Friday, May 31, 2013

Review: Nantucket Blue

Nantucket Blue
By Leila Howland
Published: May 7, 2013

For Cricket Thompson, a summer like this one will change everything. A summer spent on Nantucket with her best friend, Jules Clayton, and the indomitable Clayton family. A summer when she’ll make the almost unattainable Jay Logan hers. A summer to surpass all dreams.

Some of this turns out to be true. Some of it doesn’t. 

When Jules and her family suffer a devastating tragedy that forces the girls apart, Jules becomes a stranger whom Cricket wonders whether she ever really knew. And instead of lying on the beach working on her caramel-colored tan, Cricket is making beds and cleaning bathrooms to support herself in paradise for the summer.

But it’s the things Cricket hadn’t counted on--most of all, falling hard for someone who should be completely off-limits--that turn her dreams into an exhilarating, bittersweet reality.

A beautiful future is within her grasp, and Cricket must find the grace to embrace it. If she does, her life could be the perfect shade of Nantucket blue.

My review:

This book reminded me of Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler and also made me draw comparisons to the books of Jessi Kirby, Morgan Matson and Sarah Dessen. The cover makes it look like a lighthearted summer romance kind of story but it is much more than that. Nantucket Blue examines family, friendship, grief, and love without becoming overly dramatic or depressing.

Cricket's home life is kind of messed up. Her mom has been sunk in depression since her dad left and he has now remarried and adopted a little boy with special needs. Cricket spends as much time as possible with her best friend Jules and Jules's family, especially her mom Nina who is the opposite of her own mom. Cricket's presence is welcomed by the Claytons and she is treated almost like family. Jules is like the sister she always wanted. 

Sadly this all changes in the blink of an eye. Suddenly Jules treats Cricket like a stranger and Cricket has lost her footing. She'd planned on spending the summer with the Claytons at Nantucket, a place she has been longing to go for years. Cricket makes an impulsive decision to go to Nantucket on her own so she can be there for Jules during a difficult time but Jules wants nothing to do with her. Instead, Cricket spends her time working at an inn and making friends in unexpected places.

Cricket could have been whiny and given up on her friendship and summer plans but I admired her determination to be there for her best friend. Even when her original job on Nantucket fell through, she persevered. While she occasionally made decisions that caused me to cringe, I mostly thought Cricket displayed maturity in handling painful situations. Like the Claytons, Cricket is also mourning and trying to figure out what she did wrong to cause her friendship with Jules to end. I did think that Jules came across as a bitch even though she was dealing with a major loss. I felt sorry for Cricket so whenever good things did happen for her, I was thrilled. 

The setting was really enjoyable for me. I've never been to Nantucket and so I liked having that window into a world so different from my own. I think some of it did seem a little snobby but I was glad to see Cricket making friends at the inn. The romance didn't wow me or anything but I thought it was a nice first love story with all the awkwardness. I am glad that this book was about more than a romance though. It was nice to see Cricket grow up a little and even encourage her mom to move on.

Overall I thought this was a good story. I like that it wasn't just a lighthearted romance (though I do enjoy those) but it had some depth and character growth. It isn't easy for Cricket to develop her own life apart from her friendship with Jules and I liked the parallel story with her mom as a teen and the little mystery surrounding that. I think readers who are looking for a good beach read should give this book a try especially if they are fans of Sarah Dessen, Sarah Ockler, Morgan Matson, or Jessi Kirby.

Note: I received an e-ARC of this book for review purposes courtesy of NetGalley

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Review: School Spirits

School Spirits
By Rachel Hawkins
Published: May 14, 2013

Fifteen-year-old Izzy Brannick was trained to fight monsters. For centuries, her family has hunted magical creatures. But when Izzy’s older sister vanishes without a trace while on a job, Izzy's mom decides they need to take a break.

Izzy and her mom move to a new town, but they soon discover it’s not as normal as it appears. A series of hauntings has been plaguing the local high school, and Izzy is determined to prove her worth and investigate. But assuming the guise of an average teenager is easier said than done. For a tough girl who's always been on her own, it’s strange to suddenly make friends and maybe even have a crush.

