnite Me (Shatter Me #3) by Tahereh Mafi

Oh sweet holy moly, these books. And Warner, setting panties aflame across the nation. This was a good journey and though it was technically the end (and a good, solid end), Mafi wrote it in a way that left a whole new world of possibilities to explore.

 

Just Call My NameJust Call My Name (I’ll Be There #2) by Holly Goldberg Sloan

These characters slay me. Even though the first book ended so perfectly, I like that Sloan chose to explore some of the difficulties that follow Sam, Riddle, and Emily as they adjust to their new lives. Even happy endings take work.

 

 

Honorable Mentions:

Since You've Been GoneSince You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson- So adorably cute that I’ll be reading it again soon. It gave me happy feelings.

 

Second Chanc SummerSecond Chance Summer by Morgan Matson- Another case of why did I wait so long?

Biggest FlirtsBiggest Flirts (The Superlatives #1) by Jennifer Echols- All. The. Banter. I was into this book all the way, hook, line and sinker.

 

Happy Reading! If you’ve read something that knocked your socks off, please share it with me!

Blue Lily, Lily Blue

Blue Lily, Lily Blue (The Raven Cycle #3) by Maggie Stiefvater

I like the whole Tinkerbelle thing going on here. This series has such great cover art.

I like the whole Tinkerbelle thing going on here. This series has such great cover art.

There is danger in dreaming. But there is even more danger in waking up.

Blue Sargent has found things. For the first time in her life, she has friends she can trust, a group to which she can belong. The Raven Boys have taken her in as one of their own. Their problems have become hers, and her problems have become theirs.

The trick with found things though, is how easily they can be lost.

Friends can betray.
Mothers can disappear.
Visions can mislead.
Certainties can unravel. (Goodreads)

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer:

If you have not read The Raven Boys, or The Dream Thieves, first off, I’m sad for you. Second, I cannot be held responsible for any spoilers that might get spoilery and possibly spoil things for you. You have been warned.

Let’s catch up:

Maura is gone. Totally up and left and no one seems to know where to find her. Adam still has this weirder than weird connection with the Cabeswater that I don’t think even he understands. Blue still wants to kiss Gansey’s face off but, you know, based on everything she’s been told, it could kill him soooooo maybe now’s not the time. Gansey, unaware that Blue believes she will one day cause her true love’s death, pines for her too, his loyalty to Adam the only thing keeping him away. All the world is still a little bit in love with Gansey—except Ronan (oh, Ronan), who has it bad for Adam. Blue’s family is still as quirky as all get out, and they, along with Blue and her Raven boys, continue to search for the mysterious Glendower. They enlist outside help in the form of some new, interesting characters, and some new bad guys start sniffing around, making life even more difficult. You following?

That’s the main thing with this series, a series I LOVE. I have a hard time keeping up. The characters are amazing. Each book tells the story, with a slightly heightened focus on another character. And the whole idea, the whole setting—all of it—it’s totally bananaballs, but in, like, the best way possible. However, trying to keep it all straight –BECAUSE SO MUCH HAPPENS and SO MUCH OF IT IS ABSOLUTELY CRAZY–is difficult. The writing is incredibly gorgeous, as the previous two have been, but take my advice and read the first books again. Or at least skim them.

All things considered, this installment was very, very it good. I’d say it was my least favorite of the three so far, but it maintained the spirit of awesome we’ve come to expect from Blue and the boys. Definitely read it, be prepared for a few WHAT THE WHATS, and know that the end will, like its predecessors, leave you hanging on like a yo yo (see how I did that? I made you want to listen to a Wham song).

Crush Intensity: 4.25/5 Anxiously awaiting book four. The last one. Sob!

Thank you to Netgalley and Scholastic for giving me an e-galley in exchange for an honest review.

OMG It’s Been a Month

Sooooo, it’s been a while. I’m sorry. I haven’t fallen off the face of the planet. I’m still reading, still writing, still love blogging, but I’ve definitely fallen behind.  One thing I didn’t spend this past month doing? NaNoWriMo. Nope. Didn’t happen. As I mentioned previously, I did do something kind of funny: I reread Twilight.

Twilight

Yep.

It had been about five years since the last time I’d picked it up. Before that, I’d read it about three times. Back then I was like most people; I was sucked in. I loved Edward, I was engrossed in the whole love triangle, and I hated Bella and Jacob in equal parts (Bella, you can’t be in love with two people. You can’t). So, imagine my surprise when I caught a showing of the film version of my least favorite book in the series, New Moon, over the Halloween season, and I said I’m going to read that series again! It was a strange desire, but hey, I went with it.

