Sunday, August 31, 2014

Tell Me Again How A Crush Should Feel

Tell Me Again How A Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan

I reviewed another book by this author, IF YOU COULD BE MINE. I had a pretty mixed reaction to it as it didn't really seem to tackle any one particular issue and seemed to meander through a segment of someone's life. I was much more enthralled with Tell Me Again How A Crush Should Feel, and I feel that this author has a lot of untapped potential.

Anyways, an amazon summary, "“Both personal and universal, this is a compelling story about high school, family and owning up to who you really are. Farizan is just the voice YA needs right now. Trust me, you'll be glad you listened.” --Sarah Dessen

Leila has made it most of the way through Armstead Academy without having a crush on anyone, which is something of a relief. As an Iranian American, she’s different enough; if word got out that she liked girls, life would be twice as hard. But when beautiful new girl Saskia shows up, Leila starts to take risks she never thought she would, especially when it looks as if the attraction between them is mutual.

Struggling to sort out her growing feelings and Saskia’s confusing signals, Leila confides in her old friend, Lisa, and grows closer to her fellow drama tech-crew members, especially Tomas, whose comments about his own sexuality are frank, funny, wise, and sometimes painful. Gradually, Leila begins to see that almost all her classmates are more complicated than they first appear to be, and many are keeping fascinating secrets of their own." AMAZON LINK OF JUSTICE

Leila likes girls, attends a kind of prestigious school, and is pretty funny/charming. She has two best friends: Greg and Tess. Greg has a bit of a crush on her and Tess has quite a crush on Greg. Leila doesn't really care for either of them romantically but she's got a strong bond with them. Neither of them know that she's gay.

Leila lives in a family whose culture publicly shuns homosexuals. She's terrified of anyone outing her secret for fear of her peers' negativity but also her parents' reaction. She doesn't want to be cast out of community that she's familiar with, but might not necessarily agree with all the time.

The story starts with Greg convincing Leila to go to Lisa's party with him. She very reluctantly agrees and things at the party get awkward as Greg tries to woo her. Leila ends up wandering the house before bumping into Lisa. Lisa and Leila were best friends growing up but drifted apart when Lisa attended the academy before Leila. When Leila started at the academy, they didn't make a strong effort to be friends again so they have a friendly tolerance towards each other. Lisa's brother passed away last year and Lisa is still in the grieving process; she doesn't care for school too much and seems detached from life.


Everything Leila does to stay unnoticed starts to get ripped away as Saskia starts school. At first sight, Leila finds Saskia drop-dead gorgeous. Leila is lucky enough to show Saskia around on her day and becomes utterly charmed by her aloof nature. Pretty soon Leila is trying to find out what she can about Saskia and even auditions for the school play so she might get the chance to act with Saskia. Saskia also has an odd way of doting on Leila, but Leila relishes in the attention.

As Leila becomes more involved with the theater, she befriends Tomas (an openly gay guy) and discovers that the group of girls everyone thinks are lesbians are just people who are very comfortable being themselves.

With a lot of humor, Leila begins to stumble through her crush on Saskia, the confusion of cultural practices, and just how much her family loves her.

All in all, this was a pretty great read. There were elements to Saskia that didn't seem fully conceptualized, but the overall affect of the book was good.

Happy reading!

We Are Water

We Are Water by Wally Lamb

Disclaimer one: This is an adult (or I suppose 'regular') fiction book. I usually blog about books that are considered young adult, but this was recommended to me, so I gave it a chance. Plus I had previously read two of Wally Lamb's other books, I KNOW THIS MUCH IS TRUE and THE HOUR I FIRST BELIEVED, so I knew what I was getting into.

Disclaimer two: The nature of this book is a bit more gruesome. It deals with rape, abuse, pedophilia tendencies, and social issues concerning homosexual marriage. Reader discretion is advised.

Prepare for an insightful look at people, this one was a bit of a doozy.

An amazon summary, "We Are Water is a disquieting and ultimately uplifting novel about a marriage, a family, and human resilience in the face of tragedy, from Wally Lamb, the New York Times bestselling author of The Hour I First Believed and I Know This Much Is True.

