Hello, hello! I'm Kayla, a twenty-year-old girl with a penchant for Young Adult novels. Bookishly Spellbound is my little corner of the web where you'll find my thoughts on the books I am reading and the occasional fangirling over other stuff I enjoy.
If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch

If You Find Me
by Emily Murdoch
Release Date: March 26, 2013
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Pages: 256
Source: ARC for review
Rating: ★★★★☆ 
Buy It: Amazon | Book Depository

There are some things you can’t leave behind…

A broken-down camper hidden deep in a national forest is the only home fifteen year-old Carey can remember. The trees keep guard over her threadbare existence, with the one bright spot being Carey’s younger sister, Jenessa, who depends on Carey for her very survival. All they have is each other, as their mentally ill mother comes and goes with greater frequency. Until that one fateful day their mother disappears for good, and two strangers arrive. Suddenly, the girls are taken from the woods and thrust into a bright and perplexing new world of high school, clothes and boys.

Now, Carey must face the truth of why her mother abducted her ten years ago, while haunted by a past that won’t let her go… a dark past that hides many a secret, including the reason Jenessa hasn’t spoken a word in over a year. Carey knows she must keep her sister close, and her secrets even closer, or risk watching her new life come crashing down.

Review: I wasn’t entirely sure If You Find Me would be the book for me. I had a little trouble adjusting to the backwoods dialect in the beginning, thinking it was just so distracting that I’d never get into the book. But after the first chapter, I grew accustomed to it and realized it appropriately added a bit of character to the novel. Emily Murdoch takes us on a journey into the lives of two sisters who were kidnapped and abused but come to find that a second chance at life isn’t always impossible. If You Find Me is a compelling and emotional debut that I am so happy to have read!

Carey and her younger sister Jenessa were recently abandoned by their drug addicted mother in an old camper in the woods. They’re left thinking she has just gone out for supplies but they soon discover that she has left them when one day, a social worker and a father they can’t remember appear in the woods. Carey and Jenessa are then taken from the life they’ve always known to live with their father and must learn to adjust to living in the real world.

The bond between the sisters was one of the highlights of the novel for me. Though Jenessa didn’t talk much, Carey always had some sort of sixth sense when it came to her sister. They had such a powerful connection that really affected me emotionally. Carey is a mature, level-headed lead character that you can’t help but sympathize with knowing how she had to grow up far too soon so she could raise her sister. But it was Jenessa that I fell in love with. She’s just so precious and I found myself continually wishing I could just scoop this poor child up and give her all the love and care she deserved.

It was so heart wrenching to read about all that these two had survived in their short lives, far more than any child should have to go through. Poor Jenessa eating herself to the point of sickness because all she’s ever known is canned beans had me tearing up, and even Carey being so grateful for something as simple as toothpaste. But it was so fulfilling to see the girls get a real home and family to take care of them. While Jenessa seemed to take to this new life immediately, Carey is left conflicted, constantly warring on whether she should hate her mother for what she put them through and missing the home she’s always known but determined to get comfortable with this new way of living being presented to her, at least for her sister’s sake. The feeling of still having to be the adult seems to be permanently ingrained in her and I was constantly yearning for her to realize she could just lay back and finally be a kid.

The ending was a little too abrupt for my tastes; I would have enjoyed a short epilogue to see what things could’ve been like for Carey and Jenessa in the future. But all in all, Murdoch beautifully tells a touching story that held my rapt interest until the very last page was turned.

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Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood

Born Wicked (The Cahill Witch Chronicles #1)
by Jessica Spotswood
Release Date: February 7, 2012
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Pages: 330
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★★★★★ 
Buy It: Amazon | Book Depository

Everybody knows Cate Cahill and her sisters are eccentric. Too pretty, too reclusive, and far too educated for their own good. But the truth is even worse: they’re witches. And if their secret is discovered by the priests of the Brotherhood, it would mean an asylum, a prison ship—or an early grave.

Before her mother died, Cate promised to protect her sisters. But with only six months left to choose between marriage and the Sisterhood, she might not be able to keep her word… especially after she finds her mother’s diary, uncovering a secret that could spell her family’s destruction. Desperate to find alternatives to their fate, Cate starts scouring banned books and questioning rebellious new friends, all while juggling tea parties, shocking marriage proposals, and a forbidden romance with the completely unsuitable Finn Belastra.

If what her mother wrote is true, the Cahill girls aren’t safe. Not from the Brotherhood, the Sisterhood—not even from each other.

Review: I thought for sure that Born Wicked was going to turn out to be another one of those books with a gorgeous cover and lackluster story. I was happy to find that not only is Born Wicked not just another “pretty face”, it is an enchanting, unique debut that quickly became one of my favorites.

After the death of their mother, Cate Cahill and her sisters are left to teach themselves to control their magic whilst keeping it a secret from not only their father and everyone they know, but also from the Brotherhood. In this society, girls are meant to act as proper ladies. They are not allowed outside without their cloaks drawn over their head and they are forced to decide whether to marry an upstanding suitor or join the Sisterhood (the Brotherhood’s counterpart), otherwise the Brotherhood will choose a husband for them when they come of age. Witchery is considered a crime that girls, often wrongly accused, get thrown in the insane asylum for or disappear completely, never to be seen again.

