Monday, December 23, 2013

Rachel Rambles About Defiance

Defiance by C.J. Redwine
From Goodreads:
While the other girls in the walled city-state of Baalboden learn to sew and dance, Rachel Adams learns to track and hunt. While they bend like reeds to the will of their male Protectors, she uses hers for sparring practice.

When Rachel's father fails to return from a courier mission and is declared dead, the city's brutal Commander assigns Rachel a new Protector: her father's apprentice, Logan—the boy she declared her love to and who turned her down two years before. Left with nothing but fierce belief in her father's survival, Rachel decides to escape and find him herself.

As Rachel and Logan battle their way through the Wasteland, stalked by a monster that can't be killed and an army of assassins out for blood, they discover romance, heartbreak, and a truth that will incite a war decades in the making.

Not gonna lie, about 90 percent of the reason I picked this book up is because one of the main characters is named Rachel. I'd never read a book that has a protagonist with my name, and as silly as it sounds, I was really excited to pick it up. (Does anyone else experience the excitement of encountering characters with your name in books? I've come across some secondary or minor characters named Rachel before, but never a main character, so, it made me really curious to pick this book up. :) It was cool to see my name sprinkled throughout the book. I know, I know. I'm a total dork.)

I've noticed some people classifying Defiance as dystopian, but I would say that it's high fantasy. Defiance takes place in a city-state called Baalboden that is walled in to protect the citizens from outside dangers. It is ruled by the Commander, who is pretty much a dictator. Under his rule, every woman is assigned a Protector, either a father, older family member, or husband, and women are expected to obey their Protectors completely. This whole Protectorship thing was incredibly frustrating to read about because HELLO?!?! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?! but it was also really cool and interesting, and, let's be real, not too far off from what has happened in history.

Defiance is told from the alternating points-of-view of Rachel and Logan. Rachel is kind of a badass. In a society where women are not allowed to go certain places without their Protectors under threat of execution, Rachel is the girl who completely rejects the whole idea of what a woman's purpose in society is. Her father taught her to be independent and strong, and he made sure that Rachel became a skilled fighter. Rachel is tough and strong and impulsive, and, well, defiant. Logan is Rachel's father's apprentice. Growing up as a poor orphan, Rachel's family took him in and treated him as one of their own. He is intelligent and logical, and he loves inventing. His inventions help himself and Rachel a lot throughout the book, and the advanced technology he uses is an interesting contrast to the high fantasy setting.

Logan's steady logic balances out Rachel's wild and impulsive behavior. The two of them are so different from each other that their strengths cancel out each other's weaknesses. What one of them lacks, the other has. The two of them complement each other so well, and throughout the book, they become partners. They both rely on and protect each other. Because their relationship is so balanced and perfect, they obviously fall in love. Duh. I really like their relationship, and I appreciate that there is no case of insta-love. As the two of them spend more time together and get to know each other better, they gradually begin to develop feelings for each other, and they realize how important the other one is to them. After all of the terrible things they have been through, all they have is each other, so their relationship feels very natural and realistic.

For the most part, this book is exciting and fast-paced. There are some parts in the middle that seemed a bit slow to me, but the beginning and end are crammed full of action. Logan and Rachel deal with different kinds of danger, and the stakes are always high. They're strong and smart, and they are willing to fight for what is important to them. I really liked reading about these characters, and the situations they find themselves in are the results of a well-crafted plot.

Defiance is an adventurous high fantasy story with a taste of romance. It isn't hard to get lost in the strange and unfamiliar world of Rachel and Logan. I really like the characters, the setting, and the plot of this book. Though I wouldn't say I'm truly-madly-deeply in love with Defiance, I can't think of anything bad to say about it. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for an adventure story. I would also recommend this to people who are named Rachel, because seriously, how cool is it to share a name with a main character?! :D

Friday, December 20, 2013

Megan Rambles About How to Love

How to Love by Katie Cotugno
From GoodreadsBefore: Reena Montero has loved Sawyer LeGrande for as long as she can remember: as natural as breathing, as endless as time. But he’s never seemed to notice that Reena even exists…until one day, impossibly, he does. Reena and Sawyer fall in messy, complicated love. But then Sawyer disappears from their humid Florida town without a word, leaving a devastated—and pregnant—Reena behind.

After: Almost three years have passed, and there’s a new love in Reena’s life: her daughter, Hannah. Reena’s gotten used to being without Sawyer, and she’s finally getting the hang of this strange, unexpected life. But just as swiftly and suddenly as he disappeared, Sawyer turns up again. Reena doesn’t want anything to do with him, though she’d be lying if she said Sawyer’s being back wasn’t stirring something in her. After everything that’s happened, can Reena really let herself love Sawyer LeGrande again?

In this breathtaking debut, Katie Cotugno weaves together the story of one couple falling in love—twice.

I actually got an ARC of this at BEA this year but didn't get around to finishing it until now. I don't really know why. I must be crazy because this book was SO GOOD. 

How to Love is not what I was expecting at all. When I first saw the cover I thought it would be a light, fun contemporary romance, but this wasn't the case. It's the kind of contemporary that sucks you in immediately. I couldn't help but be emotionally invested in the characters from the start. How to Love also deals with the serious issue of being a teenage mother. Usually I'm reluctant when it comes to books that deal with teen pregnancy because it can be handled in a way that makes the book seem really heavy. This wasn't like that at all. 

Reena loves her daughter Hannah more than anything else and says so multiple times during the book. She doesn't regret having her and certainly doesn't hold anything against her daughter. The way the book was told with alternating chapters from Reena's life Before and her life After really helped to move the story along too. It showed just how much things had changed for Reena in the two years between Sawyer leaving and him reappearing. I also loved how matter of fact everything about Hannah was in the After chapters too. Reena is a good, caring mother and because she didn't feel weird about having a kid, it didn't feel weird to the reader either.

