I can't believe I'm just now reading this book! Now I know why so many people adore Maggie Stiefvater as a writer, too, though I already adored her asI can't believe I'm just now reading this book! Now I know why so many people adore Maggie Stiefvater as a writer, too, though I already adored her as a person. THE SCORPIO RACES is dark, beautiful, and gritty, just like the Scorpio Sea. This book is top notch, from the deeply-flawed but lovable characters, to the breathless, windswept setting, to the terrifying, nightmare-inducing capall uisce, and finally, to the plot itself. I mean, HELL-O! killer water horses! As usual, though, it was the characters that spoke to my heart... and not just the human ones.
Kate "Puck" Connolly, Sean Kendrick, and their two steeds, Dove and Corr, respectively, really steal the show. And so they should. Kate is so proud and stubborn, refusing to be defined by her orphaned status or by the jeers and sideways glances of the men around her. Sean is the sort of friend everyone wishes they had; the sort who is so observant, they notice when your eyebrow twitches a certain way, and when it does, what it means. The horses mirror their owners, in both character and personality: Dove, a seemingly simple, skittish broodmare, turns out to be clever and strong; and Corr, a deadly beast known for being cunning, aloof, and heartless, learns that our churning, internal battles can be conquered by one word: love.
I would be remiss if I failed to mention, again, the capall uisce. Each time they were described, I became a bit more uncomfortable, but my eyes actually did bug out of my head when the "devil" appeared. Maggie sure does know how to fire up the cannons and get your heart racing! If you want to be equally as freaked out, look up a picture of an Akhal-Teke, particularly the darker-colored ones. They are probably the closest match to the description in the book. You can thank me later for your nightmares! How clever of Maggie, though, the way she worked this mythical being into the story, and so seamlessly, too. This book is, of course, a work of fiction, but the very best fiction makes you forget, even if just for a minute, that what you're reading isn't real (at least not in this world.)
Finally, the plot. If you've read my reviews, you know that I can be forgiving of a hum-drum plot if the characters are well-done, but Maggie has nailed this aspect as well. Each main character has something important and great to lose if they do play their part well, and there always seems to be something in the way of things going right. As in any well-done novel, the plot and its characters are inextricably linked. As the characters become more real, we are drawn into their worlds, their hopes and dreams, and we find our hearts clenching alongside theirs when disappointment looms on the horizon.
There is not much more I can say that others here have not said before, and perhaps better. It suffices me to say that this book is a gem and I eager to read my next Maggie S. book!...more
Great character development! The story was a little slow at first, due in part to the world-building, but the further along I got, the more invested IGreat character development! The story was a little slow at first, due in part to the world-building, but the further along I got, the more invested I became. I had a rush of goosebumps on the last couple pages and was grinning like a fool at the end. Time for the next book!...more
As someone who devours true crime TV shows like 48 Hours, Forensic Files, and Snapped (perhaps I missed my calling in forensics and crime fighting), IAs someone who devours true crime TV shows like 48 Hours, Forensic Files, and Snapped (perhaps I missed my calling in forensics and crime fighting), I found GONE GIRL to be delightfully twisted, perfectly-paced, and guiltily entertaining.
POV/Pacing: I enjoyed the alternating chapters, one from Nick's present-day POV and the next from Amy's diary, as well as the different parts of the novel, especially once the big twist was revealed. This book is on the thicker side, but it makes up for the length and reading time invested by keeping the pace of the story perfectly balanced. Just when I started to feel a slight "sag" in the narrative, something else would happen to keep the pages turning.
Characters: Neither Nick nor Amy are particularly likable characters yet you can't help but become invested in their individual stories, and because you already know that something fishy is going on, you may find yourself paying more attention to the seemingly normal events and characters you encounter in your reading, to see if you can find "clues" to the mystery of Amy's disappearance.
Plot:With that said, I started to become disappointed about a quarter of the way through because I thought I had figured out what was really going on, or at least had my suspicions, and as it turned out, the twist really was a twist, and it kept getting even more twisted!
As I read, I did consider the morality issues brought up throughout this novel, including divorce, infidelity, and abuse, as well as other issues, such as mental health and the framework of broken vs. whole families. I found myself comparing my beliefs and morals to those of the characters, and naturally, forming judgments of them. Surprisingly, this novel caused me to think quite a bit about human behavior in general, cultural and environmental impacts on human behavior, and the various ways in which we communicate based on our overall life experiences. (You wouldn't guess that I'm a Communications major, right?)
