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Touching the Surface by Kimberly Sabatini

Release Date: October 30, 2012

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Format: ARC

Source: Publisher

Find it on Goodreads

Touching the Surface

Experience the afterlife in this lyrical, paranormal debut novel that will send your heart soaring.When Elliot finds herself dead for the third time, she knows she must have messed up, big-time. She doesn’t remember how she landed in the afterlife again, but she knows this is her last chance to get things right.

     Elliot just wants to move on, but first she will be forced to face her past and delve into the painful memories she’d rather keep buried. Memories of people she’s hurt, people she’s betrayed…and people she’s killed.     As she pieces together the secrets and mistakes of her past, Elliot must find a way to earn the forgiveness of the person she’s hurt most, and reveal the truth about herself to the two boys she loves…even if it means losing them both forever.

This debut will sweep you off your feet. From the first sentence, it will captivate you and make you second guess your deepest thoughts while exploring others. Both entertaining and thought-provoking, Touching the Surface is a masterful take on some of life's most puzzling questions. What happens after we die? What's the point of life?Touching the Surface is seemed character driven but tension permeates most of the book. You might not necessarily find a lot of action but it's mostly emotional. The world is created and the characters are there for the reason that they need to find themselves and figure out how they're holding themselves back. Each of the characters grows and interacts more and more with others throughout the book and made a complex book that was simple to understand and a true experience to read.Books like this one remind me of why I love to read. For me, this was that book. Touching the Surface introduced many new questions and ideas while answering some of my own. I love books that I can escape into, but I also love books that make me think and look at things in a new perspective. Kim had a gorgeous tone that just managed to remind the reader of how important that the little things are. Elliot's quiet deliberation of her life also contrasted nicely with her wild emotions when she remembered parts of her life that she would rather have forgotten.I don't even know how to describe the strange emotions roiling in me after finishing the book, and my experience with the book. It's just one of those books that is so pure and beautiful. Elliot was confused after dying for the third time. Something went wrong. It was never good to be a Third Timer, and she thought that she was doing well in her life. She was missing something, but she didn't know what.Her best friend was ignoring her and seemed almost hostile; the odds were stacked against her and she didn't know why. She found herself falling for two brothers - both extremely different but she couldn't pull herself away from them. Between Delving into painful memories during workshops and trying to figure out herself outside of them, Elliot was completely swamped with everything at once and somehow she had to find who she was despite all of that.Touching the Surface is a cognizant and indulgent novel about finding your identity in the midst of chaos. Beautifully presented, Kimberly Sabatini presents a dreamy and impassioned novel written with an elegant consciousness unlike anything else out there.Read the extended review:The relationships in this book were so excellently handled. Really, I keep saying that about almost every element in this book because everything just seemed almost flawless to me. Kimberly went past the surface of some issues and skimmed the surface of others, but she definitely touched on so many different aspects of Elliot's life. Between the comprehensive structure of the afterlife and the character development, the story was a nice balance of character and plot.I got confused with some of the technicality in the book, but that was a small sacrifice for the complete originality of the afterlife that Kimberly has created. It's extremely hard to create a new afterlife dynamic completely unique from anything else out there, but that's what you get in Touching the Surface.The narrative is interposed with flashbacks from Elliot's life that slowly reveal the missing pieces from her memory. I have ranted about my hatred for amnesia storylines before, but this was completely different. Elliot had the sense of who she was and what happened and the empty holes in her memory weren't abrasive to the story. Subtly and gracefully intertwined with the present storyline, the flashbacks only add more to her character and constantly add to a complicated backstory.Elliot's life becomes more and more chaotic as she tries to figure out what it means and how she appears to other people. Elliot's made mistakes and done things to the people that she loves, but she honestly thought of herself as a good person and wants to figure out how she can be the best version of herself that she can possibly be. She's confused by Julia's mixed messages and hurt by her rejection. She's conflicted between who she thinks she is and how she can change. She doesn't know what's going on with her life and what she's done, and that insecurity fills every page of the book as she grows into herself. It took her dying to understand who she really was. She loves Oliver and his joy, but is attracted to Trevor's dark magnetism.The contrast between the brothers wasn't overdone but each was sculpted completely. As a twin, it drives me crazy when close siblings or twins are portrayed as either polar opposites or completely alike. The brothers were distinctly different and portrayed in that light, but with enough little detail to make it believable instead of cookie cutter characters. I loved learning more about the brothers and how they interacted with each other. Trevor and Oliver love each other but they have this deep undercurrent of rivalry and guilt and all these other delicious histories.There are so many books dealing with the concept of the afterlife and what happens to us after we die. Kimberly Sabatini still manages to make her particular book world something entirely different from what we usually see. It's set up simply with room to change and it constantly does throughout the book. The technicality of it was sometimes hard to follow but it was still a great take and a new angle that I loved to see.I didn't know how to describe my thoughts after finishing Touching the Surface. I scoured every interview that Kimberly did and every blog post even mentioning this book when I heard about it, and read the first paragraph of the book in a teaser that Kimberly released. I wanted, no, NEEDED this book so badly and I am so happy that I had the opportunity to review it. Both achingly beautiful and refreshing, Touching the Surface is a book that I would honestly recommend to everyone that I know.Elliot was definitely a flawed character, and one of the most realistic teen narrators that I've read in a while. Her temper got the best of her and sometimes she was selfish. She ignored some things that she didn't want to face and withdrew into herself when she just wanted to think instead of act. She also learned and grew. She thought of herself as a good person and she tried so hard to understand the world around her and the people around her. She struggled with a lot and indulged in a lot but these were precisely the qualities that reminded me of myself.One of the biggest parts of being a teenager is being completely confused almost all of the time. I know that I related to this book because Elliot's anguish and self-awareness reminded me of myself and freshman year. Everybody is trying to figure out who they are and who they belong with. They're painfully aware of how others see them and just completely overwhelmed. If you're experiencing something similar, I definitely recommend Touching the Surface. It takes a common underlying problem and surrounds it with incredible character and a refreshing setting.Trevor, Oliver, and Julia were wonderful supporting characters. From Trevor's dark persona and confusing mood swings to Oliver's sunny personality, I loved the boys in this book. I wouldn't necessarily paint this book as a love triangle as usually viewed in YA - there was one, but it wasn't as intense as some others and it was more realistic than in other books - but it was definitely handled in a way that I loved to see.Kimberly has a great feel for what is realistic for teens and what is going too far. Elliot not only had problems with the guys in her life but also with Julia, her best friend. Julia and Elliot's relationship was changing because Julia understood what was holding her back and was confronting everything that she was too timid to in her previous lives. Elliot changed a lot because of Oliver and Trevor but she also changed because of Julia's influence and being able to start to identify how she wanted to change. There were even some smaller storylines and characters that impacted Elliot's development and the story.While there are definitely some heavier moments in this book where the full weight of Elliot's life really impacts her, it's also heartwarming. She's forced to confront a lot of her mistakes and flaws and gains new perspective by the end of the book. I love a flawed character and Kimberly Sabatini did an excellent job with her character development. Elliot changed in the subtle ways that a teen does.Eloquent and thoughtful writing made this book a standout. Even the most basic concepts in this book were discussed in such an elegant manner that I couldn't help but be entranced. When I first read the writing, I was a complete goner. Kimberly has this incredible ability to phrase things perfectly and capture the little things that really make life worth living. She handled the themes with poise and wove plot and character development so skillfully.I was crying by the end of the book. I got so attached to the characters and so invested in what happened to them. I didn't want to let them go. Endings upset me so much but it still made me happy. She managed to interweave realistic teenage personalities with a well thought out plot and gorgeous writing.  It was a great ending but it left me so emotional. Heavy themes are dealt with elegantly, both delving into detail but also making it simple enough to understand.Touching the Surface by Kimberly Sabatini is one of the most poignant and sensitive books that I've ever read. Not only is Kim one of my favorite people EVER (seriously, I could gush for days!) but she has managed to create a beautiful read that gently questions many of my preconceived beliefs about life, death, and love.This vivacious and ephemeral read will bury itself in your mind and soul, and is sure to be a read that you will remember.Recommended for anybody who loves: The Perks of Being a WallflowerLovely, Dark, and DeepElsewhere; afterlife; etc,.Possible book club questions:Elliot sees herself as a good person, but is only aware of what she's done to hurt people when they tell her about it. Do you think Elliot could have prevented being a Third Timer by being aware of this herself? Are you aware of yourself or are you more similar to Elliot? How do you think you can increase this awareness?Which brother did you prefer - Trevor or Oliver? Why?How did Elliot both improve and hurt her relationship with Julia throughout the book?What moments do you think impacted Elliot's character development the most? etc,.

