Monday, December 16, 2013

The F-It List by Julie Halpern

Title: The F-It List
Author: Julie Halpern
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
Release Date: November 12, 2013
Source: ARC from Publisher
Buy the Book: Amazon / Book Depository / Indigo
With her signature heart and humor, Julie Halpern explores a strained friendship strengthened by one girl's battle with cancer.

Alex's father recently died in a car accident. And on the night of his funeral, her best friend Becca sleep with Alex's boyfriend. So things aren't great. Alex steps away from her friendship with Becca and focuses on her family.

But when Alex finally decides to forgive Becca, she finds out something that will change her world again--Becca has cancer.

So what do you do when your best friend has cancer? You help her shave her head. And then you take her bucket list and try to fulfill it on her behalf. Because if that's all you can do to help your ailing friend--you do it.

I have loved the sheer number of contemporary books that have come out this year, and I have been trying to read as many of them as possible. And so I found myself reading Julie Halpern's The F-It List. And though it wasn't a favourite, I still thoroughly enjoyed this story.

Alex and Becca have been bed friends for as long s they can remember. Until Becca sleeps with Alex's boyfriend at Alex's dad's funeral. Alex has taken the summer to cool off and is ready to forgive Becca and go back to being friend. In their time apart, Becca found out she has cancer, and now she needs Alex's help. A long time ago, Becca started writing a bucket list , and now that the end could be near, she needs help completing it. And what else can Alex do but help? And who knows, maybe in the process Alex will find a way to move on from her father's death and start living again.

When I first read the synopsis for Julie Halpern's The F-It List, it sounded like a fun story. Granted someone just lost a paren,t and someone else has cancer, but still, the story is all about completing a bucket list. As I started reading, I realized that the story was definitely fun, but it was also a lot heavier than I thought it was going to be. A lot of that had to do with who Alex was as a person, since she was the one telling this story. As a result, this was a story about grief. But it was also a story about a girl getting past that grief and larding to live again. And, of course, this was a story about friendship and about different kinds of love. I really enjoyed seeing Alex and Becca's friendship change and evolve over the course of the story. And there were also all the other relationships in the story: Alex's relationship with her mother and brothers, Becca's relationship with her cancer, Alex's relationship with Leo, Becca's relationship with Caleb. And seeing all these relationships play out was what made this story interesting to me.

Alex was the kind of character I love: she was snarky, a little dark and definitely cynical. And she had a lot of baggage. I really enjoyed seeing her grow and evolve as a person. She was able to come to terms with her dad's death, with Becca's cancer, and with her feelings for Leo. Ultimately, what Alex needed was to realize that she was allowed to be happy, no matter what else was going on around her. And ultimately, Becca and her bucket list really helped with all that. And Leo too. Leo wasn't exactly the conventional love interest, but that didn't stop me from liking him. Leo challenged Alex, he didn't always do it in the best ways, but he made her go out of her comfort zone. At the end of the day, it was just about Alex learning more about herself, and how to start living again.

Julie Halpern's The F-It List was different than what I had expected, and that may have been for the best. While it may not be one of my favourite books this year, it was a story I really enjoyed and one I would also recommend.

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Friday, December 13, 2013

Cover & Excerpt: Empower by Jessica Shirvington

Even though I'm a little behind and haven't read the latest book, I LOVE Jessica Shirvington's Violet Eden books. Thanks to the lovely people at Sourcebooks Fire, I'm really excited to be able to share the cover for Empower the upcoming fifth book in the series, as well as the first chapter. So without further ado, here it all is. Enjoy!

Title: Empower (Violent Eden Chapters #4)
Author: Jessica Shirvington
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Release Date: May 6, 2014
It has been two years since Violet Eden walked away from the city, her friends, her future and--most importantly--her soulmate, Lincoln. Part angel, part human, Violet is determined to stand by the promises she made to save the one she loves.

Living in the perpetual coldness of a broken soul she survives day to day as a Rogue Grigori in London.

But when an unexpected visitor shows up at her door, the news he bears about someone she swore to protect leaves Violet with no choice.

Even worse, she fears that this might all lead beck to the night she tries hardest to gorget. And what was taken without her permissions.

Violet is going back to New York…and she knows exactly who is going to be there.

With Phoenix in her dreams and Lincoln in her heart she knows it is only a matter of time before the final choice must be made.

