Four years ago Cameron Smith escaped his family of thieves and con artists and started a new life at an elite boarding school. With his acceptance toFour years ago Cameron Smith escaped his family of thieves and con artists and started a new life at an elite boarding school. With his acceptance to Princeton University, his dreams of a new life are looking more real then ever. Then Cam's uncle shows up, hauls him back to Long Island, and makes it clear that Cam (whose real name is Skip O'Rourke, by the way) must complete one last job if he wants the future he's worked so hard to attain.
Billy Taylor's debut novel, Thieving Weasels, is a lot of fun. If you like movies like Ocean's Eleven, The Sting, and Catch Me If You Can, you'll enjoy this book. In fact, Thieving Weasels reads a bit like a film. It would make a really entertaining movie.
Skip himself narrates the book, and I liked him as a character. The other members of his family and Mr. DeNunsio were also really interesting. Claire, Cam's girlfriend, is a fairly flat character, but she also doesn't get a lot of page time because the author keeps the story tight and focused on Skip's job.
What I loved best about this book (and really con artist stories in general) is how the reader never really knows who is conning who. The reveal at the end of this book is well done. It's fun to see the con artists get out-conned.
Kiersten White's newest book is a tour de force and unlike anything else I've ever read by her.
In And I Darken Kiersten White recasts Vlad the ImpalKiersten White's newest book is a tour de force and unlike anything else I've ever read by her.
In And I Darken Kiersten White recasts Vlad the Impaler as a girl, Lada Dragwlya. Vlad III, known for his ruthlessness, is most famous for being the historical inspiration for Dracula. Lada, in turn, is ruthless, smart, and fierce. She has a viciousness that is rather terrifying. You don't read about too many girls like her.
I was expecting some kind of fantastical element to this story, but it reads more like true historical fiction. White follows the outline of Vlad's life as she tells her tale. She adds detail and character to the historical facts. Plus, we have a girl Vlad so that opens up all kinds of possibilities. The book is narrated by both Lada and her brother Radu. And I really enjoyed the complicated relationship between the two siblings.
Vlad and his brother, the young princes of Wallachia, were ransomed by their father to the Ottomans in 1442. Lada and her brother Radu are as well. There they come of age, and in some ways this books is a coming of age story -- especially when it comes to Radu's part of the tale. Living in the Ottoman empire, the princess and prince, are somewhat isolated. They don't really belong. The tide changes a bit when the two meet and become friends with Mehmed (the future Sultan). Mehmed is the other towering figure in And I Darken.
This book has great character development, lots of political intrigue, a high-stakes love triangle, and fabulous historical atmosphere. I really enjoyed delving into the history of the Ottoman Empire. It was so formidable for so long, but I haven't encountered it much in fiction.
This book strikes me as a gutsy departure for Kiersten White. And I Darken explores issues of gender equality, sexuality, religion, familial relationships, and politics in a sophisticated and unflinching way.
When I read a fictional account about something I know a lot it seems to go one of two ways; either its a great experience or kind of a train wreck. IWhen I read a fictional account about something I know a lot it seems to go one of two ways; either its a great experience or kind of a train wreck. I have a PhD in Art History. One of my main areas of study was the Italian Renaissance. I teach Leonardo's art nearly every semester. And, honestly, I feel a little wary about encountering Leonardo da Vinci in literature thanks in part to the insanity of Dan Brown's interpretations. However, I didn't need to be so worried because L.M Elliott did an excellent job with art history and Renaissance Florence in Da Vinci's Tiger.
(A word about this title: I'm going to imagine that Ms. Elliott made a case for a different title because if one wishes to shorten Leonardo da Vinci's name the correct way would be to call him Leonardo. Da Vinci means "from (the town of) Vinci" and is not a proper surname. Never once in the book does Ms. Elliott call Leonardo "Da Vinci." She always refers to him as Leonardo or maestro, and that makes my nerdy art history heart so happy.)
Ginevra de' Benci is the subject of one of Leonardo's first portraits and the only painting by Leonardo in North America. It is owned by the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.. I live near Washington and can attest that she is absolutely lovely in person. In her novel, L.M. Elliott imagines what Ginevra's character might have been like, the circumstances around the commission of the portrait, and her relationship with the young Leonardo.
