I was very excited to get a chance to read and review this book. I read Everything I Was a while back and really enjoyed it, so I jumped at the chance...moreI was very excited to get a chance to read and review this book. I read Everything I Was a while back and really enjoyed it, so I jumped at the chance to get my hands on this one as well. I had mixed thoughts on this one. I really, really loved it for approximately 99% of the story. The characters are great, the main character Clare is just the perfect mix of stubborn independence and wanting to still be a kid. I hearing her thoughts on her mom and new husband, as well as her first reactions to moving to a really tiny town in Cape Cod and her father, a man she hasn't seen in years.
I really liked some of the little turns that the story took. Since this book isn't out yet I hesitate to give anything away, but suffice it to say that everything Clare believe's about her father and why he left (and stayed away) is up for reconsideration. He's not the man Clare thought he was, and she finally as a chance to both get to know him and find a little bit of herself away from her mother.
Beyond being a coming of age story for Clare, we also get some local issues sprinkled in as we learn about the terrapins who nest on the beaches. Clare's father works tirelessly to save the terrapins and their habitat, which is being encroached on by the people who are building up the land attached to the beach. While living with her Father Clare is introduced to a whole different way of life, and finds herself caring about more then just herself.
And here's the 1% of the book that I didn't like. The ending was very abrupt. The writing was great and I was invested in Clare and her father and even in the terrapins, but then the story seemed to just end, and I'll admit I was disappointed. I wanted to know more. Did Clare end up staying with her father? Did Eleanor (the terrapin Clare saw and named) survive? Did her eggs hatch and make it back to the ocean? Did Clare find the inner strength to stand up to some of the rude kids in town? In essence, what happened next?? I found myself scrolling back and forth to make sure that I really was at the end of the book and that I didn't miss anything. I just wasn't ready to be done with this story yet. Which, on one hand isn't a horrible problem, you want readers to be attached and to want more. However, on the other hand, I don't like closing a book feeling disappointed.
Overall this book was great. I loved the story and the characters, but at the end of the day I wanted more resolution to the story lines. I'm kind of hoping that there is more to come about Clare and her father and their work with the terrapins! This was a lovely story about family and finding yourself, and I think many people will be able to see themselves in the pages of the book. So while I'm hoping for more, I am able to set this book down satisfied that Clare is okay and that she has many great adventures in front of her!(less)
This is a really excellent book. What I really liked more then anything was that it really is a psychological thriller/mystery book. It is creepy and...moreThis is a really excellent book. What I really liked more then anything was that it really is a psychological thriller/mystery book. It is creepy and suspenseful, and it is chock full of quirky characters and even a little romance, but it’s biggest selling point for me was that all the way through my mind was trying to piece it together, to figure out who the killer was and why they were killing, but I didn’t figure it out. I had some guesses, some of which I was already determined to really pissed about if they were correct, but they weren’t. One of the only people who didn’t cross my mind was the one who I should have been looking at all the time. I’m actually thinking about re-reading the book to see if there were clues I missed. Barnes did a great job at keeping me looking in every direction but the right one, which to me is awesome.
The rest of the story was pretty great too. It was really interesting to pull apart how people who work cases do it. Besides Cassie, who is a profiler, there are people in the program who are amazing with facts and statistics, one is a human lie detector and Michael, who helped bring Cassie into the program, reads emotions. There is another profiler, Dean, who comes with a load of his own baggage and can really sympathize with Cassie and her past. Watching them all not only try to piece together a live case, but exist in a home together, is both scary and funny. They can’t help who they are and can barely control their abilities, but they still have to deal with every day things like breakfast.
I absolutely loved this book and I’m really excited for the next one to come out. It’s also introduced me to a whole new author who has a catalog of books that I’m know itching to read!(less)
I love when you get to discover books and authors that weren't on your radar and suddenly it's like a whole other world of books opens up for you. How...moreI love when you get to discover books and authors that weren't on your radar and suddenly it's like a whole other world of books opens up for you. How is it I didn't know about Keary Taylor before NetGalley put The Bane in my path? The Bane was originally published in 2011 under the title Eden and was revamped (and retitled) as part of The Eden Trilogy, with the sequel, The Human, coming out mid-June. This book was excellent and I'm really glad that I stumbled across it on NetGalley.
