Shelley Loved It: I Was Here by Gayle Forman

Publisher: Viking Juvenille
Released: January 27, 2015
Format: Hardcover, 288 pages
Source: Library
Genre: Young Adult | Contemporary

When her best friend Meg drinks a bottle of industrial-strength cleaner alone in a motel room, Cody is understandably shocked and devastated. She and Meg shared everything—so how was there no warning? But when Cody travels to Meg’s college town to pack up the belongings left behind, she discovers that there’s a lot that Meg never told her. About her old roommates, the sort of people Cody never would have met in her dead-end small town in Washington. About Ben McAllister, the boy with a guitar and a sneer, who broke Meg’s heart. And about an encrypted computer file that Cody can’t open—until she does, and suddenly everything Cody thought she knew about her best friend’s death gets thrown into question.

“I failed her in life. But I won’t fail her in death.”

I Was Here, by Gayle Forman, is yet another emotional ride that makes you sit up and take notice. The subject matter, suicide/depression, is one that goes mostly ignored by the general public, but hits the mark with those of us have experienced or continue to feel the same helpless feeling day after day. The story is told in the first person narrative by Cody Reynolds, who at 18, loses her best friend Megan “Meg” Garcia after she drinks a bottle of industrial-strength cleaner alone in a motel room.

Cody is understandably left confused, angry, devastated, and filled with regret over Meg’s actions. For most of I Was Here, the story hinged on Cody understanding why her best friend killed herself, and suddenly finding out that the girl she has known since kindergarten, has kept a whole lot of secrets from her. There are those she shared a home with (Richard, Harry, and Alice), those she befriended along the way (too many to mention), the man who broke her heart (Ben McAllister), and a secretive encrypted file that may hold all the answers.

“She didn’t tell me that she found life to be so unbearably painful. I mean, I didn’t even have a clue.”

Cody finds herself peeking into a dark world where people seek out others to guide their decisions whether to live or die. One needs to ask themselves whether or not Meg thought about her family, her brother, or Cody before she decided to catch the last bus. I know that’s selfish, but those left behind suffer from an unimaginable loss that doesn’t go away overnight. I think in today’s society, we need to provide people with more information on what is available to them. We have to stop treating those with depression as not worthy of our time. I haven’t had any friends, or family who have taken this route, nor will I judge anyone that has.

“Be tolerant of one another and forgive each other if anyone has a complaint against another.”

I’m going to do something a bit different with this review, so please have some patience with me. I do recommend that you do find time to pick up this book and read it. I recommend that you read the authors notes at the end of the book, and the resources that she provides to families and those contemplating suicide. Suicide and Depression is not a joking matter. It is a silent killer that haunts millions of people each year. Those thinking about Suicide may not reach out to their family, friends, or support groups.

They truly believe that they are alone in the world, and nobody will miss them when they are gone. I have suffered from depression since I was honorably discharged from the Navy. My family, former employers, and employees will tell you that I wasn’t a pleasant person to be around. I was angry, sad, and turned within myself shutting out all my friends. I still do that today even after numerous attempts to control my issues. But, because of the strength of my family, I have survived longer than I expected.

Forman’s writing style hasn’t changed much since I read If I Stay. It’s still raw, emotional, and reel. I could compare Cody and Ben to Chloe and Adam. Cody isn’t Chloe, but Ben could be Adam’s brother since they are both musicians. Cody is a girl who is nothing like Chloe, but nonetheless, she does have her strengths, and determination. Forman is another author who has felt the pain of losing someone close to her. Her pain is definitely felt in how she puts together the story. Despite the solemn tone, I didn’t find myself shedding any tears until the final chapters of the book.

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Shelley Liked It: The Vault by Emily McKay

Series: The Farm 3
Format: Paperback | 400 pages
Released: December 2, 2014
Publisher: Berkley
Source: Borrowed from the Library
Genre: YA | Dystopian

In a world where vampires rule and teenaged humans are quarantined as a food source, there is only one choice—resist or die. But fighting the vampires comes at a terrible cost to twin sisters Mel and Lily and their best friend Carter…

With Lily exposed to the vampire virus and lying in a coma, it’s up to Mel and Carter to search for the cure. Time is not on their side. With every passing heartbeat, Mel is becoming more and more purely vampire.

Desperate, Carter and Mel decide to split up. Carter will recruit human rebels from the Farm in San Angelo to infiltrate the guarded kingdom of the vampire Sabrina and steal the cure. Mel will go back to her mentor, her friend, her betrayer, Sebastian, who is the only one who can access an underground vault that may house the secret to the cure.