Origin by Jessica Khoury

Release Date: September 4, 2012

Publisher: Razorbill

Format: ARC

Source: BookExpo America

Origin

"ORIGIN is a startling mystery played out in the vivid and lush Amazon jungle. In this deadly clash of science and nature, a heroine emerges. Pia clawed her way through the pages and left her mark on the landscape of my imagination as the almost tangible danger left me breathless."--Colleen Houck, New York Times bestselling author of Tiger's Curse"I loved Origin's action, romance, and mystery--and I couldn't stop thinking about the questions it raised." --Beth Revis, New York Times bestselling author of Across the UniverseAn electrifying action-romance that's as thoughtful as it is tragicPia has grown up in a secret laboratory hidden deep in the Amazon rain forest. She was raised by a team of scientists who have created her to be the start of a new immortal race. But on the night of her seventeenth birthday, Pia discovers a hole in the electric fence that surrounds her sterile home--and sneaks outside the compound for the first time in her life.Free in the jungle, Pia meets Eio, a boy from a nearby village. Together, they embark on a race against time to discover the truth about Pia's origin--a truth with deadly consequences that will change their lives forever.Origin is a beautifully told, shocking new way to look at an age-old desire: to live forever, no matter the cost.

Review:

The emotions and evocative descriptions of this book make it a true standout. It is beautifully written with a riveting plot, a book that I literally could not tear my eyes away from for even a minute. I literally fell asleep with the light on at three A.M. in the middle of reading it because I didn't want to put it down to sleep.

Pia was a very interesting character. She's been told that she is "perfect" for her entire life. A part of her is lonely and confused. Another part of her is haughty and believes that she's perfect. It was interesting to see how these sides of her interacted and how her curiosity about the outside world impacted her as a character. Pia was one of those characters that I honestly feel could have been real. Her emotions and thought processes were very realistic and left me wishing that less would happen to her. She just went through so much and although she developed throughout all of this, I found myself wishing that she didn't have to go through so much. Not only is she confused about where she came from and what she would do when everybody from Little Cam died, but she has to make really hard decisions. She has to choose between actually living her life and finding out the secret to immortality.

The main concept of the book involved a girl (Pia) who is immortal. After generations, scientists hidden deep in the jungle have created an immortal girl. Pia has been in the compound for her entire life - she doesn't know the outside world. Needles can't pierce her skin, she doesn't get sick, and her family of scientists will die out among her while she stays ageless.

The description was the number one thing for me though. I could really read a book that is entirely description if it were written by Jessica Khoury. I don't even care that much about the plot or the characters or any of that because the description was so gorgeous and stunning and vibrant.

