Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys

Josie Moraine wants nothing more than to leave her past behind. Her mother works as a prostitute at Willie Woodley’s establishment on Conti Street in the French Quarter. Josie has been left to fend for herself because her mother didn’t want to be tied down by a child. Now she resents her for being a younger version of herself. Her dreams of college have been put aside as she works between cleaning Willie’s house of a morning and at Marlowe’s bookshop. Years ago, Mr. Marlowe made Josie a small apartment above the store for her to live in after he found her sleeping under his desk one morning. Now crippled by dementia, she helps care for him along side of his son, Patrick. She and Patrick keep some distance between them.

Josie’s mother met Cincinnati, a mobster, o the job. He had a thing for her and she fell head over heels for him. He showered her with gifts and said she reminded him of Hollywood starlet, Jane Russell. Josie and Willie despise Cincinnati. On his last visit to New Orleans, he beat up Josie’s mother and put her in the hospital. Willie ended up kicking in the door and Josie shot him in the leg. Josie so was galled that he had the nerve to show up at the hospital, she threw hot coffee on him. He left but not before promising to return. “Just you wait. I’m going to get you, Josie Moraine.”
Not wanting to be from two worthless parents, Josie keeps a list of names of men she meets that she wished would be her father. When a gentleman comes into the bookshop on New Years’ Eve to buy a gift for his wife, Josie is taken aback by him. She knows that he is a southerner but not from New Orleans. No, Memphis he says. A former Vanderbilt football player, he is in town for the Sugar Bowl. He picks out a book of Keats’ poetry for his wife and a copy if David Copperfield. He quotes Copperfield and makes a comment about his background being similar. Making conversation, he asks both of them if they go to Tulane. Patrick says he just graduated from Loyola but Josie remains quiet. Patrick tells him that the colleges are fighting over her. She is grateful. Carrying a wad of cash, Josie isn’t able to make change for him so he writes a check. She asks what he does and responds that he is an architect and developer. From his check, she later adds his name, Forrest L. Hearne, Jr. and other details to her list.
Josie and Willie are not happy to hear that Cincinnati is back in town. Her mother has once again fallen under his spell. Josie tries to stay under his radar, but isn’t successful when he threatens her in the bookshop. On New Year’s Day 1950, several things occur. Josie learns that a rich tourist died in a club down in the Quarter. She is saddened to learn that it was Forrest Hearne and sends Willie’s driver, Cokie, to find out what happened. She later learns that it was a heart attack. Josie then goes to clean up the mess at Willie’s. She goes to her mother’s room only to find it empty. Cleaning up, Josie finds a bullet. She takes it to Willie and tells her that her mother is gone. Willie places the bullet into the cylinder of her own 38 and lets her know that her mother has probably disappeared with Cincinnati.
Josie’s dream of leaving town and going to college is sparked even more when Charlotte Gates, a Smith College student in town visiting relatives, comes into the bookshop. After talking with Josie and Patrick for a while, she invites them to a party. She gives them the address and leaves. Josie is contemplating not going until Patrick tells her she can finally go to as party uptown that she is always reading about in the paper.
Josie meets with her mother at a diner. She is in a nice dress and covered with jewels that Josie knows are stolen. She has a dinner date with Cincinnati at her favorite restaurant that evening. Her mother is just letting her know that she is going to California with Cincinnati to become a star. She makes Josie promise not to tell Willie until after they have left the next morning. She doesn’t say a word when Willie asks her about their meeting later. At the party, Charlotte is welcoming but it isn’t long before her relatives are looking down at her. She and Patrick leave as a drunken woman begins sobbing about her cheating husband. Then she starts in about the heart attack story they told poor Mrs. Hearne. Josie is intrigued.
The next morning, Josie picks up a newspaper to take to Willie’s. The headline is about Hearne dying from a heart attack. The atmosphere at Willie’s is charged when she arrives. Willie is on a rampage. She has an appointment with her attorney that morning but she is more upset that Josie didn’t tell her that her mother was leaving. Willie screams that she isn’t taking her down and let Cincinnati fill her full of holes. She finishes tearing into Josie and leaves. One of Willie’s girls wants Josie to clean out her mother’s room so that she can move in. Josie realizes that she just wants to get out of New Orleans and go to Smith College.
While cleaning her mother’s room, Dora, another one of Willie’s girls, comes to talk with Josie. She lets her know that she cannot control her mother’s life. These are the decisions she has made. Josie needs to move on because everyone, especially Willie, knows that Josie is better. Josie confides her dreams of college but Dora isn’t very supportive. Dora leaves and Josie finishes cleaning under the bed. Her broom catches on a sock. It’s heavy and Josie shakes out whatever is inside. A gold watch falls out that is startling familiar. The back is engraved F.L. Hearne.
Can Josie get out of New Orleans and pursue her dreams of attending Smith College? Will Josie be able to avoid Cincinnati? What happens when her mother returns to town? How will Willie, her girls and the Marlowes impact her life? Was Forrest Hearne murdered and if so who did it? What part does his watch play in the investigation? What happens when the police question Josie? Will Josie be able to make something of her life?