That is, if he’s still alive after she staked him to the ground. Now her worst enemy may be their best hope for curing Lily—and saving the human race.

3.5 Cauldrons
THE VAULT, according to author Emily McKay, is the final installment in The Farm trilogy. The Vault is one again told in 3 separate narratives; Sisters Mel and Lily Price, and Carter Olson. The story picks up right where The Lair left off. Mel and Carter face risky choices and decisions to save Lily, including going in separate directions to order to find a cure before they lose Lily completely to the Tick virus.
As a summary, thanks to the En371 virus being released in Texas, people turned into vampire-like mutants called Ticks and quickly decimated the Southwest, Midwest and later the entire country. But, to know what truly happened and why, you need to read these books in order as they were released. In order to save and protect the remaining young people who survived, Farms were built. This is where we were first introduced to Melanie and Lily and where Carter found them, and rescued them. This is where Lily protected her autistic sister by holing themselves up in a closet and trading for goods and services necessary to escape the Farm.
I will say that the main story line for THE VAULT is finding a cure for Lily, who has been infected with the Tick virus (read The Lair). The clock is quickly ticking down to when Lily will completely lose her humanity and become a blood thirsty monster. With Carter refusing to allow Lily to fall into darkness, he makes some bold choices, including seeking out a rival vampire named Sabrina, who may have access to the cure, and trusting someone who betrayed Lily. Meanwhile, Mel, who has been a vampire for 8 weeks, must once again face her mentor, savior, and the person she left staked to the ground, Sebastian. 
I would be a failure as a reviewer if I didn’t mention the relationships between not only Carter and Lily, but Mel and Sebastian as well. Each of these characters would do almost anything to save the person they love. Take Carter for example. Not only is he the leader of the rebellion against the vampires, but he is truly in love with Lily. So much so, that he put his life on the line time and time again searching a variety of Farms for her, rescuing her and Mel, and not losing hope of finding a cure.
Mel and Sebastian’s relationship runs both hot and cold but if you even think for a minute that either of them truly doesn’t care about the other, no matter what vile things Sebastian may have done in the past, then you are crazy. The really important part of this story is the reunion between sisters. How can they ever go back to what they once had with Lily’s choice of saving Mel by having Sebastian turn her? They’ve both faced and dealt with so much over the course of The Farm. Will their relationship ever heal, or will it linger for the rest of their lives?
You really can’t fault anyone’s choices in THE VAULT. Not Carters. Not Mel’s. Not even Lily’s. Even though Lily’s POV are few and far between, they were just enough to understand what was happening to her as she slowly loses herself. I hate when characters you like are introduced, and then suddenly, BOOM, they go missing. Where did they go? Are they alive or dead? What really happened to Mel and Lily’s mom and uncle who remain missing?
I’m not entirely satisfied with how The Farm Trilogy ended. There are a number of loose ends that haven’t been wrapped up, and I am not one who allows my imagination to figure out what happens next. Perhaps one day, McKay will revisit this series and explain how Mel, Carter, Lily, and Sebastian fared knowing that they weren’t out of the woods. Were they able to cure those already affected with the Tick virus? I need to know what happened to secondary characters that become a vital part of Carter’s rebellion and caught my attention, especially Joe and baby Josie, Dawn and Darren.
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Shelley Liked It: The Wicked Awakening of Anne Merchant by Joanna Wiebe

Series: The V Trilogy 2
Published by: BenBella Books
Released: January 20, 2015
Format: E-Book, 320 pages
Source: NetGalley
Genre: YA | Paranormal Romance

Life and death, light and dark, spirit and flesh-on Wormwood Island, the lines are always blurred. For Anne Merchant, who has been thrust back into this eerily secretive world, crossing the line seems inevitable, inescapable, destined. Now, as Ben finds himself battling for the Big V and Teddy reveals the celestial plan in which Anne is entwined, Anne must choose: embrace her darkly powerful connection to a woman known as Lilith and, in doing so, save the boy she loves…or follow a safer path that is sure to lead to Ben’s destruction at the hands of dark leaders. Hoping the ends will justify the means, Anne starts down the slippery slope into the underworld, intent on exploring the dark to find the light. But as the lure of Lilith proves powerfully strong, will Anne save others-only to lose herself?

