Upon finishing Wolf in White Van, I spent a good hour reading reviews - what were they seeing that I couldn't? That was back in August. Now, weeks lat...moreUpon finishing Wolf in White Van, I spent a good hour reading reviews - what were they seeing that I couldn't? That was back in August. Now, weeks later, I've gone back and looked at those reviews again, the glowing praise, the life-changing commentary. Still I'm not getting it and that more than anything is what frustrates me. Even when I don't like a book I can still see the other side, understand just what its fans find so appealing. That's not the case here. Wolf in White Van is barely over 200 pages that still managed to take a few days to read. I hate to say it, but I think I'll be sticking with Darnielle's songs, rather than any upcoming novels. I will say though, that the cover is simply stunning. The title is a metallic foil and when the sun hits it just so...gorgeous.
Chock-full of metaphory goodness, 2AM at The Cat's Pajamas beautifully weaves together three storylines gravitating around a past-its-prime jazz club....moreChock-full of metaphory goodness, 2AM at The Cat's Pajamas beautifully weaves together three storylines gravitating around a past-its-prime jazz club. The novel's Old World feel perfectly suited the smokey barroom. The secondary characters were just as intriguing as the key figures and the foul-mouthed nine-year-old at the center of it all quickly became a favorite of mine. With it's catchy title and gripping characters, I can easily see this novel gaining a following, maybe not in the mainstream media, but underground - and I don't see that as a bad thing at all! This is a special novel that I'll have at the ready whenever someone asks for a solid story, but without all the hype and fanfare.
From Amish communities to sleeping with professors to a fiance stranded in Spain, The Theory of Light and Matter took me on a journey. A young boy dea...moreFrom Amish communities to sleeping with professors to a fiance stranded in Spain, The Theory of Light and Matter took me on a journey. A young boy dead after falling into a sinkhole and survivor’s guilt. A childless couple hoping to fill a void by opening their home to an exchange student. A son walking in on his mother’s forbidden affair. While I couldn’t exactly relate to many of these characters, I found them all fascinating. The Theory of Light and Matter is a thrilling display of talent and I’m overjoyed that I decided to take a chance on it! Looking to get lost for an hour or two? This is the perfect escape.
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)
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)
The Silent Sister reads like a movie, has all the ups and downs of a soap opera, and the thriller at the heart of it all left me breathless. This is o...moreThe Silent Sister reads like a movie, has all the ups and downs of a soap opera, and the thriller at the heart of it all left me breathless. This is one you definitely do NOT want to miss!
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)
Close your eyes. Picturesque. Charming. Quaint. What do you see? Offbeat. Unconventional. Quirky. This is exa...morethis review will go live on the blog7/11
Close your eyes. Picturesque. Charming. Quaint. What do you see? Offbeat. Unconventional. Quirky. This is exactly what you're getting from The Awakening of Miss Prim. There's something decidedly old-fashioned about this story - and that's certainly high praise! One part The Village (bear with me here), one part The Sound of Music, this novel was just plain good and this is a review that scares me. Despite sitting on my thoughts, I'm still unable to come up with the right words to say (apart, of course from I LOVE IT).
Prudencia Prim has more degrees to her name than I have fingers on my hand. With a blatant disregard for a firm "graduates and postgraduates need not apply" and ignoring the "preferably without work experience," Miss Prim marched up the hydrangea-lined path to inquire about a posting for a librarian position. The Man in the Wingchair (a man never named throughout the duration of the novel) decides to hire her on and Miss Prim quickly comes to realize San Ireneo is a town unlike any other.
The tiny village was founded as a refuge of sorts for those seeking to get away from the intensity of city life. In San Ireneo, values are sacred, gardens are perfectly tended, any goods are produced locally, education is prized (the Man in the Wingchair's nieces and nephews - all under the age of 11 - are able to recite ancient Greek and Latin works and hold their own in philosophical debates). What makes this town different is that the school teacher? The bookseller? None of these positions are filled by professionals. Shops open simply because the town lacks a particular ware. Miss Prim comes to learn this way of thinking came largely out of the want for the town's children to have an unbiased education, they learn the basics from the school teacher, but the bulk of their education is learned at various homes, largely the Main in the Wingchair's private library (which Miss Prim has recently taken to organizing).
The Awakening of Miss Prim is such a delightfully sleepy tale, exactly the kind of story I adore. There wasn't much in the way of action; instead, there's a wealth of character development and depth. A variety of topics are explored - religion, philosophy, there's even a debate on the merits of Mr. Darcy. While I'm relatively unfamiliar with the main bulk of 18th-Century British Literature (sorry, Janites!), The Awakening of Miss Prim felt right at home with those works. The Man in the Wingchair is a gentleman in every aspect of the word, San Ireneo itself had an old, primitive feel, the characters are all exceedingly formal. I loved every minute.
