Sunday, December 13, 2015

Taking on Time: Passenger

Passenger by Alexandra Bracken (Passenger #1)
Disney-Hyperion, Expected Release Date: January 5, 2016

*e-ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley - Thank You! This in no way impacted my opinions of this book.*

Etta Spencer is a violin prodigy desperate to have her moment in the spotlight. After years of practicing as well as battling horrible nerves, she knows she's ready for her solo debut. Only fate (and foes) have other plans. One minute she's performing, the next she's being sucked through time. Her mom has always been secretive about their past and she's never had family to speak of, but it turns out it's because their family is different: they're time travelers, and they've been hiding. So is Nicholas Carter, a young man currently living in pre-Revolution times and scraping together a living as a pirate of sorts. He wants his freedom more than anything, both from society's claims that a black man is worthless as well as from the vicious Ironwoods, another time-traveling family with plans that could have horrible repercussions.

From the summaries I've read, this book sounded like it was right up my alley. Time travel. Music. History. Pirates. Adventure. Sign me up! In the end, I'd say this book was more of an okay one-time read for me. The pacing was a bit slow for my taste at first, though it wasn't until after I started reading that I found out this was the first book in an intended series (that changes things). Another thing that didn't quite hit the spot for me was the romance. Given the short amount of time that these characters know each other, the depth of their feelings felt a bit rushed. I actually found myself rooting that they would just be friends - guys and girls can care about each other and not want to make out with each other! It's possible!

While this book wasn't quite for me, I'll absolutely be getting it for my school library. This is one of those times when I'm able to recognize that this is a book that will be a hit with its intended audience if not with me: teens will probably eat this up, and exactly for the reasons I wasn't wild about. Also, the author's previous novels have been a hit with my students, so they're anxiously waiting for more.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Stories and Songs: Sounds Like Me

Sounds Like Me: My Life (So Far) in Song by Sara Bareilles
Simon & Schuster, 2015

I grew up in the world of music just as much as the world of books. Being in band from 5th grade all through college had a huge impact on my life, both in terms of skills I have and the person I am. It's a challenging thing to describe how music made so many changes, which I always thought was ironic considering how universal and uniting music can be.

But recently, I was able to find some words that give voice to my thoughts in Sara Bareilles' essay collection. In these eight essays, singer-songwriter Bareilles sheds light on her childhood, various aspects of her career as it has changed over the years, and how music has been there for it all, seeing her through. A few of the pieces are stories behind some of her songs ("Gravity", "Love Song", and "Brave" all get time in the spotlight), while others cut into the pain she's endured: her parents' divorce, her struggles in high school and later in the music industry, learning to find herself while living alone in Italy. There are high points, too, such as writing the music and lyrics for the 2016 Broadway musical Waitress.

Given her background in songwriting, essays were a perfect choice for Bareilles to try her hand at a longer format. There's an extremely conversational style to the writing which is reminiscent of the banter Bareilles is known for in between songs at her concerts. I've been lucky enough to see her perform live once on her Little Black Dress Tour, and hear her when she was on tour for this book. The event hosted by Anderson's Bookshop in Naperville, Illinois was enjoyable and I left with a big smile on my face. There's such comfort that comes with meeting another introvert! Also, I made her laugh when I met her in the signing line, which was a bonus.

If you like Sara's music, pick this book up. You'll laugh. You'll get misty eyes. You'll lose count of how many times she swears, but f-it, you won't mind (I sure as hell didn't haha). This was a quick read that I throughly enjoyed and I hope she picks up her pen again soon.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Twisting a Tale as Old as Time: A Court of Thorns and Roses

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas (A Court of Thorns and Roses #1)
Bloomsbury Kids, 2015

*ARC provided by the publisher at ALA Midwinter 2015 - thank you! This in no way impacted my opinions of this book.*

I guess you could say that it took me a while to get my thoughts in order about this book because I read it months ago but never wrote my review. Why is that? Well, largely because I have been recommending this book to fantasy lovers left, right, and center. In the first installment of her newest series, Sarah J. Maas crafts a dark, seductive, and enchanting faerie story rooted in one of my personal favorite tales as old as time: Beauty and the Beast.

In A Court of Thorns and Roses, Feyre has no idea the trouble she's about to unleash when she kills a wolf in the woods near her home. Her thoughts are on survival, not just her own, but her father and sisters'. As she soon learns, it was no ordinary wolf, but a faerie in disguise, and one who served one of the fae lords at that. As punishment and to protect her family, Feyre is dragged across the border into the faerie lands and the estate of Tamlin, a faerie whose lands are subjected to a cruel curse. Feyre's feelings for Tamlin change from harsh hostility to pure passion, but if she's not careful, Feyre could be the one who lifts the curse as well as bring about even bigger dangers.

I flew through the pages of this novel, eager to see what happened next and desperate to keep up with the intense feelings flying between this faerie and fair human. I particularly loved how Maas twisted in aspects of the Beauty and the Beast story we know and love - I could clearly see what she was referencing in the traditional story, but she took aspects and made them her own, fitting and molding them to the world she's building. The narrative had a satisfying arc, making the book feel whole unto itself, but it also leaves a satisfactory number of questions lingering to be answered in future installments. If you're a fantasy lover and haven't read this yet, what are you waiting for?!

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading.

Sarah J. Maas's Website
Sarah J. Maas on Twitter
Sarah J. Maas on Tumblr

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Enchanting World We Live In: Life of Pi

Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Harcourt, 2001

Yes, I know that I was 14 years late to the party, but let's just be happy that I got there at all. Actually, a big part of me is grateful that it took me so long - I'm positive that had I read this book when I was younger, I wouldn't have fully appreciated it. So in that sense, this book was worth waiting for the right moment.

In this modern classic, Yann Martel crafts the story of Pi Patel, a man who may seem ordinary at first glance, but has actually lived an extraordinary life. Growing up in India where his family owned and operated a zoo, Pi was always a bit of an outsider. After all, how many people do you know who are Christian, Hindu, and Islamic all at once? Well, Pi is. He just loves God, simple as that. And all of Pi's faith is put to the test when a storm destroys the ship he and his family and their animals are traveling on to Canada. Somehow Pi makes it into a lifeboat, along with a fully grown Bengal tiger.

Martel's writing is rich and lush, and considering how much of this book revolves around discussions on religion and faith, I never found it to be preachy. It was conversational yet poetic prose, opening my mind and heart to a simultaneously eloquent and simple look at God, giving a much-needed boost to my personal beliefs. In the survival sections of the book, Pi's hallucinations, trials, and struggles are raw and gripping - even though the structure of the narrative meant as a reader, I knew things would turn out, I was still invested in Pi's safety and

If you are looking for a novel that will challenge you, that will you push you to look at the harsh world we live in through magical, loving, compassionate, and courageous eyes, then pick up Life of Pi if you haven't done so already. I know I'm glad I did.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Out of this World: The Martian

The Martian by Andy Weir
Crown, 2014

Imagine going to Mars. Now imagine being stranded on Mars. Welcome to what has just become reality for Ares III Astronaut Mark Watney. Six sols (Martian days) into what is supposed to be a month-long stay on the red planet, a freak storm requires the team to abort their mission and head back to Earth early. Only while they're evacuating, Mark gets hit with debris that knocks out the bio sensors in his suit. His crew mates think he's dead, so they're forced to leave him behind. Now he needs to figure out to tell NASA he's very much alive and how to survive long enough to get rescued, something that would take years.

