As a beach/summer read, The Good Luck Girls of Shipwreck Lane is perfect. If I had read it at any other time,...morethis review will go live on the blog7/3
As a beach/summer read, The Good Luck Girls of Shipwreck Lane is perfect. If I had read it at any other time, however, I would have been less than impressed (and actually felt a bit disappointed I hadn't enjoyed it more while reading). This book reads like a check list of beach read staples: heartbroken main character, wise/quirky grandmotherly figure, handsome strangers (in this case, two), a passion for cooking/baking, etc etc. Really, all that was missing was a loyal dog.
Janey's fiance passed away unexpectedly five years ago and with his death her world shattered. While she had always been shy, Ned's death took her fear and turned it into a debilitating phobia. She was no longer able to pursue the teaching degree she had so desperately wanted and, instead, became holed up inside her apartment, only speaking to her Aunt Midge. She can barely hold down a job and any interaction with someone new causes Janey to break out into hives. Unbeknownst to Janey, Aunt Midge enters her into a nationwide dream home contest - and her name, Janine Brown, is chosen.
Nean's 24 years have not been kind to her. In and out of foster care and shelters, she's well on her way to following in her mother's footsteps (minus the heroin). She goes for the wrong guys, but at least those guys have a place to live, some food, and a television. Geoff isn't boyfriend material, as her bald patches and bruises show, and the night she hears her name, Janine Brown, announced on live television, she knows her life is about to change.
The two (make that three - 88-year-old Aunt Midge is in tow) women head for Maine, and it's not until they've reached the sprawling mansion with a state-of-the-art kitchen and lake view, that they realize there's another Janine Brown. Who's the real winner? How could Janey possibly survive living with a stranger? There's no. way. Nean is going to be put back on a bus to Iowa. And who's that cute farmer?
The Good Luck Girls of Shipwreck Lane doesn't pull any punches and any reader of this kind of fiction knows how the story will end before it even begins. So, yes, as a carefree beach read, this book is perfect. Entertaining enough without asking for a lot in return. While I can certainly get behind some good brain fluff, I had a good time getting past these characters and their actions. 24-year-old Nean is bratty and stubborn. Despite being nearly 90, Aunt Midge rocks out to the Rolling Stones and enjoys swimming in her birthday suit. Janey has a passion for cooking - which I loved - and she claims she loves cooking so much, she always makes way more than one person could ever eat and throws the leftovers away once she's had her fill. I couldn't excuse this, though it made for a nice coincidence since Noah just so happens to work at the local shelter. Naturally, the moment she meets him, her 5-year phobia all but vanishes.
As far as substance goes, there wasn't a whole lot to this story, but that's exactly what you'd want in a summer-y read. Unfortunately, this one was simply decent - and wholly forgettable.(less)
Ten years ago, Janie Jenkins had the world in her hands: a fabulously wealthy It Girl famous for being famous...morethis review will go live on the blog7/31
Ten years ago, Janie Jenkins had the world in her hands: a fabulously wealthy It Girl famous for being famous, she was dating a British musician, and had just landed her first magazine cover. Unfortunately, her mother ruined it all by dying. Or, rather, by being horrifically murdered - and writing out Janie's name in her own blood. Those five letters cause Janie to lose it all, she was hauled off to prison (what other reason would her mother have for leaving Janie's name beside her on the floor?) and now the only letters she received are full of hate.
Due to a technicality, a mix-up in a lab, Janie is released into a world much different than the one she left. Once word gets out, the media launches its own manhunt. Despite there being no evidence, everyone believes Janie to be guilty - even Janie herself isn't sure whether or not she actually did it. Armed with broken bits of memories, a fake ID (courtesy of her layer, Noah Washington), and a new hair cut, Janie heads for a tiny town in South Dakota in the hopes it will give her the answers she seeks.
Prior to blogging, I lived and breathed Thrillers. Since then, I've branched out and discovered truly wonderful authors and genres, but every so often I love revisiting the one that started it all. I had high hopes going into Dear Daughter - especially since TANA FRENCH (!) has a blurb featured on the cover - and I'm thrilled to say the book didn't disappoint!
Does a main character need to be likable for the book to be a hit? I don't think so. 27-year-old Janie is a spoiled brat - even after a decade in prison. She grew up in Switzerland and had a rotating stock of tutors, nannies, drivers, stepfathers. From an early age she knew how to get what she wanted and was never very good at taking no for an answer. Jail did nothing to change her attitude. If anything, it made it worse, but there was something about her I couldn't help but watch. I suppose that's the case with any young socialite: even if they're rude, nasty people, they still hold that spark that you can't look away from. Bravo, Ms. Little.
The media are convinced Janie got away with murder and I was caught up in the action. In between chapters there were transcripts from court documents, trial notes, police reports, and celeb gossip blog posts that I thought were amazing. These gave more insight into Janie's character, the night her mother died, the media circus trying to tail her (reports of Janie sightings are extremely popular)...I ate it up.
Janie's arrival in South Dakota (under the guise of a dowdy and frumpy Rachel Parker) reveals far more than she ever bargained for. As she uncovers the history of this tiny mining community, she discovers just who her mother was - and exactly what happened that horrible night ten years ago. As someone well-read in Thrillers, I'd like to think I know the 'formula' well enough by now to see what's coming. I'm pleased to say there were a few reveals that genuinely surprised me and some twists I hadn't guessed! Marion's past was fascinating and I loved learning her secrets with Janie.
I feel that romance can never be a total win for me. If there's romance in a book, it'll happen to quickly for my liking. If it's not there at all, I'll be disappointed. Clearly I just can't win! Dear Daughter isn't romance and doesn't put any focus on love, but I thought something was going to happen with Janie and a character and it never did. Perhaps I was reading into it too much?
Dear Daughter is a stunning debut novel and I'm excited to see where Ms. Little goes from here! It's extremely readable with a quick pace, intriguing mystery, and characters you'll love to hate (and I mean that in the best way!). This is certainly one I'll be recommending and you can bet I'll be eager to see what Ms. Little does next.(less)
Emma wakes with no memories: she has no idea where she is, what happened to her, or even who she is. She soon learns there was an accident but she's making incredible progress and will be back on her feet in no time. Although Dr. Travista runs his daily tests and her husband is patient and doting, Emma can't help but feel that something isn't right. Her recurring nightmares - and, at times, waking flashbacks - feature another man, a man she knows she fiercely loved, and there's a little voice in her head that guides her in what she should (and shouldn't) say. She wants to believe Declan when he tells her stories of how they met, but why can't she remember their wedding and why would their honeymoon take place overseas when she's deathly afraid of flying?