Chapter One

“But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep.”
Robert Frost

   My sweater was coated in a layer of mist—-again—-a by--product of life in London. I barely noticed the constant drizzle anymore. It’s not as if the cold bothered me, not when I was the very definition of cold.
   What was bothering me was the smell. There is something rank about a meat market at night—-especially when you’re wedged into the eaves wondering what, over the years, has been sprayed about and never cleaned away. I shuddered.
   The Smithfield Market was currently in vogue, but a gritty sense of history thickened the air, giving it a density that made me sure this wasn’t the first time the site had been used for wicked intent. And right now, it was hunting hour.
   At least I was the hunter.
   I watched quietly as the exiles came into the center of the massive terminal--style space, vaguely interested to note that there were six of them, instead of the four I’d expected. No bother, I suppose. I still had the element of surprise on my side.
   The past two years had taught me not to let the everyday hiccups get to me. Sure, the additional muscle would hurt, but only in the physical sense, and I could cope with that. Rolling with the punches is necessary when you are a Grigori—-a human--angel hybrid—-a weapon against the ever--increasing numbers of exiled angels on earth. For me even more so, since they gave me such a colorful nickname. I’m the Keshet—-the rainbow. I didn’t ask to be, but I made my choices and I stand by them.
   So, there I was. Although I was still trying to figure out exactly what being the rainbow meant, mostly I found that the desire to know conflicted with my continuing need not to think about it at all. One thing I did know was that somehow I could create space with the angels—-an unknown place where we were able to take form and communicate. My angel maker—-whose name I still didn’t know—-said it was a place of new possibilities. For what, I was not sure.
   But I know this is what I am. It is what I will be.
   The final two exiles sauntered up to the four already waiting. It used to be impossible for me to be this close to exiles without them going into a frenzy, sensing my presence. But I’d learned many lessons over the past year, the most useful of which had been how to keep my guards up and locked so tight that even exiles couldn’t sense me when I was truly concentrating.
   Which—-judging by the thin film of sweat on my forehead—-is now.
   The exiles dumped the huge calico sack they had been dragging along the floor and pulled it open, revealing three mutilated bodies to join the two maimed ones already on display.
   From my position it was difficult to tell how old the corpses were, and if the smell was able to give a clue, I wouldn’t have known, the stink of death and flesh being an overall theme of the place.
   It was no wonder the exiles liked it so much.
   Normally, exiles wouldn’t bother with the cleanup—-leaving evidence was of no concern. Normally, the exiles enjoyed the mess and despair they left behind. But not these exiles. These dark exiles were working for someone else. They’d been following a plan, using a hit list, and it was all too well constructed for any one of them to mastermind. Our intel told us they’d been hired. Such behavior would usually be considered beneath them, but apparently this group of exiles had decided the job was thrilling enough to suffer the humiliation of working for the highest bidder—-even if that was a human.
As for the billionaire businessman, well, that’s not my department, but someone will pay him a visit. Right after all the evidence of his wrongdoing—-minus the exile activity—-is handed over to the authorities and his bank accounts are heavily siphoned to pay for the futures of his victims’ families. And our fee, of course.
   Which, thanks to certain people, is exorbitant.
   Two of the exiles were dressed impeccably: one in a steel--gray suit and sporting villain--typical slicked--back hair; the other wore a slim--collared black suit that hugged his tall figure and set off his of--the--moment tousled, light brown hair. The remaining four were less striking in casual wear, though nonetheless picture perfect. All six looked over the bodies like fishermen comparing the size and quality of their haul. My hand grazed my dagger, the blade that had been given to me after I first embraced my powers and became a Grigori warrior three years ago. I was never without it. I even had a sheath attached to my bed for a quick draw if needed.
   I’d learned the hard way—-through the death and suffering of people I loved and, strangely enough, through my own death and suffering—-exiles stop at nothing. Their insanity and misguided missions know no bounds, and they take pleasure in causing great pain and suffering to humankind.
   At least tonight I would only face exiles of dark. A couple of years ago, the two opposing sides, light and dark, had called a truce. Of course, I tried not to think back to that time.
   I tried constantly.
   The discovery of the scripture that could end all Grigori had found its way into my hands. That in itself was part of the reason the Assembly had rejected me. They blamed me for trading with the dark exile, Phoenix. My decision had allowed him to resurrect Lilith—-his mother, the first dark exile—-from the dead, and she had taken control of the Grigori Scripture. But at the time, my choice had been a simple one. Phoenix had Steph, my best friend, and I wasn’t about to take any chances with her life. I’ve never regretted that choice.
   Not like so many others I’ve made.
   In the end, that made it easier to walk away from a place in the Academy when Josephine decided to change her mind. Of course, that was after I’d given my life, Lincoln’s soul had shattered, and Phoenix had died—-proving that not only was he the son of Lilith, but he was also the human son of the first man, Adam—-all so that I could kill Lilith. And those reasons weren’t even the ones I tried not to think about.
   But I can’t go there right now.
   I caught myself. I was working and the last thing I could afford to do was acknowledge that I was thinking about him.
   The six exiles started to shift the remains of the bodies toward the incinerator, tossing them with supernatural strength and no care. I half expected them to try and mince the meat and load it onto trays for sale tomorrow. I wouldn’t put anything past them.
   “Make sure you take the index fingers,” one of the suited exiles instructed. “Mr. George is expecting me to deliver them to him tonight.”
   That’s a shame. Though I’m sure Mr. George will receive a knock at his door nonetheless.
   “I still don’t understand why we don’t just kill him too,” another said.
   “Are you challenging me?” The exile who had spoken first stepped forward.
   His questioner mirrored his actions.
   Here we go.
   “If I must.”
   Exiles never back down. Their pride and egotism combined with their unique brand of insanity is just too much to ignore. Angels were not created to take corporeal forms on earth. Though they have existed for eternity, in human bodies, they manifest emotions in ways their innate nature can never process. It makes them unstable. And almost unstoppable.
   I wriggled into a better position and waited patiently, knowing that this would work in my favor.
   Sure enough, the exile who had spoken out first also struck out first, engaging with the suited exile. It didn’t last long. The suit, clearly the older of the two and a true fighter—-my guess was he had once been either a Domination or a Power—-overpowered his opponent, snapping his neck and making quick work of removing his heart.
   We had our methods of ending their immortal existence; they had theirs.
   Happy days. I now have one less exile to take care of.
   I checked the time and sighed. If I didn’t get this show on the road, I’d lose my window. And fighting alone was always my preference.
   The drop to the ground was at least two stories high, but I landed behind the group of exiles lightly, thanks to my angelic enhancements.
   Breathing calmly, I let go of the power I was holding tightly within, just enough to lower my shields.
   The exiles, who had been preoccupied with their boasting, stiffened instantly and spun around to face the new threat. It was almost comical, the look of surprise on their faces. I guess a Grigori had never snuck up on them before.
   Responding quickly, the suited exile stepped forward, shoving two of them to the side, the five of them quickly forming a semicircle around me.
   So nice of them to stand in single file.
   But the way he studied me—-with trademark exile insanity and undisguised raw desire—-made me think that this one recognized me. It happened from time to time.