And that, readers, is just the beginning.

What started out as a story posted by chapter by chapter on Weir's blog turned into a self-publishing and then traditional publishing phenomenon that has now taken even Hollywood by storm, These kinds of stats make me naturally skeptical, but in this case, there was absolutely no reason to be. This tale is Apollo 13 meets Cast Away, except Mark isn't exactly Tom Hanks. He is sarcastic. He swears. He thinks outside of the box and is flippant as much as he is brilliant. His is a journey that you are glad to be along for the ride. This book does a great job of balancing the science part of science fiction with the fact that most of its readers are not rocket scientists - things are explained, but you're not required to understand every little aspect of the mechanics to be engaged by this story.

This review is purposely vague because this is a book that to spoil any part of it feels criminal. I'll just say that I think this novel is properly deserving of the hype, and I've been suggesting it like crazy to teen and adult readers alike.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Keep On Keeping On: I Crawl Through It

I Crawl Through It by A.S. King
Little, Brown, 2015

*eARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley- thank you! This in no way impacted my opinions of this book.*

A.S. King is a writer who has never shied away from stories and structures that are a little more, shall we say, "out there." But if you've thought she pushed the envelope as far as it could go before, just wait until you read King's first surrealist novel.

In a town and a school under the thumb of bomb threats, never ending tests, ridiculous societal expectations, and the usual insurmountable mountain of the pressures that come with being an adolescent human merely trying to survive into adulthood, I Crawl Through It focuses on four teens in particular who cope with their various situations in a variety of ways. One girl wears a lab coat wherever she goes and dissects frogs (and other animals) as often as the science teacher will let her. One boy is building an invisible helicopter to escape. One girl has swallowed herself and is now inside out. Another girl can't stop lying (or doesn't want to) and her hair won't stop growing.

Sound a bit strange? I'm not going to lie - it is. Yet I consistently come back to King's novels. They push me outside my comfort zone. They challenge traditional ways of storytelling and thinking about people, places, and things and how they mold each other, a never ending cycle that can be kind when it's not busy being cruel. It took me a while to fully wrap my head around this book and these characters. No one really seems to question a girl who says she is inside out or a boy with an invisible aircraft, but then again they don't question the bomb drills or the myriad of tests, either. And really, is one set really that much stranger than the other? About halfway through, something must have clicked in my mind and I was able to suspend my reality for the one within the pages. I'm still not sure I was able to fully accept the reality of this book literal truth - it's not - but I was able to accept that it's hardly stranger than the world I live in where being a school teacher isn't just about teaching anymore, but also about being willing to sacrifice my life.

This book is not for everyone. It's weird, but I say that as a compliment, as high praise. A.S. King's books make me a better reader, and transitively, a better thinker and a better human. These lives we lead are beyond anything our ancestors could have ever imagined for us, and this world will only become more surreal for our descendants. Yet, day after day, I crawl through it.

Comments welcome, and as always, happy reading.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Keep Creativity Coming: Big Magic

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
Riverhead, 2015

*ARC provided by the publisher - thank you! This in no way impacted my opinions of this book.*

Creativity can be a fickle thing. On the one hand, people can appreciate amazing things when they see them. Works of art. Powerful stories. Music that can move the soul. However, they can be less appreciative of the work that goes into creating such works, and, therefore, the people who aim to do the creating. It can be as daunting as it is liberating to live a creative life.

But never fear because Liz Gilbert is here. Best known for her memoir Eat, Pray, Love, Gilbert's latest book explores the nature of creativity: Where does it come from? How does it shape us? How can we harness it (if we can at all)? And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

Gilbert has clearly put a lot of thought into this topic - she's done two TED talks on the subject. This book is a unique blend of nonfiction in that it is part opinions, part theories, part anecdotal, and part motivational. Her voice is clear and authentic. She shares from her many and varied experiences from throughout her own creative life, and it was refreshing to have an author, who despite having just poured herself into a book, is the first to admit that she doesn't know everything, that she could be completely wrong. But that's exactly why she brings in the opinions and experiences of so many other people - she very consciously tries to cover as many of the bases as she can.

As someone who likes to consider herself a creative person, or at least aiming to live a creative life, I found this book to be great. I'm currently in between projects and exploring a handful of different creative outlets, searching the one that fits me in this moment. As a result, this was a case of reading the right book at the right time. I'm still exploring my options, but I'm so much happier in my uncertainty. So, thanks Liz. Keep doing what you're doing, and I'll keep trying what I'm trying.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Elizabeth Gilbert's Website
Elizabeth Gilbert on Twitter

Sunday, September 13, 2015

I'm Still Here!

Hello! Readers! Are you still there?

I know, I know. I've been bad about updating. REALLY BAD. I've been so bad, I haven't even posting links to my many video reviews that I've done over the past few months.

To say life has been a whirlwind lately has been an understatement. I got a new job at a new school, and my library life has to come before the blog. However, I'm still reading and I still have lots of thoughts about what I'm reading, I promise. It's just that with work and life happening, the blog has slid further and further down the to-do list.

But I'm working on it. It's coming back up.

So, dear readers, if you're still with me, I appreciate it. Bear with me as I get reorganized and start with more semi-regular posting and reviews (baby steps). In the mean time, please check out my account on Goodreads to see what I've been reading (for some reason I was much better about posting mini-reviews there this summer) and head over to my YouTube channel to see and hear my thoughts.



Friday, July 17, 2015

Video Review - Royal Wedding

It’s wedding season, so what better book to read than Meg Cabot's Royal Wedding? That’s right, everyone’s favorite fictional princess is back!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Lost and Found: Emmy & Oliver

Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway
Harper Teen, 2015

*ARC provided by the author - Thank You! This in no way impacted my opinions of this book.*

Emmy and Oliver weren't just next door neighbors when they were kids, they were best friends. But everything changed when they were seven years old and Oliver's father kidnapped him. Overnight their sleepy little town went on high alert, and no one more so than Emmy's parents. But Emmy never forgot her friend - she couldn't even if she wanted to. While the search parties eventually dwindled, their worry didn't. Ten years later, the incredibly early curfews and expectation that she'll attend community college so she'll still live at home have pushed Emmy into secret applications and surfing behind their backs. But then everything changes again when Oliver is found, comes home, and doesn't really remember the girl next door at all, but she's exactly who he needs.

While I've only read one other of Benway's books (her debut, Audrey, Wait!), I completely loved it and was jumping at the chance to get to read this. From the summary alone, I could tell it would be something I'd enjoy: guy and girl friendships, childhood friends, growing pains, finding your own voice - and it was all here. Emmy is a smart girl but she's not perfect, and neither are her life-long friends Caro and Drew. It was refreshing to see what I felt like was a realistic look at teens - in my experience, many of them really are good kids, but that doesn't mean they're perfect. The Triangle (as they call themselves) felt fully formed. Two of my favorite scenes were when Emmy declares "what's wrong with being like other girls?" and when the trio is genuinely trying to understand a directive from their parents but can't follow the muddled grown-up logic at all.

