I requested this title for review via Netgalley when I saw it pop up, as I had met the author this past summer at a book/writing conference and I had I requested this title for review via Netgalley when I saw it pop up, as I had met the author this past summer at a book/writing conference and I had one of her promotional cards about this novel. Though it sounded like a simple romance, I liked the concept and was intrigued: a tattooed, spunky children's librarian who co-writes erotica on the side meets a charming British man and tries to find inspiration for her writing through him and their romantic interactions.
Sadly, this book disappointed on many levels, and I DNFed it at 23%. Early on, I found the dialogue between the main character, Blair, and her roommate, Raine, to be trite and unbelievable. While Blair and Raine bicker and talk like best friends and writing partners might, it was pointless, empty dialogue, and it did little to develop their characters. It was also boring. So little happened in the first quarter of the book. I can imagine that two writers are stressed while on deadline, but the two friends acted ridiculous, didn't treat it a like a real job, and just drank lots of coffee and feel asleep at their laptops a lot. I felt as though the set-up of two friends writing bestselling erotic novels under a pen name was just a wish-fulfillment fantasy or stand-in for the author herself. Instead of being proud of their work, the main character even hides it, but then has all of her well-read librarian colleagues conveniently tell her about how fabulous these popular books are that they carry (which, coincidentally, happen to be hers written under the pen name).
Characterization of Blair as a children's librarian also fell short, as did characterization of Declan, the love/sex interest. Blair would not be able to repeatedly fall asleep at her desk in the children's room, be chastised/worried over by her superior, and then be called "damn good" at her job by the same person. The author also seemed to show her ignorance about librarian training by not understanding how old someone would be if she had gone to MILS/LIS school, when and what age someone can be a teaching assistant, etc. The same goes for the love interest, Declan. When Blair's friend snoops out information on him and finds out that he is a rich businessman and investment supervisor, a sparkling college graduate, and a current MBA student at an unnamed Ivy League school (which he doesn't appear to attend in person), we're also smacked with the news that he is also only 23 years old, has a 3 year old son, and has already been married and divorced. When I read that, my incredulity wouldn't let me get past it. He also dresses his son in suits, even to go to the library with the stereotypically snotty nanny. It would have made much more sense to age both characters up to their late 20s or early 30s.
Finally, I didn't feel much for the budding relationship between Blair and Declan. I read through the first date between the couple, and while their banter/dialogue was better than the rest I'd read, the story too quickly jumped to a focus on sex without any focus on the relationship and its development. The main character even says things like (paraphrased), "This felt different emotionally," but there's nothing to back it up. She even waxes poetically that the relationship feels like it will last months or more, despite having shared very little between them and for it being her first time having sex on the first date.
All in all, I didn't find much to move me or motivate me to finish this title. The author's other titles seem to be more well-received, but I don't think I'll be a good fit for them.
Note: This review refers to a review copy provided by the publisher....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 a 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. ...more
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 isSci-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....more
Poor plotting & character development make for lackluster read
Kelley Armstrong is a household name among those who love urban fantasy, both young Poor plotting & character development make for lackluster read
Kelley Armstrong is a household name among those who love urban fantasy, both young adult and adult, and I was excited about the opportunity to read and review the first book in her newest YA series, Age of Legends. While Sea of Shadows provided the same easy writing style that Armstrong's other books have, it had very little of the worldbuilding, character development, and plotting that her best works contain. Because of this, it was a disappointment.