I also really liked the relationship between Reena and Sawyer. It was complicated and messy and they both screwed up. Neither one of them was blame-free or perfect and they both acted like jerks to each other. But at the same time, they obviously cared about each other throughout the entire thing. There were times where I wanted to shake Sawyer because he was being a total jerk, but then the next second he would do something adorable and I would go right back to liking him again.

Reena and Sawyer are both very sarcastic, snarky characters. I loved the banter between them and even the times when they were fighting were entertaining to read about because they were both full of such witty comebacks. Also, the fact that Reena quoted the line from Julius Caesar that inspired the title for The Fault in Our Stars may or may not have made me love her even more, I'm just saying. 

Besides dealing with her feelings for Sawyer, Reena also had to deal with some family issues. While both of them come from loving families, their parents are also devout Catholics. This led to some less than desirable effects on Reena's relationship with her parents and also on her relationship with Sawyer's parents. How to Love is focused just as much on Reena and her parents learning just how a family is supposed to love each other as it is on her relationship to Sawyer. 

How to Love is the kind of book that I know is going to stick with me for awhile. It was so well written and once  I got into the story I couldn't put it down. I cared about what happened to the characters and wanted Reena and Sawyer to be together at the end no matter what else happened in between. I was really impressed with the debut from Katie Cotugno and I will definitely be reading any future projects of hers! She's got herself a fan!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Megan Rambles About Allegiant (Finally)

Allegiant by Veronica Roth
From GoodreadsThe faction-based society that Tris Prior once believed in is shattered—fractured by violence and power struggles and scarred by loss and betrayal. So when offered a chance to explore the world past the limits she’s known, Tris is ready. Perhaps beyond the fence, she and Tobias will find a simple new life together, free from complicated lies, tangled loyalties, and painful memories. 

But Tris’s new reality is even more alarming than the one she left behind. Old discoveries are quickly rendered meaningless. Explosive new truths change the hearts of those she loves. And once again, Tris must battle to comprehend the complexities of human nature—and of herself—while facing impossible choices about courage, allegiance, sacrifice, and love. 

Told from a riveting dual perspective, Allegiant, by #1 New York Times best-selling author Veronica Roth, brings the Divergent series to a powerful conclusion while revealing the secrets of the dystopian world that has captivated millions of readers in Divergent and Insurgent.

First off, I'm going to give fair warning that there are going to be spoilers in this review. It's been long enough since the book came out that I don't have a problem posting them, but I will put another warning in right before I get to them just in case there is anyone reading who is still hoping to avoid them. And now, THE REVIEW. 

I literally just finished this book and I just hgoejahgorahgb9ohwaohg9rouah9ewa. I'm going to try to make this review as coherent as I possibly can but I think the only way I'm going to get this out properly is to write it now. 

First of all, I'll talk about the things that I didn't like so much. Like Rachel, I thought that the middle of the book lagged a bit. Compared to Divergent and Insurgent where there was always something happening every page, Allegiant moved a bit slower, especially in the center. Most of the action was occurring in the city, while Tris, Four, and the rest of their group where in the compound. This book was much more focused on the mental aspect of things and finding the line between right and wrong. The characters spent a lot more time trying to deal with everything that had happened to them as opposed to getting into fights and having direct physical conflicts. 

I also wasn't crazy about the duel narration of Allegiant. There were obvious reasons for Four narrating, with him and Tris spending a lot of the book in different places and doing different things, but I didn't like the peek into Four that we got. He made a lot of decisions that really frustrated me in Allegiant and I spent a large portion of the book wanting to scream at him. I also found myself having to check the beginning of the chapter to see whether I was reading from Tris's point of view or Four's. There wasn't very much of a difference between the two voices which made it hard for me to tell at times which one of them I was reading. 

There were also some new plot points introduced that felt slightly unnecessary. Dealing with the prejudice between the GP's and the GD's felt to me like an extra problem that just complicated things for the characters unnecessarily. It made it feel like no matter which solution they chose there was no way to come out on top with all of the problems stacked up against them.

Now, on to the things I did like. I loved the numerous references to how far Tris has come in this book. She is so much stronger than the Stiff who became a Dauntless Initiate. She has survived so many terrible things and made some really hard decisions. I loved how Veronica Roth handled Tris dealing with some of the things that she has had to do. Tris has definitely made mistakes and the fact that she wasn't able to just brush them off and pretend that they had never happened made her that much more of an amazing character. She is so strong, so smart, and one of my favorite characters ever. 

Throughout the series, Tris adapted to every situation that was thrown at her. She was the girl who jumped first in Dauntless Initiation, but she was also the girl who grew up in Abnegation all the way up until the end. I loved seeing how complicated Tris actually is in Allegiant. She really outgrew the factions by learning to be her own person and embrace every aspect of her personality instead of focusing on just one.

And now the part that I've been dreading. I'm going to talk about the very end. So fair warning, if you haven't finished Allegiant LOOK AWAY NOW!

Never in a million years did I expect Tris to actually die. Rachel and I were talking right after  I finished the book and we both agreed that we thought Tris was home free. I knew that she would never allow Caleb to sacrifice himself for her, because Tris was never that kind of person. It didn't matter that Caleb had betrayed her because he was her brother and she wasn't going to let him give himself up because he felt guilty. Instead, she gave him the chance to become a better person. 

