I may not be a huge science fiction reader but I am a big fan of eclectic reading palettes and debut wrireview originally posted on Rather Be Reading:
I may not be a huge science fiction reader but I am a big fan of eclectic reading palettes and debut writers — especially when those debut writers wrote their book secretly during their senior year in high school. It’s so darn impressive!
I felt a strong Mulan vibe from the moment I started Dove Arising. Main character Phaet (“fate”) and Mulan have a lot in common — both are willing to go to great lengths for the ones they love, even if it means putting themselves in danger. Phaet is only 15 years old but when her mother is arrested she steps up to the plate in a big way — willing to leave her siblings and her best friend to join the Militia and earn money to pay her mother’s bail and support the household.
It’s bold, it’s crazy, and, with a ton of training, it just might work.
Author Karen Bao isn’t presenting the Moon as a must-see destination by any means. It’s dismal, heavily monitored by the government, and sounds like the kind of place where life is all about going through the motions. Very few of the Moon citizens shake things up, and when/if they do, they become a target. Even Phaet’s tone is filled with defeat through most of the book. She is a product of her environment: extremely quiet and shy but full of observations and emotions she’s never comfortable expressing. Later, I liked how this trait morphed into one of her strengths.
Not only is Phaet making a huge decision about her future, but she struggling to gain her mother’s acceptance, mourning her deceased father, and coming to terms with feelings she has for the most unexpected person. She’s forced to grow up so fast, and I trust the repercussions from that sacrifice are only just beginning. Will it all be worth it? Does she have the power to help change her world?
In series, I find many of the first books focus a ton on world-building and providing readers with a foundation. There were so many great details here (particularly, Phaet’s hair) and the more action packed scenes felt like I was in the middle of a simulator ride. (Even if the urgency wasn’t turned up where it needed to be.) It’s my hope with the next two books, Bao dives deeper into Phaet’s character development and her emotions. In Dove Arising, I admired Phaet for her loyalty but I wished I had connected with her on other levels too.
I did discover something about myself while reading this. I’m really fascinated about the details that lead to Earth’s demise in books like these. Does this make me a sadist? Or maybe a secret sci-fi geek?
One final thing: I can’t tell you much about the ending. I mean, I won’t tell you anything about the ending, but I got a little giddy when I realized just how Bao was challenging Phaet next. It’s going to make for a very interesting second book, that’s for sure. ...more
I’m a huge fan of the Thunder Point series because, unlike a lot of the other romances I read, Robyn Carr builds her stories beyond the couple, trickling in more personalities from the community and making it feel like you are truly a fly on the wall of the gorgeous (I really want to visit) Pacific Northwest town of Thunder Point. Here are five reasons to check out her latest, ONE WISH, and where I, again, remind you it’s okay to read these out of order:
1. A flower shop. As much as chemistry and love is important in a romance novel, I love great background stories and I thought it was so adorable that Grace owned her own flower shop. She took pride in her work and her business, and was so so great with her customers.
2. Non-drama relationship. It was refreshing that a majority of the “drama” in ONE WISH came from places other than Grace and Troy’s relationship. Sure, the whole thing started as nothing more of a friendship (from Troy’s perspective anyway) but it escalated in this sweet, natural, no hassle way. Sure there were some kinks but for the most part the “push and pull” was never a huge, melodramatic issue.
3. Ginger. Someone new is always moving to Thunder Point, and I’m praying that Ginger is a bigger character in one of the upcoming books. She’s dealing with depressing, and moves to TP to live with her grandmother and hopefully move out of her funk once and for all. I love how TP is such a healing place for so many and Ginger’s story (her husband leaving her; her young son dying) is one that I want to hear more about. (Great news: we get more hangout time with Ginger in A New Hope!)
4. A true community. I touched on this a little bit in #3 but something about TP always makes me miss living in the suburbs. These neighbors are always around to catch the other, and help out in someway and it’s so so so heartwarming and wonderful. I love these strangers find new connections and find themselves bonding for life with people they never thought they would. (Plus, the views. I want to hear the ocean.)
5. A Valentine’s Day dance. Did your school have one of these? I am pretty sure we didn’t but Troy teaches at the high school and he’s chaperoning one. I couldn’t help but laugh at how his students are in love with him, and just how popular Grace was with the young kids. This was such a fun detail!...more
I had a really good time reading New Money last fall, but this time around, I bonded with Savannah iReview originally posted on Rather Be Reading Blog
I had a really good time reading New Money last fall, but this time around, I bonded with Savannah in a way I hadn’t before. She’s more settled in the city, working hard at her job (even though, let’s face it: with her allowance, she doesn’t need to), balancing a boyfriend and getting to know her newly acquired family better.
