The Amberiot Chronicles

November 21, 2014 ● BY ● TAGS: Me!, Personal6 comments

IMG_6401

The reason I love blogging so much is that it makes me able to talk to people who like the same things I do. However, when I just started this blog I would never have thought that blogging would allow me to meet some of my best friends in the entire world. But then I met Amber, at the end of 2012, and she has been one of my favorite people ever since. I honestly don’t know what I would do without her, not only with this blog, but also in life in general. We talk every single day, and I wouldn’t change this friendship for the world. Anyway, earlier this year Amber decided it was time for a visit (which we’d been talking about forever but had somehow not happened yet) and then in November, there we were.

Read more »

Review: The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place

November 17, 2014 ● BY ● TAGS: Review, 3 comments

Review: The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow PlaceTitle: The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place
Author: Julie Berry
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Release Date: September 23, 2014
Genre/Age Group: Humor, Middle Grade, Mystery
Source: Publisher
Add it: Goodreads
Rating: 3.5 Stars

There's a murderer on the loose—but that doesn't stop the girls of St. Etheldreda's from attempting to hide the death of their headmistress in this rollicking farce.

The students of St. Etheldreda's School for Girls face a bothersome dilemma. Their irascible headmistress, Mrs. Plackett, and her surly brother, Mr. Godding, have been most inconveniently poisoned at Sunday dinner.

Now the school will almost certainly be closed and the girls sent home—unless these seven very proper young ladies can hide the murders and convince their neighbors that nothing is wrong.

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place is a smart, hilarious Victorian romp, full of outrageous plot twists, mistaken identities, and mysterious happenings.

my thoughts

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place is a story about friendship and girlpower in the best way. This middle grade novel about seven young girls trying to stay together after the headmistress of their boarding school is murdered is sassy, charming and clever, and I think I was already a little bit in love with this story when at the very first page, we get to see a portrait of each of the girls and a bit of a backstory for why they were sent to boarding school. Set in a small Victorian town filled with nosy neighbors and all kinds of interesting people, the girls must work together to stay at their school, while at the same time trying to find out who murdered their headmistress and her brother. I think the historical setting really made this setting, because there are so many quirky shenanigans that work in this era only.

With seven main characters, you are bound to get confused a bit at times. Especially in the beginning, I couldn’t tell the difference between any of them. Although I loved the way Berry named them (with a personality trait in front of their name, like Smooth Kitty, Disgraceful Mary Jane, etc.), they all seemed similar to me. I found that I adjusted quite easily, though, and I love how distinct these girls were and how well they complimented each other. Despite their many differences and the fact that they didn’t even know if they could trust each other, they really didy have each others’ backs unconditionally. I loved watching them go through all their problems together. This novel shows friendship in the best way, and I’m so happy that middle grade readers will be able to read and learn from this book.

Sometimes the story was a little too exaggerated, but I think that was the point. It is, after all, a farce, and once I got used to it, I really liked it. The story remained very light-hearted and funny, and quite surface level, which means we didn’t get to know the girls on a personal level, but that was fine. Their combined power is what makes this novel worthwile. My only issue, really, is that I had a pretty hard time getting through this story. It was charming and I adored the characters, but there were moments when not much happened, and I had to put it down at multiple times. All in all, however, The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place is a heart-warming story filled with humor, quirky characters, female power, and a fun murder mystery that I think will do well with readers of all ages.

memorable quotes

“I don’t condone killing, but if killing happens anyway, then I think women go about it much more sensibly. Leave it to men to be loud and violent and messy about the business. It’s egotistical of them. It’s not enough to eliminate their enemy. No. They must conquer them face to face and watch them plead for mercy, whereas women dispatch victims quickly and silently.”
“Men might say poison isn’t sporting.”
“Yes, and men think that organizing parties of dozens of riders and hounds to chase down one poor fox is sporting. Men’s opinions are irrelevant.”

Mini review: Firebug

November 14, 2014 ● BY ● TAGS: Review, 1 comment

Mini review: FirebugTitle: Firebug (Firebug #1)
Author: Lish McBride
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co.
Release Date: September 23, 2014
Genre/Age Group: Paranormal, Young Adult
Source: Publisher
Add it: Goodreads
Rating: 3 Stars

Ava is a firebug—she can start fires with her mind. Which would all be well and good if she weren't caught in a deadly contract with the Coterie, a magical mafia. She's one of their main hit men . . . and she doesn't like it one bit. Not least because her mother's death was ordered by Venus—who is now her boss.

