On the day she is to be married, Princess Lia makes the rash decision to flee. She leaves behind her family, her home, everything she has ever known for a new life, a life where she's free to do whatever she pleases and marry whomever she chooses. As First Daughter, she was nothing but a disappointment. All First Daughters are given the Gift, the ability to see and predict the future, but somehow this ability was passed over Lia. She grew up watching the effects it had on her own mother, another First Daughter, and realized nothing good could come from it.
Despite what the marriage would bring to her kingdom, Lia runs away, her maid in tow. They conspire to head to the maid's hometown, a quiet little village where they can hide, and along the way barter for clothes, food, and horses. Unfortunately for Lia, the Prince isn't one to handle rejection quite so easily and there's also an assassin on her trail. That quiet life Lia had hoped for? Not gonna happen.
It's a shame this book didn't live up to my expectations. I honestly wanted to like it! It's not for a lack of skill - Pearson writes beautifully. Instead it's because I was lied to; the entire novel was a lie. The Kiss of Deception is pitched as Fantasy - High Fantasy at that! - when it's actually an almost-500 page love triangle with a 'twist' that was so confusing I went back and reread earlier chapters because I had thought I misread.
I was looking forward to this princess who shares my name, particularly when other bloggers began lavishing her with praise over what a strong female she is. I'm wondering if I read a different book. Okay, sure, Lia has been practicing with a dagger, but where's the kickass woman I was promised? She puts on an ever-so-brave face to wait on tables at a bar. She carelessly throws a generations-old ceremonial robe into a river and dons filthy commoners' clothing. Clearly I missed something.
Because there's nothing else as far as actual plot goes, the love triangle dealt with the Prince and the Assassin and the minute these two walk into the bar they're all Lia can think about. One is dark-haired and brooding. The other is light and full of warmth. Gag. When Lia wasn't pining after these two she was listening to Pauline wax poetic about her own love. A medieval tavern does not a High Fantasy make, Pearson! Dishing out mugs of ale to dockworkers doesn't give you a free pass. The Kiss of Deception was a long, drawn out romance and had I known that, I would never have bothered.
Naturally there's a Big Reveal, Lia chooses one of the boys, and that's that. The entire thing could have been condensed into a novella. If you're looking for a new Fantasy series, look elsewhere. Trust me, this isn't what you're looking for. However, if you're a big fan of romance and love triangles, you might want to check it out. I've heard good things about Pearson's Jenna Fox series, but after this book, you'll be hard-pressed to convince me they're worth reading.(less)
Last summer my life as a reader changed when I discovered Jojo Moyes. Until then it was virtually unheard of for me to read books in a single sitting or stay up later than normal to squeeze in just one more chapter. It was even rare for me to read an author's entire backlist - unless it was someone I truly adore, I would have my favorite series or standalones and not worry about the rest. Then Jojo came along and I found myself staying up later, reading longer, and tracking down old titles. At this point it's a given that she'll be a 5-star read and she hasn't let me down yet (not that I expect her to).
Liza McCullen lives with her 11-year-old daughter in the tiny seaside town of Silver Bay. She makes a living giving whale and dolphin tours and doesn't envy the larger (and louder) tourist destinations in the area. Her aunt is something of a local celebrity, 50 years previously Kathleen caught the largest shark on record and the fame helped keep their small hotel and whale museum afloat. Unfortunately, while the residents of Silver Bay might like the peace and quiet, it's the other islands that are bringing in money.
Mike Dormer is a corporate hot shot, having worked his way up the ladder and has his eye on becoming partner. He's engaged to the boss's daughter, has a swanky flat in London, and is granted the kind of peace that only comes from never having to worry about money. His latest project nearly tanks until he volunteers to find a new location for a resort. His research takes him to Australia, more specifically, Silver Bay. The bay would be perfect for a water park, a spa, a hotel. The longer he stays in the town, however, the more he comes to see just what Silver Bay really means to its residents and when he gets the chance to see whales up close his once-firm resolve begins to falter.
Let's get this out in the open: I love Jojo. Absolutely love her. That said, Silver Bay wasn't my favorite and for a good part of the beginning, I actually had a hard time getting into the story. I became overwhelmed with the technical terms the whalers were using and Mike's trysts with the secretary didn't impress me. I have complete faith in Jojo, so I stuck with it and am so glad I did! Once Mike flew to Silver Bay I was hooked.
As with Jojo's other novels, Silver Bay features a wide cast of characters and they're all given screen-time, so to speak. I'm a HUGE fan of multiple narratives, so you know this was totally okay by me! Not only was it a treat to get inside the heads of some of the secondary characters, but it was also a great insight into Liza's past. Only Hannah (Liza's daughter) and Kathleen know the true story of what really occurred that made Liza flee London, but the other characters know something happened. Why was she so cold? Why did she close off her feelings? What on earth was she so afraid of? The other whalers speculate and over time the details are told. I won't give any spoilers, but I'll just say I think all of Jojo's books should come with a box of tissues. I have yet to make it through one dry-eyed!
There were twists I didn't see coming and some I could have done without, but overall, this is Jojo Moyes and she's phenomenal. If you're brand new to her, 1) you should seriously fix that! and 2) Silver Bay shouldn't be the book you go with for an introduction. If you're a long-time fan, however, by all means pick this up! Any Jojo is a great Jojo and Silver Bay is no exception. I laughed, I cried, I was thoroughly captivated.(less)
You know those books you hear about that sound AMAZING, those books you cannot wait to get your hands on and c...morethis review will go live on the blog6/5
You know those books you hear about that sound AMAZING, those books you cannot wait to get your hands on and cherish, only to be horribly let down? Allow me to introduce you to Goodnight June. Let's revisit that summary: June Andersen is the vice president of a very lucrative bank in New York where she oversees foreclosures, even personally shutting down beloved businesses. She's carved out a new life for herself on the East Coast and never planned on returning to her past in Seattle until the day she received a letter; her great-aunt Ruby passed away and everything was left for June. Including Bluebird Books, the children's bookstore Ruby owned for decades. As much as June loved Ruby, returning home would mean facing things she's just not ready for. When she uncovers a secret Ruby kept hidden - her friendship with Margaret Wise Brown and the true story of how Goodnight Moon came to be - June finds herself enchanted. Could she possibly learn to let go and move on?
Goodnight June sounded positively dreamy: a bookstore, an absolute classic work of children's literature (raise your hand if you had - or still have! - a copy of Goodnight Moon), and a treasure hunt! Nothing better, right? Sadly, this novel fell victim to the Matthew Pearl Effect (new friends to the blog, the MPE is where a story has an incredible premise, but the actual storytelling falls short - named after one-too-many disappointments following Matthew Pearl's works). Goodnight June sounded great, but the execution was anything but.
There were so many issues I had with this novel, it would be easier to discuss what I did like. The idea behind the story? Ruby and Margaret's friendship? And that's where my praise ends.
June, a painfully stubborn and immature woman, falls for a cute new guy and after two short weeks they're in love. The problem? Gavin is co-owner of a restaurant with his ex-fiancee. The ex-fiancee who's still in love with him. This doesn't matter to June though, because mere days after meeting Gavin, she suggests they team up, knock down a wall between their buildings, and combine the two businesses into a bookstore/cafe. ...and Gavin agrees. Uh.. Then there's the problem with the bookstore. The entire reason June left for Seattle was to settle her aunt's finances and sell the place. Ruby had amassed an overwhelming amount of debt and even if she were to sell her apartment and use her entire savings, June still wouldn't have enough to cover the cost. So what brilliant plan does Gavin come up with? Why not e-mail her boss to ask for money! And June does. She e-mailed her boss JUST ONE DAY AFTER QUITTING to ask him to help her pay the money Ruby owed.
Honestly I'm surprised my eyes are still in my head they were doing so much rolling. Any obstacle or conflict that arose in the story was swiftly dealt with. There was nothing for June to work for. At one point she's trying to locate a man who had been given up for adoption in the 70s. It was a closed adoption and she only had the name he was given at birth. Well what do you know, June does a Google search, comes across a website for adults who had been adopted, and types up a post on their message boards. The following day she receives a reply. The entire book was like this. June's money problems? She holds a grand reopening (I was ROLLING at the scene where Bill and Melinda Gates randomly showed up along with big name authors like Clive Cussler) and gets a ton of donations. I get that this is supposed to be the Happy Ending, but I never saw it as a reward. June never had to struggle or put in any effort to reach her goals.
My other big issue was with the actual writing. If this is what Jio's work is like after six books (with a seventh coming out later this year) I'd seriously hate to see what her debut was like:
We pretend to be angry at each other for about three seconds before we hug. "I'm going to miss you," he says. "I'm going to miss you too."
We sit at a corner table and talk and laugh over Americanos and blackberry scones, then continue our tour of Winslow, stopping at a wine store. Gavin buys a case of local cabernet for the restaurant, and an extra one for me. When I notice a bookstore, Eagle Harbor Books, across the street, we walk there next.
I study the letter carefully and see that Margaret must have heeded Ruby's advice, because the letter has obviously been folded many times. Its creases are very deep and worn, as if she might have done just what Ruby suggessted. 'I hope you'll take what I've just written and put it in your pocket and save it.' She must have done just that.
Of course, I should point out these are from an uncorrected copy. Her editor is definitely earning her paycheck with this one. Overly simple sentences - they went here, then they went here, then they looked at this - and an absurd amount of repetition (you think Margaret took the advice??). No thank you.
It's such a shame that I truly have nothing good to say about Goodnight June but I certainly can see the appeal in Jio's works; Goodnight Moon was an extremely easy, very quick read with an abundance of fluff. Unfortunately, I wanted more from this book than I received.(less)
After the recent loss of her mother, Ophelia travels with her sister and father to a museum where her father...morethis review will go live on the blog01/30
After the recent loss of her mother, Ophelia travels with her sister and father to a museum where her father is working on a sword exhibit. While exploring the various floors one afternoon, Ophelia discovers a mysterious boy who's locked behind a door. He tells her his name was taken from him three hundred years ago by a group of wizards and that he had been sent to defeat the Snow Queen. Being a child whose beliefs lie in science rather than tales, Ophelia initially shrugs him off - this boy doesn't look a day older than she does yet he insists he's 300? As she hears more of his stories, however, she comes to realize there might be something to them after all. Unfortunately time is running out and the pair only have three days to beat the evil Snow Queen before the world ends.
As much as I wanted to love this one, I just couldn't get into it. I should know better than to automatically leap at comparisons, yet the first mention of Roald Dahl had me hooked. While the similarities were abundant and clear, Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy would have needed something more for it to work.
Throughout the book, Boy's own story is told and these chapters were my favorite. There was definitely a fairy tale-like quality to them that I loved and the giant owls, the wizards, the King - they were all so vivid and full of character. Back in the present, however, I couldn't connect with Ophelia's story. Numerous times her mother talks to her and even after reading I'm still unsure as to whether that was real or if it was all in Ophelia's head (with this story both options are entirely plausible).
