Novel Secrets with Mackenzi Lee


Today is my turn on the Novel Secrets tour hosted by Liza Wiemer. For my stop I have Mackenzi Lee, author of This Monstrous Thing sharing her secret.

Coincidence? I think NOT!

When I wrote This Monstrous Thing, I had never been to Geneva, where the novel is set. A few weeks before I got my copy edits back from my publisher, a friend and I decided to travel Switzerland end to end as a sort of belated research trip. We started in Zurich, and meandered our way through Bern, Gruyere, Lucerne, and the Alps until we finally ended up at Chateau Chillon, a castle on the shores of Lake Geneva and the basis for Oliver’s abandoned home in TMT, before we ended up in the winding streets of Geneva.

I was nervous about visiting Geneva–mostly because I was certain I would get there and discover I had gotten it totally wrong in my novel. Guide books and Google streetview can only do so much to capture the feeling of a place. On our first morning there, my friend and I made our way through the Old Town, where the Finch family lives in This Monstrous Thing, to the square I had long ago decided is the location of their shop when I mapped out the footpaths Alasdair and Oliver take in the book.

And lo and behold, what was really in that corner shop, but a restaurant called Clemence–which happens to be the name of one of the main characters in This Monstrous Thing!

Truly, I thought to myself, this is a Frankensign. ~Mackenzi Lee

Novel Secrets with Mackenzi LeeThis Monstrous Thing by Mackenzi Lee
Published by Katherine Tegen Books
Published: September 22nd 2015
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In 1818 Geneva, men built with clockwork parts live hidden away from society, cared for only by illegal mechanics called Shadow Boys. Two years ago, Shadow Boy Alasdair Finch’s life shattered to bits.

His brother, Oliver—dead.

His sweetheart, Mary—gone.

His chance to break free of Geneva—lost.

Heart-broken and desperate, Alasdair does the unthinkable: He brings Oliver back from the dead.

But putting back together a broken life is more difficult than mending bones and adding clockwork pieces. Oliver returns more monster than man, and Alasdair’s horror further damages the already troubled relationship.

Then comes the publication of Frankenstein and the city intensifies its search for Shadow Boys, aiming to discover the real life doctor and his monster. Alasdair finds refuge with his idol, the brilliant Dr. Geisler, who may offer him a way to escape the dangerous present and his guilt-ridden past, but at a horrible price only Oliver can pay…

About Mackenzi Lee

Mackenzi Lee holds a BA in history and an MFA from Simmons College in writing for children and young adults.

She loves Diet Coke, sweater weather, and Star Wars. On a perfect day, she can be found enjoying all three. She currently lives in Boston, where she works as a bookseller and almost never reanimates corpses. Almost.

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Review: Things You Kiss Goodbye – Leslie Connor


Title: Things You Kiss Goodbye [Amazon]
Author: Leslie Connor [website]
Publisher: Harper Teen
Genre: Contemporary
Source/Type: Edelweiss/eARC
Stars: 3 of 5

Publisher Description:
Bettina Vasilis can hardly believe it when basketball star Brady Cullen asks her out, and she just about faints when her strict father actually approves of him.

But when school starts up again, Brady changes. What happened to the sweet boy she fell in love with? Then she meets a smoldering guy in his twenties, and this “cowboy” is everything Brady is not—gentle, caring, and interested in getting to know the real Bettina.

Bettina knows that breaking up with Brady would mean giving up her freedom—and that it would be inappropriate for anything to happen between her and Cowboy. Still, she can’t help that she longs for the scent of his auto shop whenever she’s anywhere else.

When tragedy strikes, Bettina must tell her family the truth—and kiss goodbye the things she thought she knew about herself and the men in her life.

Leslie Connor has written a lyrical, heartbreaking, and ultimately hopeful story about family, romance, and the immense power of love.

My Thoughts:
I have been on a roll of reading just okay books. I haven’t really been wowed by anything so I was hopeful that this would break me out of that funk. It had great responses from my reading friends and it seemed to be my kind of read. Sadly it just didn’t do it for me. I didn’t hate it but I wasn’t wowed either. Turned out to be just another okay book.

