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)
Ten years ago, Janie Jenkins had the world in her hands: a fabulously wealthy It Girl famous for being famous...morethis review will go live on the blog7/31
Ten years ago, Janie Jenkins had the world in her hands: a fabulously wealthy It Girl famous for being famous, she was dating a British musician, and had just landed her first magazine cover. Unfortunately, her mother ruined it all by dying. Or, rather, by being horrifically murdered - and writing out Janie's name in her own blood. Those five letters cause Janie to lose it all, she was hauled off to prison (what other reason would her mother have for leaving Janie's name beside her on the floor?) and now the only letters she received are full of hate.
Due to a technicality, a mix-up in a lab, Janie is released into a world much different than the one she left. Once word gets out, the media launches its own manhunt. Despite there being no evidence, everyone believes Janie to be guilty - even Janie herself isn't sure whether or not she actually did it. Armed with broken bits of memories, a fake ID (courtesy of her layer, Noah Washington), and a new hair cut, Janie heads for a tiny town in South Dakota in the hopes it will give her the answers she seeks.
Prior to blogging, I lived and breathed Thrillers. Since then, I've branched out and discovered truly wonderful authors and genres, but every so often I love revisiting the one that started it all. I had high hopes going into Dear Daughter - especially since TANA FRENCH (!) has a blurb featured on the cover - and I'm thrilled to say the book didn't disappoint!
Does a main character need to be likable for the book to be a hit? I don't think so. 27-year-old Janie is a spoiled brat - even after a decade in prison. She grew up in Switzerland and had a rotating stock of tutors, nannies, drivers, stepfathers. From an early age she knew how to get what she wanted and was never very good at taking no for an answer. Jail did nothing to change her attitude. If anything, it made it worse, but there was something about her I couldn't help but watch. I suppose that's the case with any young socialite: even if they're rude, nasty people, they still hold that spark that you can't look away from. Bravo, Ms. Little.
The media are convinced Janie got away with murder and I was caught up in the action. In between chapters there were transcripts from court documents, trial notes, police reports, and celeb gossip blog posts that I thought were amazing. These gave more insight into Janie's character, the night her mother died, the media circus trying to tail her (reports of Janie sightings are extremely popular)...I ate it up.
Janie's arrival in South Dakota (under the guise of a dowdy and frumpy Rachel Parker) reveals far more than she ever bargained for. As she uncovers the history of this tiny mining community, she discovers just who her mother was - and exactly what happened that horrible night ten years ago. As someone well-read in Thrillers, I'd like to think I know the 'formula' well enough by now to see what's coming. I'm pleased to say there were a few reveals that genuinely surprised me and some twists I hadn't guessed! Marion's past was fascinating and I loved learning her secrets with Janie.
I feel that romance can never be a total win for me. If there's romance in a book, it'll happen to quickly for my liking. If it's not there at all, I'll be disappointed. Clearly I just can't win! Dear Daughter isn't romance and doesn't put any focus on love, but I thought something was going to happen with Janie and a character and it never did. Perhaps I was reading into it too much?
Dear Daughter is a stunning debut novel and I'm excited to see where Ms. Little goes from here! It's extremely readable with a quick pace, intriguing mystery, and characters you'll love to hate (and I mean that in the best way!). This is certainly one I'll be recommending and you can bet I'll be eager to see what Ms. Little does next.(less)
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)
I'm a huge fan of cozy mysteries, those fun and easy novels that I can get lost in for an afternoon. While authors like Christie and Sayers top the charts, my guilty pleasures are the themed series - psychic detectives, cupcake bakeries, you name it, I'll read it! So when I heard about a new series featuring a Southern bed and breakfast I was all about it!
Beth recently moved back to her hometown and has started the lengthy (and expensive!) task of renovating her beloved grandmother's home into a bed and breakfast. With the help of a seriously good-looking handyman, Beth's dream is slowly becoming a reality - until the night Miss Lavinia checks in. Miss Lavinia's family stretches back to the very founding of Littleboro and at one point, owned half the town. When she was younger, Lavinia left home and moved abroad, traveling all throughout Europe and living the high life. Now in her 80s, Lavinia decided to pack her things and move back home, first securing a room at Beth's. The following morning, however, Beth discovers that during the night, Lavinia passed away. Things go from bad to worse when her death was ruled a homicide - there were traces of hemlock found in the body - and Beth's the prime suspect.
I really don't have a whole lot to say about Doing It at the Dixie Dew. It was a super short novel (250 pages!) and a good escape for a few hours. If you've read a cozy before, you'll feel right at home here - this novel is extremely easy to read, though there were times when I felt that was more of a hindrance. Yes, it's formulaic, but that's the genre as a whole. When the Big Reveal happened, the villain explained his/her actions for a good few pages and even invited Beth over for a cup of tea (Southern charm all the way). It was clear there would be a romance between Beth and Scott, but I wasn't feeling it at all. They certainly interact plenty over the course of the novel, but I wasn't feeling any kind of spark between them and suddenly they were in bed together (then never mentioned it - or any kind of feelings for one another - again for the rest of the book). Perhaps there will be more in the sequel?
I suppose this is more of a mini review, but how much is there to say about a novel this size? It entertained me while it lasted, so on that point is succeeded, but I wasn't overly wowed by it. Yes it was enjoyable, but there wasn't anything particularly special or unique about the story or characters. Doing It at the Dixie Dew wasn't a bad novel at all, but it wasn't a stand-out story either. This was a solid average read if there ever was one and I'm a bit worried people might get the wrong impression by that. Let's just say that if you're a fan of cozies and want a new series to read, give this one a shot. If you're brand new to the genre, however, this isn't the one I would recommend.(less)
I Am Pilgrim is a sweeping 700-page behemoth of a novel that spans multiple decades and continents and I cou...morethis review will go live on the blog05/27
I Am Pilgrim is a sweeping 700-page behemoth of a novel that spans multiple decades and continents and I could have easily read another 700 pages. I'm typically hesitant to give in to hype, I've been burned in the past, but with this novel, the hype is not only deserved, but actually doesn't do the book justice. I Am Pilgrim is greater than the hype. It's the kind of book that rocked me to my core and left me breathless. It took me over a month to finally come up with a review but even after a month's thought, nothing I say will be good enough. This book is that good.
I'm purposefully leaving the summary vague; uncovering the details is half the fun! What initially starts out as a routine - albeit rather gruesome - murder investigation in a seedy New York hotel quickly spirals into a whirlwind race across Europe and the Middle East to stop a crazed zealot from raining destruction down on America. Throw in some ultra-secret government divisions, biological warfare, and a main character with severe mommy issues, and you've got the backbone of I Am Pilgrim.
It's never fully revealed just who our main character is. He was adopted as a child and later on recruited for an agency where he was given a new name and a new past. With each case he took on a new identity. He's a ghost, living on the fringes of society, never getting close to anyone. After he left the agency, he wrote a book detailing various crimes and unique methods of killing. He becomes involved in the murder investigation after it becomes clear the killer used his book as a blueprint, a checklist of what not to do and how to get away with it. From there I Am Pilgrim takes on a life of its own and I happily buckled in for the ride.
This is a novel where there's So. Much. to say but saying it will give away the book's secrets and I refused to ruin it for anyone! I Am Pilgrim is definitely not for the queasy and makes that clear with the opening scene. Thankfully I'm the kind of person who can't resist watching horror unfold and was thoroughly ensnared in this book's web. I'm convinced Hayes is something of a genius - the way he introduced multiple stories that, on first look, appeared completely unrelated only to have everything come together at the end had me in awe. It takes a special kind of author to turn a book of this length into a frenzied page-turner, and Hayes is clearly a master of his craft.
