Where the Stars Still Shine reminded me a little bit of Dare You To by Katie McGarry because both protagonists come from difficult home lives but are...moreWhere the Stars Still Shine reminded me a little bit of Dare You To by Katie McGarry because both protagonists come from difficult home lives but are protective of their messed up mothers. Callie finds it incredibly hard to adjust to living with her dad and yet in flashbacks we see just how bad things were with her mom. In their twisted and dysfunctional relationship, Callie both took care of her mom and was at her mother's mercy. They moved around a lot and she really struggled to survive but there were some good memories with her mom too. There is one really really dark memory however that makes it hard as a reader to feel any kind of sympathy for Callie's mom at all.
As a main character Callie isn't always easy to like. She makes some really bad decisions, doesn't respect her dad, and she is really quick to hook up with guys. This is understandable though because of her messed up childhood. She has to learn what is considered normal in family relationships and she has to learn to value herself. It was good to see Callie grow as a character and begin to heal.
Callie's Greek family is wonderful. They really welcome Callie and try to help her even when she is being difficult. Her cousin Kat extends the hand of friendship so many times even when Callie treats her like crap and even her step-mother Phoebe reaches out to her even though she has some reservations. I liked how close knit the family and community are. The secondary characters were well developed and I think really added to the story.
Callie's love interest is Alex, a young man who I wasn't a fan of at first but he won me over by his kindness to Callie. Their relationship is initially based on lust but evolves into genuine friendship and caring. Both of them have family issues and they help each other work through that. The scene where she finally tells him what happened to her was particularly touching.
I really felt for Callie and all the bad things she went through. It was hard and disturbing to read about her past but it was wonderful to see her begin to trust again and dream of a better life. Trish Doller writes in a way that really makes you understand Callie's emotions. I really cared about not just Callie but Kat and Callie's family as well.
Overall I thought this was a really good YA contemporary novel that takes a hard look at abuse and complicated family relationships. I think this book may be more suited to mature teens due to the semi-graphic depictions of abuse as well as the sexual content but for those who are able to handle it, it is a story well worth reading. (less)
I wanted to read this book partly because I was not familiar with the plight of homosexuals and transsexuals in Iran. I was surprised to find that whi...moreI wanted to read this book partly because I was not familiar with the plight of homosexuals and transsexuals in Iran. I was surprised to find that while homosexuality is illegal, it is perfectly legal to be a transsexual and that the government even helps pay for the surgery. The main reason I wanted to read this book however was the predicament that Sahar found herself in. Now that Nasrin's engagement has been announced, time is running out for their relationship. Sahar is so desperate to be with Nasrin that she contemplates becoming a man in the hopes that they can be together.
It was really sad to see not only what Sahar faces but also Ali, her gay cousin, and Parveen, a friend of Ali's who has gone through sex reassignment to become a woman. Other memebers of Parveen's support group have also suffered prejudice and cruelty even though their status is legally recognized. There is also the character of "Daughter", a very young prostitute who dreams of studying Arabic but sees no way out of her life. These characters and their struggles were really moving. In contrast, I found Nasrin to be an annoying spoiled brat who wants to be pampered and adored.
Sahar is not perfect by any means-she is really living in a naive dream world when it comes to the idea of stopping Nasrin's marriage but she is motivated by love at least. I am glad that this book was about much more than Sahar's relationship with Nasrin because I found it difficult to like Nasrin. Nasrin is almost purely selfish. There were times that this made me feel irritated with Sahar because of all that she was willing to give up for someone who didn't quite deserve it.
Instead of just focusing on their relationship, the book also looks at Sahar's broken relationship with her dad who has kind of given up on life since the death of Sahar's mom. The main focus of the book is on the plight of people who are gay or transgendered in Iran and the ultimate decision that Sahar must make. There are moments in this book that are very emotional. I can't imagine that kind of pain. I really felt for the characters and all they had to go through just for trying to be true to themselves.
