Not as bad as it could have been but nowhere near as good as it should have been with this author. The worldbuilding is so flimsy as to be made of papNot as bad as it could have been but nowhere near as good as it should have been with this author. The worldbuilding is so flimsy as to be made of paper and the culture, which obviously inspired by China/Taiwan, was not fully developed or formed. So much potential wasted. I did love that the norm for the community was deafness -- very rarely done and it was just so matter of fact here.
This is readable but I don't know that it's good. And, honestly, reading this has made me nauseous several times. I am reminded again and again why thThis is readable but I don't know that it's good. And, honestly, reading this has made me nauseous several times. I am reminded again and again why this is a genre I rarely reach for. It's like an episode of Criminal Minds for 700 pages but more explicitly and sexually violent.
I need a book series based on (view spoiler)[ Jo and Eddie solving crimes and then reporting them aka what's hinted at in the epilogue. Also another sI need a book series based on (view spoiler)[ Jo and Eddie solving crimes and then reporting them aka what's hinted at in the epilogue. Also another series featuring the adventures of Fay and Jo would be most appreciated. (hide spoiler)] ....more
I love this kind of young adult fiction --- there's a great friendship at the heart of the novel but it's a friendship that changes and evolves over tI love this kind of young adult fiction --- there's a great friendship at the heart of the novel but it's a friendship that changes and evolves over the course of the novel. There's one definite ship full of feeeels and pain and a baby ship that begs for a non sequel novel set in a restaurant, if you know what I mean.
Full review to come but definitely recommended for friends of Morgan Matson's Since You've Been Gone and older-on-the-cusp-of-NA contemporary YA fans....more
I'm a person that likes finality, that craves it in all things. That kind of person that likes having all the answers and knowing exactly what lead upI'm a person that likes finality, that craves it in all things. That kind of person that likes having all the answers and knowing exactly what lead up to those final conclusions. I mean, I used to peek at the final page of every book I bought I still totally do this just to glance at who might survive, scared to get attached to doomed characters.
For these reasons, I don't like to give up on books. For a looong time, I hardly ever ever did. I'm talking like maybe four out of hundreds in the last four years. I'd endure past recycled plotlines, push through just-plain-bad dialogue, obvious machinations and plotpoints, shoddy writing, just because "Hey, it might get better before the end. You never know." And that's true, it really could get better - but it totally doesn't. As it turns out, books that start off bad or bland or boring, those are the kind of books hardly ever actually get better, and then you're left with x amount of wasted time and a lot of excess frustration.
Last year, I got better at pruning through my TBR piles and what I had to read. I DNFd'd more books last year than I ever have in a single year before (12 out of 213). So when I found myself struggling with reading Still Waters, thinking constantly to myself, "Just hang in. This could get better. It could get off this generic beaten path..." but I realized, I don't have to finish this book. There is nothing compelling me to read it: not the plot, the characters, nothing. So after 142 pages, I called it quits.
No doubt some will love this book. I bet they'd also really enjoy Spellbound a book I DNF'd last year - as both are generic, young-adult thrillers and utterly, utterly unoriginal. Not for me, but no rating because hey, maybe after 150 pages, it really does get better. ...more
I just. . . loved this. While the beginning had me seeing echoes of the start of the film Stick It, it's easy and impossible not to4 out of 5 stars!
I just. . . loved this. While the beginning had me seeing echoes of the start of the film Stick It, it's easy and impossible not to be won over by this cute baking/hockey teenaged love story. I had fun reading it, I wanted to read it when I wasn't, and I feel comfortable - nay excited! - recommending it to others. If those are not the signs of a good book, I don't know what are. This is exactly the kind of adorable, heart-felt book centered around baking that I wanted to read last year. What I got instead was Christina Mandelski's The Sweetest Thing, and, well, to be nice let's just say it far from delivered on the promise of its title. Sports, baking, school, family - main character Hudson Avery is a well-rounded, personable, real, dimensional character and one I enjoyed reading even for more than three hundred fifty pages. Author Sarah Ockler has greatly impressed me with this, the first novel of hers I've read, and with another of hers sitting to be read in my "already-bought" TBR pile I'm eager to start Twenty Boy Summer.