There is a reason that this is a breathless read because it did leave me breathless. The action was perfectly plotted and paced and left me unwilling to put the book down. I wished I would read faster (although I read plenty fast) because I just wanted to know what happened!

The romance in this book was really realistic although I wouldn't quite call it "love". Pia and Eio didn't really know each other but they were attracted to each other and had a connection. It was both a mixture of heart-pounding romantic tension and getting to know each other like best friends. Although they only knew each other for (a week?), I would say that I felt satisfied with it. I wouldn't really classify it as insta-love but they were really attracted to each other and helped each other through a lot.

Intriguing questions dealing with morals were dealt with throughout the book. It was very thoughtful, which is hard to do considering the amount of action, mystery, romance, and tension constantly pulsing through the pages. There are a lot of books that deal with the theme of how far you would go to get something you want and Jessica Khoury brought a fresh perspective to this. Pia was almost treated like a tool. They didn't see her as a person; they saw her as a genetically engineered goddess and I found that utterly fascinating.

Origin was one of those books that just completely floored me. It had so many intertwining elements of romance, mystery, fear, and emotion that all blended together perfectly and made for a truly satisfying and thought-provoking read. It was strange and incredible and such a surreal experience. I was immersed in this book from page one to the end and even then, my mind was still in the story. I thought of this book for ages after I finished and it kept me up long after I should have been sleeping. Wow.

Extended Review:

Throughout the book, Pia almost reminded me of the vampires from the Twilight series. The hard, unbreakable skin, strange properties, speed, and enhanced senses gave me that vibe. The immortality storyline was extremely well done and Jessica Khoury made it both easy to understand and complex enough to be different.

I was just transported to an entirely different world with this book. It was so enthralling and compelling and just completely sucked me in. It's one of those books with a completely unique feel - one that I doubt anybody will be able to capture again. The description, the plot, the supporting characters, character development...I honestly don't think that I can come up with a flaw for this one.

This is one of those books that I just put down and bawled. I hate it when books end and this was a vivid story that I didn't want to lose. It had such an ENDING - one that really tugged at my heart strings. Oh my goodness. Wow. Really, it was THAT good.

Pia's character develops constantly throughout the book. She feels like nobody truly sees her and none of the other scientists will ever understand what it's like to be her but she's also used to getting almost everything that she wants. She gives up privacy and freedom involuntarily, but she's also used to being practically worshipped. She clings to any knowledge that she has about the outside world and is completely thirsty for knowledge about the world. She's cooped up all the time and kept in the dark about her origin. She wants to know where she came from and why she exists but while she does know a ton, she's also kept in the dark about everything that really means anything to her.

There was an entire culture to this book. There was a culture for Little Cam, a culture for the tribe outside, so many varying people and ideas and morals. It made it such a truly engaging and complex read. There were many philosophical ideas behind Origin but it did not preach at ALL. I could read at a deeper level but there was also swoonworthy romance, a dark mystery, action, and plenty of other elements that really appealed to me. This book just...wow.

There were so many characters that contributed to this book. Uncle Anthony, Eio, the doctors, the tribe. Oh my gosh - I was captivated. There were so many blurs between black and white. Was somebody with a good heart and confused morals still a good person? Did somebody who knew the consequences of his actions but still went through with something still deserve Pia's sympathy? Were some secrets better left unknown?

There was this balance between Pia's curiosity and her desire to be a scientist. She was put through a series of tests to determine her worth as a scientist. She longed to have somebody else like her in the world and sometimes felt completely alone in the world. She was born and raised in Little Cam so when she had the opportunity to slip out, of course she took it. Her emotions and tangled thoughts were such a joy to experience. Perhaps joy isn't the right word for it because she also experienced grief, anger, confusion, and a range of other emotions. Coming to terms with who she was and what her history was just left me grieving for her and what she had to go through.

This is one of those books that keeps me up at night and makes me want to go out and experience the world. It provoked the most intense wanderlust. It deals with a part of the world that isn't mentioned in that many books and her incredible description - from describing the little things like the sounds and rain and individual species scattered throughout the book - just left me longing to visit the inside of this book. Jessica Khoury does such an excellent job of coaxing out the little things that really bring a setting to life and make it memorable. Pretty much any story that she could have placed here would have been a ht for me. Especially when the tribe comes into play...I was riveted.

All these words that I keep using - "captivated", "enthralled", "riveted" - do no justice to the book. I'm struggling to find the right words to describe my absolute DEVOTION to this book and to the setting and the tension and everything that just tore me apart in this book.

The immortality aspect was done so well and so cleverly. There's a secret behind Pia's immortality that she's been dying to find out so that she could begin to create more immortals. What Pia doesn't realize is that there's another more sinister reason for the secret of immortality. Things that the scientists have done that would shock her and make her wonder whether immortality was truly worth it. The plot twists involving this aspect of the book were so wonderfully created. The ending was intense and fast and just paced perfectly. There were just enough betrayals and tears to break my heart and the tension and passion between Pia and Eio were what I've been dreaming of reading. Think the romance in The Vampire Diaries (TV show) but amped up and placed in a disturbing and beautiful setting.

Little Cam was extremely unsettling. The scientists' ideas of right and wrong were sometimes taken to extreme and morals were ignored. Ethics were questioned many times throughout this book and some people just left me horrified. There were some characters that I was honestly TERRIFIED of and just left me sympathizing with Pia once again. She was both hardened and extremely vulnerable. She wanted to see the world and her immortality wasn't even that much of a gift. Her mom was a nightmare and her "family" of scientists didn't even see her. They were more absorbed with their various projects and didn't realize how scared that she was of her future.