Things You Kiss Goodbye is the story of Bettina, a very sheltered 16 year old girl from a very strict Greek family. Bettina has been used to being ignored all her life. With a father that refuses to see her and a mother that let’s what he says go she has just existed. And then one day one of the basketball stars starts to talk to her and wants to take her out. With her parents approval Bettina and Brady start a relationship. Only after the summer Brady changes. The sweet boy Bettina knew is no longer there and she doesn’t know what to do. Dating Brady gave her freedom but being with him is hurting her. And then she meets Cowboy, a much older guy she never expected to like. The two become fast friends but in secret. And when things take a turn Bettina must decide what is more important to her, her freedom or her heart. But as Bettina decides fate moves in and Bettina then has to learn how to live her life.

I don’t know, I really liked the idea in theory. I was curious as to how Brady changed and what happens that makes Bettina’s world turn upside down in one night. I was completely intrigued by that. In the end though I wasn’t as wowed with the results. I guess my real problem was Bettina’s relationships with people. I 100% got what the author was trying to say. It made sense to me. This girl was sheltered by her parents, loving yet very overbearing, and she just wanted to get out from under their thumb. And I got her fear about not being with Brady after he changed. She was finally free, somewhat, and she couldn’t bare to lose that. What I didn’t get was her with Cowboy. Here you have two people that are 10 years apart. At my age, that is nothing. But at 16 and mid 20s that is a world of difference so I couldn’t understand what Cowboy wanted with her. She was a very young 16. The fact that she called him Cowboy showed that to me, so I just couldn’t wrap my head around it. He was creepy to me so I didn’t feel any of the emotion.

What I did like was the strong use of family and heritage. Bettina’s parents were stricter because of their beliefs. They loved all of their children, that was obvious, but they kept them away from the world as they thought that was their duty. I was frustrated reading it as I never had to deal with that, but I know many families that have because of their culture and where they come from. But I also saw how through this Bettina was a naive as she was about things. She had no experience about anything so she tried to get what she could when she could. That was actually the part I liked best in the whole book. That all made sense to me.

Basically I didn’t struggle reading Things You Kiss Goodbye, but I didn’t want to run and pick it up and read it. It interested me enough but I wasn’t wowed like I said. I can see why people did love it and were drawn to it, but it just wasn’t the book for me. I don’t know if it was timing or what, but I just liked it enough and didn’t love it. Honestly though you should try it out for yourself. You may connect in a way I just couldn’t.

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Review: Life By Committee – Corey Ann Haydu


Title: Life by Committee [Amazon]
Author: Corey Ann Haydu [website]
Publisher: Katherine Tegan Books
Genre: Contemporary
Source/Type: Edelweiss/Digital ARC
Stars: No Rating

Publisher Description:
Some secrets are too good to keep.

Tabitha might be the only girl in the history of the world who actually gets less popular when she gets hot. But her so-called friends say she’s changed, and they’ve dropped her flat.

Now Tab has no one to tell about the best and worst thing that has ever happened to her: Joe, who spills his most intimate secrets to her in their nightly online chats. Joe, whose touch is so electric, it makes Tab wonder if she could survive an actual kiss. Joe, who has Tabitha brimming with the restless energy of falling in love. Joe, who is someone else’s boyfriend.

Just when Tab is afraid she’ll burst from keeping the secret of Joe inside, she finds Life by Committee. The rules of LBC are simple: tell a secret, receive an assignment. Complete the assignment to keep your secret safe.

Tab likes it that the assignments push her to her limits, empowering her to live boldly and go further than she’d ever go on her own.

But in the name of truth and bravery, how far is too far to go.

My Thoughts:
This book was a struggle for me to read. I will say that I was sick with a head cold while reading parts of this so that could be blamed for some of it, but the honest truth was that I didn’t connect with Tabitha, hated her parents, hated her ‘love interest’, didn’t understand why it was okay for a teacher to basically bully Tabby the way she did, and found the LBC itself just plain weird and not at all magical like Tabby did. I finished the book and I wasn’t shocked at all by the revelation, but I did finish it.

