Split Second: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

*Split Second is the second book in West’s Pivot Point duology which begins with Pivot Point. As such this review contains major spoilers for book one!*

Split Second by Kasie WestEverything changes the moment Addie chose to stay with her mother after her parents’ divorce. Staying on the Compound is familiar. The Compound gives her the support she needs to advance and train her psychic ability to Search different outcomes for every decision she makes. Not to mention it has advanced technology the likes of which the Norm world can’t imagine.

Addie knows she stayed for a reason. Why else would a path where her boyfriend manipulated both Addie and her best friend Laila be the best option? The problem is she still isn’t sure why because she also asked Laila to erase Addie’s memories of the Search.

Laila, meanwhile, knows she can restore Addie’s memories. She just needs to learn how first. She knows Connor–a boy at school known for selling contraband tech–will be able to help. Unfortunately, Laila did not realize that he might be the only guy on the Compound immune to her charms and manipulation tactics.

When Addie goes to Texas to visit her Dad, she expects to have a quiet six weeks of relaxing and solitude. That changes when she meets Trevor who seems achingly familiar even though Addie barely knows him.

Together Addie and Laila have all of the pieces to restore Addie’s memories and unearth a much bigger secret. But only if they figure out how to put all of the information together before it’s too late in Split Second (2014) by Kasie West.

Split Second is the sequel/companion novel to West’s debut novel Pivot Point.

Split Second picks up one week after the events from Pivot Point play out. Given the nature of the stories, Split Second does function in many ways as a standalone however a lot of the emotional resonance will be lost without reading Pivot Point.

While Addie is dealing with the fallout from Duke’s lies and tricks, Laila is grappling with guilt over her (unintentional) role. Laila also has a letter Addie wrote asking her to restore Addie’s lost memories and no idea where to start.

The story unfolds in chapters alternating between Addie and Laila’s first person narration (each labeled with texts written to each other). West handles the overlap and convergence of the two plots expertly to make for one cohesive novel.

After meeting Laila in Pivot Point, it is great to see more of her story in Split Second. Laila is often calculating and even ruthless when it comes to protecting people she cares about. But she is also loyal to a fault with hidden depths. Laila always projects an effortless confidence that is delightful to behold.

While Addie rediscovers Trevor in Texas, Laila is left on the Compound where she finds Connor. Connor’s introspection and calm is a perfect counterpoint to Laila’s bravado and extrovert personality. Both characters have a lot of secrets and make conscious choices in what they present to the world and what they choose to protect. Their changing dynamic adds a great element of both humor and sweetness to Split Second.

Split Second is another fantastic sci-fi adventure complete with not one but two romances. West does a great job bring readers back to Addie and Trevor’s story while also introducing Laila and Connor. Although there are still a lot of questions (and many readers who would love to see more about these characters), Split Second is the perfect conclusion to a delightfully fun series.

Possible Pairings: Loop by Karen Akins, Unearthly by Cynthia Hand, Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough, Hourglass by Myra McEntire, Parallel by Lauren Miller, Soulprint by Megan Miranda, Fair Coin by E. C. Myers, Divergent by Veronica Roth, The Shadow Society by Marie Rutkoski, The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater, Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone, All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill

Loop: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

“You can’t change the past. One of those weird temporal loops that couldn’t be explained.”

Loop by Karen AkinsBree Bennis lives in the twenty-third century where, because of a special gene mutation, she can travel anywhere in time. It’s been years since travelers had to hide their unique skills but Bree knows better than most that time travel is still greeted with suspicion and even disdain by those unable to travel.

Bree used to be at the top of all of her classes. Now her biggest talent seems to involve making a mess of things.

After her solo midterm to the twenty-first century goes spectacularly wrong, Bree knows she’s in big trouble. Failing to complete her mission is one thing. Accidentally revealing herself to a boy and sort of taking him hostage? That could get Bree expelled. Or worse.

The only option is to try to sneak back and try to complete her midterm before anyone notices. The only problem is Bree ends up missing her target destination. She finds the boy–Finn who is now three years older and at least three times more attractive–but before she can fix anything Bree is pulled back to her own time. With Finn. Who claims that he and Bree’s future self are . . . dating?

