Kali is in some ways similar to Bryn from Jennifer's other series, Raised by Wolves, but Kali actually has supernatural strength though she goes back...moreKali is in some ways similar to Bryn from Jennifer's other series, Raised by Wolves, but Kali actually has supernatural strength though she goes back to being a regular teen in 24 hours. Like Bryn, Kali also has an unusual home life-her mom left when she was little and her dad is very much an absent-minded professor type. She pretty much has to raise herself. This means that Kali comes across as more of an adult than a teen. It is funny then to see her interact and make friends with more typical teens like Skylar, a social outcast, and Bethany, a popular cheerleader. Kali's social awkwardness and temporary vulnerability make her easier to relate to. Zev and Skylar are interesting characters and even Bethany grew on me.
The writing is humorous and action packed (the story takes place over just a few days) but we still get to see some character growth in Kali as she learns more about herself, her family, and her newfound friends. Something else I liked was how even though Kali's dad isn't the greatest, Kali sees that he actually does care about her and their relationship does improve by the end of the book. Another positive is that the romance element is not the main point and there isn't a love triangle-a huge plus in this genre of YA fiction. I do wish there was better world building and that some things were better explained but hopefully there will be a sequel that will answer those questions.
Overall while I think Raised by Wolves is the better book, Every Other Day exceeded my expectations. Jennifer Lynn Barnes has become one of my favorite authors of YA paranormal fiction because of her strong but flawed protagonists and because she knows how to tell a story. I would suggest this to fans of Paranormalcy by Kiersten White and to those who like strong female protagonists like Billi Sangreal from Devil's Kiss or Rose Hathaway from Vampire Academy.
Readalikes: Paranormalcy by Kiersten White, Raised by Wolves by Jennifer Lynn Barnes, Devil's Kiss by Sarwat Chadda, Strange Angels by Lili St. Crow
Note: I received an ARC of this book through the Amazon Vine program in exchange for my honest review(less)
Breadcrumbs is a novel best described as magical. In telling her story, Anne Ursu pays homage to fairy tales like The Little Match Girl and Hansel and...moreBreadcrumbs is a novel best described as magical. In telling her story, Anne Ursu pays homage to fairy tales like The Little Match Girl and Hansel and Gretel and novels like The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. I was reminded more than once of Narnia and the White Witch, especially when the Snow Queen arrives in a sleigh and asks Jack if he'd like some Turkish Delight. The world that Hazel finds herself in does not have the charm of Narnia however. There is danger everywhere even with those who seem perfectly harmless and Hazel goes into the woods knowing that she will have to fight evil to get Jack back.
Hazel is a character who is at times wise beyond her years and at other times very young. She has an active imagination and she's entered a time when grownups tend to start encouraging kids to be more serious. This causes difficulties for Hazel in school where she struggles to pay attention. She is intelligent but her curiosity gets her into trouble. Jack is the one bright spot in her life since her dad left. He shares her creativity and they like to make up stories and superpowers together. Lately though Jack has been spending more time with his buddies, Bobby and Tyler. Even before the incident with the Snow Queen, Jack and Hazel start to grow apart. Hazel is at a pivotal moment in her life as she begins to leave childhood behind and her quest to save Jack helps her come to grips with the idea of growing up without losing yourself.
One of the themes of this book seems to be about the importance of creativity and encouraging creativity in young people. Breadcrumbs certainly succeeds with that. The writing style adds to that sense of magic and wonder. The descriptions of cold really pulled me into the story. There were a couple of times that I thought maybe the writing style would not appeal to younger kids but I think tweens in 5th and 6th grade would appreciate it. Anne Ursu has a gift for description and creating a sense of place. Overall I thought this was a fantastic story and one I would suggest to fans of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe and Inkheart. I look forward to reading more from Anne Ursu. (less)
Bet Me is the first Jennifer Crusie book I've read and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. The story is told in multiple viewpoints which I was...moreBet Me is the first Jennifer Crusie book I've read and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. The story is told in multiple viewpoints which I was not expecting and there is quite a cast of supporting characters. Min is a very down to earth character. She does obsess about her weight a lot and she enjoys food and fashionable shoes. I do wish that she hadn't had such a low self image. It would have been nice if she had listened to her friends and realized her true worth and beauty without needing to hear it from Cal. Still, this makes her a believable woman because unfortunately that is something many women struggle with. It is good to see her bloom though and her personality definitely shines.