Toward the end I was skimming more than reading and the big fight scene was over in such a rush it felt completely pointless. I had high expectations for Ophelia and the Real Boy and, sadly, they fell flat. Despite my lackluster feelings, I do think this book will find its fans and I'm disappointed I was not one of them.(less)
"You grow up feeling the weight of blood, of family. There's no forsaking kin. But you can't help when kin forsakes you or when strangers come to be family."
After a handful of really fantastic YA reads, I wanted to get back to my roots: Thrillers. I've mentioned a few times that, before I began blogging, the majority of the books I read were mysteries and thrillers. Lately I haven't read nearly as many as I would like and the ones I do read are typically my go-to comfort reads during snow days or when I'm not feeling so great. I've made a conscious effort to have 2014 be the year I get back to the basics, the year I fall in love with reading again, and I knew that it would include my favorite genre.
Sixteen-year-old Lucy Dane has no idea what happened to her mother and those who were around back then aren't saying much. When Lila arrived in town, folk immediately disliked her: she was an outsider and her too-short shorts weren't doing her any favors in winning over Henbane. It wasn't long before she was labeled a witch, an evil seductress, and when she disappeared there weren't many people in town who were upset. Were it not for the neighbors - more like family - Lila's baby girl would hardly have survived; the moment she vanished, Carl shut down and hid away inside their bedroom with a bottle of Southern Comfort, in no way fit to raise a baby. Fifteen years have passed since then and Lucy finds herself experiencing loss once more.
One of Lucy's only friends, a girl named Cheri, is discovered in a tree down by the river. It wasn't a secret Cheri had a terrible homelife and no one was all that surprised when word got out Cheri ran away. The only person who suspected there might be more to the story was Lucy and Cheri's body leaves her with more questions. Lucy's determined to uncover the truth, even if that means striking against her own family.
For a debut novel to be compared to Gillian Flynn's works is pretty high praise and despite knowing better I gave in to the hype. I've never read any of Flynn's novels and, to be honest, if they're anything like The Weight of Blood, I don't think I'll be picking one up anytime soon. This novel wasn't bad, but it also wasn't great. Nothing about it wowed me, at no point did I feel the need to stay up late or rush to squeeze in just one more chapter. When it comes down to it, The Weight of Blood was an entertaining story while it lasted, but it's ultimately forgettable. I won't be gushing over the characters or excitedly pushing this book on customers and I already know there will never be a re-read in my future.
That's not to say there weren't things about it I really enjoyed! I'm a big fan of plots involving similar murders/disappearances/crimes committed a decade (or more) apart. I absolutely love the trope and it's what initially put this book on my radar. Small towns and their secrets are also instant winners for me and this aspect was incredibly well done. Bravo, Ms. McHugh! And my love for multiple narratives is blatant at this point - another plus for The Weight of Blood. While Lucy and Lila are the central figures, many others lend their voice and it was fascinating seeing the story play out through the secondary characters' eyes.
Sadly, it's there that my praise ends. The Weight of Blood isn't a terrible book at all and I truly was invested while reading, but nothing about the novel left a lasting impression. I can't imagine thinking back on this book a month from now. The Weight of Blood is a fairly bland story - it would make for a decent rainy day read, but I just don't see it becoming a book people are rushing out to buy.(less)
Alyxandra Harvey is a completely new-to-me author. I haven't read her Drake Chronicles series, Haunting Violet, or any of her other works, but the moment I came across A Breath of Frost I was instantly intrigued. Regency London, witchcraft, opened gates to the underworld - it all left me dancing in delight and I couldn't request it fast enough.
Three cousins - Emma, Penelope, and Gretchen - are in the midst of their first Season. As debutantes, they're expected to attend ball after ball in the hopes of obtaining a husband. Unfortunately for their parents, these girls have other ideas.
Emma's mother descended into madness shortly after Emma was born. Since then, Emma has carried around a small perfume bottle that had belonged to her mother. When a party-goer bumps into Emma and the bottle smashes to pieces, all hell breaks loose. Literally. Suddenly there are dead girls and whispers of magic - things Society would never discuss in public - and somehow Emma discovers herself in the middle of it all.
I was surprised by just how much I enjoyed A Breath of Frost. This was definitely an instance where I was at the right place at the right time, the-star-were-aligned sort of moment. A Breath of Frost was exactly what I hadn't realized I wanted to read and it was fantastic. The sheer size (clocking in at just shy of 500 pages) is definitely going to put off some readers, but for all its heftiness, this was a fairly light read. Oh sure, there are multiple murders and hellhounds, but it kept me entertained the entire time - and that's certainly not something that can be said for every 500-page book I've come across.
Although Emma is very much the main character, Penelope and Gretchen have their chance to shine and from the looks of things, the sequel focuses on Gretchen. I'm a big fan of series where each book follows a different character, so this only adds to my eagerness for more! The secondary characters: Cormac, Daphne, Moira, were all given their fair share of screen time so-to-speak and felt wholly unique. I will admit that for the first few chapters I was under the impression that Moira's scenes were some sort of flashback or time skip, but that turned out to not be the case once she started interacting with Emma - whoops!
For such a long book, I'm really at a loss of things to say. A Breath of Frost contained fluff when I wasn't looking for something heavy, but also held enough substance to keep me entertained and invested. The romance, while not a love-triangle, was of the I-hate-you-but-I-love-you variety that I'm not overly fond of. While he was never physically abusive, Cormac was definitely cruel to Emma - yet couldn't stop thinking about her during his own chapters.
There were multiple plots I easily called (Ewan, the identity of the murderer, etc) and Emma's newly-sprouted antlers were more amusing than anything, but I thoroughly enjoyed A Breath of Frost and am looking forward to Whisper the Dead (coming later this year!). If you like your paranormal with a side of fluff and enjoy a full cast of characters (seriously, there are a LOT with multiple perspectives to boot), pick up a copy of this book!(less)
Last year's Rain of the Ghosts was a quick, fun read that kept me entertained but left me with a few questions. The sequel, Spirits of Ash and Foam was one I was really looking forward to and I couldn't wait to get back to the Ghost Keys. Unfortunately, it seems this book suffers from the dreaded Second Book Syndrome. The bad outweighed the good here.
There's a string of islands in the Bermuda Triangle known to the locals as the Ghost Keys. Rain Cacique and her family run an inn on one of the islands and she recently inherited a magical bracelet from her grandfather. The zemi is just one of nine and Rain isn't the only one who's searching for them.
With literally no time elapsed since the first book, Spirits of Ash and Foam kicks off the morning after Rain of the Ghosts ended. Rain is still coming to terms with everything: magic, her new-found ability to see ghosts, her recently-deceased Grandpa 'Bastian-turned-ghostly sidekick...and the beginning of the new school year is just around the corner. It was a joy to see Charlie and Miranda again (although Charlie's massive crush on Rain still hasn't gone anywhere) and there were some new faces too. While the other characters were beautifully crafted, Renee was little more than a Mean Girl stereotype. Miranda unknowingly sits in a seat Renee had wanted, and now Renee is out for blood. She enters their group, goes along with them on adventures...all the while intent on getting revenge. She wouldn't let it go - even AFTER they finally became friends. Did this girl really have nothing else going on in her life?
The only thing I enjoyed about Spirits of Ash and Foam was that, in the first ten pages, I had answered to the questions I had from the first book. Everything was spelled out for me and I appreciated that. Sadly, that was where the good ended.
In a novel this short - 280 pages - there's only room for so much. Whereas I had been under the impression this series was about the mysterious zemis and Rain's quest to find the rest of them, here there were numerous plots and hardly any of them went anywhere. Callahan, the Bad Guy, is back. The inn has new guests and Rain's forced to babysit the three unruly children. A murder or two. A search party. Mermaids and ancient legends. Charlie's crush. There was so much packed into these pages and I felt that there wasn't enough attention devoted to any of them. Cut out a few storylines and the book as a whole would have been far stronger.
A large chunk of this book was devoted to a strange woman/manatee the children glimpse one afternoon. Rain is told the tribal tales of the woman and how she's an evil witch that, for centuries has been luring children away from their families and they're never seen again. Centuries, remember. Many, many years. 'Bastian simply asks her to return the missing children (the guests at the Cacique's inn) to their parents and that's it. Hundreds of years of suffering could have been avoiding if the parents had simply asked nicely. Turns out this woman was never evil at all, just misunderstood and lonely. Right.
Another issue I had was with the logistics. There are a handful of ghosts in this book and, for the most part, they're free to come and go as they please. They can walk through walls and floors with ease. Yet they still need to take ferries to get from island to island. I couldn't wrap my mind around this concept.
It's such a shame when a solid first book is followed by a lackluster sequel. It wasn't until the very end that Rain discovered the second zemi. There are still seven more to find and if the rate is one per book I really don't see myself keeping up with this series. While I enjoyed Rain of the Ghosts, Spirits of Ash and Foam was such a downgrade that, unless something drastic changes in the third book, my time with this series is over.(less)
I'll get this out of the way by saying I would have enjoyed The Dirt Diary so much more if it hasn't been watered down with simple language more suited for a Kindergarten class. Writing a Middle Grade (or even Young Adult!) novel does not mean the language needs to be dumbed down. Some of the most thought-provoking and powerful novels I've ever read have been targeted toward children, authors!! The characters in The Dirt Diary are in 8th grade, gearing up for high school. Let that sink in. High. School. The way 14-year-olds speak and interact is far different than the interaction of a group of five-year-olds, yet it's all the same to Ms. Staniszewski. Admittedly, there were two characters who said 'hell,' but the main character sticks to Helsinki and holy bean dip. Even ignoring the characters' speech, The Dirt Diary's writing is extremely juvenile. The novel breaks the cardinal sin of literature over and over: it tells rather than shows.
As for the story itself...the summary is a bit misleading. It makes the story sound a bit Harriet the Spy-ish, which isn't the case at all. Rachel's parents recently split, her father moving to Florida to start up a scuba diving business. Her mother is now faced with having to take a second job - a cleaning business - and asks Rachel to tag along and help out. That money Rachel stole? She used it on a plane ticket. She concocted a plan to fly down to her father (all the while keeping it a secret from her mom) and somehow making him realize he needs to come home and be a family again.
Because the houses Rachel and her mother clean are in their neighborhood, many of the children go to Rachel's school...and that's not a good thing. It's one thing picking up the dirty underwear of the twin boys in the grade below her, but it's another thing entirely to scrub the toilets of her mortal enemy. Especially when there's a cute brother involved (who refers to Rachel as Booger Crap). The more Rachel visits these houses, the more she uncovers about her fellow classmates' lives and what she discovers could be dangerous.
