The subtitle for We Were Liars should be, "I Can't Remember the Really Stupid Thing I Did LasThis book is also reviewed on my blog Books: A true story
The subtitle for We Were Liars should be, "I Can't Remember the Really Stupid Thing I Did Last Summer." I read this book because there was a lot of hype around it. "Crazy Twist Ending! Must Read!" is what everyone said. I don't normally read contemporary YA books, but I decided this one might be fun because of all the hype around it.
My first impression of We Were Liars was that there was a map at the beginning. I LOVE MAPS. Are there more contemporary books out there with maps? Because if there are, you need to tell me so I can read them all.
The short sentences and broken lines made the writing feel very poetic. It also showed the broken mind of the main character, Cadence. To me, I didn't enjoy the reading experience as much as I could have because it felt like I was impatiently waiting to get to The Twist. The Twist was pretty cool and unexpected but it's not like a twist that has never been done before. Ironically, I read this because of the hype about the ending but because I knew there was a crazy ending I couldn't enjoy it all the way.
The biggest questions I had while reading this were: "What happened to Cadence?" and "Why does she keep giving her things away?" The first question is eventually answered, but I felt like the second question was left up to me as the reader to decide. Cadence's attitude towards things and objects was really interesting.
"...the accumulation of beautiful objects is a life goal. Whoever dies with the most stuff wins. Wins what? is what I'd like to know."
- E. Lockhart, We Were Liars pg 46
Overall, it was an interesting read with beautiful writing but the over-hyped ending left me a little disappointed.
The fantasy world that Snow Like Ashes is set in is the best and worst thing about this book.This book is also reviewed on my blog Books: A true story
The fantasy world that Snow Like Ashes is set in is the best and worst thing about this book. The idea of seasons being a kingdom is pretty cool. Some kingdoms have one season all the time and some kingdoms have all four seasons every year. The Season Kingdoms and the "Rhythm" Kingdoms don't like each other. That's a lot of kingdoms and weather to keep track of, which is where the love/hate relationship comes in. The world is interesting and complex but difficult to figure out which made the narrative prone to info dumping at times. Thankfully, the kingdoms and their cities had obvious names to help me out. I liked the play on the names of calendar months for the capital cities - Jannuari, Abril, Oktuber, and Juli. But going for the obvious made it feel a little cliche. The people in the Autumn Kingdom had a Native American ethnicity. The people of the Winter Kingdom had all white hair and blue eyes. It's fun and cheesy at the same time and I still can not figure out how I feel about it.
The magic system grew on me. I did not like it at first. From a logical standpoint, it seemed completely stupid to have magic reside in an object that can easily be stolen (see also: the entire conflict of this novel). I wanted to tell the whole Winter Kingdom, "Duh. That's obviously a stupid idea." Many, many chapters later it's explained why magic only resides in objects and I changed my mind about not liking it. The nature of evil is portrayed through magic as feeding on itself and being about a choice between good and evil. It was actually pretty interesting. Although, there was one scene at the beginning that seemed like it was supposed to have a lot of shock value but since the rules of magic hadn't been explained yet, I was not impressed.
The writing wasn't the best I've read. It had a few cliche sayings that pulled me out of the story and would sometimes tell me things I had already figured out. Villain motivation is very important to me. This villain fell into the category of wanting more power for no particular reason. That is probably the least interesting motivation that a villain can have. I mean, at least have a reason for all this power. Maybe he's always wanted all the things because he never had the things. Please. Something. I kept wondering through the whole book what it was that he wanted. They just called him "evil" the whole time.
Meira is a strong, spunky female lead. I liked her character and reading about her. She wants to be a soldier, not a princess. As much as I liked Meira though, I loved Theron. I thought he was the best character in the book. He was so far from cliche that I don't think Theron and cliche have ever met. Theron says my favorite quote from the entire book:
"There will always be a THEY in your new life, Meira. THEY make decisions; THEY mold your future. The trick is to find a way to still be YOU through it all."
-Sara Raasch, Snow Like Ashes (Chapter 14)
Overall, this was a good epic fantasy with an interesting world (once I figured it out) full of fun characters but had a few too many cliche moments for me to completely love it.
Content warning: some violence that is mildly graphic...more
After reading the acknowledgementsby the author, I could see the Into the Woods inspiration.This book is also reviewed on my blog Books: A true story
After reading the acknowledgements by the author, I could see the Into the Woods inspiration. Stray follows the sappy fairy tale stereotype and gives it a darker undertone especially about it's control towards women. If you kept Cinderella almost the same but made it slightly darker with forbidden magic you might have something like Stray.
This fairy tale was all about controlling women and how they aren't valued in this world even though they are technically powerful. I know it was supposed to be a satire but sometimes it was difficult to read about the extreme rules for them all towards the goal of getting married. The girls act ridiculous and when one of them eats before going to a ball I couldn't get the image of Scarlet O'Hara reluctantly stuffing her face and wondering why you have to be so ridiculous just to catch a husband.
The world building just wasn't very strong. While I liked the plot, it felt hard to imagine the world because it was a little confusing. The biggest problem for me, though, was the question of why these girls would even put up with all these crazy restrictions or where they came from in the first place. That thought pulled me out of the story a lot because it was never really answered very well.
The writing was ok for the most part. A few cheesy lines here and there with the cliche "breath she didn't know she was holding." I'm so glad she figured it out in time or she might have died. And my favorite "Suddenly" was in there more than I prefer. But it had some good writing too. Just not terribly consistent. I liked the characters and their relationships. The villain gives speeches about having fun with the poor, powerless protagonist and it made me roll my eyes.
I didn't like the beginning. It throws me into an action scene right away but I'm not sure why I should care yet. I'm not a fan of when authors do that.
And to be very, very nitpicky - she doesn't use the term "artless" like I'm used to Jane Austen using it and it irked me.
Overall, it was a different take on fairy tales that had an interesting plot but the world building wasn't my favorite....more
The Queen of the Big Time reminded me of Gone with the Wind but set in the north instead of tThis book is also reviewed on my blog Books: A true story
The Queen of the Big Time reminded me of Gone with the Wind but set in the north instead of the south. There's a guy that Nella, the main character, pines for but can't have (who is kind of whiney by the way) and she doesn't fully love the one she has until it's too late. And then she returns to Tara...uh, I mean the farm she grew up on.
