September 19th, 2012: Please, PLEASE let this be the last book. At this point I'm only reading out of loyalty, and because I want to see who Stephanie...moreSeptember 19th, 2012: Please, PLEASE let this be the last book. At this point I'm only reading out of loyalty, and because I want to see who Stephanie ends up with. With the same jokes and the same back-and-forth between Morelli and Ranger, I'm definitely ready to say goodbye to this series. Even though it should have ended several books ago, when it's finally over I'll look back on it fondly for what it used to be.
January 26th, 2013: Just finished reading this and it was SO much better than the last few. Full review to come soon.
February 21st, 2013: This review was originally posted on my blog, Ramblings of a Daydreamer. You can find it, and many more reviews at the blog.
Notorious Nineteen, in my opinion, is the best thing Evanovich has written in years. For me, the Stephanie Plum series started going downhill several books ago, and I only continued reading them out of a sense of loyalty and curiosity. With each new book, I was shocked the series hadn’t come to an end, and I was getting extremely frustrated; the characters never changed, the jokes were always the same, and it seemed to me like Evanovich had become a very lazy writer.
I went into Notorious Nineteen with a healthy amount of trepidation. I vowed that if things didn’t begin to progress in this book, I would give up on the series until the final book, at which time I would see if Stephanie had chosen Ranger or Morelli. Since, at one time, this series was my absolute favourite, I am very pleased to say I actually enjoyed Notorious Nineteen.
It felt like the story was infused with a new light that’s been missing from the last few books. There was actual character progression, which has been lacking for a long time. We got some insight into not only Stephanie’s character, but also Ranger’s. There were new jokes, new problems, new characters, but at the same time, the story carried all the things that once made (and hopefully will now continue to make) the Plum books such a great series. The mystery held my attention and kept me guessing what would happen next, and there was the right amount of tension and humour.
Overall, Notorious Nineteen was very enjoyable. I know many people who have given up on the series altogether, or who are undecided on this book, but I say if you’re a fan of the series, you should definitely read this book. It was nice to be reminded why I loved this series so much when I started it several years ago. I hope Evanovich keeps it up since the series doesn’t look like it’ll be ending any time soon. (less)
Okay, I'm finally giving in and rating and reviewing my own book. I've seen other authors doing it for months, and I put it off, but here I am.
Blue Sk...moreOkay, I'm finally giving in and rating and reviewing my own book. I've seen other authors doing it for months, and I put it off, but here I am.
Blue Sky Days is my baby. I've written other novels, but I wanted this to be the first I published, because it's always had a special place in my heart. The characters, setting, and story are so real to me. They're a part of me and always will be. It took me seven years to complete this book, and it was definitely a labour of love.
I think Emma is a very relatable character, and I hope other people feel the same way. Anyone who's ever gone through an identity crisis, or had unforgiving parents, or were unsure of their future will probably see a bit of themselves in Emma. Anyone who's ever felt lost, or friendless, or been stuck in a rut will hopefully sympathize with Emma. We've all had obstacles in our lives, and we've all gone through transformations of some sort, and those obstacles and transformations are a large part of Emma's journey. So is finding love - and not just with Nicholas, but also with her family and new friends.
I hope you will love these characters as much as I do, and that this story will entertain you and touch your heart. Thank you to everyone who has been so supportive and encouraging on this journey - it means the world to me.(less)
I'll be honest: I was really wary when Simon and Schuster Canada contacted me and asked if I’d be interested in reading and reviewing Forever, Interrupted. In fact, I almost declined. I’m so, so glad I didn’t. Forever, Interrupted was not at all what I was expecting. I expected it to be really emotional and maybe even difficult to read, and while it was those things, it was also unexpectedly funny and charming, and almost disarming in the brutally honest way it portrayed grief.
Forever, Interrupted is told in an interesting, engaging way. It goes back and forth between the not-so-distant past - Elsie and Ben’s short courtship/romance - and the present - Elsie grieving over the loss of Ben and attempting to move on. Having gone through bereavement myself more than once, I found Elsie’s responses both realistic and poignant. I think Taylor Jenkins Reid made a really brave choice in her decision to make Elsie’s thoughts, responses, and reactions so brutally honest. Everyone grieves differently, but I related so much to Elsie’s whole grieving process. She said and thought things that people probably wouldn’t want to admit to saying or thinking while they’re grieving. That feeling of being swallowed by grief and how dare people have the audacity to smile or laugh or carry on living? How dare the world keep turning and the sun keep shining and lives continue on? It’s something that many people have been through and will probably be able to relate to. I loved that the author didn't sugarcoat it; grief isn't pretty, and she wasn't afraid to put it all out there.
One of the things I loved best about this book was the humour. It was funny in a completely surprising, unexpected way. It really caught me off guard to be crying one moment and laughing the next. Some of it was unintentionally funny - Elsie’s responses to things that wouldn’t typically be funny, but were almost that ‘I know it shouldn’t be funny but it is it’ kind of thing. That levity was the best kind of surprise in such an emotional story.
I pretty much ran the gamut of emotions while reading Forever, Interrupted. There was the incredible sadness at the unfairness of Elsie’s situation, but there was also anger toward Ben’s mother, Susan, and Elsie’s own parents. Even while part of me understood Susan’s attitude, she made me so mad at first. I couldn’t imagine ever warming up to her, but I did. Her grief was as real as Elsie’s, and their interactions were alternately heartbreaking and heartwarming. Then there was the total swoon-factor provided by Ben. The fact that he was so utterly romantic was kind of bittersweet, knowing his fate, but it was also beautiful and had me sighing wistfully several times.
Forever, Interrupted was a love story in every sense of the word: romantic love, familial love, the love between friends. It was beautiful, touching, heartbreaking, engaging, funny, poignant, and romantic. It masterfully wove together the past and present in a way that kept me captivated from beginning to end. As of the time I’m posting this review, it’s been five months since I read Forever, Interrupted, and I still think about it regularly. If that doesn’t tell you that this book is worth reading, let me spell it out for you: this book is a must-read. Forever, Interrupted is a shining debut, and I’m eager to see what Taylor Jenkins Reid does in the future. (less)
When I read the synopsis of Gates of Thread and Stone, I was really excited. Plus, I mean, that cover is just so beautiful and eye-catching,...more4.5 stars
When I read the synopsis of Gates of Thread and Stone, I was really excited. Plus, I mean, that cover is just so beautiful and eye-catching, right? Between the cover and synopsis, I had extremely high hopes for Gates of Thread and Stone, and I’m thrilled to say it lived up to my expectations. This book drew me in from the first page and held my attention right to the last page. It was gripping, exciting, mysterious, and well written, with a tightly woven, inventive plot.
I really liked Kai. She was feisty, smart, and strong. She loved her brother fiercely, and would do anything to make him happy and make life easier. She was a believable teenager - at times insecure, uncertain, selfish, impulsive - definitely flawed, and I loved that. We didn’t see much of Reev, Kai’s brother, but from Kai’s thoughts and memories of him, plus the few glimpses we did get, you were able to get a good sense of the protective, loyal older brother who would do anything to keep his sister safe.
Then there was Avan. Oh Avan. *swoon* I loved him. I loved the will they/won’t they pull between him and Kai, and the slow build of anticipation toward the possibility of something beyond friendship. I alternately sighed and squealed every time they touched, especially as the story went on and things were so uncertain. They had each other when everything was falling apart and even though there were moments I wanted to knock some sense into Kai, I loved these two together.
The world building in this book was fantastic. I was fascinated by the Labyrinth and the world beyond, and was able to picture it all clearly. The whole thing had a dark and creepy post-apocalypse vibe to it. I loved that this book was different from anything I’ve read.
I’ll admit, part of me was hoping this would be a really strong standalone. Up until close to the end I thought it might be, but by the end, I knew there would have to be a continuation. The ending was bittersweet, but I’m hopeful it will get worked out in the sequel, and since I loved these characters so much I’m happy to get the opportunity to see them again.
Gates of Thread and Stone is a fast-paced adventure full of magic and romance. I think this book will appeal to a lot of readers, whether you like fantasy, science fiction, post-apocalyptic, dystopian, or romance. Gates of Thread and Stone has a great concept, and Lori M Lee executed it with finesse. I highly recommend this one.
Lucky O’Toole is back with her latest Vegas (mis)adventure, and this time it’s personal: the number one suspect in the murders is a friend. Lucky doesn’t know who to trust, and it makes for a great mixture of tension, danger, and mystery.
