This is my first book by this author, and while I enjoyed it, I have a feeling I'll like his darker books better. (There was a funny running joke in t...moreThis is my first book by this author, and while I enjoyed it, I have a feeling I'll like his darker books better. (There was a funny running joke in this one about how the main character's father, an author, writes funny books and then switches to serious ones and everyone is unhappy about it.)
When I first read the description of this book, I thought of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer, which is an adult book about a young boy, a precocious amateur physicist -- who sets out on his own across New York to solve a mystery surrounding his father.
She Is Not Invisible ended up reminding me a lot more of one of my favorite kids' books of all time, The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler. In that book, a girl and her precocious younger brother run away to New York City and end up solving a mystery. I'd call TMUFOMBEF a middle-grade-ish book, and She Is Not Invisible felt a bit young to me as well. I did really like Laureth as a character. Watching her navigate the world and attempt to hide her blindness really made me think about how easily I navigate the world and take that for granted. Laureth's brother Ben's special "talent" was a little more problematic for me, as it seemed more like a convenient plot device than anything else.
Other aspects of the book struck me as a little ... flimsy. I could totally buy the idea of a sixteen year old girl and her brother making it on their own from New York to London, but the book's bumbling villains and Laureth and Ben's attempt to outwit them seemed straight out of a Home Alone movie or a Scooby Doo episode. And, of course, as a diehard New Yorker, I'm always annoyed by books that suggest you can't walk through our city without being mugged.
I will definitely try another book by this author. (less)
I started this book with some trepidation because most Scholastic Point imprint books feel a little young for me as an adult reader of YA.
As Better O...moreI started this book with some trepidation because most Scholastic Point imprint books feel a little young for me as an adult reader of YA.
As Better Off Friends opens when the two main characters, Levi and Macallan, are eleven years old, my "Tween Alert" radar kept pinging. But I stuck with the book and I'm glad I did. Better Off Friends is a sweet and charming update of When Harry Met Sally, complete with dual POV and cute little interview cutaways where the two adorably banter. The story does cover a lot of ground, time-wise. The plus side of that is that the book chronicles a six or seven year friendship. The downside is that sometimes the pace felt a little breakneck. But if you're looking for a book that's breezy and sweet, look no further.
As the book begins, Levi has just moved from California to Wisconsin, and Macallan has recently lost her mom. They bond over their joint love of a British TV show called Buggy and Floyd and are soon fast friends. There's no romantic vibe right away (whew -- they are eleven, after all!) but as the two reach high school age, the weirdness begins. ARE they just friends? IS there a possibility for romance between them?
I'm not going to answer those questions because that would completely spoil the book for you. But I did see-saw back and forth as I read, first hoping they could just stay friends, then thinking they'd be kind of adorable together. For the rest of the time I was reading, I wondered stuff like "Is Buggy and Floyd a real thing?" I don't think so. I think it's kind of like Wallace and Gromit melded with my favorite pals, Frog and Toad. If I'm wrong about this, someone tell me!
Better Off Friends is a cute contemporary with heart. The plot revolves heavily on relationship drama, but it's also a sweet story about friendship and loyalty.(less)
Wow -- I didn't read the synopsis first and had no idea what this was about. Fabulously weird. Weirdly fabulous. Odd and touching and thought-provokin...moreWow -- I didn't read the synopsis first and had no idea what this was about. Fabulously weird. Weirdly fabulous. Odd and touching and thought-provoking.(less)
I went into this book expecting the typical YA paranormal -- new girl in town, big dance coming up at school, prom dress…....moreOne of my favorites of 2013!
I went into this book expecting the typical YA paranormal -- new girl in town, big dance coming up at school, prom dress…. yada, yada -- the same story I've read a dozen times over.
What I got instead was a spellbinding story that's one part dark fairy tale, one part coming of age story, one part mystery. Told in beautiful -- yet compellingly readable -- prose, with vivid setting, and an inventive narrative structure, The Midnight Dress had me enthralled from the first sentence.
I loved the way that the book's narrative flashed forward and back, alternating between the investigation of a tragedy on the night of the Harvest Festival to the story of Rose Lovell, who arrives in a sleepy beach town in Queensland, Australia, with her charming, ne'er-do-well father. In the wrong hands, this kind of technique can be confusing, but it worked beautifully here. Each storyline -- the investigation and Rose's integration into town -- moves forward on its own, but each illuminates the other.