It takes Sahar awhile to grow up and figure out what is best for herself. Through her new friendship with Parveen and a new understanding of Ali and Nasrin, I think Sahar is at a better place and able to make peace with herself and her dad. I liked how she reached past her own pain to help Daughter. At the beginning, she was kind of self absorbed but by the end of the book she really has matured. While I didn't care for the romantic relationship between Sahar and Nasrin because it felt like it was almost one-sided, I did care about Sahar and the other characters. I wanted to see them find some happiness and in a way they do.
If You Could Be Mine is a sensitive portrayal of what life is like for the transgendered and gay community in Iran and it is the story of a young woman who has to learn some hard truths about love and growing up.(less)
I loved Eleanor and Park and when I found out that Rainbow Rowell had a new YA novel coming out this fall I knew I had to read it. Fangirl is not like...moreI loved Eleanor and Park and when I found out that Rainbow Rowell had a new YA novel coming out this fall I knew I had to read it. Fangirl is not like Eleanor and Park but I liked it anyway.
Cath and her sister Wren are going off to college which is a difficult transition on its own. What makes it harder for Cath is that her sister has chosen this time to find her own identity-apart from Cath. This leaves the introverted Cath in a bind. She survives by turning to what has always helped her during troubled times: Simon Snow. A series similar to Harry Potter, the Simon Snow books inspired Cath so much that she started writing Simon Snow fan fiction and even has a huge online following under her online identity, Magicath.
I found it really easy to relate to Cath. She lives in a very internal world, afraid to connect with others because she doesn't want to be hurt and left again. She is afraid to put herself out there preferring to hide out in her dorm room and live off of protein bars because she hasn't found the dining commons yet (and doesn't want to go there by herself anyway). Cath derives a lot of comfort from the Simon Snow world and engaging with fellow fans. It is kind of sad that her main connection to people is online. Thankfully people at her school do try to reach out to her.
Cath's roommate Reagan is at first unwelcoming but slowly she decides to take Cath on as a project and they develop an unlikely and grudging friendship. There is also Levi, who persists in befriending Cath even when she does her best to discourage him. Levi is wonderful and sometimes Cath does not deserve such loyalty but he keeps trying. Levi and Reagan are my favorite characters aside from Cath and I love how they let her be herself while encouraging her to grow and expand her horizons at the same time.
Wren is difficult to like at times. While I get that she'd want her own identity and college can be the perfect time to reinvent yourself, Wren treats Cath horribly. Sometimes I just wanted to reach into the book and smack her. Cath tries to be a good sister to Wren and is looking out for her even when Wren doesn't want it. Both girls are still dealing with the mess made by their mom's abandonment and their dad's mental fragility but they do it in different ways. Cath locks herself away while Wren becomes a party girl. Although I didn't like Wren for much of the book, I was glad to see them find a way back to each other. I love when books explore sibling and family relationships with their complications and ups and downs.
There is a love interest for Cath and I won't spoil it by saying who it is (though I think it is obvious from the synopsis) and I loved the slow development of the romance and how it doesn't overshadow everything else in the book. I enjoyed the romance but my favorite part of this book was watching Cath grow and mature and work on her relationships.
Something else I must mention is the Simon Snow fan fiction. Rainbow Rowell actually writes little short stories and excerpts of Cath's fan fiction stories and they were really fun to read. I haven't read much fan fiction but I almost wish I could read Cath's stories. Her excitement over the real Simon Snow novels and the release of the final book reminded me of my own excitement over the Harry Potter books and the publication of Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows.
Overall I thought this was a fantastic YA contemporary novel that looks at the first year of the college experience through a memorable protagonist. It is an exciting, scary, and confusing time in a young adult's life and I think Rainbow Rowell really captures it perfectly. (less)
I thought this sequel to The Sweetest Dark was a little more action packed at least in the last half once they leave England.
Lora has grown as a perso...moreI thought this sequel to The Sweetest Dark was a little more action packed at least in the last half once they leave England.