SEA OF SHADOWS is the author's first foray in YA high fantasy, and I think it suffered because of this. Though the story didn't shy away from grisly depictions of violence or high-stakes encounters, I still felt bored and unmoved by the first 40% of the novel. The worldbuilding didn't make sense, and the threats that were present seemed to exist simply for scare or awe factor. As the two protagonists, twin sisters Moira and Ashyn, moved out into their own personal journeys, the pace of the narrative picked up, but the character development did not. Each girl fell into her own clichéd role of being either the strong and brusque one or the emotional, sensitive one. When the romances enter, the chosen love interest for each girl was too obvious and too quickly developed for me to feel any real connection or swoon between the characters. The story's arc also followed Armstrong's typical plot of characters attempting to outrun a threat, being captured or nearly so, escaping, and then repeating the process. Based on the ending of this book, I predict that the plot of the sequel will be much of the same. And that's what I found most disappointing about this novel: the story, despite its high fantasy trappings of magical, terrifying things, felt simply like another iteration of the stories the author has written before.
In future books in the series, I hope Armstrong takes the time to mix up her usual plot line and infuse it with some of the emotional heart that first impressed me in her Darkest Powers series....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 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....more
Fun & engaging third installment keeps the action & intrigue coming
Marissa Meyer’s third installment in her Lunar Chronicles, Cress, picks up 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....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 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....more
Quite possibly one of the most disappointing reading experiences I've had in a long while. I picked up this book, long neglected on my shelves, as a w Quite possibly one of the most disappointing reading experiences I've had in a long while. I picked up this book, long neglected on my shelves, as a way to indulge a bit on a snowy Thanksgiving at home. Unfortunately, the book's premise (a long reclusive vampire takes in a woman stranded in a snowstorm) didn't come together due to poor characterization and poor writing.
The best way I can think to describe this book is as "vampire wish fulfillment" with little beyond that. In addition to being stunningly handsome, the standoffish vampire hero Michael is an accomplished pianist, a doctor, an internationally bestselling author (and conveniently the heroine's favorite), and a master horseman who can "meld" his mind with his steeds. If that weren't enough, he's also sworn off feeding from humans for the past 200 years and he makes handcrafted music boxes. When Nicole, the foolish woman who drives her rental car into a winter storm, gets saved by him, he finds the one thing he's been missing his entire life: an equally perfect woman that he describes as such.
I've read many a case of instalove before, but never one as blatant as this; the couple has no real connection, but they are swearing their love to one another in mere days and their lovemaking is described in rapturously overdone similes and metaphors. Because the writing employed so much telling and very little showing, I never felt a connection between the couple and the whole situation came off as completely implausible, even when negating the vampire angle. If I was supposed to fall in love with these characters and ache for them and their doomed love affair, it didn't happen....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 eve 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....more
DNF at 13%. After not being impressed with the first in the series (A Little Too Far), I started this one because it purported to focus on Alessandro, DNF at 13%. After not being impressed with the first in the series (A Little Too Far), I started this one because it purported to focus on Alessandro, the most interesting and nuanced character of the initial installment. Unfortunately, the writing remained tedious and uninspired, the main character and narrator (Hilary) wasn't likable or sympathetic, and the regular New Adult cliches were out in too much abundance for me to handle. ...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 outc 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....more
This book had the potential for an interesting set-up with a young woman studying abroad in Italy, but the love-triangle dilemma between the protagoni This book had the potential for an interesting set-up with a young woman studying abroad in Italy, but the love-triangle dilemma between the protagonist's step-brother and an almost-priest was too unbelievable to be taken seriously. Poor writing (quite frankly some of the worst I've ever encountered) and uninspired sex scenes also left me unmoved....more
In all, this is a pretty standard romance novel with the apparently required New Adult tropes of the main character having some type of sexual abuse iIn all, this is a pretty standard romance novel with the apparently required New Adult tropes of the main character having some type of sexual abuse in her past and a super beautiful, hot guy showing up to help her overcome her emotional difficulties. While I rated this one slightly higher than Carmack's FAKING IT, I do so only for the easy flow of the writing and the beautiful descriptions of place as the main character, Kelsey, backpacks all over Europe....more
After being impressed with FOREPLAY, Sophie Jordan's first New Adult romance in this series, I was eager t Formulaic set-up makes for predictable read
After being impressed with FOREPLAY, Sophie Jordan's first New Adult romance in this series, I was eager to read the second book, TEASE. Unfortunately, TEASE lacked the sweetness and convincing characters of the first title, and it relied entirely too heavily on New Adult clichés.
