Book Review: Between the Lines by Jodi Picoult & Samantha Van Leer


What if there was a character who wanted to escape the pages of his book? How far would he go to live among readers?

Between the Lines tells the story of Prince Oliver, who wants to do just that. He’s lived in a book for as long as he can remember, and doesn’t see magic in it anymore. He wants something new and exciting, because his life has been programmed to always follow the words of the book.

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Oliver has several reasons for his restlessness, including:

  • Boredom—he is tired of finding himself on Page 1 each time a Reader opens the book.
  • He does not care for the love interest, Seraphima, but has to pretend in scenes where they kiss.
  • It irritates him, seeing how content his friends have become. They don’t wonder about the outside world.

But he never actually thought it possible to leave the book. It seemed pointless to even try. Then a new Reader becomes hooked on Oliver’s story.

When Delilah finds the book in her school library, the story becomes a refuge from the complications in her life. Oliver falls for Delilah so deeply, he gets her to notice him! Then he begs for help escaping the book, and they start experimenting.

Is it possible to change a story once it’s put in ink? Can a character’s will be strong enough to outsmart the book?

This is a charming story because of the questions it makes you ask. How many times have you wished a character could hang out with you? How many times have you wanted to live among the pages with them?

Between the Lines captures the wonder of good story, the pull which keeps us turning pages.

It may be impossible for characters to leap off the page, but this story gives us a comforting thought: If they had the choice to join us, some would without thinking it twice. Some would fight to live with us, just as we long to be near them.

Between the Lines pulls us into a realm where ink isn’t a barrier. In this realm, there is hope that one day readers and characters could meet.

I recommend this book to fans of faery tales and romance—but really, it’s great for any reader who’s fallen in love with fictional characters. Oliver’s story will give you much to think about, and it will make you smile.

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Book Review: Unrivaled by Alyson Noel


Success can be a vicious game. Unrivaled by Alyson Noel follows three young people participating in a competition to best promote the hottest new clubs in downtown LA. They all hope to win best promoter and use their victories to pursue other ambitions.

None of them could foresee how fiery the race would become.

Aster, Tommy, and Layla are not the only competitors, but they’re clearly putting the most effort. This whole book follows their often desperate attempts to sit well with the boss, Ira Redman. Ira owns the nightclubs, and he’s going to determine who wins this competition…but since it’s unclear what his standards are, the participants pull strategies of near Hunger Games-level riskiness.26116460

Luring celebrities in is an obvious shortcut; by the midpoint, they’re circling like flies around Madison Brooks, impeccable actress and America’s sweetheart. (I kept thinking Taylor Swift.) Since Madison is almost impossible to come by, their second-best choice is her also-famous boyfriend, Ryan Hawthorne. Through him, they each hope to reach her.

But the quest for Madison’s attention soon becomes a dramatic search—because she disappears. Aster, Tommy, and Layla all wind up as suspects.

This all started because they wanted success, money to make their marks in the world.

LA was a town of actors and storytellers, populated by those more comfortable playing an imaginary role than being themselves, and the prize always went to the one who faked it best.

This is not a genre I typically read. I was sent a copy to review, and found myself hooked by writing that pulled me along with the characters. Some of the quotes were truly beautiful, others intense—there’s enough cussing to make scenes properly intense. All the characters, even Madison and Ryan, were sketched perfectly; they felt like real people.

Having been in LA, it was nice to read descriptions of streets; I pictured myself strolling the Walk of Fame, could almost smell big city air. It was like stepping through a window back into California, a place where you never know what you’ll find around the corner.

The character Aster is my only criticism. Most of her choices were too childish, like she was trying to fit into a grown woman’s shoes. Then again, this is an LA version of the Hunger Games; I can forgive her losing sight of reason in the race to beat Layla, who ironically becomes an ally towards the end.

More than the characters, it’s the situation which I found addictive, like a bad tabloid or a reality show you can’t turn off…except this is well-written, a journey into the dark part of fame. By the end of Unrivaled, you’ll ask yourself what you’d do for success—and if it’s worth the losses.

You might even lose yourself in the process.