In short, I couldn't put this book down, wanted to read it even while driving, and eventually gave myself a headache from reading so much because I just had to know what happens next. That's worthy of four stars in my book!...more
“Just because love don't look the way you think it should, don't mean you don't have it.”
What I love most about magical realism done well is that yo“Just because love don't look the way you think it should, don't mean you don't have it.”
What I love most about magical realism done well is that you don't have to force yourself to suspend your beliefs in order to enjoy the story. Instead, you willingly dive in to the world that the author has created, and you eat, sleep, and dream alongside the characters that reside within. The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is one such story.
This book follows the lives of three Roux women: Emilienne, her daughter, Viviane, and her grand-daughter, Ava, who was born with wings much like those of a bird. The characters, their individual stories, and the overall story arc were are altogether tragic, lovely, complex, and ever so simple.
[Review to continue after a break for "real life."]...more
It took me forever to finish this book. Not because I was so overwrought with emotion, but because I was, frankly, a little bored. Which really disappIt took me forever to finish this book. Not because I was so overwrought with emotion, but because I was, frankly, a little bored. Which really disappoints me. After having this book on my shelf for more than 2 years, avoiding it because I wasn't ready to cry, after hearing almost every single one of my bookish friends rave about it's beauty and meaningfulness... it flopped.
While there were bits and pieces I liked about the characters, dialogue, and plot, none of them blended together in that deliciously harmonious way that makes a book truly memorable in my mind. So, what went wrong, then? Let's start with the dialogue.
What made me most excited to read THE FAULT IN OUR STARS at the beginning were all the lovely quotes readers were posting on GoodReads, Pinterest, Facebook, and well, everywhere. Quotes like, “You don't get to choose if you get hurt in this world, old man, but you do have some say in who hurts you. I like my choices. I hope she likes hers,” and "The marks humans leave are too often scars." These quotes I read for months following the release of THE FAULT IN OUR STARS lead me to believe that, like Peter Beagle and Gayle Foreman, whose books are filled with "quoteables" that I love but that are also really superb overall, John Green would have written a truly life-changing book that would become my new favorite. Alas, that is not the case.
Hazel and Augustus are cancer-ridden teens, and because of this fact, I was willing to give them a little leeway to wax philosophical about life and its meaning. A little leeway. Instead, the book is filled of senseless metaphors, stitled monologues, and unrealistic dialogue from the characters who use an expansive vocabulary better suited to, well, no real teen I know. For example, when Augustus takes Hazel to Amsterdam and goes through the whole spiel (which you've probably read ad nauseum by now) about how love is a shout into the void and the sun will swallow the earth and he's in love with her anyway, I just couldn't believe it. His monologue felt rehearsed and overly-wrought. Perhaps I am a bit more jaded now than I was at 17, but it wasn't romantic or natural at all. Almost all of their conversations felt like they were trying to sound deep and intelligent, and for me, they just fell short of the mark.
Moving on to the romance between Augustus and Hazel, that too, was unbelievable. I could understand why they might like each other, but other than the fact that they both have cancer and that they bonded over a book and a video game, I couldn't see what else was there to prompt Hazel to declare Augustus to be the "great love of her life." Gus likes to "not smoke" cigarettes and play video games. Hazel likes to hate Support Group and obsess over her favorite book and its open-ended closing. They both like to try and one-up each other with desperately witty metaphors and exhaustive monologues. We literally learn nothing else about either character throughout the book, and because most of their encounters with each other are based only around the aforementioned interests, my only resounding thought while reading was - What is there to love? Frankly, I found Augustus to be pretentious and too bright to sparkle, and I found Hazel Grace to be pretentious and unbearably dull.
The secondary characters were just as pretentious and dull. I felt Isaac's character had more potential, but when I realized that he spoke with the same stitled, SAT-vocabulary dialogue as Augustus and Hazel, I stopped investing in him, too. Hazel's supposed closest girlfriend, Kaitlyn, and even her parents, seemed to be more of a convenience mechanism whose actions spurred along the story of Augustus and Hazel, instead of actually being part of the story itself.
