POISONED APPLES has an interesting premise with some gems in the mix (as well as some beautifully evocative photography), but in the end, it was not a...more POISONED APPLES has an interesting premise with some gems in the mix (as well as some beautifully evocative photography), but in the end, it was not as searing or inspiring as I had hoped. For young feminists, or those girls who are just starting to see the injustices in the world around them, it may resonate more deeply, however. (less)
Though there wasn't anything terribly wrong or troubling about this book, it didn't grab me emotionally. The improbable likelihood of Amber and Cade m...more Though there wasn't anything terribly wrong or troubling about this book, it didn't grab me emotionally. The improbable likelihood of Amber and Cade meeting on "the day before" each of their lives changed and striking an immediate connection felt too contrived, as did the quick resolution in two pages at the end.(less)
Sci-fi light at its lightest. This title, a tie-in with the CW show of the same name, masquerades as a science-fiction/post-apocalyptic title that is...moreSci-fi light at its lightest. This title, a tie-in with the CW show of the same name, masquerades as a science-fiction/post-apocalyptic title that is simply a teen romance. There were hints of worldbuilding and conflict that could have been built into an engaging plot, but the romance aspect and the characters' ridiculous decisions regarding their relationships took away from that.(less)
Complex, dark, and evocative tale – Gratton’s best book yet, 4.5 stars
Tessa Gratton has penned her best book yet with Book 2 of her United States of...more Complex, dark, and evocative tale – Gratton’s best book yet, 4.5 stars
Tessa Gratton has penned her best book yet with Book 2 of her United States of Asgard series: The Strange Maid. I stayed up late into the night, with goosebumps raised on my arms, to finish this book. The story, the writing, and the characterization are all beautiful, deep, and complex. I love a book like this that prioritizes character development over plot, but The Strange Maid still manages to combine the two well. Most of all, though, I love the risks that this book takes with characterization, theme, and source material.
Signy Valborn is a girl on the verge of Odinist glory as a Valkyrie, and she embraces the dark things she believes that should include – blood and death and violence and chaotic, passionate things stirring inside her soul. I love that Gratton was willing to create a wild, out-of-control, and fearsome female character; in doing so, she affirms that madness, desire, and a longing for revenge can be felt by all, not just males. Signy, however, is not a one-note character; she also experiences fear, doubt, and love. The other characters who flank and support Signy are also well-developed, from Soren Bearstar of the first book to Ned the truth-teller who hides behind his poetry to the gods and other Valkyries themselves. I also so appreciated the themes conveyed in the story about loss and revenge, the balance between chaos and control, choice versus destiny, and the types of relationships that matter in our lives.
In addition, Gratton skillfully plays with and updates Norse mythology to create a modern tale that pays homage to the violence, strength, and madness that was celebrated in Old English works like Beowulf. Because of this and the adept way the characters are portrayed, this book felt more mature than most other YA titles I’ve read. This is a complex and evocative tale that will be best appreciated by readers who aren’t afraid to feel uncomfortable from time to time while reading. Reading the first book in the series or having a background in Norse tales isn’t necessary to understand and appreciate the story, but it will likely help.
I have always been a fan of Gratton’s work, but my appreciation for her craft and the intentionality of her writing has been taken to a new level after my reading of The Strange Maid. I can’t wait to see what the next book in the series brings, and I will definitely be recommending this title to my friends and older students alike.
Note: This review refers to an advance review copy.(less)
Fun & engaging third installment keeps the action & intrigue coming
Marissa Meyer’s third installment in her Lunar Chronicles, Cress, picks up...more Fun & engaging third installment keeps the action & intrigue coming
Marissa Meyer’s third installment in her Lunar Chronicles, Cress, picks up right where the second book left off. Cinder, Thorne, Scarlet, and Wolf have escaped Earth and are now hiding in space. Their greatest chance for eluding Queen Levana and her dangerous companions lies with Cress, a gifted hacker who’s lived alone in a satellite for the past seven years. Soon, a rescue plan goes amiss, people are captured, and satellites start crashing to earth. Old characters and new ones must work to find a way back to one another in order to bring the evil Queen down.