After 27 years of marriage and three children, Anna Oh—wife, mother, outsider artist—has fallen in love with Viveca, the wealthy Manhattan art dealer who orchestrated her success. They plan to wed in the Oh family’s hometown of Three Rivers in Connecticut. But the wedding provokes some very mixed reactions and opens a Pandora’s Box of toxic secrets—dark and painful truths that have festered below the surface of the Ohs’ lives.
We Are Water is a layered portrait of marriage, family, and the inexorable need for understanding and connection, told in the alternating voices of the Ohs—nonconformist, Anna; her ex-husband, Orion, a psychologist; Ariane, the do-gooder daughter, and her twin, Andrew, the rebellious only son; and free-spirited Marissa, the youngest. It is also a portrait of modern America, exploring issues of class, changing social mores, the legacy of racial violence, and the nature of creativity and art.
With humor and compassion, Wally Lamb brilliantly captures the essence of human experience and the ways in which we search for love and meaning in our lives." AMAZON LINK OF JUSTICE

In the two other Wally Lamb books I've read, the story was told from one narrator. This story was told from alternating narrators (quite a few of them) that gave more depth to the situation and history at hand.

The book begins with Annie Oh and Orion Oh getting a divorce. After 27 years of marriage, Annie has fallen in love with Viveca; the art dealer who garnered a lot of attention to her art. Due to Viveca's influence, Annie has become mildly famous and her artwork sells for a pretty penny. 

Orion is struggling to cope with Annie divorcing him as he's still in love with her and is trying to grasp why Annie would want to leave him to be with Viveca. Orion also retired early from being a psychologist for over 20 years for various reasons. He's looking to sell the house he and Annie called home for their marriage and move on to something else. Orion isn't entirely sure what that something else is yet, but he knows it needs to be different than what he's been doing.

Annie and Orion have three children together: the twins (Andrew and Ariane), and Marissa.

Ariane runs a soup kitcehn, struggles with self-esteem, really wants to have a kid, and has a good heart. She deals with what's put in front of her, good or bad, with compassion and determination.

Andrew lives in Texas, is a military man who has found religion, currently engaged, and is having a lot of trouble dealing with his Mom marrying another woman. His fiance isn't on board with it either, and they've chosen to not attend the marriage.

Marissa lives out west where she's struggling to become an actress. The first time Marissa takes hold of the narration, she reveals that in an attempt to get connections to get roles in different media (movies, TV shows, advertisements, etc) she agrees to perform sexual acts with her friend on a man on the stipulation that no intercourse takes place. Marissa winds up getting beaten up after the man flew into a rage and she's struggling to cope with the trauma. She's currently in the process of buying a gun and using alcohol to deal with it.

The book shuffles through mostly their narrations, but there is a in-depth twist to the story. The house that the Ohs called home for a long time has a small house in the backyard. More of a shack really. There is a well out there that is about five feet deep where a man allegedly fell in and drown in the 1950s. That man (whose name is escaping me and I don't have the book on hand to look it up - I want to say it's Jones) was an artist with no training who created very vivid paintings on almost any surface he could find (plywood, canvas, etc). He's paintings were often controversial themselves because he was a black man in a very oppressive area. There was a strong culture that believed white and black people should not mix on any social level and barely in the work force. As the book goes on, more is revealed about the artist and his mysterious death as well as how his paintings influenced the Ohs lives in surprising ways.

There's a lot of strong imagery involving water throughout the book. I'm not entirely sure why the water is so pivotal (besides the obvious title), but it might be more of an allusion to the ideology that no matter what happens, you can roll with the punches. At the core we will be who we are regardless of traumatic experiences.

With that said, through the chapters of Annie and her children, we learn that Annie was a mildly abusive mother. She used to hit Andrew especially when he made her mad (which would result in trips to the emergency room sometimes) and would go off about small things. Her kids love her, but they struggle with understanding why she was hot-tempered.

As the book winds on, we find out more about Annie's troubled past ( the death of her mother & baby sister, her first miscarriage, and almost first marriage), her struggles with men, and the sexual abuse she suffered as a child from her cousin Kent.

There are story segments told from Kent's perspective that are very revealing of his own trauma and abuse growing up, but also illustrate things he did to Annie when she was a child. It's pretty disturbing yet gripping material.

All in all, the story is very interwoven and really plays to the family element. I enjoyed it, but I definitely needed to watch a happy movie afterwards.

Happy reading!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times

Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times by Emma Trevayne

This was a magical steampunk adventure that had fits of realism tossed in. The narrator was a bit younger than I tend to read (ten), I mean, I like to imagine I usually read thirteen & up but sometimes that doesn't hold very true.

It still read a little young, but the narrator didn't seem to have too much of a pivotal focus that it was detrimental to the story.

Anywho, an amazon summary, "In nineteenth-century England, a boy is about to discover a mysterious mechanical world he may never escape.

Ten-year-old Jack Foster has stepped through a doorway and into quite a different London.

