Estelle: Fault Line by Christa Desir

Fault Line by Christa DesirFault Line by Christa Desir ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: October 15, 2013
Publisher: SimonPulse
Pages: 240
Target audience: Mature young adult
Keywords: sexual assault, relationships, reactions
Format read: ARC paperback from TLA. (Magan picked this one out for me.)

Summary: Ben can’t believe his luck with Ani. She’s gorgeous, she’s sweet, she’s smart, and he couldn’t be happier. Until she goes to a party and he doesn’t, and everything changes.

The shocking opening scene of Fault Line set a precedent for the rest of my reading. Despite the heavy subject matter, it was impossible to not feel hooked and invested in this story.

Ben was a great main character. He’s an amazing swimmer at school, and he comes from a family that really works to make sure they communicate and talk to each other. Like every teenager, this sort of gets to Ben because who wants their parents all in their business? Yet it really painted a great picture of his home life. Maybe this all sounds a bit idealistic but what made Ben so great was that he was flawed and imperfect. And it showed in the relationships he had with his friends, his family, and even with Ani.

Their relationship starts a little fast but there is something so wonderful about it. Ani is super blunt, honest, creative, and semi-spiritual and all of these qualities made Ben want her completely. Their relationship was playful but intimate; they also talked a lot and made cute plans together (road tripping to The Christmas Story house), and I liked the snippets of them we got to see.

But then the party happens. The one that Ben doesn’t go to. He doesn’t hear from Ani at all at the party, and the next thing he knows he gets a call from her friend Kate and he is heading to the hospital.

When I read what happened to Ani, I literally had to close the book and close my eyes. I was not sure that I would be able to finish my lunch. I was so distraught. I felt for her so much. Her attack, and the way she was attacked, was just one of the worst situations I’ve ever heard about and I had no idea how Ani would move forward herself, and in her relationship with Ben.

It’s really hard to watch someone you love spiral. I really like how Desir chose to spotlight Ben’s perspective. He is sort of on the inside and on the outside of this situation, and we see an honest account of how someone connected to a situation like this also faces an aftermath that can’t be easily handled. Ani is literally changing in front of his eyes, and he wants to save her so bad, hold on to the parts of her that he loved so hard, but he also feels incredibly helpless and begins sinking himself.

Ben and Ani do not invite any adults to help them. This decision (more Ani, than Ben’s) starkly parallels the openness encouraged in both of these family units from the beginning. I understood why they wanted to keep everything to themselves but when things continued to get worse, I was practically begging for someone to step in and make it better. (It was very interesting to watch how friends of the two step in and step out of the situation.)

Fault Line is so tightly written, and feels important without getting preachy. Ben and Ani’s stories could have happened to any one of us or the people we know, and I think that’s why the reading experience was so painful. These horrific things are happening, and people are truly feeling and reacting in these ways in real time. I know it’s not easy to read a book filled with so much sadness, but something has to be said for Desir’s supreme writing style and character development because Ben and Ani have not left me since I closed Fault Line.

I’m so ready for more Desir.

rather be reading worth it icon

Add to Goodreads | Buy on Amazon | Buy on B&N

Book Cover for Crown of Midnight by Sarah J Maas

Magan: Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas

Warning: This review may contain spoilers for Throne of Glass. Proceed with caution.

Book Cover for Crown of Midnight by Sarah J Maas

Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas
Series: Throne of Glass (My review.)
Publication Date: August 27, 2013
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Pages: 432
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: female assassin, magic, young adult fantasy, high fantasy
Format read: ARC received via NetGalley. (Thank you!)

Summary: After being crowned the King’s Champion, Celaena is sent on secret missions to destroy people the King doesn’t find favor with. Meanwhile, she’s falling in love with Chaol and one of her secret missions stirs up more chaos than it should.

Remember when I gushed and fangirled about Throne of Glass last year? Just in case you didn’t read that review, ToG pretty much rocked my world and sent me into a deep book slump because I was so taken with Celaena, Dorian, and Chaol. Waiting a year for Crown of Midnight has felt like such torture!

But let me tell you friends, it’s well, well worth the wait! What an awesome follow-up to Throne of Glass. Let’s begin with our favorite assassin heroine, Celaena. She’s working through her feelings for Chaol. Oh, yes. Chaol. (Hubba, hubba.) Meanwhile, he’s trying to decide if she’s worth losing everything for, especially if the King finds out. Dorian is a lovesick puppy who feels dejected and a little lost because he can clearly see something is happening between these two, but he’s still harboring major feelings for Celaena. What a conundrum! While it may sound like there’s this crazy love triangle happening, it didn’t feel like that as much to me in Crown of Midnight as it did in ToG. The relationship between Chaol and Celaena felt like this beautiful dance, as if they were balancing on this tight rope of survival.

