Genre: Love & Romance

ARC Illumination: Everything, Everything (2015) by Nicola Yoon

ARC Illumination: Everything, Everything (2015) by Nicola YoonEverything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
Published by Random House Children's Books on September 3rd 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Love & Romance, Family, Contemporary
Pages: 320
Goodreads
five-stars

Madeline Whittier is allergic to the outside world. So allergic, in fact, that she has never left the house in all of her seventeen years. But when Olly moves in next door, and wants to talk to Maddie, tiny holes start to appear in the protective bubble her mother has built around her. Olly writes his IM address on a piece of paper, shows it at her window, and suddenly, a door opens. But does Maddie dare to step outside her comfort zone?

Everything, Everything is about the thrill and heartbreak that happens when we break out of our shell to do crazy, sometimes death-defying things for love.

Happy August, readers! The blog has been on a bit of a hiatus due to my pretty busy teaching load this summer, but I’m happy to say that I’m gradually returning back. I have loads of books to tell you about, and I’m sure you’re also anxious about getting Part 2 of my ALA recap! I’m eager to post it. More updates coming soon, but first, I must tell you about Everything, Everything!

What an impressive and beautiful book. Many of my friends on Twitter and Goodreads had been raving about this one, and the unique premise (along with the cover) really drew me to this debut. I was thankful to pick up a Print ARC at ALA, and I was almost jumping for joy at getting a matching tote. Upon arriving home, this is one of the first books I picked up, and without further ado, let’s get to my thoughts on this September release YA!

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What I Loved:

The creative narrative structure: Drawings, e-mails, air quality reports, and chat room dialogues pepper the narrative of Everything, Everything and I loved it! I think this creativity added a depth and richness to the story that wouldn’t have been achieved without these unique additions.

The voice of the MC: Maddy is endearing, curious, and sometimes fearful. But she’s willing to take a risk on her next door neighbor, Olly. And the fact is, “He’s not safe. He’s not familiar. He’s in constant motion. He’s the biggest risk I’ve ever taken.” Of course, we cheer Maddy on, and though this isn’t a thriller, I feel like I was on the edge of my seat waiting for this couple to get together. Would Olly brave the air lock room and the decontamination in order to see Maddy, who’s allergic to almost everything in the outside world? Well, you’ll just have to read to find out…

The depiction of conflict: Every relationship, if it’s an authentic and close one, will endure conflict of some sort. That’s what happens when people are real with one another. Whether it’s between Maddy and her mom or Maddy and Olly, the dialogue, emails, and chat transcripts in the book illuminate the ups and downs of these connections. As Maddy is growing up, and eventually trying to hide her connection with Olly from her mother, she inevitably drifts apart from her mother in order to make her own way in the world. It’s astounding, in some ways, thinking about how much Maddy is missing in her life just due to the fact that she is confined to a very small space, and isn’t allowed outside. Or…she might die. Her mother and her “nurse” are the two people she mostly sees everyday. Until Olly comes along—the boy next door. Then, everything changes. Everything. But this change is good. Even though the changes that ensue are painful at times, they prove to be the best kind of changes that happen for Maddy.

Illuminations of Spirituality:

Madeleine gradually opens up to the idea of love in her life—romantic love, that is, and it takes an immense amount of courage for her to do so. But Olly is such a sensitive friend to Madeleine, and he seems to understand her fears and trepidation. I think this reflects a spiritual aspect of the book in that it highlights the way people make room for our weaknesses and fears—true friends will understand that sometimes it’s a journey for a relationship to blossom. Nurturing has to take place, and when we’re in tune with the spiritual part of our selves—that aspect that is in tune to other people’s unvoiced fears, we can be more sensitive in our connections and interactions. The book really dives into the characters—Madeleine, her Mother, Olly—the result is a beautiful character driven story that illuminates the power and magic of love. Also: of growing up. Growing up is an essential part of life, and for Madeleine, it brings some pain. Especially in relation to discoveries she makes. No spoilers here, but there are some painful points in the story. It’s realistic in that it depicts the ups and downs of figuring out who you are and what you want right in the middle of some of the most confusing years: the teenage ones.

“Maybe growing up means disappointing the people we love.”

“You can’t predict the future. It turns out that you can’t predict the past either. Time moves in both directions – forward and backward – and what happens here and now changes them both.”

Spoiler alert: Love is worth everything. Everything.”

Who Should Read This Book:

Readers who enjoy young adult contemporaries would most assuredly enjoy this novel featuring a protagonist with a unique medical condition. It’s character driven, yes, but there are plenty of significant interactions, even a tropical vacation, what’s not to love about Maddy and Olly? I know I’ll be thinking about these characters for a long time, and that ending was just perfect!