TEASE follows Pepper's roommate, Emerson, as she tries to keep her emotional distance from the many men who are interested in her. The story opens with the obligatory reference to some dark incident in Emerson's past that has scarred and damaged her. Because of this, the reader is told that Emerson is a strong, cautious woman, but the first important scene has her drinking herself to oblivion in a biker bar and being conveniently rescued (i.e., picked up and carried out of the bar against her will) by a do-gooder who happens to have a rock-hard chest. From thereon, the story continues to use one New Adult or romance cliché after another to bring our lovers together and to break down Emerson's emotional walls.
Because of the formulaic set-up and inconsistent characterization, I wasn't able to immerse myself in the story or root for Emerson and Shaw's romance. Though TEASE was a quick, mindless read, it wasn't an enjoyable or moving one.
In future books in the series, I hope Jordan goes back to focusing on character and eschews the common tropes that can make stories like this so predictable.
Note: This review refers to an advance review copy....more
Heavy on nest box information, lacking on habitats
As an avid birder who's now getting into creating bird habitat in our own yard, I was excited to re Heavy on nest box information, lacking on habitats
As an avid birder who's now getting into creating bird habitat in our own yard, I was excited to read Bill Thompson's Bird Homes and Habitats. I was most interested in learning how to design and create a yard that attracts birds of all kinds, not just those that seek out nest boxes. With a blurb that claims the book will cover "plenty of...things that can attract birds to a landscape," I thought that the pages would be filled with the information I was seeking. Unfortunately, they were not.
Though this is a solid and easily-read guide about bird homes and habitats, it is focused primarily on nesting structures, not bird habitats in general. When a reference comes up in an early chapter about what plants to add to your bird-friendly landscape, I got excited because that's what I wanted to learn about most. However, right after that statement, the reader quickly learns that he or she must buy different books in the author's series in order to obtain that information. Most curiously, those books don't even have titles to suggest that they would be about habitat or plantings (Identifying and Feeding Birds and Hummingbirds and Butterflies). Only the first 20 pages of the book cover habitat needs in general, and then the book moves on to focus on nesting specifically.
When the book does focus on nesting, it does a comprehensive job of providing species profiles with details about nesting habits and nest structure needs. One unique feature of this guide is the section that highlights "Birdy Backyard All-Stars" -- people who have created fantastic habitats on their own properties. Each profile is from a different part of the U.S., so readers can choose the locale most like their home and then read about how those in their area have created appealing avian habitats.
Even so, this wasn't what I wanted or needed. The majority of the birds that come through my suburban yard are not going to nest there; they're going to seek temporary food, water, and shelter. If I can get a migrating warbler to eat some bird-friendly berries and take a dip in a specially-designed water feature, I would be ecstatic. Sadly, I finished this book no more knowledgeable about how to create that type of bird habitat in my yard than I was before.
Recommended to those who are novice-to-amateur birdwatchers/nest box creators and/or those who want a guide that provides a general overview of many species' nest structure needs.
Note: This review refers to an advance review copy....more
Easily readable with a much stronger heroine and clearer writing than McAdams has used in the past, but the utter level of ridiculousness and crazy thEasily readable with a much stronger heroine and clearer writing than McAdams has used in the past, but the utter level of ridiculousness and crazy that's written into the plot blew me away and *not* in a good way. The amount of trauma and abuse to which the main character is submitted by the end of the novel made this almost feel like torture porn by the end....more
Unfortunately, this installment didn't add anything important or moving to the story of Hope and Holder. This novel was nothing more than the exact sa Unfortunately, this installment didn't add anything important or moving to the story of Hope and Holder. This novel was nothing more than the exact same story as found in HOPELESS with the exact same dialogue and merely more angsty moments from Holder. If anything, it made me like Holder even less as a love interest. ...more