As for the ending, let me just say that Jessica Khoury is not afraid to take risks. Her scientists become more and more confused in Pia's mind towards the end and several are sinister. The pure passion and intensity left me feeling like I was a character. This was where her writing really made it an experience. She isn't afraid to kill off characters or essentially torture Pia and I absolutely loved it. I want a book that will destroy me like this one did.

Making this a stand-alone was such a great decision. While series are wonderful and it means that I don't have to come out of the world for at least a little while longer, Origin had the world in it. It contained the emotions and confusion and morals of a teenage girl, the chilling ideas of a scientist, a tangled mystery, and romance that left me wishing for my own Eio. The description and every single part of this book just left me flipping pages until I finished. I refused to put it down and separate myself from this book, no, EXPERIENCE that left me so shaken and filled. It was such an intense and gorgeous book and dealt with so much. I can't recommend this book enough.

Recommended to anybody who loves: The Vampire Diaries (TV show); Eve and Adam; blurred morals; The GiverAirheadHarbinger; Shiver series; etc,.

Book club questions to come later.

Mini Reviews

Hey y'all! Welcome to Words Like Silver!It's Grace and I'm sorry I've been somewhat absent recently. I think I'm going to add a note in the sidebar explaining the situation what with starting high school and whatnot. I know I've been busy and I'm sorry that the blog has been less of a priority, and so has reading.Coming up on the blog soon will be a post about Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie, and next week is Alexandra Adornetto Week! Y'all know about my admiration/worship of her and I hope y'all are as absolutely excited and stunned about me interviewing her as I am! If y'all have any questions for Alexandra, leave them below! Also, next week will feature a review of Heaven, a post by me talking about why she's my hero, and several other things that include a giveaway! I hope y'all enjoy.These reviews are books that I've read recently, most from BookExpo America and ones that I've been really excited about.

Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry

Release Date: July 31, 2012 (HarlequinTeen)

Format: ARC

Source: BookExpo America

Pushing the Limits

No one knows what happened the night Echo Emerson went from popular girl with jock boyfriend to gossiped-about outsider with "freaky" scars on her arms. Even Echo can't remember the whole truth of that horrible night. All she knows is that she wants everything to go back to normal.But when Noah Hutchins, the smoking-hot, girl-using loner in the black leather jacket, explodes into her life with his tough attitude and surprising understanding, Echo's world shifts in ways she could never have imagined. They should have nothing in common. And with the secrets they both keep, being together is pretty much impossible.Yet the crazy attraction between them refuses to go away. And Echo has to ask herself just how far they can push the limits and what she'll risk for the one guy who might teach her how to love again.

It's taken me a long time to gather my thoughts about this one. How do I even begin to describe the effect that this book has on me? I really enjoyed it.Truthfully, I was not expecting it to be this complex and heavy. It's heavy, but nothing that you can't read at any given time. I didn't cry, but I came away from it changed. I was expecting it to be more like Perfect Chemistry, which also affected me but not nearly on this level. I found myself having to put down the book and think for a bit and that's one of the highest compliments that I can offer to a book.The characters were by far the most spectacular part of the book. Echo was such an engrossing character who was real and heartbroken and confused in the best ways. She's the type of character who I feel like I could come across in real life. She made mistakes and she wasn't perfect and she brought more to the table than the usual "popular girl turned outcast" stereotype. I came in expecting something different but her complexity blew me away.Frankly, I was expecting Noah to be a jerk but he was surprisingly heartfelt. I loved being so surprised by each character and how they developed for me in the book. This book completely flipped my expectations and I fell in love with the sizzling romance, dark backstory, and developed characters. There are some books that leave me without words. I wanted to do a normal, long review of this book but mostly it just left me speechless and thoughtful. It's the type of book that both makes me want to tell everybody about it but also made me want to keep it to myself because it made me feel some emotions that I haven't felt in a long time.While I would say that Pushing the Limits was mostly driven by the incredible characters, the plot was phenomenal. The romance, the tangled history that came up, even a few plot twists were employed. Contemporary novels sometimes seem exactly the same when they use the girl-falls-for-bad-boy formula but this was NOT one of those books.If you're looking for a contemporary novel that's going to make you think and is going to make you FEEL something, I highly recommend Pushing the Limits. Echo and Noah's relationship is really well developed and I completely fell in love with it.

The White Glove War by Katie Crouch

Release Date: July 3, 2012 (Poppy)

Format: ARC

Source: Inkwood

The White Glove War (Magnolia League, #2)

Every society has its secrets.The members of Savannah's Magnolia League have it all: money, beauty, power, and love. Some may call them lucky, but we know better. Spells, potions, and conjures are a girl's best friends, and thanks to the Buzzards -- a legendary hoodoo family -- the Magnolias never run out of friends.Golden girl Hayes Anderson would never dream of leaving the League or Savannah, where there's no problem that can't be fixed with a cup of Swamp Brew tea -- served in a bone china cup, of course -- and no boy who can't be won over with a Conjure Up a New Love spell.But when danger lurks and family secrets are unearthed, Hayes discovers that her life may not be charmed after all.Don't miss the second novel in Katie Crouch's enchanting and mysterious Magnolia League series.