In addition to the story, the storytelling was beautiful too. Entire passages gave me pause and there were pages I read and reread because the language was so breathtaking. What boggles my mind is not only that this is a debut, but it's also a translation. That a translation could be this gorgeous is nothing short of amazing! It pains me to say that I feel The Awakening of Miss Prim will go unnoticed by the majority, but those of you who actively seek out under-the-radar novels will find a true gem. Fiercely character-driven, intensely thought-provoking, and with an ending that left me wanting more (I need to know!!), The Awakening of Miss Prim is a fantastic debut that I eagarly look forward to revisiting again. If you like your characters prim and proper (Prudencia Prim is a most apt name) with more than a hint of quirk, do yourself a favor and read this book.(less)
Whenever Jojo Moyes releases a new novel I know I'm in for a good time. The moment I have it in my hands I beg...morethis review will go live on the blog7/1
Whenever Jojo Moyes releases a new novel I know I'm in for a good time. The moment I have it in my hands I begin planning my day around it (I do not appreciate being interrupted while reading her books!) and set aside huge blocks of time in which to dive deep into Jojo's worlds. Since reading the incredible The Girl You Left Behind last year, I have since gone on to work my way through her backlist (something I rarely do). One Plus One is my fourth Jojo to date (The Last Letter from Your Lover and Silver Bay were both devoured earlier this year) and, while I've adored them all, Jojo's growth and ever-sharpening skills as a writer are evident with each novel.
Because my first two forays into Jojo's works were dual-era novels, I had mistakenly assumed this was her shtick. Silver Bay taught me that wasn't the case and One Plus One follows in its footsteps while still employing the multiple narratives that I love so much. Jess doesn't have much. She lives in a government-provided home, works as a house cleaner for wealthy vacationers, and struggles to make ends meet. Her husband took off two years ago and left Jess to support their daughter and his son on her own. Nicky, a smart-but-brooding teenager, is relentlessly bullied by the neighboring kids. Tanzie is an odd little girl, but phenomenal at math.
One phone call changes their world. When Tanzie is granted a hefty scholarship to an elite private school, Jess is left to find a way to come up with the rest of the cash - and fast. Word of a Mathematics Olympics has the family - and their gigantic dog - piling into a less-than-reliable car and on their way to Scotland.
When Ed was in college, the world was in his palms. He partnered with a buddy and together they created a booming software business, leaving both of them very well-off. Unfortunately, Ed ended up in a rather compromising position with an old college friend and now phrases like 'insider trading,' 'litigation fees,' and - the worst - 'jail time' have become a part of his life. In an attempt to lay low for a bit, Ed heads down the coast to stay in his beachfront home. When he first meets the cleaner he doesn't give her the time of day. The second time he meets her (and her kids and dog broken down on the side of the road) he decides to do something right for once: Ed offers to drive them to Scotland.
To say One Plus One is a road trip novel would be selling it short. Yes, technically, it is, but it's about so much more. These are flawed, broken characters who, over the course of the book, discover what it's like to love and be loved in return. My emotions ran the gamut: I laughed, I cried, I fretted over several choices made but stood in their corner through it all. While reading I lived and breathed these characters and now that it's over, I'm left feeling like I'm six years old again and my best friend has just moved away. I cannot praise Jojo's skill highly enough. She took a relatively ordinary story - single mom trying to support her kids - and turned it into something extraordinary.
One of my favorite things about any Jojo novel is the sheer amount of character growth. She has a no-holds-barred kind of attitude when it comes to her stories and seriously puts her characters through the wringer. Nicky, a Goth boy who likes eyeliner and prefers online friends, became so much more than a moody teenager. Ed, at first an extremely unlikable, egotistical man, did a complete 180° and turned out to be a fantastic - and fascinating - character.
I feel this review is more of me spouting my love for Jojo than anything and, as with each of her books, I'm struggling to find just the right words to say. One Plus One is story that made my heart swell and break - usually within the same chapter! For me, it's a perfect summertime read, though in a different way than your average beach read. The characters come alive and their circumstances - trying to keep up with bills, going from paycheck to paycheck - hit home for many. While most beach reads are about escape, One Plus One takes hold of your hand and shows you there are others out there just like you. And who doesn't love a smelly, drooling dog?
One Plus One is a phenomenal novel and firmly secures Jojo's rank as one of my favorite authors. Are you a long-time fan? Read this. Are you still new to her work and feel a bit overwhelmed by all the love she's received? Read this. Are you looking for a damn fine story? Read this.(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)
And if you feel that your decision was the right one, know this at least: that somewhere in this world is a man who loves you, who understands how precious and clever and kind you are. A man who has always loved you and, to his detriment, suspects he always will.
