The Winner’s Curse

The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

Winner's CurseAs a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions.

One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin.

But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined.

Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart. (Goodreads)


The Story:

Kestrel is the daughter of a powerful general in an empire that’s been built on the backs of the slaves from whom they’ve stolen homes, lives, and freedom.  She’s been given a choice to marry or become a soldier–something her father desires–and Kestrel wants neither.

At a salve auction Kestrel purchases Arin, a young man defiant of her culture, bitter at what he and his people have lost at the hands of those who enslave him.  Yet Kestrel and Arin form an unlikely bond; they become friends (and it’s scandalous because many people assume they’re lovers). What Kestrel doesn’t know is that Arin was placed in her home with direct intention.  He’s more than she ever expected and he has great secrets that could destroy the only world she’s ever known, and tear apart the delicate trust they’ve built.

My Thoughts:

I know so many people LOVE this book. And there is so much I liked about it, but it was a very, very slow start. It took me so long to connect with Kestrel and Arin, and even longer to believe in their bond. In fact, I’m not sure I ever truly bought that element of the story. There was a real shortage of romance in this story (which is okay, except that I’m supposed to believe that at some point they fall in love. What I saw was that they fell in like. I saw that they had a preference for one another.

On the other hand, the set up of the Valorian society and its oppression of the Hernani people is beautifully plotted. It is such a richly told element of the story. The conflicts, the tension, the demands both of society and Kestrel and Arin’s loyalties (loosely used term), which often puts them at odds with their own people, helps push the story forward. The last third of the book was very good and while I wasn’t totally in love, I would definitely like to see where to story goes from here.

Crush Intensity: 3.75/5


Thank you to Farrar Strauss Giroux for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


Fool Me Twice

Fool Me TwiceFool Me Twice ( If Only #1) by Mandy Hubbard

Mackenzie and Landon were the perfect couple . . . until he dumped her and broke her heart. Fast-forward a year and they’re back where they first met—Serenity Ranch and Spa, where they are once again working together for the summer. Talk about awkward.

Then, Landon takes a nasty fall and gets amnesia. Suddenly, he’s stuck in the past—literally. His most recent memory is of last summer, when he and Mack were still together, so now he’s calling her pet names and hanging all over her. It’s the perfect chance for revenge. The plan is simple: keep Landon at arm’s length, manipulate him so he’s the one falling love, and then BAM, dump him. There’s just one problem: Mack can’t fall for Landon all over again. (Goodreads)


The Story:

After a perfect summer working at Serenity Ranch and Spa, Mackenzie had her heart broken by Landon, who dumped her for his ex. This summer they’re working together again and it’s clearly not going to be a cakewalk. Mackenzie can’t stand to look at him.  But Landon falls, hits his head, and ends up with amnesia. In his mind it’s last summer and he and Mackenzie are still a cute, adorably sweet couple. This is Mackenzie’s chance for revenge.  She and her BFF plot to manipulate him, make him fall in love, string him along until Mackenzie can dump him in an epically awesome way. The problem is, as much as she hates what he did, as much as she wants to get him back, Mackenzie never fully got over Landon, and maybe, just maybe, she’s enjoying this whole revenge game too much.


My Thoughts:

There are some really cute elements to this book. It’s fun and light-hearted, the perfect tone for summer. But while Landon ends up being pretty adorable, and there are some really sweet moments he shares with Mack, I had trouble getting past two things:

1.  How he dumped her. He never officially breaks up with her. She sees him making out with his ex-gf in the hallway at school. Harsh! And his explanation for this is really, really flimsy, in my opinion.

2.  How evil Mack is to take advantage of someone with a head injury (or anyone, really). I mean, hello. This is crazy. This is reason enough for him to truly break up with her, you know, when he REMEMBERS WHAT YEAR IT IS.

Stripping it down to those basics, these two seem like terrible people, but I have to admit, they were likable and had good chemistry. Hubbard writes good dialogue and funny moments. Still, while the story is simple and enjoyable, I never fell fully head over heels.