Londinium is a smoky, dark, and dangerous place, home to mischievous metal fairies and fearsome clockwork dragons that breathe scalding steam. The people wear goggles to protect their eyes, brass grill insets in their nostrils to filter air, or mechanical limbs to replace missing ones.

Over it all rules the Lady, and the Lady has demanded a new son—a perfect flesh-and-blood child. She has chosen Jack. His only hope of escape lies with a legendary clockwork bird.

The Gearwing grants wishes—or it did, before it was broken—before it was killed. But some things don’t stay dead forever.

Fans of books like Splendors and Glooms and Goblin Secrets will find Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times irresistible!" AMAZON LINK OF JUSTICE

Jack is bored with life. He wishes his mother and father would pay more attention to him rather than ship him off to boarding school during the school year and then shut him up in his room at night while they have company over.

Meanwhile, Lorcan has been tasked to find the Lady a new son. He hails from Londinium; some sort of alternate dimension built to look much like London. Lorcan has selected Jack for his mostly gentle nature and seeks to get him to Londinium to be with the Lady.

Lorcan poses as a master of the mystique and wins over Jack's mother with his magic. Jack knows nothing of the threat that Lorcan poses to him.  Lorcan approaches Jack's mother to offer Jack an apprenticeship, which his father is sternly against.

Hearing this, Jack is out of sorts. He would enjoy being an apprentice and it would be out of the ordinary, fantastic etc. His caregiver offers him a reprieve from the mess; she takes him out to the park to have a walk around.

While he's out, he sees Lorcan making haste through the streets. With suspicion, Jack sets off after him and after many twists and turns through the streets of London, he comes across Lorcan opening a door in a brick wall as Big Ben begins to toll the hour. Jack stumbles through the dark before he's climbing dark stairs and emerges out into a confusing street. Jack brushes himself off before he tries to find home...only to find that he's not quite in London.

Jack comes across a mechanical lady who he winds up. She springs to life and announces she's Beth before remarking about his odd clothes and funny skin color (he's pink where she's basically porcelain white). Jack begins to notice other abnormalities about the people around him and he knows with utmost certainty that he's not in his London anymore.

Beth takes him back to the doctor that helps people adapt to the fierce, polluted environment of Londinium, and Jack slowly begins to learn about the land in which he's found himself.

The rest of the stuff the amazon summary talked about isn't really covered or hinted at until later in the book, so I'm going to stop there.

I adored Beth as a character for her sharp innocence of the world around her, yet I appreciated Jack's demeanor of taking on everything strange in the world. It was good to see him in London for a while before he was in Londinium because it gave more weight to his character's actions in Londinium.

I also appreciated the difference between the doctor and "the wizard" if you will; they were a good way to tackle the technology and magical elements of the story in a way that didn't mind melt me.

I did like the overall effect of the book even if it stumbled in a few places to get there. If there were a sequel, I would definitely read it.

Happy reading!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

To All The Boys I've Loved Before

To All The Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han

I imagine I treat romance novels the same way people treat romance movies; when times are tough for whatever reason and you need to see just a glimmer of hope happening somewhere, it's time for a romance movie. I suppose it's kind of like having some faith restored in humanity because seeing other people struggle and fight just as hard as you do for something that might never be is heart warming.

Fighting the good fight is worth it regardless of the outcome.

This is going to get cheesy.

An amazon summary, "Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control in this heartfelt novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Summer I Turned Pretty series.

What if all the crushes you ever had found out how you felt about them…all at once?

Lara Jean Song keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her. They aren’t love letters that anyone else wrote for her; these are ones she’s written. One for every boy she’s ever loved—five in all. When she writes, she pours out her heart and soul and says all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly, Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control." AMAZON LINK OF JUSTICE

I need to do a better summary than the amazon summary did, there's more to this story than just love letters.

Lara Jean has grown up with her older sister, Margot, her younger sister, 'Kitty', and her father. Her mother died when she was young, so Margot has been taking on a lot of responsibilities.

Margot is moving across the world to attend university and has left some emotional whiplash. Margot was the girlfriend of Josh, their next door neighbor who often retreated to their house to escape his parents fights. Josh was best friends with all the sisters though, so it left everyone reeling a bit when Margot broke up with him. In light of their break up, Lara Jean remembers the love letters she's written to all the boys she's harbored a crush for before.

Lara Jean keeps all her letters in a hat box in her mother gave her. It was one of the last things her mother gave her and she was told it was a place to keep all of her treasures safe, something that was only hers.

Lara Jean has an intense crush on Josh, she's not handling her sister's imminent departure very well, and is still traversing the rough waters of high school.