3.5 cauldrons

The V Trilogy by Joanna Wiebe is told in the first person narrative by 16-year old Anne Merchant. Merchant, who has spent the past 2 years in a coma, is sent to Wormwood Island, Maine to attend an exclusive preparatory school (Cania Christy) for the world’s wealthiest teens. Cania Christy is a bit on the unusual side compared to other schools. Here, teens are required to compete for Valedictorian (the Big V) of their graduating class while having a creepy Guardian following them around grading their every movement. To win the coveted Valedictorian spot, which guarantees the winner a way off the island, each student must use various means like Seduction, Backstabbing, and Inquisitiveness to get ahead. Only one person can win.
THE WICKED AWAKENING picks up right where The Unseemly Education left off. Anne, even though she found a way to defeat her archnemesis Villicus and escape, is forced to return to the Island by her Guardian, Teddy. Anne finds that things have changed while she was gone. The Headmaster has been replaced with Dia Voletto (who takes a keen interest in Anne). His minions, The Seven Shining Sisters (Deadly sins), have taken up teaching positions at the school. Ben and Anne’s fathers have both been disciplined for their kids actions, with Anne’s father now working for the school.
Anne gets a rude awakening to the fact that there are those who consider her to be a murderer, and ends up with a unwanted roommate. Ben’s punishment means that he is now enrolled in Cania, and he has to participate in the Big V competition with less than a year to prepare and his ex as his Guardian. Anne’s goal is to do whatever it takes to ensure that Ben survives and wins the competition. Even if it means her heart breaks, or her feelings are hurt. She also must find a way to deal with some really big secrets, revelations about her heritage that will change the way you look and feel about Anne, and the surprising return of her friend Molly Watso.
There is so much to say about this book, that I worry I might let the cat out of the bag if I go too deep into the story. I’ll say that Anne’s choices, decisions, and actions are drastic in nature, and I think it will surprise you how the story turns out. For a brief time in this story, Ben and Anne’s romance is one again adorable, and you start to hope that they find a way to eventually win against horrible odds. Then the odds are never in their favor.

THE WICKED AWAKENING ends on a painful cliffhanger, but I’m certainly not going to stop reading this series before Wiebe has a chance to wrap up things up. There are so many questions as to what we can expect next. Will Anne finally accept her choices? Will she remain true to herself, or face the darkside with a gleam in her eye? In the end, I would say Awakening is better than Education because Anne faces all sorts of challenges, and unearths interesting facts about herself, and really puts her own future on the line for those she cares about.

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Shelley Liked It: Seeker by Arwen Elys Dayton

Series: Seeker 1
Publisher: Delacorte Books
Released: February 10, 2015
Source: NetGalley/Publisher
Format: E-Book, 448 pages
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Science Fiction

Quin Kincaid has been put through years of brutal training for what she thinks is the noble purpose of becoming a revered ‘Seeker’.

Only when it’s too late does she discover she will be using her new-found knowledge and training to become an assassin. Quin’s new role will take her around the globe, from a remote estate in Scotland to a bustling, futuristic Hong Kong where the past she thought she had escaped will finally catch up with her.

SEEKER is a story that revolves around (4) main characters. Yes, I did write (FOUR) characters. They are Quin Kincaid, Shinobu MacBain, John Hart, and a character calling herself Maud or Young Dread. What is a Seeker you ask? That’s a great question! Per Dayton, a Seeker is a person who is a finder of hidden ways, and protectors of humanity against evil. They are able to travel through THERE to get anywhere they need to be in order to carry out their mission. But, they are also pawns in a much, much larger longer game that has pitted families against each other for power, wealth, status, and control of various Athame’s.

Quin and John have fallen and can’t get up. Petty way of saying that they have feelings for the other, but in reality, it doesn’t really matter after John goes all John Wick on his former trainers and friends, while leaving Quin and her mother injured. Quin and Shinobu go onto complete their training and take their oaths as Seekers. But, along the way, they learn the dark secret that has been kept from them since they were 8 years old. They each struggle with their own darkness and what they did to satisfy their mentor. This sets Quin, who loses 18 months of herself after nearly dying, against John and the Dreads in an effort to keep the Athame from falling into his hands.

John is not necessarily a bad person. He’s just been told by his family that his main reason for existing is to seek out vengeance against those who harmed his family, including his mother. Who can blame him actually? Braic is just a bastard, and I just don’t feel it necessary to sugar coat how awful he is as a parent, or a Seeker. I would have added Shinobu’s father Alistair to the villains list as well, but he kind of redeems himself when hell is closing in on his son, and Quin.

Most likable character, EXCEPT when he becomes a drug addict: Shinobu MacBain

Character who didn’t get a whole lot of scenes but should have: Mariko MacBain

Character with the most potential but needs to stop letting people walk all over her: Quin Kincaid

Most annoying villain(s): Tie between John Hart and Briac Kincaid. Pick one. You can’t go wrong.

