WoW: THE TROUBLE WITH DESTINY by Lauren Morrill

If y’all don’t know who Lauren Morrill is, then you’d better educate yourselves. In my opinion, she’s going to be the next big thing in the YA genre. Based on her Twitter feed recently, she already has five (!) books in the works, two of which are out now and one of which—my WoW pick, The Trouble with Destiny—is to be released on December 8th, 2015 (according to Morrill’s website). I haven’t read Being Sloane Jacobs but I want to. I did read Meant to Be last summer, and it got me through an incredibly rough trip abroad and just made me oh, so happy.

How would I describe Lauren Morrill’s writing? If I had to sum it up in three points:

  1. Spunky. There’s just something about Morrill’s writing that tells me she could kick yo’ ass (she IS, after all, a roller-derby girl) while balancing her laptop in one hand and her baby in the other. Plus her haircut is gorgeous. I could never pull off short hair.
  2. Original. Morrill notices the little things. In Meant to Be, Morrill described all of Julia’s little ticks without boring me. In fact, I was insanely interested in knowing how Julia’s bag was organized and what her note-taking method was. I mean, hello? How does Morrill even DO that? I have no freaking clue, and that’s why I love her, and think she’s probably going to take over the world.
  3. Like a chocolate cake. Yes, I just compared Morrill’s writing to dessert. Maybe I’m a little bit hungry. Basically, Meant to Be was delicious and I wanted more of it when it was over. I’m sure her other books are and will be the same. It’s not even just that, though. I want to call her writing flavourful. There’s something distinct about it that means when you pick up any one of her books and read the first few lines, you say to yourself, “Yup, that’s Lauren.” She’s got her own unique style and texture. Simply put, her writing is decadent.

December 8th can’t come fast enough.

meant to be Untitled-1 trouble-w-destiny_07-24-14

-Ember Book Reviews xxoo

Check out these books on Goodreads: Meant to Be, Being Sloane Jacobs

Purchase these books on Amazon: Meant to Be, Being Sloane Jacobs

OR you could always check out your nearest Indie store 😉

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Tuesday’s Picks: Three Great Summer Reads!

Hi everybody! Today I thought I’d do a quick little post about some of my favourite books that I really think everybody should read. As I said in a post last week, I’ve been finding myself in a bit of a book slump recently. I’m really picky when it comes to my books. Often, if I find myself reading a book I don’t like, I’ll set it aside and possibly never look at it again. As I type this, I keep glancing over at the ever-growing pile of such books sitting on my bookshelf…This is part of the reason why I’ve been checking out more and more books from the library recently rather than buying them.

That being said, when I find a book that I really love, it’s kind of heartbreaking to finish it, and I constantly find myself staring longingly at the spine as it sits on my bookshelf wishing I could go back to that time when I was immersed within its pages. Don’t you just love it when a book is so deliciously good that you think about it for years afterwards? I’ve been missing certain books as I trudge through this book slump, and I thought I’d share some of those titles with you today.

  1. A Place of Secrets by Rachel Hore

This book is amazing, you guys. I read it a couple of years ago, so my description of it may be a bit foggy (and I always hate putting up the publisher’s description—that’s what Goodreads is for, right?), but basically the book is about a young woman named Jude who is an auction house appraiser. Early in the book, she escapes a loveless relationship and heads out to the English countryside to appraise antiques that are being sold out of Starbrough Hall. She meets Chantal Wickham, the estate’s owner, and a friendship instantly blooms between them as they discover that they have something in common: they are both widowed. But Jude’s past haunts her. Her husband’s death, the strange relationship he had shared with Jude’s sister, Claire, and her niece, whose father is unknown, begins to have strange nightmares that are inexplicably linked to Starbrough Hall—all of these things pester Jude as she unearths the estate’s interesting past. Then there’s Euan, a gypsy man with a caravan parked in his backyard who works for Starbrough Hall. He’s interesting and serious, and as Jude works with the past she begins to piece back together her present as well…