When Venus asks Ava to kill a family friend, Ava rebels. She knows very well that you can't say no to the Coterie and expect to get away with it, though, so she and her friends hit the road, trying desperately to think of a way out of the mess they find themselves in. Preferably keeping the murder to a minimum.

my thoughts

The main thing I took away from Firebug was that I adore Lish McBride’s writing. She has a way with words that is just naturally funny, and it made her characters, especially Ava, very sassy and loveable. Even though the story itself is not meant to be funny, I found myself laughing out loud a couple of times anyway because of the writing, and that hasn’t happened in a while. The characters were definitely what made this story for me. I adored Ava, but more than that, I loved her relationship with both her adoptive father and her two best friends, Lock and Ezra. Family and friendship is an important theme in this book, and I liked that a lot, because it is so realistic. Sometimes it feels like all YA books have absent parents, but even though Ava lived with her adoptive father, their bond was incredible. Lock and Ezra could be demanding, but the friendship was lovely because it felt like a sibling relationship.

I didn’t like the world building as much as the characters, unfortunately. The paranormal aspects were slightly weak. Even though the idea of a magical mafia interested me, the way it was executed didn’t really work for me, mostly because I never felt like it made much sense. I realized this relatively early in the story, when there was a guy whose house was a giant chicken (?) running away from the Coterie. Even though everything was explained well enough and I still love the firebugs and their powers, the rest of the paranormal creatures and the entire world was just a little much for me. Furthermore, even though I liked Ava and the writing from the start, it took a while for me to get really into this story. Not much happens for the first third of the book, and it dragged a bit. Still, even though I had issues with Firebug and the paranormal aspects didn’t really work for me, I definitely enjoyed it, and I want to read more from Lish McBride.

memorable quotes

Taken from the ARC.

“The phrase “Gentlemen, lock up your ladies” is a good one when Ez is around. (“Ladies, lock up your gentlemen” might also be useful. Ezra loves attention. He isn’t about to get a little thing like gender get in his way.) 

“Don’t you think it’s a bad sign that your best argument for your beau is that nothing has been proved in court?”

Review: Wildlife

November 12, 2014 ● BY ● TAGS: Review, 4 comments

Review: WildlifeTitle: Wildlife
Author: Fiona Wood
Publisher: Poppy
Release Date: September 16, 2014
Genre/Age Group: Contemporary, Young Adult
Source: Netgalley
Add it: Goodreads
Rating: 3.5 Stars

Life? It’s simple: be true to yourself.
The tricky part is finding out exactly who you are…

Boarding for a term in the wilderness, sixteen-year-old Sibylla expects the gruesome outdoor education program – but friendship complications, and love that goes wrong? They’re extra-curricula.

Enter Lou from Six Impossible Things – the reluctant new girl for this term in the great outdoors. Fragile behind an implacable mask, she is grieving a death that occurred almost a year ago. Despite herself, Lou becomes intrigued by the unfolding drama between her housemates Sibylla and Holly, and has to decide whether to end her self-imposed detachment and join the fray.

And as Sibylla confronts a tangle of betrayal, she needs to renegotiate everything she thought she knew about surviving in the wild.

A story about first love, friendship and NOT fitting in.

my thoughts

Wildlife by Fiona Wood has been a challenging book to rate and discuss. I finished it about a week ago, and I must admit, I like it much more now than I did at first. My initial feelings were very mixed, but after pondering on it, I think my negative feelings were directed mostly at one character—Holly, Sibylla’s best friend and the school’s resident mean girl. In fact, quite a few of the characters in Wildlife felt as if they were snatched straight from the halls of North Shore High School (remember Mean Girls, anyone?). Wildlife covers many of the traditional high school stereotypes: the mean girl (Holly); the “weird” one (Michael); the hot guy (Ben); the new girl, loner and outcast (Lou); etc.

At first I hated the characters and the stereotypes that they represent. However, after reading the entire book, I have to admit that it’s a pretty accurate portrayal of high school. Many of the characters end up being victims of peer pressure, becoming whatever they think is popular or appealing to the opposite sex. In doing this, Fiona Wood shows how difficult it is for young adults to a) figure out who they are at 17, and b) be true to that identity. The main characters, Sib and Lou, are both struggling with this for very different reasons: Sib is suddenly accepted as a popular girl at school after she appears on a billboard advertisement; while Lou has completely shut herself off to the possibility of new friends and new experiences as she grieves for her boyfriend who died in an accident several months ago.

As I mentioned, I put some time and space between finishing Wildlife and writing this review, which helped tremendously.  Now when I think about it, I realize 1) that I probably highlighted over half the book because Fiona Wood’s writing is AMAZING, and 2) Sib and Lou showed a lot of character growth, two things which always equal a good book in my estimation. Despite my absolute HATRED for Holly, I found myself really caring about Lou and Sib’s success and hoping that they would learn how to deal with the pressures that they’re both facing while they’re stuck in the wilderness.