We had a great discussion in my book club about this one. It was a book that made you want to have more fun and live life instead of working too much because of Nella's reflections on her life and the choices she made. It also had me ponder about our dreams for the future. I couldn't decide if Nella gave up her dream or if she just got a new one. That was something I can really relate to. I still don't know the answer. Did I give up my dream of music or did I just find a new one that I love?
It was touching to read a story about a family and the support and care they have for each other even when they don't always like each other. I find myself enjoying multi-generational stories like these and how they show the changes of generations and their relationships. My one complaint about the novel was the the plot didn't have much going on it felt kind of slow to me.
Narrator Review: 3 Stars
The narrator, Cassandra Campbell, had a pleasant voice. She read a little slow for my taste but speeding up the narration helped with that. I thought she did a great job pronouncing all the Italian names.
Overall, it was a beautiful story about family and the choices we make with our dreams, our love, our work, and the act of trying to balance it all.
Content warning: a fade-to-black sex scene and there wasn't any language that I could remember....more
I've recently gotten hooked on the Freakonomics podcast so I decided to borrow Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner's latest book from the library. The full title is SuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes And Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance which would not fit in my little title box for this post.
My favorite thing about this book, that also shows up every week in the podcast, is how they challenge popular beliefs about current issues by using statistics to come to different conclusions than everyone else. It stretches my brain and I learn some new things at the same time. Like learning about the whaling industry. I didn't know that oil (the fossil kind) replaced the whaling industry. At the time whaling could have been considered too big to fail since whale oil was used to light houses. A theory that really stretched my brain was the after-affects of September 11 in increased policing of terrorism reduced policing in other areas like the financial sector. I had never linked the two before, but it does make a lot of sense.
That's not to say I agree with all the ideas in the book. I thought the hose idea to fix global warming was stupid but I do appreciate the focus on creative, simple, and unconventional solutions to current problems.
Another interesting tidbit I learned from this book was how to get rid of illegal markets. If you go after suppliers of illegal things (like we do right now with drugs) then it creates more demand and the market sticks around. If you go after the demand the market will shrink. It seems pretty straight forward and obvious but there are a few reasons that we don't do that. As a society it's easier to villianize drug dealers than the poor little guy who wanted a fix. But the biggest reason, I think, that we don't go after the demand is because there is so much more of it. The police can barely keep up with getting rid of suppliers.
Narrator Review: Four Stars
Stephen Dubner also narrates the Freakonomics podcast so I was used to hearing his voice. This book felt like a really long podcast and it was enjoyable for me to listen to. Stephen reads at a good pace and does a good job of adding interest to the book. I find his way of narrating conversational and very easy to listen to.
Overall, it's an interesting and different look at current issues that I learned a little from and was entertained by as well.
Content warning: one use of the f-word and a discussion in the first chapter of the "business" of prostitution. It wasn't graphic but it was still a little too much info for me....more
The author, William Davis, had a lot of really good points in Wheat Belly some of which I hadThis book is also reviewed on my blog Books: A true story
The author, William Davis, had a lot of really good points in Wheat Belly some of which I hadn't thought about before like how much wheat there really is in a grocery store. It's pretty much on every single isle. When you look at all the over-proccessed and packaged foods, it's easy to see why he says that we've traded cheap food for our health. Ain't that the truth. I also didn't know how high the glycemic index for wheat bread was. It's higher than a Snickers bar. So the next time I went to the store I totally bought a huge bag of Snickers. I'm pretty sure that wasn't the point he was trying to make but man - I could have been eating candy this whole time! It was interesting when he went into some science and research about how addictive wheat really is. It causes us to crave food constantly and eat more than we need.
I didn't really agree with the implication that he made that even if you eat healthy and exercise, you don't lose weight if you eat wheat. I do see the value in reducing wheat in our diet after he drives home how much we overeat it. I can also see the value in reducing wheat in your diet if you are diabetic since wheat does have such a high glycemic index. But there are enough healthy people who eat wheat that I just can't see how this would be true all the time.
I learned some cool things about your body and how it works. Your body's ph balance is so important that it will draw calcium from your bones if you have too much acid for your body to neutralize (like from drinking too much soda). The author explained how abdominal fat (which he believes comes mostly from wheat) can cause inflammation becuase it spikes your blood sugar which causes your body to make more insulin and then insulin makes more fat which causes inflammation. It keeps going around in this vicious circle. And when he had a study that said Rheumatoid arthritis was shown to improve with gluten removal I convinced my husband to go on a gluten-free diet to see if it will help his arthritis.
The last chapters got kind of boring to be honest. To sum up - wheat makes you old and gives you heart disease. It was kind of technical and hard to follow a lot more than that. Then he generalized the findings and research he had about wheat and turned it into not eating any starch at all (is this guy serious!!?) to limiting the amount of fruit you eat (say what??). He summarizes his diet in the back of his book to eating unlimited amounts of meats, veggies, and raw nuts, and then limited amounts of non-gluten grains and fruits. I'm really not sold on that. I don't see anything wrong with eating fruit and gluten-free grains as a main part of your diet.
I decided to go on a gluten-free diet after reading this because we eat mostly a gluten-free diet already since my son has celiac.Since I don't like making two dinners and I usually eat leftovers for lunch, I'd say half my diet was already gluten-free. We eat more fruits, vegetables, eggs, cheese and meats now. We still eat gluten-free grains. I feel much better (e.g. I have more energy and I'm not starving by 10 am). Even though our food costs more, I find that we are eating less like the book says and my food budget has stayed about the same. Not to mention our diet is healthier with things like fruit and yogurt and cheese sticks for snacks instead of over-processed crackers. So far, I have enjoyed the gluten-free diet that we are on. I find that the food tastes better. We buy this gluten-free cereal that fills me up longer and tastes better than the wheat cereal I was getting even though they have similar amounts of fiber and protein. The wheat cereal actually had more calories than the gluten-free kind.