Can Izzy trust her new friends to help find the secret behind the hauntings before more people get hurt?

My review:

I thought this spin-off from the Hex Hall series was a lot of fun. I enjoyed reading about Izzy trying to fit in as a normal teen while investigating what is going on at her new school. Things are made complicated by her friendships with Romy and Dex. Romy is the head of the school's paranormal investigation group (PMS) and Izzy finds herself drawn to Dex, another member of the group who might have a paranormal secret of his own.

Izzy is a great character. She is dedicated to fighting monsters and doing her part as a Brannick but she has spunk. Izzy is dealing with the disappearance of her sister and how much she misses Finn as well as her sometimes difficult relationship with her mom. She finds new challenges in going to high school and playing the part of a regular teen. She also has the possibilities of friendship and maybe more than friendship with Dex. It was great to see Izzy grow and experience those things she never got to be part of before. 

Both the secondary characters of Romy and Dex are a lot of fun. They serve as role models on being true to yourself instead of going along with the crowd. The romantic aspect of the story is toned down from Hex Hall which I thought fit the story. I look forward to seeing what develops in the future for Izzy. The mystery surrounding the hauntings kept my interest and I wanted to know who was behind it. I was surprised a little when I thought I had something figured out and I was wrong. There are still some things that are not tied up as this is the first book in the series. 

Overall I think this is a good beginning to this new series. It is funny and entertaining with a main character I really liked and good secondary characters as well. Fans of Hex Hall should be pleased and I think readers who liked Kiersten White's Paranormalcy will also enjoy School SpiritsI will definitely be checking out the sequel. 

Note: I received an e-galley for review purposes courtesy of NetGalley

Sunday, May 19, 2013

It's Monday, What Are You Reading (146)

It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a fun weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey where we share what we've read and reviewed over the past week and what we plan to read next.

I have more books on my "read" list this week because I missed last week's post and I also read four books this week for a read-a-thon. This week I probably won't have as much time to read so I've only added two books to my list.

In other news I went to see Star Trek: Into Darkness over the weekend and I loved it! I also got caught up on season two of Game of Thrones. Now I just need to get caught up on the books.

Books read:

Maid of Secrets by Jennifer McGowan

I liked this Tudor spy novel and I hope there will be more. It isn't quite on the level of Fiona Buckley's (Ursula Blanchard) Tudor spy mysteries for adults but it was entertaining.

School Spirits by Rachel Hawkins

This was such a fun book to read. I think I like Izzy more than Sophie and it was nice to have the perspective of a main character without supernatural powers. I loved her new friends too and can't wait to see what Rachel Hawkins does with this new series.

Nantucket Blue by Leila Howland

I liked this beach read and think it would appeal to fans of Jessi Kirby or Sarah Dessen. 

Vanity Fare by Megan Caldwell

I liked the idea behind this book and I liked the final love interest but it was unsatisfactory in a way because the other love interest is so obviously a jerk and I didn't think the heroine should have given him as much time as she did. 

Agent Gates and the Secret Adventures of Devonton Abbey by Camaren Subhiyah

If you are a fan of Downton Abbey and enjoy parody (Downton Sixbey, anyone?) you should give this graphic novel a try. One of my favorite parts is when the Dowager Countess character's withering glare has superpowers. I hope this will turn into a series!

Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris

By now if you are a reader of the Sookie books you've likely heard what the final outcome is and seen all the one star reviews. My take is that it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be (I like who she ended up with) but it was still a weak way to end the series.

Books reviewed:

Golden by Jessi Kirby

Currently reading:

Looking For Me by Beth Hoffman

I absolutely loved Saving CeeCee Honeycutt and so far I love this book. It reminds me of Mary Kay Andrews a little too in the use of details and the Southern setting. I've already nearly cried once but then I am a bit of a sap...

What I plan to read next:

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

This is a book discussion book that I need to have finished before next Tuesday. I am not sure if I will read this next or if I will read what I want to read and pick up Inferno instead. I have heard really good things about Beautiful Ruins at least and I like that it is set in Italy.