As with her previous installments, Meyer has created a fun and engaging story in this book. CRESS is full of action and intrigue, and the author does a wonderful job of interweaving the storylines of the two previous books with the one. It was exciting to see how hints from as far back as the first book were linked to major plot points or character reveals in this novel. All of the characters that readers have come to love (or loathe) make appearances again, and some characters, especially Cinder, begin to grapple with real issues of how to use power and how one’s personal decisions can affect others, including whole cities or nations. Though not practical like Cinder or strong like Scarlet, Cress comes across as an endearingly naïve but earnest character who mixes well with the existing cast.
While a fast and enjoyable read overall, I did sometimes wish for a bit more: more swoon, more character and relationship development, and more gravity regarding the issues being experienced by the characters. This series is a refreshingly upbeat collection when compared to many other young adult novels, but the issues it addresses (war, torture, sacrifice for others, lost identities) often felt like they were passed over too quickly. Similarly, some characters accepted certain big reveals too easily.
Even with these quibbles, I had a great time reading CRESS, and I can’t wait for the final installment to come out next year (Winter). Not only will the final book provide a conclusion (and hopefully some happy endings for the characters), but it will feature quite possibly the most intriguing heroine of the series. The few glimpses given of Winter in this book had me simultaneously riveted and unsettled. The Lunar Chronicles is a series I will be recommending to my students and adult friends alike.
Note: This review refers to an advance review copy.(less)
A lovely but simple homage to a precocious cat and one woman's relationship with him. While this was shelved under the YA/teen section at our local li...more A lovely but simple homage to a precocious cat and one woman's relationship with him. While this was shelved under the YA/teen section at our local library, I think this short collection would be best appreciated by older readers.(less)
Not as bad as expected when you read the entire thing, but the middle third was full of nothing but romantic angst that almost did me in. This is not...more Not as bad as expected when you read the entire thing, but the middle third was full of nothing but romantic angst that almost did me in. This is not the strong female story that the blurb claims it to be, but instead it is a romance sandwiched in between typical fantasy/adventure events.(less)
Thoughts wavering on this one. Initially after finishing a few hours ago, I was feeling very positively and felt that it was certainly a 4-star or eve...more Thoughts wavering on this one. Initially after finishing a few hours ago, I was feeling very positively and felt that it was certainly a 4-star or even 4.5 star read. The writing is gorgeous, the romance slow-burning, and the plot well and evenly paced. However, I still can't get past some worldbuilding flaws and character inconsistencies that are now niggling at the back of my mind.(less)
Despite the easy read that this book was, I can't seem to muster the interest or heart to care about the characters, their "new" conflict, or the outc...more Despite the easy read that this book was, I can't seem to muster the interest or heart to care about the characters, their "new" conflict, or the outcomes to follow.
After having read all seven of Cremer's books set in the Nightshade universe (original trilogy, prequel duology, adult erotica under pen name, and now this), I think I'm done. The conflict in this new series seems to simply be a resurrection of the one that the author resolved in her first trilogy. Because of that, I don't feel any real tension or interest in what unfolds next.
On the positive side, Cremer has streamlined her writing significantly, with far less info-dumping and fewer purple turns of phrase. She has also done a good job linking all of the books in her different series together so that they complement one another. I worry, though, that the books to come in this series will take on the distinct feel of historical romance. Without giving too much away, this installment closes on a cliffhanger with characters on their way to the Scottish Highlands, and someone has been declared as in need of a "champion" to help save her. My brow...it furrows in concern.(less)
Wavering between 3 and 4 stars on this one. While it was strong conclusion to the trilogy overall, the final 10% and the resolution felt very rushed a...more Wavering between 3 and 4 stars on this one. While it was strong conclusion to the trilogy overall, the final 10% and the resolution felt very rushed and, quite frankly, too easy.(less)
CRASH INTO YOU was an easy-enough read, but it contained instalove and a lot of implausible plot points and a boatload of clichés. Of the three books...more CRASH INTO YOU was an easy-enough read, but it contained instalove and a lot of implausible plot points and a boatload of clichés. Of the three books written so far by this author, I think the second (DARE YOU TO) is the strongest.(less)
One of the most poorly-written and poorly plotted things I've ever read. I just can't even begin to describe how lackluster this was. I also don't und...more One of the most poorly-written and poorly plotted things I've ever read. I just can't even begin to describe how lackluster this was. I also don't understand why this was being marketed as "new adult" when it would be better suited as a young adult title; there was nothing about it, content- or maturity-wise, that would push it into the New Adult category versus YA. (less)
Quick & easy read for fans of contemporary YA romance
In Dare You To, Beth Risk lives with her drug-addicted mother under the constant threat of p...more Quick & easy read for fans of contemporary YA romance
In Dare You To, Beth Risk lives with her drug-addicted mother under the constant threat of poverty and violence. When she's sent to a rural town to live with the uncle that left years ago, Beth struggles to find a way to save her mother and get back to the few close friends who have helped her. Though local golden boy and baseball star Ryan Stone's life appears blissfully easy in comparison, there's more simmering beneath the surface of his family's perfect façade. When Beth and Ryan's lives intersect, sparks fly and each learns that the expected path in life might not always be the best one.