Let's get the bad stuff out of the way first, nice, easy, and best of all: quick. Why quick? I have very little to complain about from this book. There's so much to love from Bittersweet: from Hudson's rounded and faceted personality to Dani's take-no-crap attitude to the delicious-sounding cupcake recipes, I either missed things I ought've been annoyed by (possible) or they just never existed (most likely). First: I found it to be a tad lengthy. I enjoy a well-told and long story, but I felt Hudson's last twenty pages or so could've used some condensing. I flew through this book and only felt that the end suffered from a need for shortening: the rest is well-developed and timed. Second: Hudson's mom, Beth, expects too much from her daughter with little to no input from the daughter. I don't mind the "pull together for the family" spiel, it's understandable and actually happening all across the country, but I did mind Beth's attitude towards Hudson. Hudson is very mature and helpful: runs a side business, babysits her brother, pays some bills, goes to school, etc., but none of that factors into her mom's decision-making. It's aggravating, especially since the book is all from Hudson's perspective. The frustration of Hudson never being heard or listened to permeates for the duration, and it was one of the few things about this book I disliked. The good news is that it doesn't happen all the time, only sporadically, so it didn't really intrude on my reading enjoyment.
Hudson herself is great. She's so not perfect I want all the authors of Mary Sues to take note. Hudson is flawed human being: complicated, confused, FUNNY (when getting kissed: "I was 92% hygienically unprepared"), strong, and most of all, real. I really liked Hudson's humor: she doesn't take herself too serious and her self-deprecating style isn't so jaded as to be worrying. She's not the prettiest, or the most popular, or even the most intelligent: she's a normal, talented girl. Actualized and vibrant, Hudson is a happy harbinger for the personalities of the rest of the characters within Bittersweet. She has dreams and desires, hopes and wishes and a real-life she feels stuck in. Basically, Hudson is a typical teen: easy to relate to, easy to root for. Let me tell you, this girl is also funny. Her voice is so authentic and real, she comes across like several awkward friends of mine - I loved the freshness and authenticity consistently present. I thought the family drama behind Hudson's story was both compelling and also real. Contrasting her individual desires for freedom and escape against family duty, Hudson's struggles through the book are mundane but universal. Sarah Ockler truly did a noteworthy job with the characterization of the people within this book. The author absolutely and repeatedly nails the emotions and feelings of so many teens with Hudson's understandable reactions and thoughts.
Another thing about this I loved: the secondary and even tertiary characters are real, and believable, rounded personalities. Even the jerk of the novel is shown to have more than one side - and not all of them bad. He's human and understandable, even if I wanted him gone long before the book ended. Dani, Hudson's best friend, is a fireball but a real friend. She calls Hudson on her shit and isn't afraid to do her own thing without her BFF. I really enjoyed the realistic nature of the friendship between the two girls; the up and down trajectory is authentic and isn't just for plotting. Ms. Ockler also pulled off a feat in YA: there was a love triangle present, however slight. I for once, wasn't alienated by it. It helps the situation that both boys have their own appeal supposedly (Team Blackthorn FTW), and that Hudson's less undecided/wishywashy and more figuring things out without being obnoxious about the attention. On a side note, I did find "Bug's" intelligence/precociousness to be a leeetle far-fetched for an 8-year-old, but hey, minor quibbles.
For all its cute romance, great characters, teenage dating and cupcake confectionery fun, Bittersweet is not without depth or emotion. Some of the curveballs Hudson and her family have to deal with will resonate with readers: the hard economy, the desires vs. duty theme Hudson explores, the broken family so common and still so problematic. Hudson's identification with Hester Prynne of Nathaniel Hawthrone's The Scarlet Letter is a nice reminder of how Hudson - and a lot of teens - feel isolated, and alone within a group they should belong. Hudson is a special case because she is shunned by a select group - serious ice skaters - but that feeling of aloneness, of not being listened to (coughBethcough) is one a lot of teens will accept without thought.
