Thursday, August 17, 2017

Book Sketch: Coming Up for Air by Miranda Kenneally


COMING UP FOR AIR
By: Miranda Kenneally
Published By: Sourcebooks Fire
Release Date: July 4, 2017
Series: None
Pages: 320
Genre: Contemporary
Reading Level: Young Adult
Source: Netgalley
Buy the Book: Amazon


Goodreads Summary: Swim. Eat. Shower. School. Snack. Swim. Swim. Swim. Dinner. Homework. Bed. Repeat.

All of Maggie’s focus and free time is spent swimming. She’s not only striving to earn scholarships—she’s training to qualify for the Olympics. It helps that her best friend, Levi, is also on the team and cheers her on. But Levi’s already earned an Olympic tryout, so Maggie feels even more pressure to succeed. And it’s not until Maggie’s away on a college visit that she realizes how much of the “typical” high school experience she’s missed by being in the pool.

Not one to shy away from a challenge, Maggie decides to squeeze the most out of her senior year. First up? Making out with a guy. And Levi could be the perfect candidate. After all, they already spend a lot of time together. But as Maggie slowly starts to uncover new feelings for Levi, how much is she willing to sacrifice in the water to win at love?



First Thought After Finishing: I really love Miranda Kenneally’s books!

As a teenager and in my early adult years, I was never a huge sports person. I remember when Catching Jordan released, and I almost didn't read it because it was about football. But a friend told me how good it was, so I gave it a chance. Looking back now, I can't believe I almost missed the great stories of Hundred Oaks!

Maggie eats, sleeps, and breathes swimming. As a competitive swimmer hoping to make an Olympic trial, she has time for little else. Her best friends are also athletes, and though they take one night a week off, the rest of their time is spent training. But Maggie knows that high school is ending soon, and college life without her friends is getting closer and closer. She doesn’t want to be the only girl there with no experience. So she asks her friend and swimming teammate Levi to teach her how to hook up. It was supposed to be easy and fun. Her Olympic trial was supposed to fall into place. So what is she to do when feelings might make everything fall apart?

Maggie is one of those teens that even as an adult I admire. She knows what she wants, and she has the discipline to get there. It’s hard to have that level of focus and drive in high school, but Maggie has it. Only that means her social life has suffered quite a bit. I found myself relating to Maggie from the beginning. In high school, I spent all of my time doing homework and missed the whole social scene that other teens seem to have. I found myself living vicariously through Maggie. I wish I had been brave enough to ask what she did—or even to ask someone out. She took charge of what she wanted (and what she didn’t want), and I applauded her for doing so.

But this book has more than swimming and sex—there are relationships with friends, relationships with parents and teachers/coaches, and relationships with frenemies. I loved how this book showed all the different facets of life. Jordan (from Catching Jordan) plays an important role here, and it was fun to see her again and see the Hundred Oaks characters’ lives interwoven. And then there was Levi, Maggie’s friend-turned-teacher. He wasn’t perfect by any means, but the chemistry was undeniable. Finally, I loved how involved Maggie’s swimming coach and her parents were in her life. So many young adult books have absentee parents, and it was nice to see a different perspective here.

I have to admit that I'm not ready to say goodbye to this world. The way characters favorite characters have cameo roles and their lives intertwine made these novels something special. But I am looking forward to seeing what magic Miranda spins next!

Most Memorable Aspect: The life lessons that Maggie learns.




Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Teaser Tuesday (114)



I'm very excited to be one of the many blogs participating in Teaser Tuesdays! TT is a weekly meme hosted by MizB at Books and a Beat. To participate:

* Grab your current read
* Open to a random page
* Share two “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
* BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS!
(Make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
* Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!




"Before I cross the threshold into the hall, I turn and look at Lauren, still burrowed into Ashley's shoulder. Her eyes lock on me, her pupils black, as if she sees something that terrifies her."