At the heart of the story is a girl named Eve who lives and works in Eden. She has no memory of her life before she arrived in Eden although she knows from hearing the stories of others about how the world used to be before machinery took over the human race. Somewhere in here is a parallel to The Terminator series, but instead of technology simply becoming aware one day, here we see human experimentation and ambition going sideways and getting out of control. what I really enjoyed was that the leap from where we are today to where we find Eve isn't that large of one. Already we are building better prosthetic that are helping people get back to life as normal. Cybernetics are certainly something that is being researched and worked on, so is it really that huge of a leap to see how we could start to use technology and fuse it with DNA to help people live a more full life.
Here we see how it so quickly spiraled out of control. I particularly liked how Taylor told the story from two different ends. First we see how Eve and the other residents of Eden are living now, post Evolution. We watch as they try to stay alive, how they survive in a world where they have to provide for themselves mostly off the land, while still fighting off the Bane. When West arrives in Eden he brings with him a key to Eve's past and also some secrets to how the Bane came into existence. Through West we get stories from the past and the gaps are filled in not only for Eve, but the reader.
I know that this is a pretty technical review thus far, and there's a reason for that. It's relatively rare that a book surprises me, that the twists and turns actually catch me off guard, but Taylor managed it. I had an inkling of what was happening, of what part Eve played in the story of the Evolution, of what she was capable of and who she would find herself choosing. I was only partially right on most of my guesses, and that was awesome. There are twists and turns, there are moments of action and peace, and there are times when you can see the weight of the world pressing down on these people as they try to just stay alive. Mostly though, there is hope. Hope that there is a real possibility to survive, to defeat the Bane and the find a normal life amid the chaos. Watching the characters navigate a world turned upside down and face the unbelievable (like the Bane) and the very normal (finding love) is very satisfying. I for one can't wait to not only read The Human when it comes out, but also pick up the free short story, The Raid, and the free prequel, The Ashes, that Taylor has made available for Kindle. (less)
Words. Seriously. So many words. In some ways this was an easy book to review, in others it was very, very difficult. Why? Because I was all in from t...moreWords. Seriously. So many words. In some ways this was an easy book to review, in others it was very, very difficult. Why? Because I was all in from the first page. Frankly, I was all in before I even opened it up. Back in January I reviewed Born to Run by Chris McDougall and I was hooked. I had already started to look into minimalist running and was starting to transition over to Vibrams, so that book reinforced what I was already thinking. I was also already working on Good Form Running, which I'm now imparting to the No Boundries runners at Fleet Feet as a coach in their 5k program. This book takes it one step further. The author, Eric Orton, is the man who coached McDougall to his first Copper Canyon Ultra-Marathon and in this book he imparts his wisdom and techniques for getting you, the reader, the same type of results.
Let me go ahead and get this out of the way at the start. Part of what makes me buy into this program is that it make sense to me. I was already getting there on my own. Orton takes what I was thinking and gives me the means to do it. He's saying exactly what I need to hear. The other part of it is where Orton is when he says it. The man is based out of Jackson Hole, WY. If you know me, or even if you only kind of follow this blog and my other book blogs, then you know already. I love Jackson and the Tetons and Yellowstone. I may be born and bred Upstate NY (and still live there), but my heart has always been in Wyoming. (check here for my post on Running in WY)The first time I went there was when I was 6 months old and ever since it's just felt like home. There's a magic there. So when I opened the book and realized that this wasn't just going to be a simple "do this, do that" endeavor I got excited, and then homesick. In many ways it felt like Orton was describing my Cool Impossible, but we'll get to that later.
So if it's not a straightforward "do this, do that" what is it? Well those things are in there. Orton gives you very simple to follow directions for how to get the most out of his program and out of yourself. However, that isn't all he gives you. He laces the training program with personal stories, with connections to what he saw when he was in Mexico for the Copper Canyon race and the things he gleaned from watching the Tarahumara Indians run. He also describes, in great detail, what a week of training with him in Jackson Hole looks like and feels like. Not just the actual training, but what you see when you are there, where you'll eat, the trails you'll run and the animals you might encounter. He writes for the person who has never been there, but for me it was like getting a little mini-vacation in my mind. I miss Jackson Hole. I'm already planning for next years trip there, and based on this book I've added a few things to do, a few places to run. I've hiked Jenny Lake, but how fun would it be to run there? I've sat in the parking lot of Snow King and waited for the Barker Ewing bus to pick me up and take me white water rafting, but could I tackle the hill and run it? And Phleps Lake... I've fished near the dam, and I'm fairly certain I watched a Mama Grizzly and her cubs right near there the last few times I've been out, but I've never hiked in there (or run)- perhaps that Mama Grizzly had something to do with that. It's written to be a complete training program, and insight into the way it would work if you were, in fact, one of his students working on an in person training session. It certainly pulled me in.