As always, it’s fun to catch up with Lucky. She’s tough, smart, independent, and I like her more with each novel. It’s been nice to see her growth throughout the novels, both personally and professionally. She’s been hurt, she’s had her heart broken, she’s seen more than most people in her line of work ever should, but she remains strong and keeps fighting. It was also nice to see her get her head on a bit straighter where her love life was concerned. I was really unhappy with how the romance(s) played out in the last book, but I thought Coonts did a good job of sorting things out this time around. I liked the blossoming relationship between Lucky and Jean-Charles (even though I still miss Teddie and have a soft spot for him, despite how he hurt Lucky), and I think he would be good for her. But, of course, with Lucky things are never quite that simple, and there’s still a lot to be sorted out in her romantic life.
With the past three books, I’ve had the same complaint: there were always far too many characters and the story got bogged down in trying to keep everyone - and their motives - straight. I was very pleased to discover that issue wasn't present in Lucky Bastard. There are still a lot of characters, but this time most of them were regulars, and after four books I feel like I really know these people. It’s like being reunited with friends (or enemies, as the case may be), and I didn’t have trouble keeping them straight. My only real complaint about Lucky Bastard was that it lacked the usual action, and that action was replaced by a lot of inner dialogue from Lucky, which consisted of a lot of repetitious self-pity and over-thinking things. The book was a decent length (it normally takes me at least a week to read a Lucky book and this one only took me a few days, which was a definite plus), but it could have been shorter and more concise without Lucky going over the same problems over and over in her mind.
On a personal note, I was really happy to see a deaf character in this book. My brother is deaf, and my city has one of the few deaf schools in the country, so I grew up among the deaf community. I appreciated Cole’s character being added in, and I loved his charm and his take-no-crap attitude - he reminded me a lot of my brother.
Lucky Bastard was a great addition to the Lucky O’Toole Vegas Adventure series. We got to see some character growth not only from Lucky, but from some of the secondary characters as well (I really love Romeo). There was good set-up for the next novel (that ending! My mouth dropped open!) and I’m eager to find out what crazy misadventures Lucky will get into next. (less)
*Review originally posted in November 2011. I'm re-reading the book as part of Once Upon a Prologue's ANNA Read-A-Long, and I'll likely write a 'secon...more*Review originally posted in November 2011. I'm re-reading the book as part of Once Upon a Prologue's ANNA Read-A-Long, and I'll likely write a 'second opinion' review.*
There are some books that people rave about, and you have to wonder how good they can actually be. Anna and the French Kiss was one of those books. Every blogger and reviewer I came across gushed about this book. And with good reason. It really is as good as everyone says it is.
I hate to be a gushing, squeeing fangirl, but I really, really loved this book! It was simple but in the most beautiful, brilliant, perfect way. I finished this book almost two weeks ago and I’ve been putting off my review because my thoughts are so personal; it’s like I want to be greedy and keep them all to myself lol. But this book was too good not to share, so here goes...
I guess I’ll start with Anna. She was so likeable and easy to relate to. She reminded me a lot of myself in some ways - kind of unsure and awkward, wanting to fit in…I saw a lot of myself in her, right down to the gap in her front teeth. There’s this sweetness and innocence about her that I just loved.
As for Etienne…I lost count of the times I swooned over that boy! He’s funny, sweet, smart, protective, easy-going, and wants to make people happy. He seems perfect, but he’s really not, and I loved that about him.
Anna and Etienne’s relationship…I loved how they started out as friends, and I loved watching their relationship blossom. I thought the little observations they made about each other, and the fact that they knew each other so well was adorable. They talked about real things, and genuinely became best friends, even as their feelings for each other developed. I was rooting so hard for them to just get together already, but at the same time, I loved their friendship and the dynamic between them.
Another thing that really drew me in was the setting. I went to Paris when I was 17 (same age as Anna, go figure); it’s so rare for me to read a book set somewhere I’ve actually been. Most books are set in fictional places, or big cities that I’ve never been like New York or London or Dublin or Chicago. But I’ve actually been to Paris, and I got to see a lot of the stuff Anna saw. I came to think of Paris as an extra character in the book, and loved the parts where Anna, Etienne, and their friends were out in the city doing things.
I actually learned a few things too, which is always exciting for me because I love to learn, and I love to know seemingly useless little facts. My head is full of them. For instance, do you know the difference between a cemetery and a graveyard? I didn’t before reading Anna. Nor did I know the difference between a gargoyle and a chimera.
This book was just perfection to me. I laughed (and laughed and laughed and laughed some more), cried, swooned, fell in love, and felt like I was losing a best friend when the story ended. Anna was such an incredible character, and I enjoyed following her on her journey as she learned sometimes-painful lessons about life, love, friendship, family, independence, and courage. (less)
Morgan Matson’s debut, Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour is one of my favourite books ever. It put Matson on my auto-buy list, and I’m always super excited when I see she has a new book coming out. Between the title and the cover of Since You’ve Been Gone, I couldn’t wait to read this book. Despite a slow start, once I finally got into Since You’ve Been Gone I really enjoyed it.
I found Emily easily to connect to. We have very similar personalities - a bit timid in certain situations, afraid to step outside our comfort zones, happy to take a backseat and observe rather than be part of the action. I’ve had friends like Sloane, those types of friends who are the life of the party, are up for anything, and make you feel special in a way no one else has. When that friend is around, you can do anything, and when they’re gone, you feel their absence in a very acute way. This emotion came across very well in the book, and my heart broke for Emily with how lost and alone she felt when she realized Sloane was gone and might not be coming back.
Enter ‘the list’. Sloane was always giving Emily lists of things to do on trips and vacations, even though she knew Emily likely wouldn’t do any of them. She wanted the best for her friend, and she wanted her to know she could survive without her. Emily hoped the list would somehow lead her to Sloane, so even though some of the tasks seemed terrifying, she was willing to try, and I loved that about her.
Watching Emily go outside her comfort zone, try new things, and make new friends was incredible. Throughout the book I laughed, teared up, and cheered Emily on as she grew and learned. I admired her so much and found myself feeling inspired by the way Emily started thinking for herself, and not always going by what Sloane would have wanted or done or recommended. There were moments of huge growth where I wanted to laugh and high five her and congratulate her, and then moments of quiet, sometimes painful growth where I just wanted to hug her and tell her everything would be all right.
There were great secondary characters in this book, too. Most of what we saw of Sloane was in flashbacks. I alternately loved and hated her for a variety of reasons, but ultimately, it was clear she loved Emily. Frank, Collins, and Dawn added a lot to the story and helped Emily in ways both big and small. I wasn’t entirely sure about Frank at first, but it didn’t take long for me to love him. Emily’s parents and little brother, Beckett, were great additions, too.
I loved the ending of Since You've Been Gone. I honestly didn’t know what to expect as the story began to wind down, and I was afraid of how things would end. I think Matson did a great job of tying things up, but also leaving it open enough to let us make our own guesses and assumptions. The characters are young and have so much ahead of them, so the ending suited the book, and left me feeling satisfied. You get the feeling that anything is possible for the characters, and that left me with a big smile on my face…and maybe a few happy tears, too. (less)
Initial thoughts upon finishing, November 13th: I...don't even know what to say about this one. Pretty freaking amazing sums it up, I think.
Full review 4.5 stars
My initial thoughts when I first discovered These Broken Stars: OMG LOOK AT THE GORGEOUS COVER. *pets computer screen* Then when I finally got over the stunning cover and read the synopsis: OMG TITANIC IN SPACE. My inner 13-year-old had a squee-filled meltdown.
While I was drawn in by the ‘Titanic in space’ concept, there was so much more that kept me fascinated with These Broken Stars from beginning to end. I’ve read quite a bit of science fiction this year, and very few - if any - come close to having such an original premise paired with incredible characters, world building, and writing.
I adored Lilac and Tarver, separately and together. Tarver especially piqued my interest from the first page, and I was curious to learn more about him. Lilac wasn’t what she seemed at all. It was easy to assume she was a spoiled little princess, and in some ways she was, but she was also smart and resourceful. I really felt for her because she had what seemed like the perfect life on the outside, but really she was trapped. Because of who her dad was and the fact that she was in the public eye, there was a lot expected of her, and much of it was unfair. She never knew if people liked her because of who she was or because of her name - not that it really mattered anyway since her actual world was pretty small and consisted of bodyguards and family members. So as the story progressed, she was always surprising me with how tough she was; I half expected her to play the damsel in distress and make Tarver save her, but they did equal amounts of saving each other. She got stronger and stronger as the story went on, and I admired and respected her a lot for how strong, resilient, and capable she was.
I loved Tarver for his bravery and strength, and his patience with Lilac, even during the moments she didn’t necessarily deserve it. Watching them go from disdain to curiosity to a tentative alliance to so much more was frustrating, funny, heartwarming, and beautiful. They were a great match - both hardheaded, determined, and incredibly strong. And because it happened slowly, organically, it felt completely genuine and believable.
I loved the dual POVs and the fact that they were in first person present tense. I thought it might get confusing, but it didn’t. It gave great insight into Lilac and Tarver's thoughts, feelings, and motives. They had such distinctive voices that it was never a problem, and I never got confused. The dual POV didn’t fall into the trap of basically repeating things from each perspective, which I appreciated. That gets boring quickly and is unnecessary, but I felt like each time we switched perspectives, we got something fresh - literally a new point of view.
I feel like there’s not much I can say about the actual plot without getting into spoiler territory. I can say this though: the story as a whole wasn’t what I was expecting. It’s largely a tale of survival on a strange, uninhibited planet, but there’s much more. And the ‘more’ is mysterious and creepy, and as it all unfolded I was totally enthralled. There are so many twists and turns - one in particular I want to talk about because it broke my feels into a million pieces and I had to send a semi-hysterical text to one of my best friends just to get through it - but I know I can’t because it's a massive spoiler. I’ll just say that it was unexpected and incredible and pretty much genius on the authors’ part.
These Broken Stars is one of the best science fiction books I’ve ever read. It was original and fascinating and creepy and heartbreaking and romantic and intense and beautiful. It broke my heart and put it back together again, and I know Lilac and Tarver will stay with me for a very long time.(less)
North Pole Reform School is the third book I’ve read from Jaimie Admans, and each book is better than the last. North Pole Reform School is definitely my favourite of Jaimie’s books so far, and it is officially my new favourite Christmas book.
I find that I never really know what to expect when going into one of Jaimie’s books. She’s a fantastic writer - one of the best indie writers I’ve come across - and she has a knack for humour, but her stories are never formulaic and always have unexpected elements, which I love. I’ll be expecting one thing to happen, and something entirely different actually happens. I love being kept on my toes and not being able to predict what’s coming next. I think Jaimie has a rare talent in that respect.
Mistletoe was a great main character with a strong voice and personality, and I found her easy to like and relate to. She was part of a very eclectic mix of reform school students, run by a quirky group of elves. I loved that the story encompassed so many things - it was light and funny at times, but there were also moments that pulled at my heartstrings. I’m someone who knows how lucky I am to have an amazing family, and I’m grateful I get to spend the holidays with them, but this book really drove home for me that not everyone is that lucky. The story was told in a way that made it possible to believe that Santa and his elves are real, and it made me wish they were.
This book had a little bit of everything - humour, romance, action, paranormal aspects (zombies at the North Pole? So funny and clever), and lots of heart. I laughed, I cried, and I didn’t want the story to end. There’s never a dull moment, but there are heartwarming moments that will remind you what Christmas should be about. Need a boost to get you in the holiday spirit this year? Want to be reminded of the magic of Christmas? Love a story with a sweet, romantic happy ending? North Pole Reform School checks all those boxes, making it a must read in my opinion! (less)
Don’t You Wish was a book that made me laugh, cry, swoon, cringe, fall in love, and realize how lucky I was in high school. This is another book in a long line of truly amazing, well written, and inspirational contemporary young adult books that has been released in 2012.
Annie Nutter is invisible, except when she’s being tormented by kids at school. She has a pretty normal family - her dad is a bit nutty, her little brother is extra annoying, and her mom is fairly ordinary. There’s nothing extraordinary about her life, and nothing that makes her special (in her mind), which makes Annie wish for more. She wishes she were pretty and popular and had a boyfriend and a bigger house. But when she magically gets sent to an alternate universe where she - as Ayla Monroe - has all those things and more, it’s not at all what she expected.
I could relate to Annie in so many ways. I wasn’t popular at all in high school, and although I had to deal with bullies on occasion, I wasn’t tormented the way Annie was. But, like Annie, I wished I was prettier, had more friends, a boyfriend, and more money. Even though I realized how lucky I was to have what I did have, it didn’t stop me from sometimes fantasizing about having more, just like Annie did.
I loved the progression Annie made throughout the book. She became stronger, smarter, more independent, and she realized that her very best qualities - her kindness, her honesty, her loyalty - were qualities to be admired. She was funny and quirky and I really connected with her.
Then there was Charlie. Oh, Charlie. He was so sweet, and I loved that the relationship between him and Annie/Ayla wasn’t easy. Even though she was Annie on the inside, she was still Ayla on the outside, and Ayla was a nasty piece of work. Together Charlie and Annie learned that things aren’t always what they appear, and the bond that formed between them melted my heart. I also loved Missy - the whole situation with her broke my heart, but her positivity and faith were inspiring.
This book was a nice balance between cute and light, and poignant and thought provoking. I felt for Annie/Ayla through the whole book - first when she was a geeky plain-Jane, and then when she was trapped in Ayla’s life trying to make things better, and also trying to decide whether she should find a way back home or stay. There were moments that broke my heart as I watched Annie/Ayla struggle. Part of her loved her glamorous new life - being popular and beautiful, having money and power - but she missed her old life, old friends, and her real family.
Something else I enjoyed about this book was that it was very honest and talked about some of the darker happenings in teenagers’ lives - sex, bullying, cheating, lying, shoplifting, etc. St. Claire didn’t shy away from telling it like it is, talking about real subjects, and exposing the ugly truth that a lot of books stay away from. Friends aren’t always loyal and loving with your best interests at heart; families are often screwed up; and sex isn’t always sweet and romantic. There was no sugar coating, and I loved that.
As an adult, I really appreciated the lessons in this book, and I know I would have appreciated them as a teenager. In fact, I wish this book had come out when I was a teenager. Sometimes we need a reminder that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, and that just because people are rich and popular doesn’t mean they’re happy. It’s also nice to be reminded that sometimes there’s a reason we don’t get what we wish for - it wasn’t meant to be, or what we thought we wanted might not really be what we wanted or needed at all.
Sweet, funny, and surprisingly emotional, Don’t You Wish was a book that reminded me why contemporary young adult is my favourite genre. (less)
I’ve always loved Peter Pan and anything even remotely related to Neverland. I love the idea of a magical place where children go when they don’t want to grow up. I never thought I’d be able to accept anything where Pan was made out to be the villain, until this past season of Once Upon a Time. They took the legend of Peter Pan and turned it on its head in the most amazing, sinister, heartbreaking way, and I loved it. That, and Captain Killian Hook from OUAT, made me even more interested in all things Neverland. I jumped at the chance to read Alias Hook, a story that seemed to turn Neverland and its inhabitants into characters that were familiar in one way but also completely new.
I loved Alias Hook from the first few pages. Beautifully written, compelling, and completely captivating, this book - and Captain James Benjamin Hookbridge - stole my heart in a completely unexpected way. Narrated by Hook himself, the well-known ‘villain’ of Neverland, we get to see his side of things. I was surprised by his patience and kindness, his humour and intelligence. I never thought I’d be even remotely okay with Peter Pan being portrayed as a villain, but Jensen wrote this book in a way that made it completely plausible. I sympathized with Hook at every turn, and desperately wanted him to find a way to defeat that horrible, insolent, spoiled little brat Pan. (Side note: Don’t get me wrong; I still love Peter Pan in general, but I was able to separate my lifelong view of him as a capricious, harmless youngster for the sake of this particular story).
Throughout the book, I felt like I was right there with Hook. I would imagine writing a story set in Neverland would be pretty daunting, but Jensen did a fantastic job. The setting was lush, and the characters leapt of the pages. I loved that so many different aspects of the original story were worked into the book and had their own unique spin - the mermaids, the fairies, the Indians, Hook’s crew. This book made me laugh, made my heart ache, made me swoon, and it even made me cry. It was sexy in ways I didn’t expect, and I loved that.
Alias Hook is a fairytale for adults. It’s for those of us who never stopped believing in magic, and maybe even still indulge in a game of make-believe from time to time. I fell head over heels in love with Hook, and I never wanted his story to end. This book touched me deeply, and got its hooks firmly in my heart (heh heh, sorry I had to!). If you enjoy fantasy, romance, adventure, and magic, Alias Hook is a must read. (less)
Initial thoughts on finishing, May 11th: *sigh* Susanna Kearsley is one hell of a storyteller. I'm honestly not sure what my final rating for this one...moreInitial thoughts on finishing, May 11th: *sigh* Susanna Kearsley is one hell of a storyteller. I'm honestly not sure what my final rating for this one will be - 4, 4.5, or 5. On a purely emotional level, it would be 5 stars. I bawled like a baby (happy tears) through the last 30 pages or so, and I really connected with the story and characters emotionally after having just recently read and loved The Winter Sea. BUT looking at it from a more critical point of view as a blogger/reviewer, it wasn't perfect - it started out kind of slow and dragged terribly in places (it took me almost two weeks to read it), so I have to take that into account. But then throw in the fact that Anna was an incredible character, plus the swoonworthyness of Rob and Jamieson and Edmund, and...ugh...this is going to be a hard review to write! Will try to have it up by next week.
Full review, May 22nd: This review was originally posted on my blog, Ramblings of a Daydreamer. You can find it, and many more reviews at the blog. 4.5 stars
You guys. This book. My heart. *sigh*
I honestly don’t know where to begin. I guess first I’d like to thank the amazing Simon and Schuster Canada for sending me this book as an unsolicited ARC because if they hadn’t, I might never have read The Winter Sea, and in turn, never read The Firebird, it’s companion. And that would be a crime because these books…I honestly don’t think I can do them justice in a review. I attempted a coherent review with The Winter Sea, but having just finished The Firebird, I’m a jumble of emotions, and it’s so rare that a book can do that these days.
I said in my review of The Winter Sea that the book single-handedly rekindled my love of historic fiction. I couldn’t wait to immerse myself in another of Kearsley’s worlds, knowing the setting would be rich and vibrant, and as I journeyed with both Nicola and Anna through time and multiple countries, I fell in love with Kearsley’s writing all over again. She has a gift for seamlessly weaving the present with the past and creating a story that is breathtaking in its details, revelations, and characters.
And, oh, the characters. I thought it would be hard to top the characters in The Winter Sea, but I think I might just like Anna even more than I liked Sophia. Anna was strong, fearless, and selfless. She would do anything for the people she loved, and even sacrifice her own happiness to protect them. I was so happy to be reunited with Colonel Graeme and see his affection for Sophia pass to young Anna. Captain Jamieson was sweet and gentle with an air of mystery about him, and I loved his interactions with Anna as a little girl, and the promises he made to her (I get choked up just thinking about it). I won’t mention other characters by name because it seems a bit spoiler-y, but it was nice to see other familiar faces as well, and I adored Edmund as Anna’s love interest. He challenged her in more ways than one - he spoke freely and wasn’t the gentlemanly sort she was used to, but I liked that he was a bit rough around the edges, and I found myself falling for the sexy, roguish Irishman. He challenged Anna, and it was clear she was up for the challenge.
As with The Winter Sea, the historic aspects of The Firebird were my favourite. I couldn’t wait to be transported back to eighteenth century Russia to be reunited with Anna and learn her fate. I enjoyed the present-day parts too. Nicola was a great character, and while I thought Carrie’s story in The Winter Sea was more of a vehicle for Sophia’s story, it felt like Nicola’s story was really thought-out and fleshed out. She started out uncertain and embarrassed by her abilities, but with Rob’s help and encouragement, she grew to not only accept her gifts, but hone them, and it was nice to see. I also really enjoyed the romance between them, and I felt their connection from the very beginning. It’s no secret I’m a sucker for a Scotsman, and I fell hard for the ones in this book.
On a purely emotional level, I would give The Firebird 5 stars. I loved it so much, and I know these characters and their stories will stay with me for a long time. However, on a more critical level, I don’t feel I can actually give it those full 5 stars. The story started out a bit slow and there were times when it really dragged. It took me almost two weeks to read this book, and I’d like to say it was because I was savouring each detail, but it was more because there were times I felt like I was slogging through. I enjoyed the whole story, don’t get me wrong, but it felt like it could have been shorter. However, the last half or so of the book really picked up and it got to the point where I didn’t even want to go to bed because I was finally enjoying the story so much and I wanted to find out what was going to happen.
The Firebird is a beautifully written story with characters that practically leap off the pages, a story that alternately broke my heart and healed it, and a pair of romances (or a trio, more accurately) that made me fall in love. This book made me laugh, made me cry (I seriously bawled happy tears through the last 30 or so pages), and made me certain that Susanna Kearsley has a talent like no other. (less)
Lauren Graham has been one of my favourite actresses since 2000 when I was first introduced to her as Lorelei Gilmore on what would become one of my all-time favourite TV shows, Gilmore Girls. When I discovered she had written a book I was both excited and slightly wary. Many actors who decide to start writing should clearly stick with their day jobs, and I’ll admit I was afraid that would be true of Graham. Thankfully my concerns were unnecessary.
All of the charm and wit we see in Graham on the TV/movie screen translated into her debut novel, Someday, Someday, Maybe. I could almost hear her voice in my head while I was reading, as if we were friends and she was telling me about these crazy things that were happening to her. I’m not sure how much of the story is fiction and how much she took from her own experience, but to me Franny was Lauren, and I could picture the entire story with absolute clarity.
Franny was a great character. She was funny, smart, and determined, and I enjoyed watching her learn and grow. She discovered a lot about herself throughout the course of the book, and also about the people around her. Life doesn’t always take the direction you expect, and while sometimes it can be frustrating and heartbreaking, other times it can be the best thing in the world.
The secondary characters were also terrific and well fleshed-out, from Franny's roommates to her dad to her friends and fellow actors. I particularly enjoyed how things played out with the romance - I won’t say too much because I don’t want to be spoiler-y, but I liked that it wasn’t the main focus of the book, and I also appreciated what it taught Franny and how it was an unexpected bonus in her life during a difficult time.
I loved the setting of the book and getting to experience New York City in the ’90s. New York is always one of my favourite settings for books, and Graham made me feel like I was there. Through Franny’s experiences, I felt like I got an inside look at acting - the highs, the lows, the people, the crazy things you have to do sometimes. It was interesting to get that behind-the-scenes look, and to see that it’s not all glamorous, but that acting is indeed an art.
Quirky, laugh-out-loud funny, charming, and surprisingly touching, Someday, Someday, Maybe was a solid debut from Lauren Graham. I sincerely hope this multi-talented woman plans to write more novels in the future!
*I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.* (less)
I want to start out by saying I have so much respect for Jessica Verdi. She’s not afraid to push boundaries and write stories that are bold, brave, and different. When I read her debut novel, My Life After Now, I thought ‘the world needs a book like this’ and I feel the same way after reading The Summer I Wasn’t Me. I can’t wait to see what Ms Verdi comes up with next.
After Lexi’s dad dies, her mother falls apart. Things become worse when she finds out Lexi is gay. Hoping to make her mother happy again, Lexi agrees to go to New Horizons - a camp that teaches young people how to beat the ‘sickness’ of homosexuality. *insert initial ragey-ness here*
The whole idea of ‘de-gayifying’, and homosexuality being something you can 'overcome' made me so angry. I spent a good portion of the book with my mouth hanging open in shock and horror at the things that went on at New Horizons. The teens were told that a trauma in their lives caused them to be gay, and the camp focused on the importance of gender roles - girls wearing pink, boys wearing blue, girls being able to cook and clean, and boys being able to play sports and fix things. The idea of homosexuality being a ‘sin’ is nothing new, but these people took it to a whole new level, and it made me both sick and sad, because even though the book is fiction, places like this do exist, and a lot of churches/religious people do hammer those points home.
I really liked Lexi. She wasn’t afraid to be her own person, and she pretty much knew what she wanted from life. I admired her desire to make her mother happy, even though it would have meant changing who she was, living a lie, and possibly never being truly happy herself. She was mature and selfless for someone so young, and she came across as genuine and believable. Lexi’s group at camp consisted of Carolyn, Matthew, and Daniel. They were all well fleshed out, and each of them had something to teach Lexi. I especially loved Matthew - he was funny and caring and not afraid to be himself.
