Destroy Me

Destroy Me (Shatter Me 1.5) by Tahereh Mafi

Destroy Me

Back at the base and recovering from his near-fatal wound, Warner must do everything in his power to keep his soldiers in check and suppress any mention of a rebellion in the sector. Still as obsessed with Juliette as ever, his first priority is to find her, bring her back, and dispose of Adam and Kenji, the two traitors who helped her escape. But when Warner’s father, The Supreme Commander of The Reestablishment, arrives to correct his son’s mistakes, it’s clear that he has much different plans for Juliette. Plans Warner simply cannot allow.

Set after Shatter Me and before its forthcoming sequel, Unravel Me, Destroy Me is a novella told from the perspective of Warner, the ruthless leader of Sector 45. (Goodreads)

This is a mini-review because it’s a  mini book. It’s a novella.  Honestly, I usually skip these little novels but this time I couldn’t resists because it’s written from the perspective of my beautiful Mr. Evilpants himself, Warner.

The Story: (spoiler alert for Shatter Me)

Juliette, that wascally wabbitt, escaped Warner’s clutches thanks to the help of two traitorous soldiers, Adam (her sexy shower makeout partner) and Kenji.  Before her narrow escape, Warner made the near-fatal flaw of exposing himself to Juliette (um, not literally you guys. Geesh) by telling her he was in love with her. This shocked the hell out of Juliette (and me), especially when he hungrily and passionately kissed her in the moments that followed. Juliette used that opportunity to reach inside his jacket, steal his gun and shoot him before jumping out the window. Warner was, to say the least, a tiny bit peeved.

When we pick up, Warner is still healing. He almost died. And his father has come in to run the show since his son is a ginormous disappointment as far as vicious, murderous villains go.  This is where the story gets interesting. There is not a ton of action in this book, but we do get to see how exactly Warner came to be so fascinated with Juliette and what he was trying to do by holding her captive–I mean, if he says he loves her he probably shouldn’t threaten her, right? We also learn more about what Warner has experienced with his father and just how that’s shaped him into the man he is today.

I think if you’re a fan of this series, Destroy Me is a must-read. You can truly read the next book without it but this gives you so much insight, gives you empathy and understanding for the guy we thought was a monster all along (albeit a hot monster).  As novellas go, it’s very short but it’s worth diving into. If you’re not a Warner fan, this will, at the very least, help you to see him a little more clearly. If you are a Warner fan, like me, it’s a building block that takes you from viewing him as a totally intriguing guy you should stay away from to one who might be  worth giving a chance.

Crush Intensity:    4.5  What can I say? I love this series.

My Life Next Door

My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

My Life Next Door

The Story:

Samantha Reed sits atop her roof and watches the Garrett family (in a totally non-creepy, anti-Edward Cullenish way). They’re so opposite from her own small, reserved family, so large and overflowing with children and laughter and toys everywhere.  Sam’s life is bland and predictable by comparison, spent often alone or in the public eye due to her mother’s political career. Every move they make is planned, crafted to create the image of the Senator with the ideal family and the perfectly contained life.  Her father is out of the picture and her sister is away for the summer, so Sam has little to do but watch and imagine life for the Garretts, that family her mom has always snubbed her nose at.

One night Jase, one of the boys next door (hence the title!!!!) surprises Sam by climbing to her sacred rooftop and joining her.  He’s funny, he’s nice, and the two begin an easy friendship that quietly turns into a pretty swoonworthy romance. Sam becomes enveloped into the Garrett family, tumbling headfirst in love with not only Jase, but his siblings, his parents, his life.  She keeps this love and these relationships secret from her mother, the one person who would deeply disapprove. When the families reach a crossroads she ultimately has to choose where her loyalty truly lies.

My Thoughts:

Man, I loved–absolutely adored–this book. It has everything: love, kissing, sa-woon, family drama (not melodrama), summer (why are books set in summer so superior?). Fitzpatrick does an amazing job at conveying the beauty and fumbles of first love, the force with which it completely consumes us, the sweetness in all those awkward first moments. She created so many characters to fall in love with here: Sam, Jase (sweet holy moley, you will love him), and all of Jase’s family. There is such warmth, such humor that radiates from each person. Her writing felt vaguely Dessen-ish (a huge compliment in my book). It made me want to climb inside and be a part of this world that wasn’t extraordinarily different from yours or mine, but gorgeous all the same.

Crush Intensity: 4.75/5 I loved it!

