Thursday, May 31, 2012

Review: The Story of Us by Deb Caletti

The Story of Us by Deb Caletti
Simon Pulse, 390 pages
US Release Date: April 24, 2012
Challenges: Local Library Challenge

Cricket’s on a self-imposed break from her longtime boyfriend—but she’s picked a bad week to sort out her love life. For one thing, her mother’s romance is taking center stage: After jilting two previous fiancés, her mom is finally marrying Dan Jax, whom Cricket loves. But as wedding attendees arrive for a week of festivities at a guesthouse whose hippie owners have a sweet, sexy son—Ash—complications arise:

Cricket’s future stepsisters make it clear they’re not happy about the marriage. An old friend decides this is the week to declare his love for Cricket. Grandpa chooses to reveal a big secret at a family gathering. Dan’s ex-wife shows up. And even the dogs—Cricket’s old, ill Jupiter and Dan’s young, lively Cruiser—seem to be declaring war.

While Cricket fears that Dan is in danger of becoming ditched husband-to-be number three, she’s also alarmed by her own desires. Because even though her boyfriend looms large in her mind, Ash is right in front of her....
-------------------------Goodreads summary

Notable Quote
Stories are what you have when the place is gone and the dried-up roses have crumbled and the ring is lost and that old car is finally junked. Stories are where the meaning ends up.

This is definitely another one of those books I wished I had when I was graduating high school or college (see also: The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour, It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini, An Off Year by Claire Zulkey) - it would have helped me SO much at the time, and probably would have made me feel better, like I wasn't alone with all my feelings.

The book follows Cricket through the week leading up to her mother's marriage, which creates complete chaos as all the family comes together and Cricket tries to figure out her future, where she stands with her long-time boyfriend, and how to cope with all the change that is going on in her life. It's a sweet story, filled with equal parts sarcasm, fun, funny and meaningful.

My favourite element of the story was the emphasis on family, and how much it can mean. Even when a family is divorced or going through tough times, there was still that love and caring there. The dynamic between Cricket, her mother and her brother, Ben, was so sweet and lovable - I absolutely adored any of their interactions. It definitely reminded me of my family: I'm incredibly close with my brother and parents, and I loved seeing this reflected in a book. Often in YA, it's a broken family -- and while Cricket's isn't perfect, the relationships are solidly there.

I think I was expecting more romance in the book - I mean, the title, the synopsis, everything we know about it points to that, right? I'm not entirely disappointed that it wasn't as big as I thought it would be, but it was definitely surprising. The little romance that was there is sweet and funny, and I was hanging onto Cricket's words trying to figure out just what it was that she had done to Janssen and what would happen. I admit the "big reveal" seemed anticlimactic, but it actually fit the story really, really well. Being left in the dark for most of the novel about what she'd done makes for an interesting read, in that I just wasn't sure how to feel about her and Janssen, or her with Ash, or all the issues she was going through. I mean, how could I judge it when I don't quite know what I'm judging? I'm on the fence if that was brilliant or not, because I definitely kept reading to find out.

I've heard that a lot of people found the characters to be one dimensional - and sure, a few seemed to be. But the main characters, the big ones that mattered, were fine. I really loved Cricket, because I felt like she's a past version of myself when I was going through that weird time of just graduated and trying to figure out what the hell I was going to do with my life. That period of "New Adult" is a truly terrifying time, and Cricket captured it really well. I laughed at all the imagined disaster scenarios, because that's definitely how I used to be at that time. I was also amazed at how fully I felt like I knew Janssen, and he's not even really in the novel! He's just outside of it, the recipient to her letters and part of the memories she reveals. But through her letters and recounting their story, I felt like he was just as real as the ones that were staying in the beach house with them.

I'm also in love with Cricket's brother, Ben. He was so sweet and funny and such a perfect Boy character. He was a wonderful older brother, and I kind of wish I knew him in real life. Definitely a "good guy." (I guess you have to have read it to get that.)

