I realize this may come as a shock to some of you, but I’ve never read anything by Nora Roberts or – up until recently – Robyn Carr. However, the seco...moreI realize this may come as a shock to some of you, but I’ve never read anything by Nora Roberts or – up until recently – Robyn Carr. However, the second winter started weighing on my mood I started looking for small-town stories with a friendly atmosphere that could keep me warm and my mood light throughout this winter. That is how I finally ended up buying a book by Carr. Intimidated by the length of her Virgin River series, I decided to go with her new series, Thunder Point instead.
I found everything I was looking for in Thunder Point, just like Hank Cooper, who came to the small town to pay respects to his recently deceased friend and eventually stayed. Thunder Point is a closely knit community, a loving and warm little town with friendly people, good food and nature to die for. Carr doesn’t hesitate to entangle us into these people’s lives; not just Cooper’s, but a whole plethora of interesting characters. Although the title implies it, Coop is not the main character, and neither is anyone else. They’re all equally important, both to Carr and to me as a reader.
One can find love in Thunder Point, friendships, supportive parents, talented teens, liberal old aunts, single fathers of three, bullies and their victims and everything else you could possibly think of. I grew most attached to Gina and Mac, two single parents and best friends. They danced tentatively around each other for years, but Mac was afraid of ruining their friendship and making things uncomfortable for their teen daughters, also best friends. Only the fear of losing Gina to someone else was big enough to make him finally take the plunge.
Therese Plummer is a surprisingly good narrator. Since most of the story is told from various male perspectives, narrating the story and handling their voices must have been pretty challenging. The timbre of her voice is elegant and extremely pleasant, even when she makes it deep for the male characters. If you decide to read this, I highly recommend the audio.
I didn’t wait a single second to go back to Thunder Point. The sequel is titled The Newcomer and it centers around all the same characters. Rejoining them already feels like coming home.
3.5 stars Like every satire ever written, No One Else Can Have You is destined to polarize readers. I doubt there will be people with lukewarm feelings...more3.5 stars Like every satire ever written, No One Else Can Have You is destined to polarize readers. I doubt there will be people with lukewarm feelings for this book. Either this type of dark humor is something you enjoy or not, but either should be clear after only a couple of pages.
Through Friendship, Wisconsin and its colorful inhabitants, Hale cleverly points out all the shortcomings of a small community. Her criticism is as sharp as it is funny, and she spares no one in the process: not the protagonist, not the grieving parents, not the war hero, and certainly not the victim herself. To Hale, everything is fair game, and that’s precisely what makes her prose acceptable and entertaining. Had she been picky with her disparagement, the value would have been lost, but her tone remains unchanged whichever way you look.
Like everything else, the murder mystery is designed to both entertain and ridicule the small town mentality. Everyone involved in the investigation is basically a blithering idiot and the only two people with a modicum of sense are Kippy and Davey, Ruth’s older brother, just returned from a tour in Afghanistan. Davey has secrets he’s doing his best to hide and the entire town believes that he suffers from PTSD, so the fact that he’s the sanest one around is plenty ridiculous all on its own.
Despite the quirkiness that is, on occasion, exaggerated and annoying, Hale strikes just the right note with her secondary characters. The people of Friendship, few exceptions aside, are funny and instantly lovable, in that entirely unrealistic, unbelievable way. Kippy’s dad in particular has no trouble finding his way into the readers’ hearts, with his silly nicknames and his unrelenting support.
While I strongly recommend reading a sample first, just to see if this is something you might enjoy, I think everyone should at least give this one a chance. It’s a novelty, a breath of fresh air in an overly saturated market, and as such, it’s worthy of attention.
Dead Ends is a simple yet wonderful tale about an unlikely friendship between two young boys, both of them social outcasts. Dane is a bully, raised by...moreDead Ends is a simple yet wonderful tale about an unlikely friendship between two young boys, both of them social outcasts. Dane is a bully, raised by a very young single mom and angry at the world. He has no idea who his father is, and his mother, although otherwise great, refuses to divulge his identity. Dane takes out his anger on anyone who dares to look at him the wrong way, until Billy D. comes along.
Billy D. has Down syndrome. He is highly functional and pretty healthy, all things considered, but he's far from being a regular kid. He sees Dane as someone strong enough to keep him safe from all those who enjoy "hitting a retard". Being intelligent and aware of his situation makes him pretty manipulative so he somehow manages to blackmail Dane into helping him.