I'd also consider Lara Jean a homebody; she seems to be the most content when she's at home, hanging out with her family, and doesn't look for adventure. She does have a friend in Chris, who is this rough and tumble girl that barely shows up to school and seems to always be getting into trouble.


In the midst all of her uncomfortable life changes, her love letters have been mailed.

She's written one to five boys that's she has liked: John Ambrose McClaren, Kenny from camp, Lucas Krapf, Peter Kavinsky, and Josh.

Each letter contains everything she was feeling for the boy at the time. It's as if she wanted to solidify that moment in time where love is young, pressure, and breath stealing (a crush).

So her life begins to turn upside as in a desperate attempt to convince the newly single Josh, she leaps on Peter K (who is also recently single) in the middle of the hallway and kisses him. When I say leap, I mean she has her arms around his neck and her legs clutching his middle.

In the middle of the hallway. She completely rushes Peter in an act of desperation to convince Josh she's not into him anymore (but she's totally into him). She doesn't really harbor any strong feelings for Peter besides that he was her first kiss. He seems to be popular boy that everyone should have a crush on. It's a bit weird.

So the baffled Peter approaches Lara Jean later who explains the situation to him and Peter agrees to be in a fake relationship with her to put Josh off and to also throw his ex off.

Then all the hijinks begin.

Overall, this book was an adventure in love. There were a lot of little quirks to it, but it seemed realistic. There were only a handful of incidents where Lara Jean acted differently than she had previously. For the most part, it was a pretty solid story.

I appreciate the artistic nature to the ending of the book, but it makes me deeply suspicious that there could be a sequel or it could remain a stand alone book. I'm not sure which I prefer.

Either way, I appreciate how much Lara Jean knew herself and her values even amidst all the insecurities that rallied against her.

I also appreciated the notion of creating words (in this case letter) that capture a moment in time of who you are. It captures who you are before something else grips you in its throws. A diary has always seemed like a cool concept to me, but I hate reading books that are in a diary format. I hate how characters seem to recall verbatim who said what for pages of book. If it's an extremely emotional moment, I can see that, but if it's something like eating lunch together or attending class, it just doesn't seem realistic to me. Eh.


Happy reading!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

In The Shadows

In The Shadows by Kiersten White

This was a bit of an odd read, the book is part regular print and part graphics. The two media mediums also take place in different times.

....the amazon summary seems extensive and I'm kind of puzzled about this book. So...let's just go there.

An amazon summary, " From the remarkable imagination of acclaimed artist Jim Di Bartolo and the exquisite pen of bestselling author Kiersten White comes a spellbinding story of love, mystery, and dark conspiracy, told in an alternating narrative of words and pictures.

Cora and Minnie are sisters living in a small, stifling town where strange and mysterious things occur. Their mother runs the local boarding house. Their father is gone. The woman up the hill may or may not be a witch.

Thomas and Charles are brothers who’ve been exiled to the boarding house so Thomas can tame his ways and Charles can fight an illness that is killing him with increasing speed. Their family history is one of sorrow and guilt. They think they can escape from it . . . but they can’t.
Arthur is also new to the boarding house. His fate is tied to that of Cora, Minnie, Thomas, and Charles. He knows what darkness circles them, but can’t say why, and doesn’t even know if they can be saved. 

Sinister forces are working in the shadows, manipulating fates and crafting conspiracies. The closer Cora, Minnie, Arthur, Thomas, and Charles get to the truth, the closer they get to harm. But the threat is much bigger than they can see. It is strangling the world.
Until one of the boys decides he wants to save it.
Told in an astonishing mix of art and words, IN THE SHADOWS collides past against future, love against evil, and hope against fear.  The result is both a mystery and a masterpiece." AMAZON LINK OF JUSTICE

This is still a book that puzzles me. I felt constantly disoriented and puzzled while reading the book because the graphic novel portion didn't make sense until the end of the book, but the text portion didn't either.

Let me try to do this how the book did it.

Graphics for the first third of the book reveal that someone is hunting someone else, there's a little boy who is chained up in a cage that maybe can do magic when his blood is spilled. He's got bad teeth. There's a guy with a scar, but other than that all the men are the same. There might have been females involved unsure. Sometimes peoples' eyes are white and that might be zombie? There was once a boy who was missing part of his arm. Not sure why.

Graphics are basically the first third of the I'll talk about text portion a bit anyways.

Cora was not to be outdone by her sister Minnie, so she took the dare of going into the witch's house and the 'witch' told her death was following her. Her father died the next day from a heart attack.

