I mostly loved the Pushing the Limits series so I wanted to check out this first book in McGarry's new Thunder Road series. What I liked were the mainI mostly loved the Pushing the Limits series so I wanted to check out this first book in McGarry's new Thunder Road series. What I liked were the main characters, Emily and Oz. Unfortunately the adults in the book were really immature and secretive. Of course without all the secrets there might not be a book but it really drove me crazy when they wouldn't be open with Emily about why she was in danger or her past history with her dad and his family. Something else that also bothered me was the treatment of women by the club. Although they were more respectful (according to Oz) compared to the other motorcycle club mentioned in the book, I thought it was still kind of a misogynistic society where women were viewed as belonging to the members. Their nickname of "old ladies" and the wall of bras really got my hackles up. I think I would have liked it more if women were allowed to be members of the club and treated more equally.
As I mentioned above, I liked Emily. She is smart and driven and she has plans for her life. It really turns her world upside down to find out that her mom hasn't been entirely truthful about the past. Spending time with her dad's family is eye opening and she does have the chance to explore new experiences and learn new things about herself. First she has to overcome her anger and her doubts and prejudices. I also liked Oz. His dream has always been to be a member of Reign of Terror and to work for their security company like his father. Unfortunately he messes up when he is supposed to be protecting Emily so he has to work hard to regain her dad's trust. He initially doesn't like Emily and blames her for causing her grandmother Olivia to suffer more. Olivia has cancer and has longed for a renewed relationship with her granddaughter. She has also been like a second mom to Oz. As Oz and Emily spend more time together they begin to fall in love and Oz also starts to rethink some things about the club and his future.
Overall I liked this book but didn't love it. The main characters kept me invested in the story line and while I guessed part of the big secret early on, I still wanted to know how things turned out. It was a quick read and a page turner especially towards the end. What disappointed me was the behavior of the adults--both Emily's mom and stepfather and her dad and the other adults in the club. They were pretty controlling of Emily and lying to her which wasn't cool with me. A lot of heartache could have been saved by their being more open and honest. I also found the club's treatment of women to be a little controlling and borderline offensive. I've read paranormal romance novels with werewolf packs that behaved in a similar manner and if readers like that sort of strong Alpha male thing, this might appeal to them more than it did with me.
While I liked Emily and Oz, I am not yet fully committed to reading the rest of the series though there are some characters I want to know more about like Violet and Chevy. Just because this book didn't quite work for me does not mean that it won't be a good fit for other readers. Perhaps I am more sensitive about certain things. I think teens who have enjoyed McGarry's other books and authors like Simone Elkeles and Jennifer Echols will like this even with its flaws. The forbidden romance between Oz and Emily is definitely an appeal factor. Also fans of Sons of Anarchy might have a better appreciation of Nowhere But Here than I did....more
Forget the little green men. For those who are hesitant to pick up this novel because of the dreaded "aliens" or "science fiction" genre, let me reassForget the little green men. For those who are hesitant to pick up this novel because of the dreaded "aliens" or "science fiction" genre, let me reassure you. Alienated is funny and at times reads almost like a contemporary teen novel. In addition to the humor there is also romance and suspense.
Cara is a very smart and spunky protagonist. Before the exchange program she isn't super popular but she does have a popular boyfriend and a best friend she cares about. She is her class valedictorian and a talented member of the debate team. Unfortunately once Aelyx arrives her popularity starts to plummet and even those she thought would stand beside her let her down.
Cara tries her best to make Aelyx feel at home even though his behavior is so reserved and different from what she is used to. Her boyfriend and best friend are against the whole exchange and soon Cara is ostracized because of Aelyx. The town takes sides with more and more people against Aelyx and the L'eihrs.
I liked how Cara was willing to fight for what she believed was right and not stoop to the level of her antagonists. Even though she went through some rough times and painful betrayals she stayed true to herself when it might have been so easy to give in and get her friends back. Her parents are also portrayed as positive and open minded though they do exhibit a lot of embarrassing PDA. It is obvious that Cara comes from a very caring family.
Aelyx at first seems like a jerk to Cara but she keeps reaching out to him and eventually they form a genuine friendship that leads to love even though they come from different worlds. Aelyx makes some bad decisions but he is motivated by how much he cares for the future of his own people even if he is misguided.
The way that Aelyx is treated by the community and school reminded me of the protests of desegregation in the 60s or the way immigrants have been treated with mistrust. The book explores how people have a tendency to react with fear to those they perceive as different. At the beginning of the book, HALO (the anti-L'eihr movement) is just an over the top fringe group but they keep growing in popularity and spreading their message of hate. It was sad to see all the hate and faulty thinking especially in the teens.