Narrator Rating: 4 stars
The narrator was easy to understand and made the novel interesting but I had to kind of roll my eyes at how many times during the book he said "healthy whole grains" sarcastically. He really couldn't resist saying it every other page. I looked at the print version - healthy whole grains is not in quotes every time it's mentioned (it is in quotes a few times) so I didn't understand the need for "sarcastic" pronunciation every time it showed up.
Overall, the author convinced me that we eat way too much wheat in our diet but he did not completely convince me to go to the extreme diet that he suggests in the back of the book....more
Proof of Heaven is not the kind of book I usually read. I'm not a fan of reading near death eThis book is also reviewed on my blog Books: A true story
Proof of Heaven is not the kind of book I usually read. I'm not a fan of reading near death experiences since they seem very personal to me and I have a hard time connecting with them. I wasn't a huge fan of the descriptions of Eben Alexander's near death experience because they felt a little weird to me, but overall I actually liked this book. Proof of Heaven talks about his family life before his experience and the things he personally learned during his experience which was enjoyable to read.
My favorite part of the book was Eben learning about his past. He was adopted and felt loved by his adopted family, but as he grew older and had kids he started to wonder if his biological parents ever loved him. He compares not knowing if he was loved by his biological parents and how it made him unhappy to not knowing if we are loved before we came to this Earth by God can make you depressed and unhappy. Until he went into a coma he didn't believe God loved him. It was beautiful to read about how learning that God loved him brought a lot of joy and happiness into his life.
There were a few life-changing things he learned that really resonated with me. Evil is necessary for free will and free will is so important in our mortal life. He learned that God is human and personal. One of the unique things about Eben's experience was the fact that he was a brain surgeon before this experience and he realized that you don't have to sacrifice science to believe in the spiritual. If we as a society continue to pursue science without also pursuing the spiritual then we will be "relatively bereft in the realm of meaning and joy, and of knowing how our lives fit into the grand scheme... (pg 152)."
Eben had such an interesting view on the brain and how it relates to consciousness. I had never thought about it like that before, but it made sense to me.
The brain itself does not produce consciousness. That it is, instead, a kind of reducing valve or filter, shifting the larger, nonphysical consciousness that we possess in the nonphysical worlds down into a more limited capacity for the duration of our mortal lives.
- Eben Alexander, Proof of Heaven pg 81
Narrator Rating: 4 Stars
This was a great audiobook. It was read by the author which always seems to help clarify what exactly they meant when they wrote it just based on how they read it. He had a mellow, southern voice and read at a nice pace. There's also an afterword in the audiobook that was not in the print version. He blended the ideas of East and West religions and clarified why he chose the words he did in the book which was interesting to listen to.
Overall, even if you are skeptical of near death experience memoirs I think you should still give this one a try since I found his scientific perspective unique and enjoyed the spiritual learning that he did.
I read this in one sitting as a bet against a friend that I couldn't finish a 200 page book iThis book is also reviewed on my blog Books: A true story
I read this in one sitting as a bet against a friend that I couldn't finish a 200 page book in less than 4 hours. I did! I win :) I loved the themes in this one about looking on the inside instead of the outside. The characters either focused on the external appearances of things or the internal value of things.
This story is told in duel perspectives that alternate each chapter. The boy, Bryce, had a charming but sarcastic voice with not much dialogue while the girl had a sweet, funny, and endearing voice with a Hermione-type personality. After reading a while I noticed that the girl, Juli, focused on dialogue and detail. The voices were distinct and I enjoyed reading each of their stories. But I think I might have liked Bryce's voice just a little more because his slightly negative attitude and sarcasm were just so much fun.
Finally I break free and do the only manly thing available when you're seven years old - I dive behind my mother.
- Wendelin Van Draanen, Flipped pg 3 (Bryce)
Yes, each chapter tells the same plot from the previous chapter but just from a different point of view. While the plot being retold did make the book feel a little long and slightly draggy, it was definitely not boring because the author, Wendelin Van Draanen, did a awesome job messing with your perspective and challenging your biases. For example, there's one scene where Bryce insists that he didn't say anything mean and just summarizes what he said and is baffled by Juli's anger. Since you are reading that scene from his point of view, you agree with him. When you read Juli's chapter, you see the actual dialogue of what he said and your perspective flips and you see that he was being kind of a jerk.
That's not to say I chose a side. I could see why each character did what they did and it was so interesting to read two different views of the same events or conversations. Since you know what motivates each of them, you don't really judge them as one being better than the other. I also liked seeing how Bryce would do something out of self interest and Juli would see it as kind. It was cute to see how they interpreted each others actions. They both almost always got the other's motivations wrong.
I thought that this was such a beautiful novel about how important it is to look at things and people for what they are on the inside instead of how they appear on the outside. And when you do this your perspective can totally flip.
It was on a day like that when my father's notion of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts moved from my head to my heart. The view from my sycamore was more than rooftops and clouds and wind and colors combined.
It was magic.
- Wendelin Van Draanen, Flipped pg 37 (Juli)
Overall, it was a cute love story about seeing people for who they really are....more
Elusion was a fun adventure but it felt like an introduction to a longer novel instead of theThis book is also reviewed on my blog Books: A true story
Elusion was a fun adventure but it felt like an introduction to a longer novel instead of the first book in a series. I liked that it took the time to set up the world and characters, but I don't like it when the first book in a series doesn't resolve anything at all. I didn't see any story arc that was just for this book. I read this on my kindle and I was expecting to turn the page and see "Part 2" or something like that. I was shocked that it was over in the "That's it?" kind of way. There is a plot twist at the end but I kind of saw it coming. Part of my disappointment of the abrupt ending was that I felt like things had just gotten started and suddenly the book was over.
The world in this novel is very interesting, especially the virtual reality element. It was easy to imagine the "Elusion" or the virtual reality world. It was vivid, interesting, and almost magical. I liked the blending or illusion and reality and the crazy, unexpected things that happened because of it. Virtual reality was presented in a way that I haven't read before. It discussed having technology connected directly to your brain and brought up the themes of addiction. What if technology is physically addicting? At what point does technology start making our life worse rather than better?