Crush Intensity- 3/5

Special thanks to Netgalley and Bloomsbury for giving me a digital e-galley in exchange for an honest review.






My Best Friend, Maybe

My Best Friend, Maybe by Caela Carter

My BEst Friend, MaybeColette has been bored and lonely ever since her best friend, Sadie, dumped her the summer before they stared high school. She tries to be perfect for everyone left in her life: her parents, her younger brothers, her church youth group, even her boyfriend, Mark. But Colette is restless. And she misses Sadie.

When Sadie tells Colette that she needs her old friend to join her on a family vacation to the Greek Islands, one that leaves in only a few days, Colette is shocked to hear their old magic word: need. And she finds herself agreeing.

Colette tries to relax and enjoy her Grecian surroundings but it’s not easy to go on vacation with the person who hurt you most in the world. When the reason for the trip finally surfaces, Colette finds out this is not only a fun vacation. Sadie has kept an enormous secret from Colette for years…forever. It’s a summer full of surprises, but that might be what Colette needs. (Goodreads)

The Story:

Three years ago, Colette was dumped by her best friend Sadie just as they started high school.  Sadie was everything to her and Colette felt happy and at home in Sadie’s beautifully quirky, non-conformist family.  But it seemed that Colette was no longer as interesting or grown up as Sadie’s new friends and she was slowly, without cause or words exchanged, replaced. Ignored. Friendship over. That is, until Sadie invokes an old promise Collette once made. She asks her old BFF to accompany her and her family to Greece, all expenses paid, to attend a cousin’s wedding. This is so shocking, so way out of left field, and yet Colette can’t bring herself to say no.

Against her mom, against Sadie’s own mom (who is still footing the bill), and against her VERY prim and proper dud of a boyfriend, Mark (with whom she was supposed to attend a missionary trip to Costa Rica), Collette goes to Greece. She can’t explain the need to go, or the courage that propels her. And as much as she fears it’s all part of some heinous plan on Sadie’s part, Collette desperately needs to break free; she has to find peace away from the strict demands of her parents, her youth group, and her boyfriend. She has no idea what to expect but she dives in, head first.

My Thoughts:

There were so many things I liked here. Carter does a beautiful job portraying Sadie and Collette’s friendship. You genuinely get the feeling that these girls have a true, unwavering love that was built in a way that can never truly be destroyed. Through flashbacks we watch the unraveling of the relationship, and as Carter slowly pieces the story together, Sadie’s BIG secret isn’t quite so big. Perhaps Colette is just oblivious, but I think she’s only human and has definitely only seen a small, sheltered sampling of the world

This book grapples with some very sticky, but timely issues. Without being too spoilery, I think Carter handles them delicately and with a great deal of heart. On the other hand, there is the portrayal of Colette’s Christian boyfriend and family. I found these depictions to be mildly distressing at times (trust me, I recognize that there are people of all religious affiliations who can be terribly obnoxious, but I hope in equal measure there are those who spend time practicing what they preach and who endeavor to be a light and a joy to this world. Ahem.  Stepping off the soapbox now). I could see the author’s desire to present two points of view while making a very clear statement, but as someone who professes to be a Christian, I personally felt that the writing was a little preachy a times (from both sides, believe it or not).

There was so much sweetness here and there were beautiful, lush, descriptions of Greece. I mean, wow, I really want to go there now. For the most part, I wanted to keep turning those pages and was truly invested in Sadie’s family. And while it wraps up a little too picture-perfect in the end, the journey itself is fun.


Crush Intensity: 3.5/5


Thank you to Netgalley and Bloomsbury for sharing an e-galley with me in exchange for an honest review.