And there's no way I could write a review of this without mentioning Jupiter, their dog. I was surprised at how infused dogs were in the story, and I do think that it could be a turn off to some readers. Five years ago, I wouldn't have gotten any of the dog love in the story: I never had a pet growing up, none of my friends did, and I didn't understand what it meant to have a pet. But one of my past jobs had dogs in the office, and I learned to love them and how they really become such a part of your life. I haven't worked at that office in 6 months and I still miss the dogs every day! So because I went through that, I understand all that Jupiter meant to the family and loved it that much more. She was such a fun personality to have around, and leant an awesome and unique structure to the story.

I felt like this book had a bit of everything in it: family, the pondering of future, relationships, friendships, divorced parents, struggling relationships, pets, possible new relationships, step-siblings, miscommunications and misunderstandings, reconciliation and moving on. While sometimes that did feel like the sheer quantity may have detracted from the quality of each element, I think it was still done well and comes together as a solid, wonderful contemporary novel.

The Story of Us is a great read for those who remember (or are going through) that awkward period of change in life. When the leaving and the going meld together into that chaotic mess of how it will all work out. When the relationship seems to be on the cusp of Something Big. When the past has to reconcile all the Could Bes of the future. While it's not the fastest moving novel (though the wedding scene had me cracking up with all the action!), the meaning and wisdom make it more than worth it.

4.5 Stars / 5

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: The Land of Stories by Chris Colfer

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine,
meant to spotlight an upcoming release we are eagerly awaiting!

The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer
Little, Brown Young Readers, 448 Pages
Expected US Release Date: July 17, 2012

Alex and Conner Bailey's world is about to change, in this fast-paced adventure that uniquely combines our modern day world with the enchanting realm of classic fairytales.

The Land of Stories tells the tale of twins Alex and Conner. Through the mysterious powers of a cherished book of stories, they leave their world behind and find themselves in a foreign land full of wonder and magic where they come face-to-face with the fairy tale characters they grew up reading about.

But after a series of encounters with witches, wolves, goblins, and trolls alike, getting back home is going to be harder than they thought.
---------------------------Goodreads summary

So I'll be the first to admit that I'm a Chris Colfer fan. Not necessarily Glee (I used to be, but 3 seasons and we're STILL on the Finchel thing? Please.), but Chris Colfer. I find him to be awe-worthy. His voice, his acting, how he can carry the barest of emotions with just a flick of his eyes. Beyond that though, I do think he's got a lot to offer as an artist and writer. Have you seen the trailer to his movie Struck By Lightning (if not, watch it here!)? He wrote, starred in, and helped produce it, and I have to say that it looks quite promising! 

Even if this didn't have a celebrity's name attached as the author though, I'd be interested! It reminds me a lot of Storybound by Marissa Burt (the premise, anyway - I'm only halfway through Storybound) - which I love. It just sounds like a fun, solid adventurous Middle Grade novel. I'm hoping to snag an ARC at ALA if they'll have them there; regardless how I acquire it, I know I will some day soon.

What book are you waiting for?
Leave your link in the comments and I'll hop by!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Review: Keep Holding On by Susane Colasanti (eARC)

Keep Holding On by Susane Colasanti
Penguin Teen, 290 Pages
Expected US release date: May 31, 2012 (I think...NG still says June 14. And I've already seen it out at my BN!)
Format: e-ARC
Source: Penguin Teen, via NetGalley (thank you!)

Noelle's life is all about survival. Even her best friend doesn't know how much she gets bullied, or the ways her mom neglects her. Noelle's kept so much about her life a secret for so long that when her longtime crush Julian Porter starts paying attention to her, she's terrified. Surely it's safer to stay hidden than to risk the pain of a broken heart. But when the antagonism of her classmates takes a dramatic turn, Noelle realizes it's time to stand up for herself--and for the love that keeps her holding on.
------------------Goodreads summary

Notable Quote
School would be way more tolerable if everyone wasn't so afraid to be who they really are. And if everyone else would let them.

hugs for everyone!
I just want to hug everyone in this book, you guys. All of them. Even the bullies (sometimes...maybe just a pat on the back). I want to take them all home with me and feed them and read them stories and reassure them that life gets better.

My heart is so broken over the idea that this book isn't just a story to someone - it's THEIR story. This is their reality. And I hate that so much. I couldn't help it but feel that some of this could be an extreme version - but then it makes me feel guilty that it's "extreme" to me because I was so, so fortunate to never go through this. It's absolutely shattering to know that someone is probably relating to this, going through the exact same thing.