I Am Pilgrim kept me up late, got me up early, and had me sneaking in some reading time whenever I could throughout the day. When I wasn't reading this book I was thinking about it and counting down the minutes until I was able to get back to it. I realize this review is little more than me rephrasing "I LOVE THIS BOOK" over and over again, but when it comes down to it, that's all I can say (without spoiling anything, of course). I Am Pilgrim is a highly ambition novel that fully lives up to those ambitions and I'm counting on it becoming a huge hit this summer. It appears this is going to be a series, and if that's truly the case, I desperately need the next!(less)
Chloe is a features editor at Babe, a conventional women's magazine, but has loftier goals. She's eager to reach an untapped market, an audience who d...moreChloe is a features editor at Babe, a conventional women's magazine, but has loftier goals. She's eager to reach an untapped market, an audience who doesn't slave away on the perfect five-course meal, one who doesn't care about which household appliances are ranked the highest. Her ambition catches the eye of her publisher, James, and he's just as enthusiastic about this new project. Perhaps a bit too enthusiastic.
Maggie has a beautiful house in a charming neighborhood, a family she adores, and a well-respected-if-a-bit-stagnant job as a food journalist. She's looking for something more exciting to write about than souffles, but knows the money is decent. If Maggie was totally honest, it's another baby she wants, but Jamie doesn't share her excitement. In fact, these days Jamie hardly leaves the office. Maggie tries not to worry - Jamie has a new and very demanding job, after all! - but the long hours (some nights he doesn't even come home) are beginning to take their toll. Not just on Jamie, but the entire family.
The Other Half was a completely new experience for me. For the past few years I've made it a goal to be more open when it comes to reading, and I've been eager to branch out and try new genres I normally wouldn't. A novel where a wife and a mistress are the focus is definitely out of my comfort zone and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it!
Naturally this book isn't going to be everyone's cup of tea, but the short chapters and readability made it such a breeze. It's hard not to feel for Maggie: for the majority of the novel she has no idea her husband is carrying on an affair - and at one point she even visits Chloe about working for the magazine! When Maggie first notices her husband acting distant, she goes out of her way to be affectionate and caring. Little does she know what's going on behind her back.
Chloe, on the other hand, wasn't nearly as sympathetic. She knew from the start James was married, yet she entered into this relationship - despite her roommate's warnings. She knew there was no way things would end well, even if James left his wife for her everyone at the office would hate her. Particularly her ex-boss, Maggie's best friend. No matter what, there was no outcome that looked promising. Ignoring this, Chloe still carried on a near six month long relationship.
Things eventually come to light and each woman deals with the blows in an incredibly satisfying way. They're both hurt and hopeful, and it's the affair that causes them to truly step back and decide what they really want out of life. The Other Half was a bit predictable in the end, but not in a bad way. These two women grew from the experience and that in itself was enjoyable to read.
I will admit I'm a bit confused by the blurb on the cover. Cosmopolitan UK said this novel was "wickedly funny!" While The Other Half wasn't a down-in-the-dumps, overly-depressing novel at all, there definitely weren't any joke-y scenes or witty one-liners. I never had any laugh-out-loud moments and that wasn't negative - it's just that this wasn't a feel-good type of story. I'm not sure what they found so uproarious.
Like I said, The Other Half isn't a book for everyone. However, I found it extremely readable - read it in only two sittings - and enjoyed it!(less)
The House at the End of Hope Street is that rare kind of story that initially comes across as wholly unassuming and it isn't until you look up and see it's going on 3am that you realize this book has completely enchanted you. There are few books I'll read in a single sitting and even fewer that I'll sacrifice sleep for, but with this book I happily ignored the rapidly-approaching dawn. For 280 gorgeous pages I lived and breathed this story. When I finally finished I wanted to hold the book close, somehow make it a part of me. I seriously considered starting over again, turning back to the very first page - and I have never reread a book immediately after finishing.
At 19, Alba Ashby is well on her way to a bright future. She was Cambridge University's youngest student (15) and is now the youngest PhD student. Her world collapses in an Unspeakable Moment - throughout the novel the truth is hinted at, though never fully detailed until later on - and she sees herself with no option but to leave school. Not wanting to return to a home where her siblings hate her (Lord Ashby's children prefer the latest and greatest, not understanding their youngest sister's passion for books and history) and finds herself at the door of 11 Hope Street.
As if she fully expected to see Alba on her doorstep, an older woman introduces herself as Peggy and invites the girl in. She invites Alba to stay in the house for ninety-nine days while she gets her life back on track. Once inside, Alba notices the photographs lining the walls. Hundreds on photos of famous women, all of whom had taken up residence in the house at one point or another. Beatrix Potter, Florence Nightingale, and Sylvia Plath had found the house in their time of need and now it's their turn to offer advice to Alba - literally. The house on Hope Street isn't an ordinary home, it's a living, breathing place ready to provide inspiration and assistance to any woman who finds herself at the door.
The characters in The House at the End of Hope Street are just as magical as the house itself. Along with Peggy and Alba, there are two other women who have taken up residence in the house. Greer, a starlet pushing forty, recently discovered her fiance entertaining a woman young enough to be her daughter and Carmen, a beautiful Portuguese woman who fell in love with a musician and is now holding onto a dark secret. The story's narrative alternates between these four women and nothing - nothing - makes me happier than some multiple narratives! There's Stella, a ghost only Alba can see, who has filled the role of friend and confidant that was missing from Alba's life. There's also Mog, a cat who has been in the house for decades - and let's not forget the photographs! The entire time I was reading this book I kept imagining Harry Potter-esque photos. The women in the frames are fully capable of interaction and, whether Alba wants it or not, are quick to offer advice. At the very end of the book there are a few pages devoted to these women which give mini-bios. There are suffragists (Millicent Garrett Fawcett, Emmeline Pankhurst), writers (Daphne du Maurier, George Eliot), actresses (Elizabeth Taylor, Vivien Leigh), scientists (Caroline Herschel, Mary Somerville) and so many, many other remarkable women and let it be noted that my interest is definitely piqued. Don't be at all surprised if future reviews include a biography or two!
The House at the End of Hope Street is a book I could keep talking about for AGES. For such a tiny novel, there's so much to be said about this story! It's also one of those books I loved so much that I fear anything I say could never do it justice. There are novels that I enjoy enough to declare a top pick for the year. This one, however, has gone above and beyond. It's achieved that special status: a favorite not just for the year, but overall. Some books I like enough to reread - at some point. This time I know I'll be revisiting these characters.
Whether you're a Young Adult reader who's looking to dip your feet into the Adult genre or a reader who's looking to get lost in a beautiful world, I cannot recommend this book enough. It had everything I didn't know I had been looking for and Menna van Praag is an author I'll now be keeping my eye on.(less)
I didn't read No One Else Can Have You until just a few days before its release partly because I was a little hesitant to begin. Reviews started coming out and they weren't good. At all. There were even a few bloggers who share a very similar taste in books with me that couldn't stand this debut - some couldn't even finish it! Despite the reviews declaring this novel weird and odd I was still curious. Anyone who follows Kathleen on twitter can easily get a feel for her sense of humor; I personally love both it and her, so in true Leah fashion, I ignored the naysayers and dove in.
