Book Review: The Graces by Laure Eve

In The Graces, the first rule of witchcraft states that if you want something badly enough, you can get it . . . no matter who has to pay.
 
Everyone loves the Graces. Fenrin, Thalia, and Summer Grace are captivating, wealthy, and glamorous. They’ve managed to cast a spell over not just their high school but also their entire town—and they’re rumored to have powerful connections all over the world. If you’re not in love with one of them, you want to be them. Especially River: the loner, new girl at school. She’s different from her peers, who both revere and fear the Grace family. She wants to be a Grace more than anything. And what the Graces don’t know is that River’s presence in town is no accident.

Release Date: September 6, 2016

This book was an easy read, and one I enjoyed reading while I was enjoying a glass of wine and while I was relaxing in the sun on Lake Norman.  But, there are some really…interesting aspects of the novel that put me off as I first opened it.

First, the summary on the back of my ARC copy is a bit different from the one above, and it focuses much more on River’s obsession with being friends with the Graces and how much she literally wants to become one.  So that’s a bit stalker-ish in an obsessive and not fun way, and the character comes off as desperately wishing for her friendship and relationship with these three kids that she came off a bit one dimensional and just so desperate for them to give her life meaning.  I imagined her annoying Roger on F.R.I.E.N.D.S with her absolute need for them to give her purpose and direction.

So, never to go against the YA trope that the main character is going to be somewhat special and plucked from obscurity in her social caste, Eve’s character, River, becomes exactly what she wanted to be: one of the Graces – or rather, someone the Graces grow to trust and bring under their wing.

Eve’s writing really excels when River is simply observing the Graces and the interactions between the Grace siblings is one that makes me wish I was closer to my own sister, you know, minus all the witchcraft.  In fact, I think that the Grace siblings having more well-rounded character traits was instrumental in showing the progression of River as a character throughout the novel.  River adapts certain aspects of their personalities into her own, and there’s a scene where the youngest Grace seemingly transforms River into almost a carbon copy of herself.

River is just such a troubling character for me, because you go into the novel wanting to root for her since she is portrayed as the protagonist.  However, by the last fourth of the novel I kept thinking to myself that River should really just break out into the song from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, “I’m the Villain in my own Story.” Even with her deplorable actions, I found myself still waiting and wanting her redemption. *Shakes fist at Laure Eve* How dare you make me care for someone with so many shades of gray!

The novel could have stood to have a bit more world building in the aspect of witchcraft, and the different types of witches that exist…or even some kind of explanation for River, herself, since she clearly didn’t fit into any of the definitions given to us.

Overall, I found this novel to be a fun and fast read and perfect for a lazy summer afternoon in the sun.

3.5 Bards, because I just really am torn on the main character and the need for a bit more world building, but it comes out soon and you should pre-order your copy now!  Then we can discuss.

3.5bards

 

 

 

 

SIDE NOTE:

Isn’t the cover amazing?


 

Book Review: Blood and Salt by Kim Liggett

WickedReads_Sticker_15_2p2

We here at A Midsummer Night’s Read really enjoy a good book that will keep you on your toes and maybe even give you chills, so of course we jumped at the chance to join in on Penguin Teen’s WICKED READS campaign.  This means that this week, I will be featuring the creepy books that I have enjoyed to help count down to Halloween this Saturday!

Welcome to WICKED READS!

 

Does any one else remember these books?  I remember ordering them from the Scholastic book fair back in Elementary school, and I also remember throwing the books in my closet after reading one of their particularly scary entries.  What was your favorite scary book as a kid?

 

23845997“When you fall in love, you will carve out your heart and throw it into the deepest ocean. You will be all in—blood and salt.”

These are the last words Ash Larkin hears before her mother returns to the spiritual commune she escaped long ago. But when Ash follows her to Quivira, Kansas, something sinister and ancient waits among the rustling cornstalks of this village lost to time.

Ash is plagued by memories of her ancestor, Katia, which harken back to the town’s history of unrequited love and murder, alchemy and immortality. Charming traditions soon give way to a string of gruesome deaths, and Ash feels drawn to Dane, a forbidden boy with secrets of his own.

As the community prepares for a ceremony five hundred years in the making, Ash must fight not only to save her mother, but herself—and discover the truth about Quivira before it’s too late. Before she’s all in—blood and salt.

As soon as I read the synopsis for this novel, which was a long time ago before it was released or even before it had a cover, I knew that I had to get my hands on a copy of this book as soon as I could.  Luckily, I was able to reach out to the author and expressed my extreme interest in her novel, and somehow found myself in contact with the publisher. Less than two weeks later, I had a beautiful copy of this book in my hands.

