Review: The Pledge by Kimberly Derting

Publication Date: November 15th, 2011
Margaret K. McElderry / Simon & Schuster
Format: ARC Galley

Goodreads Summary
In the violent country of Ludania, the language you speak determines what class you are, and there are harsh punishments if you forget your place—looking a member of a higher class in the eye can result in immediate execution. Seventeen-year-old Charlaina (Charlie for short) can understand all languages, a dangerous ability she’s been hiding her whole life. Her only place of release is the drug-filled underground club scene, where people go to shake off the oppressive rules of the world they live in. There, she meets a beautiful and mysterious boy who speaks a language she’s never heard, and her secret is almost exposed. Through a series of violent upheavals, it becomes clear that Charlie herself is the key to forcing out the oppressive power structure of her kingdom…

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MY TAKE: 4/5 STARS

The latest offering from Kimberly Derting is definitely a take off from her prior books. At first, it was difficult to decipher which genre this book was about. I kept picturing a fantastical Regency England; with a queen on her death bed who has the ability to take over another body to host her soul. As well, the world outside the kingdom had the air of those times when wealth was a great divide between societies. But as I continue to read along, clues started to pop up that this world was indeed set in the future. This book however, deviates from dystopian in such a way that the world did not end in a calamity of epic proportions. It was almost like the world regressed to the old times where kings and queens ruled countries, beheadings were rampant and people lived with constant fear in their eyes. Come to think of it, I can’t remember if it was ever mentioned how this world adapted the ways of matrilineal regent ruling.


I loved the concept of an evil queen who can’t be killed. Well, she can die of old age but her soul passes on to the next woman of lineage; therefore passing her dictatorship and witchcraft powers to whoever sits in the throne. I also loved the idea of a lost heir who has abilities that were both magical and simple (Charlie’s skills lie in her ability to understand a multitude of language, while her sister Angeline has healing powers).

I loved that Charlie wasn’t so quick to exchange flirtatious exploits with Max. The attraction was there and given the length of the book, I thought the romance was paced quite well. I’m glad there were no instantaneous combustion between these two when they first met. I was a bit worried there when Xander came into the picture. I would’ve been thoroughly disappointed if there was a love triangle. Mind you, there was a bit of competition between Max and Aron (Charlie’s best friend) but it was not explored.

The Pledge is a chockfull of surprises – in such a way that Kimberly Derting flexed her writing muscle. There wasn’t a shortage of action and lulls that will render you in a bored stupor. The world building was quite unique in such a way that Ms. Derting combined primitiveness and modern antiquity. I’m a fan of fantasy and most of the books I’ve read in that genre were usually hefty. I wish this book had a couple of hundred more pages. I know I could probably gobble them up easy.

I enjoyed this book and applaud Ms. Derting for showing that she’s not a one-dimensional writer. 

Review: The Fairie Ring by Kiki Hamilton

Publication Date: September 27th, 2011
Tor Teen / Macmillan
Format: Hardcover, 352 pages
Goodreads Summary

Debut novelist Kiki Hamilton takes readers from the gritty slums and glittering ballrooms of Victorian London to the beguiling but menacing Otherworld of the Fey in this spellbinding tale of romance, suspense, and danger. 

The year is 1871, and Tiki has been making a home for herself and her family of orphans in a deserted hideaway adjoining Charing Cross Station in central London. Their only means of survival is by picking pockets. One December night, Tiki steals a ring, and sets off a chain of events that could lead to all-out war with the Fey. For the ring belongs to Queen Victoria, and it binds the rulers of England and the realm of Faerie to peace. With the ring missing, a rebel group of faeries hopes to break the treaty with dark magic and blood—Tiki’s blood.

Unbeknownst to Tiki, she is being watched—and protected—by Rieker, a fellow thief who suspects she is involved in the disappearance of the ring. Rieker has secrets of his own, and Tiki is not all that she appears to be. Her very existence haunts Prince Leopold, the Queen’s son, who is driven to know more about the mysterious mark that encircles her wrist.

