First & Then by Emma Mills

Book Description:

Published: October 13, 2015

Format: Audio

Devon Tennyson wouldn’t change a thing. She’s happy watching Friday night games from the bleachers, silently crushing on best friend Cas, and blissfully ignoring the future after high school. But the universe has other plans. It delivers Devon’s cousin Foster, an unrepentant social outlier with a surprising talent for football, and the obnoxiously superior and maddeningly attractive star running back, Ezra, right where she doesn’t want them: first into her P.E. class and then into every other aspect of her life.

Pride and Prejudice meets Friday Night Lights in this contemporary novel about falling in love with the unexpected boy, with a new brother, and with yourself.

Review –

“Senior Devon Tennyson assumes college is next but isn’t so clear on why. Her longtime friend and crush, Cas Kincaid, isn’t interested in her romantically, alas. While she is part of his football crew, Devon has other friends who are as individual, though not as average, as she is.

The wide-ranging cast provides background to Devon’s struggles with her future, exemplified by her boring college essay. Add in the long-delayed and dreaded phys-ed requirement to make her unhappiness complete. It’s mostly freshmen except for Devon and an All-American football player and transfer student, Ezra. Also in the class is Foster, a freshman and a cousin who recently joined her household after his mother asked her parents to take him on full-time. Devon’s clearly not impressed with his irrepressible presence and knowing observations. However, her protective instincts go on high alert when socially inept and scrawny Foster’s great ability to kick a football is discovered by Ezra. When Ezra takes Foster under his wing, Devon isn’t sure if it’s a setup or real, given Ezra’s low popularity quotient. With sporadic references to Jane Austen’s famous characters and wickedly inventive language, Mills closely observes the social milieu of an American high school obsessed with our favorite sport and makes readers care what happens.

A fresh, smart, inventive, and altogether impressive debut. (Romance. 11-16)” Kirkus Review

A totally sweet young adult romance mixed with football.  Love it!

 

 

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SweetBitter by Stephanie Danler

Book Description:

Published: May 24, 2016

Format: Audio/OverDrive

A lush, raw, thrilling novel of the senses about a year in the life of a uniquely beguiling young woman, set in the wild, alluring world of a famous downtown New York restaurant.

“Let’s say I was born when I came over the George Washington Bridge…”

This is how we meet unforgettable Tess, the twenty-two-year-old at the heart of this stunning first novel. Shot from a mundane, provincial past, she’s come to New York to look for a life she can’t define, except as a burning drive to become someone, to belong somewhere. After she stumbles into a coveted job at a renowned Union Square restaurant, we spend the year with her as she learns the chaotic, punishing, privileged life of a “backwaiter,” on duty and off. Her appetites—for food, wine, knowledge, and every kind of experience—are awakened. And she’s pulled into the magnetic thrall of two other servers—a handsome bartender she falls hard for, and an older woman she latches onto with an orphan’s ardor.

These two and their enigmatic connection to each other will prove to be Tess’s hardest lesson of all. Sweetbitter is a story of discovery, enchantment, and the power of what remains after disillusionment.

Review –

I didn’t think I would like this book but the  longer I listened, the more  I changed my mind.

Tess leaves home, and I don’t think we know where “home” was originally, and goes to New York City to begin a new life. She gets a job at an old Union Square restaurant as a “backwaiter” and is trained about which wines come from which grapes and why flowers are important to wines. She learns which foods go best with each wine and how to persuade a “guest” to purchase a more expensive bottles and  she has to figure out her place in a group of wait staff, bartenders, servers and chefs who’ve been working together for years.

She falls hard for Jake, one of the bartenders, and who is troubled but gorgeous and shares an indecipherably close platonic intimacy with Simone. To me, his description left a lot to be desired but I guess it’s true that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. Tess says in one place that Jake always had dirty fingernails and didn’t change his underwear for days. Not exactly my idea of a dreamboat.

Soon Jake and Tess fall into a fevered fling, despite the older woman’s disapproval. The relationship seems to be fine but there is always an underlying vibe of co-dependency between Jake and Simone. Tess learns that Simone cared for Jake when his parents died and that their interaction wasn’t always platonic.

Eventually, the bond between the two becomes too much for Tess and the break-up is brutal. It causes Tess to almost overdose and to have to quit her beloved job because if she didn’t she would be forced to move to another of the owners restaurants, a smokehouse no less.  The ending is vague and we never fine out what she plans to do, although it’s a sure bet she will stay in New York City. 

Things I didn’t like: 

I didn’t like that her friends and she (mostly) used alcohol and drug to excess. In one scene I just knew she was going to overdose and die, but she made back to her apartment after having passed out on a street corner. We never learn who took her back to her apartment. 

I hate that when she went to talk to Howard, the restaurant manager, to see about moving up to a server position, he suggested she come back at one am(this should have been a red flag) and she did and let him have sex with her. I felt she knew that’s what he wanted and did it anyway. Soon after this scene she had to quit her job. 

Truly, I felt bad for Tess during the whole book.

Summing up – I didn’t like the book and I did like the book. Makes no sense, but there it is!

 

 

 

 

Ashes (Project Eden #4) by Brett Battles

Book Description:

Published: December 1, 2012

Format: Audio

The hammer has fallen. The deadly Sage Flu has been unleashed. The scramble for survival is in full force.