First off, maybe I should give you a few buzz phrases that can describe this book: Creepy, Cult, Ghosts, Bloody. I devoured this book in a matter of hours.  Sure, there are a few things that could have been done better, as there are in any book, but on the whole I found this book to be a really entertaining.

I really enjoyed the magical realism in this novel, and I like the fact that there really isn’t any true type of explanation for it.  It makes the ideas much more intriguing.  I do, however, wish there had been much more of a reason for the audience to really understand the pull of the corn and the entire aspect of the ceremonies going on within this little cult.  Although the characters are quick to dismiss that this is a normal cult, and both Ash and her brother Rhys are drawn in fairly easily with little to no argument.

The only thing that I found super creepy was this bloody woman that kept appearing to the main character in many precarious situations.  I wasn’t too scared by the corn, or how the corn seemed to dictate what exactly was happening within the little city, but I understand what Liggett was trying to do here.  Evidently a lot of people made some connections between this novel and “Children of the Corn,” but I’ve never seen that so I don’t really see the parallels that other reviewers have pointed out.

I’m never really a fan of insta-love or anything like that, but I did actually enjoy the romance aspect of this novel and found Dane to be a super jerk by the end of the novel.  I’m not going to give away why!

Overall this is a good read for creepiness right here at Halloween!

4 Bards!

fourbards

 

Book Review: Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer

If life were fair, Jam Gallahue would still be  at home in New Jersey with her sweet British  boyfriend, Reeve Maxfield. She’d be watching  old comedy sketches with him. She’d be kissing  him in the library stacks.

She certainly wouldn’t be at The Wooden Barn, a therapeutic boarding school in rural Vermont, living with a weird roommate, and signed up for an exclusive, mysterious class called Special Topics in English.

But life isn’t fair, and Reeve Maxfield is dead.

Until a journal-writing assignment leads Jam to Belzhar, where the untainted past is restored, and Jam can feel Reeve’s arms around her once again. But there are hidden truths on Jam’s path to reclaim her loss.

Release Date: September 30, 2014

This book was one of the top two books I knew I had to get my hands on when I went to Book Expo America this year, and I’m so glad I managed to get a copy.  I put off reading it for a long time, because my anticipation was so high that I was trying to calm myself so I wouldn’t be in danger of having my hopes set too high! Because sometimes that happens, and if you are a regular book nerd like me then you know what it is like.

It might come as a surprise that I was this excited about Belzhar when I haven’t even read Plath’s The Bell Jar, which is a huge influence on the characters in this novel.  I have, however, read Gracefully Insane, which is the story about the mental hospital that Plath was sent to for treatment in her early twenties after a suicide attempt (this is vaguely referenced in Belzhar).

I can understand why some teens might not totally understand or feel connected to these characters, but I think a lot of that megwoliztercomes with the common stigma that mental illnesses like depression, eating disorders, anxiety, etc are something to be feared or ashamed of.  I want this book to become the barrier breaker.  The book that students can read that is set in current day that can show how many different things can lead to “mental fragility,” (a term, much like Mrs. Q, I don’t like) and treatment in teens.  Hell, I think this book would be excellent to teach alongside any of Plath’s works (I have read her poetry).

The story is well constructed and the journey that Jam goes through at the Wooden Barn is similar to what some treatment plans would follow, the idea of immersing yourself in that entire experience and then learning to accept it and move on.  I really enjoyed Wolitzer’s use of other characters to really exemplify how many different things, big and small, can affect a person’s outlook and perception of reality.

Kudos to Wolitzer, for making a wonderful book that I really hope will help peel back the layers of social stigma around mental illness, and hopefully give those that might be suffering the courage to accept help and understand that they are not alone.

4.5 Bards.

four.fivebards

Book Review: Evil Librarian by Michelle Knudsen

20708754#EvilLibrarian He’s young. He’s hot. He’s also evil. He’s . . . the librarian.

When Cynthia Rothschild’s best friend, Annie, falls head over heels for the new high-school librarian, Cyn can totally see why. He’s really young and super cute and thinks Annie would make an excellent library monitor. But after meeting Mr. Gabriel, Cyn realizes something isn’t quite right. Maybe it’s the creepy look in the librarian’s eyes, or the weird feeling Cyn gets whenever she’s around him. Before long Cyn realizes that Mr. Gabriel is, in fact . . . a demon. Now, in addition to saving the school musical from technical disaster and trying not to make a fool of herself with her own hopeless crush, Cyn has to save her best friend from the clutches of the evil librarian, who also seems to be slowly sucking the life force out of the entire student body! From best-selling author Michelle Knudsen, here is the perfect novel for teens who like their horror served up with a bit of romance, plenty of humor, and some pretty hot guys (of both the good and evil variety).