Thank you: Someone wrote me an e-mail about fifty billion years ago, telling me I should read this book. Being an intense e-mail cleaner outer, I’ve since lost the message. To whomever it was, thank you, thank you, thank you! I put myself on the wait list for this book at my library when you recommended it to me and it has taken that long for it to come in. Still, it was soooooo worth the wait. 🙂


Speechless by Hannah Harrington

SpeechlessEveryone knows that Chelsea Knot can’t keep a secret

Until now. Because the last secret she shared turned her into a social outcast—and nearly got someone killed.

Now Chelsea has taken a vow of silence—to learn to keep her mouth shut, and to stop hurting anyone else. And if she thinks keeping secrets is hard, not speaking up when she’s ignored, ridiculed and even attacked is worse.

But there’s strength in silence, and in the new friends who are, shockingly, coming her way—people she never noticed before; a boy she might even fall for. If only her new friends can forgive what she’s done. If only she can forgive herself. (Goodreads)

The Story:

Chelsea Knot has never heard a piece of juicy gossip she didn’t want to–didn’t have to– share.  As one of the reigning popular girls, she never worries about the repercussions of being a jabber jaws. Her BFF, Kristen, is The Girl in school and as long as she’s in her good graces, Chelsea is safe as a kitten.

One drunken night and one secret that never, ever should have been blabbed–at least not by Chelsea–leaves one boy in the hospital, two arrested (one being Kristen’s boyfriend. Dum da dum dum), and Chelsea on the outs with everyone that matters to her because somewhere after doing the wrong thing, she tried to do what was right. All of this comes at a cost and Chelsea’s actions and her past come to haunt her. The cool kids hate her now, no one more than Kristen, and they go out of their way to make her life a living hell. In response Chelsea takes a vow of silence until she figures out exactly what do say or do to make things right again.

My Take:

Well, if Saving June didn’t convince you that Hannah Harrington is immensely talented,let Speechless seal the deal.  Make no mistake, this is an entirely different book. Though it deals with a couple of serious issues in a frank, open way, this book is lighter, has more humor and probably has more that your average girl (or boy) can relate to.

Chelsea isn’t someone you may like instantly. She’s a gossip. She relishes the opportunity to make others squirm. She clings to Kristen, a shallow mean girl, and feels no real remorse about her actions until it all backfires on her. This is when we see her true colors. She evolves. While she’s bullied, she sees that she’s brought on some of it herself (not that there is any excuse for bullying). She grows beautifully and what I loved is that in the end, the life she’s left behind, though it is full of bittersweet memories, is not where she wants to be. She likes who she becomes and she owns up to her mistakes.  Life is different than she expected, but better.

In this book there are great stories of friendship, of courage, forgiveness and love in all forms. It hits every note just right–the guilt, the embarrassment, the burgeoning friendships, new romances, everything.

Crush Intensity: 4.25/5 I really enjoyed this one and will read pretty much anything by this author!

Thanks to Harlequin and Net Galley for providing me with an e-galley of Speechless!

The Selective Collective: Eleanor and Park

Welcome 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 Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell.


Eleanor is the new girl in town, and she’s never felt more alone. All mismatched clothes, mad red hair and chaotic home life, she couldn’t stick out more if she tried. Then she takes the seat on the bus next to Park. Quiet, careful and, in Eleanor’s eyes, impossibly cool, Park’s worked out that flying under the radar is the best way to get by. Slowly, steadily, through late-night conversations and an ever-growing stack of mixed tapes, Eleanor and Park fall in love. They fall in love the way you do the first time, when you’re 16, and you have nothing and everything to lose.

Set over the course of one school year in 1986, ELEANOR AND PARK is funny, sad, shocking and true — an exquisite nostalgia trip for anyone who has never forgotten their first love.- Google Books

Let’s get this out in the open right now: There is no possible way I can review this adorable, sweet, funny, adorable (did I already say that? Sorry.) book without totally drooling over it.  Nevermind that I’m a child of the eighties, so the music and the television and movie references felt muy authentico, it was Eleanor and Park–those two beautiful misfits–who drew me in.

The Story:

Eleanor is new in town, returning home to her mom and younger siblings after being kicked out for over a year by her overbearing, verbally abusive drunk of a stepfather.  While she’d like to just fade into the backdrop, it’s just not possible. Not with her flaming red hair, her sarcasm, or her flair for dressing a bit odd. In fact, from day one Eleanor is pretty much a target on the school bus, the popular kids making life miserable for her because she seems to go against the grain.

Park, on the other hand,  isn’t really bothered by anyone. He’s cute enough, popular enough and he gets by.  He feels awkward being the only Korean kid in town (other than his little brother), and he knows his ex-military dad isn’t crazy about the fact that he’d rather read comic and listen to music than be a typical guy’s guy, but overall he’s OK.

