Could not get through this book, and I read (skimmed? glazed over?) more than I normally would have due to it being my book club's monthly selection....moreCould not get through this book, and I read (skimmed? glazed over?) more than I normally would have due to it being my book club's monthly selection. I'm honestly not sure how this book has so many 5 star reviews or how it managed to be nominated for multiple awards.
I read about a quarter of this and it could not hold my interest. The writing droned on and on, and I found it tedious to read. The characters were really flat, and there didn't seem to be any plot that I could find. Instead, the characters seemed extremely one-dimensional and drawn almost to the point of caricature in order to possibly evoke emotion. I don't know if this book had a plot, but if it did - I missed it.
Clearly there are fans of this, but I could not get into it at all. I tried skimming, hoping to get through it, but my eyes just glazed over and I had a hard time taking in any of it. What a disappointment.(less)
Wow, was this ever engrossing! I'd read about the author a few years ago, when the news covered the story of how she broke her neck in an accident at...moreWow, was this ever engrossing! I'd read about the author a few years ago, when the news covered the story of how she broke her neck in an accident at her bachelorette party and was left a quadriplegic. Her name was mentioned on the news again recently, talking about her new memoir, and I was very excited to read her take on the accident, her friendships, her marriage, and day-to-day life in general.
While the writing in here may not have been the most "polished" it was obviously very heartfelt. I was drawn in almost immediately; the author was such a positive person (although she didn't gloss over the hardships) and she was very easy to relate to, making her seem almost like a friend. I loved the descriptions of her relationship with her now-husband and how their relationship changed significantly after her accident, although not necessarily for the worse. This reads, in parts, very much like a love story because of how devoted they are to one another.
Her friendships with the four girls around her at her bachelorette party was also nicely described. It was very obvious why they all got along so well and how close they became. She shared some funny times they had together, both before and after the accident, as well as some really sweet moments, and it was easy to understand why they're so protective of each other. I can't imagine the guilt her friends felt, despite the broken neck being a complete accident, and I can completely understand how all of them felt worse when reading rude comments made by strangers on the internet. It was really amazing to read about how they all sort of comforted each other while trying to get into the swing of what regular life turned into.
This entire book was remarkable. I was amazed by everything Rachelle had to go through after the accident and inspired by how her little victories suddenly seem big. Her message of making the most of each day because you don't know what the next can bring was perfect. I loved her positive tone because, regardless of how difficult things were, she realized that the situation couldn't be helped but the outcome could.
So many great observations about life in here and about people, both good and bad. This book was so powerful and such a wonderful tale of the power of (like the subtitle says) love, loyalty, and friendship to help one get through hard times. What an inspiring and touching tale. (less)
This novella is set a few years after the author's novel Spin, which isn't necessary to read before this but is highly recommended, since it definitel...moreThis novella is set a few years after the author's novel Spin, which isn't necessary to read before this but is highly recommended, since it definitely sets the stage (plus it's a good book, although I don't remember it in detail, since it's been a few years since I read it). In here, starlet Amber Sheppard is a few years out of rehab and finally clean, but because she's gone to rehab so many times, no one actually believes she's clean and everyone is just waiting for her to fall again. She's unable to land great gigs and trying to stay away from temptation, but when her old boyfriend Connor, the one who got her addicted in the first place and who went to rehab with her (albeit not as successfully) says he needs Amber, she can't help but be drawn to him, creating a series of events that makes Amber question the person she is, the person she wants to be, and how she can get her life on track.
I love the way this author writes "fluffy" books with deeper themes and issues. There was a lot of introspection in this book, and Amber made an interesting main character. I think her post-rehab struggle was portrayed realistically, especially since she was a famous person who the paparazzi desperately wanted to catch falling again. That seems pretty accurate, considering all the celebrity magazines that sell better when someone's doing something supposedly awful. I could feel her struggle and wanted to root for her throughout.
The other characters, and the friendships between everyone, were really well done. Although this is a novella and thus didn't have quite as much space for character development, I felt like a lot was packed into the story. Friendships and relationships were complicated, just as in real life, and I liked the fact that not everything always worked out perfectly, the way they seem to in movies/books but not real life. I loved the balance between Amber's self-reflection and then her actions toward others around her, who could also only change their actions in the future, not in the past. It was an interesting take on how life works.