I, for one, believe that The Magnolia League is a highly underrated book. It's not one of the books that is furiously marketed and not as many people know about it. For me, it's one of those books that just has such a unique feel to it that I can't experience with many others. If you're a fan of Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia or even Belles by Jen Calonita. It's a dark and creative twist on Southern debutantes!I LOVED the end of The Magnolia League even though it made me want to punch a wall because of the suspense. One of Katie Crouch's numerous talents is being able to manipulate twists and she does it so skillfully. That's both fantastic and unfortunate for me. Fantastic because I love thinking one way and being completely surprised at the end of a book and it takes so much skill to be able to do that. Unfortunate because, well, it meant having to wait for the next book. The second I saw The White Glove War at my indie bookstore for review, I had to have it. There was no waiting until July. I needed the sequel.I loved Alex's point of view in the first one and was a little disappointed that it was going to be dual POV in the sequel. I love her voice and her take on the stuffy debutantes that much. There was a distinct change in voice when Hope was narrating but both point of views melded together really well.I have a thing for Southern books, especially since there are so few great YA ones that really capture the voice that I want to see. It's even harder to find one that contains some other elements instead of only relying on the stereotypical small town setting. The Magnolia League series is such a fantastic example of one that defies the usual.The dark hoodoo aspect of the story is one of the best parts. It doesn't take a classic concept - it takes a concept that not many people think about in terms of paranormal YA and makes it work. It's really easy to understand throughout the book and there's so much backstory and tension that has to do with the hoodoo. I adore this book so much. I do think that it's really underrated and wish that more people would appreciate it. I don't think that it's forgettable by any standards. The characters, relationships, and plot is spot on. There's some romance tossed in, some surprising supporting characters, and it essentially contains everything that I need in a book to be happy.Overall, I was extremely satisfied with The White Glove War. There were politics and there was tension. Plot twists were sprinkled throughout the book and the twist behind the ending is one that completely shocked me. This series should definitely be spotlighted more often and I really enjoyed this enthralling sequel! This series comes highly recommended by me!

Speechless by Hannah Harrington

Release Date: August 28, 2012 (HarlequinTeen)

Format: ARC

Source: BookExpo America

Speechless

Everyone knows that Chelsea Knot can't keep a secret

Until now. Because the last secret she shared turned her into a social outcast—and nearly got someone killed.Now Chelsea has taken a vow of silence—to learn to keep her mouth shut, and to stop hurting anyone else. And if she thinks keeping secrets is hard, not speaking up when she's ignored, ridiculed and even attacked is worse.But there's strength in silence, and in the new friends who are, shockingly, coming her way—people she never noticed before; a boy she might even fall for. If only her new friends can forgive what she's done. If only she can forgive herself.

I was a wreck after reading Saving June. It was the book that I recommended to my sisters - who read it and loved it! - my friends, relatives, everybody that I knew who read young adult and several who didn't. Hannah Harrington is really a stunning writer and not to be cheesy, but I was actually speechless after finishing it.The main part of the book is character development. Chelsea was so obnoxious towards the beginning of the book. She was brutally honest in some ways and completely abrasive and rude in others. She had a flawed logic system that she used to back up her actions that I was completely fascinated by even though I didn't agree with it. I did feel bad for Chelsea though, being friends with who she was and for feeling like she needed to expose everybody, even though I probably shouldn't have. It was so rewarding watching Chelsea develop as a person. Her flaws made her real and her mistake had bigger complications than she ever could have imagined.Chelsea's group of friends after being dropped by her previous "friends" are the type of people that I would love to be friends with. They're funny, unique, and just mesh well together. They felt like real people and they had the most incredible moments together. I really loved all the supporting characters and each had something to contribute to the story that made it that much better.I was floored by this. I had just read Shine by Lauren Myracle and while they cover similar topics, they are completely different. I absolutely adored how deftly Hannah Harrington dealt with the politics and friend groups and confusion that makes up social life, especially Chelsea's. The way that she repaired relationships when she made mistakes was just as important as when she started relationships and fit really well with her personality.Overall, Speechless is a book that really touched me and will definitely be a reread for me. It had life in it, mistakes, real characters and relationships, and everything that I want in a book to make me happy. If you're a fan of contemporary, flawed characters, or romance, I highly recommend this book. Speechless left me speechless.

I hope y'all enjoyed my reviews! Again, sorry for the minimal posting recently but look forward to Alexandra Adornetto Week on the blog next week! Love y'all!Grace
Heaven by Alexandra Adornetto

Hey y'all! Today is the first day of Alexandra Adornetto Week! Since she is my hero and her series has impacted me so strongly, I'm celebrating by hosting a giveaway of the series, a review, a few posts, and an interview with Alexandra herself! For now, enjoy my review of Heaven, the final book in the Halo series! I love y'all and I hope you enjoy!

Release Date: August 21, 2012

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Format: ARC

Source: Publisher

Heaven (Halo, #3)

Only sixteen when she started the series, Ally Adornetto knows how teen hearts beat, and this long-awaited conclusion is certain to be her most popular book yet. 

Bethany, an angel sent to Earth, and her mortal boyfriend, Xavier, have been to Hell and back. But now their love will be put to its highest test yet, as they defy Heavenly law and marry. They don’t tell Beth’s archangel siblings, Gabriel and Ivy, but the angels know soon enough, and punishment comes in a terrifying form: the Sevens, who are rogue angels bent on keeping Beth and Xavier apart, destroying Gabriel and Ivy, and darkening angelic power in the heavens.The only way Bethany and Xavier can elude the Sevens is to hide in the open, and blend in with other mortals their own age. Gabriel and Ivy set them up at college, where they can’t reveal their relationship, and where there is still danger around each corner. Will Bethany be called back to Heaven – forever – and face leaving the love of her life?