Twilight First Kiss

Here’s what I learned: I still hate Bella. Really, she’s so self-deprecating and such an Edward worshipper that I feel she and I could never truly be friends (it’s essential that I at least respect all of the heroines in my books). I don’t hate Jacob yet. In fact, I forgot that I…wait..liked him in the first book. He was sort of endearing and sweet. I still felt super-wrapped up in the whole who is this crazy hot Cullen dude who keeps staring at Bella like he simultaneously wants to kill her and make out with her? That was fun to read again. Not fun? Bella’s snore-inducing descriptions of her nightly dinner-making. Seriously, how did I get past that five years ago? How did no one see fit to cut that out of the books? I still really liked Alice (when she hugs Bella and comments that “she does smell good”, LOVE). But the rest fell short for me. It wasn’t because I knew what was going to happen (hello, I spend half of my time rereading books to the point that I can practically recite them. It’s about the build up sometimes and not solely the outcome), it was more or less because Bella really has no personality. And Edward–it hurts me to say this–he felt a little blah. A completely, stalkery, devoted blah, but blah just the same.

So that’s my reread take.

But then I reread a fabulous book I hadn’t picked up in about two or three years, Jellicoe Road. Now, hold up. I’m not comparing the two books. Even I know it’s unfair to compare a Melina Marchetta book to anything else because she is vastly superior to most writers…but I am comparing experiences. Like I said, I’ve read Jellicoe Road several times, but it had been a couple of years for me since the last time. I am happy to report that this one did not disappoint. In fact, I had the same love–if not a deeper love, a more profound connection–with it this time around. Of course, that is due in part to the ever spectacular

JONAH EFFING GRIGGS

but it’s also because of the magnificent writing, because of the beauty of the story, the angst, the pain, and the humor. Taylor Markham is everything a protagonist should be: flawed and frightened, brave, smart, and equipped with a beautiful heart. She’s a total, crazy enigma at times. She feels so real. She’s broken and yet she embodies such strength and character. I love her connection with Jonah, not just the romantic one (le sigh), but their history, their intensity. And I love the friendships in this story, both the ones in Hannah’s manuscript and the ones Taylor forges. My copy has so many dog-eared pages, and in re-reading it I found that I cried in all the same parts, I swooned in all the same places (maybe more), and I sat on the edge of my seat still waiting and hoping for all to turn out well. I was, once again, truly sad when it was all over again. This is one of those rare books I wanted to climb inside and relive again and again.

Jellicoe Road

Now, I think books like Twilight and Jellicoe Road both need a place on my shelf. And I fully intend to reread the rest of Bella and Edward’s story, as well as all of Marchetta’s work. They’re different stories, different depths for different moods, but I found it interesting to read one after the other. In one case I was wondering why I ever loved it (I still like it, despite how much I make fun of it at times), but in the other, I wondered how I could go even two years without reading it. It left a little hole in my heart, as though that book belongs to me and me alone. It was a reminder of all I loved about it and more…all I love about reading.

 

The Taking

The Taking (Book #1) by Kimberly Derting

 

The TakingA flash of white light . . . and then . . . nothing.

When sixteen-year-old Kyra Agnew wakes up behind a Dumpster at the Gas ’n’ Sip, she has no memory of how she got there. With a terrible headache and a major case of déjà vu, she heads home only to discover that five years have passed . . . yet she hasn’t aged a day.

Everything else about Kyra’s old life is different. Her parents are divorced, her boyfriend, Austin, is in college and dating her best friend, and her dad has changed from an uptight neat-freak to a drunken conspiracy theorist who blames her five-year disappearance on little green men.