Life by Committee is about Tabitha, a high school girl from Vermont that has lost all her friends recently due to her change of style. Once happy with sitting home in baggy clothes and messy hair, she now is aware of her body and make up and how clothes fit. Basically her former two best friends make her out to be slut because she has different interests than they do and they do everything they can to make her miserable. But Tabby has something they don’t, she has Joe. Problem is, Joe has a girlfriend. Convinced Joe and she belong together Tabby takes action to convince him as well. But when she finds a website for a group called Life by Committee, Tabitha is in for a whole new set of problems. When you life isn’t your life anymore, then what?

My obvious problem with the book and that was my emotional connection to Tabitha. Or actually my lack there of. From the get go I just didn’t understand her motivations or why I was supposed to like her. I didn’t dislike her and I hated the way she was treated by her parents and former friends, but I also didn’t hope for good or bad things to happen to her either way. I was basically indifferent which made reading all the more hard as she was the whole story. Don’t get me wrong, she was flat out bullied because she was growing up and I hated that and hated it even more that it wasn’t really dealt with and hated it even more when a teacher was doing the actual bullying, but I also wasn’t all that invested in her either. There was just something lacking about her for me and it just didn’t connect.

I also had a huge problem with Tabby’s parents. I have read a lot of annoying parents in YA but these two held their own on that list. First they were trying to be the hip cool parents that let their daughter call them by their first names. Then they were the parents that were laid back and wanted to be there for their daughter. And then, the one that really bothered me the most, they were the expectant parents that felt the need to keep saying over and over how they weren’t going to screw up this new baby. They were going to do things right for the new baby. Even I who didn’t like Tabitha all that much felt horrible every time they said that to her. I mean really? Really? Why have to to there??!!

I guess basically the gist is that Life by Committee just wasn’t the book for me. I know a bunch of people that really enjoyed this one and I guess I can see how some might, but I just didn’t. But like I say after any review, you need to make your own opinion and don’t just take mine.

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Review: Not a Drop to Drink – Mindy McGinnis

Review: Not a Drop to Drink – Mindy McGinnisNot a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis
Series: Not a Drop to Drink #1
Published by Katherine Tegen Books
Published: September 24, 2013
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Regret was for people with nothing to defend, people who had no water.

Lynn knows every threat to her pond: drought, a snowless winter, coyotes, and, most importantly, people looking for a drink. She makes sure anyone who comes near the pond leaves thirsty, or doesn't leave at all.

Confident in her own abilities, Lynn has no use for the world beyond the nearby fields and forest. Having a life means dedicating it to survival, and the constant work of gathering wood and water. Having a pond requires the fortitude to protect it, something Mother taught her well during their quiet hours on the rooftop, rifles in hand.

But wisps of smoke on the horizon mean one thing: strangers. The mysterious footprints by the pond, nighttime threats, and gunshots make it all too clear Lynn has exactly what they want, and they won’t stop until they get it….

With evocative, spare language and incredible drama, danger, and romance, debut author Mindy McGinnis depicts one girl’s journey in a barren world not so different than our own.

This book was on my radar before it was even out and in my possession on release date. I mean a post-apocalyptic dystopian where there is a water shortage that isn’t a series? Yes, please. But for some reason, I never got around to reading it. I wanted to, really wanted to, but it just never happened. Well until now that is. And the bonus, it was just as great as everyone said it was. It was unique and well written and had great characters and a completely new world that hasn’t been used before which is hard in a genre that is heavy in dysptopians.

Not a Drop to Drink is the story of Lynn, a girl that has been raised in a world where water is a luxury people can’t afford. It’s controlled by the government letting the citizens fend for themselves and causing all hell to break loose. Gone are the days were people follow laws. Instead, you have to defend yourself and what’s yours. And that is exactly what Lynn has been raised to do. But after never relying on anyone Lynn finds herself making allies and connections she never expected and work with people that come to mean something to her in hope of saving all their lives. It just a matter of how far you are willing to go to save what matters.