Review: Cinder by Marissa Meyer


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Here we go again.

It was one of those books all over social media, a book everyone insisted that I read. When a book is like that, I’m almost always suspicious of it. With The Selection, people were right–I didn’t regret the read. Cinder is a similar situation, though I must admit I didn’t love it at first.

I thought the beginning really slow and mediocre. It’s definitely not a traditional Cinderella retelling, and that’s a good thing, but the change in setting and culture really caught me off-guard at first–then throw in cyborgs and a plague. But as I read I found myself impressed by the details; by the time I finished, Cinder had won me over.

The author came up with such amazing twists…for example, Cinder can’t cry because she doesn’t have tear ducts. You’d think a character who can’t cry would be hard to relate to, but seeing her express her frustration in other ways was really satisfying, giving this character another layer of strength.

The prince was awesome in this retelling. I liked him better as a MC than Cinder herself. He cared about more than the ball or finding a princess; he was taking his job seriously and doing what he could to save his people, despite lack of experience.

I could go on, but by the time I finished Cinder, I was in love with it. There were many things unusual to a fairy tale–dystopia, cyborgs, Cinder’s determination not to rely on anyone. All this convinced me to try the rest of the series.

Times may change, but we’ll find a good fairy tale will survive the centuries–even if it takes different forms.

Review: This Raging Light by Estelle Laure


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Her dad went crazy. Her mom left town. She has bills to pay and a little sister to look after. Now is not the time for level-headed seventeen-year-old Lucille to fall in love. But love—messy, inconvenient love—is what she’s about to experience when she falls for Digby Jones, her best friend’s brother. With blazing longing that builds to a fever pitch, Estelle Laure’s soulful debut will keep readers hooked and hoping until the very last page.

Thanks to NetGalley, I was able to read this fantastic book and hope to do it justice here.

Books with missing parents usually bug me. A major literary pet peeve of mine is the absence of parents; that’s why I always try to have parents in my novels when I write them. But This Raging Light takes the concept of the teenager-on-her-own to a different level, giving life to a strong main character struggling to raise her little sister after her mother leaves.

It’s a powerful book where you see Lucille struggle with her emotions, fighting to stay level-headed while being Mom and Dad to her sister, Wren; she has to get a job and make sure her sister’s all right, trying to hide the severity of the situation.

Trying to hide that her mom is gone, and doesn’t seem to be returning anytime soon.

She has some amazing friends to help her, including Digby and Eden. They’re the only people who know what’s going on as she struggles to keep a straight face in public so her sister won’t be taken away.

With the writer’s engaging style, I was a mess of feels by the end. A rapid, nerve-wracking book, it didn’t disappoint me. If you’re looking for a quick read with powerful characters and–ironically–a strong family message, I highly suggest This Raging Light.

It’ll be out on December 22, so be sure to add it to your TBR on Goodreads!

Interview: Claire LaZebnik on Parents in YA Literature


22864829On Thursday I published a review for Wrong About the Guy, a charming novel by Claire LaZebnik about Ellie and the struggles she faces with her family and friends.

Her stepfather became a television star, so she has to deal with the bittersweet privileges that come with a life of luxury. I really liked seeing that, even though sometimes it seemed to get to her head, she always came back down to earth when it was time to help people she loved.

This novel felt different to me because it touched on the subjects of family and autism, rare topics in YA literature. I’m very excited that I got to ask the author some questions. Find Wrong About The Guy on Goodreads; it’s definitely worth a read!


I haven’t read a lot of YA books recently with a tight family element in them, and this book is more unique because Luke is Ellie’s stepfather and they get along so well. Do you think there should be a greater focus on family in YA books?

Yes, I do, although I understand why many authors choose to have main characters who are alone in the world: It heightens the drama and creates a metaphor for becoming an adult and having to strike out on your own. My kids used to watch the cartoon RugRats and that show made it clear that while parents are great and all, the real adventures only happen when they’re away and the kids are in control—I think a lot of people under the age of 25 basically feel that way, and a lot of YA authors reflect that by having characters who are alone in the world and have to deal with everything by themselves. But that doesn’t reflect either my reality or my kids’—family is very important to us and while I want my kids to venture out in the world and be independent, I also want them to know that I’m always here for them, both for emergencies and also as a touchstone. So my characters tend to have some sense of connection to their parents and siblings: they may not tell them everything, but they acknowledge they’re important to them.

