August 30, 2013

Recently Read: The Cahill Witch Chronicles (1 and 2), Eleanor and Park + six more

Well ... it's been a while since I posted one of these, so prepare yourself for a bit of a book dump.

What have I been reading lately?

Wise Young Fool by Sean Beaudoin

Here's the book's synopsis:
Teen rocker Ritchie Sudden is pretty sure his life has just jumped the shark. Except he hates being called a teen, his band doesn't play rock, and "jumping the shark" is yet another dumb cliché. Part of Ritchie wants to drop everything and walk away. Especially the part that's serving ninety days in a juvenile detention center.

Telling the story of the year leading up to his arrest, Ritchie grabs readers by the throat before (politely) inviting them along for the (max-speed) ride. A battle of the bands looms. Dad split about five minutes before Mom's girlfriend moved in. There's the matter of trying to score with the dangerously hot Ravenna Woods while avoiding the dangerously huge Spence Proffer—not to mention just trying to forget what his sister, Beth, said the week before she died.

This wasn't my normal style of book, but I enjoyed reading it, regardless. It's written from the POV of Richie, and it switched between Richie in juvie and Richie outside the walls; the switching makes for a compelling story—you know Richie got in trouble, but until the end you're not sure how. Beaudoin's writing is gritty—and even gruesome at points—but at all times very realistic, which only adds to the "this is a book about a punk kid" feel.

(Read my FYA review of this book here.)

Genre: YA/Contemporary
For fans of: Sid and Nancy, the life motto "Damn The Man."


Doctor Who: Dark Horizons by Jenny Colgan

Here's the book's synopsis:
From popular author Jenny Colgan, a thrilling new adventure in which the latest Doctor battles Vikings, chess and an unstoppable fire ...
So, yeah, the synopsis doesn't offer much in the way of what this book is about. But, let me tell you, if you're a Whovian, I have a feeling you'll enjoy this book. This is the first full-length Who novel I've read, and it read like a particularly great episode. I could imagine Eleven's antics and his involvement in the action completely. (Bonus: No Clara!)

(Read my FYA review of this book here.)

Genre: Scifi
For fans of: Doctor Who, TV tie-ins, the pre-Clara period


Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Here's the book's synopsis:
Set over the course of one school year in 1986, Eleanor and Park is the story of two star-crossed misfits—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love—and just how hard it pulled you under.
This book is wonderful. It's bittersweet and beautiful all at once. It's a great read for anyone who's felt like they don't quite fit it, and for anyone who believes in the power of love. Eleanor and Park is also filled with 1980s and nerdy references that made me smile. (Even though I was only 3 in 1986, some of the references were still familiar.)

Genre: YA/Historical*
For fans of: John Hughes movies, mixtapes, "weird" kids

*Gross, right? But the 1980s totally count as historical fiction now.


Escape from Eden by Elisa Nader

Here's the book's synopsis:
Since the age of ten, Mia has lived under the iron fist of the fundamentalist preacher who lured her mother away to join his fanatical family of followers. In Edenton, a supposed “Garden of Eden” deep in the South American jungle, everyone follows the Reverend’s strict but arbitrary rules—even the mandate of whom they can marry. Now sixteen, Mia dreams of slipping away from the armed guards who keep the faithful in, and the curious out. When the rebellious and sexy Gabriel, a new boy, arrives with his family, Mia sees a chance to escape.

But the scandalous secrets the two discover beyond the compound’s façade are more shocking than anything they ever imagined. While Gabriel has his own terrible secrets, he and Mia bond together, more than friends and freedom fighters. But is there time to think of each other as they race to stop the Reverend’s paranoid plan to free his flock from the corrupt world? Can two teenagers crush a criminal mastermind? And who will die in the fight to save the ones they love from a madman who’s only concerned about his own secrets?
Escape from Eden is short and sweet—if you can call a story that involves an escape from a batshit crazy religious cult leader sweet. The story had hints of dystopia about it, which I enjoyed, but it's also all too real. (Cults be CRAY.) Mia is pretty awesome in that she's not brainwashed into thinking the "community" of Edenton is the best thing there is, and I appreciate her willingness to do what it takes to be free and able to make her own choices about life.

