Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry

Release Date: September 23, 2014
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Rated: MG/YA 12+
Format: eGalley
Source: NetGalley
Buy: AmazonThe Book Depository
Goodreads Website

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.

I was really interested in The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place after hearing Julie Berry speak at the Boston Teen Author Festival 2014. I even had the chance to meet her before this at ALA in Chicago in 2013, and get a signed ARC of her YA novel All the Truth That’s In Me, which I unfortunately haven’t read yet. This time round though it was really cool to hear her talk about crafting mystery and a good villain. This novel was really cute and was quite a funny historical-fiction middle grade novel – it’s actually really good for all ages since all the characters seemed to be of different ages.

At first I got really confused with all the names in the book as the author names them with an adjective, so we have characters such as Smooth Kitty and Stout Alice. It takes a while, but you definitely get used to it by halfway through the novel. I really like how the book includes illustrations of the ladies part of the sisterhood – which unfortunately wasn’t available for viewing in the eGalley I received – as well as mentions the people associated with them who don’t appear in the novel, just to get a better idea of the characters’ personalities and characteristics. I wish that certain characters had more of a role, because it seemed like only a four girls seemed to be getting most of the work during the plot, but nonetheless it made it much easier to relate to the characters.

I thought that the beginning was actually really strange, and this was due to the lack of reaction to their head mistress’s death. I just thought that it was weird how they didn’t have a total meltdown or panic that much, because I know I would have if I was in that situation. Especially when they have to masquerade around as if nothing was wrong: how can such young girls be calm under such circumstances? This is probably the only thing that didn’t add up for me. I mean, yeah, sure– there are times of panic and “I can’t do this” etc. etc. BUT, on the whole, lack of panic doesn’t make it seem really plausible. However, this was still a really fun read.

I’m a fan of whodunit mysteries, and this one was really great. There’s a ton of suspense and action that’ll keep you wondering what will happen next. There’s also some romance in the book which is why I think it’s more of a middle grade meets young adult, rather than just a middle grade novel. Anyway, I seriously did not expect that ending! There are a ton of surprises that are revealed at the end, especially about people’s identities, as well as the motive for the murder. I enjoyed how the mystery was written: I’m glad to say that there are no dull moments to be found.

Cute and gripping, The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place is perfect for readers of all ages, and will have you on your toes with every twist and turn. Julie Berry crafts a fabulous mystery that produces both laughs and shocked gasps, and I’m looking forward to reading more from her in the future.

If you like this, try...


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Friday, January 23, 2015

Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith

Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith

Release Date: March 1, 2014
Publisher: Electric Monkey
Rated: YA 15+
Format: ARC
Source: Pansing
Buy: AmazonThe Book Depository
Goodreads Website

Sixteen-year-old Austin Szerba interweaves the story of his Polish legacy with the story of how he and his best friend , Robby, brought about the end of humanity and the rise of an army of unstoppable, six-foot tall praying mantises in small-town Iowa.

To make matters worse, Austin's hormones are totally oblivious; they don't care that the world is in utter chaos: Austin is in love with his girlfriend, Shann, but remains confused about his sexual orientation. He's stewing in a self-professed constant state of maximum horniness, directed at both Robby and Shann. Ultimately, it's up to Austin to save the world and propagate the species in this sci-fright journey of survival, sex, and the complex realities of the human condition.

After finishing this one, there is truly only one word that sums it up: WOW. Just...WOW. Oh my gosh. I can’t believe I put this one off so long. It took me four attempts to start it – not because it was bad, but because things kept coming up. The fourth and final time I read this book, which was around a year after the previous attempt, I FINALLY finished it.

WOW.

What a strange and wonderful book! Honestly, I find it so difficult to tell people what this book is about. If I were to describe it, it would come off as being weird and something many people wouldn’t enjoy. Something along the lines of – this is a story about love and history... AND it has gigantic praying mantises. People would think I was crazy or something. Nope, so I’m gonna have Austin’s character describe it to you from the beginning of the story:

This is my history. There are things in here: babies with two heads, insects and big as refrigerators, God, the devil, limbless warriors, rocket ships, sex, diving bells, theft, wards, monsters, internal combustion engines, love, cigarettes, joy, bomb shelters, pizza, and cruelty.
Just like it’s always been.
–p. 8, ARC*
*text is subject to change in the final version

See? Much better than how I would have put it.

