I focus primarily on Young Adult, Middle Grade, and Children's books, but my tastes are eclectic, so I change things up frequently!
Musical prodigy Davy Hamilton is popular, has an amazing boyfriend, and a bright future… until she gets the results of a simple blood test that change everything. Davy is a carrier of the kill gene. Those with Homicidal Tendency Syndrome (HTC) might seem normal, and Davy certainly doesn’t feel or act any different than before her diagnosis, but those that carry the gene eventually turn into killers, no matter who they were before. Davy loses everything: her boyfriend, her acceptance into Julliard, her family. She’s uninvited from the private school she’s attended for years and transferred to a public school, where she locked away and forgotten with other HTC carriers. Just as Davy starts to adjust to this her new, harsh reality, and maybe even connect with some of the other carriers, she’s sent to a special government camp where things take a violent and unexpected turn. Soon, Davy begins to question everything she knows about the HTC gene and the kill gene carriers and their supposedly inevitable fates.
I love Sophie Jordan’s books. She’s a fantastic writer, always has employs an engaging premise, and writes really great romance. I often find the romantic plot lines in YA lacking, but I can always count on Jordan to deliver a swoon worthy romantic interest and satisfying tension between characters. Sean, the love interest in UNINVITED, is no exception to the rule. He’s complex, protective, and has a dark edge.
I’m also a fan of UNINVITED being the first in a duology. I often leave the third book in trilogies unread. I always mean to read them, but I worry that I won’t feel the full effect of the trilogy if I don’t reread the first and second books, which I never seem to have time to go back and read, so I never finish the last book. A duology is much more realistic for me, plus, you skip over the troublesome middle/bridge book that happens with trilogies. I’m, obviously, a huge fan of the duology and hope to see more in 2014/2015!
UNINVITED has a fast-paced plot with plenty of thrills, which was awesome, but what I really liked about it was the lingering ideas it leaves readers with. Pre-diagnosis Davy and, for the most part, the rest of the uninfected world, believes that those who carry the kill gene are fated to become killers. There is no escaping this destiny, no matter who you are before violent and homicidal tendencies develop. But, readers meet Davy before her diagnosis. She is a well-adjusted, talented, loving, normal teenaged girl. After her diagnosis, everything she does is viewed through a kill gene-colored lens; innocent actions suddenly have a sinister undertone, everyone is always waiting for her to snap. Even Davy worries about her feelings, her emotions, her actions. Davy is still the Davy she was the day before her diagnosis, so are these changes due to the gene or due to the expectations and societal pressures put upon those with the kill gene? Are the ensuing violent actions a product of an unhealthy psychological cycle and self-fulfilling prophecy?
UNINVITED has romance, action, and thrills in addition to being a though provoking read. Highly recommended! Plus, check out that gorgeous cover! Notice the strands of DNA in her hair? Love!
Things haven’t been easy for Hayley Kincaid since her father’s return from Iraq. Hayley’s dad is a trucker and, for the past 5 years, she’s traveled with him from state to state, never staying long in one place. Plagued by addiction and the memories of his time at war, Hayley’s dad is always trying to stay one step ahead of his demons. When Hayley’s dad decides to return to his hometown so Hayley can attend school and maybe attempt to have a somewhat normal teenage experience, Hayley thinks her father will finally be able to conquer the memories that constantly threaten to drown him. Hayley and her father finally have a chance to start over – to put down roots – but her father’s addictions and PTSD aren’t easily battled and Hayley might have to reach out for help or be pulled under too. Told with an intensity and candor that bonds the reader to Hayley and her father, THE IMPOSSIBLE KNIFE OF MEMORY is an unforgettable story about the psychological aftermath of war and the strength of family and love.
The novel is primarily from Hayley’s point-of-view, though there are small sections from her father, Andy’s, POV as well. These passages from Andy are what ultimately allow the reader to connect with him. I think it’d be easy to minimize or struggle to understand what Andy is going through and how little control he has without these passages, but, their presence, allowed me to forgive Andy’s more manic moments. Instead of feeling angry, I, instead, felt hopeful that he would get the help he needed to overcome his demons.
Hayley is remarkably resilient and strong. She wants so badly to be able to protect her father from his experiences and to be able to fix things on her own, but realizing that addiction isn’t something you can battle for someone or on your own is a lesson she must learn through growth… and some trial and error.
In the midst of all darkness and struggle in Hayley’s life, she’s also falling in love for the first time. This aspect of the novel might seem out of place, but Anderson’s skill and deft hand reminds readers that in darkness their is hope… and love. The Hayley’s romance is incredibly tender and a perfect foil to her home life.
As expected, Anderson doesn’t disappoint. A great book to start off 2014.