I am not a sappy girl. I don't get mushy or go all starry-eyed over forbidden romance. That said, I truly believe Jojo Moyes is on a one-woman mission to utterly destroy me. The Last Letter from Your Love ripped out my heart and stomped all over it...and I loved every second.
Much like The Girl You Left Behind, The Last Letter from Your Lover follows two stories over two different eras. In the 1960s, Jennifer Stirling had it all: a fabulously wealthy husband, a beautiful house, all the finest dresses, and her parties were renowned. A devastating car accident left her with memory loss and as she slowly pieces her life back together, she uncovers letters. Passionate letters from a man who certainly is not her husband. Times were different then - a woman was expected to maintain the house and children while the husband worked and divorce could ruin her reputation. Despite this, Jenny wants, needs to find this man she loved so fiercely.
In 2003 Ellie Haworth isn't where she envisioned herself to be at 32: a year into an affair with a man who has no interest in permanently leaving his wife and trapped in a newspaper office constantly searching for the next big story. With the building undergoing massive renovations, Ellie's tasked with searching through the archives and writing a feature on life in a previous era. While going through decades-old files, Ellie discovers letters - not just any letters, but love letters. The more she reads the more she becomes attached to these two strangers and their forbidden romance that so clearly mirrors her own. She decides then and there to track down these two people and see what came of their romance: did the woman accept his offer and leave her husband? Did she decide it was a mistake and has spent the past forty years trying to put it behind her?
With two Moyes novels now under my belt, I feel confident in saying she's a favorite author. Even before this book, when I had only read The Girl You Left Behind, I knew there was something special about her and I was left wanting more. Moyes has a way of making me completely incoherent and I absolutely love that her books have such an effect on me.
I will say though, that as much as I love her novels, Jojo Moyes has a slightly jarring way of switching eras. The novel opens in 1960 and although there were a few small skips to 1964, the story followed Jenny and Anthony for so long that I began wondering if perhaps I read the summary wrong and 2003 had been left out completely. It wasn't until page 231 that the second story line appeared and by then I was so invested in the previous story that I struggled a bit to get into it. Roughly 150 pages were left to not only wrap up the first story, but also introduce and complete the second, and I felt Ellie's story suffered because of this. My other minor (minor! This is Jojo we're talking about and she can do no wrong in my eyes!) issue is with the letters. While Anthony's words were breathtakingly beautiful and heartfelt, they are read and reread so many times by so many different characters that it felt like overkill - especially since each instance features the letter in its entirety.
With only two small distractions, I'd say The Last Letter from Your Lover is about as close to a perfect novel as you can get. My heart ached for Anthony and Jennifer and I fell in love with their story. In hindsight, several plot twists are obvious, but while I was reading I was shocked and surprised - definitely the sign of a great writer! Also, Moyes threw in a Doctor Who reference and that alone is enough to warrant five stars! I loved this book and I adore Moyes: do yourself a favor and read The Last Letter from Your Lover. It's sweet and sad and beautiful and heartbreaking.(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)
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)
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)
this 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...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)
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)
Sharon Creech was a staple of my grade school years, beginning with the Book Fair where I randomly came acro...moreThis review will go live on the blog8/22.
Sharon Creech was a staple of my grade school years, beginning with the Book Fair where I randomly came across a copy of Walk Two Moons. Since that day I have read and reread that book numerous times and it remains one of my absolute favorites. Earlier in the year I heard that Ms. Creech was releasing a new book and I knew I needed to read it.
The Boy on the Porch is an extremely slim story about a young couple, John and Marta, and the little boy they find. A note is attached to him saying John and Marta should look after him for a while and that the parents will return. The couple, bewildered and unsure, bring the child inside and allow him to nap and eat. As the days go by, turning into weeks, John and Marta begin to wonder if the parents will ever come back - and secretly hope they won't. Over time they come to deeply care for the boy, Jacob, and can't imagine not having him in their life.
Slowly they decide Jacob needs other human interaction. The animals on their farm are his constant companions, and Marta feels Jacob would benefit from more. He doesn't speak - he communicates by tapping - and through sheer patience and observation, John and Marta come to understand what each tap signifies. As he's introduced to people in town, including other children, John and Marta realize what a beautiful, brilliant boy Jacob truly is and each car coming up their driveway send shivers down their spines.
Just as this newly-formed family feels comfortable, however, Jacob's father arrives and that day impacts John and Marta in ways they can't imagine.
The Boy on the Porch was an extremely quick read - helped along by some chapters that were just a few paragraphs in length. Initially I wasn't sure how I felt about the book. The reader has something of an outside view to the story; there are no descriptors, and the setting itself is very vague. A young couple in a rural town discover a boy on their porch. As I got to the end, I realized that's really all I needed to know.