The Edge of Falling

The Edge of Falling by Rebecca Serle

Edge of FallingGrowing up in privileged, Manhattan social circles, Caggie’s life should be perfect, and it almost was until the day that her younger sister drowned when Caggie was supposed to be watching her. Stricken by grief, Caggie pulls away from her friends and family, only to have everyone misinterpret a crucial moment when she supposedly saves a fellow classmate from suicide. Now she’s famous for something she didn’t do and everyone lauds her as a hero. But inside she still blames herself for the death of her sister and continues to pull away from everything in her life, best friend and perfect boyfriend included. Then Caggie meets Astor, the new boy at school, about whom rumours are swirling and known facts are few. In Astor she finds someone who just might understand her pain, because he has an inner pain of his own. But the more Caggie pulls away from her former life to be with Astor, the more she realises that his pain might be darker, and deeper, than anything she’s ever felt. His pain might be enough to end his life…and Caggie’s as well. (Goodreads)


The Story:

Caggie has been hailed as a hero for saving the life of a fellow classmate who was attempting to jump from a rooftop one night at a party. She can barely handle the praise because she knows it’s all a lie. And worse, not only is she far from being the hero, she’s guilty of something even more heinous. Her younger sister Haley died several months ago after drowning in a pool while under Caggie’s watch and Caggie is barely surviving the guilt. She’s cut ties with her boyfriend, Trevor, and basically just tries to get through each day under the weight of the pain she’s enduring. She  knows her father blames her and she, of course, agrees with him.

Caggie needs to escape her life as she’s always known it. Everything is a reminder of Hayley or of the fact that she’s not the savior everyone thinks she is. She meets Astor, a beautiful but troubled boy new to her schoo,l and in some ways, he feels like the answer. He experienced a great loss and he understands the pain she’s going through. When she realizes that maybe Astor is disturbed more deeply than anyone really knows, it may be too late to pull away.

My Thoughts:

I had a tough time with this book. I loved Serle’s first book, When You Were Mine, but this is entirely different.  I liked the premise, this mystery of what really happened the day Caggie saved her classmate’s life (it’s revealed early on, but there’s so much depth in the how and the why). And the story of Hayley is absolutely heartbreaking. Yes, this is a rich girl with rich girl problems, but that didn’t bother me. I felt for her in the loss of Hayley and this tremendous guilt she was suffocating under, but I didn’t fall in love with Caggie’s voice. There was little passion there, and so little to relate to. And I felt the same about Astor. There was nothing about him that drew me in. In fact, the creepy alerts were up high and fast where he was concerned.

I also didn’t understand her family. They had so little contact with Caggie, even without them knowing the truth about the classmate incident, it seemed they didn’t do much to help her with the obvious responsibility she felt for her sister’s death. Of course, they were all struggling with that loss in different ways, but I found it hard to believe that their oldest daughter, still a kid, wasn’t more of a priority. If she said she was okay–despite her attitude and actions proving otherwise–they accepted it. How can anyone be okay after that?

On the upside, I loved two characters: Trevor and Hayley. Trevor is loyal and loving in every way, a friend to Caggie and her family, a life raft when  she’s sinking and doesn’t realize she needs help. And Hayley, who we only get to know during flashbacks, is painfully beautiful, sweet and joyful, and she’s characterized in such a way that as the reader, I felt her loss in a big way; I could see what a hole she left in their lives.

All in all, there were pieces of this book I enjoyed, parts of the story that spoke to me, but it was not what I was expecting. While some portions were very good, and the dialogue was well-done, I didn’t get fully invested.


Crush Intensity: 3/5


Thank you to Simon Pulse and Net Galley for providing me with an e-galley in exchange for an honest review.

The Promise of Amazing

The Promise of Amazing by Robin Constantine

Promise of amazingWren Caswell is average. Ranked in the middle of her class at Sacred Heart, she’s not popular, but not a social misfit. Wren is the quiet, “good” girl who’s always done what she’s supposed to—only now in her junior year, this passive strategy is backfiring. She wants to change, but doesn’t know how.