I remember starting this one (the first attempt to read this book) around the time I finished reading Slaughterhouse-Five for class. The writing style is similar in the sense that it jumps around a bit – not as crazily as SH5 – but like Vonnegut, Smith has a method to his madness. You only truly understand why it’s important to include the small details, or the larger ideas of what’s happening elsewhere because it all CONNECTS. In the end, you come to realise that, holy crap: it all makes sense now.

The literature student in me so desperately wants to just sit down with this book for a month and analyze the hell out of this book. There’s so much to look at because this book is so rich in detail and has such a unique structure. Just looking at the history this book incorporates, it’s influences and the allusions it makes would be such an interesting study... now I’m seriously tempted to do this! *inner-geek flails*

I feel like I’ve gone through a life-changing experience after reading this book. I cannot express how mind-blowingly excellent Grasshopper Jungle is, how stunning Andrew Smith’s prose is, and how I’m absolutely looking forward to reading more of his novels. This is by far the best book I’ve read in a long time, definitely the best book published in 2014 for me, and it’s going to be difficult finding another that will top this one. Truly a masterpiece of a book, filled with such a unique premise and unforgettable characters, this is a fantastic story that no one should miss out on.


▪ ▪ ▪ Thank you so much to Sasha from Pansing for sending a copy for review! ▪ ▪ 

If you like this, try...


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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday – Week 137

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. It’s to spotlight on upcoming books that I’m DYING to get my hands on!

This week’s WoW is:
Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra & Dhonielle Clayton

Black Swan meets Pretty Little Liars in this soapy, drama-packed novel featuring diverse characters who will do anything to be the prima at their elite ballet school.

Gigi, Bette, and June, three top students at an exclusive Manhattan ballet school, have seen their fair share of drama. Free-spirited new girl Gigi just wants to dance—but the very act might kill her. Privileged New Yorker Bette's desire to escape the shadow of her ballet star sister brings out a dangerous edge in her. And perfectionist June needs to land a lead role this year or her controlling mother will put an end to her dancing dreams forever. When every dancer is both friend and foe, the girls will sacrifice, manipulate, and backstab to be the best of the best.

May 26, 2015 ● Goodreads

I haven’t really read a Pretty Little Liars-esque novel in a while, so I’m looking forward to scandal, backstabbing and secrets! The cover is so gorgeous for this one and the title really caught my attention (that typography!!). Ballet school, rise to the top, drama... what more could I ask for? CAN’T WAIT!

What are you waiting on?

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Frostfire by Amanda Hocking

Frostfire by Amanda Hocking

Release Date: January 6, 2015
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Series: The Kanin Chronicles, Book 1
Rated: YA 14+
Format: Paperback
Source: Pansing
Buy: AmazonThe Book Depository
Goodreads Website

Hidden deep in the heart of a snow-covered wilderness lies the secret kingdom of the Kanin–a magical realm as beautiful as it is treacherous...

Byn Aven has never fit into Kanin society. Her blond hair and blue eyes set her apart as an outside–a half-blood unable to hold a respectable rank. But she’s determined to prove herself as a loyal protector of the kingdom she loves. Her dream is to become a member of the King’s elite guard, and she’s not going to let anything stand in her way...not even her growing feelings for her boss, Ridley Dresden. A relationship between them is strictly forbidden, but Bryn can’t fight her attraction to him. And she’s beginning to think he feels it, too.

Meanwhile, there’s an attack on the kingdom–one that will test Bryn’s strength like never before. Finally, she has the chance to confront Konstantin Black, the traitor who tried to kill her father years ago. It’s up to Bryn to put a stop to him before he strikes again. But is she willing to risk everything to protect a kingdom that doesn’t accept her for who she really is? And when her mission brings her closer to Ridley, will she be able to deny her heart?

First things first, when I found out that the bad guy’s name was Konstantine, this was the first thing I immediately thought of:


Different spelling, but same idea. So half of the time I was picturing the bad guy with a mole right above his lips that kind of resembled Constantine, the Kermit lookalike.

ANYWAY.

I had no idea that Frostfire was part of a spin-off series of the Trylle trilogy, which I have not yet read. Now thinking about it, this book maybe would have made more sense if I had read the original trilogy first. I was completely lost with the world-building. I mean, there’s a huge kingdom somewhere in North America (Canada?) and it sounds kind of archaic-ish, but it ISN’T. They listen to ELLIE GOULDING for crying out loud. They drive cars and have technological appliances. This was just a confusing clash of two completely opposite ideas that didn’t seem to work. I like having a clear idea of the world I’m entering when I read a book and because this one was all over the place, I was left annoyed at the world and just decided to focus on the story and characters.

