Advance Excitement at a Glance VIII

arc posts

 

This year, in an effort to blog more, to become more involved with the blogging community, and to keep up with the latest publications, I thought I’d create a monthly post about the ARCs I’ve received. These ARCs will be read and reviewed a month prior to the publishing date. The Advance Excitement at a Glance posts will feature one or two (or more, depending on what happens this year) books to look forward to, and it will motivate me to keep my to-read list on track.

Last month I previewed two ARCs that were published fairly recently, Deliverance (the conclusion to my favorite dystopian trilogy) and The Secret Place (the next installment by one of my favorite authors). I also shared Isla and the Happily Ever After (so so so perfect) and Secrets of the Lighthouse (a completely new author to me and enjoyed it). September and October are going to be big publishing months — and I can already tell I can’t get to all the ARCs I’ve received!

Because of that, here are four books to hunt for in the stores or watch out for in my reviews. Let’s hope I get to most of these so that I can share my thoughts with you!

The Jewel by Amy Ewing (September 2, HarperTeen) appears to be similar to The Selection series. There’s a lot of hype building around this book, and I’m curious to see why.

The Caller by Juliet Marillier (September 9, Knopf Books for Young Readers) is the final installment to the Shadowfell trilogy, a quiet but powerful YA fantasy.

Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White (September 9, HarperTeen) is a Downton Abbey meets Cassandra Clare YA fantasy, and it was highly recommended by Stephanie Perkins. So soon! So excited!

Lark Rising by Sandra Waugh (September 23, Random House Books for Young Readers) is another great fantasy, recommended by Juliet Marillier. Sounds like if you enjoy folklore (and Shadowfell!) you’ll enjoy this!

 

Which ARCs did you receive for September? What books are you looking forward to reading?

Book Review: “The Secret Place” by Tana French (ARC)

The Secret Place by Tana French 20821043

Publisher: Viking Adult
Publishing Date: September 2
Genre: mystery
ISBN: 9780670026326
Goodreads: —
Rating: 
★★★

The photo on the card shows a boy who was found murdered, a year ago, on the grounds of a girls’ boarding school in the leafy suburbs of Dublin. The caption says, I KNOW WHO KILLED HIM.

Detective Stephen Moran has been waiting for his chance to get a foot in the door of Dublin’s Murder Squad—and one morning, sixteen-year-old Holly Mackey brings him this photo. The Secret Place, a board where the girls at St. Kilda’s School can pin up their secrets anonymously, is normally a mishmash of gossip and covert cruelty, but today someone has used it to reignite the stalled investigation into the murder of handsome, popular Chris Harper. Stephen joins forces with the abrasive Detective Antoinette Conway to find out who and why.

But everything they discover leads them back to Holly’s close-knit group of friends and their fierce enemies, a rival clique—and to the tangled web of relationships that bound all the girls to Chris Harper. Every step in their direction turns up the pressure. Antoinette Conway is already suspicious of Stephen’s links to the Mackey family. St. Kilda’s will go a long way to keep murder outside their walls. Holly’s father, Detective Frank Mackey, is circling, ready to pounce if any of the new evidence points toward his daughter. And the private underworld of teenage girls can be more mysterious and more dangerous than either of the detectives imagined.

When Detective Frank Mackey’s teenage daughter Holly brings a card to show Detective Stephen Moran, it alters the course of his career and her private girls’ school forever. At St. Kilda’s, there’s a giant bulletin board tacked with cards full of secrets, creatively pieced together and revealing the boarders’ most hidden thoughts anonymously. But Holly spotted one pertaining to a murder that happened a year ago, and thought the Dublin Murder Squad ought to reopen the case. In doing so, she’s brought her friends back into a pool of suspicion, and their enemies become more vicious.

I’ve enjoyed French’s writing. She has a way of getting into your head with her language — and her writing differs depending on the perspective she’s using. From psychological thrillers to cold cases, French gets deep into the mind of the protagonists and takes you on a journey analyzing every single detail of a case till the surprising end. That’s the beauty of her style. And I really appreciate it. But Moran and Conway were not detectives I wanted to follow. Moran’s language was filled with incomplete phrases and thoughts. Scattered, fragmented. Like I just demonstrated. Throughout. Conway had an incredibly foul mouth and such a negative work style that I’m nervous to think she may be the next protagonist for Dublin Murder Squad #6. But while I didn’t enjoy the detective portion of the story, I liked the boarding school side.