My Review:How do I even begin to describe the series that has completely changed me? Some people assume that it’s just another paranormal romance – just another sappy love story – but it’s so much MORE than that for me. Not only is Beth and Xavier’s love healthy, developed, and the type of love that I would LOVE to have in my life, Alexandra Adornetto is such an inspiration. Her writing is phenomenal, she’s a great person, and her endings leave me speechless.I've been dreaming for a book like this for ages. I wasn’t as much a fan of Hades as I was of Halo, but Heaven blew them both out of the water. There were so many concepts and ideas that were introduced in the first two books that exploded completely in the third and added complexity to the story. It felt like there were so many layers to the book, even though it seems like there would only be one: Bethany and Xavier staying together.May I just say in warning that this book made me cry. No. Not just cry. Bawl. Sob my eyes out. It made me cry even harder than I did when I read The Fault in Our Stars. For some reason, happy endings make me cry more than sad endings do. I don’t know why, but I think it’s because it’s just so perfect and agonizing and incredible that people can go through so much and still come out okay.The trials in this book are like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Every time that I thought that it was hopeless, my perspective was turned around when a new plot twist hit. Each trial that they endured and each test that Xavier and Bethany face only strengthened their relationship.It was everything from the previous books – intensified. Everything seemed more vibrant, written more passionately, tension filled the pages, and everything was all-or-nothing.Alexandra Adornetto did an excellent job with time. While some people may have doubted the authenticity of Bethany and Xavier’s relationship in the beginning, this definitely proves that it was NOT insta-love. Their idea of marriage involved a complete commitment to each other and they had dealt with enough trials that proved that their love for each other was real. Everything that Bethany experiences stems from her love with Xavier. She’s meant to love as an angel and her love was so potent for him.Heaven had the perfect mixture of light and dark, something that Alexandra Adornetto has such an excellent grasp of. She has this perfect sense of when to make things lighter and when to make them darker and tense. I love light books, but I love twisty and desperate and dark books too. It had all the right moods at all the right moments and it all just completely contributed to my reading experience.I can’t believe that this series is coming to an end. It’s what really inspired me to start writing and start reading even more than I already did (which is saying a lot!) It’s such a great series for both those who love paranormal like I do and those who don’t. It has tension, action, darkness, love, friendship, complexity, description…everything that I want from a book. From a scale of one to ten, Heaven is a thousand. I can’t even put into words how much my heart longed for this book and how it broke so many times while reading it. I want to read more books that give me this feeling – I’m heartbroken that it’s ended but it just makes me feel so alive. It means that if there’s love like this out in the world, anything is possible.Extended Review:I’m a sucker for beautiful description. Alexandra Adornetto manages to conjure an evocative setting in only a few sentences. Her descriptions are lush and every word is perfectly plucked to create breathtaking settings in my head without being too specific. I adore her for this special talent that she has. I wish more writers would be that descriptive. Seriously, I’m a sucker for description. It’s why books like Daughter of Smoke and Bone and The Scorpio Races appeal to me so much.After I finished this book, I sat in my bed and cried for a  good two hours. I stayed up until two A.M. to finish it because I literally could not put it down. It’s impossible to even try to describe my love and addiction to this series. I don’t think that there’s even a word in the English language that could sum up how I felt right after reading this.Excuse me if this review is a little discombobulated. Most often, my best reviews are of books that I loved but wasn’t completely changed by, and I’m having trouble trying to come up with the exact way to persuade every single one of you to go out and buy this book. I promise you – this is one of the best books that I’ve read this year and I don’t think any other has even come close to the heartwrenching emotions that I felt while reading this.So many things happen in this book, but not in a way where the pacing was confusing. Each scene blends seamlessly into the next, with plot twists and everything coming together and the entire series built up to this finale. I try not to expect too much of final books, but this final book was one that I had such high expectations for that I was nervous about picking it up. What if it wasn’t as good? What if I didn’t get exactly what I wanted from it? I did.Imagine the first time you read your favorite book. It sucks you in and spits you back out at the end. It’s just you and this world of fantastical imagination. The rest of the world doesn’t matter. Nothing does, but reading one more word. One more sentence. One more chapter. It goes this way until you’ve finished, and you feel completely changed. It’s the type of book that fills you and makes you completely whole. It’s like I didn’t know what I was missing until I read Heaven and my world was flipped upside down. I’ve reread Halo so many times, looking for that feeling again. Now, I’ve found it, and it’s a thousand times better.While the first book in the series seemed flawless, this was even more so, if that’s even possible. I didn’t think that it was possible for Alexandra Adornetto to get even better. It’s so great reading this book by her and reminding myself of why she’s my hero with every word that touches me.Bethany came into the series as a naïve young girl. Now, she’s still slightly naïve but the experiences that she’s gone through and the trials that she’s endured in order for her and Xavier to be together…she’s really blossomed into somebody. In the first book, her siblings criticize her from being distracted from her focus on Earth by falling in love with Xavier, but it felt like her entire purpose was to fall for Xavier. The world needs more love like theirs. It was so passionate and poignant. Some people don’t believe in teen love; they say that they’ll just break up and depending on your age, it isn’t “real” love. It’s why so many people object when teens get married in books or in movies. I personally wouldn’t, but I think it completely worked in this book. They were so in love with each other, but they were also the best of friends and that’s how love’s supposed to be.Xavier is supposed to be the perfect guy and he is when it comes to Bethany. I liked how we got to see a bit more of his vulnerable side in Heaven, but he’s never willing to let her go. He isn’t overbearing and he completely does whatever it takes to ensure Bethany’s safety and happiness. He thinks of her before he thinks of himself and is absolutely head over heels for her. He’s willing to step up to the plate when needed or when Bethany is in danger.I loved how it wasn’t always Xavier who saved Bethany. Not every book has to be a damsel-in-distress story. Bethany is girly and lovestruck. She’s mature, but she still has some growing up to do. She is completely strong though. She’s always willing to do whatever it takes to make sure that her and Xavier can stay together and that the people she loves are safe.There were some supporting characters that we met in previous books that were mentioned briefly but never fully brought back. There were some who were also completely fleshed out and brought back. They ended up being extremely important to the plot and I completely fell in love with them. Molly was more complex and twisted than she used to be in the confused way of a girl who isn’t sure what she wants. We were introduced to Spencer, Mary Ellen, Raphael. We had cameos from Xavier’s family towards the end and saw a darker side of Heaven and Hell. New creatures were introduced: the Sevens, reapers, more arch angels. There were just as many characters.There were some characters that I missed hearing as much about, but I was more than happy with the way that the series panned out. I missed hearing more about Ivy and Gabriel (who actually was mentioned quite a bit) and I also really really really missed Jake. Okay, I said it. I love Jake. I wished he would have come up more. There were all these built up references to the love triangle in previous books but after Hades, he only appeared once. I wanted more of an epic showdown between him and Xavier, and I thought that there would be more even after the climax of Hades. I adore Jake. I would love to even see a short story about him. I love the good guys like Xavier, but Jake is my idea of a bad boy.There were so many other love stories woven into this one that were tangled and confusing and upsetting and contrasted so well with Bethany and Xavier’s story. There were so many great emotions in every scene of this book and every word broke my heart and stitched it back together.I was kind of expecting more from him and the demons. The entire point of the angels coming down was to snuff out the darkness from Venus Cove but towards the end of the series, it slowed down. There was never really a definite end to the battle of angels vs. demons, nor was it mentioned much. I was expecting it to be equal with Bethany and Xavier’s relationship as the center point of the book but there wasn’t much of a climax for that plot. It was mostly just about Bethany and Xavier’s love. I loved it, but I was expecting more of a plot that had to do with the fate of the world.I’m just so passionate about this book. If you’re looking for a love story, if you’re looking for an epic story, if you’re looking for something to brighten your day, if you’re looking for something to break your heart, if you’re looking for a book to make you feel alive, this book is for you.I honestly think that I’m the biggest fan of this book and of this author out there so it’s incredible for me to have had this experience with the series. It’s not even a book anymore. It’s so much more than that. This book is heaven. This book is everything that I’ve always wanted to feel, complete at 417 pages. It gives me hope that there are still books like this out there. It’s absolutely stunning. Thank you so much to Alexandra Adornetto for writing this series – you have no idea how much it means to me.Recommended for anybody who loves: Shiver; angels; romantic stories; Vampire AcademyVenom; The Notebook; etc,.No book club questions.

