Being Sloan Jacobs

By Lauren Morrill
Published on January 7 2014
Published by Delacorte
Source: Netgalley
Meet 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.
It took me a really long time to get into this book, and I'm not even sure why. I think it suffers from a little bit of a pacing problem, which I've noticed in a lot of books lately. Nothing really happens until suddenly something does, and then, bam! The book is a whirlwind and ends quickly.

My  biggest issue with this book was that it relied on too many coincidences. The fact that Sloane Emily and Sloane Devon even meet is a coincidence, but at least it's needed to set up the plot . There are two or three coincidences after that one. I'm all for suspending belief, but I would have liked to have seen something happen because one of the Sloanes made it happen through her actions, not because it was the convenient thing to make the plot move along.

Overall, this was a cute book. It reminded me of "Freaky Friday" or "Parent Trap," and didn't really offer much else in the way of plot, because the Sloanes spend most of their time hiding from their respective issues while spending time in each other's skates. Also, blurbs about  the novel may make it sound like a romance, but there's very little of that. (In fact, I was surprised that at the end, the girls seem so focused on their potential romantic partners instead of the other changes happening in heir lives.)

Although it started out slow for me, I enjoyed the whirlwind ending that brought everything together and reunited the Sloanes. Morrill did a good job at the alternating viewpoints and I never got confused about who was speaking, even when the girls were speaking face to face. 


Beyond New Eden by H.S. Stone

By H.S. Stone
Published on March 8th 2013
Published by H.S. Stone
Source: Author
Eve 142 has lived her entire life in the domed city of New Eden, home to the only surviving humans after the War. Like all of the inhabitants of New Eden, Eve 142 is a clone. Together with the other clones, dubbed the Adams and the Eves, she leads a safe, predictable existence. However, Eve’s life changes when she causes a tragic accident to befall one of the Adams. As retribution, she and her counterpart, Adam 142, are banished from New Eden.

At first, Eve 142 considers their punishment a death sentence because she grew up believing the world outside the dome was uninhabitable. She is wrong. Forced to live in the Wastelands, Eve and Adam discover many new truths about the outside world and, more importantly, the truths about themselves.

I'm a huge dystopian/post-apocalyptic fan. They are my favorite type of books by far. This was no exception. I read it from start to finish in less than 24 hours. Despite reading nearly every dystopian book I can get my hands on, this was original and much different from anything I've read before.

New Eden is a domed society. It houses the Adams and the Eves - clones. Our two main characters are Eve 142 and Adam 142. Each year the oldest Eve/Adam couple die after living for 75 years, while a newborn couple are brought into the world. That's how it's always been. To start, Eve/Adam 142 have passive, peaceful temperaments, very little emotion, and do not question things. They're simply accepting. This lack of personality sets up the rest of the book as a contrast between life in the dome and outside the dome. At first it was a little jarring, but it's exactly what the story needs. Later on, we do see their personalities come out. They develop opinions and their emotional range widens.

Eve/Adam 142 get banished from New Eden for six months and are forced to go live in what they have been taught is a barren wasteland after The War. They were also taught that they are the only humans left on the planet. The rest of the book is the journey Eve and Adam 142 embark on of survival, discovery, self-discovery, and emotional growth. When their banishment is over, will they return to New Eden? Can they go back to a peaceful society of acceptance with no questions?

Overall, this was an original and exceptional read. The writing was impeccable and the story was fascinating.

A Matter of Souls

By Denise Lewis Patrick
Published on April 1st 2014
Published by Carolrhoda Books
Source: Netgalley
From the shores of Africa to the bowels of a transatlantic ship to a voting booth in Mississippi to the jungles of Vietnam, all human connection is a matter of souls. In this stirring collection of short stories, Denise Lewis Patrick considers the souls of black men and women across centuries and continents. In each, she takes the measure of their dignity, describes their dreams, and catalogs their fears. Brutality, beauty, laughter, rage, and love all take their turns in each story, but the final impression is of indomitable, luminous, and connected souls.
I kind of want everyone to read this book.  It's a collection of short stories, so it goes by very quickly, and the focus is exclusively on people of color throughout history.  Aside from a strong theme of equality and civil rights, each story stands alone, so it's a very easy book to read in bits and pieces, but I read most of it in just a few sittings.

Many of the stories focus on women or families, and each story is poignant.  The author has a wonderful, spellbinding way with words that really draws you in, and sometimes the stories feel just a bit magical, even when they're grounded in reality.  Some are hard to read -- none of them shy away from the brutality that African Americans have faced, and continue to face -- but there is a thread of optimism and perseverance that weaves throughout all of them.