The story is set in Queensland, Australia in 1986. (I hadn't even realized that the book was set in the 1980s until one of the characters referred to a major world event.) As in many Australian novels, the setting is a central part of the story. From the violent rainstorms of the "wet"season to the snakes that slither through the sugar cane fields, the book's descriptions convey the simultaneous beauty and menace of nature.
The Midnight Dress is one of those books that feels as if it was casting a magical spell over me as I read. There are the two main story lines, as described above, but then the narrative is also filled with other, smaller stories of love and betrayal and tragedy. Rose's friend Pearl tells Rose about the wildly romantic (and wildly improbable) plots of the romance novels she picks up at the Blue Moon Book Exchange. As Rose and town recluse Edie Baker work to sew Rose's Harvest Festival dress, Edie tells Rose strange and tragic stories about her family. As I read, I could feel the way that all Rose's emotions and all Edie's family history were being sewn right into Rose's dress. By the time the Harvest Festival arrives, I was almost expecting something really dramatic and crazy -- Carrie-prom-style. But, when the tragedy was finally revealed, it was like everything else in this book -- understated and deeply resonant.
I highly recommend this one, especially to fans of dark, lush, atmospheric books like Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke or Chime by Franny Billingsley.(less)
Read more YA reviews and find great giveaways on my blog, You can find me here: YA Romantics
More Than This has a lot of elements that I dread in a boo...moreRead more YA reviews and find great giveaways on my blog, You can find me here: YA Romantics
More Than This has a lot of elements that I dread in a book: a character with memory loss, a (possible) afterlife setting, and a WTF-is-going-on-here plot. But I think that More Than This is proof that in reading, as in life, you must keep an open mind. I loved this book! More Than This is a thought-provoking, heart-wrenching book about the power of small acts of bravery and human connection.
Part of my enjoyment of this book was trying to figure everything out, so I will keep my review spoiler-free. More Than This begins with the death of the main character, Seth. Then …. Seth is conscious again. He's not sure where he is, except that he thinks that he's back in the English town where his family used to live. The town his family moved away from after a terrible loss. He's also completely alone. Like a post-apocalyptic survivor, Seth roams around his new environment, looking for answers. And so is the reader. Is he alive again? In some kind of afterlife? Hallucinating?
More than This masterfully weaves together three different timelines. First, there's Seth's lonely existence in this afterlife/new life/whereever-the-heck-this-is. Then, bit by bit, we learn about Seth's life immediately prior to his death. Also, bit by bit, we learn about the event that prompted Seth's family to move from England to America, and the part that Seth played in that.
"I don't like this." "Don't like what?" "Not knowing stuff." She gives him a look. "We just found out there's new stuff not to know."
I'm not fond of not knowing stuff. Of being confused when I read. Therefore, I'm deeply suspicious of amnesia plots and all sorts of attempts to mess with my mind. I was loving every minute of it here. Patrick Ness does a masterful job of doling out crumbs of information, connecting dots, raising questions… amazing!
I really don't want to say too much about the plot, because the best part of this book is watching all the pieces fall into place. But I do think that More Than This has something for just about every reader. Do you love eerie, post-apocalyptic-like landscapes? Check. Are you into scary, faceless villains and nail-biting suspense? Check. Are you more of a contemporary fan, someone who needs to have a deep emotional connection to a book's characters? Check. Are you the kind of reader who likes books that shock and surprise you? Check. The kind of books that make you really think? Check. Seriously, how is this possible?
"But then I knew you were there. And I knew.. I guess I just knew that someone remembered who I was…"
I read More Than This right before Rose Under Fire and maybe that's why I saw some parallels between the two. Both books celebrate the strength and resiliency of the human spirit and our wish that our lives and experiences matter, in large ways or small.(less)
*Thanks to Penguin Teen for sending me this ARC for possible review*
There were things I liked about 45 Pounds. I thought it offered a realistic portra...more*Thanks to Penguin Teen for sending me this ARC for possible review*
There were things I liked about 45 Pounds. I thought it offered a realistic portrayal at a teen girl's despair over her weight. The cycle of dieting -- small steps forward, then binging because you're unhappy -- is well described. Ann does normal girl things; shops for bathing suits, orders horrible, expensive pre-made diet food from an infomercial, gets a job at the mall, deals with her divorced parents and shops for a bridesmaid's dress for her aunt's wedding.