The characters were confusing to me. Regan is the main character and she has two "friends" name Josh and Patrick (I say "friends" because they are guys and this is a YA novel so....yeah. I think you know what happens as well as I do). On the one hand, I liked how distinct Josh and Patrick's personalities were. But on the other hand I didn't like that both of them did some majorly untrustworthy things for kind of lame or even unexplained reasons. I liked Regan. She was a sweet, sad, and likable girl though I don't understand how she saw either of the boys as remotely trustworthy.
Overall, it was a fun adventure set in a interesting and magical virtual world but I felt like it was more of an introduction to a longer story than a novel.
Content warning: mild swearing and a few make out scenes...more
The first thing that The Secret Diamond Sisters reminded me of was the song Royals by Lorde. The idea of criticizing the insanely rich but wanting to live that life at the same time was really present in The Secret Diamond Sisters. My favorite of the three sisters was Courtney who was ambitious, hard working, and really wanted to go to an Ivy League school. When she finds out that her dad is a billionaire, she resents it a little and feels like all her hard work at coffee shops was worthless. I thought it was a wonderful and honest reaction. Although I think it's easy to imagine that having lots of money suddenly would be fabulous (and one of her other sisters does feel this way), Courtney's reaction really stuck with me.
There wasn't really an overall conflict in the story. It goes from one drama to the next and focuses more on the characters and their relationships with people than a strong plot. Not that that's a bad thing, but I do wish there had been a little more driving the story. It's implied that there are secrets the sisters need to find out and even though we do find out a few, I was honestly expecting a little more about their past and some mystery to find out more to move the story forward. The things that happen to the sisters are interesting and I did find it entertaining, but the story just kind of ends with no real resolution.
I thought all of the characters, especially the sisters, were very well-rounded and interesting. My only complaint was that they seemed to act too adult for teenagers. They drank a lot like it wasn't illegal or like it didn't even really have consequences, they went to night clubs etc. Maybe that's how it really is in Las Vegas with everything focused on being an adult, but I still found it kind of weird.
Overall, if you like a story with lots of scandal and drama with interesting characters then this one is for you. Content warning: a lot of teen drinking, language, and a make-out scene that turns inappropriate....more
This book gave me a respect for contemporary romance.After Hello is one of the first newish contemporary romances that I've read. It takes better wriThis book gave me a respect for contemporary romance.After Hello is one of the first newish contemporary romances that I've read. It takes better writing to keep your interest since the author has to keep the plot and characters grounded in reality. I really liked the writing. I thought it was beautiful and the conversations were interesting. New York was very much a part of the story without there being tons of over-description. I just felt immersed in the city the whole time. The way the setting was written was very well done.
I really enjoyed watching the romance slowly build. I can see the appeal of contemporary romances now. The characters have rich and distinct personalities. Sam and Sara were so easy to visualize in my head and I could see why they were drawn to each other. They have time to actually build an interesting connection with each other. The story was very much character driven instead of plot driven.
That also brings me to my complaint: the plot felt slow to me. This story happens in one day, but it felt like hardly anything happened. They go on a quest together (if you will) for the brattiest celebrity ever, but they take their sweet time going about it. Sometimes I wondered if they just plain forgot about it. It was a little aggravating to me. You can take this criticism with a grain of salt since I'm a fantasy lovin' gal and I prefer plot driven stories. So I can't really tell you if the plot is slow for a contemporary novel - just that it felt slow to me compared to what I usually read.
The conflict was interesting - maybe mildly far-fetched but still possible and a lot of fun. I thought the resolution to their quest was a bit of a let down, but the open ending to the rest of the story was enjoyable. I liked the feeling of hope and wondering of what would happen next.
Overall, it was a charming romance with a fun setting and great characters, but the plot felt slow and anti-climactic to me.
I like the survival skills in this series. Reading The Orphanagewas like watching a survivalThis book is also reviewed on my blog Books: A true story
I like the survival skills in this series. Reading The Orphanage was like watching a survival reality show but it's not quite as gross since I was reading it. I feel like I learn something with every new book in this series. I kind of wonder if I really could cook a rat now after watching billy do it a few times.
Billy has such interesting knowledge that we ignore for the most part. Billy says a few times that raw meat is better for you. I balked at first, but it is true. We don't eat raw meat because of bacteria problems that arose from us not killing and eating our own food right away. Billy also has a charming way of viewing people and their spirits and seeing how they are alike. It makes him easy to like back.
The Orphanage was interrupted a lot with character introductions and setting descriptions which slowed the story down a little for me. The new characters from the orphanage were cute and likable. It was adorable how the kids from the orphanage thought everything in the forest was poisonous but when Billy shows them that it's not, they ran around like crazy eating and eating like all kids do. They raised a lot of interesting questions that I want answered like what happened to the orphanage and how they ended up on their own.
The way the dogs were described as having thoughts and feelings was so cool. It gave them a lot of personality and made them so fun to read about.
Overall, another great survival story with Billy and Amber that had some minor info-dumping but nothing too bad.
Content warning: graphic descriptions of cooking dogs whole and some mild swearing....more
Life in the Pit was a cute, quick romance that piqued my interest because the main character is a cellist and I love the cello! The story revolves aroLife in the Pit was a cute, quick romance that piqued my interest because the main character is a cellist and I love the cello! The story revolves around a play that isn’t real, but sounds like a mash-up of every Jane Austen novel ever written with a dash of Clue. Brittany is playing in the orchestra pit for the play while her best friend Amanda stars in it. The plot was a little over-dramatic and cheesy sometimes but still entertaining, cute, and fun. Amanda and Brittany felt like frenemies at first. I had one of those in high school. But their relationship grows as the story grows on and I could see that they cared about each other. The boyfriend is cute, impulsive and thoughtful. Brittany is insecure but relatable. And Brittany is a terrible detective. Like laughably bad. But oh well. Brittany really grows by the end of the story and I enjoyed watching her become more confident.
It was pretty obvious who the “mystery” sabatoger of the play was, but when I found out the motive it was so bizarre that I was just like…..okay….. I have no words, really.
Overall, a fun contemporary romance that was only a little cheesy from a lovely local author of mine.