Eleanor and Park’s relationship begins on the bus. Park doesn’t mind letting the new girl sit next to him. He doesn’t mind that she reads his comic books over his shoulder, or that she prefers not to say anything.  He even starts bringing comics for her to borrow. And then he starts sharing his favorite music–something we all know can be so sacred, like sharing a part of your soul–and without realizing it, with barely a word spoken between them during the school day, they both come to look forward to these moments on the bus. They begin to look forward to seeing each other.

My Thoughts:

This book is all about the relationship forged between Eleanor and Park.  It is a slow process, growing sweetly and naturally, with all of the great awkward silences and unspoken feelings that you know are just bubbling under the surface, but haven’t quite come out.  Their friendship alone is absolutely adorable, but when it evolves into a romance is pretty heavenly.  Their main problem is that, as we know, love doesn’t always last and in the case of these two the odds are seriously stacked against them. Forget the fact that most of the school sees them as an odd pairing. Eleanor’s stepfather would level her if he found out she had a boyfriend. She pays hefty price on a daily basis just for breathing, and he would not take kindly to her rebelling against his rules.

In all truth, this book is divine.  Rowell has built a gritty, sad world for Eleanor and it isn’t always easy to swallow, yet in comes Park with his bright optimism, not as her knight in shining armor but as her  partner, her friend, someone who sees her for the intensely bright, strong person she is, and he gives her hope. He shows her a kind of devotion she’s never experienced (and she gives it right back with a healthy measure of her awesomely grumpy sarcasm). As their relationship develops it flows with poignancy and realism, but there is also such contentment and happiness. It feels completely authentic because of the way it develops.

I loved the idea of two misfits coming together, but it was this safe, wonderful place they carved out, their funny discussions, and this vibrancy they seemed to only find in each other that really made this book for me. I loved it.

Crush Intensity: 5/5 I can’t say it enough. Read this book!

The Perfect Quote:

There are so, so many great parts. So many cute moments. This one (which I saw on Goodreads, of all things) really gives you a glimpse into Eleanor and Park’s relationship:

“Bono met his wife in high school,” Park says.
“So did Jerry Lee Lewis,” Eleanor answers.
“I’m not kidding,” he says.
“You should be,” she says, “we’re sixteen.”
“What about Romeo and Juliet?”
“Shallow, confused, then dead.”
”I love you,” Park says.
“Wherefore art thou,” Eleanor answers.
“I’m not kidding,” he says.
“You should be.”

Please check out my blogging partners as they explore Eleanor and Park even further:

The Book Addict’s Guide- The Music of Eleanor and Park 

Gone Pecan-Casting Call

The Grown Up YA- Roundtable Discussion

Teen Lit Rocks- Author Q&A

Many thanks to St. Martin’s Press for sending all of the SC girls review copies of Eleanor and Park! I loved it. I think we all did.

Love and Other Perishable Items

Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo

LOVEFrom the moment she sets eyes on Chris, she is a goner. Lost. Sunk. Head over heels infatuated with him. It’s problematic, since Chris, 21, is a sophisticated university student, while Amelia, is 15.

Amelia isn’t stupid. She knows it’s not gonna happen. So she plays it cool around Chris—at least, as cool as she can. Working checkout together at the local supermarket, they strike up a friendship: swapping life stories, bantering about everything from classic books to B movies, and cataloging the many injustices of growing up. As time goes on, Amelia’s crush doesn’t seem so one-sided anymore. But if Chris likes her back, what then? Can two people in such different places in life really be together? (Goodreads)


Amelia has an enormous, mind-boggling crush on Chris, an older guy who works at the checkstand next to hers.  They have this fun, totally charming banter and Chris really seems to enjoy her friendship, but he doesn’t see Amelia the way she sees him.  In fact, he’s totally clueless about her crush. He obviously sees her as more of a kid (which, hello, she’s fifteen. She is).

Chris spends his time wallowing in heartbreak over his lost love (who really did a number on him) and in finding creative ways to de-pants the other girls at work. It’s not his fault it hurts Amelia. It is what it is.  Herein lies the problem: As they grow closer there is a shift. It’s as though Chris finally, finally sees her. He recognizes all of the amazing qualities there are in Amelia (because she really is pretty fabs), but there’s always that awkward age roadblock.