Taken from pg. 29 of LITTLE MONSTERS
by Kara Thomas

Please share your teasers - post them or link to your blog!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Book Sketch: This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp


THIS IS WHERE IT ENDS
By: Marieke Nijkamp
Published By: Sourcebooks Fire
Release Date: January 5, 2016
Series: Non
Pages: 285
Genre: Contemporary
Reading Level: Young Adult
Source: Bought
Buy the Book: Amazon


Goodreads Summary: 10:00 a.m. The principal of Opportunity High School finishes her speech, welcoming the entire student body to a new semester and encouraging them to excel and achieve.

10:02 a.m. The students get up to leave the auditorium for their next class.

10:03 a.m. The auditorium doors won't open.

10:05 a.m. Someone starts shooting.

Told from four different perspectives over the span of fifty-four harrowing minutes, terror reigns as one student’s calculated revenge turns into the ultimate game of survival.



First Thought After Finishing: I hope and pray that something like this never happens at the school where I teach, because it would be all too easy. 

I've wanted to read this book for some time, but I didn't think it would be a good idea during the school year. Reading it during the summer didn't make it any less frightening--especially when horrors like this happen far too often--but at least there was some distance.

Nothing ever happens in Opportunity. For some, they can't wait to get out. Others are happy with the small town life. Most people know each other, know each family's secrets, and found their niche within the city. So when someone starts shooting students at Opportunity High, it seems unthinkable. Death seems imminent, and help seems unavailable. Told minute by minute from four different perspectives, this book gives an inside glance at this real-life nightmare.

"There are no words in that fleeting moment between hope and the knowledge. There is no way to express how a heart can burst and break at the same time, how the sun can cut through the darkness but will cast shadows everywhere."


What can I say about this book? It's terrifying in that it hits far too close to home. School shootings are far too prevalent, and it's far too easy for students to be pushed to a breaking point that brings them to that awful decision. The fear these students have is palpable through the pages. Yet there is far more than that. Fred Rogers tells the story that his mother told him, in the aftermath of destruction, to look for the helpers. And that is true in this book. Even those who were defenseless against a gun were willing to try and help, showing humanity in the face of inhumanity. Sometimes, that is all we have.

Even though this book is short and the story is told within hours, there is so much emotion and character development. I felt like I knew each of the four main people, and it shows just how complicated and tumultuous the lives of teens can be. Even in a small town, even when you have a perfect life plan, one instance or one person is all it takes to change everything. My heart broke again and again as more was revealed and more people suffered. Despite that, this is not a book you would ever think of putting down. There's an old saying I like: "Everything will be okay in the end. If it's not okay, it's not the end." I kept turning the pages hoping that this would be true once again. But real life is never wrapped up perfectly, and Marieke Nijkamp reflects that.

Most Memorable Aspect: This book feels too frighteningly real to ever forget. 




Wednesday, August 9, 2017

"Waiting on" Wednesday


"Waiting on" Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.



This week's selection is:

The Tiger's Watch
By: Julia Ember
Published By: Harmony Ink Press
Release Date: August 22, 2017
Preorder the Book: Amazon


Goodreads Summary: Sixteen-year-old Tashi has spent their life training as a inhabitor, a soldier who spies and kills using a bonded animal. When the capital falls after a brutal siege, Tashi flees to a remote monastery to hide. But the invading army turns the monastery into a hospital, and Tashi catches the eye of Xian, the regiment’s fearless young commander.

Tashi spies on Xian’s every move. In front of his men, Xian seems dangerous, even sadistic, but Tashi discovers a more vulnerable side of the enemy commander—a side that draws them to Xian.

When their spying unveils that everything they’ve been taught is a lie, Tashi faces an impossible choice: save their country or the boy they’re growing to love. Though Tashi grapples with their decision, their volatile bonded tiger doesn't question her allegiances. Katala slaughters Xian’s soldiers, leading the enemy to hunt her. But an inhabitor’s bond to their animal is for life—if Katala dies, so will Tashi.




Why it's Wanted:

This book sounds both different and interesting! I'm wondering if it also has some folklore woven in--if so, I'm always a sucker for that!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Teaser Tuesday (113)



I'm very excited to be one of the many blogs participating in Teaser Tuesdays! TT is a weekly meme hosted by MizB at Books and a Beat. To participate:

* Grab your current read
* Open to a random page
* Share two “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
* BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS!
(Make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
* Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!