Despite having very little in common with Amber, at least outwardly, I related to her quite well. I think it's simply due to her inner personality and some of the more personal issues she faced being more universal. I wish there had been a little more to this book, maybe extend a little further into the future to see how everything resolved, but it was quite engrossing regardless.(less)
I didn't know a lot about England's history before picking up this tome, but it was quite an interesting read. The author did a good job breaking down...moreI didn't know a lot about England's history before picking up this tome, but it was quite an interesting read. The author did a good job breaking down the country's history under the rule of the Plantagenets and how power in the country transferred, and changed, as the kingship was handed down from generation to generation.
The writing in here was very approachable, although also a bit off-setting for me, as it was written like a popular, narrative history recap of the dynasty instead of a highly researched history book (which it clearly was). I think this is probably what makes the book so appealing: it covers a lot of ground and details centuries of history but without constant footnotes and references. I kind of enjoy footnotes in these sort of books, so this threw me off, especially as there were multiple parts where I was interested in knowing more or where to go to read further. The author also often seemed to get inside the heads of various historical figures, noting what they must have been feeling or thinking about at times - things that are easy to guess at but difficult to know for certain. It made the history come alive a little more, but I think it did so at the expense of this feeling like quite as academic. That said, it seemed like the author's intention was to bring this history to life for more "casual" readers (well, as casual a reader as you can be for someone interested in reading a 500+ page book!) and in that sense, he succeeded.
There were a number of interesting passages in here, and I definitely finished this feeling like I had a better sense of what life was like centuries ago in England. The drama between the various royal relatives and generations was fascinating. All the feuds, fights, marriages, divorces, scandals - it was crazy! Along the way, a number of myths were busted by the author.... but the actual stories of the various Plantagenet rulers were dramatic enough for sure.
Other parts of this book were a little dry for my taste. Perhaps it's because I'm not a big English history buff, but I definitely ended up skimming pages because I didn't always understand the full significance of supporting people or events. I also often had a hard time keeping track of people because so many names were identical and it was therefore difficult to remember specific attributes of each person; there were multiple Edwards, Henrys, Isabellas, Eleanors, etc.
Overall, quite interesting. It's crazy to think what used to be commonplace and how much has changed. I liked the stories in here, all briefly touched upon to give a good primer but not a complete in-depth focus (impossible, considering how many centuries this book covered!). I think the main people who would truly love this book are those who already have an interest in English history and would like an easily digestible book to give an overview of it.(less)
The conclusion to the Ruby Red trilogy! And wow, did I ever speed through these books (definitely helped that they were all already released and trans...moreThe conclusion to the Ruby Red trilogy! And wow, did I ever speed through these books (definitely helped that they were all already released and translated; as a side note, the translator did a great job with these books, as the writing flowed so smoothly and was so witty that I'd never have guessed it wasn't originally written in English). Anyway, in this conclusion, Gwen is getting close to figuring out what will happen when the circle of time travelers, of which she's the 12th and final, is closed. She doesn't trust the Count, a time-traveler who lived centuries earlier, and thinks he has some nefarious scheme in mind, but no one believes her.
Just like the previous books in this trilogy, this was a ton of fun to read. I loved that Gwen was a fairly average girl and instead of being armed with something amazing that helped her figure everything out, she had to rely on her own ingenuity and the help of her friends. Gwen's friendship was Lesley, who's not a time traveler and wasn't supposed to know about them (yet Gwen couldn't keep a secret) was great. I liked how they worked together to figure out stuff, and I liked how protective and defensive they each got of the other - especially when it came to guys. Gideon, another time traveler and Gwen's love interest, was an interesting character as well and I enjoyed seeing the way his character developed and unfolded. Because the entire trilogy was supposed to take place over the course of only days/weeks instead of months/years, the love story was perhaps a little unbelievable - in fact, it was easy to forget how short a period of time had supposedly elapsed because so much happened! - but the way Gwen stressed about it was completely believable and relatable.