Grayson Barrett was the king of St. Gabe’s. Star of the lacrosse team, top of his class, on a fast track to a brilliant future—until he was expelled for being a “term paper pimp.” Now Gray is in a downward spiral and needs to change, but doesn’t know how.

One fateful night their paths cross when Wren, working at her family’s Arthurian-themed catering hall, performs the Heimlich on Gray as he chokes on a cocktail weenie, saving his life literally and figuratively. What follows is the complicated, awkward, hilarious, and tender tale of two teens shedding their pasts, figuring out who they are—and falling in love. (Goodreads)

The Story:

Wren saves Grayson Barrett’s life one night while working at her family’s Arthurian-themed restaurant (I know!). In saving him from choking she changes his life forever. Grayson is a kid whose been on the wrong path and who, while he’s been trying to change his ways, has had trouble escaping his past. Wren is that perfect good girl who could honestly use a little excitement in her life. The two could not be more opposite.

Grayson is drawn to Wren. And Wren to Grayson, though she has trouble completely trusting him because she knows how different they are, she recognizes that guys as popular as Gray don’t normally go for girls like her. But he’s in it for real. Grayson sees something in Wren. He wants to be different for her; he wants his past to be gone–but he struggles because he has friends pulling him in the other direction, threatening to out him to the world and to Wren.

My Thoughts:

I liked this book. I had an opportunity, through my blogging group The Selective Collective, to really see it from so many angles, but I  hadn’t taken the time to review it. And I think this one deserves some attention.

While this isn’t necessarily a book that will change your life–it’s not even a situation you haven’t heard before (the bad boy and the good girl) I think the story itself, the characters and their vulnerability, are charming. I liked the Grayson had a past–a pretty bad one–because I love the idea of him finding someone he wanted to change for, not to make her like him, but to be worthy of her. Wren was sweet and pretty innocent and I related to the trepidation she felt with Grayson, this uncertainty that haunted her at first because she couldn’tt really see herself and see what a great girl she was. I also thought the author did a great job with both characters’ backgrounds and family life. Grayson particularly had some family drama (divorced parents who were both remarried, his own struggle to have a relationship with a mom he felt abandoned him).

This is a cute read. And yes, I’m a sucker for a bad boy, but I think most people are. I’m not sure what the allure is, but Grayson definitely has it and the chemistry he and Wren has is good. It’s believable and fun.

Crush Intensity: 3.75/5

Where’d I Get It: ARC from Harper Collins

Fracture Me

Fracture Me (Shatter Me 2.5) by Tahereh Mafi

fracture meAs Omega Point prepares to launch an all-out assault on The Reestablishment soldiers stationed in Sector 45, Adam’s focus couldn’t be further from the upcoming battle. He’s reeling from his breakup with Juliette, scared for his best friend’s life, and as concerned as ever for his brother James’s safety. And just as Adam begins to wonder if this life is really for him, the alarms sound. It’s time for war.

On the battlefield, it seems like the odds are in their favor—but taking down Warner, Adam’s newly discovered half brother, won’t be that easy. The Reestablishment can’t tolerate a rebellion, and they’ll do anything to crush the resistance . . . including killing everyone Adam has ever cared about. (Goodreads)

Where Are We? If you’ve read Shatter Me, Destroy Me (novella), Unravel Me (be still my heart), then you need Fracture Me next, the last novella before the final installment, Ignite Me.

The Story:

This novella is written from Adam’s perspective. It takes place before they enter the battlefield but after Kenji has been injured (supposedly by Juliette) and after Warner has escaped (so, after Chapter 62, the holy grail of kissing scenes. I can hear angels singing in the background, can you?).

There’s really not a lot that happens here, honestly. This books gives you a glimpse into Adam’s mind, shows you his priorities, lets you into his fears about his brother, about Juliette, and the anger he feels toward Warner.