Creech knows how to pack a punch. I wasn't expecting to have such an intense and emotional reaction to the ending. It was beautiful and quiet and the perfect close. The Boy on the Porch feels to me like a Middle Grade book written specifically for adults. That's not to say children wouldn't enjoy it, but I know my 10-year-old self would have gotten something far different out of this story than the adult Leah.
The Boy on the Porch is truly a beautiful story that quietly moves along. If you're looking for action, this is not the book for you. However, if you're looking for an emotional hard-hitter than can be read in less than an hour, look no further.(less)
Wilds Cards is, unfortunately, a prime example of an intriguing plot that had a horrible execution. Southern...moreThis review will go live on the blog09/19
Wilds Cards is, unfortunately, a prime example of an intriguing plot that had a horrible execution. Southern boy Derek has found himself in the headmaster's office after a prank-gone-wrong. The prestigious school have given him numerous chances and this is the last straw. After fessing up and taking all of the blame, Derek's told he has 48 hours to gather his things and leave. With his dad stationed overseas and a spacey 25-year old stepmother, Derek isn't exactly looking forward to heading home. Things go from bad to worse when Brandi announces she's pregnant and until Derek's father returns, they'll all be heading to Chicago to move in with Brandi's estranged family.
As the only girl on the high school football team, Ashtyn has developed a tough skin. She had to earn the respect of the guys and now she's considered one of them. Her boyfriend is the star Quarterback and it's all but guaranteed he'll be elected Captain come their senior year. Ashtyn's sights are set a little further in the future: she's aiming for a football scholarship and the chance to play on a college team.
While things have never looked better on the field, Ashtyn's home life has seriously declined. Her mother abandoned the family years ago, her sister vanished as well, and her dad just doesn't seem to care anymore. Now her sister has returned, bun in the over, and with her son and stepson in tow. They simply arrive at the door and announce they're moving in.
Wild Cards had two things going for it: its BLINDINGLY fast pace and football. The football plot especially interested me, even moreso that it was a girl who played. YES PLEASE! Sadly, that's where the good ends. This is a book that suffers from an extreme case of telling rather than showing. We're told Derek is a bad boy, we're told Ashtyn is some super awesome fantastic football player/tough chick. I never got a feel for just who these characters really were and their relationship was downright confusing.
It seems all Derek does is paint the shed and cut the grass. I wouldn't have batted an eye if he helped a little old lady cross the street or rescue a kitten in a tree. Yep. Real troublemaker there. As far as Ashtyn's football prowess goes, she never actually plays. Or, sure, she practices, but that's it. There aren't any games - the novel takes places during summer vacation - so that angle was a complete letdown. At one point Ashtyn goes to a week-long football clinic where only the best high school players from around the country go, but even there we only read about a handful of drills (of course each one is sabotaged by boys who aren't interested in having a girl play).
I read a lot of YA and am getting into New Adult. I know how it goes and I've come to expect quick romances if not flat out instalove. What baffled me about Wild Cards is that, while the character are in love (in a weird quasi-incestuous way - she's his stepmother's sister after all), they refused to voice their feelings for nearly the entire book and they aren't in a relationship at all. The dual narrative allows the reader to know exactly how Ashtyn and Derek feel and it's very love/hate. Ashtyn thinks Derek's hot. Derek thinks Ashtyn has a great body. Ashtyn wants Derek to hold her. Derek wants Ashtyn period. Ashtyn hates how Derek is flirting with her friends and thinks he's a jerk. Derek hates how guys look at Ashtyn. This went on and on the entire book and their only interactions were arguments. Somehow this was supposed to be romantic? I just couldn't get into it.
The ending really took the cake though. (view spoiler)[After all the talk of Ashtyn being an amazing football player - and not seeing any proof - it turns out that Derek is the one who is really the star. Prior to the death of his mother he took his team all the way to the state championship and had a really promising career ahead of him. In the end it was about Derek's phenomenal skills rather than Ashtyn's. (hide spoiler)]
Wild Cards was such a disappointment. I went in fully prepared to love every moment, but nothing worked for me. The characters were flat, the football plot just wasn't there, and the romance was borderline aggravating. This is the first in a series, but I'm tapping out of this one. I have no interest in seeing what's in store for these characters. If it wasn't for the easy-to-read pace, I doubt I would have finished.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Everyone has their personal brand of comfort read, be it a fluffy romance, realistic fiction, or a beloved childhood favorite. For me it's thrillers. Prior to jumping back into YA (and blogging), 95% of what I read fell into the thriller genre and I love revisiting favorites and discovering new ones. Louise Millar's sophomore title, Accidents Happen, definitely classifies as the latter (spoiler alert?).
