Friday, March 27, 2015

The Friday 56 (3)

This is a weekly bookish meme hosted by Freda at Freda's Voice.  This is a fun and simple meme, just follow the rules! It's a great way to connect with bloggers and share new or favorite books with them.
*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader
(If you have to improvise, that's ok.)
*Find any sentence, (or few, just don't spoil it)
*Add your name to the link up at Freda's Voice

Ok...I'll admit this week, I had to fudge this post by a couple of pages so this time, it is the Friday 60. I know most of the time, this blog focuses on YA/NA books but every once in a while, I like to look back at some of the books that made me think about things a bit differently and aren't simply an adventure or love story.

So my Friday 56 post will be from Edward Abbey's Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness. Edward Abbey is not someone to look up to in many ways (he was on the FBI watchlist for many years and one of his novels, The Monkey Wrench Gang, has been cited as inspiration for many radical groups) but he did have a beautiful way of writing about the importance of keeping the natural world natural. His writing is confrontational, accusatory, and harsh but it shows great passion for the environment.

"And most significant, these hordes of non motorized tourists, hungry for a taste of the difficult, the original, the real, do not consist solely of people young and athletic but also of old folks, fat folks, pale-faced office clerks who don't know a rucksack from a haversack, and even children. The one thing they all have in common is the refusal to live always like sardines in can - they are determined to get out of their motorcars for at least a few weeks each year."

Despite how this may sound, this is one of the nicest things that Abbey said about tourists into national parks. He wanted people to experience nature outside of their cars and go out and explore the world a bit. I'll leave you with this, from the forward of Desert Solitaire. It's one of my favorite passages of all time from environmental literature.
“Do not jump into your automobile next June and rush out to the canyon country hoping to see some of that which I have attempted to evoke in these pages. In the first place you can’t see anything from a car; you’ve got to get out of the goddamned contraption and walk, better yet crawl, on hands and knees, over the sandstone and through the thornbush and cactus. When traces of blood begin to mark your trail you’ll see something, maybe. Probably not. In the second place most of what I write about in this book is already gone or going under fast. This is not a travel guide but an elegy. A memorial. You’re holding a tombstone in your hands. A bloody rock. Don’t drop it on your foot - throw it at something big and glassy. What do you have to lose?”
I'm hoping that maybe I'll be able to inspire someone to pick up this book, acknowledge that it's going to make them mad, and read it anyways. Go out into the woods or into the desert and get lost for a little while. It changed my perspective on parks and how we approach them.

Sorry for such a serious end to the week! For some reason, this book was calling out to me from my bookshelf.

Happy Friday! Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Book Review: Cracked by Eliza Crewe

Lost in a YA wasteland of characters that all think and act alike, where the bad boy is ultimately good and the girl is pining after some unrequited love...there is this book.

Where the girl doesn't give a flying shit about what boys think about her and there is no male love interest to bog things down. Where she is dangerous and nosy, a potentially horrible combination. Where her big secret actually has EFFING CONSEQUENCES and she has to learn how to deal with things from her past quickly and does so without moaning about it.

Ok, first, the cover. How beautiful/crazy looking is that? While it may not have the characters or the setting on it, it is still wonderful to look at. It's great. Not every cover needs to have the almost kissing couple. Not everything needs the heroine with the guns/swords/random weapons standing dramatically against a fiery background. This cover's simplicity works, especially when considering the madness contained within.

Cracked by Eliza Crewe is a breath of fresh air, to say the least. Meda is delightfully twisted. She has depth that you wouldn't expect from someone so bloodthirsty but she has reasons for being the way that she is. She eats souls and she has to kill to feed. The ghosts of the past come to her and beg her for help and she is usually more than happy to oblige. Until one night, Meda finds out that she isn't the only big bad and scary to go bump in the night.

“Samson's tapping feet come closer, but again he pauses and knocks on a door. I don't mind. The pauses make it better. They make me wonder whether he's going to come to me, like the anticipation before a kiss. Will he or won't he? 
But this is not a love story.”