   I wanted to sit around and chew the fat. Really. I couldn’t think of anything I’d rather do with my time than hear about how they intended to rip me limb from limb and how that would make them as great as gods and me the most pathetic of humans. But when you’ve heard it all before and always walked away—-or, at the very least, been carried—-while they were returned for their ultimate judgment, it gets old. So, I cut to the chase.
   “You have a choice. Make it or I will make it for you,” I said, knowing that of all Grigori, I alone had the right to put it like that. “Consider wisely,” I reinforced. After all, I could return them like any other Grigori with one of our blades, but if I willed it, I could also strip them of their angelic strengths and leave them human—-a fate exiles considered worse than an eternity in the pits of Hell. As far as I was aware, I was the only Grigori who could do this without requiring the exile in question to first choose such a fate. Which, of course, never happened.
   “You brought Lilith to her end,” the suit said, his head tilted to the side, as if confused.
   Yeah, that’s right, little ol’ me.
   And it only cost me everything that mattered.
   I raised my eyebrows. “Time’s almost up,” I said, refraining from closing my eyes briefly as I felt a surge of power within, something that had been happening increasingly. I was getting stronger, and exactly what that meant and how to harness it wasn’t the kind of knowledge I was excited to discover.
   I could strip them all, make their choice for them, and be done with it, but I’d only done it twice. Onyx had been my first, and I’d seen the pain it caused him. I didn’t like knowing I was the one who took away his choice. Who was I to do such a thing? The second had been a demonstration, and had resulted in the exile in question meeting a quick death. I can’t say I regretted it—-he’d been one of the exiles so happy to see me strapped to a crucifix and tortured for hours—-but still…
   Anyway, tonight was more like training, and I’d been taught to be thorough. So, when the suit threw the first exile at me—-knowing he’d be nothing more than a momentary distraction while I took him down and he lined up the next one—-I got to work.
   I braced, grabbing my dagger and moving into position. By the time the exile came within range, my dagger had sliced through his heart and he was no longer there. Simply gone. Where did their physical forms go? Beats me.
   I was already spinning by the time the second one was sent flying through the air toward me. My foot stopped his momentum and threw him back. I was on him in an instant, my dagger going straight to his heart. It didn’t need to be the heart to return them, just a killing blow inflicted by a Grigori weapon. You could slice into exiles all day long with your garden--variety knife or shoot them with a gun, but neither option worked. I’d never seen a Grigori manage to rip out an exile’s heart barehanded, and even though the trick worked for exiles taking out other exiles, something told me that it did not alter our rules. Permanent results for Grigori over exiles only came via the blades of angels.
   Or my blood.
   The third exile went much the same way, and soon enough I was left being circled by the two suits. To my surprise, they actually worked together—-exiles aren’t good at that—-boxing me into a corner. The brown--haired exile in the black suit moved in on me when the other one feigned a move to my right. I took a closed fist across the face and a foot to the stomach.
   I heard a crack—-broken rib—-but I didn’t register the pain. That kind of pain was barely a tickle compared to the agony I carried inside, every moment of every day.
   My pause gave the other exile the chance to take a swing. His foot collided with my hand so hard that my dagger went flying across the room. I kept my eyes on my attackers but my ear on my weapon, listening to the reverberations as it slid along the concrete floor and eventually hit the far wall with a clang.
   The exiles smiled.
   I sighed.
   Then I leapt into the air, gaining enough height to grip the brown--haired exile’s throat between my knees. Twisting my body as I fell through the air, I dragged the exile down with me, his neck breaking with a loud crunch.
   It wouldn’t keep him down for good, but a broken neck buys time.
   The exile in the gray suit grabbed me roughly from behind and threw me into the wall.
   I groaned as I slid down the metal piping my back had hit. It was the opposite wall to my dagger.
   Damn it.
   It wasn’t an ideal situation. And I wasn’t fool enough to delude myself into thinking I could make it to my dagger. I was regretting my decision not to wear any other weapons tonight, but my dagger was the only weapon that, when sheathed, was invisible to human eyes.
   Think, Vi.
   I’d come down behind a wall of old crates. I was considering how I could use them to my advantage when I spotted a piece of the slim metal piping I’d broken in my fall. It lay by my foot.
   I could hear the exiles moving toward me. They were cackling.
   “We should take her body with us to the tournament tonight,” one said.
   The other one laughed. “That would definitely put dark in the lead.”
   “And everyone would know that we were the ones who killed her.”
   Can anyone say “premature victory”?
   Without stopping to think, I pulled off the bracelet from my left wrist, using the specially designed clasp to cut open the flesh around my silver marking, currently swirling in the presence of exiles, and let it spill onto the end of the metal bar.
   It took just a few seconds, and as soon as I palmed the pipe, the exiles started to throw the crates aside then came into view, their smiles wide with anticipation.
   I stood. I didn’t return their smiles. I didn’t bother to do anything other than what needed to be done.
   I lunged, raising my elbow into the face of the black--haired exile as I spun, the metal pipe striking his companion through the heart. He was gone. I turned back to the first exile and, hoping that there was still enough of my blood on the pipe to do the trick and using my supernatural speed for all it was worth, I jammed the pipe straight into his neck.
   His face wore an expression of pure surprise.
   I’d seen that look before.
   I sighed and my shoulders slumped forward, unfulfilled. This was my job, one that I would do for as long as I existed, which could be a significantly long time. But two years ago, I’d accepted that there was no longer any satisfaction to be had in my world.
   No fairytales.
   Only the cold.
   Turning toward where I thought my dagger had landed, my surroundings suddenly changed.
   I was no longer seeing the warehouse. There were flashes of white, moving fast, pounding hooves. Horses. Silver streaked through the air like a dance. Swords. Slashes of red painted the sky. Something sharp and deadly ripping through flesh—-wet and gruesome. Claws. Thousands and thousands of beings as far as I could see fought ruthlessly, with no sign of tiring. In the center, two warriors battled beneath a blinding light. I could not make out their faces.
   I blinked hard.
   The image was gone, and in its place Gray stood against the wall of Lincoln’s warehouse, casually flipping my dagger in the air. “Would you like me to applaud?” he asked.
   Leaning against a metal support pole, he had that midtwenties look I’d come to associate with the older Grigori—-though I had no idea how old he really was—-and was dressed in his usual black jeans, black T--shirt, and black leather jacket. Black really was the only color worth investing in—-blood stains everything else. He sported about a week’s worth of growth on his face, though his head was shaved, the scars that ran over the top of his skull telling of a history both terrible and secret. Grigori did not generally scar, so I knew that whatever had caused these had occurred before Gray had turned seventeen.
   I swallowed over the lump in my throat and glanced around as I composed myself. The whole…hallucination…had lasted only a couple of seconds. I clenched my jaw.
   Christ. It was nothing. I’m just imagining things.
   I snapped my bracelet back in place over my marking and shot him a dry look. “Should I be charging a spectator fee?”
   My voice sounded normal but my ears felt like they were still ringing with the echoes of battle.
   “Not if the show is going to be over so fast, princess.”
   I glared at him for persisting with the stupid nickname. “You know, you could’ve stepped in and given me a hand.”
   “Sure,” he said with a solemn nod. “And you could’ve waited until the meet time we’d all agreed on too.”
   I looked away briefly. “So, why are you here early?” I asked, hoping to divert the conversation.
   Gray tilted his head. “Because I know you.”
   I shrugged off the veiled accusation, even though it was true. To a degree.
   “It was easier this way.”
   He threw my dagger into the air, and I caught it by the hilt and slipped it back into its sheath.
   “Well you can explain that to the others, since they just arrived.”