Holy moly was Bryn’s character annoying and, like the world building, all over the place. I mean okay, I’m all for a kick-ass female character, YES, PLEASE YES. But when she screams and pushes people away for the wrong reasons, it’s just a little tedious reading her story. Also, there’s one thing I don’t get: the back of the book says that she is considered an outsider, doesn’t fit in, etc. etc. Um... did I miss something? There was possibly only one or two minor instances in the book, and even then the Queen backed her up and the King apologised. So much for being the “outsider” because she was more like the one everyone wanted to be or be with. Ugh.
Ridley’s character was the reason I thought this book was more new adult than young adult. He’s twenty-four and she’s nineteen. It’s a little borderline, but eh, the writing seemed like it was aimed at a young adult audience and didn’t have anything that YA hasn’t seen before (nothing overly sexual, etc.). But the romance was so childish. Honestly, he keeps putting his hand on her thigh (constantly) and she STILL doesn’t think that he’s into her. And she has to be seriously mean to his super nice girlfriend. So much for wanting a platonic relationship.

Speaking of hands on thighs and that phrase being repeated constantly in the book, what’s with all the smirking? Half of the time I was trying to see when the next time the word “smirk” would appear. SO MANY TIMES AUGHHHHH. By the end I was seriously thinking about going back and trying to frickin count how many times it appeared in the book. So hands on thighs and smirking... this is what you have to prepare yourself for when you read this book.

Maybe it was because I didn’t read the Trylle trilogy, or I was completely right with all my problems, but Frostfire wasn’t the book for me. I seriously hate writing negative reviews because I tend to get ranty, but in this case I could see no other way. But, I will give the book this – the plot was somewhat interesting. If you can get past the writing with a ton of brand/song/actor name dropping and the attention to detail that NOBODY cares about, it’s actually got an intriguing storyline with a somewhat shocking twist at the end. Needless to say, despite my problems with the book, the end does leave me slightly curious, but just curious enough for me to read the next book. Here’s to Ice Kissed. Hooray.


▪ ▪ ▪ Thank you so much to Sasha from Pansing for sending me a copy for review! ▪ ▪ 

If you like this, try...

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday – Week 136

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. It’s to spotlight upcoming books that I’m DYING to get my hands on!

This week’s WoW is:
Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone

If you could read my mind, you wouldn't be smiling.

Samantha McAllister looks just like the rest of the popular girls in her junior class. But hidden beneath the straightened hair and expertly applied makeup is a secret that her friends would never understand: Sam has Purely-Obsessional OCD and is consumed by a stream of dark thoughts and worries that she can't turn off. 

Second-guessing every move, thought, and word makes daily life a struggle, and it doesn't help that her lifelong friends will turn toxic at the first sign of a wrong outfit, wrong lunch, or wrong crush. Yet Sam knows she'd be truly crazy to leave the protection of the most popular girls in school. So when Sam meets Caroline, she has to keep her new friend with a refreshing sense of humor and no style a secret, right up there with Sam's weekly visits to her psychiatrist.

Caroline introduces Sam to the Poet's Corner, a hidden room and a tight-knit group of misfits who have been ignored by the school at large. Sam is drawn to them immediately, especially a guitar-playing guy with a talent for verse, and starts to discover a whole new side of herself. Slowly, she begins to feel more "normal" than she ever has as part of the popular crowd . . . until she finds a new reason to question her sanity and all she holds dear.

June 16, 2015 ● Goodreads

I love the cover. It’s simple, but still looks absolutely gorgeous. I haven’t read Tamara Ireland Stone’s Time Between Us series, but I can’t wait to read that one either. This one sounds particularly interesting and should be an fabulous read. Can’t wait!

What are you waiting on?

Monday, January 12, 2015

Kiss of Broken Glass by Madeleine Kuderick

Kiss of Broken Glass by Madeleine Kuderick

Release Date: September 9, 2014

Publisher: HarperTeen
Rated: YA 14+
Format: Hardback
Source: Publisher
Buy: AmazonThe Book Depository
Goodreads Website

In the next seventy-two hours, Kenna may lose everything—her friends, her freedom, and maybe even herself. One kiss of the blade was all it took to get her sent to the psych ward for seventy-two hours. There she will face her addiction to cutting, though the outcome is far from certain.