I enjoyed the way the author concluded the main mysteries in this trilogy, although I did feel like so much happened near the end of the book that it was almost confusing (or perhaps just overwhelming). A LOT of action was packed in here as everything was tied up and winded down! It was a satisfying ending, and I liked how a lot was explained. That said, there were a number of other, smaller, plot points that did not seem to be explained. Granted, these points were not exactly the main parts of the plot, but at the same time, these were things that enhanced the entire book and were noted as odd.... yet then not explained later, such as why one (rigid) character seemingly helped Gwen when she was lying or why Gwen had the ability to see ghosts where no one else did (and whether this factored into any of her other abilities).
Faults aside, I definitely enjoyed this trilogy. The action, mystery, and romance were all a lot of fun and the pacing of it all kept me glued to the page, wondering where it was going to take me next. The author did a great job blending everything together with humor and emotion, and I liked the fact that the characters balanced each other out and didn't seem overly perfect. While this wasn't exactly a deep or dark story, it was very engrossing and kept me entertained! Can't ask for much more than that.(less)
This is the second book of the trilogy, following Ruby Red. which I read fairly recently. Only a few days elapse in each book, so this picks up right...moreThis is the second book of the trilogy, following Ruby Red. which I read fairly recently. Only a few days elapse in each book, so this picks up right where the first book left off. Gwen's discovered she's the last of 12 people in history to have the time travel gene and that means she's somehow completing a prophesy, which she doesn't fully understand, and she also doesn't quite know everything that she should know in order to travel back in time, since she was not prepared for her ability to time travel. She is prepared to travel back in time to meet a creepy count, with whom she did not have the most successful first meeting, and she's also trying to figure out where her time-traveling companion (and love interest), Gideon, fits in to the apparent mystery of what the time travel Circle is after in the end.
This is another one of those books that isn't truly a stand-alone novel, as it ends somewhat in the middle of the action, making it necessary to then read the next book. I hate it when authors do this, as it always feels like a cheap trick to get me to buy the next book (and I rarely want to after that!). However, I did enjoy the characters and the story enough to continue reading and I am looking forward to checking out the final book soon.
I think I actually enjoyed this book more than the first book, although that was definitely necessary in order to get the world and story established. It felt like this book dropped into the action more immediately, and I loved the new characters and Gwen's reactions to everything that was going on. There was an excellent balance of excitement, romance, and humor, plus I loved the balance between Gwen's life as a time traveler and Gwen's life as a regular teenager. The balance made each part of the book even better because it all felt so well-rounded.
The mystery in here continued to intrigue me. I have no idea what the prophesy means or why all the characters were so eager to either complete the time-traveling circle or make sure the circle stays incomplete. I guess I will find out in the next book - hopefully it makes sense! Gwen's and Gideon's adventures in the past were interesting, and I liked how resourceful Gwen was at certain points, followed by how she'd make poor decisions that seemed like good decisions until she looked back and realized how much better she could have handled something. How true to life that is!
My favorite addition to this book, however, was definitely the appearance of Xemerius, a gargoyle who only Gwen could see and hear. He was amusing, and I loved his dedication to Gwen and the way he shared information and spoke his mind. Very cute! And I loved, as before, the friendship between Gwen and Lesley, who knows everything and uses her smarts to figure out stuff. They made a great team.
Not an absolutely perfect book, but it's easy to see why this trilogy became popular. It's simply fun to read these books and hard to put them down. I'm looking forward to seeing how it all wraps up!(less)
Lily's the daughter of a mortician and has grown up in a funeral parlor, so she's considered odd and isn't bothered by the sort of stuff that bothers...moreLily's the daughter of a mortician and has grown up in a funeral parlor, so she's considered odd and isn't bothered by the sort of stuff that bothers others. One day, she's confronted by a girl who accuses Lily of spreading lies about her and trying to steal her boyfriend, Matt, who Lily's been tutoring. The next day, the girl's found dead and Matt and Lily are the prime suspects. Lily isn't content to let the police handle the work, especially since she's under suspicion, so she sets out to find the killer herself.