And of course, there's Oliver, another good kid without whom this story wouldn't happen. Benway does a good job letting the audience get to know this boy well before he actually comes back into the picture, and then redefining him again since readers, like Emmy, haven't known the person he's become in the past ten years. While it's understandable that he plays his cards close to his chest, I would have liked to have known a bit more what was going on in his head a la Heather Demetrios' Josh in I'll Meet You There. At times, the story felt a bit rushed or that there was the potential to go a little deeper, however, the story still worked really well. I sympathized with this character and all he's been through, constantly having to be the one to pay the price for something he never asked for.

All in all, this was a solid contemporary story taking on an issue that happens far too often but is rarely discussed, especially in young adult literature. I can especially see this book being a big hit in the hands of Sarah Dessen fans or any reader who likes books that take on a bad situation but can also find the silver lining.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Robin Benway's Website
Robin Benway on Twitter

Friday, June 19, 2015

Video Review - If You Find This Letter

In which I finally get around to recording a video review of Hannah Brencher's memoir If You Find This Letter. Thank you to the publisher for sending me this ARC - this in no way impacted my opinions of this book.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

A Royal Welcome Back: Royal Wedding

Royal Wedding by Meg Cabot (Princess Diaries #11)
William Morrow and Company, 2015

*ARC Provided by the publisher at ALA Midwinter 2015 - Thank you! This in no way impacted my opinion of this book.*

For years, Mia poured her heart and soul into the pages of her diary. What started as a place to sort out her feelings about her mom dating her Algebra teacher became the chronicles of a teenage girl discovering she's the heir to the throne of Genovia all while dealing with all the usual hassles of high school. Now Mia's back, 25 years old and coping with her royal family's latest fiasco. Dad's having a mid-life crisis on the verge of an election, the paparazzi is as annoying as ever because even though she and Michael Moscovitz are as in love as ever, he still hasn't proposed, and Mia feels like even after all those princess lessons from Grandmere, she still has no idea what she's doing. When Michael does pop the question, another scandal is about to burst. Will the two love birds finally get their happily ever after, and is Mia finally ready to rule?

I was lucky enough to get this ARC at ALA Midwinter back in January and swore at the time that I was going to read all the books I got there in the order of their publication dates. But with this, I couldn't help myself (and not just because I got to meet Meg for the 2nd time and she signed my original copy of The Princess Diaries from when I was a tween!). I devoured Mia's latest story in a matter of days. Reentering the world of The Princess Diaries was like reconnecting with an old friend, and just as I have grown so much since the last time I saw her, so has Mia. Yes she still has a flare for the dramatic and her imagination is as active as ever, but she's matured and leveled out in a lot of ways. She's gotten the hang of this princess thing. Her tendency to self-sabotage seems to have faded with time. She's still grounded and caring and sure a little crazy, but who isn't?

While this is technically the 11th book in a series, people who have never read its young adult predecessors will have no trouble picking this story up as a standalone read. Cabot redefines her cast, bring back plenty of old favorites along with some new faces, and like Mia, they're all grown up. It's refreshing to see a story that's actually a pretty realistic representation of what life is like for people in their mid-20s. Friendships aren't as face-to-face as they once were, but that doesn't lessen their bonds. Tough choices must be made, but a good support system makes them a little bit easier. And never underestimate the power of a positive outlook and true love with a great geeky guy. Don't believe me? Diary entries, text message conversations, even a few shopping lists letting us into Mia's mind and prove it.

Meg Cabot is a master of the feel-good stories, giving us quirky protagonists in extraordinary situations you can't help but root for. On a blizzard weekend in January, this was just the pick me up I needed, and I can tell I'll have fun rereading this one in the years to come.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Meg Cabot's Website
Meg Cabot on Twitter
Meg Cabot on Tumblr

Monday, May 18, 2015

A Genovian for a new Generation: From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess

From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess by Meg Cabot (Middle School Princess #1)
Feiwel and Friends, Expected Release Date: May 5, 2015

*ARC provided by the publisher - thank you! This in no way impacted my opinions on this book.*

Olivia Grace Clarisse Mignonette Harrison is pretty normal as far as twelve year olds are concerned. Except for her super long name and the fact that she lives with her aunt and uncle's family because her mom died and her dad sends letters but has never met her because he's always working around the world. Sure they don't let her do much of the things her cousins do, but she's happy with her friends, doing math, and practicing drawing so she can someday be an wildlife illustrator. But everything changes one day when the school bully threatens to pound her and the truth comes out: Olivia's dad is the Prince of Genovia, making her Mia's half sister and a princess herself. There's nothing normal about her life now!

I was lucky enough to have grown up with the Princess Diaries series by Meg Cabot, and as soon as I found out that this book and another Princess Diaries novel, Royal Wedding, would be coming out this summer, I decided to reread the series. While I wouldn't consider the books that old, I was surprised by the discovery that my adolescence is now far enough away that it's practically historical fiction. This new series will allows for a whole new generation of readers to enter the world of Genovia and the challenges of growing up a modern-day princess. Readers don't have to know Mia's story to love Olivia's, but for those who are familiar with the previous series are in for a treat. It was so fun to see Mia, Grandmere, and Prince Philip from a new point of view.

While the previous novels were young adult, Olivia's story is firmly in the land of middle grade, but don't let her age deter you from reading. She's smart. She's clever. She has a flare for the dramatic (like her sister) but is also incredibly grounded. More than anything, she's a girl who wants to do good and be loved, and her adventure is just getting started. This story is told in her journal entries as well as via text messages, an update from the "old time" practice of writing notes to friends. Another wonderful bonus is that this book has also been illustrated by Cabot herself, letting us see more of Olivia's perspective a bit more literally.

All in all, if you're a fan of cute contemporary stories or know someone who is, pick up this book. In her usual feel-good fashion, Cabot has created another heroine for readers to root for and by her side, growing pains feel a little more bearable.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Meg Cabot's Website
Meg Cabot on Twitter
Meg Cabot on Tumblr

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Someone to Watch Over Me: Saint Anything

Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen
Viking Juvenille, Expected Release Date: May 5, 2015

*ARC provided by the publisher at ALA Midwinter - Thank you! This in no way impacted my opinions of this book.*

Sydney has spent her whole life in the shadow of Peyton, the older brother she idolizes. He's always had a way about him, something that's made him the center of everything, even when he started to get in trouble. In fact, he's still sun that their entire family revolves around when he's locked away in jail after his drunk driving left another boy in a wheelchair. Her mom acts as if Peyton was the victim, her father is barely around, and Sydney is wracked with guilt about her brother's actions, her best still never being good enough. But positive changes come into Sydney's life in unlikely places - at a new school where she doesn't know anyone and at a family run pizza place with pies too perfect for words. The Chathams are completely unlike Sydney's own family - loud, loving, and they actually look at and accept her. Someone finally seems to care about where Sydney is and how she's doing.