As far as the actual training instructions they are spot on in terms of ease of use. I read through the entire book (as instructed by Orton) and then began to go back through to piece together what an Orton program might look like for me. Did it seem do able? Did I have the time, the money, the motivation? Some fitness books come across as very pie in the sky and are instantly demotivating. You get a feeling of "WOW! That's awesome!" followed soon after by the thoughts that say "Yeah, but you don't have 3 hours everyday" and "Where are you going to get the $$ to pay for all that equipment?". In fact I will honestly tell you that after reading Born to Run I looked into training with Orton and those are the type of thoughts that peppered my mind. Then I discovered that he had a book coming out and decided to read it first and then decide. What I found was that you still get those thoughts and have doubts, but that it's okay. Orton has a whole section on training your mind, and like in other sections, awareness is key. Those thoughts are there, and you can either bow to them or you can use them. In fact Orton seems to already know what thoughts are creeping in and designed his program to fit your life and your goals. Don't have 3 hours? Fine, how about 30 minutes (I have that!). 15 minutes in the morning to do the exercises? Perfect. After reading the entire book I know that I can do it. I might not be going to Jackson to train with the man himself, but he's given everything I need right in the book. The exercises, the techniques to fix my form, tips on fixing my (abysmal) diet, how to get stronger and faster and pain free, how to train my mind to help me succeed- it's all in here. Laid out in simple to follow steps.
When I was in college I had a professor (one of the best- Hi Prof. Oakleaf!) who looked at my writing and said "So what?" Totally threw me off my game. I had written a 90 page Management plan and she fixed up my grammar (also abysmal) and said "So what?" And it struck me that I'd been just going through the motions. I am a good writer, I'm an excellent researcher, I fancy myself pretty rocking at my job (school librarian), but I didn't have a point. Now when I'm reading a book, or writing a review at the end I try to remember "So What?" and wrap it all up with a point, or in this case a goal.
So I'm done with The Cool Impossible. So what? What now? Remember back in the beginning I said this was both an easy and a hard review to write? Here's why. The book is fantastic. If you are interested in getting faster, getting stronger, being more efficient, running pain free or learning more about minimalist running. If you are a beginner, if you are a recreational runner, if you are a super athlete, but in a rut. It you want to go on an adventure and do impossible things. Get this book when it comes out next month. You'll find something in the pages to inspire you. Maybe you aren't already halfway finished with your cup of Kool Aid like I was when I started reading, but I guarantee if you read the book with an open mind you will find something between the covers. Easy. The hard part? What does it mean for me?
For me I found a goal. Well, not a goal exactly. The goal was already there. It's been on my cover page for months. The Grand Teton 10k- it's a bucket list race. It's just a 10k but distance for me has never been a goal. It's my favorite kind of run (in the woods), in my favorite place. Could I do the marathon? Maybe. Orton talks about seeing yourself fail before you even try. That's where I am right now on anything longer then a half-marathon. I don't trust that my body could hold out for a marathon- especially a mountain one. So that goal might sit on the back burner for a while. But the 10k. I'm not sure I even need to run the actual race for it to feel like a success. I could see myself doing a 10k in Jackson. I can see myself LOVING that. So there's my Cool Impossible. Run in Jackson Hole.
So here is what you can expect from me. Starting as soon as I can get myself organized I'm going to train with Eric Orton (the book form at least). I've already enlisted my Dad to help out, and if I haven't already asked you, don't be surprised when I want you to help me stay on track. I'm probably one of the least self motivated people I know, so I'm going to need help. I'll be posting my progress over on my blog page, I'll be keeping journals and trying new things and when I'm done I hope I'll be a whole new runner, and maybe a whole new person.