And you know what? No One Else Can Have Youis weird. It is odd. But it worked beautifully to create an overwhelming sense of unease that was PERFECT for a murder mystery. For a good portion of this novel I felt extremely uncomfortable and I loved it. Hats off to you, Ms. Hale!
There was a time when the tiny Wisconsin town of Friendship lived up to its name. Everyone knew everyone by name, families stretched back for generations, and no one locked their doors. One night - and one girl - changed everything. When Ruth never showed up at Kippy's house, Kippy thought she bailed on their sleepover. It wasn't until the following morning that the truth came out: Ruth had been brutally murdered - suffocated with straw - and posed to look like a scarecrow in a cornfield. Fingers immediately start pointing to Ruth's boyfriend, but Kippy isn't completely convinced he's responsible. Armed with Ruth's diary (Ruth's mother asked Kippy to read it first and Sharpie out all the sex parts) Kippy sets out to uncover the truth behind her best friend's death.
Kippy, with her wardrobe full of turtleneck sweaters, was far too awkward for me to connect with, but that only made her more intriguing. There were many scenes where she seemed very young both emotionally and mentally and her voice came across as strange. Also, for a good chunk of the book I was under the impression that Kippy had been in love with Ruth. It's not a stretch at all to say Kippy was obsessed with her best friend - and for a while I entertained the thought that perhaps Kippy had been the murderer.
I will admit this book definitely is NOT going to be for everyone. One of the main characters, Ruth's brother, has recently returned from Afghanistan minus a finger and suffers from PTSD. There's talk of domestic violence and abusive relationships. At one point Kippy is sent to an institution and the characters there are all shown for comedic effect.
Readers looking for an eerie, character-driven thriller will find just that in No One Else Can Have You. There's certainly no lack of deeply flawed townsfolk in Friendship, Wisconsin. While this novel may not be for everyone, the readers who enjoy it will really enjoy it. It's gruesome and dark and I couldn't get enough. Also: if that cover was an actual sweater I would be all over it.(less)
With a title like The Promise of Amazing, the jokes come all too easy - particularly when the book isn't quite what was, well, promised. To cut right...moreWith a title like The Promise of Amazing, the jokes come all too easy - particularly when the book isn't quite what was, well, promised. To cut right to the point, the book fails to deliver on its intriguing premise. If you're a long-time reader of the blog you might recognize the phrase Matthew Pearl Effect, a term I've applied to novels that sound fantastic, but just don't live up to expectations (after numerous attempts at Matthew Pearl's novels I've finally come to terms that it's definitely an It's-Not-Me-It's-You situation - Pearl's story ideas are incredible, but his execution is severely lacking). It certainly didn't help that early reviews were less than stellar.
Sadly, the ridiculously adorable cover wasn't enough to save The Promise of Amazing and it was only its fast pace and short chapters that kept me from filing it away in the DNF folder.
Wren is the typical Good Girl: she maintains good grades, helps out at the family's King Arthur-themed dining hall, and wouldn't ever think of going against her parents' wishes. Definitely the kind of girl you'd take home to meet your parents. Grayson, however, is the boy your mother warned you about. A self-professed playboy, he was kicked out of his academy after a term paper scheme was discovered. Then there's the little crime ring he and his buddies hatched: using false names they 'hunted' for rich girls and seduced them in an attempt to gain access to the mansions filled with jewelry and fancy electronics. Through connections they would sell the stolen goods and begin saving the money for a trip to Amsterdam.
Once Grayson was kicked out of St. Gabe's phone calls from his friends came less and less frequently until it was just Grayson, his father, and his stepmother. Visits to his mother are few are far between; although Grayson adores his two young stepsiblings, it's his stepfather he's not exactly keen on. His prowess on the lacrosse field once made him the apple of Laird's eye. His recent expulsion suddenly turned him into an embarrassment, someone never to be discussed with colleagues and golf buddies.
Wren and Grayson had two completely different lives and although Wren's brother attended St. Gabe's, her path would have never crossed Grayson's were it not for a cocktail weenie. When Grayson began choking at the Camelot, Wren did the first thing she could think of: she performed the Heimlich Maneuver. It was this scene, twenty pages into The Promise of Amazing, that kicked off a series of eyerolls:
Then I thought of Wren; her body pressed against my back, soft but strong, and fighting for me.
Connecting with her had felt different.
...burning up at the thought of how intimately I'd already touched him.
Since the night I saved him, I'd felt a magnetic pull toward Grayson so strong it scared me.
All of those quotes took place between pages 22 and 36 of my e-ARC. These quotes were only the beginning of my issues with this book. Someone choking is not sexy. Performing the Heimlich should NEVER be viewed as an intimate act. I have seen people choke. I have witnessed the Heimlich being performed in order to save a life. None of these instances got me all hot and bothered and it's disgusting that this was the case for The Promise of Amazing.
The moment Wren realized Grayson was choking she immediately leapt into action. She saved him, he promptly threw up all over her shoes, and then began thinking about the "connection" they just shared. Also, his father doesn't feel the need to take him to a hospital or have him checked out in any fashion. Nope. All good here. Instead the two take off - I honestly forget where they headed, either back home or out on the town, but it certainly wasn't somewhere I'd want to go if I had nearly died ten minutes beforehand.
This "magnetic pull" was so strong between Wren and Grayson that they only needed to go on one date before declaring their love for one another. Prior to their date this scene was the ONLY TIME the pair had interacted.
So The Promise of Amazing wouldn't be seen as solely romance (I'm guessing), Constantine decided to throw in an extremely weak subplot regarding a SOOPER SEKRIT PLAN. Unfortunately, like the rest of the book, there just wasn't anything there of substance and a plot that had the potential to be interesting took a heavy hit in favor of the lackluster romance. Using the name Mike ...something (I already forgot his assumed alias), Grayson ~wooed the laydays~ and when a girl brought him back to her house he immediately set to work planning his method of attack. How would the guys be able to get in - were the parents going on a trip? would the house be empty at some point? was there a keycode he could memorize? He also began snooping about, looking for things worth taking.
The previous summer Grayson had slept with a girl named Allegra and, in the process, stole a large flat-screen television. Instead of calling the police/doing ANYTHING about it, Allegra's parents simply shrugged it off and bought a new one. Grayson and his friends would party in their pool house whenever the family wasn't there and thought nothing of it. Shortly after Wren and Grayson begin dating (maybe three interactions at this point) Wren walks in on Grayson/Mike putting the moves on Allegra at the mall. Instead of breaking up with him or, you know, being angry or upset, Wren makes out with him in a dressing room. A+ move there, book!
There are even MORE subplots, one involving Grayson's friend kissing Wren, and when the climax happens, the boys (minus the one toting some pot) get off scot-free. These boys face NO punishment or consequences for their actions. In the end everything is a-okay.
"What he did was awful, but he sort of got karmic payback getting kicked out of school. Don't you think? And, well, he hasn't done any of this in a while, right? Like months. A guy with a past is hot."
Just remember girls, catching your boyfriend cheating and stealing only makes him even more swoon-worthy!!
The Promise of Amazing was a book I was looking forward to, but turned out to be such a disappointment. Steer clear of this one.(less)
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)
"You grow up feeling the weight of blood, of family. There's no forsaking kin. But you can't help when kin forsakes you or when strangers come to be family."
After a handful of really fantastic YA reads, I wanted to get back to my roots: Thrillers. I've mentioned a few times that, before I began blogging, the majority of the books I read were mysteries and thrillers. Lately I haven't read nearly as many as I would like and the ones I do read are typically my go-to comfort reads during snow days or when I'm not feeling so great. I've made a conscious effort to have 2014 be the year I get back to the basics, the year I fall in love with reading again, and I knew that it would include my favorite genre.