This novel makes Renaissance Florence come alive. I was quite impressed with how well-researched this book is. Every single work of art mentioned in the book is real. Keep the internet handy so that you can look them all up! The general facts of Ginevra's life are also true to life. Additionally, I thought Ms. Elliott did a fantastic job creating the atmosphere of Renaissance Florence--the festivals, clothing, and courtly traditions are all based in fact. All of the main characters (and many of the side characters) were real people, and Ms. Elliott does a nice job with their interactions and the political intrigue of the day. Also, Andrea del Verrocchio is one of my favorite Renaissance artist, and he just doesn't get a lot of air time, so it was fun for me to see him in a starring role.
Reading through the reviews, it seems that some people felt this book was a little boring, and it's true that Da Vinci's Tiger is not the most action-packed book out there. I think the author wanted to tell a story that was true to history, and, for that type of story, the execution is spot-on.
Huge ballet book fan here, so when I found out that Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton's debut novel, Tiny Pretty Things, was about the top dancers at an elite New York City ballet school, I knew there was no way I was missing out on that (featured here). My feelings about Tiny Pretty Things, however, were a bit more complicated than I had anticipated. The book is so crazy cutthroat with scary backstabbing and horrifying bullying, but you also feel a (tiny) bit of sympathy for every character. I had a lot of questions at the end of the book, so when I saw there was a sequel, I knew I had to jump on it.
And, I really liked Shiny Broken Pieces. A lot. When the first book ends the reader really isn't sure who did what. It wasn't 100% necessary to have a sequel if a vague, ruthless kind of ending was what the authors wanted to go for. That said, it is so satisfying to have some answers!
Shiny Broken Pieces picks up after the summer. Gigi has healed from the car crash and is returning to school. June has a boyfriend and is doing a bit better health wise when the novel begins. Bette has been expelled from the school, but she is out to prove her innocence. And Cassie, the golden girl who was bullied into a serious injury before book one began, is back. All of these dancers want the two apprenticeship spots that will be awarded at the end of the year more than anything in the world. What will they do to get them? Here's a hint: This year will be no easier than the last.
This book is the type of book that I cannot put down. I am so compelled to know how it is all going to turn out because you know that it's not going to end well for everyone. I am so happy with where all our main characters ended up. They definitely all have some big challenges ahead, but they are in such a better place than they were at the end of book one.
Last year I read my first Jodi Meadows book, The Orphan Queen (feature here). It's the story of Wilhelmina Korte's plan to take back her kingdom. It has spies, magic with hefty consequences, and a young, masked vigilante who fights crime. I loved how the book combined elements of high fantasy and superhero comics and that Ms. Meadows gave Wilhelmina some serious fighting skills. Plus, it ended with an earth shattering cliff-hanger, so I was all set for the sequel.
In book two, Wilhelmina is still working to gain back her kingdom, but it seems like maybe she is in an even worse position than she was in the first novel. How is that possible!
What killed me about book two is how many conflicts/ crises Wilhelmina had to deal with. Let's see if I can even remember them all. 1. She wants her kingdom back. 2. Her former ally is really more like an enemy now. 3. The ruler of Aecor has no intention of relinquishing his control. 4. Her best friend has abandoned her. 5. The prince is dying. 6. She has turned a bit of the wraith into a living creature and it is completely unpredictable and amoral. 7. She's in love with a man who belongs to someone else. 8. And, oh yeah, the wraith is going to destroy EVERYTHING. Honestly, I think there may be a few too many conflicts, but I was impressed with how Ms. Meadows wrapped it all up in the end. For quite a while it just didn't seem like that was going to be possible.
The Mirror King is a very different book than The Orphan Queen. The setting shifts. We don't get to spend as much with with The Black Knife or Prince Tobiah. Those can be hard blows to take. James is still around and the secrets surrounding his character really kept me reading.
Overall, I found it to be a pretty satisfying conclusion to the series.
Last year Red Queen (featured here and here) made my Favorite Debuts of the Year list. Over time my ardor for the series cooled significantly, but I still really wanted to find out what happened, so I got in the queue for the audiobook at the library.
