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Unbreak My Heart
Unbreak My Heart
by Melissa Walker
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $15.29
60 used & new from $0.01

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great summer read, September 6, 2012
This review is from: Unbreak My Heart (Hardcover)
This book had a lot of buzz around it, and the night that I picked it up to read, it seemed like it would be the right mix of poignant and sweet. Unbreak My Heart explores different sides of heartbreak and the pain that any loss can cause, but as the title suggests, it also shows healing.

Clementine Williams' sophomore year was fine...until people found out that she had fallen for her best friend Amanda's boyfriend. Because of that, Clem was shunned by her friends and looking forward to a summer with no plans, until her parents tell her that they will be sailing along the river. Clem is looking forward to escaping into her room with her music, but her family's first stop on the journey changes that. She meets a boy her age, James, in a store, and soon they are running into each other quite frequently. But Clem knows she isn't a good person - after all, her lifelong friends still won't talk to her. Neither her parents nor her little sister Olive can cheer her up. But could James be just the medicine that her heart needs?

Unbreak My Heart is told with a dual narrative, alternating pieces of Clem's sophomore year with the events of the summer on the river. I loved that the story unfolded gradually and that we still learned more about Clem as the book went on. I also enjoyed getting to know her family. Her parents were involved and caring, and her little sister Olive was adorable - just like what I always imagined a little sister would be like. Then there was James. I have to admit that I am a sucker for tortured artists - and with James being an incredible artist who was hiding secrets, I found him incredibly swoon-worthy. Their relationship felt real and was developed over time, and it was by no means issue-free. I appreciated how Clem gradually realized what was really bothering her and started learning how to be okay with the way thing were. And as for Ethan...even though he seemed perfect at first, he is also a great example of how the perfect person isn't always perfect for you.

Even though this book was full of emotion and definitely worth the read, it wasn't as moving as I was expecting. Perhaps it was a case of my expectations being too high, or perhaps it was because I had issues with some of the characters. Amanda disappointed me, and to be honest, I wish that Clem would have stood up for herself better. Even so, the story was sweet, and I enjoyed reading about the summer on the river.

Whether you're looking for something about first love or recovery from first crushes, Unbreak My Heart is a great summer read. Now that I've read this, I will definitely have to read Melissa Walker's Small Town Sinners and any other books that she might write!

by Kathleen Peacock
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $14.55
97 used & new from $0.87

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not to be missed, September 6, 2012
This review is from: Hemlock (Hardcover)
Really 4.5 stars

Sometimes you start reading a book and you know from the first five pages that it's going to be great. Hemlock was one of those books, and I was certainly not disappointed.

Mac lost her best friend Amy to a werewolf attack. Months later, the white werewolf who killed Amy still hasn't been found, and Mac is continually haunted by Amy in her dreams. Then, one day, the werewolf attacks start again, and Trackers - aka werewolf hunters - arrive in Hemlock to search for the killer. However, Mac would rather not have the Trackers in town. They seem to be causing problems, not to mention the fact that Mac's friend Jason is spending more and more time with them. Mac decides to take on the search for Amy's killer herself. But once she starts gathering information, she finds out that she might be in over her head, dealing with secrets she never imagined and situations she might not be able to escape. In a town full of secrets, who can Mac trust?

One of the things I love about YA is how books so easily cross genres. Hemlock blends elements of paranormal and mystery stories, bringing a fresh twist to werewolves. In Hemlock, everyone in the US knows about werewolves - or those that suffer from Lupine Syndrome - and they all hope to avoid werewolf attacks that come with the threat of being changed or killed. Beyond those things, there is still so much to love about Hemlock. One of my favorite things about Mac was her dedication to her friends. She was determined to help all of them, even those who weren't her "best" friends. I also really enjoyed the way Mac's dreams with Amy were incorporated; it provided a great glimpse into Mac's psyche and made their relationship that much more real. Then there was Mac's best guy friend, Kyle. Who could help but fall for him? And even though at first it seems like there's a hint of a love triangle, in reality things are much more complicated.

The story of Hemlock is so engrossing that I forgot everything else while reading. I was swept away by the mystery as well as the excellent writing, and even though I was able to figure out some of the secrets, there were still unexpected surprises. The synopsis definitely doesn't lie when it promises "provocative questions about prejudice, trust, lies, and love."

Hemlock is a fabulous debut novel that is not to be missed. Everything about this book left me wanting more, and I cannot wait to read the next installment of the trilogy!

Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy (Gallagher Girls)
Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy (Gallagher Girls)
by Ally Carter
Edition: Paperback
Price: $8.09
307 used & new from $0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars A quick, fun read, September 6, 2012
The first Gallagher Girls book surprised me - in a good way. Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy brought me back to the world of intrigue, covert operations, and the group of girls that would be great friends.

Cammie and her friends are back for another semester at Gallagher Academy, and true to form there is never a dull moment at school. Cammie, Bex, Liz, and Macey quickly stumble across a secret Cammie's mom and Mr. Solomon are hiding. In true spy fashion, a little detective work reveals that Gallagher Academy will be playing host to several students from another school - an all-boys school. And one of these students seems to have an interest in Cammie. After her previous experience with boys, Cammie is determined to keep her distance, but at a boarding school that is easier said than done. As if the addition of boys isn't enough for Cammie and her friends to deal with, there seems to be a much more sinister plot that could undermine the foundation of the Gallagher Academy. Can Cammie and her friends save the day?

It was so much fun to be back in the world of spies with Cammie and her friends. While the first Gallagher Girls book focused on life outside the school (or Cammie's attempt at having one), this book was dedicated to life inside the school. The classes were more intense and the schemes were more daring when there were being carried out under the noses of trained spies. It is no surprise that there are secrets, like Blackthorne, and the addition of the boys made this book even more fun than the last. No review would be complete without mentioning one boy in particular - Zach. It was hard to get a read on him sometimes, but after all, he is a spy. His interactions with Cammie were by turns sweet and maddening, but I definitely hope that we see more of him in the future. I don't want to say much more than this and give anything away because...well...where's the fun in that? Being a spy is all about secrets...

All of the things that I admired in the first book, like the realness of the world and the way the girls came to life, held just as true in this book. Once again I loved the classes and all of the high-tech gadgetry, and even Mr. Solomon is starting to grow on me. Once again this proved to be a quick, fun read and the perfect escape for a summer day.

The beauty of starting a series so late is that I don't have long waits in between every book. I am looking forward to reading Don't Judge a Girl By Her Cover!

This Is Not a Test
This Is Not a Test
by Courtney Summers
Edition: Paperback
Price: $8.90
74 used & new from $2.71

4.0 out of 5 stars A new side to the zombie apocalypse, September 6, 2012
This review is from: This Is Not a Test (Paperback)
With as many jokes as there are about the zombie apocalypse, I expected this book to be different. Although there is some zombie action, there is much more depth to the story. This Is Not a Test is a story of how to find meaning in life even when there doesn't seem to be any.

Sloane Price is counting the days until she turns eighteen - or she used to. Since her sister Lily ran away from home, Sloane doesn't see much of a point to anything. What she doesn't know is that the world is coming to an end anyway. Zombies have taken over, and they are eager for blood and converts. Sloane takes refuge in Cortege High School with five other students, and together they try to wait out the zombie attacks behind barricaded doors. As the days pass, the barricades hold, but their own inner walls start to crumble. Unlikely relationships are forged, unexpected visitors arrive, and secrets come to light. Sloane knows how easy it would be to die and leave everything behind. After all, what else does she have to live for?

This Is Not a Test is as dark as you might expect a book about the end of the world to be, eploring reasons to stay alive when you've lost everything and definitely focuses on heavy themes. Rather than the action that I thought this book would have - though it certainly does have some - this book shows the aftermath of the zombie attack, focusing on the characters, and not just Sloane. Even still, my heart broke for her and all that she had been through. It was easy to understand her mindset but also to hope that things would change for her. The other students had their own stories just as Sloane did. I loved the bond between Grace and Trace, and Grace proved over and over how sweet she was. She is someone I would want as a friend. Rhys was also sweet in his own way. In the midst of suspicion, anger, and hurt, the bond formed between him and Sloane was a light in the darkness.

As with any compelling book, there have to be surprises, and this story was no exception. There were definitely things that I was not expecting, from the story itself and from characters like Harrison. Despite that, though, the book did seem to drag at times - after all, there is only so much you can do when you're trapped inside a school. However, I do wonder if there will be a sequel; the story and the ending definitely left me wanting more.

This Is Not a Test turned out to be so much more than what I was expecting. Despite the sorrow and sadness that pervades the novel, there are beautiful moments of hope and life. I will look forward to reading more from Courtney Summers!

Shadow and Bone (Grisha Trilogy)
Shadow and Bone (Grisha Trilogy)
by Leigh Bardugo
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $11.54
77 used & new from $3.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fantastic debut novel, September 6, 2012
Really 4.5 stars

Every once in a while I read a book and have to wait for days to write the review because the book has left me speechless. Shadow and Bone is one of those books. So much happens in it that I am still not completely sure what to say, but I'm going to give it a try.