Sixteen-year-old Lucy Dane has no idea what happened to her mother and those who were around back then aren't saying much. When Lila arrived in town, folk immediately disliked her: she was an outsider and her too-short shorts weren't doing her any favors in winning over Henbane. It wasn't long before she was labeled a witch, an evil seductress, and when she disappeared there weren't many people in town who were upset. Were it not for the neighbors - more like family - Lila's baby girl would hardly have survived; the moment she vanished, Carl shut down and hid away inside their bedroom with a bottle of Southern Comfort, in no way fit to raise a baby. Fifteen years have passed since then and Lucy finds herself experiencing loss once more.
One of Lucy's only friends, a girl named Cheri, is discovered in a tree down by the river. It wasn't a secret Cheri had a terrible homelife and no one was all that surprised when word got out Cheri ran away. The only person who suspected there might be more to the story was Lucy and Cheri's body leaves her with more questions. Lucy's determined to uncover the truth, even if that means striking against her own family.
For a debut novel to be compared to Gillian Flynn's works is pretty high praise and despite knowing better I gave in to the hype. I've never read any of Flynn's novels and, to be honest, if they're anything like The Weight of Blood, I don't think I'll be picking one up anytime soon. This novel wasn't bad, but it also wasn't great. Nothing about it wowed me, at no point did I feel the need to stay up late or rush to squeeze in just one more chapter. When it comes down to it, The Weight of Blood was an entertaining story while it lasted, but it's ultimately forgettable. I won't be gushing over the characters or excitedly pushing this book on customers and I already know there will never be a re-read in my future.
That's not to say there weren't things about it I really enjoyed! I'm a big fan of plots involving similar murders/disappearances/crimes committed a decade (or more) apart. I absolutely love the trope and it's what initially put this book on my radar. Small towns and their secrets are also instant winners for me and this aspect was incredibly well done. Bravo, Ms. McHugh! And my love for multiple narratives is blatant at this point - another plus for The Weight of Blood. While Lucy and Lila are the central figures, many others lend their voice and it was fascinating seeing the story play out through the secondary characters' eyes.
Sadly, it's there that my praise ends. The Weight of Blood isn't a terrible book at all and I truly was invested while reading, but nothing about the novel left a lasting impression. I can't imagine thinking back on this book a month from now. The Weight of Blood is a fairly bland story - it would make for a decent rainy day read, but I just don't see it becoming a book people are rushing out to buy.(less)
Had I not started reading A Paris Apartment rather late in the evening, I would have finished in a single sitting. Michelle Gable has crafted a wonderfully detailed, intensely engaging, and SUCH a readable novel - and it's her debut!
April Vogt's life is at a crossroads; her husband recently came clean about a one-night stand while away on a business trip and the revelation sent April reeling. Not only was she not expecting the news, but now she's not entirely sure she wants to work things out. When her boss announces a treasure trove uncovered in an old Parisian apartment, April leaps at the chance to see it in person. As a specialist for Sotheby's, she has a professional interest in the pieces, but she's also looking to escape, to think.
What April finds in the apartment is nothing short of mind-blowing. The previous occupant (nearly a century ago!) was akin to a courtesan, entertaining fabulously wealthy men - and apparently she kept every single gift. There's jewelry, pottery, paintings, furniture. There are also diary entries and as April dives deeper into Marthe's life, she comes to realize just what she wants out of life.
A Paris Apartment is delightfully easy to read - from the very beginning I found myself slipping away from my couch and into Paris. If you know me, you know I'm ALL about dual narratives, especially when those narratives cross time periods. In this case, there's April in the present: a woman reeling from her husband's infidelity and not quite sure if they really should make an effort to save the marriage, and Marthe de Florian in the late 1800s: orphaned and determined to rise above her lowly status. As is usually the case with novels like this, I come to prefer one storyline over the other and my feelings for these women surprised me a bit!
Initially I was drawn to April's story. Her husband betrayed her (and he was certainly made out to be an appalling jerk) and in an attempt to think things over she takes a job in Paris. April was a fairly likable character, though I took a shine to Luc, the estate's lawyer. I have to admit Luc reminded me of Jamie from The Other Half (not entirely sure why - unhappy marriages/cheating themes?), but that wasn't a horrible thing. Luc was charming and funny, particularly when trying to use American phrases and idioms. Roughly halfway though, however, I came to look forward to Marthe's chapters and the story of her childhood was fascinating - definitely a story I'd love to read on its own!
As the pieces come together and the storylines interweave, I found myself completely sucked in and enchanted. While A Paris Apartment wasn't flawless, it was thoroughly entertaining and I was entirely invested in their characters and their lives. I wanted the best for Marthe. I wanted the Sotheby's auction to be a success. The Parisian setting was merely an added bonus, but what a lovely bonus it was. A Paris Apartment is the perfect novel to reach for during these rainy spring days - it makes for a wonderful escape and is certainly a story worth getting lost in!(less)
Newcomers to Carter's work take note: this is not an author who's afraid to tackle heavy subjects. Last year...morethis review will go live on the blog06/03
Newcomers to Carter's work take note: this is not an author who's afraid to tackle heavy subjects. Last year's Me, Him, Them, & It focused on pregnancy and now her latest, My Best Friend, Maybe sheds light on sexuality and what happens to a friendship when it's called into question.
Until three years ago Colette and Sadie were best friends and virtually inseparable. Then everything changed just before high school. Suddenly Sadie went out of her way to avoid Colette and, while the two could have talked non-stop for hours just a few years before, any chance encounters in the school halls are now met with awkward and forced hellos. For Colette this sudden change in Sadie is met with confusion and hurt - what did Colette do? Was there something Colette didn't do that made Sadie all but abandon their friendship? What - if anything - can be done to fix things?
The hole left by Sadie has been hastily patched over with a church youth group and a new boyfriend, Mark - a boy Colette's parents heartily approve of; Sadie's free-spirited mother and laid back attitude toward rules never failed to raise an eyebrow. Colette's relationship with Mark is practically perfect: he always treats her like a princess, showers her with gifts, and never goes further than the chastest of kisses. With a youth group trip quickly approaching, Sadie presents an invitation that changes everything. Colette must choose between spending the summer with Mark on a retreat or visiting the Greek Islands with her ex-best friend - and possibly find some answers.
Slowly but surely GLBT themes are emerging in Young Adult literature and I welcome it with open arms. Sadly, all too often a character's sexuality is glossed over or revealed for little more than shock value and adds absolutely nothing to the story. Even worse is the sitcom-style ending: everything is wrapped up nicely in a pretty bow and any bullying/harsh remarks/bigotry is forgiven and forgotten. While My Best Friend, Maybe left me wanting more, the portrayal of the characters was wonderful and heartbreaking.
My Best Friend, Maybe is told through Colette's perspective and until the ending we only know her side of the story as to what happened the night her friendship with Sadie fell apart. What Carter did extremely well was keep me guessing. The back cover of my ARC states: "A beautiful and multi-layered story of friendship, romance, and sexuality..." and, naturally, I expected these would all come into play between two characters. Carter caught me off guard though and I really enjoyed that. Yes, there's friendship, romance, and sexuality, but the storylines aren't one and the same.