In Glass Sword, Mare Barrow and Prince Cal are on the run from Prince Maven. There are certain high-ups in the rebellion who are afraid of Mare and her unusual powers but still want to use her for their own ends. This aspect of the story reminded me of Mockingjay, the final book in the Hunger Games trilogy. Mare, Cal, and a few loyal rebels escape the rebellion and go on a hunt to find all the red bloods with powers before Maven does. This part of the story reminded me of how in Breaking Dawn Carlisle and the gang gathered all the talented vampires to combat the Volturi.
I never find this type of setup--where the heroes are traveling from place to place, living in the wilderness, preparing for battle--quite as engaging as when the heroes are thrust into the heart of the oppressive society, but, it seems like most dystopias need a middle book that does just this. Because it's not really my thing, I rightly cut books like this some slack.
Glass Sword is definitely not the most original YA fantasy/ dystopia out there, but it is still a lot of fun, and when I finished the book I definitely wanted to know what would happen next, which is always a good sign. ...more
Bo believes that his school, Berkshire Academy, is a school for kids with extraordinary powers and that his power is that he can travel through time. In reality, Bo's school is for teens with emotional and mental disorders. A tragedy at the school and the resulting upheaval cause Bo's tenuous grasp on reality to slip further.
I was pretty intrigued by the premise of A World Without You. It was interesting to read from Bo's perspective and see how he made sense of the world around him. It felt to me that Bo wasn't getting the care that he needed, but because the book is told from Bo's perspective the reader isn't really privy as to why exactly. Bo's sister also narrates several chapters, and her narration struck me as a way to keep the story grounded and allow for the few times when Bo is not conscious.
A World Without You reminds of Neal Shusterman's Challenger Deep, which I read last year. In each book the main character struggles to separate reality from delusion. Of the two, however, I think Challenger Deep, is the stronger book, and their similarities are such that you really don't need to read both.
It's been a little over a year since Ari Logan purposely hurt herself. Now that she's doing a bit better it's hard to live in a small town where everyone knows that she struggles with depression. Then Ari meets her from afar crush and discovers that Camden and his friends also love Silver Arrow, a cancelled sci-fi show. And a romance and a friendship blossoms.
What Happens Now is the first book I've read by Jennifer Castle, and I'm pretty sure it won't be my last. What Happens Now is not just a summer romance; it's also a story that confronts mental health, family issues, friend issues, and the difference between falling in love with the real person vs. who you thought that person was. Despite all these big issues, this book doesn't read like an issue book because Jennifer Castle handles all the tricky relationships between friends and family with such a deft hand.
Also, I really loved all the fandom stuff with Silver Arrow.
Samantha has wanted to be a professional ballet dancer for as long as she can remember. She's good. Really good. But in recent months her body has betrayed her. She's gotten curvier and taller and received a lot of negative attention because of her new body. The result is crippling anxiety over her appearance. Sam is sent to a summer treatment camp for artists and athletes who are struggling with mental and emotional barriers.
It's no secret that I love ballet books, and I love what Kathryn Holmes did with hers. How It Feels to Fly takes an honest look at some of the crueler aspects of dance--as in, what happens when your body just doesn't fit the mold. Holmes wrote about her own time as a dancer here, and I think that her personal experiences really made this book what it is. To me, this book just got better and better with every page.
Maguire believes her presence causes accidents for others. Her anxieties have gotten so bad that she can't ride in a car with anyone else, take public transportation, or be in a crowded area. She constantly does safety checks when she's around other people. Maguire wants to go to Ireland for a memorial for her father. To get there she's going to have to learn to manage her anxiety. With the help of her therapist Maguire begins working on challenges that will get her where she wants to be.
I really enjoyed this book. Although I think cross country would have been more social than Maguire's therapist gives it credit for, I do love when high school athletics are a big part of the story. Maguire takes up tennis in order to be more social and there she becomes closer to Jordy, a boy she actually met at therapy. Jordy and Maguire's relationship is so sweet, and it's nice to see characters who are really good for each other. If you are looking for a book that is cute but also has some serious stuff, this one. Pick this one.
Before I get started with my thoughts, why don't we just take a moment to appreciate the splendor of this cover! I Featured on Intellectual Recreation.
Before I get started with my thoughts, why don't we just take a moment to appreciate the splendor of this cover! I love everything about it. I love the font and the colors and how it is all arranged, but I also love the little details of the mask, the playing cards, the knives, and the hearts, all of which are significant to the story. Bravo cover designers! Bravo!