The secondary characters were the best. I mean, I liked Noelle, the main character: she was a solid teenage girl, going through the paces and making my heart contract when she didn't fight back. She grew and evolved really well. But all those around her were amazing. Sherae was the best friend we all want, I'm so in love with Simon (lit mag editor?! Yes PLEASE!), and I want to marry Julian. I want someone to say "I'd do anything for you, don't you know that?" to me. That line literally made my heart skip. Ms. Scofield was quirky and jumped right off the page for me, recalling several favourite teachers from my past. And even though I just wanted to shake Noelle's mom until she came to her senses, I thought she was done well, too.

I really liked that Susane Colasanti gave lovable characters in this. That she gave Noelle lifelines, that they were true friends to her throughout her ordeal. I liked that Noelle was the block for most of the novel, not being able to get over her own humiliation and embarrassment to reach out to those there for her. The story itself is woven really well. Bullying is often about the internal and the external, how those around you can affect what's inside you, and I think Susane told this brilliantly.

Keep Holding On is also very well rounded and reasoned. I'm not sure I'm saying that correctly - what I mean is that it's inevitable for you to start questioning things when you're reading. Why doesn't Noelle tell Julian? Why doesn't she dump Matt? Why doesn't Sherae tell? Why does Carly suck so hard? Why would Audrey do what she does? What is wrong with Noelle's mom? The book answers every single one of those. For everything that happens, there's an explanation that goes with it - and I really love that. It makes the novel real, and full, and sweeps me right along into the drama and emotion of it since I feel like I really understand everything.

There's more I want to talk about, but it would spoil some of the book - if you've read it, let me know! We'll chat on Twitter or something :)

So, there's really not much much else to say about this book, except that it's an important one. I want to pass it out to every high schooler in the world. I encourage everyone to read it, and share it with others, and to talk to each other.

PS. Her reference to The Outsiders was all sorts of win.

PPS. My dream cast of Keep Holding On.

5 Stars / 5

I have a question for readers...

How would you feel if I were to talk about my writing/WIP on here? I've always thought I would just keep this as a book review site, but I've had the urge to chat about the story I'm currently working on - and where better to talk about a book I'm writing than my own book blog? If ever the people to understand writing, stories and the process, it would be book blog readers.

So...thoughts? Would you hate it? Not care? Like it? Tell me, I promise I won't be offended!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Weekly Wrap-Up + Stacking the Shelves (1)

Hope all the Americans have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend!

Covers I Hate for TGIF and Dream Casting Susane Colasanti's Keep Holding On for Follow Friday
Featuring a picture of Logan Lerman. You're welcome.

Ned Vizzini Appearance Recap
Featuring awesome shoes and a minor freak out that I got to hold his ARC
(Ned also featured it on his site!)

Top Ten Non-Bookish Sites I Frequent
What We All Learned: Not many of us have lives outside of books. I DON'T MIND.

Review: Fated by Alyson Noel
Loved the setting, but not much else unfortunately. 2 Stars
Buuuut that's good for you, because...

Win my ARC of Fated!
Must be a book blogger.
Please provide your blog URL.
Ends 6/11

And now for my Shelves from the past 2 weeks!
I've found the past week to be in poor taste and decided to find a different meme more suitable for me.
Stacking the Shelves is hosted by Tynga's Reviews

From the Library
It's been a MGnificent week, apparently!
The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healey
Pants on Fire by Meg Cabot
Bliss by Kathryn Littlewood
(2 copies because they came in at the same time from 2 different library systems. Oops!)

*all except Hush, Hush from the Friends of the Library County bookstores
Bad Girls Don't Die by Katie Alender

Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan
Finally! One of my favourites, but I never owned it.

Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

When It Happens by Susane Colasanti

Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler
Super excited to finally read this!

The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D. by Nichole Bernier (finished copy)
via Crown Publishing and TLC Book Tours for the blog tour (thank you!)

Won & Gifted
The Treachery of Beautiful Things ARC + postcard, note, magnet, bookmark by Ruth Frances Long
Won from the contest on her blog to name something treacherous. (I answered: the ocean)
(thank you so much, Ruth!)