Speaking of the wilderness, the setting was my absolute favorite part about Wildlife. At the private school that Sib and Lou attend, they are required to spend nine weeks of their junior year in the literal wilderness. Though they have some luxuries at this school, for the most part, they are completely cut off from civilization and living in cabins, without cell phones or iPads or music or TV or anything like that.

Y’all, I need to know: Is this really a common event in Australian schools?! If it is, I LOVE IT. But, as I was reading, I couldn’t help but think about some of my former classmates or current students being required to live as campers for nine weeks, and I just can’t imagine it! Anyway, I digress. This Australian wilderness camp is a very unique setting, and I fell in love with the idea from the start. Plus, it makes for a great YA contemporary setting because “surviving the wilderness” ends up being a great metaphor for “discovering and being true to yourself.”

I know I’ve already mentioned it, but it deserves to be said again: Fiona Wood’s writing is so, so good. I always highlight my favorite quotes as I’m reading, and I found myself wanting to highlight every other sentence. Wood tells the entire story in the alternating points-of-view of Sibylla and Lou, and the character’s perspectives are completely different and unique and add something special to the story. It was so intriguing to switch from Sibylla’s boy-crazy, naïve, almost innocent view of the world to Lou’s cynical, hard view. I loved seeing how each character perceived what was happening around them, particularly when it came to Holly. Sib doesn’t want to believe that Holly’s meanness is intentional, while Lou, who is documenting the story from her own perspective, can see right through Holly’s motives. It reminds me all too much of my own high school experiences.

I’m pretty sure that this book won’t be a unanimous favorite with everyone because of the mean girl storyline, but I definitely recommend that you give it a chance. It’s worth it just to experience Wood’s writing and the unusual setting. It’s a very unique addition to the YA world.

memorable quotes

Taken from the ARC.

“All packed. Every item ticked. Ask sadness, How about staying here, sadness? I know. Dumb question. Sadness packed. Bags zipped.”

“My virginity does not feel like some wondrous thing I will one day bestow on a lucky boy; it’s more in the realm of something I need to get rid of, like my braces were, before real life can begin.”

“Deciding to do it is less momentous and certainly less rational than it should be; I can’t even say it is a decision; it’s more like a switch has flicked. In one breathless look, we are both taking it as read, a need that this time we will act upon. I think of animation graphics that blast people into hyperspace. I’m in go mode. This is happening. No thought of turning back. I’m just doing it. And neither of us has mentioned the four-letter word that comes before this three-letter activity in all my schemes and dreams.”

Series review: Hundred Oaks

November 10, 2014 ● BY ● TAGS: Review5 comments

Series review: Hundred OaksTitle: Hundred Oaks series
Author: Miranda Kenneally
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Release Date: December 1, 2011
Genre/Age Group: Contemporary, Young Adult
Source: Gifted, Purchased
Add it: Goodreads
Rating: 4 Stars

What girl doesn't want to be surrounded by gorgeous jocks day in and day out? Jordan Woods isn't just surrounded by hot guys, though-she leads them as the captain and quarterback of her high school football team. They all see her as one of the guys and that's just fine. As long as she gets her athletic scholarship to a powerhouse university.

But everything she's ever worked for is threatened when Ty Green moves to her school. Not only is he an amazing QB, but he's also amazingly hot. And for the first time, Jordan's feeling vulnerable. Can she keep her head in the game while her heart's on the line?

my thoughts

I thought about reviewing these books separately but since Ellice has already done that and I don’t think I could fill four paragraphs about each book, here is a series of mini reviews instead. I was going to wait to post this until I had also read Breathe, Annie, Breathe but then this review just sort of typed itself and here we are. Just roll with it.

Miranda Kenneally’s books are a bit misleading because judging by just the covers and the titles they seem to be fluffy contemporary reads where the romance is the main plot point, so I was a bit surprised when all of these books turned out to be about a lot more than just romance. They are all stories about girls dealing with growing up and trying to figure out what exactly they want from life, set in a lovely Southern town. There is definitely romance, but it doesn’t define the plot, and I love that. Most of all, I think these books have incredible character development that I am certain readers who went through high school graduation and trying to figure out what you want to do in life can relate to. I definitely could. Even though these books are not all fluff, reading them just made me incredibly happy.