At the same time, Amelia has battles at home.  There are domestic issues regarding her dad and his unwillingness to do anything to help her mom around the house, there’s his overall standoffish ways, and there’s Amelia’s mom, who seems to live in utter misery. These issues raise questions for Amelia, questions about love and marriage and what she wants out of life.  In a strange way it draws her closer to Chris as she begins to discover her feelings on feminism and roles in marriage , prodded further by him.

I liked this book. It wasn’t incredibly romantic liked I’d initially hoped, in fact, it was a bit melancholy at times, but it felt realistic.  As an adult watching the story unfold, I could understand all of the reasons why Amelia should not be with Chris.  Why he’s wrong for her. Why he’s troubled in his own way and not this perfect guy she’s made him out to be.  At the same time, I get where she’s coming from. Amelia is looking for that ideal “love conquers all” sort of romance that can see past the age and experience differences, and she sees some part of that in Chris.  And Chris gets Amelia. Even when he doesn’t realize her crush, he gets her humor, he gets her ideas and he thinks she’s great. Amelia has lofty ideas about herself and feminism and what she’ll be like when she finally marries one day, and yet she is immature and can’t quite see that with Chris she’d be giving up so much of her freedom and youth–not that he’d demand it, but circumstances would–just to be his girlfriend and to keep him happy. It’s such an interesting parallel to what she thinks of her own parents.

One of the other things I really enjoyed here was that Chris keeps journals. Through those we get the opportunity to see what a funny, tragic, broken young man he is.  He is not good for Amelia, or anyone, at this point in his life, but I think he owns it. He wears it well.

Crush Intensity: 3.5/5 This is a solid read, not super-romantic (or romantic at all), but interesting in a different way.


Thank you to Random House for sending me a copy to review with my blogging friends through The Selective Collective.

For Darkness Shows the Stars

For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund

Darkness ShowsIt’s been several generations since a genetic experiment gone wrong caused the Reduction, decimating humanity and giving rise to a Luddite nobility who outlawed most technology.

Elliot North has always known her place in this world. Four years ago Elliot refused to run away with her childhood sweetheart, the servant Kai, choosing duty to her family’s estate over love. Since then the world has changed: a new class of Post-Reductionists is jumpstarting the wheel of progress, and Elliot’s estate is foundering, forcing her to rent land to the mysterious Cloud Fleet, a group of shipbuilders that includes renowned explorer Captain Malakai Wentforth–an almost unrecognizable Kai. And while Elliot wonders if this could be their second chance, Kai seems determined to show Elliot exactly what she gave up when she let him go.

But Elliot soon discovers her old friend carries a secret–one that could change their society . . . or bring it to its knees. And again, she’s faced with a choice: cling to what she’s been raised to believe, or cast her lot with the only boy she’s ever loved, even if she’s lost him forever. (Goodreads)

This modern retelling of Persuasion by Jane Austen (le sigh. One of the most lovely, romantic books ever. Oh, Captain Wentworth, you slay me with your letter!), is so beautiful, so well-done, and yet so very much its own story that I find it difficult to describe.

But I shall try. Pull up a chair.

The Setting: Elliot North is the youngest daughter at the North Estate (basically a plantation). Baron North is not terribly interested in the day in day out functions of seeing his estate prosper and as such, the spending and frivolity of both he and his oldest daughter have left the once prosperous estate weakened. Elliot is left to manage the day-to-day challenges that come with running things, managing the workers (but let’s call them what they really are: slaves) and seeing that the farming produces a profit and all those on the estate are fed. The North family is made up of Luddites, the upper crust nobility who reject technological advancement.

The History: Long ago, men got too big for their britches and believed they could improve upon God’s handiwork by surgically altering themselves. The punishment for this resulted in the The Reduction (something that caused people to be born “reduced”, different from the Luddites). Years later, a new group of people emerged, born from The Reduced. They were born without the obvious setbacks of their forefathers and were like the Luddites in most ways. These people, referred to as Posts (as in post-reduction) we’re still looked down upon because of the caste system in place, and the Luddites who made the laws. The Posts and the Reduced were all treated as slaves and the few Posts who ran away didn’t always find a better life.

The Drama: As a child, Elliot befriends Kai, the young son of the North’s mechanic. Kai is learning his father’s trade to one day take over at the estate, but really he’s just a boy. He and Elliot have a secret friendship forged in innocence and curiosity, laid out in the letters the write to each other on a regular basis. As they grow older, it develops into something more, and though neither acts upon it, it’s there. When Kai decides to run away from the estate in the hope of a better life, he wants Elliot to leave with him. But she never shows.

