First things first: I received a copy of this book from the publisher as part of a GoodReads Giveaway.
Now that that's out of the way....
I really, realFirst things first: I received a copy of this book from the publisher as part of a GoodReads Giveaway.
Now that that's out of the way....
I really, really enjoyed this book. I first heard about it on the All the Books podcast, and Rebecca made it sound so intriguing. And it lived up to all my expectations.
The narration rotates among four characters: Lizzie, Michael, Finn, and Taylor. Lizzie and Michael are married, child-free writers living in New York City. Finn, Lizzie's one-time summer fling, is now a restauranteur in Portland, ME. Taylor, his wife, is a preppie New Englander who divides her time between running the Portland Tourism office and parenting their daughter, Snow, who has "Extreme Shyness Syndrome". The two couples and Snow have planned a joint trip to Siracusa, a tiny Sicilian town. Of course, with the five of them so close together, all their differences come to the fore, secrets are exposed, and lies are uncovered.
All of the characters are fully-rounded people with flaws and frailties, all trying to put their best face forward and revealing themselves as they share the bits and pieces of what happened on that trip. There's plenty of foreboding in the early chapters, so you, the reader, know from the outset this vacation is going to be more than they bargained for. The hints maintain the suspense right up until the ending, when all the threads weave together.
What was Nick Moriarty, her ex-best friend, now her mortal enemy, doing in her bedroom? And why was that old red Formica table there, and that tiny oaWhat was Nick Moriarty, her ex-best friend, now her mortal enemy, doing in her bedroom? And why was that old red Formica table there, and that tiny oak cupboard, and that awful yellow beanbag chair?
Synopsis: Waking up on board the Moriarty family's boat face-to-face with Nick - once her best friend and now her sworn enemy - is just one more confusing thing for Amanda Lester to cope with. The split between the factions of teachers at Legatum Continuatum sent half the instructors to Scotland to establish a new school, and the headmaster, several students, and Amanda's cousins are missing. The acting headmaster is hiring new instructors, and Amanda's mother is among the applicants. As if that's not enough going on, her filmmaker idol is coming to England, her mother is dating a new guy, and her complicated feelings toward Scapulus Holmes are compounded by his relationship with her friend Amphora. Then there are the rare all-blue peacocks who have become mysteriously ill and an archaeological discovery that may turn the public against the detectives. Amanda and her friends have to keep a running list of the problems they need to solve!
Review: The fourth book in the series is packed with a lot of things happening at once. Background information is provided in the first few chapters, but it's probably best not to jump into the series with this volume. The relationships between the characters take on great importance, whether they are bonds of family, friendship, or romance. The main characters all gain some development over the course of the novel. Ivy's family plays a significant role in the story, providing details to round out her character. The perspective of the novel occasionally shifts away from Amanda, giving the reader a chance to glimpse what else is going on. The cliffhangers at the end of the book ensure that readers will be eager for the next installment! The Q&A section with the author in the back matter provides links to further information about the scientific facts that play a part in the story.
Personal Thoughts: Okay, I'm hooked. In my not-so-humble opinion, Berinstein's writing gets better with each book, and I can hardly wait to see what she comes up with next.
Source: Kindle e-book courtesy of Lola's Blog Tours...more
Life was already weird enough at Legatum Continuatum, the secret school for descendants of famous detective, in England's Lake District. After the eveLife was already weird enough at Legatum Continuatum, the secret school for descendants of famous detective, in England's Lake District. After the events of the last few months, including her father's kidnapping, two murders, a teacher's disappearance, an explosions, and a criminal plot to corner the world's sugar market, she was battered, fed up, and downright depressed, especially since one of the kidnappers had turned out to be the boy she thought was her best friend.
Synopsis: As classes resume at Legatum Continuatum after the Spring Holiday, Amanda and her friends are joined by a new student: Scapulus Holmes. Nearly everyone is impressed and/or intrigued by him, much to Amanda's disgust. But she has other things on her mind, too, as she overhears the teachers panicking over a missing object, her filmmaking idol Darius Plover asks for her input on his new film, and one of her classmates is several days late returning from the break. And then there is an earthquake, causing extensive damage and revealing some unusual orange crystals and a skeleton. Amanda and Scapulus are going to have to find a way to work together to keep the crystals out of the hands of the Moriarty gang and maybe help the school recover the mysterious missing object.