The last thing Dane wants to do is to get involved, but with the expulsion from school looming over his head, his choices are limited at best. He even lets himself be blackmailed into helping Billy D. locate his estranged father, which forces Dane to think about finding his own missing dad. Despite how it may seem, a friendship born from mutual understanding is inevitable between these boys. Lange doesn't try to portray either of them in a better light, but as they learn things about each other, they also discover things about themselves, partly flaws they'd rather not see, but also qualities they didn't even know they possessed. Of course their journey ends up being painful and full of unwanted revelations, but it also gives them something neither of them has ever had before - a true friend.
There isn't much I can say about the plot for fear of spoiling it, but I will say this: Dead Ends is a beautifully written, poignant story that deserves far more attention than what it's been getting. I vote that we try to change that. It's what we do, after all.
2.5 stars The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Well then, methinks I’m batshit crazy...more2.5 stars The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Well then, methinks I’m batshit crazy because I just never learn.
Even though I’m fully aware that she has many, many fans, Katie McGarry’s books never quite worked for me. I often found her approach to certain subjects too shallow, her characters just a tiny bit plastic and her writing awfully clichéd. They are, for me, the type of books I can finish in one sitting, and then promptly forget they exist.
The same stands true for Crash Into You, albeit somewhat amplified. Despite my lukewarm feelings towards the previous two books, I found myself looking forward to Isaiah’s story. Of all McGarry’s characters, he’s the one I felt had the most potential. But instead of building upon the promising foundations, McGarry turned him into one of those bad-on-the-outside-decent-on-the-inside archetypal romance heroes, thus effectively ruining his character and the overall story for me. Where was the expected depth? Mommy issues and a few false rumors do not a hero make.
Back when Isaiah thought himself in love with Beth, I wholeheartedly agreed that they weren’t right for each other. Two severely damaged individuals would always drag each other down, no matter their intentions. But who he got instead wasn’t much better for him, and she was a disappointment for me as a reader as well. I was promised a street racer, and instead I got a skittish, never-been-kissed girl with no backbone and more issues than I could count. So even though Isaiah ended up being as stereotypical as they come, the real letdown was Rachel.
With her personality and her will practically smothered by her family, Rachel grew up into a weak, strange girl prone to panic attacks. Her small rebellion, the street race where she met Isaiah, was a once-in-a-lifetime deal, not a common occurrence like the book description led me to believe. There were so many times I wanted to shake some sense into Rachel, make her stand up to her family instead of cowering and throwing up until her throat was raw and bleeding. Their relationship was at times exaggerated to the point of being ridiculous, which is exactly what McGarry usually does and why her books rarely work for me.
As always, secondary characters were far more interesting, probably because they haven’t been turned into clichés just yet. Abby has a great story to tell, McGarry has hinted at a horrible past that I would normally be excited to explore. My problem is that I don’t trust this author to do it properly, without turning Abby into a textbook teen martyr, a troubled girl only waiting for the right boy to solve all her problems. The next book isn’t Abby’s, however, that dubious honor belongs to Rachel’s brother West.
I’ve decided to part ways with McGarry so many times, only to pick up the newest title as soon as it becomes available. This time, I know better than to make such statements. I don’t feel particularly drawn to West’s story, but once it comes out… who knows?
2.5 stars I love that the New Adult genre is starting to stray a bit from the usual format. I’ve stopped reading it altogether because of its repetitiv...more2.5 stars I love that the New Adult genre is starting to stray a bit from the usual format. I’ve stopped reading it altogether because of its repetitive, formulaic nature, but Trouble Comes Knocking seemed different from the start, which is why I decided to give it a chance. Romance is an important part of this story, but it’s not at the forefront. The characters here are young and Lucy still lives with her aunt, but she is out of college, and so are her friends/romantic interests. They have already started living their adult lives.
Lucy is someone I could have liked a lot, were she sufficiently developed as a character, but she wasn’t. The length of the story, which is somewhere between a novella and a full length novel, made proper development of characters and plot virtually impossible. The only thing that was fully developed (which I suppose says enough about the planning of this narrative) was the dreaded love triangle. Lucy has feelings for two men – one she’s allowed to be with, and one she’s not. What bothered me was that she started having feelings for both of them in a matter of days, which made me doubt the quality and intensity of those feelings. It was, however, clear who she really wanted to be with, but that didn’t make me feel any better at all.