Confused and lost, Kyra isn’t sure how to move forward unless she uncovers the truth. With Austin gone, she turns to Tyler, Austin’s annoying kid brother, who is now seventeen and who she has a sudden undeniable attraction to. As Tyler and Kyra retrace her steps from the fateful night of her disappearance, they discover strange phenomena that no one can explain, and they begin to wonder if Kyra’s father is not as crazy as he seems. There are others like her who have been taken . . . and returned. Kyra races to find an explanation and reclaim the life she once had, but what if the life she wants back is not her own? (Goodreads)

 

The Skinny:

After an argument with her father, Kyra sees a blinding light. She wakes up later behind the local Gas N Sip with no memory of where she’s been. After she stumbles home, she finds out that she’s been missing for five years. In that time Kyra hasn’t aged a day. She has the same bruise she got goofing around with her best friend the night before she disappeared. She looks the same–but she feels different. And worse, her whole life is unrecognizable. Her parents have divorced, her mom is remarried and has another child, and her dad has gone over the edge, drinking and rambling conspiracy theories about alien abductions that sound closer to The X Files than reality. Kyra’s boyfriend, Austin, and her best friend are now twenty-two and away at college,  in love with each other, living the life she was always supposed to live, bought together by the mysterious disappearance of Kyra. Now, her only friend is Tyler, Austin’s little brother. The last time Kyra saw him he was thirteen years old, but now he’s grown, he’s mature, and he’s trying to help her ease into her new life.

 

My Thoughts:

I was really excited to read this because I love Derting’s series, The Body Finder. Or, more specifically, I love Jay Heaton (so I had some high swoon hopes here). Unfortch, this book didn’t do it for me.

I was completely enticed by the whole alien abduction angle. I’m not a believer in that sort of thing, but I’m normally mesmerized by shows like Ancient Aliens and the like–mostly because there is a level of crazy there that is so sincere I have to respect it. I also thought the idea of Kyra coming back to her life five years later–physically unchanged, but her life in total dissaray– was very interesting. And yeah, the whole thing with the boyfriend and best friend hooking up? I’m not going to lie, it caught my attention because it’s so plausible that they’d fall in love from clinging to each other when they believed Kyra was gone for good.

The problem for me is that, while this book had great potential, it fell really short of my expectations. Kyra’s dad has spent her five year absence going crazy and delving into the online forums of those who believe they’ve been abducted by aliens. And when he tells Kyra this, she blanches, of course. But other than reiterating the bright light they both saw the night she vanished, Derting doesn’t really go into detail about what exactly convinced him he was on the right path.  I think I would have preferred to be pulled in to that world. Instead, she focused on Kyra and Tyler. Now, don’t get me wrong. I love a good romance and Tyler is a solid character (I had a tough time with the younger brother thing, mostly because there is no way I would have ever gone out with my boyfriend’s little brother. Gross), and there are some good moments  between these two. But Kyra, WHO HAS NO IDEA WHERE SHE’S BEEN FOR FIVE YEARS, spends an awful lot of time thinking about Tyler, and grinning like a fool, and thinking about how she shouldn’t be thinking about him, and being mad that her boyfriend and best friend are together, and thinking about Tyler more. I don’t know, I just think that realistically, she might have bigger things going on. Things progressed too quickly with Tyler, especially when, early on, we’re asked to believe that Kyra and Austin are hopelessly in love.

There is obviously a big mystery surrounding Kyra’s disappearance, including two people following her. One is just some random, strange dude, and one is an agent from the NSA. While I found this all to be very cool, it went so slowly (wedged in between moments with Tyler and moments where Kyra wandered around her house aimlessly) and then suddenly, it took off and I felt like I got an information overload.

Funny enough, the agent following Kyra around reminded me of the guys from The Matrix.

The MatrixThat is totally how I pictured him.

In short, I was very disappointing in this book. It had potential, and while it wasn’t terrible (there were moments I couldn’t put it down), it wasn’t great.

 

Crush Intensity: 2.5-3.0/5

Where’d I Get It: The library

 

We Were Liars

We Were Liars by e. Lockhart

We were LiarsA beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart.

Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE. (Goodreads)

 

 

The Story:

The Sinclair family summers in a private island just off the coast of Massachusetts. They are so beautiful, so privileged, so exceedingly wealthy that not only to they have an island to themselves, there are several homes on the island (each named, of course), one for each daughter, and one main residence for the family patriarch. And no matter how much they have they are never without secrets, never without a dose of animosity, both to each other and to Grandfather, who rules the family with disapproving looks and silent financial threats.

On the outside the Sinclairs live an ideal life, but inside they are just as imperfect as any other family. Perhaps more.

Cadence “Cady” Sinclair is our MC. When we meet her she’s recovering from an accident, a head injury that’s left her with migraines and weakness and with no memory of how it occurred. It’s kept her away from the island for a couple of summers, and more importantly it’s kept her away from the people she loves most: her cousins Mirren and Johnny, and her first love, Gat. The four of them are bound by love and by family, and by a shared belief in the strength of their trust over the value of their money. Together they are the antithesis of what Grandfather and the aunts stand for.