Girl in the Shadows is a companion novel to Girl on a Wire, the first book in Gwenda Bond's Cirque American series, and my appreciation of this book was definitely that much greater because I had read and enjoyed the first book. The two books have different main characters, but the setting is the same, and, more importantly, the central conflict in each revolves around the same small magical object. Beyond that it was so much fun for me to visit some old characters, even if they weren't taking center stage this time around. (Hello, Jules! Hello, Remy!) And, I also enjoyed getting to know some of the side characters from Girl on a Wire a little better in this second book. (Dita, darling, you are swell.)
Last year we did a post on Intellectual Recreation featuring books set in circuses and sideshows. In putting together that post, I found that the circus is a setting that really appeals to me, and, I quickly rediscovered that love within the first few pages of Girl in the Shadows. I think I like how circus folk have a life that is so outside the mainstream, and that is definitely the case with Moira. She grew up traveling with her famous magician father and working behind the scenes at his Las Vegas show.
Moira wishes to become a magician herself, and her father is adamantly against this. So, feeling like she has no other option, Moira auditions for the Cirque American. Right away strange things begin to happen, and herein is another reason I enjoy circus settings--they present the perfect opportunity to mingle stage magic with the real deal. Moira's magic, its origins, and her estranged mother play a large role in the mystery of Girl in the Shadows.
Moira truly has a lot on her plate. There's the whole proving herself to her father thing (and who are we kidding, to herself as well), the issue of controlling her newly awakened power, and being on her own for the first time. As if things aren't complicated enough there's this knife-throwing love interest that the reader is not quite sure can be trusted for most of the book. Really, it's a pretty great time. Girl in the Shadows is all the sleight of hand and tricks of the film Now You See Me plus the magical underworld of White Cat. It's a book full of mystery, magic, and suspense.
When Rose woke up one morning she felt different. She wanted a new name, a new haircut, a new job. But something wasn't quite right. Something was missing. Something big.
Set in the near future, Lois Metzger's new book is a fascinating exploration of trauma, depression, and treatment. I don't want to say too much more than that because a psychological thriller like this can be spoiled so easily, but I will say that Change Places with Me is masterfully done. The reader can tell that something is not quite right. Everything is off just a little giving the reader that eerie unsettled feeling which is so difficult to inspire. I love the way the book is structured. Change Places with Me is a quiet, cerebral book, and I found it quite fascinating.
Sammie had big plans. She was going to win the National Debate Tournament, attend NYU, and become a human rights lawyer. That was before she was diagnosed with Niemann-Pick Type C, a genetic disorder that, among other things, causes dementia-like symptoms. Sammie, who always saw her smarts as her ticket to success, is losing her memory.
The Memory Book is the record that Sammie keeps to help with her memory loss. At first Sammie is bound and determined to live her dreams, but soon a serious of incidents force her to adjust her goals. In the notes to her future self, Sammie writes about Stuart Shah, her long time crush who finally notices her. Her book also reveals how she begins to rely heavily on her old friend Cooper.
Part coming-of-age story, part coming-to-terms-with-death story, Lara Avery's book is poignant and sad but also full of bravery and determination. The way the story is told is very interesting because it's written by a girl whose mind and body is deteriorating.
I liked Sammie and the concept of the book, and this is going to sound a little weird, but I think the book should have been even sadder and harder to read. Sammie writes the story, but I didn't feel like there were enough clues in the writing as to how poorly she was doing near the end. I didn't have a clear enough picture of how sick she really was. (I'm contrasting this with something like The Fault in Ours Stars.) I, like Sammie, have always been proud of and relied heavily on my excellent memory. I think a book like this should have been even more terrifying to me than it was.
When Jill Charron wakes up in a hospital with broken bones and stitches, she has no memory of the car accident that caused her injuries and her best friend's death. In fact, she doesn't remember anything about her study abroad trip to Italy or even that her friend Simone was going with her. Now there's an investigation and a media frenzy because some people believe that Jill crashed that car on purpose.