Lora has grown as a person since dealing with the tragedies of the last book. She has overcome a lot during her short life so far and each time she is dealt a blow she seems to come back stronger. I liked her developing relationship with Armand as the two of them kind of heal together. It would be nice to see Lora develop some female friendships too. While they are sort of frenemies working together with a common goal, I hope that Lora and Sophia will eventually become real friends.
I think I liked Armand more this time around. He has had to step up and be more responsible since his father's decline and it is good to see him be a leader. Lora is stronger in her powers than he is but they work together well as a team. There is one scene in particular that made me really feel for him and hope that he gets a happy ending.
I really enjoyed the suspenseful parts of the story although I thought things wrapped up a little too neatly. I was expecting more difficulties in their extraction of the prisoner. There are some mysteries left unsolved and hopefully we will find out more about the drakon in the next book.
The writing style is pretty descriptive which can bog down the pacing at times but the suspense kept me turning the pages. I am intrigued by the world that Shana Abe has created. The alternate history setting of the early 20th century really appealed to me too. Overall I thought this was a good sequel and I will probably read the third book.(less)
I thought this book started out really well and I actually enjoyed it until the last part. The idea of time travelers from the future arriving to try...moreI thought this book started out really well and I actually enjoyed it until the last part. The idea of time travelers from the future arriving to try and stop a dragon apocalypse really appealed to me. I have also really enjoyed dragon fiction in the past and I was curious to see where the author would take the story.
Connor and Caleb come from a brutal time when people live below the surface of Earth for their own safety. Dragons have destroyed the world with their fire. Hunters brave the surface to bring down the dragons though there is a small group of people who are in favor of dragon rights. The world is sort of in the mess it is in because of one person who rescued a dragon centuries before: a young woman named Trinity.
Trinity works for her grandfather in his curiosity museum in Texas. She has had a rough life since the death of her mom and even before that living in foster homes. Now she has some stability but her grandfather isn't exactly good with money and Trinity struggles to keep the business afloat. I found Trinity to be a likable protagonist. She has strength and courage but she is not without flaws.
The twins at first seemed to be flat characters but the author gives them interesting motivations and weaknesses that help to give them individuality. I did not care for the "love triangle" that seemed to be forming but by the end of the book it did look like Trinity knew which brother she cared for. It did bug me that she developed romantic feelings so quickly even when she wasn't sure whom to trust.
The story seems to have an animal rights vs. human rights kind of angle but nothing is black and white and neither side is completely right or without blame. The author presents both sides' viewpoints really well and in a way that enables the reader to sympathize with both Connor and Caleb and the groups they represent. I was however disappointed by the villain in Scorched and how the conclusion of the story played out.
I really liked Emmy (except for her behavior in one scene) and the dragon lore that we were presented with. There are still many things to be explained about dragons and I hope we will find out more in the second book.
Overall I think the positives outweighed any negatives. The book may have its flaws but I found it to be a page turner and I liked it enough to want to read the sequel.(less)
Percy Jackson may be missing but there is plenty of adventure, danger, and Rick Riordan's trademark humor in this book. I wasn't sure that I would lik...morePercy Jackson may be missing but there is plenty of adventure, danger, and Rick Riordan's trademark humor in this book. I wasn't sure that I would like a new set of characters as much as the originals but the author's decision to write from multiple points of view really works to distinguish Jason and Leo from Percy. I also loved how conflicted the characters were. All three of them had insecurities, doubts, and flaws, as well as strengths. That made them more likable as characters that the reader could root for.
The addition of Roman mythology to the story really made things interesting. I didn't find it hard to figure out the surprise about Jason's past but that didn't bother me. I found myself thoroughly entertained as I read. One thing that I particularly liked was the friendships of the characters and seeing them grow more confident. As much fun as the story was, it was the characters that really stood out to me. I also have to mention that I am glad to see a greater racial diversity in Rick Riordan's characters both in this series and the Kane Chronicles.