Which I guess is about the best endorsement I can give a book. This book inspired me to take action. Between his technical advice and his ability to make you feel as though you are a part of the conversation, Orton has managed to write a training book that makes you want to dive right in, and it's laid out in a way that makes you feel like you can succeed. Reading it will only take you so far, so here is where the reading ends and the challenge begins. Time to go catch my Cool Impossible. (less)
First let me say that I currently am having a book three problem. It feels like all my favorite trilogies are all coming to a close at the same time....more
First let me say that I currently am having a book three problem. It feels like all my favorite trilogies are all coming to a close at the same time. It's draining. I want to know how they end, but I'm not ready for them to be over! So like a bad blogger I've been avoiding them (it's a coping mechanism, okay?!) All these book threes are stacked up in a nice neat pile, just waiting for me to get up the nerve to open them up. The Fourth Stall sat there for a little while, and of course, when I finally grabbed it and opened that first page, I was sucked right in.
Second. I missed these characters. Like really missed them! With everything else I read it's sometimes hard to remember how fun and easy reading can be. This book, this whole series is just fun to read. I read it and I nod along and giggle and wink back when the story winks- I love that Rylander has his characters acknowledge the Godfather connections, the silliness that is Scarface and the undying love that fans have for the Cubs.
*** Note- There will be spoilers below. If you haven't read this book yet. Stop reading now. Just know that this is a series you need to go get ***
When the books start we find Mac and Vince trying to live the clean life and stay out of cross hairs. They've shut down their business and are enjoying being retired. We all know you can't just leave the life. Once you are in, you are in and we see Mac and Vince being approached on several fronts to take up the reins and get back to business. Like usually happens, its the opportunity to make a quick buck without doing any work that ultimately pulls them back in. It was an offer they couldn't refuse that sucked them back under.
From there the book takes some really interesting twists and turns. We see the return of Staples, someone else who (supposedly) is trying to clean up their act. We meet some new faces, including a kid who makes them that very lucrative offer and a rival at a different school who may just ruin them all completely.
This was me as I read the book. And not just in my head. I said these things out loud, much to the confusion of the people around me and my dog, who was more then once jolted awake by my comments.
"Nice! Mac and Vince are back in action!"
"hmmm... Staples? The good guy? Not sure about this..."
"Jimmy refers to himself as Jimmy. Yeah- this isn't going to end well."
"NO WAY! That's Staples' sister!!" (<-- Dog really jumped on that one)
"Wait! What? Dude... they should NOT have trusted Staples"
I'm sure there were many, many more comments that came out of my mouth, but the point is that if this is a feel good read. You can't help but get into it, to root for the good guys, to cheer for the good guy adjacent characters and really just enjoy the ride. I'm bummed that it's over. Still, now that I'm sitting in the drivers seat at the Middle School library I get to watch my students discover these books and enjoy them as much as I do, which is just as good! (less)
On the recommendation of Darby Karchut I picked this book up. She's one of my favorite authors, so I figured she had good taste. This was a great litt...moreOn the recommendation of Darby Karchut I picked this book up. She's one of my favorite authors, so I figured she had good taste. This was a great little book, full of all the sorts of things that I really enjoy. There's folklore and magic, there's action and adventure, there's wilderness and wild animals and it's all woven together in a neat little package.
At the center of the story is Emma, a girl who has lost everything and is struggling just to survive in Alaska with an abusive step-father. No one should have to live the way Emma does, covering her bruises and making excuses. No one should have to, but many kids (and adults) do. Townsend does something here, in talking about the relationship between Emma and her step-father, that I like. She treats it as simply another part of Emma's life. She doesn't sugar coat it, but she doesn't make it the focal point of the entire story either. It's something Emma lives with, and deals with, on a daily basis, but it does not define her. It certainly impacts the decisions Emma makes throughout the story, but I appreciated that Emma, as a character, was more then just an abused girl.
That said, the abuse is what sets the entire adventure in motion, and her ability to cope with bad things, with bad people, is what allows her to come through the journey stronger. The fact that she never loses hope, and doesn't let the bad things that have happened to her define her, is what makes her inspiring.