With Malice is a pretty solid YA thriller. As Jill attempts to put the pieces together and navigate the media, her lawyers, and her parents' discord, it's hard for her to know what's true and what's not. I loved that about this book. I love how Eileen Cook doesn't answer all the questions for the reader, either, and I can imagine that readers will be on all sides of the table when it comes to Jill's guilt or innocence.
The other thing that I really enjoyed about this book is how Jill's narration is interspersed with interviews, documents, and other evidence gathered from her classmates, instructors, parents, etc. The documents established a bit of background and gave the reader some insight into what happened in Italy, but are by no means objective. The result is a whole bunch of unreliable sources (Jill included), leaving a lot of interpretation up to the reader.
As an aside, I think it's really interesting that Eileen Cook's last book Remember also deals with memory loss.
Evie Gray is attending Oxford, her deceased mother's Alma Mater. Prince Edmund, the younger of the two British princes, is also attending Oxford, and the two soon start dating. In addition to maintaining a relationship with a royal, Evie is also investigating her family history. Her mother died when she was very young and left letters to be delivered to Evie every year. The most recent letters have given Evie a glimpse into the past.
When American Rebecca Porter begins her year abroad at Oxford, the first person that she meets at her new school is Prince Nicolas, heir to the BritisWhen American Rebecca Porter begins her year abroad at Oxford, the first person that she meets at her new school is Prince Nicolas, heir to the British throne. Falling in love is the easy part. What comes next--the royal obligations, the paparazzi, the royal family--is much more difficult. The Royal We seems loosely based on William and Kate's relationship--at least it follows the same trajectory. The characters themselves, however, are very different than the real-life British royals. Plus, there's the fact that Bex is American, which puts a whole other twist to her commoner status. Another complication is Bex's twin, Lacey, and how her actions and decisions affect Bex and Nick.
The Royal We is so entertaining. It's snappy and the pace of the story moves right along, despite how long it is. I just really enjoyed hearing about how Bex and Nick navigated their relationship as it was so complicated with all the expectations, the media, and the whole princess training. It's a combination of a fun, romantic modern fairy tale and a media circus. Plus, it's quite funny. The dialog is great, and you just can't help pulling for Bex and Nick despite the drama.
I listened to the audio book, and I would definitely recommend any reader go that route. The narrator does an excellent job with the accents, and I thought she brought a lot to the story.
I haven't had this much fun reading a book in a long time. Probably because it's been so long since I've read anything by Jasper Fforde. There were mI haven't had this much fun reading a book in a long time. Probably because it's been so long since I've read anything by Jasper Fforde. There were many laugh-out-loud moments in the reading of this book.
My Lady Jane is the story of Jane Gray who ruled England for nine days after the death of Edward VI (Henry VIII's son). But this isn't the story that you read in the history books. ("Part II: In Which We Throw History Completely Out the Window." Haha.) I didn't know what exactly the authors had changed when I started the book, and I liked that way because when I found out the central premise in the first chapter or so I was highly amused.
My Lady Jane was written by three authors, Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows, and they obviously had a fantastic time writing this book together. I love, I mean really love, all the narrator asides. I thought it was really fun how they were so self-conscious and meta about the telling of the tale.
Also, I listened to the audiobook of My Lady Jane and it was so stickin' fantastic. Kathrine Kellgren narrates the book. (She also narrated Austenland which is one of my very favorite audiobooks). Kellgren's narration definitely made the book even funnier. She hits it out of the park with her over-the-top, tongue in cheek style. (Is that enough idioms for one sentence or what?)
Historical fiction and historical fantasy have really just been hitting all the right notes for me lately.
Now I'm kind of at a loss for what to listen to next, and it's been a long time since a book has wrecked me for any other book....more
Aubree Sadler is a homebody, and she is perfectly content to stick close to the place she knows best. But when her sister gets into trouble, Elizabeth Aubree Sadler is a homebody, and she is perfectly content to stick close to the place she knows best. But when her sister gets into trouble, Elizabeth talks Aubree into taking over her summer job. Did we mention that summer job in located in Europe? Or that it involves leading a tour of six senior citizens across multiple countries? Before the trip is really even underway Aubree wonders who she got herself into this mess. And, to top it all off, she's got Sam, the owner's son, looking over her shoulder.