Chi, Jo, and Uriel come to her rescue and they believe her lies about not really knowing what is going on. They take her to exactly where she shouldn't be, an academy filled with people who are trying to rid the world of evil like her. Meda has to hide her true self but that's becoming more and more difficult with the ever observant Jo watching her like a hawk.

Meda learns more and more about her past and what she finds out is shocking. She has to make choices and struggles to know if she is making the right ones.

It's paranormal without the vampires and werewolves. It's creepy and scary without things jumping out of closets. The bad guys are really bad and the good guys are really good and then there's Meda trapped in the middle. There is so much more to this than the YA label gives it credit for. 

The amazing part about this book is that...hell, everything was amazing. But the point I was going for is that it isn't just a one trick pony. This is a book you can read again and again and still get something from it every time. This is the book that is breaking the mold of the YA genre because it is complex enough to give it life but streamlined to the point where you aren't dragging on with meaningless prose. And it's funny.

“I'm pretty sure Jo couldn't talk about the weather without somehow including a threat. Forecast today: cloudy with a chance I'll kick your ass.”

I was laughing out loud reading this. Jo and Meda's relationship is built out of sandpaper and they annoy each other perfectly. They are the friends that never wanted to be friends in the first place but circumstances push them together and they realize that their particular brand of sarcasm and hating each other work well together.

Chi is an interesting character as well. He is loved by all and everybody worships at his feet as the best and brightest. But his focus isn't on everybody else and I think he is one of the few genuine good guys in YA that you end up liking. He is not perfect but Chi is the foil to all of Jo's prickliness.

Then there's Uriel. Oh my goodness, Uriel. I want to pack him up in a little box and take him home with me like a puppy. He has a bit of a hero worship problem but he is just too sweet to be left behind and has good intentions.

Character growth in this book isn't one dimensional. Sometimes (often), with YA books, only the main character learns something from their actions. Their choices either affect their family or the whole effing universe with nothing in between. But all of their relationships and friends are just background noise to their awesomeness in those books. They are the supporting cast and love interests and that's it. The other characters in this book have purpose and grow as well. Chi learns that he isn't all that he is made out to be and has to rely on someone else for a change. Jo has to smooth her quills down and accept the things that she cannot change. Uriel comes to find that hero's can fall and aren't perfect. Their relationships between each other that have been there for years only grow stronger throughout the book and while they may not make the best decisions, they support each other well.

It's good to have a friend that will back up all of your stupid mistakes while calling you an idiot in the process.

Cracked also made me cry. It's such an interesting mix of bloodbath, fighting, sarcasm, helplessness, and heart wrenching sadness. It has a great balance and is one of the few YA books that I can say that wasn't just sad for the sake of being sad. There is purpose behind everything and it is well composed and thought out.

Just go get this book. Do it. Right now. It's worth it. I could sing its praises all day long and not be done with it. I will willingly break my heart over and over every time I read this book, just so I can have the experience of reading it again.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Cover Reveal: The Other Side of Envy by C.L. Stone

The Ghost Bird Series by C.L. Stone...

Friendly warning:
If you like to read classy well thought out books with relatively few cliches and at least a chance at being realistic, these books are not for you. If you like strong female leads who can take care of themselves, then the Ghost Bird series is not for you. If repetitiveness of actions (if you blush one more time Sang Sorenson, I swear) really bothers you, do not read. If the idea of a reverse harem freaks you out, walk away now. If a book with an abusive parent relationship is out of the question, do not read these books. However, if you dream of having your own little harem of incredibly attractive smart men at your beck and call who are all looking out for you, READ THESE BOOKS!

If you know me, you know that I'm shamefully addicted to these damn books. Why? Who knows. They are a soap opera where the girl doesn't have to pick what eye candy she gets because she gets to have them all. Last night, the cover for the lastest book, slotted to come out April 28th, was revealed.

Are you ready kids?

Aye Aye Captain!

I can't hear you!

Aye Aye Captain!


Blurb from Goodreads:

Sang Sorenson dreams of what life might be like for her in the Academy, but joining isn't as easy as simply writing an exam or passing an interview. She'll need to pull the team together to get them on her side in order for it to work, which is harder than it sounds. The boys will do anything to protect her, which, for some, means keeping her out.