I knew that Tris could survive the death serum because that's just the kind of badass thing I expected her to do. What I didn't see coming was David waiting for her. When she died I just burst into tears. It wasn't fair. How could Tris, beautifully strong heroic Tris, die? 

But of course the book couldn't end any other way. With all of her values and her struggle to find the right thing to do, of course Tris would give herself up so that all of the people she loved could get a chance to make something better out of their lives. Once again Tris did what she always does and made a difficult decision that saved everyone she loves. 

That doesn't mean that I'm happy she died. Oh no. I'm still tearing up as I write this right now. And Four's reaction absolutely BROKE MY HEART. I started sobbing when he was describing how numb and empty he felt without her. Finally, there was the guy that I fell in love with in Divergent and Insurgent. That was the Four who I had been missing the entire book. The one who was so in love with Tris that he would do anything to keep her safe. 

I absolutely loved the epilogue. When Four went down that zip-line I cried so hard I couldn't see the page. It was the perfect way to spread Tris's ashes and I could just imagine how proud of him she would have been for facing his fear. It gave me just enough closure that everyone was getting along with their lives and were helping each other through the pain, just like Tris thought they would.

So overall, I liked Allegiant. Not as much as I liked the first two books in the trilogy, but I still liked it. I respect Veronica Roth for having the guts to end the book the way she did. Believe me, she had to have known that not everyone would like it, but she ended the book the way she felt it need to be ended. Would I have been happy with getting a happy ending? Yes, but realistically how often are happy endings going to happen in a Dystopian series? I don't think there was any other way that this trilogy could end so I'm not mad at Veronica Roth at all.

 I know that I'm going to miss this trilogy more than I can possibly put into words. Rachel and I read Divergent as an arc and have been with Veronica Roth since the very beginning. I will definitely be reading any of her future projects! 

What did you think of Allegiant? Let me know what you thought in the comments below! 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Contemporary(ish) Mini-Rambles (Megan)

Every Day by David Levithan
From GoodreadsEvery day a different body. Every day a different life. Every day in love with the same girl.

There’s never any warning about where it will be or who it will be. A has made peace with that, even established guidelines by which to live: Never get too attached. Avoid being noticed. Do not interfere.

It’s all fine until the morning that A wakes up in the body of Justin and meets Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon. From that moment, the rules by which A has been living no longer apply. Because finally A has found someone he wants to be with—day in, day out, day after day.

Every Day is technically my first David Levithan book! I've read Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, but this is the first book I've read that he wrote solo. I also read this with the book club that Rachel and I started with our friend Katherine at school. 

Every Day was AMAZING and so unique! I've never read anything else like it. When I was reading this book I got super emotional because I couldn't help but feel for A and Rhiannon. The way that A lives means that there is no real way for them to be together and watching them try to navigate the differences between the two of them was heartbreaking. The ending of this was so bittersweet and sticks with you. 

If you haven't already, I HIGHLY recommend reading Every Day! It's the kind of book that will stay with you long after you finish and will make you think about love in a whole different way.

The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen
From GoodreadsLuke is the perfect boyfriend: handsome, kind, fun. He and Emaline have been together all through high school in Colby, the beach town where they both grew up. But now, in the summer before college, Emaline wonders if perfect is good enough.
Enter Theo, a super-ambitious outsider, a New Yorker assisting on a documentary film about a reclusive local artist. Theo's sophisticated, exciting, and, best of all, he thinks Emaline is much too smart for Colby.
Emaline's mostly-absentee father, too, thinks Emaline should have a bigger life, and he's convinced that an Ivy League education is the only route to realizing her potential. Emaline is attracted to the bright future that Theo and her father promise. But she also clings to the deep roots of her loving mother, stepfather, and sisters. Can she ignore the pull of the happily familiar world of Colby?
Emaline wants the moon and more, but how can she balance where she comes from with where she's going?
Sarah Dessen's devoted fans will welcome this story of romance, yearning, and, finally, empowerment. It could only happen in the summer.

So if you follow this blog at all, it's not secret that Rachel is the biggest Sarah Dessen fan on planet earth. She's been begging me to read all of her books immediately for longer than I can remember, but I haven't managed to get through all of them yet. So even though I've read several of her books, The Moon and More was my first Sarah Dessen book set in Colby. 

I'll start by saying how much I loved Colby. The small town beach atmosphere made me want to pack everything and move to this fictional town. It reminded me of my trips to Cape Cod every summer and the setting made me want to go live at the beach. 

Emaline was also one of my favorite main characters that I've ever read about. She was so realistic and she's the kind of main character that I feel like I would be best friends with if we met in real life. I understood all of the decisions that she made and didn't get frustrated with her throughout the book. 

I loved experiencing the summer that changed Emaline's life with her and I can't wait to read the rest of the Sarah Dessen books set in Colby! 

Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry 
From GoodreadsNo one knows what happened the night Echo Emerson went from popular girl with jock boyfriend to gossiped-about outsider with freaky scars on her arms. Even Echo can't remember the whole truth of that horrible night. All she knows is that she wants everything to go back to normal.
But when Noah Hutchins, the smoking-hot, girl-using loner in the black leather jacket, explodes into her life with his tough attitude and surprising understanding, Echo's world shifts in ways she could never have imagined. They should have nothing in common. And with the secrets they both keep, being together is pretty much impossible.
Yet the crazy attraction between them refuses to go away. And Echo has to ask herself just how far they can push the limits and what she'll risk for the one guy who might teach her how to love again.

When Rachel first started begging me to read Pushing the Limits she promised that it was a lot more than the sexytimes promised by the cover. As usual, she was 100% right! I was completely surprised by how much I loved this book and the characters. Noah Hutchins added himself to the long list of YA boys that I wish were real and the relationship between him and Echo was beautiful. They have both dealt with so many heartbreaking things in their lives and I was surprised by how emotionally invested I got in their relationship. This book both broke my heart, laugh out loud, and squeal with happiness. I will definitely be giving the companion books a try to see if they are as good as Pushing the Limits was! 