This is the summer Cady finally returns to the island, to the memories of the accident, and to the family she’s longed for these last two years.

 

My Thoughts:

This book. Oh, I loved it. I realize it’s not for everyone. Lockhart has a style and prose that’s unique, and sometimes choppy. As a writer, she always speaks to me and I find her words to be direct and lovely, and this novel more than any other, is hauntingly beautiful, but quite tragic. It is a different turn for her, especially if you’re accustomed to novels like The Ruby Oliver series, or The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks, but one thing is similar: Lockhart is first and foremost a wonderful storyteller who imagines quirky, beautiful characters who live in worlds just distant enough to feel foreign, but realistic enough for us to relate to on a deeply human level.

There is little I can say about this story without spoiling it, but read it. Trust me. You’ll be so glad you did.

 

Crush Intensity: 5/5 One of my favorite books this year.

Thank you to Random House for providing me with an advance copy for review.

The LA Times Festival of Books…a week later

screenshotSo, not last weekend, but the weekend before, some of my book club buddies and I drove out to the beautiful USC campus and attended the amazing event they host, The LA Times Festival of Books. It’s nerd heaven, you guys. In fact, as we waited in line for different events, we were noting that some of the people there were so odd and quirky that we felt  cooler than we once thought ourselves to be.

But only a little.

The funny thing is, I took this huge backpack that was killing me to carry around all day (because, people, there were books to get signed. This is serious business). I was feeling a little dorky about it (who am I kidding? I did the same thing last year, too), but then we noticed that there were people carrying two and three reusable grocery bags of books, and rolling suitcases full of books, so again, I felt a little less nerdy by comparison.

The festival itself is huge. There are tons of publishers, independent bookstores, book groups (Jane Austen Society of North America, rock on with your I Heart Mr. Darcy bags), author panels and book signings. Not to mention food trucks. And crepes, you guys, which made me think of St. Clair and Anna and that is never a bad thing.

The big event this year was John Green. I goofed up and was not able to get tickets for his Q&A, so we decided to attend his book signing afterward. Along with every other person at the festival.

JGCROWD1

Yeah. But that’s only part of the line. It wrapped around.

JGCROWD2

And around…

JGCROWD3

Aaaaaand around

JGCROWD5

So, as much as I LOVE John Green and was dying to meet him, we did this instead:

WINE

And then we all felt much better about the whole thing. Line? What line?

Along the way, we met Rainbow Rowell (finally!), who was so sweet. It was fun to chat with her a little about the Eleanor & Park movie and how exciting it is that she’s writing the screenplay. She also had the cutest manicure that was Fangirl themed. So you think I remembered to snap a picture? Nope, sorry.RR ME

 

Then I got to met E. Lockhart, where she finally signed my copy of The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks, as well as the copy of her forthcoming book, We Were Liars (which we’ll be reviewing next month with The Selective Collective). You can’t see it in the picture, but she was wearing green tights. So funky. I loved it.

ELOCKHART

We also attended a panel with Tahereh Mafi. She is so cute a tiny with the warmest, spunkiest personality. Her hubby, Ransom Riggs was there in the audience, and then sitting right beside her during her book signings. They are such a super-cute couple (sorry, I know I’m using that word a lot, but THEY ARE!).

STALKERS

Thanks to a mutual friend, our book club now refers to him as Handsome Ransom because, hello.

And, just so you know, this is what happens when you’re dying to meet an author FOREVER, and you finally get to take a picture with them:

MAFIIn fact, it was really funny because she made a comment just before the picture about how she always sees awkward shots of herself online. Nope, that would be me this time. Whatever! I’m still so psyched I got to meet her.

The day ended with a bang because we were literally the last people in line to meet Laini Taylor. Honestly, I think we were the last people at the entire festival, but it was worth it. Laini was so gracious, even though I’m sure she was exhausted. She had on bright pink tights to match her hair, and she couldn’t have been nicer.

LAINITAYLOR

There were so many authors there the next day: Elizabeth Eulberg, Stephanie Perkins, Veronica Roth, Leigh Bardugo, and Tamara Ireland Stone (who was so sweet on Saturday and was e-mailing back and forth with me so we could meet up and get my books signed), but we didn’t make it out on Sunday because we were so wiped out from our big day.

Oh, well, there’s always next year!