Of course things get a little bit complicated though. Crown of Midnight is packed with tons of secrecy. Celaena is being sent on missions as the King’s Champion, but she isn’t quite fulfilling his requests exactly as he hoped. This knowledge could cost her life and put anyone who finds out about it in a very terrible position. She’s set herself up for danger. Nehemiah also has a lot going on — she’s missing from her room when people go searching for her, there’s a threat against her life, and she’s not giving full disclosure to Celaena as they each promised they would. Chaol feels the need to protect Celaena, but his silence may cause more drama than his honesty would. (Isn’t that pretty much always the case?) I do believe Dorian’s secrets shocked me the most though; he seemed to be a secondary character when Celaena and Chaol’s relationship was developing, but out of nowhere comes this huge unveiling that really made me excited.

The beauty of Crown of Midnight is how so many aspects felt like they were clicking into place, but how I constantly felt jolted or surprised by revelations, too. I absolutely loved seeing where the story was headed, even if I feel like my heart suffered a bit as some pretty awful things went down. You know those moments when you want to smack a character upside their head? There were a couple of those times where Chaol and Celaena really needed to bypass their own egos and agendas to resolve issues, but they just couldn’t do it. These were the times I noticed a few lulls in the story as Celaena really had to work through a lot of emotions. While the story may have slowed down in tempo a bit, I feel this was necessary and intentional on behalf of Maas because it really allowed me to see a completely different side of our leading lady. I saw her not just as a person who is incredibly awesome at murdering someone, but as a very emotional woman who tries to distance herself from people because she’s suffered from so much loss.

Speaking of loss, what will I do for the next year while I wait to find out what happens next? Ay yi yi.

Rather Be Reading Buy It Icon

Goodreads | Amazon (only $5.99 for the kindle right now!)

Book Cover for Heist Society by Ally Carter

Magan: Heist Society by Ally Carter

Book Cover for Heist Society by Ally CarterHeist Society by Ally Carter (website | twitter)
Series: Heist Society, Book 1
Publication Date: February 9, 2012
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Pages: 287
Target audience: Young Adult
Keywords: robbers, world travels, ultimatums, falling for a best friend
Format read: Purchased the paperback.

Summary: As much as Katarina would like to escape the “family business,” she’s forced to rally a team together to help clear her father’s name of a crime he didn’t commit. So much for distancing herself and starting over.

Is there something about your family that you really wish wasn’t true of yourself? For me personally, my grandmother is Negative Nancy; I desperately want to be as positive and upbeat about things as I can be because the negativity really brings me down.

For Katarina, she wants to remove herself from the family business … of thievery. To do so, she’s enrolled herself in a prestigious boarding school and all is going well until she’s suddenly facing expulsion for a crime she didn’t commit.

Enter her friend Hale.

He framed Kat for the crime in order to pull her back into the business. Her father is being sought after by a super scary man who believes her father is the person who stole his private collection of priceless art. Kat knows there’s no way he could have pulled it off (especially not without her). Her uncle is warning her to leave things alone and not get involved in the situation, but there’s no way she can let this go.

Heist Society was highly recommended to me by Elena (of Novel Sounds). I was really in the mood for something different than my typical contemporary romance or angsty, issue books. What a nice and refreshing surprise this book was! As Katarina and Hale try to solve the mystery of who really stole the paintings, they hop from country to country. We get to see how intelligent, worldly, and connected these characters are. Sure, they’re in the business of stealing things, but there’s something intriguing about them too — Is everything they do bad? It doesn’t seem like they’re in the mafia with bad guys, so why are they stealing? What are they getting out of it? — I became absorbed in their world (and desperately wished I was the one hopping on private jets.)

And oh!… there’s Hale… who is smart and brooding and good looking. There’s some unfinished business between he and Kat, and we readers aren’t exactly clued into what their history is. (Read: there’s plenty of sexual tension.) He’s drawn to the world she was born into and she questions why he would want to be part of it when he can have anything else he wants (he comes from a very wealthy family). I appreciated how there was a lot of back story that left me itching for more details — I wanted to know everything I could.

Best of all? Ally Carter builds this amazing story that has your heart pounding as you fear for Kat and her team with each day that passes, but she doesn’t give you all the answers. She doesn’t fix everything or make anything predictable either. There are some loose ends that need to be tied up, some feelings that need to be sorted out, and maybe more things that need to be stolen. Good thing this is a series, huh?

On a final note, I have to mention that I began Carter’s Gallagher Girls series last year and didn’t find myself drawn into the story nearly as much as I did Heist Society. I saw so many strengths and so much growth in Carter’s writing since I read I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You. Definitely, definitely check out this series if you’re looking for something a little different with intelligent characters, strong writing, and a captivating storyline.

Rather Be Reading Buy It Icon

Goodreads | Amazon

Twice as Nice: Belles & Winter White by Jen Calonita

Belles by Jen CalonitaBelles (#1) by Jen Calonita ( website | twitter )
Publication Date: April 10, 2012
Publisher: Poppy
Pages: 356
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: family secrets, mean girls, campaigns
Format read: Borrowed from library

Summary: Izzie and Mira couldn’t be more different. For years, Izzie has grown up in Harborside, hanging out at the Boardwalk, and working as a lifeguard while caring for her aging grandmother. Mira, the daughter of an ex-professional baseball player turned political hopeful, is part of the popular crew at school and has full access to her parents’ platinum credit card. When Izzie’s grandmother’s health declines, she finds out Mira is her cousin when she is taken in by her uncle. As the two girls continue to clash and struggle to find common ground, both are forced to be true to themselves – no matter how difficult that will be.

Girls can be such snots.

Jen Calonita writes this well; so well that I was seething over the treatment of Mira and her friends when it comes to Izzie. Didn’t they see that the girl felt ridiculously out of place without their help? Her mom died when she was 10, she never knew her dad, and her only known relative is losing her memory and is now in a nursing home. But no, these popular girls only knew how to use money and their good looks to their advantage and it drove me crazy.

Belles dives into a familiar Pretty in Pink stereotype – the rich, pretty girls vs. the ones from the wrong side of the tracks. The girls who thought they owned it all versus the ones who can’t catch a break. You can’t blame either side really. It’s just how the two were brought up, but really? What about decency!? And kindness!?

From the beginning, it’s obvious that Mira exists in this gray area except she’s stuck between a rock and a hard place. Her best friend, Savannah, is the queen bee and what she says goes. Or else she makes your life a living hell and Mira is not sure how to stand up to her. All these girls are so quick to judge and categorize everyone else because of their interests, their looks, or their bank accounts. Why people can’t like art and cheerleading… I have no idea. But in Mira’s world it’s hard to break out of this popular circle and maintain a decent reputation.

While Belles is predictable at times, Calonita makes Mira and Izzy’s situations feel fresh and the reader is able to get a true handle on each of their characters. You care about each of them, and root for the two to come together. Then there’s Brayden, a boy Izzy meets during the summer at home, and fits into her new life in the most unfortunate way. And oh, are these two just sort of perfect. Their chemistry is just brewing in their scenes together, and that makes it that sweeter. Bravo for some great supporting characters (Mira’s entire family and Izzy’s new friends) and some fleeting Disney references. (Like me, Calonita is a huge Disney fan!)

Belles feels part Cinderella story, part Mean Girls and it is oh-so good (especially when you reach the grand finale at the end). Best of all, the book can definitely live and breathe on its own and I prefer that when it comes to a piece of a series.

Make It Yours: The Price is Right: Rather Be Reading's rating for affordable books you can't miss!

Goodreads | Amazon

Winter White by Jen Calonita

Winter White (Belles #2) by Jen Calonita ( website | twitter )
Publication Date: October 9, 2012
Publisher: Poppy
Pages: 368
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: cotillion, family secrets/conflict, trust, town events
Format read: Hardcover sent to us from Hachette. (Thanks!)

Summary: Mira and Izzie are back dealing with the aftermath of the big grand finale from Book 1. The girls are closer than ever, but things aren’t looking good in other areas of their lives. Mira has been ostracized from her regular group of girlfriends, and Izzie’s friend Brayden is having a little trouble being honest about his friendship with her. When cotillion time pops up, a huge town event, Mira is psyched while Izzie is less than thrilled. With the introduction of Brayden’s sister, Dylan, life gets even more interesting when the girls involved in cotillion are forced to band together and let go during an initiation.

Despite a shaky beginning in Belles, Izzie and Mira make a really good set of friends. It’s not just their shared distrust in certain adults after that grand finale ending. Mira helps to lighten up Izzie and Izzie doesn’t allow Mira to back down and be stepped all over — in fact she knows she can be a leader too. When cotillion invitations show up for the two — an extravaganza of white bridal-like dresses, dance & etiquette classes, escorts — it’s no surprise they have different reactions. Mira has been dreaming of this event since she was a little girl, and Izzie can’t believe she’s excited for “just another party”. But Izzie acquiesces and Mira is pumped to be joining cotillion prep with someone by her side (since all her friends have ditched her).

You’d think all shopping, classes, and time with other girls would alleviate all the drama going on at home, but nope — it just adds to it. Apparently cotillion includes hazing! Nothing dangerous… don’t worry. But we are introduced to a new character, Dylan, an outcast in Emerald Cove (and Izzie’s love interest’s sister) who Izzie feels instantly simpatico with. Finally! Someone who was brought up in this ritzy place and doesn’t buy into all of it! I actually really liked all the “secret” activities planned for the girls involved in cotillion. It added a bit of a rush to the storyline, and also put a few of my favorite snotty characters in their place.

Calonita has released another light and speedy volume that bops around on various tides of drama. The core of these books is really sisterhood but I think the author misses out on many opportunities to forge other friendships from the first book. Even Dylan’s “disruptive” appearance in Emerald Cove seems under utilized. And even though the cotillion seems to be pretty superficial at first, it is about girls who are strong and smart and capable and also who do right by their community. While we see Izzie bending over backwards to volunteer, I wish the efforts of the other girls would have had more of a focus.

In 368 pages, details I would have loved to hear about were glossed over and that’s frustrating when the potential is there. Then there’s the curveball ending… much more deliberate than the first one and a device I didn’t think was necessary to make readers interested in picking up the next book.

This is the thing. Even though there are holes, there are still moments to enjoy in Winter White: cute boys, silly boys, a whirlwind trip to New York, and art(!!). Here’s hoping Book 3 is a smoother ride.

books rather be reading recommends you borrow

Goodreads | Amazon