99 Days (Kate Cotugno, 2015)

99-days

Guys, I read a book!  I feel like this is newsworthy since it’s been forever….

Why did you choose this book?

This was one of the first ARCs (Advance Reader’s Copies) I picked up in my last job.  It’s a little sad that I’m just now getting around to reading it.

What’s it about?

Molly made a mistake during her junior year – sleeping with her boyfriend’s brother.  She kept the secret for a year, until her mom’s next novel was published, revealing all of the gritty details to everyone in town.  After a year away at boarding school, Molly just has to survive the summer back home.  It’s only 99 days.

Categories

Teen, fiction

Review

This book helped to pull me out of a reading slump (hence why I haven’t blogged since June).  I read it over the course of two evenings, and found it pretty enjoyable.  The book is structured with each chapter as one of the 99 days, some with less than a page of text and others of “normal” chapter length.  I made the mistake of reading some Goodreads reviews halfway through, which I think unfairly colored my perception of the remainder of the book.  Molly definitely made some mistakes and was kind of whiny, but I found the book to be fine for some fun light reading.  Patrick, however, escaped too unscathed.

Refresher (here there be spoilers)

No really, this is a book summary/plot synopsis

Ok, I warned you…

In essence, Molly gets a job at a hotel and befriends her ex-boyfriend’s (Patrick) new girlfriend, Tess.  Patrick’s brother Gabe has been falling for Molly for most of their lives (he’s also the one she slept with), and he starts dating her again.  Molly is constantly bullied by Patrick’s twin, Julia, who becomes much nicer after Molly discovers she’s a lesbian.  However, Patrick can’t resist Molly’s charms (he’s kind of a jerk) and starts fooling around with her whenever he can.  He sneaks into her house to have sex for the first time, but upon realizing that Molly went all the way with Gabe, becomes irate with her and spills the truth about what they’ve been doing together all summer.  Just as everything is coming together for Molly, it all falls apart again, except this time not even Gabe is her ally.  Luckily, by this point the 99 days are over and Molly is off to college to bond with her new roommate Roisin, who has also had a summer filled with boyfriend drama.  Talk about a roller coaster ride of a novel – I think Molly had the ambiguous ending she deserved, but I think Patrick needed to be impacted by more of the fallout.

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Passenger (Alexandra Bracken, 2016)

passenger.jpg

Why did you choose this book?

Partially for the premise, but primarily for the cover.  So stunning!

What’s it about?

Teenage Etta steps onto the stage at the Met for her first solo violin performance with a full orchestra.  As she begins to play, she is interrupted by overwhelming feedback only she can hear.  Another musician grabs her and pushes her through a portal, where she awakens in a ship’s cabin with a frantic battle and roaring cannon fire overhead.  To give you the basic premise, the head of the travelers is a ruthless grandfather-type-figure who is holding Etta’s mother hostage and will harm her unless Etta returns in a week with an astrolabe that can be used to further his power.

Bracken has a fascinating premise in these books.  Essentially, there were four families of “travelers” who could use passages throughout the world to travel through both time and space.  These four families have now been consolidated into one under the power of “Grandfather.”  The passages are an intriguing idea.  The passage in the Met of 2015 leads to 1776 Nassau.  Passages only connect two times and places, however, so to get to, say, mid-1500s Damascus, travelers would have to take multiple specific passages.  It’s mind-boggling, especially because travelers have to keep track of their movements to avoid crossing paths with themselves.

Categories

Fantasy, teen, time travel

Other recommended reads?

Although it doesn’t have daemons, the portals in this book reminded me of those in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series.

Review

I started to lose interest toward the end, but it’s a smart and engaging fantasy.  I appreciated the fact that there were no magical powers and the passages were the only fantastical element.  It was also an intelligent read for teenagers and didn’t over-simplify, though I certainly wish that the characters had spent more time getting immersed in many of the eras to which they traveled.  The second book is due out next year and is entitled Wayfarer.

Up next?

Hot Attraction by Lisa Childs

These Shallow Graves (Jennifer Donnelly, 2015)

these shallow

Why did you choose this book? 