I really loved this book. It flips back and forth between past and present as Jude reads documents found at Starbrough Hall, which is a feature I don’t normally enjoy in books, but it worked well here. A mystery, ghost story, and romance all in one, this book was incredibly absorbing. The writing style is spot-on. I didn’t feel dragged through the story, but like I was a part of it. The descriptions were fantastic. Overall, it was just an amazing story. This is also the only novel by Rachel Hore that is for sale in Canada. I wish more of her work was over here. She’s such a great writer.

a place of secrets

  1. The Starcrossed Trilogy by Josephine Angelini

Wow. This series, as I was reading it, actually took my breath away. I’ve rarely been this excited to read the next books in a series, outside of something like Harry Potter, so it was such a thrill to come across the first book in this series, Starcrossed, and know there were more to come. In order, this trilogy features Starcrossed, Dreamless, and Goddess. The basic premise is that a teenager named Helen has lived on the island of Nantucket her whole life with only her father as family—she’s never known her mother, only that she broke her father’s heart. A strange family moves onto the island and instantly, Helen wants to murder one of the sons, a boy her age named Lucas. Coupled with a few of her strange traits that she’s always tried to keep hidden—such as her super-human speed—Helen begins to realize that her existence is far from ordinary. As the series progresses, Helen realizes that she’s a demigod and, as the relationship between her and Lucas thickens, they all must fight to ensure that history doesn’t repeat itself. After all, Lucas was supposed to be named Paris.

These. Books. Rock. I don’t know how else to say it. I’ve read another of Angelini’s books and it just doesn’t compare. She really struck gold with these ones. My heart pounded as I read. It broke a few times. There was nothing that could pull me away when I held one of these beauties in my hands. Angelini loves to tease. She makes the reader fall hard for the romance in the book and dangles it in front of our faces. It’s one tiny aspect that I do find frustrating (and perhaps a little patronizing) in her writing. News flash—seventeen-year-olds know what sex is! At that age, as I was reading, I wouldn’t have been surprised or scandalized to read a sex scene. I wish more YA authors got this.

Even still, this series is one of my all-time favourites and was so incredibly satisfying to read. Ugh, I wish I could go back and read them all anew. Can someone please find me a time-turner? That’d be great, thanks.

starcrossed dreamless goddess

  1. Beachcombers by Nancy Thayer

So, I really love books that take place on Nantucket. This book is about three sisters who, after not seeing each other for years, gather back into their childhood home on the island after Emma is dumped by her fiancé. The youngest, Lily, is concerned that the woman renting their guesthouse is looking to move in on their father, who was widowed by their mentally-ill mother many years ago. As the sisters band together, they discover their similarities but also their differences, and at times it is a struggle to work around those. They pick up a few odd jobs around the island, which brings them into contact with new people from all walks of life but, most importantly, new beginnings. Set in the hot summer on the island of Nantucket, this novel—told from four different perspectives—features friendship, sisterhood, and steamy romance in such a beautiful story that I yearn for it nearly every day.

It’s often difficult for me to find romance books—or books written in this style—that feature characters my age (21). Many of the romance novels in my library are written by older women about older women, so I have a really hard time getting into them. Not so with Beachcombers. Lily is in her early twenties, and Abbie, the oldest, is just around thirty. Even still, the setting and writing are so breathtaking that I was lost in this book. I never wanted it to end. As I read it out in the sun in my backyard, I could almost smell the sand and the salty ocean air. One thing I did notice with this book was that Lily, the youngest, was written to seem immature because of her age, but had the maturity of a thirteen-year-old. I don’t know a single person my age who is as immature as Lily was written to be. The book was still delightful. I would highly recommend it, especially if you’re looking for a good beach read as the weather gets warmer and summer fast approaches. It’s definitely worth the time spent slathering on sunscreen and laying out the towel on the sand.

beachcombers

-Ember Book Reviews xxoo

Check out these books on Goodreads: A Place of Secrets, Starcrossed, Dreamless, Goddess, Beachcombers

Purchase these books on Amazon: A Place of Secrets, Starcrossed, Dreamless, Goddess, Beachcombers

CALLING MAGGIE MAY by Anonymous

calling maggie may4 out of 5

[ARC provided to me in paperback format in exchange for an honest review. Date to be released: June 23, 2015. Imprint: Simon Pulse. Release information: Paperback, $9.99 US/$11.99 CAN; Hardcover, $17.99 US/$22.99 CAN.]