Arthur's parents were consumed by some sort of mystery surrounding a cult of some creep-tastic variety. His father left behind a briefcase which is allegedly full of notes about the mystery that destroyed their family. Arthur's mom went insane and killed herself. Arthur sought out Mrs. Johnson to pass his Father's briefcase to....who happens to be the mother of Cora and Minnie. Naturally, with no other family (and he's questionably related to the Johnsons), Arthur begins to stay in the boarding house with Cora, Minnie, and Mrs. Johnson.

Enter Thomas and Charles whose Father sent them away for the summer for Charles' health (who is sick of something that is not named to my recollection). They naturally strike a friendship of sorts with Cora, Minnie, and Arthur and start to immediately delve deeper into the mystery of the witch (despite Arthur's strongly passive misgivings).

Then things just kind of happened. It was weird and full of 'I hope we solve this mystery' vibe to it...without really explaining anything.

I was mostly annoyed with the graphic section because there was no grounding to what I was being shown, no context. Even when the text portion began there was no grounding context. For a long while, the two stories seemed very irrelevant to each other to the point where I believed this book to be two completely different stories printed together to save money.


BUT, after everything was said and done and ended, I understood most of it...but didn't find it very gratifying to understand anymore. It would have been way better to understand the mystery earlier in the book and to see how it all played out after the youngsters knew the truth of the situation. I was much more interested in finding out more of the mystery rather than to see it merely solved, end book. I sincerely doubt there will be a sequel as well.

So...much mud, not a lot of clarity. I'm glad they tried to use the two formats of story telling as a challenge of sorts, but the overall strength of the story was really lacking.

Happy reading!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Half A Chance

Half A Chance by Cynthia Lord

I find myself becoming slightly more interested in photography as the years go on, so this was a pretty neat book for me to read.

An amazon summary, "A moving new middle-grade novel from the Newbery Honor author of RULES.

When Lucy's family moves to an old house on a lake, Lucy tries to see her new home through her camera's lens, as her father has taught her -- he's a famous photographer, away on a shoot. Will her photos ever meet his high standards? When she discovers that he's judging a photo contest, Lucy decides to enter anonymously. She wants to find out if her eye for photography is really special -- or only good enough.

As she seeks out subjects for her photos, Lucy gets to know Nate, the boy next door. But slowly the camera reveals what Nate doesn't want to see: his grandmother's memory is slipping away, and with it much of what he cherishes about his summers on the lake. This summer, Nate will learn about the power of art to show truth. And Lucy will learn how beauty can change lives . . . including her own."AMAZON LINK OF JUSTICE

Lucy has just moved in to an old house on a lake where she continues her love of photography inspired by her father. She's a bit nervous about making friends before school starts in the fall, so she's determined to make the most of her summer.

She discovers that a photo contest is going on; entrants must submit photos that match the categories provided. However, Lucy's famous photographer of a father is judging the contest, so she enlists her neighbor Nate, to help.

However, the book is also a look at being near a family coping with their grandmother suffering from dementia. It kind of adds a nice mix to what the 'ideal' life is with the reality of the situation.

Lucy learns about loons, to kayak, and goes hiking on a mountain with Nate but there's also the very real element of Nate's family all supporting each other and especially his grandmother as she slowly starts to lose her memories.

I appreciated the dynamics that were presented with such a small cast of characters that still struck me as authentic.

It's a short, relatively bittersweet read. A nice one to just sit with for an hour.

Happy reading!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

A Northern Light

A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly

I somehow missed this book when it was released in 2004; my book friends at BOOKENDS encouraged me to read it.

Basically, when they say something is good and encourage me to read it, I always give it a go. They are significantly more reliable than blurbs on the front of the cover by different authors...[/deep suspicion]

Anyways, an amazon summary, "Sixteen-year-old Mattie Gokey has big dreams but little hope of seeing them come true. Desperate for money, she takes a job at the Glenmore, where hotel guest Grace Brown entrusts her with the task of burning a secret bundle of letters. But when Grace's drowned body is fished from the lake, Mattie discovers that the letters could reveal the grim truth behind a murder.

Set in 1906 against the backdrop of the murder that inspired Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy, Jennifer Donnelly's astonishing debut novel effortlessly weaves romance, history, and a murder mystery into something moving, and real, and wholly original." AMAZON LINK OF JUSTICE

In 1906, a young girl by the name of Mathilda Gokey lives with her father and three younger sisters on a farm. Her mother has recently passed away and the household is still adjusting to the loss.