There's always an exception to the rule and Achetype is it. I've been burned by dystopian novels so many times in the past that I nearly passed on this one, but something made me go for it and I'm so glad I did! Despite my enjoyment, it's incredibly hard coming up with the right words to describe it. In the beginning, Emma is extremely vulnerable - she readily accepts whatever someone tells her (she has no reason to believe otherwise). Over time, however, she notices small cracks in the seemingly perfect life she has with Declan and starts questioning her surroundings.
I will say that were it not for a few futuristic pieces of technology (transporters, lasers that heal cuts, etc) and a throwaway line about a war and America splitting in two, Achetype could be mistaken for a contemporary novel - probably the reason I enjoyed it so much? As Emma digs deeper into her life before the accident, we learn about a resistance but even that felt a little vague. I think the reasoning for this dealt with Emma's confusion and memory loss. Once she regains her memory, her past comes more into play and it seems the resistance will serve a larger role in the second book. As it stands, Archetype focuses more on the romance and, for once, I didn't have a problem with the love triangle. It's clear from the beginning who the 'winner' will be.
While I definitely enjoyed this novel and tore through it, my recommendation comes with reservations. This new society is very misogynistic. There's a shortage of females and only those who are able to bear children are married - usually after they are bought by the highest bidder. Girls are sent to WTCs - Women's Training Centers - where they are basically taught to become dutiful wives. Women who are not married or who are unable to have children end up doing menial work no one else wants. The women who are married off are branded so that, if she were to go out in public, men would know she's another man's property. This entire mindset would not sit well with many readers and I completely understand that!
As someone who does not enjoy dystopia, I was shocked to find myself so drawn to this novel! It's an incredibly quick read and kept me thoroughly entertained. The offhand remarks about a war made for some shoddy backstory and the way women were treated as items to be bought and sold made me uncomfortable, but there was something about Archetype I couldn't ignore. This duology won't be for everyone, but I'm certainly looking forward to Prototype!(less)
I'm a huge fan of cozy mysteries, those fun and easy novels that I can get lost in for an afternoon. While authors like Christie and Sayers top the charts, my guilty pleasures are the themed series - psychic detectives, cupcake bakeries, you name it, I'll read it! So when I heard about a new series featuring a Southern bed and breakfast I was all about it!
Beth recently moved back to her hometown and has started the lengthy (and expensive!) task of renovating her beloved grandmother's home into a bed and breakfast. With the help of a seriously good-looking handyman, Beth's dream is slowly becoming a reality - until the night Miss Lavinia checks in. Miss Lavinia's family stretches back to the very founding of Littleboro and at one point, owned half the town. When she was younger, Lavinia left home and moved abroad, traveling all throughout Europe and living the high life. Now in her 80s, Lavinia decided to pack her things and move back home, first securing a room at Beth's. The following morning, however, Beth discovers that during the night, Lavinia passed away. Things go from bad to worse when her death was ruled a homicide - there were traces of hemlock found in the body - and Beth's the prime suspect.
I really don't have a whole lot to say about Doing It at the Dixie Dew. It was a super short novel (250 pages!) and a good escape for a few hours. If you've read a cozy before, you'll feel right at home here - this novel is extremely easy to read, though there were times when I felt that was more of a hindrance. Yes, it's formulaic, but that's the genre as a whole. When the Big Reveal happened, the villain explained his/her actions for a good few pages and even invited Beth over for a cup of tea (Southern charm all the way). It was clear there would be a romance between Beth and Scott, but I wasn't feeling it at all. They certainly interact plenty over the course of the novel, but I wasn't feeling any kind of spark between them and suddenly they were in bed together (then never mentioned it - or any kind of feelings for one another - again for the rest of the book). Perhaps there will be more in the sequel?
I suppose this is more of a mini review, but how much is there to say about a novel this size? It entertained me while it lasted, so on that point is succeeded, but I wasn't overly wowed by it. Yes it was enjoyable, but there wasn't anything particularly special or unique about the story or characters. Doing It at the Dixie Dew wasn't a bad novel at all, but it wasn't a stand-out story either. This was a solid average read if there ever was one and I'm a bit worried people might get the wrong impression by that. Let's just say that if you're a fan of cozies and want a new series to read, give this one a shot. If you're brand new to the genre, however, this isn't the one I would recommend.(less)
I Am Pilgrim is a sweeping 700-page behemoth of a novel that spans multiple decades and continents and I cou...morethis review will go live on the blog05/27
I Am Pilgrim is a sweeping 700-page behemoth of a novel that spans multiple decades and continents and I could have easily read another 700 pages. I'm typically hesitant to give in to hype, I've been burned in the past, but with this novel, the hype is not only deserved, but actually doesn't do the book justice. I Am Pilgrim is greater than the hype. It's the kind of book that rocked me to my core and left me breathless. It took me over a month to finally come up with a review but even after a month's thought, nothing I say will be good enough. This book is that good.
I'm purposefully leaving the summary vague; uncovering the details is half the fun! What initially starts out as a routine - albeit rather gruesome - murder investigation in a seedy New York hotel quickly spirals into a whirlwind race across Europe and the Middle East to stop a crazed zealot from raining destruction down on America. Throw in some ultra-secret government divisions, biological warfare, and a main character with severe mommy issues, and you've got the backbone of I Am Pilgrim.
It's never fully revealed just who our main character is. He was adopted as a child and later on recruited for an agency where he was given a new name and a new past. With each case he took on a new identity. He's a ghost, living on the fringes of society, never getting close to anyone. After he left the agency, he wrote a book detailing various crimes and unique methods of killing. He becomes involved in the murder investigation after it becomes clear the killer used his book as a blueprint, a checklist of what not to do and how to get away with it. From there I Am Pilgrim takes on a life of its own and I happily buckled in for the ride.
This is a novel where there's So. Much. to say but saying it will give away the book's secrets and I refused to ruin it for anyone! I Am Pilgrim is definitely not for the queasy and makes that clear with the opening scene. Thankfully I'm the kind of person who can't resist watching horror unfold and was thoroughly ensnared in this book's web. I'm convinced Hayes is something of a genius - the way he introduced multiple stories that, on first look, appeared completely unrelated only to have everything come together at the end had me in awe. It takes a special kind of author to turn a book of this length into a frenzied page-turner, and Hayes is clearly a master of his craft.