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Blog Tour: The Promise of Amazing by Robin Constantine + Giveaway

Title: The Promise of Amazing
Author: Robin Constantine
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release Date: December 31, 2013
Source: ARC from Publisher
Buy the Book: Amazon / Book Depository / Indigo
Wren Caswell is average. Ranked in the middle of her class at Sacred Heart, she's not popular, but not a social misfit. Wren in the quiet, "good" girl who's always done what she's supposed to--only now in her junior year, this passive strategy is backfiring. SHe wants to change, but doesn't know how.

Grayson Barrett was the king of St. Gabe's. Star of the lacrosse team, top of his class, on a fast track to a brilliant future--until he was expelled for being a "term paper pimp." Now Gray is in a downward spiral and needs to change, but doesn't know how.

One fateful night their paths cross when Wren, working at her family's Arthurian-themed catering hall, performs the Heimlich on Gray as he chokes on a cocktail weenie, saving his life literally and figuratively. What follows is the complicated, awkward, hilarious, and tender tale of two teens shedding their pasts, figuring out who they are--and falling in love.

As we all know, I will read pretty much any contemporary YA book out there. And if it sounds like a fun and adorable story, count me in. So Robin Constantine's The Promise of Amazing? Exactly what I want my YA contemporary romances to be. And I loved every page.

Wren has always kind of faded into the background. She's not a misfit, but she's also not the most popular girl in her class. Wren is just the quiet, average girl who works at her family's catering hall. And that's how Wren somehow finds herself saving Grayson from choking to death. Unlike Wren, Grayson was the big man on campus. At least before he got kicked out for selling term papers on the side. Now, Grayson is just trying to break away from his old life. And someone like Wren is just who he needs And just maybe, Grayson could be the one to make Wren feel more than average.

Robin Constantine's The Promise of Amazing had been on my wish list from the first moment I heard about it. Reading the synopsis, this just sounded like such a "me" kind of book. And it was. After just reading a few pages, I knew I would love this story. It was filled with adorably cheesy moments and I loved every one of them. The Promise of Amazing was just an adorable story. I knew from the start that Wren and Grayson would end up together, but I still loved seeing how they got there. And as adorable as the story was, it wasn't always as lighthearted as it appeared to be. Those moments especially came through when I learned more about Grayson's past. And I liked that aspect of the story because it showed that everything wasn't always perfect for everyone. But more than anything, I loved the romance in this story. Sure, it happened a little fast, but it was also fun and adorable and that's what I loved about it. It didn't pretend to be anything it wasn't. And that, more than anything, made me love The Promise of Amazing. It was the kind of adorable, feel-good romance you can't help but smile while you read. And, odds are, it will make you want to watch all the available 80s teen movies.

Have I mentioned that Wren and Grayson were adorable together? Beyond that, they were also great as individuals. Wren had this sweet and innocent quality about her and you could just tell she's just a genuine person. Grayson was her opposite in many ways. He definitely wasn't innocent and he wasn't always the most genuine person. But he really was trying to break away from that and he definitely had his sweet and adorable moments. And as cheesy as it may sound, Wren and Grayson brought out the best in each other. The other great thing about The Promise of Amazing was all the supporting characters. Wren's best friends, Jazz and Maddie, are the kinds of friends you want to have. Grayson's friend (if you can call him that) Luke was a complete and total jerk, but at least his behaviour made Grayson realize he didn't want to be like that. It was just really interesting to see how all the characters played off of each other.

In case it wasn't obvious, I absolutely loved Robin Constantine's The Promise of Amazing. It was filled with romance and adorable moments that I just loved. It's the kind of story you need to lift your spirits and put a smile on your face. The title says it all.

Favorite Quotes

As part of the blog tour, I was asked to share my favourite quote from the book. And being me, I couldn't pick just one. Instead, I give you one quote from Grayson's point of view, and one from Wren.

Grayson's Point of View
"Being with Wren meant something to me. I wanted to be serious. Whatever serious meant. Was this what it felt like to fall in love with someone? Was it too soon to know? And after all I'd done--could we ever have a normal relationship?

But when she'd run her hand through my hair, touched me, asked me, Did it hurt?…it was like everything else in the room had faded to black. Except her. And me.

And that was too important not to fight for."

Wren's Point of View
"I was somewhere in between, because right there, in that moment, I was holding hands with a dark-haired, brown-eyed boy who looked so deliciously vulnerable, he was worlds away from the slick guy who was coin a favor for Luke in the story this morning. This was the Grayson I knew. The Grayson I wanted to be around. I tugged on his hands to propel him, and he lost his footing."


As part of the blog tour, you have a chance to win a signed copy of The Promise of Amazing and some swag. All you have to do to enter is fill out the Rafflecopter form below. Giveaway is INTERNATIONAL.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Be sure to follow the rest of the tour and check out the other posts going up today!

The Life and Times of a Book Addict - Review
[B.O.O.K.L.I.F.E] - Review & Dream Cast
Nick's Book Blog - Review
Getting Your Read On - Review

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Friday, December 6, 2013

Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher

Title: Ketchup Clouds
Author: Annabel Pitcher
Publisher: Little, Brown BFYR
Release Date: November 12, 2013
Source: ARC from Publisher
Buy the Book: Amazon / Book Depository
Dear Mr. S. Harris,

Ignore the blob of red in the top left corner. It's jam, not blood, though I don't think I need to tell you the difference. It wasn't your wife's jam the police found on your shoe…

Zoe has an unconventional pen pal--Mr. Stuart Harris, a Texas Death Row inmate and convicted murderer. But then again, Zoe has an unconventional story to tell. A story about how she fell for two boys, betrayed one of them, and killed the other.

Hidden away in her backyard shed in the middle of the night with a jam sandwich in one hand and a pen in the other, Zoe gives a voice to her heart and her fears after months of silence. Mr. Harris may never respond to Zoe's letters, but at least somebody will know her story--somebody who nows what it's like to kill a person you love. Only through her unusual confession can Zoe hope to atone for her mistakes that have torn lives apart, and work to put her own life back together again.