But that’s not all that’s going on in Sang’s complicated life. After a shocking revelation, Gabriel Coleman splinters himself off from everyone, avoiding not just his Academy team, but even going so far as to avoid Sang. Desperate to bring him back and get him on her side, Sang digs deep into his past to try to discover a way to reach out to him.

His truth is riddled with tragic events, but with the help of Kota, Victor, Silas, Nathan, Luke and North, she might be able to reach out to him before envy and despair drag him too far down to be saved.
The Academy, Deeply Bonded

So...I'm a little excited. Not sorry at all. These books grab you by your hair and drag you into the plot, kicking and screaming. You'll wonder what happened to your good sense and why you are reading this but you will fall in love with at least one of the boys (if not all of them) and find the books hard to put down. 

You can see my sort of review for the first 7 books in the series here.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Book Review: Lovely, Dark, and Deep by Susannah Sandlin

The good thing about reading slumps is that you get to catch up on your old reviews that you forgot that you never posted. I have a backlog of books that I read a while ago (or recently finished) that I never wrote reviews for. I fall victim to my desire to get on reading the next book and completely forget to write something about the book I just read. Bit of a fickle reader but hey, aren't we all?

Susannah Sandlin (also writes at Susannah Johnson) is currently working on a paranormal series set in New Orleans called The Sentinels of New Orleans that I was completely obsessed with. It has wizards, voodoo, shifters, and the historical undead and is well-written. So, I was curious about her other books. She has a series about vampires called The Penton Legacy but as some of you know, I'm not all into vampires so I've set it aside for now.  Lovely, Dark, and Deep intrigued me though. It isn't paranormal and it doesn't really focus on the South as much as her other books so I was curious and excited to read it.

Going into this book:
Oh goodness, I love this author. Is it going to live up to my expectations? Will I be disappointed? She always writes her men well and has the appropriate level of snark for her heroines. Her heroines are strong and generally independent and don't put up with any crap. Her world building is interesting. How would this book compare to The Sentinels and will I see a repeat of DJ in this book? Will it be the same characters, just under different names like some authors do? I AM FLIPPING EXCITED!

After reading:
Lovely, Dark, and Deep is an interesting novel because it is driven by the actions of a sociopath that is nearly anonymous and truly twisted. But the reader hardly sees him throughout the plot. He communicates through a lackey via phone calls and threatening emails. He is never directly involved in what is going on so you get this almost puppet master aspect to the book. The Collector is the perfect evil villain in the traditional Bond type way. He is rich. He is powerful and he does not care about anything but himself, his reputation and his money.

It's so rare when you have a true villain that you can't see but you know is there. It isn't some other worldly presence. It isn't a crazy dictator. It isn't an evil overlord who can destroy the world with a mighty sweep of his hand. This is a normal human man who can destroy the lives of people on a whim and will never be held accountable for it. He controls everything and doesn't care who is affected by his desires and actions.

Do you know how terrifying that is? That a single person can hold the power of your life just because you are a means to a vain and selfish end? When I say that he doesn't care, the villain literally puts no value on human life. It doesn't matter to him. People are not people to him, they are stepping stones.

That's why I like the premise of this book. These characters are not driven to save the world or change how things are done. They have to act in the ways that they do because a crazy guy with a ton of money is threatening everything they love for something that may or may not exist.  
Gillian is a headstrong independent woman who works with alligators. She humanely traps and removes them so that they can live out their natural happy life away from humans. She has some skeletons in a closed and locked closet that she hasn't opened in a long time and she likes it that way. She likes being alone. But when an off-hand comment on a news show lands her on the radar of a treasure-seeking sociopath, she finds her family's and friend's life being held ransom in exchange for a family heirloom that is closer to rumor than fact.
So Gillian ends up on a boat with a excessively attractive diver named Shane who has his own demons to fight in order to save her family. Shane is being blackmailed too for his boat, his livelihood and the last people he cares about. Every step they take to finding the mysterious pendant that was lost in a shipwreck is wrought with threats and losses. The intent is clear. Find what the Collector wants or die.