My Thoughts:

This one was pretty slow. Luckily it’s short, but if anything it took me from being a person who liked Adam and sympathized with him (while still maintaining my Warner love, obviously) to actually disliking him, if only briefly. On one hand, I loved his fierce devotion to his younger brother, but that was no secret. Adam has loved James all along–as he should–and this book only emphasized that point. To me, he had little empathy for Juliette though, and even seemed put off by how strangely she behaved or by the fact that, in his mind, she almost killed Kenji. More than that, I was bothered by his feelings toward Warner. I understand that he thinks he’s a ruthless man, I get that he believes Warner wants to harness Juliette’s power and use her as a weapon. While we know that isn’t true because we’ve read the first few books, I get that he doesn’t. BUT… I also know that Adam realizes Warner is his brother. That they are related (and therefore James is too) by a father, albeit a terrible one. I found it hard to believe that there wasn’t a shred of compassion there, not an ounce of anything but pure hatred. Shame on Adam. I thought he was a better guy, I guess.

Crush Intensity: 2/5 Maybe it’s the distinct lack of Warner, but I wasn’t in love with this book. You can easily skip it and read the final story without any real issue in the consistency of the storyline.

These Broken Stars

These Broken Stars (Starbound Book#1) by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

these broken starsIt’s a night like any other on board the Icarus. Then, catastrophe strikes: the massive luxury spaceliner is yanked out of hyperspace and plummets into the nearest planet. Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen survive. And they seem to be alone. Lilac is the daughter of the richest man in the universe. Tarver comes from nothing, a young war hero who learned long ago that girls like Lilac are more trouble than they’re worth. But with only each other to rely on, Lilac and Tarver must work together, making a tortuous journey across the eerie, deserted terrain to seek help. Then, against all odds, Lilac and Tarver find a strange blessing in the tragedy that has thrown them into each other’s arms. Without the hope of a future together in their own world, they begin to wonder—would they be better off staying here forever? Everything changes when they uncover the truth behind the chilling whispers that haunt their every step. Lilac and Tarver may find a way off this planet. But they won’t be the same people who landed on it.  (Goodreads)

The Story:

Lilac is the daughter of the wealthiest man in the universe. Tarver is a highly respected soldier. They see each other one night aboard the Icarus ( a spaceship) and they flirt briefly, Tarver having no idea of Lilac’s real identity.  Lilac recognizes that her father would never approve of Tarver and so she changes her tune and treats him with scorn in front of her friends. Tarver leaves, understandably annoyed. Their worlds are too different, their station in life dictates where they should go and who they can fall for. No one knows this better than Lilac.

Fate throws them together once more when the Icarus begins to fall from the sky. As people scramble to find safety hatches, the sci-fi equivalent of a lifeboat, Lilac and Tarver jump into one and flee the ship before it crashes. They land on an uncharted planet to find that they are the only survivors of the crash, and worse, they seem to be completely alone on the planet.

As they struggle to survive and make their way to the wreckage of the Icarus in the hope of finding a rescue team–no doubt in their minds that Lilac’s father has sent one–they begin to notice eerie things about this new planet. They see odd things and hear whispers. It feels almost as if there are ghosts or spirits drawing them further in. The question remains: can they trust these voices or are they going insane? Through it all they become closer, desperate to save themselves and uncertain what the future holds.

My Thoughts:

Oh, yeah. I loved this book. It was so unique, so fun, so crazy different. It has this wonderful love story (no insta-love here, people. These two actually fall in love over time. It’s like a breath of fresh air). There’s the whole space/sci-fi aspect and then, of course, there’s this crazy mystery. More than once I found myself going WHAT. THE. WHAT?  But in a good way.

The beginning setup reminded me a bit of Titanic, if I’m quite honest. I haven’t read any other reviews, so I’m not sure if this is a common thing people are saying, but I liked this element.

You have Lilac, the rich girl, drawn to the boy she just shouldn’t love.

Titanic-Winslet Then there’s Tarver, an amazing guy in his own right, but one without the proper status.

JackAnd we all know what happens on the ship…

Sinking-Titanic-titanic-25510772-450-255Only this story is extra-awesome because the Icarus is a spaceship (albeit with quite an odd name).  After these similarities, the story is nothing like Titanic, but I really liked that initial vibe.