Bree has plenty to do between hiding Finn and not flunking out of school when she learns that a rash of accidents have been taking out time travelers around the school. Turns out the attacks are anything but accidental and with Finn’s help Bree soon realizes she might be the only one able to find the person responsible and stop them before their timeline is irreparably damaged in Loop (2014) by Karen Akins.

Loop is Akins’ first novel and the first half of a duology that completes with Twist.

Loop dives right into the action when Bree’s life goes from bad to worse after everything goes wrong on her midterm. Bree manages to take everything in stride with only a few choice (and possibly made up) swear words to help. As Bree delves deeper into secrets about her own past (and future) she also realizes she might be at the tip of a very big problem–one her future self knew Bree would have to try to solve.

Akins skillfully combines science fiction adventure with a fascinating mystery to create a story that is as original as it is fun. Although some plot points–particularly clues left for Bree–are often obvious, Bree and Finn’s journey as they try to understand what brought them together more than makes up for it.

Bree’s world is filled with casual wonders ranging from automated travel pods to Pegamoos, all of which are brought to life in vivid prose. In a story that literally spans centuries, the world-building to top notch and gives Loop a strong sense of place no matter where or when Bree finds herself.

Bree’s voice is distinct and snappy, making this book conversational and completely fascinating. While the romance in Loop is a big draw, Bree also has a great character arc as she tries to reconcile who she is in her present with who she seems to be in the future. With massive conspiracies, clues left across time, and a displaced romance that is often baffling to Bree, Loop is an action-packed story with humor and excitement.

Possible Pairings: The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black, Chasing Power by Sarah Beth Durst, The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson, Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough, Hourglass by Myra McEntire, Soulprint by Megan Miranda, Lock & Mori by Heather W. Petty, The Shadow Society by Marie Rutkoski, The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater, All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill, Pivot Point by Kasie West, Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

Daughter of Deep Silence: A Review

Daughter of Deep Silence by Carrie RyanThree people survived when the luxury yacht Persephone sank. Two of them are lying.

Frances Mace knows the truth but at just fourteen, with everyone who ever knew her gone, Frances has no way to contradict the lies being told by the other survivors.

Four years after the disaster, everything about Frances is a lie. Everything about her is a tool meant to help her exact revenge. Frances will stop at nothing to get justice for the victims of the Persephone even if it means giving up the boy she loves and sacrificing her own identity in Daughter of Deep Silence (2015) by Carrie Ryan.

Daughter of Deep Silence is a standalone contemporary thriller reminiscent of the TV show Revenge.

Evocative language and vivid descriptions bring the novel’s South Carolina settings and Frances’ horror-stricken memories of the Persephone to life. Ryan pulls no punches in describing the hardships Frances faced when the Persephone sank nor does she shy away from exploring the post-traumatic stress that obviously plagues Frances four years later.

With rich characters and lavish settings, this story is a classic revenge story with added depth for the main character. Frances’ life is complicated and her sacrifices in pursuing revenge are almost too numerous to count.

Although Frances is a vibrant and strong character, her singular focus and strong personality only serve to underscore the fact that the rest of the characters are thinly drawn. (Shepherd in particularly felt like a prop for most of the story meant to act as a placeholder for Frances’ conscience.)

While Frances’ revenge plot is well-planned, the logic behind it (as well as the truth behind the sinking of the Persephone) both are largely anti-climactic after a book’s worth of build up. Readers seeking a story with more substance and stronger characterization will be left wanting more from this novel.

Daughter of Deep Silence will appeal to readers looking for an edgy, fast-paced revenge story that has its smart moments.

Possible Pairings: All Fall Down by Ally Carter, The Devil You Know by Trish Doller, Charlie, Presumed Dead by Anne Heltzel, We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, Pretending to Be Erica by  Michelle Painchaud, Lock & Mori by Heather W. Petty, I am Princess X by Cherie Priest, Hold Me Like a Breath by Tiffany Schmidt, Revenge (TV series)

 

Poetically Speaking with Me (Miss Print) about Gabi, a Girl in Pieces (A CLW Review)

poeticallyspeaking1For today’s Poetically Speaking post I’m taking over to review Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero. Click the icon above to see the rest of this month-long series!

Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel QuinteroGabi Hernandez chronicles all the important pieces of her senior year of high school in her diary. Through her diary she tries to make sense of her best friends Cindy’s pregnancy and Sebastian’s coming out.