Prince, pauper, and thief—all must work together to secure the treaty…

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MY TAKE: 3/5 STARS

Well, I was enjoying this book until I got to the middle. I loved reading about Tiki’s and her makeshift family’s thieving exploits. The enjoyment lasted until I got to the part where Tiki was able to put the stolen ring back to the palace…quite easily. But that’s not the only thing that I had trouble with. I thought that even when Tiki and the kids were swiping food or coal or money, it was conveniently easy. But let’s not focus on that. After all, there are other elements in this book that were palatable. 

Perhaps I’ve read enough fairy books in my short lifetime. I just can’t summon enough interest about these fantastical beings anymore. Fairies, much like vampires, have worn out their welcome mat in my bookshelf. But that’s just me. So let me grumble some more about this book.
I liked reading about historic England; at a time when titles such as Lords, Dukes, Duchess, Princes, Princesses and yes, King and Queen still exist – it still does.  Now this book is heralded as a fairy tale fashioned with a combination of Oliver Twist and Cinderella. But the entirety of the book was really focused on the fairie element, particularly the fairie ring that held the peace pact between the human world and the Otherworld. I have read countless of fairie books where these beings were portrayed as evil fiends and the MCs somehow ended up having blood lineage to the fairie courts. My point I guess, is that there was no sense of surprise here. 

Let me get to the likable parts of the book:
I enjoyed reading about Tiki’s plight – not because I’m a sadist who likes to read about someone’s sufferings. She was a strong character who had to do what she had to do. Tiki got dealt with a lot of bad cards: she became an orphan at an early age – only to fall under the machinations of an uncaring aunt and a dubious uncle. Homeless, she learned the arts of pick pocketing, thievery and living life on the streets. I liked her tender heart and her constant need to take in children who were orphans much like her. I love her unflinching devotion to those who she considered as family. 
I also loved the world this book was set in. Historical fiction sometimes bore me but this book also fantasy mixed in so it was hardly a wearisome read. 

But in the end, this book was just an okay read for me and personally found that it dragged a bit toward the middle. The romance was nothing to swoon over.  Tiki’s constant waffling about whom to trust sort of irked me as well. But I understood why. 

 I’d like to commend the author though, for combining all these fairy tale elements that readers would like.. just not this reader. Incidentally, I’m a minority in this so…you know what to do – judge for yourself. 

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? (#1)

It’s Monday, What are you reading? is a weekly event hosted by Sheila at One Person’s Journey Through a World of Books to list the books completed last week, the books currently being read and the books to be finished this week. 

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Well, I’m on a mini-vacay with my husband right now so you’d think I’d be able to catch up on my reading. But that’s hardly the case. It’s kind of difficult to do some reading when you’re in a place where you could easily get distracted by the sights and the sounds of your surroundings. I’ve been nursing a couple of books in my reading queue until I finally gave up on them. So I decided to put a kaibosh on those two books and shelved them back in my to-be-read shelf. Here’s what I’m reading right now:


The Fairie Ring by Kiki Hamilton. I’m enjoying this so far. It’s not a very thick book but it’s taking me a while to get through just because I can’t find the time to read. But hubby and I are going back home tonight so as soon as I’m back in the comfort of my bedroom, rest assured, I’ll devour this!


The Pledge by Kimberly Derting. I promised myself I was going to stay away from S & S Galley Grab but I find it futile to resist the temptation of reading a soon-to-be-released book. So I downloaded this along with a couple more. This book is putting a deep furrow in my forehead. Don’t get me wrong, I’m completely hooked, but I think I need to read a few more chapters to figure out the era and the world this book is based on. It’s good though!

A couple of books that I finished this past week are The Sweetest Thing by Christina Mandelski and Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta. The former was just an okay read and the latter…well, let’s just say, at a whopping 608 pages, I surprised myself that I was able to read it twice already. Even more surprising? I just got this book this week. I think that’s also the reason why I can’t get into reading anything right now. I always found it difficult to pick up another book after reading anything by Melina Marchetta. The woman is a literary goddess!

What are you reading?

Don’t forget to enter the blog’s current giveaway! Lots of awesome books including a signed copy of Beth Revis’ Across the Universe! 