Character that caused me to rail against them the most: Fiona Kincaid, mother, wife, drunkard, escort, holder of secrets we haven’t explored yet.

Most interesting character, but needs a bit of work: Middle Dread, aka Maud

SEEKER takes readers from Scotland to Hong Kong and ends with an action packed finale set in the skies above London. There are still so many questions to answer. Is Maud actually a friend, or does she have her own agenda & fate? Are the other Athame’s still in existence, or have they been destroyed? If John really wanted Quin’s help, why did he do such vile things in his pursuit of her help? Will Quin understand why she has the advantage over others, or will she succumb to John’s vengeful path?

This story is unique in the way that SEEKERuse an Athame (dagger) in combination with a lightning rod to travel to any specific set of coordinates they wish. I do like that Dayton doesn’t use a whole lot of angst when it comes to Quin’s choice of romance. Although I do loathe John, I think they were good together even if only for a moment. Obviously I have issues with Shinobu as well, but they’ve been tied to the hip since they were 8 years old. You can’t really dislike that idea.

I will be honest with you in saying that 2016 is a long way off, and thus I will probably need to re-read SEEKER before I decide on reading the sequel. I think one of the strange things about this story is the number of reviewers who have given up and moved on. Perhaps the writing is a bit strange, and the world doesn’t entirely make sense, and the characters definitely need a bit of growth from this book to the next, and Quin definitely needs to stop trusting people. But, I can’t pick up a book without finishing it. I just don’t see that happening any time soon.

**I received this book for free from (Delacorte Books for Young Readers) via (NetGalley) in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!! This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**

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Series 101 + Giveaway: SilverMoonSaga by Marah Woolf

SilverMoon Saga 1
Marah Woolf
YA Fantasy
February 22, 2014
“Even the very first time I saw you, I had the feeling that you wouldn’t be good for me.”
Not even Emma’s worst nightmares could have prepared her for the dramatic change that takes place in her life. After the sudden death of her mother, she has no choice but to go and live with her Uncle and his family in the sleepy town of Portree on the Scottish Isle of Skye.
The last thing she expects is to fall in love there. From the very first moment she meets Calum, his mysterious aura captivates her. He casts a spell on her, and even his seeming disinterest does little to change this. His contradictory behavior only adds to his allure. But before long this facade begins to crumble, and eventually even he gives in to his feelings. When he reveals his true identity to her one day, she flees from him. But it’s too late, for she has already falling head over heels…

‘Tis the season for mad craziness and I’m sorry I’ve no time to read Marah Woolf’s SilverMoonLight so as a consolation I asked her to tell us more about the saga. Y’all don’t mind a little teaser right?

SilverMoon Saga
“Even the very first time I saw you, I had the feeling that you wouldn’t be good for me.”

Not even Emma’s worst nightmares could have prepared her for the dramatic change that takes place in her life. After the sudden death of her mother, she has no choice but to leave Washington and to go and live with her Uncle and his family in a sleepy town named Portree.

The last thing she expects is to fall in love there. From the very first moment she meets Calum, his mysterious aura captivates her. He casts a spell on her, and even his seeming disinterest does little to change this. His contradictory behavior only adds to his allure. But before long this facade begins to crumble, and eventually even he gives in to his feelings.

When he reveals his true identity to her one day, she flees from him. But it’s too late, for she has already fallen head over heels…

A fantastical, mythical book with fascinating creatures that anyone would love to encounter. Immerse yourself in the story of Emma and Calum.

Great Scots!
When speaking of beautiful Scottish legends and myths, images of mysterious forests and misty mountains as well as rugged shores and gloomy castles are raised in people’s minds.

Against this background, not only fairies, elves, goblins, and Selkies gather around, but also mermaids, witches, magicians and all kind of other fable creatures can be found.

The best-known and for certain the most implausible legend has to be Loch Ness. Within the SilverMoonSaga I reworked the story of Loch Ness and its monster. It serves as an instrument which is used by the Shellycoats to protect their sacred spring. Tradition has it that their goddess created the Shellycoats by using this spring.

A completely different and rather unknown legend is the one called Fairy Flag. The flag is the most precious possession of the clan of the MacLeod. As long as this banner is possessed by them, the clan is under the protection of the fairies. Legend has it that the flag holds magic powers.