Inferno by Dan Brown

I have been pretty disappointed by Dan Brown's books in the past, especially the last one. I found it easy to figure out. I hope I will like Inferno more especially because of the connection to Dante.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Review: Golden

By Jessi Kirby
Published: May 14, 2013

Seventeen-year-old Parker Frost has never taken the road less traveled. Valedictorian and quintessential good girl, she’s about to graduate high school without ever having kissed her crush or broken the rules. So when fate drops a clue in her lap—one that might be the key to unraveling a town mystery—she decides to take a chance.

Julianna Farnetti and Shane Cruz are remembered as the golden couple of Summit Lakes High—perfect in every way, meant to be together forever. But Julianna’s journal tells a different story—one of doubts about Shane and a forbidden romance with an older, artistic guy. These are the secrets that were swept away with her the night that Shane’s jeep plunged into an icy river, leaving behind a grieving town and no bodies to bury.

Reading Julianna’s journal gives Parker the courage to start to really live—and it also gives her reasons to question what really happened the night of the accident. Armed with clues from the past, Parker enlists the help of her best friend, Kat, and Trevor, her longtime crush, to track down some leads. The mystery ends up taking Parker places that she never could have imagined. And she soon finds that taking the road less traveled makes all the difference.

My review:

Parker is a Rory Gilmore kind of girl. She is very focused on her goal of winning a scholarship to attend Stanford and become a doctor. Her education is important to her and that is commendable. However Parker slowly starts to realize that she hasn't exactly lived the full high school experience and she's missed out on some things. 

Parker's life is complicated by her parents' messy divorce and her mom's views of her dad as lazy. He is a poet who suffered from writer's block and he is now a respected university professor but Parker's mother continues to disparage him so Parker tries not to be like him. She secretly enjoys poetry and writing but her mother would never approve.

Things change for Parker when she is helping a teacher with his annual project. Mr. Kinney asks his senior class each May to ponder their future and to keep a journal about their answers to this line from a poem by Mary Oliver: "Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?".  Parker starts to think about her own life and future and when she finds Julianna Farnetti's journal, she decides to read it. 

I thought Parker was easy to relate to as a character and so was Kat. Their friendship is close but it becomes a little strained because Parker is supposed to be heading to Stanford and Kat won't be able to follow. Kat is going to stay back in their hometown and that parting looms over them and affects their friendship. I liked seeing how loyal Kat was to Parker and how she encouraged Parker to live her life to the fullest. It was good to see their friendship grow a little too. 

The idea of a teen going against her parents' wishes to be true to herself isn't something new to YA fiction but at least in this version, Parker's mom is not cast as a villain but someone who is dealing with her own issues. I thought the resolution of their conflict was handled realistically with hope for a closer and more understanding relationship in the future.

Golden took me back to my own senior year and all the questions I had about what I wanted for my life. I think Jessi Kirby perfectly captured those emotions and the confusion that teens face as they are preparing to enter adulthood. I loved the writing style of the book and how important poetry and artistic expression were to the story. The poetry of Robert Frost and the quote by Mary Oliver are perfect for the themes of the book. Overall I thought this was a really good book that portrayed what it is like to be at the crossroads between childhood and adulthood and I think teens will be able to relate to Parker's experiences. Fans of Sarah Dessen will definitely want to give Golden a try.

Note: I received an e-ARC for review purposes courtesy of Edelweiss and the publisher

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday (122)

"Waiting on" Wednesday is a weekly meme to discuss upcoming books we can't wait to get our hands on. Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week, I'm waiting on:

United We Spy by Ally Carter
Release date: September 17, 2013

Description from Goodreads:

Cammie Morgan has lost her father and her memory, but in the heart-pounding conclusion to the best-selling Gallagher Girls series, she finds her greatest mission yet. Cammie and her friends finally know why the terrorist organization called the Circle of Cavan has been hunting her. Now the spy girls and Zach must track down the Circle’s elite members to stop them before they implement a master plan that will change Cammie—and her country—forever.

I am so very excited about this book but I know I will also be sad when I finish it. I will definitely miss this series!


