Second Chance Sunday – Hold Still by Nina LaCour

Second Chance Sunday – Hold Still by Nina LaCourHold Still by Nina LaCour
Published by Penguin
Published: October 20th 2009
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five-stars

In the wake of her best friend Ingrid's suicide, Caitlin is left alone, struggling to find hope and answers. When she finds the journal Ingrid left behind for her, she begins a journey of understanding and broadening her horizons that leads her to new friendships and first love. Nina LaCour brings the changing seasons of Caitlin's first year without Ingrid to life with emotion, honesty, and captivating writing.

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I first read Nina LaCour a few months back with her second book The Discenchanments. I completely fell in love with her writing style and her character development. Knowing I had Hold Still in my possession I was hesitant to read it because it was so different from the other book. But after a gentle push from a fellow reader I finally caved. And simply put, it was magnificent! That’s really all I can use to describe this amazingly emotional book about loss, and being the one left behind.

Hold Still is the story of Caitlin, a high school junior, whose life has been turned upside down since her best friend Ingrid committed suicide at the end of their sophomore year. Without Ingrid by her side Caitlin is a mess and she has no idea how to put the pieces of herself back together when she feels one of them is missing. Then months after Ingrid’s death Caitlin finds her friend’s journal tucked under her bed. With each entry Caitlin finds out not only more about Ingrid but more about herself though Ingrid’s eyes. With the help of the journal and a mismatch group of people Caitlin slowly begins to pull herself together and figure out that is sucks that she was left behind, but she needs to live her life and let Ingrid go.

It really was a fantastic story. My heart was completely shattered by Caitlin. I can’t even fathom what it would be like to feel the pain and guilt she felt over the loss of her friend. I 100% believed every reaction she had and how she withdrew from everything and everyone until she was ready to come out of her self imposed shell and that credit goes hands down to the writing ability of LaCour. She managed to write Caitlin, her parents, Jayson, Taylor and Dylan in a way that made sense and all clicked together. Caitlin had a broken heart and that’s exactly how she acted. And like all broken hearts they can only be healed with time and patience and that is exactly what everyone in the story gave her. They didn’t treat her with kid gloves, but they didn’t push. They were a support system even if it meant being silent and just looking out for her.

I have to say there were two things I loved the most in this book. The first was the way the story unfolded. As the readers we didn’t get to see what was happening to Caitlin everyday. There were gaps in time and at places the story, but it all flowed in a way that made sense. We didn’t need to read every detail to understand what was going on and I appreciated that. It’s easy to get into agonizing detail, but LaCour managed to get the same story through without beating us over the head with it. In a book that could have been 400 pages easy, she got the emotional story out in less then 250. And secondly there was the relationships Caitlin had with her parents, the new girl Dylan and the boy she knew her whole life Taylor. Those relationships, no matter how subtle, were what made Caitlin strong enough to want to get out of the black whole she was in and to figure out what she meant to Ingrid even if she never said the words. Those people are people that all needed Caitlin and she needed them. Without that supporting cast I’m not sure the book would have been as amazing as it was.

All in all if you haven’t read this one yet I highly recommend you do. Don’t be like me and wait. Pick it up and you won’t be disappointed. And when you are done with this one, pick up The Discenchaments and let LaCour take you on another fabulous journey.

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Second Chance Sunday – The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

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Title:  The Westing Game [Amazon]
Author: Ellen Raskin [website]
Publisher: Puffin
Genre: Middle Grade Mystery
Source/Type:  Purchased/Paperback
Rating: 5 out of 5

Publisher’s Description:
When an eccentric millionaire dies mysteriously, sixteen very unlikely people are gathered together for the reading of the will…and what a will it is!

My Thoughts:
I don’t even know where to begin with this book. The first I read it was over 20 years ago. I was in the 5th grade and we had to write a book report. I have no idea what led me to this book but something did and I was hooked. I read the book, did my report and loved it some much I suggested it to my teacher as a class read and she readily accepted. For years I have been suggesting this book to people. Some listened and sadly some did not. After getting back into reading myself I thought it was high time that I picked up The Westing Game once again and see if it still had the same spark it had for me when I was a kid. I was nervous to say the least. The last thing you want is for something you loved at one point to be ruined the next time around due to your age. Luckily Ellen Raskin wrote not only an amazing story, but a timeless one as well. I can happily say as much as I loved this book in the 5th grade, I loved it even more in my 30s.