I Am Pilgrim kept me up late, got me up early, and had me sneaking in some reading time whenever I could throughout the day. When I wasn't reading this book I was thinking about it and counting down the minutes until I was able to get back to it. I realize this review is little more than me rephrasing "I LOVE THIS BOOK" over and over again, but when it comes down to it, that's all I can say (without spoiling anything, of course). I Am Pilgrim is a highly ambition novel that fully lives up to those ambitions and I'm counting on it becoming a huge hit this summer. It appears this is going to be a series, and if that's truly the case, I desperately need the next!(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)
I didn't read No One Else Can Have You until just a few days before its release partly because I was a little hesitant to begin. Reviews started coming out and they weren't good. At all. There were even a few bloggers who share a very similar taste in books with me that couldn't stand this debut - some couldn't even finish it! Despite the reviews declaring this novel weird and odd I was still curious. Anyone who follows Kathleen on twitter can easily get a feel for her sense of humor; I personally love both it and her, so in true Leah fashion, I ignored the naysayers and dove in.
And you know what? No One Else Can Have Youis weird. It is odd. But it worked beautifully to create an overwhelming sense of unease that was PERFECT for a murder mystery. For a good portion of this novel I felt extremely uncomfortable and I loved it. Hats off to you, Ms. Hale!
There was a time when the tiny Wisconsin town of Friendship lived up to its name. Everyone knew everyone by name, families stretched back for generations, and no one locked their doors. One night - and one girl - changed everything. When Ruth never showed up at Kippy's house, Kippy thought she bailed on their sleepover. It wasn't until the following morning that the truth came out: Ruth had been brutally murdered - suffocated with straw - and posed to look like a scarecrow in a cornfield. Fingers immediately start pointing to Ruth's boyfriend, but Kippy isn't completely convinced he's responsible. Armed with Ruth's diary (Ruth's mother asked Kippy to read it first and Sharpie out all the sex parts) Kippy sets out to uncover the truth behind her best friend's death.
Kippy, with her wardrobe full of turtleneck sweaters, was far too awkward for me to connect with, but that only made her more intriguing. There were many scenes where she seemed very young both emotionally and mentally and her voice came across as strange. Also, for a good chunk of the book I was under the impression that Kippy had been in love with Ruth. It's not a stretch at all to say Kippy was obsessed with her best friend - and for a while I entertained the thought that perhaps Kippy had been the murderer.
I will admit this book definitely is NOT going to be for everyone. One of the main characters, Ruth's brother, has recently returned from Afghanistan minus a finger and suffers from PTSD. There's talk of domestic violence and abusive relationships. At one point Kippy is sent to an institution and the characters there are all shown for comedic effect.
Readers looking for an eerie, character-driven thriller will find just that in No One Else Can Have You. There's certainly no lack of deeply flawed townsfolk in Friendship, Wisconsin. While this novel may not be for everyone, the readers who enjoy it will really enjoy it. It's gruesome and dark and I couldn't get enough. Also: if that cover was an actual sweater I would be all over it.(less)
With a title like The Promise of Amazing, the jokes come all too easy - particularly when the book isn't quite what was, well, promised. To cut right...moreWith a title like The Promise of Amazing, the jokes come all too easy - particularly when the book isn't quite what was, well, promised. To cut right to the point, the book fails to deliver on its intriguing premise. If you're a long-time reader of the blog you might recognize the phrase Matthew Pearl Effect, a term I've applied to novels that sound fantastic, but just don't live up to expectations (after numerous attempts at Matthew Pearl's novels I've finally come to terms that it's definitely an It's-Not-Me-It's-You situation - Pearl's story ideas are incredible, but his execution is severely lacking). It certainly didn't help that early reviews were less than stellar.
Sadly, the ridiculously adorable cover wasn't enough to save The Promise of Amazing and it was only its fast pace and short chapters that kept me from filing it away in the DNF folder.
Wren is the typical Good Girl: she maintains good grades, helps out at the family's King Arthur-themed dining hall, and wouldn't ever think of going against her parents' wishes. Definitely the kind of girl you'd take home to meet your parents. Grayson, however, is the boy your mother warned you about. A self-professed playboy, he was kicked out of his academy after a term paper scheme was discovered. Then there's the little crime ring he and his buddies hatched: using false names they 'hunted' for rich girls and seduced them in an attempt to gain access to the mansions filled with jewelry and fancy electronics. Through connections they would sell the stolen goods and begin saving the money for a trip to Amsterdam.
Once Grayson was kicked out of St. Gabe's phone calls from his friends came less and less frequently until it was just Grayson, his father, and his stepmother. Visits to his mother are few are far between; although Grayson adores his two young stepsiblings, it's his stepfather he's not exactly keen on. His prowess on the lacrosse field once made him the apple of Laird's eye. His recent expulsion suddenly turned him into an embarrassment, someone never to be discussed with colleagues and golf buddies.
Wren and Grayson had two completely different lives and although Wren's brother attended St. Gabe's, her path would have never crossed Grayson's were it not for a cocktail weenie. When Grayson began choking at the Camelot, Wren did the first thing she could think of: she performed the Heimlich Maneuver. It was this scene, twenty pages into The Promise of Amazing, that kicked off a series of eyerolls:
Then I thought of Wren; her body pressed against my back, soft but strong, and fighting for me.
Connecting with her had felt different.
...burning up at the thought of how intimately I'd already touched him.
Since the night I saved him, I'd felt a magnetic pull toward Grayson so strong it scared me.
All of those quotes took place between pages 22 and 36 of my e-ARC. These quotes were only the beginning of my issues with this book. Someone choking is not sexy. Performing the Heimlich should NEVER be viewed as an intimate act. I have seen people choke. I have witnessed the Heimlich being performed in order to save a life. None of these instances got me all hot and bothered and it's disgusting that this was the case for The Promise of Amazing.
The moment Wren realized Grayson was choking she immediately leapt into action. She saved him, he promptly threw up all over her shoes, and then began thinking about the "connection" they just shared. Also, his father doesn't feel the need to take him to a hospital or have him checked out in any fashion. Nope. All good here. Instead the two take off - I honestly forget where they headed, either back home or out on the town, but it certainly wasn't somewhere I'd want to go if I had nearly died ten minutes beforehand.