Just One Year by Gayle Forman
From GoodreadsJust One Day. Just One Year. Just One Read.
Before you find out how their story ends, remember how it began....
When he opens his eyes, Willem doesn’t know where in the world he is—Prague or Dubrovnik or back in Amsterdam. All he knows is that he is once again alone, and that he needs to find a girl named Lulu. They shared one magical day in Paris, and something about that day—that girl—makes Willem wonder if they aren’t fated to be together. He travels all over the world, from Mexico to India, hoping to reconnect with her. But as months go by and Lulu remains elusive, Willem starts to question if the hand of fate is as strong as he’d thought. . . .
The romantic, emotional companion to Just One Day, this is a story of the choices we make and the accidents that happen—and the happiness we can find when the two intersect.

When I first picked up Just One Year, I wasn't sure where it would start. Would it pick up at the end of Just One Day? Or would it backtrack for a few chapters and then pick up at the end of Just One Day? The answer is no and no. The book starts just after Willem disappears and wakes up in the hospital and continues on from there up until the end. This provided quite a bit of frustration because Willem and Allyson came THISCLOSE to finding each other several times and through a series of misunderstandings, bad luck, and chance they missed each other. Still, I really loved getting to learn more about Willem as he searched for Allyson in this book. Plus, the ending was TOTALLY WORTH IT. Gayle Forman has done it again and totally proved why she is one of my all time favorite authors. I am already eagerly awaiting her next book so I can devour it and fall in love with Gayle Forman's writing all over again! 

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Random Ramble: Where I've Been (Megan)

Hey everyone! It's kind of been awhile...

This post is basically going to one giant apology for being somewhat absent, but also an explanation. While I haven't been doing a lot of internet related things lately, things have been pretty busy for me so I'm going to try to explain what I've been doing.

So like Rachel mentioned in her post a few days ago, we've started our junior year this year. There's a lot that goes with that and even more than I originally realized. Growing up everyone always said that you have to start preparing for college in your junior year of high school. I knew that. What I didn't know was that basically EVERYTHING having to do with college happens in junior year.

Seriously, who knew that by the second marking period of Senior year that you get college letters back and everything else is already done? Maybe I'm crazy, but I never realized any of that when I was younger. It feels I've constantly had about 30 thousand things to do this year. Even after homework from school there is also all of the "homework" that goes along with preparing for college. That's the hardest part for me, because if I'm being totally honest, I'm really not ready to grow up at all. It's kind of terrifying. Yes I want out of high school like yesterday, but that doesn't mean that I'm ready to be an adult. But I try to ignore that fear as much as possible and that's a story for a different post.

I did get my SAT scores back recently which was pretty cool. I got a 640 on the Reading section, a 640 on the Writing Section, and a 610 on the math. So that's a grand total of 1890 out of 2400. Not bad at all for my first try at it! I was pretty proud of myself and it's kind of a relief to know that I can take the SAT's and get a score that is not terrible and I won't be a failure at the whole getting into college thing.

I've also been reading as often as I can around soccer and now winter track, which is something new for me. The meets are indoors, but we run outside occasionally and I really don't know why I do these things to myself.

I'm not as cool as Rachel so I don't have my license yet, but I do have my permit. I get to try my luck on the road test for the first time in March. Crossing my fingers for that one!

Oh and I also did Nanowrimo for the third time this year. I was a lot more casual about it this year admittedly than I have been in the past, not really having a particular goal. I was working on the same draft that I had last year because I really like where it's going and the characters. All I wanted to do was finish the draft, which would make it the first ever finished rough draft I've had. It didn't work out that way or as well as Nanowrimo has gone for me the past two years. I ended Nano with a grand total of a whole 8,408 words. Yeah. I didn't even hit 10,000.

I was pretty disappointed at first. The past two Novembers have been really successful for me and I've won both times. Whether or not I will ever do anything with the draft from my first year or even the one that I'm still working on, I have no idea. But I really wanted to be able to say that I was a three time Nanowrimo winner. That just didn't happen.

By the end of the month, I had pretty much realized that there was no way that I could win, so I started trying to think about what went wrong with this year compared to the other two. I came to the conclusion that I just wasn't into Nano this year. I still like it, and I'm still probably going to do it next year. This year just didn't work out for me. That doesn't mean that I can't keep working on the draft on my own time. It should be interesting for me to spend some more time writing at my own pace, not worrying so much about word count and just focusing on trying to get the words I want on the page so that the story I've had in my head for over a year can become an actual physical draft.

Besides, there's probably some kind of lesson about failing in there somewhere! :P

Anyway, I've been doing some more fun stuff too and spending a lot of time with my friends. Rachel and I went to see  Catching Fire like she mentioned in her post and loved every single second of it. We're actually making plans to go see it again together at some point because it was just WAY too perfect to only see once. So if you haven't seen Catching Fire yet GO DO IT NOW because it was even better than The Hunger Games.

Also, while you're at it, sit down and see Frozen too. I'm a sucker for a good Disney movie and Tangled is basically the best thing ever, but Frozen is even better! Seriously, Disney is really starting to get a hang of the strong female lead thing and that makes me so happy! No more damsels in distress! Woohooo!!

So that's me and what's been going on in my life. It's been a bit insane, but I haven't had any sort of mental breakdowns or huge stress attacks from school yet this year. I think I'm starting to get a better handle on dealing with all of that (I say this as I type this post to procrastinate homework, but whatever. We're all human).