Then we arrive at the "Big C:" the Cancer. I've read reviews that praise John Green for not romanticizing cancer and for showing it as it really is, puke, infections, needles and all. However, he does romanticize it. The characters fall in love after meeting at a cancer support group, take a completely unrealistic journey to Amsterdam where they lose their virginity to each other, and then Hazel heroically supports Augustus through his second and final bout with cancer before he dies. (And we really don't get much of a glimpse of the nastier side of cancer until the last couple chapters of the book.) Oh, and then she writes a eulogy where she declares him to be the "great love of her life," but doesn't really say much more of value than that. Cancer is a deeply moving, serious, sad, angry subject, and yet, I feel like John Green used it more as a plot device to wrangle the emotions of his readers rather than to really portray any depth or meaning.
In the end, what is boils down to, is that the characters of Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus Waters were not independent of their author, the plot was too carefully constructed and manipulative, there was more "tell" than "show," and a disservice was done to real people dealing with or who have died from cancer.
After saying all that, I still gave the book 2 stars, mostly because there were a few moments where I did smile and feel sadness while reading, and because there were a few valuable insights. I don't believe I'll read any other books by John Green, but I'm glad I gave this one a chance. ...more
Disclaimer: I know the author, Kristin Rae, personally, and in fact, really like her. This girl is funny and genuine and super smart! So, it comes asDisclaimer: I know the author, Kristin Rae, personally, and in fact, really like her. This girl is funny and genuine and super smart! So, it comes as no surprise that I really loved her debut YA novel, WISH YOU WERE ITALIAN. I am half-Italian myself, though I've never been to Italy, so it was a great adventure to travel through Italy with Pippa and "see" the Coliseum and "visit" Pompeii.
If asked to describe WISH YOU WERE ITALIAN in a few words, I would say, "Fun, light-hearted, and a perfect beach/summer read!" Okay, so that was more than a few words, but did you really count? The characters in this book are down-to-earth, genuine, and perfectly flawed. When we first meet Pippa, she's begrudgingly going along with the life plans her parents have set for her. She doesn't want a future in the world of art; photography is her real passion. Once she gets to Italy, though, she starts to blossom, and the fun really begins!
Enter Darren, the cute, aspiring archaeologist, and Bruno, the smoldering Italian hottie whose family she winds up living with for most of her stay. These two guys keep her on her toes, and although there is a bit of a love triangle within the pages, it's not over-the-top and is actually pretty believable, given the situation of each character. While the love triangle angle (oh lord, here come flashbacks to Geometry!) does take up a good part of the story, we also meet other lovable characters, including Pippa's grandmother and Chiara, Bruno's sister, who makes me wish she were MY friend in real life.
I would be completely remiss if I didn't mention Pippa's best friend, Morgan, so I simply must dedicate a paragraph to her! Morgan gives Pippa a journal at the beginning of the trip, filled with tons of lists and tasks for Pippa to complete while adventuring in Italy, which becomes the catalyst for much of the change in Pippa's life afterward. I found the journal to be such a FUN idea that I plan on giving something similar to my boyfriend when he returns to India, his homeland. I was glad to see I'm not the only one who would treasure a smear of dirt from the soil of another country!
And speaking of another country - it's clear that Kristin Rae drew on ALL of her experiences when she herself traveled to Italy, because the setting practically drags you into the pages and makes you feel as if you are in Italy, alongside Pippa and the gang. I could smell the Italian sea, taste the creamy gelato, and hear the chatter of conversations in Italian around me. Warning: Don't read this book on an empty stomach!
WISH YOU WERE ITALIAN is a light-hearted read overall, but not without it's more sobering moments and not without some hard lessons for Pippa. While there is romance, there are other central themes for teens who may read this book, including being true to yourself and being honest with those around you. The ending was a satisfying mix of melancholy and sweetness, and left me smiling long after I turned the last page.
Congratulations to Kristin Rae on a thoroughly successful debut! Dear readers, add this book to your summer reading list. You won't regret it!...more
The Ring and The Crown is historical Young Adult fiction with a dash of white and black magic, drama, royal politics, and court romances. Loved it! FuThe Ring and The Crown is historical Young Adult fiction with a dash of white and black magic, drama, royal politics, and court romances. Loved it! Full of lush descriptions and intriguing characters, I especially loved the emphasis on strong, independent young women. Not everyone gets a happy ending in this one, which is equally disappointing and grudgingly wonderful. ...more
Mera naam Katie hai! Even though "K" has taught me a few things in Hindi, I tend to learn better by reading, so there you go! One sentence in Hindi IMera naam Katie hai! Even though "K" has taught me a few things in Hindi, I tend to learn better by reading, so there you go! One sentence in Hindi I learned from ABBY SPENCER GOES TO BOLLYWOOD. [Smile.]