This decision, one she regrets in many ways, haunts her when Kai returns later as a successful young man. He’s part of an entourage of explorers who are in town to rent Elliot’s grandfather’s boathouse while they build a ship that Kai has designed. Kai is cold and angry and as much as Elliot cares, she has an estate to care for and people who depend on her. It torments her to see him, to watch him court another girl right in front of her face, but she knows she has to accept the choices each of them made.

My Thoughts: There is so much more to this book. I know it sounds like a lot, and it was a bit confusing at first, but it is a wonderful book. You do not have to read Persuasion to understand it. This one is part romance, part dystopia, and a little bit science fiction. Bravo to Diana Peterfreund for doing such a beautiful job at creatively adapting this story. It is so different from the original book, but the inspiration is still there and still completely recognizable.

Elliot is a wonderful protagonist. I felt her despair and her regret, but the situation she’s in is difficult. There is so much at stake on the estate and there are so many people there who would suffer were it not for her care. Her willingness to forsake her own happiness for theirs is evident in everything she does.

And Kai, what a gorgeous, painfully good hero. His love for Elliot is always there, even when he doesn’t want it to show.

Crush Intensity: 4.5/5 Read this book. I enjoyed it in every way.

Top Ten Tuesday- Bookish Memories

TTT3WTop Ten Tuesday is hosted by those fabulous, fabulous girls over at The Broke and The Bookish. This week we’re strolling down memory lane and discussing some of our favorite nerdtastic moments in our lives as bookworms.  And let’s face it, I’m old, so these are more recent memories. If I included my childhood I’d be here for days!

Bamarre1. Reading The Two Princesses of Bamarre with my daughter-

My oldest daughter, Chloe, used to love to read chapter books with me at bedtime. After reading Ella Enchanted (which I’m now rebooting with my little one), we moved onto The Two Princesses of Bamarre. Toward the end, we were so engrossed that it would be way past time to turn out the light and let Chloe sleep, but she and I would say, “Ok, ok, just one more chapter.” Such a sweet memory.

Husbands + Hunger Games= Hilarity

Husbands + Hunger Games= Hilarity

2. Hunger Games Husband Love-

My husband loves to make fun of me for my love of YA books. He loves that I’m a big ‘ol nerd, but it’s not normally his genre.  After he saw the preview for The Hunger Games film he was intrigued, so I convinced him to read the book. And whoa mama, was he sucked in in a major way (thus again proving that I am always, always right).  He even decided to convince Vee’s hubby to get in on the action. I caught him on the phone with Mark, telling him the premise of the story, but in a Dude Way. He’s like “So there’s this arena, and they have these games, and dude, it’s so crazy…” Vee and I were texting each other listening to them and DYING laughing. It was hilarious.

Meg Cabot3. Meg Cabot-

Um, you guys, I met Meg Cabot with my oldest daughter (an Allie Finkle fan). She was so sweet, she gave Chloe all kinds of writing advice and she was quite gracious about my insane love of Michael Moscovitz.  I was beside myself. I looked like I’d swallowed a sock. I actually totally freaked out in the parking lot on the way back to the car. I was on the phone with Vee, but I was practically speechless.

Twilight4. Reading the Twilight books-

For me, this was the first series in a while that was  highly addictive. It was like crack (not that I know from experience or anything). Breaking Dawn wasn’t out yet, but Stepehnie Meyers would put a quote from the new book on her website every day. I knew no one who’d read the books, so I’d sit there with my husband every single night trying to decipher what each line meant. I kept saying “But what does it mean, Eric?”  And he’d just shake his head. That man deserves a medal, I swear.

TTW5. Reading The Time Traveler’s Wife for the first time-

I read this in two nights years ago when my husband was out of town and I was pregnant with my youngest daughter.  My my oldest child went to bed at 7:30 every night. I had nothing else to do, no one to really hang with, so I just became engrossed in the story of Henry and Claire.  I fell so head over heels for Henry, partly because I thought he was awesome but partly because he reminded me so much of my own husband (I think I missed him!), and I still adore that book. Few have made me feel the way that one did.

images6. Scaring People- I feel so blessed to be able to blog about books in my spare time, and I love it all the more when people actually send me books for review. There are a certain few that, when I find them in my mailbox, it is imperative I scream or do some sort of happy dance in celebration. Because of this I have startled my family at random moments and scared my dog.  It’s a win/win. Seriously, you guys, my poor dog. He startles easily.