Review: The second book in the Nancy-Drew-meets-Harry-Potter-minus-magic series picks up the loose ends from the first volume and weaves them right in to a new adventure. The characters are realistically flawed, and their interactions ring true to anyone who has spent time around tween and early teens. The cast of characters is diverse without feeling forced, which is refreshing. Less refreshing is the fat-shaming that occasionally pops up in the close third-person narration, which generally reads as Amanda's internal voice. All of the characters are facing challenges and hiding secrets, sometimes putting them at odds with each other just when they need to come together, and sometimes making their character development uneven and unconvincing. Berinstein brings in some interesting scientific ideas, taking understandable artistic license, and includes pointers to more information in the Q&A section at the back of the book.
Personal Thoughts: I want to like this book more than I did. At one point, Amanda explains that, "Voiceovers are stupid. You're telling rather than showing the audience what you want to get across." That rather summed up one of my issues with the book, which is that too much is told flat-out in the narration rather than revealed through dialog or action. Still, I like the world and the characters too much to stop reading.
Source: >/b>Kindle e-book courtesy of Lola's Blog Tours...more
I've been in Antarctica a total of eighty-three minutes, so I'm positive more exciting surprises will probably (hopefully) reveal themselves, but forI've been in Antarctica a total of eighty-three minutes, so I'm positive more exciting surprises will probably (hopefully) reveal themselves, but for now, the most intriguing thing about McMurdo, the American science station, is all the condoms.
Synopsis: At seventeen, Harper Scott is on the verge of achieving her lifelong dream. Since they were very small, she and her best friend, Kate, have been following The Plan. The Plan involves total dedication to ballet, and it culminates in both of them joining the San Francisco Ballet shortly after their early graduation from high school. But Harper doesn't have Kate's undeniable natural ability, so despite all the years of hard work, one audition might just crush her dreams. When things get suddenly and surprisingly complicated, Harper decides to follow her distant relative Robert Falcon Scott's footsteps to Antarctica. She manages to land a highly coveted research assistant position for the six-month winter at McMurdo. No matter how far she goes, though, the problems she has to deal with come right along.
Review: This is a finely-crafted young adult novel, packed with descriptive details that bring life in San Francisco and Antarctica to life. The chapters alternate between Harper's present, in Antarctica, and what happened back in San Francisco several months earlier. The sharp dichotomy between the first two chapters sets the tone for the book, as the reader knows where Harper ends up, but has no idea how she got there. Enough information about ballet is provided that readers without a background in dance can understand, but not so much that it becomes overwhelming. Life at McMurdo, too, is explained through the eyes of a newcomer without any tedious "information dumps". For reader who do want to know more, there is a short bibliography at the end, listing recommended books and films.
Personal Thoughts: I've long been fascinated by Antarctica, and I dearly hope to visit one day. (I found all but one of the books on Antarctica in the bibliography already in my to-read queue here at GoodReads.) I loved the glimpse into the life of those staying there long-term, rather than tourists. I kind of wish they hadn't gone for the ballet pun in the title, but that's really just me.
Recommend to: Fans of character-driven contemporary realistic fiction
At first I couldn't tell what was going on - just a bunch of skating, hitting, and falling.
Synopsis: Astrid and Nicole have been best friends sinceAt first I couldn't tell what was going on - just a bunch of skating, hitting, and falling.
Synopsis: Astrid and Nicole have been best friends since first grade, after an incident involving the class Mean Girl, Rachel. They do everything together. Astrid assumes this means that they'll spend the summer following fifth grade together at Roller Derby Camp - Astrid's newfound passion. She is stunned to discover that Nicole has other plans, namely, Dance Camp... with Rachel. With middle school looming and things changing all around her, Astrid rolls into the toughest summer of her life.
Review: A smart and funny realistic look at that stage so familiar to anyone who was once an almost-teenager, when friends start growing into their own people, and sometimes growing apart. Astrid speaks, thinks, and feels like a regular kid, someone you might know (or remember). She likes the way things are and doesn't want them to change, but she ultimately faces those changes with good humor and strength. There are lessons in her story about growing up, accepting yourself and others for who they are, and working hard to achieve a dream, even when it doesn't turn out quite the way you hoped, but it avoids didactic condescension easily. Totally charming.
Personal Thoughts: I happen to love roller skating, and I am a little sad that I didn't encounter the whole roller derby phenomenon at an age/time/place when I might have joined in. I'll just have to live vicariously through Astrid, I suppose. I loved everything about this book, from the painfully realistic depictions of the way pre-teen girls interact to the wonderful relationship between Astrid and her mother. (There's a fourth-wall-breaking moment in which Astrid literally winks at the reader about an interaction with her mother that cracked me up.) I adore this book.
Recommend to: Fans of Raina Telgemeier... and pretty much any tween girl, actually. (Although I'd *love* to see some tween boys reading this one.)
Source: Checked out from my public library....more