The Final Illumination:

One thing I love about this book (among other things) is the cover! Isn’t it stunning? What a wonderful choice on the part of the cover designers because it seems (to me) to encapsulate part of the story’s theme. Where once life was dull with very little change and variety, new relationships can open up dimension and depth and detail and color…

What did you think of Everything, Everything? Are you planning on reading it when it releases in September? Drop by my Twitter account where I’ll have a Preorder Giveaway going on for the book!

five-stars
What Katie Read

Goodbye, Scarlet & Robin: Lion Heart (2015) by A.C. Gaughen

Goodbye, Scarlet & Robin: Lion Heart (2015) by A.C. GaughenLion Heart by A.C. Gaughen
Published by Bloomsbury Publishing USA on May 19th 2015
Genres: Action & Adventure, Adaptations, Fairy Tales & Folklore, Historical Fiction, Love & Romance, Medieval, Young Adult
Pages: 352
Goodreads
four-stars

Scarlet has captured the hearts of readers as well as the heart of Robin Hood, and after ceaseless obstacles and countless threats, readers will finally find out the fate of the Lady Thief.Only the greatest loves can survive great danger. . . Imprisoned by Prince John for months, Scarlet finds herself a long way from Nottinghamshire. After a daring escape, she learns that King Richard's life is in jeopardy, and Eleanor of Aquitaine needs Scarlet's help to free him. For a lifelong thief, this newfound allegiance to the crown-her family-is a strange feeling.Scarlet knows that helping Eleanor will put her and those she loves back in Prince John's sights. Desperate not to risk anyone's life but her own, Scarlet formulates a plan to help save the king on her own. But fate-and her heart-won't allow her to stay away from Nottinghamshire for long. Even if Scarlet and Rob can together stop Prince John from going through with his dark plans for England, will their love be enough to save them once and for all?

**Thank you, Bloomsbury, for providing me with an e-ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review!

It’s the end of an era. With the publication of Lion Heart, the Scarlet trilogy by A.C. Gaughen is over. It has been an epic and wonderful ride, but alas, it’s over. However, there’s always one solution: Re-read! I’m excited to own the first two books, and you can bet I’ll get a finished copy of the final installment.

I was privileged to see A.C. Gaughen when she participated in a YA Author panel at a local library. She signed my copy of Lady Thief and it was absolutely brilliant to hear her talk about the Scarlet trilogy! It was even more amazing to get a chance to chat with her. She is one cool person, and I love that just as she illuminates strong female characters in her writing, she actually works in a job that is focused on empowering women and girls. So brilliant!

And now, for my thoughts about Lion Heart.

What I Loved

The Characters: Of course, I loved meeting all my old friends from the previous two books—Much, Bess, Scarlet, Rob, Winchester, Eleanor…and then there are the baddies such as Prince John and Lord De Clare. They certainly add tension and a fair measure of angst at different points in the narrative, so hold on!

The Politics: I felt this book captured more of a political tone with the whole situation behind the tax that Prince John was supposedly trying to raise to bring back Richard. As Scarlet takes on her new title (given to her by her father, Richard the Lionheart) she must navigate the world of the nobles and learn how to outsmart Prince John and his evil plot to take over the kingdom. I enjoyed watching Scarlet continue to evolve into her new role, and her passion for justice for her people is just as pronounced in this third book.

Scarlet + Rob: What’s not to love about the relationship and romance between Robin Hood and Scarlet? (Aka Marian) These two are one of my favorite YA couples and for that reason these books will probably be re-read regularly.

Quotes that Made Me Think About Spirituality:

“It were a place that weren’t supposed to be filled with love, but that’s how it had always been. Our love filled the broken bits and made us whole again. There weren’t no perfect time to love him, not ever, and it had always been with the threat of death and hurt hovering round us. And we’d love each other anyway. Sure, and true.”

“It seems a precious thing, for someone to know the very worst part of you and love you anyway.”

“My heart holds my love, my hope, and my faith. My heart is unyielding, my heart is stalwart, and my heart is true.”

“But now I choose light and fire and love. Now I choose freedom.”

The Difficult Moments:

Waiting for Scarlet & Rob to be reunited: The beginning of the story opens with Scarlet imprisoned by Prince John. She’s been separated from her crew for several months, and though she (spoiler) escapes in the beginning of the book, it’s still quite a few chapters before Robin discovers she’s alive! You can imagine that I was turning the pages anxiously, waiting for the two to be reunited.

More bloodshed: As you know from the end of Lady Thief, bad people kill good people in this series. I hate to say it, but there’s more of that in Lion Heart. This was treacherous time for certain groups of people, and I do applaud A.C. Gaughen for depicting the historical period as accurately as she could. You can imagine the conditions she depicts on the pages of the trilogy are pretty close to life in the 12th century.

Danger for Scarlet & Rob: Yes, there are more moments in which Scarlet’s life is threatened or she gets hurt, and more danger for Robin as well. One of the scenes towards the end of the book is especially nail biting inducing. So be prepared! In spite of this, you’ll know from Scarlet and Lady Thief that Scarlet’s passion for justice and her knife throwing skills are certain to save the day.