The Dirty Diary is a super easy read; I finished the book in one sitting. The plots move along quickly enough, though they're a bit disjointed and half-hearted. Mixed in with the divorce storyline and these secrets Rachel uncovers, there's a story I wished had been explored further. Rachel's passion is baking. She channels her emotions through cupcakes and brownies and keeps a notebook full of recipes (the majority being her own creations). The previous school year Rachel had entered a bake sale and wound up taking second place. This year she's determined to take first. I loved this storyline and wanted to see it progress. The goodies Rachel bakes had my mouth watering the entire time (hello, banana nutella swirl brownies!), but it was spoiled with the hurried conclusion. The bake sale arc wrapped up so quickly I was caught off guard.
My largest problem with The Dirt Diary was how Rachel reacted upon discovering secrets (or, in some cases, what she misinterpreted). Her first reaction is to giggle and make fun of people. One of the resident Mean Girls is depressed and Rachel discovers it's because her father recently passed away. Rather than comforting her, Rachel thinks about how this girl will no longer be popular - she's wearing sweatpants to school! Upon discovering a package of adult diapers at her vice principal's house, Rachel immediately thinks about how juicy this is and has to stop herself from laughing in his face the next time she sees him. That scene nearly pulled me out of the book completely. Rachel's actions were awful and disgusting.
While the story itself was enjoyable, so many things about The Dirt Diary made me upset, and in some instances, positively livid. Initially this had been a three-star book, but the more I wrote and the more I thought back on this story, the angrier I got. I can see a younger crowd liking this book, but unfortunately, The Dirt Diary just wasn't for me.(less)
With the success of her debut novel Meant to Be last year, expectations and excitement for Lauren Morrill's follow up ran high. The buzz was so great even I began to join in - admittedly I have yet to read Meant to Be, though that gorgeous cover stares at me every day at work! When I received a copy of Being Sloane Jacobs, I couldn't wait to sit down with it and discover the author everyone had been talking about. Even more intriguing was the premise: two girls with the same name switch places for the summer. Very Parent Trap-esque with the added bonus of sports (hockey and figure skating)! Being Sloane Jacobs practically promised a fun, entertaining read, and in the end, delivered just that - though not without a few bumps along the way.
On the outside, Sloane Emily Jacobs appears to have the perfect life with the perfect family. Underneath the white smiles and posed photo ops however lies a life that is anything but perfect. After walking in on her senator father with his secretary, Sloane jumps at the chance to run away to a prestigious skating camp although she's not yet ready to return to the world of figure skating.
Sloane Devon Jacobs watched her mother give in to alcoholism until her father finally forced her mother into rehab. Since then Sloane has thrown herself into hockey - not just to take her mind off her home life, but to hopefully score a scholarship, the only way Sloane could ever possibly attend college. After a violent outburst guarantees a benching for the start of the next season, Sloane's coach makes a few calls and lands Sloane a spot at a hockey camp.
After a luggage mix-up the two Sloanes meet. While the two girls don't have much in common (apart from a rather uncommon name) they're both running away from their problems and what better way to do that than by pretending to be someone else? Sloane Emily agrees to spend her summer getting down and dirty with hockey players while Sloane Devon will spend hers bedazzled and sequined.
I loved the premise for Being Sloane Jacobs and it definitely was fun, but it fell a bit flat. Normally I'm all about dual narratives - some of my favorite books feature multiple narrators! In this novel, however, I had such a hard time keeping track of the girls and more than once had to refer back to the book's summary to remember who was who. Apart from a few details - Sloane Emily is the rich one and Sloane Devon's wardrobe consists of dirty and baggy clothes - there was nothing unique or defining about either girl. Much like the novel itself, I could have easily swapped the girls and it would have had little impact (if any!) on the story. I would have loved to see more depth to these girls. The potential was certainly there for some excellent character exploration! Whether it was a further look into the scandal that rocked Sloane Emily's family or more insight into Sloane Devon's mother and her battle with alcoholism, I feel Being Sloane Jacobs had so much to work with and definitely missed the opportunity.
Another issue I had was with how quickly the girls picked up the other's sport. Yes, both are skating-related, but I just can't see a hockey player transform into a figure skater in a month. Sloane Devon was doing leaps and spins with ease and Sloane Emily had no trouble scoring goals. I had been under the impression that these girls had worked for years at their sport to reach the level they were at, but apparently a newcomer can train for a week or two and be at a competition level. That aspect didn't sit well with me.
Secondary characters brought little to the table. There were the token Mean Girls, the Gay Figure Skater, and of course the love interests. Sloane Devon (pretending to be Sloane Emily) rekindles a childhood friendship while Sloane Emily (going by Sloane Devon) turns a playboy into a one girl kind of guy. When the girls' identities are revealed I rejoiced in the boys' reactions. Naturally they feel hurt and betrayed - and a bit confused. Unfortunately, they both got over their anger far too quickly for my liking. Then again, each had only had a handful of interactions with the girl they were with.
Despite my issues with many aspects of Being Sloane Jacobs, I enjoyed it. Although its on the better side of 300 pages (closer to 400!) it felt half that length and I breezed right through it. Morrill's research was definitely evident and I loved the look into these sports (I'm all for more sports in YA). Any reader looking for a fun story to get lost in for an afternoon should look no further than Being Sloane Jacobs. While it glosses over deeper themes - and answers - I can see this book becoming a favorite of many and I certainly look forward to going back and reading Morrill's debut.(less)
Last year I fell head-over-heels for My Basmati Bat Mitvah, a Middle Grade novel about with a Jewish-Indian...morethis review will go live on the blog 03/27
Last year I fell head-over-heels for My Basmati Bat Mitvah, a Middle Grade novel about with a Jewish-Indian girl and how she comes to terms with her identity. Since then I have been on a huge Hindu/Indian kick and I'm pleased to say Abby Spencer Goes to Bollywood didn't disappoint!
Abby Spencer grew up not knowing her father. She knew his name and that her parents met in college, but shortly after the semester ended, her dad flew back to India while he mom stayed home in Houston, fully unaware at the time that she was pregnant. Thirteen years later, Abby has finally accepted that her dad just isn't going to be a part of her life. Everything changes when she has an allergic reaction. Suddenly her missing father is all she can think about and, with her mother's help (and perseverance), Abby tracks down her dad - and she's in for a surprise! Kabir Kapur now goes by the name Naveen Kumar and he's the biggest Bollywood star in India!
Several phone calls and Skype sessions later, Abby finds herself catching a plane to Mumbai for her Thanksgiving break. She'll finally meet the dad she's never known (as well as a grandmother!) and experience the live of the rich and famous. Unfortunately, Abby has to keep her identity a secret - Naveen's first directorial premiere is in a few days and the press would be ruthless if they found out about a long-lost daughter.
This book is too cute! I devoured it in a single sitting and wanted more - a good thing! Much like Basmati, the characters in this novel felt real and were wonderfully fleshed-out. The parents were fully present, Abby's besties were wonderful friends, and the setting was remarkably vivid! So vivid in fact, that I've developed something of a Bollywood obsession!
Abby Spencer Goes to Bollywood is a slim thing of a novel with a lightning fast pace. Despite my enjoyment of the book, there's not a whole lot to be said. POC characters are always a plus in my book and the craft and care that went into the characters made my heart swell. It looks like my craving for Indian literature won't be slowing down anytime soon! This was a lovely book and one definitely worth checking out.(less)
After last year's A Corner of White (read my review here), I was sold. Who wouldn't want to read about a world totally separate from ours where colors can execute deadly attacks!! Immediately after finishing I knew I needed to read The Cracks in the Kingdom - I wanted to read it so badly it was one of my most anticipated releases this year. While I didn't enjoy it nearly as much as the first, it was still a solid second novel and worthy sequel, setting up the scene for a fantastic third book!
Madeleine Tully lives with her mother in Cambridge, England. Once spoiled by a lavish lifestyle, Madeleine now resides in a cramped, leaking apartment and the building's residents take turns homeschooling the children. A few months ago she discovered something remarkable: a small crack in a parking meter leads to another world. Naturally Madeleine assumed it was a prank - there's no way another world exists, right? The more she and Elliot communicated, however, the more she came to believe what she was seeing.
Elliot Baranski lives in a small farming community called Bonfire in the Kingdom of Cello. It's a world much like ours, only with the added danger of colors. Yep. Certain colors can be wonderful things - turquoise, for instance, can give you an adrenaline rush like none you've experienced before! - while other colors can be devastating. Elliot recently lost his uncle to a Purple attack and his father still hasn't been found, although there are rumors floating around that he's been seen. When the entire royal family (save for Princess Ko) mysteriously vanishes, the entire matter is treated with the utmost secrecy; dealing with the World is extremely illegal and punishable by death. Elliot is among a small group recruited to help rescue them and now he needs Madeleine's help more than ever.
While The Cracks in the Kingdom wasn't a bad book by any means, it definitely suffered a big from Second Book Syndrome - and was very much Elliot's story. A Corner of White beautifully set up both worlds and was chock-full of character development. This time around I didn't get that at all. Madeleine's mother played a large role in the first book; she wasn't in it at all in the second. The same with her friends (and we'll get to Belle's mindboggling change of character in a moment). Instead, this book gave much of its focus to Elliot's story and Cello - understandable, since the plot revolved around finding the missing royal family.
The Cracks in the Kingdom gives a deeper look into Cello and I loved exploring this world! There's a lake where you can catch spells - and only if you're under a certain age. There are strange new sports and, of course, the color attacks. Unfortunately, I felt the lack of both worlds ultimately made the story suffer a bit. I could have dealt with that if it wasn't for the abrupt character changes. Out of nowhere Madeleine's friend Belle leaves a note (the others joke that it's a suicide note and her own mother doesn't seem worried) and runs away from home to be with a "man" she's fallen for. A grown man. These are 14-year-old children. That entire subplot not only seemed tacked on last-minute (particularly since it was at the VERY end of the book and lasted all of a few pages), but completely rubbed me the wrong way.
The end provided a few surprising reveals - I honestly didn't see a certain one coming! - and sets things up nicely for the third book. The royal family, now found, is stuck in the World, half-remembered who they really are and unable to get home. Elliot and Madeleine have finally managed to see each other (in the first book I wasn't quite sure how a potential romance could work out, but The Cracks in the Kingdom does a decent job of making it not only plausible, but a reality), and the cracks between the worlds are becoming larger. Despite my issues with this novel I still thoroughly enjoyed it and am definitely looking forward to the next book!(less)
How awesome does this sound: the Prince Charming we all know and love isn't one man, but an entire family. T...morethis review will go live on the blog10/11
How awesome does this sound: the Prince Charming we all know and love isn't one man, but an entire family. The Charming title is passed down from generation to generation - and these men aren't your everyday Prince. They're highly trained assassins, capable of taking down the toughest dragon and nastiest witch.