Alina Starkov is a cartographer for the army, traveling with her regiment to cross the Shadow Fold, a barrier separating Ravka. When she can, she spends time with Mal, a tracker for the army and a lifelong friend from the orphanage where she grew up. When the time comes for the army to cross the Fold, they are attacked by volcra, winged monsters who feast on humans. One attacks Mal, triggering a long-dormant power in Alina...a power which does not escape the notice of anyone. Soon Alina is brought before The Darkling, the head of all the magical beings in Ravka, and told that she is the country's hope for salvation. Alina finds herself in a new life in the Little Palace, being trained to harness her power and growing closer to the mysterious Darkling. But in a warring country filled with magic, secrets are everywhere...

I haven't read high fantasy in a long time, and I am so glad that I chose Shadow and Bone to get back into the genre. I loved everything about this world. From the well thought-out concepts and magic to the Russian influences, I felt like I was truly in another country with Alina and Mal. Beyond that, this book took me through so many emotions and provided so many unexpected twists. I think Leigh Bardugo must be a master manipulator with the journey that she took us on in this book. My heart broke for Alina when she believed that Mal had deserted her, but I was so proud of her when she finally realized her own strength. And the Darkling...oh, the Darkling. What a character he is. He is very well developed, and I am curious to see how he plays into the next books.

There is so, so much more that I want to say about this book, but I don't want to give anything away. This is one book that you have to read for yourself and allow yourself to get lost in the magic of the world. There is so much happening that you will find yourself debating whether you should race ahead to see what happens next or savor the story as it unfolds. Finally, I will say that I appreciated that this book was wrapped up in a way, but I am still can't wait to see what comes next for Alina.

In Shadow and Bone, Leigh Bardugo has crafted a fantastic debut novel. I am eager for more of this world, more of these characters, more of this trilogy!

Goddess Interrupted
Goddess Interrupted
by Aimée Carter
Edition: Paperback
Price: $8.90
88 used & new from $0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't put it down, September 6, 2012
This review is from: Goddess Interrupted (Paperback)
Some sophomore novels have a tendency to fall flat after the first book in the series, but that is not the case with Goddess Interrupted. If anything, this novel is even better than the first, complete with more action, more insight into the characters, and an engrossing story.

Goddess Interrupted begins six months after The Goddess Test. Kate has been tested, but it seems that the tests were nothing compared to what is waiting for her now. Her homecoming is not what she expected. Henry seems less than enthusiastic to see her again, and then her coronation is interrupted by none other than the King of the Titans. After he abducts Henry, Kate is determined to save him. With the help of James and Ava, she begins a journey through the Underworld to find Henry. To help her - or perhaps haunt her - she is also having visions of Henry and his imprisonment, each one only pushing her to search harder. But with her life in danger and no concrete plan of how to save Henry, Kate has to turn to the one person she never wanted to see: Persephone. But Persephone's presence will do more than help Kate on her quest; it will send Kate on a quest for Henry's heart.

Having recently read The Goddess Test, I was eager to dive into this book and see what else was in store for Kate. Now that I knew the characters and secrets from the first book, I found that I could really invest in them and in the world Aimee Carter created. Not only does this book have more action than The Goddess Test, but also it has so much more emotion. The King of the Titans is certainly a force to be reckoned with, and his power is pervasive throughout the novel. The battles Kate and the others face with him are mental as well as physical, making for an exciting read. In addition to this, the relationship between Kate and Henry is truly put to the test. I have to admit that Henry frustrated me to no end for most of the novel, and my heart broke for Kate. Henry's dark, brooding nature was intriguing in the first book, but now it was almost off-putting. Kate's emotions throughout this were honest and real, and I suffered along with her.

In addition to the King of the Titans, the other new character we spend a lot of time with is Persephone. I had mixed feelings about her, but by the end of the book I really came to like her. Speaking of the ending...I think Aimee Carter must enjoy being evil. I can't believe there is another year to wait after that last page! Kate and all of the gods are preparing for an epic battle, and I am eager to see how it plays out.

Goddess Interrupted was everything I could have wanted in a sequel and more. From start to finish I couldn't put the book down. I am looking forward to reading The Goddess Legacy, a collection of five novellas about the gods, and The Goddess Inheritance!

Until I Die (Revenants)
Until I Die (Revenants)
by Amy Plum
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $14.04
74 used & new from $0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars A dazzling tale, September 4, 2012
Amy Plum's first novel, Die for Me, swept me away to the streets of Paris for beautiful romance, and Until I Die did exactly the same thing. After anticipating this book for a year, it was wonderful to be back in the City of Love with Kate, Vincent, and the other revenants.