But then, something amazing happens, as the trip moves from country to country, Aubree begins to really embrace this chance to see the world. She bonds with the members of her tour company. And, well, it doesn't hurt that there are some sparks between her and Sam.
Wanderlost is a cute read. I liked Aubree a lot, and I loved how the setting moved from country to country. I kind of wish that I had become a tour guide for the At Your Age tour company as a college student. I loved the relationships that Aubree built with the older members of the tour. Some of them were such a kick. The banter between Sam and Aubree was cute and clever.
This book is definitely one where you'll just want to check your disbelief at the door. Go into it with knowing that it's just a light and sweet summer read.
I saw the 1985 film version of A Room with a View in graduate school. I was taking a fin de siecle class and one of my classmates decided to have A RoI saw the 1985 film version of A Room with a View in graduate school. I was taking a fin de siecle class and one of my classmates decided to have A Room with a View party. The movie is pretty fabulous. My friend, Cristy, who organized the party, said that this was a rare case where she liked the movie better than the book. For some reason, in my mind, that translated as, "the book is not very good." Well, my friend Rachel picked this book for book club last week, and now I can definitively say that the book is also very, very good.
I think my fondness for the film definitely contributed to my enjoyment of the book. At the very least, it helped with comprehension. I was surprised to find that the movie followed the book so closely. Really, it's a fabulous adaptation.
A Room with a View is the story of Lucy Honeychurch and the people she meets while touring Italy. E.M. Forster's book has such a splendid cast of characters. And his book is so funny in a fusty, early 20th-century British kind of way. I found it quite amusing. The bathing scene was even funnier in the book than it is in the movie.
For such a slim little book, Forster really packs in a lot. We had such a great discussion, and I was so happy that I read the book with a book group.
I actually listened to the audio version of this book. Overdrive has a copy, but, from experience, I know that recordings of classics are often not up to snuff, and after listening to the preview, I could tell it wasn't going to be the greatest experience. (I listened to library copies of Howard's End and Great Expectations. I have paid my dues.) So I pulled out my Audible subscription and listened to the previews of every copy they had. I settled on Joanna David's reading. (Really why are so many of the others narrated by men? It just seems wrong.) I'm certain that my experience was much improved thanks to this careful selection....more
Near the beginning of the Great War, Samantha Donaldson is recruited by La Dame Blanche to infiltrate the court of Kaiser Wilhelm II. Her mission is to extricate another LDB agent. Among the many complications is the the fact that Samantha only knows the agent's code name: Velvet.
WWI historical fiction definitely takes a back seat to WWII fiction, and I enjoyed reading about a the First World War. Velvet Undercover takes us behind the lines to Berlin and into the Kaiser's inner circle. It was all incredibly interesting, but I kept thinking that it was also rather unrealistic that such an inexperienced spy would be sent on such a delicate mission. Turns out it was all carefully crafted, and, after a few reversals, I began to see that Teri Brown had me exactly where she wanted me. In other words, I was suppose to be uncomfortable with the situation.
If you like spy novels or are interested in World War I, this could be a fun book to pick up.
Callie is a government agent. She's the youngest psychic spy in the San Francisco office. She uses her psychic abilities to learn valuable top-secret information. Working as a covert operative as a teenage is tricky. Callie has to keep her work secret, and so she finds herself lying to her boyfriend and mother all the time.
Callie loves her boyfriend Charlie, but there's just so much about that he doesn't know. When a new young agent joins the group, Callie can't help but flirt with him. Here's someone really understands her.
I really liked how Callie was an official government agent, but that she is also not against bending the rules a bit when it comes to protecting her loved ones. The psychic powers are definitely a fun twist on the traditional spy novel.
Joan Skraggs lives a life of drudgery with her mean-spirited father on a farm in Pennsylvania in 1911. After Joan's father forces her to drop out of sJoan Skraggs lives a life of drudgery with her mean-spirited father on a farm in Pennsylvania in 1911. After Joan's father forces her to drop out of school, burns her books, and forbids her to talk to her former teacher, Joan decides she's had enough. She runs away to become a hired girl in Baltimore.
The Hired Girl is told through journal entries, and I loved hearing the story from Joan's perspective. Joan reminded me of Anne Shirley. (It's set during the same time period, as well.) She is bright, curious and eager, but also naive and prone to imaginings and uses words like "poetical." Like Anne, Joan gets herself into a number of scraps, but she is always willing to learn from her mistakes.