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Release Date: August 7, 2012

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Format: ARC

Source: BookExpo America

Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass, #1)

After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin.

Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king's council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she'll serve the kingdom for three years and then be granted her freedom. Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilirating. But she's bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her... but it's the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best. Then one of the other contestants turns up dead... quickly followed by another. Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.

Overall Review:This book was HIGHLY preached. With an epic comparison (The Hunger Games meets Game of Thrones!) I had high expectations. The world was striking and absorbing. There was the perfect amount of tension, cleverness, and enough plot twists to keep the stakes extremely high.There were many familiar elements in Throne of Glass that really contributed to my overall impression of the book. What I loved was how Sarah J. Maas took traditional themes and elements (like the masked ball! the competition!) and made them completely unique. Her multiple-perspective writing style didn't evaporate any tension but contributed to it and she really did a great job slipping easily into other characters' POVs. I was intoxicated by this rich and intense book. There were sword fights and instances where we saw just how clever Caelaena was.The first fifty pages are rather slow, but if you push yourself past those, it immediately grips you and doesn't let you go. It's the type of book that I honestly debated my ability to review, lest I fill it completely with "wow"s and "I don't know how to describe this. Just wow"s.  If I hadn't already posted about my mid-year favorites, this definitely would have made the lists.I picked it up at BEA and thought it looked really good, but I wasn't expecting it to be as special as it was. It was really something else. The feel of it - the mood and everything else - left me speechless. I've been looking for a book like this and I could not have higher praises than this because I'm in love with this book.Caelaena was an intriguing character to say the least. Caeleana is an assassin, captured the year before and put in a camp filled with slaves and overseers who weren't afraid to beat them mercilessly. Endovier is called a death camp. When she's about to give up, someone arrives for her. The crown prince has come to take her back to the castle and fight for her rightful place as Ardalan's Assassin. For four years, she will work for the king, killing for him, until she will finally be freed. If she fails, she will die or be sent back to Endovier, a fate worse than death.There's a catch: her competitors will not know that she is Caelaena, the famous assassin. Few people in the castle even know that a competition is going on. Her competitors - a range of soldiers, assassins, and thieves, each sponsored by a duke or member of the court - will know her as a lowly jewel thief, and she will be forced to endure their snickering and bantering. Lady Lillian.Caelaena focuses on her winning, and molding her body back into shape. She vows to train harder than ever before. She runs every morning until she vomits and works herself for hours on end, watched over by the Chief of the Guard, Chaol, the best friend of the prince.But something worse is happening in the castle, and soon, Caelaena may have more to worry about than just getting herself back into shape. Magic - a practice that the king outlawed - is happening, and champions are found with their entrails ripped out in the hallways. The way that they died remains a mystery. Magic is stirring, and before long, they may have more than the championship to worry about.I really adored the action in the book. I can basically apply the description "I adore" to anything in this book because I fell in love with almost everything. Head over heels in love. I adored the descriptions, how the scenes were made up, the characters, the supporting characters, the action, the backstory, the tension, the romantic tension...ah! I loved it all!I feel like Caelaena as a character really developed and we learned more about her as the story went on, but I wished that we had a more intimate scope of her thoughts. When it was from her POV, she was a more calculating personality, and we were shown first-hand just how strong and clever she was! This was great and I loved it, but I was waiting for the moment when I REALLY connected with her on a deeper emotional level. I did adore her as a character and she was really badass. Her backstory wasn't really explained and while I understand that that may be because of several previously-released novellas discussing her history, I was waiting to feel the extent of her grief with Sam, the explanation of her history with Arobynn. I really would have liked to know more about Sam. About Caelaena, I actually wrote a post on what I call "The Katniss Phenomenon" about physically strong characters versus quietly strong characters citing Caelaena as an example.This book had big shoes to fill. Blurbed as a mix between Game of Thrones and The Hunger Games, Throne of Glass will mostly be pursued by hungry readers of both series looking for more. I haven't read Game of Thrones but my brother adores the series and I believe that he would really enjoy Throne of Glass. I know that I will definitely be recommending it to my old Language Arts teacher (a woman who fell in love with The Hunger Games series) and anybody else looking for something that makes them feel the same way.Extended Review:The competition itself was run in a really efficient way. The pacing was perfect for the competition and for the book itself. It wasn't used as just