Book Review: The Distance Between Us by Kasie West

Seventeen-year-old Caymen Meyers studies the rich like her own personal science experiment, and after years of observation she’s pretty sure they’re only good for one thing—spending money on useless stuff, like the porcelain dolls in her mother’s shop.

So when Xander Spence walks into the store to pick up a doll for his grandmother, it only takes one glance for Caymen to figure out he’s oozing rich. Despite his charming ways and that he’s one of the first people who actually gets her, she’s smart enough to know his interest won’t last. Because if there’s one thing she’s learned from her mother’s warnings, it’s that the rich have a short attention span. But Xander keeps coming around, despite her best efforts to scare him off. And much to her dismay, she’s beginning to enjoy his company.

She knows her mom can’t find out—she wouldn’t approve. She’d much rather Caymen hang out with the local rocker who hasn’t been raised by money. But just when Xander’s attention and loyalty are about to convince Caymen that being rich isn’t a character flaw, she finds out that money is a much bigger part of their relationship than she’d ever realized. And that Xander’s not the only one she should’ve been worried about.

My Rating: 4.5 cupcakes

This is what a contemporary romance should look like. The Distance Between Us contains ridiculously adorable, yet not unrealistic, romance that warmed my heart and put a huge smile on my face.

From the first chapter, I knew that I would love the main character, Caymen. Caymen is sarcastic at every turn, and doesn’t hesitate to answer your stupid questions with a witty one-liner. Her sarcastic quips never failed to make me laugh, and more than once I envied the way her mind worked to produce these excellent lines.

Caymen’s relationship with Xander is one of the most adorable things I’ve read in some time. They complement each other perfectly. Their banter is heartwarming and clever, and their relationship is realistic and slow to build. Xander himself is definitely a candidate for my favourite book boyfriend: he’s sweet, caring, and willing to apologize when he’s in the wrong. It was really nice to see how spending time with Xander managed to strip away some of Caymen’s prejudices against the rich and privileged, especially since this change was gradual.

While The Distance Between Us primarily focuses on cultivating the relationship between Caymen and Xander, West also gives us a look at other important relationships. Caymen and her best friend Skye, Caymen and her mother, Xander and his family, Skye and her boyfriend – all of these are well-developed, authentic, and interesting.

My only complaint is that the ending felt quite rushed, and left me with a lot of unanswered questions. The one I’m most curious about, though, is the origin of Caymen’s name, which could have made for a really interesting story.

Overall, The Distance Between Us was a thoroughly enjoyable read. I definitely recommend it if you’re looking for completely adorable romance that will leave you smiling for hours after you’ve finished reading.

Book Review: Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler

“Don’t worry, Anna. I’ll tell her, okay? Just let me think about the best way to do it.”
“Okay.”
“Promise me? Promise you won’t say anything?”
“Don’t worry.” I laughed. “It’s our secret, right?”

According to Anna’s best friend, Frankie, twenty days in Zanzibar Bay is the perfect opportunity to have a summer fling, and if they meet one boy every day, there’s a pretty good chance Anna will find her first summer romance. Anna lightheartedly agrees to the game, but there’s something she hasn’t told Frankie–she’s already had her romance, and it was with Frankie’s older brother, Matt, just before his tragic death one year ago.

TWENTY BOY SUMMER explores what it truly means to love someone, what it means to grieve, and ultimately, how to make the most of every beautiful moment life has to offer.

My Rating:  2 cupcakes

After seeing all of the glowing recommendations about this book, I knew that I had to give it a read. I was expecting something like The Sky is Everywhere based on the summary, but unfortunately what I read was neither as touching nor as poignant as I had hoped.

I wasn’t really a fan of any of the characters. Anna’s relationship with Matt was sweet to read, but the all-encompassing feelings she had for him seemed to be her defining feature when she was alone. She was far too passive and I quickly became annoyed with her willingness to go along with anything that Frankie suggested. Frankie, on the other hand, came across as shallow, self-absorbed and cruel. While I understood that her rebelliousness was a response to her brother’s death, I didn’t truly feel any sympathy towards her until the end – and even then, I couldn’t quite excuse the way that she treated both Anna and her parents. As for Sam, he had a lot of potential to be a strong, likeable character, but instead he was a strange mix of sweet and caring and detached.

