The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer is everything I want in a read-- it's sexy, suspenseful, heartfelt, sarcastic, intriguing and I've barely scratched the su...moreThe Unbecoming of Mara Dyer is everything I want in a read-- it's sexy, suspenseful, heartfelt, sarcastic, intriguing and I've barely scratched the surface. The suspense surrounding what happened to Mara combined with killer dialog, endearing characters and pulse-inducing male lead makes for one hell of a read. Be prepared to be blown away because Mara Dyer packs a powerful punch.
I'd be friends with Mara in a heartbeat. Her voice flows naturally off the page and her witty little comments ("so we're going to do this the hard way, awesome") in her head and sometimes out loud kept me laughing long into the night. Though her relationship with her mother was strained, Mara had a well rounded family life. She got along with her brothers and knew her mother was trying to do what was best for her even if it was annoying. The question of her sanity was an interesting point in the novel and it was hard to tell what was real and what wasn't being in her point of view. There aren't too many unreliable narrators in YA fiction (or any novels that I can think of) and Mara was absolutely believable.
Mara isn't the only character I fell in love with. Both of her brothers are equal parts caring and rotten boy which I loved. Her older brother, Daniel, really is the type of big brother any girl would want and their relationship felt so realistic. Mara's friend Jamie was snort out loud funny. Everything out of his mouth made me giggle and I loved that Mara could match him word for word in the shock department.
All of these characters were wonderful but Noah, the male love interest stole the show. From his rebel without a care demeanor to his British accent, he was born to break hearts. And break hearts he did! Half the things out of his mouth were so wildly inappropriate I was gasping and the other half were so steamy I was also gasping... for an entirely different reason, of course. He was definitely a riddle and I could totally see why he and Mara worked so well together. Noah worked on shock factor and Mara was able to shock him back. The other thing about that I loved about Noah is I felt like I knew him before Mara started to really like him. I could see him chewing his straw and lounging wickedly on his bed surrounded by his books. What he and Mara had was based on trust and personality as much as it was to physical attraction and their relationship was electric.
I liked the mystery of what happened to Mara and her friends in the closed insane asylum and that she remembered it in pieces. It worked well chopped up and put into her new life at certain times. The revolutions are shocking and the ending happens almost too quickly to comprehend. I don't think I've ever read a book as quickly as I read the last 100 pages of this one. I was literally dying to find out what was going to happen and get some questions answered. I wish more was revealed about what Noah and Mara find out but I understand that they don't have the answers and they need time enough to find someone who does. Even though this book was a whopper, I found myself wishing it was even longer. I could have spent a lifetime in Mara's world (and more specifically in Noah's head). The vivid and beautiful writing had as much to do with this as the story did. There are such beautiful images in the story. I'll never forget Mara describing a dead man with his "bright red watermelon insides spilling out of his skull".
The addictive quality of The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer is hard to resist and the ending of the novel really does beg for the reader to turn around and re-read the entire thing. I could go on and on about the merits of this novel. I fall in love with everything about it. The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer is an absolute must-read (and then re-read again). You'd be crazy not to!(less)
I was worried about this second novel mostly because of my intense surprise and love of the first Mara Dyer book. There was so much build up and tensi...moreI was worried about this second novel mostly because of my intense surprise and love of the first Mara Dyer book. There was so much build up and tension in the first novel that I wasn't sure if this one could live up to it. I found myself about halfway and suddenly I had more questions than when I started and I realized that every worry I had was unfounded.
I think I went through the natural progression with this novel. At first, I was really frustrated with it. Frustrated with the characters, with where the story was going and with all the things I didn't understand. But as it kept moving, I realized I was supposed to be. I was supposed to be as anger as Mara was with her family for not believing her and I was also supposed to be as frustrated as Mara was with herself for not knowing what was real and what she might be hallucinating. For understanding that something awful was happening to her on top of something else awful happening to her and she has no answers. I think Mara definitely became my favorite character in here because she made the most sense to me. She was coping with so much internally as well as externally and the fact that she held it together, that she had to hold it together, was incredible.
I also liked that she didn't keep any secrets from Noah. A lot of the time the main character likes to withhold things from their love interest for the sake of tension but I was glad that Mara was smart enough to know that she could rely on Noah. Even if he didn't always go along with exactly what she believed, he did believe that she was experiencing the things she told him and I'm glad that this bond they built in the first novel didn't get torn apart in the second one.