I did have problems with this book though. From the beginning, Gillian is attracted to Shane. Totally normal, I get it. He's hot. He's a diver. Got a rockin' bod. Got it. Stop talking about sex all the time. Gillian is supposed to be emotionally scarred from something in her past. Same with Shane. Their families may be murdered for something they have little control over. I'd appreciate a bit more urgency and panicking but instead there is a lot of focus on wistful kisses and "what could have been". The romantic aspect of the book seemed to take over the plot instead of the fact that their families are at risk due to their time wasting.
I wanted to yell at them to either do it and get it over with or move on. You have other things to focus on. Have a hot sexy encounter, get it out of your systems and then get to work! Or when you have spare time sailing along the coast, do it then. There was some time wasted when they could have been trying to figure out who was the one threatening them. It seemed that they kept getting distracted by each other (which I can understand, sexual tension is a bitch) instead of doing the job that they were forced into doing. If I were in Gillian's place, I would have told Shane "Let's hold off on the sexy times until we figure out if we are going to ruin our families' lives or not. Then let's have fun." I'd be too stressed to be able to handle any more tension due to wanting to do the nasty while probably under the ever watchful eye of the Collector.
But the plot was solid throughout. Everything is well thought out and makes sense. 
Gillian is desperate but clever. She is able to keep herself together and not turn into a fainting soft woman. She is strong and is able to make logical sound decisions despite the heavy emotional burden she is under. I loved that she joined in with the dives even though she wasn't sure of how she would be able to help. There is nothing worse than sitting around and waiting for someone else's results and she doesn't let anything stop her. Same with Shane, although his emotions factored into his decision making in a greater way. 
I was scared for the characters and the threats were real. There was none of this hypothetical danger. It was palpable which was wonderful. Make a bad choice? Someone dies. Don't act quick enough? Another pulled trigger and a fresh threat.  They were always looking over their shoulders and the tension created by that was real.

I loved the premise, loved the villain but got sick of the angst really quickly. Still gets 4 stars because it kept me on the edge of my seat and I am going to read the next one in the series.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Reading Slump!...Sort of...

I have to apologize for myself...

Usually, I devour books at what would probably an alarming and expensive rate. But, for the past few weeks, I've found myself looking at my kindle and sighing (somewhat melodramatically) and wishing I was more inspired to pick it up.

Let's not get confused. It's not because I am reading books that I'm not excited about. I'm loving The Bone SeasonThe Woodlanders and Risking Ruin but it's like there is something in my way from reading voraciously.

I usually read at night, sometimes into the early morning hours until I was finally exhausted enough to go to sleep. But there has been one thing that has been distracting me and pulling me away from my kindle and onto Hulu or Netflix.

It's not like this is a new obsession. At all. This goes back to watching Tsunami on Cartoon Network after school. My brother and I would watch Sailor Moon and DragonBallZ before doing homework or going to sports practice.  I didn't realize how easy it is to binge watch this and OMG IT'S THREE IN THE MORNING AND I HAVE WORK TOMORROW.

It's ruined me for reading books at night. The manga app on my phone doesn't help since I can read the mangas at work and at least sort of look like I'm getting something done. "No...I'm reading an email update I got from the ArcMap company about the new program that is coming out this spring!" So I am technically reading but not the books I've been meaning to read. I'm very easily distracted by attractive animated men and silly fun plot lines. (I'm looking at you, Ouran High School Host Club)

I'll get back to reading soon. It's just sort of nice to have a break and be a bit juvenile at times when my life is consumed by graduate school applications and planning a wedding. I have to enjoy these while I can because Taylor isn't too thrilled with all of these girly animes. 

So...the point of this entire post:

Do you watch/read anime/manga? What are your favorites? Do you recognize the animes I have up above? Any recommendations?

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Friday 56 (2)

This is a weekly bookish meme hosted by Freda at Freda's Voice.  This is a fun and simple meme, just follow the rules! It's a great way to connect with bloggers and share new or favorite books with them.
*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader
(If you have to improvise, that's ok.)
*Find any sentence, (or few, just don't spoil it)
*Add your name to the link up at Freda's Voice

This Friday, I'm going with The Casquette Girls by Alys Arden. It's one of the best paranormal thrillers I've read in a long time and I love that it is set in New Orleans. It's an awesome book so go check it out!