When I think about this series, I usually say that Catching Jordan is my favorite, but I’m really not sure if it is, since all these books were amazing. I did, however, thoroughly adore this first book. Jordan was a lovely main character, her growth was incredible, and I was rooting for her all the way, but the friendship was even more amazing, and probably my favorite aspect. Not just Jordan and Sam Henry were great, but also JJ and Carter (and later Carrie and Marie). I loved to see Jordan with the guys, and they all cared so much about each other. The only thing I didn’t like was Ty, who was controlling and just really not worthy of Jordan’s awesomeness. Jordan’s dad was a sexist pig for the most part as well, and I wanted to smack him many, many times, but at least he redeems himself, and I think it’s great that Jordan’s parents played such a huge part in her trying to figure out the future. Also, hi Sam Henry, I love you.

I adore Jordan and Sam Henry, but I love Parker and Will Whitfield just as much. My only issue with Stealing Parker was that it was so short. I wanted more more from these characters and their stories and I was a little disappointed it wrapped up so quickly. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t love the book just as much as I loved Catching Jordan. Parker is a loveable character who has a great sense of humor and makes a lot of mistakes, but ultimately, grows so amazingly. Aside from amazing romance (that was equal and loving and I want it), family dynamics were a big part of this story, which I loved, even though I wanted to smack Parker’s dad at times. I like that, while Parker regrets parts of her relationship with Brian, she never blames him for it. They both had issues and Parker realizes that, which to me was the most important part of her growth. It was lovely to watch Parker grow into herself and be confident again.

Things I Can’t Forget is the kind of the odd one out in this series, but maybe also Kenneally’s best work of the four. Not only does it have a different title and does it lack sports as a main theme, but this book takes place in the summer after high school, another really defining moment in a person’s life. This book is about Kate, whose goal is to live according to the rules of her church. She is very judgmental in the beginning and that honestly annoyed me, but I think that was Kenneally’s point. Because Kate’s off-putting attitude at the start is mostly what makes her growth stand out. It was great to see her reevaluate everything she thought she knew and ultimately come out more mature. This is one of the best character growths I have ever seen. But of course, I also adored Matt and their relationship, because while Kate broadens her horizons, she also stays true to herself. She is still not the most likeable character, to me, but she is so real.

I wish I loved Racing Savannah as much as the other three, but unfortunately, it is my least favorite so far. I was really emotionally invested in the other books and while there were moments in this book that really got to me, my feelings for it stayed rather surface-level for the entire story. The good? Savannah was a great main character, who knew exactly what she wanted and was confident enough to fight for it. Her love for horses also came across really well, and I loved that aspect (which surprised me because I am terrified of horses). Rory Whitfield is everything, and the cameos of the previous characters made me cry because OH MY GOD. The not so good? I didn’t like Jack, and I thought their romance developed too quickly and left me unattached. It’s not the book’s fault at all, because it’s still a good story, but I need to feel something in order to love something, and this book just didn’t do that for me.

One last thing I want to point out is that I love how sex-positive these books are. In Catching Jordan, Jordan is a virgin at the beginning of the story and then she sleeps with a guy, but ends up with another guy. But no matter what, Jordan is never shamed for anything she does. She does what she does because she wants to do it, and then she just doesn’t end up with that guy. She doesn’t regret it, but realizes he wasn’t for her. In the next two books church is a main theme, but while there is definitely virgin shaming, both Parker and Kate ultimately realize that they shouldn’t care about this (Parker) or that it is not okay to do so (Kate). With Savannah it’s mostly about what she is comfortable with herself, and she just does whatever she enjoys. I feel like it’s rare that books talk so positively about sex. It’s not portrayed as A Big Thing when characters masturbate or have sex, and it’s all about feeling comfortable. I think that is so important.

All in all, Miranda Kenneally writes books about girls trying to find out who they are, and she does that in a way that revolves around comfort and learning. Even though these are marketed as fluffy reads, they are so much deeper than that, and I love them for it. But despite the sometimes heavy topics, these books make me so incredibly happy, and I can’t wait to read Breathe, Annie, Breathe and whatever Kenneally writes after that.

memorable quotes

“You know what I think about dreams?  . . . That if you send too much time dreaming, you’ll stop actually doing. And when you actually do stuff, there’s a good chance things will work out. We make things happen by attacking, not by sitting around dreaming.”
– Catching Jordan

“I see the guys on the football team and baseball teams who have girlfriends, and it’s like… it’s like it’s their whole lives. I guess I want to have my own life first and then meet someone who can be a part of it… but not fill it…?”
– Stealing Parker

“Learning is never a bad thing. And neither is changing your mind about things… It’s always good to reevaluate. To think and consider all sides.”
– Things I Can’t Forget

“I want to scream at him for kissing me, for leading me on, but I don’t want to be a mean, vindictive girl. That’s not who I am. I don’t need a guy to validate me.”
– Racing Savannah