Scottish legends are particularly full of fairies and elves. Sometimes they are nice and helpful. At other times they can be quite vengeful and mean. My fairies live in Avallach because the return to their magical realm is blocked. However, we do not know what appears to be the truth or legend. Therefore, I added a new story to all these already existing myths. I have conjured up a new story from all these most diverse legends and dipped it in a silver moonlight.

The Players
Emma is the ordinary and reserved girl who has to move to Scotland to live with relatives she’s never met because her mother’s deceased. In her spare time she enjoys reading and painting. Her passion for painting nearly becomes fatal for her in SilverMoonLight. In addition, she loves to swim, but only in swimming pools. Emma repels public waters like the devil fears holy water. She suffers from aquaphobia – abnormal fear of water. That’s a legacy of her mother – at least this is what Emma thinks.

Shortly after her arrival in Portree on the Isle of Skye, Emma takes part in a rescue operation of stranded whales. There, she meets Calum for the first time. He’s the one – in defiance of common sense – accompanying the whales back to sea. Within an instant Emma succumbs to his fascinating appearance. But in the weeks to come Calum ignores her deliberately. He does so until the day Emma dares to go into a lake’s water for the first time in her life.

Evil Knievel 
My villain’s name is Elin. At first he is simply furious, but when he learns that Calum leads a forbidden relationship with Emma, Elin swears to destroy them both. He’s willing to use all possible means to do so. Throughout the story it becomes obvious that only his own death can save Emma, Calum and the magical world from falling apart.

The Books

This is a trilogy

Tweet it!
Because Emma and Calum defend their love against all resistances and would like to share their luck with you.

Best Christmas gift ever received
My husband has had a pendant, which is consisting of book pages, made for me. The book pages used belonged to the first Twilight book. The pendant is my lucky charm, now.

Worst gift you ever gave anybody
I don’t remember that, so I tell you about the worst one I ever got: I was 12 and it was a terrible sweater with a blue and black zebra-print.

Current read & how is it in one word
Küss mich Santa by Marina Schuster who is a German author. Magical

If you can spend Christmas in any part of the world where would it be and why in one word?
That has to be Scotland. I simply love that country because its people are so friendly and relaxed.

Holiday must-have dish
I adore cheese fondues with fruits. Sadly, it has way too many calories, so you can only eat it once a year. On the second day of Christmas there’ll be crispy duck served with delicious dumplings and home-made red cabbage. All of the family is together.


Bloggy Friend Review

Marah is wife, mum of three children and a writer. She studied history and politics and realised a great dream in 2011 with the publication of her first book. Her work on the SilverMoonSaga was completed at the end of 2012. The first volume, SilverMoonLight, was an award winner. The international rights for the first part of the saga have been acquired by the renowned publisher Michel Lafon. All three volumes of the SilverMoonSaga will be available in English translation by spring 2015.
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Steampunk Sundays: Of Metal and Wishes by Sarah Fine

Series: Of Metal and Wishes 1

Format: eBook
Release Date: August 5, 2014
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Source: Simon Pulse It
Recommended by: My Guilty Obsession Blog
Genre: YA Steampunk

There are whispers of a ghost in the slaughterhouse where sixteen-year-old Wen assists her father in his medical clinic—a ghost who grants wishes to those who need them most. When one of the Noor, men hired as cheap factory labor, humiliates Wen, she makes an impulsive wish of her own, and the Ghost grants it. Brutally.

Guilt-ridden, Wen befriends the Noor, including their outspoken leader, a young man named Melik. At the same time, she is lured by the mystery of the Ghost and learns he has been watching her … for a very long time.

As deadly accidents fuel tensions within the factory, Wen must confront her growing feelings for Melik, who is enraged at the sadistic factory bosses and the prejudice faced by his people at the hand of Wen’s, and her need to appease the Ghost, who is determined to protect her against any threat—real or imagined. She must decide whom she can trust, because as her heart is torn, the factory is exploding around her … and she might go down with it.

Missing out on OF METAL AND WISHES by Sarah Fine has been one of my regrets this year. Thank Goodness for Simon Teen’s Pulse It I had the chance to finally read this Phantom of the Opera inspired YA Asian Steampunk. In case you missed it, this was a free read last Friday as part of their 31 days of reading event and I was so excited to be given another chance to read it. The fates has spoken! I was up at 6am reading the darn thing for fear of not finishing it in 24 hours. Yup, cool but crazy motivator right? Well it worked and I’m very glad that this was worth my Friday. 
OF METAL AND WISHES has more of a setting than a “world” as the story happened inside the slaughterhouse and it didn’t really go outside of the building to give us a firm feel of the city Wen Guiren lives in. The Steampunk is barely there so it might appeal to non readers of this genre. From conversations between the characters and situations that happened, it reflects tension from several points stemming from office tyranny and politics, prejudice and discrimination between the classes, with the Noors being the lowest caste, male chauvinism, and bullying. The story is clearly centripetal to the working conditions in the slaughterhouse with Wen acting as a catalyst.