This book is well-written, told from the alternating perspectives of Tarver and Lilac (which I LOVE), and it has great tension. There are several moments that are intriguing, a serious OMG moment near the end, and together I think it all made for an excellent book.

Crush Intensity: 4.75/5 This is the first in a trilogy and I’m definitely excited to see where this series takes us.

Where’d I Get It: The library!


Defy by Sara B. Larson

DefyAlexa Hollen is a fighter. Forced to disguise herself as a boy and serve in the king’s army, Alex uses her quick wit and fierce sword-fighting skills to earn a spot on the elite prince’s guard. But when a powerful sorcerer sneaks into the palace in the dead of night, even Alex, who is virtually unbeatable, can’t prevent him from abducting her, her fellow guard and friend Rylan, and Prince Damian, taking them through the treacherous wilds of the jungle and deep into enemy territory.

The longer Alex is held captive with both Rylan and the prince, the more she realizes that she is not the only one who has been keeping dangerous secrets. And suddenly, after her own secret is revealed, Alex finds herself confronted with two men vying for her heart: the safe and steady Rylan, who has always cared for her, and the dark, intriguing Damian. With hidden foes lurking around every corner, is Alex strong enough to save herself and the kingdom she’s sworn to protect? (Goodreads)

The Story:

To save her from an uncertain future as a woman under the rule of their king, Alexa’s twin brother convinces her to live as a boy. Together they serve in the king’s army as personal guard to his son, Prince Damian. Alexa, now known as Alex, becomes adept at living as a man, even rising the ranks to be considered the fiercest warrior among her group. She earns the respect and trust of her counterparts as well as of the Prince himself, who keeps her close as a favored guard.

Even though Alex is strong and wise, she can’t outdo a powerful sorcerer who enters the castle one night, taking the Prince, herself and her fellow guard, Rylan, captive. It seems as though she and Rylan will be unable to save the Prince as they’re marched through the jungle toward an ominous future. Through this journey Alex struggles to keep her identity a secret and has to hide her attraction to Prince Damian. She’s not entirely sure who she can trust and she has to be on her game, ready to fight at any given moment.

My Thoughts:

I really liked this book. In fact, I was very puzzled to read some of the negative reviews I saw on Goodreads (they’re not all negative. Most are very good).Yes, there have been comparisons made between this book and the story of Mulan. I get it. Girl dresses up as a boy and lives life as a soldier. But that’s the end of the similarities there ( I think. I’m no Mulan expert, trust me). To me, there was something here that reminded me a tiny bit of Graceling. Maybe it’s because Alex was a very strong heroine, both in her moral character and in her physical abilities, much like Katsa.

In any case, I thought Defy, apart from any comparisons made, was an excellent book. There is a lot here, between Alex’s story as she hides her true identity, the Prince’s family and his story, the kingdom itself and the corruption that lives there, and of course, the dear friend Rylan who’s in love with Alex (he knows she’s a girl). At its heart, Defy is a love story. There are great moments of tension and kissing, there are questions about loyalty and where Alex’s heart should go. I loved every part of it, from the fights, to the uncertainty about who to trust, to the actual romance. This was a good ride.

Crush Intensity: 4.5/5 This one is fun. I’m eagerly anticipating more.

Thank you to Net Galley and Scholastic for providing me an e-galley of this book!

Final Note:

I don’t normally read GR reviews unless my friends have written them, but again, I was astounded at some of the things people where saying about this book.