Thursday, May 23, 2013

This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith

"If fate sent you an e-mail, would you answer?"

It all started with a mistyped e-mail address and a message about a pig. Soon Ellie O’Neill finds herself in an online relationship with G. both seventeen, Ellie lives in the tiny, seaside town of Henley, Maine and G lives in California. Never revealing their names to one another, Ellie learns that the pig’s name is Wilbur and G is the son of teachers and a fan of Charlotte’s Web. Quickly, Ellie finds she is staying up late to chat and looks forward to G’s e-mail correspondence.
Ellie loves sleepy little Henley during the off season but feels claustrophobic when the tourists arrive beginning Memorial Day. She and her best friend Quinn work at the ice cream shop, Sprinkles. On her way to work one morning, Ellie is dismayed to see that the town has been taken over by a movie set and teen heartthrob, Graham Larkin. Just before Ellie’s shift ends, Quinn has a mishap with a chocolate milkshake. Ellie offers Quinn her monogrammed work shirt even though it is too long. Stepping out onto the sidewalk, Ellie notices Graham Larkin walking her way, trying to be inconspicuous. As he passes her by, he looks up at Ellie and she is memorized by his eyes. She also realizes that he looks sad and wonders why a famous movie star would be so sad. Ellie catches Quinn’s eye as Graham, enters the ice cream shop as the paparazzi descends. Quinn smiles as Ellie walks away.
Graham Larkin is sad. His life has changed drastically since he was discovered during a high school drama production in which he was trying to impress a girl. Alienated from his parents and friends, the life of a Hollywood star isn’t for him. A loner and somewhat of a homebody, Graham lives with his pig, Wilbur. When he accidentally sends an e-mail to a seventeen-year-old girl in Maine, Graham sees the opportunity as a clean slate. He can be himself, not the perceived public image. Graham believes that E likes him for his true self and he is determined to meet her.
When the location for his next film falls through, Graham pushed for Henley, Maine. Keeping his true intentions a secret, he arrives to the set a few days early to look for the faceless girl that has captured his heart. Making his way to the ice creams hop, he passes a “willowy girl with long red hair.” They make eye contact and Graham realizes that the town of Henley might not be thrilled that he is there. Too late to change his plans, Graham prepares to enter the shop. Relieved to see a stunning girl behind the counter, he is too busy noticing the name embroidered on her shirt, Ellie O’Neill. She eagerly asks him what he wants to order. He is struck by her excited demeanor. Ordering rainbow sherbet because it is both of their favorite, he is dismayed that she makes no comment. Quinn makes small talk with a flirty attitude and Graham asks her for a restaurant recommendation. He then asks her to join him. She agrees and Graham doesn’t realize that he isn’t talking to Ellie.
On their date that night, Graham quickly discovers that he asked out the wrong girl. Hearing his story, Quinn is okay with the situation but wonders why Ellie never told her. She lets Graham know that he probably passed Ellie on the sidewalk. Graham realizes Ellie was the red head he made eye contact with outside of Sprinkles. Quinn tells him to go after Ellie. She is probably at home. Quinn says she will make the waiter (who has a crush on her) eat with her but Graham can pay for it.
Graham makes it to Ellie’s house at nightfall. He sees her on the front porch in a swing. Knowing she only sees him as a shadow, Graham is struck by the sight of her. Ellie thinks that Quinn has stopped by to tell her about her date. She is shocked to find Graham Larkin standing on her front porch. Ellie thinks the situation is a joke when he tells her that he is looking for her. Ellie is confused and wonders why it sounds like Graham is stalking her. Ellie is floored when Graham refers to her dog by its name when he barks. Then he tells her that he wasn’t very creative in naming his pig Wilbur. Ellie realizes that Graham Larkin has been her nameless pen pal.
Feeling embarrassed, Ellie is angry that Graham never revealed who he really was. He apologizes and tells her in no way is she stupid. She got to know him. Thinking about it, Ellie realizes that she did get to know the real Graham Larkin, not the one portrayed in the tabloids. Her mother interrupts and is shocked by who is standing on the front porch. Graham introduces himself to her mother. He then tells them he is really glad someone told him about Henley and leaves. Ellie suddenly realizes that she is too.