While pregnant, John Charming's mother was bit by a werewolf. John came into this world as the one thing his family was trained to hunt: a monster. As a child John showed no signs of being anything other than human. Perhaps it was a fluke; John might just be safe after all. Unfortunately, puberty struck. If you think it's hard on humans, well, you can imagine what it was like for John. While he doesn't sprout fur or fangs, he does have a heightened sense of smell and strong urges to kill. So far he's managed to keep a low profile, working at a bar and leading a rather ordinary life. That is until the day a vampire walked into the pub.
I wanted to be head-over-heels for Charming. This book sounds like it would be the ultimate Leah Novel; it has all the makings of a story perfectly suited for me. Sadly that wasn't the case. I'd like to think I'm fairly lenient to the start of new series. I understand there's a certain amount of world-building that needs to be done, especially for sci-fi/fantasy. That said, Charming was nothing but one massive info-dump - usually right in the middle of a big action scene.
I made it roughly halfway through this one before setting it aside. Charming was by no means a bad book - in fact I quite enjoyed it! I plan on revisiting it one day when I have more time (and patience) to devote to Charming's world.(less)
2013 has been an awakening of sorts for me. After a disaster of an introduction to contemporary I had been a bit hesitant to try again and swore the genre off for months. Eventually I gave in and soon discovered some of my new favorite books.
When I heard about Love Overdue it sounded like a book practically written for me: small town librarian, hot pharmacist, the inevitable awkward-yet-hilarious moment when they realize they had a fling eight years ago. I was READY for this one. Unfortunately, Love Overdue left me frustrated more than giggly and irate when I should have been all starry-eyed.
Dorothy Jarrow - DJ - is introduced to her new staff and they're more caricatures than characters and left such a weak impression I forget their names already. There's the Cranky Old Woman who thinks she runs the place because she's been there for years and refuses to relinquish her hold, Overly Bubbly Woman is nearing 30 yet speaks like a 12-year-old, Wounded Soldier can't be healed (until, of course, when he meets a woman, then it's as if PTSD never existed), and James. James was by far the best character and he hardly had any screen-time. He's autistic and prefers to have things run a certain way. DJ's arrival and subsequent upheaval of the library's organization is too much for him to deal with but he has such a shining moment and I loved him.
The other characters in town weren't much better: Scott's mother was terrible. I hated her and was so put off by her actions. She hires DJ in order to set her up with her son. That's it. She had DJ move across the country because she wanted to play match-maker. A year ago she lost her husband and puts on an act. I never understood why she did this - she just lost her husband. It's okay to cry and grieve. There's no need to have the town see you as bright and bubbly and her obsession with purple (she only wears purple clothes, drive a purple Mini Cooper, and painted her HOUSE purple) was downright disturbing. She also spends the majority of the novel planning suicide only to have all thoughts of it magically vanish in one scene.
My other big issue was the Ending That Wasn't. Right from the start the reader knows all about the spring break hook-up - there are scenes interspersed throughout the novel and both DJ and Scott think back on that night quite often. When they first meet DJ instantly knows who he is and over the next few months Scott's totally oblivious. There are moments when DJ reminds him of that girl he once knew, but he never fully puts two and two together until the 'ending.' Eight years ago he bought her a belly chain and she kept it all this time. One night he sees it, the lightbulb goes off in his brain, and The End. There's a pitiful attempt at an epilogue and the book is over.
Extremely sexist dialogue (Scott boasts about how his women roll over and sit at the snap of his fingers), horrible characterization, and a frustrating payoff on a 400+ page romance simply didn't work for me. Judging from other reviews Love Overdue has found plenty of fans, but unfortunately I am not one of them.(less)
After the death of her mother, Margaret - Peggy - Fitzroy was taken in by her uncle and was raised in his es...morethis review will go live on the blog11/01
After the death of her mother, Margaret - Peggy - Fitzroy was taken in by her uncle and was raised in his estate. Despite their difference in status, Peggy and her cousin Olivia are more like sisters and Peggy knows that when the day comes where Olivia will be married, she'll be right there by her cousin's side. Much to her surprise, it's Peggy who receives a marriage proposal - and after a disaster of a first meeting she's swiftly forced out of her uncle's house.
All alone with nothing to her name, Peggy is taken in by Mr. Tinderflint and his associates Mr. Peele and Mrs. Abbott. Under their careful instruction Peggy is transformed into Lady Fran, maid of honor to Princess Caroline. Disguised as Lady Francesca, Peggy will enter the court of King George I at a time when tensions ran thick - loyalties were split between George and James the Pretender. The more time she spends around the other maids the more Peggy begins to have her suspicions about what really caused Francesca's death.
Palace of Spies was fantastic! I was intrigued when I first heard about the book, so when it was available to Read Now it was a total no-brainer. Peggy's narration is fun and clever - and more than once I laughed out loud. She thinks for herself during a period when women were ruled by their husbands and fathers. She isn't afraid to speak her mind (though that tends to come with grave consequences) and she's an expert cards player.
I've read my share of Historical Fiction and while I enjoy the genre, I have to admit I've never read anything set during this particular time period! Palace of Spies provided enough background that I wasn't completely bewildered, but as a history buff, I would never argue with more. Tell me more about King George I! Tell me more about James the Pretender and his claim to the throne! The events at the end of the novel lead me to believe more will come out of this in the next book and quite frankly, I can't wait.
Guys, the romance in Palace of Spies is definitely worth reading! Yes there's a love triangle, but don't forget that the entire court believes Peggy to be Lady Fran. Just because she looks like the girl it doesn't mean she has the same taste in men. Also, I'm very excited to see how the relationship will play out - there's a bit of handholding in this novel and that's only due to sneaking around pitch-black manors. This definitely seems to be a slow burn romance and I absolutely love it.
Unfortunately there's one sense in particular that could be triggering. It was graphic enough that I certainly raised my eyebrows at the young age group this novel is targeted toward and it didn't seem to serve much purpose other than showing Peggy's betrothed is a terrible person (and that could have been accomplished in a number of other ways). Despite this, however, I had such a wonderful time with Palace of Spies and am eagerly awaiting the next!(less)
The Storied Life of AJ Fikry is a love letter. A love letter...morethis review will go live on the blog4/1
There ain't nobody in the world like book people.
The Storied Life of AJ Fikry is a love letter. A love letter to booksellers. A love letter to bookstores. A love letter to readers. As a bookseller I was looking forward to this one (and was even more excited that the plot dealt with Edgar Allan Poe). As a reader, however, I fell in love with this world Zevin created and with the characters she crafted. I wouldn't be at all surprised if this book became wildly popular and can easily see it becoming a book club favorite.
A.J. Fikry is a crotchety middle-aged man and owner of the sole bookstore on Alice Island. Prior to his wife's death, the pair ran the store together, but these days it's just him and a part-time student. The night his copy of Edgar Allan Poe's Tamerlane is stolen, A.J.'s world changes forever. In a mad dash to the police station, he doesn't lock the bookstore's door, and when he returns he discovers a baby and a note.
Caring for the child - Maya - leaves a permanent mark on A.J. His rough edges are softening, he's no longer the tired and curt man he once was. As word gets out, many of Alice's residents make it a point to frequent the bookstore to check on Maya and offer advice. Over time these visits become more and more regular and soon bookclubs take shape. Island Bookstore might not be able to compete with giant chain stores, but there's a fierce love that resides in its walls.
While the events seem like something straight out of a movie - rare book is stolen, a baby turns up in its place - Zevin writes in a way that makes the story wholly believable. I had no trouble picturing A.J.'s sister-in-law Ismay (suffering miscarriage after miscarriage with a husband who has multiple affairs), Amelia (a sales rep who was initially given the cold shoulder, but breaks her way through A.J.'s shell), Lambiase (the sweet police chief who takes a shine to Maya and starts the police department book club, Chief's Choice), or any of the other wonderful characters in this book. They were all terribly flawed, but had reasons for their actions, and I couldn't get enough.
When I first began reading I wasn't entirely sure I was going to enjoy this book. It felt far too different from the book I had imagined, but I pressed on and soon it became apparent my worries were silly. While this wasn't the story I had thought it was going to be, it turned out to be even better. I loved watching Maya grow and the short story recommendations A.J. gives to her throughout the novel made my heart sing. Roald Dahl, Aimee Bender, Raymond Carver, there are stories I'm familiar with as well as stories that are new to me - and I look forward to checking them out! There are just as many references to bestselling authors like James Patterson and David Foster Wallace as there are indie writers.
The more I read the more I found myself falling in love. I'm not sure whether it was the bookseller in me or the reader, but my heartstrings were certainly tugged. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry isn't an easy novel for me to review and I know far more readers will be able to explain their thoughts better than I am. Like I said earlier, this book is a love letter and I took every word to heart. There are moments that made me laugh out loud, scenes made me teary-eyed, and I rejoiced in A.J.'s rants. Booksellers will love this one. Readers will love this one.(less)
One of the first reviews ever posted on the blog (back in August, 2011!) was Don't Breathe a Word, a deliciously creepy novel about the disappearance of a little girl who went off to marry the King of the Fairies and never returned home. That novel was my introduction to Jennifer McMahon and has stuck with me ever since, a perfect combination of horror and reality and how blurred the lines separating them really are.
Two years later I've got another McMahon novel under my belt and I'm itching for a third (and fourth and fifth...). Going off the two I've read so far it's clear McMahon has something of a formula, a recipe of sorts, that she uses when writing. Don't Breath a Word had a cop-out ending that I didn't care for at all - the final destination made the entire journey feel a bit worthless - and was a little worried the same would hold true for The Winter People. Despite my worries, I jumped right in and discovered a novel even better than the first.
She remembered her parents' warnings when she was little: Stay out of the woods. Bad things happen to little girls who get lost out there.
The first thing you should know about me: I love dual time periods in novels. I live and breathe multiple eras so right off the bat The Winter People was looking good. The second thing you should know about me: the more character perspectives there are, the happier I am. The Winter People had a huge cast of characters, and the story played out over many of their points of view. Giddy from the get-go, I only came to love this book more and more the further I read.
An old farmhouse in West Hall, Vermont holds its share of secrets (some, literally). In the late 1800s, Sara Harrison grew up in the house with her siblings, father, and Auntie. Auntie's strange and otherworldly beliefs ostracized her from the rest of the townsfolk, yet when they needed a surefire way to win the eye of someone or needed a remedy the doctor couldn't provide, she was the person to go to. While growing up, Sara had heard whispers of sleepers, those returned from the grave, and on one occasion saw a classmate in the woods not long after having attended her funeral.
Now grown and with a child of her own, Sara Harrison Shea still lives in her childhood home. Unfortunately Gertie is in a terrible accident and her untimely death is too much for Sara to handle. As she sinks deeper and deeper into depression (or, as her husband and brother-in-law believe, madness) she faithfully pens her diary, filling it with knowledge Auntie had passed down.