OF METAL AND WISHES is a very character driven story that is reminiscent of Phantom of the Opera though not as obsessive but just as deadly. And instead of a love triangle we have a deep friendship that developed between Wen and the Ghost and an emotionally intense relationship with the Noor, Melik. I’m hard to win over when it comes to YA relations and romance but I loved how SFine presented these relationships without sacrificing Wen’s integrity. Meaning she didn’t come off as an insipid character just because two males found her desirable. Wen is a very likable character and she NEVER annoyed me at any point, Melik was okay but it’s Ghost that really fascinated me.
The ending of OF METAL AND WISHES is probably one of the better endings I’ve read in a long time. I wouldn’t call it a cliffhanger because there’s some sort of resolution to the first act but it spurns the question What now?. Let’s just say the slate has been wiped clean and things can go either way at this point and if I think about it too much I’m sure I can work myself up to the point of nervous excitement because I want to know what’s going to happen next?!

#FBF: The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides

The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides
YA | April 1, 1993 | Farrar, Straus and Giroux
THE VIRGIN SUICIDES by Jeffrey Eugenides has been out for quite sometime and this is one of those book gem whose movie version I discovered first before learning of its literary counter part. I skipped the movie because although I love Sophia Coppola, I can’t stand Kirsten Dunst so I can’t say if the movie is as awesome as the book was. 
It was six years ago when I found a used copy of JEugenides’ iconic work and I immediately devoured the book right away. For those of you who are unfamiliar or belong to the younger set, THE VIRGIN SUICIDES is similar to John Green’s Looking for Alaska and Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why. It’s a dark coming of age story set in the suburbs of Grosse Point, Michigan back in the 70’s featuring the Lisbon sisters who all committed suicide for unknown reasons. The story is told from the POV of one of the sister’s admirers or neighbors who remained anonymous but was close enough to the Lisbons to witness the tragedy first hand.
THE VIRGIN SUICIDES is one of those stories that stayed with me for days and left me shaken, stirred, and on the rocks for a while. Like the boys the Lisbons left behind, I too searched the text and rummaged through their recollections as they reminisce their time with the sisters, trying to figure out WHY they killed themselves. Alas the answers remained elusive and like them all I ended up with are speculations but nothing too definitive. Were the parents too strict? Did the girls have extreme depression? Were they being abused behind closed doors? 

JEginides wrote a thought provoking and emotionally stirring story that can be considered a classic. The writing style is affecting and the voice of the storyteller haunting in its emphatic simplicity. In hindsight, there’s nothing truly special about the Lisbon girls aside from their beauty and the air of forbiddenness they have about them. The allure of the story lie on the guesswork to explain the successive suicides that happened and the big unknown that remains. THE VIRGIN SUICIDES might have been published over 20 years ago but I believe the story is far from outdated and I strongly recommend fans of John Green and Jay Asher to read this, I think you’ll find it worth your time.

Steampunk Sundays: Ticker by Lisa Mantchev

Series: Stand-alone (?)

Format: eGalley
Release Date: December 1, 2014
Publisher: Skyscape
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Genre: YA Steampunk

A girl with a clockwork heart must make every second count.

When Penny Farthing nearly dies, brilliant surgeon Calvin Warwick manages to implant a brass “Ticker” in her chest, transforming her into the first of the Augmented. But soon it’s discovered that Warwick killed dozens of people as he strove to perfect another improved Ticker for Penny, and he’s put on trial for mass murder.

On the last day of Warwick’s trial, the Farthings’ factory is bombed, Penny’s parents disappear, and Penny and her brother, Nic, receive a ransom note demanding all of their Augmentation research if they want to see their parents again. Is someone trying to destroy the Farthings…or is the motive more sinister?

Desperate to reunite their family and rescue their research, Penny and her brother recruit fiery baker Violet Nesselrode, gentleman-about-town Sebastian Stirling, and Marcus Kingsley, a young army general who has his own reasons for wanting to lift the veil between this world and the next. Wagers are placed, friends are lost, romance stages an ambush, and time is running out for the girl with the clockwork heart.

