This was another cute installment in the "It List" series, following Jessica's adventures in junior high. In here, Jessica is trying not to stress outThis was another cute installment in the "It List" series, following Jessica's adventures in junior high. In here, Jessica is trying not to stress out about a "Crushability Test" that her older sister gave her and tries to stay sane while all the girls around her try to make a school dance actually happen.
I found this to be a very cute and funny read - quite enjoyable! I could totally understand where Jessica was coming from throughout the entire book, and her commentary about all the situations was amusing to read. This was such a realistic and humorous look at everyday situations through her eyes, and it was nicely put together in a way that could appeal to all ages, from those about to start junior high to adults. For fans of Sloppy Firsts and the rest of the books about Jessica's high school through adult days, this was a really fun look at all the characters back when they were younger. Very relatable and fun!...more
4.5 stars. I had no idea what I was getting into with this book, since I'd heard a lot of buzz about it, but the description didn't exactly entice me4.5 stars. I had no idea what I was getting into with this book, since I'd heard a lot of buzz about it, but the description didn't exactly entice me - or even make me fully understand what I was about to read! This is told from two viewpoints: Laia, a Scholar whose family has suffered under the Empire, and Elias, a highly trained Mask (a type of soldier) who hates the Empire. After Laia's brother is imprisoned, the Resistance fighting the Empire agrees to help Laia free him, but only if she works undercover and spies for them at the military academy, where Elias is a soldier.
This was quite the exciting read! The author did such a great job describing the world, giving enough information to slowly let the setting and all its rules unfold. The world was similar to others I've read about, a sprawling Empire where the ruling group created a harsh law and punished the various factions as they saw fit; however, the execution of all this was extremely well done and made both the story and the setting feel fresh and new.
I don't know whose point of view I enjoyed more, since both Laia and Elias were fascinating main characters whose adventures kept me enthralled. I could understand the pressure both were under, Laia from the Resistance who wants more and more information out of her, not seeming to understand the pressure she lived under while posing as a slave in the military academy. Elias was stressed from the pressure of trying to stick to his personal morals while also presenting a public face that said another thing.
There was quite a bit of violence in here, possibly to simply drive home the point about this world being so harsh and the rule so terrible to live under, depending on what you were born into. It wasn't overly graphic, but there was just a LOT of it.
The ending of this book set itself up nicely for a sequel, which I am really looking forward to reading! This novel was captivating, and I was so excited to see where it'd go at the end - and now I'm excited to see where the next book will go! ...more
It's the future, and Owen wins a spot to spend the summer at Camp Eden, which is located in a BioDome and claims to be similar to what summer camps usIt's the future, and Owen wins a spot to spend the summer at Camp Eden, which is located in a BioDome and claims to be similar to what summer camps used to be like before the world fell apart. The camp seems to be keeping all sorts of secrets, and an incident while swimming in the lake leaves Owen with weird cuts on his neck that he can't explain. One of the counselors-in-training, Lilly, seems to know more about Owen than she's letting on and he's intrigued by Lilly and her knowledge, so they begin working together to figure out what's really going on at the camp.
This book was really weird and had a lot of ups and downs. Every time I got bored and started skimming, there'd suddenly be something that'd catch my attention and make me start reading again. There'd be awkward mental conversations between Owen and what he felt like were the "technicians" in his body checking to see if everything was working well... I could have done without these strange conversations, which didn't seem to add anything. Then something would happen, like Owen would see something weird while getting checked out by the camp nurse, and I'd be reeled back in again.
The world-building in here was hit and miss. I finished this book with so many questions about what the actual world was like and how it'd got to where it was, including questions about what the world even really looked like, since I didn't think it was clear. Other parts felt more interesting, like the idea that some of the kids at the camp had been cryo-frozen before the world fell apart and actually had memories of what life was like before. I really enjoyed little details like that, but I had a hard time reconciling these details with the general parts that were included about the world. I guess i just couldn't understand how it all meshed together, which kept me confused.
I also never really felt attached to any of the characters. There were parts that I'm sure were supposed to feel really momentous, but because the characters all just felt like, well, characters, none of it packed much of an emotional punch.
