Friday, October 4, 2019

Coral, or, The One with Some Mermaid Stuff But Not Enough Mermaid Stuff



by Sara Ella

Pages: 384
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Publication Date: November 12th, 2019

Cover Comments: This cover is so cute and may have been part of the reason I picked this book up. The front of Coral, the human and mermaid silhouettes, it all works.

First Lines: 
"She's not sick. She's not.

               Goodreads 丨 Amazon
There is more than one way to drown.

Coral has always been different, standing out from her mermaid sisters in a society where blending in is key. Worse yet, she fears she has been afflicted with the dreaded Disease, said to be carried by humans—emotions. Can she face the darkness long enough to surface in the light?

Above the sea, Brooke has nothing left to give. Depression and anxiety have left her feeling isolated. Forgotten. The only thing she can rely on is the numbness she finds within the cool and comforting ocean waves. If only she weren’t stuck at Fathoms—a new group therapy home that promises a second chance at life. But what’s the point of living if her soul is destined to bleed?

Merrick may be San Francisco’s golden boy, but he wants nothing more than to escape his controlling father. When his younger sister’s suicide attempt sends Merrick to his breaking point, escape becomes the only option. If he can find their mom, everything will be made right again—right?

When their worlds collide, all three will do whatever it takes to survive, and Coral might even catch a prince in the process. But what—and who—must they leave behind for life to finally begin?

Taking a new twist on Hans Christian Andersen’s beloved—yet tragic—fairy tale, Coral explores mental health from multiple perspectives, questioning what it means to be human in a world where humanity often seems lost.


First, I really appreciate what the author is trying to do with Coral. Mental illness needs to be discussed more often, especially in YA, and the way that Coral is set up, with the different POVs and the mermaid aspects is ambitious and has potential. However, I don’t think it was executed well, which is a shame.

There are some problems with the writing here, large and small. First, I never connected with the characters. They seemed entirely defined by the people around them, their surroundings, or their mental illness. The writer left tons of things unexplained throughout the book, with no hints or nudges that it’s a mystery, leaving me to wonder if she just didn’t think about it. For instance, Merrick hates his father, even jumping to the conclusion that his father beat up his little sister readily at one point - why? We don’t really know. Merrick’s POV never refers to some event that happened in the past, hinting that it will be explained, or even show Merrick’s dad being anything worse than a little distant. The characters’ reasons for their actions didn’t really make sense except to move the plot forward. And plot? What plot? I don’t actually care if books are plot-driven or character-driven, but this was neither.

The overall tone of the book is dark, but Coral’s sections earlier on in the book especially doesn’t really match the tone of the writing. It’s like the author was trying to make it fun and whimsical, like the Little Mermaid movie, but it’s just jarring in a novel that’s largely about mental health, suicide, and death. I felt like every page, Coral’s inner monologue would reference something about the sea, i.e.:

“ graceful as a manta ray's glide”
“The intrusiveness of his gaze wrapped Coral's nerves in jellyfish tentacles.”
“The earthquake inside her bones rivaled a shifting seabed.”

A little heavy-handed. Coral’s POV also referred to her as “the little mermaid” about six times too many. I was most intrigued by the mermaid aspect of the book, so it was disappointing when those sections were the most annoying. Some of my gripes make sense later on in the book, but I still think it’s lazy writing not to flesh out this portion of the book, or at least hint at later revelations about it.

The story kind of gets turned upside down right near the end, and I had a big problem with it. Nothing made sense throughout most of the book about Coral’s life, Brooke’s history, or how their POV’s connect with Merrick. This gets resolved near the end with this dramatic reveal, and I honestly felt cheated by it. I’ve seen books do a plot twist like this well, but it simply made me mad in Coral. It seemed to me that the author just misled readers by changing details so that there’s no way they would guess the twist, which means it came out of nowhere, with no breadcumbs that could be followed from earlier on in the story.

I don’t want to complain about this book forever, so I’ll quickly list the other negatives:
- I didn’t connect with the romance and thought it was unnecessary.
- There were huge sections of the book that jump forward in time or leave out details (to service the twist at the end, I think).
- Side characters that could have been explored and fleshed-out were only given a cursory glance. I would have loved to know more about the grandmother and what exactly happened between her and - - Coral to strain their relationship.
- The mermaid/underwater portion of the book is heavily emphasized (cover and all) but was not really a major part of the novel.

Again, I respect what the author was trying to do here, but I really struggled to even finish this book, much less enjoy it.