 

I was really excited to read this book, the cover is awesome!  I mean look at it!  So cool.  Anyway this book is really geared towards the younger end of the YA genre.  While to topic of the book seems like it could lead to a very scary or intense read, Michelle Knudsen added such levity to the book that it was a very enjoyable read.

While the story centered around Cynthia and Ryan defeating the Demons the best part of the story.  They were hilarious.  Not at all scary or gross, just plain funny.  I loved that they loved musical theater.  Cyn and Ryan’s story was cute.  Lots of build up with little reward, but the book was geared toward a younger audience so it was appropriate.  I love musical theater so I was delighted that it was such a big part of the book.

The book doesn’t have much substance but it was a great read.  It was funny, and entertaining, captivating, and an all around enjoyable read.  I would recommend it to middle to early high school aged people.

 

4 Bards

fourbards

 

 

Book Review: Edge of Falling by Valia Lind

22674926For Chance, there’s always only been Dakota.

He’s been in love with the girl since the day they met. He’s tried everything to get her to notice him and nothing has worked. So when things suddenly start moving in the right direction, Chance can’t believe his luck.

Until Kyle comes along.

Kyle is like a new shiny toy and Dakota loves new and shiny. She falls for the tall, blonde and gorgeous fast and without looking back. Dating the summer before college wasn’t in the plans, but come on, Kyle is perfect. So why does Chance and his snarky grin keeps popping up in her mind now that Dakota has found her happiness?

When Chance’s world comes crashing down, Dakota proves the strength of their friendship, surprising herself and everyone around her, by helping him pick up the pieces. In return, Chance is finally able to crack her hard shell, discovering that not everything is sunny in Dakota-land. Her world is not what it seems on the outside, and together, they’re able to pull each other to the brink of safety and sanity.

Dakota likes that things are simple with Kyle, so why does she feel more like herself around Chance?

As graduation grows closer, both Chance and Dakota learn that the plans you make for your life don’t always play out the way you expect them and sometimes, everything starts to make sense when you find yourself on the edge of falling.

 

This is the second book in the Falling by Design series from Valia Lind.  To find my first review follow this link.  I loved Falling by Design and I love Edge of Falling, so basically I want Valia Lind to continue writing so I can continue loving everything she does.  I was looking forward to reading Chance and Dakota’s story after the first book and was not disappointed.  I felt all sorts of feels while reading this.  I was happy, sad, nervous, angry, jealous, everything.  I loved that about a book, when you loose yourself in the characters, its soo good!!

This book let us in to Dakota’s not so perfect life, and as a child of divorced parents I could relate so much to her.  I loved the relationship her and Jackson had, and am hoping to hear more about Jackson in a future book?????  Anyway, fingers crossed on that one.  Chance, oh Chance.  I feel for you bud.  My heart breaks for him, and everything he has been through.  The only character I didn’t fully connect with was Kyle.  But I get the feeling that we may hear more of his story later so I’m not mad about not knowing his background.

As for the stoy, I thought it flowed at a good pace.  I was super upset in the middle of the book, and if I had put down the book I might have even yelled at Valia via twitter, but alas I couldn’t put the book down!  I am not going to lie, I kind of want to go to that high school too, it sounds way better than mine was!  Anyway two big thumbs up for Edge of Falling.  I can’t say too much about the book with out giving stuff away, but I will say that you will not be able to put it down!  It is a must read!  Have tissues handy for that middle part!!!  Also Miss Valia Lind is on twitter and responds to tweets!  So tell her how much you love the book @ValiaLind !!

5 Bards

fivebards

 

Book Review: The Young World by Chris Weitz

After a mysterious Sickness wipes out the rest of the population, the young survivors assemble into tightly run tribes. Jefferson, the reluctant leader of the Washington Square tribe, and Donna, the girl he’s secretly in love with, have carved out a precarious existence among the chaos. But when another tribe member discovers a clue that may hold the cure to the Sickness, five teens set out on a life-altering road trip to save humankind.

The tribe exchanges gunfire with enemy gangs, escapes cults and militias, braves the wilds of the subway and Central Park…and discovers truths they could never have imagined.