The other characters in this story are great- I do wish that there was a little more character development on some of the characters, especially Jock, who is Amarok's uncle. I felt like he played a fairly large role in the story and how it all resolved, but I didn't feel like I knew enough about him. I had a great picture of who the shaman was, who Emma was and who Amorak was, but Jock came in and was awesome, but I really wanted to know more. At the end of the book I found myself really wanting a second story focusing on Jock and his adventures releasing all the other people who were trapped by the Shaman.
Overall this was a great story, it was a quick read that packed a lot in, and I think that because Emma is such a survivor and the fact that she takes the pain and hurt and uses that to become a stronger person, someone who doesn't give up and doesn't lose hope, makes it a story that many kids (and adults) can relate to. If you get a chance, pick this one up!(less)
It's been awhile since I've had the time to sit and read a book. When I finally had some free time I checked what was next on my TBR pile and picked...more
It's been awhile since I've had the time to sit and read a book. When I finally had some free time I checked what was next on my TBR pile and picked up this book. I was instantly hooked. Gold did a great job at connecting her story to traditional Salem Witch Trial lore and it was fun to read. I so wanted to love this book from start to finish, but there a few little things that let me down in the end.
First the good:
Gold creates a great main character in Abby. She's relate able and it was very easy to get attached to her. I think everyone can remember being in High School and feeling like the outcast. In Abby's case she just feels invisible, and not just at school, but at home too. It's just her, her brother and her father and her brother and father are thick as thieves, they even look alike. Abby is kind of adrift and is not only dealing with normal teenage stuff, but also with recurring nightmares. I very quickly was hooked on Abby's story, especially as we began to learn not only more about Abby and her family history, but also the history of Salem and the witch trials.
Gold also gives us some great secondary characters. Despite often feeling alone, Abby does have a pretty decent support system. Her brother and father are maybe not interested in what she has going on, but neither are they absentee or abusive. She has two good friends in Rachel and Kate, who, despite not always agree with her actions, stay relatively firmly in Abby's corner. Of course, since we are talking YA here, there are boys. Two pretty great boys as a matter of fact, in Travis and Rem. Travis is the schools golden boy, and he's also been an acquaintance of Abby's for years. They aren't really friends, but they are friendly, and Abby has a major crush on him. Rem is the new guy, the one she feels a mysterious pull towards. In the end it all works out as it should, and I really enjoyed reading this love triangle.
The best part of this story was the magic. Who doesn't want to believe in magic, to believe that they might have a little bit of power in them? I really, really enjoyed watching Abby figure out who she is and what she is capable of. I loved seeing her try to find that balance between what she can do and what she should do. I especially liked watching her as realize that she has the power to decide, to become the person she wants to be. I thought that Gold did a phenomenal job weaving the lore and magic into present day Salem. She did a great job making it believable that these things can be there, brewing just underneath the surface, and no one is the wiser.
Gold has a great line in the book that I think pretty much says it all in terms of why I personally love books like this, that mesh reality with magic and tie in history. Gold says "How much goes on in the world that not written in the History books, that we can't understand" That's pretty much it for me. I love history, but part of the fun is that you know that not everything is there in black and white. That there is always the potential for new information to surface that would flip everything we know on it's head. Usually it's something small, like the person who wrote a book that was critical of the Union Soldiers during the Civil War is actually a descendant of some Confederate General, which renders everything he writes as biased (I made that example up by the way). Still, there is always the chance for something bigger. What if there are witches, not just those that practice Wicca, or dabble in spells and incantations, but actually familial lines that have been honing their craft, one that was genetically part of their makeup, for hundreds of years? What if they had a hand in some of the biggest events in history? What if they live and work with you and have an impact on seemingly mundane events everyday? I find that stuff fascinating, and I think Gold did a fantastic job in writing a story that is at once totally outrageous and completely believable.
What was the bad then? Well, it really was a few little things. First, there were the mean girls and their treatment of Abby. It was ridiculous the level of bullying that went on. Not that this doesn't happen in real life, it does. What irked me was that it wasn't dealt with. Yes, Abby uses her new found power to challenge the mean girls, but at no point does anyone ever mention how not okay their behavior is. She never tells a teacher or parent and the fact that her friends don't don't mention it leads me to believe that their behavior is supposed to be a common one. It bugged me the entire time. The second thing that got me was that there was so much build up in this book. I felt like I was really invested in a lot of the characters and I was looking forward to a big showdown of some sort. There was a showdown of sorts, but, for me, it all wrapped up too quickly and too nicely. I like where everyone ended up, I just wish there was more to how they got there. To be honest I felt a little gipped. I tore through this book in about 4 hours and I was so excited for the final action and then it was just kind of over. The kicker is that I even liked how Abby made her choice and the actions she took, but it felt too neat and tidy for my liking. It was a bit of a let down after such an exciting ride.
