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Reached did not reach me.

Out of five stars (on Goodreads) I gave Reached by Ally Condie two. Then three. Then back to two. Here’s why:

I really, really loved Matched. It’s a great dystopian romance.

But then there was Crossed, which just made me mad because there just wasn’t enough of the romance. I wanted resolution between Cassia, Ky, and Xander. It did not deliver.

So then we get Reached, which I really hoped would be all kinds of amazing and finish up this trilogy in a satisfying way, but it was just kind of… eh. Bleh. The first 300-400 pages were all about curing a plague and continued frustrations with the whole love triangle thing. Plus, there was the Society and the Pilot and the Rising and confusion about who was who and who was good and who was bad. It was so annoying. So why did I keep reading? I honestly don’t know.

The ONLY reason that I gave this three stars instead of two is that finally, in the last 50 pages or so, I got a satisfying ending.

However, there are still so many things left hanging. All this talk of Matthew Markham in the first half of the book, which is then just ignored in the end when Ky is actually looking for his family. The tacked on voting at the end… How did we get from Society to Rising to Society/Rising to a democratic vote? I mean, it’s a nice thought to wrap the trilogy up with, but you can’t just spend hundreds of pages talking about the corruption of these governing structures and forms of civilization and then be all like, “Oh, it’s time to vote. And everyone has magically learned how to write their names.” What the heck? Everybody’s ok with that? No one tries to stop the process to remain in power? Anna actually WANTS to be in power? Doubtful. Oh, and, the whole world is going to vote just because Cassia and Ky say it will work? What about all those who blindly followed the Society, or chose the Society willingly because of the security it offered? They all just went along with what some teenagers said? Gah.

That all makes me want to go back to two stars. I am.

Good somewhat clean fun

So maybe I’m the only one who sees this puzzle on sale at Walmart for $4.00 and has to buy it, but I couldn’t resist. I can’t wait to see the faces of my husband’s family members when this gets opened in the annual white elephant gift exchange. Hahahahahahahaha :)

Burning Blue by Paul Griffin

I don’t even know what to say about this, but it was definitely a good mystery with an ending I could never have imagined. Burning Blue is definitely for older YA readers – mature 10th/11th grade and up. Once I got to the answer of the “Who did it?” question, it was hard to make myself keep reading. You’ll understand after reading. I also appreciate the author’s note in the back, in which Griffin explains his reason for writing this story so I don’t just have to think he’s a messed up human being. Maybe I’ll have more to say later… For now, I’m still in shock.

Catching Jordan – Miranda Kinneally

A few weeks ago, I discovered and loved Stealing Parker by Miranda Kinneally. I mean, I seriously couldn’t put it down and stayed up all night reading it.

I’m not sure why I found Stealing Parker first instead of Catching Jordan, which is actually the first in this series of connected books, but I’m kind of glad I did. I liked Catching Jordan, but I don’t know that I would have read another one of the series if I’d read it first. I know. That sounds kind of weird. I’ll try to explain. 
Jordan, the protagonist in Catching Jordan, is the quarterback of her high school football team… which means she surrounded by gorgeous football players constantly. But, they see her as a teammate and their leader, not necessarily as girlfriend material. On a certain level, I can identify with that from my own middle and high school experiences, but I struggled with really connecting to Jordan at first because she truly sounded like a football jock. Like, not just her spoken words on the football field but even in her narration of the story.
Once I got past that, though, I really enjoyed Jordan’s story and what she went through with her family, team, and romantic life. And really, it’s the kind of romance EVERY girl, jockette or not, dreams about. I also enjoyed learning more about the characters from Stealing Parker… and now I need to go back and read Stealing Parker again. :)
I’m excited for the third book connected to these Hundred Oaks books which is due to be released in March of 2013. I’d be even MORE excited if I got an ARC of it… Hahaha.You can read an excerpt of the third book here.
As with Stealing Parker, I’d recommend this for upper high school and college-aged girls. Enjoy the Hundred Oaks books! 
~Melissa

The Scent of Rain – Kristin Billerbeck

I have been reading Kristin Billerbeck’s books for years, and I always enjoy them thoroughly. Billerbeck is a Christian author, so I appreciate the clean cut content of her books, but I also appreciate that she’s able to write Christian books without having her characters be all perfect and cheesy. She captures very real characters who struggle with issues of faith and temptation and decision-making just like we ALL do. Plus, she’s a smart and witty writer, which I love. :)

In The Scent of Rain, the protagonist is Daphne Sweeten, a perfumer straight out of training in Paris who suddenly finds herself left at the altar and without her greatest asset as a perfumer – her sense of smell. Determined to get on with life and figure out what to do with herself, Daphne goes ahead and reports for her first day of work at a new company, faking her sense of smell the whole way.

Of course, she meets all new people who love and support her, deals with the heartache of being left at the altar, and even finds room in her heart to love again (because really, if she didn’t fall in love again, the book would be sucky and depressing). Daphne is a stubborn, flawed, and hard-headed protagonist that you just can’t help but love and root for.

Upper high school, college, and early career girls are probably the one’s who like this the best, though I’m not putting any age restriction on it. The content is certainly appropriate enough for middle school and relevant enough for those of us who have been out of school for longer than we’d care to admit. And if you like this one, check out Billerbeck’s other titles! Enjoy.

Al Capone Does My Shirts

I consider it great fortune that I just happened to discover an ARC (Advance Reader’s Copy – before final edits and polishing for publishing are finished) of this in one of my favorite used books stores in Boone, NC before the book was even published. I read it, loved it, and vowed to make my 7th graders read it as soon as it was published in 2004. Since then, it has been one of my favorites both in and out of the classroom.
Al Capone Does My Shirts is about a boy, Moose, who is forced to move to Alcatraz Island when his dad takes a job working at the prison. Of course, it’s more than a little intimidating being on an island with the most notorious convicts in America, and Moose and the other island kids take full advantage of this when they’re off the island, which lands them in all kinds of trouble and awkward situations. 
In this story, Moose is a really interesting character full of wit, intelligence, sarcasm, and integrity. His childhood has mostly consisted of taking care of his “little” sister Natalie, who is actually older than he is but acts younger because of her autism (in the 1930’s, they didn’t have a name for autism, so all they knew was that Natalie was just different). While he sometimes can’t stand the responsibility, it is clear that he’s the one who understands her the best, and so he’ll do anything to help her. What he eventually does do to help her is nothing short of risky business.
A few years ago, Choldenko published a sequel to this called Al Capone Shines My Shoes. I didn’t love it as much as the original, but it was a good follow up for those who want to know more about what happens to Moose and the other characters. 
If you haven’t read this, you should! Enjoy it. :)
~Melissa