Over time the reader discovers more of Sadie's side of the story as well as her reasoning for inviting Colette along. While I was rooting for Sadie the entire time, her motives gave me pause. Colette's Bible-thumping mother also plays a large role and her actions were appalling and gut-wrenching. Although I finished the book in a single sitting (something I rarely do) I had to walk away more than once because of Colette's mother. It certainly says something about Carter's abilities as a writer that she was able to stir up such emotion in me.
Even though I felt the ending was a bit too sweet and sitcom-y, I devoured it in a handful of hours. The day I received My Best Friend, Maybe in the mail I immediately sat down to read it and didn't stop until I was finished. Caela Carter made a name for herself with her debut and her sophomore effort proves she's not a one-hit wonder. My Best Friend, Maybe is an absolute joy of a novel and definitely one to pick up! (less)
I'll get this out of the way by saying I would have enjoyed The Dirt Diary so much more if it hasn't been watered down with simple language more suited for a Kindergarten class. Writing a Middle Grade (or even Young Adult!) novel does not mean the language needs to be dumbed down. Some of the most thought-provoking and powerful novels I've ever read have been targeted toward children, authors!! The characters in The Dirt Diary are in 8th grade, gearing up for high school. Let that sink in. High. School. The way 14-year-olds speak and interact is far different than the interaction of a group of five-year-olds, yet it's all the same to Ms. Staniszewski. Admittedly, there were two characters who said 'hell,' but the main character sticks to Helsinki and holy bean dip. Even ignoring the characters' speech, The Dirt Diary's writing is extremely juvenile. The novel breaks the cardinal sin of literature over and over: it tells rather than shows.
As for the story itself...the summary is a bit misleading. It makes the story sound a bit Harriet the Spy-ish, which isn't the case at all. Rachel's parents recently split, her father moving to Florida to start up a scuba diving business. Her mother is now faced with having to take a second job - a cleaning business - and asks Rachel to tag along and help out. That money Rachel stole? She used it on a plane ticket. She concocted a plan to fly down to her father (all the while keeping it a secret from her mom) and somehow making him realize he needs to come home and be a family again.
Because the houses Rachel and her mother clean are in their neighborhood, many of the children go to Rachel's school...and that's not a good thing. It's one thing picking up the dirty underwear of the twin boys in the grade below her, but it's another thing entirely to scrub the toilets of her mortal enemy. Especially when there's a cute brother involved (who refers to Rachel as Booger Crap). The more Rachel visits these houses, the more she uncovers about her fellow classmates' lives and what she discovers could be dangerous.
The Dirty Diary is a super easy read; I finished the book in one sitting. The plots move along quickly enough, though they're a bit disjointed and half-hearted. Mixed in with the divorce storyline and these secrets Rachel uncovers, there's a story I wished had been explored further. Rachel's passion is baking. She channels her emotions through cupcakes and brownies and keeps a notebook full of recipes (the majority being her own creations). The previous school year Rachel had entered a bake sale and wound up taking second place. This year she's determined to take first. I loved this storyline and wanted to see it progress. The goodies Rachel bakes had my mouth watering the entire time (hello, banana nutella swirl brownies!), but it was spoiled with the hurried conclusion. The bake sale arc wrapped up so quickly I was caught off guard.
My largest problem with The Dirt Diary was how Rachel reacted upon discovering secrets (or, in some cases, what she misinterpreted). Her first reaction is to giggle and make fun of people. One of the resident Mean Girls is depressed and Rachel discovers it's because her father recently passed away. Rather than comforting her, Rachel thinks about how this girl will no longer be popular - she's wearing sweatpants to school! Upon discovering a package of adult diapers at her vice principal's house, Rachel immediately thinks about how juicy this is and has to stop herself from laughing in his face the next time she sees him. That scene nearly pulled me out of the book completely. Rachel's actions were awful and disgusting.
While the story itself was enjoyable, so many things about The Dirt Diary made me upset, and in some instances, positively livid. Initially this had been a three-star book, but the more I wrote and the more I thought back on this story, the angrier I got. I can see a younger crowd liking this book, but unfortunately, The Dirt Diary just wasn't for me.(less)
With the success of her debut novel Meant to Be last year, expectations and excitement for Lauren Morrill's follow up ran high. The buzz was so great even I began to join in - admittedly I have yet to read Meant to Be, though that gorgeous cover stares at me every day at work! When I received a copy of Being Sloane Jacobs, I couldn't wait to sit down with it and discover the author everyone had been talking about. Even more intriguing was the premise: two girls with the same name switch places for the summer. Very Parent Trap-esque with the added bonus of sports (hockey and figure skating)! Being Sloane Jacobs practically promised a fun, entertaining read, and in the end, delivered just that - though not without a few bumps along the way.
On the outside, Sloane Emily Jacobs appears to have the perfect life with the perfect family. Underneath the white smiles and posed photo ops however lies a life that is anything but perfect. After walking in on her senator father with his secretary, Sloane jumps at the chance to run away to a prestigious skating camp although she's not yet ready to return to the world of figure skating.
Sloane Devon Jacobs watched her mother give in to alcoholism until her father finally forced her mother into rehab. Since then Sloane has thrown herself into hockey - not just to take her mind off her home life, but to hopefully score a scholarship, the only way Sloane could ever possibly attend college. After a violent outburst guarantees a benching for the start of the next season, Sloane's coach makes a few calls and lands Sloane a spot at a hockey camp.
After a luggage mix-up the two Sloanes meet. While the two girls don't have much in common (apart from a rather uncommon name) they're both running away from their problems and what better way to do that than by pretending to be someone else? Sloane Emily agrees to spend her summer getting down and dirty with hockey players while Sloane Devon will spend hers bedazzled and sequined.
I loved the premise for Being Sloane Jacobs and it definitely was fun, but it fell a bit flat. Normally I'm all about dual narratives - some of my favorite books feature multiple narrators! In this novel, however, I had such a hard time keeping track of the girls and more than once had to refer back to the book's summary to remember who was who. Apart from a few details - Sloane Emily is the rich one and Sloane Devon's wardrobe consists of dirty and baggy clothes - there was nothing unique or defining about either girl. Much like the novel itself, I could have easily swapped the girls and it would have had little impact (if any!) on the story. I would have loved to see more depth to these girls. The potential was certainly there for some excellent character exploration! Whether it was a further look into the scandal that rocked Sloane Emily's family or more insight into Sloane Devon's mother and her battle with alcoholism, I feel Being Sloane Jacobs had so much to work with and definitely missed the opportunity.
Another issue I had was with how quickly the girls picked up the other's sport. Yes, both are skating-related, but I just can't see a hockey player transform into a figure skater in a month. Sloane Devon was doing leaps and spins with ease and Sloane Emily had no trouble scoring goals. I had been under the impression that these girls had worked for years at their sport to reach the level they were at, but apparently a newcomer can train for a week or two and be at a competition level. That aspect didn't sit well with me.
Secondary characters brought little to the table. There were the token Mean Girls, the Gay Figure Skater, and of course the love interests. Sloane Devon (pretending to be Sloane Emily) rekindles a childhood friendship while Sloane Emily (going by Sloane Devon) turns a playboy into a one girl kind of guy. When the girls' identities are revealed I rejoiced in the boys' reactions. Naturally they feel hurt and betrayed - and a bit confused. Unfortunately, they both got over their anger far too quickly for my liking. Then again, each had only had a handful of interactions with the girl they were with.