The concept of this book completely freaked me out and made me super thirsty. Ha. But seriously the idea of water being something you can’t just have, that you need to be rich enough to afford, is a world I don’t want to think about living in. Like everyone, I take water for granted and Lynn was the exact opposite. She grew up having to know its worth and knowing what she had to do to protect it. And for me, that is no way to have to live. But even with all the struggles and her outer hardness, Lynn had a huge heart and made difficult decisions. In the beginning, I didn’t see that about her but as the book progressed and the plot moved along I really grew a soft spot for her and by the end, I liked her a lot.

What really made the book for me though was McGinnis decision to add in a core group of secondary characters like Lucy, Eli and Stebbs, that made Lynn likable and less self-preserving and more team orientated. The addition of Lucy was a genius move. Lucy was some much-needed lightness in a story that is pretty dark and disturbing. Sure the addition of Eli added another fun layer to the story and Stebbs brought out the softer side of Lynn. But it was Lucy that really eased the hardness of Lynn. With Lynn having grown up too quickly without having a childhood having 5-year-old Lucy with her brought that back to her. It was an added level and it worked.

The one thing that stopped this book from getting 5 stars was simply the fact that the story just jumped in with no background. I was unsure why they had no water, why they were shooting people, why people were after their stuff, for a good majority of the book. Sure I was able to just assume and figure it out, but it wasn’t actually explained in detail until I was almost halfway done. Also, I had a problem with the danger from the south and how it seemed to just be tied up quickly in a couple of chapters. They had been a problem for most of the book and I just thought it deserves a little more time to come to a head and for some truths to be revealed.

But even with those 2 minor issues I truly enjoyed this book and completely get why just about everyone called it one of their favorite of the year. It was gritty and interesting and a dark look at what could easily be a place we live in. It was well written, had great characters and a good plot. Mindy McGinnis gave us something we haven’t read. I for one am grateful for that.

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Review: Allegiant – Veronica Roth

Review: Allegiant – Veronica RothAllegiant by Veronica Roth
Series: Divergent #3
Published by Harper Teen
Published: October 22nd 2013
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One choice will define you.

What if your whole world was a lie?
What if a single revelation—like a single choice—changed everything?
What if love and loyalty made you do things you never expected?

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

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

2NOTE: Before I get into anything in regards to this book I am stating right now and as clear as day that there will be spoilers in this review. If I could get around it I would but it is basically impossible based on this being a last book in a series and what actually went down in the book. If you do not want to be spoiled I suggest that you stop reading right now, pick up the book, and then come back and see what I have to say.

First things first, Allegiant was by far the best series ending I have ever read. Now with saying this I have to tell you my sentiment is in the minority. People are furious with how this book ended. They feel cheated and they feel used and there is a huge controversy brewing over this. But for me Allegiant was the perfect ending for a series about choices and it really couldn’t have gone any better. It broke my heart, gave me such book anxiety that I was dreaming about the characters(a good Theo James dream never hurt anyone!) and affected me in a way a series never has before. Veronica Roth made a gutsy choice much like3 the choices in the series and I applaud her for that decision.

Allegiant is the final chapter in the story of Tris, Four and company and dystopian Chicago. After the cliffhanger ending that was Insurgent and the death and carnage that was Divergent Allegiant is the story of what is outside the city walls. About what is true and what has been falsified. About how the city came to be what it is today. About the choices we all make. About life and death. Armed with the knowledge that there is life outside the city walls Tris and Four and a few other familiar faces journey away from the tumultuous world where Evelyn(Four’s mother) is a tyrannical leader to an unknown place that is as strange as it is familiar. Integrating themselves into this new society which has no factions but a Bureau and a clear division between what is known as GPs(genetically pure) and GDs(genetically damaged). As lies begin to be uncovered and sides are drawn Tris and Four have to make some hard choices that could affect themselves, their loved ones and 4their relationship forever.