The romance in this book is so sweet. I love the way the characters bonded and grew a friendship that slowly turned into more. The ‘forbidden love’ aspect worked really well because of the situation the characters were in, and it made their interactions all the sweeter, while sometimes having that sexy exciting feeling of doing something you know you’re not supposed to be doing.
The Summer I Wasn’t Me made me feel so much. I spent quite a bit of the book being angry because of the situation Lexi was in, but it made me connect with her and the story even more. There were moments of humour and sweetness to balance the parts that were rage-inducing, heartbreaking, and sickening. This book is powerful and emotional. It’s a must read whether you’ve struggled with who you are or you’re completely comfortable with yourself. It’s full of beautiful messages about acceptance, friendship, and love. (less)
April 9th, 2013: I wrote WAITING FOR THE STORM last summer. Little bits and pieces of it had been floating around in my mind, and all of a sudden it ca...moreApril 9th, 2013: I wrote WAITING FOR THE STORM last summer. Little bits and pieces of it had been floating around in my mind, and all of a sudden it came together with perfect clarity, and when I sat down, the words poured out of me. It took me exactly three weeks to write the first draft of this book. It was the easiest - and the hardest - book I'd ever written. It left me emotionally drained, but also satisfied, because I knew it was the best thing I had written yet.
My beloved Grama died a little less than a year before I wrote this book, and the grief was almost crippling. I'd experienced grief before - if you've read BLUE SKY DAYS, you might know that my dad died of leukemia when I was ten - but this...this was all-consuming. My Grama was one of my best friends, and losing her was like losing a part of myself. She was my biggest fan and biggest supporter, so I took that grief and turned it into something positive: a story that I poured my heart and soul into, and that I hoped would touch other people.
I love this book, and I am so proud of it. I sincerely hope that there will be many people who are willing to open their hearts to Charlotte's story and to feel her sorrow and her fears, but also her hopes, dreams, and triumphs.
Now...I hope she won't mind me sharing this, but since she posted it in the comments on my blog, I somehow don't think she will. I feel like she says it better than I can anyway...a beautiful letter from my amazing friend Molli from Once Upon a Prologue:
Today is your book birthday for WAITING FOR THE STORM. Soon, people everywhere will be downloading it, and discovering for themselves the touching, emotional story within. They'll meet Charlotte, Ezra, Ella, and others, and my wish for them is that they feel the depth of the words and the story that I felt when I read WAITING.
Every once in awhile - not very often - a book comes along that worms its way into your heart, and sticks with you. Those books are incredibly powerful, and incredibly special, for their rarity, and their ability to leave a mark on you. They're powerful, and the words in them aren't ordinary. I believe they are a kind of magic - as much magic as exists in this plain, mundane world from day to day. And WAITING FOR THE STORM is one of those books.
(Lordy, look at me, I'm tearing up. I promised myself I wouldn't cry.)
Thank you so much for writing this book. It's honest and raw, and hard to read at times, but WORTH IT. Charlotte's journey really spoke to me, and I hope with all my heart that it speaks to others, as well. There's so much wisdom in those pages, so much hope and heart, and joy, and grief that needs to be experienced.
You have a special, amazing talent, my friend. I am so so glad to see you putting it to use, and I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for letting me be a beta reader and helping you (in some teensy way) craft WAITING FOR THE STORM into your best book yet.
I know your Grama is cheering you on, wherever she is. Gramas are special, (crying again), and they are a kind of magic, just like your book is. I know she was a big supporter of yours, and I bet if you could see her now, she'd have a big smile on her face for you.
Initial reaction after reading: My god this book was amazing. I'm glad I have a month to write my review; hopefully I can do it justice!
I re...moreInitial reaction after reading: My god this book was amazing. I'm glad I have a month to write my review; hopefully I can do it justice!
I read Splintered several weeks ago, and I’ve been writing bits and pieces of my review without being able to complete it because I didn’t feel like I could do the book justice, no matter what I said. Quite simply, Splintered was brilliant. It’s not often that I call a book brilliant, but Splintered was brilliant. Not only was this one of my favourite books of 2012, it was one of my favourite books ever. It was enchanting, mesmerizing, sexy, disturbing, creepy, absorbing, twisted, funny, and beautiful.
This book made me laugh, it made me cry, it made me fall in love, it made me gasp out loud. It made me feel so many things, and often all at once. I absolutely loved Alyssa. It was her job to untangle the secrets of her family and its ties to Wonderland, and I thought she was strong, brave, genuine, independent, and relateable. Her actions and reactions were genuine, her voice authentic, and I absolutely adored her.
I also loved the interactions between both Alyssa and Jeb and Alyssa and Morpheus. This was one love triangle I had absolutely no problem with, and while I thought both boys were super sexy, I was Team Jeb all the way. He was loyal, steady, and protective - everything Alyssa needed in her crazy, messed-up life - while Morpheus was dark and mysterious, seductive and dangerous. Alyssa shared a history with both of them, but she and Jeb shared more than that; they understood each other's emotional and physical scars.
I’ve always been a fan of Wonderland in its many incarnations, but this could possibly be my favourite. Howard’s version of Wonderland is lush and vivid. I was right there with Alyssa, seeing it all, feeling it, tasting it, experiencing it. The way Howard took the well-known Alice story and turned it on its head, playing with little details to make them fit into the story was absolute genius, and made me more and more excited with each new revelation.
Full of twists and turns, action, romance, and beautiful writing, Splintered is an unforgettable story that will grab you and never let go.(less)
I was thrilled when I first heard about Cruel Beauty. Beauty and the Beast has always been one of my favourite fairytales, and even though there are quite a few retellings, I don’t think I’d read any of them. With its beautiful writing and memorable story, I'm glad Cruel Beauty was my first.
I liked Nyx a lot, and I appreciated that she was a character with a darker side. Her anger and bitterness and resentment came across really well, and I found it easy to sympathize with her. She was a multifaceted character, and I loved her feistiness and her spunk. Her interactions with Ignifex were my favourite parts of the book. They were absolutely hilarious together, but they also had great chemistry. Ignifex was completely unlike any other love interest/villain I’ve read, and I loved him immediately, even though, like Nyx, I knew I shouldn’t.
While I loved the characters, the book starts out quite slow. There’s a fair bit of info-dumping at first; it feels like you have to slog through back story and scene-setting before getting to the actual story, but once you get through that it picks up. There’s also a bit too much inner dialogue, and it’s quite repetitive - Nyx goes over the same thing in her mind over and over again, which gets a bit tiresome.
The book had sort of an ageless quality to it. It didn’t feel like YA, which isn’t a criticism, but I often found myself forgetting how old Nyx was supposed to be, and thinking she was an adult rather than a teen.
Even though I’m (shamefully) not all that familiar with Greek mythology, I liked how it was woven through the story. The ancient lore and gods were a bit part of society and everyday life, and I found it an interesting and unique twist. The plot kept me guessing, and even though I was pretty sure I had one thing figured out, there were still lots of surprises along the way.
I was a little bit confused toward the end. I couldn’t wrap my head around a couple things that happened. Whether that’s just me being dense or a common problem with other readers, I’m not sure, but I found myself going ‘Wait, what? How’d that happen exactly?’ I feel like I know where the author was going and I appreciate it, but I didn’t fully grasp it. I enjoyed the actual ending, especially since I didn’t know how things would turn out.
Cruel Beauty, while it has its faults, was overall very enjoyable. It wove together romance, mystery, action, and fantasy, and I loved that there were so many different elements to the story. Once I got past the slow beginning, I was completely enchanted. If you enjoy fairytale retellings with a unique twist, great characters, and beautiful writing, I’d recommend giving Cruel Beauty a try. (less)
Until about two weeks ago, I was only familiar with movie versions of Peter Pan - the Disney version and its sequel Return to Neverland, and the movies Hook, and Finding Neverland. When I heard about Tiger Lily, I knew I had to read it, but I wanted to read JM Barrie’s Peter Pan first. I honestly had very little idea of what Tiger Lily was about - I almost never read synopses of books, I was just intrigued by what I’d heard from friends, especially one of my good blogging friends, who loved the book. So after reading Peter Pan (you can read my review here) and discovering how silly and ridiculous (not in a bad way) and comical it was - although heartbreaking in many ways - I was expecting something lighter from Tiger Lily.
What I really got was a story that shattered my heart into a million pieces. Almost from the very beginning, my heart ached for the characters. Neverland seemed even more like the island of misfits than it did in Peter Pan - it seemed to be a land inhabited by people who didn’t belong, and who were broken in some form or another.