When I read the description of this book, I wasn't sure that I would like Cal. Like Min's first impression, I thought I'd hate his character and find the romance unbelievable. Thankfully, Cal proved to be a decent guy (there are a lot of misunderstandings surrounding that "bet") or the story wouldn't have worked. I liked that Min and Cal's relationship develops gradually. At first Cal sees Min as an uptight and boring woman who is bitter towards men and Min thinks of Cal as a player who agreed to that horrid bet. It is nice to see their attitudes about each other change. I also liked how protective their friends were.
The supporting characters were entertaining but I do wish that the book was only written from Min and Cal's points of view. At times the book felt a little overcrowded with personality because of this. There is quite a bit of humor and food descriptions that made me crave donuts and chicken marsala. There are some deeper moments too. The issues of family expectations, self esteem issues for both Min and Cal, and the idea of taking risks vs. playing it safe were handled nicely without overwhelming the lighthearted tone. Bet Me is the kind of story that would appeal to both readers of contemporary romance and chick lit. I would suggest it to fans of Jennifer Weiner, Sarah Strohmeyer, and Meg Cabot's chick lit novels. Overall I thought this was a fun romance with a predictable plot but enjoyable just the same.(less)
Kiss Crush Collide is touted by the publishers as a book that would appeal to fans of Perfect Chemistry, John Green, and Sarah Dessen. I think this se...moreKiss Crush Collide is touted by the publishers as a book that would appeal to fans of Perfect Chemistry, John Green, and Sarah Dessen. I think this sets the reader up for unrealistically high expectations. The novel may have that theme of forbidden romance like Perfect Chemistry but that is where similarities end. We don't really get to see the romance develop between the characters. Instead there is instant attraction and stolen kisses in borrowed cars. They make out the first time they meet and their relationship doesn't seem to have much substance. We don't really get to know Duffy either. There are snippets of information about his background and home life but not much. Unlike Perfect Chemistry where readers get to know Alex Fuentes through the chapters from his point of view, we don't really learn much about Duffy by the end of the book. It isn't really clear what Leah likes about him either.
Where the novel has its strength is the family dynamics between Leah, her sisters, and her unbearable mother. While we still don't see any motivation for the way her mother behaves, it does give us some understanding of why Leah acts like she does. I found it hard to connect with Leah because she is somewhat spoiled and privileged and she complains about her life. She cheats on her boyfriend and isn't fair to Duffy. She is also really rude to Valerie, her academic rival (though that isn't very believable-Leah isn't convincingly portrayed as a smart student but rather someone who is allowed to slide by virtue of her family name). Valerie shows up every day at the pool where Leah works and she calls Leah out on her behavior and lack of effort in school. Of all the characters in the book I liked Valerie the most. She is quirky, different, she loves to read and study, and she doesn't seem to care about popularity. The two eventually become friends as Leah becomes more mature. In the end Leah does grow up a little and assert some independence which was nice to see.
I think Kiss Crush Collide shouldn't have been marketed the way it was. Comparing the book to those by such major YA authors as Sarah Dessen and John Green did not do it any favors. Without those comparisons I think the book was not bad for a debut novel and I liked how the author wrote the scenes involving Leah and her family. Kiss Crush Collide does have some flaws and would have benefited from more character development or even alternating chapters between Leah and Duffy. If you are in the mood for a romance with lots of chemistry and don't mind the flaws then Kiss Crush Collide might appeal to you. It is certainly entertaining and the author definitely has potential. I think that with time her books will rival the works of authors like Simone Elkeles and Jennifer Echols. Some fans of Perfect Chemistry and Forget You might even enjoy Kiss Crush Collide as long as they don't read it expecting it to be just like those books.(less)
Come Sunday is a moving story about loss and relationships. Abbe has suffered a tremendous loss and as the novel goes on, the reader also finds out ab...moreCome Sunday is a moving story about loss and relationships. Abbe has suffered a tremendous loss and as the novel goes on, the reader also finds out about her tough childhood. Isla Morley does a good job of portraying Abbe's pain and she comes across as a very realistic character. Abbe can be unkind and selfish but that is understandable though it makes it hard to like her at times. This is the kind of book that makes readers feel strongly whether it is sorrow or anger.