A voracious reader, I always have at least a book or two I'm working my way through. But that's the thing - sometimes these 200 page books have felt like work. Saint Anything's 448 pages, however, flew by far too quickly. I was completely enraptured in this story. This was one of those books where the rest of the world disappeared around me whenever I was reading it. Though I have never been in the exact same situation as Sydney, I have felt a lot of the same feelings both in my high school years and even as an adult. It's agonizing to have people looking at you for all the wrong reasons, and such a relief when it happens for the right ones.

While many are describing this as Dessen's darkest novel, I don't think I'd agree with that sentiment. In her 12 published books, Dessen has not shied away from serious topics such as abusive relationships, body image, teen pregnancy, loss, and substance abuse. This story isn't an easy one - there's a lot of anger and hurt, but it's honest and realistic and it made me appreciate this book that much more. While it's true that this author has given us plenty of swoonworthy relationships in her books, they've never just been about romance. The same can be said for Saint Anything. Did I fall for Mac, the oldest boy in the Chatham household, just as hard as Sydney? Oh yes. But I was just as in love with the friendships that make up the core of this story, especially Sydney's with Layla Chatham.

All in all, Saint Anything has to be one of my favorite Sarah Dessen books ever, which is saying something since I have such high praise for her other titles as well. Even though the the subject matter can get dark, it is also full of hope and light, and I already can't wait to reread it.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Sarah Dessen's Website
Sarah Dessen on Twitter

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Short Story Saturday: Irish Girls About Town, Soulmates

Welcome to Short Story Saturday! Each week, I'll talk about a different story from the collection I'm working my way through and offer up some thoughts. I'm currently reading Irish Girls About Town.

Story: Soulmates
Author: Marian Keyes
Summary: Georgia and Joel are soulmates, always having an amazing, wonderful, awe-inspiring relationship that even when things go south, none of their friends can ever fully understand and definitely can't replicate in their own lives.
Thoughts: Hmmm. This was a thought provoking story for sure, and definitely brought up some emotions that I'm embarrassed to say I could identify with. Doesn't everyone know that one person who things just always work out for, whose star shines a little brighter and you are jealous but at the same time impressed and you can't even be mad at them because they're so nice? Yeah, this story tapped right into that side of me, of all of us.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Write from the Heart: To All the Boys I've Loved Before

To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han (To All the Boys I've Loved Before #1)
Simon & Schuster, 2014

There's a hat box under Lara Jean's bed, inside which live the deepest secrets of her heart: letters she's written to each of the boys she has loved. They're not typical love letters, though. They're letters she wrote to fall out of love with them, to spill all of her feelings out onto paper, seal them up, and move on from these crushes she's never admitted to anyone. Lara Jean's life is already undergoing big changes with her big sister heading off to college in Scotland, but things get even more complicated when someone not only discovers her letters, but mails them to the boys they're about. Now she's trying to take care of her dad and little sister along with faking a relationship with Peter - one of her past crushes - in a plan to make each of their current crushes jealous. Only is it really a fake relationship after all?

This was my first time reading a Jenny Han novel, and this world was a lovely, light story to read while on vacation this spring. Over a couple of days, I enjoyed reading about the hijinks and tight corners Lara Jean got herself into, and part of me really admired how she feels things widely and deeply. While the fake relationship plot is something that's certainly been around the block, I loved seeing how some of the various boys responded to getting their letters and how Lara Jean responded in their release. The idea of these almost reverse love letters was clever and cathartic, and fit Lara Jean's sentimental and whimsical personality perfectly.

I'll admit that there were times when I was a bit frustrated with the protagonist since many of the problems she encountered could have been resolved by simply talking to someone or by reigning in her very active imagination that has a flare for the dramatic and romantic. In spite of this, I was still rooting for her, wanting to see her grow up a bit more and see that even though reality isn't as pretty or easy to navigate as her fantasy world, amazing things can still happen even when life gets messy.

If you are a fan of contemporary romance or looking for a book to entertain you for a few hours, pick up To All the Boys I've Loved Before, and keep an eye out for the sequel, P.S. I Still Love You.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Jenny Han's Website
Jenny Han on Twitter

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Short Story Saturday: Defy the Dark, This Was Ophelia

Welcome to Short Story Saturday! Each week, I'll talk about a different story from the collection I'm working my way through and offer up some thoughts. I'm currently reading Defy the Dark.

Story: This Was Ophelia
Author: Tessa Gratton
Summary: When she's feeling bored with the stuffy life she leads, Phe sneaks out at night to illegal club in town, dresses as a man, and calls herself O to escape, but when she falls in love with Hal, the late-mayor's son, as O, her seemingly small life gets infinitely more complicated.
Thoughts: I'm completely intrigued by this story! The historical setting and the gender constructs that go along with it, the fact that things aren't so different today, and the characters driving the story ask complicated questions of each other and of themselves. If Gratton were to adapt this into a longer story, I'd definitely be interested in reading more.

And that's it for Defy the Dark!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Look Closer: Read Between the Lines

Read Between the Lines by Jo Knowles
Candlewick Press, 2015

*ARC provided by the publisher at ALA Midwinter 2015 - thank you! This in no way impacted my opinions of this book.*

There are some books that I will always be a sucker for, that will always peak my interest, and when I first read about Read Between the Lines, the newest novel by Jo Knowles, two of my favorite things made the list: multiple points of view and an entire book that takes place in one day. Over the course of nine chapters, readers temporarily enter the lives of nine different people. Many of them are students at the same high school, one is an alumni, and one is a current teacher. It's one ordinary day, at least on the surface, but readers can see that people often have much bigger impacts on the lives of others than we realize.

Knowles' prose is particularly strong in that each chapter could probably stand on its own as a short story, however the stories are intricately overlapped and weaved together in a realistic fabric. The villain of one chapter may be the hero in another. Point of view is powerful, and enforces the idea that truth may not be as black and white as we'd like it to be because perspective - literally and metaphorically - can change everything.

I know that this review is not terribly specific, but I don't want to give away specifics that could spoil this book for potential readers. With each chapter focusing on someone else, this was a very quick read. On the flip side of this, I didn't feel like I necessarily got to know some characters particularly well or make connections with them because I wasn't with them for a prolonged period of time. This is a good buy for libraries, and a thought provoking look at how people impact the lives of others, especially when we're not looking.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Jo Knowles' Website
Jo Knowles on Twitter

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Short Story Saturday: Defy the Dark, Where the Light Is

Welcome to Short Story Saturday! Each week, I'll talk about a different story from the collection I'm working my way through and offer up some thoughts. I'm currently reading Defy the Dark.

Story: Where the Light Is
Author: Jackson Pearce
Summary: Will is a miner in a small mining town, miserable and determined to leave someday, but his boring life gets interesting when he comes across a faerie girl who lives far below the earth's surface.
Thoughts: This was lovely! Rooted in reality with a solid dash of fantasy to keep things interesting, a forbidden love, an interesting mythology and two characters who I was genuinely rooting for. I've known about Pearce's writing for years, but this was my first time reading it. This was just the push I needed to finally check out some of her books!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Have Fun Storming the Castle: As You Wish

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes
Touchstone, 2014

I'm pretty sure I was in junior high the first time I ever saw The Princess Bride. Flipping through the channels, I came across this movie that was so wildly unlike anything I'd ever seen before. Sword fighting pirates. A miracle wizard. An actual giant. A princess who can't catch a break. A prince who is a huge jerk. And True Love. I wasn't quite sure of what to make of it, but with its wonderful satire and incredible quotability, how could I not fall in love?