The Westing Game is a straight up mystery. It’s a story about 16 heirs that have been called to the house of millionaire Sam Westing to take part of a game to figure out who would want him dead. They are split up into pairs and are given strange clues, at the reading of his will, that they must decipher and figure out who the culprit is. Each of the 16 people involved has a bit of a back story and connection to the Westing family in one way or another but as Mr. Westing likes to remind them, it is more about what you don’t know then what you do.

I must admit that both times I have read this remarkable book I had no clue what the final result of the mystery would be. I remembered small parts from the first time I read it, but Raskin did such an amazing job of weaving the clues together that I couldn’t put the pieces together even the second time around. She wrote such interestingly intriguing characters that I sometimes found myself more wrapped up in their lives then in the mystery that surrounded them. And by far the most annoying and my absolute favorite character was Turtle. She made the story extra special I think. Surrounded by the biggest group of misfits around, Turtle was able to be herself, the biggest misfit of the misfits. She walked to the beat of her own drum and didn’t care what anyone really thought about her. She was kind of ingenious.

But really, The Westing Game is a fantastical read. Whether you are 12 or 40 you will find yourself wrapped in the Westing mystery trying to figure out exactly who did what to who and why. You’ll read the clues over and over, write things down and become one of the ‘heirs’ yourself! So whether you have read it before a million years ago, or you’re a newbie to the world of Raskin and her game, pick it up! You won’t be disappointed, even the second time around.

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Second Chance Sunday – A Fractured Light by Jocelyn Davies

Second Chance Sunday – A Fractured Light by Jocelyn DaviesA Fractured Light by Jocelyn Davies
Series: A Beautiful Dark #2
Published by HarperCollins
Published: September 25th 2012
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five-stars

When she wakes up in unfamiliar surroundings, Skye knows something terrible has happened to her. It's not until she hears Asher, the dark, rebellious angel she fell in love with, that the memories come flooding back. She tries to put the past behind her, but she knows she'll be forever haunted by the ruthless betrayal that almost took her life.

Skye returns home, but with the knowledge of who she really is, nothing can ever be the same. As she tests the limits of her newfound powers, Skye discovers that she's capable of far more than anyone could have imagined. Both the Order and the Rebellion want her for their side as war between the factions looms. She can't forget the terrifying truth she now knows about the Order, but something holds her back from embracing the Rebellion.

Fan-freaking-tastic! That is exactly what A Fractured Light was. From start to finish it was just amazing! Rarely am I given a book so blatantly out of comfort zone that I fall head over heels with and that is exactly what happened with this wonderful series by Jocelyn Davies. It will have you on the end of your seat, flipping pages faster then you could ever imagine all while you are smiling and your heart is breaking at the same time. You will run through every emotion while reading this and you won’t be disappointed in the least.

A Fractured Light begins right where A Beautiful Dark left off. Skye, having been stabbed by Devin, is in the fold of the Rebels. Where the Order tried to kill her, the Rebellion, more importantly, Asher, have saved her. Finally having made her choice Skye aligns herself with the rebels, but she can’t seem to shake Devin and a nagging feeling that she may be doing the wrong thing. As Skye begins working on her powers more things about her past and the war between the Order and Rebels are revealed leaving Skye to wonder just what side she really should be on.

Where do I even begin gushing about this book?! I guess I should start with Skye. Skye is a hard character to like. There is really no in between with her. You either love her or you want to smack her. I am on the love her side of things. I loved her in the first book and that love grew in this book. What touches me the most about Skye is the fact that through everything she is still just a teenage girl. All she wants most of the time is to hang with her friends, or her boyfriend or to become Captain of the ski team. And yet none of this is really possible to her. Instead, she holds the fate of two groups of angels in her young hands with powers she hasn’t even begun to understand. But even knowing all of this Skye still takes it all and brushes it off. She knows her place in the world and slowly begins to understand that sacrifices must be made.