Too much responsibility. That’s what she feels pressing down on her day after day. Her parents’ expectations are too much, and for once she just wants to do something that she wants to do. When will her choices start to matter?

Then she meets Ada. Ada is exotic. When she discovers that Ada is a prostitute, she’s somewhat surprised, but after Ada sets her up on a date that leads to her losing her virginity, that surprise is quickly replaced with excitement. Sex is fun. Finally, she’s found something that she wants to do, and that she can make money off doing.

As she falls deeper and deeper into the life of prostitution, she realizes that perhaps life with her parents wasn’t so bad after all…

Calling Maggie May is quite different from what I normally read. Dark and very atmospheric, this book made me incredibly uncomfortable and yet it was like watching a car crash: I couldn’t look away even though I wanted to. This book was so shocking and absorbing that I couldn’t put it down.

The book is written in diary form and as such, the main character goes unnamed throughout the book (hence the repeated use of “she” in my synopsis). The book was also therefore written to seem like non-fiction but after doing a bit of research into similar titles, such as Go Ask Alice, I’m not so sure that it is. That being said, something felt off about the novel that I can’t quite put my finger on, and perhaps it was this fiction-disguised-as-non-fiction ruse. The writing of the journal (the locations it’s written in, the occasional switching from past to present tense as things happen while the MC is writing) seemed strange, maybe even unrealistic. In addition, the MC was incredibly naïve, even after being further and further exposed to the world of prostitution, which also seemed unrealistic to me and was a bit frustrating.

One of my main points of concern is that the journal leaves off in one place and the editor’s note at the end begins in a completely different one. It’s difficult to explain what I mean without giving away any spoilers, but the thing is that the ending and the editor’s note do not correlate at all. There’s such a huge gap between the two in terms of information and plot that it’s almost unbelievable. This also supports my theory that this book is in fact fictional.

Overall, it has been difficult to write this review from a non-emotional standpoint. I really strongly disliked the MC. She came from a middle-class background with parents who were tough on her but only wanted what was best for her, and simply chose to be a prostitute as a way of rebellion. Throughout the book, the other characters (who come from darker backgrounds) are constantly suggesting to her that perhaps she should just go home to her family. I wanted to shake her by the shoulders and scream this into her face. Honestly, this girl needed to snap out of it. I kind of hoped something even more terrible would happen to her just so she’d wake up a little bit and face the real world.

I still think that readers who enjoy something a little darker, a little more thrilling, will get quite a kick out of this book, and I did enjoy my time reading it. There’s something about reading about a life so absolutely different from your own that is captivating, and I definitely felt that way with Calling Maggie May. I just wish the MC had been a little more likeable, or at least relatable, and that she hadn’t been bumbling around with the wool pulled over her eyes so much. I do recommend this book, and hope that you will enjoy it. Let me know what you think!

-Ember Book Reviews xxoo

Check out this book on Goodreads!

Purchase this book on Amazon.

UNTOLD by Sarah Rees Brennan

untold

4 ½ out of 5

Sorry-in-the-Vale is about to be under attack by the sorcerer Rob Lynburn and his cronies, and Kami feels that it is up to her to stop him. The only trouble is that with the link between her and Jared now broken, Jared will hardly look at her much less help her, and Kami is, for the first time ever, just a regular girl. How can she possibly pit herself against an army of sorcerers who can kill her with a single look?

The good news is that she has a solid group of friends to help her, and Lillian Lynburn seems at least partially willing to listen to what Kami has to say. They may not all be sorcerers but they can still put up a good fight. Better yet, after a stolen kiss in a darkened hallway, it seems that Jared might be willing to forgive Kami after all. If only he’d stop throwing himself in death’s path, then they might actually have a chance at beating Rob Lynburn and making Sorry-in-the-Vale the safe, picturesque place that Kami once believed it to be.