After a series of tragedies - the sudden death of her parents on her wedding night, the murder of her husband, and a recent break-in - Kate is more than a little protective of her son. Statistics begin to take charge of her life and her cautiousness quickly delves into paranoia and obsession. The iron gate encompassing the entire second floor is the final straw for Kate's in-laws and they begin to wonder if her son might not be better off living with them. Jack is 10, old enough to walk to the convenience store on his own and not worry about monsters in his closet, but Kate's fear has kept him sheltered.
Five years since the death of her husband and Kate is still not ready to move on. It's only at the thought of losing her son that Kate agrees to seek out a therapist and their first meeting couldn't end fast enough. Now each week Kate lies to her sister-in-law about where she's going - anywhere but that therapist.
One day she stops into a cafe and notices a book lying on a nearby table. Beat the Odds and Change Your Life by Jago Martin, Professor at the University of Edinburgh. Kate wastes no time in flipping through the chapters. Topics on how to improve the chance of avoiding car accidents and selecting the best airline ring loud and clear and when the owner of the book returns to his table, she has to force herself to hand the book back. The two strike up a conversation and she realizes he's the author: Jago Martin. More out of necessity than anything, Kate wants to know where he came up with his numbers, his facts.
Back at Kate's house, Jack's closet door opens. It seems his monsters aren't so imaginary after all.
To say I enjoyed this book would be an understatement. To say I really enjoyed this book would be putting it lightly. For four days I lived and breathed Accidents Happen, fully immersed while reading and when I wasn't I was thinking of nothing but getting back to it. Right from the start you learn Kate's fears are very real, there actually is someone entering their home any time she's gone. A hole cut into the back of Jack's closet is the perfect passageway from the other side of their duplex. Magnus is free to come and go as he pleases and doesn't hesitate to help himself to some of Kate's lotion or whatever is in the fridge. Logic (and her mother-in-law) tells Kate that perhaps she used a little more lotion than she thought or maybe Jack wanted a midnight snack, but the truth is far more frightening. More than once I was so overwhelmed with emotion I had to set the book down. Despite Kate's alarm system and other precautions, Magnus still found a way to enter her home and that terrified me.
As the story progressed I quickly figured out who the Bad Guy was but it didn't dampen my enjoyment at all. Accidents Happen is a little on the longer side, but the pace is so blindingly fast I actually had to slow myself down in an attempt to stay with this wonderful book as long as possible. Whether you're a long-time thriller fan or a YA fan looking for something new, I highly recommend Accidents Happen. This book was intense and riveting with plot twists that will keep you on the edge of your seat.(less)
New Adult is a genre that's still relatively new to me. I've only read a handful and when you strip them down, they all seem to have the same set of bones: girl in college meets boy and they have a lot of sex. Is New Adult erotica-lite? The names and settings change, but the core remains the same and I've come to be fairly disappointed with this supposedly innovative and exciting new genre.
That said, imagine my surprise when I absolutely adored Foreplay! It follows the New Adult 'formula' to a t, but it works. I was engaged and entertained and when it comes down to it, that's what a successful book is all about. Since Pepper was a little girl she has been madly in love with her best friend's brother, Hunter. When Hunter moved away for college, it was a no-brainer for Pepper: she would do everything possible to get a scholarship so she could be with him. Now that her dream is beginning to become a reality (along with the news that Hunter recently broke up with his girlfriend), there's just one problem: Pepper knows next to nothing about relationships. There was one disaster of a kiss years ago and that's it. Naturally Pepper's two suitemates come up with a solution: find a no-strings-attached, experienced guy who can show Pepper the ropes. Luckily for Pepper, they have just the guy in mind - the super hot bartender. Unfortunately even the perfect plans can go wrong.
Reece is a pierced and tattooed boy from the wrong side of the tracks. He dropped out of college in order to keep the family's bar running after his father's accident. The stares of college girls is nothing new to him, but Pepper's proposition is certainly a surprise. More amused than anything, he agrees to bring her up to speed if you will, but it's only a matter of time before Pepper sees the real Reece. Literally. That love-'em-and-leave-'em reputation? Turns out it belongs to Reece's brother and Pepper and her suitemates mistook one for the other. Oops.
Despite Pepper's goal being another guy, Foreplay doesn't suffer from a love triangle until toward the end and it's all resolved fairly quickly. I was a bit disappointed with how calm and cool Hunter was about the whole thing, but the rest of the story more than made up for it. My only gripe is that for a book set at college, there's very little in the way of, you know, classes and general campus life. There's a coffee shop Pepper frequents, but the majority of the novel takes place in Reece's bar. I would have loved to see a bit more of Pepper's college life!
Foreplay was great all-around: well-written characters, a fun plot, and a quick pace. I'm not sure who the couple will be in the sequel, Tease, but I can't wait to find out! If you're like me and have a fairly lackluster track record with New Adult, do yourself a favor and read Foreplay.(less)
I equate summertime with road trips. The windows down, the music up, your best friends right beside you. Is there really anything better? When I first heard about The Museum of Intangible Things I knew I needed to read it: two down-and-out girls from New Jersey leave behind their less-than-stellar lives in search of something bigger, grander. Not only did I get that, I also got a surprising amount of emotion and heartache.