Such were the thoughts of so many others who have come to find this film over the years. The movie's star Cary Elwes (Westley the Farm Boy) takes readers behind the scenes of this beloved movie, one he and so many others in the production are still proud to have been a part of over 25 years later. But while making this movie was the job of a lifetime, it wasn't always smooth sailing. Elwes had a few injuries over the course of the production. The sword fighting training was grueling. And then there was the pesky English weather to contend with. But as anyone who has seen this movie can attest to, the results on the screen were pure magic.

The biggest problem, the reason this film was initially considered a bit of a flop was because the marketing department at Fox had the same reaction I had the first time I saw it: what kind of story is it exactly? As a result, the movie did very modestly at the box office, but it turns out it was only "mostly dead" - thanks to the rise of the VCR, the movie grew to become a beloved classic.

For fans of the movies and people who enjoy DVD extras, this book is a must-read. Elwes does a great job of including the thoughts of others who worked on the film and covers everything from his audition to the cast's reunion for the movie's 25th anniversary. This book was also a remarkable insight into Andre the Giant who unfortunately passed away in the early 90s but was an incredibly thoughtful and kind man who was often misunderstood due to his size. I read this whole book over the course of a gray winter day - the type of day usually perfect for a Princess Bride viewing. I wanted to know more about this wonderful movie, and Elwes was more than happy to oblige.

As Westley would say, "As you wish."

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Website for the book
Cary Elwes on Twitter

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Short Story Saturday: Defy the Dark, The Moth and the Spider

Welcome to Short Story Saturday! Each week, I'll talk about a different story from the collection I'm working my way through and offer up some thoughts. I'm currently reading Defy the Dark.

Story: The Moth and the Spider
Author: Sarah Ockler
Summary: Nothing has felt right since Cali's botched suicide attempt, and now that she's more miserable than ever, she is determined to see the act through just as soon as she can write an acceptable suicide note.
Thoughts: Hmm. This is another one of those cases where this story felt less like a story and more like a scene, a snapshot of something larger. As a result, I sort of feel like I'm missing something. I liked the gradual introduction of Cali's past and what led her to being in this room at night, but the ending leaves me scratching my head a bit.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Full Force: Heir of Fire

Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas (Throne of Glass #3)
Bloomsbury, 2014

*As this is the third book in a series, there may be spoilers for the previous books - you have been warned!*

Celaena has left everything she knows and everyone she loves behind. Devastated by the death of her best friend, she must continue in her charade of serving the tyrant King of Adarlan if she has any chance of justice. Traveling to Wendlyn, she searches for answers and faces her darkest demons. Back in Rithfold, Chaol is willing to sacrifice his freedom and inherit a title he doesn't want if it means keeping Celaena and Dorian safe. However, he's pulled into dealings with the rebels and a fight he's desperate to avoid. Meanwhile, Dorian suffers with his own secrets and a dangerous group who has also been wronged prepares to take to the skies.

The stakes continue to rise in this third installment of Maas' epic fantasy series. The biggest in the series so far, the plot continues to thicken. In regards to characters we've come to know, some get more page time than other. Celaena continues to shine as a protagonist, a fierce young woman who this time around is forced to face an enemy unlike any we've seen her pitted against before: herself, her darkest secrets, her worst nightmares. Along side her for this literal but arguable more emotional journey is a new character, Rowan, someone who I was always excited to see because he too suffers, but there's a quiet and impressive strength that I can't wait to learn more about. Her chapters were by far my favorite ones, and her growth and pain was the most inspiring and heart-wrenching I've seen yet.

What sets this book apart from its predecessors is that the characters I've come to think of as the main three - Celaena, Chaol, and Dorian - spend most of the book apart from one another. As much as I'm a fan of their interactions, the separation gave them each space to grow (in some ways I liked, in others that make me nervous but there are still three more books to come in this series, so who knows what will happen?). A fourth major point of view also came in this book from the witches who are preparing for war.  While their plight was set up from events set in motion in Crown of Midnight, I did have a bit of trouble really getting into their story because it's still fairly separate from the others.

All in all, this book was a masterful continuation of a story that got off to a tremendous start. Emotionally gripping, action packed, and full of a fantastical mythology in a land where no one is safe and everyone has something to lose, Heir of Fire was a wild ride of a read and I cannot wait for book four, Queen of Shadows, to come out later this year.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Sarah J. Maas's Website
Sarah J. Maas on Twitter
Sarah J. Maas on Tumblr
The World of Sarah J. Maas on Tumblr

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Short Story Saturday: Defy the Dark, Now Bid Time Return

Welcome to Short Story Saturday! Each week, I'll talk about a different story from the collection I'm working my way through and offer up some thoughts. I'm currently reading Defy the Dark.

Story: Now Bid Time Return
Author: Saundra Mitchell
Summary: Dacey, a suffering insomniac, wins a spot in a student exchange program and heads to Tromso, Norway where in her sleepless nights she has visions of Kristian, a boy from local legends.
Thoughts: SWOON! I loved this one! The dreaming, the amazing setting, the twists on time, the boy, the girl! I've read books by Mitchell before, but this short story struck me in a completely new way. I will have to revisit her works because I absolutely adored this story.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Short Story Saturday: Defy the Dark, Shadowed

Welcome to Short Story Saturday! Each week, I'll talk about a different story from the collection I'm working my way through and offer up some thoughts. I'm currently reading Defy the Dark.

Story: Shadowed
Author: Christine Johnson
Summary: Esme lives with a cursed shadow that tries to attack her whenever it gets the chance, requiring her to live a sequestered life far from any light until a gallant young knight makes her see that a life in the dark is hardly a life at all.
Thoughts: Hmmmm. I was really liking this one - fantasy, magic, curses, knights, secret meetings - and then literally on the last page there was a twist. I definitely didn't see it coming, but I can't decide what I think about it. I'll be keeping an eye out if this author has any other fantasy works to explore in the future.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

A New Age for Sci-Fi: These Broken Stars

These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner (Starbound #1)
Disney-Hyperion, 2013

Lilac LaRoux is the daughter of the richest man in the universe, untouchable even to the galaxy's elite. Tarver Merendsen is a lower class kid turned war hero, out of place rubbing elbows with people who consider social trivialities a matter of life and death. They only thing they have in common is the Icarus, the luxury space liner their both traveling on. But when something goes terribly wrong and the ship plummets into an unknown planet, Tarver and Lilac are all each other has. Will this socialite and this soldier be able to survive the wild terrain and the secrets this mysterious place holds?

I have a long and complex relationship with the science fiction genre. I grew up loving Star Wars and love space adventures, but I'm incredibly picky when it comes to reading it. Books like These Broken Stars remind me how much the genre has to offer, and one of the reasons I enjoyed it so much was that it was completely unlike any sci-fi I've read before.