Gabi also has to deal with college applications and the confusing world of boys.

Add to that her father’s meth addiction and her complicated relationship with food (thanks to her mom always harassing Gabi about what she eats) and Gabi’s plate is already more than full for the year.

In the midst of a difficult year Gabi finds solace in an unlikely place. Gabi always knew she liked writing and poetry. She just didn’t realize discovering the poetry within herself (and around her) would have the power to change everything in Gabi, a Girl in Pieces (2014) by Isabel Quintero.

Gabi, a Girl in Pieces is Quintero’s first novel and the winner of the 2015 William C. Morris YA Debut Award.

Gabi, a Girl in Pieces is told entirely through Gabi’s diary entries as she navigates an especially complicated year in her life as many long-standing problems come to a head including her father’s addiction and Gabi’s mother’s disapproval of Gabi’s plans to go away to college.

Quintero brings Gabi to life with a vivid voice and authentic storytelling that mark this novel as a standout in the diary novel sub-genre. While Gabi sometimes comes across as younger than her seventeen years, she is always honest and raw.

Gabi’s story is effervescent and overall sweet even with real moments of sadness and other serious situations in the story. Given the nature of a diary format, Gabi, a Girl in pieces is not always a cohesive story as Gabi’s thoughts and her life jump from point to point.

What does remain consistent throughout is Gabi’s love of words. The enthusiasm Gabi feels as she begins to find her voice as a writer and discover new poets is infectious. Gabi, a Girl in Pieces is an empowering, thoughtful novel brimming with creative energy.

Possible Pairings: Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume, Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley, And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard, Alice, I Think by Susan Juby, Undercover by Beth Kephart, The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart, Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison, How to Save a Life by Sarah Zarr

Poetically Speaking with Me (Miss Print) about Undercover (A CLW Review)

poeticallyspeaking1For today’s Poetically Speaking post I’m taking over to review Undercover by Beth Kephart. Click the icon above to see the rest of this month-long series!

“What I knew wasn’t mine. That’s the thing about being undercover: You know what you know, and you cannot act on it.”

Undercover by Beth KephartElisa Cantor is used to blending into the background. At home she is always in the shadow of her glamorous mother and sister, watching and wandering like her father. At school she is self-conscious and keen to stay invisible.

After all, it’s so much easier to observe things when no one is looking at you. In the woods Elisa is able to observe nature, like her father, as an undercover operative. At school, she can use everything she sees and finds to secretly write love notes for the boys in her school like a modern day Cyrano De Bergerac.

Elisa thinks she is fine with all of that; with being undercover. But when Theo Moses starts asking for notes to win over Lila–a pretty, popular girl who is always ready to remind Elisa that she is neither–Elisa isn’t sure she wants to stay in the shadows anymore.

As she hones her voice writing poems for herself–not pretending to be anyone else–and learns more about Theo, Elisa begins to wonder if there could be more to her life. With her father away on an extended trip and her family crumbling under the weight of his absence, Elisa really needs for there to be something more. When Elisa discovers a hidden pond and a talent for ice skating, she realizes it might be time for her to stop hiding in Undercover (2007) by Beth Kephart.

Undercover is a marvelous novel, partly a retelling of the play Cyrano De Bergerac and partly something entirely unique.

Elisa is a narrator who sees the world not just as it is but also through her own lens, always with a sense of whimsy and wonder. Readers are easily drawn into Elisa’s appreciation for poetry when she discovers new writers and forms and begins to write poems of her own (included throughout the narrative and also in bonus material at the end of the paperback edition).

Kephart uses poetry and prose to tell a layered story about love in all of its forms whether for family, friends, nature or even for words. Elisa’s journey as she learns to love and respect herself is also beautifully told. Undercover is a slim book that has a lot to say about honesty, family and learning who you want to be. Highly recommended.

Possible Pairings: Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo, Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley, Take a Bow by Elizabeth Eulberg, The Midnight Dress by Karen Foxlee, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han, Life by Committee by Corey Ann Haydu, And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart, Drawing the Ocean by Carolyn MacCullough,  I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson, Cyrano De Bergerac by Edmond Rostand, This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales, A Map of the Known World by Lisa Ann Sandell, The Unwritten Rule by Elizabeth Scott, Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld

Love and Other Foreign Words: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Love and Other Foreign Words by Erin McCahanJosie speaks many languages. She can converse in the languages of high school, college, friends, boyfriends and even the volleyball team. She can parse behaviors to see the right way to act, the right thing to say. She can always translate the things around her into her own native Josie.