Since then, multiple families have come and gone, and now Alice and her two daughters reside in the old farmhouse. As far back as the girls can remember, Alice has made it clear they are never to go into the woods, especially not the Devil's Hand as the locals call it, and if anyone should ever knock on the door they are never to open it. Never. Alice's sudden disappearance one morning sends the girls on a manhunt through states and decades as they discover hidden diary entries and realize the town's legends might be real after all.
The Winter People had me thoroughly creeped out in the middle of the afternoon! I think that's a pretty good testament to McMahon's skill as a writer, don't you? Broad daylight with the sun shining through my windows and there I was, jumping at every sound. More than once I steered clear of the closets, fulling expecting to be greeted by a sleeper. This novel is very much a winter read and not just because of the title. There's a stark coldness that's ever-present, and a resounding sadness that left me thinking in shades of blue and grey. Death is also a key theme and the novel explores the lengths some people would go to in order to see a loved one for one more day - or, in this case, one more week.
It's been a while since a novel has captivated me from beginning to end, but The Winter People did just that. In one case I was reading well into the night (not my best decision!) simply because I could not put the book down. I came to know and care for these characters: Ruthie and her little sister Fawn; Katherine and her anguish over the loss of both her husband and son; Sara with her sorrow and excitement. Despite the number of characters and eras, McMahon wove the story together flawlessly.
Again, however, the ending loses a bit of its magic. Ruthie doesn't so much make a decision as accept what's thrown upon her. While it does leave room for a possible sequel, I had hoped for more. Despite that minor bump I absolutely loved The Winter People and highly recommend it. If you're in the mood for a quick and compelling novel that will keep you guessing, this is it.(less)
Sky Jumpers was available as a Read Now on netgalley and y'all know I can't pass up a good Middle Grade. Sad...morethis review will go live on the blog10/11
Sky Jumpers was available as a Read Now on netgalley and y'all know I can't pass up a good Middle Grade. Sadly I didn't make it more than a few chapters in before setting this book aside.
World War III nearly wiped out civilization. A small settlement was formed in White Rock, Nebraska - in a large crater - and has since flourished. The war was devastating, not only wiping out nearly every bit of technology, but also leaving behind deadly pockets of gas known as Bomb's Breath. Many people have died after walking into the gas, yet the kids view it as a toy. Leaping off cliffs and into the gas - holding your breath, of course! - slows your fall and feels like flying.
There was far too much going on in the chapters I read. All technology has been wiped out in a matter of years and it's up to 12-year-old Hope's class to come up with new inventions. There was some cliff-jumping, lots of exposition detailing the loss of technology, and a large info-dump explaining that this poisonous Bomb's Breath was actually the result of a green bomb - US citizens learned their lesson after WWII and created a 'green bomb' in an attempt to save people..? I didn't get it.
Perhaps I didn't read enough - admittedly I stopped about four chapters in (though that was a sizable portion of the less-than-200-page book) - but Sky Jumpers just didn't cut it. I had a difficult time grasping the idea of this new world and, quite frankly, didn't care enough to read about the new inventions these children were creating.(less)
After being left alone for three days, twins Edmund and Sis have run out of what little food they have. Although they were under strict orders from th...moreAfter being left alone for three days, twins Edmund and Sis have run out of what little food they have. Although they were under strict orders from their aunt to stay indoors, Edmund makes the decision to head out in search of food. Unfortunately, when he returns, he discovers his sister is nowhere to be found. With his mother, aunt, and sister missing, Edmund is on his own with only a strange man to help him. Who is this man, where are his family members, and just what is the man writing?
I went into this thinking I'd have a great time. I know Avi is beloved by school kids the world over, but I honestly can't recall ever reading any of his works. With the reissue of The Man Who Was Poe, plus the fact that, hello, it's POE, I figured this would be the perfect place to start.
Boy was I wrong.
I'm all for artistic license and taking liberties when it comes to historical figures, but come on. Avi made Poe seem like a complete lunatic. He was borderline at best, jumping from mood to mood - and even identity! He insisted Edmund address him as Auguste Dupin, one of Poe's characters. He completely lost it whenever Edmund slipped and called him Poe. He also came across as, well, kind of an ass. One of my most treasured books I own is The Poe Log (a bit hard to find these days & the ones available are a tad bit pricey, sadly). It's a painstakingly detailed account of every single day of Poe's life and then some. Letters, articles, conversations are all compiled into one volume and it's a wealth of information for any fan of Poe's. On occasion I'll flip through it (& it was my best resource for some term papers in college!) and any account I've read from Poe's friends and family make mentioned of how soft-spoken and polite he was. He definitely had a drinking problem, but the novel turned him into a Jekyll/Hyde character anytime alcohol was involved.
Initially Poe - or Dupin - is willing to help Edmund find his sister, but the Crazy Train pulled up. I still don't know what happened with this one. PoeDupin is writing a story about Edmund's life and insists it can only end in death, so he decides the sister is dead and gives up his search. Naturally Edmund is distraught and bewildered and I was confused right along with him. Throw in some maybe-maybe-not ghosts, a surprise!stepfather, and a couple of bad guys for good measure and you'll get The Man Who Was Poe.
Although this was such a short book it was NOT the fun, quick read I was hoping for. Perhaps I would have enjoyed it more when I was 8, but to read it as an adult made my head hurt and brought for the rage. The pace was so quick I was overwhelmed and found myself struggling to keep up at times. After a very graphic chapter early on in the book (Edmund has to identify a body found in the river), The Man Who Was Poe shifted gears and was a complete disappointment. I really wanted to enjoy this one.(less)
After an extremely impressive streak with YA Thrillers (Find Me & Dead Girls Don't Lie are two of my favorite 2013 releases!) I was feeling pretty confident about Poor Little Dead Girls. A boarding school's secret society has ties to the deaths of two girls - what's not to love?
Unfortunately, Poor Little Dead Girls spectacularly crushed every single expectation I had, including the hope of actually finishing (spoiler alert: I did, but it was a fight on both our parts).
Sadie is a star lacrosse player on her high school team back home in Portland. When she receives a scholarship from the elite Keating Hall - students of the school are all but guaranteed acceptance to Ivy League universities - she doesn't hesitate for a second. She quickly becomes fast friends with Jessica (seemingly the only other student who isn't uber wealthy) and her royal roommates. After their hard partying habits brought shame upon Britain's royal family, Trix & Gwen were shipped off to America where they'll hopefully stay out of the public eye. Don't worry about getting to know these two though - their presence is only acknowledged in passing and piles of dirty laundry until the very end when Friend pulls out the shocker: Gwen is into girls! Really now? Gwen's sexuality added nothing to the story, particularly since it came about at the very end, and felt tacked on simply to bring some sort of life to an otherwise dead story.
In the very (and I mean very) beginning, things looked promising. Sure, the characters were little more than stock personalities (particularly the Mean Girls), but that was something I could live with. Within a few chapters, however, I realized this book and I weren't going to become bosom buddies. Chapter 6 - an entire chapter - was devoted to discussing all the ~hot boys~ on the football team. An. Entire. Chapter. Also - and this should come as NO surprise - it is in this chapter that Sadie falls head-over-heels for a boy she has yet to speak to, and when she finally does, this is the conversation they have:
"Is yours [a test] on Monday?" "Yeah." "Ours, too."
When Jeremy turns to walk back to his own school, Sadie's stomach was 'now flipping around like a kid three doses behind on his Ritalin.' I suppose I could overlook this if the scene took place in the middle of the day after a class or something. Instead, this happened in the middle of the night after Sadie had been chased. Ain't no thang though - she simply forgets all about that now that there's a SUPER HOT BOY!!
Once Jeremy shows up, classes are no longer a priority. Instead, she obsesses over his jawline ("A part of her - the same part that led her subconscious through the same cheesy dreamscape every night - wanted to lean in and lick it"). Riveting stuff, guys.
But, Leah, I thought this was a murder mystery I hear you say. Turns out there's a SOOPER SEKRET SOCIETY. More than once Sadie wakes to find bruises on her body and doesn't think anything of it. Later - much, much later - we discover she was being drugged and kidnapped this entire time. Those bruises are from having her blood taken and analyzed to prove she's ~worthy~ and of course she passes. Believe it or not, here's where the crazy comes in. This society is two hundred years old - Thomas Jefferson founded it. Its members are among the richest people in the world and they plan on creating a new world power. Sadie's mother (who had died when Sadie was a child) was a part of this group although she broke all ties with them and her family to marry Sadie's father (see, to make sure genetics are pure, the society arranges marriages for its members). The other girl who had died at the school was also in the society - and also related to Sadie. At one point its revealed SADIE'S EGGS WERE HARVESTED. Just in case Sadie were to die or run away, another heir could be created.
Poor Little Dead Girls tried to pack WAY too much into a tiny story. There were multiple story lines that were introduced and went nowhere: Sadie witnessed a rape and shrugged it off like it was nothing and a fellow student (and one of Sadie's friends!) was being beat by her boyfriend but he's hot so it's okay. There was no consistency or coherency to be found and all of the action happened off-screen: "An hour later she finally stopped talking [explaining basically the entire plot to Jeremy - but not the reader]" "The next three hours were so much fun she started to get nervous."
The author couldn't even get the ending right. Sadie receives hush money ($1M is all this group could come up with? These are supposed to be the richest families in the world.) and begins applying to college with her bestie Jessica and looks forward to spending more time with Jeremy. ...and that's it. There isn't any kind of resolution or closure. Much like with the rest of the story, Sadie shrugs it off, leaving a very unsatisfied reader.
Other readers have mentioned Friend at least succeeded in nailing the voice of these girls, but I have to disagree. Instead of calling each other by, you know, their names, Sadie and her friends refer to one another as hooker, skank, hobag, etc. Yeah, I've never called my friends any of those. This name-calling caused some serious eyebrow-raising once the rape & abusive boyfriend plots were introduced.
Poor Little Dead Girls isn't a book I would force upon anyone. Trust me on this: stay as far away from this book as you possibly can. I SUFFERED SO YOU WOULDN'T HAVE TO.(less)
Everything you need to know about The Reluctant Reaper can be found in its summary: on her 25th birthday, Ki...morethis review will go live on the blog10/18
Everything you need to know about The Reluctant Reaper can be found in its summary: on her 25th birthday, Kirsty d'Arc was accidentally reaped when she jumped in front of a scythe meant for her boss. The man who was more like a father to her had offered up her soul in exchange for fame and fortune and now the Reaper has come to collect. Suffice it to say things didn't exactly go according to plan. Kirsty's body is technically still alive, though in a near-vegetative state, meaning she's stuck in Hell until Reaper management can sort out the whole mess.