In this first installment in their Starbound series, Kaufman and Spooner unleash a story in a delicious slow burn. That's not to say the story is slowly paced - it's not. Lilac and Tarver are constantly on their toes - their lives depend on it. It's the secrets of this planet and within each of them that are peeled back slowly, the anticipation building until I almost couldn't stand it. In chapters alternating between their points of view, it was captivating how they misinterpreted each other over and over again, then eventually come to understand each other in a way that was completely believable. Even though their circumstances are extraordinary, they way they handled themselves felt authentic. It's a brave choice to write a novel with only two characters for 90% of it, but these ladies pulled it off in stunning fashion.

Since I don't want to spoil anything about this book, I'm being purposely vague. However, I'll leave this thought: I'm completely obsessed with this series now. I enjoyed every page. This was the type of book where I was always looking for a spare moment so I could sneak in another page or two, and yet, I also didn't want it to end because I didn't want the story to be over. Thank goodness for companion novels, such as This Shattered World, available in bookstores and libraries now.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Amie Kaufman's Website
Amie Kaufman on Twitter
Amie Kaufman on Tumblr
Meagan Spooner's Website
Meagan Spooner on Twitter
Meagan Spooner on Tumblr

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Short Story Saturday: Defy the Dark, Naughty or Nice

Welcome to Short Story Saturday! Each week, I'll talk about a different story from the collection I'm working my way through and offer up some thoughts. I'm currently reading Defy the Dark.

Story: Naughty or Nice
Author: Myra McEntire
Summary: On the annual senior ski trip in Bavaria, Bex must not only confront her growing romantic feelings for her longtime best friend Henry, but also fierce monsters during the traditional Krampus Walk.
Thoughts: Aw! This story was both terrifying and cute! I'm amazed at how often I've run into the Krampus story in the past few years, especially since I'd never heard of him before I was 26. This story had an engaging setting, just enough characters and twists to keep me on my toes, and an actual conclusion which I find can often be lacking in short stories. I really liked this one!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Signed, Sealed, Delivered: If You Find This Letter

If You Find This Letter: One Girl's Journey to Find Purpose Through Hundreds of Letters to Strangers by Hannah Brencher
Howard Books, Expected Release Date: March 10, 2015

*ARC provided by the publisher - thank you! This in no way impacted my opinions of this book.*

In 2010, Hannah Brencher graduated from college and moved to New York City. She knew she wanted to make a difference, to make the world better, but she wasn't quite sure how to do that. She believed in God, but the belief and relationship was complicated. She was surrounded by millions of people and yet, she was lonely. But things started to change with one choice she made riding the subway and she saw a woman who looked as tired as Hannah felt. She pulled out her notebook and wrote this woman a love letter. Not a romantic love, mind you. Just a note to give her a push, making a connection to let her know someone was thinking of her and wished her well. When she looked up from writing, the woman was gone and eventually Hannah decided to leave the letter (and the doezens of others she wrote like it over the following weeks) behind, simply addressed "If you find this letter, then it's for you." From there, a movement of sorts grew along with Hannah and her faith in God and in people, eventually taking shape in her organization More Love Letters.

It's hard for me to not be personal when talking about this book. In so many ways, I can empathize with Hannah. We both graduated from college in 2010, both wanting to make the world better but not quite sure how, both afforded opportunities while at the same time being stifled by a crippled economy. Reading this book made me feel like I had immediately made a friend; there was that instant connection of "this person gets me," an "I wish we could hang out in real life" sort of feeling. Her fears, as she comes to realize as her year in New York goes on, aren't quite as singular as she thought - they're universal, especially, I believe, among Millenials.

Hannah's story is nicely paced, moving along linerally while at times providing flashbacks, filling readers in on past events to explain her opinions and point of view more completely. Some people may find her quest or voice a bit cheesy at times, but I saw it as a person fighting to stay hopeful, especially in the face of depression.

This is a book for people who keep on trying, who have maybe lost sight of the good things in the world in the face of so much bad. The world does need more love letters, and it needs books like this and people like Hannah who aren't afraid of saying "this is who I am, this is what I believe, and if we work together, maybe we can make this world a little bit better one page at a time."

Which is to say, this book was absolutely for me and I can easily see myself rereading this and recommending it to people for years to come.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Hannah Brencher's Website
Hannah Brencher on Twitter
More Love Letters Official Website

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Short Story Saturday: Defy the Dark, There's Nowhere Else

Welcome to Short Story Saturday! Each week, I'll talk about a different story from the collection I'm working my way through and offer up some thoughts. I'm currently reading Defy the Dark.

Story: There's Nowhere Else
Author: Jon Skovron
Summary: Sebastian feels like there's something not quite right about the exceptionally strange dreams he's been having.
Thoughts: This story started stronger than it ended in my opinion. I really liked the various elements at play - a boy with a difficult home life who finds himself with the ability to occupy other people's bodies when he's sleeping. Very interesting! However, the voodoo elements that came in later didn't quite hold my attention. A fine story, but not my favorite.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

The End?: Vivian Apple at the End of the World

Vivian Apple at the End of the World by Katie Coyle (Vivian Apple #1)
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015

*ARC Provided by the publisher at ALA Midwinter 2015 - Thank you! This in no way impacted my opinions of this book.*

Ever since the evangelical Church of America announced three years ago the date of the rapture, life has gotten strange for Vivian Apple. Her parents become Believers (as do thousands of others), but Vivian just doesn't buy it. However when the day comes and her parents are gone, maybe it really is the end of the world. She eventually grows restless and sets out on a cross-country road trip with her best friend Harp and the mysterious Peter, desperate to find the truth.

A recent pick for the Tumblr Reblog Bookclub, Vivian Apple has been all over my social media feeds lately so I was glad at the opportunity to pick it up for myself. In her debut novel, Coyle keeps the pace of the story clipping along and presents a diverse cast that keep readers thinking. The story really gets interesting once Vivian and friends set out on their road trip, but it does take a while to get there.

Coyle takes on a lot of big questions that hit particularly close to home to me. Vivian sees the world, especially post-Rapture, as black and white: there are the Believers and the non-Believers. However, she her categories don't allow for nuance, for differences. While it's true that the Church of America has taken over many aspects of everyday life, it's not the only religion that exists or that people believe in anymore. This is best showed in a scene in which Vivian is critical of a former teacher whom she looks up to and her parents for being Catholic - to her, believing in God at all puts an individual in the evil Believer camp, fanatical and closed minded, never to be trusted. She firmly does not believe in any sort of higher power, which is perfectly fine. But to me, Vivian is just as closed minded as those she criticizes when she refuses to consider that faith and religion has never been so cut and dry as she imagines it to be.

So I do have some objections to Vivian and how she tries to divide the world. It also took a while for the story to gain some steam, but eventually it got there. All in all, I like that this book challenged me. I like that it made me think, that it didn't shy away from big, often taboo topics. I like that most of the characters felt fully formed and that the situations, for the most part, felt realistic. I'd even be interested in borrowing the sequel from my local library when it comes out eventually.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Katie Coyle on Twitter
Katie Coyle on Tumblr

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Short Story Saturday: Defy the Dark, Almost Normal

Welcome to Short Story Saturday! Each week, I'll talk about a different story from the collection I'm working my way through and offer up some thoughts. I'm currently reading Defy the Dark.