Then there’s the fact that Kami could once again become a source, if she thinks it’s the best thing to do. The only question is this: whose source will she become?

Sarah Rees Brennan follows up the first in her series, Unspoken, with Untold, a captivating sequel about magic, family, and love that not only reveals Brennan’s cruel insanity but will leave readers driving for more.

Right off the bat, Untold had me hooked with an awesome beginning, which I find unique because beginnings in my experience tend to be slow—perhaps this is the benefit of Untold being a sequel and therefore not needing so much introduction of characters and world-building. Regardless, it’s going to be hard for all future books to beat opening up with a battle against living scarecrows, that’s all I’m saying…

The wit in this book is hands down the best I’ve come across. Many times a blurb on the back of a book will describe the main character as having “a biting wit” when really, the character is just incredibly sarcastic, which is a trait in YA books that I’m frankly getting sick of. There IS a difference between sarcasm and wit, people. Wit is humorous. It’s not sarcastic, at least not always, and it has to be unique in order to succeed. (Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard was a book I read recently where the sarcasm was so overdone and cliché that I wanted to throw the book across the room.) Brennan’s use of wit, however, is both refreshing and entertaining. A quote for example (please note, there are far better quotes, but I spent a few minutes scouring the book and could not find the ones I was looking for. The book is 367 pages. I’m sure you can forgive me.):

“‘Don’t pretend, Cambridge,’ [Rusty] said. ‘You know my beautiful speech has made you see me in a whole new and even more attractive light. You totally think I’m secretly deep now. And you are right. It is true. I have deeps.’ He slid even lower on the sofa, his eyes falling almost completely closed. ‘Maybe,’ he added, his voice almost too casual, ‘this revelation will lead you to make the sensible decision, and go for me.’

‘And wouldn’t that be a magical thirty-six hours,’ Kami said. ‘Before you died of exhaustion.’

Rusty did something unspeakable with his eyebrows. ‘Why, Cambridge, I am scandalized!’

‘Shut up!’ Kami told him. ‘You know what I meant. Shut up your entire face.’”

-pg. 209-210, Untold by Sarah Rees Brennan (2013)

Another positive element of this book is that Brennan is deliciously cruel. I’m sure I’m not the only one whose heart was aching while reading this book. I won’t include any spoilers, but she builds you up to tear you down, and it’s becoming clear that in Brennan’s world, nothing lasts forever. She isn’t afraid to kill off the sweetest, most innocent characters, and I admire her for that.

The ending: my god. It wasn’t heart-stoppingly brilliant or anything, but it was pretty close to being awesome. It’s one of the better cliff-hangers I’ve read, and I kind of urgently need to find out what happens next. I will resist searching for answers online and spoiling it for myself.

Lastly, Untold loses half a point because I don’t believe it’s as good as the first book (Unspoken). This is partially because I miss the link between Kami and Jared and wished there wasn’t so much angst as the fallout from that. That being said, it’s rare that I write a book review with only one negative point to it, and I commend Brennan for that. I love her, and I love this book and series. I think you will too.

-Ember Book Reviews xxoo

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Saturday Updates: Apologies for Absence and Other News

Hi fellow readers!

I’m sure some have noticed that I hadn’t posted anything in a little over a week. I did my best, but a few contributing factors were the fact that my laptop was out for five weeks (!) for repairs and I kind of hit a book slump.

I don’t know what it is. I’m very picky with my books, and it seemed like everything I picked up was horrible. When I get into a rut like that, I stop wanting to read all together, but I feel guilty, so I try to trudge on very slowly. Obviously, this is a problem. I found the cure in Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns). That book is friggin hilarious. Honestly, if you haven’t watched The Mindy Project or The Office or read that book, then you are missing out.

Of course, after that I finished Sarah Dessen’s Saint Anything and posted on that. Right now I’m working on a few other books and hoping to have a post up soon.