This "magnetic pull" was so strong between Wren and Grayson that they only needed to go on one date before declaring their love for one another. Prior to their date this scene was the ONLY TIME the pair had interacted.
So The Promise of Amazing wouldn't be seen as solely romance (I'm guessing), Constantine decided to throw in an extremely weak subplot regarding a SOOPER SEKRIT PLAN. Unfortunately, like the rest of the book, there just wasn't anything there of substance and a plot that had the potential to be interesting took a heavy hit in favor of the lackluster romance. Using the name Mike ...something (I already forgot his assumed alias), Grayson ~wooed the laydays~ and when a girl brought him back to her house he immediately set to work planning his method of attack. How would the guys be able to get in - were the parents going on a trip? would the house be empty at some point? was there a keycode he could memorize? He also began snooping about, looking for things worth taking.
The previous summer Grayson had slept with a girl named Allegra and, in the process, stole a large flat-screen television. Instead of calling the police/doing ANYTHING about it, Allegra's parents simply shrugged it off and bought a new one. Grayson and his friends would party in their pool house whenever the family wasn't there and thought nothing of it. Shortly after Wren and Grayson begin dating (maybe three interactions at this point) Wren walks in on Grayson/Mike putting the moves on Allegra at the mall. Instead of breaking up with him or, you know, being angry or upset, Wren makes out with him in a dressing room. A+ move there, book!
There are even MORE subplots, one involving Grayson's friend kissing Wren, and when the climax happens, the boys (minus the one toting some pot) get off scot-free. These boys face NO punishment or consequences for their actions. In the end everything is a-okay.
"What he did was awful, but he sort of got karmic payback getting kicked out of school. Don't you think? And, well, he hasn't done any of this in a while, right? Like months. A guy with a past is hot."
Just remember girls, catching your boyfriend cheating and stealing only makes him even more swoon-worthy!!
The Promise of Amazing was a book I was looking forward to, but turned out to be such a disappointment. Steer clear of this one.(less)
Marijke Monti is the IT girl: blonde, beautiful, star track athlete, with the hottest boy in school on her arm. Behind her facade of confidence and poise, however, she's crumbling. After dating for over a year, Tommy still hasn't told her he loves her. Oh, sure, he puts on grand gestures, buys her flowers for no special reason, picks her up everyday for school (always late, but at least he shows up). He tells her she's the only girl for him, but he certainly makes no effort to shy away from the attention he gets from the girls at school. Marijke tries to be understanding, she knows that her boyfriend is not only hot, but also a musician - naturally there will be girls fawning over him. Hastily changed plans, bits of overheard conversations, and Tommy's flirtatious ways lead Marijke to wonder if she's the only one interested in their relationship.
Lily Spencer is the definition of a wallflower. She puts all of her time and effort into volunteer work and student councils that her social life is totally nonexistent. She's always having to remind classmates of her name - assuming they recognize her at all. Her curly hair is unmanageable and she's quick to pull on a pair of jeans and comfy tee. It's no surprise that her crush has no idea she's alive, despite the number of classes they've shared.
After a particularly disastrous day (an argument with Tommy left Marijke stranded and Lily wanted to get away from her mother's flavor-of-the-week boyfriend), the girls find themselves at the local theater. Although they had never had a reason to talk in school, Lily and Marijke come to realize they're not all that different, particularly in the romance department. Over coffee the two concoct a plan: why can't real life be like the movies? Why can't they get their sweep-you-off-your-feet moment? Marijke is determined to show Tommy just how much he means to her and Lily simply wants Joe to notice her. First thing's first: they need a boombox.
Just Like the Movies was an absolute delight! This was a single-sitting read, perfect for a lazy afternoon or the beach, and fast-paced to boot! A part of me wishes the romance wasn't even a factor in this book; the friendship between these girls made the story. They support each other, they guide one another, and their bonds strengthened over the course of the story. This is how to write a friendship! Bravo, Kelly!
While I felt the connection between the girls, the romance was entirely a different story. Lily and Joe were cute, but I couldn't see what made Tommy so great. Marijke lived her life on Tommy's time. She held off deciding on a college because she wanted to see what Tommy had planned. She had a ton of friends, but threw them away to focus on Tommy. She puts up with the flirty texts, facebook messages, and looks from other girls. This guy hasn't said 'I love you' in all the time they've been dating - over a year - and yet she's still madly in love with him. He blows her off multiple times, stands her up any time they make plans, gives her 'buddy' nicknames like Champ (what's next, Slugger? Sport?). I didn't get it. If Matt ever treated me that way it'd take a lot more than flowers to make up for it.
There were some side plots added in that I didn't really care for (mainly the family drama) and felt they didn't add much to the overall story. Despite its predictability and character flaws (I'm looking at you, Tommy), Just Like the Movies was fun, fast, and featured an awesome friendship! The references to classic rom-coms were a blast, too - and I have a feeling there will be a movie marathon in my future!(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)
Had I not started reading A Paris Apartment rather late in the evening, I would have finished in a single sitting. Michelle Gable has crafted a wonderfully detailed, intensely engaging, and SUCH a readable novel - and it's her debut!
April Vogt's life is at a crossroads; her husband recently came clean about a one-night stand while away on a business trip and the revelation sent April reeling. Not only was she not expecting the news, but now she's not entirely sure she wants to work things out. When her boss announces a treasure trove uncovered in an old Parisian apartment, April leaps at the chance to see it in person. As a specialist for Sotheby's, she has a professional interest in the pieces, but she's also looking to escape, to think.
What April finds in the apartment is nothing short of mind-blowing. The previous occupant (nearly a century ago!) was akin to a courtesan, entertaining fabulously wealthy men - and apparently she kept every single gift. There's jewelry, pottery, paintings, furniture. There are also diary entries and as April dives deeper into Marthe's life, she comes to realize just what she wants out of life.
A Paris Apartment is delightfully easy to read - from the very beginning I found myself slipping away from my couch and into Paris. If you know me, you know I'm ALL about dual narratives, especially when those narratives cross time periods. In this case, there's April in the present: a woman reeling from her husband's infidelity and not quite sure if they really should make an effort to save the marriage, and Marthe de Florian in the late 1800s: orphaned and determined to rise above her lowly status. As is usually the case with novels like this, I come to prefer one storyline over the other and my feelings for these women surprised me a bit!