The cover, the blurb, and the fact that it’s Steampunk are the reasons why TICKER by Lisa Mantchev was an insta-click for me. A clockwork heart and mad scientists?! I must read it even if it’s YA. TICKER is a quick and fast-paced read, the chase non-stop and the conflict is more of a moral one than a deep rooted or consequential altercation. I love gray area skirmishes, Warwick is Penelope Farthing’s surgeon if you must, a family friend and her older sister’s, Dimitria, fiance who promised he’ll do anything to save Penny before she died. I mean how can you possibly condemn a man completely when he’s the reason why you’re breathing? Does the end justify the means? Even if Warwick did some despicable things, I found myself sympathizing with his mad and desperate behavior. 
But for all those great points I didn’t love TICKER for two reasons: (1) the pace was too fast and (2) its lack of character development. 
Let me address the first one, the pace. LMantchev, you might be scratching your head upon reading this wondering WTH is wrong and how readers are so hard to please! Allow me to share my humble opinion on this matter.
From the get-go there’s so much going on, an explosion and Penny discovering her parents have been abducted and Warwick escaped not to mention the reactive events stemming from this. Then it was a mad dash to rescue her parents and apprehend Warwick. I want my fantasy reads to be fast but not too quick where it’s all a blur. There wasn’t much time to really breathe and acclimate to the world because the world and it’s overflowing gadgets and backstory were interspersed with the mission. It’s almost like texting while driving, it’s hard to give your full attention to the road when your phone is chirping like a maniac. 
Which brings me to point #2. Because of the super fast turn of events the character development was static. Penny and the rest of the characters were thrown into the situation, there was no calm before the storm, no point to compare and see what these events did to Penny and her friends. Has she always been this daring and curious or has she been frail and vulnerable before this catastrophe happened? And what about her relationship with her circle, is Violet her BFF or an acquaintance? Has there been underlying tension between her and her twin brother, Nic before this? And what was her relationship with her parents like growing up? These were brushed up on and not solidly established so we can only take the situation for granted with zero investment on the characters.
Now I’m not sure if TICKER is part of a series, it does look feel like it from the story, Goodreads don’t indicate it and LManchev’s book tab on her website doesn’t say anything either. I sure hope that this won’t be the last, the world is fantastic and LManchev’s imagination is very creative and I wouldn’t mind reading more of it. Not just that, TICKER is getting lukewarm reviews so far so a next book would be a good move to “redeem” some of it’s shortcomings and a chance to hopefully win readers over. 

A Shot of YA: Princess of Thorns by Stacey Jay

Series: Stand-alone

Format: eGalley
Release Date: December 9, 2014
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Genre: YA Fantasy

Game of Thrones meets the Grimm’s fairy tales in this twisted, fast-paced romantic fantasy-adventure about Sleeping Beauty’s daughter, a warrior princess who must fight to reclaim her throne.

Though she looks like a mere mortal, Princess Aurora is a fairy blessed with enhanced strength, bravery, and mercy yet cursed to destroy the free will of any male who kisses her. Disguised as a boy, she enlists the help of the handsome but also cursed Prince Niklaas to fight legions of evil and free her brother from the ogre queen who stole Aurora’s throne ten years ago.

Will Aurora triumph over evil and reach her brother before it’s too late? Can Aurora and Niklaas break the curses that will otherwise forever keep them from finding their one true love?

PRINCESS OF THORNS by Stacey Jay is a deconstructed version of Sleeping Beauty versus a retelling. Sleeping Beauty is Aurora’s mother who’s Prince wasn’t quite so charming. Aurora’s father not only woke up Sleeping Beauty 20 years too early, which actually cursed her instead of bless, said Prince is also married to a barren Ogre Queen! For Aurora’s entire life and safety, she’s lived in the shadows together with her mother and brother until her father’s death which put her in mortal danger. As the rightful heir, the Queen will not allow Aurora’s ascension to her throne, not only that, there is an Ogre prophecy which entails that Aurora and her brother must be sacrificed for the Queen’s race to live on. 
Let me address that blurb a little bit, IMHO it’s a little inflated, although PRINCESS OF THORNS is good it’s more of a dark fairytale fantasy than an epic one. Don’t expect a plot that’s as complex and fantastical as Game of Thrones, there’s a shortlist of players and the plot is focal to Aurora. We get alternating POV’s from the Queen and Niklaas but even their chapters are still in relation to Aurora. It’s more like the movie Snow White plot-wise, a little older than the Disney version and a few shades lighter than the original Grimm tale. My take on this is it’s YA that leans more to the 16 and younger set than MYA in terms of tone.
Obviously I enjoyed PRINCESS OF THORNS, it has that enemies to friends to lovers trope and I found Aurora pretending to be a boy and shooting the shit with Niklaas entertaining until the latter found out “Ror” is The Princess Aurora he’s planning to court and who’s heart he plans to win. Awkward! Speaking of Niklaas, he has his own curse to bear. When he turns 18 he’ll turn into a swan, thanks to his greedy father, to prevent him from taking the throne. He had 10 brothers who joined the aviary club previously. I liked this backstory as well and I wish there’s another book that explores this part of the story. Now that Niklaas found his HEA with Aurora sans the feathers, maybe they can find a way to restore his brothers or turn them into wereswans or something. Bottom line is I wouldn’t mind another book off this world.
PRINCESS OF THORNS isn’t a bad gateway novel for me to sample SJay. I’m not sure about her previous fantasy novels but this one has that juvenile fiction feel to it, not something I would crave but it was a good break from “the usual”, if you know what I mean. The plot might have lacked in complexities but I think its simplistic approach worked and made it easy to read. Also alternating POV’s is tricky as it tend to hinder the development of the book but SJay managed to do it well in this one. And with Christmas around the corner, I think this could make for a cool gift for a daughter, niece, or friend who likes YA.