Who Should Read This Book:

It’s a no-brainer if you read Scarlet and Lady Thief that you should read Lion Heart. It releases today! Yay! If you haven’t read the first two books, and you love a good young adult novel with a focus on a particular period in history (and illuminating a legend!), then by all means, run, don’t walk to the bookstore and pick up Scarlet. Read immediately!

The Final Illumination:

I’m definitely feeling the feels now that I’ve finished Lion Heart. I think I dragged my reading of the third book out a bit because I knew once I finished, that was it. I’m still glad I read this series, and know that I’ll return to it again. I absolutely love the Robin Hood legend, and of course, Maid Marian! Reading these books has renewed my interest in this period in English history so I’ve now added several books to my TBR about this period.

Are you planning to read Lion Heart? Have you read the first two in the trilogy?

four-stars
What Katie Read

ARC Review: The Wrath and the Dawn (2015) by Renee Ahdieh

ARC Review: The Wrath and the Dawn (2015) by Renee AhdiehThe Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh
Published by Penguin on May 12th 2015
Genres: Action & Adventure, Ancient Civilizations, Fantasy, Love & Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 416
Goodreads
three-half-stars

A sumptuous and epically told love story inspired by A Thousand and One NightsEvery dawn brings horror to a different family in a land ruled by a killer. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, takes a new bride each night only to have her executed at sunrise. So it is a suspicious surprise when sixteen-year-old Shahrzad volunteers to marry Khalid. But she does so with a clever plan to stay alive and exact revenge on the Caliph for the murder of her best friend and countless other girls. Shazi’s wit and will, indeed, get her through to the dawn that no others have seen, but with a catch . . . she’s falling in love with the very boy who killed her dearest friend.She discovers that the murderous boy-king is not all that he seems and neither are the deaths of so many girls. Shazi is determined to uncover the reason for the murders and to break the cycle once and for all.

I was immediately intrigued by the premise of this book–A Thousand and One Nights?!? Yes, please! Because of the connection with that collection of tales, I was expecting more nights of stories from Shahrzad, but there is a turning point in the story in which survival doesn’t rely anymore on keeping Khalid, the eighteen year old Caliph, entertained through narrative.

I was entranced by the beginning of the story, slowed down a little through the middle, but things picked up again for me towards the end. There were a few issues that came up for me with the book, but first, a few aspects of this YA novel I appreciated.

Illuminations:

The Setting: The details of setting in this book are lush and beautiful. Whether it’s descriptions of the food (“aromatic rice with fresh dill and split fava beans, lamb simmered in a sauce of turmeric and caramelized onions, skewers of chicken and roasted tomatoes, fresh vegetables garnished with mint and chopped parsley…”), the textures and colors of the clothing, or the architecture, the setting certainly made an impression on me and I appreciate the way Ahdieh set the stage for her tale.

Shahrzad, the MC: I loved her character for her snarky banter, her wit, storytelling, and her love for her friend (who died at the hand of Khalid before the book opens). Shazi is willing to sacrifice to seek justice for her friend Shiva, and this reflects the depth and largeness of her heart. I would have liked to see more development of the relationship between Khalid and Shazi since their romance is a central aspect of the story (see below).

The 3rd Person Perspective: If you read a lot of YA, you’ll know that many of these texts are told from the 1st person perspective. The Wrath & the Dawn is not—it’s in the 3rd person perspective, and this was refreshing to see.

What I Wanted To See More Of:

The Developing Relationship between Shazi & Khalid: More scenes depicting the relationship between Shazi and Khalid was something I would have appreciated. For example, there’s a turning point where we see Khalid’s feelings towards Shazi change, but what factors led to that change? I think the narrative could have provided more details leading to why Khalid fell in love with Shazi. Also, what was the main factor for her change in heart towards him?

A Less Ambiguous Ending with More Closure: This may just be me, but I wanted more from the ending. I do realize that threads are left open in anticipation of a sequel, but I would have appreciated a little more clarity on how things concluded. I thought the ending was a little rushed, and I wondered if some of the events in the conclusion could have been developed further. There’s a decision that Shazi makes at the ending and I really wondered why she decided to go through with it. Of course, I’m sure I’ll find out more about it in the second book, but what about the implications of this decision for Khalid?

The Final Illumination:

The source tale for this YA novel, A Thousand and One Nights, drew me into the book initially, and I’m interested in reading the sequel when it’s out, but I didn’t fall in love with the book quite the way I had hoped. I’m certainly looking forward to more between Shazi and Khalid in future books, but I wish that the first installment had depicted the developing romance between them a little more deeply.

What about you? What did you think of this debut YA?

**Thank you to Amanda and Holly at Gun in Act One for loaning me their ARC!

three-half-stars
What Katie Read
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