Genre: YA/Contemporary/Thriller
For fans of: Action and adventure stories


All Our Yesterdays (Cassandra Chronicles #1) by Cristin Terrill

Here's the book's synopsis:
"You have to kill him." Imprisoned in the heart of a secret military base, Em has nothing except the voice of the boy in the cell next door and the list of instructions she finds taped inside the drain.

Only Em can complete the final instruction. She’s tried everything to prevent the creation of a time machine that will tear the world apart. She holds the proof: a list she has never seen before, written in her own hand. Each failed attempt in the past has led her to the same terrible present—imprisoned and tortured by a sadistic man called the doctor while war rages outside.

Marina has loved her best friend James since the day he moved next door when they were children. A gorgeous, introverted science prodigy from one of America’s most famous families, James finally seems to be seeing Marina in a new way, too. But on one disastrous night, James’s life crumbles apart, and with it, Marina’s hopes for their future. Now someone is trying to kill him. Marina will protect James, no matter what. Even if it means opening her eyes to a truth so terrible that she may not survive it. At least not as the girl she once was.
All Our Yesterdays is a promising book, but didn't quite fulfill said promise. The plot mixes time travel and the science behind it with teenage love and loyalty. The characters were decent, if a little cloying at times, and the plot was fast-paced enough to keep me wanting to read more. Basically, it was good (but not great) book. (Side note: I totally don't understand how it's going to be a series.)

(Read my FYA review of this book here.)

Genre: YA/Scifi
For fans of: Quantum Leap, changing your own fate


Born Wicked (The Cahill Witch Chronicles #1) by Jessica Spotswood

Here's the book's synopsis:
Everybody thinks Cate Cahill and her sisters are eccentric. Too pretty, too reclusive, and far too educated for their own good. But the truth is even worse: they're witches. And if their secret is discovered by the priests of the Brotherhood, it would mean an asylum, a prison ship--or an early grave. Then Cate finds her mother's diary, and uncovers a secret that could spell her family's destruction. Desperate to find alternatives to their fate, Cate starts scouring banned books and questioning rebellious new friends, all while juggling tea parties, shocking marriage proposals, and a forbidden romance with the completely unsuitable Finn Belastra. But if what her mother wrote is true, the Cahill girls aren't safe—not even from each other.
I picked up this book (and it's successor; see below) because a. I'd heard good things, and b. I wanted to catch up on the series before the third book comes out next year (when I'll likely take over the series' reviews on FYA). And, I'm so glad I did! Jessica Spotswood has created a fake history for America (and the world) in which puritanical views and power, instead of petering out in the late 1800s, grew more oppressive and encompassing. Witches do exist, but they're in hiding, lest they be captured and tortured by the Brotherhood, the rulers of the New England of this alternate history. The changes to history are not the only great part, however; the Cahill sisters are well-rounded and likeable characters (for the most part), the plot is engrossing and the swoon does not disappoint.

Genre: YA/Historical/Magic/Dystopia
For fans of: Charmed, good witches


Scorched by Mari Mancusi

Here's the book's synopsis:
Don’t leave me here ... It starts with a whisper. At first Trinity thinks she’s going crazy. It wouldn’t be a big surprise—her grandpa firmly believes there’s a genuine dragon egg in their dusty little West Texas town. But this voice is real, and it’s begging for her protection. Even if no one else can hear it ...

He’s come from a future scorched by dragonfire. His mission: Find the girl. Destroy the egg. Save the world.

He’s everything his twin brother Connor hates: cocky, undisciplined, and obsessed with saving dragons.

Trinity has no idea which brother to believe. All she has to go by is the voice in her head—a dragon that won’t be tamed.
Scorched is another book that fell a little flat for me. There's so much in this book—time travel, telepathy, dragons, cult-like organizations, genetic engineering—but I think the book suffers a bit for trying to give every idea equal time. The combination of fantasy and science fiction works, but the story wrapped up a little too fast for my tastes. Trinity is pretty kickass, however, and the twin brothers Connor and Caleb go through an interesting character progression. This had all the ear-marks of a series, and I think it could get really interesting if Mancusi had the time to do a bit more world-building.