"Inside, the smell of wood, lilacs, and cinnamon permeated the air. I can't believe I am here looking for answers, I thought as I walked past the Voodoo dolls, tourist thrills, and alligator skulls. I found Désirée at the counter, doing what I assumed was homework. I would turn out to be wrong; at least, it wasn't homework in the traditional sense."

What are y'all reading this weekend? Any big plans? How do you feel about books set in New Orleans? Big fan or overplayed?

Random Questions Tag!

Happy Friday! 
Today is a two post day so be on the lookout for the Friday 56 later this afternoon!

I was tagged by the lovely Bee at Bee Reads Books to do the Random Questions tag. Go check out her blog and say hello!

Do you like blue cheese?
In certain settings. One of my favorite appetizers uses blue cheese but it also has bacon, garlic, and artery clogging amounts of cream cheese in it so it all balances out. Click here for a recipe if you're curious.

Do you own a gun?
Not at the moment. My dad has guns and my fiance has guns so I'll probably end up with one at some point. I am building up my shoulder strength again so I can try out bow hunting though.

What flavor Kool- Aid was your fave?
Probably watermelon. It's a hard flavor to find sometimes though.

Do you get nervous before doc appointments?
I used to, but not anymore. I was seeing the doctors at least twice a month for a long time for various things so you kind of get over it really quick.

What do you think of hot dogs?
Love them. There's a new minor league baseball stadium in Birmingham and I love going there and chowing down on hot dogs and beer.

Fave Christmas movie?
White Christmas with Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney. I adore the dances, dresses and the singing. I'm a big fan of musicals made in the 50's for some reason.

What do you prefer to drink in the morning?
Cancer causing Diet Coke at the moment. I was completely off of my caffeine addiction in college for a while and then comprehensive exams happened. My coffee maker has a gremlin in it and hates me so for now, just easy simple Diet Coke. My favorite morning drink is a vanilla latte with an extra shot though.

Can you do push ups?
I can now! I used to not be able to because if I put my full weight on my shoulder, it would pop out of socket. Which was an adventure.

What’s your fave piece of jewelry?
I love my engagement ring but my favorite piece of jewelry is one I don't have. My great grandmother's diamond cocktail ring is my favorite but it is being passed down through the generations right now.

Do you have A.D.D.?
Probably not.

What’s your fave shoe?
I have these beautiful black suede pumps from Steve Madden that I'm completely in love with. They have a special place in my closet so they won't get dirty. I rarely wear them and they make me 6'3" but they are so pretty!
Mine aren't peep toe, but you get the idea

Middle name?

Name 3 thoughts at this exact moment.
What should I cook for dinner
I need to oil my boots
Hope the dogs are doing ok at home

Name 3 drinks you regularly drink.
Ridiculous amounts of green tea, lots of milk and diet coke

Current worry?
Getting the house clean before my fiance gets into town

Current hate right now?
Unsolicited wedding advice

Dum da dum dummmm, what is that?
Somebody's in trouble!

How did you bring in the new year?
At Taylor's (fiance) house with a movie on and the dogs on our feet. New Years is also our anniversary and he fell asleep before midnight.

Where would you like to go?

Do you own slippers?
Ugg house slippers. Don't judge. They are magical.

What color shirt are you wearing right now? 

Do you sleep on satin sheets?
Hell no.

Can you whistle?
Yup! I can do both the pursed lips whistle where you can whistle a tune and the "call the dogs in" whistle where your eardrums explode.

Fave color?

Would you be a pirate?
Sure, why not?

What song do you sing in the shower?
Anything by the Pistol Annies. Can't do the harmony but I like to think I can sing :-)

What’s in your pocket right now?
Spin pins. If you have long hair and you don't know what they are, you're missing out.

Last thing that made you laugh? 
The Guinness Sheep Dog Trials commercial. Tried to embed the video but it isn't cooperating.

Best bed sheets as a child?
I had pretty purple ones with flowers on them but I never had little kid sheets on my bed.