When fifteen-year-old Kenna is found cutting herself in the school bathroom, she is sent to a facility for mandatory psychiatric watch. There, Kenna meets other kids like her—her roommate, Donya, who’s there for her fifth time; the birdlike Skylar; and Jag, a boy cute enough to make her forget her problems . . . for a moment.

Of course, when I first saw this book, I was drawn to the cover immediately. THAT TYPOGRAPHY. THAT GLASS. THAT EVERYTHING. When I got the chance to review this book, I swooped at it. I mean, come on, THAT COVER. However, I didn’t know that it was a novel in verse. I haven’t read one in ages, and I love novels written in verse because not only are they really fast to read, but also has a lyrical quality that prose sometimes doesn’t. I took literature in high school, but sometimes I don’t get poetry, but thankfully novels in verse is something that I actually understand. Anyway, Kiss of Broken Glass was an emotional roller coaster. It’s based on the author’s life (her daughter’s experience) and so knowing that it brings to light the shocking reality that this does happen, and it the fact that it happens quite often and even to those at a young age. It’s really sad to read about it for sure, especially since I don’t really know anyone who has gone through the experience, but it’s definitely an eye-opener that I needed to read.

This book really reminded me of Ellen Hopkins’s style of writing. For those of you who don’t know, she writes about teens with problems who find each other at rehab centers, much like how Kenna finds Donya, Skylar and Jag, all in verse. However, the problem I find with verse is that sometimes you can’t get into the character’s head because the words are fleeting and the pace is a lot faster. Descriptions aren’t also in depth, and there’s more interpretation from the reader’s side. However, I could feel like I got Kenna’s character just because there would be certain sections of the novel when it would focus on her character’s feelings.

The characters in this book were great, but other than Kenna, I don’t feel like we as readers get much of a chance to get to know them more. True, the timespan of this book is SUPER short (short book, short timeline), but even then, it would have been nice to learn a teeny bit more about the other characters. Jag especially. Skylar is probably the character other than Kenna that I got to know about, but for a “love interest,” Jag barely had a role. Very little character interaction, I must say. However, maybe that was the point and I just missed it. These experiences are fleeting and short, but the impression they leave on you can last forever. Kenna’s time at the facility was super short but during that 72 hour period, she learned so much more about herself from observing and interacting (a little bit) with those around her.

Kiss of Broken Glass was gorgeous, rhapsodic, and moving– a breathtaking eye-opener that I couldn’t stop reading. Kuderick’s words have the ebb and flow of waves, both smooth and powerful, sucking you into the depths of what truly lies beneath the surface. I look forward to reading more from her in the future.


▪ ▪ ▪ Thank you so much to Alice at HarperCollins 360 for sending me a copy for review! ▪ ▪ 

If you like this, try...

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Damaged by Amy Reed

Damaged by Amy Reed

Release Date: October 14, 2014
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Rated: YA 15+
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Buy: AmazonThe Book Depository
Goodreads Website

Two teens must come to terms with their friend’s death—and her afterlife—in this gritty and realistic novel from the author of Beautiful, Clean, Crazy, and Over You.

When Kinsey’s best friend Camille dies in a car accident while she was behind the wheel, she shuts down completely, deciding that numbness is far better than mourning. She wants to be left alone during the last few weeks of high school, but Camille’s mysterious boyfriend Hunter, who was also in the car that night, has a different idea.


Despite all of Kinsey’s efforts, she can’t shake Camille, who begins haunting her in dreams. Sleep deprived and on the verge of losing it, she agrees to run away with Hunter to San Francisco. As the pair tries to escape both the ghost of Camille and their own deep fears, Kinsey questions how real her perception of her friendship with Camille was, and whether her former friend’s ghost is actually now haunting her. Hunter, meanwhile, falls into a spiral of alcoholism, anger, and self-loathing.


Ultimately, Kinsey and Hunter must come to terms with what they’ve lost and accept that they can’t outrun pain.

I knew I had to get my hands on this one after reading Amy Reed’s fantastic novel Clean. The cover on the ARC I received was different – it featured a guy, and so I was a little sad that it got replaced with the image of the girl because not too many guys are the main subject of the cover when it comes to YA fiction. Anyway, I really enjoyed this one. Amy Reed’s writing is compelling and while harsh, it’s got a lyrical quality to it. She’s clearly not afraid of being brutally honest when it comes to telling a story and gets right into the nitty-gritty, deep-down stuff that we tend to hide or what characters don’t show in many books. That’s what I particularly enjoyed about Damaged and overall it was a great read. 