Smart Chicks Kick It Tour Recap and GIVEAWAY

 On October 1st, the Smart Chicks Kick It Tour made their stop in Vancouver. I haven’t flown alone in a long time and I’ve always been afraid of flying. Which is surprising since my husband and I fly about 3 to 4 times a year on average. I don’t know, something about hurtling from 36,000 feet to my death tends to put the fear in me.  No joke.

Vancouver is about two and a half hours west from where I live (by air). I was simultaneously scared and excited. The flight was uneventful, thankfully. So obviously, I survived. All that fright and worrying were all for naught.

I had an awesome time! Vancouver is such a beautiful and bustling city. I just wish I had the time and the guts to do a bit of exploring, but oh well. Half the battle was getting my butt on the plane. Lol.

Anyway, I got there about two hours before the authors took the stage and the place was already packed. So I wandered around aimlessly to waste time – hardly a hardship since I was at a book store. I honestly have no clue what goes down on these type of events. I didn’t bring my books with me for the authors to sign, so I actually had to buy duplicate copies of all the books.

The illustrious panel included: Kelly Armstrong, Melissa Marr, Beth Revis, Margaret Stohl, Jennifer Lynn Barnes and Sara Zarr. They were very funny and forthcoming about their future projects. In as little as two hours, I learned so much about writing and publishing. The audience, which consist mostly of teens, threw questions that for the most part, were quirky and fun. The crowd pretty much brought back memories of my Twi-hard days, when I’d be one of the few mothers in the cinema for the midnight showing 🙂

I learned that EVERYONE, and I mean, EVERYONE wants to kiss and shag Derek of the Darkest Powers trilogy. Even most of the panel! Margaret Stohl is a huge gamer and attends the annual Pokemon conference (I didn’t even know there was one). Beth Revis is very soft spoken and loves chaos when she writes. Everyone was so nice and they didn’t give me an unapproachable air.

The best lesson of all: NEVER STOP READING.

I won a signed poster of Matched/Crossed by Ally Condie but decided to give it up to a girl whose mom was nice enough to let me cut in front of the line (she knew I had a flight to catch). I got home about six hours later to find an email from this sweet girl thanking me for the poster 🙂

I’m looking forward to the next event that I could afford to go to. I’m eyeing BEA 2012 in June. We’ll see.

Best autograph ever! JOY IS A BEAUTIFUL CREATURES. – Margaret Stohl

So, we come to the giveaway portion of this post. Open to everyone! 
UP FOR GRABS:



Six winners:

(1) The Darkest Powers Trilogy by Kelley Armstrong
(1) The Caster Chronicles by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl
(1) How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr
(1) Enthralled by K Armstrong & Melissa Marr
(1) Across the Universe by Beth Revis (signed)
(1) Raised by Wolves & Trial by Fire by Jennifer Lynn Barnes



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Review: The Sweetest Thing by Christina Mandelski

Publication Date: May 10th, 2011
Egmont USA
Format: ARC from Net Galley

Goodreads Summary

In the world of Sheridan Wells, life is perfect when she’s decorating a cake. Unfortunately everything else is a complete mess: her mom ran off years ago, her dad is more interested in his restaurant, and the idea of a boyfriend is laughable. 

But Sheridan is convinced finding her mom will solve all her problems – only her dad’s about to get a cooking show in New York, which means her dream of a perfect family will be dashed. 

Using just the right amount of romance, family drama, and cute boys, The Sweetest Thing will entice fans with its perfect mixture of girl-friendly ingredients.


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MY TAKE: 2/5 STARS

Sheridan’s life is spiraling out control. Actually, her life has been on a spin cycle since her mother left them years ago. Nowadays, her father only cares about his restaurant and becoming a television chef celebrity. But that’s okay. As soon as she finds her runaway mother, life will go back to normal and she won’t have to move to New York where her father could finally host his cooking show – or so she thinks.