I also really enjoyed how Laura Amy Schlitz's book offers a glimpse into Baltimore's past. For Joan, Baltimore is like a whole new world with its elevators and streetcars and electric carpet sweepers.
There is rather a lot of religion in this book, but its all very time-period appropriate. Joan, who is a Catholic, knows nothing about Judaism until she becomes a servant in a Jewish household. The conflicts that arise are all very natural and handled with great tact and insight.
Also, there are so very funny moments in this book. I laughed out loud when Mimi told everyone that a particular book was the only book she had ever enjoyed reading.
I began by reading this book and switched over to the audio book before I had gotten too far along. I think that journal formats always translate well to audio, and I quite enjoyed listening to this one. The narrator, Rachel Botchan, does a great job with spunky Joan....more
Frannie and Tru is set in Baltimore, which, I admit, was what initially drew me to the book. And, I did love the setting. Ms. Hattrup does such an excellent job evoking the feel of the city in the summer. (The lack of an air conditioner was a good move. So sticky.) I loved reading a realistic book that was set so close to home. While the setting alone would have been enough for me to read the book through, it is not the reason that I fell headlong into story.
Frannie lives with her parents and her twin brothers in a row house in Baltimore. Her father has been out of work for quite some time, and Frannie is now faced with the fact that her parents can no longer afford the Catholic school she's been attending. The impending school change has caused Frannie to pull away from her friends, and so she faces a very lonely summer until her aunt asks her parents to take in Tru, Frannie's cousin, for the summer. Frannie overhears a discussion between her parents, and she thinks that she knows why Tru is coming. And so, on that false premise, Frannie realizes her summer might be a bit more exciting.
Frannie and Tru is a quiet kind of book. But it's the good quiet; the quiet that I love best. While it handles big ideas, like racism, class, and sexuality, it does so on a personal scale, through Frannie and her engagement with the world. I can see a certain type of reader reading this book and thinking, "nothing much is happening," and I guess that reader would be right because there's not a whole lot of external action--there are no car chases or murderers or magic--but there is a lot of change in Frannie's way of thinking and in the way that Frannie engages with the world.
A quiet book like this must have beautiful writing, and oh my, Frannie and Tru definitely does. The writing reminds me of Bone Gap, The Vanishing Season, or Up to This Pointe. These are all book with a lyrical loveliness to them. Also, I thought that Frannie, with her youth and naivete, was a really refreshing character. I
I read Frannie and Tru in one day. I didn't mean to, but I'm glad that I could because when I run across a book like this I always wish I could read it straight through. I think it helps to be fully submerged in this type of writing style.
Firewalker begins just moments after Trial by Fire concluded. Lily and Rowan have escaped to Lily's world. After a desperate recovery, Lily and Rowan begin to build a new coven, somewhat reluctantly, in order to keep Lily safe. All the while, Lillian works to get Lily to return to her world.
This series is fast-paced and gripping. It's hard to put down. Firewalker is the best type of sequel. It reminds you why you loved the first book and its characters so much and stands on its own merit.
Also, I really enjoy the audio versions of this series. I like listening to Emma Galvin's voice, and I can't imagine consuming this series in any other format. ...more
The Ghost Map was a book club pick, and I, as well as everyone else in my book club, really enjoyed it.
Steven Johnson tells the story of the London The Ghost Map was a book club pick, and I, as well as everyone else in my book club, really enjoyed it.
Steven Johnson tells the story of the London cholera epidemic of 1854 and how two men, Reverent Henry Whitehead and Dr. John Snow, solved the mystery of how cholera spreads.
I had read a little about the cholera epidemic in other history books, and there was a Stuff You Missed in History Class episode about it way back in 2009. What I loved most about this book is how Steven Johnson lays out for his readers the connections between what could be seen as unrelated facets of history. In that sense, the book reminded me a little of Bill Bryson's At Home, which I could not shut up about when I listened to it a couple of years ago.
Some readers said they were a little grossed out by this book and all the excrement and germs and sickness, but it didn't really bother me.