Mockingjay7. Waiting for Mockingjay-

However you feel about the last HG book, we were all dying to find out how it ended. I couldn’t wait. I preordered it, I read every article online I could find with ideas about Gale or Peeta or what the what.  I had theories and fears and I was pretty much obsessed. The day it was released, my daughter’s teacher needed help in class. Ok, no problem. My hubs went to pick up the book for me. Then, when we got home from school, we had homework, etc, etc, and dinner. Then, did I get sweet reading time? Negatory.  I had a Girl Scout meeting (the things I sacrifice for my kiddos). Then, I came home and made sure everyone was ready for bed–and I stayed up until 1am, reading the entire book in one sitting.  Finally! I’m still pissy about Gale’s side of the story, but at least I got to read it.

Forever Princess8. The Last Princess Diaries book-

When I read the last PD book, which felt like I’d waited twenty-five years for, I cried such happy tears. It’s a wonderful thing to love a series and to see it end beautifully, happily, with no detail you’d change. That’s how I felt about Forever Princess. I’ll never forget how good it felt to finish that book, so good that I turned it over and started it again.

Where the Wild Things Are9. Reading Where the Wild Things Are to my girls-

We are a family of readers starting from my husband reading to my pregnant tummy and to me reading to the girls in their infancy; we love books. Certain books, like Where the Wild Things Are, were read so often that my little ones, especially my youngest daughter, Carissa, would recite them with me, even as a teeny, tiny thing. And she’d make big eyes and growly noises to pretend she was the monsters. Man, she’s cute.

That’s all for now. Happy Tuesday!

Wentworth Hall

Wentworth Hall by Abby Grahame

Wentworth HallEighteen-year-old Maggie Darlington has turned into an entirely different person. The once spirited teen is now passive and reserved. A change Lord and Lady Darlington can’t help but be grateful for.

     It’s 1912, and the Darlingtons of Wentworth Hall have more than just the extensive grounds to maintain. As one of Britain’s most elite families, they need to keep up appearances that things are as they have always been…even as their carefully constructed facade rapidly comes undone.

     Maggie has a secret. And she’s not the only one…the handsome groom Michael, the beautiful new French nanny Therese, the Darlingtons’ teenage houseguests Teddy and Jessica, and even Maggie’s younger sister Lila are all hiding something. Passion, betrayal, heartache, and whispered declarations of love take place under the Darlingtons’ massive roof. And one of these secrets has the power to ruin the Darlingtons forever.

     When scandalous satires start appearing in the newspaper with details that closely mirror the lives of the Darlingtons, everyone is looking over their shoulder, worrying their scandal will be next. Because at Wentworth Hall, nothing stays secret for long. (Goodreads)

The Setting:

The Darlingtons, a respected and elite family who lives at Wentworth Hall, a sprawling estate once dripping with opulence, are taking in the twin son and daughter of a recently deceased (and very wealthy) family friend. The twins are to remain with the family until they turn eighteen and receive a large inheritance.  Lord Darlington thinks he’s playing like a sly fox, hoping to get some of the money for himself as the Darlingtons aren’t quite as well off as they’d like everyone to believe–but it’s obvious his intentions are less altruistic.  As the twins, Teddy and Jessica settle in it becomes clear that Teddy has his sights set on Maggie Darlington, the eldest daughter of the family.  Maggie couldn’t be less interested because…she has a secret (and an old crush on the stable boy, Michael).  None of this helps her relationship with her little sister, Lila, who’s pretty sick of Maggie getting all the attention.

The Drama:

A gossip column that is clearly about the Darlintons begins to circulate and it’s obvious the author is someone inside Wentworth Hall. Most every character, from the Darligton girls, the houseguests and the young servants, could have a possible motive and now no one knows who they can trust.

My Thoughts:

I was looking forward to reading this because it held the promise of scandal, love and this fabulous 1912 Titanic-era setting, complete with gorgeous fashions and men in hats (le sigh).  There were some interesting moments and I could see where Grahame was going with it all, but it fell flat for me. The story itself felt like a soap opera and I was unable to feel truly invested in the characters. Some were downright difficult to like.

While I was interested in the history between Maggie and Michael, there wasn’t great detail there and as it all impact’s Maggie’s big secret, her story, which could have been powerful, was a sidenote in a book with multiple stories that really didn’t go anywhere. It was as if the interesting stuff had already happened and I was hearing about it after the fact.  And the writing, though I believe it was well-intended for the era of the story, felt overdone at times.

I wish I had more positive things to say as I was so pleased to have the chance to review this and relished the opportunity to interview the author recently, but unfortunately I just didn’t love this book.

Crush Intensity: 2.0/5

Sincere thanks to Simon & Schuster for sending me a review copy.

