Monday, January 27, 2014

Just One Year by Gayle Forman

Due to significant spoilers for the first book, Just One Day review found here, I don't want to go into too much detail. This book tells Willem's side of the story from that fateful morning in Paris until the final scene in Just One Day.

Visit Gayle Forman's website.

Try Not to Breathe by Jennifer Hubbard

"Ryan wasn't looking for true love. He only wanted a reason to live."

Ryan's parents have been a bit overprotective since he got out of Patterson Hospital a few months earlier. All summer, he has escaped by standing under a waterfall where a guy had supposedly drowned. When the rains came in August, the waterfall and creek swelled to the point where even Ryan wasn't crazy enough to risk standing underneath. While sitting on the bank one day, the younger sister of a fellow classmate, Kent Thornton, strikes up a conversation. Ryan cannot remember her name. She likes to go under the falls and wants to know if Ryan wants to join her. He passes and is nervous the whole time he is unable to see her. He is relived when she comes out. He notices that she is shivering from the cold water. She didn't think to bring a towel and Ryan offers to take her to get one. They hike ten minutes through the woods to his house. He gets her a couple of towels and she has always admired the house from the outside and asks to look around. He takes her through the rooms including his bedroom. Ryan is nervous and doesn't want to introduce a girl who name he doesn't know to his mother. Ending up in the basement, she notices the home gym and asks Ryan if he uses it. He replies yes until he had mono in the spring. She says that she heard that he was in the hospital. He tells her that he was but for a different reason. She looks at him and he wonders if she will have the nerve to ask why. She breaks eye contact and doesn't. They go back upstairs and she tells him that the rumors about the waterfall are true. She was there the day that her brother's friend slipped and drowns. He was just eight. She thanks him for everything and leaves. Ryan still doesn't know her name.

The next morning, Ryan goes down to the falls and sees Kent smoking a joint. He says that he heard that Ryan ran into Nicki. Kent says that she is a nut and has been screwed up since their father died. Before he leaves, Kent warns Ryan to be careful with his sister. He also says that Ryan is crazy if he stands under the falls. Ryan goes under the falls and when he comes back out, Kent is gone. He rests on the bank and then Nicki comes up behind him. She finally asks the question that Ryan has been waiting for. He asks her if she is suicidal but she claims she's not. He punches his number into her cell phone in case she needs help. She also asks for his email address. There is something she wants to say to him but she cannot do it to his face. When checking his email earlier for messages from the two friends that he made while hospitalized at Patterson, Val and Jake, he is ready to log off when he sees a message from Nicki. She wants to know why he tried to kill himself. She has no one else to ask since nobody will talk to her about her father's suicide. He tells her that he doesn't want to talk about the worst day of his life. She writes "please".

The next day he finally hears from Val. They catch up on each other's lives and she asks about a girlfriend. Ryan harbors a secret crush on Val but he does tell her about Nicki and the question she asked him. Val tells him that maybe she just needs a friend. He goes to stand under the waterfall and when he gets out of the water, Nicki is standing there. He tells her that he is sorry about her father and she apologizes for her email. She then tells Ryan that she has made an appointment with a psychic to get the answers she needs. He tries to talk her out of it and wants to know if someone is going with her. When she says no, Ryan, who just met her a week ago, agrees to go with her.

Kent drops the two if them off and they walk to the psychic's house. Ryan sees right off what a fake she is when she cannot give Nicki any definite answers. He makes the rash decision to pepper the psychic with questions to ask Nicki's father that hit a little too close to home. They leave when Nicki doesn't get what she is looking for. She berates Ryan for what he did and asks if he is happy that he was right about the psychic being a fake. Then she asks him if he left a note and that she knows that all of the questions he asked were really about him. Ryan knows that Nicki's father didn't do the same things that he had done or kept the secrets that he keeps.

Why did Ryan try to kill himself? What secrets is he still keeping? Will Nicki ever find out why her father killed himself? What happens when the two of them keep hanging out, are they just friends or are they falling in love with one another? Can the two of them help each other move forward in their own lives?

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Something Like Normal by Trish Doller

"War is only half the battle."

Travis Stephensen has arrived home for thirty days from a seven month deployment to Afghanistan where his best friend was killed before his eyes. It is also his first trip home since joining the Marine Corp. Having nowhere else to really go, his mother is the only member of his family to meet him at the airport. His father had a meeting to go to but Travis isn't surprised. A former Green Bay Packer, Dean Stephensen was upset when his eldest son quit football after his sophomore year. His decision to join the Marines didn't go over well either. His younger brother Ryan is working at his father's car dealership. His girlfriend Paige sent him a Dear John letter telling him that she is now dating his brother. Before the two of them can leave the airport, Travis has a vision of Charlie Sweeney, his dead friend. It seems that he is suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and hasn't told anyone so that he doesn't look weak. His mother cannot stop fussing over him.