I miss blogging and all of my internet friends who I haven't had as much time to talk to lately. So I'm going to try to get back to blogging as often as I can, starting with catching up on some old reviews that have been lying around collecting dust since the beginning of my accidental hiatus. Hopefully that means that I'll get back into the swing of things on Twitter again too.

If you actually read this whole thing, thanks for listening and putting up with my crazy. I promise that I'm going to try to get some more content up on here as soon as I can! It feels good to be back!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Mini-Rambles: Paranormal(ish) (Rachel)

Wake by Lisa McMann
From Goodreads:
For seventeen-year-old Janie, getting sucked into other people's dreams is getting old. Especially the falling dreams, the naked-but-nobody-notices dreams, and the sex-crazed dreams. Janie's seen enough fantasy booty to last her a lifetime.
She can't tell anybody about what she does they'd never believe her, or worse, they'd think she's a freak. So Janie lives on the fringe, cursed with an ability she doesn't want and can’t control.
Then she falls into a gruesome nightmare, one that chills her to the bone. For the first time, Janie is more than a witness to someone else's twisted psyche. She is a participant.

I read this book when I was in desperate need of a fun, fast-paced book that I could lose myself in, and that is exactly what Wake is. This is not the best book I have ever read, and I was not blown away by its awesomeness, but I enjoyed every second I spent reading this book. Wake is simply a good story. It pulls you in from the very first page, and it doesn't let you go until the last page. It's the perfect book to read in one sitting, because it's the kind of book you just don't want to put down. I had a lot of fun reading this book, and while I wouldn't say I'm all that emotionally invested in the story, I'm definitely excited to read the rest of the books in this series.

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke
From Goodreads:
You stop fearing the devil when you’re holding his hand…

Nothing much exciting rolls through Violet White’s sleepy, seaside town… until River West comes along. River rents the guest house behind Violet’s crumbling estate, and as eerie, grim things start to happen, Violet begins to wonder about the boy living in her backyard. 

Is River just a crooked-smiling liar with pretty eyes and a mysterious past? Or could he be something more?

Violet’s grandmother always warned her about the Devil, but she never said he could be a dark-haired boy who takes naps in the sun, who likes coffee, who kisses you in a cemetery... who makes you want to kiss back. 

Violet’s already so knee-deep in love, she can’t see straight. And that’s just how River likes it.

Blending faded decadence and the thrilling dread of gothic horror, April Genevieve Tucholke weaves a dreamy, twisting contemporary romance, as gorgeously told as it is terrifying—a debut to watch.

The summary of this book, combined with the GORGEOUS cover, had me convinced that I would love Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea. Unfortunately, that was not the case. I didn't love this book, but I wouldn't say I disliked it either. I'm somewhere in the middle, I guess. The beginning of this book is strong, and the ending is stronger, but I feel like the entire middle of the book lacks something. I was disappointed by the romance in this book, which suffers from a bad case of poorly-written insta-love. My least favorite thing about Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea is the main character, Violet. She is...well, she reminds me of Bella Swan. Except possibly worse. Need I say more? There were things I did like about this book though, like the gorgeous and rich setting that I had no trouble imagining, and the devil twist. I think I would have really enjoyed this book if it had a different main character and no romance. Overall, this book disappointed me because I had such high hopes for it, but I had a good time reading it.

Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin
From Goodreads:
Welcome to Elsewhere. It is warm, with a breeze, and the beaches are marvelous. It’s quiet and peaceful. You can’t get sick or any older. Curious to see new paintings by Picasso? Swing by one of Elsewhere’s museums. Need to talk to someone about your problems? Stop by Marilyn Monroe’s psychiatric practice.

     Elsewhere is where fifteen-year-old Liz Hall ends up, after she has died. It is a place so like Earth, yet completely different. Here Liz will age backward from the day of her death until she becomes a baby again and returns to Earth. But Liz wants to turn sixteen, not fourteen again. She wants to get her driver’s license. She wants to graduate from high school and go to college. And now that she’s dead, Liz is being forced to live a life she doesn’t want with a grandmother she has only just met. And it is not going well. How can Liz let go of the only life she has ever known and embrace a new one? Is it possible that a life lived in reverse is no different from a life lived forward?
     This moving, often funny book about grief, death, and loss will stay with the reader long after the last page is turned.

Elsewhere is not nearly as amazing as I'd expected it to be, after hearing so many positive reviews of it, but it was still pretty darn awesome. I've read stories about the afterlife before, and I'd say that Elsewhere is probably the most unique one. The afterlife of Elsewhere is pretty much the same as Earth, except the people in Elsewhere age backwards. They start at the age they were when they died, and get a year younger every birthday. When they're babies, they go back to Earth to be reborn. It's a really cool and original idea of the afterlife, and I found this book to be fascinating. Elsewhere has humor and sadness and drama and hope, and it is a moving story that I really enjoyed.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday (33)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine.

The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith
From Goodreads:
Lucy and Owen meet somewhere between the tenth and eleventh floors of a New York City apartment building, on an elevator rendered useless by a citywide blackout. After they're rescued, they spend a single night together, wandering the darkened streets and marveling at the rare appearance of stars above Manhattan. But once the power is restored, so is reality. Lucy soon moves to Edinburgh with her parents, while Owen heads out west with his father.

Lucy and Owen's relationship plays out across the globe as they stay in touch through postcards, occasional e-mails, and -- finally -- a reunion in the city where they first met.

A carefully charted map of a long-distance relationship, Jennifer E. Smith's new novel shows that the center of the world isn't necessarily a place. It can be a person, too.