The drama from the first book has mostly disappeared and I say mostly because while the craziness in New Money seemed to creep up on her out of nowhere, this girl goes after it herself in this book — chasing down the answers of what really killed her media tycoon father. While we spend a majority of our time cabbing around Manhattan (the book opens with the Christmas season — so fitting and Rosenthal captures it so perfectly), Savannah also spends time in DC, worming herself into many uncomfortable situations to find out more and eventually returning to NYC with more than she bargained for.
This is the thing: even though Savannah handles her wealth and new lifestyle with such grace, she’s not above acting impulsively either. And maybe not always in the way you would think. Rosenthal has made a good habit of writing about strong, complicated women from the little sister in Queens (Other Words for Love) to this southern belle granted a fairy tale life with a few inconsistencies. The struggle to be independent, successful, and express love to the people in your life is what makes Savannah such an authentic character. We may not be wearing Gucci or living in an apartment that overlooks Central Park, but we worry about our hearts. We want to be good and do good by the people we care about.
Independently Wealthy mixes some ballsy detective work and delicious distractions with finding your place in relationships, your family, and a bustling city. As I inched to the last pages of the book, I already missed Savannah and wondered what she would be up to next. You know I want you to check out this series from the beginning, but I won’t tell if you cheat and skip to this one....more
Kristan Higgins continues to weave her magic spell on me, folks. I’m totally hooked.
In Your Dreams brings us Emmaline and Jack — two people who live in the same town and are just passing friends. Over the course of the book, we learn that both characters are thrown into situations where they are forced to see the rawest part of the other. For Emmaline, she’s the cop on duty when Jack saves teenagers from an accident, when their car plunges into water. Later, Jack agrees to accompany Emmaline to the wedding of her ex-fiance and sees for himself the tension caused by her family and her insecurities sparked by her ex-fiance.
This is another area where Higgins excels. It’s not all about the chemistry or pushing her couples together but she really creates a backstory for each of her characters. Jack’s heroic gesture connects to his past, and is also affecting his present. He’s having nightmares, some shady things are going on, and he can’t confide in anyone. Not even his clingy ex-wife who is back in town and hoping to make amends. Jack is just SO nice. Too nice. Even Hadley’s reappearance doesn’t bother him (on the outside). He’s so polite, and helpful that it’s pretty much a curse because she is not one to get a hint.
For Emmaline, her parents are constantly on her case about her job as a cop and how they know she’s gay, and why doesn’t she come out already? They’re therapists and very judgmental and so frustrating. I was continually flabbergasted by how heartlessly they treated Emmaline, and how quick they were to disregard how she really felt. No wonder she had so many walls built up. Her parents paired with her ex-fiance (now that was a story)? It’s amazing she didn’t move to Fiji and change her name. (Okay, that’s dramatic but still. I felt bad for her.)
Somehow Higgins makes Jack and Emmaline’s pairing as unexpected and natural as possible. Emmaline knows that Jack is going through some rough stuff, and he has seen firsthand what kind of crap she is trying to dig herself out of. But it’s the resistance from Emmaline that makes this relationship so freaking sexy. Jack practically has to beg for her to go out on a date with him, and it’s pretty adorable and delectable. I loved how sarcastic and funny Emmaline was amongst the town, but also in her own head. That’s the thing about Higgins’ books. You have to be prepared to be swooning one minute to giggling the next. I can’t think of another romance author who succeeds at both so well. Jack and Emmaline made me fall in love with her work all over again....more
While reading Jessica Darling’s IT List Part 2, I was reminded of how much Jessica marches to her oReview originally posted on: Rather Be Reading Blog
While reading Jessica Darling’s IT List Part 2, I was reminded of how much Jessica marches to her own drum. Even though she gets comments on the old band t-shirts she loves to wear and how she wants to dress up like the Periodical Table of Elements for Halloween, she doesn’t change.
The fact that those things stay put when she is literally (I used it right!) questioning everything about her life? Totally admirable.
In the second book of this middle grade series, Jessica is navigating friendships like whoa. Her best friend Bridget seems to be relying more and more on the popular crowd and putting a lot of effort into her boyfriend. Then there’s Hope, who is someone Jess really clicks with but can be so hot and cold. And what about the girls on the track team? How does she know what’s real and what’s not when it seems like her longest and most important friendship is crumbling?
One of the the biggest highlights of this book for me was Jessica’s relationship with her grandma. With her parents so occupied, her grandmother is staying with them for a few weeks and I loved the sounding board she provided when Jessica was feeling a little lost. Not going to lie — made me tear up in some spots because of my own close relationship with my grandma at that age. It was a nice touch to have her a part of the story.