In the beginning we find out that Alex, in changing her identity, is saved from the fate of every other orphan girl of the kingdom: life in a breeding house. This where the corrupt king and those men who truly serve him, rape and harm young girls in order to breed future soldiers. It horrifying to read and imagine, but that’s clearly how it’s meant to be perceived; that’s how the author conveys it. At no time does it seem like Larson is glorifying that portion of the story or is saying that’s all women are good for, in fact, in Alex’s life she’s showing that women have great strength and potential. Alex is the strongest soldier, able to beat anyone. Yes, she internally lusts after the hot shirtless prince more than once. Know why? She’s a teenage girl. With…gasp…hormones. Her attraction to a guy doesn’t make her any less of a strong woman. It doesn’t affect her ability to do the right thing. On the contrary. Alex can be all girl, can fall in love (or lust) with a boy and still kick ass.

I thought Larson very clearly showed the difference between women who are oppressed by men and women who are able to fly free. This book is obviously not a vote of support for rape or breeding houses. It’s not saying that girls can’t be around guys without drooling overt their shirtless abs. It’s a story. Simple as that. And a good one. But I guess everyone is entitled to their opinion.

Stepping off the soapbox now.

More Than This

More Than This by Patrick Ness

More Than ThisA boy named Seth drowns, desperate and alone in his final moments, losing his life as the pounding sea claims him. But then he wakes. He is naked, thirsty, starving. But alive. How is that possible? He remembers dying, his bones breaking, his skull dashed upon the rocks. So how is he here? And where is this place? It looks like the suburban English town where he lived as a child, before an unthinkable tragedy happened and his family moved to America. But the neighborhood around his old house is overgrown, covered in dust, and completely abandoned. What’s going on? And why is it that whenever he closes his eyes, he falls prey to vivid, agonizing memories that seem more real than the world around him? Seth begins a search for answers, hoping that he might not be alone, that this might not be the hell he fears it to be, that there might be more than just this. . .(Goodreads)

The Story:

From the first pages of this story we know one thing for certain: Seth, our protagonist, dies alone in the freezing ocean, his skull crushing with a final blow against the rocks.

But he wakes.  He remembers dying. He can vividly recall that final moment when he knew it was over–yet here he is, wrapped in some strange gauze and bandages, lying face-down in the dirt of his childhood home in England. It’s not the place he was living when he died, but it’s a place he remembers well, a home he shared with his mom and dad and his little brother before tragedy stuck and they packed up to begin a new life in America. Seth doesn’t know why he’s here, but he seems to be very much alone. His days are now empty and his dreams are full of the life he once lived, the pain and guilt he suffered all too vivid. He wonders if this is truly the end for him or if it’s some kind of personal hell and he grapples with the reality of his life before versus his life now, seeking answers and searching for the truth.

My Thoughts:

Patrick Ness is an incredible writer because his stories build so slowly, patiently giving us each detail, letting us in further until–before you even realize it–you’re in love. You’re invested all the way, clinging to those last shreds of hope with the characters you now love so completely. That’s how I felt when I read The Chaos Walking trilogy (easily one of my favorite books series of all time) and that’s exactly how I felt when I read Seth’s story.

There’s a definite melancholy tone to this book. Seth’s life hasn’t been easy; his trials have not been simple. And while he lives in a family that certainly loves him in the most general sense of the word, you see an overwhelming grief in his parents that translates into an overall apathy toward their eldest son. It’s incredible that when comparing Seth’s life after death to his dreams about his actual life, the loneliness on both sides is palpable, and in that it’s heartbreaking.

There is little I can tell you about the actual story but this: stick with it. There are several twists, there are moments when you think you have it all figured out only to realize…no, you’re wrong again. I think the point here isn’t where Seth has ended up after his death (though that is a big mystery and an interesting part of the story), it’s how he became who he is, what makes him feel and do the things he does, what drives him. As with everyone, the answer is love, and pain, and curiosity, and that journey is what I found to be so intense and sad and beautiful. I definitely cried and I ached for these characters and in the end I loved this book.

Crush Intensity: 5/5 Of course, it’s Patrick Ness

Where I Got It: The library

The Selective Collective: Being Sloane Jacobs

SCnewbannerWelcome to The Selective Collective. Together with our friends at The Book Addict’s Guide, Gone Pecan, The Grown Up YA and Teen Lit Rocks, we’ll be exploring a new release in its entirety, from review to author spotlight, to a roundtable chat, among other fun things.