If there was one thing I don’t like about Skye is her wishy washy-ness towards Devin. Now don’t get me wrong I completely understood where she was coming from with her feelings towards him. She had a special connection to him and it just couldn’t go away even though he tried to kill her. I got why she justified it because Devin really had no control over his own free will. It just wasn’t an option for him. But she kept waffling when it came to him and that bothered me. I wanted her to pick a side when it came to Devin and I wanted her to stop keeping it all from Asher.

Oh Asher, how I LOVE LOVE LOVE him! The mysterious bad boy thing was still there from A Beautiful Dark, but there was also something sweet and nurturing about him in A Fractured Light. He was completely in love with Skye and wanted to do everything in his power to protect her, to keep her safe. He may have been considered the “dark” angel, but not to me. To me, he was really the good guy. Basically, he made me swoon.

I also really enjoyed the back and forth between good and evil. Davies wrote it in such a way that at times you really questioned which side Skye should be on, who was actually out to help her, who wanted to hurt her, and who just wanted to be there for her. It left you guessing and maybe even switching sides yourself at a time or two.

All in all, Davies told a great story about finding your place in the world and what it means to be true to yourself. The end will make you tear up but you will feel complete when all is said and done. Can’t wait for more from this talented author! If you haven’t picked up the first book in the series, do it and then get this one immediately after!

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Second Chance Sunday – A Beautiful Dark by Jocelyn Davies

Second Chance Sunday – A Beautiful Dark by Jocelyn DaviesA Beautiful Dark by Jocelyn Davies
Series: A Beautiful Dark #1
Published by Harper Collins
Published: September 27th 2011
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four-stars

On the night of Skye’s seventeenth birthday, she meets two enigmatic strangers. Complete opposites—like fire and ice—Asher is dark and wild, while Devin is fair and aloof. Their sudden appearance sends Skye’s life into a tailspin. She has no idea what they want, or why they seem to follow her every move—only that their presence coincides with a flurry of strange events. Soon she begins to doubt not just the identity of the two boys, but also the truth about her own past.


In the dead of a bitingly cold Colorado winter, Skye finds herself coming to terms with the impossible secret that threatens to shatter her world. Torn between Asher, who she can’t help falling for, and Devin, who she can’t stay away from, the consequences of Skye’s choice will reach further than the three of them could ever imagine.

This book is a perfect example of not giving up on a story too soon. I was about 75 pages in, my usual limit for when a book isn’t grabbing me, and on the verge of giving up. I had no idea what was going on and didn’t know if there was a point. I checked the page count and saw the book is close to 400 pages so I kept going, and thank goodness I did. If I had given up and not pushed through for another 50 pages or so I would have completely missed out on a book that was surprisingly great. And that is exactly what A Beautiful Dark turned out to be…a great great story. A story of good and evil, light and dark, choice and no choice. I’ll try to keep spoilers to a minimum, but it is a paranormal romance so I have to mention some of the weirdness. 🙂

Basically, the book is about Skye, an orphaned girl living with her mother’s best friend in Colorado. Her parents died when she was small so Skye has been with her “Aunt” Jo ever since. Anyway, on the night of her 17th birthday she meets two mysterious boys and from that moment on nothing is the same for her. Things start happening that Skye can’t seem to explain. The more she tries to brush off what is occurring as coincidence, the stranger things seem. And then there is Asher and Devin who seem to be showing up seemingly out of thin air every place she is and who she is inexplicably drawn to. As the book draws on and Skye’s destiny, along with Asher and Devin’s, are revealed, it is clear that everything Skye thought she knew about her past isn’t as cut and dry as she thought and the battle between darkness and light is just beginning.