I really loved Clean, so I knew that this one was going to get a similar reaction from me. I didn’t like it as much as Clean, but it was really different from it as well, so I don’t think I can compare the two in terms of subject matter. Sure, this does deal with addiction – not getting past the death of a friend, alcoholism, and such. HOWEVER, unlike the rehab setting that was in Clean, the two characters Kinsey and Hunter take a road trip. I don’t have anything against road trips, but honestly, it’s such a cliché in YA nowadays that it does get annoying. I mean the same thing happens again and again and again. Boy and girl take a road trip, starting with nothing but the need to get away from it all. The relationship at this point is pretty platonic and they often have a character who is missing/dead/etc. who is the reason why they need to get away from where they currently are. Make a few side-stops, showing the touristy-side of a road trip at some not-so-well-known landmarks. They start to fall in love. Something happens, they separate, angry at each other. In the end... who knows, they either stick together or separate  it’s a toss-up. I’m not saying that all road trip books are like this, but they tend to have a similar pattern. Damaged followed some of this (I’m not gonna say what) and so yes, the story’s frame was a little cliché, but the other parts were better than I’d expected.

When it came down to Kinsey and Hunter, I seriously couldn’t connect to them. Normally this would annoy me with a book, but I honestly thought that it worked this time. Taking more of an observing role rather than getting into the characters and their emotions made more sense for this one because of the experiences the both of them have had. But I did feel time to time annoyed with the characters because of their actions and their tendency to quickly get mad at each other and shut down completely. The Camille “ghost” parts of the story were the best. I seriously thought that these were the moments when we could possibly connect to Kinsey’s character because she’s more vulnerable and we can see past the mask she wears most of the time. 

Both a smooth and rocky road, Damaged was an interesting blend of ghost story meets contemporary road trip. Dark and haunting, Reed scores again with her latest novel. Can’t wait to read more from her!


▪ ▪ ▪ Thank you so much to Kelsey at Simon & Schuster for sending a copy for review! ▪ ▪ 

If you like this, try...

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday – Week 135

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. It’s to spotlight upcoming reads I’m DYING to get my hands on!

This week’s WoW is:
Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke by Anne Blankman

**WARNING: contains spoilers from book 1**
The girl known as Gretchen Whitestone has a secret: She used to be part of Adolf Hitler’s inner circle. More than a year after she made an enemy of her old family friend and fled Munich, she lives with a kindly English family, posing as an ordinary German immigrant, and is preparing to graduate from high school. Her love, Daniel Cohen, is a reporter in town. For the first time in her life, Gretchen is content.

But then, Daniel gets a telegram that sends him back to Germany, and Gretchen’s world turns upside-down. And when she receives word that Daniel is wanted for murder, she has to face the danger she thought she’d escaped-and return to her homeland.


Gretchen must do everything she can to avoid capture and recognition, even though saving Daniel will mean consorting with her former friends, the Nazi elite. And as they work to clear Daniel’s name, Gretchen and Daniel discover a deadly conspiracy stretching from the slums of Berlin to the Reichstag itself. Can they dig up the explosive truth and get out in time-or will Hitler discover them first?

April 21, 2015 ● Goodreads

Prisoner of Night and Fog (read my review HERE) was one of the best books I’d read in 2014. I’m SO looking forward to this one! I love everything about this series: the setting, the characters, the twists...the history is absolutely fascinating. I just downloaded this from Edelweiss, so hopefully I’ll get to it soon :D

What are you waiting on?

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Gone Too Far Blog Tour: Review + Giveaway


Gone Too Far by Natalie D. Richards

Release Date: January 6, 2015
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Rated: YA 14+
Format: eGalley
Source: NetGalley
Buy: AmazonThe Book Depository B&N iTunes Kobo
Goodreads Website

Keeping secrets ruined her life. But the truth might just kill her.

Piper Woods can't wait for the purgatory of senior year to end. She skirts the fringes of high school like a pro until the morning she finds a notebook with mutilated photographs and a list of student sins. She's sure the book is too gruesome to be true, until pretty, popular Stella dies after a sex-tape goes viral. Everyone's sure it's suicide, but Piper remembers Stella's name from the book and begins to suspect something much worse.