Currently sitting on my bed are a few fantasies, a few romances. I’m trying to broaden my literary horizons so that I don’t fall into that rut again. I hate when I go through a series of books and I dislike every single one of them. It’s such a downer.

Then there’s just general life. I’d love it if I could spend my entire time between sitting at home with a book and being at the book store, but alas, I can’t. I have to work, and my work requires super long hours in random shifts, so I don’t always have the time or the schedule that I would like. Then there’s my secret project and, you know, having some semblance of a social life (though it’s a pretty pathetic one). Basically, I’m sorry to have gone MIA, and I’m trying.

-Ember Book Reviews xxoo

SAINT ANYTHING by Sarah Dessen

saint anything

4 out of 5

Sydney can’t quite remember what it feels like to be noticed. Her brother Peyton always commanded the spotlight, whether it be because of his good looks, charm, or his daring personality. Sydney used to admire him for it—that is, until his life began to spiral out of control and he hit a kid while driving drunk, leaving that boy paralyzed and landing himself in jail.

Sydney finds herself wrangling with two desires—one: to be noticed. By her parents, who have nothing but Peyton on their minds most of the time; by her friends, who haven’t been looking too far past the surface to see what’s really going on in Sydney’s heart. Her second desire: to be invisible—to erase her association with her brother and his past, and everything that comes along with sharing their last name; to blend into the background and no longer be recognized as Peyton’s little sister; to be free.

Fans of Sarah Dessen will delight with her latest installment and the story that comes along with Dessen’s telling of it: of struggling to find your voice and being heard.

I enjoyed this book, especially the ending. Dessen really knows how to build suspense well. She drops hints that big things will happen and my heart pounded while I waited to see what happened next. I also love the way Dessen writes about the little things that most authors glaze over: body language, even of people just walking by who never have a name; food; world-building. She writes in a way that shows you she understands all types of people, and notices the tiny snippets of daily life that many people ignore. She gives you the glimpses that Sydney craved in delivering pizza and seeing what was behind each door. I loved it.

I have to admit, the book was slow at first but picked up in the middle. I also found Sydney very frustrating at times, particularly when it came to letting her parents bulldoze over her. I would have liked to see her stand up for herself more, or disobey her parents once in a while. However, perhaps Dessen intended the readers to feel frustrated by this. As well, it was clear that Sydney was meant to be the opposite of Peyton—while Peyton was the one messing around and making mistakes, Sydney was contrasting him by following the rules and being the good kid. Even still, she sometimes made me want to scream.

I do notice that Dessen writes to gender stereotypes in this novel. By that I mean that the woman or wife is the homemaker and the dad is the one with the career. We see this throughout the novel, from Julie’s character and her “War Room” where she organizes the family, as well as her obsessing over her son much more than Peyton Sr., who is always busy at work; to the newly-wed wife that Sydney and Mac deliver pizza to who is anxious to impress her in-laws with her “cooking;” to the Chathams’ desire for Seaside Pizza to be inherited through the male line. Yes, the Chatham kids resist this, but I find myself yanking my hair a little at how often it comes up and is generally accepted. I’d like to see Dessen write a stay-at-home dad and a career-driven mother who are still married, or some variation of that sort.

I also don’t feel like the secondary and tertiary characters were as well-developed as they have been in the past. I also feel like her main characters fall into similar developmental patterns and are quite similar in personalities. For example, the majority of Dessen’s MCs are intelligent, studious (SAT prep is a common theme), obey their parents to a fault, are very respectful to the adults around them, and generally good kids. There are some exceptions, but I find this pattern in a lot of Dessen’s writing, and I would appreciate seeing some more variety.

I’ve been watching Twitter and everyone has been talking about how Saint Anything is Dessen’s best yet; that’s not the case in my opinion. The Truth About Forever was always my favourite, and I hold every Dessen book up to that tier. This one didn’t meet that mark for me, but it was still really enjoyable.

I would definitely recommend that everyone grab themselves a copy of this book, especially if you’re already a Dessen fan. It was definitely a worthwhile read.

-Ember Book Reviews xxoo

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