While many of the scenes felt like fillers that I skimmed over, the writing itself was quite beautiful and poetic. There were many standout lines that I wish I could have highlighted, such as: I really don’t even know you, and yet, in my life, you are forever entangled; to my history, inextricably bound. As an added bonus, the cover is not only beautiful; it’s actually related to the plot.

Overall, Twenty Boy Summer was nowhere near what I expected. If the characters were given as much attention as the countless descriptions of the beach, this might have been a more enjoyable read.

Saturday Showcase (January 4)

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Saturday Showcase is a weekly event hosted here at The In-Between Place which features books that you wish more people had read (or, at least, heard about).

This week’s featured book is The Butterfly Clues by Kate Ellison.

Penelope (Lo) Marin has always loved to collect beautiful things. Her dad’s consulting job means she’s grown up moving from one rundown city to the next, and she’s learned to cope by collecting (sometimes even stealing) quirky trinkets and souvenirs in each new place–possessions that allow her to feel at least some semblance of home.

But in the year since her brother Oren’s death, Lo’s hoarding has blossomed into a full-blown, potentially dangerous obsession. She discovers a beautiful, antique butterfly pendant during a routine scour at a weekend flea market, and recognizes it as having been stolen from the home of a recently murdered girl known only as “Sapphire”–a girl just a few years older than Lo. As usual when Lo begins to obsess over something, she can’t get the murder out of her mind.

As she attempts to piece together the mysterious “butterfly clues,” with the unlikely help of a street artist named Flynt, Lo quickly finds herself caught up in a seedy, violent underworld much closer to home than she ever imagined–a world, she’ll ultimately discover, that could hold the key to her brother’s tragic death.

The Butterfly Clues is a thrilling, original mystery that provides insight on the human condition in a way that I hadn’t seen before — by allowing the reader to see the world through the eyes of someone with obsessive compulsive disorder. It’s beautifully written and captivating, and I can’t recommend it enough.

What are some of your favourite underrated books? Leave a list in the comments below.
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Book Review: Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard

The year is 1876, and there’s something strange and deadly loose in Philadelphia…

Eleanor Fitt has a lot to worry about. Her brother has gone missing, her family has fallen on hard times, and her mother is determined to marry her off to any rich young man who walks by. But this is nothing compared to what she’s just read in the newspaper—

The Dead are rising in Philadelphia.

And then, in a frightening attack, a zombie delivers a letter to Eleanor…from her brother.

Whoever is controlling the Dead army has taken her brother as well. If Eleanor is going to find him, she’ll have to venture into the lab of the notorious Spirit-Hunters, who protect the city from supernatural forces. But as Eleanor spends more time with the Spirit-Hunters, including their maddeningly stubborn yet handsome inventor, Daniel, the situation becomes dire. And now, not only is her reputation on the line, but her very life may hang in the balance.

My Rating:  4 cupcakes

Something Strange and Deadly is an interesting take on the zombie genre. Instead of the zombies you’d find on The Walking Dead, the zombies in this novel are animated corpses controlled by a mysterious Necromancer. The combination of these unusual undead creatures and the petticoats, corsets and parasols of Victorian London, created a captivating backdrop for the story, and one that I’m eager to visit again.

Our heroine, Eleanor Fitt, is spunky, stubborn, and determined. She won’t take no for an answer, and is willing to disobey social conventions to find the answers that she needs. If that’s not awesome enough, she also uses a parasol as her weapon of choice against the horde of zombies that have invaded her city.

The secondary characters are just as well fleshed-out and interesting, especially the Spirit Hunters. They have such a fun group dynamic, and I can’t wait to find out more about them in subsequent novels. The romance between Eleanor and a particular Spirit Hunter was done quite well and took a backseat to all of the dark magic/zombie madness that was going on. There was no insta-love; rather, their feelings developed slowly as they got to know one another.