Can two people from such different backgrounds find a way to get together? Will the secrets Ellie and her mother have worked so hard to keep buried be unearthed? Can Quinn forgive Ellie for keeping her online relationship a secret? And will this be the best or worse summer of Graham and Ellie’s lives?

Visit Jennifer E. Smith’s website.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Taken by Erin Bowman (Taken book 1)

“In the primitive town of Claysoot, if you are a man, a brother, son , father – Be prepared: When midnight breaks on the day you turn eighteen, the Heist will take you.”
Claysoot was founded forty-seven years ago by children after a mysterious storm devastated the town. Friends and neighbors became strangers overnight as only siblings remembered one another. Before chaos took over, Bo Chilton led the effort to rebuild the town. The residents soon discovered a Wall surrounded the community. Bo couldn’t see what lay on the other side because of the darkness. Several residents attempted to climb the Wall but their bodies came back badly burned. Bo was the reason the children of Claysoot thrived.
One morning, Bo went missing. Even though a body was never found, everyone assumed that he was dead. A few months later, another boy disappeared and a week later, one more. Bo’s younger sister Maude noticed something in common relating to the missing boys and decided to test her theory. When the next boy in Claysoot was on the eve of his eighteenth birthday, everyone gathered around him and waited. Soon the ground shook, the sky lit up and the boy was gone. They repeated the experiment for the next several birthdays and the same thing occurred. No men live in Claysoot because they all disappear on their eighteenth birthday due to the Heist.
Gray Weathersby is dreading his seventeenth birthday. He shares it with his older brother Blaine who will turn eighteen and disappear during the Heist. Always the rational one, Blaine holds it together on his last day while Gray is having a difficult time. He will be left without any family. Blaine’s daughter will be his one connection. Getting onto a fight with Chalice that morning, Blaine finally talks Gray into getting his face stitched up. Going to the clinic, he finds that Carter is out but her daughter Emma is there. Having had a crush on her forever, he knows Emma likes Blaine better. She gives him something to numb the pain and he wakes up hours later. Realizing he has almost missed telling his brother goodbye one last time, Emma helps him to the town center. Blaine comforts Gray and tells him that they will meet again. Then he is gone due to the Heist.
Gray’s loss hits him two weeks later. When Chalice knocks on the door to inform him that Maude wants to see him, he slams the door shut. He inadvertently knocks a framed drawing of Blaine’s off of the wall. The frame is broken but Gray notices a second piece of parchment. It is a letter from his mother to Blaine that she wrote on her death bed. She writes that Blaine must uncover the truth about the Heists and Wall. The letter suddenly ends with “Gray is, in fact –“ The rest of the letter is missing. Gray then finds Blaine’s journal and reads the entry about their mother’s death. A cryptic entry talks about how fortunate he is to still have gray sheds no more light on the mystery. Gray is boiling with resentment that he was left alone without any answers. Suddenly he remembers that he needs to go to Maude’s house.
At the age of fifteen, boys in Claysoot are considered men. The council led by Maude matched boys to girls for one month in order to conceive more children before their Heist. Maude informs him that his mourning period is over and he is slated to be with Emma Link for the next month. Not waiting to be told what to do, Gray would rather something happen naturally between the two of them. He wants Emma but bot if she is forced onto him. Rumor has it that Emma has turned down all of her slatings. He heads to the clinic and blurts out the news to Emma. She immediately turns him down but Gray lets her know that he has no interest in being a father. He proposes a deal. Play the game for one month. He could possibly persuade the council into several more after that to keep them off of their backs. She agrees and asks him what he would like to go. Gray is pained when Emma smiles at him. Emma decides that they should spend the afternoon at the pond.
After talking about their mutual dislike for the slatings, Emma apologizes for the way she has judged him in the past. Gray is different from his brother and maybe for the first time, she realizes that it is not a bad thing. Trying to lighten the mood, Gray decides to go swimming. Eventually, Emma joins him. They splash around and after several dunkings, Gray concedes to Emma being the better swimmer. Next time they will have an archery match. Emma says that it is not fair and asks Gray to teach her. They make plans to spend more time together and head back into town. Gray grabs Emma’s hand as they walk by some of the council members for show.
Happy for the first time that he is spending time with Emma; his mother’s letter is never far from his mind. Looking through everything in the house turns up nothing and Gray continues to be haunted. After decidedly winning the archery match, Gray is shocked when Emma asks him if he ever questioned what originally happened in Claysoot. What happened to the parents and how could the children remember survival skills but not the names of their neighbors? Gray believes that maybe the early histories are incomplete but that she does have a point. Feeling comfortable around her but still hoping for more, he shows her the letter that his mother left behind. Gray then asks is he could see his mother’s chart at the clinic. They make plans for the next day.
After reading through his mother’s, Blaine’s and his own medical scrolls, no new information comes to light. When Emma looks through her mother’s notebook for the year Blaine was born, they find an entry that rocks Gray to his very core!
Why do all of the males of Claysoot disappear on their eighteenth birthday? What happens during the Heist? What lies beyond the Wall? What secret did his mother and Blaine keep from Gray? Will Emma open her heart to Gray? And can Emma and Gray discover the secrets of Claysoot before his eighteenth birthday?
Readers will find that Taken has so many more layers than just the story of Claysoot and the Heist. With chapters ending as cliffhangers, unexpected twists and turns and a great male POV, I absolutely adored this book and cannot recommend it enough. Book two in the trilogy, Frozen, doesn’t come out until 2014. Readers will definitely be left satisfied with how the book ends and waiting to see what comes next.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Orleans by Sherri L. Smith