The story is told in both the future in the past; nearly every chapter alternates, but there isn't a noticeable way to tell which chapter is in the past or the future besides the context clues of the chapter. It's up to the reader to figure out the timeline; a challenge that is rewarding rather than thwarting.


Matilda aka Mattie aka Matt is pretty smart. She's a writer who has aspirations of going to school at Barnard University in New York. Her teacher, Miss Wilcox, assists her as much as possible with getting good grades, encouraging her to write, and ensuring that her and her friend Weaver will get their high school diplomas (something that in 1906 was pretty rare for farm kids to earn).

Her father doesn't want her to go to University. This is partly because her older brother Lawton ran away from home and hasn't returned. It's also partly because her father will have greater difficulty managing the farm without Matt.

Matt is best friends with Weaver, the only dark-skinned kid in town who has a strong will to achieve equality. Weaver's mother is widowed as her husband, due to his skin color, was brutally beat up and left to die. Weaver has a strong sense of justice about his person and wants to go to university to be a lawyer.

Matt also looks out for the Hubbard kids whose mother, Emmie, can't feed them all the time. Emmie has been widowed and her eldest son Tom will come by the Gokey homestead to see if there's any extra food to be had.

Matt is an all around caring person as she sees when people are down on their luck and will try to help them. The place she lives is a very ruthless place where people not only battle the elements, but also battle each other (from time to time). Matt tries to do right by her family and her friends; her dreams really grind at her sense to stay and help her father and family.

Matt is also being wooed by a young farmer; Royal Loomis (which is such a telling name by the by). Royal is one of the most handsome boys in town and is after Matt's hand in marriage, creating one more reason Matt should stay behind and give up her dreams.

Now as the book takes place in the past and future (because the present is very debatable in this book), there is a segment we see in the future where a girl has died in a lake near the hotel where Matt works. The girl entrusted Matt with a bundle of letters to burn before she set sail on the lake. Matt brushed it off at the time as guests are forever making odd requests, but when the girl dies, Matt is suddenly faced with indecision. Does she respect the dead and burn the letters? Does she share the letters with the authorities in case they can gleam any clues behind the drowning?

This book is full of life decision not easily made in a voice that is steadfast and patient. Mattie was a delightful narrator and the book is not only full of adventure, but full of hope. It was also very interesting to read something set over a hundred years ago which only made Mattie's choice more gripping.

It was also a refreshing break from everything going as expected...there were many plot elements in the story that I hadn't predicted (which is always awesome for me). I also loved Mattie's passion for the written word and how in-depth her character was portrayed.

All in all, pretty good.

Happy reading!

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Ring and The Crown

The Ring and The Crown by Melissa De La Cruz

Disclaimer: I read the advanced reader's copy (ARC) of this book; this book was released on April 1, 2014. Undoubtedly, there will be minor changes between the version I read and the published version. I acknowledge that I could pick up the published version, but it seems as if it would be a wasted effort on my part.

I confess, I became very hung up on the historical events in this book and how accurate they were to what was being portrayed in the book. There was clearly a lot of creative liberties being taken with the magic of the world, but it was slightly off-putting to find real historical events taking place with a wizard who was hundreds of years old.

Anyways, an amazon summary, "Magic is power, and power is magic... 

Once they were inseparable, just two little girls playing games in a formidable castle. Now Princess Marie-Victoria, heir to the mightiest empire in the world, and Aelwyn Myrddyn, a bastard mage, face vastly different futures. 

Quiet and gentle, Marie has never lived up to the ambitions of her mother, Queen Eleanor the Second. With the help of her Merlin, Eleanor has maintained a stranglehold on the world's only source of magic. While the enchanters faithfully serve the crown, the sun will never set on the Franco-British Empire.

As the annual London Season begins, the great and noble families across the globe flaunt their wealth and magic at parties, teas, and, of course, the lavish Bal du Drap d'Or, the Ball of the Gold Cloth.

But the talk of the season is Ronan Astor, a social-climbing American with only her dazzling beauty to recommend her. Ronan is determined to make a good match to save her family's position. But when she falls for a handsome rogue on the voyage over, her lofty plans are imperiled by her desires. 

Meanwhile, Isabelle of Orleans, daughter of the displaced French royal family, finds herself cast aside by Leopold, heir to the Prussian crown, in favor of a political marriage to Marie-Victoria. Isabelle arrives in the city bent on reclaiming what is hers. But Marie doesn't even want Leopold-she has lost her heart to a boy the future queen would never be allowed to marry. 