My evening book discussion group chose this as our November book. The consensus was that the group did not like Abbe because of her behavior towards her husband and others, particularly her close friends. There was also agreement that one of the plot points toward the end of the book was really unnecessary and didn't fit in with the rest of the book. Other members also wished that there was more about South Africa in the book in terms of a sense of place.
I still liked Come Sunday even with its flaws. It definitely made me think about how our past can have such a hold on us if we let it and the importance of trying to forgive instead of being bitter. The characters were true to life and I think the themes of the story were well written. I look forward to reading more from Isla Morley. Come Sunday would make a good book for discussion. (less)
The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer is a paranormal suspense novel that succeeds in creating an atmosphere of menace. Mara's realistic visions and nightmares...moreThe Unbecoming of Mara Dyer is a paranormal suspense novel that succeeds in creating an atmosphere of menace. Mara's realistic visions and nightmares cause the reader to feel that fear and paranoia along with her. Mara is a mostly sympathetic character as she deals with grief, struggles to remember what happened, and tries to stay sane in the face of all that is going on. She has great support from her older brother Daniel and her parents clearly care about her even though her relationship with her mom is strained. I also liked that Mara is biracial though that isn't a main plot point.
Noah Shaw at first appears to be a stock character from YA romance, the hottest guy in school who every girl wants to be with. He does have some depth and surprising secrets that make him more interesting. While Mara's chemistry with Noah really sizzles, he is not an entirely likeable love interest because of his past behavior. I may be in the minority on that opinion but I didn't like finding out how he treated girls in the past. To be fair, he doesn't behave that way with Mara though he can come across as a little too cocky for his own good.
My favorite part of this book by far was the suspense. The visions really do add to the creepy feel of the book. I was taken by surprise by the ending and though there are definitely things that weren't explained about Mara and Noah I am sure we will find out more in the sequel.
Overall, I think The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer is a promising debut novel. The suspense keeps the pages turning while the unanswered questions and the explosive cliffhanger ending will leave readers eager for the next chapter. I would suggest this to fans of Wake by Lisa McMann.
Readalikes: Wake by Lisa McMann, the Touch series by Laurie Faria Stolarz, The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting, Clarity by Kim Harrington
Note: I received an ARC of this book courtesy of the Amazon Vine program in exchange for my honest review(less)
Going into this novel, I was reminded of Remember Me? by Sophie Kinsella. While both protagonists suffer temporary amnesia, the books are different in...moreGoing into this novel, I was reminded of Remember Me? by Sophie Kinsella. While both protagonists suffer temporary amnesia, the books are different in tone. What Alice Forgot explores not only marriage and parenthood but also the issues of infertility, loss, friendship, and new love. Young Alice is portrayed as naive and perhaps a little immature. She is babied by her family and husband and they seem to think she isn't capable of handling much. They protect her from life's difficulties. I sometimes found Young Alice to be annoying (I could picture her being portrayed in film by Amy Adams-the character reminded me of the one she played in Enchanted). In contrast, mature Alice is much more driven. She likes control and order and she expects perfection. Seeing this new and "improved" Alice is difficult for her younger self to take.
In addition to Alice, we also see the story through the view of Alice's older sister Elisabeth who is a successful businesswoman on the outside but she struggles with her continuing inability to have children. Elisabeth is very different from Alice and her thoughts help readers to understand Alice better too. Interspersed with Alice and Elisabeth's stories is that of Frannie, the girls' honorary grandmother. Frannie has suffered loss too and she held their family together when Alice and Elisabeth's dad passed away and their mother fell into depression. Frannie's voice is not as strong as the sisters and I think it did not add much to the book. She is feisty but we didn't need to read the story through her eyes as well.