The science fiction aspect of this book isn't overpowering. Aelyx has a few devices that he uses and telepathic communication but mostly we just learn about cultural and planetary differences like his aversion to flavorful food and how L'eihr isn't a colorful place. I think the next book will have more of a science fiction feel as it is partially set on L'eihr but I think it will still be "science fiction lite".
Overall I thought this was an excellent book. I loved the characters and couldn't wait to see what happened next in Invaded. I think readers who enjoy teen contemporary fiction would also like this book because it isn't heavy on science fiction elements and it has action, some comedy, and romance....more
If Ally Carter, Y.S. Lee and Gail Carriger wrote a book together it might be something like A School for Unusual Girls. When Georgie is sent to StranjIf Ally Carter, Y.S. Lee and Gail Carriger wrote a book together it might be something like A School for Unusual Girls. When Georgie is sent to Stranje House after a series of increasingly shocking social mistakes that culminated in burning down the family stables, she decides to escape what she thinks is an institution that tortures young ladies into submission to society's rules. Fortunately for her, the school is actually a secret training ground for young ladies with unusual talents that can be used to save the British Empire. Her new boarding mates Tess, Jane, Maya and Sera all have special gifts and so does Georgie herself. Her experiments to create an invisible ink are prized as a way to protect English spies and their messages from falling into the hands of Napoleon's supporters.
It takes Georgie quite awhile to realize what kind of school she is really at which was kind of frustrating considering that she is academically intelligent. Once she figures things out, she is on board to help the school by continuing her scientific experiments. Unfortunately she doesn't exactly get along with her new lab partner, Lord Sebastian Wyatt, whom she finds annoying and attractive in almost equal measure. There is also danger in the form of the snooping Lady Daneska, a former student of the school and possible spy for Napoleon herself.
A School for Unusual Girls is entertaining with a fun mix of humor, romance and mystery. It looks at the roles that girls were typically relegated to during that time and the students are able to use that to their advantage when spying for information. That aspect reminded me a lot of Y.S. Lee's Agency series which involves female detectives during Victorian times. The book also reminded me of the Gallagher Girls series which features teen girls who are trained as spies and how people underestimate them all the time. Georgie and her classmates are spunky and resourceful and though they may not be the ideal for Regency Society they have found a home at Stranje House and friendship with each other. This is the first in a series and while there is some resolution to the plot and Georgie's story there are some unsolved mysteries f.
I think this book would appeal to fans of YA historical fiction, mystery, and books like Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger (minus the Steampunk and paranormal elements), The Agency: A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee or Bewitching Season by Marissa Doyle (minus the magic)....more
All the Rage is a book that really makes readers feel the protagonist's pain and anger. Romy told the truth about what happened to her when Kellan TurAll the Rage is a book that really makes readers feel the protagonist's pain and anger. Romy told the truth about what happened to her when Kellan Turner raped her but her community refuses to believe her and the other kids at school bully her instead. The Turner family is a big deal in Grebe and the sheriff's sons can pretty much get away with anything and so can their friends. I expected Kellan to be a menacing presence in this book but he actually wasn't there in the present day parts but only in flashback or mentioned by other characters. His actions continue to haunt Romy and the way she sees herself and others. His brother Alec is the most popular kid at school and he is dating Romy's former best friend Penny. Alec and his friend/lackey Brock Garrett along with mean girl Tina continue to make Romy's life a living hell. Then Penny goes missing at the big Senior party, the same night that Romy is also missing briefly. Romy is found but Penny is not and the town can't forgive her for that either. Does Romy's missing memory have some clues about what happened to Penny?
The mystery of Penny's disappearance and its possible connection to the Turner family and what happened to Romy are only part of the story. It deeply affects Romy and so does the fact that she can't remember what happened that night. I felt frustrated and angry with Romy because she put herself in dangerous situations around people who hated her guts. She is a broken person and that led her to make some unwise decisions though really it is her classmates who are to blame for the way they treated her. The book is brutal in depicting their hatred and bullying of Romy.
Romy's only source of comfort are her mom and her mom's boyfriend Todd as well as her job at the diner and her coworker Leon that may be more than just a friend. I liked Romy's mom and Todd and how they always support Romy and try to be there for her. Unfortunately Romy doesn't let them in or tell them what is going on at school. In her opinion there is nothing they could do anyway. The Turners rule the town and she doesn't want to make things worse for her family. At the diner, Romy has the friendship of Leon, a boy who doesn't know the truth about her life in Grebe (the diner is outside of town) and this allows her to feel safe even if it means keeping a part of herself from him.
