Books: The Cheapest Vacation You Can Buy











The Truth About AliceFrom Goodreads: Everyone has a lot to say about Alice Franklin, and it’s stopped mattering whether it’s true. The rumors started at a party when Alice supposedly had sex with two guys in one night. When school starts everyone almost forgets about Alice until one of those guys, super-popular Brandon, dies in a car wreck that was allegedly all Alice’s fault. Now the only friend she has is a boy who may be the only other person who knows the truth, but is too afraid to admit it. Told from the perspectives of popular girl Elaine, football star Josh, former outcast Kelsie, and shy genius Kurt, we see how everyone has a motive to bring – and keep – Alice down.

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This novel follows suit of the game telephone, showing just how much gossip promotes rumors and distorts the truth.  It’s a great novel depicting a form of bullying that’s not addressed as much as the physical or taunting kind, showing how lies for selfish gain, or to protect oneself, can ruin another, whether intentional or not.

The entire novel, save the last chapter, is told from the perspective of Alice’s former friends/frenemies.  Loner Kurt, football player Josh, former best friend and outcast Kelsie, and popular diva Elaine alternate chapters, spinning their tales and giving readers their “expert” take on events that, for the most part, none of them witnessed.  And as they slowly work towards the truth of the matter, admitting to lies and other deceits for the sake of their wellbeing, it becomes clear that the events Alice is blamed for are not quite the truth at all.

Everyone in this novel has secrets.  They hold grudges, make rash decisions, lie to protect themselves, and ultimately destroy Alice one way or another, and while some of them do it intentionally, others mean no harm, but their secrecy does just as much damage as those spreading lies.  It is said that sticks and stones can break our bones, but words… can never hurt us.  And yet, I think most people would agree that words do hurt, and they leave an unseen mark that can strip away one’s soul, and that is exactly what Alice is experiencing throughout the course of the year as the school runs rampant with gossip.

As much as I hated Josh, Kelsie, and Elaine (Kurt was perhaps the nicest and most understanding of all the characters), I loved the multiple perspectives.  And the theme, the bullying, makes this an intense read. While no one technically physically bullies Alice—they don’t even really talk to her—ostracizing someone and spreading rumors about them is just as bad, if not worse, than saying it directly to their face.  It’s a powerful statement that today’s generation really needs to hear and internalize, and I highly recommend this novel to tween readers and beyond.

The final chapter is told from Alice’s perspective, and it’s just… a perfect conclusion.  I love that the novel ends on a positive note, that there is hope, yet it doesn’t undermine the effects that bullying and ostracizing had on Alice, and it doesn’t sugarcoat anything.  It’s realistic and, in my mind, the perfect conclusion to a great story.  Four stars.

4 stars

In exchange for an honest review, Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group and Roaring Brook Press have been extremely gracious in allowing me to read an ARC of this novel, via Netgalley, prior to its release on June 3, 2014.

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13060190From Goodreads: Sixteen-year-old Mara Westray has just lost her mother, and now, being shipped off to live with the father she doesn’t know is not how she imagined grieving. She’s already counting down the days until she turns eighteen and can leave the tiny island of Swans Landing.

But from the moment she steps off the ferry, nothing is as ordinary as it looks. Whispers of a haunting song on the wind make her see impossible things, and she isn’t sure she can trust her judgment about what is real and what isn’t anymore. Maybe she can’t even trust her judgment about quiet Josh Canavan, whose way of speaking in riddles and half-truths only confuses her more, luring her deeper into the secrets hidden beneath the ocean’s surface.

As she tries to unravel the events that led to her mom fleeing the island sixteen years ago, Mara finds that the biggest secret of all is only the beginning.

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I’ve finally come across another book that has merfolk it in (or finfolk, as they’re called in this novel), and they’re not evil!  YES!  So many mermaid novels I’ve read have completely evil females and it has really turns me off of reading books dealing with merfolk, but Surfacing, alongside Of Poseidon, by Anna Banks, has restored my faith in this genre.