"The thunderous crack as it cleaved the air snapped through the barracks, the estate. Through the very foundations of the court."


Taken from pg. 100 of A COURT OF WINGS AND RUIN
by Sarah J. Maas

Please share your teasers - post them or link to your blog!

Monday, August 7, 2017

Opening Lines (30)


Opening Lines is a new feature here on Portrait of a Book that showcases the first lines of recent and/or upcoming releases. If you're looking for your next read, let these first lines help you decide!


WE NOW RETURN TO REGULAR LIFE
By: Martin Wilson
Published By: Dial
Release Date: Aug. 1, 2017
Buy the Book: Amazon


A ripped-from-the-headlines novel that explores the power of being an ally—and a friend—when a kidnapped boy returns to his hometown.

Sam Walsh had been missing for three years. His older sister, Beth, thought he was dead. His childhood friend Josh thought it was all his fault. They were the last two people to see him alive.

Until now. Because Sam has been found, and he’s coming home. Beth desperately wants to understand what happened to her brother, but her family refuses to talk about it—even though Sam is clearly still affected by the abuse he faced at the hands of his captor.

And as Sam starts to confide in Josh about his past, Josh can’t admit the truths he’s hidden deep within himself: that he’s gay, and developing feelings for Sam. And, even bigger: that he never told the police everything he saw the day Sam disappeared.

As Beth and Josh struggle with their own issues, their friends and neighbors slowly turn on Sam, until one night when everything explodes. Beth can’t live in silence. Josh can’t live with his secrets. And Sam can’t continue on until the whole truth of what happened to him is out in the open.

For fans of thought-provoking stories like The Face on the Milk Carton, this is a book about learning to be an ally—even when the community around you doesn’t want you to be.

"We'd been studying on his couch, our Advanced Chemistry textbooks sitting on the coffee table, suffering through questions about alkali metals and noble gases, when Donal made a joke about gas being ignoble. And I'd laughed, like I always did at his dumb jokes."


ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
By: Gregory Scott Katsoulis
Published By: Harlequin Teen
Release Date: Aug. 29, 2017
Buy the Book: Amazon


In a world where every word and gesture is copyrighted, patented or trademarked, one girl elects to remain silent rather than pay to speak, and her defiant and unexpected silence threatens to unravel the very fabric of society.

Speth Jime is anxious to deliver her Last Day speech and celebrate her transition into adulthood. The moment she turns fifteen, Speth must pay for every word she speaks ("Sorry" is a flat ten dollars and a legal admission of guilt), for every nod ($0.99/sec), for every scream ($0.99/sec) and even every gesture of affection. She's been raised to know the consequences of falling into debt, and can't begin to imagine the pain of having her eyes shocked for speaking words that she's unable to afford.

But when Speth's friend Beecher commits suicide rather than work off his family's crippling debt, she can't express her shock and dismay without breaking her Last Day contract and sending her family into Collection. Backed into a corner, Speth finds a loophole: rather than read her speechrather than say anything at allshe closes her mouth and vows never to speak again. Speth's unexpected defiance of tradition sparks a media frenzy, inspiring others to follow in her footsteps, and threatens to destroy her, her family and the entire city around them.

"We had just started over the bridge, toward my party, when the famously cheerful 'Don't Jump' Ad clicked on. This had never happened to me before."


Do any of these lines and covers grab your attention? What are your favorite opening lines?

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Book Sketch: The Hundredth Queen by Emily R. King


THE HUNDREDTH QUEEN
By: Emily R. King
Published By: Skyscape
Release Date: June 1, 2017
Series: The Hundredth Queen #1
Pages: 300
Genre: Fantasy
Reading Level: Young Adult
Source: Bought
Buy the Book: Amazon


Goodreads Summary: As an orphan ward of the Sisterhood, eighteen-year-old Kalinda is destined for nothing more than a life of seclusion and prayer. Plagued by fevers, she’s an unlikely candidate for even a servant’s position, let alone a courtesan or wife. Her sole dream is to continue living in peace in the Sisterhood’s mountain temple.