The Reluctant Reaperscreamed guilty pleasure and I was really looking forward to spending a giggle-filled afternoon with it. Just like Dante's reaping, however, things went awry. Speaking of, that reaper Dante? Turns out he's the Dante Alighieri. Perhaps you've heard of a little work called The Divine Comedy? Yeah, that's him. Only now he's wavy-haired and hunkalicious. His undeniable mastery over the written word is sorely lacking in this novel, causing him to come off as more of a lovesick teenage boy than the famed poet.
If Dante's poetry was the worst thing about The Reluctant Reaper I would have been happy. Instead I was thrown pun after pun, to the point where it was no longer punny (I am so sorry). I'm all about cheesy. Witty phrases and plays-on-words are so my thing. Here, though, they were taken a step too far and after a few chapters it began to feel as though a conversation (or Kirsty's running narrative, for that matter) couldn't happen without a handful of puns. In the beginning I truly giggled and thought they were clever. A few chapters in they began losing their luster and by the end of the book I was flat-out frustrated. Sybil Serpent (and her union!), gee-gnomes and metro-gnomes, the GI's (Good Intentions) that line the roads, Sue Sayer and Claire Voyant, and Dante's gargoyle Jenni (because her fur gets all over - Jennifur harhar) all made multiple appearances. There were times the author must have been feeling especially clever because she would set up a paragraph of dialog - that usually had nothing to do with the current topic - just so she could whip out a phrase. Enough is enough, madam.
If it wasn't such (I accidentally typed suck at first - that should tell you what my mind thought of this book!) a short, quick read I highly doubt I would have finished. I went into The Reluctant Reaper expecting a fun, light-hearted story. Instead I got a story VERY heavy on the jokes and not so interested in actual plot. Kirsty spent the majority of the novel wandering around Hell simply taking in all the sights and sounds. I wanted to like this book, but sadly it wasn't for me.(less)
At first glance, Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer might come across as a spin on the Pride and Prejudice and...morethis review will go live on the blog10/11
At first glance, Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer might come across as a spin on the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies-esque books that have been fairly popular over the past few years. Upon closer inspection, however, this book is far different - and extremely entertaining!
After Colette's father recently took off, she moved into a tiny apartment with her mother and younger brother. Once used to the best of everything, Colette's wardrobe now largely comes from thrift stores and vintage shops and the only way she's still able to attend her prestigious all-girls school is with a scholarship. For the past year she's been keeping her new life a secret from everyone - including her two best friends. Hannah in particular is the classic definition of a Mean Girl: if she thought for a second Colette could no longer afford expensive shoes she'd do everything she could to make Colette understand she was no longer part of the In Crowd. Or any crowd.
A class trip to France provides Colette with the opportunity of a lifetime: travel, experience new cultures, meet cute Parisian boys, see masterpieces of art and architecture. What Colette doesn't expect, however, is the arrival of a serial killer. A serial killer who might not be entirely human.
Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer completely surprised me! Going into it I assumed it'd be an easy read but ultimately forgettable. Instead I got an incredibly quick story that had me eager for more. Ms. Alender isn't afraid to get down and dirty - and gory. If you're familiar with the way Marie Antoinette died you'll be able to guess how her victims were killed. For those of you who aren't, let's just say it ain't pretty.
I'll admit that for the first half of the book it felt like I was reading two different stories: an American-in-Paris contemporary and a dark historical fiction. Colette was having a grand time traveling abroad and taking in all the sights and sounds Paris has to offer. A ghost was seeking revenge. It wasn't until the two storylines met (with the explanation of Colette's and the victims' families and their ties to the monarchy) that everything came together to feel like one book.
Apart from that, however, I had such a great time with this book! Everything from the romance (no love triangle!) to the action to Colette's character growth and her confrontation with Hannah was entertaining and beautifully well-done. Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer is a perfect one-sitting read that has something in it for every reader: romance, murder, mystery. If Alender's Bad Girls Don't Die trilogy is anywhere near as captivating as Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer, I have a feeling those books will find permanent residency on my shelves!(less)
Between that beautiful cover and - hello - SHANNON HALE, Dangerous was one of my most anticipated releases of 201...morethis review goes live on the blog3/4
Between that beautiful cover and - hello - SHANNON HALE, Dangerous was one of my most anticipated releases of 2014. Unfortunately I could only make it 147 pages in before throwing up a white flag and quitting. How is this from the same author of Princess Academy and The Goose Girl?? The only explanation I can come up with is that Hale has five books coming out this year. F-I-V-E. Clearly that had something to do with the lack of quality of Dangerous; this is not the Shannon Hale I know and love.
Maisie Danger Brown (yes, that's her real name) enters a sweepstakes on a cereal box for astronaut camp. Much to her surprise she wins and it's there the story goes downhill. Within 20 pages we have already met the two love interests (and she's already made out with one of them!). Had I known Dangerous was going to be a romance I wouldn't have bothered. Maisie's dream is to become an astronaut, yet once she meets Wilder, she can only think about him, her dream totally forgotten. Jonathan Ingalls Wilder (yes, that's his real name) is awful. He's dripping with wealth and despite his groupies that follow him everywhere, Maisie has somehow caught his eye. Get a load of this charmer:
"A home-schooled, black-eyed Latina." He whistled. "You are turning into a very ripe fruit for the plucking."
This comes from their first conversation. Wilder flip-flops with his feelings: he can't get enough of Maisie, yet any time she proves to be smarter than him, he immediately turns cold and starts chatting up another girl. What a guy.
The camp is run by a brilliant scientist I couldn't stand. I think she was supposed to be an aloof, head-in-the-clouds kind of scientist, but instead, she spends all of her time juggling. The greatest mind of our time, folks. She managed to build the Beanstalk, basically an elevator from Earth to an asteroid. Five campers are chosen to make the trip - Maisie, Wilder, Smart Asian Girl Who Likes Slushies, Beautiful-But-Mean Redhead, and French-African Boy Whose Cursing Is Bleeped (yep. bleeped.). While in space these five kids get to see alien artifacts and wind up absorbing their powers. Now instead of being human caricatures, they're human caricatures with super powers. Redhead turns into a Juggernaut-esque behemoth and can't stop eating. Slushie Girl can shoot things from her palms. Maisie discovers an ability to understand technology and build. The first thing she builds? A robot arm, thus rendering her disability (she only had one arm) completely pointless. Why bother having a disabled character if you're going to give her a special robot arm?
Things Happen (a fight breaks out and characters die) and the kids are on the run. Once Maisie's back home I lost any interest in Dangerous and judging from the reviews I've read, I didn't miss much by not finishing. Dangerous was SUCH a disappointment. Every single character was a personality trait rather than a person. Maisie's best friend Luther exists for the sole purpose of being another love interest. In his first scene Maisie comments on "how muscley" he's become - 7 pages into the book. There's a page-long joke that goes nowhere. All of the other campers virtually vanish once these five gain their powers.
Although the camp is for anyone 12-17, the writing felt more like a beginner's chapter book. Very short and simple sentences and any kind of explanation regarding space or technology is glossed over. Also, I'm still unclear as to when this novel takes place. At first I assumed the present day, but now I'm wondering if maybe it's set in the future? The characters discuss the Rolling Stones and the Beatles though so I'm not entirely sure.
If Shannon Hale's novels hold any kind of nostalgic feelings for you, do yourself a favor and avoid this one.
We were quiet, two tiny specks glued down by gravity, peering at a universe that didn't notice us back. The quiet and dark made me feel mysterious and stilled, a thing that glints in the dark, an object that can only be understood by careful study. Something like a poem.
As part of her Russian Studies major at Brown University, Laura Reid enters a study abroad program where she'll attend a university in Leningrad for six months, completely immersing herself in all Russia has to offer. Initially she dutifully attends every class and only hangs out with her roommates and the other American students. Everything changes the day Laura has a run-in with some gypsies on a bridge. The women nearly force her to give them whatever money she has with her until a boy comes to her aid.
Alexei - Alyosha, to his friends - is an artist and paints movie posters. His love of Western literature, particularly poetry, draws Laura in and soon she's spending every minute of her free time (and not-so-free time) with him. At first these meet-ups are only to work on her Russian - real Russian, not the formal, stiff language taught in her classes. With each meeting, however, Laura finds herself becoming more and more attached to Alyosha. Each skipping class or missed curfew brings to mind the university's warnings: don't fall in love. The Russians are so eager to leave the country they'll convince an unsuspecting student to marry them in order to gain entry to America. But Alyosha isn't like that, right?
The Boy on the Bridge started out beautifully. Standiford did a really great job of depicting the bleak and dreary life of everyday Russian citizens. The stark contrast of how the Americans were treated was incredibly eye-opening - in order to gain access to special stores (and buy luxury items like bread, cookies, and coffee), a passport is required. Russians are forbidden to enter hotels and businesses, those are strictly for the foreigners. That said, this book takes place in the early 80s. Apart from some references to cassette tapes and one off-hand remark about Nixon, The Boy on the Bridge could have taken place today. Nothing really screamed 'Cold War-era Russia.'
Once Laura and Alyosha meet, however, the novel quickly goes downhill - especially toward to end. This is a hard case of instalove, guys. Within a few meetings, they're in love. Because the students aren't allowed to be mingling with Russians, Laura has to sneak out to payphones 5+ blocks away to call Alyosha. Soon she doesn't think twice about skipping her classes and breaking curfew to spend the night at his apartment. He gives her a set of keys and she begins to head over there whenever she feels like it, whether or not he's home.
At one point in the novel the students are spending the weekend in Moscow. She's heartbroken at the thought of being away from Alyosha for a few days, but goes anyway. Much to her surprise - and delight - he's there. It was at this point I went into bitch mode and nearly walked away. When he showed up, she hadn't even been gone A DAY. He was so upset he took a 500 mile trip to be with her.
THIS IS NOT OKAY.
Things go from bad to worse and I could have kissed Laura's roommate during a conversation where she becomes the voice of reason:
"Laura, this isn't love. Love lets you go on a trip without following you. Love can live without you for a week, knowing you'll come back." "No, it can't." The afternoon shadows grew long and cold. In spite of the chill, a heat rose up inside her and flooded her face. "That's how you know it's true love. When he can't live without you." Karen shook her head. "That's how you know it's obsession. Or something else."
"What's wrong with you lately?" Karen asked. "You've been so...reckless. You'll drop anything to see Alyosha. Like you don't care about anything else."
While in Moscow Laura sneaks away for the weekend and she travels with Alyosha to his friends' camp. When she returns she suffers no consequences nor does she care that her grades are seriously slipping - she's even failing a class. All that matters is a boy. Eventually Laura's fears turn into reality when Alyosha proposes. He paints a beautiful picture - both figuratively and literally - of them living in a cozy apartment in San Francisco. He'll be a famous painter and she won't have to work. They'll live the American Dream and will always have each other.