Kate and Vincent have already faced obstacles to being together, but it seems that the trials aren't over. As a revenant, Vincent has the urge to die to save others, but Kate cannot bear the thought of watching him die repeatedly. Because of this, both Kate and Vincent are searching for ways that they can be together without Vincent denying his nature or Kate reliving her nightmares. Yet even while they are on this quest, they still face threats from numa. Suddenly it seems that the revenants may be in more trouble than they ever imagined. With guidance from two new revenants, Kate must work quickly if she will have any hope of helping the revenants she now calls family.

My favorite things from Die for Me were the romance and the setting, and I loved both of these in this book as well. Everything about Paris was once again incredibly vivid, bringing the city to life, and Vincent was as swoon-worthy as before. I also loved all of the art, cinema, and history references sprinkled throughout the book. Aside from the culture, however, there was a fast pace with constant action, not to mention the characters we already know and love. Jules and Ambrose were just as funny and good-hearted as always, and we learn more about John Baptiste and Gaspard. In addition, there are two new revenants introduced here, Violette and Arthur. Violette became a good friend to Kate, and it was nice to see Kate have someone other than her sister to confide in. Until I Die has even more mystery and intrigue than the previous book, and it made for a very compelling story - during the last 100 pages especially it was impossible to put the book down.

As for Vincent and Kate's relationship, I appreciated that it wasn't all sunshine and roses. Even though there was no love triangle introduced (thank goodness!), they still had troubles and issues to work through. And after everything that happened in this book - especially the ending - I cannot wait to see what happens in the final installment of the trilogy.

Once again Amy Plum has crafted a dazzling tale complete with everything you could want in a paranormal romance book. I will be impatiently awaiting the third book, If I Should Die!

All These Lives
All These Lives
by Sarah Wylie
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $13.35
74 used & new from $0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars A worthwhile read, September 4, 2012
This review is from: All These Lives (Hardcover)
Really 3.5 stars

Confession time: I have a soft spot for books with beautiful covers and stories that tug on your heartstrings. Because of that, I was really looking forward to reading All These Lives. Although this book didn't turn out to be exactly what I was expecting, it certainly brought a fresh voice to the YA market as well as a worthwhile story.

Jena has cancer, and she doesn't seem to be getting any better. Dani, her twin sister, would give anything to help her, but Dani isn't a match to donate bone marrow for the transplant Jena needs. Instead, Dani looks for other ways to help her sister. Her mother has always said that they have nine lives, and Dani hopes that maybe she can transfer some of them to her sister. As her family tries to cope with their reality, Dani begins taking big risks, trying her best to release some of her lives into the universe. However, with all of the tension of living life constantly waiting for good news, something has to give. And Dani might find that she gives up one life too many...

All These Lives certainly has an interesting premise - could some people really have nine lives or are they just extraordinarily lucky? Dani has walked away from situations that other people wouldn't have, but how far does that grace extend? This book tests that in an interesting way. It has a different view on how cancer affects people. The family struggled to be normal, but instead they were only a hairsbreadth away from dysfunction. Despite that, there were moments where they pulled together and their relationships, especially between Dani and Jena, shone through. Dani was quite a dynamic character; she had a unique, fresh voice that certainly made its impact. I enjoyed her snark and her good-natured teasing of Jack. At the same time, however, she was occasionally difficult and appeared more callous than sympathetic. By the end of the book, however, the depth of her emotion and her love for her sister shone through and gave the book a very powerful ending.

However, this book did leave me wanting more. While I appreciated that romance didn't take over the story, it seemed as though the possibility was there but left unexplored for the most part. I also would have loved to have seen more of the relationship between Dani and Jena. The cancer may have been secondary to Dani's personal journey, but she seemed so alone for most of the story. It would have been nice to see her have a better support system. All of that being said, Dani does grow a great deal throughout the course of the story, and her eventual realization was a good one.

All These Lives is a moving story about making the most out of life. I'll be curious to see what Sarah Wylie writes next!

The Goddess Test
The Goddess Test
by Aimée Carter
Edition: Paperback
Price: $8.99
127 used & new from $0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars Fresh twist to classic mythology, September 4, 2012
This review is from: The Goddess Test (Paperback)
Really 3.5 stars

I've had The Goddess Test for a while, but I only recently read it. I'm so glad I did! I really like mythology, and this book brings Greek myths to life in an inventive new way.

