I had a great discussion post planned for today, and then yesterday my internet died. An "outage in my area," whatever that means. A discussion isn't much fun if I'm not online to take part and will instead review two books that didn't end up being exactly what I expected.
by Kat Spears
Published on September 16, 2014
by St. Martin's
Source: ARC giveaway at BEA
Synopsis from Goodreads: Jesse Alderman, or "Sway," as he’s known, could sell hell to a bishop. He also specializes in getting things people want---term papers, a date with the prom queen, fake IDs. He has few close friends and he never EVER lets emotions get in the way. For Jesse, life is simply a series of business transactions. But when Ken Foster, captain of the football team, leading candidate for homecoming king, and all-around jerk, hires Jesse to help him win the heart of the angelic Bridget Smalley, Jesse finds himself feeling all sorts of things. While following Bridget and learning the intimate details of her life, he falls helplessly in love for the very first time. He also finds himself in an accidental friendship with Bridget’s belligerent and self-pitying younger brother who has cerebral palsy. Suddenly, Jesse is visiting old folks at a nursing home in order to run into Bridget, and offering his time to help the less fortunate, all the while developing a bond with this young man who idolizes him. Could the tin man really have a heart after all? A Cyrano de Bergerac story with a modern twist, Sway is told from Jesse’s point of view with unapologetic truth and biting humor, his observations about the world around him untempered by empathy or compassion---until Bridget’s presence in his life forces him to confront his quiet devastation over a life-changing event a year earlier and maybe, just maybe, feel something again.
My take: I went into Sway expecting something completely different. That is probably because my ARC had a cover that looked like the one on the left. And I commend the publisher for changing the cover, because a) the old cover is similar to that of another book with a similar bad-boy-falls-for-good-girl plot and b) the old cover makes the book seem like a cute romance, which it is not.
But enough about that.
Once I adjusted to the fact that Sway was about a completely amoral, constantly conniving, frequently offensive main character, I was totally fine with it. In fact, I rather like characters like that and I did like the book. For me, Sway comes about the closest I've seen a book come to feeling like a John Hughes movie -- the perfect blend of poignancy cut with wacky humor, and characters so sharply drawn that they border on caricatures. The only thing I really wished was that (click button for spoiler):
the book hadn't wimped out at the end. I was hoping for a Casablanca kind of ending -- that Jesse would realize that he and Bridget weren't meant to be and find her a nice guy and watch them walk into the sunset together -- instead of an ending where we're made to think that he's going to change for her.
by Kendall Kulper
To be published by Little, Brown
on September 23, 2014
Source: e-ARC from publisher via Edelweiss
Summary from Goodreads: Sixteen-year-old Avery Roe wants only to take her rightful place as the witch of Prince Island, making the charms that keep the island's whalers safe at sea, but her mother has forced her into a magic-free world of proper manners and respectability. When Avery dreams she's to be murdered, she knows time is running out to unlock her magic and save herself. Avery finds an unexpected ally in a tattooed harpoon boy named Tane--a sailor with magic of his own, who moves Avery in ways she never expected. Becoming a witch might stop her murder and save her island from ruin, but Avery discovers her magic requires a sacrifice she never prepared for.My take: I love witch books, and based on the synopsis I was kind of picturing this one as The Witch of Blackbird Pond meets Brides of Rollrock Island. I also love historical fiction, so I was excited about all the whaling lore. There was whaling lore, and a lot of fascinating historical detail. Clearly, this author did her research, and that attention to detail really shines through. But I will be honest: the first two-thirds of this book were pretty slow for me. For nearly 300 pages, Avery is going around the island, complaining about how awful her mother is and trying to interpret the dreams of the tattooed harpoon boy mentioned in the synopsis. Interesting enough, but for me that wasn't enough to carry the plot for that long. There is also not much witchcraft (as the synopsis explains) and I was feeling pretty restless.
But then in the last third of the story ... ALL the things happen. Salt & Storm saves all its revelations and heartbreak and action for the last hundred pages or so. And those pages were really good. And, unlike Sway, I was excited that Salt & Storm didn't hesitate to go for the gutsy ending. (That's what I talked about in the spoiler above, if you're curious.) So if this one appeals to you, and you're finding the pace a little slow, just be patient.
Have you read either of these? Let's hope I was either able to do a Jesse (bribery and conniving) or an Avery (magical spells) and get my internet working again. I am a day behind on returning comments, but I will get caught up -- I promise :)