"First came the storms.
Then came the fever.
And the wall."


A series of six progressively worse hurricanes struck New Orleans over five years. The causalities quickly mounted while the number of survivors soon fell to an estimated 10,000. A devastated society began to crumble when the quarantine was declared by FEMA and the CDEC to stop the spread of Delta Fever. Just five years later, the United States government withdraws from the affected regions of the Gulf States to protect the rights of the majority of its citizenry.
After – 31 years later
Now a primitive society isolated from the United States by a wall, Orleans is divided by blood, type that is. Sixteen-year-old Fen de la Guerre is living with an O positive tribe led by its chieftain, Lydia Moray. Lydia is eight months pregnant and the tribe is hosting a powwow with the O negatives at their camp in an attempt at unity. After the feast, Fen decides to check the camp’s defenses. Soon she runs into trouble and the camp is under attack by a group of Abs. fen finds Lydia but she is unable to help. She has gone into labor and Fen struggles to get them to safety. Away from the attackers, Lydia soon gives birth to a baby girl but quickly bleeds out. Fen is left alone without a tribe to care for Lydia’s newborn.
Daniel’s younger brother Charlie was a victim of the Delta Fever. He made it his mission to find a cure. After college, Daniel went to work for the military because it allowed him access to the best laboratories and samples of the virus. Hoping to find a way to make the virus attack itself, Daniel only succeeded in making it deadlier. Unwilling to destroy years of work, Daniel decides to break the quarantine and go into Orleans. He hopes to find the missing link to make his version of the virus into a cure. Daniel wants to save the world and ventures beyond the wall.
The city formerly known as New Orleans is not anything like Daniel imagined. Quickly becoming terrified, he decides to leave and return back over the wall. Despite his disguise as a leper, he is soon captured by a group by men and chained. Fen is hiding in a foxhole with Baby Girl after narrowly escaping from Mama Gentille and her blood camp. They both fall asleep and night has fallen when Fen is awoken by a hungry baby. Trying to quickly fix a bottle, she hears the rustle of blood hounds and knows there is no escape. She is chained and tries to stay away from the leper that they have also captured.
Back at the blood farm, Fen and Baby Girl are allowed to stay together for the time being. They place the two of them along with the leper in a cell. Remembering the advice her father gave her on escaping, Fen assesses their situation and realizes the leper is really in disguise. She asks him if he is a smuggler and she is disappointed to learn he isn’t. Daniel is looking for a guide to take him to the Institute of Post-Separation Studies. Fen is unwilling until Daniel says he will take the baby back over the wall with him. Fen begins to formulate a new plan. As morning dawns, they are able to escape by pretending to be lepers and aren’t followed.
Will Fen and Daniel make it to the Institute and what will they find there? What secrets is Fen keeping? Can Daniel locate the information he needs to create the cure for Delta Fever? Will he be able to get back over the wall undetected with Baby Girl? And what will happen to Fen?

Monday, May 13, 2013

Dead Silence by Kimberly Derting (Body Finder book 4)

SPOILER ALERT! If you haven’t read the first three books in the series, Stop! I don’t want to ruin the series for you.