So where does that leave me? Well, it leaves me with a very good book that could have been great. I struggle for the exact words, but I can sum it up by saying that I just wanted more. Still, I wouldn't write this book off. If your like me and you love History and you love supernatural tones then I'd pick this one up and give it a test drive. You might find that it's a perfect fit!(less)
I loved this book. Loved. Even though it's about a latina teen trying to find her place in a new school- the story itself is universal and so many kid...moreI loved this book. Loved. Even though it's about a latina teen trying to find her place in a new school- the story itself is universal and so many kids (and adults) can relate. Everyone has those moments where they don't fit in and too many kids find themselves in situations where they are the target of a bully. Piddy is forced to just try to survive every day without being physically and mentally assaulted, and the rest of her world begins to spiral out of control.
Medina does a great job showing how bullying can change who you are, how you see yourself and how you interact with the world. You begin to believe what people are saying about you and you begin to become someone new. You can become the person they think you are, or you can retreat and pull yourself away from everyone. Watching Piddy trying to figure out what to do was very interesting and a good reminder of what kids go through every day. I saw myself a bit in Piddy, but more then that I saw my students. They deal with things outside of school that I can imagine, but I can't even begin to understand. The fact that they show up everyday, the fact that Piddy tries to keep moving forward, is a testament to their strength.
The secondary characters in the story are also top notch. The people around Piddy all seemingly want the best for her, but they each have their own ways of doing it. Her mother wants to keep moving forward without ever looking back and that hurts Piddy, who desperately wants to know who her father is. Her mother so desperately want's something more for Piddy and doesn't want Piddy to make the mistakes she did, that she doesn't see her daughter falling apart in front of her. Piddy's friends, especially the neighbor boy who she grew up with, offer her an escape when things get bad. They don't pressure her to say what's wrong, because they are all t familiar with what pain looks like. I don't want to give much away on this book. I enjoyed going on the journey with Piddy too much and I don't want to ruin that for anyone else.
This is another one that I will be adding to my library collection for next year. (less)
First of all, I love the cover. I know that they say don't judge a book by it's cover, but when you are scrolling through potential books to read on N...moreFirst of all, I love the cover. I know that they say don't judge a book by it's cover, but when you are scrolling through potential books to read on NetGalley, or browsing the shelves at the store or library, the cover is what catches your eye, it's what draws you in and it's the thing that makes you want to know more.
Luckily the book lived up to the cover. I've always been a fan of this type of book. Strong female in the lead, mystery, murder and magic. Love it. Kyra is pretty awesome. She is one of the best potioners and for a long time was held in high regard, but now, after she tries to kill the princess (and fails) she becomes a fugitive. I liked watching Kyra trying to reconcile who she was with who she has become and who she wants to be. She doesn't like that she tried to kill the princess, but she has her reasons and she is steadfast in the belief that she is doing the right thing.
What I particularly like about this story is that no one is exactly who they seem. Even Kyra, who we know the most about throughout the story, has a few hidden secrets up her sleeve. Fred is a great side kick and partner for Kyra. She is serious and on a mission, he is carefree and has a way of breaking down her defenses. Like Kyra, Fred isn't exactly who he claims to be and as we see them both try to figure the other out, we also learn more about the happening of the kingdom and why it's in turmoil. I have to say that every twist and turn that Zinn worked in genuinely surprised me. Some made sense the minute I read it, and others had me thinking "really? that's how that's going to work out?" only to have it reconcile itself later. It was all very well done. Plus, there's a pig and a wolf dog who embark on their own little love match, and who doesn't love animal sidekicks?