*Thanks to Netgalley and the author for the chance to read Coral before its publication date.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Throwback Titles (5): The Summer I Turned Pretty, or, The One with All the Summer Nostalgia

Throwback Titles are books that I've been meaning to read for a very, very long time, but have just now gotten around to it. In other words, it's that book you picked up in middle school that may have been a little bit above your reading level, and also happened to have 14 sequels. And what do you, a rational adult do now that you've realized that you stopped a mere five books from finishing the series? Continue, of course.

That's most of my stories, but I consider a throwback title to be any book 5 or more years old. Let's clear these babies out of to-be-reads and remind people of their favorite 2005 novel! I'll be posting a throwback title every Thursday (naturally). Please join in the fun by adding to the linky below and adding my graphic (or one of yours, as long as it links back here) above to your post!

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!
Click here to enter

5821978 The Summer I Turned Pretty

by Jenny Han

Pages: 276
Publisher: Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: May 5th, 2009

Cover Comments: Nothing to write home about, but I don't mind this cover that much. I love Belly's gaze and appearance, but the boys look kind of strange. I love the sun peeking out over the left side, and the font change of "pretty".

First Lines: 
"We'd been driving for about seven thousand years.
Belly measures her life in summers. Everything good, everything magical happens between the months of June and August. Winters are simply a time to count the weeks until the next summer, a place away from the beach house, away from Susannah, and most importantly, away from Jeremiah and Conrad. They are the boys that Belly has known since her very first summer—they have been her brother figures, her crushes, and everything in between. But one summer, one terrible and wonderful summer, the more everything changes, the more it all ends up just the way it should have been all along.


I was a little surprised that I loved this book so much. From the outset, it seems like typical YA summer fare: a pretty girl is torn between two guys and also: beach stuff! But The Summer I Turned Pretty was so much more than that. In fact, while the romance aspects of the book took up a lot of time and words, I didn't feel like it was the meat of the story.

What I found so compelling was the perfect portrait that Han paints of the magic of summer when you're an adolescent/teen. This book brought back perfectly the feeling I got when I returned to the same "summer place" feeling completely different every year. There's this hope at that age that you can change completely over a year, and the people you only see during the summer months will notice and everything else will change too. That never quite happened for me, but it does for Belly.

I also loved the setting of a small beach town imbued with years' worth of Belly's memories. I'm not always a big fan of flashbacks, but they fit perfectly in this book and added to the complexity of the current summer.

Lastly, the other big plot point concerning Susannah (Conrad and Jeremiah's mom) was very touchingly done and while obvious to me from the beginning, made for some interesting moments closer to the end.

I'm not so sure that the end was the one I wanted or focused on the right things (I'm a summer nostalgia junkie I suppose), but I'm excited to continue the series.

In a nutshell: a wonderful book full of perfect and bittersweet summer snapshots.


4/5 snapshot summers

Five October Releases I'm Screaming Over

It's the start of October, and you know what that means! Here are my most anticipated October releases (in no particular order). Covers link to Goodreads!

42288081. sy475 1) Rebel by Marie Lu

Eden Wing has been living in his brother’s shadow for years. Even though he’s a top student at his academy in Ross City, Antarctica, and a brilliant inventor, most people know him only as Daniel Wing’s little brother.

A decade ago, Daniel was known as Day, the boy from the streets who led a revolution that saved the Republic of America. But Day is no longer the same young man who was once a national hero. These days he’d rather hide out from the world and leave his past behind. All that matters to him now is keeping Eden safe―even if that also means giving up June, the great love of Daniel’s life.

As the two brothers struggle to accept who they’ve each become since their time in the Republic, a new danger creeps into the distance that’s grown between them. Eden soon finds himself drawn so far into Ross City’s dark side, even his legendary brother can’t save him. At least not on his own . . .

Release Date: October 1st, 2019
Why I'm excited: I finished Marie Lu's Legend series all up in my feels but satisfied with the way everything ended. Still, I cannot resist diving back into this world. I already picked up my preorder of this book and started reading - I hope it does the previous books justice!

2) Angel Mage by Garth Nix

More than a century has passed since Liliath crept into the empty sarcophagus of Saint Marguerite, fleeing the Fall of Ystara. But she emerges from her magical sleep still beautiful, looking no more than nineteen, and once again renews her single-minded quest to be united with her lover, Palleniel, the archangel of Ystara. A seemingly impossible quest, but Liliath is one of the greatest practitioners of angelic magic to have ever lived, 
summoning angels and forcing them to do her bidding.

Liliath knew that most of the inhabitants of Ystara died from the Ash Blood plague or were transformed into beastlings, and she herself led the survivors who fled into neighboring Sarance. Now she learns that angels shun the Ystaran’s descendants. If they are touched by angelic magic, their blood will turn to ash. They are known as Refusers, and can only live the most lowly lives.

