Long-time readers of my blog have suffered through my constant lamentations that everything is a freaking series … I sometimes read a book not realizing that it is the first in a series (ahem, Cinder) and just about die waiting for the rest of the series to be published. Back when this book first came out, I knew it was part of a planned series and made the conscious decision to wait until after all of the books were out before I read it. I had heard it was good and all, but I didn’t hear enough to lure me into actually cheating. The final book of this series came out in November, so I decided I was ready to binge-read the series (well, binge-listen to the audiobooks) this winter. Part of me is glad I didn’t have any major gaps of time in between the stories, but part of me is so mad at myself that I didn’t just suck it up and read these from the start. Such is life, right?!? Darned if you do, and darned if you don’t!
The Finishing School series is just so amazing that it’s hard to explain, but I will do my best to point out the various things I loved. The cast of characters, both normal and nefarious, was fabulous. I think I may have clicked with this series so quickly because Sophronia has a very Georgia Nicholson feel to her — awkward but lovable; smart but bumbling. She’s awesome enough that readers might want to be like her and not so perfect as to be annoying, you know? And although it’s a mystery and a fantasy that takes place in a finishing school, it is a lot sillier than Libba Bray’s [Gothic mystery] Gemma Doyle series. It still had plenty of mystery, and there were conflicts with supernatural creatures aplenty, but there was a much lighter feel to it overall. Readers who enjoyed the steampunk airships of Oppel’s Airborn series and Westerfeld’s Leviathan series will appreciate the fact that Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality is held aboard a dirigible. Not to mention the proliferation of gadgets, like exploding wicker chickens and mechanical wiener dogs! If you like steampunk, supernatural mysteries, and/or tales of girls who don’t quite fit in with their high society families, I recommend you check this series out.
When I read Fangirl last year, I fell hard for Simon, Baz, and the Watford School of Magicks. I was desperate to read more than was revealed in Cath’s posts. Fortunately, I happened upon an article about the impending publication of Carry On and knew it was only a matter of time before my wish would come true! The only problem was that my requests for other books and audiobooks from the library kept showing up, so I kept putting this story off. (It probably wouldn’t have been such a problem if I had gotten Carry On from the library and had a time limit, but I downloaded it from Audible and knew I had as long as I wanted. #firstworldproblems)
I think what I love most about Rowell’s writing is that it really nails all the nitty gritty, true-to-life details of adolescent friendships and romances. Carry On was extra awesome because it had all that PLUS magic, mystery, and monsters! The only things I found disappointing were that (a) I waited so long to actually listen to this audiobook, and (b) there was only one book! 😉 As a die-hard Potterhead, I really enjoyed comparing and contrasting the stories of Simon Snow and Harry Potter. Some people have argued that this story is too derivative of Harry Potter, but I fully recognize that there are a great many “Chosen One” stories and that having similarities doesn’t make it a rip-off. After all, some people say that Harry Potter is basically Star Wars! And though I am not big on re-reading anything, since there are far too many books out there waiting to be read, I have a feeling I will listen to this audiobook (or maybe even read the book) at least one more time…
Jo Montfort is a beautiful young woman whose family is among the social elite of New York City. She is about to graduate from finishing school and is very likely to wed Bram Aldrich, one of the most sought-after bachelors in high society. Yet, she isn’t sure that is what she truly wants. Jo longs to be a writer. She wants to be an investigative reporter like Nellie Bly, though she knows her family would never approve. But then, something happens that makes Jo question everything she knows about her family. Her father is found dead in his study — an apparent gun-cleaning accident. But Jo knows that her father knew better than to clean a loaded gun, and there are other details that just don’t quite add up. Will her penchant for investigative reporting and a new friendship with a young reporter, Eddie Gallagher, help her uncover the truth? Or will Jo’s desire not to upset her family and social order get in the way?
Fans of Donnelly’s A Northern Light will not be disappointed… I think this story was even better, and I absolutely *loved* ANL! I also recommend this to fans of Anna Godbersen’s Luxe series and people who enjoyed Manor Of Secrets. If you like stories of scandal set in the Guilded Age, you definitely need to read this book.
When I saw that this book was going to be published, I requested it from my local library without even reading the description. (Seriously.) Gorgeous was one of the most hilarious books I’ve ever read, and I just knew that this book would be the same. PRO TIP: Laughing out loud when someone is trying to read something else in the same room and constantly interrupting what they are reading to share the funniest parts — of which there were, apparently, far too many — is NOT a good idea! (I am trying to convince my husband that he should read this book now that I am done with it, but he seems to think I probably gave away “half of the story, or at least all the best parts” and doesn’t need to bother. His loss!) 😉
Caitlin Mary Prudence Rectitude Singleberry (aka Catey) is, and always has been, a good Christian girl. She attends church regularly, is homeschooled by her devout parents, and performs in her family’s Christian band The Singing Singleberries. She WAS looking forward to attending college in the fall and eventually settling down with a good Christian boy to start a family of her own… but her entire future is now in jeopardy. She is not usually one to blame anyone else for her own actions, but she is adamant that none of this would have happened if not for her crazy cousin Heller. That’s right, the girl’s name is HELLER! And, as far as Catey is concerned, Heller might very well be Satan in corporeal form. Heller is a wild and crazy teen star who has gotten so out of control (a la Miley Cyrus or Lindsay Lohan) that her mom begged Catey to come to New York City and act as a chaperone of sorts during the premier weekend of YA book-to-movie blockbuster Angel Wars.