I read and enjoyed Jennifer E. Smith's The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight and This Is What Happy Looks Like, so I'm familiar with her ability to write fun contemporary romances. The Geography of You and Me seems like it's going to be another fast read that I'll be able to fly through in a day, and I love that it's about a long-distance relationship. I'm so excited to get my hands on a copy of this book!

Also, the cover is so adorable! I especially love that it matches the covers of The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight and This is What Happy Looks Like.

What are you waiting on this week? Leave links to your WoW posts below so I can check them out!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Rachel Rambles About Sweet Evil

Sweet Evil by Wendy Higgins
From Goodreads:
What if there were teens whose lives literally depended on being bad influences?

This is the reality for sons and daughters of fallen angels.
Tenderhearted Southern girl Anna Whitt was born with the sixth sense to see and feel emotions of other people. She's aware of a struggle within herself, an inexplicable pull toward danger, but it isn't until she turns sixteen and meets the alluring Kaidan Rowe that she discovers her terrifying heritage and her willpower is put to the test. He's the boy your daddy warned you about. If only someone had warned Anna.

Forced to face her destiny, will Anna embrace her halo or her horns?

I started reading this book because I was in the mood for a fun, fast-paced paranormal romance book. Sweet Evil satisfied my craving, and it proved to be exactly what I wanted to read at the time.

But Sweet Evil didn't start that well for me. The first half or so felt very Hush, Hush-like to me, which is not exactly a good thing. I was annoyed with the main character, and I was not enjoying the stereotypical good girl and bad boy falling in love story line. However, Sweet Evil was strangely addicting in the way that these kinds of books often are, so I kept reading.

Soon enough, at about the halfway point, the book suddenly became awesome. Instead of a cliche romance that was cringe-worthy and difficult to read about, the book started to focus on more exciting things. Anna's life as a Nephilim took center stage, and more Nephilim characters were introduced. The book began to explore the mythology behind the angels and fallen angels and demons and Nephilim and all the possible variations of angels. As someone who normally has a very low tolerance for angel stories, I found the mythology in Sweet Evil kind of awesome. It is well-written and well thought-out, and there are new and exciting twists on your standard angels story.

The second half of Sweet Evil had me eagerly turning the pages until one in the morning, when I finally finished. It's packed with action and danger and excitement, and it became the addicting read that I was so desperate for.

I didn't particularly care for the Anna and Kaidan romance in the beginning of the book, but I grew to appreciate it as the story continued. I was expecting the romance to be the main focus of the book, but it didn't feel like that to me. I think Sweet Evil is more about Anna's adjustment to her new life, after she discovers the truth about herself and her parents and her abilities and her obligations. It was interesting to read about her evolution throughout the book. She began as an incredibly naive and, in my opinion, annoying character who was so frustrating to read about, but she blossomed into a strong and mature young woman who was able to step up to the challenges that were thrown at her. I was expecting her to be whiny and awkward for the whole book, so I was pleasantly surprised when she had a transformation throughout the novel.

Overall, this book was a lot of fun to read. I didn't get emotionally attached to the characters or the story, but I found myself frantically turning the pages because I couldn't wait to find out what would happen next. If you're looking for a fun and relatively light read that you'll fly through in just a sitting or two, then I recommend giving Sweet Evil a chance.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Random Ramble: Life Update (Rachel)

Hey everyone! It's been awhile since I've really been around and active on this blog. My life seems to have gotten in the way of my blogging lately, and I apologize for the lack of content. I thought I'd share a little of what I've been up to, in an attempt to explain my absence.

First of all, I started my junior year of high school in September. I think I might have mentioned this on the blog once or twice, but sophomore year was rough for me. I was very stressed and unhappy for a good portion of it, mostly because of my academic responsibilities. I felt like I was constantly drowning in homework, and my grades seemed like they were the most important thing in the world. I can happily confirm that, so far, my junior year is going a lot better. I'm taking better classes with better teachers, and I haven't had any cases of stress physically making me sick or any mental breakdowns yet, both of which I struggled with last year. So yay! This lighter school year means I have time to do other things that I wasn't able to do last year.

Of course, being a junior means it's time to start seriously thinking about My Future, which is terrifying and stressful and intimidating. I have no idea how I'm supposed to decide what I want to do with my life at seventeen years old, but whatever. I guess I'll figure something out. :P

Along with this whole "growing up" thing comes a very important milestone. I got my driver's license at the end of October. I actually failed the driving test the first time (stupid parallel parking! stupid cones!) which wasn't that big of a deal, but I was really upset about it. I thought failing driving tests was so uncommon, but it turns out that about half of the kids at my school who've taken their driving tests have failed the first time, too. So it's totally normal and acceptable to fail the first time! 

Now I have a license and a car (it's old and teal and I named it Sherlock) and I feel super grown up. I don't particularly want to feel grown up, though. I mean, I love the freedom of being able to drive myself places and all that, but I'm very aware of how quickly I'm growing up and how high school graduation is just around the corner and then I must enter The Real World (whatever that is...) and AHHHH. It's freaking me out. 

Let's see, what else have I done lately? I participated in NaNoWriMo for the third time. It was...not the best experience of my life. The past two NaNos went a lot better for me. This year, I was constantly behind on my word count, barely scraping by with 50,000 words on November 29th. I also wasn't as in love with my story as I'd been the past two years. In fact, I found myself cheating (in my mind) on my NaNo story with another draft I'd started back in the summer. But I didn't want to switch drafts to write during NaNo, so I ended up suffering through the original one. I did hit 50,000 words, and parts of the draft are probably decent, but for the most part, I have no intention of ever finishing that story. We'll see, though. For right now, I'm going to let it sit on my computer while I work on the story I started in the summer, and I'll open the NaNo draft back up in a few months and look at it with a fresh perspective.