But Liliath cares nothing for the descendants of her people, save how they can serve her. It is four young Sarancians who hold her interest: Simeon, a studious doctor-in-training; Henri, a dedicated fortune hunter; Agnez, an adventurous musketeer cadet; and Dorotea, an icon-maker and scholar of angelic magic. 
They are the key to her quest.

The four feel a strange kinship from the moment they meet, but do not know why, or suspect their importance. All become pawns in Liliath’s grand scheme to fulfill her destiny and be united with the love of her life. No matter the cost to everyone else. . .

Release Date: October 1st, 2019
Why I'm excited: I will always be interested in anything Garth Nix writes, since he wrote one of my all time favorite series, the Abhorsen series. This looks like an original take on angels, and I have no doubt Nix will knock it out of the park again.

3) The Art of Flaneuring: How to Wander with Intention and Discover a Better Life

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Have you ever been walking home from work and unexpectedly took a different path just to learn more about your neighborhood? Or have you been on a vacation and walked around a new city just to take it all in? Then chances are, you’re a flaneur and you didn’t even know it! Originally used to describe well-to-do French men who would stroll city streets in the nineteenth century, flaneur has evolved to generally mean someone who wanders with intention. Even if you’ve already embraced being a flaneur, did you know that flaneuring has benefits beyond satisfying your craving for wanderlust?

In The Art of Flaneuring, discover the many ways flaneuring can spark creativity, support a more mindful mentality, and improve your overall well-being, including:

-How flaneuring your mundane daily routine can boost your mental health
-Why flaneuring isn’t just for jet-setters—you can flaneur anywhere!
-How to manage your stress at the office by doing fun flaneur-inspired activities
-How to use flaneuring to connect on a deeper level with your friends and partner
-And so much more!

With this practical and engaging guide, you can learn how to channel your inner flaneur and cultivate a more creative, fulfilling, and mindful everyday life.

Release Date: October 22nd, 2019

Why I'm excited: I received an eARC of The Art of Flaneuring through Netgalley (review here), and really enjoyed it. Flaneuring (walking without a purpose, closely observing surroundings) is something that I've always craved but never quite knew how to describe it or achieve it. Owen does a fantastic job here and has suggestions for all types of flaneurs, even the ones who can't be physically active.

4) The Beautiful by Renée Ahdieh


In 1872, New Orleans is a city ruled by the dead. But to seventeen-year-old Celine Rousseau, New Orleans provides her a refuge after she's forced to flee her life as a dressmaker in Paris. Taken in by the sisters of the Ursuline convent along with six other girls, Celine quickly becomes enamored with the vibrant city from the music to the food to the soirées and—especially—to the danger. She soon becomes embroiled in the city's glitzy underworld, known as La Cour des Lions, after catching the eye of the group's leader, the enigmatic Sébastien Saint Germain. When the body of one of the girls from the convent is found in the lair of La Cour des Lions, Celine battles her attraction to him and suspicions about Sébastien's guilt along with the shame of her own horrible secret.

When more bodies are discovered, each crime more gruesome than the last, Celine and New Orleans become gripped by the terror of a serial killer on the loose—one Celine is sure has set her in his sights . . . and who may even be the young man who has stolen her heart. As the murders continue to go unsolved, Celine takes matters into her own hands and soon uncovers something even more shocking: an age-old feud from the darkest creatures of the underworld reveals a truth about Celine she always suspected simmered just beneath the surface.

At once a sultry romance and a thrilling murder mystery, master storyteller Renée Ahdieh embarks on her most potent fantasy series yet: The Beautiful.

Release Date: October 8th, 2019
Why I'm excited: I'm a sucker for anything set in New Orleans, and this looks enticingly dark and romantic. This seems like a great seasonal read for October!

5) Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely    member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. By age twenty, in fact, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most elite universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?

Still searching for answers to this herself, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. These eight windowless “tombs” are well-known to be haunts of the future rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street and Hollywood’s biggest players. But their occult activities are revealed to be more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive.

Release Date: October 8th, 2019
Why I'm excited: I'm not sure how this is possibly true, but I've never read anything by Leigh Bardugo! Everything she writes sounds amazing, I just haven't gotten around to it. Possibly because I'm compulsively following my Goodreads TBR in order of date added, meaning all those books I wanted to read in 2010. I love books set in college though, and secret societies, and I've been obsessed with Yale since Gilmore Girls, so this should be a slam dunk for me.

That's it for me! Feel free to comment below if you're excited for any of these releases as well, or whether you're pumped for one that I missed!