Bittersweet is not just sweet and fun to read, it's completely evocative in tone. It's set in upper New York and Hudson is an outdoors kind of person. This is a novel that makes snow sound fun, exciting, new, full of possibilities and this is not actually true. I may live out west in Arizona, but I know snow. I live in Flagstaff, which in 2010 was the city with the most snowfall in the entire contiguous United States. At one time, we had more than Anchorage, Alaska. So yeah, I know snow and I love it for the first month it's here. Sarah Ockler, however, with her magnificent setting and through her lovely descriptive writing, has me craving a blizzard out here in Arizona. Right now. I wish there'd been one while I was reading this. This is the perfect read for a snowy day, and a cup of tea in front of the fireplace. With a cupcake, of course. So nicely done on the timing front - I say buy this one ASAP while it's still cold outside.
Bottom line: Look no further if you want a book with cute but not saccharine romance, angst without melodrama, and a cast of varied and interesting characters. It's cute without beating the reader over the head with its own adorability. And Josh is hot. ...more
Though I've read novels entirely in verse before - David Levithan's The Realm of Possibility is a particular favorite of mine - Triangles just did nThough I've read novels entirely in verse before - David Levithan's The Realm of Possibility is a particular favorite of mine - Triangles just did not work for me. I couldn't connect or care about these characters from their verse, nor could I even gain a satisfactory grip on the overarching plot. No rating from me because I failed to even reach page 200 out of this 544 page novel. ...more
First-person perspective young-adult novels and I have a tricky but pretty reliable relationship etchedRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
First-person perspective young-adult novels and I have a tricky but pretty reliable relationship etched out: if they are handled well and maturely I can legitimately love them, but if the author doesn't have the panache to pass their voice as a believable teen it's a lost cause with no hope. Happily for me, Jessica Martinez shines in her debut novel in the voice, mind and world of Carmen Bianchi, world-class violinist. Believable without trying too hard, without sounding too-mature for her years, Carmen is a great character in a more-than-good-but-not-great novel. Carmen shines in this vehicle, elevating a somewhat overused general plot, infusing it with personality and vitality. This is definitely a case of a character making the book better than it should be, on its own.
Carmen is a great character because she's real and grounded. She's anal, insecure, sarcastic, funny, kind and a complete pushover. I liked the multi-faceted and even conflicting aspects of her personality: by no means is this "Medusa-haired" heroine a Mary Sue. Like many teen girls, she constantly searches for approval, to be thought "normal" - usual teen emotions that keep her relatable amid the Grammys, and $1.2 million dollar instruments. She's unabashedly great at said violin as well: winner of a Grammy and world acclaim, she should be arrogant, cocky. . . but she remains herself throughout. I did find a couple of her actions to be pretty annoying and downright silly (her assumptions about Jeremy's email are immediate and judgmental) but I don't have to love everything the character does to love the character herself. She's just so human in an outrageous, extremely pressured position. Under ridiculous strain of her stage-mom's expectations and transferred dreams, Carmen has little to no control over her life. Day-to-day or even what her dreams are is dictated by her mother with "an iron fist with a french manicure." Carmen, sadly, though world-class and immensely talented, never plays for herself or her own pleasure. She plays for her mother to vicariously live a failed career, for a teacher to extend his own impact on the musical world and that is sadly representative for Carmen's entire life. As music is so personal with an almost tangible impact upon Carmen, it's incredibly easy to commiserate and mourn with her as her joy in violin is turned into something else.