Initially I was drawn to April's story. Her husband betrayed her (and he was certainly made out to be an appalling jerk) and in an attempt to think things over she takes a job in Paris. April was a fairly likable character, though I took a shine to Luc, the estate's lawyer. I have to admit Luc reminded me of Jamie from The Other Half (not entirely sure why - unhappy marriages/cheating themes?), but that wasn't a horrible thing. Luc was charming and funny, particularly when trying to use American phrases and idioms. Roughly halfway though, however, I came to look forward to Marthe's chapters and the story of her childhood was fascinating - definitely a story I'd love to read on its own!
As the pieces come together and the storylines interweave, I found myself completely sucked in and enchanted. While A Paris Apartment wasn't flawless, it was thoroughly entertaining and I was entirely invested in their characters and their lives. I wanted the best for Marthe. I wanted the Sotheby's auction to be a success. The Parisian setting was merely an added bonus, but what a lovely bonus it was. A Paris Apartment is the perfect novel to reach for during these rainy spring days - it makes for a wonderful escape and is certainly a story worth getting lost in!(less)
Newcomers to Carter's work take note: this is not an author who's afraid to tackle heavy subjects. Last year...morethis review will go live on the blog06/03
Newcomers to Carter's work take note: this is not an author who's afraid to tackle heavy subjects. Last year's Me, Him, Them, & It focused on pregnancy and now her latest, My Best Friend, Maybe sheds light on sexuality and what happens to a friendship when it's called into question.
Until three years ago Colette and Sadie were best friends and virtually inseparable. Then everything changed just before high school. Suddenly Sadie went out of her way to avoid Colette and, while the two could have talked non-stop for hours just a few years before, any chance encounters in the school halls are now met with awkward and forced hellos. For Colette this sudden change in Sadie is met with confusion and hurt - what did Colette do? Was there something Colette didn't do that made Sadie all but abandon their friendship? What - if anything - can be done to fix things?
The hole left by Sadie has been hastily patched over with a church youth group and a new boyfriend, Mark - a boy Colette's parents heartily approve of; Sadie's free-spirited mother and laid back attitude toward rules never failed to raise an eyebrow. Colette's relationship with Mark is practically perfect: he always treats her like a princess, showers her with gifts, and never goes further than the chastest of kisses. With a youth group trip quickly approaching, Sadie presents an invitation that changes everything. Colette must choose between spending the summer with Mark on a retreat or visiting the Greek Islands with her ex-best friend - and possibly find some answers.
Slowly but surely GLBT themes are emerging in Young Adult literature and I welcome it with open arms. Sadly, all too often a character's sexuality is glossed over or revealed for little more than shock value and adds absolutely nothing to the story. Even worse is the sitcom-style ending: everything is wrapped up nicely in a pretty bow and any bullying/harsh remarks/bigotry is forgiven and forgotten. While My Best Friend, Maybe left me wanting more, the portrayal of the characters was wonderful and heartbreaking.
My Best Friend, Maybe is told through Colette's perspective and until the ending we only know her side of the story as to what happened the night her friendship with Sadie fell apart. What Carter did extremely well was keep me guessing. The back cover of my ARC states: "A beautiful and multi-layered story of friendship, romance, and sexuality..." and, naturally, I expected these would all come into play between two characters. Carter caught me off guard though and I really enjoyed that. Yes, there's friendship, romance, and sexuality, but the storylines aren't one and the same.
Over time the reader discovers more of Sadie's side of the story as well as her reasoning for inviting Colette along. While I was rooting for Sadie the entire time, her motives gave me pause. Colette's Bible-thumping mother also plays a large role and her actions were appalling and gut-wrenching. Although I finished the book in a single sitting (something I rarely do) I had to walk away more than once because of Colette's mother. It certainly says something about Carter's abilities as a writer that she was able to stir up such emotion in me.
Even though I felt the ending was a bit too sweet and sitcom-y, I devoured it in a handful of hours. The day I received My Best Friend, Maybe in the mail I immediately sat down to read it and didn't stop until I was finished. Caela Carter made a name for herself with her debut and her sophomore effort proves she's not a one-hit wonder. My Best Friend, Maybe is an absolute joy of a novel and definitely one to pick up! (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)
Two of my guilty pleasures are a good detective story and biographies. Pinkerton's Great Detective delivers bo...morethis reviews goes live on the blog11/18
Two of my guilty pleasures are a good detective story and biographies. Pinkerton's Great Detective delivers both in one tidy package, proving once again that sometimes the truth really is stranger than fiction.
James McParland, renowned sleuth, had such a mastery over his secrets that his own birthday is not known. Early on in the book Riffenburgh addresses this by admitting that for a biography, there might be more than a few inaccuracies. Because of this, Pinkerton's Great Detective winds up being less about that great detective, and more about Pinkerton, his agency, Charlie Siringo (a fascinating man in his own right!), and the cases McParland investigated: the Molly Maguires, Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch. Even Sir Arthur Conan Doyle makes an appearance.
Pinkerton's Great Detective begins in Ireland where McParland was born and raised along with eleven siblings. While McParland was still a baby the Great Famine struck, devastating Ireland's potato crops and leaving millions of people starving - if not dead. When he was still young, McParland left his home for America, a land not exactly warm and welcoming to the Irish at that time. The Civil War left entire cities ravaged, yet James was still determined to strike a new life - literally.
In his undercover work in the Molly Maguire case, James adopted the name Jim McKenna and constructed an entirely new identity. He lived and breathed McKenna, going so far as to invent false arrest records. This was the case that made his career and Riffenburgh clearly did his research: a sizeable portion of the novel is devoted to the Molly Maguires - or MMs as McParland referred to the gang - and rightfully so. McParland's time spent in the Old West is also covered in remarkable detail.
Readers hesitant to try non-fiction need not worry: although Pinkerton's Great Detective is painstakingly researched, Riffenburgh doesn't lose focus of the story. The book isn't bogged down with technical jargon or unnecessary details. While the ambiguity and inaccuracy does detract from the story at times the book remains action-packed and entertaining. After all, how could a story about a spy be boring?
Pinkerton's Great Detective will easily appeal to fans of a wide range of subjects: history, the Old West, detectives and true crime. Are you a reader new to or curious about non-fiction? Pinkerton's Great Detective is a wonderful starting point with its easy-to-follow narrative (Erik Larson's books come to mind) and intriguing characters.(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)
Cracked is a novel that came out of nowhere and took me by surprise. Initially I wasn't expecting more than a run-of-the-mill YA Paranormal. By the end of the first chapter, however, I was completely hooked!