Another fun short story in the Urban Hunters series. I really liked how we got to learn a little more about Billy and Amber and their personalities. WAnother fun short story in the Urban Hunters series. I really liked how we got to learn a little more about Billy and Amber and their personalities. We get to see their relationship grow in little, adorable ways. But I really struggled with the conflict in this one. It just didn’t feel real to me that an adult, no matter how angry, would actually try to physically harm young kids. I mean it was cool that we got to see Amber and Billy take care of themselves, but if I’m supposed to see this guy as a sympathetic character afterwords, it just didn’t work for me. But way to go girl power for Amber! And there was some great humor at the end.
Overall, there’s some cute moments at the beginning and fun humor at the end, but the conflict just didn’t work for me this time.
Harken was like X-men meets National Treasure. Very creative. I liked the suspenseful plot with a supernatural twist. The writing had a nice voice toHarken was like X-men meets National Treasure. Very creative. I liked the suspenseful plot with a supernatural twist. The writing had a nice voice to it. It was funny and witty. I really enjoyed the quest that Michael goes on for the truth. The way Michael had to figure out and follow obscure clues all over the place is what reminded me of National Treasure and I thought it was a lot of fun. And the conflict was great. The author was not afraid to suggest the worst that could happen…and then make it happen. I liked how the conspiracy theory was unique and kind of epic. I thought all the characters had great, fleshed-out personalities but my favorite was Michael’s little sister Alli. Oh Alli, you are the cutest fake princess-eating zombie ever. Michael has a great relationship with her that was adorable to read.
My only complaint about this book was that I felt like I was walking knee-deep through a lot of details and words that didn’t need to be there. For as much action and plot as this book had in it, I was surprised at how I felt bogged down while I was reading it sometimes. It got to the point that I dreaded going into a new room because that is when the author tended to info-dump the most. Does it really matter how many skylights there are in the big airplane hanger with 5 silver cars?
Overall, I thought it had a really creative plot and wonderful characters, but it got slowed down by being over-detailed sometimes.
The writing of The Scarlet Pimpernel hooked me from the first page. It was deliciously sarcasThis book is also reviewed on my blog Books: A true story
The writing of The Scarlet Pimpernel hooked me from the first page. It was deliciously sarcastic and funny. I was having a grand old time until I noticed this pattern of the writing getting kind of repetative. See, the main character, Marguerite has to make a hard choice. I mean it's a really hard choice. Did you know she has to make a hard choice? Since I haven't mentioned it in 3 pages - she has to make a hard choice. Oh whoa is Marguerite! She has a choice to make! And it's going to be so so hard!! Without all the repetition the plot of the story could have taken up half as many pages even though it's still very short as it is at about 200 pages.
The thing I loved most about this book were the characters. Okay just one character. Sir Percy/Scarlet Pimpernel is such an interesting, vivid, and immediately likable character. It was so cool to see a hero win with wit and charm while wearing the latest fashions. I'm really pretty sure that Ironman takes after him.
Overall, the writing was witty and the characters were charming but the writing got a little repetitive at times....more
**spoiler alert** The Last Jedi is about Jax, one of the few surviving Jedi from Order 66. Jax is part of a budding rebellious uprising against the Em**spoiler alert** The Last Jedi is about Jax, one of the few surviving Jedi from Order 66. Jax is part of a budding rebellious uprising against the Empire called Whiplash and he’s on a secret mission to move a Whiplash leader to safety. This book felt like one of those dreams that no matter how hard you try to run, you’re just not getting anywhere. I felt that way because the writing was either choppy or tended towards info-dumping which slowed down the pace a lot for the first half of the book. It also took me a while to read, but you know me – I can’t quit a story because the ending might be good. Luckily, about half-way through I was right and the plot starts to pick up and get interesting. I enjoyed the ending that was action-packed and full of tension. But I was a little disappointed that in a book called “The Last Jedi” the Jedi doesn’t die at the end. Maybe I’m morbid. I kept thinking “And then he dies. He DIES. When is Vader going to kill him? What kind of book is this?” Also, since my reviews are technically spoiler free, maybe he does die. I’m not telling.
While a lot of the novel felt original, I also saw a lot of tired and over-used story elements from the Star Wars universe. For example, a protocol droid’s head falls off but he won’t stop yapping and oh, look, they are running from Vader’s ship and then they get boarded by him. Although there were some tired plot elements here and there, I really enjoyed learning about the alien race called the Cephalons that could see the future in their own, unique way.
I have a few other small bones to pick. Like a drug that enhances force abilities – really? I don’t buy it. The alien races were hardly described at all. I don’t need a huge description each time someone new enters, but I would like to have a small idea of what they look like.
I know it sounds like I didn’t like this book, but the characters were enjoyable. Geri was an adorable orphan who loves to build droids. And Jax was a very likable main character who grows a lot throughout the story. The humor was very good and even had the classic joke “I have a bad feeling about this.”
Overall, it was an average Star Wars novel that took me a while to get into and felt like it had a lot of recycled story elements. But the ending was a great, action-packed, tension-filled ride that made up for some of it’s faults.
Slippers of Pearl is an interesting twist and original take on the fairy-tale The Princess Who Couldn’t Laugh. I thought the story was very imaginativSlippers of Pearl is an interesting twist and original take on the fairy-tale The Princess Who Couldn’t Laugh. I thought the story was very imaginative and the writing was cute and witty (though there were more comparisons in this book than I think it really needed). I liked that the house the main character, Faryn, lived in was alive in a adorable and charming way. The story felt kind of like The Hobbit because Faryn goes on different adventures involving magic shoes, runaway pigs, and trying getting a girl to laugh to lift a curse. My only complaint about this book was that unlike Bilob who is on all these adventures to get somewhere, there was no overall story line connecting all the side quests in Slippers of Pearl. Still, the author put a lot of detail in the story that made it very rich and entertaining to me.
Overall, it’s a good coming of age story with a lot of funny moments and a good message. It was pretty entertaining for me as an adult, but I think kids would really dig this story.