While DARE YOU TO was a bit formulaic, this book was a quick and easy read that will appeal to fans of Simone Elkeles, both in its style of alternating male/female points-of-view and its overall light tone, despite the serious topics involved. One notable strength of the novel was Ryan: he was a great male lead who treated Beth with respect. Though there were some moments when he acted a bit chauvinistic, these instances seemed realistic for his character and the small-town climate in which he grew up. While I always knew where Beth and Ryan's relationship was headed, it was nice to see the progression from attraction and lust to something deeper. In addition, I appreciated how the sex scene was handled; the story featured a virgin hero and did a very good job depicting how sex can be an exercise in trust, not just desire. I also enjoyed the secondary characters, especially Ryan's friends Chris, Logan, and Lacey. The interactions between these friends and their classmates depicted small-town rural/suburban life well without mocking it.
This novel didn't work for me on all levels, though. Some very serious issues were presented in the book (e.g., drug abuse, domestic violence, poverty), but they were glossed over and resolved too easily, even if somewhat sadly. Similarly, significant changes in Beth's character seemed to happen too quickly to be believable, and she felt less developed as a character than Ryan. While I liked Ryan's character, he did some things that seemed to contradict his "nice guy" persona, while also sometimes seeming too idealized to be real.
Even with these misgivings, I enjoyed reading DARE YOU TO and think it will have a wide fan base. This installment was a definite improvement over my experience with McGarry's first book (Pushing the Limits), and I look forward to reading the final book in the trilogy (Crash into You)) when it comes out.
Note: This review refers to an advance review copy.(less)
Beautiful & achingly realistic tale of young love & its aftermath
Very rarely does a book impress me, satisfy me, and affect me emotionally as...more Beautiful & achingly realistic tale of young love & its aftermath
Very rarely does a book impress me, satisfy me, and affect me emotionally as much as Katie Cotugno's debut novel, How to Love, did. This novel is a beautiful and achingly realistic portrayal of one couple's doomed teenage love affair, the aftermath, and their eventual coming to terms with one another.
HOW TO LOVE stands out among the crowd of other YA contemporary novels most notably due to Cotugno's lyrical, evocative writing. The author creates beautiful mental images throughout the novel by including details that add nuance and feeling to the story. Every detail or repeated image seems intentionally placed and well-considered. I would often stop reading to admire a passage and think to myself "THIS is what good writing looks and feels like." Another strength lies in the two main characters, Reena and Sawyer. Both are complex, flawed characters with multifaceted family members and friends surrounding them. While I often didn't like Reena or Sawyer, the writing allowed me to understand them and their actions and motivations.
In addition to her strong character development, Cotugno also does wonders with the plot and the structure of the novel. There is a careful interweaving of plot threads about family pressures, work, alcohol/drugs, religion, school, and friendship to make the characters' lives feel real and palpable. I especially liked the presence and impact of Reena's best friend, Allie, on the relationship between Sawyer and Reena. The plot of HOW TO LOVE never hurries nor dallies; the juxtaposition of the "before" and "after" chapters are perfectly aligned with mirrored events that follow one another naturally. When the book came to a close, the ending left me satisfied, even without answering every plot question directly.
Though this book was a perfect fit for me, there were a few phrases or sentence choices that threw me at times, and other readers may not be able to look past Reena's and Sawyer's flaws in order to find them sympathetic.
In all, though, HOW TO LOVE is the best young adult book that I've read in the past two years. I can't wait to see what moving, realistic, and emotionally arresting stories Cotugno writes in the future. I know that I'll be reading every one of them.
Note: This review refers to an advance review copy.
Immediate reaction: My first five-star book in two years! I am so incredibly impressed with the quiet but compelling story this novel tells and the style and lyricism with which the author tells it. I can't wait to see what this author writes in the future.(less)