So Much Closer by Susane Colasanti
Won from her #theknowing Twitter contest.
(thank you so much, Susane + Penguin!)

Signed Fracture bookmark + bookplate by Megan Miranda, Signed Slide bookmark by Jill Hathaway
Gifted from Megan Miranda after the YAmazing Race, and she surprised me with the Slide bookmark!
(thank you so much, Megan!)

and the books were signed!

What's on your shelves?
Leave me your link and I'll hop by!

Friday, May 25, 2012

TGIF (15) and Follow Friday (14)

TGIF is hosted by Ginger at Greads!

Show Me Your Cover
What are some of the worst book covers, but hold some of the best stories inside? Don't be embarrassed, show us your cover!

Surprisingly, even though I'm incredibly judgmental about covers (who isn't?), I had a tough time! There were a few that popped out, but a lot of the ones that I don't like are just little nit-picky issues or I'll reconcile myself with it. That said, I split it into 3 categories:

People on the Cover
I don't usually like real people (full face showing) on the covers because it gives me an idea of the characters and I prefer to make that up in my head as I go along. Most I'll forgive (read: indifference), but these are the ones that bother me the most.
Paper Towns by John Green

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson (US Paperback) (left). 
I admit this cover is pretty, but I don't like the person, and I LOVE the hardback cover (right).

Across the Universe by Beth Revis (US Paperback) (left)
 This one may also just be a casualty because I LOVE LOVE LOVE the original hardcover (right).

Too Cutesy/Fluffy
All Rachel Cohn books (*not all pictured)

Anna and the French Kiss / Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
Ok, this is difficult because I do think these go perfectly with the charm of the books, but they turned me off for the longest time. I didn't read them because I thought the covers were too fluffy, and I still don't like that they pictured Anna, Lola and Cricket. (Thankfully Etienne is still in my imagination!)

Simply Don't Like
Looking For Alaska by John Green

The DUFF by Kody Keplinger
She's not DUFFy to me.

Storm by Brigid Kemmerer
In fairness, I haven't read this yet. But the cover is such a cheesy 90s boyband to me!

What are some covers you dislike?
Leave me your link and I'll come check it out!

Follow Friday is hosted by Alison Can Read and Parajunkee's View, meant to spotlight two blogs and allows bloggers to link up and meet other fabulous bookish friends and share the Following love!

This week's spotlight blogs are: Charissa Books & Underworld Love Addiction

And the question of the week is:
Activity! Dreamcast your current read.

Confession: I'm TERRIBLE at casting. I don't watch too many movies or too much television, and book characters are always so different from real people in my head. So, we'll take this with a grain of salt, yes?

I literally JUST started reading The Glimpse by Claire Merle and The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D by Nichole Bernier, so I don't know enough about either to cast it yet. So, the most recent book I read was an ARC of Keep Holding On by Susane Colasanti (loved it! review up next week!).

Keep Holding On by Susane Colasanti Dream Cast
> Carey Mulligan circa the An Education era - I understand she's too old for the role, but hey, I do what I want!
> Logan (Percy Jackson) seems to be that perfect mix of attractive, sweet and strong.
> Kevin McHale (Glee) has that nerdy, fashionable mix with sass and attitude Simon seemed to have.
> Drew Barrymore could pull off the corny, perky Science Teacher awesomely well.
> Hillary Swank could be all the facets of Noelle's mom really well. Tough and vulnerable all at once.
> Sarah Hyland (Modern Family) has that best friend backbone Noelle needs.

Who's your dreamcast? For which book?
Leave me your link and I'll hop by!
And of course I'd love to return a follow if you are kind enough to follow me :)

PS. Have you entered the giveaway to win my ARC of Fated by Alyson Noel? Ends 6/11

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Ned Vizzini Appearance Recap!

And my author signing blitz continues! This past Sunday was Ned Vizzini, the author of Teen Angst...Naaah, Be More Chill, It's Kind of A Funny Story, and the forthcoming The Other Normals (SO excited!). He was the headlining author at the La Mesa Children's Book Festival here in San Diego - I missed Ned at the LATFOB, so I was even more determined to see him. Even though I haven't mentioned his books too much (though his cover often makes an appearance!) since I read him before I had a blog, I absolutely LOVE his books. I really connected with It's Kind of A Funny Story, because I've felt incredibly similar to Craig.