Life at home seems even worse than before he joined the Marines. Less than a year apart, Travis notices that Ryan has fallen into his old life; dating his former girlfriend and driving his car. He isn't happy to learn that Ryan hasn't taken care of his car. His mother and father seem estranged and Travis feels the need to apologize for not calling or writing more often. His mother, who consistently sent care packages and joined support groups, tells him that she would get a call from Charlie's mother every time he wrote home. Ryan asks him if he wants to go with him to a party at their old haunt. Not really wanting to be around his brother with his old girlfriend, he reluctantly decides to go.

Once they arrive at the Manor, he is surprised to see one thing that hasn't changed since he left. Once inside the crowded house, everyone is welcoming him home and all he wants to do is escape. He sees Paige across the room and feels the pull of her even though he has to tell himself that they aren't together anymore. Before he can reach her, his best friend from high school Eddie comes up. He begins to wrestle him but Travis quickly bests him. Paige comes over to Ryan first and then Travis. The group begins to chit chat a bit and catches up and Travis quickly realizes how different he is from Eddie. Ryan sees his discomfort but he shrugs it off. After a few beers, Travis's thoughts turn back to a time just before his deployment and the promise Charlie asks him. if anything happens to him, he wants Travis to go see his mother. Travis is having a flashback and realizes that he needs to leave.

Walking down the street to a rough biker bar, he goes in and sees several more people from high school. He goes to sit on a stool at the bar next to two girls, one that he knows and he doesn't recognize the other from the back. Sitting next to her, he tries to strike up a conversation and is floored when she turns to face him. It is Harper Gray, the first girl he ever crushed on. At a party in middle school, the two of them were sent to a closet to play seven minutes in heaven. Doing nothing more than kiss, Travis embellished a bit to his friends that she let him feel her up. By Monday morning at school, the rumors were that Harper had sex with all of the guys at the party and she got the reputation of being a slut. He never told the truth. Now years later, Harper welcomes him home and tells him to leave her alone. He asks what her problem is and is entranced by her eyes up until the moment she punches him. She berates him over the party and leaves. Paige and Ryan come looking for him. He follows Paige out the door and she offers to come over during the night even though she is dating his brother. He declines.

Paige comes over anyway and afterwards Travis realizes the she hasn't changed and their relationship was a waste of time. Unable to sleep, Travis goes for a run and finds himself outside of Harper's house. A man comes out and asks Travis why he is outside of his house at 4:30am and he says he was unsure where else to go. He asks Travis if he needs a ride back home and he accepts. Just then Harper steps out of the house and asks him why he is there. He says he needed some air and she tells him that he looks like hell. she realizes that Travis has run seven miles from his house to hers and he finds it interesting that she knows where he lives. Her dad needs to go to work and she goes to change out of her pajamas. Travis and Harper's father begin a conversation and he asks if he is Linda Stephensen's son. Travis is floored that he mentioned his mother and not his famous father and comments that he use to be a douchebag. Travis agrees and thinks that he still is. Wanting to know why he has to be at work so early, Travis is surprised to learn that Harper's dad is one of the DJs on a local morning radio show that he made his roommates listen to on the Internet. He offers Travis the chance to come on and talk about Afghanistan if he ever wants to.

After dropping of her father, Harper asks if he is hungry. They stop at the Waffle House and order. She asks why he is there and Travis says that he wants to apologize for his stupid fourteen year old self. She asks if he thinks an apology is enough since guys continuously grab her and that she has never had a boyfriend, a date or sex. Paige has slept her way through the entire school and Harper is the one they call the slut. Travis feels terrible and suddenly has a flashback of Charlie. He is suddenly sick and runs to the bathroom. Harper comes to check on him and he tells her that he needs to go home. She takes him home and Travis asks why she didn't just bring him straight to his house. she doesn't answer except to say she will be late for work. Inside, he finds his mother crying. Her life became so wrapped up in making sure he was safe in Afghanistan, that she spent long periods of time on the Internet chatting with other marine parents. She began ignoring his father and now he is having an affair. They both head off to get some much needed sleep.

Soon, Travis keeps running into Harper in the most unexpected places. One night, she invites him to help a nest of sea turtles hatch. Just one look from her and he is ready to give up his darkest secrets. After having another flashback, Harper understands about what he is going through. They sit down to wait and talk but soon he tells her that he doesn't anymore. As the first baby turtle emerges, Harper reaches up and kisses him. They spend the night counting turtles. He kisses her again when she drops him off mid-morning. He knows that he will kiss her again.

Can Travis work through all that happened to him in Afghanistan, especially Charlie's death? Will his family fall apart or try and repair the damage? What will Travis's future hold? Is Harper the one person who can help him find his new normal?


The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater (Raven Cycle book 2)

SPOILER ALERT! If you haven't read the first book in the series, The Raven Boys, Stop! I don't want to ruin the series for you.

"If you could steal things from dreams, what would you take?"