I've found myself being more active in my social life lately. Having a license and a car has definitely opened up a lot of doors for me. I'm able to actually do things by myself without having to get someone to drive me places, which was a total pain for everyone involved. It seems kind of silly, but just being able to go to my friends' houses whenever I want to has really changed my life. I've been spending a lot more time out of the house, and all the little things I've been doing have been adding up. At first, I was worried about it. I didn't like being behind on my NaNo word count or not updating the blog for a few weeks.

But then I realized that I actually need to focus on spending more time outside my house. It's easy for me to lock myself in my room with my books and my computer for days at a time. I'd rather be actually living and having fun and doing teenager-y things and not update my blog for a little while than become so obsessed with my internet presence that I forget about my actual real life. It's healthy for me to actually leave my house and do things and be somewhat social, so I decided that I'm not going to worry about how I haven't posted anything on the blog in weeks. I want to blog when it's fun for me, and if I'm too busy, then I'm too busy. I don't think anyone is going to hate me if my life gets in the way of blogging for a little bit.

What else has happened recently?

I saw Catching Fire. HOLY CRAP. It was brilliant. Absolutely fantastic. I saw it with Megan and some friends, and when we walked out of the theater, we had nothing bad to say about it. Not a single complaint. Which is a huge deal! Every time we see a book-to-movie-adaptation, we spend the car ride home picking apart little details and complaining about the things we didn't like.  But we didn't do that with Catching Fire, because there was nothing bad to say.

It was especially refreshing after the Sea of Monsters and City of Bones movies, which we kind of hated.

I also saw Frozen, which was super cute. I love Disney movies and Pixar movies (well, I guess they're the same thing now, right?) and up until now, Tangled was my favorite. But now Frozen has bumped Tangled to second-favorite, because I am in love with Frozen! Tangled and Brave and Frozen are all so good, and I can't wait to see what Disney/Pixar does next.

I think that's pretty much it for things that have been happening lately. Other than that, I've pretty much just been watching The Office and Hallmark Christmas movies (I don't care how cheesy they are...I absolutely love them).

So I hope this post gives you an idea of what I've been up to lately, and why this blog has been so empty. Life has just been getting in the way of blogging and reading and stuff. But it's okay. That's what life is supposed to do. So I'm not going to worry about it too much. :)

What about you guys? What have you all been up to lately? Did you participate in NaNoWriMo? What did you think of Catching Fire? Tell me about it in the comments below! (I'm dying for some interaction with my internet people lately. I've missed you guys. :P)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday (32)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine.

Dear Killer by Katherine Ewell
From Goodreads:
Rule One—Nothing is right, nothing is wrong.
Rule Two—Be careful.
Rule Three—Fight using your legs whenever possible, because they’re the strongest part of your body. Your arms are the weakest.
Rule Four—Hit to kill. The first blow should be the last, if at all possible.
Rule Five—The letters are the law.

Kit takes her role as London’s notorious “Perfect Killer” seriously. The letters and cash that come to her via a secret mailbox are not a game; choosing who to kill is not an impulse decision. Every letter she receives begins with “Dear Killer,” and every time Kit murders, she leaves a letter with the dead body. Her moral nihilism and thus her murders are a way of life—the only way of life she has ever known.

But when a letter appears in the mailbox that will have the power to topple Kit’s convictions as perfectly as she commits her murders, she must make a decision: follow the only rules she has ever known, or challenge Rule One, and go from there.

Katherine’s Ewell’s Dear Killer is a sinister psychological thriller that explores the thin line between good and evil, and the messiness of that inevitable moment when life contradicts everything you believe.

Why am I waiting on this book? Well, have you read the summary?! It sounds awesome! I'm eagerly anticipating the release of Dear Killer!

What are you waiting on this week? Leave links to your WoW posts below so I can check them out!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Mini-Rambles: Contemporaries (Rachel)

Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan
From Goodreads:
This is the story of Paul, a sophomore at a high school like no other: The cheerleaders ride Harleys, the homecoming queen used to be a guy named Daryl (she now prefers Infinite Darlene and is also the star quarterback), and the gay-straight alliance was formed to help the straight kids learn how to dance. 

When Paul meets Noah, he thinks he’s found the one his heart is made for. Until he blows it. The school bookie says the odds are 12-to-1 against him getting Noah back, but Paul’s not giving up without playing his love really loud. His best friend Joni might be drifting away, his other best friend Tony might be dealing with ultra-religious parents, and his ex-boyfriend Kyle might not be going away anytime soon, but sometimes everything needs to fall apart before it can really fit together right.

This is a happy-meaningful romantic comedy about finding love, losing love, and doing what it takes to get love back in a crazy-wonderful world.

Boy Meets Boy is short, just under 200 pages, and it's a relatively light read. It's a fun and sweet romance between two boys, and it has all the simple beauty I've come to expect from a David Levithan book. I read this book in just a few sittings because the story just flies by. Boy Meets Boy is especially interesting when compared to Two Boys Kissing, David Levithan's most recent book. (You can read my Two Boys Kissing ramble here.) The two books explore the differences between a gay couple in 2003 and several gay couples in 2013. I read Boy Meets Boy right before I read Two Boys Kissing, and I really liked getting to experience both stories back-to-back.

Sweethearts by Sara Zarr
From Goodreads:
As children, Jennifer Harris and Cameron Quick were both social outcasts. They were also one another's only friend. So when Cameron disappears without warning, Jennifer thinks she's lost the only person who will ever understand her. Now in high school, Jennifer has been transformed. Known as Jenna, she's popular, happy, and dating, everything "Jennifer" couldn't be---but she still can't shake the memory of her long-lost friend. 