On that side of the story, we follow Holly and her three close friends to their first full year together at boarding school. Two of them were previously day-people only, but now the four of them spend their nights at St. Kilda’s and do everything together — eat, study, sleep, shop. They promise one another they’d never let a boy get between them, because they have enough love to give for each other. But there are many Colms boys — the boy boarding school just down the road — and one of Holly’s friends becomes involved. And when one starts, the others follow. Two of the four girls make a desperate attempt to keep their friendship picture perfect, while another group of vicious girls point and laugh and bully and continuously try to tear them apart. All the while, these groups are wrapped up in the eventual murder of Chris Harper, and Holly and her friends are desperate to bring the police back to close the case completely.

It was difficult for me to rate this because I did like it over all, but not as much as her past work. I loved the subject, I loved the boarding school portion, and I loved that French’s writing stayed true. But because half the book is told through the detectives’ point of view, and I didn’t enjoy those parts, I’m left a little sad. This is definitely worth the read for French fans, and it echoed a lot of great storytelling as seen in Endeavour, which was interesting. Give it a whirl, tell me what you think!

Thank you, Edelweiss, for providing this book from Viking for review!

Book Review: “Eleanor & Park” by Rainbow Rowell

15745753Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Published: February 2013
Genre: young adult
ISBN: 9781250012579
Goodreads: 4.2
Rating: 
★★★★.5

Eleanor… Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough…Eleanor.

Park… He knows she’ll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There’s a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises…Park.

Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.

Eleanor knows she’s odd. She’s not only the new girl in school, but she stands out with her wild clothes, messy red curls, and heavier build. It doesn’t matter that she’s quiet and intelligent and keeps to herself — somehow, someway, kids pick on her from the moment she steps onto the school bus. Park, a comics-and-music aficionado, pities her for others’ cruelty, and tells her to sit with him on these torturous bus rides. Little do they know they’ll become more than bench partners, more than friends who swap mix tapes and share comics, more than a boy and a girl who glance shyly at one another. But not all good things can last, and Eleanor, trapped in an abusive household, attempts to make Park understand that love can’t be forever.

eleanorpark

I don’t know why I waited so long to read this. It was like my fear of reading Fangirl, that it would hit too close to home, or it would break my heart too deeply, or that I’d crumble to pieces. I didn’t know how I could read about these two misfits and their tough battles and still find enjoyment in this book, in all its pain. But I love Rowell’s writing. And I had to trust all those authors on the back of the book that I admire (John Green, Gayle Forman, Stephanie Perkins) that this book was worth it.

And I’m so glad I read it.

Eleanor finds a home in Park. Park finds love and belonging in Eleanor. Eleanor’s home life is a scary, abusive one. Park’s is filled with comfort and a touch of masculine expectation. Though both misfits — her for her appearance and he for his half-Korean background — their experiences and insecurities and emotions are infinitely universal. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from, the first time you fall in love is the same as a stranger’s. One morning you wake up and realize that you’re into someone — you look forward to seeing them, you want to know everything about them, you want to hear their opinions. You want to lift them out of their doubts and fears, you want to defend them with your life, you want to share in the joy and laughter. Eleanor and Park are beyond confused about why the other is in love — they each cannot see beyond their own insecurities — but they grab hold and clutch to it like their lives depend on it.

And it’s so beautifully done. While the ending is left a teensy bit open, there’s enough clarification that there’s a possibility for a happy ending. Or, if not a happy ending, then one of positive closure. Neither character is perfect, which makes me love them more.

What else am I supposed to say? If you haven’t read this yet, do so now.

Book Review: “Isla and the Happily Ever After” by Stephanie Perkins (ARC)

Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins 9627755

Publisher: Dutton
Publishing Date: August 14
Genre: young adult, romance, travel
ISBN: 9780525425632
Goodreads: —
Rating: ★★★★★

From the glittering streets of Manhattan to the moonlit rooftops of Paris, falling in love is easy for hopeless dreamer Isla and introspective artist Josh. But as they begin their senior year in France, Isla and Josh are quickly forced to confront the heartbreaking reality that happily-ever-afters aren’t always forever.

Three years of crushing on Josh could never prepare Isla for her embarrassing, drug-induced, loopy, spontaneous conversation with him in a Manhattan cafe. But while she curses her lost wisdom teeth for bringing her humiliation, Josh is nothing but ecstatic to find that she seems interested in him. Little does she know that he’s been, more or less, observing and crushing on her all this time in France. As their whirlwind relationship takes hold, they face things for more risky, more thrilling, and more mature than they’ve ever experienced — and pumping the breaks is not an option.

This was such a lovely end to the full relationship arc. In Anna and the French Kiss, we fall in love with falling in love — all the confusion and anxiety and butterflies and wonderful realization that yes, he likes you! In Lola and the Boy Next Door, we rekindle old love, fit the right pieces together, and experience a honest, easy relationship. And finally, in Isla and the Happily Ever After, we date our long-time crush, become overwhelmed with how easy and perfect it feels, and suddenly become frightened of the future and our insecurities. As promised, this book ends with a reunion — we glimpse Anna and Étienne, Cricket and Lola, and Meredith — and it’s such a great wrap-up.