Drowning in secrets she doesn't want to keep, Piper's fears are confirmed when she receives an anonymous text message daring her to make things right. All she needs to do is choose a name, the name of someone who deserves to be punished...

Oh my god: WHAT. A. THRILL. Holyyyyyy crap. I love books that have a twist that turns your insides, makes your heart stop and your eyes pop. Gone Too Far had this twist. Sure, it’s a little strange how things turned out, but holy moly, I did NOT expect it to be who it was. I guessed and I guessed, but totally didn’t see it coming. Yeesh. Normally I tend to expect the usual from “these” kind of books, but I was seriously surprised by this one– and really enjoyed it.

For one thing, I truly never got Piper. Sure, she’s the photographer, but I really understood her character or seemed to go more in dept into her emotions. Despite the fact that it was a first-person narration it seemed very third-person featuring a focalised narrative. Nonetheless, the only times when we actually get a glimpse of emotion is when she’s around Nick. Guys: I’m in love with the jock. I like how he goes against the stereotypes and for once, the girl actually gets with the popular guy, not the typical loner-esque, artsy one in the end. Defying clichés, woohoo!

As I mentioned before, I couldn’t really guess who it was in the end. I mean, I had my suspicions at the beginning, but then quickly ruled them out foolishly. There were two possibilities (not gonna mention who!), but even they got ruled out because of events in the book. While the reveal was quite a shock, the actual reasons behind it I didn’t understand. I was probably hoping for something more, I don’t know, scandalous? something that we completely missed out? Nonetheless, the twist is like a punch to the stomach, and I was honestly so shocked that I just kinda sat there for a while with my mouth wide open, wondering what the heck just happened.

Overall, while I had some problems with the end, Gone Too Far was a spine-tingling thriller that I couldn’t put down. Be prepared for chills, thrills, and feels (try to imagine that rhymes... so “fills”?), because Richard’s sophomore novel is action-packed and will have you flipping pages, desperate to find out what happens next.

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EXCERPT

Chapter One

Late. So late. I slam the car door behind me and race across the parking lot. My hair is tangled in the strap of my messenger bag, my shoes are untied, and I have no idea how I’m going to get to my locker without getting caught. I have to try because I need those chemistry notes.

Technically I needed them last night when I’d actually had the time to study for my midterm, but I didn’t think it was a big deal. I know the materials and I figured I could do a little last-minute cramming during first period homeroom. It was a decent plan until my phone battery died, taking my morning alarm down with it. Now I’ll be lucky to catch the last ten minutes of first period.

I hop the curb and slow as I slide into the shadow of the ancient brick school. It’s probably not classy to barrel through the door like an escaped convict. Of course, it probably wasn’t classy flying into the parking lot doing Mach 2 either.

I check my barely charged phone for the time as I climb the first step. My foot slips on something halfway up the stairs. It’s like hitting a patch of ice. I lunge for the handrail and jerk myself upright, glaring down at the thing that tripped me –a dropped notebook.

Nothing special. It’s a plain, spiral-bound pad, the kind you can get at the drugstore for less than a buck. Pretty much worthless, excerpt I know it’s probably chock-full of notes. Notes someone will need during midterm week. 

Oh, fine.

I snatch the notebook off the steps and shove it into my bag. Lost and Found is going to have to wait though. It’s in the student store, which is on the opposite side of the school. 


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NATALIE D. RICHARDS

At seven, Natalie D. Richards wrote about Barbara Frances Bizzlefishes (who wouldn't dare do the dishes.) Now she writes about awesome girls, broody boys, and all things dark and creepy. Natalie lives in Ohio (Go Bucks!) with her techno-wiz husband, three amazing kids, and a seventy pound dust-mop who swears he's the family dog. Her psychological thriller, Six Months Later, will be released in October 1, 2013 by Sourcebooks Fire. Until then, you'll probably find her writing her next book or trying to wade through the towers of dog-eared paperbacks that have taken over her bedroom.



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Giveaway time!

Enter to win...

A finished copy of Gone Too Far, a copy of Six Months Later and some swag!

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Monday, January 5, 2015

Anatomy of a Misfit by Andrea Portes

Anatomy of a Misfit by Andrea Portes

Release Date: September 2, 2014
Publisher: HarperTeen
Rated: YA 14+
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Buy: AmazonThe Book Depository
Goodreads Website

Outside, Anika Dragomir is all lip gloss and blond hair–the third most popular girl in school.