The synopsis and cover intrigued me.  It should also be said that this cover is misleading.  It is not a horror novel but rather a kind of cute teen historical mystery with a tad bit of forensic science.

What’s it about?

Jo Montfort has it all – a supportive family, social status as one of the elites of 1890s New York, one of the most desirable bachelors courting her…and yet she’s a fierce and independent young lady.  While away at finishing school, her father is found dead, presumably from the accidental discharge of his revolver.  But Jo finds this hard to believe and as she investigates, she learns that he was murdered.  Through her new friendship with reporter Eddie Gallagher and city morgue employee Oscar Rubin, she tries to find her father’s murderer and bring him/her to justice, even though it means scouring the underbelly of New York.  As the other partners in Van Houten Shipping start falling to the murderer’s knife, time is running out.

Categories

Teen fiction, historical mystery

Other recommended reads?

Court of Fives by Kate Elliott features a girl on a mission, though in a fantasy world and with much more athletic prowess.  A better match would be A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn, a historical mystery with a kick-ass heroine and one of my favorite reads so far this year.

Review

I thought this was quite a good book.  As I said earlier, the cover is a bit misleading.  That being said, I did not identify the murderer or motive before Jo.  I did find her a bit annoying sometimes in her insistence on being taken to the heart of the matter, regardless of the risk to herself or her companions.  The forensic science was well-done and believable, but the author’s note made her sound a bit crazy (characters speaking to her and whatnot).  The major issue I had with Jo is that she is too naive to know what a brothel and madam are, yet she has no problem kissing Eddie…

Up next?

Those We Left Behind by Stuart Neville (I think anyway)

The Rose & the Dagger (Renee Ahdieh, 2016)

rose-and-dagger

Why did you choose this book? 

I read the first volume last year, before I started this blog.  I found myself immediately inhabiting Sharhzad’s world and rooting for this strong woman and her love.

What’s it about?

The first novel in this two-volume set is a retelling of 1001 Arabian Nights.  In this novel, Sharhzad’s newfound life as the calipha has fallen down and she is living in a desert camp with her ill father and younger sister.  Khalid remains in the capital to rebuild.  Sharhzad wants to be by his side, but also feels a duty to her family and a need to master her magic (she can make objects fly).  Sharhzad’s childhood sweetheart, Tariq, leads an army bent on destroying Khalid, her true love.

Categories

Teen fiction, folklore retelling

Other recommended reads?

Clearly, The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh (the first in this series).  Also the original folktale on which the books are based.  If you’re interested in Middle Eastern fantasy or fiction, I would also try Sabaa Tahir’s An Ember in the Ashes or Holly Bodger’s 5 to 1.

Review

This is the most all-encompassing and fantastically good work of fiction I have read in a while.  I even found myself thinking about it when I wasn’t reading it, which is rare for me these days.  However, I wish that the author had done a recapping of the events of the first book.  There were several points when I found myself lost because it had been so long since I read the first one.  I also sometimes find Shahrzad a little too self-centered.

Up next?

These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly

 

Violent Ends (Shaun David Hutchinson + 16 others, 2015)

violent ends

Why did you choose this book?

For many of the same reasons I chose This is Where It Ends (scroll down to read that post – it was 2 posts ago).  I was also intrigued by the subtitle: A Novel in Seventeen Points of View.

What’s it about?

During a school assembly, Kirby Matheson entered the gymnasium and began shooting.  This book doesn’t tell the story of the shooting, but recounts the lives of sixteen people and one object who knew Kirby at various points in his life.

Categories

Teen

Other recommended reads?

I’m not sure.  Maybe a nonfiction about school shootings?

Review

This book was infinitely better than This Is Where It Ends.   I really liked that this was a book not about a moment in time, but about a person and all of the facets of his flawed character.  I enjoyed getting to know the rest of his community and seeing the good in Kirby as well as the bad.  That being said, I still didn’t have a clear concept of Kirby’s motivation other than being an angsty teen.  I also didn’t have the emotional investment I wanted.  I wasn’t angry or sad or happy at any point in the story.  This clearly reads like a collection of short stories, since each perspective is a different author.  I liked most of the stories, though I thought having one from the perspective of the gun was a little strange.    A decent read, but not a perfect one.