Do you love where you live?
Yes, but I'm moving to the mountains of Georgia. Birmingham is lovely but I want to be out in the country somewhere.
The Vulcan is a pretty badass statue to have in the city

Does someone have a crush on you?
I don't think so. I think he may have gotten over it a long time ago.

What’s your fave candy?
Sweetarts and Nerds. I know they are both pure sugar but whatever.

Fave. sports team?
How can I pick only one? Favorite soccer team is Liverpool but I want to see Barca play someday. I love the Atlanta Braves but they are breaking my heart at the moment. I am undeclared as far as football goes but I'm apparently turning into a Georgia Bulldogs fan when I get married. But in reality, I'll cheer for anyone to beat Tennessee and Texas A&M.

The three people that you're tagging?
Melissa at Ever So Mela

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Book Review: Pretty Girl by Amy Heugh

I've been putting off this review for such a long time and decided to tackle it tonight. My attitude about it isn't getting any better we go.

Blurb from Goodreads:
If there were one day that she could change it would be the day she was taken.

After her parents’ divorce, seventeen-year-old Izzy Scott and her mother move to the old town of St. Augustine to begin a new life, a life beyond the media attention and the memories of the traumatic experiences that left an everlasting affect on their family.

The former ballerina is trying to adjust to the outside world without suffering a panic attack and exposing who she is - all while getting through her senior year at a new school. That’s easy to say until she meets local boy Mason Winchester, a boy with a tragic past.

Mason has a reputation for violence, but a love for motorcycles. At the age of eleven he lost his mother to cancer and from then he has been running from something, but could never really get away.

Like any other angry teenager, he just wants to be left alone and to have nothing to do with anyone else because he believed that he had nothing to offer. That changes the moment he saw what was in the new girl eyes.

Tragedy wasn't new to either of their lives but among the secrets and the memories the one thing they both never excepted was to find hope.

Izzy is trying to work through a traumatic event in her recent past. She and her mother essentially run away to St. Augustine and try to start over. But it isn't so easy to brush off your own history and it tends to follow you around.  Izzy is a loner by nature and distances herself from the rest of her classmates but the problem with being the new kid is that everybody is curious.

Enter Mason. He's bribed into getting to know her better by one of the popular class jerks. He has a mess of his own baggage and Izzy and Mason connect on a level only known by the truly lonely. He sees this beautiful girl who has so much to offer the world but closes herself off. She sees a kind person surrounded by a brick wall that she feels that she can break through.


Really? Really? You accept a bribe to meet a girl?  This isn't 10 Things I Hate About You. You should know better. It felt like a bad teenage rom-com...probably because we've seen this trope a million times. I've read it before. I've seen the movie. He's a walking cliche. Bad boy on a motorcycle? Hangs out by said bike after school? A girl getting on a random dude's bike and driving off with him? It seems like people would have a lot of issues with this. Namely, her parents. What about his aunt? I see some insurance issues in this.

Next...Izzy. If you are so attached to your twin brother, then why have you not talked to him for the first half of the book? Why haven't you talked to your dad? It felt like a lot of stuff was left out of their relationships and it would have helped the plot a lot. She was also too accomplished. She could draw, she was smart, she was a ballerina. Was there anything she couldn't do, besides let go of her past? She needed more flaws. She needs idiosyncrasies that would crop up. Make her terrible at math. Make her a complete brat. Give her a horrible attitude that doesn't miraculously get cured when she meets the man of her dreams.

The drama at the end didn't feel like enough, either. There was a fair amount of build up to the conclusion and then it was kind of underwhelming. 

Yes, it was traumatic and horrible and all of the things that should be but it wasn't handled well in the book. Mason was appropriately heroic and she forgives him for all of the bad things he did and for his deal with the guy at the beginning of the book.

Why can't a girl say "No! This isn't ok. Thank you for saving my life but we have some other stuff to work through." in one of these books? It's not normal to immediately going back to trusting someone. 