Naturally Laura is a little shocked at first. She's only nineteen and still in school, after all. Alyosha convinces her this marriage is a good thing and his friend married when she was eighteen, so it's perfectly acceptable! I was so dismayed at the course the book was taking at this point. The beginning was fantastic and I loved every moment. By the halfway mark, however, it was rapidly falling apart and Alyosha's 'love' set off multiple alarms.
The ending wasn't much of an ending, it simply...stopped. It felt like it was a scene break or the end of a chapter. Despite my feelings toward the second half of the book, I wanted answers and closure and never got that. I don't see The Boy on the Bridge becoming a series, but I wouldn't mind a short story about what happened afterwards. Even an epilogue would have sufficed!
While the romance had me doing some major eye-rolling, The Boy on the Bridge had an extremely intriguing setting that I'd like to see more of in YA. I'm still not quite sure if this would be considered New Adult - they're college age and there are sex scenes, but it's of the 'fade to black' variety. I'm disappointed with the way the story ended, but The Boy on the Bridge was an entertaining and very quick read that I'm sure many readers will enjoy.(less)
BEWARE: this review amounts to little more than an incoherent, rambly love letter.
You know that one review that you sit on until you come up with the right words to say, only to wind up writing - and rewriting - the entire thing? That's how I was with My Basmati Bat Mitzvah. This is the novel I want to hand to Middle Grade/Young Adult naysayers who claim kids' books can't be thought-provoking and powerful. Even now I want to scrap this review and simply have a giant 72-pt blinking font that just reads "GO BUY THIS NOW."
Tara Feinstein is just like every other 12-year-old: she loves having Movie Nights with her best friend Ben-o (who just might like-like her), she has to deal with all the hurt and jealousy that comes with her other best friend Rebecca becoming friendly with Tara's sworn enemy, and the best thing about the new school year is getting to be in robotics class.
Unlike the majority of the kids in Tara's class however, Tara comes from a multi-cultural home. While both her parents are Jewish, her mother practiced Hinduism before converting. Apart from Tara's aunt and cousin, the rest of her mother's side of the family still lives in India. Even though she attends Hebrew School, Tara strongly identifies with her Indian side and a classmate's nasty comments raise some doubts about whether or not she wants to go through with her Bat Mitzvah. Will she have to abandon her Indian heritage in order to truly be Jewish?
When I first started reading this book I sat down on my couch and didn't move until I had finished. My Basmati Bat Mitzvah is such an incredibly lovely book that had it all: diverse characters (!!!), humor, a beautiful message. Tara came across as a real person, someone I could pass on the street. Her jealousy over playing third wheel to her bestie's new friend, panic over accidentally ruining a precious heirloom, all the confusion that comes with her best boy friend kinda-sorta-maybe wanting to be a boyfriend. It was all beautifully done. Tara had such wonderful character development throughout the novel - and she wasn't the only one! Other characters had an amazing amount of depth, particularly Mean Girl Sheila. & get this: not only were Tara's parents ever-present, but her grandmother, aunt, and even her friends' parents played key roles!
Perhaps what really won me over was that I could relate to Tara. I come from a Jewish-Catholic family and while I was raised Catholic, my family still observes certain Jewish traditions and holidays. I understood Tara's conflicting emotions. If she had her Bat Mitzvah, would she have to forget all about her beloved grandparents, her Nana and Nanaji? Would she be unable to enjoy her favorite Bollywood movies? Tara's personal journey to discovering herself was beautiful and I was cheering her on every step of the way. And if I didn't already love her to pieces, the fact that she wanted to wear a sari and serve traditional Indian food at her Bat Mitzvah totally would have won me over.
As an added bonus, at the very end of the book there's a multi-page glossary that covers a variety of Yiddish/Hebrew/Punjabi terms and of course I thought that was awesome! Seriously, I could prattle on about My Basmati Bat Mitzvah for days. It was a delightful, beautiful story about a girl discovering who she is and I loved it. I strongly recommend buying a copy!(less)
Ten years ago 17-year-old Leah McMahon ran away from her tiny Texas town. Suddenly the only life she had ever k...morethis review goes live on the blog10/25
Ten years ago 17-year-old Leah McMahon ran away from her tiny Texas town. Suddenly the only life she had ever known - and the boy she thought she loved - was gone and she found herself along and scared in Minnesota. The preacher's perfect daughter was pregnant with the town's bad boy. At the time adoption seemed the best choice, along with feigning ignorance as to the baby's father. Until now the open adoption has worked: Leah and her son maintain contact and have a special bond. Unfortunately, her father's surgery has called Leah back to Sultry Springs and they both know questions will be asked - and certain people can't be avoided in a town as small as theirs.
Going into Surrender to Sultry I hadn't realized it was the third - and last - novel in the Sultry Springs series. Thankfully, however, this is a series where each book focuses on a different couple, so I had no problem jumping in at the end. Leah's arrival back to Sultry Springs raises questions - and eyebrows. As far as the rest of the town is aware, a decade ago Leah and her father had a huge falling out and haven't spoken since. What they don't know is that Leah discovered she was pregnant with Colt's child. Through the wonders of Skype and the Internet, Leah and her father have remained in constant contact and he's even met his grandson.
When Leah left Colt's world fell apart. A stupid prank by a lousy friend caused the girl he loved to run away and he sort of lost it without her. In an attempt to fill the aching void, Colt spends more and more time with alcohol and strippers, quickly becoming someone he doesn't want to be. This small town sheriff still carries a torch for his first love and no one could ever come close to replacing her.
Leah's first night back in town results in being pulled over...by none other than Sheriff Bea. A decade is an awful long time to harbor pain and heartache. Now that Leah and Colt are older (and wiser?) could they find it in themselves to move past high school? Colt is more than ready to make up for lost time. Leah, however, is still reeling from the hurt and embarrassment Colt and his friends put her through - not to mention she's debating whether or not to tell him about their child.
Surrender to Sultry really took me by surprise. I wasn't expecting to like this story as much as I did! Admittedly, it took some getting used to reading my name over and over again - and, um, let's just say certain scenes were WAY awkward. HA! That said, everything else about this book was great. Leah and Colt felt real. They were both flawed and conflicted. What Colt and his friends did was completely inexcusable and I don't blame Leah at all for being so hurt. He wanted to see how far he could go with the preacher's sweet and innocent daughter, already aware she had planned on waiting for marriage before having sex. Colt bragged to Tommy and soon the entire school found out the two had slept together. By the time Leah discovered she was pregnant she was long gone. The pregnancy/adoption aspect was really nicely done, though the final conclusion was a bit too cutesy for me.
The couples from the two previous novels are featured in this book as well, though obviously they're not nearly as prominent as Leah and Colt. I'm eager to read the other books now, I'd love to see the beginning of the other relationships! If Happily Ever Afters are your thing, definitely pick up a copy of Surrender to Sultry!(less)
Part historical fiction, part mystery, The Light in the Ruins depicts a scene rarely seen in WWII-era novels: the Italian countryside. Cristina Rosati and her family live on a sprawling estate - Villa Chimera - and entertain passing German soldiers.
As the war drags on and the tides turn, however, the villa no longer resembles and eden. The Germans show no hesitations in pillaging what they can, be it food or valuables. Eventually the entire family is forced to live in the nursery and eat what little scraps they can pull together.
A decade later Italy is still in the process of picking up the pieces and moving on. Serafina was scarred - both physically and emotionally - in the war and a case she's called to investigate brings her closer to her past than she'd like. Someone brutally murdered a Rosati woman and left her heart on her vanity. Slowly, Rosatis are killed one-by-one, each time the heart is gruesomely cut out and put on display. With Cristina's help Serafina is determined to solve the case and save what few Rosatis remain, while Cristina hopes to find closure over a lost love.
The Light in the Ruins is a novel that should appeal to me: I'm a HUGE fan of dual narratives and World War II. This novel features both and the horrific murders only add to the interest. Unfortunately, although the story was good, the pacing was slow - and while I tend to love easy-going, windy plots, this book chugged along at such a sluggish pace I couldn't retain focus.
The novel's moments of genius were marvelous and an absolute delight. Every few chapters there would be a one-page scene from the killer's perspective that would detail the murder. These tiny glimpses were so wonderfully written I got chills every time. I also really enjoyed the slow-building, almost forbidden romance between Cristina and a young German officer. Ten years later she's still clinging to a shred of hope that he's still alive somewhere.
As I previously stated, I'm really into dual narratives and The Light in the Ruins executed this flawlessly. Not only could I get a feel for each woman, but it was fascinating seeing the effects of the war - both during and after. The war took many members of the Rosati family, including two children, and when their death was finally described (as opposed to the brief mentions of it in earlier chapters) I had to walk away. Mr. Bohjalian has a way with words and he's not afraid to get dirty. I don't consider myself a squeamish person - and certainly not a squeamish reader! - but more than a few scenes caused me to set the book down for a few moments.
The Light in the Ruins had so much going for it, but the crawling pace simply couldn't hold my attention for long periods of time. This relatively short novel - barely 300 pages - took nearly ten days to read and felt much longer. The good was top-notch and that alone is enough for me to visit some of Bohjalian's earlier works.(less)
They come out of the sky and take you. Everyone knows that.
Six years ago, life in Riley's town changed. Without warning, the angels appeared and began taking people. That first year was the worst; no one knew what had happened or what was going on. Where did these people go? They weren't dead, they simply vanished after being taken into the sky. The second year, however, the town was ready. They knew what to expect, yet there was no way to stop it.
With each Taking, more and more friends and family vanished and the town viewed it as their own awful curse. It wasn't until Pastor Warren's arrival that things began to change. With his sermons and flashy way of preaching, he was able to convince the townsfolk that, no this wasn't a curse, this was a blessing. The Taking is actually the Glory and is something to be worshiped and desired. Soon the entire town - whether voluntary or involuntary - are under his spell and go along with his word.
One of the few members of the town not to accept the pastor's message is Riley Carver. Sixteen and a bit of an outsider, she'd all but shut down after losing her best friend in the previous year's Taking. When one of the angels shows up outside her bedroom window, she's ready to take action and in the process, shoots it. Unfortunately for Riley, the angel is no longer an angel. He's a boy, naked and confused and thinks he's still in the 1950s.
We all know to beware the hype machine, right? I know I've certainly given in multiple times, only to realize I actually HATE the book. Guys, Outcast is worth it. It deserves all the hype and then some! I'm typically not a big fan of paranormal, but this one was fantastic. Ms. Kress took these angels, turned them around, and made it believable. I know it's a little hard to picture a novel about angels stealing people as believable, but the novel does it in such a way that the paranormal elements aren't overdone and that is what makes it so great.