Cate is a brilliant protagonist with her fiery attitude that brought life to the story. She has a good head on her shoulders and she’s just so selfless and responsible which isn’t easy for a girl in her situation. Her bond with her younger sisters Maura and Tess is an integral part of the story that I greatly enjoyed. Their bond felt genuine, all the more adding to the story. Being an older sister myself, it was easy to connect with Cate on how fiercely protective she is of her siblings.

Naturally, Cate has two men vying for her affection. Paul – her childhood friend that she hasn’t seen since he went away to school years before – is the one she is expected to marry. She’s fond of him and thinks he’s attractive but it is the dreamy Finn Belastra, the town bookshop owner’s son (and also her gardener), that she starts to fall for. He’s kind, intelligent and adores Cate for who she really is. Did I mention that he had me swooning throughout the entire novel? Their scenes together had me eating up the pages, dying to read even just a little more about the two. I applaud Jessica Spotswood on her talent to write a believable romance that has the power to captivate readers. It’s not one of those “Oh my God, I love you and can’t live without you!” insta-loves. It was gradual, subtle and sweet and unlike other books, wasn’t the focal point of the story.

I haven’t read many books with historical aspects, but Born Wicked has definitely made me a fan and I will be looking into other books set in historical times. There is only so much that I can say about this book without spoiling it, but I feel that I do have to say that it ends rather horribly, but definitely in a good, leave you wanting more kind of way. Waiting for the sequel is going to be painful but oh so worth it.

Born Wicked is a wonderful and engaging debut that had me up into the early hours of the morning, eagerly absorbing Jessica Spotswood’s breathtaking prose. She has most definitely caught my attention as a magnificent debut author and I am anxiously looking forward to the coming books in The Cahill Witch Chronicles and anything else she pens in the future.

Forever Mine by Elizabeth Reyes

Forever Mine (The Moreno Brothers #1)
by Elizabeth Reyes
Release Date: September 6, 2010
Publisher: Self-published
Pages: 361
Source: For review, courtesy of author
Rating: ★★☆☆☆ 
Buy It: Amazon

Seventeen-year old Sarah’s life is turned upside down when her single mom is sent to jail. She’s forced to move, leaving behind everything she’s ever known, including her best friend Sydney. Lost and bitter in a new school, her one goal is to save money and move back home. Then she meets Angel Moreno.

Enigmatic but gorgeous, Angel is almost too good to be true. Except for one thing, his archaic belief that guys and girls can never be “just friends”. The problem? Sarah’s best friend Sydney is not a girl.

With their unexpected romance intensifying to places neither ever experienced, how long can Sarah keep Angel in the dark? And how will he react when the truth finally comes out?

Review: I was very honored when I received Forever Mine for review from Elizabeth Reyes. I’m always up for a good contemporary novel. As much as I wanted to love this book and give it a 5 star review, I couldn’t. While it was an okay enough read, I did have some issues with it. There are books that I can just sit there and read and not put down until I’m done, but unfortunately this wasn’t one of those.

I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that was solely focused on a romance without a big plot so it was a bit arduous to read at times. I need a good plot to keep me entertained. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge sucker for romance – I mean, who isn’t – but Sarah and Angel’s relationship just didn’t grab me. They were cute together, but there was no friendship before love. It seemed like they just jumped right into a relationship and I felt it was more so about lust than love. It didn’t feel realistic. To me, the great thing about a love story is the building of the relationship, where you read about them falling in love. All the cute little moments leading up to the romance and then the sex, not just jumping right into the sack together. As a reader I felt cheated out of the beginning stage where the romance blooms.

I could definitely see the appeal to Angel but he could also be quite pig-headed and possessive which were two things that drove me absolutely crazy about him. It irked me that he felt he could control Sarah’s relationship with her best friend Sydney. When Angel finally forgave her for lying to him about her best friend being a guy, I really didn’t enjoy how he basically made her talk to Sydney less. She shouldn’t have to give up her friend, someone she’s know her whole life and is practically her family. Even if Sydney is a guy, a friend is a friend no matter what gender and I don’t think it was right of Angel to try and take that away from her.

All in all, I did enjoy Forever Mine at times and would recommend it to anyone looking for a good beach read. This book does contain a lot more sexual content than your average YA novel, so if that’s something you’re uncomfortable with I wouldn’t recommend it to you. There is going to be a sequel, Always Been Mine, but I think Forever Mine wrapped up pretty well and could easily be a standalone novel. I’m sure other people will enjoy reading the sequels, but this is where the story ends for me.