The story constantly jumped back and forth in time, between Lucy’s questioning at the police station, and past events she was being questioned about. These jumps happened without any kind of warning, which made them a bit awkward and exhausting at first. Even when it’s well done, it is a narrative technique that never works for me, and it didn’t work now. I would have much preferred a linear story.
The last 10% opened up a whole new story for Lucy, a mystery that will probably be pursued in the next book. I doubt I’ll read it myself, but I might change my mind once it’s out. If I do, I hope I’ll get a better understanding of these characters; wasted potential always makes me so sad.
4.5 stars Nathan Filer’s debut stunned me and left me speechless. It’s been a long time since I read something so beautifully written.
Where the Moon I...more4.5 stars Nathan Filer’s debut stunned me and left me speechless. It’s been a long time since I read something so beautifully written.
Where the Moon Isn’t is a story told by Matthew Homes, a mentally ill nineteen-year-old. It’s a metafictional novel, as Matthew constantly and intentionally exposes himself as the author and communicates openly with the readers. He provides excuses when he’s unable to explain something or offer further details. He makes constant remarks about his mental stability, and his reasons for writing the story.
Matthew’s problems started when he lost his older brother Simon. Simon was a child with special needs and Matt often resented him for being the center of their parents’ attention. But when Simon died in an accident partly caused by Matthew, he kept on living in Matthews head, a product of his guild and schizophrenia combined.
From the start, Matthew’s placement in the mental institution and his slightly odd storytelling hint at the possibility that he’s not the most reliable of narrators. It is almost impossible to discern which parts of his story are true, and which are the product of a damaged mind. Matthew is only nineteen, extremely vulnerable, and his thoughts are all over the place, jumping through space and time from one short chapter to the next. But still, it’s his unforgettable voice that holds this narrative together firmly and effortlessly.
I’ll tell you what happened because it will be a good way to introduce my brother. His name’s Simon. I think you’re going to like him. I really do. But in a couple of pages he’ll be dead. And he was never the same after that.
As Matthews mental health deteriorates, his narration becomes less coherent, often making no sense whatsoever. His relationships with family and his only friend go downhill fast, because, as Matt himself keeps pointing out, schizophrenia is a selfish illness. There is a lot of resentment between Matt and his parents. His early teen years were rebellious, probably because the schizophrenia already affected his moods, and he made life difficult for everyone, himself included. Even though Matthew grows in this story, his mental illness isn’t taken lightly as something that can be fixed overnight. It is a constant, life-long struggle one needs to accept and make peace with.
Nathan Filer is a brilliant young author with so much to offer. His first novel is endearingly odd and in many ways spectacular. I simply can’t wait to see what he’ll come up with next.
Even though, at first glance, Gated looks very much like dystopian lit, it’s actually an too-likely-for-comfort contemporary read. It happens in prese...moreEven though, at first glance, Gated looks very much like dystopian lit, it’s actually an too-likely-for-comfort contemporary read. It happens in present day United States, and the regular society functions normally. It’s only the small group Lila lives in, a cult if you will, that lives under a very different set of rules.
Mandradage Meadows (I think that’s how it’s spelled, I’m not sure because of the audio) is a gated community, lead by the charismatic Pioneer. There lives a group of people that knows the truth about the upcoming Armageddon and wants to prepare for it. They have a silos underground and they spend their time learning how to fight, to prevent others from entering their safe haven.
Pioneer leads the community with an iron fist. He’s the one who dreamed of the end, and he’s the one in contact with the Brethren, aliens who have chosen only the people in Mandradage Meadows to survive. Everyone lives by his rules and they gladly obey because they know the alternative is dying with the rest of the world, but when someone doesn’t, for whatever reson, they face a punishment so fierce, they’re never tempted to disobey again.
Parker took her sweet time creating the Pioneer, and it shows. He is perhaps one of the most fascinating characters I’ve come across in a very long time, and I’m not saying that lightly. The intricacies of one such personality, the hundred faces of lies and deceit, are so very hard to get right, and yet Parker’s Pioneer constantly gave me the chills. To me and Lila both, he seemed a bit delusional, but kind enough at the beginning, but as the story progressed, his true colors showed more and more, until we were both terrified of what he might do next.
For her part, Alicyn Packard narrates the story skillfully and beautifully, so much so that I’d definitely recommend you pick this one up on audio. It’s a pretty long one, over 10 hours, but she takes you through it effortlessly, and before you even realize you’re utterly creeped out.