Meda isn't quite sure what she is, but she knows it isn't good. See, Meda eats souls. And she likes it. Meda's mother always knew Meda wasn't like the other children - public schooling (or any schooling, for that matter) couldn't handle Meda and her tendency for violent outbreaks. Her mother's gruesome death has left Meda to fend for herself and Meda is more than capable of doing so.
After gaining admittance to an institution, Meda finally has her target cornered. She's had her sights on this man for a while, and now it's time for action. Unfortunately, there are others - some like Meda, some not - who arrive with plans of their own. When she's 'rescued' by a well-intentioned young man, Meda decides to make the most of it; Chi is a Crusader, a Templar seeking to rid the world of Demons. These demons he fights sound startlingly familiar to Meda. Here's her chance to find out just what she is - and possibly catch a snack or two in the process.
Cracked was, well, delicious. It was a fun, take-no-prisoners novel that I hadn't realized I needed. Meda was a fantastic character - though readers will either love her or hate her. She's snarky and rude and doesn't hide the fact that she is what she is. She had very few redeeming qualities - if any at all - and it's this anti-hero trait that made her so refreshing and enjoyable. The Knights themselves were all a great bunch too: Chi, the fearless leader who's just a few crayons short of a box; Jo, the no-nonsense girl who's haunted by a wound; Uri, the most adorable 12-year-old who practically worships Chi. I found myself truly caring for these characters and one scene even left me teary-eyed.
Not only did Crewe turn the likeable main character idea on its head, but she also did an absolutely wonderful job with the romance. The romance is between two secondary characters and I was rooting for them the entire time. If you squint a bit, there's a sliiight chance that Meda might have her own romance in the next book, but it really could go either way - and for once, I don't mind. Meda's character and the story itself are strong enough on their own to where I'm fine with the lack of a love interest.
Cracked was a short story, but one I was fully invested in and enjoyed immensely. If you're looking for a story that's outside the usual YA Paranormal, check this one out. This is a great start to a new series and I can't wait for the sequel!(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)
Bright Before Sunrise was a completely new experience for me. Until now I had never read any 'takes place in...morethis review will go live on the blog2/18
Bright Before Sunrise was a completely new experience for me. Until now I had never read any 'takes place in one day' books and, honestly, wasn't sure how it would be possible to tell a decent and plausible story in a matter of hours. I typically don't enjoy being proven wrong, but Ms. Schmidt stomped all over my reservations and crafted a remarkably wonderful novel.
Brighton Waterford is perfect. She's pretty, she's popular and kind, everyone loves her. Five years ago her father passed away and since then she's made it her goal to achieve his record back in high school: he managed to get every single person in his grade to volunteer for various projects and drives. Brighton's goal is in sight - there's only one person she still needs to sway. Unfortunately for her, that boy has no interest in anything to do with the snooty town of Cross Pointe.
Jonah Prentiss is not shy about his feelings toward his new life. His mother's recent marriage (and a new baby) upended his world. Sure, he might not have been able to afford a shiny new car or the latest video games, but back home he was happy. He had baseball, great friends, and a girlfriend he adored. Now he feels like a stranger in his family and an alien in his new school where his classmates are on a first-name basis with clothing designers. Things go from bad to worse when Prim and Proper Waterford starts getting on his case about signing up for a book drive. It was bad enough trying to avoid her at school, but that night he goes home to discover his mother had hired her as the babysitter for the evening. It's shaping up to be a long, long night.
I'm a total sucker for dual narratives. Bright Before Sunrise's point of view alternated each chapter and gave a glimpse into the real Brighton and Jonah. I wouldn't exactly call them chapter titles, more like headings? subtitles? Regardless of their technical term, these peeks below the surface allowed me to connect with these two characters and see them on a different level. While she shows off a happy smile, Brighton's still struggling to deal with her father's death. The following day the family will be holding a memorial and every chapter of Brighton's ticks down the time until then: 22 hours, 45 minutes left is chapter six, 14 hours, 9 minutes remaining by chapter 22. Jonah's frustration and utter lack of care shines through: How do you say "fifty minutes of torture" in Spanish? and I'm late for an appointment with Nyquil shooters & my pillow.
Brighton and Jonah were thrown together multiple times over the course of one day and I loved that, for once, there was no attraction at the beginning. They didn't like each other at all initially - Jonah thought Brighton was a stuck-up princess and Brighton only saw Jonah as rude. Their romance was slow and gradual (or as slow as you can get in a story that only lasts 24 hours). The only problem was Jonah's girlfriend. Yep, he was in a long-term relationship before he had even left his hometown. He and Carly grew up together and her family treats him as their own. Carly was a great character and I really felt for the girl. Jonah refused to let her into his new life, this flashy world of Cross Pointe. Of course she was angry and hurt! She felt Jonah thought she wasn't good enough now, that she'd embarrass him and when she discovered one of Brighton's flyers in his car she immediately accused him of cheating (though he hadn't). It was an easy-out and a way to finally push Brighton and Jonah together.
Despite the hurried break-up (I just can't picture Jonah moving on that quickly after being with Carly for years) and some stereotyping, I enjoyed Bright Before Sunrise. Schmidt's writing kept me entertained and the pacing had me constantly turning the page. This was my first of hers and I'm excited to say it won't be my last!(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)
Let's take another look at that summary, shall we? In just a single sentence I was hooked and needed to read...morethis review will go live on the blog05/13
Let's take another look at that summary, shall we? In just a single sentence I was hooked and needed to read Bellweather Rhapsody. Not only did the plot sound delightful (or as delightful as a murder/suicide can be), but then to be thrown references to The Shining and Agatha Christie! Unfortunately, when all was said and done, I felt this novel relied too much on those references and lacked its own spark. Take away Jack Nicholson and all that's left is a book with many, many (too many!) characters and far-reaching aspirations it can't quite attain.
In its heyday, the Bellweather hotel was THE place to be. Its rooms were constantly rotating with girlfriends and wives - never at the same time! - and every day was a party. Fifteen years ago, however, a bride shot her husband and then hung herself. Since then the hotel has been in a slow state of decline, the only time its rooms are mostly full is once a year for Statewide, a high school music festival. Careers can be made at Statewide and the best musicians from across the country show up to put their talents on full display. This year, however, a girl goes missing - and no one's quite certain whether or not she's dead - and the events from fifteen years ago seem to be replaying once more.