What Alice Forgot has some flaws but somehow it still works. One problem is that there is quite a bit of jumping around between past and present. It is also strange that no one around Alice seems to truly grasp that she has amnesia and what that means. They all keep expecting her to remember and know things in her present life that she has obviously forgotten. I didn't like the way the whole story-line with Gina was revealed and I also thought the ending wasn't very believable though it was still nice.
It is wish fulfillment to have the opportunity for a do-over in life and maybe some readers will have a hard time with this book because it comes across sometimes as a holiday movie. The amnesia plot device is used to explore the drastic differences in Alice's life then and now and it allows readers to reflect on how our choices can change so much of our lives. I liked how we were able to look at a marriage and see some of the things that went wrong. What Alice Forgot refers not just to the loss of ten years of memory but also to forgetting what is important to us in life. Mature Alice and Nick have lost sight of what mattered to them ten years ago and life has a way of changing people sometimes for the better, sometimes not. Overall I thought this was an excellent novel about family, friendship, and self discovery.
Readalikes: Remember Me? by Sophie Kinsella, PS, I Love You by Cecelia Ahern, The Opposite of Me by Sarah Pekkanen(less)
The Things We Cherished combines mystery, history, and romance into a page turning story. I enjoyed reading the historical chapters as we learn about...moreThe Things We Cherished combines mystery, history, and romance into a page turning story. I enjoyed reading the historical chapters as we learn about the history of the anniversary clock and its importance to the plot. There was also plenty of suspense as characters were involved with the resistance or hiding from the Nazis. The contemporary story was not quite as fascinating though I did like both Charlotte and Jack. Their romance echoes that of another love story in the book which I thought was a nice touch.
While I couldn't wait to find out what happened, in the end I was a little disappointed. Some of the characters seemed to disappear from the story and it felt sort of anticlimactic. The romance between Charlotte and Jack became a little too important or central to the plot than it should have been. It would have been nice if the focus remained on solving the mystery. I also had issues with Roger's actions and that particular romance. Still, I liked The Things We Cherished and found myself pulled into the story. Fans of Sarah's Key might enjoy this because of the mix of historical and contemporary elements though The Things We Cherished is not such a gritty or emotional novel. I was also reminded of People of the Book because of all the different threads of a story tied together by the same object. The Things We Cherished may have some flaws but I liked it anyway and I will be trying other books by Pam Jenoff.
Readalikes: The Virgin Blue by Tracy Chevalier, Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay, People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks(less)
The Kitchen Daughter is a treat for foodies. There are recipes at the beginning of several chapters and the book is filled with food related descripti...moreThe Kitchen Daughter is a treat for foodies. There are recipes at the beginning of several chapters and the book is filled with food related descriptions. Ginny relates to the world through food. She loves cooking and it is a coping mechanism for her. When she is upset, she retreats to remembering recipes and techniques for cooking. She even thinks in terms of food when describing people (her sister Amanda has an "orange juice" voice). This might seem strange but it actually fits the characters. I also enjoyed the descriptions of cooking as Ginny made different recipes. Since food and cooking are so important to Ginny, it works very well for the story instead of being a cute gimmick.
Ginny as a character is unique because she has undiagnosed Asperger's Syndrome. Being able to see the world through her eyes and to feel her frustration because she doesn't understand her sister or she has been too overprotected or things are just out of control really adds to the story. Ginny refuses to believe that she is anything but normal. She even has a "Normal Book" made up of newspaper clippings from advice columns that have the word "normal". I admired Ginny because she didn't want to be labeled. At the same time I wanted her to get help so that she could take care of herself and be more independent.