Despite my issues with many aspects of Being Sloane Jacobs, I enjoyed it. Although its on the better side of 300 pages (closer to 400!) it felt half that length and I breezed right through it. Morrill's research was definitely evident and I loved the look into these sports (I'm all for more sports in YA). Any reader looking for a fun story to get lost in for an afternoon should look no further than Being Sloane Jacobs. While it glosses over deeper themes - and answers - I can see this book becoming a favorite of many and I certainly look forward to going back and reading Morrill's debut.(less)
Last year I fell head-over-heels for My Basmati Bat Mitvah, a Middle Grade novel about with a Jewish-Indian...morethis review will go live on the blog 03/27
Last year I fell head-over-heels for My Basmati Bat Mitvah, a Middle Grade novel about with a Jewish-Indian girl and how she comes to terms with her identity. Since then I have been on a huge Hindu/Indian kick and I'm pleased to say Abby Spencer Goes to Bollywood didn't disappoint!
Abby Spencer grew up not knowing her father. She knew his name and that her parents met in college, but shortly after the semester ended, her dad flew back to India while he mom stayed home in Houston, fully unaware at the time that she was pregnant. Thirteen years later, Abby has finally accepted that her dad just isn't going to be a part of her life. Everything changes when she has an allergic reaction. Suddenly her missing father is all she can think about and, with her mother's help (and perseverance), Abby tracks down her dad - and she's in for a surprise! Kabir Kapur now goes by the name Naveen Kumar and he's the biggest Bollywood star in India!
Several phone calls and Skype sessions later, Abby finds herself catching a plane to Mumbai for her Thanksgiving break. She'll finally meet the dad she's never known (as well as a grandmother!) and experience the live of the rich and famous. Unfortunately, Abby has to keep her identity a secret - Naveen's first directorial premiere is in a few days and the press would be ruthless if they found out about a long-lost daughter.
This book is too cute! I devoured it in a single sitting and wanted more - a good thing! Much like Basmati, the characters in this novel felt real and were wonderfully fleshed-out. The parents were fully present, Abby's besties were wonderful friends, and the setting was remarkably vivid! So vivid in fact, that I've developed something of a Bollywood obsession!
Abby Spencer Goes to Bollywood is a slim thing of a novel with a lightning fast pace. Despite my enjoyment of the book, there's not a whole lot to be said. POC characters are always a plus in my book and the craft and care that went into the characters made my heart swell. It looks like my craving for Indian literature won't be slowing down anytime soon! This was a lovely book and one definitely worth checking out.(less)
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)
Bright Before Sunrise was a completely new experience for me. Until now I had never read any 'takes place in...morethis review will go live on the blog2/18
Bright Before Sunrise was a completely new experience for me. Until now I had never read any 'takes place in one day' books and, honestly, wasn't sure how it would be possible to tell a decent and plausible story in a matter of hours. I typically don't enjoy being proven wrong, but Ms. Schmidt stomped all over my reservations and crafted a remarkably wonderful novel.
Brighton Waterford is perfect. She's pretty, she's popular and kind, everyone loves her. Five years ago her father passed away and since then she's made it her goal to achieve his record back in high school: he managed to get every single person in his grade to volunteer for various projects and drives. Brighton's goal is in sight - there's only one person she still needs to sway. Unfortunately for her, that boy has no interest in anything to do with the snooty town of Cross Pointe.
Jonah Prentiss is not shy about his feelings toward his new life. His mother's recent marriage (and a new baby) upended his world. Sure, he might not have been able to afford a shiny new car or the latest video games, but back home he was happy. He had baseball, great friends, and a girlfriend he adored. Now he feels like a stranger in his family and an alien in his new school where his classmates are on a first-name basis with clothing designers. Things go from bad to worse when Prim and Proper Waterford starts getting on his case about signing up for a book drive. It was bad enough trying to avoid her at school, but that night he goes home to discover his mother had hired her as the babysitter for the evening. It's shaping up to be a long, long night.
I'm a total sucker for dual narratives. Bright Before Sunrise's point of view alternated each chapter and gave a glimpse into the real Brighton and Jonah. I wouldn't exactly call them chapter titles, more like headings? subtitles? Regardless of their technical term, these peeks below the surface allowed me to connect with these two characters and see them on a different level. While she shows off a happy smile, Brighton's still struggling to deal with her father's death. The following day the family will be holding a memorial and every chapter of Brighton's ticks down the time until then: 22 hours, 45 minutes left is chapter six, 14 hours, 9 minutes remaining by chapter 22. Jonah's frustration and utter lack of care shines through: How do you say "fifty minutes of torture" in Spanish? and I'm late for an appointment with Nyquil shooters & my pillow.
Brighton and Jonah were thrown together multiple times over the course of one day and I loved that, for once, there was no attraction at the beginning. They didn't like each other at all initially - Jonah thought Brighton was a stuck-up princess and Brighton only saw Jonah as rude. Their romance was slow and gradual (or as slow as you can get in a story that only lasts 24 hours). The only problem was Jonah's girlfriend. Yep, he was in a long-term relationship before he had even left his hometown. He and Carly grew up together and her family treats him as their own. Carly was a great character and I really felt for the girl. Jonah refused to let her into his new life, this flashy world of Cross Pointe. Of course she was angry and hurt! She felt Jonah thought she wasn't good enough now, that she'd embarrass him and when she discovered one of Brighton's flyers in his car she immediately accused him of cheating (though he hadn't). It was an easy-out and a way to finally push Brighton and Jonah together.
Despite the hurried break-up (I just can't picture Jonah moving on that quickly after being with Carly for years) and some stereotyping, I enjoyed Bright Before Sunrise. Schmidt's writing kept me entertained and the pacing had me constantly turning the page. This was my first of hers and I'm excited to say it won't be my last!(less)
The Storied Life of AJ Fikry is a love letter. A love letter...morethis review will go live on the blog4/1
There ain't nobody in the world like book people.
The Storied Life of AJ Fikry is a love letter. A love letter to booksellers. A love letter to bookstores. A love letter to readers. As a bookseller I was looking forward to this one (and was even more excited that the plot dealt with Edgar Allan Poe). As a reader, however, I fell in love with this world Zevin created and with the characters she crafted. I wouldn't be at all surprised if this book became wildly popular and can easily see it becoming a book club favorite.
A.J. Fikry is a crotchety middle-aged man and owner of the sole bookstore on Alice Island. Prior to his wife's death, the pair ran the store together, but these days it's just him and a part-time student. The night his copy of Edgar Allan Poe's Tamerlane is stolen, A.J.'s world changes forever. In a mad dash to the police station, he doesn't lock the bookstore's door, and when he returns he discovers a baby and a note.
Caring for the child - Maya - leaves a permanent mark on A.J. His rough edges are softening, he's no longer the tired and curt man he once was. As word gets out, many of Alice's residents make it a point to frequent the bookstore to check on Maya and offer advice. Over time these visits become more and more regular and soon bookclubs take shape. Island Bookstore might not be able to compete with giant chain stores, but there's a fierce love that resides in its walls.
While the events seem like something straight out of a movie - rare book is stolen, a baby turns up in its place - Zevin writes in a way that makes the story wholly believable. I had no trouble picturing A.J.'s sister-in-law Ismay (suffering miscarriage after miscarriage with a husband who has multiple affairs), Amelia (a sales rep who was initially given the cold shoulder, but breaks her way through A.J.'s shell), Lambiase (the sweet police chief who takes a shine to Maya and starts the police department book club, Chief's Choice), or any of the other wonderful characters in this book. They were all terribly flawed, but had reasons for their actions, and I couldn't get enough.