This is the first book in a trilogy, so although this ended with enough to show where the story might be headed next, everything was far from all resolved. I'm semi-curious about where the story might go, but I had a hard enough time getting through this book and am not curious enough to read the rest of the trilogy. It looks like there are other people who really enjoyed this book, so obviously this is a book that just doesn't match my personal tastes....more
I'd heard of this author before, but this is the first book of hers that I've read, thanks to this being my book club's selection for the month. ThisI'd heard of this author before, but this is the first book of hers that I've read, thanks to this being my book club's selection for the month. This is (loosely) based on a true story and is told in alternate narrations from the two main characters, Sarah Grimke and Hetty/Handful. Sarah's grown up in a wealthy Charleston family and receives Handful as a birthday present; Handful is supposed to be her new handmaid. Despite having grown up in a slaveholding family, Sarah does not want to participate in owning a slave and believes strongly in abolition. The book spans years, showing Sarah's life as she transforms into a leading abolitionist and the way that Handful changes over the years while she searches for a better life.
It took me a while to get into this book, especially since the beginning felt overly cliche. I never got a good sense for how Sarah came to hold the views she did on slavery, especially at a young age, and because she was surrounded by people who accepted slavery as both acceptable and necessary, young Sarah's opinions felt like they came from a 21st century perspective instead of a 19th century one - easy to see things clearly in hindsight! It didn't feel authentic to me. As the book went on and Sarah grew up a little, however, I became more interested in the storyline.
I enjoyed the pseudo-friendship that seemed to grow between Sarah and Handful. I guess it was more of an understanding than a real friendship, especially considering their vastly different lives and social statuses, but it was nice nonetheless. Sarah's journeys outside of Charleston and the various people she encountered in the Northern states was interesting and probably some of the best parts of the book to me. Handful's narrative was harder to read, especially since hers dealt with the daily life of being a slave and it was, of course, not a great life. Still, it was worthwhile to read and provided nice details for how her day-to-day life went.
The author included a note at the end explaining that this was based on the true historical figure of Sarah Grimke and that there was an actual slave named Hetty who died fairly young. A number of other discrepancies and exaggerations in the novel are noted as well. I think the book could have been stronger had it not tried to portray a real person, since so much was changed; why bother basing it on a real person? I think I would have preferred it had it been all fiction or as close to historically accurate as possible. This felt like the author was trying to rewrite history.
There were things I liked about this book, but it was fairly average overall. Some of the transitions forward in time felt choppy, and the story seemed all too simplistic. I never really felt much for the characters and it was difficult for me to ever become fully engrossed in this story, even when I was enjoying it. ...more
This book was such a disappointing mess about the lives of the "astrowives" in the 1960's - the wives of the astronauts picked for NASA's space prograThis book was such a disappointing mess about the lives of the "astrowives" in the 1960's - the wives of the astronauts picked for NASA's space program and what their lives were like while their husbands trained for space travel.
The sad thing about this book is that the underlying stories really should have been interesting - that's why I kept reading. The wives of astronauts definitely did not have ordinary lives, and learning about their day-to-day lives, how they kept nerves in check, and the way the group of wives supported each other through the years made for a great premise. Unfortunately, this book did not deliver in any way.
The main problem in this book was the writing, which was incredibly basic and unpolished. Take this awkward phrasing, for example: Before the astronaut selection process had begun months before in January 1959... There is no need to use the word "before" twice in this sentence!
There was no sense of urgency to any of the scenes, and big news was just mentioned in passing, like "Oh and this happened too." There were sentences here and there giving an idea of other things happening in the world at the time (a certain book was published, for example, or an organization was formed), but these events seemed completely random and not at all related to the main story. I didn't even feel like they gave a good background for the main stories, since they did seem to be related in the slightest. They just seemed to be listed.
The friendship between the wives, and the support they gave each other, did not really come across in here. There were no deep scenes, nothing substantial, and nothing meaningful. This barely skimmed the surface of what was going on. It felt like I was reading someone's long book report listing events that had happened. I wish it had been more insightful, showing the emotions on the page and making me (as the reader) experience a fraction of what they were going through. But all I felt was impatience; I had a hard time making it through the whole book and ended up skimming it to finish.
It was nearly impossible to keep everyone in this book straight. At the beginning, short introductions are given for the original men and wives in the space program, but there wasn't enough given to tell them apart and the stories were all so jumbled up (and all lacked depth!) that I couldn't always remember who I was reading about, when I was reading about, or what had previously happened in their lives/marriage. As the years of the space program continued and more astronauts (and thus more astrowives) were added to the program, there were short blurbs here and there about people, introducing people at the same time as a story was told; without any backstory about the people and only having just been introduced to them, I had a very hard time understanding why I should care.
This read like a very long summary of things that happened during the space program, with info dumps prominent in every chapter. The author notes that she interviewed some of the wives; until I read the author's note mentioning she'd talked to them, I figured the quotes were taken from random magazines, they were so impersonal. Aside from this, there's no indication of any particularly in-depth research conducted, nor are there annotations anywhere.
Danny is running away from the cops in Phoenix when he suddenly falls into the body of a different Danny in another Phoenix - a parallel world that isDanny is running away from the cops in Phoenix when he suddenly falls into the body of a different Danny in another Phoenix - a parallel world that is incredibly different. The Phoenix he lands in is similar to the real world; the Phoenix he came from is more of a police state, although Danny's personal life is much better in his own Phoenix than in the new Phoenix where he's landed. He seeks help from a classmate, Eevee, who he thinks he can trust due to knowing "her" in his own world; of course, this Eevee doesn't know him at all. But Eevee begins to believe Danny's story and begins to try to help him get back to his own world.
The narration in here jumped between Danny and Eevee. I liked seeing the action through both of them, since they each came from a unique viewpoint. The author did a nice job distinguishing the two worlds, although not enough was explained about how the two worlds became so incredibly different (perhaps this will be addressed in the sequel!). Danny and Eevee made good main characters, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. They made a good pair, and I enjoyed their interactions quite a bit. I also liked the fact that neither had a "perfect" life - there were constantly problems and one world wasn't necessarily better overall than the other world.
This reminded me quite a bit of Unraveling by Elizabeth Norris, since both books dealt heavily with parallel universes. Between the two, I liked Unraveling more, as the stakes in it were much higher and the world a little more developed. Still, this was a good book and should be judged on its own merits. While the stakes in here weren't especially high, I was continually interested in what would happen next and wanted to learn more about the two worlds and why Danny swapped places with the other Danny.
The characters and contrasting worlds are definitely what made this book so enjoyable. Eevee and her best friend, Warren, were big into science and I found them especially amusing when geeing out over science. Danny's backstory made him an interesting character, and I wanted to know more about him. The secondary characters were nicely done, and I felt like the world surrounding Eevee (the world now surrounding Danny!) was well illustrated and believable. A fun take on a parallel universe story!...more
This was such a great book, with an interesting premise and a believable storyline! Mark is an astronaut sent to Mars. Six days into his group's trip,This was such a great book, with an interesting premise and a believable storyline! Mark is an astronaut sent to Mars. Six days into his group's trip, they're ordered to evacuated due to a windstorm; an accident separates Mark from the rest of his team, who all believe that he died and leave without him. When Mark regains consciousness, he's alive and the only person on the planet. Knowing that another team of astronauts should arrive in four years, he chronicles his journey trying to survive on Mars until then and hope that everything goes well.
There was so much science in this book, so much so that it not only gave the story a backdrop of believability but also included technical specifications that probably went over the average reader's head (including mine). There were a few parts where I read and reread, hoping the meaning would sink in, and then moved on because apparently it was too scientific for me to understand. However, the inclusion of such much detail did make the story seem all the more plausible and real.
I found the main storyline of Mark's survival quite gripping and was eager to constantly find out what he'd do next and how he'd react to the new problems he faced. His narration was entertaining and he seemed like a real person (although there were a few times when he made a one-liner that seemed too immature or fell flat). The narration throughout was engrossing, aside from a few times where the narration went to an omniscient voice describing what had previously happened to various instruments or areas and why something was about to go massively wrong; these parts felt out of place. Why should the reader know the full history of why something's about to happen when Mark didn't know? It would have been a much bigger surprise had there been no lead-up to something about to go wrong and if I'd simply "seen" something go wrong through Mark's eyes.
While this wasn't necessarily a "perfect" book, it was a great story and kept my interest throughout. The author did a great job turning this whole "what if an astronaut was stranded on Mars and no one knew he was there?" question into an enthralling and believable tale. There's a reason this book has so much buzz around it, and I was definitely not disappointed. Very exciting!...more
3.5 stars. Paige is a regular girl who gets cast as the lead actress in a new movie, based on a (fictional) popular book trilogy. She heads to Hawaii3.5 stars. Paige is a regular girl who gets cast as the lead actress in a new movie, based on a (fictional) popular book trilogy. She heads to Hawaii to shoot the first movie and gets swept up by her charming coworker, Rainier. The other love interest in the film is cast (because of course the book featured a love triangle) and the actor, Jordan, seems to have some sort of bad history with Rainier. Paige likes Rainier and is intrigued by Jordan but is afraid she's going to lose herself in the spotlight and isn't sure how to handle her new fame.
This was an okay read. I enjoyed the story and thought the author did a good job imagining the making of a popular book series, including all the pressure on the actors to get in right for the fans. I also liked the focus on Paige's introduction to Hollywood - only it's not Hollywood because the entire move is shot on location in Hawaii, so she's not blinded by the same blitz that she might have been had it been in California. These small details set this book apart from others with the same sort of premise.
I liked the main story in here, light as it was, and thought the setting was quite nice as well. This was a quick read, but a cute one. I didn't feel like this was complete, though - the prologue seemed to be setting up something, but even when I finished the book, I didn't understand why the prologue had been necessary. The ending was really disappointing as well, with it wrapping up in a way I found unsatisfactory and disappointing. There were a lot of loose ends - none that really impacted the main story, but definitely ones that made me wonder if I'd missed something because they were left unexplained.
I now see that there will be a sequel to this book, so I guess that book will finish up the plot and answer the questions left open in here. This was okay as a stand-alone book and definitely didn't need a sequel, but I think a sequel will help wrap the story up in a more satisfying manner. ...more
Jenna is a graphic designer struggling to get over her ex-boyfriend, who was a jerk she just couldn't seem to stay away from. One night, after drinkinJenna is a graphic designer struggling to get over her ex-boyfriend, who was a jerk she just couldn't seem to stay away from. One night, after drinking too much, she tries to text her ex-boyfriend but actually sends it to her handsome boss, who admits that he's had a crush on her but didn't want to make the first move.
This was a cute novella that was easy to read and entertaining, although not particularly mind-blowing. I've read previous works by the author and have typically enjoyed her writing; this was no exception. As usual, the characters were likable, the story was cute, and there was a nice happy ending. Because the story was so short, things moved forward at a very quick pace and seemed awfully compact - for example, the romance between Jenna and her boss over the course of a month progressed very quickly, simply due to space constraints.
The short length did not prevent there from being plenty of drama and conflict, which was fun. The author really does do a good job showing day-to-day conflicts and how personalities and regular lives contribute to problems. I feel like if this had been longer, things would have been even more drawn out (and therefore perhaps a little more realistic when it comes to how long it takes problems to be solved), but it was entertaining as written anyway. The only thing I wasn't thrilled about was how Irish Jack, Jenna's boss, was. He threw around the words "lass" and "lad" so often that I wanted to groan at how cheesy it seemed. Maybe this is just me, though, since I see other reviews that loved his Irish accent!
Cute story overall, and I appreciated it for what it was: a short fluffy read that kept me entertained without having to think too hard. I don't think this was the author's best work, but at the same time, it's a novella and it can be very difficult to pack all the emotions of a novel into a shorter format. An enjoyable escapist read....more
2.5 stars. This is another book I'd wanted to read for quite some time but hadn't gotten around to picking up until now. This book deals with the (rar2.5 stars. This is another book I'd wanted to read for quite some time but hadn't gotten around to picking up until now. This book deals with the (rare) practice of women being married to ghosts in order to supposedly appease the ghost's spirit in the afterlife; the woman is taken in by his family and treated as his widow, even though they were never married while he was alive. Li Lan is a woman from a good Chinese family in the British-ruled country that's now Malaysia. Her father owes much money to another family, and they offer to erase his debts if Li Lan marries their deceased son, Tian Ching. Li Lan has never met him and is appalled that she's been asked to do so, but she meets with TIan Ching's family to be polite and soon begins having dreams about Tian Ching that feel all too real. Soon, Li Lan begins walking the Chinese ghost world herself, trying to figure out what secrets Tian Ching's family is hiding and what her own future should be.
I enjoyed the beginning of this book and was intrigued by the overall story. The whole concept of "ghost brides" is fascinating, and I thought the author picked a really interesting theme to base the story on. I wanted to know more about the custom and really fall inside the world that Li Lan lived in.
While I did like the setting and the start to the story, I ended up getting quite bored and only read about half the book, perhaps a little more, before deciding that I just didn't care enough to finish. It wasn't that I didn't like the story or the characters - I did. I was very intrigued by the mysteries Tian Ching's family was hiding, and I enjoyed seeing Li Lan walk the ghost world and learn the restrictions of that realm. I wanted to find out what would happen to everyone. The problem was, I just grew bored. I don't know if it was the writing or the content; I can't put my finger on what specifically prevented me from enjoying this as much as I'd hoped. The book just seemed to meander and lost its urgency. At the same time, it seemed more simplistic than it needed to be and the writing failed to draw me in to the world more than I was initially. The story continued to be interesting, but it wasn't told in a way that seemed particularly compelling.
There were definitely things I liked about this book, but the storytelling was not done in a way that particularly resonated with me. Reading other reviews, it seems like this book is really hit or miss - you either like the way it's told or you don't. I'm disappointed I didn't enjoy this more because it did have a lot of promise! But, it just wasn't for me....more
3.5 stars. This is a follow-up novel (not exactly a sequel, just a continuing story) to The Alphabet Sisters, which should be read first for an introd3.5 stars. This is a follow-up novel (not exactly a sequel, just a continuing story) to The Alphabet Sisters, which should be read first for an introduction to the characters. Lola's the grandmother of the so-called "Alphabet Sisters" and she's running a hotel over Christmas by herself, advertising a free stay for the next group of people to inquire. The story then jumps between the groups of people planning to stay at the hotel over Christmas and the problems in their lives that have led them to inquire about a holiday, and back to Lola's life, where she's busy with her family and trying to keep everyone happy.
As usual, I really enjoyed the author's writing style. The story flower smoothly, the characters were likable, and I got drawn into the world very quickly. I even wanted to be there despite the fact that a heat wave was going on, that's how charming the town was! I wish I had read The Alphabet Sisters a little more recently, since I didn't remember all the details about the backstories, but there was enough mentioned that I was easily able to keep up.
I liked the multiple storylines in here, although the majority of the book was definitely devoted to Lola's story. I wish there'd been a little more development with some of the other plots, since they felt almost short story-like overall due to their brevity, but they were all nice nonetheless. Lola was fun to read about, and I really enjoyed the fact that she didn't necessarily solve everything for everyone and help lives turn out perfectly - that would have been too unbelievable. She was cute without being overly cute.
While this book was quite sweet, as all of the author's books, I felt like it was lacking the same depth and development that make her other books so lovely. It's not that this was bad - it was just a light, fluffy read that I definitely devoured quickly. But this was a cozy read more than a family saga. Nice for sure, but not my favorite. Still recommended for fans of the author and for those who enjoyed The Alphabet Sisters and want to see what happens next!...more
In 1686 Amsterdam, 18-year-old Nella is sent to live with her new husband, Johannes Brandt, a wealthy merchant who's about twice her age. Johannes doeIn 1686 Amsterdam, 18-year-old Nella is sent to live with her new husband, Johannes Brandt, a wealthy merchant who's about twice her age. Johannes doesn't seem very interested in Nella and isn't around much, but he's kind to her and buys her a large dollhouse as a wedding gift. Nella spends her days with her sister-in-law, Marin, who doesn't seem to like Nella, and the two servants in the house. To fill the dollhouse, Nella orders miniatures from a merchant who makes what Nella ordered - and also sends other miniatures that eerily resemble the people in Nella's life.
There's been a lot of hype around this book, and I don't think it lived up to it. This wasn't a bad book by any means, and I did enjoy it overall, but it was fairly bland.
Having been to Amsterdam semi-recently, it was fun to read about a place where I'd been and see it through the eyes of someone over 300 years ago. This wasn't necessarily the most detailed historical fiction that I've ever read, but I thought the author did a good job capturing the feel of 17th century Amsterdam. I enjoyed the premise of the book and found the characters interesting in the sense that all led very different lives and were keeping their own secrets and trying to work the system as best they could.
On the other hand, I found the plotline of the miniaturist providing realistic miniatures of Nella's life rather lacking. I never felt Nella's worry or fear because of the miniatures, so it barely felt like enough of a storyline to carry the novel forward. Instead, I feel like the relationships between the characters is what kept the book going.
I was pretty disappointed in the end, since the explanation for why Nella was receiving realistic miniatures seemed all too simple and convenient instead of clever or actually interesting. Very disappointing and also not particularly well explained. Other mysteries and plotlines ended on equally unexciting notes; everything just lacked depth and ultimately left me wondering what the point was.
I enjoyed parts of this book and am not unhappy that I spent time reading it. I just wish it had been better put together and more well-rounded. Too much of it fell flat. ...more
3.5 stars. Jam is sent to a boarding school for troubled teens after her boyfriend, Reeve, dies. One of her classes is Special Topics in English, a st3.5 stars. Jam is sent to a boarding school for troubled teens after her boyfriend, Reeve, dies. One of her classes is Special Topics in English, a strange semester-long class for only five students that the teacher handpicks. Neither Jam nor any of the other students know why they've been selected for the class, but all of them are dealing with some sort of trauma. In the class, they read The Bell Jar and are given journals to write about their feelings. When they begin to write, however, each student is transported to an alternate world they call Belzhar. For Jam, Reeve is alive in Belzhar and they get to spend time together once again. For all the comfort that Belzhar offers, letting Jam escape from reality, nothing new can happen in Belzhar. And as she continues to write in her journal and visit Reeve in Belzhar, Jam realizes that she'll soon reach the end of the journal and doesn't know what will happen after that.
I didn't find the writing in here particularly powerful, but I did enjoy the story. I enjoyed the friendship that grew between the students in Special Topics in English and how they all slowly began to rely on each other for help recovering from their problems. The way Belzhar was presented really intrigued me too. The fact that what happened in Belzhar was limited to what had happened in real life gave the fantasy world interesting parameters and limited the sort of comfort that Jam and the others could obtain from it. Still, the ability to have the world be the way it used to be held understandable appeal.
Jam wasn't my favorite character, but her motivations were understandable and I liked the fact that she grew throughout the book. I never really got a sense of how deeply she cared about Reeve, despite the fact that she told the reader this; it just didn't seem to be shown to the reader nearly as much as it was told. I would have liked a little more emotion and depth to Jam; I thought some of the other students were a lot more sympathetic. For all the things that this book encompassed, it would have been greatly enhanced had there been more depth and complexity to it. Everything seemed to be addressed on the surface only.
I did enjoy the plot of this book, however, and I think the author raised interesting questions - although Jam's choice of whether she'd want to permanently stay in Belzhar with Reeve or return to the real world never felt like an actual choice to me. It seemed perfectly obvious what she'd do. The ending to Jam's story was interesting, albeit resolved in a much simpler way than I think it should have been.
It seems like this book has received very mixed reviews, which I understand. I enjoyed parts of this book a lot and was interested to find out what happened, but it did seem uneven overall with both the writing and the pacing. ...more