Without it saying so in the summary that Life After Theft was a retelling of The Scarlet PimpThis book is also reviewed on my blog Books: A true story
Without it saying so in the summary that Life After Theft was a retelling of The Scarlet Pimpernel, I would have never known. It was a very loose retelling since instead of saving people's life, the main character Jeff is returning people's stuff. The setting did a great job of being updated and contemporary, but I didn't think this was a great retelling. The stickers with red flowers on them that Jeff put on the stuff he was returning was really the only tie-in to The Scarlet Pimpernel that I could see. It was more like Mean Girls meets the 1990's film Ghost Dad that starred Bill Cosby (yes I watched that show all the time as a kid). I compare it to Mean Girls because these girls in the book were awful to each. Just awful. And the reason when we finally find out didn't really justify to mean the extreme hate these girls had. I can't even remember what it was.
The voice of the main character Jeff was very well written and fun to read. He was snarky and funny. The plot was a little bland and didn't move along that fast, but the characters were interesting enough that it kept me turning the pages. I was also curious about why these girls seemed to hate each other so much and that kept me reading as well even though I didn't really like the reason when I found out.
Overall, it was a quick, fun read with interesting characters but not that great as a retelling. Content warning: swearing, crude language, teen sex (that fades to black), and teen drinking. It was actually quite a lot of content and it bothered me a little....more
Divide and Conquer, book 2 in the Inifinity Ring series, starts off talking about Paris which was actually where the last game ended and not where booDivide and Conquer, book 2 in the Inifinity Ring series, starts off talking about Paris which was actually where the last game ended and not where book 1 ended. It was a cool way to tie the online games in with the books. You don’t have to play the games to understand the books, but I think they are fun and the maps that go with the games inside the books make it feel like you are a part of the quest.
This particular period in Viking history was a perfect one to appeal to kids. There’s a king named Charles the Fat (seriously – that’s his REAL name!) and an epic battle rivaling Helm’s Deep from Lord of the Rings with the Vikings outnumbering the Parisians 30,000 to 200. It’s funny how real history can be more extreme than fiction (Helm’s Deep was 10,000 to 2,000).
While I was reading, I looked up all this Viking history that I didn’t know before. I learned something new! The main characters “fix” history pretty fast so we get to read about what really happened instead of a fake past like the last book.
The writing was pretty good and I thought it was a lot of fun. I did find it confusing that as the story goes on, they try to fix two breaks instead of just one. The events are related and it was cool to see where history went from that event, but I did feel lost for a little bit.
The game that comes after this is not terribly hard or challenging. There were two mini-games that involved pushing arrows on your computer at the right time. I hate those kind of games. The rest of the game went very fast, but it was pretty fun. There is a forum now so you can complete all the side quests and get all the points if you so desire.
Overall, it was fun historical fiction about Vikings and epic battles that will teach you something you probably didn’t know about history in a way that will really appeal to kids, too.
Blue Sargent had forgotten how many times she'd been told that she would kill her true love.
-Maggie Stiefvater, Raven Boys pg 1
And then I was bored for the next 200 pages. Don't get me wrong - there were a lot of things I liked. I really loved the characters, especially the four Raven Boys. They reminded me of Logan and his friend from Gilmore Girls. They had this spoiled, prep school/bad boy vibe but were somehow likable even though they were kind of condescending sometimes. I thought the mythology of ley lines and the quest for them was very unique and creative in the young adult genre. But I didn't feel like the conflict was strong enough to carry a whole novel. The entire conflict is based on that first sentence and it doesn't get developed much more for the rest of the book.
In addition to the killing-her-true-love thing, there is a mysterious quest that helps pull the story forward but that story line didn't get interesting until about half-way through the book. Part of my lack of interest in the Raven Boys' quest was because I didn't understand the motivation behind it. When I finally found out why they were looking for ley lines, I was excited and totally on board but I wish it had been foreshadowed earlier in the story. In fact, I didn't like the foreshadowing in most of the book. I felt like the author, Maggie Stiefvater, tended to reveal important details after the fact (like with the scene when Adam does something for Ronan). It would have had a much bigger impact on me if I knew why Adam was helping Ronan while it was happening instead of it being explained after the fact.
Once I did get halfway through, the quest got really cool and I loved their modern quest for the paranormal. There was a Beautiful Mind kind of twist that happened that perked up my interest. And kudos to Maggie Stiefvater writing a paranormal novel that did not involve vampires, werewolves, mermaids, fairies etc.
I was a little sad that there wasn't much romance considering that she was supposed to meet her true love then kiss and/or kill him. And the ending was confusing to me. I think it was supposed to be an open ending to draw you into the next book to find out what happened, but I just didn't get it. I'm not sure I even know fully what happened. I'm on the fence about whether I'm going to pick up the next book in the series.
Overall, it was a creative paranormal story with strong and interesting characters, but the conflict was just too weak to keep my interest.
Content Warning: strong language. The f-word shows up about 15-20 times....more
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is like Mary Poppins for creepy children. Or likeThis book is also reviewed on my blog Books: A true story
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is like Mary Poppins for creepy children. Or like an orphanage for superheroes but their powers aren't always useful. They are just peculiar, which I thought was a good name for them.
The beginning starts out very eerie. I jumped a few times at loud noises when I was reading this at night. Why did my husband have to have a cold while I was reading this? GOSH. Every sneeze from him gave me a heart attack. The story kind of amped up how creepy the photos were. I've seen photos with glowing eyes before, but the story somehow made them a little more freaky.
There's a haunted house and other horror elements, but then the story suddenly takes a turn into familiar paranormal territory and it wasn't that scary to me anymore (except for that photo towards the end with staples in it. That one freaks me out). I ended up liking the kids even though they are a little bizarre.
I could tell the author, Ransom Riggs, got a collection of strange vintage photographs and imagined a story that would explain what was happening in all the photographs and somehow weave them all together. It gave the story a slight contrived feeling, but mostly I felt like it was a really creative idea. The plot slowed down a few times, but overall it had a nice leisurely pace to it. I mean, it's a horror story and taking things slow adds to the atmosphere but sometimes it felt like nothing was happening and I wanted to move on.