Other characters sadly lack the vivacity and life of Carmen. Her taciturn Ukrainian teacher Yuri is particularly easy to visualize but lacks any dimensions or personality outside of "gruff old man." I found Carmen's mother, always referred by Carmen with her given name of Diana (which I also very telling of their relationship) to be a depressingly one-dimensional antagonist. She seems to have no love or empathy in her for her daughter or her largely unseen husband Clark - focusely solely on her daughter's career as a surrogate for her curtailed one earlier. Diana's motivations for pushing Carmen would be much more understandable, even palatable, if they were for Carmen (wanting her to be happy, great at what she loves, follow her dreams) instead of trying to mold her into Diana II. Jeremy King, he of the not-so-subtle-last-name also failed to impress me the first half of the novel. Though I didn't jump on Carmen's hate bandwagon he makes a pretty bad, then pretty bland impression. I never saw his supposedly irresistible charisma - hell, I barely saw any personality from him! He was more of a drain on Carmen than a support, in my opinion, and I would've liked a nicer, kinder character infinitely better. He's supposedly Carmen's love interest I didn't really feel the chemistry between the two until they were pretty much de facto paired up. They truly work together and the novel is most evoactive when either Jeremy or Carmen play the violin. The descriptions and personal reactions to music are beyond compare in this novel: they stand as my favorite parts of the entire book.
The finale of the novel took me by surprise, while being absolutely fulfilling. Not the big reveal/betrayal, but the action stemming from the event. Carmen took me by complete surprise, but did what ultimately feels right for her. Regardless of how you feel about her decision, at least this time, for once, it was HER decision. Not her mother's, not Yuri's, not the doctor's and not even Jeremy's. . . purely and wholly Carmen. The ending is rather open-ended for a conclusion to a standalone novel, but I loved how the author left it. The world seems limitless, with anything possible for Carmen....more
Really a 3.5 out of 5. Occasionally moving, but with a hard-to-like protagonist.
A compelling story of love, death, and family sadly hampered by its mReally a 3.5 out of 5. Occasionally moving, but with a hard-to-like protagonist.
A compelling story of love, death, and family sadly hampered by its main character, I found Saving June to be a mostly enjoyable, fairly easy read for a day. Hannah Harrington's first novel is an alternately riveting, amusing and frustrating foray into the mind and life of teenage angst-machine Harper Scott. It is not that the novel doesn't have plenty of potential to play with: the characters are fully dimensional and flawed, and the plot is emotionally moving and compelling to read. Where the book mostly lost me was with the main character herself and her broody/rude love interest Jake. Instead of focusing on Harper's sister June's suicide and the reasons for/repercussions of her death I was constantly distracted and irritated by the two characters and their constant bickering/will they-won't they/hatefest/lovein.
I've luckily been on a streak of reading some very excellent novels lately (knocks on wood) and happilyRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
I've luckily been on a streak of reading some very excellent novels lately (knocks on wood) and happily, Wanderlove continues the trend.
From the unforgettable characters to the lushly described scenery to the whimsical and detailed drawings (by the author herself, no less) Wanderlove is (or will be, in March) a hit. I had very few complaints and whole lot of love for this fish-out-of-water coming-of-age novel. Bria Sandoval, the main character and also someone I'd like to hang out with, is an eighteen year-old, determined, funny, artistic girl and on her own in Central America. Following a mysteriously bad and viscerally painful breakup and lack of travel commitment from her "friends", Bria solely sets out on an unexpected and revealing journey. Escaping her ex-boyfriend/her hostile home life/her unreliable friends for freedom and change, Bria is a wonderfully flawed and complex young woman.
Bria was fun to read. She didn't annoy me with her idiosyncrasies (in fact they felt genuine and part of her intrinsically quirky personality), and she didn't act too perfect either. Though there is minimal information provided about Bria and her life, hints are slowly doled out throughout the novel, building a less than picturesque home life. I appreciate the restraint of Ms. Hubbard's slow revelation, which allowed both my curiosity and empathy for the character to build naturally.
In experiences ranging from comical to hysterical to kinda gross, Bria emerges as the type of girl most young women want to be: capable, talented, smart and self-aware. Not to say that she is irritatingly perfect; the typical teenage disillusion with responsibility is obvious, along with a quick and agile temper. Bria's flaws only serve to make her a more complete character, and I liked her all the more for her rough edges.