Posted by on March 03, 2013 In: 2013, Book Reviews Comments: Add?
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The Boyf by Colleen Hoover

Hopeless
by Colleen Hoover
Release Date: December 19, 2012
Publisher: Self-published
Pages: 486
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★★★★★ 
Buy It: Amazon | Book Depository

Sometimes discovering the truth can leave you more hopeless than believing the lies…

That’s what seventeen-year-old Sky realizes after she meets Dean Holder. A guy with a reputation that rivals her own and an uncanny ability to invoke feelings in her she’s never had before. He terrifies her and captivates her all in the span of just one encounter, and something about the way he makes her feel sparks buried memories from a past that she wishes could just stay buried.

Sky struggles to keep him at a distance knowing he’s nothing but trouble, but Holder insists on learning everything about her. After finally caving to his unwavering pursuit, Sky soon finds that Holder isn’t at all who he’s been claiming to be. When the secrets he’s been keeping are finally revealed, every single facet of Sky’s life will change forever.

Review: This is without a doubt one of the hardest reviews I have ever had to write, even after taking some much needed time to sort out my feelings. It is extremely difficult to put into words how deeply moving and beautiful this book is without spoiling things that are meant to be slowly revealed to the reader. It was an intense ride but there are just not enough good things I can say about Hopeless. Ms. Hoover’s prose has a strong, graceful quality. She’s created these authentically flawed characters with tragic pasts and makes you fall in love with them. Hopeless is a poignant, heart-wrenching tale of love, loss and learning to feel that stands out from a slew of novels in the New Adult genre. It is a novel that I will cherish for a long time to come.

After being adopted when she was five and years of living a sheltered life filled with homeschooling and no technology, seventeen-year-old Sky is starting her senior year at a real high school. Her best friend and next-door neighbor, Six, is the only connection Sky has ever had to the real world. For years, her and Sky have been sneaking boys in and out of their bedrooms, having random hook-ups and creating a bad reputation for them both. But Sky has never felt anything while with these boys, instead she becomes detached and just goes through the motions. Thinking she has a normal, somewhat happy life, Sky’s world soon turns upside down the moment she meets Holder who shows her what it’s like to finally feel.

My heart went out to these characters. They’re both too young to have gone through what they have, too young to be so cynical and it truly breaks your heart. You form an emotional bond with these two and that in turn causes you to feel what they feel throughout the novel. You ache when they do, you’re elated when they are. As you read, you grow up with them. There’s so much character development from the beginning to the end of the novel. Sky is so utterly realistic, making for a strong literary heroine. She’s confident, sarcastic and quite humorous. Her voice is so genuine. I must mention that I LOVE her determination to show that petty things such as high school mean girls sticking crude post-its on her locker don’t faze her. She actually rewrites the notes to something more creative and puts them back up. If that’s not thick-skinned, I don’t know what is!

Of course, every heroine needs their hero. Ms. Hoover has managed to write quite possibly the most perfect boy in both the Young Adult and New Adult genres combined! Holder is the most selfless, sweet boy I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading about. He’s charming, mysterious, affectionate. He can be a little moody and has a bit of a temper at times, which is understandable considering his past. Other than that, I swear he has like zero flaws. I can only hope that there is a real life Holder in the world and that he will one day come to sweep me off my feet! I’m assuming some readers will have issues with his seemingly obsessive nature towards Sky, but I am hoping you will give him a chance. You will see that there is a logical explanation to his extreme interest in her. His unconditional love for Sky will make you melt. The chemistry they have is EXPLOSIVE. Every time they are together, it lights up the pages. And of course, I must mention the best (non) first kiss in the history of first kisses! HOLY BATMAN. Never has a first kiss been so deliciously sexy. Their love scenes are so achingly beautiful; Hoover writes them with such a careful hand and manages to deliver sweet and loving as opposed to salacious. Another enjoyable aspect of their relationship was the banter, there was never a dull moment when the two were together. I had a grin from ear to ear while reading most of their interactions. There is just something so special about Sky and Holder’s relationship that I will always remember.

I feel it necessary to warn that Hopeless touches on such a gruesome topic that might not sit well with some readers. Unfortunately, things like this do happen in real life so I give credit to Hoover for shedding light on such an abhorrent subject. The synopsis and my summarized version of the novel don’t give much insight into what Hopeless is actually about. There are so many complex twists and turns in the plot that will have you crying crazypants, but don’t worry, everything is well-thought out and resolved by the end of the novel.

Thinking back, there were some small unresolved issues relating to Holder but they’re so insignificant that it’s not that big of a deal. But I’ve thankfully just found out that Hopeless will be rewritten in his point of view. You can bet I’ll be reading that the moment it is released! You can never have enough Holder. Boy is perfection.

Truthfully, Hopeless is not a book I can do justice with my words, you simply need to experience it for yourself. I wasn’t expecting a novel to evoke such intense emotions from me. It tugged at my heartstrings, made me cry, smile, laugh. I rated it 5 stars but honestly, if my rating system wasn’t limited to that I would without a doubt give it more – this book deserves all the stars! I hope to see more of the same from Colleen Hoover.

Posted by on February 19, 2013 In: 2013, Book Reviews Comments: 1
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