But living a life in translation is exhausting. Even though Josie can take part in many different groups, and speak many different languages, only her family and her best friend Stu can ever properly understand Josie’s native language.

The people who understand Josie threatens to get even smaller when her sister Kate announces that she is engaged to a truly insufferable man. With the wedding approaching, Josie notices more and more changes in her beloved Kate.

Love is a word found in many languages. And with so many things around her changing, Josie is about to get a crash course in the true meaning of the word in Love and Other Foreign Words (2014)by Erin McCahan.

Josie is a lovely heroine who is convincingly intellectual without ever coming across as stilted. Stu is her perfect foil and the quintessential dreamy best friend. In every sense this story is heartwarming with many saccharine moments and authentic realizations about what it means to be part of a family.

That said the pacing felt off with were ostensibly the main parts of the story (the wedding preparation, the actual romance, the discord between sisters) not appearing until the second half of the story. Although the direction the story moves in makes up for the rushed feeling of the ending. (And oh how I wish Josie had glasses on the cover.)

While there are hints of romance, the real romance–the one that should have been the meat of the story–doesn’t appear until the last fifty pages of the novel. At the end of the day Love and Other Foreign Words is a sweet story about sisters and how familial relationships change that will appeal to readers of light contemporary romances.

Possible Pairings: The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life by Tara Altebrando, An Abundance of Katherines by John Green, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han, Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson, The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart, Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta, Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson, We Are the Goldens by Dana Reinhardt, Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales

Out of the Easy: A Review

“My mother’s a prostitute. Not the filthy, streetwalking kind. She’s actually quite pretty, fairly well spoken, and has lovely clothes. But she sleeps with men for money or gifts, and according to the dictionary, that makes her a prostitute.”

Out of the Easy by Ruta SepetysJosie Moraine’s mother has been working as a prostitute for the past ten years, since she and Josie moved to New Orleans in 1940.

It’s 1950 now. Josie is seventeen. And she wants nothing more than to get out of New Orleans once and for all. While her mother is content to tie herself to whichever man comes along, Josie works cleaning the brothel where her mother works and at a bookstore as she works to save enough money for college and her ticket out of the Big Easy.

Josie’s careful escape plan is put into jeopardy when she becomes tangled in the investigation of a mysterious death in the Quarter. Torn between her allegiance to Willie Woodley, the madame who has been more of a mother to Josie than her own, and her fierce desire to leave New Orleans behind, Josie will have to decide how much she is willing to sacrifice in her search for the truth in Out of the Easy (2013) by Ruta Sepetys.

Out of the Easy is Sepetys’ second novel and her follow-up to Between Shades of Gray.

Josie is a determined heroine but she also has a very reductive view of the world–particularly given her background. While Josie, her family, and many of her friends operate in what can only be called grey areas of the law–Josie’s views remain very black and white. She is friends with Willie and some of the girls who work at the brothel. But she also views them at a remove. As the opening of the novel (quoted above) might suggest, there is also always a slight hint of distaste.

While this story is an evocative historical novel, the lush setting often serves to emphasize a lackluster plot. A lot of things happen to Josie in the story but despite being self-sufficient in a financial sense, Josie is very short on actual agency. Throughout the novel Josie’s fate falls into the hands of others. Eventually she does break free and choose her own path, but it comes very late in the story only after her inaction has dramatic consequences. Yet everything still manages to resolve very neatly and decidedly in Josie’s favor.

Sepetys once again delivers a well-researched historical novel in Out of the Easy. This novel brings the world of 1950 New Orleans to vivid life with a setting that is as vibrant and evocative as any of the characters found within these pages. Out of the Easy is an engrossing historical novel ideal for readers who want to get lost in a book’s vividly described settings.

Possible Pairings: Strings Attached by Judy Blundell, Ten Cents a Dance by Christine Fletcher, The Fire Horse Girl by Kay Honeyman, Belle Epoque by Elizabeth Ross, Bowery Girl by Kim Taylor, In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters