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Not Just a Pretty Cover: My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

Hi!

During the last few weeks of summer before school started I was totally in the mood for a good contemporary beach read. I shopped my shelves and picked up My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick, which I’d been eyeing for months.

The Garretts are everything the Reeds are not. Loud, messy, affectionate. And every day from her rooftop My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrickperch, Samantha Reed wishes she was one of them . . . until one summer evening, Jase Garrett climbs up next to her and changes everything.

As the two fall fiercely for each other, stumbling through the awkwardness and awesomeness of first love, Jase’s family embraces Samantha – even as she keeps him a secret from her own. Then something unthinkable happens, and the bottom drops out of Samantha’s world. She’s suddenly faced with an impossible decision. Which perfect family will save her? Or is it time she saved herself?

A transporting debut about family, friendship, first romance, and how to be true to one person you love without betraying another.

Can we just acknowledge how lovely this cover is? It just has the exact look you want from a summer read…at least in my mind!

But My Life Next Door isn’t just a pretty cover, it is a well-developed contemporary romance with some serious sides. However, the story doesn’t feel heavy or overly weighty, but instead still maintains it’s summery feel despite the harder issues.

One thing I noticed about this book right away was the grace that it shows to different types or sizes of families. Throughout the novel we see Samantha’s small and reserved family sharply contrasted with Jase’s large and rambunctious one. We see snapshots into the inner workings of both, and what I appreciate the most is that there is no “better” or “worse” between the two. Through Samantha and Jase’s romance (squeeeee!) we see that there are positive and negative aspects to both small and large families and that each has its own unique form of dynamics, some parts healthy and some not.

Now, I mentioned the romance between Samantha and Jase. YES YES YES YES YES! This relationship is just so sweet you can’t help but read My Life Next Door and swoon a little. There is that perfect mix of excitement and uncertainty that usually accompanies first love. And Jase…he is the stuff that teen (or not-so-teen) crushes are made of!

Even the not-so-likeable characters and the not-so-romantic parts of the story are so well-rounded that you are able to understand the reasoning behind the actions being taken, even if you still don’t like them and they make you really angry!

So, even though I know it’s not summer anymore, but if you’re longing for the feel of the warm summer weather you may want to check out My Life Next Door because it will not disappoint!

Author: Huntley Fitzpatrick

Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers (June 14, 2012)

Format: Hardcover

Length: 394 pages

Series: Standalone

YA/MG: YA (I’d say 8th grade and up)

Buy the Book: My Life Next Door

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Cliffhanger Central: Star Cursed by Jessica Spotswood

Hello!

Who is ready for a review?!

Over the summer I finally read Star Cursed by Jessica Spotswood! This series is just so much fun!

Star Cursed by Jessica SpotswoodWith the Brotherhood persecuting witches like never before, a divided Sisterhood desperately needs Cate to come into her Prophesied powers. And after Cate’s friend Sachi is arrested for using magic, a war-thirsty Sister offers to help her find answers—if Cate is willing to endanger everyone she loves.

Cate doesn’t want to be a weapon, and she doesn’t want to involve her friends and Finn in the Sisterhood’s schemes. But when Maura and Tess join the Sisterhood, Maura makes it clear that she’ll do whatever it takes to lead the witches to victory. Even if it means sacrifices. Even if it means overthrowing Cate. Even if it means all-out war.

In the highly anticipated sequel to Born Wicked, the Cahill Witch Chronicles continue Cate, Maura and Tess’s quest to find love, protect family, and explore their magic against all odds in an alternate history of New England.

The Cahill Witch Chronicles are just such fun reads so far! Ever since reading Born Wicked I had been waiting for Star Cursed. Apparently I never actually reviewed Born Wicked though…which makes NO SENSE! I must have just looked over it when planning reviews, but I completely loved it. So, you should definitely read that one before Star Cursed.

In the second book, we pick up where book one left off. Cate has reluctantly joined the sisterhood and is living at their convent only to discover that it is actually a safe haven for young witches to train their powers. I’m pretty sure this is one of the reasons I enjoyed this book so much; it takes place in a boarding school! Cate’s world opens up a little bit more as we learn of other witches and the divisions within the Sisterhood. She is delving deeper into the history of Prophesy and what must happen in order to stop the tyranny of the Brotherhood. The always reluctant Cate must make decisions based on who she can trust and who has ulterior motives in order to save those she loves the most.

One of my favorite things about Star Cursed are the scenes in the “hospital”…I cannot for the life of me remember what its called (Edit: Jessica Spotswood herself (!) responded to my question on Twitter and the hospital is Harwood. Thank you!) but the characters we meet here really make what the Brotherhood does that much more hateful and evil. Oh and speaking of hateful…Maura?! Seriously…you’re my least favorite character in any book I’m currently reading because you just don’t get it! She is sooo frustrating and creates so much sister drama that I am sooo glad I’ve never had sisters! haha (I’m sure they’re not all bad like Maura!)

Oh and romance? Yes…the romance is back! Finn Belastra is back and just as swoon-worthy as before…almost even more so because he and Cate can only meet in secret due to the roles each of them must play.  Just think of stolen kisses under the cover of darkness…you’re welcome!

The ending? Cliffhanger central!! Seriously, this ending made me immediately check Goodreads for the release date of book three (which, by the way, is still untitled and has no release date yet..)! So, until then I’ll be checking Goodreads regularly to figure out book three’s release date.

If you like supernatural fiction with just the right amount of romance then you should read The Cahill Witch Chronicles… but you should start with Born Wicked first since it’s book one in the series.

Author: Jessica Spotswood

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons (June 18, 2013)

Format: e-book (ARC)

Length: 371 pages

Series: Book 2 in The Cahill Witch Chronicles

YA/MG: MG/YA

Buy the Book:  Star Cursed: The Cahill Witch Chronicles, Book Two

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Pulling Out the Floorboards: Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

Welcome back to BookTasty!

I’m always on the lookout for audiobooks my husband and I can both listen to together. It has to have the right plot, the right characters and just can’t be too girly in general I think. In the past we’ve listened to Agatha Christie mysteries, The Hunger Games trilogy, The Maze Runner series, and Gregor the Overlander together. Since I’d heard the news that a movie was in the works, we decided it was time to listen to Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card.

In order to develop a secure defense against a hostile alien race’s next attack, government agencies breed child geniuses and Ender's Game by Orson Scott Cardtrain them as soldiers. A brilliant young boy, Andrew “Ender” Wiggin lives with his kind but distant parents, his sadistic brother Peter, and the person he loves more than anyone else, his sister Valentine. Peter and Valentine were candidates for the soldier-training program but didn’t make the cut—young Ender is the Wiggin drafted to the orbiting Battle School for rigorous military training.

Ender’s skills make him a leader in school and respected in the Battle Room, where children play at mock battles in zero gravity. Yet growing up in an artificial community of young soldiers Ender suffers greatly from isolation, rivalry from his peers, pressure from the adult teachers, and an unsettling fear of the alien invaders. His psychological battles include loneliness, fear that he is becoming like the cruel brother he remembers, and fanning the flames of devotion to his beloved sister.

Is Ender the general Earth needs? But Ender is not the only result of the genetic experiments. The war with the Buggers has been raging for a hundred years, and the quest for the perfect general has been underway for almost as long. Ender’s two older siblings are every bit as unusual as he is, but in very different ways. Between the three of them lie the abilities to remake a world. If, that is, the world survives.

This was such a great one for us to listen to together. I know this book was published in the 1980s, but I had never read it until now. Honestly, I’d never been interested before but the movie is releasing in November so I knew I had to finally read it! Overall, Ender’s Game is a very cool dystopian sci-fi tale that kept me coming back for more. I think it’s a great story for a family to read together because it will appeal to both adults and (middle school & older) kids.

I liked Ender as a main character and always cheered him on for sure, but I also just felt sorry for him the whole time! Just when things are going okay (not even good) for Ender Wiggins another floorboard is pulled out from under him. ALWAYS!  Ender just keeps getting the crappy end of the stick! CONSTANTLY! Honestly, after a while I couldn’t help but get tired of it, I wanted him to succeed and  you can only take so much hardship with little-to-no relief for so long! But I think that’s what makes Ender’s story so special in some twisted way! haha

Ender’s relationships with his siblings were especially interesting. You have the dangerous relationship between  Ender and Peter contrasted with Ender and Valentine’s close connection.  Then it all gets mixed up when Valentine and Peter become a duo.  You have some really intense relationships on both sides of the spectrum and they both spur Ender on in different ways. In fact, I kept forgetting that the story is about kids/teens because they’re thrown into these very adult roles and relationships. There were some times, however, where things got a little heady for me…specifically when Valentine and Peter are discussing politics/government, but it didn’t ruin it for me or anything.

Regarding the audio, the narrator was fabulous…there was even a cast of narrators for specific voices, which we loved!

All in all, you should definitely check out Ender’s Game (the book!!) if you’re even the smallest bit interested in the movie!

Author: Orson Scott Card

Publisher: Fantastic Audio (2002)

Format: audiobook

Length: 11 hours and 57 mins

Narrator(s): Stefan Rudnicki, Harlan Ellison

Series: Book one in Ender’s Saga

YA/MG: MG/YA

Buy the Book: Ender’s Game (The Ender Quintet)

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I Adore a Good Fairy Tale: Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George

Happy Monday!
Have you entered for a chance to win an audiobook of Tempest by Julie Cross yet?  The giveaway runs until February 20, so there is still time!
Now, how about a book review?

Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George
Tuesdays at Castle Glower are Princess Celie’s favorite days. That’s when the Castle magically grows a new room, a turret, or sometimes an entire wing.  No one knows how or why the Castle does it, and no one except Princess Celie has ever bothered to map out the Castle’s many twists and turns.
 But when the king and queen disappear and Councilors from neighboring kingdoms arrive to “advise” the three Glower children, even the Castle seems to know that something is wrong… Take the new tower room, which is stocked with mysterious objects and has a knack for appearing just when Celia needs it.  Then there is the secret passageway that leads the children to a room the Councilors don’t want them to know about.
To find their parents and hold on to their kingdom, Celie and her siblings will need all their ingenuity, Celie’s maps, plus some help from their beloved Castle – before it’s too late.
I adore fairy tales.  I always have.  That’s why Jessica Day George is one of my favorite middle grades authors; she writes fairy tales!
In Tuesdays at the Castle George has created an endearing story that captured me from the beginning.  I actually have been looking forward to reading her newest title for a while and was super excited to receive it in December from my Secret Santa (Thanks to Heidi over at YA Bibliophile!!)!    Plus look at that gorgeous cover!
I think George does a good job of writing heroines that are normal – in that they are strong but not overly independent.  Vulnerable but not weak.  Celie  is a charming character who is still young and sometimes has to catch herself from saying things that are not becoming to a princess.  I like the sassy-ness Celia has, but she doesn’t let it get her into trouble which is good because I dislike characters that have so much attitude they keep digging themselves into more and more trouble. Although Celie is smart and brave, she does welcome help from her brother, Rolf, and her older sister, Lilah.  She also acknowledges that she needs help from the castle as well.
The castle is an interesting character too.  It listens to the needs and desires of its inhabitants and provides for them as necessary.  However, the castle is incredibly clear about who it likes and who it dislikes and has been known to literally eject enemies from itself.  The whole idea of a magic castle is fun and very unique (further proof that Jessica Day George is awesome!) and I think she has opened herself up to tons of stories to tell about Castle Glower (which is good because this is supposed to become a series!).
One thing that cracked me up was the dialogue for the foreign princes visiting Castle Glower.  George writes their speech grammatically incorrect as one speaking a language not their own might sound.  I loved it and actually read those parts out loud because they reminded me of my husband and I attempting to speak with foreign accents.
“Yes, and very powerful,” Celie said pointedly.  “That is the true,” Prince Lulath said.  “I have already the thanks given, that the rooms we stay in have been nice and more nice.”

Seriously read it out loud with  an eastern European accent.  hehehe

Sometimes middle grades fiction is a wonderfully refreshing escape from more mature Young Adult fiction I read.  I just need something a little more innocent at times, which is another reason why I love Jessica Day George’s books.    I highly recommend this book to middle grade readers (even older elementary readers) who enjoy a good fairy tale.

Author: Jessica Day George

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens (October 25, 2011)

Format: Print copy, hardcover

Length: 225 pages

Series: First in a series

YA/MG: MG

Buy the Book: Tuesdays at the Castle