It was actually Noah who frustrated me more this time around. I think we were supposed to and I understood his reasoning but I still wish he'd been a little more open the way Mara was. I guess their relationship felt a little one sided. However, as the novel kept going, it felt wonderful to get into Noah's head a little bit with that journal Mara found. Hearing his thoughts and finally having him say his wishes made it a lot easier to connect with him again and made it more believable for Mara to lean on him. I was kind of angry in the beginning when neither Mara or Noah would cherish the moments they have together so I was glad when that barrier was finally removed. I also think that will make them stronger in the final novel (regardless of what the ending was).
The flashbacks and the plot had me very confused basically the entire time. But not confused because of the writing. Confused because of the narrator. At the heart of this novel, we have an unstable narrator. Mara wants to know the truth, to find the answers, but there is also something taking over her. Whether its a demon or a "gift" or a gene that runs in her family, she is changing. And those changes are making her more unreliable. So things that we think happen, that she believes happened sometimes haven't and sometimes the things that seemed the most unbelievable are the things that actually have happened. This ambiguity, this not knowing, is what makes the story so unputdownable. By the time I got about 200 pages from the ending I was killing myself to race to the end and figure out what the heck is happening. This isn't to say that the first 300 pages weren't interesting. The book just picked up and rocketed to a conclusion by the second half of the book.
As before, sometimes I would just stop and marvel in the beauty of Hodkin's prose which explains the long list of favorite lines at the bottom. I know this is an odd sort of thing to think about but I thought that where one chapter ended and the second began was placed well. It kept me reading "just one more" when I should have gone to bed. I did miss Mara's bond with her family who took a backseat to the plot this time so I hope we get to see more of them in the next novel. I also hope that if they ever find out Jude is alive they give Mara a huge hug and sob at her feet for being so right.
With the mystery of what is happening to Mara, Noah and the rest of the kids deepening as well as the dangerous situations they are finding themselves in, I found that this novel was even better than the first one. Mara definitely became one of my favorite characters ever because of how fiercely she loves her family and how strong she's become. Thanks to a plot that has more twist and turns than a dance floor and characters I'm completely invested in, The Evolution of Mara Dyer is one heck of a thrill ride from page one until the shocking conclusion.(less)
I don't think Dead To You is the right book for everybody. It's one of those novels you read when you are in the mood for something a little off and v...moreI don't think Dead To You is the right book for everybody. It's one of those novels you read when you are in the mood for something a little off and very dark. Lisa McMann dives into what it means to be a family and literally rips this idea from seam to seam while exposing the darkest parts of humanity. Ethan's rough voice coupled with his tough childhood contrasted by the innocence of his little sister Gracie is brilliant and McMann is able to mold her sparse writing style into exactly what the story needed.
Stolen away from his family at a young age, Ethan's reunion with the family that never stopped looking for him is heartbreaking and just a little bit awkward. Ethan's point of view is colored by his rough life. Everything he thinks or does is aimed at survival. Because of this rough way of living, he appreciates all the small things that being a family and having a steady home is about. It was really fascinating to watch him gravitate towards certain items and concepts like his pictures and the idea of his won room since he hadn't experienced those things before. I loved how rough around the edges he was and watching him try to fit in with a family that actually cares for him.
I really liked Gracie as a character. The fact that her parents wanted to shelter her from what happened to Ethan and how she and Ethan were able to bond really touched me. I felt like their relationship gave the novel a tender edge which is so desperately needed thanks to Ethan's very rough voice. I thought Blake would be the one Ethan would bond with since they knew each other from when Ethan was abducted but that was so not the case. The tension between Ethan and his brother Blake made for some great reading. I also really liked how fiercely Ethan's mother loved him and even how he was able to bond with his dad.
I wasn't exactly sure where the plot was going and got annoyed at how little Ethan remembered about his former life. Like him, I was fascinated with what happened after he went missing and I was always grateful to hear how his life was post abduction. What I didn't expect was for him to finally figure out his role in the family and then the explosive ending that left my jaw permanently unhinged. Seriously, this novel packs a huge, very emotional punch in that end that still has me reeling and I can't quite figure out if I'm okay with that.
Having read and loved the Wake series, I wasn't sure how McMann's sparse style would lend itself to a story like this. Turns out, I didn't need to worry because she showcases a completely differentway of writing. What I like about it though is she's still able to capture this simple way of seeing things and encasing this idea in the most beautiful words. Ethan's voice sounded natural and the writing was one of my favorite parts of this novel.
However, I don't feel like this novel will appeal to a wide variety of readers. As I was reading it during a trying time in my life, I found myself a little reluctanct to pick up the story because of the major darkness of the theme. This is not the novel's fault and I feel like at another time, I'd have appreciated the dark theme more. I felt like this is a story that needed to be told. I can see a character like Ethan just itching at the writer's brain and his story was definitely not like anything I expected.