I thoroughly enjoyed this sweet, refreshing, fun, action-packed book. It truly does read like a Bollywood film, full of drama and intrigue and, yes, song and dance scenes, though obviously not quite as effective as a film. [Wink.]
Abby Spencer is half-Caucasian and half-Indian, the product of a loving relationship that went sour when her father returned to India from America shortly before her mother discovered that she was pregnant and could no longer get in touch with him, despite repeated attempts. She has always been curious about her father, but does not come off as poorly-adjusted or full of issues, thanks to the overwhelming love and concern shown to her by her mother and maternal grandparents, as well as the friendship of her best buds, Priya and Zooey.
When an unfortunate incident occurs that reveals a genetic allergic condition, Abby and her mother begin an internet search for her father, who, as it turns out, is now a major Bollywood star in Mumbai. After a flurry of email exchanges, Abby is whisked away to Mumbai to meet and spend time with her superstar dad - for the first time ever!
This is where the story really gets going! It was so much fun to experience India through Abby's eyes. She is exposed not only to the lavish lifestyle of her father, but also to the extreme poverty literally right outside the gates of his mansion, which I feel is an accurate representation of the extremes and contradictions you will witness when visiting India or any other similar country. The descriptions of Mumbai, from the streets to the food, made me even more anxious to visit India, an incredible country steeped in tradition and history, and in some ways, shrouded in mystery.
As always, characters are most important to me, and Abby and her fellow characters are no exception. Abby is a precocious, witty girl, and I loved how down-to-earth she was throughout the story. She didn't care about her dad's stardom or his wealth; she simply wanted to know him and to learn more about her heritage. Her father, in turn, seems to truly care about Abby, though it's clear he has a lot to learn about caring for a teenage girl; still, he tries, and his efforts made him endearing. Every character, from the most minor to the major, was well-developed, and I loved how even both sets of grandparents were involved in Abby's life and in caring for her in their own way. It sometimes seems rare to see such a strong family unit in books written for the younger crowd, which is a real shame. Though there is a slight "love interest" in the form of Shaan, an Indian American boy who is also visiting India, this book is more focused on Abby's personal growth and on developing the relationships between her two family units.
Though ABBY SPENCER GOES TO BOLLYWOOD is a book written for "tweens," it's not all fluff and rainbows. Abby deals with some challenging issues, including finding a way to connect with her super busy father and integrating herself into a new culture. I was curious to see how Varsha Bajaj would handle the issue of Abby's father disappearing before she was born, and why her mother never received a response after repeated attempts to contact him over the years. The answer turns out to be an unfortunate and sad one, but it serves to remind the reader that life is too short to judge others and that family ties are most important of all.
Congratulations to Varsha Bajaj for writing a book worthy of passing on to my sweet teenage niece!...more
I am not quite sure how to feel or what to think about SWIMMING THROUGH CLOUDS. I knew I’d discover both light and dark amidst its pages, but I didn'tI am not quite sure how to feel or what to think about SWIMMING THROUGH CLOUDS. I knew I’d discover both light and dark amidst its pages, but I didn't know it would leave me feeling as if I were adrift at sea. In fact, I’m so confused at the ending and think I may need to read the last chapter again to see if I missed anything… but first, let me back up a little bit.
SWIMMING THROUGH CLOUDS focuses primarily on Talia Vanderbilt, a senior in high school and unofficial guardian of her younger brother, Justice (aka “Jesse”). Their mother is dead and their father, while still (very) present, is more of a terrorist dictator than a loving, supportive parent. The horrors they suffer at the hands of someone who is supposed to protect and nourish them are unspeakable. Slowly, very slowly, Talia reveals the depth of these horrors for the reader – and for Lagan, the boy whose dogged persistence earns her the first person she has ever been able to call “friend.”
Forbidden to have friends or go out like a normal teenagers, Talia and Jesse drift through each day, completing endless lists and walking on eggshells around their father, always aware that the words “or else” are waiting to be fulfilled around the next corner. Then, through a series of sticky notes, cryptic conversations, and clandestine meetings, an unlikely relationship blossoms between Talia and Lagan. Where her home life is as stable as a field of land mines, his care and consistency gives her a sliver of hope and peace. I have been on the receiving end of persistence, even when I felt I didn't deserve it or necessarily want it, and now I am so thankful that someone saw past my walls and found a way over them. It is because of this that, for me, Lagan is truly the shining star of this book.