If you are a fan of the original series, I think you will be pleased with this sequel. Overall I think this series will be a worthy successor to the Percy Jackson books and I look forward to reading more about Jason, Piper, and Leo (as well as Percy and Annabeth) in future books. (less)
At the beginning of the book we are introduced to Ashtyn as a girl who loves football and really cares about her team. When she is voted as their capt...moreAt the beginning of the book we are introduced to Ashtyn as a girl who loves football and really cares about her team. When she is voted as their captain, it proves that she has earned their respect though it also pisses off her boyfriend and QB, Landon. Ashtyn has had to work hard to get where she is and it is difficult for her because she lacks support from her family. Her dad does not want her to play football though he is the reason she started playing.
Ashtyn has been hurt badly by her family. Her mom left when she was young, her older sister Brandi also leaves Ashtyn behind and her dad has shut down emotionally. She definitely has trust and abandonment issues. Still she has friends, teammates, and a boyfriend and life seems to be good until her sister moves back to town with her little boy and teenage stepson, Derek. Ashtyn and Derek butt heads from the beginning but it is obvious that they are attracted to each other instantly.
While Ashtyn and Derek had chemistry, it didn't completely win me over. I found Derek to be annoying at times and Ashtyn was naive where Landon was concerned. I was also bothered by the fact that their relationship began to overshadow everything else about the story to the detriment of character development. What about Ashtyn finally seeing her sister after all these years? What about Derek's own issues with his distant grandmother? These topics are explored on the surface but not to the reader's satisfaction. Derek's grandmother comes into the story like a fairy godmother waving her wand to solve all problems. To my further disappointment we don't even get to see a final football showdown between Ashtyn's team and Landon's. It would have been wonderful to see Ashtyn and Derek have that moment of triumph on the football field.
I have enjoyed Simone Elkeles's books in the past, particularly Perfect Chemistry. I wanted to read this one because I was intrigued by the idea of a female football player. The description of the book makes it sound like the focus is on romance as well as football and Ashtyn leading a winning team to earn a scholarship. Unfortunately, while I liked this book for its entertainment value, it didn't quite live up to my expectations. I thought Ashtyn was a promising character and I liked her drive and determination. I think if the book devoted a little more time to developing the characters and having them deal with their issues or at least make progress then it would have been a stronger story. In the end, none of the characters were fully developed and I found the romance to be lackluster compared to Perfect Chemistry.
Perhaps after reading Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdoch or Pushing the Limits and Dare You To by Katie McGarry I just expected too much from this book. Wild Cards has flaws but I did find it to be an entertaining contemporary romance anyway.(less)
I first read this book in my pre-blogging days and I'd decided to pick it up because of the movie adaptation. Though I ended up disappointed with the...moreI first read this book in my pre-blogging days and I'd decided to pick it up because of the movie adaptation. Though I ended up disappointed with the movie, I loved this book and the rest of the books in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. With the second movie coming out later this year (it will hopefully be better than the first), I decided to reread the series.
I remember that when I first read this book I wasn't sure I would like it. I thought maybe it would be too much of a "kid book" to hold my attention or too similar to the Harry Potter books to have any originality. I am glad I was proven wrong! While I think this book would appeal to fans of Harry Potter, it is not a copy cat by any means. I also found it to be entertaining, educational, and really funny.
The idea of blending Greek mythology with the modern world really appealed to me. I enjoyed learning more about the myths and the world of Camp Half-Blood. I also really liked the characters. Percy is an ordinary preteen who finds out he is a demigod and that he has access to all these untapped powers. Percy comes across as a genuine character that I think kids and teens could relate to because while he is dealing with monsters and quests he also has real world problems like family drama. He has flaws as well as strengths and he shows some growth especially in dealing with some difficult losses and betrayals.