(Did anyone know he writes for that Teen Wolf show on MTV? I had no idea!)

Anyway. La Mesa isn't really that close to where I live (~35 minute drive), and the day was blisteringly hot (87*-ish), and I'm fairly certain I have sunburned lips now which is like the most painful sunburn ever, but all of it was SO worth it. Ned Vizzini is funny and personable and friendly and has a good sense of humor. (and cute! love his glasses. *blush*) The announcer guy at the festival did not hide that he had no idea who Ned was and couldn't find his notes to introduce him for a few seconds, so it was awkwardly silent and the guy started making jokes...Ned did very well just rolling with it.

It was a pretty quick thing since there weren't many people at the Festival as a whole, but it was still really, really good - the audience asked some quality questions, I was thoroughly impressed! Ned started by reading the opening pages to The Other Normals, then took questions.

The usual bullet point recap!

  • He had to self-edit the opening pages of The Other Normals as he was reading because the audience was largely small children and the content was...not.
  • The Other Normals came together over a 4 month period.
  • He has been writing since he was 15.
  • He sent a piece to the New York Press when he was 15, got super excited that it could be came back 6 weeks later with "Not Enough Postage."
  • Re-sent, was published and continued the relationship with New York Press.
  • Several of those pieces eventually ended up in Teen Angst...Naaah.
  • He says The Other Normals is about learning to face up to the pressures of being human and not escape in games...something he had to learn as a teen.
  • The band and lyrics that appear in The Other Normals are really from a band he was in.
  • He does write about real people in his novel, but of course changes things.  "Change name, change hair colour and you don't get sued." (love that!)
  • Liked the movie made from It's Kind of A Funny Story, thought it was a good job done.
  • A lot of material from a YA book cannot be in a PG-13 movie, so he thinks they did well translating the book to movie and capturing the tone.
  • Says he is a very open person, which is why he didn't have a problem writing It's Kind of A Funny Story and baring his life and story.
  • One of the reasons he enjoys writing YA is because of the feedback he receives from readers.

And I laughed because I totally took a wide picture to include his shoes because they were so cool, and later he made a joke about asking him about them! Of course someone in the audience did, and they are Sperry Top-Siders. Boat shoes. and AWESOME.
Apologies that it's so dark!
I feel like taking a photo of his shoes makes me creepy, but it's already there. It's done. DON'T JUDGE ME.

After he signed books and of course Ned is awesome and nice. I overheard him talking to a few of the ladies in front of me, and was pleasantly surprised to hear him asking more than the average" how's your day going" things - he had actually noticed who asked which questions and had discussions with them, which was incredibly thoughtful and says a lot about who he is. We chatted about his books, LATFOB, general things. HE LET ME READ SOME OF HIS ARC, YOU GUYS. Seriously, you have no idea how much I want to read this book, so I was freaking out when I'd told him I really liked what he'd read -- and then he told me to read the REAL opening and handed me the ARC.

Remember how I mentioned up there he had to self-edit the content because of the children. me that he did haha. And if it's possible, I loved him more. So yeah, I was able to hold a real copy of the book, and read real words from it, and read real band lyrics featured in it!

If he's appearing anywhere near you, I highly recommend going to meet him! This was probably one of my favourite author meetings I've ever had - Ned seems so genuine and I really felt like I got a sense of who he was. (Who knows if that's actually what he's like, but it's still nice to feel like it!) He told me that he might be doing something or appearing at ALA, so if you're going, keep an eye out! That's definitely where I'll be.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Top Ten Non-Bookish Websites I Frequent

*Enter to win an ARC of Fated by Alyson Noel!

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

Top Ten
Non-Bookish Website I Frequent
Uhh...this was surprisingly hard! I had no idea just how entwined my life is with books; I went to my little page of Most Visited sites, and it is seriously all bookish things: Goodreads, county library, public library, BN, Amazon, NetGalley...ridiculous!

But anyway. I managed to scramble up 10 sites that I do visit, though a lot of them are personal blogs - I've been a personal blogger myself for 6+ years, so that's how a lot of these came into my life.