Blue Sargent is the only non-clairvoyant in a family full of psychics. Over and over, she has been told that she would kill her true love if she were to kiss him. She had also been informed that this was the year that she was going to fall in love. Blue and her aunt Neeve both saw one of the Raven Boys walking the corpse line on St. Mark's Eve. To look at Richard Campbell Gansey III now, it doesn't seem possible that he will be dead sometime in the next year. Blue doesn't think she is in love with Gansey but she really doesn't know what love feels like. She has had a vision of kissing Gansey and it was nice. He is busy looking for the legendary Welsh King; Owen Glendower whom he believes is asleep somewhere within Cabeswater along the Henrietta ley line. Legend has it that whoever finds the sleeping King will be granted one wish. Even though Gansey doesn't know his supposed fate, for his sake Blue hopes that he is the one to find it. If fate didn't have a say in anything, Blue would like to pick Adam Parrish to be her love.

Ronan Lynch has a secret that he has told. He is able to pull objects from his dreams into the world. One example is Chainsaw, his pet raven. The middle son of Niall Lynch, he was the one who found his father's body. The tire iron that was used to viciously beat Niall was still lying next to the body when Ronan woke up from a good night's sleep only yards away. That was the last night he slept well. According to Niall's will, all three of his sons were now incredibly wealthy but it all hinged on one condition; they were never to set foot back at home which they called the Barns. They were unable to disturb the house, its contents or property. That condition also included their mother. The Lynch boys were exiles. Ronan has dreamt many times of returning home. One night in his dreams, he returns with a small box from his house. Sleepless, Ronan goes to see if Gansey is awake. He is working on his model town of Henrietta. Ronan shows him the box which turns out to be a puzzle box. It translates words in English to other dead languages. One is unknown to either boy. Ronan suggests that they drive out to the Barns but Gansey isn't going to agree to do anything illegal.

Declan Lynch; Ronan's older brother was viciously attacked in his dorm room by a man who calls himself the Gray Man. He demands that Declan tell him where the Greywaren is. He threatens to kill him and then go after his brothers. Declan finally tells him that he doesn't know where it is, just that it is. The Gray Man is working for Dr. Colin Greenmantle. He is looking for the Greywaren, a relic that allows the owner to take items out of dreams. He is using various instruments to search for its energy. Greenmantle calls and tells him that he must find the relic quickly. There are others looking for it as well. The Gray Man follows the rapid beeping of his instruments to a well casing behind a farmhouse. A rose brush is planted in front of the well and its trunk and branches have so much growth that it appeared to be growing itself to death. He decides to remove the well casing to if he can see anything. Suddenly, his instruments stop beeping. He takes a photo of the rose and leaves.

Adam Parrish has next to nothing but he is on his own. Living in a tiny and cramped room above the St. Agnes rectory, he is working three part-time jobs over the summer to ease the financial burden somewhat so he could concentrate on his classes at Aglionby Academy in the fall. He wanted to go onto college. Adam was desperately attracted to Blue Sargent even though she was troubling to him. He has been ignoring a letter from St. Aglionby's for the past two days. He knows what it is not. Coming home from his job at the local garage, Blue is waiting on his doorstep. He invites her in and before too long they are in each other's arms. Just as Adam decides that he could kiss Blue, she throws the brakes on the situation. Both are hurt but Blue doesn't tell him the reason she stopped him. He goes to take a cold shower and thinks about the sacrifice he made to Cabeswater in order to wake the ley line. Seeing that nothing about him has really changed, he leaves the bathroom conflicted about whether or not he still wants Blue to be there. She is standing at the door talking to the office lady for the rectory. She has good news for Adam. He rent is based on the building's tax assessment and his rent will be dropping by $2400. a year. He thanks her and she leaves. Suspicious, Adam opens the letter from Aglionby to find that his tuition will rise by $2400. and his scholarship will be unable to cover it. His mind begins to think that Gansey has found a way to secretly help him. He becomes furious and unfortunately takes it out verbally to Blue. She lets him know that she will to stand for him to talk to her like that and will be waiting outside the door in case he calms down before she has to leave for work.

Gansey, Blue, Ronan, and Adam decide to back to Cabeswater for the first time since Adam made his sacrifice. As they crest the hill to see Cabeswater for the first time! all that is in front of them is fields; hundreds of acres of field with no sign of trees having been felled. The Camaro is quiet as Gansey checks his journal for the GPS coordinates he wrote down. Blue checks their position on her phone. They are in the right place. The four of them listen to the Camaro slowly die and stop. Adam believes that it is the alternator. Trying to decide what to do, Blue and Gansey see that there is a general store nearby. Ronan is angry and Blue asks if he has a better idea than continuing to break things. Adam feels the sting of her words as though they were directed towards him. Adam thinks about how Noah faded out at the Dollar Store, the Camaro sputtered to a stop and now Cabeswater is gone. Awakening the ley line has blown transformers around town because its energy is so strong. A lack of energy now is a complete mystery.

Why has Cabeswater disappeared? Is Ronan in possession of the Greywaren? Is the relic why he can retrieve items for his dreams? Does Blue fall in love and with whom? Is Gansey any closer in his search for Glendower? Who is The Gray Man? What did Adam sacrifice to wake the ley line? Will Adam continue to make it on his own or will he finally let Gansey help him? Will Blue or her family of psychics figure how Gansey is supposed to die? Why are the Lynch boys not allowed back home?

There are two more books in The Raven Cycle.