Rising literary star Annabel Pitcher pens a captivating novel, rich with her distinctive balance between humor and heart. Annabel explores the themes of first love, guilt, and grief, introducing a character with a witty voice and true emotional resonance. 

Before an e-mail popped up about it in my inbox, I hadn't really heard of Annabel Pitcher or of Ketchup Clouds. But after reading the synopsis, I was intrigued and I wanted to know more. And so I read the book and found myself to be pleasantly surprised.

The past year hasn't exactly been normal for Zoe. After having fallen for two brothers and losing both in different ways, Zoe is having some trouble keep ing together. To deal with it all, Zoe decides to start writing letters to Stuart Harris, a death row inmate halfway around the world. As she recounts the last year of her life in her letters, Zoe starts to come to terms with everything that's happened. She learns to deal and accept the guilt, realizing that eventually, you just have to let it all go.

I love being surprised by books, and that's exactly what happened with Ketchup Clouds. What initially drew me in to the book was my own curiosity: I read the synopsis and it left me with this desire to find out more. I mean, the concept was interesting to say the least. I was curious about how a story written in the form of letters to a death row inmate would work. And it was as interesting as it promised to be. This was a story that was really honest: there wasn't much that wasn't said. It hunk the way the story was set up just made it easier for Zoe to tell that story. It's not for nothing they say it's sometimes easier to talk to a stranger than someone you know well. But as honest as the story was, there was also an element of mystery involved. From the start, I knew that one of the Morgan boys wouldn't make it, but I didn't know which one. And throughout, there were indications that it could have been either one of them. So in large part, what kept me reading was my need to know which boy died and which one survived. I just had to know. And I wanted to know how he died, because even though Zoe said she killed him. She just didn't strike me as the kind of person who would be able to kill.

Zoe was really interesting and different. She was so completely host in her letters to Stuart. She wasn't shy in the least when it came to sharing her story with him. And I guess for her it was kind of a therapeutic experience: it was her way of letting go of her grief and her guilt. Reading her story, my heart went out to Zoe. There was so much I would have wanted to tell her if I could have. The one thing that kind of rubbed me the wrong way about Zoe was how she got involved with both Morgan brothers…at the same time. Admittedly, Aaron and Max each had something working in their favour, and I could see why Zoe would be attracted to both of them. And in the end, it was all kind of tragic. I can't exactly say it was a happy ending since it was pretty much the complete opposite of that. But it was what it was and I liked that everything didn't end perfectly.

Annabel Pitcher's Ketchup Clouds was a very surprising read. I didn't know what to expect when I started reading, but I liked what I got. It was a story that had just the right balance of wit and tragedy. And like me, this book might just take you by surprise.

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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

One Tiny Lie by K.A. Tucker

Title: One Tiny Lie (Ten Tiny Breaths #2)
Author: K.A. Tucker
Publisher: Atria Books
Release Date: January 14, 2014
Source: Borrowed from fellow blogger
Buy the Book: Amazon / Book Depository
Livie has always been the stable one of the two Cleary sisters, handling her parents' tragic death and Kacey's self-destructive phase with strength and maturity. But underneath that exterior is a little girl hanging onto the last words her father ever spoke to her. "Make me proud," he had said. She promised she would…and she's done her best over the past seven years with every choice, with every word, with every action.

Livie walks into Princeton with a solid plan, and she's dead set on delivering on it: Rock her classes, set herself up for medical school, and meet a good, respectable guy that she's going to someday marry. What isn't part of her plan are Jell-O shots, a loveable, party animal roommate she can't say "no" to, and Ashton, the gorgeous captain of the men's rowing team. Definitely him. He's an arrogant ass who makes Livie's usually non-existent temper flare and everything she doesn't want in a guy. Worse, he's best friends and roommates with Connor, who happens to fit Livie's criteria perfectly. SO why does she keep thinking about Ashton?

As Livie finds herself facing mediocre grades, career aspirations she no longer thinks she can handle, and feelings for Ashton that she shouldn't have, she's forced to let go of her last promise to her father, and with it, the only identity that she knows. 

As some of you may remember, I loved K.A. Tucker's first New Adult book, Ten Tiny Breaths, when I read it a few months ago. Lucky form, I was able to read One Tiny LIe, the sequel, pretty much right after I finished. And if I loved Ten Tiny Breaths, then I ADORED One Tiny Lie.

Since her parents' death seven years ago, Livie has alway sheen the more quiet and calm Cleary sister. Where Kacey went off the rails after their parents died, Livie has focused on keeping the last promise she made to their father: to make him proud. Now that she's made it to Princeton, Livie has a clan to help her do just that. Except Livie never predicted that she would end up rooming with a sweet party girl or that she would meet Ashton, the one boy who can get under her skin the way nobody else can. But Ashton doesn't git into Livie's plan, Connor does. And it would all be fine, if only Livie could stop thinking about Ashton all the time. 

This book. Just thinking about it I am getting ALL THE FEELS! I think it's safe to say that I pretty much ADORED One Tiny Lie, so bear with me as I attempt to put my feelings into words. The first book, Ten Tiny Breaths is the book that finally completely sold me on New Adult, so I was excited to be reading One Tiny Lie so soon afterwards. There was just something about Livie and her story that I connected with. Maybe it was because I knew some of the characters from before, but from page one, I was 100% invested in the story. I wanted to see where Livie's story would take her and along the way, I connected with a lot of her experiences. And that's what made me love this story so much: the fact that it reminded me of some of my own university experiences, especially in my first year. And then, as you might have guessed, the romance wasn't half bad either. In One Tiny Lie, the romance felt less "in your face" than in Ten Tiny Breaths, and I really liked that. Don't get me wrong, it was still plenty steamy, but it was more subdued and that had a lot to do with who Livie herself was. 

Already, in Ten Tiny Breaths, I loved Livie and that love only grew the further into One Tiny Lie I got. I just saw so much of myself in her, weird as that may be to say. I just related to her in ways I can't remember relating to other characters in the past. And that's in large part what made me love this story so much. I felt really invested in Livie and her story, and that was especially true when it came to her choice of boys. I liked Connor well enough, there wasn't anything inherently wrong with him. It just felt like something was missing, like there was no spark. But with Ashton there was a spark. Hell, there was a whole freaking explosion of sparks. And Ashton definitely brought on ALL THE FEELS and no matter what I say, I know I won't do him justice. There was so much to Ashton: I spent half the book wanting to slap him, and the other half wanting to hug him. And I just loved him. Oh, and be prepared to laugh anytime Strayner pops up, he's pretty amusing and definitely unconventional. 