For years, Kate's life has revolved around caring for her mother, who is dying of cancer. It's always been the two of them against the world, and Kate is dreading the time when her mother passes away. Her mother's last request is to move back to Eden, the town where she grew up, and so Kate bids goodbye to New York City and goes to Michigan with her mother. In the process of trying to make new friends, however, she meets Henry instead. After he does her an impossible favor, he tells her that in exchange she will need to come with him on the autumnal equinox to the Underworld. It seems that Henry - or Hades - has plans for Kate, plans that include making her his future queen. But for her to become queen, Kate will have to pass seven tests. Seven tests that have killed eleven other girls... Can Kate leave the world behind and to join Henry, even if it means saving her mother. And more importantly, if she does...can she pass?

At first glance, it might seem like The Goddess Test is a simple retelling of the Hades and Persephone myth, but it is really so much more than that. Though the myth is incorporated, it is only a basis for the story, not the story in itself, and Kate is not the long-lost reincarnation of Persephone. Instead, this is a story about love, sacrifice, and courage. I loved that Kate didn't simply accept Henry's story about being Hades. She was not ready to run off with him to the Underworld just because of his good looks. She questioned him, wanted proof, and even throughout their time together she continued to challenge him and push him. Kate was a strong character who would do anything to protect those she loved she loved, including risking her life to save her mother. In addition, I really appreciated that even though there was attraction between Henry and Kate, there was no insta-love. They did talk, though admittedly Henry was rather quiet sometimes, and over time they built their relationship. Because of this, and because of Henry himself, I found myself being drawn to him just as Kate was.

That being said, I wanted to know Henry better than I did. Eventually his secrecy ceased being intriguing and began to be frustrating. There were lulls in the plot at times and the tests were not quite what I was expecting. However, there were just enough twists in this novel (though some were fairly easy to guess) to continue to keep me interested. And even though the ending tied up many things, I am curious to see what will happen in the next book of this trilogy.

The Goddess Test brings a fresh twist to classic mythology, drawing you in and keeping you turning the pages. I will look forward to Goddess Interrupted!

Second Chance Summer
Second Chance Summer
by Morgan Matson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $14.49
66 used & new from $2.14

5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful book, September 4, 2012
This review is from: Second Chance Summer (Hardcover)
I haven't read Morgan Matson's first book, Amy and Roger's Epic Detour, but after reading Second Chance Summer I know that I need to move that book up on my to-read list. Second Chance Summer is, in a word, beautiful.

For the past several years, Taylor has spent her summers away from home, and she thought this one would be no exception. But when her dad gets the news that he has stage four pancreatic cancer, his one request is that the family spend their last summer together at their lakehouse in the Pocono Mountains. Reluctantly Taylor and her siblings make the trip along with her parents, but Taylor dreads this summer even more than her siblings. While Gelsey will only miss ballet classes and Warren can study anywhere, Taylor has a lot of history at the lake, history that she would rather not relive. However, the past always has a way of catching up with you, especially in a small town. Taylor has to confront her old friends, which also means confronting her own faults. At the same time, she realizes she is only now beginning to know her father, and their time is running out. Soon Taylor learns that if you're lucky enough to have a second chance, you have to make the most of every moment...

Reading books in which the outcome is easily surmised can sometimes be hard, disappointing, or even boring. Second Chance Summer was none of those things. In fact, this book, with its unassuming yet somehow still profound writing, suspended time, and while I was reading it, I forgot about everything else. I loved the setting of Lake Phoenix - it was the perfect atmosphere for this story (and also made me want to go to the mountains). Along with the setting, the characters truly came to life. I felt like I knew them all, from Gelsey's passion for dance to Warren's penchant for reciting facts to Taylor's dad's puns. Taylor herself was quite real and relatable - even though she was not always able to express her emotions, I was always able to feel them. Through flashbacks scattered in the novel we learn what happened between Taylor, her former best friend Lucy, and her first boyfriend Henry. Even though these three were young at the time, the story speaks to the power and depth of childhood friendships and first loves.

So many emotions and relationships were portrayed in this novel. We saw joy and sorrow, tears and laughter, aspects of parent-child and sibling relationships, friends, and even romance. Because of that, this book is the total package. In addition, Taylor's emotional journey gives a great message of courage and strength. I loved who she became by the end of the novel. This story really tugged on my heartstrings and had me tearing up in a few places. The story might have been hard to read sometimes, but it is one of the best books I have read so far this year.

I said this earlier and I will say it again: Second Chance Summer is beautiful and a book that I know will stay with me a long time. I am eager to see what Morgan Matson writes next!

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