Sunday, May 12, 2013

Goals for the Bout of Books 7.0 Read-a-Thon

Bout of Books

My main goal for the read-a-thon is to get caught up on reading my books for review but I also have some library books I'd like to finish.

Here are some of the books I might read:

Nantucket Blue by Leila Howland (review book)
Looking For Me by Beth Hoffman (review book)
On Sal Mal Lane by Ru Freeman (review book)
The Girl with the Iron Touch by Kady Cross (review book)
A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams (review book)
Vanity Fare by Megan Caldwell (library book)

The read-a-thon runs from Monday at 12 a.m. through Sunday night. It isn't too late to participate. If you'd like to sign up, visit the Bout of Books blog.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Bout of Books 7.0

Bout of Books

Since I didn't do so well with participating in the Dewey Read-a-thon a few weeks ago, I've decided to sign up for Bout of Books. The nice thing about this read-a-thon is that it is a week long so you can participate more comfortably around your schedule.

Here are the details: 

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, May 13th and runs through Sunday, May 19th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure, and the only reading competition is between you and your usual number of books read in a week. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 7.0 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team

If you are interested in participating, go to the Bout of Books blog to sign up!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Top Ten Books When You Need Something Light and Fun

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. There is a new subject each week and this week's topic is "Top Ten Books When You Need Something Light and Fun"

So I sort of already did this topic last month when I listed my Top Ten Humorous Books. Now here are more books that are light and fun (I may have gone a little overboard):

If you like chick lit or contemporary fiction:

I've Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella

When you want something lighthearted, you can't go wrong with Sophie Kinsella. This is one of my favorites among her standalone novels.

The Sleeping Beauty Proposal by Sarah Strohmeyer

What do you do when your boyfriend proposes on Oprah and everyone you know thinks he was calling you but he wasn't? Fake your engagement! Hilarity ensues...

Going Vintage by Lindsey Leavitt

This is a fun and quirky story about a girl who finds out her boyfriend is cheating on her with an online persona so she decides she's had enough of technology and she is going to live like it's 1965...

A Match Made in High School by Kristin Walker

While I doubt this experiment would ever happen in today's high schools, this is a fun look at relationships and stereotypes. It reminded me of Saved By the Bell a little bit.

If you like historical romance: 

What Happens in London by Julia Quinn

This is the first Julia Quinn book that I read and I kind of became a fan after that. I was surprised by how funny it was for a historical romance novel.

The Bridgerton series by Julia Quinn

This is a series about the very large Bridgerton family. I liked some of the books more than the others but all of them have a very humorous tone.

If you like Jane Austen:

Austenland by Shannon Hale

What happens when Mr. Darcy eclipses all other men for you? The main character in this book gets a chance to stay at an unusual and exclusive resort where there are actors in Regency period clothing and the guests get to dress the part too. Will she find her own Mr. Darcy? This book is being made into a movie with Keri Russell. 

Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson

I enjoyed this Regency romance and it does have some humor but it doesn't try to ape Jane Austen, which is a good thing. This is a very light story, good for when you want something entertaining to escape into.

Keeping the Castle by Patrice Kindl

This YA novel involves a castle that looks ready to crumble to ruins and a young woman who believes she must marry for money in order to save her family's legacy. Of course the wealthy gentleman in her sights is Lord Boring (that really is his name) but fate may have something else in store...

An Accomplished Woman by Jude Morgan

This book reads like a mash-up of various Jane Austen plots but I found it very enjoyable, especially the romance.  I  think I need to reread it this summer!

If you like mystery:

Gone With a Handsomer Man by Michael Lee West

This book was recommended to me by another librarian and though it has its flaws it is a humorous mystery with a heroine that reminded me of Sookie Stackhouse. The book starts with her being arrested for throwing peaches at her husband (she caught him playing naked badminton with two women) and the humorous story kind of rolls from there.

Wrapped by Jennifer Bradbury

This YA Regency mystery has mummies in it-and a heroine who loves Jane Austen. If you like lighter mysteries with romance and intelligent heroines, this book might be right for you!