Arc aside, I truly enjoyed this book as a stand-alone too. I loved it just as much as Anna. In Anna I loved her internal monologues, her sarcasm, and the entire “does he, does he not” experience. It’s universal and beautiful and made me squee. I’m STILL giggly over that book. And this book makes me feel the same, only in the actual relationship experience. From the high of falling in love, to the crushing heartbreak of facing the future and finding the whole concept of all-consuming love intimidating and frightening. Insecurities get in the way and blinds Josh and Isla of their potential, and it’s just so deep and heartfelt. Loved it. If Anna makes me giggle, Isla makes me hug the book. And both girls are my fictional kindred spirits.

I really enjoyed the secondary characters, here, too. Kurt, Isla’s best friend with high-functioning autism, is authentic and well-written. Their friendship is purely platonic — thank goodness — and completely plausible. His presence in the book serves a purpose, and I looked forward to his insight on the Isla-and-Josh relationship, too.

Read Isla. Not only is it a great ending for this trilogy/companion set, it’s a perfect standalone as well. And the two lovers are so deep, serious, loving, passionate, and caring. *sigh*

Thank you, Edelweiss, for providing this book from Dutton for review!

Book Review: “Deliverance” by C.J. Redwine (ARC)

Deliverance by CJ Redwine 19346438

Publisher: Balzer + Bray 
Publishing Date: August 26
Genre: young adult, dystopian, post-apocalyptic, fantasy
ISBN: 9780062117236
Goodreads: —
Rating: 
★★★★

Fighting through her pain and embracing the warrior she’s become, Rachel will do whatever it takes to escape her enemies’ clutches and join Logan in his fight. But when she learns a secret that changes everything, she realizes that escaping Ian and his tracker friends is no longer an option if she wants to save the people she loves. Instead, she’ll have to destroy Rowansmark from the inside out—if she can survive the journey through the Wasteland.

Logan needs allies if he wants to thwart Rowansmark’s power grab and rescue Rachel. But securing allies will mean betraying his beliefs and enlisting the help of the man he hates more than anyone: Commander Jason Chase. Driven by his fierce love for Rachel and his determination to make their world safe, Logan may be just the weapon the city-states need to defeat the Cursed One.

Rachel’s captured by Ian and Rowansmark trackers, and Logan’s imprisoned in Lankenshire. Though the two had hopes of forging alliances with other city-states together, their goal increases tenfold once they’re separated. Fighting desperately to find each other once more while struggling to survive political unrest, brutality, and the Wasteland takes its toll on the two young leaders of the destroyed Baalboden. They will fight to find each other  and end the lives of abusive leaders, or die trying.

If you haven’t read the previous two books of this trilogy, Defiance and Deception, do so now. It’s my favorite dystopian trilogy by far, and this final book truly had my heart pounding the entire time. If I thought Logan and/or Rachel were about to die in the other books, it’s nothing compared to this one! I lived in constant fear!

This was a fantastic closer to the trilogy. The characters have grown and developed so much across the journey, and watching their realization of this fact — facing death and embracing grief and accepting love — was incredibly beautiful. Rachel was always a stubborn fighter, but her world is no longer black and white, right and wrong. She understands the value of life and death, what it means to be a leader and protector. Logan, likewise, was always a bright inventor and cautious individual. He learned to think on his feet, to observe others and utilize their strengths for good. 

Plotting out the attack and the war felt authentic. Granted, I don’t know much about strategy, but the elements they crew used to attack Rowansmark surprised me — in a good way. Redwine has this uncanny ability to keep you on your feet, to make you guess and second guess where she’s heading next. I never knew what was going to happen, and that’s what I find so wonderful about this trilogy. It’s complex, compelling, and brilliantly written.

Thank you, Edelweiss, for providing this book from Balzer + Bray for review!

Book Review: “Lola and the Boy Next Door” by Stephanie Perkins

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins 16101168

Publisher: Speak
Published: July 2013
Genre: young adult, romance
ISBN: 9780142422014
Goodreads: 4
Rating:
 ★★★★

Lola Nolan is a budding costume designer, and for her, the more outrageous, sparkly, and fun the outfit, the better. And everything is pretty perfect in her life (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, return to the negihborhood. When Cricket, a gifted inventor, steps out from his twin sister’s shadow and back into Lola’s life, she must finally reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door.