This story was such a departure from the author's previous books, which are all lighter and more cutesy. I enjoyed this just as much as the other novels, but in a different way. I really liked the mystery in here, and I felt like Lily made a good sleuth - especially since she wasn't sleuthing, exactly, but simply trying to piece together the fragments around her in order to hopefully clear her name (and Matt's). The mystery was interesting, and I eagerly turned pages, curious to know what would happen next. I had no idea who the killer was at first, although as the story neared the end, I figured it out shortly before Lily did - and didn't guess the full story, only bits of it!
I liked the way the story moved forward. Scenes were short but not too short, and the action went along quickly so there was always something interesting going on. There was a nice balance of scenes focused on the main mystery and parts with Lily dealing with her regular life. Her family was interesting, and I think the author did a good job showing what a different world Lily lived in, simply because of her home life and the way the dead didn't frighten her as they did others. A lot of research obviously went into those parts!
Character development was probably the weakest part of this book, which isn't to say it was bad; the characters were simply not as developed as they could have been. The side characters seemed fairly flimsy, and the relationship between Matt and Lily didn't feel nearly as deep as I think it was supposed to be. The romantic aspect of this book seemed kind of pointless, although I understand why it was done for the plot. I just didn't feel much connection to them.
Despite the faults in this book, I did enjoy it quite a bit and was hooked by both the setting and the story. I picked up this book hoping for a quick, interesting mystery and this did not disappoint! (less)
I have no idea where I heard of this book, but I'd apparently put it on hold at the library. It's the first in a trilogy, about a teen named Gwyneth w...moreI have no idea where I heard of this book, but I'd apparently put it on hold at the library. It's the first in a trilogy, about a teen named Gwyneth whose seemingly perfect cousin is being prepared for her first time-travel experience. The time travel gene runs in their family, and a prophecy foretold that her cousin would have it. A mistake was made, however, and the person with the time travel gene is actually Gwyneth, who discovers this when she is suddenly flung back in time without warning. Back in her real time, Gwyneth quickly gets swept up in a society of these time travelers who have their own secrets that she'd previously not been privy to. Gwyneth is not prepared for time-traveling, nor does she fully understand what the society is doing, but she is apparently a key player of some sort.
This is by no means a great book. It actually doesn't even feel like a complete novel, simply because nearly the entire book is set up. There is no ending, making me feel like I just read 1/3 of a book instead of the first in a trilogy - and that always drives me crazy. However, there was also a lot that I enjoyed about this book. The story flew by, the characters (especially Gwyneth) were often immature but also seemed fairly believable, and the author did a good job making me intrigued about the society's mysteries.
I think the most interesting part about this book, for me, was the fact that the time travel aspect wasn't necessarily the driving force. I liked the mysteries around it, from the society with a set up that indicates Gwyneth has a key role (yet won't tell her precisely what that is, since they don't yet trust her) to the travels Gwyneth takes as she discovers that people are actually after her - but why? Of course, these questions weren't answered in here, which was frustrating. But the set up was quite nice.
While this was not great literature or a stellar book on its own, it was certainly engrossing and I read it quickly. I'll probably pick up the next books to see where the story goes, since they've already been released and will probably be quick reads as well. It's definitely a "younger" book, but it was fairly entertaining.(less)
This novella features Corinne and other characters from the author's novels Where I Belong and A Long Way From You. Set in New York City on Corinne's...moreThis novella features Corinne and other characters from the author's novels Where I Belong and A Long Way From You. Set in New York City on Corinne's last night there before leaving for college, it follows Corinne's adventures trying to follow her own plan for the "perfect" last night and "perfect" goodbye while realizing that everything is changing and that despite the fact that she's looking forward to the future and scared to say goodbye to the present, she's still somewhat stuck in the past because she never really said goodbye to her old boyfriend in Texas (where she'd spent a period of time in Where I Belong.
This was such a cute story! Reading it immediately reminded me of why I liked the other novels so much: they're simple but sweet and just plain fun, with an underlying layer of thoughtfulness. Although you wouldn't need to read the aforementioned two books in order to understand this one, I'd highly recommend it! A number of old characters were referenced and it was nice to see how they'd grown since their first introduction way back when.