My only complaint is that the mystery was a bit too predictable. I had guessed the identity of the Necromancer quite early on, and was disappointed to find out that I had guessed correctly.

Overall, Something Strange and Deadly was an enjoyable read thanks to the combination of steampunk, zombies, and wonderful characters. I can’t wait to see what Eleanor gets up to next!

This Month In Books: January 2014

I can’t think of a better way to ring in the new year than reading some much-anticipated new releases, and thankfully this month doesn’t look like it’s going to disappoint. Here are some of the January releases on my to-read list that I’m most looking forward to reading:

January 7

January 14

January 23

January 28

What January releases are you most looking forward to? Let me know in the comments below! : )

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Book Review: Allegiant by Veronica Roth

The faction-based society that Tris Prior once believed in is shattered—fractured by violence and power struggles and scarred by loss and betrayal. So when offered a chance to explore the world past the limits she’s known, Tris is ready. Perhaps beyond the fence, she and Tobias will find a simple new life together, free from complicated lies, tangled loyalties, and painful memories.

But Tris’s new reality is even more alarming than the one she left behind. Old discoveries are quickly rendered meaningless. Explosive new truths change the hearts of those she loves. And once again, Tris must battle to comprehend the complexities of human nature—and of herself—while facing impossible choices about courage, allegiance, sacrifice, and love.

Told from a riveting dual perspective, Allegiant, by #1 New York Times best-selling author Veronica Roth, brings the Divergent series to a powerful conclusion while revealing the secrets of the dystopian world that has captivated millions of readers in Divergent and Insurgent.

My Rating: 3.5 cupcakes

After seeing countless reviews that claimed that Allegiant had ruined the series for readers and having a pivotal scene spoiled for me courtesy of Facebook friends who don’t understand that not everyone was able to read it on the release date, I was a bit nervous about starting this book. After finishing, it seems as though I’m a black sheep on this one: Allegiant took me on an emotional roller coaster ride, but it was one that I certainly enjoyed.

The narration in Allegiant is told from two perspectives: Tris and Four’s. A lot of other reviews have complained about how “weak” Four appears in this book, but I see it as the complete opposite; after getting a glimpse into Four’s head, it’s clear that he must be strong to shoulder all of his burdens and demons by himself. I really enjoyed getting a glimpse at his motivations and deep-rooted insecurities as they served to make him more real. While I did enjoy the dual POV and understand its necessity, Tris and Four’s voices were often indistinguishable, to the point where I occasionally had to flip back and see whose perspective I was reading from. It didn’t take away from my reading experience by any means, but I do wish that there was tighter writing in some places to give Four a distinct voice.

I loved Roth’s exploration of all of the characters, and how well fleshed out they were. Grief, loss, and desperation have changed them all from the characters that we first met in Divergent and I felt for all of them – including Caleb, which was a bit of a surprise for me.

The plot was well-paced and interesting, though a few parts at the beginning seemed to consist mostly of info-dumping. This did cause the beginning to feel rather slow, but this information was necessary to put the final touches on the world-building. There’s so much going on in Allegiant, multiple threads of a storyline that are all building up to one big event: the climax. Roth holds nothing back as the characters are tested and caused to question their morals and beliefs. She doesn’t write the ending that the reader wants; instead, she writes the story that needs to be told. It’s a heartbreaking yet beautiful finish and, in my opinion, is the only way that this series could have authentically ended.

As a sidenote, if you’ve finished reading Allegiant, you should take a look at Veronica Roth’s blog post regarding why the series ended the way that it did. It’s a beautiful explanation.

Waiting on Wednesday (July 31)

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine, which spotlights upcoming releases that are eagerly anticipated.

This week’s release that I’m (not so) patiently awaiting is Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke, which has an expected publication date of August 15.