When Marie comes to Aelwyn, desperate to escape a life without love, the girls form a perilous plan that endangers not only the entire kingdom but the fate of the monarchy." AMAZON LINK OF MILD CONFUSING NOISES...AND JUSTICE

This book is about multiple people and how their stories all interconnect. It reminded me a lot of the love map that happened in A Midsummer Night's Dream.... [SPOILERS] except there was no magical moment to correct everything in the end. So no neat wrap ups here. [/SPOILERS]


The time period is irrelevant because there is a war going on that is heavily influenced by super powerful magic weapons. In an effort to end the war, the Queen has set up for her daughter, Marie, to marry Leopold of Prussia. HOWEVER, every character is already caught up in their own love story.

DUN DUN DUNNN....back story exposition!

Marie is in love with a member of her guard, Gil.

Isabelle is in love with Leopold, Aelwyn has an adoration with Leopold.

Wolf and Ronan fall in love with each other but they're both too stubborn about it.

Marie needs to marry Leopold to spare both their countries of the war, so Isabelle has to break the engagement she has with Leopold of risk the war continuing.

Marie's backstory is pretty simple; she's the princess of a massive empire who has no desire to hold the throne.

Aelwyn's backstory makes me suspicious that this is actually a second book in a series because she is the daughter of Merlin (Merlin is a position that a mage can hold, not necessarily one person's name). Aelwyn trained her magic on Avalon's shores before returning to the real world. She also has a super spooky moment with magic when a thief tries to make off with her belongings when she first arrives. In order to stop him, she takes control of his soul and makes him wait in place until she finds him and retrieves her satchel thing. There are about four intensely magical moments in the story (to me) where magic really seems to matter. But they're very isolated incidences. For the most part, magic seems to be treated as an expected commodity for those who live in the palace.

Isabelle's history is a bit twisted, you'll have to read the book find out more about her.

Leopold loves his country and tends to have a domineering personality; he's agreed to marry Marie for his country.

Ronan Astor's family has fallen in status; they're managing to maintain appearances but their money is basically gone. Ronan has decided to have a season in London (she's from America) to try and win the heart of a wealthy man....or just a wealthy marriage (no love required).

Wolf is the angsty younger brother of Leopold who has a love/hate relationship with both his father and brother. He is second in line to the Prussian throne and constantly engages in underground fights in an attempt to feel more 'alive' (is my suspicion, there's not too much to go on with him). He scoffs at the political scene as he can never truly take part in it with any authority (due to not being next in line for the throne). He is still sought after, but mostly as a connection to get to his brother Leopold.

Combining all these characters together to let the pot 'boil' creates an interesting political climate constantly being thrown about by the love and passion of the characters in play. There was a lot more that could have been done with the story if a central narrator or a couple narrators were chosen to have a more significant part.

However, I found it a bit overwhelming to have so many main characters to the story as it felt as if no one's story was completely told (except for maybe Marie's). The entire book could have done completely without magic as it seemed to serve no vital function or role within the society presented. It did help some plot devices ease into play, but for the most part, the magic was significantly underwhelming.

The most frustrating part to me is the back of the book that I read made a big deal out of being vague about the fate of two girls. However, there were a lot of fingers that clearly pointed at Aelwyn and Marie as the two girls, yet there really wasn't much done about the vague, prophetic statements. It just seemed like a vague foreboding; almost like when you're an hour down the road trying to go on vacation and realize you forgot the camera.

It just came across as a very puzzling read as it didn't seem to establish any point. Maybe there's a second book? I kind of hope not. [SPOILERS] There is a bit of a wrapping up moment where every major character gets a line or two about what happened to them in the end. It'd feel like cheating if a second book was released. [/SPOILERS]

Happy reading!

Sunday, August 3, 2014


Afterworld by Scott Westerfeld

Disclaimer: I read the advanced reader's copy (ARC) of this book; this book will be released on September 23, 2014. Undoubtedly, there will be minor changes between the version I read and the published version. I picked up the ARC at the 2014 ALA Conference.

Scot Westerfeld is another one of my favorite authors. I loved the Uglies as well as So Yesterday, Peeps, Midnighters, and so much more. He's a writing machine.

An amazon summary, "From the #1 New York Times bestselling author Scott Westerfeld comes a smart, thought-provoking novel-within-a-novel that you won’t be able to put down.

Darcy Patel has put college on hold to publish her teen novel, Afterworlds. With a contract in hand, she arrives in New York City with no apartment, no friends, and all the wrong clothes. But lucky for Darcy, she’s taken under the wings of other seasoned and fledgling writers who help her navigate the city and the world of writing and publishing. Over the course of a year, Darcy finishes her book, faces critique, and falls in love.