The subject of Jacob’s possible autism really brings Ellie’s family together. Their reactions were realistic–for example, Luke’s denial. What message would you like to send a family in this situation?

I’ve actually counseled a lot of families in this situation, believe it or not—I also write non-fiction books about autism and people frequently email me or ask me to speak about it. I always say the same thing: you don’t have to accept the label of autism if you don’t want to, but you do have to accept the fact that your child may need support in some areas. If your child has a concerning speech delay, you should be taking him to a highly recommended speech therapist. If he throws unusually violent temper tantrums, you should be consulting with a behaviorist. You need to help your child be the best he can be—that’s the goal of parenting for all of us. And part of that is recognizing the areas that your child needs support in. There is value to a diagnosis of autism, though—you can refuse to use the label if you want, but you can get a lot of these therapeutic services paid for by either insurance or your school system if you accept it! And, of course, most importantly, TALK to each other. Make decisions together. Be honest about how the situation is affecting you. It’s important to pull together—not apart—at these times.

What’s your favorite place to write? Do you go outside with a notebook or stay in with your laptop and some coffee? Describe your workdesk!

So I actually have a little office with a big wooden desk in it . . . and I NEVER use it. Never. Mostly because I have to sit down at it, and I do a lot of work sitting up. Also, it’s in a corner of the upstairs and I like to be downstairs where everyone else is. I get lonely. So I do ninety percent of my writing in our dining room, mostly on this wheeled cabinet (okay, it’s actually a bar) because it’s the right height for me to stand at and work on. Plus, if I’m writing something really intense (or my feet hurt), I can sit down at the dining room table. The other place I like to work is at my local Starbucks: it’s a half hour walk there from my house, so I sling my laptop in a messenger bag across my shoulders and haul myself there by foot. Once I’m there, I buckle down and try to get something meaningful done before walking back home. It’s a nice mixture of getting exercise and getting work done. And there’s ALWAYS coffee and a pastry of some sort. Always. I don’t understand how people write without coffee. Or how they can drink coffee without something sweet to eat with it!

Review: Every Last Promise by Kristin Halbrook


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Perfect for fans of Laurie Halse Anderson and Gayle Forman, Every Last Promise is a provocative and emotional novel about a girl who must decide between keeping quiet and speaking up after witnessing a classmate’s sexual assault.

Kayla saw something at the party that she wasn’t supposed to. But she hasn’t told anyone. No one knows the real story about what happened that night—about why Kayla was driving the car that ran into a ditch after the party, about what she saw in the hours leading up to the accident, and about the promise she made to her friend Bean before she left for the summer.

Now Kayla’s coming home for her senior year. If Kayla keeps quiet, she might be able to get her old life back. If she tells the truth, she risks losing everything—and everyone—she ever cared about.

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I can’t remember the last time a book left me reeling like this one.

Every Last Promise is haunting and beautiful. I felt for the main character, Kayla; she carries a heavy secret on her shoulders, living in fear because of it. She was the driver in an accident where one boy died and the other survived…but that’s not the whole story.

The boy who survived recovered from his injuries, and yet there’s still someone hurting. Will Kayla be brave enough to step up and help the other person involved?

Reading the novel, I sometimes wanted to be mad at Kayla for how she handled things–until I remembered how her “friends” treated her when she returned home.

Living in a small town meant doing the right thing would drop a bomb on everyone. I really felt for Kayla, seeing the shame and abuse she endured for a great deal of the novel.

I absolutely loved Every Last Promise. A fast read with a great hook, its chapters switch in time from Spring–before the accident–to Autumn, when Kayla returns from Kansas City. I liked how the chapters took readers back and forth.

This book reminded me of the dangers that come with power–and what powerful people will do to keep their reputation clean, no matter what. It also illustrated fear, how it can be strong enough to make a person walk away from friends or lie because they don’t want to be alone.