Mara is in for a huge surprise when she moves to the island with her estranged father, only to find that nobody on the island really wants her there, save an older lady and two young male teens vying for her attention.  Everyone else, even her father, it seems, wishes she wasn’t there, but she’s at a loss as to why.  While technically a story about finfolk, this novel tackles the theme of prejudice and racism in the form of humans versus finfolk, and it’s very tastefully done.  It’s impossible not to feel sorry for Mara and up in arms about the treatment she endures from those around her, and I think it really helps teach a vital lesson that our society still needs to learn.  Tolerance.  Why is it that we tend to blame an entire people group for one thing that someone did?  And yet, in society, this happens time and time again.

For Mara, it’s no different.  Thrust into the “you people” category by those around her, not even knowing what it means when people say that to her, Mara unwittingly stumbles upon the truth as she finally goes for a swim.  As a reader, this was a little difficult for me because it took Mara so long to figure it all out, even when all the signs were staring her in the face!  Who has an hankering for salt water?  Not me…  And, who lives by the ocean and doesn’t go in? I was dying waiting for Mara to put the pieces together, but once she does, the story really begins to take off as she must come to terms with her change, keep the secret of someone she holds dear, and navigate her feelings of unwant from her father and the intolerable people of the island.

Mara has a quick wit about her and her retorts were awesome, especially to those who treat her like scum.  It was hard not to cheer when she reacts with a little more force on one occasion, but even so, violence is not the answer, which the finfolk believe wholeheartedly.  If only the human population on the island believed it, too.  The ending leaves the novel wide open to the sequel, and I’m excited to see where it goes, especially with Mara’s relationship with Josh and Dylan, Sailor’s search for her mother (although Sailor certainly isn’t my favorite finfolk), and Elizabeth and her father’s vendetta against Mara and everyone not completely human.  Three and a half stars.

3.5 starsFiction Addiction has been extremely gracious in allowing me to read this novel, via Netgally, in exchange for an honest review.



17182421From Goodreads: Jacob was time out of sync, time more perfect than it had been. He was life the way it was supposed to be all those years ago. That’s what all the Returned were.

Harold and Lucille Hargrave’s lives have been both joyful and sorrowful in the decades since their only son, Jacob, died tragically at his eighth birthday party in 1966. In their old age they’ve settled comfortably into life without him, their wounds tempered through the grace of time … Until one day Jacob mysteriously appears on their doorstep—flesh and blood, their sweet, precocious child, still eight years old.

All over the world people’s loved ones are returning from beyond. No one knows how or why this is happening, whether it’s a miracle or a sign of the end. Not even Harold and Lucille can agree on whether the boy is real or a wondrous imitation, but one thing they know for sure: he’s their son. As chaos erupts around the globe, the newly reunited Hargrave family finds itself at the center of a community on the brink of collapse, forced to navigate a mysterious new reality and a conflict that threatens to unravel the very meaning of what it is to be human.

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I really wanted to like this novel, but it’s rather depressing and, truth be told, I never really made a connection with the characters.  This is a very finely written piece, don’t get me wrong, but my questions were never answered. Why the returned come, what their purpose is, where they go when they disappear… I just don’t know, and that was the main reason I picked up this novel; I wanted to know.

Instead, this novel focuses on the appearance of the dead (not zombies, mind you), and how the world decides to react to such an anomaly.  However, no one has answers, so it’s more or less the blind leading the blind, with some embracing the dead, some detesting it, and others ready to lock them up forever.  Like I said, it’s a very depressing tale. We learn how the government decides to handle it, which isn’t very well, more like the Japanese Internment Camps than anything else, and we get to know characters… only to watch them traverse terrible atrocities and, ultimately, die.  But why they emerged from the earth again, and what their purpose was aside from driving the story, well, I don’t know.