The story was easy to relate to, as everyone's had to say goodbyes at some point and had their plans completely overrun! Although there were a few coincidences in this novella, most were explained later and I liked that the story didn't simply rely on things that would never actually happen in real life. Corinne's emotions and actions were nicely done, and I easily related to her throughout this entire story. It was such a lovely way to tie up everything from the books, although I'm hoping there is still more to come because it ended on such a sweet note that simply makes you want to return to this world!
My only quibble about this book is that all the characters were eighteen, yet they were running around to various bars and ordered drinks at restaurants and no one batted an eye. It was mentioned, later on, that they all had fake IDs, but it still seemed kind of odd that they had such easy access to alcohol and no one ever called them on it. That part didn't ring true to me.
That said, I did really enjoy this overall and highlighted a couple of passages I really liked. I would highly recommend it to fans of Where I Belong and A Long Way from You (although read those first so this has a bigger impact!).(less)
Avery and Nora used to be close in elementary school, brought together by the fact that they were both adopted. Their senior year of high school, alth...moreAvery and Nora used to be close in elementary school, brought together by the fact that they were both adopted. Their senior year of high school, although they've long since drifted apart, Nora seeks out Avery at a party and tells her that her longtime search for her both mom ended with someone trying to con her and that she wants Avery to have her notebook about the search. Avery brushes off the encounter as odd, but soon after, Nora's dead and Avery isn't sure what to do. She decides that in honor of her old friend, she will devote her senior project to finding her own birth mom - the same project Nora had been doing - and hope that it brings some sort of closure.
As usual with books by Eileen Cook, there was a lot I liked about this novel. Avery was a likable and believable main character; although Nora wasn't much in the actual story, she came to life when Avery thought about her, and Avery's conflicted emotions about Nora felt very real, especially after the two of them having not been friends for so long, yet super close in childhood. Avery's friends, in general, seemed slightly shallow, but so much of what happened in the book (in regard to friendship) was so understandable. I loved the way Avery felt like her life was kind of a mess and spent a lot of time dissecting it, especially as she tried to figure out where she belonged in the different groups of people at school. I also loved her musings about why she'd spent so much time dating a guy she wasn't that into and how to balance her new relationship with Brody, her senior project partner and someone she hadn't previously known well. I't was all completely relatable.
The mystery of Avery's birth mom was interesting, and although Avery's motivation to find her wasn't necessarily the greatest (it'd be a good senior project to help her get into Duke; she was supposedly honoring Nora...), the search was interesting. All of the stumbling blocks Avery ran into during her search were understandable and it gave a nice window into why - and how - someone might look for a birth parent. I liked the dynamic between Avery and her parents as she started this search, and I also liked that it wasn't a perfectly rosy picture of a reunion between biological mother/daughter, as is often hoped for or even portrayed in news/TV/books. I felt like the author captured it a little more realistically here, which was nice, although Avery's search perhaps went smoother than it might have in real life. Still, the pacing was perfect and it kept me interested as I read on.
Perhaps this book could have been rounded out a little more with extra emotion and depth, but at the same time - it felt complete and satisfying. It wasn't a sad or depressing book at all, despite the premise, and I liked how the potentially heavy-emotional issues were balanced with humor and intrigue. I definitely liked the characters and the story and feel like the author did an excellent job of bringing me into Avery's world. Very enjoyable!(less)
Right before Isobel's senior year of high school, her mom marries a guy she's known for only three months ad they move from Seattle to her new stepfat...moreRight before Isobel's senior year of high school, her mom marries a guy she's known for only three months ad they move from Seattle to her new stepfather's giant (and creepy) estate on a small island, where everyone has always known everyone and the general consensus is that their estate is haunted. Isobel's miserable and the only person who seems to remotely be a real friend is her new stepbrother, who's kind of an outcast at the school because of his family's history and the rumors about the supposed accident that killed his mom and sister. Out of nowhere, Isobel begins seeing a ghost that she thinks might be her would-be stepsister, trying to send her a message, but she can't figure it out and also worries that she might be going crazy, especially since her own dad was mentally ill.
I love books by Eileen Cook. She's such a fun author, and none of her books have ever disappointed. Sure, none have been perfect, but her writing is easy to read, the plot always moves forward smoothly, the characters are likable, and the narration is witty and amusing. This book was no exception. As usual, I loved the characters, the plot was well developed, and I kept wanting to read more because I needed to know what would happen next and what was really going on.
The mystery in this book was so interesting, and I loved the undercurrent of not fully knowing if what she was seeing was real or just in her head. Isobel's hesitation to tell people about it, especially considering her family history, was understandable and completely relatable. I really liked her narration, and she ended up being quite a multi-dimensional character because of everything else she was dealing with. Although the story about her dad was a very secondary plot point, it was given enough page time for me to understand how everything had affected her and why she felt the way she did. The relationship between Isobel and her mom (as well as the ones with her new stepdad and stepbrother) were nicely developed and believable.
I loved the setting in here as well. A creepy old estate on an island, far away from the mainland and out of touch with all sorts of technology - bad cell service, etc. - made for such a dark backdrop! It was an interesting place and the estate came to life, almost like another character in the book. Everyone on the island seemed fascinated by the estate, and with good reason! I was curious about it too and relished all the descriptions of it.
What made this book so strong was the perfect blend of creepiness and humor. It wasn't a laugh-out-loud book by any means, but there were funny and relatable moments, followed by tense situations where I didn't know what was happening. I really liked this mix, as it made the story incredibly easy to get absorbed in - and made me want to be there, despite the creepy factor!(less)
I might not have read this had it not been my book club's pick for the month, but it ended up being quite good! Ifemelu is a Nigerian woman who moves...moreI might not have read this had it not been my book club's pick for the month, but it ended up being quite good! Ifemelu is a Nigerian woman who moves to the U.S. for college, leaving behind her parents and boyfriend, who plans to join her after he finishes his degree in Nigeria. Once in the U.S., Ifemelu is overwhelmed with the culture and how different her identity becomes simply due to race and being a "non-American African". Her life doesn't exactly go as expected, her boyfriend is denied a U.S. visa and they lose touch, and she soon feels depressed by her current life. Ifemelu begins a popular blog about race and becomes an American, but she feels like something is still missing in her life and decides perhaps she should move back to Lagos and reconnect with the country that still feels like home and the boyfriend whom she never stopped thinking about.
The structure to this book was interesting. It wasn't told exactly in chronological order, but it wasn't simply flashbacks either. The narration sort of jumped around in time, and although I didn't always know when exactly things happened, it was easy to follow along the general timeline of Ifemelu's life. Ifemelu, for her part, wasn't always the most likable main character. She made a lot of decisions that frustrated me, even when I could see where she was coming from, and she seemed to often not know what she wanted, or would sometimes do something to sabotage what she had These are (obviously) very common character traits among people, so it was easy to sympathize with her regardless of how frustrating her actual actions were.
Race and identity were the main themes of this book. Reading about Ifemelu's journey from Nigeria to America and back definitely gave a lot of perspective to lives of immigrants like her and the ways in which American Africans and African Americans differ. I quite easily understood how Ifemelu became fascinated by the concept of race! I really enjoyed some of her observations, while others fell semi-flat - especially the passages that seemed to be included almost to the point of exaggeration. It was mentioned several times that Americans are uncomfortable about race or that honest writing/discussion about race was impossible in America, and there were some points in the novel where I felt like the author had perhaps only included it to prove her points, not necessarily as a way to move the story itself forward. That said, the vast majority of the book was quite good and thought-provoking.
This was a sort of coming-of-age novel, despite it taking place almost completely during Ifemelu's adulthood. The setting was developed wonderfully, and I feel like I got a good idea of what Nigeria both looks and feels like, as well as how America seems through the eyes of an immigrant with an uncertain future. I loved the writing, and the story flowed smoothly despite it jumping around in time. The main thing that frustrated me about this was the fact that there were a number of plot points that were never delved into as fully as they could have been - or, at least, they didn't necessarily come full circle. I suppose this is simply a representation of life, how we never know all the answers to questions or know what happened to everyone and everything. (less)