So if you like books that pack a punch and keep you guessing this is a good one to pick up. It doesn't come out for another few weeks, but it's worth ordering. I know that I've already added it to next years library order. I think my kids will love it! (less)
I don't know about anyone else, but my love for Cooney goes back to my middle school days when I devoured The Face on the Milk Carton and it's sequels...moreI don't know about anyone else, but my love for Cooney goes back to my middle school days when I devoured The Face on the Milk Carton and it's sequels and then slowly worked my way through the rest of Cooney's books. They were really my introduction to mystery novels and I could not have been more excited to pick up Wanted! and give it a shot.
To be honest I wavered on how to rate this book and how to review it. It was very good. The characters and the story were great. The story follows a girl named Alice who finds herself at the middle of a murder investigation. She is framed for her own father's murder and goes on the run while she tries to figure out what happened and how to fix it. The thing that I loved most was that just as I thought I had it figured out, something would twist or turn and I'd be scratching my head again. I figured out who the real killer was only a few pages before Alice did, so that was really great. Also, the way that some of the oddities were explained in the end really tied up nicely. So some of the things that I was questioning as I read really made sense once the story wrapped up.
What bugged me were some of the technical issues that were scattered throughout. There weren't a lot, but some were glaring and really threw me off. For instance, early in the book Alice needs to change her clothes and the sentence says: "She yanked off her jeans and let them lie on the floor, ripped off her t-shirt, which fell half on top of the jeans, kicked off her sneakers, which banged into the wall and fell back onto the carpet." Now there are a few things wrong with this section and I actually read it once, then read it again, then a few pages later turned BACK to it to make sure I had really read that, then I posted it on Facebook. Little things like that drive me bonkers, but when it came down to reviewing the book I needed to remember that this was an ARC. Chances are these little mistakes were fixed by the time the book went out to readers. So I can't really count it against the book (so I didn't). It's funny though how small things like that can cloud your entire view of an otherwise great book.
All in all this was a great story. I would have liked a little more character development on Alice, but considering the timeline of the story I thought that Cooney did an excellent job showing the reader who Alice was and made me, at least, really care for this kid who was literally running for her life. I certainly wouldn't say no to seeing more of Alice some day in another book!(less)
This was such an interesting and intriguing book. I thought I knew what to expect when I started reading the book, but it took some crazy and awesome...moreThis was such an interesting and intriguing book. I thought I knew what to expect when I started reading the book, but it took some crazy and awesome turns along the way that made the book exceed my expectation. First let me say that this book was a pretty easy sell for me in terms of picking it up. I started dancing at age 3 (I learned to be a flower!) and continued dancing, teaching and choreographing all the way through college. I still lace up my toe shoes or tap shoes as the mood strikes and dance away all my stress. I love reading books about dance so I was very excited to pick this one up.
I was not expecting there to be so much depth and mystery in this story and I loved it. From the summary I knew that there would be something about the missing sister, but I didn't at all expect how that would play out.
So, I initially thought it would be a pretty standard mystery, laced with all the drama that comes with dancers, especially dancers of this level. I did not expect however that the story would tie in ancient folklore and magic. The way that Black ties in the history of ballet and specifically the Firebird is great. It's a beautiful ballet I thought that Black did a great job explaining the themes of the story as well as incorporating the specific lore that she needed for the more mystic elements of her plot. By tying it all together she made really believable and I found myself scouring the internet for more information about not only Firebird, but traditional dances and their ties to the occult and underworld. That's my mark of a great book, it makes you want to know more, not only about the characters or the plot, but about the world.
I really loved how the entire plot unraveled. I went from thinking the drama at the school was typical dance drama, to thinking that the choreographer had a screw loose, to realizing that there was something seriously hinky going on at this ballet school. By the time I realized exactly how messed up the whole situation was I was so invested in the characters and the story that I bought even the more fantastical elements of the story. The twists and turns kept me guessing at who the good guys were and who the bad guys were all the way until the last page. I also thought that Black did a great job with all the dance terms and even with the feelings that dance gives you, the sense of being lost in the moment, being lost in the music and just letting go.
There was only one little plot point that I thought wasn't resolved, and it bugged me just a bit. Towards the middle of the story Vanessa decides to do a research project on the history and myths surrounding the Firebird ballet. I thought that we would get more out of that little lead, but it didn't really take us anywhere. I personally would have loved to hear more about what she found and how it helped her solve the mystery she was facing as the lead in the ballet.