Dead To You truly is unique read. Combining an honest voice that doesn't come around very often, a very stressful and delicate situation and a jaw dropping conclusion, it will definitely leave you shocked and will stick with you if you can stomach the dark themes. (less)
**spoiler alert** Envy mixes every deliciously bad thing that the girls in Mean Girls did to each other with supernatural beings hellbent on revenge,...more**spoiler alert** Envy mixes every deliciously bad thing that the girls in Mean Girls did to each other with supernatural beings hellbent on revenge, a girl hellbent on getting the supernatural out of her town and just a touch of the trainwreck known as Toddlers and Tiaras into one. And you know what? It really, really works!
I know that fury received a lot of mixed views. And it is the opinion of this blogger that it did because the characters were almost too flawed to like. Both Em and Chase screwed up royally in Fury and it was hard to figure out if you should be rooting for them or not. Luckily, Envy does not give the reader the same moral dilemma. Yes, some of the characters are clearly bad but I think they are sympathic enough to be likable and if you don't, at least they get what's coming to them.
Em is back but this time, she is on a holy mission and it is a good one. After dealing with the Furies in Fury, Em has no tolerance for their games in this one and she lets her intentions be known. I loved watching Em become a stronger character in her right and her journey to redeem herself (by kicking the Furies out of her home) is a pleasure to see unfold. You get a much more likable character because this one is all about Em caring for other people instead of solely for herself. That isn't to say that her mistakes of the past are gone and forgotten but she is really working to make up for them and it's nice to see that she is way more accepting of other people.
To replace Chase, we've got a character named Skylar. Even though I knew *spoiler highlight to read* she was going to be the Furies plaything in this book, I still find her a lot easier to identify with than Chase. I think it probably had something to do with her being a girl and just wanting to find a place to fit in. *end spoiler* It's in Skylar's chapters that we get an extra big does of the Mean Girl with a side of Toddlers and Tiaras. I liked how Skaylar constantly warred with herself about her feelings about Gabby. She wanted to love her and be her best friend so badly and sitting right next to that need was her intense jealousy because Gabby made it look easily. I really loved that the author made it a point for Gabby to tell Skylar that it was not easy for her, that she was so tired of working at it all the time, and then having Skylar still choose to believe that it was easy for Gabby. I think, in the end, Skylar's reasonings for doing the things she did made sense to me so it was hard to hate her. I mostly just felt pity.
Envy is fueled by a a diverse cast that wasn't so big as to make everyone feel like a stereotype but small enough to capture that small town feel. As in the last book, I really loved Gabby. It was nice to see a popular girl that was mostly nice to everyone. Gabby had a way of making the room light up and you felt that every time she was on the page. I also loved the addition of Crow. We'd heard about him in the first novel but it was cool to see Em hanging out with him and he really confused my feelings as to who Em should end up with. I loved her sweet charming best friend JD in the first book but Crow sort of took the place of JD in this novel. The nice thing is that Em still seems to know who she wants so it didn't feel like the stereotypical love triangle. I'm interested to see where his character is going in the future.
What I kept noticing about this book was just how good the writing was. Miles has a way of capture little sensations, of pointing out things in everyday life that are intangible or back music and bringing them into Envy to make it feel real. You'll notice that most of my favorite sentences are things that feel familiar but are never seen in novels like the idea of headlights punctuating a conversation in the car. So many times, I marveled at the words strewn togehter like perfectl ittle pearls on a necklace that brought home the mood. I read one review that said this book seemed more shallow than the last one and lacked the creepy factor of the first. I've got to completely disagree. I got chills every time the Furies decided to show their faces or laugh into the night. At one point, Em and Drea go into the woods and every hair on my neck stood straight up on edge. Envy is bursting with the creepy factor and I love how its sandwiched between the creampuff girlyness of Skylar and Gabby.
My only compliant would be that the plot felt a little straight forward. I guessed pretty early on what the big reveal was going to be with both girls which made the novel feel just a little long during some parts. However, I really enjoyed getting to the end and going on the journey with the characters even if I already knew how it was going to end.
If your looking for a read that one part creepy to every two parts Mean Girl than I think Envy is perfect. If you're having doubts because you didn't like the first one, I think you might want to consider Envy anyway because it has a very different tone than Fury and the characters are a little softer. I'm glad I took the berries with Em in Fury and came back to find out what they meant in Envy!(less)
Where It Began weaves an emotional tale of healing wrapped in the pleasantly sarcastic voice of Gabby as she relives that last few months of her life...moreWhere It Began weaves an emotional tale of healing wrapped in the pleasantly sarcastic voice of Gabby as she relives that last few months of her life leading up to the accident that put her in bed in the first place. Gabby's strong personality and sad home life made it easy to feel for her plight and the re-examination of the things she held dear is interesting as it is entwined with her new life after the accident. I really enjoyed the mixture of the two time lines.