Once again, reading this brought me back to so many of the titles I loved at this age and also made me want to dust off my copy of Sloppy Firsts and get addicted to this heroine from the beginning I know best. I love that these books serve two purposes: entertaining young readers with realistic story lines and a pinch of humor and reminding us Jessica veterans why she is so important to us....more
Never have I read a female in a romance novel that was so seReview originally posted on: Rather Be Reading Blog
I love Victoria Dahl. Here’s a bit why.
Never have I read a female in a romance novel that was so sexually empowered. Sophie prided herself on looking like a good girl on the outside but, on the inside, she knew what she liked. She feared showing her sexual side to anyone who was tied to her town because she felt very strongly about keeping her reputation in check. This meant very sporadic hookups with men she’d probably never see again.
Let me say this. If you are not a fan of the love-me-harder dirty talk, Looking for Trouble might not be right for your nightcap. Sophie shocked me a little bit at first because I was not expecting her to be so direct about her sexual needs and part of me hates that I was surprised by that! Obviously, more female characters should feel comfortable enough to know what they want and express it!
Anyway. In a sort of Romeo and Juliet twist, Alex returns to Jackson Hole to reunite with his older brother and mom. Turns out his deceased dad cheated on the family with Sophie’s mom. Their extramarital escapades still haunt the small town and the two families years and years later. But Alex has no idea who Sophie is and Sophie isn’t planning to make their “thing” something frequent but this changes (!!) with feelings and fiery sex and realizations.
Not only can I count on Dahl to spice up my reading list, but she always provides such detailed histories for her characters. Why hasn’t Sophie left Jackson Hole? Why wasn’t Alex more curious about his brother and mother over the years? Can they both overcome the town gossip and the hurt feelings to make their relationship work? There’s a lot more to the story than two people falling in love. Plus Dahl introduces some great girlfriends, and I’m always a fan of those candid moments shared with gal pals.
It’s true I haven’t been disappointed by a Dahl novel yet, but I think Looking for Trouble is my new favorite....more
If the day is just too humid and you are in a grumpy mood, I suggest picking up a Fool’s Gold book.Review originally posted on Rather Be Reading Blog
If the day is just too humid and you are in a grumpy mood, I suggest picking up a Fool’s Gold book. It’s a scientific fact that it raises your spirits!
Truthfully, Until We Touch isn’t my favorite Fool’s Gold book. It was far too repetitive with some of the details and I thought our main man, Jack, had to step up his penance game at the end of the book. (This is the first time I’ve seen a hero in one of these books act like a total asshole. Fact.) But, despite that, I definitely enjoyed getting caught up in all the happenings in the town (a new football program at a nearby college!) and reuniting with some of the characters I’ve met in past books.
And there’s nothing like two best friends not realizing they have the hots for each other when they, indeed, have the hots for each other.
Larissa is a gal who is generous with her time and her ability to help people, and I had to laugh out loud at so many of the causes she roped Jack into just because she could not say no. (An owl, people! An owl.) Even though, Jack makes it known he’s not an emotional guy (tragic past) he can’t help but give into her. She finds the cause, and he fronts the money (or the space). These two have an interesting dynamic, and proclamations of love were a bit anti-climatic but I still found their “courtship” super sweet and sexy and fueled by other surprises.
I can’t pick up a Fool’s Gold book without daydreaming about moving to a similar town. Sure, it’s small and there’s a ton of meddling but everyone looks out for each other and it always seems the possibilities for happiness (career, friendship, love) are aplenty.
Until We Touch plucked me from my unhappy place and welcomed me into a MUCH better one....more
These books always take me a little time to get into. I think Bardugo is best at world building and I decided that keeps me in this series over the chThese books always take me a little time to get into. I think Bardugo is best at world building and I decided that keeps me in this series over the characters. Still hard for me to connect with them and part of me wonders if it's because there isn't too much intrigue in Mal and Alina's relationship. I can't decide. I loved some of the new characters introduced in this one... To be continued. ...more
My first mermaid book! Definitely more of a friendship story than a romance, since most of the story takes place on the run from an attack and joiningMy first mermaid book! Definitely more of a friendship story than a romance, since most of the story takes place on the run from an attack and joining forces with other mermaids to overtake those bad guys.
Some creative terms used to describe every day things, but the dialogue felt a little too Gossip Girl for me sometimes (in addition to many flowery passages). I wish the tone had been a bit more down to earth because (and obviously stamping a book with an age limit is not something I generally do) it read for the younger crowd.
All in all, I did find it enjoyable and really liked the friendship between Serafina and Neela. They were really different but loved and supported each other deeply. Nice to see. (Or "sea". haha)...more
It was so great to be back experience the antics of True as she tries to make another love connectiReview originally posted on: Rather Be Reading Blog
It was so great to be back experience the antics of True as she tries to make another love connection in Complete Nothing. (She is too funny.) Kieran Scott took a way different approach with couple #2 (True has to make three connections before she’s allowed to return to Mount Olympus) and I thought it was fantastic: a totally over-the-moon for each other couple dealing with the stresses of graduation, college applications, and a possible future apart. Claudia is already a shoe-in for Princeton while star football player Peter is pretty much allergic to talking about next steps.