This book was spectacular. Give it a read.

Threats of Sky and Sea by Jennifer Ellision


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They know that fire can burn. But they’ve forgotten how water can scald.

Thus ends Threats of Sky and Sea, a YA Fantasy by Jennifer Ellision–who is an awesome person, I might add, and allowed me to interview her here.

As far as greedy kings go, this novel is home to one with an unusual upper hand. He has Elementals working for him–in particular a Lady Kat, who terrorizes those around her with an affinity for air. In this world, if you’ve a gift with one of the elements, you have unusual power to make it help with your purposes.

And Breena Perdit is about to learn she is one, herself.

Lady Kat may be cruel and power-hungry, but Breena will hurt most from untruths in her own family–secrets that will make her question her own identity.

It seems impossible that she would be an Adept–because she isn’t seventeen yet, making her far too young to have discovered such ability. But she’s captured by the king on that suspicion, taken with her father away from home, and nothing will be the same.

I don’t know what’s wrong with me, because the first time I read this novel, I thought the beginning was slow. Looking back, maybe I was just reading too late at night. It really picks up about three chapters in, and you can’t put it down.

Although the plot was intriguing, what I found most memorable were the characters. They’re wonderfully surprising: We learn that Da has been keeping a secret all along, when he seems like the last person to do it. Princess Aleta, who really isn’t as bad as we think in the beginning. My personal favorite was Tregle, the Torcher who seems to have a greater sense of conscience than Lady Katerine would like.

I finished the book and missed the characters immediately.

Also, I really need to say this–Riders (wind Adepts) can send a breeze to catch a conversation. That is both awesome and very creepy, and I think it would be a useful thing to have. Wind power always seemed the least impressive in other stories, but here it’s given new significance. Here I’d like to have wind power.

Finally, the ending nearly made me cry. Not a lot of endings do that since The Book Thief (I’m not sure any book will ever beat that one.) The book was great at playing with emotions, making the characters people you will miss.

I really want the sequel.

You should read Threats of Sky and Sea, and check out the author interview.

4/5 stars.

Interview with Jennifer Ellision


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I’m always interested to learn how other authors see things. It’s a complex art, and though no two stories are the same, sometimes the craft itself has similar characteristics in everyone. I’m so glad Jennifer Ellision let me ask her some questions. You should check out her book here!

Q: Your characters in Threats of Sky and Sea are all distinct from one another. How do you achieve such characterization–and which one of them speaks to you loudest?

A: Hmmm, well the first part is hard to answer. I didn’t consciously decide to create characters that ranged in personality, it just sort of worked out that way. I really just wanted them to be people, you know? Meaning they’d have their flaws, strengths, innate personality quirks… I’m a pantser so I discovered those things as I wrote.

As for which of them speaks to me the loudest, that would be my main character Breena, whose POV Threats of Sky and Sea told from. Although I have a total soft spot for Prince Caden and Princess Aleta.

And, oddly, the antagonist Lady Kat’s voice got pretty loud for me too. So loud that I had to write her her own short story, Sisters of Wind and Flame.

Q: In the book, many characters control elements. Which element would you choose, and why?

A: Oh, if I could choose, I’d be a Water Thrower, hands down. I love the beach, I love the pool, and if I had no other commitments (and if I wouldn’t get sun-burnt in about 20 minutes flat), I would happily spend all day floating in the water!

Q: What do you think classical literature will be 100 years from now? What books from our generation do you think will make it?

A: Ahhh, classic lit. Well, I think the books that already have the labels of classics such as works by Austen, the Brontes, Shakespeare, and Dickens will likely keep their spot in the curriculum.

As for books that I want to make it to future generations, there are SO many books that I hope do. With the massive love and commitment so many people (myself included) I think I’m safe in saying that I think Harry Potter and The Hunger Games will make it to future years.

Elsewise, in the fantasy genre, I hope that The Girl of Fire and Thorn trilogy by Rae Carson and the Graceling Realm books by Kristin Cashore make it.

Others that I hope make it include: Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein, Chime by Franny Billingsley, Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour and Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson, Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira, Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, and The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.

Book Review: Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly


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Heroes never really die.