When I first began reading I wasn't entirely sure I was going to enjoy this book. It felt far too different from the book I had imagined, but I pressed on and soon it became apparent my worries were silly. While this wasn't the story I had thought it was going to be, it turned out to be even better. I loved watching Maya grow and the short story recommendations A.J. gives to her throughout the novel made my heart sing. Roald Dahl, Aimee Bender, Raymond Carver, there are stories I'm familiar with as well as stories that are new to me - and I look forward to checking them out! There are just as many references to bestselling authors like James Patterson and David Foster Wallace as there are indie writers.
The more I read the more I found myself falling in love. I'm not sure whether it was the bookseller in me or the reader, but my heartstrings were certainly tugged. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry isn't an easy novel for me to review and I know far more readers will be able to explain their thoughts better than I am. Like I said earlier, this book is a love letter and I took every word to heart. There are moments that made me laugh out loud, scenes made me teary-eyed, and I rejoiced in A.J.'s rants. Booksellers will love this one. Readers will love this one.(less)
Let's take another look at that summary, shall we? In just a single sentence I was hooked and needed to read...morethis review will go live on the blog05/13
Let's take another look at that summary, shall we? In just a single sentence I was hooked and needed to read Bellweather Rhapsody. Not only did the plot sound delightful (or as delightful as a murder/suicide can be), but then to be thrown references to The Shining and Agatha Christie! Unfortunately, when all was said and done, I felt this novel relied too much on those references and lacked its own spark. Take away Jack Nicholson and all that's left is a book with many, many (too many!) characters and far-reaching aspirations it can't quite attain.
In its heyday, the Bellweather hotel was THE place to be. Its rooms were constantly rotating with girlfriends and wives - never at the same time! - and every day was a party. Fifteen years ago, however, a bride shot her husband and then hung herself. Since then the hotel has been in a slow state of decline, the only time its rooms are mostly full is once a year for Statewide, a high school music festival. Careers can be made at Statewide and the best musicians from across the country show up to put their talents on full display. This year, however, a girl goes missing - and no one's quite certain whether or not she's dead - and the events from fifteen years ago seem to be replaying once more.
I wasn't joking when I mentioned the sheer number of characters. Usually I follow a 'the more the merrier' adage when it comes to characters and storylines. Here, however, I had a hard time keeping them straight and in one case didn't figure out two characters were completely different people until 100 pages from the end. While I'm not entirely blameless, I do think the novel suffered for not having clear-cut characters: readers shouldn't be confused as to who's who. In my case, I was thoroughly convinced Minnie's sister/brother-in-law was the couple from fifteen years ago; they were all at the Bellweather for the wedding and it was Minnie who discovered the bodies. Imagine my surprise then when Minnie's reintroduced over one hundred pages later with her family alive and well. There was simply too much to keep straight; characters and storylines that were mentioned in the beginning of the novel were completely forgotten about by the time the ending rolled around.
I felt Bellweather Rhapsody tried too hard to be too many things and tackle too many topics: Rabbit's sexuality was the focus of his chapters from the get-go - he's decided to come out to his sister - and by the time the climax rolls around, it's SO anti-climatic that I wasn't sure what the point was the begin with. In a single throw-away remark April mentions she knows he's gay and that's that. The entire book was spent waxing poetic about the boys he's crushed on in the past, the moment he realized he was different, what will his parents say!, there's a cute boy at Statewide and Rabbit's ready for a new beginning...it all culminated into one whispered question and then never brought up again.
There's a Scottish conductor who was once a prodigy until he lost three fingers in a barfight, a former prodigy who grew up to be evil incarnate and has groomed her prodigy of a daughter to be the best, a chaperone who had once loved music and carries a world of guilt on her shoulders, the hotel concierge who's slowly losing touch with reality - the list goes on. I honestly enjoyed these characters and their stories - I especially liked Fisher and Rabbit - but the focus quickly blurred toward the end to the point where I truly have no idea if certain characters even existed or if certain scenes ever happened. Perhaps that was the point of the novel and I missed it entirely. That said, when it comes to mysteries I like - and expect! - clear-cut answers and, sadly, Bellweather Rhapsody failed to deliver.
I don't want to give the impression that the novel was all bad - it certainly wasn't! When it was good it was great and I was thoroughly ensnared. Unfortunately, those moments of brilliance were dampened by the multitude of narratives and plot points and readers should never be confused. I'm positive Bellweather Rhapsody will find its audience - I wanted so badly to love it! - but it just wasn't for me. This year I took a long look at publishers and which imprints work for me. When it comes to Houghton Mifflin, I tend to enjoy their Young Adult novels far more than Adult, and Bellweather Rhapsody further proves my findings.(less)
Prior to reading Buzz Kill, Beth Fantaskey was an author I knew very little about. Sure I had heard of Jessica...morethis review will go live on the blog5/6
Prior to reading Buzz Kill, Beth Fantaskey was an author I knew very little about. Sure I had heard of Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side and the following books in the Jessica series, but I had never read them. It's always a little concerning when an author switches genres - will they be able to pull it off? In this case, Fantaskey makes the move from paranormal to a contemporary mystery. And I have to hand it to her, she surpassed all expectations!
When Millie Ostermeyer discovers the murdered body of Coach Killdare, she's not exactly losing sleep. Killdare wasn't the most popular person at Honeywell High. Not by a long shot. What does surprise Millie is that her dad, Mayor and assistant coach, is the number one suspect. Eager to clear his name and find the real killer, Millie launches an investigation using her position on the newspaper staff to get up close and personal with the local police. Along the way she's joined by Chase Albright, a boy carrying dark secrets of his own, and frequently consults the prime source on all things teen sleuth: Nancy Drew.
Wow. WOW. If Fantaskey's books are all this readable, I seriously need to get crackin'! Buzz Kill was a thoroughly entertaining novel, one I wanted to read and read and read as well as slowly enjoy. In true Nancy Drew fashion, there's a list of suspects from the get-go, as well as two besties, lots of eavesdropping, and general sneaking around. This book definitely believes in the "don't judge a book by its cover" adage; characters that are initially deemed villains turn out to be misunderstood and vice versa - wait until you discover Chase's secret! Talk about a tortured past!
My reviews usually contain more substance, but there's nothing more than needs to be said for Buzz Kill. I devoured it in a single sitting - though I really did try to make it last! A quick pace, short chapters, and gripping mystery made this an extremely fun read. My only concern was with Millie herself. More than once I forgot she was a senior. Her voice and actions came across as someone much younger. Regardless, I had a blast with this book. If your childhood revolved around Nancy and her friends, you'll want to check out Buzz Kill!(less)
Cold Calls is pitched as "Pretty Little Liars-meets-The Breakfast Club" and "for fans of I Know What You Did Last Summer and The Face on the Milk Carton." I try to avoid giving in to comparisons, but I'm very pleased to say that, this time, Cold Calls lives up to the hype!
Recently, Eric has been getting very strange calls, no number shows up and the caller's voice is disguised. At first he writes it off as a harmless prank, something that perhaps a freshman thought would be funny. After receiving a picture taken from inside his bedroom, Eric quickly realizes this isn't just another prank. This caller isn't messing around and unless Eric wants that picture made public - which he most definitely does NOT want - he better do everything the caller says. Eventually following these orders lands him in an anti-bullying program and it's there he meets two girls who surprised him by confessing that they too have been receiving calls. Who is this caller and how does this person know their darkest secrets?