In case it wasn't obvious, I loved K.A. Tucker's One Tiny Lie. This is the kind of book that just stays with me long after I'm finished reading. Not only that, but since reading both Ten Tiny Breaths and One Tiny Lie, I've been recommending them like crazy. So yeah, if you haven't already, do yourself a favour and pick these books up. You really won't regret it.

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Monday, December 2, 2013

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Title: The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle #1)
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Release Date: September 18, 2012
Source: ARC from Publisher
Buy the Book: Amazon / Book Depository
"There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark's Eve," Neeve said. "Either you're his true love…or you killed him."

It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive.

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them--not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her.

His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can't entirely explain. He has it all--family money, good looks, devotes friends--but he's looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But ow, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she's not so sure anymore.

From Maggie Stiefvater, the bestselling and acclaimed author of the Shiver trilogy and The Scorpio Races, comes a spellbinding new series where the inevitability of death and the nature of love lead us to a place we've never been before.

As excited as I was about Maggie Stiefvater's The Raven Boys, I put off reading it for a long time. It took the book being the pick for book club for me to finally pick it up. And then I proceeded to start kicking myself for having waited to read the book for so long.

Despite living in a house filled with women with psychic powers, Blue has always had some doubts about it all. But when she sees the ghost of a boy on St. Mark's Eve, Blue isn't sure what to believe. Because if she sees this ghost, either he is her true love or he is someone she kills. Her whole life, Blue has been told she would cause her true love's death, so this boy may very well be both. When Blue meets Gansey, the boys whose ghost she saw, she realizes he isn't what she thought he was. With the help of his friends Adam, Ronan and Noah, Gansey has set out on an incredible quest. And he won't stop until he finds what he's looking for.

I'm not entirely sure why I put off reading The Raven Boys for so long. So many of my bookish friends has read the book, loved it and were raving about it to me, and still I wasn't reading it. It took my book club choosing The Raven Boys as our next read for me to finally pick it up off my bookshelf. And as I started reading, I started to understand why people loved the book and had been raving about it. The story itself kind of took me by surprise. I only had a vague idea what it was about when I started reading but it didn't take long for me to get completely caught up in the story. The world and mythology that Maggie Stiefvater created in The Raven Boys was incredible. Despite how fantastical it was, I couldn't help but believe it all. It just felt real and plausible to me. But not just that, I wanted to believe in it. I wanted to believe in Gansey's quest to find Glendower and I wanted to believe in the powers of Blue's family. And I wanted to believe in all that because that's the kind of writer Maggie Stiefvater is. She'll make you believe in the story she wrote, the world she created, and the characters that live in it. 

Maggie Stiefvater is a fantastic writer for many reasons, one of which is that she writes these characters that feel like real people that I could meet out on the street. Her characters are often what draw me in to the story, and it was definitely the case with The Raven Boys. I wanted to know how Blue and Gansey were connected, I wanted to find out more about Ronan and his family's past, I wanted to see if Adam would let someone help him, I wanted to know more about who Noah was. There was something about each of the characters in the story that completely intrigued me and spoke to my curious nature. There was just so much about them I wanted to know. And though I did get some answers in The Raven Boys, there's still so much more I want to know and I'm looking forward to getter those answers in future books. 

I can now say I understand why everyone loves Maggie Stiefvater's The Raven Boys because I do too. This is a book that has so much working in its favour: fantastic characters, a magical world, and a captivating story. I can't wait to find out more when I finally get around to reading the sequel, The Dream Thieves.

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Sunday, December 1, 2013

Candlewick 2014 Debut Giveaway!

Thanks to the lovely people at Candlewick Press, I have the chance to offer you a chance to win a prize pack including 5 YA & MG debuts coming out early next year! Keep reading to find out more about the books and to enter the giveaway.

The Books:

- Breakfast Served Anytime by Sarah Combs
- Caminar by Skila Brown
- There Will be Bears by Ryan Gebhart
- The Chance You Won't Return by Annie Cardi

These all sound pretty great if you ask me. I know I'm really excited to read Breakfast Served Anytime and The Chance You Won't Return as they are both contemporary YA, but the others have certainly piqued my interest as well!

The Giveaway:

If these books sound like something you might be interested in then this is your chance to win a prize pack that includes ALL 5 BOOKS! All you have to do to enter is fill out the Rafflecopter form below.

Giveaway is open to US & Canada ONLY (Sorry international folks!).

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Friday, November 29, 2013

Six Months Later by Natalie D. Richards

Title: Six Months Later
Author: Natalie D. Richards
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Release Date: October 1, 2013
Source: ARC from publisher
Buy the Book: Amazon / Book Depository
Chloe didn't think about it much when she nodded off in study hall on that sleepy summer day. But when she wakes up, snow is on the ground and she can't remember the last six months of her life. Before, she'd been a mediocre student. Now, she's on track for valedictorian and being recruited by Ivy League schools. Before, she never had a chance with super jock Blake. Now, he's her boyfriend. Before, she and Maggie were inseparable. Now, her best friend won't speak to her.

What happened to her?
And why can't she remember?

As we all know by this point, I'm a sucker for anything contemporary, even better if there's an element of mystery or a bit of a twist thrown in. All that considered, Natalie D. Richards' Six Months Later sounded right up my alley. As it turned out, it was a story that hooked me and left me wanting to know exactly what was going on.

Chloe's always been the kind of person who put just enough effort in school to get by. It's not lie she was failing, but she also wasn't a star student. So for Chloe, falling asleep in study hall wasn't anything new. Waking up with six months of her life missing, on the other hand, that was unheard of. Now, Chloe is at the top of her class, dating Blake, the guy she's had a crush on forever, and she even has her pick of colleges. Except something doesn't feel right. She's no longer talking to Maggie, her best friend, and even though she's dating good guy Blake, Chloe feels safer around bad boy Adam. If only she could figure out what happened to her during those six months, Chloe might understand what she's supposed to do now.