The Lightning Thief is a quick read and I think it appeals to readers on multiple levels as an adventure story with humor, magic, and great characters. I think fans of Harry Potter would particularly enjoy it.(less)
Ann has been on many diets over the years and what usually happens is that she'll tell her mom she wants to lose weight and her mom will push and push...moreAnn has been on many diets over the years and what usually happens is that she'll tell her mom she wants to lose weight and her mom will push and push and push her. At some point, Ann's diet will fail, her mom will be disappointed, and Ann will feel disgusted with herself. It is an unhealthy cycle and one that is about to start again when her aunt announces her wedding and asks Ann to be a bridesmaid. Ann decides she wants to go on a diet and this time she will stick with it. Unlike in the past, she also decides to keep the diet a secret from her mom.
I wasn't quite sure what to expect with this book but I knew that I wanted to read it. I found myself really touched by Ann's struggles with both weight loss and other people's perceptions of her based on her size. The book also looked at friendships and family relationships which I really appreciated.
I found Ann to be easy to relate to as a character. There were definitely some moments where I really felt for her and could remember what it was like when I was a teen and people made comments about my weight or eating habits (I wasn't overweight but my relatives made comments anyway) or like Ann, I had those emotional fitting room scenes where clothes were too tight. I liked Ann's spunk and determination and I enjoyed watching her grow and discover more about herself and her family. It was great to see Ann decide to quit trying to fit her mom's ideal and work on being herself instead. Along the way she even makes a great friend in Rainee and finds a sweet love interest who likes her the way she is.
Overall I thought this book had a great message and great characters. The mom isn't portrayed as some villain. She genuinely cares for Ann but she doesn't have the healthiest attitude towards her body and she has passed that on to her daughters. She has her own issues to work on and while the end of the book doesn't wrap everything up with a bow, it does show that Ann and her mom are making progress in their relationship with each other and with food. There is also progress in mending broken family relationships. What I liked best is that the emphasis of the story is not on weight loss but on being healthy and being yourself rather than trying to fit someone else's concept of who you should be. (less)
The Burning Sky is a creative fantasy novel with an appealing heroine. Iolanthe is smart, brave, loyal, and resourceful. She may be prophesied to be t...moreThe Burning Sky is a creative fantasy novel with an appealing heroine. Iolanthe is smart, brave, loyal, and resourceful. She may be prophesied to be this great mage but she has to work really hard to master her abilities. I enjoyed the parts of the book where she was at Eton passing as a boy for safety reasons. She is something of a tomboy and has had an unusual upbringing which made it plausible.
I enjoyed the relationship between Iolanthe and Titus. While Titus is attracted to her right away, the romance develops at a slower pace because of more pressing concerns (and the fact that she has to pretend to be Archer Fairfax, a fellow student at Eton). I also liked the friendships that Iolanthe developed with the other boys at Eton, especially with Kashkari. I look forward to seeing more of the secondary characters. They added much needed humor at times.
As much fun as her life at Eton was, I really found myself intrigued by the magical world too. To help her learn to harness the elements she hasn't mastered yet, Titus trains her in The Crucible, a place that reminded me of the Holodeck from Star Trek. The entrance is through a book of fairy tales and you have to proceed through various levels, fighting dragons and wyverns and other challenges. I also found their mode of transportation to be interesting. People "vault" from place to place but they can only vault certain distances and so many times in a day. It reminded me of apparating and disapparating from the Harry Potter books.
While the book has excellent world building, I thought it read like a page turner and didn't get bogged down in detail. It was easy to catch on to the rules of the magical world and it also helped that part of the book was set in historical London too. I definitely had some questions that were not answered at the end of the book though I have some suspicions about the Bane. He is really a mysterious figure for most of the story and doesn't get as much page time as the creepy Inquisitor. I found her to be very menacing and she added suspense to the story whenever she appeared.
I thought this was a strong beginning to the Elemental Trilogy and I am definitely looking forward to the next book. The Burning Sky is an entertaining blend of humor, suspense, and fantasy with engaging characters. I think this book would appeal to fans of Rae Carson, Chantress by Amy Butler Greenfield, Poison by Bridget Zinn, and other teen fantasy. (less)