I like how the author explores the aftermath of rape and the reason why some choose not to come forward. The account was certainly reminiscent of real life stories of communities where popular athletes, etc. were accused of rape and how their communities backed them instead of caring about the victims and seeking justice. I think it is also good that the book examines "slut shaming" and will hopefully cause teen readers to think about how they treat each other. The book is similar to Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak in some ways but more raw and gritty. The writing style was also emotionally affecting particularly in the flashback scenes. This is a dark book but I think it is an important one that teens should read. ...more
I love the music of this time period so I was excited to read this book. I hadn't heard of the Brill Building before and it was really interesting toI love the music of this time period so I was excited to read this book. I hadn't heard of the Brill Building before and it was really interesting to learn about the music business and what it was like for people trying to make it in that world. The author was a songwriter in the Brill Building herself during that time period which makes the novel feel more authentic. Although the focus of the book is on the music industry in the early 60s, the author also touches a little on race relations and current events of that time period. I'm Glad I Did is both a "coming of age" story and a mystery.
JJ is a bright and spunky girl whose family expects her to be a lawyer like they are. JJ has a gift for music though and her dream is to be a songwriter. The story starts with her trying to get an internship at the Brill Building despite her family's disapproval. Finally her mom relents and agrees that JJ can take the internship just to get her love of music out of her system. If she can land a record deal for one of her songs by the end of the summer, then she can pursue her dreams with their blessing. This may be a tough challenge for JJ until by chance she meets Luke Silver and former singer Dulcie Brown.
I really liked JJ and how she followed her dreams even though it didn't match with her family's expectations and she knew it was a long shot to get a record deal. JJ has a big heart and I thought she was brave both in her career choices and her personal life. She loves her family so it is hard for her to keep secrets from them or to go against them. I liked how she was willing to give her uncle a chance even though her mom thought he wasn't that great of a person.
Luke Silver is JJ's friend, music partner and love interest in the novel. Luke has a gift for writing lyrics while JJ's gift is for composing music. He is also the son of George Silver, the late business partner of JJ's uncle. JJ is attracted to Luke from the moment she meets him but it isn't until she accidentally stumbles upon a song he wrote that they connect. I liked the way their relationship developed though it is one more secret that JJ has to keep from her parents.
I liked the secondary characters like Dulcie and JJ's Uncle Bernie, the black sheep music mogul who may or may not be a little crooked. Dulcie is a warm person who JJ likes instantly and she encourages JJ in her dreams even as her own dreams have been damaged by poor life choices. Uncle Bernie also helps JJ out in her fledgling career but her mom wouldn't approve if she knew that JJ was in touch with him.
While I wanted her parents to be supportive of her dreams instead of just pushing her into their mold, I loved the fact that JJ's mom is a successful lawyer and that both parents want their daughter to have a career as a lawyer too. They may not be open to music as a career but they were definitely a liberal family in their views of women in the workplace.
I have never watched Mad Men but from what I've heard read about it, it is pretty gritty in terms of content. While this book does mention drug use and affairs, the main characters are not involved in that and the story is not really gritty or violent. It reminded me more of the TV show American Dreams. I think the only way this book is like Mad Men is the time period and the way women were treated. JJ is lucky to have a chance at song writing thanks to her connections.
Although there are a few coincidences in this story that seem far fetched and the resolution is a little too easy I really liked this debut novel. JJ is a fun character and I loved the setting and trying to figure out the mystery. I think this book would appeal to readers who like a little mystery, teen romance and the 1960s setting. ...more
Johanna Von Arlo has grown up believing that she is just a storyspinner and the daughter of a talented tightrope walker and singer. She has no idea whJohanna Von Arlo has grown up believing that she is just a storyspinner and the daughter of a talented tightrope walker and singer. She has no idea what secrets her father kept or why anyone would want her dead. After tragedy strikes and her family is thrown out of their troupe, Johanna is offered the job of a lifetime to perform at the home of a duke, Lord Rafael DeSilva. Unfortunately this only puts her in greater danger. There are those who believe that the lost princess is alive and that it might be her.
Jacaré is a Keeper and High Captain of the Guard. He strikes out on an unauthorized mission with his sister and friends to find the lost princess and bring her back to Donovan's Wall, which needs the princess's power to maintain the barrier between worlds. It is a race against time as the princess's enemies are also trying to track her down and killing those that look like her.