In her diverse travels, Bria meets up with the two most important characters of her experience down south: Rowan and Starling. From their slightly-off names to their wonderfully unique attitudes, the laid-back Ro and Star were a nice foil for the more straight-laced California girl. While their introduction to the novel's storyline and motivation for being around Bria aren't completely believable, both were dynamic, different and interesting characters. Clearly Rowan, as the tortured-by-his-past bad boy love interest was featured more prominently than his la vie boheme half-sister, but the relationship between the two struck the right chord between caring and overbearing older sibling.
Rowan himself, though I liked him and found him appealing for the most part, overdoes the whole "bad guy with mysterious, off-limits past." His extended "mysterious aura" part was too withholding for my own preferences. Which is a shame, because the other aspects of the character were ones I loved (his hidden kindness, protectiveness, love for water, etc.) The whole "secret" was dragged out a bit too long, and caused my opinion of the boy to decline somewhat. I focused more on the obvious negative than the positives exhibited in the character as the novel went. I did like how the revelation about Rowan was handled - quietly, and maturely before the real problem was revealed.
The setting - or more correctly, the settings, for there are several differing locales - were all popping with vibrancy and life in Hubbard's easy-to-fall-into prose. I loved that a destination novel was not about Europe, or even Africa, but rather the neglected and ignored Central American region. Belize, Laughingbird Caye, Guatemala - all were important (and not cliche!) and different locales featured in this half-novel half-travel guide. (It's not really like a travel guide, but no other book has had me longing for a Belizean/Central American vacation like this one did!) The scenery and life of the islands/countries absolutely popped with life and color; Hubbard's history as a travel writer is apparent and wonderfully fills the novel with the genuine minutiae and attitudes of true travelers.
The drawings/sketches and the settings were among the top reasons I loved this novel so much. It's an easy novel to sink into; the atmosphere is enveloping and total for the whole period of Bria's explorations.
This is well-written, interesting and unique novel. I loved most of it, want to read it again, and also fully plan to pimp it out to friends and family. My minor issues were just that -minor. This is a novel where so much is done so wonderfully, I cannot wait to read another book by this impressive author. I think that in March, when this is officially released, it will be another must-read hit along the lines of the author's Like Mandarin....more
I didn't just read Aussie author Cath Crowley's novel - I inhaled it. I read the entire two hundred sixRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
I didn't just read Aussie author Cath Crowley's novel - I inhaled it. I read the entire two hundred sixty seven page novel in just under a three hour period; I couldn't put it down to eat, play with the dogs or even move from my desk to the reading chair. It's gripping, consuming and alive in a way very few stories are - and more should be. I want to pull huge sections from the narrative to quote - my whole review would be quotes if I were clever enough. This is, simply put, a beautiful book - beautifully written, carried, developed and ended. Graffiti Moon is a young-adult novel that transcends the genre of its origin; all ages of readers who appreciate a deftly woven, compelling read would treasure this book. It's brilliantly descriptive and full of evocative and moving imagery. This book moved me.
The story begins and ends with Lucy, a teenage girl who just wants to find something real; a boy that she can understand, one that likes what moves her in her core: art. Out of a graffiti artist known only as 'Shadow', Lucy creates her dream guy - one that is perfect for her and utterly unlike the fellow from the one date she's ever had ("I spent the weekend after our date wishing I could stab him with my Fluffy Duck pen and staring at the phone hoping he'd call. Dating is a very tricky business.") Lucy is distinctive and an incredibly relatable character; almost every part of her narrative sent a wave of remembrance or nostalgia for my own teenage years into my head. Crowley captures the feel, the urgency and frailty of teens perfectly - Lucy is vibrant, delightfully individualistic (one character asks her, "Are you doing that thing where you stare at the stars until your problems seem insignificant?"), but also vulnerable. Also, she is hilarious and just different ("'I sit down next to him and concentrate really hard. 'What are you doing?' he says. 'Trying to bend the laws of time so I can get here five minutes earlier.'") See - told you I want to quote the whole book at you. Every line is perfect, every chapter moves at just the right pace, every character nuanced and interesting.