Release Date: July 29, 2014

I actually had no prior knowledge of this novel before I went to Book Expo America and was just desperate to get a copy of Ryan Graudin’s The Walled City.  However, it turned out that Little, Brown Books for Young Readers was actually dropped The Young World with The Walled City, and I quickly decided that this was a book I had to read ASAP!

First thing you should know about this novel is that it is told in a dual point of view between a male and female character.  Now, I know what you are thinking, the voices have to be super distinct in order for this to work, and Weitz did this extremely well.  Jefferson’s voice was extremely straight forward and honest, just like his personality. He does have a tendency to go off on small tangents, but not nearly as much as his co-narrator, Donna.  Jeez, Donna’s voice is ridiculously annoying at times.  She overuses the word “like,” uses an extensive amount of pop culture references, and has a sarcastic cadence that really can get a bit much.  However, it is all of these things that made me adore her voice. See, Donna talks just like any teenager I know.  Plus, the pop culture references (which I normally don’t care for) helps a lot in this book to help show when the sickness began and what things these kids remember from Before.

Another thing I really liked was Weitz’s decision to capitalize certain words in order to emphasize their importance to the vernacular of the kids still alive. Examples: Before, Adults, etc

The plot moves at a decent pace, utilizing the “journey” trope, and then miraculously speeds up towards the end, which kind of took the winds out of my sails as a reader. But, I suppose Weitz set it up so there could be more than one novel.  I can’t say that I loved this book, but I definitely didn’t hate it, and look forward to the next installment.

3.5 Bards

3.5bards

 

Book Review: My Best Friend, Maybe by Caela Carter

Colette 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.

Release Date: June 3, 2014

I really wasn’t sure when I read the synopsis of this novel if I would be able to get through this novel without remembering how hard it is to lose your best friend, whether it be a childhood best friend, a high school best friend, or even a college best friend.  Well, that all happens to people, and its one of the main reasons I did decide to read it.  Because I’ve been through it, and that means that a large percentage of Carter’s readers would have or will go through that.

The story line is somewhat slow to begin, but the narrator, Colette, slowly introduces us to her current narrative and her past friendship with Sadie.  (On a side note, I fully believe that Carter drew inspiration from the lyrics of the Beatles’ song Sexy Sadie when deciding to name that character.)  While the mystery doesn’t seem as vital or important as let’s say, a murder or any life threatening issue, but it is addicting and realistic as a motivator in the story.

Not only does Carter’s novel explore the crippling conformity that some forms of religion can cause young people after having been raised in a strict household, but it explores the importance of self-discovery and a teenager’s growing ability to make decisions, moral or not, about what they believe and who they choose to keep in their lives.

It isn’t preachy or trying to change a readers opinion on any type of religion or lifestyle, but it is the perfect book that can help show readers that their decisions are their own and not any outside influences.

4.5 Bards for this amazing story

four.fivebards

Top Ten Tuesday

toptentuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted for us book blogger types by the Broke and the Bookish. They provide a topic, and all of us participants post our answers on our blogs and we hop around checking out one another’s answers! This week’s topic is  a Top Ten Tuesday Freebie, so I chose to do:

My Top Ten Things I’m Looking Forward to in NYC for BEA

1. Blogger Con
How many things should I list that I’m excited for during Blogger Con? Well, number one I really love meeting all of the fellow bloggers, the sessions where we get to learn from successful bloggers, the keynote by Maureen Johnson, AND we get to see Tiger Beat perform? Yes. Please.

2. Sardi’s
The famous Broadway jewel restaurant that has been used as a film location for The Muppets Take Manhattan, The Producers, Mad Men, and Glee! Plus, the food sounds amazing and I plan on indulging.

3. RAINBOW ROWELL, ya’ll!
My prize book I got last year at BEA was Rowell’s FANGIRL, which was personalized to me, and I’m looking forward to getting a personalized copy of her upcoming novel, LANDLINE.

4. Harlequin Teen Power Hour
Last year I was like 6th in line to this, but Harlequin always hosts a number of their authors all together for one massive signing line! This year, I will definitely be there waiting again.

5. Random House BEA Blogger Happy Hour
(invite only) Super excited to meet and greet with all of the lovely people!

6. Children’s Author Book Breakfast
Last year I got to be in the same room as Rick Riordan, Veronica Roth, and Octavia Spencer.  This year I get to see Jason Segel and Carl Hiassen!

7. BELZHAR
I’ve been stalking this book for a long time, and the chance to get a personalized copy is making me super excited.