Sometimes a book doesn't live up to its description or to the expectations the reader has when they pick it up. Thankfully that is not the case in The Storyspinner where the story more than exceeds my expectations and the cover copy doesn't quite do it justice.
When I read a fantasy novel, I am looking for particular things: a setting that captures my attention, excellent world building, characters I care about, intrigue, a little romance and magic. The Storyspinner delivered on all of these elements.
The Storyspinner has great world building with the seemingly ordinary Medieval-like setting combined with the magical details from the Keepers and their world of Olinda though we only see it briefly. There is a lot of political intrigue with the rivalries between the dukes and the secrets surrounding the death of the King and supposed death of the princess.
The book is told through multiple viewpoints from the perspective of Johanna, Rafael, Jacaré, his sister Pira and Leão, a young Keeper. In a way this helps to both move the action of the story and to help readers get to know the cast of characters better though five is a lot of view points. I would have liked it more if it was written through just the eyes of Johanna, Rafael and Jacaré.
Johanna and Rafael are both strong but flawed protagonists. Johanna in particular is stubborn and she initially refuses to believe she is in any danger despite Rafael's warnings. Rafael has had to adapt to becoming a duke after the death of his father and he feels like he isn't worthy to fill those shoes yet. Both characters have burdens thrust on them. Johanna has to look after her younger siblings and help provide for her family since her mother is inebriated most of the time. I liked how both characters grew during the book. Their relationship gets off to a rocky start but it gradually develops into respect and then romantic interest though there are lots of stumbling blocks.
The secondary characters, the Keepers, are very interesting. They have magical abilities and in Santarem, the nonmagical world where Johanna and Rafael live, they are revered as gods who once walked the earth many years ago. The people of Santarem would get quite a shock if they found out that the Keepers were still around north of the Wall. The dynamics between Jacaré, Pira, and Leão reminded me of the relationships between the Arrow, his sister Thea and Roy from the TV show Arrow for some reason. I had thought that I would be impatient to get back to the parts of the story about Johanna and Rafael but I really liked the Keepers and wanted to find out more about them and their secrets. There are also some really creepy villains with a secret agenda that I think we've only seen a little of in this book.
Overall I thought this was a fantastic debut. I like the way it has a historical feel and it reminded me favorably of books like The Girl of Fire and Thorns, Falling Kingdoms, The Kiss of Deception and Grave Mercy. It is one of my favorites of the year so far. If you like YA fantasy with a historical feel, intrigue and some romance, give The Storyspinner a try. I am looking forward to finding out what happens next! ...more
All Fall Down is the first book in Ally Carter's new Embassy Row series. I am a big fan of the Gallagher Girls series and I also liked her Heist SocieAll Fall Down is the first book in Ally Carter's new Embassy Row series. I am a big fan of the Gallagher Girls series and I also liked her Heist Society novels. Both series featured a brave and smart heroine with spunk and alongside the action and mystery there was a nice touch of humor. The first Gallagher Girls books were lighter on the suspense and heavier on the humor in fact. All Fall Down is much darker and reminded me more of Out of Sight, Out of Time with the main character's memory loss issues and how others won't believe them.
When she was 13, Grace witnessed her mom's death and while the official story is that it was an accident, Grace insists that her mother was shot by a man with a scarred face. Three years later, she is back where it all happened in the (fictional) country of Adria where her grandfather is the U.S. Ambassador. The new Grace is prickly and defensive. She expects other people to look at her like she is crazy and she feels betrayed by the people she thought she could trust, namely her grandfather. She is also trying to be "good" and toe the line to avoid starting an international incident while secretly looking into her mother's death. Being in Adria triggers traumatic flashbacks for Grace which she tries to keep hidden. This makes it hard for her to appear "normal". The flashbacks give the readers clues to what happened but can we trust Grace's memory?
I felt sorry for Grace because she seems so alone even when she is with other people. It was frustrating at times that hardly anyone believes her. At the same time I sometimes found Grace to be irritating and immature. Where Kat Bishop (Heist Society) and Cammie Morgan (Gallagher Girls) were smart girls who sometimes made mistakes, I thought Grace could be thoughtless and she didn't really consider the consequences of her actions. She wants to solve her mom's murder and find the guy who did it but it feels like she is more motivated to vindicate herself rather than to find justice for her mom. She wants to prove to her grandfather and her former friends that she isn't crazy and she is right and they are wrong. She also didn't want to accept any help but eventually her new friends wear her down which is a good thing since she really does need their help.