What really made the novel for me, though, were the characters. They were beautifully fleshed out and spot-on. Riley is still hurting over the loss of Chris and she battles with her newfound emotions for Gabe. Her internal struggle was incredible and made her shine as a character. Gabe had been one of those creatures until Riley shot him. Now he's a super hot Greaser who believes he's still in his present - 1956. Gabe was great and their friendship was wonderful. He's a total playboy, but doesn't hide his intentions. His sheer terror of the Internet was beyond adorable. Lacy, a stereotypical cheerleader; Father Peter, Hartwich's largely ignored Catholic priest; Pastor Warren, the slimy and oh-so-charming man who hovers during his weekly Commune. Each character was remarkably well-done.
An added bonus was the inclusion of Riley's parents. Both are featured heavily in the novel and even call Riley out on letting a boy come before schoolwork. Way to go, Mr. & Mrs. Carver!
The novel's only downfall was the ending. Well, endings. Plural. The first was absolutely heartbreaking and I kept hoping it wasn't going to happen. Sadly, it did, and I was left in pieces. That wasn't the end, however. There was still another chapter and another ending. It would have been more of an emotional impact if there had only been the first ending, but even with the second, I still had that punched-in-the-gut feeling.
An original plot, beautifully crafted characters, and emotions galore made Outcast a quick favorite. It's short and can easily be read during a bright and sunny weekend and I know it's one I'll be revisiting again soon.(less)
The undiscussed surgeries lay like a weapon on the table before them. Her mother knew, despite the jabs about Anna's weight and the pointed comments about her unemployment, that as someone who wandered the plasticized wilderness somewhere between Joan Rivers and Michael Jackson, she should only go so far.
37-year-old Anna has just found herself out of a job. With a (much younger) roommate in a perpetual state of unpaid internship, Anna's world revolves around refreshing Gawker and Huffington Post and waiting for e-mails that never arrive. While the rest of her friends are happily settled down with a child or two, Anna gives in to Internet rumors and the latest fads.
After discovering a super underground director and his films, Anna decides being a filmmaker is her calling and promptly throws away $3500 on a video camera. Weeks later, the box still remains unopened and Anna's funds are rapidly shrinking. She takes to Craigslist and responds to a post. Shortly after she meets up with Taj, a filmmaker in his own right and becomes a member of his crew.
Between ignoring her mother and her friends-turned-life-coach, living with a newly-pregnant roommate, and bills that won't go away, Anna finds herself thrown into the chaotic world of film festivals.
"Know what people really find comforting?" Taj continued, "Failure. Humiliation. Defeat. That's what makes people feel better." "You think so?" she said. "Think about it. Nothing brings people together like a good scandal. Nothing makes them happier than to see something fall from a great height."
I had such high hopes for Note to Self, guys! It sounded like a really fun, quick novel. Unfortunately, I didn't enjoy it half as much as I had hoped and a good deal lies with the way the blurb set it up.
Hailed as "A witty, keenly observant look at our Internet-obsessed culture", I was totally on board. Much to my dismay, however, Note to Self was neither witty, nor Internet-related. At all. Oh, sure, Anna talks about refreshing tabs and always checking her e-mail, but I was expecting, you know, a story. Instead, Anna - at times I COMPLETELY forgot Anna was pushing 40, she acted twenty years younger - was completely irresponsible with her extremely limited funds, bought an outrageously expensive camera, and pretended she knew about art.
The entire time I was reading I kept waiting for something to happen, that pivotal moment when the ball got rolling. I was shocked when I realized I was halfway into the book and Anna was still puttering around her apartment! Eventually Anna meets Taj through a Craigslist ad and goes to 'work' for him - basically doing menial tasks for his assistant for little or no pay. ...and that's it.
Look. I'm all for character-driven stories with super slow plots or no action. But unlike Note to Self, those stories actually feature interesting - for good or bad reasons - characters. There wasn't a single character in Note to Self I liked. Anna was more a teenager than a nearly-40-year old woman. Taj was simply a jerk. His film buddies were so interchangeable they melded together to form one entity in my mind.
At the very end of the book, Anna announces she has an Internet addiction and Taj flies her out to a city in order to 'cure' her. By this point I had lost all interest whatsoever and Taj's eventual betrayal did little to shock or surprise me.
It was with a very hearty FINALLY! that I finished this book. Perhaps I just didn't get it, but Note to Self was a disappointment and let me wanting so much more.(less)
When I was little the doctors called me a hermaphrodite. It's got a lot of stigma, but as a word on its own I like it better. It's a thing. It's not between things. It's an ancient Greek word. It makes me sound old, like we were always around. I like that.
The Walkers are a perfect family. Steve and Karen are both highly successful in their fields, 15-year old Max is a straight-A student who would never dream of talking back to his parents or getting into fights, and 10-year old Daniel is perfect in that he isn't perfect. On the outside, the Walkers have it all; they're media darlings and everyone in town knows their names. Behind closed doors, however, the Walkers are hiding a secret.
Max Walker is the star of the football team. All the girls flock to him and he's just a few tests away from the top schools. No one would assume Max is anything other than a normal teenage boy. Sure he's a bit smaller than the other boys in his class, but his two best friends only just recently started shaving, and football has done wonders for Max's muscles. He goes on dates with girls and leads a normal life.
Max's secret never bothered him; it was who he was. After one of his closest friends does the unthinkable, however, Max suddenly becomes well aware of just how different he is. Max isn't like the other boys - Max is intersex. He has both male and female organs. Until now, he's managed to keep it hidden from the world; his dates with girls never went farther than kissing and while it's not what Max wants, it's worked so far. He's earned a reputation at school as being a Love-Them-And-Leave-Them type and he does nothing to refute the claims.
With Hunter's betrayal, Max is left in a whirlwind of questions, confusion, and anger. His father's recent campaign announcement only adds to his distress. The Walkers are supposed to be the perfect family; how could they possibly explain their son's pregnancy?
You hear about things going wrong during a birth, but when you're pregnant and in labor, you never think it will happen to you. No one thinks theirs will be the baby with the problem. And then it was my baby, and it made me worry all the more acutely for the rest of his life, because I had been right to worry at the birth, because when it had been time to give birth, to do the most important thing I could do for Max, something had gone wrong.
Oh, wow. WOW. Guys, I was so not prepared for Golden Boy. I'm always up for a good - and tough! - read, but I wasn't expecting this. That's definitely not a bad thing though; the author tackled an extremely sensitive subject and I thought she did a fantastic job. Also: SHE'S ONLY A YEAR OLDER THAN ME WHAT.
I don't get squeamish while reading and I rarely cringe at descriptions, so be warned: within the first few pages there is a VERY graphic rape scene. That alone could be enough to turn away many readers. Other triggers of note: attempted suicide, drug abuse, and abortions. So, yes, decidedly not a sunny day, sitting-on-the-porch kind of read. Despite this, however, I found myself absolutely captivated.
Hunter's betrayal was one I had not seen coming. I took the summary to mean he leaked information to the media, not that he would rape Max and get him pregnant! Max and Hunter grew up together, their parents were best friends. The boys considered themselves cousins in a way. For Hunter to do such a horrible thing to Max was appalling. He took advantage of Max and his trust and left Max a shell of a boy. This happens very early on in Golden Boy and the novel is spent with Max - and his family - dealing with the repercussions.
Golden Boy alternates between a number of perspectives. We see the events through the eyes of Max, his parents, his brother, his doctor, and his girlfriend. Each one had a distinct voice and felt authentic. Max is understandably terrified and ashamed, his brother is worried and angry. Sylvie doesn't know why Max's moods have changed so abruptly or why he's avoiding her. Karen blames herself for her son's 'illness' and tries to make it go away. Every character felt raw and open and real.
Golden Boy is definitely not a book for everyone, but I greatly enjoyed it. It was tough and thought-provoking and powerful. I have a feeling both the characters and issues the story raised will stick with me for months to come. If you're looking to step outside your comfort zone, Golden Boy is worth a read.(less)
Spirit takes over where Spark left off and this time, it's the tatted & pierced bad boy Hunter Garrity who's the focus. The Merrick boys aren't quite sure where they stand with Hunter: is a friendship forming or is he just using them for information? And, to be honest, Hunter isn't quite so sure of himself either.
Life isn't fun and games for Hunter. His dad's death caused the already tense relationship he had with his mother to become even more sensitive. She spends her days crying and Hunter can't stand it. Moving in with his grandparents only made matters worse - he can't do anything right in the eyes of his grandfather. Things come to a head one night and Hunter is thrown out. The most painful part is that his mother stood there watching and allowed it to happen.
Now homeless, Hunter sleeps in his car and spends the last of his money on sandwiches for his dog. When he's turned down for a job at the local Home Depot, he's desperate and considers swiping some $20s he saw in the register. It's only when Michael Merrick shows up and offers him some work for the afternoon that Hunter regains his cool. Barely. After Michael all but forces Hunter's story out, he not only provides Hunter with a way to make some money, but also a place to stay. Unfortunately, the other Merrick boys aren't as hospitable.
"You know I've got three younger brothers, right?" Hunter frowned. "What?" "It means I've got a pretty finely tuned bullshit detector."
It's no secret that I love this series. And by love, I mean flaily arms, keysmashes, and more exclamation points than Wordpress can handle. Elemental is such a great series and the boys are fantastic. I shared this story in my review of the first book, Storm, but I hadn't even planned on reading this series. Yes, people were going crazy over it, but I've given in to hype in the past only to be horribly letdown. That, and I wasn't a huge fan of the cover (since then, the first cover & the ones that followed have grown on me ♥). We had a copy in at work and I decided to see what was so great about it. Imagine my surprise when I not only enjoyed it, but fell head-over-heels in love with it!
Here we are on book three. This time around it's Hunter who's the star instead of a Merrick boy. While the previous two books were very action-packed, this one is far more character driven. Don't get me wrong: there's definitely some action (of multiple varieties~), but Spirit is about Hunter and how he comes to terms with himself, his family, and life in general.
Just as in the other books, the other characters still play fairly large roles. The Merrick clan is back and Michael's Mama Bear mode is in full-force. (Side note, Michael's getting his own book and I. Can't. Wait. He's hands-down my favorite Merrick and I'm super excited for a full-length story!!) Also, as in the other books, new characters are introduced and I have to admit this group wasn't my favorite. Silver is SERIOUS BUSINESS and trigger-happy. Kate had her moments and the way her story concluded left me shocked. Gutsy move, Ms. Kemmerer. A lesser author would have hesitated.
The next book in the series is Nick's and Spirit ended with enough going on that I hope we jump back into the action. Naturally I'll be all over it once it's out and I'm pretty pumped. These books go fast - we're three books in and only SIX WEEKS have passed since the start of the first book. I've lost count the number of people I've forced to read this series recc'd these books to. They're that good.
If you haven't yet seen the light read the first two novels, now's the perfect time. They're a little on the longer side, but are SO quick and easy that you can get through a book in one sitting. Also, there's a readalong going on now, so there you go!(less)