Early on, you can see that Claudia and Peter have such a comfortable relationship. Some of their friends tease them for acting “married” but it’s Claudia’s determination to help Peter that causes him to irrationally dump her in front of the whole school. It’s completely out of character, and while Peter regrets it immediately, he doesn’t act quickly on fixing anything. Enter: True. She can see how much Claudia and Peter care about each other so she is going to help them find their way back to one another. Bonus? Orion is also on the football team now. Yay for proximity!
Of course, there would be no story if things didn’t go smoothly. True decides to use jealousy as the weapon of choice to get Claudia and Peter back together. Add in a rival football player, a confident cheerleader, True’s tendency to rush into things and you’ve got trouble. As we switch POVs between Peter, Claudia, and True, I wasn’t sure if things would end up working out. What I did like was how Peter and Claudia’s relationship was never perfect, even when they were happy. They never rushed to say “I love you” and they definitely had some kinks to work out. I wondered if they would get the chance to work through those together.
In the meantime, Scott folds in a plotline with True’s life back at home. There’s some impending danger when the wrong people find out about her relationship with Orion, and then there’s a matter of trust due to her good friend Hephaestus (who is on Earth to help her out) and a few family secrets. I like that we never lose sight of that ticking clock True is up against, and how her past actions are still affecting those on Mt. Olympus. I also can’t forget a few of the kids from the high school who come to her aid (especially the adorable and thoughtful Wallace) as she tries to get her “assignment” done.
I’ve enjoyed this True Love series more than I ever thought. The Greek details are interesting, I love watching True acclimate to a new world, and it’s also fun to experience these different love stories and see how they unfold. I can barely wait to see how Scott wraps up the series because I want our girl to get her own true love back. (Is it possible she decides to stay in New Jersey instead of return to her home? Hm… with this series, the possibilities seem limitless.)...more
1. I guessed the outcome of the book before the halfway markReview originally posted on Rather Be Reading Blog
My own truths about Broken Hearts, etc.:
1. I guessed the outcome of the book before the halfway mark. 2. I did not connect with any of the characters or their relationships. 3. I still read until the end of the book.
I started Broken Hearts with certain expectations because Katie Finn is Morgan Matson’s pen name and she has been nothing but a total delight in my reading life. But I found myself muttering something very surprising as I read this: I don’t think I’m the right audience for this book. I rarely feel “old” when I read young adult because there are so many feelings that parallel how I feel in my life today and also remind me of some of the brighter and tougher moments from my childhood. (I’m not the kind of person who doesn’t want to remember things so this is a positive.)
But I had to suspend a lot of reality to believe an 11-year old Gemma could be so vindictive without consequences or without an utter breakdown on her part. I know that young kids can get themselves into messes but unlike an adult who engages in this kind of behavior, I think it’s more likely for a child of that age to give in and fall apart because things are so out of control. But instead, she gets away with the awful things she does even though she still feels guilty years and years later. (Not guilty enough to fess up, even as she “matured.”)
I found myself thinking a lot about movies I like where characters take on another identity in a situation that affects a lot of people. Two that popped in my head were Ladybugs (Jonathon Brandis pretends to be a girl for a soccer team season) and Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead (The babysitter dies, everyone is scared to do anything about it, so Christina Applegate’s character lies on her resume and gets a fashion job for the summer to take care of her siblings while her mom is away on vacation). These are both highly entertaining films where I still feel for the characters in these impossible and improbable situations, and that’s what was missing for me in Broken Hearts. The characters and the relationships were not funny or genuine enough; the scenes, instead, felt like they were moving full-steam ahead (into more and more dubious situations) and losing all those important details along the way.
Even if the book is meant to be breezy and fun, I still want to connect with the characters. That’s the bottom line.
Another nudging feeling that I couldn’t shake during Broken Hearts was how other books I’ve read conquered this kind of premise better. Here are two:
- Burn for Burn by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian: While I wasn’t fully invested in this series until book 2, it balanced deception and fully developed side plots (friendship, relationships, fears, etc.) in a way that even made me care for the “bad guy”. The potential for this happening in Broken Hearts was there (Josh, Gemma’s relationship with her dad) but never fully realized. - Rules of Summer by Joanna Philbin: an authentic Hamptons-in-the-summer book. I don’t understand the choice to use a real locale if you aren’t going to work to get the tiny details correct. (Maggie at Just a Couple More touches upon that in her review.)
All in all, Broken Hearts wasn’t my cup of (iced) tea and I won’t be continuing the series. As a reader, you just can’t love them all....more