Right form the start, the premise of Six Months Later caught my attention. A contemporary YA story with a twist AND a mystery? How could I possibly not want to read this book? And I" happy I did. While Six Months Later was what I hoped it would be, it was also different, and that was one of the best parts of the book. I didn't expect for things to start up so quickly: the first chapter was barely over and already, the six-month jump had happened. And from that moment on, I was completely hooked. I wanted to know what had happened in those six months just as much as Chloe did. I had my theories about it all, but for the most part, those just turned out to be completely wrong. But what truly made the story work was that its as told from Chloe's perspective. Because of that, the reader was in the same boat as Chloe: trying to piece everything together right alongside her. And I'll admit, it took me a while to clue in to what was actually happening.

I really liked Chloe. I loved how snarky she could get, but really that was just a way for her to hide how scared and confused she was about those missing six months. And I totally got that. I'm not sure I would have handled things quite as well as she did in the same circumstances. But in spite of everything, I really admired Chloe's determination and perseverance when it came to figuring out the truth about what had happened to her. And at least she had help, even if at times that help was a little reluctant, as Adam and Maggie tended to be. Even though she bugged me a little at first, I came around to Maggie pretty quickly and she really was a great friend. Adan I took a little longer to warm up to. He was supposed to be the bad boy but he gave off a better vibe than Blake. Because Blake just felt like a creep, while on the other hand Adam fell like he really cared about Chloe, even if had trouble showing it at times. But in the end, it all worked itself out.

Natalie D. Richards' Six Months Later was a fantastic story that kept me guessing the whole way through. Even now, after having finished the book, I'm still not quite sure I completely understand it all. But the story was totally worth the confusion it induced.

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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Fiery Heart by Richelle Mead

Title: The Fiery Heart (Bloodlines #4)
Author: Richelle Mead
Publisher: Razorbill
Release Date: November 19, 2013
Source: Purchased
Buy the Book: Amazon / Book Depository
In The Indigo Spell, Sydney was torn between the Alchemist way of life and what her heart and gut were telling her to do. And in one breathtaking moment that Richelle Mead fans will never forget, she made a decision that shocked even her…

But the struggle isn't over for Sydney. As she navigates the aftermath of her life-changing decision, she still finds herself pulled in too many directions at once. Her sister Zoe has arrived, and while Sydney longs to grow closer to her, there's still so much she must keep secret. Working with Marcus has changed the way she views the Alchemists, and Sydney must tread a careful path as she harnesses her profound magical ability to undermine the way of life she was raised to defend. Consumed by passion and vengeance, Sydney struggles to keep her secret life under wraps as the threat of exposure--and re-education--looms larger than ever.

Pulses will race throughout this thrilling fourth installment in the New York Times bestselling Bloodlines series, where no secret is safe.

I love Richelle Mead. I loved her Vampire Academy series. And I absolutely love her Bloodlines series. So as you can imagine, I have been waiting for The Fiery Heart since the moment I finished The Indigo Spell. But I was kinda scared of what The Fiery Heart would do to my heart. And I was right to be scared, but I also absolutely loved the story.

Sydney Sage always thought that the hardest part of her life as an Alchemist would be living and working with vampires. But the moment she met Adrian Ivashkov, a Moroi prince, that started to chance. Now, Sydney is ready to turn her back on the Alchemist way of life. But first she has to find a way to protect her sister Zoe from being brainwashed by their father and the Alchemists. And she has to find a way to protect her relationship with Adrian. Because if anyone were to fin out, the Alchemists would send Sydney straight to re-education.

Have I mentioned that I was absolutely terrified of The Fiery Heart? As excited as I was to read the book, I was cared of what it would do to my poor heart. Long before the book was released, Richelle Mead has teased that The Fiery Heart would do for this series what Shadow Kiss did for the Vampire Academy series. And you have no idea how much that scared me. The whole time I was reading, I was also waiting for that crucial moment, the moment that would change everything and break my heart in the process. But as much as that moment hurt, I loved everything that came beforehand. I loved finally seeing the romance between Sydney and Adrian. It felt like I had waited for so long for this to happen and it just warmed my heart to read about the two of them together. What was an interesting new addition to the story this time around was the dual perspectives. The story had previously only been told from Sydney's perspective, but this time I was able to also get inside Adrian's head and I loved it. If anything, my love for Adrian only grew as a result of this.

I've always loved Sydney and I love how much she's changed and evolved since I first person. I love the person's she's become. She no longer lets the Alchemist beliefs dictate her life, choosing instead to rely on her own beliefs. And I love the person Sydney becomes when she's with Adrian. It's almost life when she's with Adrian, it's the only time Sydney gets to really be herself. And that's the side of her I really love: the Sydney who gets to let go and be who she wants to be, not who everyone expects her to be. And now here's the thing about Adrian: in the Vampire Academy books, I fully believed that Rose belonged with Dimitri, but I still loved Adrian. And now I pretty much adore Adrian. Getting into his head has only made me love him more. There's so much more to him than people tend to give him credit for. Everything he does for the people he cares about, no matter how crazy that can sometimes be, just warms my heart. If only he could believe in himself as much as Sydney does, he might be able to be a little easier on himself. But I still love Adrian either way.

Richelle Mead's The Fiery Heart was just what I had hoped it would be. This story may have broken my heart at the end, but it also made me beyond happy and warmed my heart. Though I will admit that it has left me absolutely desperate to read Silver Shadows. July 2014 can't come soon enough!

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Monday, November 25, 2013

The Madman's Daughter by Megan Shepherd

Title: The Madman's Daughter (The Madman's Daughter #1)
Author: Megan Shepherd
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release Date: January 29, 2013
Source: Purchased
Buy the Book: Amazon / Book Depository
In the darkest places, even love is deadly.

Sixteen-year-old Juliet Moreau has built a life for herself in London--working as a mad, attending church on Sundays, and trying not to think about the scandal that ruined her life. After all, no one ever proved the rumors about her father's gruesome experiments. But when she learns he is alive and continuing his work on a remote tropical island, she is determined to find out if the accusations are true. 

Accompanied by her father's handsome young assistant, Montgomery, and an enigmatic castaway, Edward--both of whom she is deeply drawn to--Juliet travels to the island, only to discover the depths of her father's madness: He has experimented on animals so that they resemble, speak, and behave as humans. And worse, one of the creatures has turned violent and is killing the island's inhabitants. Torn between horror and scientific curiosity, Juliet knows she must end her father's dangerous experiments and escape her jungle prison before it's too late. Yet as the island falls into chaos, she discovers the extent of her father's genius--and madness--in her own blood. 