Overall, it was a good story told in a creative way with vintage photographs that starts out mildly scary but mellows out as it goes along. Content warning: a handful of swear words and some mildly gory scenes....more
The Actor and the Housewife was an emotional journey full of Shannon’s usual charm and wit. IThis book is also reviewed on my blog Books: A true story
The Actor and the Housewife was an emotional journey full of Shannon’s usual charm and wit. It explored really well the idea of whether a men and a women can be “just friends.” I got to live out the fantasy vicarioulsy of “What if you met your ultimate Hollywood crush” and it was a lot of fun. I loved this witty and sweet story that had some heartbreak in it, too. And ahhhh the culture of the ’90s. Becky, the housewife was very relatable to me. Yes, I am a Mormon housewife and her life sounds a lot like mine (except I don’t make pies), but it was more than that. She’s not ashamed to be a little cliche and she never apologizes for who she is which made her very likable. Becky is able to build a relationship with the actor, Felix, even though they are almost complete opposites. The real chemistry of the relationship between the actor and the housewife comes from the fact that they don’t try to change each other and they respect each other. Their banter is so funny. Honestly, the relationship felt awkward sometimes, but I could really see it happening. It did make me wonder if actors do have “real” friends. One of my favorite scenes was Becky struggling to deal with her crazy kids and the actor just being in awe. It was nice to see her life through his eyes.
Now to what I didn’t like. Basically, the ending.
The Spoiler-Free Version
I really wanted it to end differently. Though I can appreciate the fact that the way it did end was very non-cliche and supported the point that the story was trying to make, it left me feeling let down to the point that I kind of wondered what the point of the whole story was. My disappointment is more than just not getting my way. I felt like it hadn’t really gone anywhere. Neither of the characters had changed or progressed very much.
The Spoiler Version
Click the spoiler tag below.
(view spoiler)[I really, really wanted them to get together at the end. The fact that they didn’t meant that their relationship stayed the same through the whole story leaving me to wonder what the point was. My disappointment is more than just not getting my way. They are friends through the whole novel and the fact that they remained that way makes a statement that you can be just friends but at the same time neither of them really changed or progressed at all. It made me fee like the story didn’t go anywhere. (hide spoiler)]
Overall, it was an entertaining, witty story and the perfect beach read while I was on vacation. It was pure escapist fun even if I was disappointed with the ending.
A Mutiny in Time is a story about 3 kids who travel back in time to fix history before the world ends. I liked the twist in this story that unlike traA Mutiny in Time is a story about 3 kids who travel back in time to fix history before the world ends. I liked the twist in this story that unlike traditional time-travel stories, they are supposed to change things. The historic details that aren’t accurate amused me. I think a lot of kids would be clever enough to know whose faces should really be on Mount Rushmore. It would have been fun to see and learn more history (I mean besides the random facts that came out of Dak). The characters and their quirks made me chuckle. One thing I didn’t get was why the villain wanted to destroy the world?? Her motivations weren’t really clear to me, but I’m hoping that we’ll find out more about the bad guys (aka the SQ) and their motivations later on in the series. Wanting power for power’s sake does not make interesting villains. Other than that, the author did a good job with playing with your expectations a little with a nice action-filled plot. The story was a lot of fun, adventurous, and didn’t feel predictable.
One of the really fun things about this book is the online game component. The book comes with a map that has clues to help with the game. It also had a lot of cool facts from history presented in a nice way. The game was simple, fun, and full of puzzles and mini-missions. I did find the wagon mini-mission to be very finnicky and a little tedious, but I enjoyed the game overall and played it over a few days. Just FYI – the game is an app as well as on the Internet, but they don’t sync up. Meaning however far you get on one doesn’t transfer over to the other. But otherwise the game is exactly the same whether you play it on your phone or the internet.
The Limit was a mild dystopian about modern workhouses and over-spending money that I thought Dickens would approve of. It was close enough to our worThe Limit was a mild dystopian about modern workhouses and over-spending money that I thought Dickens would approve of. It was close enough to our world to make it plausible but off-kilter enough to make it a tad creepy. There was not a lot of stuff happening or action in the plot, but I had a lot of questions so it kept my interest. I enjoyed the writing. The characters were fun and easy for me to visualize. She did a really good job with the main character, Matt. I loved how often he stuck his foot in his mouth. The conflict was rather tame for my taste. There was so much potential for a really intense page turner and I was disappointed that it didn’t quite go there. I could tell the whole time that something sinister was going on, but when we find out what it is, the story doesn’t really go into the what and why of the whole thing. I guess my complaint is that I wanted to know more! What was the “bad guy’s” motivation? What exactly were they doing to the kids? Overall it was a good read that was different from a lot of the dystopians out there.
Shayla Witherwood was like Bewitched goes to high school, but she’s a half-fairy instead of a witch. I got the Bewtiched vibe because Shayla would useShayla Witherwood was like Bewitched goes to high school, but she’s a half-fairy instead of a witch. I got the Bewtiched vibe because Shayla would use her fairy powers for very small, every day things like the witch Samantha would. It was a cute, fun, and sweet tale about a girl trying to fit in. As the story goes on, there are a few small twists and and it was fun to see her learn more about who she is. The voice and writing were enjoyable, but the foreshadowing was a little heavy-handed for my taste. Sometimes it seemed like Shayla was a kind of dense, but overall she was a very adorable and relatable character. I thought her best friend had a lot of personality and was fun to read about. The boy Shayla has a crush seemed like he had kind of a flat personality.
I really enjoyed the shout-out to the Lagoon Amusement park in Utah (which I’ve been to several times). Overall it was a fun, clean read about the sweet and magical fairies you think about when you’re young.
The Forsaken is about an orphan girl who has to pass a test like everyone at her age that determines if she is prone to crime. If she fails, she willThe Forsaken is about an orphan girl who has to pass a test like everyone at her age that determines if she is prone to crime. If she fails, she will be shipped off to a prison island. One thing I noticed about this book was the little things that made me think of me of other science fiction novels (in an interesting and not copy-cat way). The start of the book really reminded of the movie Minority Report with Tom Cruise. There are machines that remind me a little of War of The Worlds. And there was just a little dash of Divergent and The Maze Runner.