This week we’re discussing Being Sloane Jacobs by Lauren Morrill. You may remember that we had the opportunity to read (in fall in love with) Lauren’s debut novel, Meant to Be, last year. This month I have the pleasure of writing the review her her latest book.

Untitled-1Meet Sloane Emily Jacobs: a seriously stressed-out figure-skater from Washington, D.C., who choked during junior nationals and isn’t sure she’s ready for a comeback. What she does know is that she’d give anything to escape the mass of misery that is her life.

Now meet Sloane Devon Jacobs, a spunky ice hockey player from Philly who’s been suspended from her team for too many aggressive hip checks. Her punishment? Hockey camp, now, when she’s playing the worst she’s ever played. If she messes up? Her life will be over.

When the two Sloanes meet by chance in Montreal and decide to trade places for the summer, each girl thinks she’s the lucky one: no strangers to judge or laugh at Sloane Emily, no scouts expecting Sloane Devon to be a hero. But it didn’t occur to Sloane E. that while avoiding sequins and axels she might meet a hockey hottie—and Sloane D. never expected to run into a familiar (and very good-looking) face from home. It’s not long before the Sloanes discover that convincing people you’re someone else might be more difficult than being yourself. (Goodreads)

The Story:

We have two main characters, Sloane Emily, the ice skater from a privileged political family, and Sloane Devon, the hockey player from Philly who has some slight anger management issues. Both girls are dealing with family turmoil, both girls are under immense pressure that’s causing them to crack and leading them to struggle with the sports they love to compete at.  And both girls, as luck would have it, end up in Montreal for the summer.

Sloane Emily is in town to attend a prestigious figure-skating camp. Her family has sent her there to help her recover from a major choke at junior nationals. In some ways it’s also an escape from her dad and an awful truth Sloane Emily just happened to stumble upon. Sloane Devon has been suspended by her hockey coach for one too many fights. He manages to get her into a hockey camp for the summer where she has to prove herself and earn a second chance. She hates being away from home, being away from her team, but life has been too difficult to bear since her mom checked into rehab for her heavy drinking, leaving Sloane and her dad alone.

After a  mix up at their hotel, the girls meet and formulate a plan to switch places for the summer, each one thinking the other has a far easier life.  Through the identity-swapping experience they make some friends (and enemies), flirt with a couple of cute boys, and each attempt to take on a new sport. And they learn that the grass isn’t always greener, life isn’t always easier, on the other side.

My Thoughts:

This was a cute, fun book. I like Morrill’s style, which is funny and heartwarming without being too heavy on the romance or the serious stuff. She captures the struggles and the beauty of being young and free in a foreign city with new friends, crushes and challenges. I  loved the alternating perspectives of each girl. Each Sloane has a unique voice and I felt Morrill did an excellent job of making each girl stand out individually. They were both strong-willed and likeable, brave in a way I don’t think I could ever be. And Morrill  did a great job of showing that they struggled to pick up their new sport, rather than having them swoop in to victory immediately. I do wish they’d had a more common name, if only to make their chance encounter seem more plausible, but it was very easy to get past that.  I would have loved to have seen a little more of the family dynamic (maybe in flashbacks) without getting too heavy. The problems the girls were struggling with were interesting to  me and they weighed so heavily on each Sloane. I think more detail would have only made that element more powerful.

Crush Intensity: 3.75/5 All in all, I thought this was an easy, enjoyable read.

Thanks for stopping by this week! Be sure to check out my blogging partners as they further explore Being Sloane Jacobs:

The Book Addict’s Guide- Roundtable Discussion

Gone Pecan- Page to Screen

The Grown Up YA-Author Interview & Giveaway

Teen Lit Rocks- Identity Swapping

Sincere thanks to Random House for sending each member of The Selective Collective review copies of Being Sloane Jacobs.