Tiger Lily is unlike any book I’ve ever read before. It’s so beautifully written, with vivid imagery and characters that are so real it feels like you’re right there in the story with them. We get to see inside the characters’ heads and learn their motivations - even the secondary characters. I never thought I’d feel sympathy for Hook, but this book made me feel bad for him. He was just as broken as all the other characters. Possibly the most brilliant thing of all is that this story isn’t told from Tiger Lily or even Peter’s perspective - it’s told from Tinker Bell’s point of view. There was something so intimate about the storytelling; at times I felt like a voyeur, but I couldn’t look away, and more importantly, didn’t want to look away. I wanted to see it all, hear it all, feel it all.
"To love someone was not what she had expected. It was like falling from somewhere high up and breaking in half, and only one person having the secret to the puzzle of putting her back together." ~ Tiger Lily, page 169
I loved getting to see the softer side of Tink. She’s always portrayed as mean, jealous, haughty, and conniving, and even though she admitted herself she could be all those things and more, we didn’t see much of that in Tiger Lily. She loved Tiger Lily so much that she was willing to give up a normal life and accept being pretty much invisible just to stay with her. Her devotion and unconditional love, as well as the way she loved Peter, tugged at my heartstrings. Those moments when she realized she wasn’t as invisible as she thought were so sweet and tender they made me want to cry.
Tiger Lily herself is fierce, independent, and courageous, but also vulnerable and afraid of so many things, especially her own thoughts and feelings. She’s a conundrum of hard and soft, hot and cold, sharp edges and sweetness. I absolutely loved her.
"Maybe all of her strangeness, her curse, her always feeling like an outsider, had all existed so that she could belong here, with Peter." ~ Tiger Lily, page 197
Peter is just as much a conundrum as Tiger Lily. He’s frustrating because he’s so scattered, but in so many ways he’s the same as Tiger Lily - there’s vulnerability and fear and longing in him that he doesn’t understand. Some of the scenes between them left me breathless, and I always yearned for those stolen moments where it was the two of them trying to figure out who they were separately and together. I’ve never read a love story like theirs - one that excites even while it sometimes disturbs. It’s innocent and intense at the same time.
There were other characters, but I feel like I can’t touch on that without going on and on and possibly giving away important plot elements. Just know that all the characters are multidimensional with incredible depth. I don’t think there was a single character my heart didn’t bleed for - they were all tortured or broken in some way, and I was moved beyond words on countless occasions.
If you’re familiar with the original tale of Peter Pan and you’re a stickler for retellings/spin-offs that follow along religiously, you’re going to be disappointed. Anderson sticks loosely to the original, but often puts a unique spin on something or gives an event or person a different purpose or meaning or history. You really need to set aside everything you know about Peter Pan and enjoy the story for what it is - a brilliant, beautiful piece of prose - separate from Barrie’s story.
Beautiful, bittersweet, surprising, sometimes dark, and haunting, Tiger Lily is a story that’s going to stay with me for a long time to come. These characters grabbed hold of my heart and won’t soon be forgotten. (less)
I’ve been struggling for a few days with how to write this review. I’m half-tempted to just write ‘wibbly wobbly timey wimey goodness’ and leave it at that, but I know that would be cheating this book out of the proper praise it deserves.
Time After Time is Bennett’s story. I wasn’t really sure how it was going to work or if I’d really like a story from his POV, but I think I might actually have enjoyed Time After Time even more than Time Between Us. Bennett had a really strong, distinctive voice, and I connected with him in a way I didn’t expect.
I found myself even more invested in Anna and Bennett this time around - both separately and together. I wanted so desperately for them to find a way to be together, even though I couldn’t figure out how it would happen, with Bennett continually getting knocked back to 2012. He tried so hard to do the right thing and make everyone happy, often at the expense of his own happiness or well-being. I really liked him in Time Between Us but I ended up loving him in Time After Time.
This book was romantic in the way that only a time travel novel can be. Being separated by so much more than just distance really ups the stakes and adds tension. It was incredibly romantic, but not in an idealized sort of way, which I really appreciated since Anna and Bennett are, after all, teenagers. The characters - and their relationship - had their share of faults, but it only made them more believable and made me root for them that much more.
Time After Time is a beautiful, powerful, and satisfying ending to Anna and Bennett’s story. I know these characters and their love story that literally stood the test of time will stay with me for quite awhile. (less)
For months, I’ve heard so many fantastic things about this book, I couldn’t wait to read it. I was a bit nervous because I heard it was really scary, and I’m a total wuss when it comes to scary stuff. It’s very rare that I read scary books, and I hardly ever see scary movies, because my imagination is way too overactive, especially when it comes to ghosts - vampires, werewolves, zombies, and other supernatural beings don’t generally scare me because I don’t believe they’re real, but I know ghosts are real, so they freak me out. But every once in awhile, I enjoy that adrenaline rush you get from reading something scary, so I was really looking forward to this book.
For me personally, Anna Dressed in Blood didn’t live up to the hype. I’m not going to say I was disappointed, because it was a very good book, but I wasn’t scared at all. It was exciting and suspenseful, but scary? Not even a little bit, not for me, anyway. I’d say it was more grotesque than anything. Maybe I’ve just become too desensitized? The descriptions were fantastic and creepy and sometimes shocking, but I was more fascinated than afraid.
All that being said, I thought it was a refreshingly unique story, and even though I wasn’t scared, it was suspenseful enough that I read it in 24 hours (which is pretty good for me because I’m a slow reader), and I snarked at anyone who distracted me because I wanted to know what was going to happen. I loved that it was told from a guy’s perspective, and Cas was a great character. I also enjoyed the secondary characters, and watching Cas let down his guard around them and accept that they were in his life for better or worse.
A nice unexpected surprise was the fact that there were moments in this book that were laugh-out-loud funny. There was a lot of very clever dialogue, and Cas had this very frank way of thinking/speaking that was often amusing.
Since this book is going toward the 2012 Witches and Witchcraft Reading Challenge, I just want to touch on the witchcraft aspect of the story. Cas’s mom, along with his new friend Thomas, and Thomas’s grandfather were all witches. I loved that it was realistic, actual magic, and not hocus pocus magic. It always bothers me when people clearly know nothing about real witchcraft and get a bunch of facts wrong, or make light of it. Magic can be scary, powerful stuff, and I appreciated that it wasn’t taken lightly in this book.
And lastly, on a slightly random note, I loved that it was set in Thunder Bay, Ontario. I’ve never been that far north, but I live in southeastern Ontario, and it always excites me to find a book set in Canada.(less)
I’ll be honest: I wasn’t expecting to love 16 Things I Thought Were True. It sounded really good, and I’ve heard great things about Janet Gurtler’s books, but I thought it would be something cute and fun to break up the feels-heavy books I’ve been reading lately, along with several books that have left me with a ‘meh’ feeling. And while it was cute and fun, it also packed an emotional punch I wasn’t expecting.
Morgan was a very complex character. She was raised by a single mother who smoked and drank too much, she had two older brothers who were clearly her mother’s favourites, and she had no idea who her dad was. Her mother always refused to talk about him or even give Morgan a hint if he was dead or alive…until she had a heart attack and her guilty conscience forced her to tell Morgan who her father was and where she could find him. Meanwhile, Morgan had been completely ostracized at school and work because of a video her ex-best friend posted of Morgan dancing in boys' underwear. She did her best to hide out, lie low, and not draw attention to herself. In her mind, the only friends she needed were the ones she’d made online.
Enter Amy and Adam. I loved these characters - and Morgan - so much. At first I didn’t think I was going to like Amy; she talked non-stop and said every little thing that came to her mind. I thought she would be obnoxious and annoying, but I ended up loving her. Her blunt honesty was refreshing, and she had this innocence about her that made me just want to wrap my arms around her and squeeze her. Adam was one of those boys who was perfectly imperfect. He was a jerk at work because he needed to be, otherwise people wouldn’t respect him as their boss since they were all the same age. But underneath that, he was sweet and caring, and so good to and for Morgan.
The interactions between Morgan, Amy, and Adam were absolutely hilarious. I can’t remember the last time I laughed so much while reading a book. Their conversations were ridiculous and realistic and made me wish I were friends with them. The road trip was definitely my favourite part of the book. Even though it wasn’t the main focus of the story, it had all the elements of a great road trip - food, music, laughter, crazy situations, and meaningful moments. And, like any good road trip book, the characters learned a lot - about themselves and about each other.