Woven into Darcy’s personal story is her novel, Afterworlds, a suspenseful thriller about a teen who slips into the “Afterworld” to survive a terrorist attack. The Afterworld is a place between the living and the dead, and where many unsolved—and terrifying—stories need to be reconciled. Like Darcy, Lizzie too falls in love…until a new threat resurfaces, and her special gifts may not be enough to protect those she cares about most." AMAZON LINK OF JUSTICE

This is two stories contained within one book.

The first story is about the author, Darcy, who writes the second story about Lizzie.

The author Darcy is struggling with crucial life choices of whether or not to pursue a college career yet or pursue her writing career. She's submitted her book Afterworlds and has been signed to complete Afterworlds and to also write a sequel for it.

Lizzie is boarding a plane after visiting her father when a terrorist attacks hits her airport. She makes a desperate phone call to 911 where the operator tells her to play dead. So she does, almost too well.

The stories are a wonderful contrast between realistic fiction and magical realism where they are many parallel themes between the two worlds. As Darcy comes across a serious life choice, Lizzie faces the same life choice but in her more magical setting. It was fascinating to see the contrast between the two stories and to not always see the same outcomes.

This didn't feel like a usual Westerfeld book to me, but it was exciting rather than a negative thing. It was like discovering a whole other side to Westerfeld's writing and it was a bit fascinating.

I also loved how throughout the book Darcy would point out things that "sucked" about Afterworlds that might have otherwise gone unnoticed. It was just an overall fascinating read.

Like most books I adore, I find it hard to pinpoint things to talk about.

I did text a few of my other book friends and demanded they move Afterworlds up in their "To be read" stacks so we could discuss it.

It was fantastic.

Happy reading!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Cinderella's Dress

Cinderella's Dress by Shonna Slayton

Disclaimer: I read the advanced reader's copy (ARC) of this book; this book was released on June 3, 2014. Undoubtedly, there will be minor changes between the version I read and the published version. I picked up the ARC at the 2014 ALA Conference.

So, this book isn't my normal choice, but it seemed kind of fun. It's a cross of magical realism and historical fiction.

An amazon summary so I can get to the book for real, "Being a teen-ager during World War II is tough. Finding out you’re the next keeper of the real Cinderella’s dresses is even tougher.

Kate simply wants to create window displays at the department store where she's working, trying to help out with the war effort. But when long-lost relatives from Poland arrive with a steamer trunk they claim holds the Cinderella’s dresses, life gets complicated.

Now, with a father missing in action, her new sweetheart shipped off to boot camp, and her great aunt losing her wits, Kate has to unravel the mystery before it’s too late.

After all, the descendants of the wicked stepsisters will stop at nothing to get what they think they deserve." AMAZON LINK OF JUSTICE

First, Kate is kind of dumb. She has these moments where she a strong will and smarts about her (like when she's doing things for the window showcases for the department store). Kate has these extreme moments of dumb where she basically traumatizes her Grandma into revealing secrets.

Um, I'll back up.

So Kate lives in America during World War II; her father is off in the war trying to preserve pieces of culture where they can. Her mother works in a department store and tries to push Kate into modeling (which she will have none of due to her lack of grace). Her brother is eager to sign up to help win the war.

Kate's grandmother died a couple of years ago, and gave Kate her treasured amber necklace. Her mother is a bit jealous of Kate, but this never gets addressed so whatever.

Her grandmother's sister shows up on their doorstep one day with her husband in tow. They have an old steamer trunk with them that they've lugged from Poland to New York.

Kate has ambitions of being a woman who designs windows. She wants to go to school to learn the art of design, but for now she manages to finagle a job dressing up the mannequins for the window.

So Kate's grandmother is a little obsessed with Kate's amber necklace. She hints at the story of Cinderella's dress. Kate has a WHATTTT moment before embarking on a quest to traumatize her grandmother enough into spilling her secrets.


So the book overall was a bit discouraging on some fronts (traumatizing the grandmother bit) but cute on other fronts (like the slowwwww romantic relationship that starts to blossom).

The book didn't seem to hold a clear plot or concept to carry it through and took the letter technique of making time pass quickly without having to write chapters on it. There wasn't a whole lot of conflict/resolution, there was a ton of vague emotional notions from Kate which prompted her to screw everything up.

The magic of the story could have had some sort of notions to it rather than just feeling. The necklace was never explained, and it didn't end in a way that I'd believe there's going to be another book.


Yeah, I think I mostly read this book out of the sheer will power it took me to wait in line at ALA when I got it. Especially when the author wrote irrelevant scripture in the front of my book. YIKES!


Happy reading!