Hannah and Zoe have always been there for each other. When they were children they swore they would always protect one another and each girl has made good on her promise. Zoe has no father to speak of, while Hannah's in struggling in his AA meetings. They sneak off to a nearby 'rich kid' school and hide in the attic to listen in on lessons; there's no way their school could ever afford classes like this. Hannah's only chance at a better life lies with her grades and what money she's able to make from selling hot dogs on the beach.
Zoe's younger brother suffers from a form of Asperger's where he cannot form or understand emotion. In an attempt to teach him what each emotion is, Zoe builds large displays in their basement - her Museum of Intangible Things. Each display shows - and explains - a concept: proud, sad, disappointment. Spontaneous plans aren't uncommon for Zoe and she announces a road trip, she wants to show Hannah there's more to life than following the rules and getting good grades.
Off the bat I should mention this is NOT a happy-go-lucky road trip book. Nope. Not. At. All. The Museum of Intangible Things was a wonderful, beautiful, gorgeous friendship novel (seriously, their love for each other shone through. I wasn't told they were best friends, I felt it, I saw it), but it was also a heartbreaking look at mental illness, alcoholism, and the hopelessness of being unable to help someone you love. I'm not going to lie - I teared up more than once. By the time I finally caught on to where the ending was headed I hoped I was wrong, that it wouldn't go that route. ..and when it did? It felt like a punch in the gut.
When the book wasn't breaking my heart, it was a ton of fun! At one point Zoe and Hannah sneak into an Ikea and stay overnight. While I went along with it (and secretly, I would love to do something like that!), later on in the story I had a harder time believing. Not once, but twice Zoe vanishes and twice Hannah is able to find her. No, the girls aren't lost in a mall or anything like that. Zoe took off in Las Vegas. Las Vegas. Somehow Hannah was able to find her again without too much trouble. Later in the novel Zoe flees once more - this time to the Grand Canyon - and again Hannah was able to find her far too easily.
Discussing The Museum of Intangible Things is no easy task. I want to talk about THINGS, but those things are massive spoilers. Even Events Leading Up To THINGS could potentially ruin the entire story, so I'm left with extremely vague thoughts. Sorry, guys! If you want to know more, you'll have to grab a copy of this one and find out for yourselves. Then come find me - I need to talk about this book!(less)
A few months ago I discussed imprints and I mentioned one of my go-to imprints (according to my ratings) is Viking. Steal the North is one of Viking's latest releases and, once again, proves just how well that imprint knows me.
Steal the North is not a happy story by any means. Instead it's a story of a family brought together by lies and tragedy and shows how they cope with the past and, ultimately, struggle to move on. Sixteen-year-old Emmy thought her only family was her mother. Her world shatters when she finds out that, not only is her father alive and well, but she also has an aunt and uncle living in Washington. Even more shocking is when Emmy's mother tells her she'll be spending the summer with her new-found family. Kate was just barely out of her teens when she became pregnant. Having been raised in a fundamentalist church, Kate's pregnancy cast her out of the only thing she knew. Her father disowned her, the church disowned her, the boy she planned on marrying took off. In order to support herself and Emmy, Kate did unspeakable things and, when she couldn't take it anymore, left Washington for California in order to start a new life. It's been sixteen years since she last spoke to her sister and now her family needs her help.
When Kate left, Bethany lost a huge part of herself. Her older sister was her rock and the year she was able to spend with Emmy was the happiest she'd ever been. Since she was a child Bethany's dream was to have children of her own, but she's suffered miscarriage after miscarriage and realizes she has one more chance. While Matt can't convince her to see a doctor, Bethany has started looking into alternative medicine - herbs, plants, but not to the extent that her fellow worshipers would become suspicious. The new pastor has agreed to do a healing and Bethany's niece is needed for a vital role. Next door to the Millers lives a Native American family. Life on the reservation might provide them with family, but the trailer court holds far more stability and a life away from gangs and poverty. Theresa supports her kids as best as she can and her younger brother Reuben helps out whenever she needs him. The summer Emmy spends in Washington brings together two wildly different families and she discovers what it truly means to be home.
Steal the North is beautiful. It's heartbreaking. It's emotional, raw, real. The story is set in the late '90s and, in the easiest way to get to my heart, features numerous points of view. I don't want to say Emmy is the standout character, though the story is very much about her. Bethany, Reuben, and Kate are every bit as important to the story and each chapter shows a side to the story that wasn't there before. Bethany, with her homemade dresses and long hair. Kate's bitterness and regret. Reuben's desire to hold onto his Colville traditions. I was pleasantly surprised that even minor characters were given a chapter or two: Jamie, Emmy's father, isn't quite the deadbeat he's originally made out to be. Spencer, Kate's boyfriend, loves her and Emmy more than anything and is determined to become a family. Every single character, big or small, was beautifully written and felt like people I could easily pass on the street or stand behind in line at the grocery store.