1. Social Networks
Kind of cheating since a lot of this does involve my blog, but still.
Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest

2. A Cup of Jo
ADORE this blog. Joanna is so lovely, and she always has the best content. Fashion, design, photography, city guides, gift guides, baby things, books, her own personal's fabulous.

3. The Bloggess
If you want some serious laughs, head here. Jenny is side-grabbing, tear-inducing, pee-in-your-pants hilarious.

4. Explosm
Home to Cyanide + Happiness webcomic. Fair warning, their content is offensive, graphic, rude, all-around general foul material. I LOVE IT ALL.
(I also meet most of the artists during Comic-Con every year, and they're awesome.)

5. JJB Message Board
Stemming from my old (but never gone) *NSYNC fanatic days, this started as an *NYSNC message board and has since evolved to an every day hangout. This is probably the website I've been going to the longest (~12 years?), and I feel like family with a lot of them.

6. The Polishaholic
I'm a nail lacquer freak. Seriously. I have ~115 different polishes, and this is one of the best nail blogger websites. Jen is awesome and informative, really nice and super responsive to any questions you have. Her swatches are amazing.
(I actually know Jen and her site through JJB!)

7. Oh Happy Day
Design, graphics, DIY...Jordan's site is FANTASTIC and lovely. Her aesthetic is to die for.

8. How Sweet It Is
Beware that hunger AWAITS you if you go to Jessica's food blog. I think I found her through a delicious cupcake recipe, but I've been a big, big fan since. Her food photography is so much fun, she's got a delightful humor, and seriously...NOMS EVERYWHERE.

9. The Little Things We Do
Lauren is probably one of my favourite bloggers. She's a stylist and new-mama, and I just think she's a doll. I found her through the Fill-in-the-Blank Friday meme that peppers most personal blogs, and she's fantastic.

10. Barefoot Foodie
I found Brit's site because she's often listed as similar to The Bloggess (if ever a selling point, it's that). She's hilarious and sarcastic and so real I love it. She's also an incredibly important blogger, because she's very up-front and real about being plus sized - but it's not her trying to make excuses or make awkward fat jokes that veil a deep insecurity. No, Brit is all about embracing it and learning to love who you are, no matter what -- and to this plus-sized girl, I find her inspiring. (You should watch her TED talk, it's about courageous beauty.)
(and while linking this, I've found out she has made the switch to her blog being called Brittany, Herself since her blog kept getting confused Foodie-searching people haha.)

What Non-Bookish Sites Do You Visit?
Leave your link and I'll hop by!

GIVEAWAY: Win an ARC of Fated by Alyson Noel!

Win my ARC of Fated by Alyson Noel!
Prize: One (1) gently read ARC copy of Fated by Alyson Noel
Goodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository | My Review

You don't have to be a follower to enter, but you do have to be an active book blogger (regular posting in recent months) - I was provided this ARC to review, and while I cannot force anyone to do the same, I would appreciate it if the winner does. ARCs are a function, not a given, and we can give back to the book community by at least reviewing what they so generously provide.

You will be asked to provide your blog URL, and I will be checking.

Because I am personally shipping, this contest is open to the US.
However, IF YOU ARE INTERNATIONAL, you may enter if you are willing to pay for the shipping.

Please read my giveaway policy before entering through the Rafflecopter below.
Ends 6/11

Good luck!
**Update 5/23: GoodReads isn't loading my profile for some people - if it says the profile doesn't exist, please Google "goodreads harmony19" and I will be the first result. Sorry for the inconvenience! (And thank you Andrea for letting me know! <3)

**Update 5/31: PLEASE REMEMBER TO LEAVE YOUR BLOG URL! In the Rafflecopter or in the comments, if you forget while entering. If I cannot verify you are a current book blogger, your entries will be deleted! Thank you.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Review: Fated by Alyson Noel (ARC)

Fated (Soul Seekers #1) by Alyson Noel
St. Martin's Press, 306 Pages
Expected US Release Date: May 22, 2012

Format: ARC
Source: Publisher (thank you St. Martins!)

Lately strange things have been happening to Daire Santos. Animals follow her, crows mock her, and glowing people appear out of nowhere. Worried that Daire is having a nervous breakdown, her mother packs her off to stay in the dusty plains of Enchantment, New Mexico with a grandmother she’s never met.