Ed, both the unbeknownst-to-Lucy Shadow and the one she would desire to stab with a pen for the bad date, was my absolute favorite character. I loved Lucy, but Ed came alive for me as a reader. He's the secretly creative, artsy guy, hiding behind the stereotypical 'tough guy/hard case', when he's truly something much more. Being a typical teenage girl, Lucy does not see the wonderful, deep man in front of her, only seeing the hard edges and the wall around his heart. The only way Ed can express himself is through his painting ("See this, see this, see this. See me emptied onto a wall."), and boy does he. The descriptions of Ed's art were animated and alive. It's almost a compulsion Ed cannot stop; after losing Lucy, his father-figure Bert, and his mom-supporting job, Ed has only painting as an outlet for his pain. He sees himself as a "painted ghost trapped in a jar," one of the more revealing self-portraits Ed paints. Ed's quiet but intensely personal heartbreak and desperation are in sharp contrast to Lucy's more stable life, though her need to belong draws her to Shadow.
The two main background characters, that of Lucy's best friend Jazz and Ed's cohort in crime/best friend Leo were also pleasant, if not as fully developed. Jazz was a splash of whimsy and crazy, and Leo was a more romantic exploration of the same problems as Ed. I appreciated the functional, healthy friendship depicted between the two girls (and another, Daisy). I grow very tired of the catty teen girl in fiction, and this kind of believable and genuine bond is a nice change of pace. As for Ed's best friend/occasional roommate Leo, I liked him well enough, but I must admit his (admittedly rare) poem POV's were the weakest parts of the novel. I had a favorite poem of "Poet"'s (Here, p. 242) but on the whole, I wished the POV had been limited to just Ed and Lucy. The "villain" of the novel is much reduced and serves as a mere plot point for the real story: that of looking beyond the exterior and seeing the beauty within. Since the novel takes place over a single night, the book moves at a brisk pace, but one that is extremely easy to fall into.
The final chapter is moving and beautiful - happily, without veering into saccharine territory or overt teenage melodrama. It's hopeful, without being absolutely definite and final. Lucy and Ed will go on - maybe with each other, maybe not, but hopefully together. While the pairing off of three couples might strain my credulity, one minor gripe against the face of all the awesome --- this is a book not to be missed. Major kudos from me to Ms. Crowley - this is something special, this is a novel I'm going to love forever. I received the NetGalley eBook, but when this is republished in February I will be buying my own copy to treasure and love....more
Next to Love is a powerful novel, thankfully not in an obvious, over done and melodramatic way. No, Next to Love is a novel that manages to be sneakilNext to Love is a powerful novel, thankfully not in an obvious, over done and melodramatic way. No, Next to Love is a novel that manages to be sneakily insidious, grasping hold of your emotions almost before one realizes just how invested they are in the compelling story and just how powerful a writer Ellen Feldman proves herself to be in this WWII novel. I found it to be entirely emotional without being overwrought and constantly compelling. With three strong, though not always likeable, women main characters, author Ellen Feldman creates an enveloping tale of three best friends, dealing with life, love, and loss in one of the most desperate times in modern history. Their long story spans decades and is as complicated and humanly messy as it is poignant to read - with multiple points of view from various characters serving to create a rounded cast of characters with depth and personality.
Bernadette "Babe" was the closest I got to favorite character. I wish I could say that I loved and identified closely individually with the women of Next to Love but that is not the case. I was invest and compelled by their stories certainly, but there is a certain distance from all the characters of this story. Like with Babe, I wanted to love Grace and Millie but the removed third person perspective did me no favors with these three determined women. I certainly felt sympathy for each character at differing times (the scene at the pond stands out particularly in memory as very affecting) but I was never truly invested wholly. The present tense is used primarily and used effectively - everything that happens feels immediate and taut with emotions. I also enjoyed the authentic period details skillfully enmeshed into the larger narrative. Ms. Feldman is a smooth writer, with skill for depth and intimacy with resonating themes. I was impressed that the domestic life shown is just as compelling and riveting as the fighting - had it been written in the novel - would have been. This is an author that is remarkably adept, even with transitions in chronology others might stumble over. Ms. Feldman will occasionally flashback to a previous scene but it is always replayed from another perspective, always shedding more light about the plot.