Lola doesn’t wear clothes — she wears costumes. Fashion is a form of artistic expression, and Lola takes it very seriously. And although she’s a quirky San Francisco individual, she’s quite mature for her age and tries to persuades her fathers that her older rockstar boyfriend Max is perfect for her. But her world is shaken when long-time crush Cricket returns next door with his twin Olympic figure skater sister Calliope. The twins and Lola go way back, and she struggles to reconcile with the past and envision a different future.

With her outrageous outfits and fun personality, Lola was an easy character to like. Her fathers were endearing and strong, and their belief that Max is too old for her seeps through the pages of the book. And while it sometimes made me feel old (I’m older than Max!), I would’ve had to agree with them. 17 and 23 is different from 23 and 29 — there’s that huge period in one’s life in the early twenties one needs to experience first. But apart from the age, I was okay with Max. Soon enough his true colors show, and I wanted to throttle Lola to make her see sense. She’s the friend you love and adore and hope never wanders down the wrong path.

That said, Cricket was almost too perfect. He’s a very good guy, extremely smart and passionate, and most certainly the Good Boy Next Door. I liked him well enough, but there was something about his relationship with Lola that seemed a little forced too. Honestly, this may come from the fact I’m still on an Anna-and-Étienne high (having related to Anna so much), and couldn’t connect with this particular couple. But I still thoroughly enjoyed this book for what it was: another romance, in another wonderful city.

Also, Anna and Étienne were central characters in this story as well. Not mentioned in passing, not forced into situations, but genuine secondary characters. Anna is Lola’s manager at the movie theater, so of course her boyfriend is always around. It is convenient though that he and Cricket both attend Berkeley. Even still, it was beautiful to watch those two from a third party observer.

Isla and the Happily Ever After is out this week!

Packing Tips From a Nomadic Book Hoarder

There’s been a bit of a silence on this blog. Two reasons for that: 1) I’ve moved (again), and 2) I’ve read many ARCs and those reviews are in the queue for you. But today’s post will focus on the first reason: my experience moving (again).

Knowing there are hundreds of books at home sitting on shelves unread does not stop the compulsion to buy a book (or two or three) when I wander into a bookstore. You’d think that, after moving several times in my short life, I’d learn how to part with books and embrace the digital age. It’s very hard to part with books, it’s difficult to pack them, and it’s a pain to move them – but they’re like little children you love and care for. Book babies.

I’d blame my issues on parting with books on Toy Story, because it made my generation believe inanimate objects had feelings, but we’ll just move on with the notion that I’m a crazy bookworm and leave it at that. It’s why I had to create a resolution to Read 5 Buy 1, because my compulsion to buy books was becoming outrageous.

This compulsion was most noticeable when I had to pack ~500 books and move them from my shoebox Philly studio to my parents’ Midwestern home, where I’m temporarily staying. The moving truck was mostly packed with boxes of books. I thought I’d share with you my packing tips — the way packing books really works — for all my fellow book hoarders out there.

packingtips3

Stare at your shelves in despair. You used to stare at them in wonder and bliss. Look at all the stories! The worlds! The characters! The adventures! But now, with the impending move…look at all the weight.

I really did stare at them in despair.

Sigh dejectedly and contemplate packing options. Should you pack in alphabetical order? By collection? By the size and weight of the books? By Read and To-Read? Should you pack all of them at once and resort to reading off your ereader the next few days, or should you pack all but a few just in case? And how in the world do you choose those select few?

I separated by Read and To-Read, and then alphabetized.
My collections (Austen, Bronte, Potter and Taylor) were separated out as well. 

Pack in a frenzy. Don’t think, just do! Build those boxes! Place the books inside! Tape it up! Lift the box to stack in a corner! Un-tape the box because it’s too heavy! Take books out! Re-tape the box! Stack! Realize you’re going to need another 10 boxes! Repeat!

Rossetti thought I was crazy.

Label them. Nothing’s worse than opening a heavy box and finding that the book you’ve been eagerly anticipating putting on the shelf first is not, in fact, in that box but in a box that won’t be opened for another hour.

This happened when I couldn’t find a few children’s books and the massive Potter book about the films. Frenzy!

Pack the remaining items in your home. And find yet more books stowed away in your sock drawer, sitting in the pantry, buried in a bag. Sigh, pack, label, repeat.

Every box was literally marked with “a few more books.”

Employ friends to help lift the boxes on (and when you’ve moved, offthe truck. Cause that’s what friends are for! Your bookish friends are the best ones – they totally understand.

Thank you, Barnes & Noble coworkers and alma mater’s English major friends!

Unpack and nest like crazy. Those books will feel so unloved if you don’t unpack them first! Not your clothes, not your cookware, the books. And it doesn’t matter if you’ll be at that place for two weeks, a few months, or years — the books will always be unpacked first. Remember to flatten and save those already-labeled boxes!

~

Have you had issues packing and moving books? How do you handle this undertaking?