Gabby's one of those girls that really doesn't see how special she is because no one else around her sees it. Her parents are too busy pretending to be rich to care and since she doesn't feel like she excels at anything, she doesn't have a lot of validation accept for when her mother gives her a make over that turns her into the girl her mother always wished she could be. Suddenly, Gabby is sky-rocketed to the new "it" girl and is on the arm of the hottest guy in school. Gabby's charm and whip sharp tongue color her voice as she tells her tale and make for quite a few laughable moments. Her sarcasm covers up for some of her deeper insecurities which changes depending on her mood at the time. Though I'm not sure I'd want her to be my friend, I did love hearing her uncensored thoughts about things.
The other characters were really wonderful too. Gabby's parents were deliciously evil as they flit around trying to figure how to go back to the way they were while still dealing with Gabby's slew of problems. Gabby's mother, in particular, was a wonderfully complex woman. Her simultaneous inner turmoil to fill her own needs while not thinking about anything else wars with her general want to be there for Gabby. And I really felt that her mother did want to help Gabby in her own way. Her dad played less of an active role. Gabby's friends were also great. I loved trying to separate who was really there for her and who wasn't. Huey and his mother were fun characters and I'd have liked to see more of them throughout the story. Even Billy and his mother made the story all the more full.
Being in this world of the uber rich just reminded me how lucky I really am not to have to deal with the superficial crap that so many people have to put up with. Ms Stampler did an excellent job creating a sufficating atmosphere for Gabby so we can see her fall and was masterful at adding in little hints for the reader to catch onto if they looked hard enough. My only two compliants are that sometimes Gabby would lose me in some of her sarcastic rants and I had a hard time figuring out what she was talking about. The other thing, for me, was that this story felt a little too long in the middle. I was happy Gabby had plenty of time to begin healing but I felt like she was stuck too long in the process of figuring out that she needed to heal.
The plot had plenty of surprises along the way to keep me interested. I was truly surprised what was confirmed in Part 2 (I'm not saying it because I don't want to ruin it for you guys!) and was interested to see how Gaby's future would turn out since all signs pointed (too neatly for my taste) to her being the drunk driver. The combination of heresy, dialog, text and ims were a great mix to tell the story in and I loved Gabby's eventual growth. Stampler was masterful at giving us just the right technique at the right time and letting to story form organically.
Where It Began starts at the ending of one thing and the beginning of something new and a whole lot scarier. Gabby is smashed into pieces so that she can rebuild herself if she can just find the energy and drive to do it right. Beautiful writing, complex characters and a heartbreaking situation make Where It Began a wonderful read perfect for all contemporary fans.(less)
When You Were Mine manages to capture everything that made Romeo & Juliet unforgettable--the unstoppable feeling of love at first sight and tragic...moreWhen You Were Mine manages to capture everything that made Romeo & Juliet unforgettable--the unstoppable feeling of love at first sight and tragic end that brings two feuding families together--and update it into an interesting retelling that will leave its reader breathless. Focusing on Rosaline, the girl Romeo said he was in love with before that fateful meeting with Juliet, we get to see an entirely new side to a well-known story that is every bit as encompassing as the one it was inspired by. Imaginative, inventive and wildly romantic, When You Were Mine is a beautiful contemporary.
I'm always interested in story's that retell a well known tale from a different angle so when I read about When You Were Mine being from Rosaline's point of view, I was instantly drawn to the book. The author set the novel in a rich community but Rosaline's family seems to be pretty middle class. That is to say, she doesn't have all the finest things but she isn't really wanting either. I genuinely liked Rosaline from the beginning. I think part of that is because I know how the story was going to go and she already had that sympathy thing going for her but I know that a lot of it was because of the person she is. She was insightful and seemed to see people for who they were better than everyone else except for Rob and Juliet.
What I found really interesting was that the author chose to make Rosaline and her friends the popular kids in their school. This is one of the first novels that I've read where we get to go into the inner workings of the mean girls but instead of them being judged by an outsider, we got to see them from one of their group. I'll definitely say that I enjoyed Rosaline’s group of friends. Charlie's fierceness, especially when it comes to protecting her friends, and Olivia's general goodness made them hard to resist. However, they were mean sometimes and I think that helped show that in this story, everyone played a part in how this story ends. I'm not saying that loved the bullying part of this group and these girls were selfish but they did care about each other which sort of balanced it out to me. I must also admit that I enjoyed a bit of the cattiness and it never got overboard for me which is definitely difficult to do.
