This book was both fascinating and gripping, all about Polar exploration and, in particular, the voyage of the USS Jeannette in the late 19th century...moreThis 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! (less)
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, the...moreKind 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.(less)
Nice collection of journal entries, short stories, and letters that Esther Earl wrote while battling cancer. Her parents did a lovely job of putting a...moreNice collection of journal entries, short stories, and letters that Esther Earl wrote while battling cancer. Her parents did a lovely job of putting all these items together in a fairly cohesive narrative, letting Esther's voice and personality shine. I liked the commentary about her treatments and how she felt about everything she had to deal with - definitely gave an interesting perspective to think about. She came across as a fairly average person, which made her easy to relate to and like. Of course, the book is sad in parts but I didn't feel like it was devastating because of how upbeat and positive most of the entries were. There were a few sections in here written by her friends, looking back at how they'd met Esther and what they feel was the lasting part of their friendship with her, and I could have done without these parts, since I'm sure they were written from the heart but they didn't seem to convey anything new and so I ended up skimming. Regardless, I enjoyed this overall and thought it was an extremely nice tribute, in her own words.(less)
I don't know how many times I've read this book - probably a dozen times, starting when I was in junior high - and rereading it now, for the first tim...moreI don't know how many times I've read this book - probably a dozen times, starting when I was in junior high - and rereading it now, for the first time in a few years, it's just as good as I remembered. There's really nothing I can say that hasn't already been said about this book, given its popularity. I love all the realizations that Jonas has throughout, as he receives various memories and experiences things that he never knew existed and begins to understand that the life he thought was perfect is actually deficient in so many ways - and that he, like everyone else, was never given the opportunity to decide whether this trade-off was acceptable. I think I appreciated the fairly ambiguous ending more as an adult than I did when younger. Other than that, however, it was just as powerful and engrossing as ever; there's definitely a reason this book has withstood the test of time!(less)
I'd started this book when it was first released, back in 2011, and only made it through about two chapters before putting it down. It just didn't gri...moreI'd started this book when it was first released, back in 2011, and only made it through about two chapters before putting it down. It just didn't grip me and things felt almost forced. But then I read the author's next two books (after hearing so many good things about them) and loved them (especially Fangirl) and decided to give this one another shot. I figured, perhaps I just initially started reading it at a time when it didn't resonate with me.
This time around, the first few chapters seemed equally as flat. But I kept reading, and the book did pick up and I ended up enjoying the novel overall. It's set in 1999-2000, covering the story of a guy, Lincoln, who gets hired to read flagged emails at a newspaper to ensure that everyone's complying with the rules. He ends up getting sucked into the email conversations between two women who work there, Beth and Jennifer, and falls in love with the way Beth sounds in her email, despite having never met her. He then doesn't know how to approach her, since he feels like he knows her well yet she knows nothing about him (including not knowing his job or mere existence).
This was a cute premise for a novel, and there was a lot I liked about this. I felt like the emails between Jennifer and Beth were stilted at the beginning (probably a big reason why I couldn't get into this book the first time), but they did get more and more natural. I could also see how people at a big company, working in different areas, would simply pass some time during the day by emailing each other without thinking twice. And I really liked the way that Lincoln felt he "knew" them so well.... but he also know there was no way to easily tell them this without sounding creepy.
One of the best things in this novel, for me, was the way that the author managed to develop a love story without the characters have met - or even interacted! Although I didn't necessarily understand why Lincoln felt so attracted to Beth (it was specified and I understood as the book went on; I just couldn't originally tell much of a difference between Beth and Jennifer to know why he was so crazy about Beth), the way that he felt was nicely described and easy to relate. Beth probably made the most interesting character, in my opinion. She was kind of struggling in her personal life, with a boyfriend who just wasn't getting his act together, and she kept being hopeful about the future with him despite everyone else seeing it as a lost cause. I especially liked the fact that her boyfriend was perfectly nice, so there wasn't a reason to hate him and he was just a regular guy.
Lincoln, on the other hand, felt kind of weak as the main character. He was supposed to be hot and extremely nice - yet he lived with his overbearing mom, didn't have a career or a career path because he'd spend his life being a professional student so he wouldn't have to grow up, and he hadn't dated in a decade since his (only) bigh school girlfriend broke his heart. He didn't make for much to swoon over, and I spent a lot of the novel wondering if he had Aspergers or something because he was just so awkward. I didn't fully understand how he was supposed to be such a catch while also being so pathetic. There was character development over the course of the book, but it seemed like my questions about why he was socially pathetic weren't address, he simply just FINALLY evolved. And then the plot just wrapped up almost too neatly at the end. I guess that's probably due to this being the author's first novel.
I liked the story overall but it didn't grip me. I'm glad I finished reading the book, and I was reminded that I really do love the author's writing. But this was definitely nowhere near as good as her next novels. I liked this but didn't love it.(less)
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)