To say I breezed through this book wouldn't be an exaggeration. Cold Calls is such a captivating and intriguing read that I tore through it in a matter of hours. The entire time I was trying to figure out two things: WHO was the person behind these calls and WHAT were the big secrets that these three didn't want leaked? I won't spoil anything, but - trust me, if I were in their shoes I would definitely do anything I had to in order to make sure everything remained private.
Although Cold Calls is initially told through Eric's and Shelly's eyes, it's not until the anti-bullying program that Fatima is introduced and adds her own narrative. And you guys know me - I'm all about multiple narratives! The more the merrier! The more I saw of these kids, the more I felt for them. All three were scared and so ashamed. What really broke my heart was that they were worried for themselves, they were doing these things to avoid hurting others. If any of these secrets were exposed loved ones would be hurt and these three are going through hell to protect the person they love.
There was only one small issue I had with Cold Calls. All three felt as those they had no chance of getting any evidence on the caller. While I understand why they didn't go to the police, if one of them (or even all three!) had simply recorded one of the phone calls they would have had all the evidence they needed. Law enforcement then could have stepped in, traced the calls, and caught the person behind it. But then that wouldn't have made for a very good story, would it?
Cold Calls is the kind of story I love getting lost in. Prior to blogging I was a die-hard Mystery reader and love revisiting my roots. Mysteries of the Young Adult variety are still new to me, but as Cold Calls proves, they're just as engaging. The entire time I was trying to figure out the identity of the caller and the motives behind the calls. I ended up behind completely wrong (and felt a tiny bit cheated with the Big Reveal), but overall I had a great time with this book! Face pace, highly entertaining plot, and a fun mystery to boot! If you're looking to play detective for an afternoon, look no further than Cold Calls.(less)
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)
One of the first reviews ever posted on the blog (back in August, 2011!) was Don't Breathe a Word, a deliciously creepy novel about the disappearance of a little girl who went off to marry the King of the Fairies and never returned home. That novel was my introduction to Jennifer McMahon and has stuck with me ever since, a perfect combination of horror and reality and how blurred the lines separating them really are.
Two years later I've got another McMahon novel under my belt and I'm itching for a third (and fourth and fifth...). Going off the two I've read so far it's clear McMahon has something of a formula, a recipe of sorts, that she uses when writing. Don't Breath a Word had a cop-out ending that I didn't care for at all - the final destination made the entire journey feel a bit worthless - and was a little worried the same would hold true for The Winter People. Despite my worries, I jumped right in and discovered a novel even better than the first.
She remembered her parents' warnings when she was little: Stay out of the woods. Bad things happen to little girls who get lost out there.
The first thing you should know about me: I love dual time periods in novels. I live and breathe multiple eras so right off the bat The Winter People was looking good. The second thing you should know about me: the more character perspectives there are, the happier I am. The Winter People had a huge cast of characters, and the story played out over many of their points of view. Giddy from the get-go, I only came to love this book more and more the further I read.
An old farmhouse in West Hall, Vermont holds its share of secrets (some, literally). In the late 1800s, Sara Harrison grew up in the house with her siblings, father, and Auntie. Auntie's strange and otherworldly beliefs ostracized her from the rest of the townsfolk, yet when they needed a surefire way to win the eye of someone or needed a remedy the doctor couldn't provide, she was the person to go to. While growing up, Sara had heard whispers of sleepers, those returned from the grave, and on one occasion saw a classmate in the woods not long after having attended her funeral.
Now grown and with a child of her own, Sara Harrison Shea still lives in her childhood home. Unfortunately Gertie is in a terrible accident and her untimely death is too much for Sara to handle. As she sinks deeper and deeper into depression (or, as her husband and brother-in-law believe, madness) she faithfully pens her diary, filling it with knowledge Auntie had passed down.
Since then, multiple families have come and gone, and now Alice and her two daughters reside in the old farmhouse. As far back as the girls can remember, Alice has made it clear they are never to go into the woods, especially not the Devil's Hand as the locals call it, and if anyone should ever knock on the door they are never to open it. Never. Alice's sudden disappearance one morning sends the girls on a manhunt through states and decades as they discover hidden diary entries and realize the town's legends might be real after all.
The Winter People had me thoroughly creeped out in the middle of the afternoon! I think that's a pretty good testament to McMahon's skill as a writer, don't you? Broad daylight with the sun shining through my windows and there I was, jumping at every sound. More than once I steered clear of the closets, fulling expecting to be greeted by a sleeper. This novel is very much a winter read and not just because of the title. There's a stark coldness that's ever-present, and a resounding sadness that left me thinking in shades of blue and grey. Death is also a key theme and the novel explores the lengths some people would go to in order to see a loved one for one more day - or, in this case, one more week.
It's been a while since a novel has captivated me from beginning to end, but The Winter People did just that. In one case I was reading well into the night (not my best decision!) simply because I could not put the book down. I came to know and care for these characters: Ruthie and her little sister Fawn; Katherine and her anguish over the loss of both her husband and son; Sara with her sorrow and excitement. Despite the number of characters and eras, McMahon wove the story together flawlessly.
Again, however, the ending loses a bit of its magic. Ruthie doesn't so much make a decision as accept what's thrown upon her. While it does leave room for a possible sequel, I had hoped for more. Despite that minor bump I absolutely loved The Winter People and highly recommend it. If you're in the mood for a quick and compelling novel that will keep you guessing, this is it.(less)
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)
At first glance, Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer might come across as a spin on the Pride and Prejudice and...morethis review will go live on the blog10/11
At first glance, Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer might come across as a spin on the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies-esque books that have been fairly popular over the past few years. Upon closer inspection, however, this book is far different - and extremely entertaining!
After Colette's father recently took off, she moved into a tiny apartment with her mother and younger brother. Once used to the best of everything, Colette's wardrobe now largely comes from thrift stores and vintage shops and the only way she's still able to attend her prestigious all-girls school is with a scholarship. For the past year she's been keeping her new life a secret from everyone - including her two best friends. Hannah in particular is the classic definition of a Mean Girl: if she thought for a second Colette could no longer afford expensive shoes she'd do everything she could to make Colette understand she was no longer part of the In Crowd. Or any crowd.
A class trip to France provides Colette with the opportunity of a lifetime: travel, experience new cultures, meet cute Parisian boys, see masterpieces of art and architecture. What Colette doesn't expect, however, is the arrival of a serial killer. A serial killer who might not be entirely human.
Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer completely surprised me! Going into it I assumed it'd be an easy read but ultimately forgettable. Instead I got an incredibly quick story that had me eager for more. Ms. Alender isn't afraid to get down and dirty - and gory. If you're familiar with the way Marie Antoinette died you'll be able to guess how her victims were killed. For those of you who aren't, let's just say it ain't pretty.
I'll admit that for the first half of the book it felt like I was reading two different stories: an American-in-Paris contemporary and a dark historical fiction. Colette was having a grand time traveling abroad and taking in all the sights and sounds Paris has to offer. A ghost was seeking revenge. It wasn't until the two storylines met (with the explanation of Colette's and the victims' families and their ties to the monarchy) that everything came together to feel like one book.
Apart from that, however, I had such a great time with this book! Everything from the romance (no love triangle!) to the action to Colette's character growth and her confrontation with Hannah was entertaining and beautifully well-done. Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer is a perfect one-sitting read that has something in it for every reader: romance, murder, mystery. If Alender's Bad Girls Don't Die trilogy is anywhere near as captivating as Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer, I have a feeling those books will find permanent residency on my shelves!(less)