The life lessons Morgan learned through the course of the book weren’t always easy. Some of them were painful, and many of them changed her life. I wasn’t expecting to form such a strong connection with the characters, but I did. I felt their triumphs and failures. I laughed with them and cried with (and for) them. These characters and their story will stick with me for a really long time.
Quite simply, 16 Things I Thought Were True was amazing. I ran through the gamut of emotions with this book. I laughed as hard as I cried, and I came away with a smile on my face, despite the tears I shed (and there were a lot of them). This book is a must read for fans of contemporary young adult, road trip books, books that have strong messages of friendship and love, and…well, really just anyone. I know I’ll be recommending this one to just about everyone I know. (less)
Kiss Me in Paris is a beautiful love story about Winter and Cade, two people with haunted pasts and secrets. It was incredibly romantic, but it was also laugh-out-loud funny, which was something I wasn’t expecting, but enjoyed immensely.
Winter and Cade had so much in common: they were both passionate people with big goals, and they were both trying to run away from their pasts. These characters were so well developed, I really connected with them and felt for them. I wanted things to work out for them individually and as a couple. I found myself getting really emotionally invested in them - again, individually, and as a couple - and even got teary a few times through their struggles and triumphs.
As for the ‘laugh-out-loud funny’ that I mentioned earlier…the book felt like a comedy of errors at times, which I loved. It was like ‘the misadventures of Winter Deveaux’ - she had so many embarrassing things happen to her, I found myself both cringing and laughing. Some of the stuff that happened to her was absolutely horrifying, and it was made even more horrifying by the fact that Cade was often there to witness it. In a weird way, it helped them bond and showed Winter that Cade would accept her, no matter what.
Cade and Winter both went through a lot during the course of the book. They brought a lot of emotional baggage with them to Paris, and it was hard for them to work through it. I really enjoyed watching their growth and development, and thought the authors did a terrific job. They also did a really good job with the secondary characters. I don’t know how Winter tolerated Jenifer (or why they were even friends, let alone best friends). Jenifer was the most self-centred, self-destructive person, only thinking about herself and her own needs, and pulling Winter along and getting her into bad situations. I hated her through most of the book and didn’t think there was anything she could do to redeem herself, but she did…kind of. I still think she was a crappy friend, but even though I hated her, I loved what she represented in the story and how she helped with Winter’s growth.
Kiss Me in Paris is a beautiful story about fate, believing in yourself, overcoming obstacles, and making things happen. It’s about not letting other people hold you down or hold you back or crush your dreams. It’s romantic, sexy, funny, and leaves you with a satisfied, almost triumphant, feeling. With something for everyone - romance, drama, heartache, comedy, tension, and some ooh la la sexy-times - Kiss Me in Paris is a must read. (less)
This was my first time reading anything by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian, and I am seriously impressed. I’d heard mixed things about Burn For Burn, so I went in a bit tentative, but I ended up enjoying it immensely.
Lillia, Mary, and Kat all have very distinctive personalities and voices. Lillia is rich, popular, and smart; Mary is shy and basically a nobody; and Kat is loud, crude, and pretty much an outcast. The fact that the girls are so different and seemingly have nothing in common makes them perfect allies because nobody would ever think of them being friends or having a reason to work together for a common goal. I thought it might get confusing having three different points of view, especially in first person present tense, but it was so well done. The way each girl’s story was revealed bit by bit had me not only curious but also invested in their stories. I was eager to know what brought each of them to that point in life - where they would come up with this idea of getting revenge on the people who hurt them.
One of the things that made this book so great is that it’s almost like a guilty pleasure. On the one hand, you know that what the girls are doing is wrong, but on the other hand, there are times it seems justified, and I found myself siding with them and even rooting them on at times. I knew I shouldn’t condone it but then the other part of me was like ‘those people deserve what they get!’ What I also liked was how it wasn’t all black and white; none of the people they were getting revenge on were all bad - they each had redeeming qualities or moments where you doubted what the girls were doing. It made for a really interesting back-and-forth and added the perfect amount of tension throughout the story.
I love books about friendship, so I was pleased to see genuine friendships develop between Lillia, Mary, and Kat. It could have gone so wrong with blackmail or disagreements or someone backing out, but they actually become friends and start to depend on each other for more than just their revenge schemes. By the end I was truly invested in these characters.
And that ending!! It was such a fantastic cliffhanger ending, the type you rarely see in contemporary YA, even if it is a trilogy. I’d recommend having Fire With Fire ready to read when you finish Burn For Burn so you can see what happens next.
Han and Vivian’s writing is seamless. Great characters and great setting, combined with lots of drama, emotion, and a story that will keep you guessing while flipping the pages at top speed, make Burn For Burn a winner in my opinion. (less)
Servants of the Storm is a creepy, atmospheric southern paranormal mystery. I don’t usually read many scary novels, because I’m a total weenie when it comes to being scared. I was drawn in by the cover and synopsis of this one though, and I’m glad I made an exception.
This book was gruesome, twisted, disturbing, and heartbreaking. The first chapter was absolutely horrifying, and it sucked me in instantly. When Hurricane Josephine rips through Savannah, it leaves chaos, devastation, and death in its wake. One of those deaths was Dovey’s best friend, Carly. In the aftermath of the hurricane and the loss of her best friend, Dovey basically has a psychotic break and has to go on mind-numbing medication. She spends the next year living in a fog until she sees Carly and decides to go off the medication so she’ll know what’s real and what not.
I liked Dovey, even though I never really connected with her. I loved that she was a loyal friend and wanted to figure out what was going on so her best friend could be at peace. As much as I liked her, I wanted to shake her on numerous occasions; she was constantly putting herself in dangerous situations. She was impulsive and sometimes downright stupid. Also, most people would have been horrified and traumatized by the things she saw, but at times she barely had any reaction.
Servants of the Storm was filled with great descriptions. You could see the decay, smell the rot, see how post-Josephine Savannah had turned into a place of squalor, dark shadows, and sinister beings. Everything was easy to picture, which often added to the creep-factor of the book, because a lot of the things that happened were so horrific.
I wouldn’t say there was ‘a romance’ in this novel. There were hints of romance, and a kinda-sorta love triangle, but Dovey was so focused on her mission, nothing ever really developed romantically. I liked Baker and Isaac a lot - each of them had great qualities, and they were good to Dovey. I appreciated that it didn’t turn into one of those stories where the heroine is deeply immersed in the action and mystery one minute, but then it turns into a soppy romance where she can’t function without the boy’s help. Dovey maintained her independence, and while one of the guys was often with her, it wasn’t because she needed them.
Overall, Servants of the Storm was a compelling read. It had a great concept, and I think Dawson did a good job executing it. As of right now, I’m not seeing on GoodReads that there’s a sequel, but after the total mindf*ck ending, I sure hope there is! Be sure to give this book a chance if you like eerie, twisted paranormal or horror stories with lots of mystery.(less)
While dystopian isn’t my favourite genre, I do enjoy reading it occasionally, especially when I come across a story like The Forsaken, which has an interesting, different concept. In a not-too-distant future, governments have fallen, and Canada, the USA, and Mexico have come together to create the United Northern Alliance (UNA), under the leadership of a tyrannical, power-hungry man. At the age of 16, each citizen of the UNA is forced to take a test that will determine if they have violent tendencies; the ones who do get sent to Prison Island Alpha, aka “the wheel”, where kids either become ‘villagers’ - kids who live mostly normal lives (or as normal as you can get stuck on a desolate prison island) - or ‘drones’ - kids who are under the leadership of The Monk, a madman who brainwashes kids into violent, mindless killing machines. When Alenna fails the test and gets sent to the wheel, she’s rescued by the villagers, and immediately becomes part of a plan to defeat the Monk and get everyone off the island.
I suppose the reason dystopian isn’t among my top genres of choice is because I prefer character-driven stories, while dystopian seems to be centred on action. I like to see character growth, development, and self-discovery, and for the characters to learn things, not only about themselves, but also the people/world around them. While the characters in The Forsaken were fairly well developed, I missed that growth and self-discovery along the way.
That being said, I tried to keep in mind that the regular rules don’t necessarily apply in dystopian novels, because they are centred on action. And that’s something The Forsaken had plenty of. The action in this book was exciting, scary, and sometimes even gruesome. I thought it was all really well done, I just wish there’d been more of it because the parts in between were often kind of slow. I liked that there were twists and turns and that you were never really sure who to trust. As soon I thought I had things figured out, I learned I was wrong, and I love when that happens in a book.