Story: Almost Normal
Author: Carrie Ryan
Summary: With the walking dead due to arrive to town in a few days, Connor and his friends make their way to a nearby amusement park in a last effort to forget about the end of the world as they know it.
Thoughts: Though I've never read Ryan's Forest of Hands and Teeth series, I've come across her writings in various other short story anthologies and familiar enough with her novels to know that zombies are sort of her thing. Which is great, but they're not really mine. Despite that, I was struck by how realistic I found this story to be. I could genuinely see (and to a degree, understand) how many people would seek solace in one last "normal" day before their lives crumble, and how something so innocent can turn terrible so quickly.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Science and Society: Dove Arising

Dove Arising by Karen Bao (Dove Chronicles #1)
Viking, Expected Release Date: February 24, 2015

*ARC Provided by the publisher at ALA Midwinter 2015 - Thank you! This in no way impacted my opinions of this book.*

Phaet (pronounced 'fate') Theta has always lived a quiet life with her family on the moon. Selectively mute since the death of her father years before, she has an aptitude for her work in the greenhouses and dreams of getting through school so she can focus on the work she loves. But when her mother is arrested, the only way to save her family from destitution is to join the Militia. If she can secure a high ranking after finishing basic training, there may be just enough money to keep her siblings alive and save her mom. But first, she needs to survive training, and she can't tell if her alliance with Wes, a fellow outsider, is a blessing or a mistake.

By all accounts, this is an impressive debut considering that the author is 19 years old. She started writing this in high school and has kept up with her craft while also studying science at an Ivy League university. The plot moves along at a good pace, and Bao has clearly put a lot of thought into the world she has built, specifically the science behind all of it. In the start, this heavy usage of scientific terms felt a bit heavy-handed and clunky, but a combination of the jargon smoothing out as well as me getting used to it as a reader made it easier to understand as the story progressed.

In libraries where science fiction and dystopians are still hard to keep on the shelves, Dove Arising is a good buy. It follows a pattern that seems to be becoming common in this genre: unassuming individual finds themselves needing to make a choice that will change the course of their life, a period of training/competing is involved, and just when it looks like they're in the clear and that the worst is over, it's a good thing all that training happened because now it becomes necessary in real life and more will come to light in book 2. I was hoping for something a bit more off the beaten path. The main reason I picked this ARC up on my last day at Midwinter was because the letter to readers on the inside declared this story "speculates about the future we may be facing if we continue to devalue art, music, and literature in our lives and willingly sacrifice our freedom and privacy in the name of security." I saw glimpses of this goal throughout reading though not as much as I would have liked, but hopefully there will be more in regards to those particular issues as the series progresses.

Over the few days it took me to read this book, I was engaged and interested in what happened next. I think Bao has a lot of potential and I'd be interested in possibly checking out future books from the library if I feel a particular craving for this kind of story.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Karen Bao's Website
Karen Bao on Twitter

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Short Story Saturday: Defy the Dark, The Sunflower Murders

Welcome to Short Story Saturday! Each week, I'll talk about a different story from the collection I'm working my way through and offer up some thoughts. I'm currently reading Defy the Dark.

Story: The Sunflower Murders
Author: Kate Espey
Summary: Carmen recalls the events of the night her best friend was murdered in a sunflower field.
Thoughts: This one is a little challenging for me to review because I don't quite know what I think about it. I liked the voice and style of writing, but plot wise I'm less sure of my opinion. The story kicks off right away with readers knowing how it will end, so as Carmen looks back at the night I knew that there was no chance of it ending well. As a result, there was a lack of suspense. Since this was the winner of a contest the publisher sponsored and the author of this story was in high school at the time, I'll say that I think Ms. Espey has a lot of potential and I'll keep an eye out for her name in the future.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

A Journey to Time Past: Call the Midwife

Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times by Jennifer Worth
Penguin, 2002

Oh how wildly different the world was 60 years ago, especially in East London. Poverty was high, work was hard, and families were huge, all things that kept the Sisters at Nonnatus House busy. When young nurse Jenny Lee joined as a midwife, she had no idea what she was in for having grown up in a privileged West End life. But her years in the docklands and among these people would have a profound impact on her forever.

I'll confess that I decided to read this memoir because I quickly fell in love with the TV series it inspired. Here, Jennifer Lee Worth focuses on a handful of the people she came to know at and through Nonnatus House. Sisters Monica Joan and Evangelina couldn't have been more different, but both taught Jenny much about life in general. Fellow midwife Chummy was larger than life in more ways than one, but her big size also meant that she had a tremendous heart. Fred was the convent's handyman and was generally always up to something to try to earn money, though it may not have always been legal. And then there were the many many patients and cases that Jenny worked with at all hours of the day.

I'm not quite sure what to make of this memoir, if I'm completely honest. The book opened my eyes to the incredible poverty of the time, but also the strength of the human spirit. Many of these people were flawed, and they all certainly had their own crosses to bear. Some were successful, some were survivors, and some were victims of an unkind fate. It was also interesting to see how the National Health Service was radically changing some of these circumstances, especially since that program is something that has not only survived but thrived and is still a huge source of pride for the British people today.

My primary criticism, therefore, lies with Worth's writing style (which I feel especially awkward saying since Worth passed away in 2011). I agree with other reviews I've seen on this book that the several chapters regarding a young prostitute called Mary were unnecessarily detailed. As a reader, I easily could have gotten a sense of what the girl saw and experienced another way, and given the way Worth wrote about other situations, since most of the Mary story is told second-hand, I do wonder how much embellishing may have taken place. Also, I felt that at times Worth was a contradiction. One moment she would be saying how she had no idea the world could be so cruel to these people and how she admired them, then the next she seemed to imply how lucky these people were to have a someone like her around to help. Similar sentiments sometime arose regarding her views on the religious life she was surrounded by but wasn't really a part of. Tighter editing could have avoided this.

All in all, I found this book to be an interesting one time read from my library. Should the urge strike, I could see myself checking out the two follow-up books Worth wrote about more of her time as a midwife.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Short Story Saturday: Defy the Dark, Night Swimming

Welcome to Short Story Saturday! Each week, I'll talk about a different story from the collection I'm working my way through and offer up some thoughts. I'm currently reading Defy the Dark.

Story: Night Swimming
Author: Beth Revis
Summary: While there's technically no such thing as night on spaceship Godspeed, one passenger recalls the truths and feelings he confronts during the hours that are supposed to be designated for sleeping, including the idea that he may not be crazy.
Thoughts: Though I have not read Revis's Across the Universe trilogy, I am familiar enough with it to know that this story takes place within that universe. In some respects, I felt like this put me at a slight disadvantage - I probably would have connected with this story more had I read those books - however it's not necessary to have read the trilogy to understand what's going on here. Secrets and suspense drive this short story, and fans of Revis's series will no doubt like this extra scene.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Weight of Living: I'll Meet You There

I'll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios
Henry Holt, 2015

*ARC provided by the publisher - thank you! This in no way impacted my opinion of this book.*

Calling Creek View a town is being generous. Especially since her dad died, Skylar Evans has dreamed of leaving her trailer park and at the end of the summer, it will finally happen when she moves to college in San Francisco. At least, it was looking that way until Mom lost her job and Skylar will have to pick up the pieces. Again. Josh Mitchell also had plans for a life far away, and he even had it for a while when he joined the Marines. But after losing his leg, he is back, a shell of the person he used to be. These two have little in common besides working at the Paradise, yet this quirky motel becomes a place where an unlikely friendship, and more, finds a home.