Sheridan is a trying character to read. Often times, I found myself angry because of her foolish notions. Her determination to find a mother who never wanted her irritated me to no end. It seemed like she had her blinkers on all the time when it comes to the people who ACTUALLY love her.
But then I got to thinking: Have you ever wanted something so badly that you would move heaven and earth to get it? It’s a need that blinds you from all reasons that you would do anything to get it and hurt anyone that hinders your way? Well, Sheridan only wanted one thing: to finally have her mother at home like she’s been promising in all her communications with Sheridan. I understand where she was coming from, but that doesn’t mean that I warmed up to her.
I honestly had a hard time liking her or all the other major characters in the book. I especially disliked her father; cold and mean and closed up. At times I felt sorry for Sheridan because for all the love her family claimed to have for her, they just continually hurt her as her mother did by keeping a lot of things from her. Let’s not even talk about her vile, selfish, immature excuse for a mother because other than imparting her cake decorating knowledge to Sheridan, she was pretty much a useless human being. I honestly have never hated anyone as much as I hated this character.
The single saving grace came in the form of the best friend who’s been in love with Sheridan but couldn’t man up. I can honestly say that I forced myself to finish this because of Jack. Other than that, this book didn’t leave a good impression. Sorry.
ARC provided by Net Galley and Egmont USA in exchange for an honest review. 

Congratulations are in Order!!

Winners announcement!
Fiirst, I’d like to congratulate  A.J.  over at Collections for winning  October Shopping List contest. She chose to receive Half Blood by Jennifer L. Armentrout and Amplified by Tara R. Kelly. Congrats, Alexa!
I had an author’s interview with Brooke Moss, author of The “What If” Guy and also held a giveaway coinciding this event. We have three winners. 
PAPERBACK COPIES

Sarah (Identity Seeker)
Valerie (Stuck in Books)
E-COPY
Melissa Robles
Congratulations, everyone! I hope you enjoy all these goodness!
Stay tuned for more giveaways, you guys. I have copies of books from the Smart Chicks Kick It Tour that are dying to be on your bookshelves!

Review: Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta

Publication Date: October 3rd, 2011
Viking Australia
Format: Paperback, 608 pages

Goodreads Summary

Blood sings to blood, Froi . . .
Those born last will make the first . . .
For Charyn will be barren no more
.

Three years after the curse on Lumatere was lifted, Froi has found his home Or so he believes.

Fiercely loyal to the Queen and Finnikin, Froi has been trained roughly and lovingly by the Guard sworn to protect the royal family, and has learned to control his quick temper. But when he is sent on a secretive mission to the kingdom of Charyn, nothing could have prepared him for what he finds. Here he encounters a damaged people who are not who they seem, and must unravel both the dark bonds of kinship and the mysteries of a half-mad Princess.

And in this barren and mysterious place, he will discover that there is a song sleeping in his blood, and though Froi would rather not, the time has come to listen.

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MY TAKE: 5/5 STARS (I wish I could give it more!)
I have the most profound love for Melina Marchetta and her books. Anyone who follows me on Twitter and who reads my blog knows this. I love her work so much that I spent close to $70 on this book alone. International shipping and custom dues are very expensive. I am not ashamed to admit that I blew my book budget for the month (?). Considering this is not out yet in North America, it was well worth it and then some.

I cannot even begin to summarize what Froi of the Exiles is all about. The story line focuses on Froi’s assignment as the assassin sent into Charyn to kill its King. If you’ve read Finnikin of the Rock, you would know that Charyn was the primo enemy of Lumatere. Because of that, I was infinitely set on hating this kingdom and its people. But as the story progressed, and in true Marchetta brilliance, everything was not as they seem in Charyn. Some were as oppressed as the Lumatere exiles in Finnikin of the Rock, and some were as resigned as the Lumaterians who were cursed, trapped inside unless the curse was broken. Charynites, however, were blighted with a different curse: the inability of anyone of age to reproduce. I’m going to stop with my interpretation of the Froi’s blurb right here, because honestly, I don’t want this review to be a drawn-out synopsis of the book. Besides, there were a million things going on in the book that I just can’t give it a justified summarization.

So here’s what I thought:

Was I surprised that this book turned out to be ho-hum, brilliant? Uhm, NO.

Was I surprised that this book was considerably much more complicated than its antecedent, Finnikin of the Rock? NO.