What I did enjoy about the novel, though, was that the chapters break up to follow certain characters, even though it’s told in third person, and we meet new returned and hear their brief stories.  But again, it is all very tragic, and truthfully, I felt somewhat awful upon finishing it; angry with humanity.  But maybe that was the purpose?  People can turn evil, which is shown in this novel in very real sense, and while there are some good people interspersed, I really came out of this with a depressed soul and a feeling of disillusionment with humankind.

Overall, it’s very well written, but such a depressing tale isn’t really my speed. I guess I was hoping for mystery and danger, a sense of horror or something, but that’s not what this novel is about, and it just wasn’t for me. Two stars.

2 stars

Harlequin has been extremely gracious in allowing me to read an ARC of this novel, via Netgalley, prior to its release on August 27, 2013.



13494086From Goodreads: Two months after dying, seventeen-year-old witch Graylee Perez wakes up in her twin sister Charlene’s body.

Until Gray finds a way back inside her own body, she’s stuck being Charlene every twenty-hour hours. Her sister has left precise instructions on how Gray should dress and behave. Looking like a prep isn’t half as bad as hanging out with Charlene’s snotty friends and gropey boyfriend.

The “normals” of McKinley High might be quick to write her behavior off as post-traumatic stress, but warlock Raj McKenna is the only person who suspects Gray has returned from the dead.

Now Gray has to solve the mystery of her death and resurrection and disentangle herself from Charlene’s body before she disappears for good.

***Entangled is a young adult paranormal fantasy romance suitable for ages 15 and up.**

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The idea of witches and warlocks has always been fascinating to me, so I jumped at the chance to read this one when I saw it on Netgalley. The fact that it deals with a resurrection spell that doesn’t go as planned, mashing twins Gray and Charlene together in one body, alternating between 24 hour shifts, was an added bonus and I read through this novel fairly quickly. The novel speeds by, giving readers insight into the major differences between the twins prior to Grays death, an event that is heavily foreshadowed, and all fingers point in one direction. Yet, Gray is unawares, and her plight upon resurrection, pared with the angst and sleuthing done on each end by the girls, was fascinating as they each tried to piece together what the other was doing on their “on” days. I liked how they fought, writing in notebooks to each other and destroying each other’s things, and it really made me think about who was at fault. Technically, it’s Charlene’s body, so Gray needs to adhere to Char’s rules about food, boys, and social interactions. However, Gray died and lost two months, now only glimpsing every other day, and it’s not fair to ask her to run around as the school harlot and not be able to eat her fill of food… and then there’s the whole fact that Charlene has never truly been nice to Gray, so. It’s mind-boggling, really, and it would be a great discussion for book club.

Discussion topics aside, though, I would have liked to have more fleshing out of the plotline and side-characters. The novel moves very quickly once Gray dies, and at times I felt like I was missing things because it goes from 0 to 60 so quickly. For instance, Raj and Gray’s attraction was non-existent and then the next minute she began making out with him, which makes sense in a way, but I would have liked the romance aspect to slow way down. I would have also enjoyed more information about Ryan, Nolan, and even Raj for that matter, to slow it all down and give me time to process it all with the choppy nature of switching between twins (which I actually really liked). And as I said earlier, the foreshadowing pointed fingers to clue readers in concerning what really happened, giving it away a little too early for my liking, but it was good nonetheless.

I also would have liked a stronger parental presence. Gray’s and Charlene’s mother is a pushover, giving in to Charlene’s every whim and not acting when Charlene does things that are obviously wrong. Instead, she tells Gray that she needs to be patient, to forgive Charlene repeatedly, when I’d scratch the girls eye’s out, sister or not. And Charlene seems to have everyone wrapped around her finger, but I don’t really understand why because she’s such a horrible person–thus some insight into her friendships and the side-characters would have been nice. However, this is just the first novel in the series, and though we’re left with a cliffhanger in which we don’t know what happened to Adrien, Ryan, or Charlene, I’m hoping for more answers in the next installment.  Three stars.

3 stars

Nikki Jefford has been extremely gracious in allowing me to read this novel via Netgalley.



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