As I’I've said before, characters can really make or break a book for me. In this case, even really wonderful characters that I came to care about couldn't quite support a 4 or 5-star rating. Unfortunately, SWIMMING THROUGH CLOUDS suffers from grammatical errors, poor sentence structure, and poor editing, which made reading, at times, a bit laborious. While some can ignore these issues, especially if the plot is engaging, it was hard to look past the numerous loose ends and the ultimately confusing, unsatisfying ending. What saved this book from earning a lesser review was, honestly, the intentions of the author, Rajdeep Paulus. I understood the overall message she was trying to communicate, and I do think she has a brilliant plot and wonderful characters. With skilled editing and a couple of re-writes to tighten up and maybe even flesh out/eliminate some characters/scenes, SWIMMING THROUGH CLOUDS could be a truly excellent book.
For my fellow readers, as a final parting thought, I do think you will enjoy SWIMMING THROUGH CLOUDS, especially if you love stories about the underdog, first romance, and family struggles. This book may not be polished, but it has heart. And that’s as good a start as any. ...more
There are some books that everyone - adults and children alike - should read. BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY is one of those books.
I have always had a specialThere are some books that everyone - adults and children alike - should read. BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY is one of those books.
I have always had a special place in my soul for stories from World War II. This probably stems from a very early reading of Corrie Ten Boom's The Hiding Place, and then later readings of The Diary of Anne Frank and Marcus Zusak's The Book Thief. I don't take pleasure in reading about the heart-wrenching events that transpired during the war, but I do take heart and find hope in the relentless human spirit. Even in the midst of death and abuse and the most rotten conditions, humans have an uncanny ability to find hope where there is none, and to survive when it would be so much easier to just give up. This is the type of story you will find within the pages of BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY.
Most of us are familiar with the unspeakable tragedies that the Jewish people suffered in the Holocaust, but I would wager that many of us were not aware of what happened to the people of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia at the hands of Stalin and the Soviet Union. Thank goodness for brave people like Ruta Sepetys, who tell the stories of the lost people and the survivors of the Soviet annihilation. BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY tells the story of the Vilkas family, and closely follows Lina Vilkas, a fifteen year old girl on the brink of an exciting year ahead, with the promise of a glittering summer and a prestigious art school before her. Then, with a thudding knock at the door in the middle of the night, all of Lina's dreams are shattered as she, her mother and younger brother are carted off in secret with dozens of other Lithuanians to Sibera.
Lina's story is not unlike the thousands and thousands of stories told by countless survivors of the Holocaust. Heartless soldiers, degrading conditions, little to no food, abuse, death, and sickness abound. However, despite these dark conditions and the evil lurking around every corner, Lina and her family and friends found hope and jubilation in the smallest of things - an unexpected kind gesture, a small piece of bread, a book, a comforting hand on the shoulder. While reading BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY, my emotional pendulum swung from one end to the other. I felt what Lina felt, alternating between despair and rage to hope and joy.
Not everyone has a happily ever after, and in fact, the ending of BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY is purposely left a little open-ended, but this doesn't detract from the beauty of the story. Ultimately, this story is about love. Love of country, love of family, love of friends, and most notably, love of our enemies; after all, they're the ones that need it the most.
When I read stories like Lina's, I am equally humbled and grateful for my many blessings and for the countless freedoms I enjoy every day under the shadow of the American flag and the blood shed by our military men and women. It is for this reason, and many more, that I would not hesitate to recommend this book to anyone and everyone I know. ...more
I've long known the song Scarborough Fair and am fascinated by the haunting, beautiful lyrics, so I had rather high hopes for Impossible. These hopesI've long known the song Scarborough Fair and am fascinated by the haunting, beautiful lyrics, so I had rather high hopes for Impossible. These hopes were not fully met or realized, but it was a good read overall, and did keep me interested until the end.
This book does deal with rape, teen pregnancy, and teen marriage, but in as tasteful a manner as these subjects allow. The weakest aspects of Impossible are the paranormal bits, and the strongest aspects are the relationships that develop between each of the characters.
I don't think this book will necessarily change lives, but it is an entertaining read, at times even heart - warming in its portrayal of true love, both amongst family, biological and otherwise, and amongst lovers who fight the odds to stay together....more