I liked Grace's friends (with the exception of Alexei) and they kind of helped save the book from being too dark. I would have liked to get to know them better but this book is pretty action packed which didn't leave a lot of time for that. I wasn't sure what to make of Grace's grandfather though it is apparent that he cares about her. He is a little too protective perhaps and it is sad that Grace is made to feel like he doesn't support her.
The suspense kept the story going as I tried to figure out what happened to Grace's mom and who the mysterious people were who were having secret meetings all over the place. There is a surprise twist which I have mixed feelings about and there is a mystery left unresolved at the end of the book which I think will be the setup for the sequel.
Overall I would say that I liked this book but I didn't love it like the author's previous series. I think that is because I was expecting All Fall Down to be similar. I also struggled to connect with Grace. From the start of the book she has a chip on her shoulder and while I did feel sorry for her I didn't like her at times. Perhaps my expectations were too high. I think this series and the character has room to grow and with the way this book ended I think I will like Grace more in the sequel. ...more
Vanishing Girls looks at the relationships in one broken family. Nick is worried about her sister Dara who is becoming increasingly wild since their fVanishing Girls looks at the relationships in one broken family. Nick is worried about her sister Dara who is becoming increasingly wild since their father moved out. The close bond she shared with Dara began to fray as Dara became more beautiful and popular and started dating Parker, Nick's best friend. Nick also has feelings for Parker that she feels guilty about. After the accident, things only get worse. Dara can't stand Nick and no matter how much Nick tries to reach out, it doesn't work. Then Dara disappears and Nick wonders if maybe something bad happened to her.
The story goes back and forth in the past as well as the present "after the accident". When I started reading this book, I had a hard time liking Dara. She was a party girl and seemed to be kind of spoiled and petulant. The sisters are very different which lead to some complications in their relationship with each other. Nick came across as more caring but also kind of bossy in a big sister way before the accident. After the accident, Nick struggles a lot with guilt. She takes a job under duress at a local theme park where she reluctantly reconnects with Parker and makes some new friends. There she seems to bloom a little until her sister disappears. Then she starts trying to figure out what happened to Madeline Snow.
This is not a suspense novel though the missing Madeline Snow adds a little bit of intrigue to the plot. It is more about mending damaged relationships and forgiveness. There is also a shocking twist that I did not see coming. Maybe I just wasn't reading carefully enough but the author took me by surprise. It made me rethink how I felt about the book.
Overall I liked Vanishing Girls. The writing reminded me a little of Before I Fall, Lauren Oliver's debut novel which I loved. I liked that the book focused so much on sisters and less on romance though there is some there. I think readers who like darker contemporary novels will enjoy this the most though some may find the twist to be a gimmick. ...more
Fairest is a prequel to the Lunar Chronicles books that introduces Levana as a teen as well as Cinder (Princess Selene) and Winter when they were littFairest is a prequel to the Lunar Chronicles books that introduces Levana as a teen as well as Cinder (Princess Selene) and Winter when they were little. Because this is Levana's story it is dark and Levana is not a likable character though Marissa Meyer did manage to make me feel some sympathy for her.
Levana suffers a traumatic event when she is little that scars her for life. She comes from a family with a twisted idea of love and family relationships. Her parents were neglectful and horrible rulers and her sister Channery is worse. Levana wants love more than anything and she sets her sights on Sir Evret Hayle, a member of the royal guard who treats her with kindness. Unfortunately there are complications but Levana is used to getting her way.
As the novel progressed my sympathy for Levana evaporated into horror at her behavior. Even when she gets what she wants (at a terrible cost) it isn't enough. The only truly good characters in the book are Sir Evret and his family. The book takes readers up to the horrifying events of the attempt on Princess Selene's life and Levana's inception of the plot to take over Earth by marrying Prince Kai.
What I liked about this book was the introduction of Winter and learning her background. As this is a series of fairy tale retellings, Levana is the Evil Queen from the fairy tale of Snow White and Winter is cast as Snow White in this version. I am looking forward to reading the final book in the series, Winter to see how everything turns out and there are some sample chapters of it at the back of Fairest which I enjoyed reading.
While it was interesting to learn more about Levana, it did not make for pleasant reading. There was some discussions on a teen librarian listserv about the appropriateness of this novel for younger teens due to some darker content (instances of what the teen librarians described as "mind rape"). I think readers who are unsure if they would like this book should check it out from the library instead of buying it or consider skipping it altogether if they are concerned about content for younger teens. I think the rest of the series can be enjoyed without getting the background of Levana from Fairest. ...more