However, most the book's characters were pretty one-dimensional, with the "bad" characters being near-caricatures of intolerance and dishonesty -- a bigoted step-grandmother, a cheating father, a co-worker who steals. I might not have minded that so much if Ann herself had been a better developed character. All we learn about Ann is that she desperately wants to be thin. What are her talents and hopes and dreams beyond losing weight? All Ann thinks about is food and eating and her body, so that's all the reader knows about her. I did appreciate the humor, but I also thought Ann uses humor as a defense mechanism because she thinks that no one will take her seriously.
I am glad that books like this are being published, but I also think there are more inspiring and empowering books about overweight teens:
The Cat Ate My Gymsuit by Paula Danziger (for middle school aged readers) My Big Fat Manifesto by Susan Vaught Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson The One That I Want by Jennifer Echols(less)
*I borrowed an ARC of Altered through Around the World ARC Tours*
Crewel, book one in this series, was set in Arras, a place where an all-male Guild he...more*I borrowed an ARC of Altered through Around the World ARC Tours*
Crewel, book one in this series, was set in Arras, a place where an all-male Guild held the political power while female Spinsters had the ability to weave time and matter. I loved Crewel's creative concept and fantasy-meets-fairy-tale setting. The book ended with an intriguing plot twist that made it seem like the series was headed in a different direction.
Okay, so I guess given the ending of book one, I should have been forewarned that Big Changes were coming. But to me, reading Altered felt a little disorienting, more like starting a whole new series. Instead of Spinsters and the Guild, we now have futuristic Sunrunners and an Agenda and some zombie-like characters called Remants. Who would have thought I was such a fantasy fan, because I definitely preferred the fanciful Old World fantasy feel of Arras to the harsh, post-apocalyptic setting of Altered. There are a few carry-over characters from Crewel, but most of the characters in Altered had an odd way of popping in and out of the story -- disappearing and reappearing. I was excited about the Remnants and a new villain named Kincaid but wished they'd all been more menacing.
Many of the new ideas and plot developments introduced in Altered seemed to me quite reminiscent of the TV show LOST-- the time manipulation, the two timelines and layers of reality, the mysterious "projects" (the Dharma Initiative in LOST and the Cypress Project in Altered), the rich guy villain Kincaid, and the love triangle. As in the show, some of these aspects of Altered were and a little … out-there. (view spoiler)[Like the fact that Adelice meets her real father and he's the same age as she is because years on Arras are like dog years and so soon Jost's daughter will be old enough to be his mother and then Albert Einstein shows up and maybe he can explain all this stuff and *kapow*…. my head explodes! (hide spoiler)]
Then there's the matter of that pesky love triangle. Though I'm not completely anti-triangle, I wasn't crazy about the whole Adelice-Jost-Erik dynamic in the first book. In Altered, the triangle only intensifies.
Longer review to come on my blog closer to review date.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Beautifully written and thoroughly researched, Belle Epoque was inspired by a short story by Émile Zola called Les Repoussoirs. In Zola's story, a sal...moreBeautifully written and thoroughly researched, Belle Epoque was inspired by a short story by Émile Zola called Les Repoussoirs. In Zola's story, a salesman rents out unattractive girls to serve as companions for young society women on the marriage market, making their employers seem lovelier by comparison.
The story opens as Maude -- who has fled to Paris to escape an unappealing arranged marriage -- answers a newspaper ad and learns about the repoussoir concept. At first, she's insulted and horrified, but she needs the money and eventually accepts a job as companion to Isabelle, the daughter of a countess. Isabelle thinks that Maude is a distant relative of her mother's close friend, but Maude has actually been hired to help Isabelle make an advantageous marriage. But when Maude learns that Isabelle's plans are at odds with those of the countess, she'll have to decide where her loyalties lie.
Belle Epoque is rich in sensory description and full of wonderful details about turn-of-the-century Paris. At the time the story takes place, the Eiffel Tower was being built, and I loved the way that the book wove in historical information about its construction -- and the strong objections at the time about its design.
I also liked the fact that the story looked at love and romance with a somewhat jaded eye. As much as I love some swooniness in a book, this story takes place at a time during which most women had little freedom or education and were subject to the whims and expectations of men. So, as romantic as the Season and the marriage market are made to seem in some fiction, I liked the fact that this book pointed out the other side of the story.
The first third of the book is spent on Maude's training to enter society, and I thought that part of the story could have been compressed into fewer pages. The main source of tension in the plot revolves around the fact that Isabelle is unaware that Maude is her paid companion, and for me that wasn't quite enough plot to sustain a 300+ page story. That, combined with the absence of much romantic tension as described above, made the book feel rich with description and atmosphere, but a bit thin on plot.