The Kitchen Daughter explores the theme of grief as Ginny and Amanda deal with the loss of their parents and there are other characters that have experienced great loss too. I think this aspect of the book is handled very well. The book also shows the complicated relationship between the sisters as well as their parents. I think it would have been too easy to have pat answers and a neatly wrapped up ending but Jael McHenry rewards her readers with something far more honest. I was slightly hesitant about reading this book because of the ghosts and I wasn't sure how Ginny's character would be portrayed but I was surprised to find that I liked Ginny and that the element with the ghosts really worked within the story. Taken as a whole, The Kitchen Daughter is one of the best books I've read this year. I would suggest this to fans of Cecelia Ahern and Sarah Addison Allen.(less)
Van has been through a lot of painful things in her life. Her dad was not part of the picture when she was growing up. She had her mom Natalie who sou...moreVan has been through a lot of painful things in her life. Her dad was not part of the picture when she was growing up. She had her mom Natalie who sounds like a truly amazing Lorelai Gilmore kind of mother. She also had the friendship of her mom's employer Diane and Diane's daughter Janie. Even though Janie and Diane are incredibly wealthy compared to the Leones, they still formed strong bonds. Unfortunately these bonds were tested over time first with Janie falling in love with the same boy Van liked and then finally breaking after Natalie's death from cancer when Van was in college. Van has understandably not been able to get over these blows. She is expected to be front and center during the wedding so she has to hide her feelings. Her relationship with Peter is reminiscent of the movie My Best Friend's Wedding in many ways though Peter is not as upstanding as Dermott Mulroney's character, Michael.
Van's relationship with Alex is much more electric and it is clear from the moment that she meets him that she will be able to get over Peter. There are obstacles to be overcome but it is obvious that the two are meant to be together. I enjoyed seeing their relationship develop and the many humorous encounters. Any relationship that starts because of a dog is bound to have a major cute factor. Joe is an adorable dog though he isn't as destructive as I pictured a German Shepherd puppy to be. Van also adapts to dog ownership pretty quickly. One of my favorite "Joe moments" in the book is when she goes to pick him up at the airport expecting a little puppy and her reaction to finding Joe waiting for her.
Stay is a cute if predictable book that somehow manages to pull on the heartstrings anyway. What makes it work is the humor and the unexpected emotional depth. I liked the exploration of friendships and family dynamics. None of the characters are perfect and that gives the story a slightly realistic touch. This would make a great movie and is a good pick for when you are in the mood for a light, humorous book. I would suggest this to fans of Claire Cook.
Readalikes: Must Love Dogs by Claire Cook, Seven Year Switch by Claire Cook, Hope in a Jar by Beth Harbison, In Her Shoes by Jennifer Weiner, The Sleeping Beauty Proposal by Sarah Strohmeyer, The Opposite of Me by Sarah Pekkanen(less)
The Emerald Atlas has been compared to Harry Potter and Lemony Snickett's A Series of Unfortunate Events. I'd say the book is more like the latter wit...moreThe Emerald Atlas has been compared to Harry Potter and Lemony Snickett's A Series of Unfortunate Events. I'd say the book is more like the latter with a dash of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe thrown in for good measure. I found it to be an engrossing fantasy with dastardly villains, surprising plot twists, magic, humor, and fun characters. The story has familiar elements but at the same time manages to somehow be original.
I like that the main characters are pretty ordinary, unlike Lemony Snickett's Baudelaire siblings who are all unusually intelligent for their age. Kate, Michael, and Emma's strengths are their devotion to each other, their belief in their parents' love for them, and their desire to do the right thing. At the beginning of the novel it feels like Kate is the main character but she does share equal space with Michael and Emma later on. Kate is protective and mothering which is understandable given their circumstances. Michael is bookish and he has a mania for dwarves, constantly quoting from a guide to dwarves-a prized possession from his dad. Emma is feisty and has a temper. She is a little sister trying to prove she is grown up too. At times the characters reminded me of the siblings in A Series of Unfortunate Events or even the interaction between Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy from the Chronicles of Narnia.
The villains are pretty creepy, especially the Countess. The Countess reminded me a little bit of the White Witch of Narnia. She couldn't turn people to stone but she could use her voice to control people and create illusions. She derived pleasure from hurting people, even kids. She was quite a nasty piece of work. Her nemesis, Dr. Pym, is like a mix of Dumbledore and Gandalf. He is equally powerful but in a quiet way. The other main character is Gabriel, a villager who is brave enough to stand up to the Countess when other adults wouldn't.
Overall, I thought this was a great start to the series. I was originally drawn to the book because of the reviews comparing it to such great fantasy novels but while The Emerald Atlas can't live up to Harry Potter it is still a good story. I particularly enjoyed the fantasy elements like the dwarves and screechers, the time travel, and the mystery surrounding the Atlas. The author is a screenwriter and perhaps that is why I could easily see this being adapted to film. I would suggest this book to fans of MG and YA fantasy or adventure.