I really loved how the book ended. Enough loose ends were tied up that I would have been happy if this book were a stand alone. I felt like Vanessa and her friends were left in a place that I could see that they were going to be okay. Changed forever by their whole ordeal, but okay. However, there were a few little strings left dangling that leaves it ripe for a sequel. Did Vanessa really solve the mystery of her sister's disappearance or is there more to discover there? Did Vanessa truly stop the evil that was unleashed as she danced or is there more danger around the corner? These little questions leave the story open to move forward and I'm very excited to see where it goes from here! (less)
**spoiler alert** This was a good book that could have been so much better. When I read the synopsis I got really excited. The plot, about a teenage s...more**spoiler alert** This was a good book that could have been so much better. When I read the synopsis I got really excited. The plot, about a teenage spy, isn't one that I've seen a million times, so I was really looking forward to diving in. And it was good. Very good as a matter of fact. I liked the plot, I liked (most of) the characters and I loved how it all ended. However, there were a few things that irked me and I found I couldn't over look them.
Let's get the negatives right out of the way. Maggie is a spy, her whole family is spies, her life is one big adventure and bad guys are real and she's cracking safes and running for her life. AWESOME. Still with the exception of the final action of the book (which was perfect), we hear a lot about it, but don't really see it. In many instances the spy stuff takes a back seat to the teenager/family stuff. Which is okay, but I was expecting and hoping for more of the mystery and adventure. One moment in particular got under my skin. We see Maggie take on her first solo mission, she cracks a safe and gets the documents she was after, and then it was completely overshadowed by her missing curfew, to the point that the documents and her success or failure in her objective wasn't even mentioned. I loved how the book focused on the family dynamics and how everything is changing, I just wanted more of a balance.
The other negative for me was Jesse. I just couldn't get behind him as a boyfriend worthy of potentially giving it all up for. He's clingy and needy and he is constantly looking for reassurance. I was annoyed with him in the first few sentences and I was just reading about him. I can't even imagine trying to deal with him in real life. Throughout the story I found myself thinking that the reason Maggie fell for him so quickly was because she didn't have any frame of reference to compare it to. It might be cute now that he's upset that it took her 15 minutes to call him back, but that sort of stuff wears on you in the long run.
Those are my two big negatives.... everything else though? Everything else was great. Maggie and her family were written in such a way that made it really easy to believe that they were so used to their lives on the move as spies that they couldn't adjust to trying to be a normal family. Her parents were totally unprepared to deal with both a daughter on her first solo case and one who might just be a normal teenage girls. It was awkward and humorous and somehow heartwarming at once. Maggie's friend Roux was awesome as well. A social outcast looking for a life jacket and she fit in perfectly with what Maggie needed.
My favorite character was probably Angelo, a family friend who is a master forger and Maggie's confidant. He is almost a 3rd parent to her, looking out for her and also trying to help assimilate into the real world. She's someone who Maggie can completely confide in, about both the spy stuff and the high school stuff. Plus he happens to be completely bad-ass. He wears a 3 piece suit and flies a helicopter. When she needs him he is ready to come to her rescue and when she doesn't need him he knows how to fade into the background and let her find her own way.
Seeing Maggie struggle with trying to do her job and finding out what it's like to be a real teen for the first time was really well written. She so wants to do her job well and make her family proud, but at the same time she is getting her first glimpse at what a non-spy life could be like. One where you have friends and get to just relax sometimes. It's completely foreign to her and what we find mundane is actually really appealing to her.
As for the last action of the book. I loved it. There is a slow reveal as to who is trying to sabotage Maggie and her family. Benway does a great job at keeping you guessing. I thought I knew who it was, then I thought it was someone else (and was heartbroken b/c it would have been horrible if that person was the mole) and then suddenly it was someone else and it all made sense. I liked that I found out who it was the same time Maggie pieced it together instead of spending the book knowing who it was and wanting Maggie to just figure it out already. The way it all comes together is exciting and it was great to watch Maggie and her buddies come into their own and bring down the bad guys.
So overall I liked this book- it didn't blow me away but it is really well written and keeps moving. If you are looking for a super spy book, this might not be the one for you, but if you are looking for a fun YA book about growing up and making your own choices in life, pick this one up and give it a spin. (less)