There she crosses paths with Dace, a gorgeous guy with unearthly blue eyes who she’s encountered before...but only in her dreams. And she’ll get to know her grandmother—a woman who recognizes Daire’s bizarre episodes for what they are. A call to her true destiny as a Soul Seeker, one who can navigate between the worlds of the living and the dead. Her grandmother immediately begins teaching her to harness her powers—but it’s an art that must be mastered quickly. Because Dace’s brother is an evil shape-shifter who’s out to steal her powers. Now Daire must embrace her fate as a Soul Seeker and find out if Dace is one guy she’s meant to be with...or if he’s allied with the enemy she’s destined to destroy.
--------------------------Goodreads summary

Notable Quote
This place is too big. Too immense. Too vast. Appearing almost cosmic in the way it seems to meander for eternity.
Even though I'd decided to give it a chance, I've no doubt in my mind this place will dwarf me.
In the interest of full disclosure, I've only read one other Alyson Noel book (Evermore) years ago and I didn't like it. And I don't often read paranormal (I like them! Just haven't read many, for some reason), so it's not like I have a plethora of other books to compare this to or know a lot about the genre.

Straight up, I did not like this book. I struggled hard with reading it, and I almost pulled a DNF three times. While I do think Alyson Noel's writing has far improved from the last one I read -- I thought her writing was whiny and juvenile when I first read her -- I think the characters were the ultimate downfall. Daire, the main character, is a bratty, ungrateful child; and I wanted to reach through the pages and slap her too many times to count. She was weak, constantly whining, constantly resistant, constantly throwing herself a pity party. Her little moments of growth felt too sudden, too forced; and then she'd turn right around and go back to being a child. It's really tough to overcome when you don't care for the main character, what happens to her, or if she succeeds. The contrasts between Cade and Dace (hot twins!) were too contrasting, where I found it irritable and obvious the roles they would play. Dace was also too much that stereotypical tall, dark and handsome love interest with a quiet, understanding strength and eyes that bore into the center of your soul. And while I liked her grandmother (Paloma), I found her to be cheesy and one-dimensional. Chey, a "helper" of sorts to Daire and Paloma, was my favourite, but used far too little for him to make up for any of the other characters.

I found the plot contrived and trying too hard to be complex. Maybe it would be better to read in quick succession with the rest of the series, maybe it's meant to be a much bigger story arc than I'm seeing -- but I don't know that for sure, so I can't measure it that way.  There are too many unanswered questions; while I think that was done to maintain interest and make the reader continue on to find out what exactly it all means, I simply don't care enough to wait and find out. Too little was given to make a lot of sense, and too many things bothered me to make finding out the answers a priority.

The "love" story was also disappointing. It had all the elements that I can't stand about insta-love, without actually being instantaneous love. It was immediate pull, immediate attraction, immediate and unquestioning meaning to each other. I felt like I was just supposed to believe in their relationship. Maybe that's fine with other readers, but I prefer to feel invested in it, to understand the characters and why they are together.

I enjoyed the lore of the book, and while a lot of the backstory and meanings are fairly typical (are they based on actual beliefs? Anyone know?), I still enjoyed how those elements came together and created the worlds and dimensions that Daire must learn to travel between. I had zero attachment to any of the characters or plot lines in the book, but I really liked the settings and backgrounds of it.

So here's the truth of it: I didn't like this book, but I could see how a lot, maybe even most, would. If you like that hot-brothers-good-twin-evil-twin thing, you'll like this. If you like paranormal dimensions, you'll like this. There is a pretty solid mix of Daire being just a normal, new girl teenager at a school balanced with her Seeker role, which was nice. Maybe the reader just needs to have more patience than I do, willing to see a series through its completion before judging. It took everything I had to get 230 pages through the book, but the last 70 or so were fine. If you enjoy folklore and tradition and the conflict of two ancient powers, you'll probably like this book.

I just didn't.

2 Stars / 5

My loss is your gain though, because I'm giving away my ARC copy! Look for the rafflecopter to be up in a couple hours :) I'm shipping from my house, so it has to be US only - however, if you are international and don't mind paying for shipping, then you are more than welcome to enter.
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