This is one of those books where I was torn between wanting to inhale it as fast as possible and knowing that I shouldn't, that I should take my time to absorb and appreciate the story, the characters, and the incredible twisting of my emotions on every single page. I did the later and I'm so happy I did. While this story is told mostly from Skylar's perspective, Josh's voice is peppered throughout, offering insights into what happened to him in Afghanistan, his feelings about his friends and fellow soldiers - some still living, others not, what it's like for him to be back in Creek View, the loss of his leg, his feelings for Sky, and the PTSD that pulls at every part of who he is.

Demetrios is one of those rare writers who has the magical ability of writing a story that is simple on the surface in terms of plot, but incredibly complex in terms of feeling and characters. Every single person in these pages is flawed and is struggling with something in their own way. Sometimes they're succeeding, sometimes they're not. I was engaged and invested every single step of the way, and much more emotional than I usually am while reading.

This is a shining example of a great book and an exceptional YA novel. A solid choice for the older YA crowd, younger readers (or perhaps parents of younger readers) should know that this is a more mature book both in terms of subject matter and language aka adult situations and swearing. While I had absolutely no problem with either of these things and this book will joining my school library's collection, it is something to be aware of.

This book packed a punch in all the right ways, making me think and leaving me raw and in awe. PTSD is a hard topic to tackle, but Demetrios does it both well and realistically. If you're someone who doesn't mind books puts your heart in an emotional blender but leaves you better off, then you must read I'll Meet You There.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Heather Demetrios's Website
Heather Demetrios on Twitter

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Short Story Saturday: Defy the Dark, I Gave You My Love by the Light of the Moon

Welcome to Short Story Saturday! Each week, I'll talk about a different story from the collection I'm working my way through and offer up some thoughts. I'm currently reading Defy the Dark.

Story: I Gave You My Love by the Light of the Moon
Author: Sarah Rees Brennan
Summary: Berthe suddenly gets sick at a coffee shop and leaves to go home, but must accept the help of a mysterious stranger who claims if she doesn't want anyone else to get hurt, she must come with him.
Thoughts: Called it! I called it. I figured out the direction that this story was going in pretty early on and am now being purposely vague so as to not spoil anything. However, I like the complexity of the characters in this particular situation. Brennan does a good job of taking a situation that's been a popular trope in fiction and adding another human dimension to it. Nice job.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

It's a Wild World: The 100

The 100 by Kass Morgan (The Hundred #1)
Little Brown, 2013

A while back, I was judging a speech tournament like I do almost every Saturday in the winters when one of the students from my school was going on and on about this great TV show he'd been binge watching. He was so enthusiastic and the whole time I couldn't help but think This sounds super familiar. And then it hit me - I'd ordered this book for our library years ago! The 100 TV show is based on (more like inspired by) this novel by Kass Morgan, and while the two are wildly different, they both are action packed and kept me on my toes!

So, a recap. The book follows four teens who, like the rest of the survivors of the human race, have spent their entire lives living on a space station. That's how it's been for the past 300 years, ever since war left the planet toxic. Strict rules are in place to ensure survival, and even minor infractions by adults are punishable by death. Minors are imprisoned with the chance at a retrial when they turn 18. But now the space station is dying, and people need to know if it's safe to return to the ground, so 100 juvenile criminals are sent down.  While they've each broken different laws, one thing becomes clear on Earth: there is no law here.

At first I was nervous when I saw how many different points of view there were, but I had absolutely no trouble following the story. Clarke, Bellamy, Wells, and Glass all have stories that intertwine, yet are each tackling their own demons, some of whom I was more sympathetic or empathetic to than others. I also felt like the pacing of events on the ground was much faster on Earth than the chapters taking place in space, but that could be because there were more characters there.

People expecting the book and show to be identical will be in for a surprise - other than the basic premise and some character names, these two stories are very different. This was some escapist reading for me, in a way reminding me of The Selection books by Kiera Cass - there's nothing too deep or complicated going on, but the story was engaging so I'll keep up with this series, on the page and on the screen.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Kass Morgan on Twitter

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Short Story Saturday: Defy the Dark, Stillwater

Welcome to Short Story Saturday! Each week, I'll talk about a different story from the collection I'm working my way through and offer up some thoughts. I'm currently reading Defy the Dark.

Story: Stillwater
Author: Valerie Kemp
Summary: Pruitt and Delilah have nothing in common except an ancestor, some land, and a mutual hatred of their town of Stillwater, but things get even stranger as Pruitt starts seeing things and people that shouldn't be possible.
Thoughts: This one was a little strange and a weird and wonderful Doctor Who sort of way. The idea of certain things being forgotten when characters go to sleep was really interesting, and while this story didn't have a particulalry tidy ending (open endings are a frequent feature of short stories, I'm finding), I didn't really mind this time.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Twisted Sister: Fairest

Fairest by Marissa Meyer (Lunar Chronicles Prequel)
Feiwel and Friends, 2015

Yes I know this book just came out yesterday, but I already inhaled it and can't contain my excitement!! Cinder may be the first book in Marissa Meyer's epic Lunar Chronicles series, but the events that set our favorite cyborg's story in motion actually started long before she was even born and far away from New Beijing. It starts with an unhappy princess who hides from mirrors and is desperate to be loved, something she's never had before. Ladies and gentlemen, meet Levana.

Fairest is the story of Levana, the woman readers have come to know as the evil queen who has quite a twisted past. While this story is not long by this series' standards - 220 pages - it breathes a whole lot of insight into what made Levana into the horrible woman she is. The novel holds a classic question at its core: was Levana always evil, or did circumstances make her that way? It is my firm opinion after reading that it's a little of both. At times I was sympathetic to this young girl. Her older sister Channery is careless and heartless towards her and she has no friends, and these facts contribute to the choices she makes for the rest of her life, choices that she sees as justified and necessary, but any sane person can see are certifiable.

This novel is a welcome addition to the Lunar Chronicles universe, adding a lot to it. Though it is a prequel, especially given the first three chapters of the final book in the series Winter that are included here, I wouldn't recommend reading this book until after reading Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress. Doing so would mean spoiling some wonderful surprises that comes in those books. However, tucking Fairest in between Cress and Winter feels like perfect placement if you're reading this series for the first time.

I know this review is short and incredibly vague, but as a devout lover of this series, I don't want to spoil anything, it's that good! And now I'm even more excited for Winter, which I didn't think was humanly possible! Like I've been saying for years now, if you haven't read the Lunar Chronicles yet, what the heck are you waiting for?

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Marissa Meyer's Website
Marissa Meyer on Twitter