Belle Epoque takes place during a time period I find particularly fascinating -- a time when cities like New York, London and Paris were becoming important centers of culture and commerce. Though YA readers who crave lots of romance and drama may find this book a bit too languid for their taste, I wholeheartedly recommend Belle Epoque to Francophiles and fans of historical fiction.(less)
The Waking Dark is an atmospheric, creepy, bloody story of murders and madness in a small Kansas town, crimes which, as Truman Capote described in ano...moreThe Waking Dark is an atmospheric, creepy, bloody story of murders and madness in a small Kansas town, crimes which, as Truman Capote described in another story of mass murder in Kansas, "stimulated fires of mistrust in which many old neighbors viewed each other strangely, and as strangers."
The Waking Dark opens dramatically, as a teenage boy narrowly survives a massacre in the town drugstore. In fact, murders are taking place across the town of Oleander, as seemingly normal citizens turn on one another for no apparent reason. When the killing spree winds down, the town buries its dead, locks the only surviving perpetrator in a mental hospital, and tries to go on. But when a tornado seems to be causing madness to swirl though the streets again, the town is quarantined, and a group of kids is determined to get to the bottom of what's going on.
These kids are an unlikely bunch: the son of a crazed man who preaches the gospel on street corners, a girl who thinks that God speaks directly to her, the black sheep daughter of a group of trailer-park dwelling meth makers, one of the murderers, and the sister of one of the victims. Together, they piece together what's going on and try to stop it. I guessed pretty easily the why of the sudden madness, but I didn't figure out the how. (view spoiler)[ Will I still get a flu shot this year? Yeah, probably… (hide spoiler)]
But overall, The Waking Dark does a great job of sketching life in a small town, showing us residents from all walks of life, from football heroes to eccentric old women to town outcasts. The story shows how things like religion and science, can be twisted and misused in the most perverse ways.
The Waking Dark also raises interesting questions about human nature. Can madness be induced? Would you be able to retain your humanity in the face of mass chaos and insanity? As the townspeople of Olender searched for answers, I began to wonder if they were being driven crazy by the power of suggestion, like the characters in The Crucible, or by being trapped in a confined setting, like the characters in Under The Dome -- a Stephen King book about a small town trapped under a weird, invisible barrier. (Okay, I haven't read that book, but I am watching it on TV.)
Speaking of Stephen King, if you love his books, you should definitely give The Waking Dark a try. And if you love YA horror, I don't think you'll be disappointed by this dark and gory tale.
Thanks to Knopf for providing me an e-ARC for review.
Read full review and find more YA reviews and giveaways on my blog, Jen @ YA Romantics ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Find this review, and my other YA reviews and giveaways on YA Romantics
Code Name Verity was one of my favorite YA titles of 2012, and I was both exci...moreFind this review, and my other YA reviews and giveaways on YA Romantics
Code Name Verity was one of my favorite YA titles of 2012, and I was both excited and apprehensive to read Rose Under Fire. I'd call Rose a companion book to Code Name Verity. It also features women who piloted planes during World War II, uses a similar narrative technique and has one crossover character from Code Name Verity. But you don't need to have read Code Name Verity to enjoy and appreciate Rose Under Fire. And I thought the two books are also quite different, each powerful and heartbreaking in a unique way.
Code Name Verity was a story about the bonds of love and friendship, a more closely-focused look at two characters and their relationship in the context of war. Rose Under Fire takes a more wide-angled approach, looking at the incredible suffering endured by Rose in a concentration camp, but also giving the reader insight into what millions of others in other camps endured. In piloting terms (and I'm not a pilot, so bear with my metaphor here) Code Name Verity was an aerobatic book -- daring and dramatic, with a plot that took my breath away. Rose Under Fire was like a flight over a devastated landscape, a trip with more of a solemn and resolute feel. Each book's title is also telling; Code Name Verity was a book about truth and lies, while Rose Under Fire is a book about a stubborn, thorny plant that survives adverse conditions to bloom again.
Both books are technically epistolary stories. If you're a regular blog reader, you may remember that epistolary stories are not my favorite. However, in these two books I think the technique works beautifully. Using fictionalized "documents"to create a work of historical fiction adds to its authenticity and authority. Rose begins her story in work reports, then (and I don't think this is really a spoiler because it's revealed on page 70) Rose is presumably unable to write while she's a prisoner, and we read the rest of her story after the fact through journal entries and poems. This does reduce the suspense the book was able to create, but it's also more believable, given the circumstances. In her afterword and bibliography, Wein explains that Rose Under Fire is based on a real concentration camp and talks a little about her visit there.
Rose Under Fire is a story that touches on the very best and worst of humanity. One of the most moving things to me about Rose Under Fire was the way it highlighted our innate need for connection, our desire to be remembered, our belief in the power of storytelling. It's a story about hopelessness, but also about hope.(less)
Being a somewhat new-to-fantasy reader, I wasn't sure what to expect from Throne of Glass when I read it last year. While I really loved the world tha...moreBeing a somewhat new-to-fantasy reader, I wasn't sure what to expect from Throne of Glass when I read it last year. While I really loved the world that Sarah Maas created and the characters who inhabited it, I also wished that the trials Celaena had been put through to win a position as the royal assassin had been a little more exciting.
Well, I'm here to report that Crown of Midnight more than delivers in that department. I mean, Celaena is an assassin, and let's just say that in this book, her cutthroat side is finally unleashed in full force. While there were some plot developments I was expecting, there were other things that really took me by surprise. One is incident hits Celaena pretty hard. I can't say more than that without spoilers, and believe me, you want to avoid spoilers for this one.
I'm also really into this love triangle! I was not a huge fan of Dorian in Throne of Glass, but after reading Crown of Midnight, I'm now really like both him and Chaol, which means certain heartbreak -- for me.
Absolutely no draggy second book syndrome here -- Crown of Midnight was chock-full of new revelations, tons of action scenes, heartbreak, revenge, and sacrifice. I'm definitely on board for the next installment. In fact, I can't wait to see what happens.
Super-confused -- thought this was coming out in August.
So I'll keep my review brief for now. As a parent… wow... I found the premise of this one to b...moreSuper-confused -- thought this was coming out in August.
So I'll keep my review brief for now. As a parent… wow... I found the premise of this one to be emotionally wrenching and heartbreaking. It was hard for me to read at times.
Emma's anger toward and awkward relationship with her stepfather felt realistic and well-drawn, but the friendship/romance with the terribly misunderstood bad boy seemed like something I've seen many, many times before.
But overall, a very emotional read and great pick for those who like tear-jerker contemporaries! (less)
Okay, I'll admit right off that magical realism is not usually for me, unless it's an element in a children's book. In YA and adult books, I usually f...moreOkay, I'll admit right off that magical realism is not usually for me, unless it's an element in a children's book. In YA and adult books, I usually find it too weird and trippy. Yes, I know that adults need magic too. Feel free to lecture me about this in the comments if you want.
So … the magical realism was not my favorite part of Starry Nights, and I wasn't crazy about the "greatest love he's ever known" that Julian finds with a girl in a painting.
But …. I still found a lot in Starry Nights that I enjoyed:
1. Paris. Who but a Grinch couldn't love Paris?
2. Parisian teens: It was such a great change to read about French teenagers instead of American ones. I thought that Julian, his gender-bending new friend Bonheur, Bonheur's adorable sister Sophie, and aspiring ballet dancer Emilie were all fun and engaging characters.
3. Calling Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler! From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler was one of my favorite books as a kid and I still read it from time to time. It didn't feature magical realism, but it did follow two kids who hide out in the Metropolitan Museum and solve the mystery behind a mysterious statue. Starry Nights had some similarities -- Julian's mother runs the Musée d'Orsay, so he can also sneak in and out whenever he wants, and he's trying to solve a bunch of mysteries: why does the art come to life when he's around? Why are some of the paintings at the museum starting to fade?
4. An excellent author's note: I love it when authors use real events and people to inspire their stories. But I hate when they neglect to add a note at the end to explain where they took creative license. Starry Nights has a fantastic author's note that explains everything -- I was surprised to learn there's a lot of reality in this book to go along with the magic. Fascinating!
It seemed to me that Starry Nights is a book that sits on the younger end of the YA spectrum. It would make a great pick for a tween who loves art and magic. But if you're a reader of any age who is a Francophile, an art lover, or a fan of magical realism, I definitely recommend that you give Starry Nights a try.
Read more of my YA reviews and find great giveaways on YA Romantics
Thanks to Bloomsbury for giving me access to an e-ARC for review. (less)