8. Heathers the Musical
Missy and myself have FRONT ROW SEATS to see the new hit musical based off of one of my favorite movies. It will be pretty amazing!

9. Cary Elwes
The Princess Bride star wrote a book about his experience filming it? Yes, please. Plus, I’ve always had a giant crush on him. Loved him on PSYCH too.

10. Saturday Night Shenanigans
Not sure what Missy and I will get up to, but since we don’t fly home until 2 PM on Sunday, we should be able to get into some pretty awesome things!

Book Review: How I Got Skinny, Famous, and Fell Madly in Love by Ken Baker

blogbanner

 

Thick. Heavy. Big boned. Plump. Full figured. Chunky. Womanly. Large. Curvy. Plus-size. Hefty.” To sixteen-year-old Emery Jackson, these are all just euphemisms for the big “F” word—”fat.” Living on a Southern California beach with her workout fiend dad, underwear model sister, and former model mother, it is impossible for Emery not to be aware of her weight.

Emery is okay with how things are. That is, until her “momager” signs her up for Fifty Pounds to Freedom, a reality show in which Emery will have to lose fifty pounds in fifty days in order to win the million dollars that will solve her family’s financial woes. Emery is skeptical of the process, but when the pounds start to come off and the ratings skyrocket, she finds it hard to resist the adoration of her new figure and the world of fame. Emery knows that things have changed. But is it for the better?

Fact: this book is ridiculously easy to relate to.  I think that the main reason Baker’s novel is so relatable is because the main character’s voice is ridiculously sarcastic, witty, and delightfully straight forward.

On another hand, as a former sufferer of an eating disorder, this book really ended up opening a few doors that I thought were closed.  The feeling of shame about your weight, the way that mean girls could make you feel, the way society pressures you to look one way or another: these are all things that teenage girls struggle with no matter their starting weight.  This is obvious through the character of Angel as well as Emery as the story progresses.

I really appreciate Baker’s ability to make the readers feel a part of the story based on the way that Emery is almost breaking the fourth wall and talking specifically to the reader.  I also like that the story basically criticized the entire genre of reality TV, because if I’m honest, I’m not a huge fan of it since a lot of it IS staged.  Just look at the way Emery and her boyfriend’s relationship was exploited in this novel, or her relationship with her mother and father.

Either way I think that this novel could be good for fans of reality TV and those who don’t like it at all, because it really pleases both aspects.  One by including it and the other by making it abundantly clear that it can really damage the way a person (character) thinks about themselves.

I was pleasantly surprised with this novel, although I don’t totally understand why the title is so long, but to each his own.

3.5 Bards!

3.5bards

 

Enter to Win!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 

Book Review: Shadowlands by Kate Brian

Rory Miller had one chance to fight back and she took it. Rory survived and the serial killer who attacked her escaped. Now that the infamous Steven Nell is on the loose, Rory must enter the witness protection program. Entering the program alongside her, is her father and sister Darcy. The trio starts a new life and a new beginning leaving their friends and family behind without a goodbye. 

Starting over in a new town with only each other is unimaginable for Rory and Darcy. They were inseparable as children but now they can barely stand each other. As the sisters settle in to Juniper Landing, a picturesque vacation island, it seems like their new home may be just the fresh start they need. They fall in with a group of beautiful, carefree teens and spend their days surfing, partying on the beach, and hiking into endless sunsets. Just as they’re starting to feel safe again, one of their new friends goes missing. Is it a coincidence? Or is the nightmare beginning all over again?

 

Okay, so I’m not going to lie: I was completely sucked into buying this book mostly because I had an Advanced Reader Copy of the sequel, Hereafter.  But, I read the synopsis on the back of this book and got pretty giddy about a fictionalized serial killer story, because we all know how fascinating it can be and how amazingly creepy they can be too.  So I sat down to read it.

 

There were a lot of things that I found to be somewhat unrealistic, but again those things were explained by the realization at the end of the novel.  I really think Brian did a superb job of creating a family dynamic that was both heart-wrenching and completely realistic.  Two sisters that are close in age and yet so far apart in personality, a father that retreated after a traumatic family event…that dynamic was extremely well done.

 

Now, things start to get a little weird when the family arrives in their new home of Juniper’s Landing, but I kept hoping and hoping there just wouldn’t be a random paranormal element involved. But, there was.  But I refuse to give any of that away because I’d rather you all see if you can figure it out earlier than I did.  I just didn’t see that coming!

 

3.5 Bards

3.5bards

Follow
Get every new post delivered to your inbox!
Join our other followers!
Powered By WPFruits.com
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers