I have yet to read a book by Kasie West that is anything other than completely engrossing. This was no exception! Charlie's grown up with a single dadI have yet to read a book by Kasie West that is anything other than completely engrossing. This was no exception! Charlie's grown up with a single dad and three older brothers, plus a next-door neighbor who's always around and feels like a fourth brother, so she doesn't quite know how to fit in with other girls. Over the summer, she's forced to get a job to pay for a speeding ticket and begins to think of her life at the shop as her "other" life, since she's not the same person when there and actually starts to make some girl friends and even participates in makeup lessons. Meanwhile, she's dealing with insomnia due to recurring nightmares and ends up in her backyard in the middle of the night, talking to her neighbor, Braden, through the fence and slowly feeling like she might be falling in love with him.
This was such a great book overall! I continually wanted to keep reading and not put the book down because I had to find out what happened next. The characters are definitely what made the book so stellar. Charlie made an excellent main character. Although I didn't always fully understand her need to keep her family in the dark about certain parts of her life, I did sympathize with her and could see how the dynamics of her home life had affected her. She was a tomboy and knew it, but wasn't completely put-off about hanging out with other girls, just unsure about her own ability to fit in with stereotypical "girl stuff". I liked the fact that her personality wasn't static or one-dimensional and the ways in which she grew throughout the book. It kind of reminded me of Catching Jordan because of the main character's tomboy nature, but this was a far superior book and actually had likable characters, depth, and growth - things I only wish the other had featured!
Friendships and family relationships featured strongly in here. The female friendships that developed between Charlie and girls she meets through her job were so well done. I loved the dynamic between Charlie and her friend Amber, in particular, because of how different the two were, yet how well they got along anyway. It was exactly how friendships sometimes work in real life! The relationships between Charlie and her brothers and dad were nicely done as well. There was definitely a protective feeling that everyone had about Charlie, and it was done just perfectly, not with a heavy hand at all. Everyone felt like actual people, not just characters in a book.
And then, of course, there was the romance. Charlie and her neighbor, Braden, had known each other for years, yet the romance developed slowly between them due to them gradually beginning to learn even more about the other and realizing that the other was there when needed. There were so many late-night, unable-to-sleep conversations between the two of them that drew them together, and it made for a very strong start to their relationship. There was no insta-love, nor was there a sudden realization that they'd been pining over each other for years; it was just something that developed and changed their friendship.
At the beginning of the book, I wasn't sure I'd enjoy this as much as the author's previous books, but a few chapters in and I was hooked! It flowed along so well and the characters kept me interested. I loved the way the author took a simple plot and turned it into something this good, just from the writing and the characters. I'm excited for her next book!...more
Short story collections are usually hit and miss, but this was a really nice collection overall (albeit with a few "misses", as all collections seem tShort story collections are usually hit and miss, but this was a really nice collection overall (albeit with a few "misses", as all collections seem to have). The majority of the stories were really sweet, very entertaining, and definitely wonderful reads during the month of December, since all are holiday-themed in one way or another. Also, I was quite pleased to find that the majority of the stories were ones that I really liked. I feel like the best way to read a collection like this is with a short break in between each story, giving me time to savor the end of one story/world before diving into the next, especially since the authors all had such different writing styles and the stories themselves varied so much. Here's my breakdown of all twelve included stories:
Midnights by Rainbow Rowell 5 stars. The inclusion of a story by Rainbow Rowell is, admittedly, one of the main reasons I was so eager to read this book and it did not disappoint. I loved this story about a girl and the many New Years spent with friends. There were so many emotions in here and she did an amazing job showing, in such a short story, the way friendships and people changed from high school to college. Loved this and thought it was an absolutely perfect start for the book!
The Lady and the Fox by Kelly Link 1 star, if that. I'd never heard of the author before, so I had no idea what to expect, but this story was definitely the biggest "miss" in this book. It was confusing, uninteresting, and just plain weird. The entire plot and characters felt forced and made no sense, with some weird magic included that was never really explained. Also, what a weird choice to have this story second in here, following the strongest story of the bunch, instead of buried in the middle somewhere; it made me worried for what else was to come!
Angels in the Snow by Matt de la Pena 4 stars. I'd heard of this author but never read anything by him before, although I'm sure I'll pick up one of his books now. It took place inside a nice apartment building, where a college student was cat-sitting for his boss and getting to know the only other person in the complex who was around for the holidays. The narration was fantastic and actually made me giggle a few times. So much to enjoy about this one!
Polaris is Where You'll Find Me by Jenny Han 4 stars. This was a sweet, slightly incomplete, story about a girl who was "adopted" by Santa and has grown up surrounded by elves at the North Pole. The story felt less than complete to me because of how ambivalent it was at the end and the uncertainty about the future, but I really liked the concept and the way it played out. It seemed almost magical despite not having any "real" magic to it (except the concept of Santa and elves, etc). A nice story, even if the end seemed to just happen instead of offering any real closure.
It's a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown by Stephanie Perkins 4 stars. A cute story about a girl and a guy working at the Christmas tree lot next to her apartment, as she spontaneously buys a tree and he helps her get it set up, which involves a lot of apartment cleaning. I liked the dynamic between the two and thought the set up was cute but not cutesy, if that makes sense. Not the most memorable story (a day later, I don't remember a ton of specifics), but it was a nice inclusion.
Your Temporary Santa by David Levithan 4 stars. Cute story about a guy who gets talked into dressing up as Santa to help his boyfriend's younger sister still believe in Santa for one more year. I really liked the family dynamic in this and the fact that the main character was trying so hard to do the right thing for the boyfriend and his family, even if it was something crazy.
Krampuslauf by Holly Black 5 stars. I loved this story following a group of friends from a public high school who decide to host a party to bust their friend's boyfriend, who goes to a private school and has another girlfriend there. The friendship in here was excellent and I loved the blend of realism with a hint of magic. The characters all felt real and I totally pictured everything in here coming to life. Very different from other stories in here, but it felt perfect to me.
What the Hell Have You Done, Sophie Roth by Gayle Forman 4 stars. Overlooking its terrible title, the story was cute, about a Jewish girl from Brooklyn attending college in the middle of America and how awkwardly she fits in. I liked that the religion in here was muted and simply a backdrop to the two main characters getting to know each other, instead of it being the driving force behind the entire story. Lots of cute moments with the main characters making assumptions about the other and realizing that they're not the only ones who feel like they don't fit in.
Beer Buckets and Baby Jesus by Myra McEntire 3 stars. Another awful title but decent story, featuring a guy doing community service to help put together a church's nativity play. I liked the conversations between the main characters, but the hijinks about the play weren't very interesting and so the story was duller than I'd have liked. Cute idea and it had its moments, but not my favorite.
Welcome to Christmas, CA by Kiersten White 5 stars. Not perfect but an incredibly sweet story about a girl living in a small town and waitressing at a diner that just got a new chef with a knack of making the perfect dishes for customers. I loved the dynamic between the girl and the chef, and there was a very sweet plot involving the girl's family relationships as well. The diner's food bringing out the best in people was such a fun theme and made the place seem magical. There was a small subplot involving the girl's coworker that seemed to be resolved way too quickly and easily, but on the whole, this story was incredibly strong.
Star of Bethlehem by Ally Carter 5 stars. I loved the blend of mystery and holiday in this story, with a girl switching plane tickets with someone else at the airport and ending up hiding in a small town with the family that the other girl was supposed to meet. It was fun to have the main character hiding a secret, keeping me guessing what she was trying to avoid, and I loved the family she stayed with and how welcoming they were.
The Girl Who Woke the Dreamer by Laini Taylor Didn't finish. I know there are so many people who absolutely love this author, but I just can't get into her writing. This story was no exception. I started reading this and my eyes quickly glazed over. I just couldn't focus on it and so I couldn't finish the story. I wouldn't call this bad, but I just don't enjoy her writing style and it doesn't resonate with me....more
3.5 stars. Continuing where Slated left off, Kyla is still confused about her past and why she's able to occasionally remember stuff despite having be3.5 stars. Continuing where Slated left off, Kyla is still confused about her past and why she's able to occasionally remember stuff despite having been "slated" - her mind wiped clean and all memories erased - for a crime she can't remember committing. She's still struggling to fit in with the new family she's been assigned to, reeling from the disappearance of a friend, and back in touch with people from her life before being slated, people who she wants to help overthrow the system but isn't sure how far she's willing to go to do so.
This is very obviously the middle book of a trilogy, without a firm plot that's contained solely within this book; the story in here begins in the first book and will obviously end in the next book. It's always disappointing to me when a book is not self-contained and that's a frequent problem with series or trilogies. Overlooking that, I didn't find this book nearly as exciting as I wanted. I liked the mystery of why Kyla might have been slated and who might be good/bad and why she's different from others who've been slated, in that she's able to remember some stuff. Unfortunately, when there were answers (or partial answers) to these questions, I didn't find them fully satisfying. It wasn't just the fact that everything hadn't yet been revealed, since I assume there will be more reveals in the final book; the problem was that the parts that were revealed in here seemed almost cheesy and made things more complicated than they needed to be.
I thought the pacing in here was slow, although this might be partially due to the fact that Kyla had frequent flashbacks, remembering stuff from the time before she was slated. I didn't particularly care about any of these scenes. I ended up skimming much of this because they didn't seem to add anything to the story despite her memories being the key to figuring everything out. Also, I think some of these flashbacks were supposed to establish more personality and depth to Kyla and it didn't really achieve that, at least not for me.
Kyla was an okay main character. I understand that her personality was wiped and she's basically been brainwashed through the slating process, but she did irritate me at times with her willingness to trust certain people and hesitation to trust others. The supporting characters were okay as well. None of them really stood out as stellar, but at the same time, there were a number of different personalities and the author did a good job keeping everyone as individuals instead of lumping personalities together. Perhaps I just never warmed up to them fully for my own reasons. I'm not really sure.
While I didn't love this book, I also didn't dislike it. It's just one of those books I'm ambivalent about. I'll probably read the next book eventually, just to see how it all ends, but it's not something I feel like I need to read immediately....more
The last book in a loosely-connected trilogy, and what a satisfying ending it was! I was a little unsure about this going in, since I felt like the seThe last book in a loosely-connected trilogy, and what a satisfying ending it was! I was a little unsure about this going in, since I felt like the second book was slightly underwhelming (although still enjoyable), but this definitely made up for that and made me want to reread the previous two books all over again.
Isla going to an American boarding school in Paris (the same one that Anna attended in Anna and the French Kiss) and for the entire time, she's had a crush on Josh, an artist who seemed to be completely unaware. They end up bumping into each other the summer before their senior year and Isla suddenly feels like they've connected and that he might actually see her the way she sees him - and he does. But as their senior year begins and graduation approaches, they're both unsure what they want in the future and whether what's between them will last.
One of the great things about this book is that although Isla and Josh got together near the beginning of the novel, the tension never let up. The author does such a great job writing romance - it's the theme of this trilogy - and does so in a way that brings the characters completely to life as real people to swoon over. Isla's thoughts about Josh were spot on and I loved the way she obsessed over certain things, even though she knew it was ridiculous and couldn't do anything about it. Josh wasn't perfect, as he certainly wasn't always making smart decisions and always seemed to be on the verge of getting in trouble, but he was exceptionally sweet and therefore it was easy to see why Isla loved him.
The backdrop of this book was beautiful too. I enjoyed the way Paris, New York City, and even Barcelona all enhanced the story. The author really captured the cities well and made me want to visit them all, just to experience what the characters did! I could picture myself everywhere they were and it was captivating.
The couples from the previous two books make cameo appearances in here (Anna and St. Clair, Lola and Cricket) and it was cute to see the way all the stories were brought together and wrapped up. But definitely the focus of this book, and what made me love it so much, was the story of Isla and Josh. It was such a lovely book overall and one that kept me glued to the page because I needed to find out what would happen next. Yeah, the plot wasn't much deeper than the relationship between Isla and Josh, but who cares? The focus of this story was romance and that was so well done that it's easy to overlook whatever else. Very enjoyable!...more
Another very fun Wimpy Kid book! Greg's mom decides the family needs to go on a road trip together, since some magazine claims it'll be fun and a perfAnother very fun Wimpy Kid book! Greg's mom decides the family needs to go on a road trip together, since some magazine claims it'll be fun and a perfect way to bring the family together, but of course things don't go quite as planned. There's a seagull attack, lots of issues with other road trippers, lost luggage, and less than desirable motels, among other problems.
As usual, this was quick and so very entertaining. I could totally see this sort of trip turning into a nightmare that's miserable while it's happening but pretty funny in retrospect... at least after a few years have passed! I laughed out loud a number of times and loved the little witty comments Greg made along the way. There's certainly a reason this series is so popular. It's definitely funny for kids and adults alike!...more
This is the second It List book, featuring Jessica Darling (of Sloppy Firsts fame) in middle school. Seventh grade is underway and she's still tryingThis is the second It List book, featuring Jessica Darling (of Sloppy Firsts fame) in middle school. Seventh grade is underway and she's still trying to fit in, continuing on from where the first book left off. Her older sister provides her with a how-to list about making friends and being popular, and Jessica somehow ends up hosting a sleepover that doesn't quite turn out as planned.
As with the first book in this series, I enjoyed seeing appearances of characters who'd go on to be major players in the original series about Jessica's high school years. This was a very cute read and I enjoyed Jessica's narration in here. I'm pretty sure that everyone had some of her thoughts while in junior high, trying to figure out where they belong. One of the parts that seemed pretty spot-on featured Jessica musing about how everyone but her seemed to know what the "important" stuff was for the junior high social scene and why didn't she automatically know too? I also loved the depiction of the relationship drama, with Jessica having a three-line exchange with a "friend's" boyfriend and that friend immediately thinking Jessica must have been flirting.
While I liked the first It List book better, this one definitely had its moments and was overall charming. It wasn't particularly deep, nor did it have much of a plot, but the characters were entertaining and I really liked the humorous depiction of this month (or so) of their lives. Also, so many of the reactions to events (such as problems at the sleepover than made Jessica panic) seemed just absolutely perfect. Very light and breezy to get through, and enjoyable throughout. This is the sort of entertaining book (and series) I think its target audience will love....more
4.5 stars. Sarah is one of the first black students who will be attending a previously all-white Virginia high school in 1959. She's nervous but the a4.5 stars. Sarah is one of the first black students who will be attending a previously all-white Virginia high school in 1959. She's nervous but the actual experience is even worse than she expected: she's held to a higher standard than any white student and most adults (teachers included) turn a blind eye to any sort of harassment toward her or the other black students. For a school project, she's forced to partner with one of the white students, Linda, whose dad is a major supporter of segregation and writes popular editorials for the local newspaper. As Sarah and Linda get to know each other, they realize they're not quite as different as they thought, but their former prejudices are difficult, if not impossible, to shake.
This book was so well done. It was well written, the characters had a lot of depth, and the author did not shy away from writing difficult scenes. It's one thing to read about integration in textbooks, but it's another to be dropped in the mind of someone (albeit a fictional someone, in this case) who's experiencing it firsthand. Reading this gave me a lot to think about on a personal level, instead of thinking about integration as an abstract topic. It was fascinating, if uncomfortable, to read about Sarah's experience being one of the first black students at a white high school and how poorly most of the student body (and other whites in the area) reacted to it. Because the book was told in tandem perspectives, it was also interesting to read Linda's take on everything and hear her defenses for why integration was a bad idea.
There was a lot of character growth in here, which I appreciated. I especially liked the fact that the ending didn't wrap everything up too neatly; instead, it ended on a hopeful note - even more hopeful, considering that we know what's happened in the years since 1959! - without sugar coating all the difficulties that still existed in the main characters' worlds. Clearly the road to integration was a tough one, and I liked how well this book really underscored that without being preachy or anything like that. This was simply the story of two students, one white and one black, who experience their school's first year of integration from opposite ends of the spectrum.
The one thing in here that seemed odd, although well done, was that this book didn't only focus on integration and racism but also touched upon gay rights and the like. The author wrote these parts really well, but at first the inclusion almost seemed awkward; isn't integration a big enough topic already? The romance in here was more of a subplot than anything else, but I didn't feel like it was quite as authentic as the rest of the book.
Overall, this was quite a powerful read and I think it'd make excellent required reading for high school students. Maybe it already is. There's a reason there's been so much buzz about this book! Although this is fiction, it's definitely a thought-provoking read that truly impresses upon you how brave those fighting for integration were and all the challenges they faced. ...more
I absolutely loved this book! I was intrigued by its description and the book managed to be even better than I'd hoped! The Church of America has pretI absolutely loved this book! I was intrigued by its description and the book managed to be even better than I'd hoped! The Church of America has pretty much taken over the country, with extremely devout, evangelical members everywhere waiting on the predicted Rapture; Vivian's parents are two of the Church's members, but Vivian herself doesn't understand it. The day after the anticipated Rapture, Vivian discovers her parents are missing and there are two holes in the ceiling above their bed. Thousands of others have vanished nationwide as well. Unsure what's happened but convinced there must be answers somewhere, Vivian ends up going on a road trip across the country with her best friend, Harp, and a new friend, Peter, trying to keep safe in a country where religious fervor has turned people crazy.
I typically tear through books quickly, but it took almost a week for me to read this, simply because I didn't have enough time to sit down and read more of it. While I continually wished I could have read this faster, it was actually almost nice to read at such a slow pace because the writing in here was so beautiful and the content so thought-provoking. I really savored it, going at a slower pace.
The story kept me interested throughout. I had no idea whether the Rapture actually had happened or if something else was going on, and I really liked the answers that came in the end. The journey to get there, as well, was great. The friendship between Vivian and Harp was really nicely portrayed, and I liked the addition of Peter as well. There was just such a nice balance in here.
One thing that the author did extremely well was demonstrate how crazy the country grew both before and after the Rapture. The scarier part was, a lot of the truly crazy things that happened stem from things that I can totally see actually happening. I think this is what made it so brilliant, basing the story on something like this - a predicted Rapture - and then taking it a step further to show how people react when they're so busy judging others for their beliefs, or lack thereof, and what would happen if a Rapture did indeed seem to happen. The tension in here was incredible - I continually went between excitement, fear, and suspense, unsure what would happen next.
The pacing was absolutely perfect, much like the character development. Vivian grows so much throughout this book, and I loved the various realizations she came to along the way. Everything was very understated, not heavy-handed, leading to so many parts that I just wanted to drink in. Vivian, Harp, Peter, and the others they met along their journey all felt real, not just characters in a book. I wanted to keep reading about them, know what would happen next, although I was extremely satisfied with the way this one ended: it answered most of my questions but left the door open to more - exactly what a book should do!
I can see how this book wouldn't be for everyone. As tense as it was, there really wasn't a lot of action and there's a large personal/internal journey as well as the outer road trip. For me, however, this was everything that I wanted and then more. So thought-provoking, sweet, complex, and just plain engrossing.
I received a free advanced copy of this book through the First Reads program....more
The 3rd book in the Giver trilogy (or the second sequel to The Giver, however you want to look at it). This book takes place in another utopian-ish soThe 3rd book in the Giver trilogy (or the second sequel to The Giver, however you want to look at it). This book takes place in another utopian-ish society called Village, where everyone is accepted and everyone receives a "true name" that describes their role. Matty is a boy still waiting on his true name and he lives with Seer, a blind man who has the gift of still being able to perceive what's around him. Matty hopes to be called Messenger because he delivers messages for everyone, especially since the forest surrounding Village can sometimes be hostile to people and hurt those traveling. There's a vote in Village to close it off to outsiders and Matty makes one last trek through the forest to broadcast the news that Village is no longer accepting people, plus he's tasked with finding Seer's daughter (in a neighboring society) and bringing her to Village before it's closed off for good.
This book was pretty weak overall. I liked the concept of the Village and the oddities it offered, such as how so many people had "gifts" and the way those shunned by their original societies found sanctuary there. There were also little parts that interested me, such as the way their Trade Mart worked, with people offering up trades and these trades somehow contributing to Village's changes, although that's not apparent to everyone. Jonas from The Giver and Kira from Gathering Blue both made appearances in this, and I did like seeing what happened to Jonas after the end of that book.
For all that interested me, however, it seemed like this wasn't fully fleshed out. Trade Mart's influence on Village's changes was never fully explained, nor was the forest's reasons (and means) for hurting people traveling through it. Matty's journey through the forest was described in detail, but everything else felt glossed over. Considering how thoughtful The Giver was, it surprised me how simple and haphazard this one seemed by comparison. There was so much I just didn't understand, and it all was very abrupt - including (perhaps especially) the ending.
This definitely had the makings of a good read, but it missed the mark overall. The underlying concept of accepting outsiders felt very heavy-handed (obviously addressing the concept of immigration), and it surprised me how obvious this was instead of thought-provoking. I'll still read the next book, just to finish off the quartet, and hopefully it'll pull things together nicely, but I'm not confident. This wasn't bad, but it felt unfinished and not impactful....more
4.5 stars. What an engrossing book! It's set over the course of a school year, focused on the dynamics between the parents of the new kindergarten stu4.5 stars. What an engrossing book! It's set over the course of a school year, focused on the dynamics between the parents of the new kindergarten students. Three moms share the biggest spotlight: Madeline, who's outspoken and seething about her ex-husband and his new wife having their daughter in the same class as her daughter; Jane, who's new to town and a young single mother; and Celeste, who's rich and beautiful but also unhappy. At the beginning of the book, you know a parent has been murdered at the school's trivia night but you don't know who the victim or the killer is. The story then jumps back in time to show everything leading up to the trivia night.
There was a large cast of characters in here, but the author did an excellent job of introducing them so I never had trouble remembering who was who. I also loved the unique storytelling format and the fact that I didn't know the victim's or killer's identity, making me continually wonder who they'd be and why. There were also minor mysteries along the way, secrets various characters were keeping, and it kept me hooked.
I loved the way the characters came to life in here. They all had such different personalities and I could see them as real people, not just characters. That's not to say everyone was likable - far from it! The relationships between the moms of the kindergarteners was just so spot on. It's so easy to picture parents like these getting way too wrapped up in their kids' lives, being so judgmental and taking their parenting so incredibly seriously. It was like they'd forgotten it was kindergarten! One of the moms was so proud of her kid's name, Amabelle, and continually pointed out that it was not Annabelle but not a made up name - Amabelle is a French name! I kept shaking my head with amusement because people like this sure do exist. And portrayed in this book, they seemed authentic and not caricatures. Very well done!
There were a number of heavier subjects covered in here: bullying, adultery, abuse, domestic violence, etc. So it was far from a light read, yet the writing and the characters kept the story entertaining and engrossing instead of depressing; I simply wanted to read on. Part of this is probably because the author did such a good job showing the human aspect of all these topics, making me truly care about the people involved.
I wasn't disappointed about the ending in here, although I did feel like the ending was not quite as good as the buildup to get there. The story seemed to wrap up fairly quickly after the murder plot was revealed, and I would have liked there to be a more drawn out endings for the characters themselves. After getting to know the characters in so many pages, I wanted their journeys after trivia night to be a little "bigger" as well instead of tying up so neatly (or as neat as it could) and quickly. Still, great read overall!...more
This read kind of like a dark fairytale or the like. The narrator goes back to his childhood town and, as he nears a property he remembers from long aThis read kind of like a dark fairytale or the like. The narrator goes back to his childhood town and, as he nears a property he remembers from long ago, memories of an odd experience he had at age seven come rushing back to him: an evil force released into the world and messes up his life, the odd Hempstock family (and especially the daughter, Lettie) that seems to protect the boy - and the world - from such evil, and the boy's struggle to make sense of it and reconcile what he remembers with what actually happened.
This read very dreamlike, albeit also dark, and reminded me a lot of The Midnight Palace by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, which I read a few years back and enjoyed; both books deal with a mysterious creature released into the world, with a touch of magic realism throughout. I enjoyed the storyline of this novel, although it took me a little bit to get into it, as the beginning wasn't particularly gripping to me; that said, when the story picked up, it was quite entertaining.
Perhaps due to the short length of this book, it read more like a novella than a novel, with events happening rapidly. I found the world that the Hempstocks lived in, alongside the "normal" world the rest of the people lived in, fascinating. I loved some of the little details that rounded out their lives, such as the moon that always shines full upon their property. I also enjoyed the characters; Ursula Monkton was particularly good as the evil force who fools everyone but the boy and the Hempstocks. I liked the way the story was told as well, with the narrator looking back on his life as a boy and all the mentions about the confusing way memories work, leaving him in a fog about what was actually happening.
For all that I enjoyed about the book, I didn't love it. I think its short length and pace kept me from ever getting too engrossed in it. I also didn't always feel as much emotion as I was probably supposed to; this might be due to the slightly detached narration, with the man looking back on his experience as a boy and occasionally giving commentary about wisdom he's gained since then. There were also some threads left unexplained, which didn't bother me too much, but it did give me the sense that more could have been explored, had the book been longer. So, good overall but not my favorite....more
3.5 stars. I only semi-recently discovered that The Giver was the start of a quartet (with the next 3 books written years later), so having recently r3.5 stars. I only semi-recently discovered that The Giver was the start of a quartet (with the next 3 books written years later), so having recently reread The Giver, I decided to dive into the following books as well. This book seems to only relate to The Giver in that it's probably set in the same world and, I'm guessing, there was a vague reference to Jonas (I'll probably find out for sure in a later book if the reference was indeed about him). Kira is a girl who's been an outcast in her "perfect" society due to her twisted leg. After she's orphaned, the Guardians - a powerful all-male council - take her in and she lives a pampered life in her new home, tasked with stitching an important robe; stitching feels almost innate and magical to her. As time goes on, she suspects that the world isn't quite as perfect as it seems and wonders what's being hidden.
I found the plot in here to be rather predictable. I enjoyed the story for sure, and I kept reading because I was curious to see how it'd turn out (plus, the book is very short so it's a quick read!), but the story alone did not blow me away. Parts felt almost contrived, and I failed to truly connect to Kira or even understand why she felt responsibility to her community because she was such an outcast. Without her having a personal connection, or real love, for the place, it didn't make sense why she was so eager to change the community. This detachment prevented me from feeling truly passionate about it either.
Some of the minor characters were interesting and cute, whereas others seemed like caricatures - for example, there's a mean old woman who hates Kira from the start and it's her hate for Kira that truly kicks off the plot. It felt contrived instead of believable - and yes, I do realize this was written for a young audience. I wish there had just been a little more to it.
I did enjoy other parts of this book, such as the way Kira "felt" stitches talk to her and the way she learned about color dyeing. There were definitely interesting parts to the world that I liked reading. But, overall, while there were certainly good parts to the book, I didn't find the book especially compelling or memorable. Not bad, just not as good as I'd hoped. Still, I'll read on and finish the quartet. ...more
This book was both fascinating and gripping, all about Polar exploration and, in particular, the voyage of the USS Jeannette in the late 19th centuryThis book was both fascinating and gripping, all about Polar exploration and, in particular, the voyage of the USS Jeannette in the late 19th century as it hoped to reach the supposed "Open Polar Sea" at the top of the earth. From the prologue, I was hooked - the author gave such amazing descriptions of previous polar voyages and unbelievable tales of survival in the Arctic. I didn't know anything about George DeLong (the captain of the Jeannette) before reading this book but I definitely learned a lot about both him and exploration in general. I had a very hard time putting this book down!
The author did such a great job putting this together. It didn't read at all like a stereotypical "stuffy" or "boring" nonfiction book; instead, only the most interesting of parts were mentioned - and there were a LOT! - and there was just the perfect balance between summary descriptions and quotes from journals, letters, and so on. Everything was meticulously researched, and I continuously was blown away at the fact that this was a true story and not just a fictional account.
Looking at this expedition through today's eyes, it's crazy to think about the situations the crew faced and the assumptions of the day, in regard to the Arctic. Many people thought at the time that there'd be some kind of tropical paradise at the end, which just seems insane now, and the crew had significantly less technical equipment than today - not even electricity for the long winter days when the sun never appeared. While reading, I constantly felt as if I was there on the ship with the crew, struggling to face the same conditions, and the fact that the crew weathered such hardships with semi-good spirits is just a testament to their determination and courage.
I was absolutely riveted reading this and learned so much about Polar exploration, as well as the world itself in the late 19th century. The individuals profiled in here were all so varied in nature, and there was enough time spent describing their personalities and traits that I felt like I "knew" them all well and I truly cared about their fates. What an exhilarating book to read, and one that I highly, highly recommend. I can't think of the last time a non-fiction book was this well done or this exciting to me. Extremely readable with a terrific true story that I'm surprised I hadn't known anything about previously. So glad I read this! ...more
Kind of dull. A girl hopes to see her best friend, who'd promised to come back as a ghost after she died but has yet to do so. Then, a year later, theKind of dull. A girl hopes to see her best friend, who'd promised to come back as a ghost after she died but has yet to do so. Then, a year later, the girl sees the ghost of a former teacher and she can't figure out why she can see this ghost but not the one ghost she wants to see.
An okay premise but I could not get into the story. The writing was super choppy and the action so vague that I never cared about any of the characters or what they were doing. It just seemed like stream-of-thought narrative, with overly simplistic sentences that were perhaps shortened for stylistic purposes but ended up seeming flat. Since I didn't care about the characters and wasn't drawn in to the story based on the writing or the plot, I ended up skimming and then putting this aside. There wasn't anything I hated about this book and it's definitely not bad, but it was underwhelming....more