Something else I feel tends to go wrong in dystopian books is the romance. Unfortunately, that was the case with The Forsaken. The romance bordered on insta-love, and even if you can overlook that, when you realize the story takes place over the course of two weeks, you see just how fast things move and how unrealistic it seems. I didn’t even really get why Alenna and the love interest liked each other, but they did right from the first minute, and things progressed from there as they kept getting thrown together. I mostly liked them as a couple, but the romance as a whole was pretty lackluster for me.
Overall, I enjoyed The Forsaken. I thought Masse did a good job executing an original concept and building a world that was both frightening and realistic. (less)
When I first heard about The Forgotten Ones, I was instantly intrigued. The cover is beautiful and the synopsis drew me in immediately - I love faeries and don’t think there are enough books about them. Plus, throw in the words ‘Irish’ or ‘Ireland’ and I’m there!
I liked that the book started out as a seemingly normal contemporary read. It was nice to get to know Allison, as well as her family and friends before the fantasy aspect of the book came into play. Allison is a really strong, no-nonsense character. She had to grow up quickly because she has a mentally ill mother who she’ll one day have to take care of. She keeps to herself most of the time and would rather be on her own reading than spending time with her peers. Throw in the fact that she’s in denial about being in love with her childhood friend Ethan, and you have a young woman who leads a pretty lonely life.
Then Liam shows up, and Allison recognizes him almost instantly as the father who abandoned her mother, leaving her to spiral downward into mental illness. Except that’s not the whole story - Liam is able to fill in the gaps Allison’s mother never could, including the fact that he’s part of the faerie world. What follows is an adventure unlike anything Allison could imagine, and while she accepted the seemingly unbelievable quite easily, the story slowly morphed from contemporary to fantasy.
Enter the faeries and their world. This is where Howard’s writing really shone for me. The descriptions were beautiful and vivid, everything a faerie story should be. We were introduced to more characters (all of whom had Gaelic names, which I alternately love and hate because even though there’s a guide to pronunciation at the beginning, I couldn’t remember the ones I wasn’t already familiar with and didn’t want to have to flip back on my ereader all the time!). Allison became embroiled in faerie politics, and there were plenty of surprises and plot twists to keep the reader guessing.
Despite the ending being really abrupt, I think Howard did a good job of laying the foundation for the rest of the trilogy. We got a chance to see some character development and a hint of the romance to come between Allison and Ethan. There’s still a lot to be covered and I’m looking forward to continuing with this trilogy and seeing where Allison and the other characters end up. Overall, a very strong debut.
*Note: For those people who are wary of New Adult as a genre, this book is technically NA but reads like a YA book, so it has wide appeal.*(less)
Disclaimer: Molli Moran is one of my best friends. She’s my brain twin and critique partner, and while that might make me seem biased, I can honestly...moreDisclaimer: Molli Moran is one of my best friends. She’s my brain twin and critique partner, and while that might make me seem biased, I can honestly say I’m not. Because we’re so close, I hold her to very high standards because I want to see her succeed. I saw snippets of As You Turn Away from beginning to end, and I had the pleasure of beta reading it. I saw this book go from good to great, saw Molli grow as a writer before my eyes. I’m so proud of her for writing such a beautiful, heartwarming debut.
As You Turn Away is a story about love in its many forms - love for family, love for friends, love for yourself, and that special love between two people that can change your life. This book had so many great themes and messages: love, healing, hope, the importance of family.
One of the things I loved most about this book was that it wasn’t easy. There were realistic obstacles both from the outside world and from within the characters. Jonah and Quinn both grew a lot through the course of the story. They were both broken in their own ways, and while their love story was beautiful, I appreciated that they didn’t ‘save’ each other; they helped each other, taught each other how to heal, and became stronger together and separately. They learned the importance of loving yourself before loving someone else, and that healing is a process.
One of my favourite aspects of the book was the relationship Jonah had with his family. I definitely wish I were part of the Walker clan (preferably by marriage, heh heh). There aren’t enough books with an emphasis on family relationships, especially healthy family relationships. The Walkers had their issues - the boys fought and they had problems, but ultimately they loved and respected each other and knew they needed each other. Jamie, Jonah’s nephew was a real scene-stealer, and I wanted to just squeeze the little guy.
With a rich southern setting, As You Turn Away is a story filled with hope and love. It made me laugh, cry, and swoon. There need to be more books like this in the New Adult category. Molli Moran is definitely a talent to watch out for. (less)
I read several of Sarah Strohmeyer’s books before I became a book blogger. While I haven’t yet read her YA debut, Smart Girls Get What They Want, I jumped at the chance to read How Zoe Made Her Dreams (Mostly) Come True when it became available on Edelweiss. There are some authors who shouldn’t make the jump from adult to YA, but let me tell you: Ms Strohmeyer is not one of them. How Zoe Made her Dreams (Mostly) Come True was a funny, engaging story with a unique concept, great characters, and a positive message.
Zoe was the kind of girl you’d want as your friend - loyal, selfless, and she’d stick up for you no matter what. Her cousin Jess was a great secondary character. Unlike a lot of YA where the best friends end up betraying each other in some way or not standing up for each other, Jess had Zoe’s back, and that was really nice to see.
The setting of this book was part of what made it so unique. Zoe and Jess spend the summer at Fairyland Kingdom, giving the reader a chance to see the inside workings of a theme park, from the people who clearly take their jobs too seriously to the ones who are just getting through the day. Zoe had to face a lot of challenges, and I liked that even in a setting that most people wouldn’t relate to, Zoe remains relatable and her reactions and strength make her a character you can’t help but like.
Zoe and Jess weren’t the only great characters. There were a ton of secondary characters who were really well fleshed out, from the ones who made you angry to the ones you couldn’t help but fall for to the ones who provided comedic relief. A favourite of mine was definitely the Queen - she was so ridiculous and her requests were so nonsensical, I found myself laughing out loud at a lot of the things she said and did.
How Zoe Made Her Dreams (Mostly) Come True was more than just a light, funny read. It was surprising, refreshing, full of unexpected twists, and even a mystery that added just the right amount of tension to the plot. It’s sure to please fans of contemporary young adult, especially those who enjoy modern day Cinderella stories. (less)
Just One Day is one of those books that has the potential to change the way you look at the world. It was beautiful, thought-provoking, and bittersweet, and for me it's one of those must-read books that I recommend - loudly and often - to anyone who listens. Just One Year is another one of those books, but I loved it even more than Just One Day. Willem's story is powerful and emotional, and while I wasn't sure how I'd enjoy reading a story from his POV, I was hooked from the first page.
I spent a lot of Just One Day being pretty angry with Willem. I liked him well enough, but to be honest I didn’t get the appeal of him. I mean, I suppose part of me did - his free-spiritedness, and the fact he was adventurous and seemed fearless. But he also seemed like a major player with a girl in every port. He seemed to go through women and then move on, leaving a trail of broken hearts across the world. It was easy to assume that Allyson was just another of those girls. You had to wonder if Willem ever thought of her after that day in Paris; did he wonder what happened to her? Did he try to track her down? So even though I ended up loving Just One Day, I was a bit wary going into Just One Year.
But oh. My. God. This book. I want to cry right now just writing this review. Just One Year was one of the most beautiful books I’ve read in a long time. It was poignant and profound; it broke my heart and pieced it back together. Where I shrugged Willem aside in Just One Day, I ended up adoring him in Just One Year. He was such a deep character, so full of intelligence and heart, and he was brave in so many ways.
Wherever Willem was, I felt like I was right there with him. Whatever he felt, I felt - every emotion, every thought, every bit of anguish and happiness and confusion and triumph came across with crystal clarity. He learned so much over the course of that year, about life and love and family and what really matters. Throughout his journey, I laughed, I cried, and I cheered him on, wanting so badly for him to not only get the lessons life was throwing at him, but to excel and be happy.
This is one of those rare books that get better with each page. I was so immersed in Willem’s story, the whole world just faded away. I honestly can’t remember the last time that happened, but it’s such an amazing feeling. Just One Year was more than I could have hoped for. Willem’s journey is so much more than just a physical one; it’s a journey of the mind, heart, and soul. His story is one that burrows into your heart and mind and holds on tight, and I know it’ll stay with me for a very long time. (less)