You stop fearing the devil when you’re holding his hand…

Nothing much exciting rolls through Violet White’s sleepy, seaside town…until River West comes along. River rents the guesthouse behind Violet’s crumbling estate, and as eerie, grim things start to happen, Violet begins to wonder about the boy living in her backyard. Is River just a crooked-smiling liar with pretty eyes and a mysterious past? Or could he be something more? Violet’s grandmother always warned her about the Devil, but she never said he could be a dark-haired boy who takes naps in the sun, who likes coffee, who kisses you in a cemetery…who makes you want to kiss back. Violet’s already so knee-deep in love, she can’t see straight. And that’s just how River likes it.

Blending faded decadence and the thrilling dread of gothic horror, April Genevieve Tucholke weaves a dreamy, twisting contemporary romance, as gorgeously told as it is terrifying—a debut to watch.

I’m absolutely in love with the cover and the typography. The combination of the two is so chilling and perfect for a Gothic horror novel. I don’t know much about the story aside from what the synopsis has stated, but the old spooky estates, creepy events, and gorgeous-but-mysterious boys have sold me on this book already.

What books are you waiting on this Wednesdsay? Leave me a list or a link to your post in the comments below.
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ARC Review: The Tale of Mally Biddle by M.L. LeGette

2When Mally Biddle agreed to spy upon the King of Lenzar and his overbearing knights she knew she was heading into danger. She didn’t know she’d find a family unlike any other.

Posing as a servant in Bosc Castle, Mally serves tea and restocks the fires for the most dangerous men in the kingdom. Her goal is to learn the truth of what happened sixteen years ago, when the infant princess met her death … a death that has more questions than answers.

Along her search for the truth, Mally meets the energized Lita Stump, the strict and matriarchal Meriyal Boyd, and the opinionated Archibald Diggleby. Then of course there are the knights: Sir Leon Gibbs who is slicker than a greased hog, Adrian Bayard, hot tempered and violent, and the worst of the lot: Sir Illius Molick, Captain of the Knights. And then there is Maud, a mysterious woman who just might know everything…

My Rating:  3 cupcakes

The Tale of Mally Biddle reminded me a lot of a Disney movie. It was very innocent – it was never too “scary,” the romance was barely present, and familial relationships were strongly focused on – and would appeal more to a middle grade audience.

Mally was an admirable character: spunky, kind-hearted, and fiercely loyal to both her friends and her kingdom. Her loyalty caused her to make some rather impulsive decisions at times, but that just made the adventures that much more fun to read about. And she has such a fun name!

Aside from one major mystery, there isn’t too much suspense or action. I had correctly guessed the plot twist as soon when I read the synopsis, but it was still nice to see how it came about.

Overall, The Tale of Mally Biddle is a cute, light read for younger teens.

Thanks to Netgalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Cover Reveal: Panic by Lauren Oliver

This morning, Lauren finally revealed the cover of her newest book, Panic, which has an expected publication date of March 2014.

Panic_HC_JKT_des4.inddPanic began as so many things do in Carp, a dead-end town of 12,000 people in the middle of nowhere: because it was summer, and there was nothing else to do.

Heather never thought she would compete in Panic, a legendary game played by graduating seniors, where the stakes are high and the payoff is even higher. She’d never thought of herself as fearless, the kind of person who would fight to stand out. But when she finds something, and someone, to fight for, she will discover that she is braver than she ever thought.

Dodge has never been afraid of Panic. His secret will fuel him, and get him all the way through the game, he’s sure of it. But what he doesn’t know is that he’s not the only one with a secret. Everyone has something to play for.

For Heather and Dodge, the game will bring new alliances, unexpected revelations, and the possibility of first love for each of them—and the knowledge that sometimes the very things we fear are those we need the most.

I’m so excited for this. I loved Before I Fall and the Delirium series, so I’m sure that Panic will be just as excellent. The synopsis makes me think of The Hunger Games a little bit, and Panic seems like something that the boys in my town would play since it’s about the same size as Carp and also has next to nothing for teenagers to do. I’d be the one person in town that doesn’t play and just watches from the sidelines, though – I’m afraid of snakes, spiders, clowns and falling, so you couldn’t pay me enough to be put in a situation involving any combination of those!

For a sneak peak at chapters 1-3, check out the videos on Lauren’s Goodreads page here. While you’re there, don’t forget to add Panic to your to-read shelf!