In this alternate history, the British still rule the American colonies in 1888. Verity Newton is trying to make her own way in the city. She finds a position as a governess for an upper-class family. By chance, she also meets a several rebels who hope to overthrow the magic-wielding British with steam-powered machines. Soon Verity is using her position to gather valuable information for the rebels.
I love a good alternate history, and I thought this one, with its great characters and interesting premise, was a lot of fun. The mixture of magic, steampunk machinery, and the New York Gilded Age is quite appealing to me. I feel like there are fewer alternate U.S. History books, and I feel like there is a lot of untapped potential there.
I really liked how so many of the characters in Rebel Mechanics are more than what they seem. That makes for a twisty little tale.
Wilamena Carlisle's mother was an astrologist, and, after her death, Wil became obsessed with the zodiac. This summer her planets will align, making it the perfect time for her to find love. If she doesn't seize this moment, she's going to have to wait another seventeen years, so time is of the utmost importance. Soon Wil is entangled in a love triangle with one boy who perfectly matches her astrological tables and one who does not at all.
Darcy Wood's debut is a cute summer read, especially if you are at all interested in astrology. However,, while I enjoyed Wil's quirky character traits, I didn't actually finish it. I have seen a lot of fabulous reviews on this one, but I think it just wasn't for me. Honestly, I just don't get astrology, and I think I had a hard time putting that aside. Still, I think this book would work for a lot of people, so if you are looking for a cute summer romance don't discount it on account of me.
Summer Days and Summer Nights from editor Stephanie Perkins is the perfect seasonal read. With stories by Leigh Bardugo, Cassandara Clare, Jennifer E. Smith and many more, there's something for everyone in this collection. The tales explore all types of summer love from first loves to lost loves and breakups to makeups. There's also a good mix of straight and LBGTQ relationships. I especially enjoyed the wide range of settings and genres in this collection with both contemporary and futuristic settings as well as stories that fit squarely in the horror and paranormal genre.
As is to be expected in a collection of short stories, I liked some stories better than others. Stephanie Perkins and Libba Bray's tales were among my favorites. But, as a testament to how varied this book is, I've seen reviewers who have loved tales that I didn't like as much and others who could've done without my favorites.
The warm, summery cover, the promise of surfing, and the lure of Hawaii were all too enticing to pass up, and so I decided to give Erin L. Schneider's debut novel a go.
On the eve of her annual summer trip to visit her mother in Hawaii, Sloane McIntyre learns her best friend and her boyfriend have betrayed her. One broken hand and broken heart later, Sloane arrives in Hawaii determined to escape the mess she left behind. Finn McAllister, son of a hotel magnate, proves the perfect distraction. That is until Sloane realizes her distraction has grown into something much truer. All the while, her ex-boyfriend and ex-best friend are desperate for forgiveness, but Sloane can't forgive them; she can't even bear to talk to them.
I haven't read very many books set in Hawaii, and I found the setting of this book to be a big draw. I also really liked that Sloane was a swimmer. Her lessons with Finn's little sister were some of the highlights of the book.
However, I had some problems with the book as well. I was pretty underwhelmed by the writing. The language felt choppy and stilted to me, and I found it hard to get into a rhythm as I was reading. Other factors that were just a little much for me were all the instances of underage drinking and all of the cheating and almost cheating (although I should have been prepared for that).
Unfortunately, for me, this book didn't quite live up to its cover's promise; there's hardly even any surfing!
Ever since her mother passed away, Rose Darrow has been doing everything she can to keep her family's farm running. That's meant waking at 4am to work on the farm, trying to get her depressed father to eat and get out of bed, and putting her college plans on hold. All the while, Rose is struggling to keep her head above water, and she feels like she can't let anyone know. Enter Bodhi Lowell. He's the hired help for the summer, and he has his own rough past. At first, Rose is resentful of his intrusion, but soon the two can't deny their attraction.
I am a sucker for a good setting, and A Walk in the Sun has it in spades. Michelle Zink paints the Darrow farm with a soft rosy glow. I'm not a farm girl, and I loved how this book transported me to another world.
I also enjoyed the romance between Rose and Bodhi. The two fit together. They shared a similar temperament and just had a way of being easy with one another that I really enjoyed.
The pacing in this novel is fairly sleepy, but, to me, that set the tone perfectly for both the setting and the romance. I read it in two sittings.