Savannah Blues by Mary Kay Andrews

I love Savannah and I am becoming a fan of Mary Kay Andrews's Southern fiction. This mystery reminded me of Gone with a Handsomer Man a little bit too. If you like Southern fiction and funny mysteries, maybe give this one a try. 

Truly, Madly by Heather Webber

Lucy Valentine's family runs a matchmaking service and they are amazing at what they do considering that they can read people's auras to pick the perfect match. Unfortunately Lucy lost that talent though she does have another gift that leads her to helping a handsome P.I. with his investigations...

The Pink Carnation series by Lauren Willig

While I didn't care for the first book as much, I like this Regency mystery/romance series. Sometimes the romance is a little heavier than the mystery but it is all in good fun.

If you like stories with girl power:

The Lonely Hearts Club by Elizabeth Eulberg

What do you do when your heart is broken by a boy? Form a club with a bunch of other girls, pledge not to date, and have a lot of fun!

Smart Girls Get What They Want by Sarah Strohmeyer

This is a lighthearted book with a positive message about friendship and encouraging each other to go after your dreams. 

Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

D.J. is an unusual heroine and I admired her determination and hard work to become a football player and prove herself to her family and others. I also learned a lot about football and dairy farming...

If you like paranormal or fantasy:

Sucks To Be Me by Kimberly Pauley

I made the mistake of reading this book in public because it made me laugh out loud. Mina has a very dry wit and she enjoys poking fun at vampire lore even while she makes the decision about whether or not to become one (her parents are).

Soulless by Gail Carriger

This book is a genre bender. It has romance, steampunk, romance, and the paranormal. I also really like the dry humor and Englishness.

Poison by Bridget Zinn

While Kyra is on the run for attempting to murder her best friend, Princess Ariana, this is still a lighthearted book with an enchanted piglet and a love interest named Fred. 

If you like fairy tales:

The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy

This book sets the record straight on what really happened in all those fairy tales where the prince heroically rescues the princess or damsel in distress. Good for fans of Shrek...

The Sleeping Beauty by Mercedes Lackey

This is a retelling of various Sleeping Beauty tales and though it is part of a series, the books can be read as standalone novels. If you are a hero and you see a sleeping young maiden in the woods, run as fast as you can in the opposite direction...

One Good Knight by Mercedes Lackey

If you like spy or adventure novels:

Also Known As by Robin Benway

While I don't think this is as good as the Gallagher Girls series, it is still a funny book about a teenager raised to be a spy who has to infiltrate a high school and pretend to be a normal teen.

Original Sin by Beth McMullen

Once known as Sally Sin, Lucy Hamilton has retired from her career in espionage to be a wife and stay at home mom. What will she do when she is expected to go back into the field? I think this would make a fun movie.

Star Wars: Scoundrels by Timothy Zahn

This heist caper is set between the events of A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. If you like Star Wars and Ocean's Eleven, I would give this book a try!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

It's Monday, What Are You Reading (145)

It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a fun weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey where we share what we've read and reviewed over the past week and what we plan to read next.

I only finished two books this past week but I am hoping to do a little more reading this week. Of course I will be spending the weekend with family for Mother's Day so I may not get as much reading accomplished. I have some review books and library books that I hope to get to soon.

Books read:

The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan (reread)

The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan (reread)

Books reviewed:

A Spear of Summer Grass by Deanna Raybourn

Currently reading:

Maid of Secrets by Jennifer McGowan

So far I like this book. It is part historical fiction and part spy novel. I wouldn't want to be in Meg's shoes!

What I plan to read next:

Nantucket Blue by Leila Howland

School Spirits by Rachel Hawkins

I liked Hex Hall and I am interested in this book about Sophie's young cousin Izzie. I've heard good things about it. I hope it will be funny like the other series.

Vanity Fare by Megan Caldwell

I think this book sounds like a fun, light and fluffy kind of read. Just what I'm in the mood for.  I'm also in the mood for cupcakes but I can't have them :( I guess I will just have to read about them instead!

A Perfect Proposal by Katie Fforde

I've never read any books by Katie Fforde but this sounds like a fun chick lit novel and I've heard good things about it.