On the author's website, she describes the book as a collection of stories for young adults, and I agree that this would be great for teen readers, especially anyone taking a US history or social studies class.  But I think this book will resonate with readers of all ages, from teenagers to people who lived through the Civil Rights movement of the 60s, and beyond.  It's an important book to read and one that I think everyone should invest a little time in going through.

The Glass Casket

By McCormick Templeman
Published on February 11, 2014
Published by Delacorte Press
Source: Library
Death hasn't visited Rowan Rose since it took her mother when Rowan was only a little girl. But that changes one bleak morning, when five horses and their riders thunder into her village and through the forest, disappearing into the hills. Days later, the riders' bodies are found, and though no one can say for certain what happened in their final hours, their remains prove that whatever it was must have been brutal.

Rowan's village was once a tranquil place, but now things have changed. Something has followed the path those riders made and has come down from the hills, through the forest, and into the village. Beast or man, it has brought death to Rowan's door once again.

Only this time, its appetite is insatiable
The Glass Casket was a surprise for me! I love dark, creepy stories, but a lot of the time when I pick up a story expecting it, I do not get it and it is disappointing. I was most definitely not disappointed by Ms. Templeman! The story was dark from beginning to end, and other than a few bright spots, this wasn't a happy story with a perfect ending. This ending was real, and felt true to the story. I think, if it had had a happy ending, it would have taken away from the story that the author was trying to create.

The Glass Casket is a slower paced story, but the depth of the story more than makes up for it. And when the pace does pick up at the end, it keeps you on the edge of your seat. I loved the characters. Even the ones that I did not like, I had to love because they were so exceptionally well written. From the main character Rowan Rose, and her best friend Tom, to Tom's brother Jude and the mysterious new girl Fiona Eira, each character was unique, interesting and had a story to tell in their own right. I loved that the POV switched off between a few of out main characters, and then some new characters that aren't previously mentioned. I feel like this added another dimension to the story, added to the fear and desperation and sense of wrongness! The setting of the story was also perfectly imaginable. I can close my eyes even now, a week later, and imagine myself walking through Nags End on Market Day.

A seeming cross between Snow White and Red Riding Hood, with elements of both thrown in but made wholly original, I thoroughly enjoyed The Glass Casket. I highly recommend it to anyone who loves a tension-filled, terror-filled, good old creepy story! Last but not least, I have to mention the cover. It is stunning, and the brains behind it deserve serious kudos!

                                                         4 Stars!

The Tree House by Shay Lynam

By Shay Lynam
Published on March 2013
Published by Shay Lynam
Source: Author
Hailey is an average twenty-year-old college student, living an average life. Or so she thought. When a past she never knew existed is brought to light, the reality she thought she knew is shattered and Hailey is left alone to pick up the pieces. Who could know this world holds such evil? Who is this strange, obscure boy that seems to know more than he is saying?

And what can one girl do when a fight to stay alive becomes a fight to avenge and protect the ones she loves?

I had a really enjoyable time reading this book. I was pulled in immediately and found myself wrapped up in the story.

Hailey is a twenty something student who is almost immediately thrown into something she (and you) don't understand. Someone breaks into her house, her parents are most likely dead, and she's on the run from "suits" who seem to want to kill her, or at the very least, take her somewhere that she has a pretty good idea she doesn't want to go. A very short time later, she meets Jack, who from the get-go seems like a jerk, but at least he's a jerk who's semi-willing to help her.

Jack takes her to the Tree House, a safe house. This is where the story really takes off. Hailey finds out that she's part of this big science experiment gone wrong, basically, and all the suits want to take her, and the other survivors, back to the E. Scott Pharmaceuticals building and "fix" the problem.

I'm finding it difficult to say much more than that without ruining this review with spoilers, but suffice to say, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I thought Lynam did a fantastic job creating a believable, intense story. So much so, when you get to the end, your jaw will drop and you'll immediately want a sequel!

The Forever Song

By Julie Kagawa
Published on April 15th 2014
Published by Harlequin Teen
Source: Netgalley
VENGEANCE WILL BE HERS

Allison Sekemoto once struggled with the question: human or monster?

With the death of her love, Zeke, she has her answer.

MONSTER

Allie will embrace her cold vampire side to hunt down and end Sarren, the psychopathic vampire who murdered Zeke. But the trail is bloody and long, and Sarren has left many surprises for Allie and her companions—her creator, Kanin, and her blood brother, Jackal. The trail is leading straight to the one place they must protect at any cost—the last vampire-free zone on Earth, Eden. And Sarren has one final, brutal shock in store for Allie.