Really it is a wonderfully told story about destiny and choosing sides told from the perspective of Skye, the girl caught in the middle of it all who just wants her life to stay normal. But the thing is, Skye is no longer normal. She is something else entirely and yet she is still a teenager. She still has homework and friends and a life. She just wants to enjoy her life in the beautiful scenery of the Colorado mountains and she can’t. The arrival of Devin and Asher take that away from her. Now she is torn between her old life and her new one, what she knew and what she is learning and the two boys that have pulled the rug out from under her with the story of her past. And because of this I really found myself liking Skye. She was stuck in a love triangle with more at stake then someone getting a broken heart, she was all alone unable to confide in anyone and her world was on its axis. She could have thrown in the towel and quit yet she didn’t. Sure she had stubborn temper tantrums and tried to hide, but she was only 17, of course, that would be her reaction at times. But for the most part, she accepted what she was and her destiny to choose the path she wanted to take. She rose to the challenge and figured out that she was the one with all the power both literally and figuratively and tried to use that knowledge in her favor.

What I didn’t like about her was how cavalier she was about this power thing. Her eyes were flashing silver for crying out loud and she acted like that was nothing. That along with the weird heat thing that happened when she was around that she barely batted an eye at really bothered me. But in the long run just a minor complaint. Skye all in all was a great character.

And now on to the boys…Asher and Devin. Obvious enemies from the get-go. One a rule follower and the other a rule breaker. One from light and one from dark. They had nothing in common, well nothing except one thing…they were both crazy about Skye. Sent on a mission for different reasons to watch over Skye they weren’t supposed to get attached to her. For me, I liked Asher almost immediately. There was something charismatic and trustworthy about him that I just didn’t get from Devin. He was more shifty and shady. He had secrets and no free will and I just didn’t trust him. Asher, on the other hand, was there to protect Skye and watch over her. He tried to do the right thing and stay away but he couldn’t. He needed to be with her and damn the consequences. The addition of the two of them added to the story and I appreciated that.

A Beautiful Dark really was an excellent story and the perfect set up for what I can only imagine being an action-packed sequel with many twists and turns. Take a chance and read it. I’m surprisingly glad I did.

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Second Chance Sunday – The Probability of Miracles by Wendy Wunder

probability
Title:
The Probability of Miracles [Amazon]
Author: Wendy Wunder [website]
Publisher: Razorbill
Genre: Contemporary
Source/Type: Borrowed/Hardcover
Stars: 5 out of 5

Publisher’s Description:
Dry, sarcastic, sixteen-year-old Cam Cooper has spent the last seven years in and out hospitals. The last thing she wants to do in the short life she has left is move 1,500 miles away to Promise, Maine – a place known for the miraculous events that occur there. But it’s undeniable that strange things happen in Promise: everlasting sunsets; purple dandelions; flamingoes in the frigid Atlantic; an elusive boy named Asher; and finally, a mysterious envelope containing a list of things for Cam to do before she dies. As Cam checks each item off the list, she finally learns to believe – in love, in herself, and even in miracles.

My Thoughts:
I’ve started and deleted this review at least 5 times. I can’t seem to find the words to accurately explain my love of this book. The Probability of Miracles is…well simple put, it is phenomenal. Wendy Wunder managed to make me laugh, cry, smile and frown with this beautifully written story of loss and coming to terms with things happening that there are no explanation for.

The Probability of Miracles is about Campbell Cooper, a 17 year old girl from Orlando that is dying of cancer. She has been battling the disease for 5 years and is at the point that nothing more can be done. Hearing this her mother Alicia decides to try something else and she moves the family to a place she has heard can cause miracles, she moves them to Promise, ME. After a few random occurrences happen cynical, sarcastic Cam starts to believe that maybe things do just happen and there doesn’t have to be an explanation for it. Sometimes it is okay just to believe and be in the moment. With the help of all the important people in her life, new and old, Cam starts to let go and just be.

Honestly there is no way to gush about the character of Campbell Cooper. She is truly an inspiration. At such a young age she is dealt this awful blow and yet she keeps going and she does it was an attitude I don’t think I would be able to muster. She is funny and sarcastic, witty and frank, and just darn right entertaining. She doesn’t let herself be jaded by what has been dealt to her. She keeps going knowing her time is up and she will in fact miss out on stuff she wanted to experience. She doesn’t believe in miracles or hope, but she goes with the flow for the most part and in the process opens herself up to things she never thought possible. She is an absolute remarkable character and one that will stay with me for a long long time.

This book is a must read. Rarely does a book get me to shed actual legit tears and The Probability of Miracles did just that.

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