Uses for Boys

Uses for Boys by Erica Lorraine Scheidt

11958608Anna remembers a time before boys, when she was little and everything made sense. When she and her mom were a family, just the two of them against the world. But now her mom is gone most of the time, chasing the next marriage, bringing home the next stepfather. Anna is left on her own—until she discovers that she can make boys her family. From Desmond to Joey, Todd to Sam, Anna learns that if you give boys what they want, you can get what you need. But the price is high—the other kids make fun of her; the girls call her a slut. Anna’s new friend, Toy, seems to have found a way around the loneliness, but Toy has her own secrets that even Anna can’t know.

Then comes Sam. When Anna actually meets a boy who is more than just useful, whose family eats dinner together, laughs, and tells stories, the truth about love becomes clear. And she finally learns how it feels to have something to lose—and something to offer. (Goodreads)

Anna has never really had a family. No father. A mother who is absent even on the rare occasion she’s around.  Early in life she’s labeled a slut because she finds that guys can easily fill the empty space within her, if only temporarily.  Many boys wander in and out of her sad life, and Anna so willingly gives of herself physically in the hopes of grasping something real. When she finally meets a nice boy–one with a real home and a family–she’s stunned that this life Sam leads, one with normal dinners and parental expectations, this is the kind of she’s always wanted.

Uses for Boys is edgy, dark, and incredibly painful. The prose is bare and somehow raw.  Anna, her friends, her mom–they’re all a complete mess.  And Anna is young and makes such cavalier choices about her life and her body without concern for the long-term.  It was difficult to witness and it was hard to feel more than pity for a girl who learns little from her experiences.

What was most disturbing was the graphic nature of the sex.  I’m not opposed to sex in books, YA or otherwise, as long as it fits the story and is tastefully done, but this went over the top.  The age Anna begins experimenting sexually (twelve!) is tough enough, but it’s the fact that it’s narrated in such detail that disturbed me most. It was too much, too stark, too unfeeling.

I did not enjoy this book, and while that’s understandable considering the content, I found myself sad in the end because a) Anna really doesn’t grow or move forward in life (other than realizing she wants a family life) and b) her views about sex and her body seem so empty, even when she seems to find love. It’s more of a thing she clings to to escape pain rather than something that’s intimate and solid in a trusting relationship.

Crush Intensity: 1/5 I’m certainly not the last word on this book. You can find multiple reviews by people who liked it and those who didn’t here.

Thank you to St.Martin’s Press for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Selective Collective: Level 2 Discussion

Welcome 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 Level 2 by Lenore Appelhans. You guys, I loved this book. It was awesome.

Level 2

Since her untimely death the day before her eighteenth birthday, Felicia Ward has been trapped in Level 2, a stark white afterlife located between our world and the next.  Along with her fellow prisoners, Felicia passes the endless hours reliving memories of her time on Earth and mourning what she’s lost–family, friends, and the boy she loved, Neil.

Then a girl in a neighboring chamber disappears, and nobody but Felicia seems to recall she existed in the first place.  Something is obviously very wrong. When Julian–a dangerously charming guy Felicia knew in life–comes to offer Felicia a way out, she learns the truth: A rebellion is brewing to overthrow the Morati, the guardians of Level 2.

Felicia is reluctant to trust Julian, but them her promises what she wants most–to be with Neil again–if only she’ll join the rebels. Suspended between heaven and Earth, Felicia finds herself in the center of an age-old struggle between good and evil. As memories from her life come back to haunt her, and as the Morati hunt her down, Felicia will discover it’s not just her own redemption at stake..but the salvation of mankind. (Inside cover)

This week I get the chance to host a roundtable discussion with my fellow SC ladies and you know what? It’s hard to come up with questions that don’t have spoilers! Ack! But here we go:

1. The drones in Felicia’s hive spend endless hours viewing memories of their human lives before hopefully moving on to the next level. How can their insistence on viewing only their happiest memories help or hurt their ability to pass on?