Less patient readers might find Gated pretty slow. There is no action to speak of, and the focus always remains on the psychological profiles of these characters: Pioneer and those who blindly follow him. The last part does pick up considerably, and the reader is faced with several surprises that are pretty hard to predict, but I’ve talked to several readers who gave up on Lila’s story much before that.
If you do decide to pick it up, keep in mind that it’s a quiet story, more a psychological thriller than anything else, and try to adjust your expectations accordingly. If you’re looking for high octane action, you most certainly won’t find it here, but I enjoyed the slow build-up and the development of these characters.
Despite the cutesy cover (and title), Love Is a Number is actually a pretty serious read that deals with loss, numbness and different stages of grief....moreDespite the cutesy cover (and title), Love Is a Number is actually a pretty serious read that deals with loss, numbness and different stages of grief. Although I was prepared for some seriousness, having read the description in advance, I didn’t expect such an emotionally mature read. Lee Monroe is the author of the Dark Heart YA paranormal romance series so this foray into contemporary was pretty unexpected, but I do hope this is what she’ll keep doing. Anything else would be a pretty serious loss for teen readers.
Huck, Eloise’s boyfriend of four years died suddenly while vacationing in Spain. The two of them always seemed to be the perfect couple: gorgeous, ambitious and very rich. With the loss of Huck, Eloise lost her entire future. Everything she had planned, be it in Uni or after, was centered around him. But as she goes through the stages of grief, she slowly comes to realize that there was a whole side of Huck she didn’t know at all and her own insignificance in his life strikes her as the betrayal of the worst kind.
In Spain, Daniel is feeling the loss himself. His path and Huck’s crossed very briefly and they didn’t like each other at all, but seeing a young life disappear so suddenly is bound to leave some consequences. Dan is a bit awkward, a bit nerdy, smart and genuinely nice, and most of all, very lonely.
When Huck’s phone accidentally ends up in Daniel’s hands, both Daniel and Eliose find something they sorely lack – comfort and closeness to another human being. At first, Daniel is reluctant to respond or give up the phone, but as they finally start communicating, they both experience radical changes.
Despite the grimness of the beginning, Love is a Number carries a strong underlying message of hope that becomes more and more pronounced as Eliose goes through her emotional awakening and self-discovery. It’s hard not to pity her at the beginning, not only for the loss of her boyfriend, but for the numbness and discomfort she always feels, the estrangement from her parents and her (rather dishonest) friends. It is because of that that we cheer even more loudly when she decides to become more self-assured and assertive.
All things considered, Love is a Number is a lovely, emotionally charged novel, perhaps a bit too heavy for hot summer days, but worthy of your time nevertheless.
When it comes to contemporary YA, Daria Snadowsky writes what is possibly the most honest, easily relatable prose I’ve ever read. There is nothing eve...moreWhen it comes to contemporary YA, Daria Snadowsky writes what is possibly the most honest, easily relatable prose I’ve ever read. There is nothing even remotely implausible about her characters or the events that transpire. It could all happen right next to you. To be fair, it could all happen TO you, and it probably has.
First love is always part sweet and part brutal, but it’s even harder for overachieving 17-year-olds. When you spend your life focused on the perfect college and your perfect career, that one special boy is bound to bring more turmoil than anything else. In Anatomy of a Boyfriend, Snadowsky offers a full portrayal of Dominique’s first love, from the awkward first meeting to the day she finally lets go.
There are so many great things I need to point out about this book, but above all, I enjoyed Dom’s relationship with her parents. They were exactly what they should be: paranoid, slightly neurotic and often out of date, but they were always attentive and very much involved in Dom’s everyday life. In short, they were everything healthy parents should be, and in turn, Dom was a very well balanced teen.
At the beginning, when I wrote about the honesty of Snadowsky’s prose, that included Dom’s sexual explorations. No detail is glossed over and the sexual progression of Dom and Wes’s relationship is treated openly and plainly, just like everything else. This is something we don’t often find in YA, but I personally consider it to be healthy and even necessary.
Through mature eyes, Wes is a often standoffish, typically selfish and a tiny bit unlikeable. I suspect, although I obviously can’t know for sure, that this was done on purpose, to demonstrate how young love often focuses on superficial things, such as good looks and the track star reputation and neglects flaws and immaturity as something that’s irrelevant and perhaps even expected.
After such a refreshingly straightforward read, I can honestly say I am very much looking forward to Anatomy of a Single Girl. Dom’s adventures and self-discovery are far from over, and I plan to be with her every step of the way.