In a ruined world where no life is sacred and former allies can turn on you in one heartbeat, Allie will face her darkest days. And if she succeeds, triumph is short-lived in the face of surviving forever alone.
I don't think I was actually ready to say goodbye to this series!  The Immortal Rules was probably one of the first few books I reviewed after starting blogging, and The Eternity Cure was one of my favorite books of 2013.  Like, I put down The Eternity Cure and started wondering how many days it would be until I could get my hands on the third book.

The Forever Song picks up right where book two left off, with Allie and company still left reeling from their last showdown with the evil vampire Sarren. Allie is clearly struggling with her emotions after this, which makes for interesting reading, to see what she's like when she fully embraces her dark side.

But.  The drama and angst got to be a bit much for me.  I mean, it makes sense from a logical standpoint -- Allie, who has always been a bit angsty, has had a lot of terrible stuff happen to her, and then one good thing, and then even more terrible stuff.  She has every reason in the world to be angry, and then unsure, and all of that stuff.  She lets those feelings cloud her judgment and makes some real stupid mistakes that drive the plot, sure, but which also made me facepalm.  I think if I were more in the target age range, I would be right there with her, though, so this is maybe just another case where I'm too old for the lesson that's really being taught, underneath the drama.

Jackal, Allie's favorite/least favorite brother, is back here, and he is a definite bright spot, with his sass and sarcasm.  Allie needs someone to tell it like it is, and even though he's crude, he's also not often wrong.  Besides, every book needs its pessimist who's just looking out for themselves, and Jackal is great at that.

I think I predicted most of the major plot points here, so the book may not keep you guessing, but it definitely keeps you engaged with a lot of very intense action scenes, which Kagawa excels at writing.  This book is no different from the other two in the series in that it features a lot of gory violence and strong cursing.  Honestly, it's a refreshing change of pace for me, reading YA, to see books that are unafraid to show the violence of the world they're inhabiting.

I don't want to make it seem like I didn't like this book -- I really enjoyed it, and at a time where I'm setting aside books right and left (thanks reading slump, ugh), it was good to pick one up that I really wanted to just read straight through.  Although it has its weak points, it is a good end to the series, and I think will satisfy fans who have been eagerly awaiting the final installment.

Amber House

By Kelly Moore, Larkin Reed, & Tucker Reed
Published on October 1st 2012
Published by Arthur A. Levine Books
"I was sixteen the first time my grandmother died . . ."

Sarah Parsons has never seen Amber House, the grand Maryland estate that's been in her family for three centuries. She's never walked its hedge maze nor found its secret chambers; she's never glimpsed the shades that haunt it, nor hunted for lost diamonds in its walls.

But all of that is about to change. After her grandmother passes away, Sarah and her friend Jackson decide to search for the diamonds--and the house comes alive. She discovers that she can see visions of the house's past, like the eighteenth-century sea captain who hid the jewels, or the glamorous great-grandmother driven mad by grief. She grows closer to both Jackson and a young man named Richard Hathaway, whose family histories are each deeply entwined with her own. But when the visions start to threaten the person she holds most dear, Sarah must do everything she can to get to the bottom of the house's secrets, and stop the course of history before it is cemented forever.
Jaime says... 

Amber House is a beautiful, rich and compelling, dark and creepy Gothic YA book, and it is ohhhh so good! Sarah is the main character in the story, but her little brother Sammy who is autistic, her mother, Jackson, The Senator and his son, Richard all play big roles in the story.

At the beginning of the book, Sarah and her family have just arrived at Amber House for her grandmothers funeral. Sarah and Sammy have never been to Amber House because their mother and grandmother had a difficult relationship. After the funeral, her mother informs them that she intends to sell the house, and Sarah and Sammy convince her to let them stay at the house while she gets things ready for the sell. Sarah's mother decides to have an open house of sorts for the house in the form of a big ball for Sarah's 16th birthday.

The Senator, who was a childhood friend of mom's, and his son Richard offer help in any way they can. Richard takes Sarah to a party to introduce her to his friend's and they start dating. She is crazy about him and he seems to be crazy about her. In the meantime, Jackson, who lives on the Amber House property with his grandmother, tells Sarah about a treasure buried on the property, and they decide to search for it together.

Sarah had been having strange feelings and emotions since she arrived at Amber House, but during the search things turn even weirder. And it gets really good! And.... that's all that I am going to say about it! Except for this: the ending gets crazy, and it leaves you hanging, wondering what the heck just happened! It really is one of those books that you just have to read for yourself. Go for it, you know you want to! And I think you will love it!
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