Rob and Juliet's relationship was incredibly complicated and I love the whole back story that the author created for them. They are best friends and share everything together and it seems like Rob is finally seeing just how awesome Rosaline is...until Juliet shows up. The author really worked to build something real for Rob and Rose which made it that much harder to watch when it falls apart. I also think the author did a good job building something for Juliet and Rob too and though theirs was obviously a destructively love, I understood why they were together. Juliet was a character I loved to hate because she definitely knew what she was doing every step of the way. I was glad, however, that about halfway through the author humanized her so we finally got to see things from her point of view. Like Rose, I both loathed and pitied her and because of that pity, I was willing to forgive. It's a complicated line and I feel like it was handled really well. It also helped that the author give Rose an amazing connection with a new guy that I couldn't get enough of! The chemistry with Rob and Rose was sweet but Rose and her new man absolutely sizzle on the page.
Rosaline's voice is perfect and there are so many fun details about her and her friends that they all seemed real to me. The writing was absolutely beautiful and I thought the author did a really good job with the retelling. Though she did take some liberties with story--the back story in particular, I feel like they were all good liberties. Having Rosaline be related to Juliet and Rose and Rob being best friends really added a lot to the story. My only small complainant was that it felt like the pacing was off just a little bit. It felt like Juliet wasn't in it long enough and I would have liked to see a lot more of Rob and Juliet's relationship before everything ended. I also felt like the tone in the beginning, which read a little bit spiteful to me, didn't match with Rosaline's character who was actually very forgiving.
If you like Romeo & Juliet, I'd highly recommend this retelling. Wildly romatic with characters you aren't soon going to forget, When You Were Mine is addictive. It will break your heart and make it soar in the same page. (less)
Legacy left me utterly neutral. I'm not clinging to my seat hoping for more but I'm not unhappy that I read this story. I was pretty excited to read t...moreLegacy left me utterly neutral. I'm not clinging to my seat hoping for more but I'm not unhappy that I read this story. I was pretty excited to read this story for the paranormal element and I love stories steeped in rich character histories. In that aspect, this story did not disappoint but I felt it hard to connect with the characters and the story was really choppy at parts which definitely hindered my reading experience.
When I pick up a novel, I want to fall in love with the person telling me the story. What makes this person different from me? I liked Katy's voice okay but I had a really hard time connecting with her. There were some things about her personality that I really liked-- she was funny and pretty kind-- but I couldn't follow her motivations or her line of thought. I guess I felt like she didn't react naturally. I actually had that problem with most of the characters. I mean, someone would shout "they tried to kill me" and everyone would sort of shrug and say "that's life" and not hold a grudge or anything. Plus, I found it hard to follow conversations because all of a sudden, someone would sort of explode in anger and I couldn't figure out where it was coming from or why it needed to be there. Frankly, the only characters I really did like were the sweet little boy Eric, the evil entity The Darkness, Mim, Miss P and Katy when I could follow her.
I did enjoy the budding romance between Katy and Peter, I'm a sucker for forbidden romance, but I felt like it went way too fast and Peter was way too hot and cold for me to actually like him as a male lead. I did really like what he stood for and there is this really beautiful moment near the end of the novel where they are walking through mud that was spectacular but like my problems with Katy, I just didn't figure out what motivated his actions. So I guess I liked what was starting to take place with Peter and Katy but I wish it would have been slower and more solid.
Where this novel really delivered was in the witchcraft and the rich history of the town. Whitfield had this amazing history that the witches worked to keep alive. They were all about tradition and lineage. I liked that several different story lines effected the main one and that Katy had to learn about the past to help figure out her future. The magic in that world was also wonderful. I liked that witches had individual talents and I loved that the witches had almost another world over the real one. The fog, The Meadow and Hattie's restaurant all combined to make this really amazing fabric of the witchy world.
The thing that left me neutral about this novel the most is the choppiness of it. I couldn't figure out where the plot was going and it jumped through large passages of time instead of letting things build in a smaller amount of time. Katy's voice is easy to read so there was nothing particularly tough to get through but it did lag a bit and sometimes I felt like I didn't grasp the whole picture.
While Legacy did have some good things going for it, there were other things I found it hard to get passed. The rich world-building and town history really makes this novel shine but sometimes it was hard to see through the choppy nature of the plot.(less)