Was I surprised by the intricate way with which Marchetta revealed certain plots and sub-plots painstakingly as if she were peeling layers upon layers of delicate phyllo dough? No. In fact, I’ve come to expect it. Often times, I fought with myself; wavering to skip pages but couldn’t bring myself to do so. It’s a dishonor to the book and to Ms. Marchetta herself. And in any case, she made it so that every word, every sentence, every punctuation of this book was significant to the great cohesive magnificence of the entire novel.

I find myself unable to find the right superlative for Froi. It seemed underwhelming to simply say it was brilliant – an understatement of epic proportions.

The characters that were introduced gave this book a whole different dimension of literary genius. Quintana, for one, is a fascinating character. She’s not what you would call a beauty in a seemingly mass-produced heroine assembly line. She was strong and at the same time acquiescent to the role she must play in her kingdom as the King’s daughter. I can’t tell you what she had to do but her situation was extraordinarily sad and the exact opposite of venerable. This is also another reason why Froi left me in a haze of wonder. There were topics that were, let’s just say, of mature audience variety; raping, whoring, violence, sex, with a hint of incest. And although we’ve had a taste of most of the above in Finnikin, it was still a shock to me. But let me be clear, Marchetta does not write anything for shock value. In the end, a book, much like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. You can take it like it is and give it your own interpretation. I myself could say that everything in this book was tasteful and genuine to the story line.

Shall I talk about Froi? Well, in Finnikin, Froi was an undesirable character up to the latter part of the book – in the end, I eventually took a shining to him. I am not going to say that I’ve fallen in love with him here, but let me say that uncovering who he truly was overwhelmed me – completely. He was a multitude of characters and traits – snippets inherited from all the kingdoms where he once roamed and lived. But the best part of knowing the real Froi, was finding out who his parents were and how deeply connected he was to Lumatere’s enemy.

For me, Finnikin and Isaboe will always be the royalty of literary characters ever penned. I loved reading about them as young rulers of Lumatere and as parents. As a husband and wife, I found it funny that that Isaboe had to plan a tryst in a closet for a moment with her husband.

Sigh.

And finally, finally, Lady Beatriss and Trevanion. Wow. I have a brand new appreciation for the word, CLOSURE. That’s all I’m going to say about them. I wish there was a separate book about these two: how their love story started and what they had to endure during their ten years of separation.

I wish I can say that this book ended how Finnikin did – with resolution and satiated feeling that everyone got their happily ever after. Unfortunately, that is not the case at all. One thing I can say for sure is that the third book will have to be epically exceptional to top this one.

Geebus. I have to wait another year for the third book. Gah!


Review: Dark of the Moon by Tracy Barrett

Publication Date: September 19th, 2011
Harcourt Children’s Books
Format: Hardcover, 320 pages

Goodreads Summary

Ariadne is destined to become a goddess of the moon. She leads a lonely life, filled with hours of rigorous training by stern priestesses. Her former friends no longer dare to look at her, much less speak to her. All that she has left are her mother and her beloved, misshapen brother Asterion, who must be held captive below the palace for his own safety.
So when a ship arrives one spring day, bearing a tribute of slaves from Athens, Ariadne sneaks out to meet it. These newcomers don’t know the ways of Krete; perhaps they won’t be afraid of a girl who will someday be a powerful goddess. And indeed she meets Theseus, the son of the king of Athens. Ariadne finds herself drawn to the newcomer, and soon they form a friendship—one that could perhaps become something more.
Yet Theseus is doomed to die as an offering to the Minotaur, that monster beneath the palace—unless he can kill the beast first. And that “monster” is Ariadne’s brother . . .

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MY TAKE: Unrated

This is a Greek Mythology remixed. If you were like me, whose knowledge in that subject is pretty limited to the usual (the Trojan War), then this book would probably not be for you.

Dark of the Moon focuses on the legend of Minotaur; a half-beast, half-human brother of Ariadne.

This book is intricate, with characters that you’d need first hand knowledge of. I had a hard time keeping up with everyone’s gods and goddesses, religious practices and who belongs to which, for lack of a better word, tribe. I had a hard time following the story line period. I was bombarded with a whole slew of characters that I felt I had to have a refresher course just to understand what their roles were.

I’m going to be completely honest and say that I have no idea who Minotaur is. I’ve never read of his myth at all and therefore, I must say that I had a difficult time reading and understanding this book.