We all make an impact on the world. Even if we don’t make major history books, it doesn’t change this truth: No life is an accident.

You will meet obscure heroes in strange ways, and Revolution is one such tale. Andi Alpers meets an obscure hero by finding her diary, and is swept into her life–into the French Revolution.

 

Andi’s father forces her to accompany him to Paris, hoping to bond a little. Instead of making new father-daughter memories, she spends the trip researching for a paper. If she writes a good report, she can go home early to care for her mother. Her little brother’s death has affected them all; Andi’s mother has been taken by crippling depression, with Andi barely hanging on.

 

Find it on Goodreads.

 

My thoughts don’t dwell so much on plot, but the realistic actions of these characters.

It was refreshing that having a love interest did not shake the main character’s resolve. It didn’t make her want to stay and tour the City of Light. It doesn’t boost her self-esteem either: There’s no magical moment where they make eye contact and she realizes how valuable she is. Her depression seeps through to the very bone, and every other feeling is only on the surface.

 

That being said, all the shifts to diary format made for a sometimes grueling read. It might have done good to space them out a bit; I kept getting confused about who the main character was. That may have been done on purpose, but it still threw me off.

The book is a bit heavy, detailed, something you approach attentively. Don’t get me wrong: It’s an impressive read if you drink it in. Revolution is deep, and I couldn’t recommend it more. I’ve read it twice, and enjoyed it both times!

 

Because it was a bit of a long read, I’ll give it 3 stars. Looking forward to reading more by this author!

THE GODDESS TEST by Aimee Carter


*SPOILER WARNING.

So there are a lot of ‘fresh takes’ on Greek myths. I like Cassandra Clare but she wouldn’t be the first author I like to promote a fictional book about Greek mythology that’s just way overrated. I didn’t really expect much when I bought this book, but I was giving it a shot. Hopefully, some good books had been published since I was last an avid reader–and, thank goodness, this time I lucked out. The Goddess Test was an enjoyable read and really helped bring me back into happy reader mindset. I’d been writing for so long that I forgot what a good book was like.

Granted it took me a few weeks to go past the first chapter, though I blame this on the simple fact that I wasn’t that good at being a reader when I picked it up. That, and the prologue was a little hard to grasp; it wasn’t confusing persay but the characters were very difficult to relate to. I couldn’t picture them or what was going on. Maybe it’ll be different when I go back to read it again, but it did take me quite a while to make it past the prologue. Once I actually did I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I liked the main character. She isn’t a crybaby and she isn’t a damsel in distress. She’s just a normal girl pulled into a weird story. I think she might have believed everything a little too fast, but that’s just my opinion, I’m used to writing long and heavily detailed stories after all. Maybe it was longer as a first draft but to get published they made the author speed it up? Anyway, overlooking that she believed a little quickly for my taste, the rest of her was believable–right down to her emotions. Aimee Carter nailed it with this character, I liked her immediately.

Henry is sweet at times but I think it might be the way he speaks, a little bit forced, that made it difficult for me to visualize him. He is a powerful character and I like him, but I think he is ironically the rustiest character in the book, description-wise. There’s just something forced about him, though once again, it might get better when I read it a second time. It’s really no big deal and doesn’t take much from the story.

The romance isn’t too cheesy, nor is it dirty–when they do slip once, I appreciated that the author didn’t make it look like a good thing. No, slipping into the sin of lust was a very bad thing here, and it almost had grave consequences. Also it wasn’t really their faults either, but I won’t get into a deep discussion of what happened. Just know that it isn’t described, you don’t have to worry about your eyes falling out or even having to skip a page. I love the author forever for this and if she lets me down regarding this in the next books…I might burn them… It’s just refreshing to be able to dream without closing your eyes! Aimee Carter, don’t ruin this!

The world building and storyline was amazing. I like how she described locations. Even if I occasionally had trouble picturing a character, I never struggled with a scene. Great detail was put into location! The escapist in me approves. You can bet that I look forward to buying and reading the next books. I hope they live up to this one, it would be difficult but if they do, I have a new favorite author! Definitely give this book a try, it is worth your time!