The drones do spend endless hours viewing only their happiest memories.  Of course, it’s only natural.  Who wouldn’t want to see those happiest of moments in their lives over and over again?  Just imagine being able to see moments like that “miraculous” Christmas morning when Santa brought that most desired toy, the day that you passed your driving test, your first kiss, your wedding day, or  the birth of your child.  There are so many moments in life that are taken for granted.  The drones have an opportunity not only to view them, but to appreciate them.  However, our lives are not made up solely of happy moments.  Everyone has memories that are painful.  Dealing with painful experiences help us grow emotionally and spiritually.  It is also all of our experiences that help shape us into the people that we are.  The drones were missing out on the opportunity to grow stronger by viewing those painful moments.  In the same way that those experiences shaped them into becoming the people that they were before their deaths, the memories of those experiences would help them become stronger and come to terms with their lives.  Then they would be ready to move on to the next level.  Unfortunately, the drones continue in this manner because of circumstances beyond their control.  Once Felicia discovers the truth, she begins to go back and view her painful memories and they do begin to empower her.   She begins to feel the power that those painful memories bring to her and as she comes to terms with the consequences of those memories.  -Diana @ Teen Lit Rocks

2. The author uses a creative mixture of religion, mythology and a unique, almost space-age backdrop to create a dystopic afterlife. How do these themes compare to your own ideas of life after death?

I thought it was interesting that the author created this section between earth (Level 1) and Heaven (Level 3) that people essentially wait in until they figure out their purpose on earth before going on to Heaven. I think a few different religions/denominations believe in this waiting area, or a Limbo, while you are waiting to go to Heaven. As someone who doesn’t believe in this place (Limbo), though, I’ve personally never thought about a waiting area before getting to Heaven. I’ve just thought that you die and then your soul goes to Heaven, no waiting required. Probably not the way it works, but I like believing it does! I did, however, love seeing this idea of a Limbo area being explored and how unique it was – at first the idea of sitting around watching memories was odd to me, but I loved what the purpose of it was. Don’t want to add that for spoilers! I also really enjoyed the mix of the angels’ fall and their “revenge” on God – was definitely different to see that in there! As for my ideas of life after death, I haven’t quite figured out what I think will happen or where I’ll go. I don’t think I’ll go anywhere to sit around and wait, but I like the idea of just hanging out and getting to relive memories, especially if it’s like YouTube! – Candice @ The Grown Up YA

3. There are moments of symbolism that run between Felicia’s memories and her life in Level 2 (the bee keeping, the hives, the figure eights). What do you think the author was trying to convey?

I loved the symbolism in this book, but I’m not entirely sure the author was trying to convey a deep message in them. More than anything, I think she was giving symmetry between Felicia’s life and her afterlife. And I think she was, in Felicia’s life on Earth, foreshadowing some of the things that might be meaningful to her in her death–things like the special knock Julian does to get around Level 2 (the same secret knock she and Neil create during the lock-in at church) or the set up of the hives in Level 2 being reminiscent of a particularly sweet memory she had with Neil.  In any case, I loved they ways these ideas and images repeated both in Felicia’s memories and in her “life” on Level 2. – Tee @ YA Crush

4. Felicia is convinced of her love for Neil and she constantly relives her memories of him. Watching her evolution through those flashbacks, do you think Neil was good or bad for her?

This is a really hard question to answer! I was conflicted the whole book about Felicia’s driving need to reunite with Neil because I felt like it was both helpful and harmful at the same time. Her connection with Neil was so strong that it really gave her something to fight for in Level 2 and gave her a purpose to keep moving and pushing through when she struggled. At the same time, Neil was kind of a blinder for Felicia. She was SO determined to reach him that she would do it at any cost, including pushing herself when she didn’t have the strength or putting others in danger as well as herself because all she could see was Neil. Was he more helpful or harmful to Felicia’s cause? I guess the readers will just have to pick up the book to find out! :)- Brittany @ The Book Addict’s Guide

5. During her life on Earth, Felicia seemed plagued by guilt from past decisions–things that affected Autumn, Julian and her family. Do you think her guilt was justified or was she being too hard on herself?

Felicia’s situation with Julian and Autumn put her in a near impossible position.  She gave into temptation and her lust for Julian all the while knowing what it would do to Autumn if she were to find out.  If I were in her position, I would feel tremendous guilt, too.  In this case, I don’t think she was being too hard on herself.  Would she have been better off telling Autumn from the beginning about Julian’s interest in her or should she have just not given into him?  I don’t know.  I still don’t understand why she gave in, anyway, despite her attraction to him because she didn’t actually seem to like him.  But on the other hand, there’s no reason to keep reliving it because what’s past is past and she cannot change it.  Going forward from here, she would be wise to accept her bad decisions and learn from them.  Also, a sincere apology is called for in both the situation with Autumn and her family.- Daphne @ Gone Pecan

Please be sure to visit my blogging partners in The Selective Collective and check out the great things they have in store:

The Book Addict’s Guide- Review

Gone Pecan-Author Q&A

The Grown Up YA- Casting Call

Teen Lit Rocks- Edgy Girls & Good Boys

Sincere thanks to Simon & Schuster for sending all of the SC girls review copies of Level 2!