What I wanted:

What I got:

I'm sick of reading the same story lines over and over in YA. Let's inject a spark into the genre somehow. Please? I'm begging you.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Book Review: The Evolution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

These books are driving me crazy. Absolutely out of my mind insane (but I guess that's the point?) Do you ever get into a book and slowly realize that you are going to form a weird love/hate relationship with it?  Something will inevitably frustrate you about the plot/writing/characters but you know you will be moving on to the next one in the series.  That is this series for me.

The Evolution of Mara Dyer is not just a suspense/thriller novel, nor is it a typical YA/NA paranormal romance or a book exploring the depths of psychological issues. It's all of that rolled into one and while the premise of this series is awesome and unique, this one dragged on and on for the first half.

Let's look at that cover. This is perfection of a cover defined. There is movement, there is direction, there is a sense of what is going on in the book. Noah and Mara are reaching for each other but are completely incapable of touching and making that connection. They are so close but there is still that void between them. Covers are important because, in a lot of cases, they are what make you pick out that book on the shelf in the store and this one is completely effective for that purpose.

Mara is having problems to say the least. She is in a mental institution with a lot of people who are crazier than her (in her opinion) and trying to figure out her own problems along with that. Noah Shaw is as heartbreakingly attractive as ever and is walking temptation. Except that Mara is dangerous and can't be trusted, according to her parents and Dr. Kells, her new doctor who seems a little too happy to have another patient under her wing. Her only solace is that she isn't alone in all of this crap with Noah helping her and one friend, Jamie, in her new crazy people school.

Mara is told that she is hallucinating her dead ex-boyfriend but she knows what she sees is real. But who would believe her? Her parents are hovering, her brother is trying to help and Mara is desperately clinging to some sense of normalcy in order to maintain a relationship with Noah.

“Everyone is a little crazy. The only difference between us and them is that they hide it better.”
And then, as things do, everything spirals out of control.

Mara and Noah develop well in this book and you see their strength as a couple grow in a significant way.  They are both flawed people who have tendencies towards manipulation and compulsive lying but as a couple, they work together well.  They have each other's best interests at heart and that is what makes them endearing. 

Noah can grate on your nerves but I can understand his irascibility. I mean, the poor boy was essentially abandoned by his father and left in a gilded cage where he is expected to put on a nice smile and be the front man for the family. Mara is trying to convince people that she is seeing someone that is legally dead. (I am forever grateful that there was no mention of The Sixth Sense in this book.) So we have a boy with abandonment issues and a girl that is reaching out for anybody to believe her. They connect and they help fill the sad emptiness in each other's lives. They believe in each other and it's easy to forget that they are only seventeen. Their desperation for a solution is real and Mara feels so helpless throughout the story. Pretty damn heartbreaking.

"I can't slay her dragon because I can't find him, so for now I stay close. It's not enough."
I'm going to be honest, the first half of this book was an utter drag. There was too much time spent on trying to figure things out without there being any significant action. It was designed to highlight Mara's growing frustration of being completely sane but being trapped in a situation where nobody believes her. (OMG, Cassandra? Is that you?) I can't imagine the anger that would build up over time where everybody around you is writing in notebooks and coloring and you are trying to figure out why you keep killing people.

I can't imagine. I'd lose my mind. Mara deals with it surprisingly well. I'd be in the bathroom puking up the pills they gave me and probably end up running naked through the streets yelling "THE END IS NEAR!" But no, Mara and Noah tackle things systematically and try to solve what the hell is going on. And that's what makes this book worth it.

“You will love him to ruins.”
I can overlook the trope of having a stunningly attractive British asshole for a male romantic lead. I can look over the overwritten journal entries and the dream sequences. I can even ignore the first half of the book where I was about to not finish my very first book in over a decade. The second part of this makes this story worth the read and I'm actually looking forward to the final installment in the trilogy.

“Boys are stupid and girls are trouble.”
Truer words were never spoken.”
The plot twists, the drama and the was wonderful. It was exciting and I was cheering for Mara and Noah. For a second there, I had actually started to believe that Mara was insane and she was imagining it all but I was proven gloriously wrong. 

But, this book is still stuck at 3.5 stars for me. You have to charge through the first half in order to make up for the second. It gets better! I promise! Just suck it up and know that there is something really good to look forward to at the end.

Have y'all read this book/series? What did you think?