“Sometimes the dead can’t be silenced.”
Violet Ambrose is struggling to put her life back together after the events in The Last Echo. She now lives with an ever-present imprint of her own. Forced by Dr. Lee to stay in the FBI team led by Sara Priest, he keeps check on her weekly through unproductive office visits. The only true help he is able to provide Violet is the pills that allow her to sleep, drowning out the imprint. She has stopped her visits to the team’s center. She closed herself off from all of her friends over the summer despite their attempts to reach out to her. Her parents and boyfriend Jay are concerned by her behavior but allow Violet her space.
The start of senior year of high school brings a major surprise for Violet and Jay. Two new students have enrolled, Rafe and Gemma. Violet is further dismayed to find Rafe shares the majority of her classes. Turns out Dr. Lee is responsible for their transfers. Violet isn’t keeping her end of their bargain and fully committing to the team. She will work with Sara priest and the others. Dr. Lee continues to threaten to harm her friends and family.
In an attempt to get into the swing of things, Violet agrees to meet her friends at the lake. On her way there, two echoes cause her to take a detour to follow them. Finding herself at a locked gate to the house, Violet decides to check out the scene herself instead of calling for backup. Inside the house, she discovers three bodies but only two echoes. She knows the only person she can call is Rafe and calling him means letting Sara know as well. She persuades her Uncle Stephen to let her visit the scene again. Placed on a couch are a man, woman and little boy. Violet notices again that the little boy doesn’t have an echo. In looking around the house, she sees a photo on the refrigerator of a young couple dressed for a dance. Not knowing who the girl is, they assume she is the dead couple’s daughter, who is missing. Violet recognizes the boy in the photo. It is Grady Spencer, the boy who tried to forcibly kiss her at a party last year. She lets her Uncle Stephen know.
Back at home, Violet’s mother has found a box of keepsakes that belonged to Violet’s grandmother, the one she shares her ability with. Digging around, she discovers that her grandmother kept journals for many years. At first, she believes reading them would be an invasion of privacy but her grandmother is the only other person she knows who had the same ability. Getting a glimpse into her life, Violet realizes why she didn’t get an echo from the little boy. Calling Sara, she asks if the little boy was missing his heart. Shocked, Sara tells her he was and Violet lets her in on her suspicions.
Uncle Stephen stops by to inform Violet that Grady is a suspect. Even after all that happened between them, Violet doesn’t believe that he is the killer. She goes by his house just to check if he carries an echo. She is relieved her doesn’t but is bothered by the fact that everyone at school gossips about him. Rumors are also going around about the student who discovered the bodies. Violet’s name isn’t mentioned but her friend Chelsea voices her suspicions to Violet.
If Grady isn’t the killer, then who is? What other secrets about her grandmother does Violet uncover by reading her journals? What is Dr. Lee adamant about Violet not quitting the team? Will Chelsea uncover Violet’s secrets? Can Rafe and Jay put aside their differences to be there when Violet needs them?

Monday, May 6, 2013

Quintana of Charyn by Melina Marchetta (Lumatere Chronicles book 3)

SPOILER ALERT! If you haven't read the first two books in the series, Finnikin of the Rock and Froi of the Exiles, Stop! I don't want to ruin one of my favorite series for you.

“Blood sings to blood.”
The last time Froi saw Quintana, he had eight barbs lodges in his body. He was screaming at her to run, save herself and their unborn child, the future king and curse breaker of Charyn. Now recovered, he travels across Charyn looking to build an army to restore her and their unborn child to the throne before the former king’s advisor or another kingdom comes in to seize complete control. Froi travels with his newly found parents; Gargarin of Abroi, the former king’s former adviser and Lirah of Serker, known throughout the kingdom as the king’s whore and Quintana’s mother. She’s not, the oracle was.
Back in Lumatere, Isaboe, Finnikin and the guard eagerly await word of Froi, fearing that he is dead. Isaboe sends Finnikin, Trevanion and Perri to act on information a spy obtained. Finnikin arranges to meet Gargarin, whom Lumatere believes was the mastermind behind the slaughter of Isaboe’s family. Coming across Froi, they are greatly relieved to find him alive but their joy is short-lived. Froi refuses to leave his parents and the search for Quintana to return to Lumatere with them. His friends are devastated at first but soon realize that Froi is now a man.
Hidden in a cave back in the Monts' valley, Quintana has found refuge with Phadrea, Lucian’s supposedly dead wife. Keeping her identity and location a secret is hard, especially when it seems that Quintana is hiding so near to Lumatere. Sides are quickly drawn as Phaedra and Tesadora vow to keep Quintana safe as Isaboe blames her for the massacre of her family.

In this stunning and epic conclusion to the lUmatere Chronicles, readers will be rewarded and satisfied by the paths beloved characeters follow. The perfect ending to the trilogy. All books should strive to end this way. A story not to miss!

Visit Melina Marchetta's website.