Up next?

Stormstruck by John Macfarlane

Court of Fives (Kate Elliott, 2015)

court of fives

Why did you choose this book?

I love a good YA fantasy novel.  Elliott has also written several adult fantasy novels and I thought this could be a good way to find out whether or not I like her as an author.

What’s it about?

In this world there are elite Patrons and second-class Commoners.  Jessamy’s father is a Patron who has become famous for his skill in commanding forces on the battlefield.  Her mother is a Commoner.  Her parents cannot get married for fear of ruining her father’s career, and the mixed blood of Jessamy and her sisters makes them somewhere between the two social classes.  It also means that they need to behave.

The family’s fortunes abruptly change when the family’s aristocratic benefactor dies and a new one takes over.  He stipulates that Jessamy’s father must marry a Patron of his choosing and disown his family.  Jessamy must move to the benefactor’s stables and begin competing in the Fives (more on that later).  The rest of her family faces an unknown fate and Jessamy must try to save them.

The Fives are an obstacle course competition around which society revolves.  Some people make money and become famous through competing.  Jessamy is passionate about the game.  The outer ring of the course consists of four obstacles, with a competitor starting on each one.  Trees is a vertical test with climbing posts, Traps is a series of high-above-the-ground nets/ledges/trapezes, Pillars is a maze, and Rivers is a series of moving stepping stones over flowing water.  After completing all four, the competitors must do Rings, which involves spinning loops, some with inner rings spinning at different speeds.  The first to finish all of them and scale the victory tower wins.

Categories

Teen, fantasy

Other recommended reads?

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir.  It’s young adult fantasy with a series of tasks the protagonist must complete.  It was one of my two favorite books of 2015 and the sequel, A Torch Against the Night, comes out later this year.

Review

I really enjoyed the Fives.  That being said, I felt that there could have been a bit more world-building.  Some of the characters, like Kalliarkos, were very underdeveloped.  I felt like all I knew about him was that he was the romantic interest and a prince.  I did enjoy that while some magic was alluded to, this wasn’t a novel packed with magic like so many fantasy novels are.  It was a different take.  I’ll read the rest of the series, but I’m not sure I can give this book a glowing recommendation.

Up next?

Violent Ends

This Is Where It Ends (Marieke Nijkamp, 2016)

this is where

Why did you choose this book?

There was a lot of pre-publication buzz about this book online and in professional journals.  Also, I took a class on the memory of catastrophe in graduate school, and it was quite probably my favorite history class of all time.  While the tragedies we studied were horrific and incredibly sad, learning about the different ways that individuals and communities treat the places tragedy occurred can be incredibly fascinating.  School shootings fall into the realm of such tragedies, and I was curious to read a fictional recounting of a shooting.

What’s it about?

The story is told over the span of 54 minutes from four different points of view.  The points of view are: the shooter’s ex-girlfriend, the shooter’s sister, the shooter’s sister’s girlfriend, and the shooter’s sister’s girlfriend’s brother.  Confused yet?  These interlocking points of view cover different aspects.  One person is outside the school, two are in the auditorium where the shooting starts, and one is outside the auditorium but breaks in to start freeing hostages.

Categories

Teen

Other recommended reads?

If you’re reading this because it’s about a school shooting, don’t.  Read Violent Ends instead.

Review

I did read this book in one sitting.  It was a fast read, but it wasn’t a great one.  I never understood the shooter’s motivation or who he was as a person.  He was just a stock character with a lot of numbness and rage.  I also didn’t care about the other characters in the book.  When reading a novel about any kind of tragedy, be it the sinking of a ship in wartime or a school shooting, I want to be emotionally invested.  I wasn’t.  I didn’t care which characters survived and which didn’t and I didn’t have that sense of needing to finish and to know what happened.  I could have put the book down, gone to sleep, and finished it the next day without constantly wondering what would happen next.  So it was an okay read, but that’s all.

Up next?

Court of Fives by Kate Elliott