(Read my FYA review of this book here.)

Genre: YA/Fantasy/Scifi
For fans of: Badass mythical creatures, Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern series


Star Cursed (The Cahill Witch Chronicles #2) by Jessica Spotswood

Here's the book's synopsis:
With the Brotherhood persecuting witches like never before, a divided Sisterhood desperately needs Cate to come into her Prophesied powers. And after Cate's friend Sachi is arrested for using magic, a war-thirsty Sister offers to help her find answers—if Cate is willing to endanger everyone she loves.

Cate doesn't want to be a weapon, and she doesn't want to involve her friends and Finn in the Sisterhood's schemes. But when Maura and Tess join the Sisterhood, Maura makes it clear that she'll do whatever it takes to lead the witches to victory. Even if it means sacrifices. Even if it means overthrowing Cate. Even if it means all-out war.

In the highly anticipated sequel to Born Wicked, the Cahill Witch Chronicles continue Cate, Maura and Tess's quest to find love, protect family, and explore their magic against all odds in an alternate history of New England.
The second in the series that begins with Born Wicked (see above), I loved diving back in to the alternate history created by Spotswood. The plot in this sequel progresses nicely—I'll keep this vauge so as to not spoil anything—but where Born Wicked leaves us with a somewhat solid ending, Star Cursed TBCs us hardcore. In, like, the last two pages. I'm so mad I have to wait until next year to read the third book, but I'm still totally enamored with the series.

Genre: YA/Historical/Magic/Dystopia
For fans of: Charmed, good witches, Born Wicked


Two Lies and a Spy by Kat Carlton

Here's the book's synopsis:
Kari plunges into the world of espionage on a mission to save her parents while trying to impress the guy she’s been in love with forever.

When sixteen-year-old Kari’s dad sends her an unexpected text, she and her brother immediately go into hiding. Because when your parents are superspies and your dad declares a Code Black, it can only mean something bad. Very bad.

Kari soon discovers that her parents have been disavowed and declared traitors, and she’s determined to clear their names. Breaking into the Agency seems like a reasonable plan, especially with the help of a team that includes her longtime crush, Luke, as well as her two best friends—an expert hacker with attitude and a master martial artist—and Luke’s popular, vindictive twin sister. Oh, and a new guy, who’s as cute as he is complicated ...
I should probably stop expecting every YA book that sounds awesome to blow me away, and be content with fun stories that keep me entertained. That said, Two Lies and a Spy falls in the same category as All Our Yesterdays and Scorched—fun books that left me wanting more from the plot and the characters. In this case, main character Kari started out awesome, but as the book progressed, I started getting really annoyed with her poor decision-making skills. This book also felt much like a "prequel," and I, once again, think that with time, Kat Carlton could create a really awesome series. It's just not there quite yet.

(Read my FYA review of this book here.)

Genre: YA/Thriller
For fans of: Alias, Gossip Girl-type shows about kids who attend prep schools.

What about you? What have you been reading lately?


  1. And my to-read list grows yet again...

  2. Adding things to my to-read list. I haven't read any of the DW novels. I had kind of written them off with things like Star Wars novels (which actually have a lot of fans, but I've never been into them), but so many of my friends who have great taste like them. "Bonus: no Clara" - glad I'm not the only one who isn't the biggest fan of Clara. I don't hate her, but I don't love her. I nothing her.

    I loved Eleanor and Park - I can totally relate to the way she always felt too big. Someone understands my point of view!

  3. I enjoyed the extended universe Star Wars novels (until they got all sorts of crazypants), but I haven't read any in years, so they might have lost their luster. This was the first whole DW tie-in novel I've read, but the short stories they've been releasing for the anniversary have been great.

    I relate to Eleanor, too, at least with that part of her character. I want to hug her for the other, shittier parts.