I wasn't joking when I mentioned the sheer number of characters. Usually I follow a 'the more the merrier' adage when it comes to characters and storylines. Here, however, I had a hard time keeping them straight and in one case didn't figure out two characters were completely different people until 100 pages from the end. While I'm not entirely blameless, I do think the novel suffered for not having clear-cut characters: readers shouldn't be confused as to who's who. In my case, I was thoroughly convinced Minnie's sister/brother-in-law was the couple from fifteen years ago; they were all at the Bellweather for the wedding and it was Minnie who discovered the bodies. Imagine my surprise then when Minnie's reintroduced over one hundred pages later with her family alive and well. There was simply too much to keep straight; characters and storylines that were mentioned in the beginning of the novel were completely forgotten about by the time the ending rolled around.
I felt Bellweather Rhapsody tried too hard to be too many things and tackle too many topics: Rabbit's sexuality was the focus of his chapters from the get-go - he's decided to come out to his sister - and by the time the climax rolls around, it's SO anti-climatic that I wasn't sure what the point was the begin with. In a single throw-away remark April mentions she knows he's gay and that's that. The entire book was spent waxing poetic about the boys he's crushed on in the past, the moment he realized he was different, what will his parents say!, there's a cute boy at Statewide and Rabbit's ready for a new beginning...it all culminated into one whispered question and then never brought up again.
There's a Scottish conductor who was once a prodigy until he lost three fingers in a barfight, a former prodigy who grew up to be evil incarnate and has groomed her prodigy of a daughter to be the best, a chaperone who had once loved music and carries a world of guilt on her shoulders, the hotel concierge who's slowly losing touch with reality - the list goes on. I honestly enjoyed these characters and their stories - I especially liked Fisher and Rabbit - but the focus quickly blurred toward the end to the point where I truly have no idea if certain characters even existed or if certain scenes ever happened. Perhaps that was the point of the novel and I missed it entirely. That said, when it comes to mysteries I like - and expect! - clear-cut answers and, sadly, Bellweather Rhapsody failed to deliver.
I don't want to give the impression that the novel was all bad - it certainly wasn't! When it was good it was great and I was thoroughly ensnared. Unfortunately, those moments of brilliance were dampened by the multitude of narratives and plot points and readers should never be confused. I'm positive Bellweather Rhapsody will find its audience - I wanted so badly to love it! - but it just wasn't for me. This year I took a long look at publishers and which imprints work for me. When it comes to Houghton Mifflin, I tend to enjoy their Young Adult novels far more than Adult, and Bellweather Rhapsody further proves my findings.(less)
Prior to reading Buzz Kill, Beth Fantaskey was an author I knew very little about. Sure I had heard of Jessica...morethis review will go live on the blog5/6
Prior to reading Buzz Kill, Beth Fantaskey was an author I knew very little about. Sure I had heard of Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side and the following books in the Jessica series, but I had never read them. It's always a little concerning when an author switches genres - will they be able to pull it off? In this case, Fantaskey makes the move from paranormal to a contemporary mystery. And I have to hand it to her, she surpassed all expectations!
When Millie Ostermeyer discovers the murdered body of Coach Killdare, she's not exactly losing sleep. Killdare wasn't the most popular person at Honeywell High. Not by a long shot. What does surprise Millie is that her dad, Mayor and assistant coach, is the number one suspect. Eager to clear his name and find the real killer, Millie launches an investigation using her position on the newspaper staff to get up close and personal with the local police. Along the way she's joined by Chase Albright, a boy carrying dark secrets of his own, and frequently consults the prime source on all things teen sleuth: Nancy Drew.
Wow. WOW. If Fantaskey's books are all this readable, I seriously need to get crackin'! Buzz Kill was a thoroughly entertaining novel, one I wanted to read and read and read as well as slowly enjoy. In true Nancy Drew fashion, there's a list of suspects from the get-go, as well as two besties, lots of eavesdropping, and general sneaking around. This book definitely believes in the "don't judge a book by its cover" adage; characters that are initially deemed villains turn out to be misunderstood and vice versa - wait until you discover Chase's secret! Talk about a tortured past!
My reviews usually contain more substance, but there's nothing more than needs to be said for Buzz Kill. I devoured it in a single sitting - though I really did try to make it last! A quick pace, short chapters, and gripping mystery made this an extremely fun read. My only concern was with Millie herself. More than once I forgot she was a senior. Her voice and actions came across as someone much younger. Regardless, I had a blast with this book. If your childhood revolved around Nancy and her friends, you'll want to check out Buzz Kill!(less)
Cold Calls is pitched as "Pretty Little Liars-meets-The Breakfast Club" and "for fans of I Know What You Did Last Summer and The Face on the Milk Carton." I try to avoid giving in to comparisons, but I'm very pleased to say that, this time, Cold Calls lives up to the hype!
Recently, Eric has been getting very strange calls, no number shows up and the caller's voice is disguised. At first he writes it off as a harmless prank, something that perhaps a freshman thought would be funny. After receiving a picture taken from inside his bedroom, Eric quickly realizes this isn't just another prank. This caller isn't messing around and unless Eric wants that picture made public - which he most definitely does NOT want - he better do everything the caller says. Eventually following these orders lands him in an anti-bullying program and it's there he meets two girls who surprised him by confessing that they too have been receiving calls. Who is this caller and how does this person know their darkest secrets?
To say I breezed through this book wouldn't be an exaggeration. Cold Calls is such a captivating and intriguing read that I tore through it in a matter of hours. The entire time I was trying to figure out two things: WHO was the person behind these calls and WHAT were the big secrets that these three didn't want leaked? I won't spoil anything, but - trust me, if I were in their shoes I would definitely do anything I had to in order to make sure everything remained private.
Although Cold Calls is initially told through Eric's and Shelly's eyes, it's not until the anti-bullying program that Fatima is introduced and adds her own narrative. And you guys know me - I'm all about multiple narratives! The more the merrier! The more I saw of these kids, the more I felt for them. All three were scared and so ashamed. What really broke my heart was that they were worried for themselves, they were doing these things to avoid hurting others. If any of these secrets were exposed loved ones would be hurt and these three are going through hell to protect the person they love.
There was only one small issue I had with Cold Calls. All three felt as those they had no chance of getting any evidence on the caller. While I understand why they didn't go to the police, if one of them (or even all three!) had simply recorded one of the phone calls they would have had all the evidence they needed. Law enforcement then could have stepped in, traced the calls, and caught the person behind it. But then that wouldn't have made for a very good story, would it?