Be warned, though: this isn't a lazy day read. It's not a novel to be devoured in an afternoon. I spent well over a week with this book and I feel that truly helped me get a real feel for the place and the characters that I would have missed had I raced through it. I also feel that my slow reading pace subconsciously mirrored the slow story-telling - and I don't mean that in a bad way! Steal the North was not a novel that dragged its feet or one that bored me. Instead, it was a story that simply wasn't ready to give up its secrets; instead I had to earn them and when I finally discovered the truth it hit me hard. My heart broke a hundred times over for these characters and while my life isn't anything like theirs, by the end of the book I wanted to reach out to my family. That is the sign of good story-telling, ladies and gentlemen.
My only - only! - complaint about the novel has nothing to do with the story itself, but with the cover. Personally I find the cover stunning, but what you can't see on the screen is that, because of the camera angle, there's a clear view down the model's dress. It would have been so easy to fix: a different angle, different lighting, a different dress.
It floors me that Steal the North is Bergstrom's first novel. With a debut like this there's no telling what the future holds - but I look forward to it! Steal the North was filled to the brim with emotion: heavy subjects like loss and race were handled with grace and the love coursing through these pages hit home. This is definitely a novel I'll be talking about for a long, long time and certainly one I'll be recommending to friends, family, and customers. Pick up a copy of this novel - trust me.(less)
I don't want to jinx myself, but I've been having insanely good luck lately with Young Adult Thrillers. Before I beg...moreReview goes live on the blog9/20!
I don't want to jinx myself, but I've been having insanely good luck lately with Young Adult Thrillers. Before I began blogging, thrillers were my go-to reads, but I never thought to try them in a YA flavor.
Wick Tate doesn't have a whole lot going for her: her felon father is on the run, cops are trying to squeeze information out of her, she's on her fourth set of foster parents, and her best friend acts like Wick no longer exists. The two bright sides to Wick's life are her little sister Lily and her hacking business - women hire her to get the dirt on their cheating boyfriends/husbands.
The morning following a detective's usual late-night stakeout, Wick finds a diary on the doorstep. Flipping through she recognizes the handwriting of her former best friend, Tessa. Scrawled on the cover however, are the words find me. That day at school Wick learns Tessa died - jumped off a building - and Wick refuses to believe the story ends there. The diary entries talk of more: a man Tessa was seeing, someone who learns Wick picked up his scent and now he's after her.
YA Thrillers might just be my new favorite thing. Find Me captivated me from the very first page and didn't let go until well after I finished. There's a sense of foreboding throughout the novel that I found riveting and more than once my breath caught and I lost myself to the scene. When I read thrillers or mysteries, I like to guess at Who Did It and I tend to be right. The same can be said for Find Me, but the way the mystery was revealed was so expertly done that I didn't mind one bit! I had actually been hoping for a different character to be the killer and was disappointed I was wrong, but the truth came out and when it did I immediately changed my tune; the bad guy was truly awful and I began to panic and had to set the book down. Having your reader experience such intense emotions takes some serious talent and Ms. Bernard let hers shine.
As per YA there's a romance involved, but what sets Find Me apart is that there was NOT a love triangle nor was this a case of instalove. Their relationship blossomed over time and it was such a welcome sight. Even better: the romance didn't take center stage. In the hands of a lesser author, this book about a killer-going-after-the-younger-sister could easily have turned into a starcrossed romance with a hint of an actual plot. No so here!
That this is Ms. Bernard's debut novel both impresses and excites me! Find Me enveloped me in its mystery - Who was this man Tessa was seeing? Will he get to Wick's sister? - and its hold refused to give. I highly recommend this book and you can bet I'll be waiting to see what Romily Bernard writes next!(less)
Jaycee's life was idyllic. She had a best friend, a boy who liked her, and a nice house in a quiet town. After what is...moreLink goes live on the blog9/17.
Jaycee's life was idyllic. She had a best friend, a boy who liked her, and a nice house in a quiet town. After what is declared a gang-related murder shakes things up, suddenly life isn't so perfect. Jaycee's best friend becomes more and more distant, hanging out with the wrong crowd and piercing nearly every inch of her body. As the two grow further apart, the texts become less frequent. Until the night of Rachel's death. The night where Jaycee chose to spend her time with Skyler instead of answering her phone.