Okay so I’m the first to admit that Allegiant is very heavy with the world building which is completely understandable in this case. Us, as readers, needed a clear picture of just exactly was taking place outside the fence. And even though it is heavy with world building I think Roth did it pretty flawlessly by never using 50 words when 10 could suffice(a pet peeve of mine) and making sure we felt like part of the world, could see all sides of the argument, had a choice on what to believe ourselves. And although it was a lot of information I think it aided in the story as we got to see just what this characters were up against. Simply put, discrimination was happening between the GPs and the GDs and Roth made sure the readers saw that so we understood the choices that Tris and Four had whether we agreed with them or not.

Another part of Allegiant that was different but worked was the use of dual points of views. From the first two books we only got to see Tris perspective, her thoughts on things, her reasoning behind why she was behaving the way she was. Making another tough decision Roth decided to tell Allegiant using5 Four’s voice as well and I have to say I was a little worried about this when I heard the announcement that this would be the set up for Allegiant. But in true Roth fashion she made a believer out of me. From the first time a chapter was from Four’s POV I knew exactly why she had decided to go that route and I embraced it. I was no longer left to wonder what was going on in the sexy, former Dauntless instructors head. I no longer had to wonder if he really had any flaws or doubts or self-esteem issues. It was nice to finally see Four as a broken boy that felt uncertain of his past and of his future and of himself. Up until this point it was hinted at that he didn’t want to be like his father and that was a fear of his, but Allegiant brought it to the surface and showed just how much damage was done emotionally to him by both of his parents.

Allegiant also showed the growth of Tris. In Divergent she was a naive girl just trying to fit in and do what she thought was right. In Insurgent she was a girl that had demons she couldn’t escape and in trying to do so became self-destructive and 6had no thoughts for the others that loved her. But in Allegiant Tris was his powerhouse girl that made tough calls and no longer was a adrenaline junkie. She grew up and was ready to do what was right and to make the choices she had to. Was this damning to her relationship to Four at times, it was, but I also understood where it was coming from. The ups and downs in their relationship, although uncomfortable for me to read, were natural as they made choices the other didn’t agree with, but I never once didn’t feel the love or the connection or their emotional bond. Someone in the book said it best, they were really good for each other.

But really, all of my thoughts on the above is nothing compared to what happened in the final 10% of the book that rocked a fan base across the world. A decision that was so gutsy that it left infuriated people in its wake. Roth did the one thing that 8very few authors are will to do. She killed off one of her main characters…she killed off Tris. And you know what, she made the right decision. I’m not going to sugarcoat it, I cried, straight up ugly cry, sobbing for the last 30 minutes of reading this book. My heart was 100% shattered and it ached when I was finished. But I still think one of the most gusty calls was the right call because everything aside it fit right in with everything that we knew about Tris and the Divergent series from the beginning. This series from the get go was about choices. The Choosing Ceremony, picking faction over blood, choosing sides, choosing violence over piece, choosing the city over life outside the fence, choosing to live or die, choosing to leave. Everything was about choices and when it came down to it the biggest choice had to be made by Tris and she did it in a way she never thought fit her. She did it after being told time and time again that she would never have this characteristic. She did it out of pure selflessness and that is why Roth made the right call. Tris was one of the most selfless people in the book and by giving her life, her safety up to save the lives of all of the people that had helped her and touched her and loved her, she did the most selfless thing a person could do. She choose them.

So yes, I know that my opinion is on an island of its own. I know that Allegiant is unfairly being racked through the coals and I9 also know that if people took a minute to think about it and to think of all the pieces that feel into place through the series and the guts it took for Roth to do this to one of her babies, I think you will start to see the magic that is Allegiant. I think you will start to see why this book is my pick for best series ending. You’ll see why I wasn’t disappointed even though it devastated me.  Veronica Roth did something amazing with Allegiant and I will forever be grateful to her for bringing this story and these people into my life. And for having the guts to do it the way she did. Bravo Ms. Roth, bravo!


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