Loved It: Boys Like You by Juliana Stone

Series: Stand-alone

Format: Hardback
Release Date: May 6, 2014
Publisher: Sourecebooks Fire
Source: Publisher
Genre: Contemporary YA

If I hadn’t fallen asleep.
If I hadn’t gotten behind the wheel.
If I hadn’t made a mistake.

For Monroe Blackwell, one small mistake has torn her family apart–leaving her empty and broken. There’s a hole in her heart that nothing can fill. That no one can fill. And a summer in Louisiana with her grandma isn’t going to change that…

Nathan Everets knows heartache firsthand when a car accident leaves his best friend in a coma. And it’s all his fault. He should be the one lying in the hospital. The one who will never play guitar again. He doesn’t deserve forgiveness, and a court-appointed job at the Blackwell B&B isn’t going to change that…

There’s No Going Back

Captivating and hopeful, this achingly poignant novel brings together two lost souls struggling with grief and guilt–looking for acceptance, so they can find forgiveness.

And the past can’t be undone, but we can surely do our best to move forward and learn from our mistakes. -Grandma Blackwell

Like I was coming apart. Like if I didn’t hold Monroe as close to me as I could, I would explode. -Nathan

I love Juliana Stone, she has a way of writing contemporary romance that really works for me. BOYS LIKE YOU is her first young adult contemporary novel and I’ve been wanting to read this since I featured it last May. I have to be honest though, I expected this one to be heavy on drama based on the blurb plus as angsty reads is the current trend, I thought JStone wanted a piece of the pie and jumped on the wagon as well. Happy to report that despite the tragic backstories, BOYS LIKE YOU didn’t wallow on the sadness, rather it focused on the moving on part which I prefer. 
BOYS LIKE YOU is set in a small Louisiana town where everyone knows everybody. Nathan Everets is the son of one of a prominent family, popular kid in school, handsome, a charmer, typical teenager but a good guy overall. Until one night when he made a bad decision which almost took the life of his best friend, Trevor. Since then, Nathan has been punishing himself as guilt eats him up all the while enduring the anger of Trevor’s family and the judgment of some. He’s lost and doesn’t know what to do to amend his near fatal error or how to move on from it. 
Monroe Blackwell has a similar backstory. She is vacationing with her grandmother after her brother’s death which led to Monroe almost having a break down not to mention abusing prescription pills. Being with her grandmother at this time felt like a much needed change of scenery as things are getting too hard for Monroe to process straining her relationship with her parents, further alienating herself. 
When their worlds collide it’s obvious there will be some sort of bond that will be formed because of the commonalities that they have. It’s kinda cute though because it’s Monroe’s grandmother, whom I love to bits, that played matchmaker and though at first they were just indulging her, Monroe and Nathan were eventually drawn towards each other and each helped the other move on from that dark time in their lives. BOYS LIKE YOU is a poignant story that’s more about self forgiveness than angsty punishment. I especially love the realizations Monroe and Nathan had throughout this part of their lives and I must admit, there were scenes that made me tear up because of how touching it was. The character development was subtle but powerful and though I’m a skeptic when it comes of pairing up two broken people, somehow these two made it work.
I believe there’s a sequel coming out next year and it features Trevor, Nathan’s best friend, whom I’ve heard great things about, and this girl Everly. Naturally I’m looking forward to reading the next one because I’m sure that it’ll be another great heartfelt read.