Inspired by H. G. Wells's classic The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Madman's Daughter is a dark and breathless Gothic thriller about the secrets we'll do anything to know and the truths we'll go to any lengths to protect. 

By the time I read Megan Shepherd's The Madman's Daughter, I had heard a lot about it, but I didn't really know all that much about what it was actually about. But that may have been a good thing, because it means I went in with a completely open mind.

Ever since the scandal involving her father, Juliet Moreau has gotten by working hard and keeping her head down. Nut she's always wondered if there was any truth to the accusations made against her father. When Juliet runs in to Montgomery, her father's young assistant, she gets the chance to travel to a mysterious island to see her father again. But when she gets there, Juliet quickly realizes that something isn't quite right. ANd how does Edward, the shipwrecked boy they picked up on their way to the island, fit into it all?

Before I started reading, I only had a vague idea what The Madman's Daughter was actually about. With this type of book, though, that may have actually been for the best. I also knew that it was based on The Island of Dr. Moreau, but, again, I only vaguely knew what that was about. All that combined allowed me to start reading The Madman's Daughter with an open mind. And as a result, I think I enjoyed this story a lot more than I would have otherwise. Because this story definitely grabbed my attention and kept me interested the whole way through. But more than that, the story also piqued my curiosity. I just wanted to find out more about everything. I wanted to know more about Juliet's father. I wanted to find out more about the island and its inhabitants. There was just so much happening in The Madman's Daughter and that just made me a happy reader. The only thing I had trouble with is the creatures that Dr. Moreau was creating on the island. I just had seem trouble picturing them as I was reading. I don't know if it had to do with the way they were described or just the concept of them, but I just couldn't picture them. Or maybe I was just over thinking it and trying too hard.

I found Juliet to be a very interesting character. She was very much ahead of her time, and, in a way, her situation is what forced her to be that way. Juliet had to learn to survive on her own and that made her stronger than most of the girls she grew up with. But there were still instances when Juliet acted exactly the way you would expect a girl her age to act. Like with Montgomery and Edward, for example. Each boy had his own appeal: Montgomery was the childhood friend and Edward was the mysterious new boy. Personally, I leaned more towards Montgomery, because something rubbed me the wrong way from the beginning as far as Edward was concerned. And as it turned out, I was right to be concerned about him, but I'll leave it at that for now. It will definitely be interesting to see how things will play out with everyone in the sequel.

Megan Shepherd's The Madman's Daughter was intriguing to say the least. It was the kind of story that kept me interested and engaged, leaving me wanting to know exactly what was going on. If you have yet to give The Madman's Daughter a try, I strongly recommend you do.

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Friday, November 22, 2013

In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters

Title: In the Shadow of Blackbirds
Author: Cat Winters
Publisher: Amulet Books
Release Date: April 2, 2013
Source: Borrowed
Buy the Book: Amazon / Book Depository
In 1918, the world seems on the verge of apocalypse. Americans roam the streets in gauze make to ward off the deadly Spanish influenza, and the government ships young men to the front lines of a brutal war, creating an atmosphere of fear and confusion. Sixteen-year-old Mary Shelley Black watches as desperate mourners flock to séances and sprit photographers for comfort, but she herself has never believed in ghosts. During her bleakest moment, however, she's forced to rethink her entire way of looking at life and death, for her first love--a boy who died in battle--returns in spirit form. But what does he want from her?

Featuring haunting archival early-twentieth-century photographs, this is a tense, romantic story set in a past that is eerily like our own time. 

I'll be honest, if it hadn't been a book club pick, I probably wouldn't have picked up Cat Winters' In the Shadow of Blackbirds on my own. Though that's not to say that I didn't enjoy the book, because I really did, in really unexpected ways.

Being a sixteen-year-old girl in the fall of 1918 isn't easy. Especially for Mary Shelley Black, whose father has been sent to jail for being against the war and whose best friend has enlisted to go fight overseas, all while the Spanish influenza ravages cities across the country. Now in San Diego and surrounded by mourners running to spirit photographers to help with their grief, pragmatic and logical Mary Shelley can't help but shake her head at the idea of ghosts. That is, until she learns the terrible news about Stephen. Now, the only way for Mary Shelley to find peace is to start believing in the one thing she has always been opposed to. 

In the Shadow of Blackbirds isn't a book I would have picked up on my own if I hadn't had to read it for book club. But that would have meant I would have missed out on a great book. This story wasn't what I thought it was going to be. Admittedly I didn't know much about it before I started reading so that's not really saying much. What I liked about this story was that instead of being hyper focused on World War One, as you would expect a book set in 1918 to be, it instead focused on the Spanish influenza, the other big event that year. And as weird as it might be to say this, I really enjoyed that aspect of the story. As much as I know about WWI, I don't really know much about the Spanish flu other than the fact that it killed more people than four years of war did. So in that sense, I learned a lot from In the Shadow of Blackbirds. But what really made this story unexpected was that for 95% of the story the main love interest was a ghost. That definitely made things interesting. But the setting, and everything it entailed, made it feel almost as if the story wasn't a ghost story.

I really enjoyed reading this story from Mary Shelley's point of view. She was definitely ahead of her times and it made her really interesting to read about. For a sixteen-year-old girl in 1918, being interested in logic and science isn't exactly what's expected but she never let that bring her down. What I liked about Mary Shelley most, though, is that it took a while for her to accept the fact that spirits were real and that Stephen was more or less haunting her. And I really didn't expect Stephen to be the way he was. It's not every day you're going to read a story where the main love interest is dead for 95% of it. But at the same time, Stephen was an interesting character to read about, especially when it came to how much he had been affected by the war in such a short period of time. In 1918, people didn't know everything we now do about PTSD so they didn't really know what to do with the boys coming back from the war who were completely traumatized by what they had seen. It definitely added a certain level of depth to who Stephen was and, at times, it seemed like he was two completely different people: the Stephen Mary Shelley remembers from before he went to France, and the Stephen who came home from the war. All of this to say that it made for a really interesting story to read.

Even if Cat Winters' In the Shadow of Blackbirds isn't what you would normally choose to read, I suggest you at least give it a try. I know I wouldn't have normally picked it up on my own, but by the end I found myself to be pleasantly surprised by the story.

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