Rachel's death turns the town upside down. Suddenly Rachel's Mexican heritage comes into play - despite the fact that Rachel spent her entire life with these people. Soon the mothers at church are whispering about Rachel and drugs and gangs and Jaycee doesn't know what to believe. She does know one thing though - she and Rachel broke into an old house and Rachel saw something. Something that changed her forever and Jaycee is determined to find out just what went on that night and who is really responsible for her best friend's death.
Okay, calling it right now: Dead Girls Don't Lie is one of my TOP READS OF 2013. It's that good, y'all. It had a distinct Pretty Little Liars vibe that I ADORED and a blindingly fast pace that kept me turning the page.
In order to solve the mystery behind Rachel's death, Jaycee first needs to come to terms with it. Naturally she's hesitant to visit Rachel's mother - especially as part of the clean-up crew the church organized (the drive-by left the porch and Rachel's bedroom in ruin). She's also unsure whether or not she should tell her secret: the night they were in the old house, Rachel left with blood on her hands.
When a video from Rachel gets sent to her phone, Jaycee decides something needs to be done. Under Rachel's instructions she teams up with Eduardo, much to the dismay of Skyler. With Eduardo - and occasionally Skyler - Jaycee pieces together the events leading up to Rachel's death and what she uncovers is shocking.
Dead Girls Don't Lie is one of those books I loved so much I can't fully put into words. Plot twists I genuinely didn't see coming and a constant parental presence were added bonuses to an already fantastic story. If you like smart - and delightfully creepy - mysteries, do yourself a favor and check out Dead Girls Don't Lie.(less)
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)
Astrid Krieger has everything: her family is wealthy & powerful beyond belief, she goes to an elite private academy, and she gets whatever she wants whenever she wants it. Unfortunately, her perfect life comes screeching to a halt the day she's expelled. Getting into trouble is nothing new for her - more than once she's spent the afternoon in jail - but this time her family decides they've had it.
It's time Astrid goes to a public school.
Naturally Astrid doesn't think this is a good idea at. all. and isn't shy about voicing her opinions on the matter. She's convinced she was set up, that someone intentionally had her kicked out of Bristol Academy and being stuck in a public school isn't how she planned on seeking her revenge. Now, instead of spending her time surrounded by stinking rich kids, Astrid sits next to Lucy, a constant hair-eater, Noah, a boy who isn't like the others, and Pierre who has been in love with her forever and transferred schools to be with her.
Going into Firecracker, I tried not to make assumptions. David Iserson, a writer for television's New Girl and Saturday Night Live, decided to try his hand at a Young Adult novel. So far, so good. Lots of actors/performers have been seeking to branch out a la Lauren Graham (Someday, Someday, Maybe). Unfortunately, it came to my attention that Mr. Iserson earned a spot on the Authors Behaving Badly list after a flurry of tweets came out attacking a reviewer for her honest review.
That said, I decided to give Firecracker the benefit of the doubt and see what it was all about. Right from the start however, it's clear Astrid is a brat - and that's putting it very lightly. She thinks she's God's gift to mankind and deserves to have everything handed to her. I'm sure we've all read books in the past that feature characters like her, only by the time those books end, said characters have a huge revelation and see the error of their ways. Not so with Astrid. Sure, she might have allowed herself to make a friend and save her sister's wedding, but the way she goes about doing these are so out-of-line. She thinks nothing of crashing someone's car, slamming a piano lid onto her cousin's nose, smashing a Twinkie into a girl's hair. I could go on and on, and sadly, not once does Astrid stop to think that maybe she's in the wrong. Instead she's fully convinced her actions are justified.
For a main character, Astrid's utter lack of character growth was disappointing. She's the same person she was in the beginning of the book with absolutely no redeeming qualities.
The supporting characters were all FAR more interesting. Lucy is a nerdy, unpopular girl who always has her hair in her mouth. She was one of the only nice people to Astrid and truly seemed to want to be her friend. Noah is another new transfer to the school and his absolute lack of interest sets him apart from the others. He was the character I found the most intriguing and once his story was revealed, I liked him even more. I would have loved for more chapters to have been devoted to his character. Pierre - his real name is Lukas but Astrid refuses to remember it - is from the Czech Republic and originally attended Bristol Academy with Astrid. He was hopelessly in love with her back then, writing poetry and singing songs every chance he got, and when she transferred he followed. I never quite understood why he loved her so much; she was absolutely horrible to him, yet he was completely entranced.
As for the plot, it just sort of moseyed along until reaching the end. I honestly wasn't expecting the betrayer to be who it was and I thought Astrid's last act of revenge a bit overkill. In the end, however, Firecracker was entertaining but I can see where readers from both sides of the fence are coming from. If you're looking for a quirky contemporary with redeemable and relatable characters, you should probably look elsewhere. That said, if you're looking for a quick and amusing afternoon read, Firecracker might just be the book you're looking for. (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)