I did love Ariadne’s love and affection for Asterion (her brother). Often times, the scenes played out poignantly as I pictured a delicate girl taking care of the beast in the palace’s dungeons.

If you’re looking for romance, you won’t find it here. Incidentally, I feel like I should start questioning my intelligence should I read The Goddest Test and actually like it. But we all know reading is subjective. And I’m a romance reader first before anything else. Does that make this book bad? Well, no. In fact, if I were into Mythology retelling sans the aspect of romance, I think I would have loved this book. The author’s creativeness about the subject made this book multi-dimensional. She wrote about legends, religion and the importance of family. I’m just sorry I didn’t like it as much as I would have.

This book was written well, and those who are fans of Greek Mythology retelling would absolutely love this book. But it really wasn’t for me. I am not sure if I should rate it. I neither like it nor hate it. 


 

TEASER TUESDAY #4 Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

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Goodreads Summary

Publication Date: October 3rd, 2011 (Australia)
Penguin/Viking 608 pages

The moment they reached the chamber, Froi raced out onto the balconette.
‘Quintana!’
 – Chapter 17, page 261

Gah! I’ve waited forever and a day for this book. I’m tempted to fake illness and tell my boss I’ve contacted a communicable disease that will keep me in bed for days!

Review: Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez

Publication Date: October 18th, 2011
Simon Pulse
Format: Hardcover, 304 pages

Now is not the time for Carmen to fall in love. And Jeremy is hands-down the wrong guy for her to fall for. He is infuriating, arrogant, and the only person who can stand in the way of Carmen getting the one thing she wants most: to win the prestigious Guarneri competition. Carmen’s whole life is violin, and until she met Jeremy, her whole focus was winning. But what if Jeremy isn’t just hot…what if Jeremy is better?

Carmen knows that kissing Jeremy can’t end well, but she just can’t stay away. Nobody else understands her–and riles her up–like he does. Still, she can’t trust him with her biggest secret: She is so desperate to win she takes anti-anxiety drugs to perform, and what started as an easy fix has become a hungry addiction. Carmen is sick of not feeling anything on stage and even more sick of always doing what she’s told, doing what’s expected.
Sometimes, being on top just means you have a long way to fall….
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MY TAKE 4/5 STARS

At the youthful age of seventeen, Carmen has not really lived a life of a normal teenager. Having spent most of her young life rehearsing, touring, and competing, you could say that her life experience is pretty much limited to music. She’s a violin virtuoso; amassing awards, recognition and accolades is more of her forte than worrying about crushes and what to wear for the dance. She’s homeschooled and the only exposure she has with boys is through competition. She’s focused on winning the most prestigious award for a violinist like her – the Guarneri. Only one person stands in her way and the only person even her could admit is a worthy adversary – British fellow virtuoso, Jeremy King.

I love, love, love music themed books. It doesn’t matter what genre of music is being used, for some reason, it just makes the story infinitely better for me.

Sometimes, when I read a book about something specific and exclusive, I could tell whether the knowledge was research-based or the author was speaking from first hand knowledge. Well, this author is a wealth of classical and musical information. It’s so easy to sound pretentious when you write about classical music but Ms. Martinez was definitely the opposite of that. The illustrative writing was so visceral that I could almost hear the melancholy notes of Carmen’s playing.

Virtuosity gave me a chance to understand the pressure facing talented musicians and what usually lead them astray. In Carmen’s case, it was sad to see that the most burdening pressure came from her mom. It was comprehensible to a degree why her mother was the way she was but it was still disconcerting to read about a mother forcing her daughter to take addictive anxiety pills for the sake of winning. That’s not the only thing she did…you’d have to read the book to find out. It’s deplorable and that’s all I’m going to say about that.

I love the banter between characters. Jeremy is one of those arrogant boys that we readers can’t help but love. I had fun reading their arguments, no matter how trivial they may have been sometimes.
This is a beautiful story with equally beautiful writing. But sadly, the ending left me a bit unfulfilled. It makes me wonder if there will be a sequel. So many possibilities…I read this through S & S galley grab and it’s one of those books that I’m going to need a copy for future re-read.