Inside, she’s a freak. A mix of dark thoughts and diabolical plots.

Spider stew. That’s what Anika is made of. But she keeps it under wraps–one step out of line and Beck Vilhauer, first most popular girl in school, will make her life a living hell.

So when former loner Logan McDonough shows up one September hotter, smarter, and more mysterious than ever, Anika knows she can’t get involved. It would be insane to throw away her social safety for a nerd. So what if that nerd is now a dreamboat, and his loner status is clearly the result of his troubled home life?

Logan. Who needs him when Jared Kline, the bad boy every girl dreams of, is asking her on dates?

Andrea Portes’s so-sad-it’s-funny high school setting will pull readers in, but the story’s dark undercurrent foreshadows a tragedy that lands like a punch to the gut. Anika’s ultimate change–from an inward-facing existence filled with petty concerns to an older, more thoughtful, more self-aware person– will utterly break your heart.

I think I’ve fallen into a reading pattern: hilarious books with tragic endings. I mean, first I read All the Bright Places, and now Anatomy of a Misfit? I think I’ve seriously lost all hope for happiness and joy. Nonetheless, Andrea Portes’s young adult debut is snarky, real, and utterly fascinating. While I did have *some* problems with the book, overall it was an entertaining read and I found myself gripped from start to end.

I knew I had to get my hands on this one from the moment I saw the title. Never mind the cutesy cover– that TITLE got my attention. We all at some point feel like we don’t fit in, or don’t belong with the people we surround ourselves with. Heck, I’ve had to deal with it for a majority of my life travelling from country to country. And reading a book from the point of view of a character who is a loner, geek, fill-in-another-word-for-someone-who-isn’t-popular, but hearing a story from the point of view from a popular girl who doesn’t feel comfortable being in that position of, well, popularity? DING! DING! DING! Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner!

The fact that this character feels so out of place is what made this book so...intriguing. I had this image of a girl who was the complete OPPOSITE of who the main character is (blonde, probably wears more-than-the-usual clothes to school– you know the type), but it was two ideas that constantly clashed and now I’m completely muddled when it comes to conjuring up an image of Anika. BUT, I love this. Not being able to pin down a character to a certain category is a rare thing, especially in YA, and so finally we have a protagonist who’s a little different from the rest. The narrative voice in Anatomy of a Misfit is amazing. Not only is our main character Anika absolutely hilarious but Portes actually tackles quite heavy topics through her voice. Of course our protagonist isn’t going to be perfect and does have her share of flaws, but seriously: character development is a strong point in this book and it’s a relief to see Anika learn and grow throughout the story.

Speaking of heavy topics, several parts of the story contains quite controversial matters. There’s quite a lot of racism (not from the Anika’s character thankfully) and the mention of the n-word, as well as quite a lot of explicit language, as well as a character with a troubling background. See what I mean about heavy? On one hand, it’s quite overwhelming, but I’m really glad the author talked about some of these topics instead of focusing completely on the romance (which I’ll get to in a bit). I mean, larger context always helps to build the atmosphere and setting, and unlike most YA books where people who don’t live in that part of the world have no idea what the people are like get an idea of the society and beliefs of the area. From this we can totally see how different Anika is, and how she truly is a misfit not only at school but also with her family and amongst the people in her town.

Now, the romance. The back of the book seems to make this seem that this is only about boys, and the super hard choice of picking between Logan and Jared, but this book was so much more. I seriously wish that the blurb at the back of the book was less boy-heavy and more about Anika. YES, the shifting point of the book is when Anika starts to feel something for Logan, but I mean, there’s so much more to a girl than the guy she falls for, isn’t there? So much more happens, and while a lot of the main action and build-up does surround Anika’s relationship with boys, her character development seems to be a lot more of a central point than the romance. Neither of the boys are featured much throughout the book, or at least that’s what I felt when reading this one, and so I just thought that the blurb was just a tad bit inaccurate. That end though... just be prepared for tears.

Stunning and heart-pounding, Anatomy of a Misfit is a story of love and finding yourself, as well the pain and tragedy that isn’t clear on the surface and that we are ignorant to. Portes’s words cut and heal with every step of the way, creating both a blunt and beautiful work that will have you laughing first, then hiccuping tears the next. Definitely not one to miss.


▪ ▪ ▪ Thank you so much to Alice at HarperCollins 360 for sending a copy for review! ▪ ▪ 

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