This is one of those books that takes a while to get into. It felt oddly slow at first even though lots of things are happening. I didn’t like the main character, Alenna, at first, but she gets more personality as the story goes on. There were a few plot elements that didn’t get explained all the way. One example is that two opposing gangs from the island decided to work together for reasons that made no sense to me. I noticed that a lot of the time there are questions kind of presented to you like it was trying to make me wonder about certain things. I really like to come to those kinds of questions on my own. The ending really picked up and caught my interest. The story closes in a satisfying way with no big cliff hanger, but there are missions left to be accomplished.
Overall, it was a good dystopian that had me entertained, especially towards the end, but I found too many things spelled out for me and some plot points not explained all the way.
Spoiler free even if you haven't read the first book in this series.
Allegiant explores what true sacrifice really means. Sacrifice isn't giving away other people's lives for the good of everyone. True sacrifice can only come from within yourself with the desire to truly help others no matter the cost to you. I liked how Allegiant explored the idea of a good or evil sacrifice. I liked the ending, though it did give me a major hangover that I had to discuss with my husband for an hour or two before I could move on. I think the ending was tragic, gutsy, and really tied all the books together and stuck with the theme of the series. I also really liked Veronica Roth's explanation of why she ended it the way she did.
Even though I liked the book overall, I did have a lot of issues with it that seriously hindered my enjoyment. My biggest complaint was how slow the middle was. There should be a PSA in the middle of the book that says, "We would like to interrupt this conflict to bring you All The Answers for at least 100 pages. Thank you." Yeah. I was bored. Not a lot actually happens for a huge portion of the middle of the book. The answers of what was really on the outside of the fence was not really what I expected based on the ending of Insurgent. And I don't understand Tris' anger for the people outside the fence not helping. First she was mad that they were meddling in their lives and then she's all mad that they weren't?? Make up your mind!
I think the secondary characters would make really good cardboard cutouts for a movie. I can just see Luke Skywalker turn around after he wins his medal and see the entire secondary cast of Allegiant. I could not tell any of them apart. I could not remember who was who. I was constantly googling all the secondary people. If Veronica Roth is going to just assume I know who all these characters are just by their name, then please don't make them so flat and boring.
The romance was okay. It was a lot of kissing and then getting mad at each other. But it had it's moments that I really liked. I think my favorite was this quote from Tris:
I fell in love with him. But I don’t just stay with him by default as if there’s no one else available to me. I stay with him because I choose to, every day that I wake up, every day that we fight or lie to each other or disappoint each other. I choose him over and over again, and he chooses me.
Veronica Roth, Allegiant p. 372
Overall, I enjoyed it for the most part but the middle dragged way too much and the secondary characters were completely flat.
Content warning: lots of kissing/making-out, a suggestive scene, and some violence....more
Taken reminded me a little of The Maze Runner - they both had this engrossing quest for answers. The plot delivers on answering a lot of the questionsTaken reminded me a little of The Maze Runner - they both had this engrossing quest for answers. The plot delivers on answering a lot of the questions that come up. The story moves quickly and kept me glued to the pages. The interesting world was the strongest part of this book. But, sadly there were a few things that kept me from really loving it.
I have mixed feelings about the plot. I loved how it was so fast-paced and surprised me once or twice, even if it had a few minor plot holes. I like fast moving plots in books, but I think this was a rare example of the plot moving too fast. It's amazing the amount of ground this 360 page novel covers. Since so much is happening, there is a lot of "monologuing" if you will (to use a term from The Incredibles). Instead of getting to experience the newly discovered layers of this world, the characters would often have mini-speeches explaining the newest development. Then the characters would immediately act on the new revelations. It made for an addicting and zippy plot, but I found myself missing the fleshed-out little details that would have made the world rich and believable. Sometimes things felt over-explained and sometimes the characters are running for their lives when they feel the need to monologue something new and explain the world a little more. I wanted to strangle all of them and remind them that they should be running for their lives. If this book would have taken it's time with building the world naturally and not skipped over so many details, it would have been an incredible book instead of just an average one. The matriarchal society structure that Gray grew up in was so interesting. I so wish that it had gone into more detail about the society!
The main character Gray was so likable at the beginning, but I felt his character progressed into kind of an unforgiving jerk. There were a few cute, romantic moments at the beginning - like them talking about wanting to be like the birds - that were so adorable. But I found the way the love triangle unfolded to be very unappealing. It's possible that I have a gender bias that love triangles are okay for girls and not boys, but I still felt this "love triangle" was more like unfairly dragging two girls along. Another reason I felt Gray was a jerk was when he has to make decisions through the story that could potentially hurt those he cares about, he completely justifies his actions without some much-needed honest indecision. It gave me the impression that he didn't care as much as he said he did.
I didn't like some of the language used in the writing. There are a few descriptions of his chest "heaving" when he's attracted to a girl. Gross. And the word "slatings" for dates? That's such a bizarre phrase. The word pairing used later on in the book was much better.
Overall, it had a fast-paced action filled plot that was addicting to read, but it was at the expense of building a fleshed-out world. This book started out so strong at the beginning and sadly fizzles out towards the end.
Return to Exile was like Ghostbusters (with teens) meets A Series of Unfortunate Events with a tiny bit of Inception sprinkled on top. It was a prettyReturn to Exile was like Ghostbusters (with teens) meets A Series of Unfortunate Events with a tiny bit of Inception sprinkled on top. It was a pretty cool combination. Just when I thought that nothing else could go wrong, it would go all Unfortunate-Events on me and get worse. The witty humor was one of my favorite things. There are two girls that talk like Jane Austen and they were so hilarious!
I felt like there was a lot going on in the plot. There are lot of unanswered questions thrown at you right from the beginning and while some got answered, too many were unanswered for my taste. The mythology is mostly new and it’s a lot to take in all at once especially since some of the monsters are very similar to each other. Even though I was a little confused sometimes, I found the monsters creative and interesting. My favorite new monster would have to be the Echo – it was the exact opposite of an Ent from Lord of the Rings. I really liked the theme throughout that not all monsters are bad. I even learned some gross science amidst all the cool action. It was a fun and entertaining read.