Readalikes: A Series of Unfortunate Events series by Lemony Snickett, Inkheart by Cornelia Funke, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis (less)
Blue Skies Tomorrow is the final book in the Wings of Glory series and features Ray, the eldest Novak brother. Ray has always wanted to be a minister...moreBlue Skies Tomorrow is the final book in the Wings of Glory series and features Ray, the eldest Novak brother. Ray has always wanted to be a minister like his father and while he enjoys flight and being a flight instructor for the Army Air Force, Ray does not want to go into active combat because it would likely mean taking the lives of others. Ray secretly fears that he is a coward unlike his brave younger brothers Jack and Walt who are both distinguished war heroes. Ray may not be like his brothers but he is still an admirable character. I loved how he wanted to face his fears and the way he doesn't give up under the difficult situations he faces. Helen is a character that you can't help but feel sorry for. She has suffered so much pain and abuse in her life that even when I felt frustrated with her for not standing up for herself I could understand why she behaved the way she did. It is a real joy to see her bloom under the kindness shown to her by Ray and others in the community.
What I enjoy about Sarah Sundin's books is the combination of realistic and flawed characters, a positive faith message, romance, and fascinating historical information. Just like with the other books in the series there is also plenty of historical detail about flying planes as well as what life was like back home during WWII. The subject of the treatment of African Americans in the Service was also explored a little. Blue Skies Tomorrow does a nice job of bringing the series to a close in the final days of WWII. I will miss the Novak brothers but I can't wait to see what Sarah Sundin writes next.
Readalikes: The Zion Covenant series by Bodie Thoene, The Daughters of Fortune series by Judith Pella, The Women of Valor series by Elyse Larson(less)
Ellie is a Cinderella-like character. She lost her mother at an early age and while her father isn't mean to her, he is rather neglectful. His addicti...moreEllie is a Cinderella-like character. She lost her mother at an early age and while her father isn't mean to her, he is rather neglectful. His addiction to alchemy comes before everything including Ellie's welfare. He is oblivious also to how others perceive him. Ellie has had to put up with a lot of heartache and things are made worse during her first encounter with Will Lacey as he is kicking them off his estate. Thankfully for Ellie, she may have horrid relatives but she is a smart and resourceful girl. She isn't perfect and she doesn't see her true worth but she is brave and determined. I also liked that she stays true to her time period. Sometimes historical characters are given modern sensibilities to the point that the story rings false. That was not the case here. Ellie's life is bound by the rules of 16th century England so she can't just leave her dad and provide for herself.
Will is definitely a flawed hero. He has a serious issue with unforgiveness and he unfairly accuses Ellie of low morals among other things. At the same time he cares for the welfare of his mother and siblings. He is aware of his duty to provide for his family and save their estate. He believes this can only be accomplished by marrying a wealthy woman. It wouldn't be a problem if he hadn't fallen for the poverty stricken Ellie. Further complicating the situation is the identity of Ellie's father . Will's reluctant bride to be is Lady Jane Perceval, a wealthy pawn in her family's schemes. Jane could have been written as a horrible person but instead the author gives her redemptive qualities.
The Other Countess is a historical romance that would appeal to adults as well as teens. In some ways it reminds me of something Philippa Gregory or Robin Maxwell would write for the YA market. It is relatively clean but the innuendo and chemistry between the characters adds heat to the romance. There is historical detail about clothing, customs, life at court, historical figures, politics, and religion but it does not overwhelm the story. The romance takes center stage. Overall I was really pleased with The Other Countess. It is a good blend of historical fiction and romance with characters that readers could care about. I look forward to reading the next book in the series, The Queen's Lady. If you enjoy historical romance and Tudor fiction, consider adding The Other Countess to your TBR list.
Readalikes: Cate of the Lost Colony by Lisa M. Klein, A Sweet Disorder by Jacqueline Kolosov, The Stolen One by Suzanne Crowley, The King's Rose by Alisa M. Libby(less)