Since the book opens up with Catey listing out all of the crazy/illegal things she did during the previous 48 hours, and mentioning that she is currently in jail, it is easy for readers to side with her from the start. Heller may have been cast to play an angel in that movie, but she is far from an angel in real life. I like how the story alternates between the past and the present to slowly reveal what happened (over that weekend and four years prior, when they girls parted ways). This book takes readers on a wild and crazy ride that runs the gamut from uproarious, to heartwarming, and and everything in between.
High school graduation is often a time filled with celebration and excitement. For Jaycee, though, graduation day dredges up feelings of anxiety and depression. Why? Because her older brother, Jake, died on his own graduation day. Jaycee doesn’t know how to handle the fact that she will now, officially, be older than Jake ever was. Though his death came as the result of a daredevil stunt gone wrong, Jaycee finds comfort in emulating his behavior. Instead of seeing Jake’s death as a warning to be more careful, she finds herself repeating his stunts in an attempt to channel his spirit. Jaycee expected to take this journey alone, but she ended up with a motley crew of [former?] friends who also needed to make their peace with Jake’s death. Guided by Jake’s urban exploring journal, Jaycee followed both literally and figuratively in his footsteps and finally discovered that it’s possible to let go of grief without letting go of her loving memories.
I appreciated getting parts of the story directly from the perspectives of different characters, like Jaycee’s childhood BFF Natalie. But, more than that, I enjoyed the different storytelling techniques that were employed — like the pictures of the poems Bishop crafted in his sketches and graffiti or the graphic novel panels that told the story of Mik, who refused to speak aloud but whose actions spoke for him. McCarthy did a fabulous job of showing how the death of a loved one can alternately tear us apart and build us up stronger than before. I recommend this story to readers who enjoyed See You at Harry’s and Before You Go.
When I read Need, I couldn’t get over the sneaking suspicion that many of today’s teens would probably be all too tempted to complete random tasks to win prizes without considering the implications of their actions. The fact that the tasks were done anonymously seemed like a perfect way to convince people to participate… But, then I read this book. And it made me wonder if the quest for fame might be a better way to snag this generation. With reality TV being as popular as it is, and with many teens already sharing nearly everything they do on various social media platforms, this book struck me as entirely too plausible. My only complaint? I wish I hadn’t started this book when I was so tired. It nearly killed me to put it down and to wait to finish it the next day!
Just imagine a majorly popular reality TV show that accepts “audition” videos from anyone who wants to seek both fame and fortune for completing dares of increasing difficulty. Viewers all assume that the show is being televised, so things must be on the up-and-up. I mean, they couldn’t possibly get away with running a reality TV show that really puts people in harms way… Could they? Vee sends in her audition on a whim, basically to prove to herself that she can. And, when her audition garners enough attention that she is offered a space in the competition, she decides to try it out. She figures she will just compete for a little while and get some cool prizes before quitting. But, then she gets swept up in the momentum of the competition. Before she knows it, she is in over her head and she isn’t sure whether there even IS a way to get out while she’s ahead.
It’s really hard to put a label on this story. On one hand, this is a quirky story about a girl who is new to town and trying to figure out how she might fit in. On the other hand, it’s a mystery/crime novel in which a teenager thinks he might be able to prove a link between the kidnapping of a local girl and his own sister’s disappearance almost a decade ago. When the girl [Zoe] first meets the boy [Digby], it seems they might never get along. After all, Zoe is just kinda bored and trying to take everything in, while Digby’s a bit manic and often acts without thinking things all the way through. Digby frequently speaks his mind, to the extent that some people might find him rude, but I think Zoe found it rather endearing. After all, she didn’t *have* to join him in all of his crazy adventures… but she just couldn’t quite find a reason to say no.
Some people might think this book is a little too cliche, but I really enjoyed it. The fast-paced action and laugh-out-loud dialogue simply worked for me. Though the plot is nowhere near the same, I thought this book read a lot like Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick. Maybe it’s because it starts off in the middle of the insanity and then brings you back to the beginning to show how it all started? Maybe it’s because one character is just so over-the-top and the other is so straight-laced it’s hard to believe they could end up working together? I can’t say for sure exactly what it was, but I am happy to report that I absolutely LOVED it! This would be a really fun book to read during the school break next week. Last minute Christmas gift, anyone?!?