But a visit from the tyrant Rajah Tarek disrupts Kalinda’s life. Within hours, she is ripped from the comfort of her home, set on a desert trek, and ordered to fight for her place among the rajah’s ninety-nine wives and numerous courtesans. Her only solace comes in the company of her guard, the stoic but kind Captain Deven Naik.

Faced with the danger of a tournament to the death—and her growing affection for Deven—Kalinda has only one hope for escape, and it lies in an arcane, forbidden power buried within her.

In Emily R. King’s thrilling fantasy debut, an orphan girl blossoms into a warrior, summoning courage and confidence in her fearless quest to upend tradition, overthrow an empire, and reclaim her life as her own.



First Thought After Finishing: Why didn’t I read this sooner?
 
It’s no secret that I love fantasy novels, but sometimes I miss books that need to be on my radar.  The Hundredth Queen was one of those, until it was scheduled for book club. After discovering it, I flew through this book and really enjoyed it!
 
Kalinda has spent her life as an orphan in a Sisterhood temple. She and her best friend Jaya plan to finish their training, take their vows, and live out the rest of their quiet lives there. But a visit from the Rajah for a Claiming disrupts their plans. Soon, Kalinda is thrown into an unpredictable life at a palace, where jealousy and conspiracies threaten any hope of stability and she will have to fight for her life. Only more is happening than the games of the women at court. When any wrong action might mean death, Kalinda will have to trust in her strength and herself if she is to survive.
 
"Anything can be changed by those who have the courage to blaze their own path."


From the synopsis, and even through a good portion of the book, The Hundredth Queen did read like many other fantasy novels. Kalinda’s Claiming, the male love interest who we meet early in the book and the romantic development, and even the tournament Kalinda must compete in all seem reminiscent of other storylines. However, Emily R. King brings many new facets to this genre.  She weaves strands of Sumerian mythology throughout the story, and learning about the myths kept me hooked. (This coming from me, who thought reading Edith Hamilton’s Mythology back in high school was a form of cruel and unusual punishment.) I also loved the ideals promoted in this book. Women were trained as warriors, not just men. In fact, the men prized their fighting abilities just as much as (if not more than) their beauty. Even though it may be at odds with the notions of a rajah maintaining wives and courtesans, women could still be respected.
 
This story is one of self-acceptance and empowerment. Kalinda must come to terms with who she is, learn who she can trust, and find a way to be powerful without relying on someone else. That is not to say that she is alone by any means. Kalinda has a guard captain named Deven by her side, and Deven is certainly someone that you would want by your side as well. And even amongst women whom she may have to fight, she comes to learn the value and power of friendship. Throw in a little magic, and you have a novel that anyone can enjoy, but that has the potential to be especially meaningful for teen girl readers.
 
Most Memorable Aspect: The Sumerian myths. I find myths from cultures beyond Greek and Roman very intriguing!




Wednesday, August 2, 2017

"Waiting on" Wednesday


"Waiting on" Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.



This week's selection is:


Little & Lion
By: Brandy Colbert
Published By: Little, Brown
Release Date: August 8, 2017
Preorder the Book: Amazon


Goodreads Summary: When Suzette comes home to Los Angeles from her boarding school in New England, she isn't sure if she'll ever want to go back. L.A. is where her friends and family are (along with her crush, Emil). And her stepbrother, Lionel, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, needs her emotional support.

But as she settles into her old life, Suzette finds herself falling for someone new...the same girl her brother is in love with. When Lionel's disorder spirals out of control, Suzette is forced to confront her past mistakes and find a way to help her brother before he hurts himself--or worse.




Why it's Wanted:

I love reading moving, meaningful contemporaries. This sounds like it has the potential to be a very emotional read!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Teaser Tuesday (112)



I'm very excited to be one of the many blogs participating in Teaser Tuesdays! TT is a weekly meme hosted by MizB at Books and a Beat. To participate:

* Grab your current read
* Open to a random page
* Share two “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
* BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS!
(Make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
* Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!




"The windows shattered. The furniture splintered. And that box of paints and brushes and paper...It exploded into dust and glass and wood."


Taken from pg. 100 of A COURT OF MIST AND FURY
by Sarah J. Maas

Please share your teasers - post them or link to your blog!

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