another gimmick or plot device - it was honestly the best way to set up the book and the storyline. I felt like it wasn't copied off anything else, but was written in a highly original and captivating way that left me aching for more.The pacing! The pacing also blew me away. After a somewhat slow beginning (push yourself through! I promise it has action!), it left me flipping the pages with urgency because I wanted, no, NEEDED to know what happened next. It had the perfect mixture of action scenes, tenses scenes, romantic scenes, and more. Sarah J. Maas had this instinct of when to switch POVs that worked SO WELL and conveyed such a fantastic scope of opinions about each character. For example, I found myself marveling over how well the ball scene was done from different POVs. That takes skill.By the way, I also LOVED Nehemia. She was clever, complex, and passionate about her country and what she could do for it. I adored her spirit and fight.I have seen many opposing views on this book, but me? I Loved it. With a capital L. It was lush and fulfilling and I only  have a few negative things to point out. Part of the hesitation about this book could be due to that the first fifty pages or so are pretty slow - it takes a bit to where everything is amped up. I promise you, it's worth it! While the synopsis may come off a bit like just another book that's a mixture of other books, it's really not even though there are many excellent comparisons that I could make. At one point, Caelaena reminded me of, and I quote you this, "a badass Cinderella who can fight". The only negative that I really had was the romance.It wasn't really love or romance, but it was desire. Both the guys wanted Caelanna but it seemed like they liked the idea of her. In the beginning, they thought of her as a mystery and it didn't seem like they had any intimacy throughout the book. I'm sure they knew each other well, but I personally couldn't imagine being in a relationship where I didn't know the dreams of  the other character, what they loved. I just want them to be the one person who I can really talk to about anything, and I don't think that Dorian and Chaol really knew her that well. They commented on her skill as an assassin, her beauty, how she seemed lonely, but it seemed like they made an effort to be around her, not to get to know her. That's just the impression that I received and it kind of confused me. Not to mention that the romance was kind of whoever-was-there-at-the-time. It was supposed to be a love triangle, I believe, and it was just one of convenience for Caelaena it seemed.The second thing WAS a negative for me but I ended up understanding why it happened towards the end of the book. I think that in a later book, I can learn exactly what role it has to play. My complaint had been that the storyline about the magic wasn't deeply explored until the end of the book, when it turned out to be a key point in the plot. However, at the end, I understood why it was set up that way. It just caused a moment of annoyance when reading it when it was first introduced. I did enjoy the magic storyline and thought it offered the perfect touch to the story. It was also really fresh, which is really hard to do when there are similar plots out there.The writing was gorgeous. There were some lines scattered in there, some things that were said, that just blew me away. I wished I had thought of them first! Sarah J. Maas has such a fantastic grip of language. She pulled out the right words at the right time and I was stunned. Her description is unparalleled and there were some moments so evocative that I could have sworn that I was in the world, feeling exactly what Caeleana did.She did such a great job with tension! There was that passion hidden in there, that spark that I look for when reading a book. It was the spark that grabbed me when I first read Twilight and Fallen. That intensity I felt when I first read Hush Hush. In her Interrobang YA video, Kristi discussed "gateway books" and I do believe that Throne of Glass gave me that feeling that she describes. Even when hopping heads, she managed to not reveal anything more than what left me yearning for the next page. This is the quality that kept me up until 3 A.M. reading.The world building was phenomenal. Even though we're only introduced to life inside the castle and the structure of life there, it's effortlessly built and really well written. I hope we'll see more of outside its walls when the next book comes! There are several ebook only novellas also accompanying the series that I may have to read. I can't wait to see more of this world! The kingdom is slowly taking over other lands and the king is ruthless. His soldiers kill innocent people and Caelaena possesses such a hatred for him because he killed her family. I would love to see more of the devious king and I'm sure we will!Overall, Throne of Glass was a book that I really loved and do highly recommend for anybody looking for something to fill the void of The Hunger Games or Game of Thrones. Fans of fantasies such as Eragon or Lord of the Rings (yes, I made that reference!) may enjoy the feel of the world that Sarah J. Maas creates and the excellent worldbuilding. There are so many things that make Throne of Glass appeal to people who love those series and the average reader while there are also a billion things that make it wholly original. Beautiful writing, magnificent pacing, and a special mood to Throne of Glass make it a standout for me.Recommended for anybody who loves: Game of Thrones; The Hunger Games; Lord of the Rings; Eragon; Cinderella; Venom; Harry Potter; Dragon Slippers; Rift; Grave Mercy; high fantasy; strong characters; vivid worldbuilding, etc,.Possible book club questions:Discuss the similarities found in Throne of Glass to other bestselling series. How did Sarah J. Maas make them her own?Read this post. How does Caelaena's physical strength make her strong?How does the romance compare to other romances in series? etc,.