When Cameron suddenly reappears, they are both confronted with memories of their shared past and the drastically different paths their lives have taken.

From the National Book Award nominated author of Story of a Girl, Sweetheartsis a story about the power of memory, the bond of friendship, and the quiet resilience of our childhood hearts.

I adore this book. It's a short and sweet (sweet! get it? sweethearts?! ...never mind) book about a powerful friendship. I love the way this story is told through a mixture of flashbacks of the main character's childhood as she reflects on her time spent with her old best friend, and scenes that take place during the present, when she's in high school and her childhood best friend comes into her life again. My heart ached for the characters in Sweethearts, and I was touched by their story. I guess I would say that this is a quiet and simple book. It's not the most amazing or unique or thought-provoking book, but it has a subtle beauty to it that made me fall in love with it. I highly recommend Sweethearts, and anything by Sara Zarr, for that matter.

The Infinite Moment of Us by Lauren Myracle
From Goodreads:
For as long as she can remember, Wren Gray’s goal has been to please her parents. But as high school graduation nears, so does an uncomfortable realization: Pleasing her parents once overlapped with pleasing herself, but now... not so much. Wren needs to honor her own desires, but how can she if she doesn’t even know what they are?

Charlie Parker, on the other hand, is painfully aware of his heart’s desire. A gentle boy with a troubled past, Charlie has loved Wren since the day he first saw her. But a girl like Wren would never fall for a guy like Charlie—at least not the sort of guy Charlie believes himself to be.

And yet certain things are written in the stars. And in the summer after high school, Wren and Charlie’s souls will collide. But souls are complicated, as are the bodies that house them...

Sexy, romantic, and oh-so-true to life, this is an unforgettable look at first love from one of young adult fiction’s greatest writers.

I didn't like this book at all. I had really high expectations for it, which I based on the author (I loved Lauren Myracle's Shine), the intriguing summary, and the GORGEOUS cover. This book seemed like something I would love. Unfortunately, that was not the case. I found this book almost painful to read at times. It featured poorly written insta-love and frustrating characters whose actions rarely seemed logical or realistic. This book was not for me, and I can't say I'd recommend it to anyone. It hurts to say such negative things about The Infinite Moment of Us, because I honestly expected to love it, but this book really disappointed me.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Rachel Rambles About The Lucy Variations

The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr
From Goodreads:
Lucy Beck-Moreau once had a promising future as a concert pianist. The right people knew her name, her performances were booked months in advance, and her future seemed certain.

That was all before she turned fourteen.

Now, at sixteen, it's over. A death, and a betrayal, led her to walk away. That leaves her talented ten-year-old brother, Gus, to shoulder the full weight of the Beck-Moreau family expectations. Then Gus gets a new piano teacher who is young, kind, and interested in helping Lucy rekindle her love of piano -- on her own terms. But when you're used to performing for sold-out audiences and world-famous critics, can you ever learn to play just for yourself?

National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr takes readers inside the exclusive world of privileged San Francisco families, top junior music competitions, and intense mentorships. The Lucy Variations is a story of one girl's struggle to reclaim her love of music and herself. It's about finding joy again, even when things don't go according to plan. Because life isn't a performance, and everyone deserves the chance to make a few mistakes along the way.

Ahhh, Sara Zarr. What a wonderful author. I adore her writing style, and I enjoyed losing myself in another one of her stories with The Lucy Variations. Her writing is so easy to get caught up in, and it's impossible (for me, at least) to not fall in love with her characters and stories.

Lucy is a complicated character. In some moments, I loved her and found myself able to relate to her really well, but in other moments, I was extremely frustrated by her and had trouble understanding her actions. I may not have always liked her, but I was able to appreciate how human and realistic of a character she is. It's natural to both agree and disagree with people, depending on the situation, so my feelings about Lucy felt very natural. Overall, I appreciated Lucy's character and enjoyed reading about her.

The majority of this book focuses on Lucy and her family. Lucy is a talented piano player who used to play piano professionally and in competitions. Her grandfather and mother put a lot of pressure on her to succeed, and she eventually decided to stop playing piano, which makes her feel as if she is disappointing her family. Her father is the character who doesn't quite belong in the family. He does not play piano, nor has he ever played piano, and he is not the one putting pressure on Lucy. He's also not the one calling any of the shots in the family, which makes him likable but somewhat bland and unimportant to the story as a whole. Gus, Lucy's little brother, is following in Lucy's footsteps as a ten-year-old, extremely talented piano player performing in competitions. The family dynamic in this book is fascinating and complicated and slightly dysfunctional, which results in a great family story.

The other important relationship in The Lucy Variations is between Lucy and her brother's new piano teacher, Will. He is quite a bit older than Lucy, and their relationship is...interesting. I won't say anything more, for fear of spoilers, but I found their relationship to be messy and blurry and brilliantly written. I was impressed with Sara Zarr's ability to portray this complicated relationship in such a positive and straightforward way. There was the potential for Lucy and Will's relationship to become uncomfortable, had the story been told in any other way, but Sara Zarr was able to handle the topic with elegance.

To me, The Lucy Variations is about a family, with some other things thrown in for good measure. I love reading stories that focus on families because I feel like there aren't enough out there, so The Lucy Variations was perfect for me. This book also explores the importance of music and creativity and separating your passion from your work. It made me want to play piano and lose myself in the music, despite the fact that my piano-playing abilities are extremely limited. Lucy's passion for music and piano bled through the pages and into my heart, and I was touched by the simple beauty of this book.