Martina Gable and her family escaped to a secluded mountain cabin in hopes of avoiding the death sweeping the desert valley below, but have they gone far enough?

Dominic Ray, manager of a tropical, private island resort, has a dream job. The weather, the food, the drinks, the people—life couldn’t be better. What he didn’t expect—what no one could have expected—was that his good life was about to disappear.

In a sea of the sick and dying, Sanjay and Kusum desperately search for a place beyond Mumbai where they and the group they are leading can be safe, and where they can prepare for what the future may bring.

Brandon Ash wants nothing more than to be with his father and sister, but there is something waiting for him on a deserted, snow-covered highway. Something that may mean the reunion will never happen.

 

As Daniel Ash, Brandon’s father, lies unconscious from the serious wounds he suffered while hunting for his son, his daughter Josie realizes it’s up to her to find her brother and bring him home. But the search will be a dangerous one, that will take her far from home.

And then there is Project Eden, watching the plague kill as they had planned, even as they prepare to activate the next phase.

What will you do to survive?

Review –

Ashes is the 4th book in this exciting  series and slightly slower paced than the others  but no less captivating and its nice to have a very slight slow down to find out more about the fantastic characters. 
The subplots have become stronger and more developed and I’m enjoying the introduction of  another group.

I missed Captian Ash as he is recovering from book 3, Pale Horse, and taken a back seat in this book. Brandon, his son, however has taken over in this book and is growing up as tough and intuitive as his Dad a clever move from the author.
What I love about this series is the fact that even one of the sick often doesn’t realize how dangerous they are by doing something so simple they risk thousands of lives.
This is definitely a gripping and engaging read through every chapter. Brett has created yet another brilliant cliffhanger and this one is genius; it will throw the resistance into mayhem trying to sort this one. I’m looking forward to finding a free copy  of the next book, Eden Rising.

 

 

 

 

Everyone Brave Is Forgiven by Chris Cleave

Book Description:

Published: February 2, 2016

Format: Audio/OverDrive

A spellbinding novel about three unforgettable individuals thrown together by war, love, and their search for belonging in the ever-changing landscape of WWII London.

It’s 1939 and Mary, a young socialite, is determined to shock her blue blood political family by volunteering for the war effort. She is assigned as a teacher to children who were evacuated from London and have been rejected by the countryside because they are infirm, mentally disabled, or—like Mary’s favorite student, Zachary—have colored skin.

Tom, an education administrator, is distraught when his best friend, Alastair, enlists. Alastair, an art restorer, has always seemed far removed from the violent life to which he has now condemned himself. But Tom finds distraction in Mary, first as her employer and then as their relationship quickly develops in the emotionally charged times. When Mary meets Alastair, the three are drawn into a tragic love triangle and—while war escalates and bombs begin falling around them—further into a new world unlike any they’ve ever known.

A sweeping epic with the kind of unforgettable characters, cultural insights, and indelible scenes that made Little Bee so incredible, Chris Cleave’s latest novel explores the disenfranchised, the bereaved, the elite, the embattled. Everyone Brave Is Forgiven is a heartbreakingly beautiful story of love, loss, and incredible courage.

Review –

This is a historical novel set in London and Malta during the second world war. The story is, Cleave discloses in an author’s note, inspired by the lives of his grandparents: his maternal grandfather served in Malta, and his paternal grandmother drove ambulances during the blitz. But below the surface of this novel, the author explores the ways that external events beyond the individual’s control influence the private lives of the characters, with either devastating or transformative consequences.

Generally, I’m not a fan of novels about war or set in periods of war, but once I started this one I was hard pressed to hit the pause button.  The characters were diverse, complex, but a bit flat. I wish the author would have spent more time fleshing them out, especially Tom and Hilda.

With Everyone Brave Is Forgiven Cleave cements his reputation as a skillful storyteller, and a sensitive chronicler of the interplay between the political and the personal. As one character observes: “Who knows what takes more courage – to die in battle, or to live in vain? It cuts all of us in two, I suppose.”

I gave it four out of five stars.

Mine by Brett Battles

Book Description:

Published: July 19, 2016

Format: Audio/Audible

Something happened that night in the woods at Camp Red Hawk. But all Joel and Leah can recall is sneaking out for a late hike with five camp friends, and that only the two of them and their friend Mike returned.

They have no memory of what happened to the others. No memory of anything after leaving the camp.

In the years that follow, they realize something has changed inside of them. They are different from others, in ways they never should be. In ways that send their lives down disturbing and terrifying paths.

As they grapple with adulthood, their only hope for understanding why they’ve been altered lies with them finding each other again. But how is that possible when their memories of one another have been erased?

Review –

I am a fan of Brett Battles and will be listening to books three and four in the  Project Eden series very soon. This series is a blend of thriller, horror and crime drama, and that’s what I’m used to when I think of Brett Battles. Mine is none of those things. Instead it’s a sci-fi meets coming of age. It’s a common enough story about how aliens plan to take over the earth and eliminate the humans but this has the addition of the bond of friendship. Without the friendship the three survivors had between them, none of them would have come out alive.

The only thing that disappointed me was the ending.  There was an epilogue and it was very very predictable. I wish the author would have made it a cliffhanger.

All in all, it was a great listen.