Cold Calls is the kind of story I love getting lost in. Prior to blogging I was a die-hard Mystery reader and love revisiting my roots. Mysteries of the Young Adult variety are still new to me, but as Cold Calls proves, they're just as engaging. The entire time I was trying to figure out the identity of the caller and the motives behind the calls. I ended up behind completely wrong (and felt a tiny bit cheated with the Big Reveal), but overall I had a great time with this book! Face pace, highly entertaining plot, and a fun mystery to boot! If you're looking to play detective for an afternoon, look no further than Cold Calls.(less)
You know those books that feel as though they were written for you? That the author had you in mind while craf...morethis review will go live on the blog3/2
You know those books that feel as though they were written for you? That the author had you in mind while crafting the story? Say hello to A Death-Struck Year. I'm morbidly fascinated with plagues and deadly viruses. Nothing makes me giddier than reading about a world-threatening illness and few can touch the scope of the Spanish Influenza.
A Death-Struck Year covers two terrifying months in Portland. Cleo Berry is a seventeen-year-old preparing for her final year of high school. While marriage and raising families were still on girls' minds, it was becoming more commonplace for young women to attend college and Cleo is fretting over where her future lies.
The newspapers report the deadly Spanish Influenza that has touched down on the East Coast, leaving hundreds of thousands of Americans barely clinging to life if not already dead. When the virus reaches the West Coast, cities are all but shut down - including Portland. Suddenly Cleo has nowhere to go (her parents were both killed in a horrific accident when she was a child, her older brother and his wife are overseas celebrating their anniversary, and the housekeeper has gone home to visit her family) and rather than stay inside her quarantined school, Cleo makes a hasty decision to answer a Red Cross ad and volunteer. The hospital along with the makeshift ones are overcrowded and bodies are being discovered days later inside homes. Suddenly Cleo is in way over her head as all around her, people are dying and she quickly learns that death is not selective; no one is safe, no amount of money can guarantee immunity.
A Death-Struck Year was a one-sitting read and wonderfully researched. Makiia Lucier is not afraid to get down and dirty. This novel is not for the squeamish! Symptoms and facts haven't been sugar-coated; Lucier lays it all out in stark detail. We've all read novels where the main character is too rich and too spoiled for her own good and can't do a single thing on her own. It isn't like that at all with this book. Yes, in the beginning Cleo can come off as fairly petty, but once the Spanish Influenza hits Portland, she rises to action. She drags bodies out of homes and doesn't think twice about running to aid a person who's bleeding profusely. Before this novel she would have been the type to raise a fuss over a bit of dirt on her dress. Seeing such a large amount of death forced her to grow and mature and I like her all the more for it.
The secondary characters were lovely as well, from the fellow Red Cross volunteers and nurses to Cleo's classmates and even some of the victims. It's a shame her brother and his wife took the absentee parents route. The few interactions Cleo had with both of them were wonderful and I would have loved to have seen more. Even Edmund, a wounded Lieutenant and medical student, was great although I could have done without the romance. I'll admit that it was nice to not have a case of instalove, but I would think that the Spanish Influenza with a death toll of 50 million people worldwide would make the romance take a backseat. It didn't seem realistic that Cleo would have been interested in flirting and fawning over a boy at that time.
At the end of the novel Lucier has a few pages of historical notes which I absolutely loved. She also included a list of books for further reading that looks extremely interesting. While I've read loads of historical Young Adult novels set during the early 1900s, I had never come across one dealing with the Spanish Influenza and I have to hand it to Makiia Lucier: she did an incredible job with both her research and this novel. Whether you're a history fan or are looking to get out of your comfort zone, check out A Death-Struck Year. This is Lucier's debut and I cannot wait to see what she does next!(less)
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Today history will be made. In a few hours' time, the state will vote on...morethis review will go live 02/02. for the full review and more stop by the blog!
Today history will be made. In a few hours' time, the state will vote on whether or not California will secede from the United States and become its own entity, a new republic. Despite this momentous moment, Doctor Julie Walker has a more pressing matter at hand: her husband wants a divorce and her once-estranged sister is in labor. In the midst of it all is Dennis, a man Julie first met years ago who's obsession with her is nothing short of terrifying. After taking several nurses and attendants hostage, Dennis insists the only person he wants to speak to is Julie - and he wants to hear a story.
Golden State is a slim thing of a novel - barely over 250 pages - with chapters averaging 2-3 pages. Despite its near-nothing length and blinding pace, there's a lot of story packed in these pages: Dennis and the hostages; Heather's quickening contractions; the divorce; California's possible secession. Through it all Julie's memories begin to bubble up from their hidden depths. Memories of the night she met Tom, the child that once made them a family, and what Heather did to ruin everything.
Fans of linear storytelling will want to steer clear of Golden State. From the beginning you're thrown into this story with no clue as to where - or when - the next chapter will take you. Time skips and flashbacks are used to great effect, though it took me a few chapters to get a feel for it and to acclimate myself with Ms. Richmond's style of writing. Once I did, however, it was smooth sailing and everything was, well, golden.
Throughout the entire story I wanted answers. Why was Dennis holding up the hospital? What did Heather do? Who was this boy Tom and Julie loved and what could have happened to him? In the end everything plays out beautifully, and the ride there makes it all worthwhile. Tom's radio show provides a soundtrack of sorts to the novel. Al Green, Wilco, and countless others receive mentions and their songs further the story. Even with their pending divorce Tom continues to send messages to Julie through his song choices.
While reading I couldn't help but draw parallels to one of my favorite books of 2012, Karen Thompson Walker's The Age of Miracles. Fans of that novel are sure to enjoy Golden State for one simple fact: the Big Event takes a backseat to the characters. In The Age of Miracles the Earth's rotation was bringing about an apocalypse of sorts, yet the story focused on a 12-year-old girl as she went to school and made friends. Golden State doesn't exactly downplay the secession plot, but it certainly doesn't take centerstage. Instead this is more a novel about a marriage, a family, and moving on from the past.
I'm not one to stay up reading into the wee hours. Golden State's purely addictive writing made it impossible for me to put it down. What's another chapter when the chapter is only 2 pages? Before I knew it it was going on 2AM and I was hooked. Golden State digs deep into what it means to let go and live and I loved every minute of it. Michelle Richmond is now firmly on my radar and I'll be sure to check out her previous novels.(less)