Where the Moon Isn't begins with the recounting of a childhood memory by the 19-year old narrator Matthew. This memory, which may seem, to the reader, odd at best and unimportant at worst, has stayed with Matthew his entire life as a defining moment that set in motion a choice that ended in the death of his older brother, Simon. Now, Matthew is telling his story - and his brother's story - as he attempts to bring his brother back. Matthew is convinced he's found a way to do this: by going off the meds that keep his schizophrenia - and his brother - at bay. As Matthew tells his story, the reader struggles to unravel the truth from Matthew's story, which one can never take completely at face value, as it meanders through past and present, sometimes linear, sometimes repetitively, but always with a steady, persistent goal: finding Simon.
I cannot stress how much important I think this novel is. It deals with a myriad of topics, most notably mental illness, in a raw, honest way that readers won't soon forget. I was incredibly moved by Where the Moon Isn't... not just by Matthew and Simon's story, but by the stories of even the secondary characters. I can't talk about this book without my heart breaking and my eyes filling with tears because it's obvious that Filer has first hand experience with the issues he writes about in this book. My mother has spent most of her life working with for Community Mental Health of Michigan, so throughout my life I had the pleasure of meeting some of the most absolutely wonderful people who are saddled with mental and physical deficiencies. Filer gives these individuals a voice with Where the Moon Isn't. This book is a compelling mystery with engaging psychological elements, but, because of the author's heart and deft hand, it is also so much more.
While Where the Moon Isn't is technically adult fiction, it has definite crossover appeal. The main character, Matthew, is only nineteen and much of the novel focuses on his childhood.
Jax and Ethan are more than just cousins, they're best friends and partners-in-crime. Well, to be honest, it's more like Ethan is a partner to Jax's crimes. Jax is impulsive and always ready for an adventure, while Ethan is cautious and always armed with plenty of facts and interesting trivia. When Jax receives a mysterious package on her twelfth birthday from a great-aunt she never knew existed, a gift quickly and mysteriously confiscated by her mother, Jax is even more determined than ever to figure out why no one has ever mentioned Great-Aunt Juniper and what is inside the curious box she's given Jax for her birthday. Jax and Ethan team up with Tyler, Ethan's older computer-genius older brother, who happens to possess something the duo desperately needs: a driver's license. As the trio embarks on a road trip to figure out what secrets the box contains, they find themselves tangled in potentially dangerous adventure where their courage, wits, and teamwork might be the only things that can save them from the dark powers at play.
The Secret Box is the first installment in a new middle grade adventure trilogy by author Whitaker Ringwald. Readers will surely fall for the heroes of this story - Jax and Ethan - who, though very different, compliment one another perfectly. Jax's impulsiveness and irrepressible excitement moves the story along at a quick pace, while Ethan's attention to detail and penchant for reciting facts and figures grounds the story and gives readers time to process important details.
I'm very curious about the Greek mythology elements of The Secret Box and the secrets regarding Jax's father. In this first book, readers are only given small amounts of information about who Jax's father is and how he ties into the big mystery surrounding Juniper and the curious artifact gifted to Jax. I'm anxiously awaiting the answers I hope to find in the second book! The Secret Box is a great beginning to what promises to be a fantastic new trilogy.
Chip has always been a tomboy and daddy’s girl and she’s never felt even the littlest bit self conscious about it… until her father dies and her mother decides to move Chip and her two sisters down south to live with her mother, Chip’s grandma. It doesn’t take long to figure out that Grandma doesn’t at all approve of Chip, who’s entirely too much like her Yankee father. As her perfect sisters prepare for the annual Miss Dogwood pageant – a pageant both Chip’s mother and grandmother won a swell – Chip feels even more left out. She likes who she is, the outdoorsy girl who loved her daddy and is determined to remember him no matter what, but what if the only way to make people, including her own family, like and love her is to be someone else? When Chip stumbles across Miss Vernie’s School of Charm, she decides that she’s willing to change to fit into her new life without father. Led by the supportive and quirky Miss Vernie, Chip struggles to fit into the straight-laced, judgmental southern society along with two fellow classmates (one messy and overweight, the other African American) and learns lasting lessons about being true to yourself and acceptance.
I struggled to keep my outrage in check as I read about tomboy Chip and her judgmental Grandma, who appears bent on tearing Chip down and making her feel worthless. This woman is horrible! Seriously. By the end of the novel, Chip’s mother finally starts standing up to her grandmother, but, in my opinion, neither was a very great role model for Chip. Still, this horrible grandmother offers an accessible way to present a variety of difficult topics to middle grade readers. Through Chip’s interactions with her Grandma, the reader is presented with racism, bullying, the ridiculous enforcement of gender roles, not to mention judgment and rudeness disguised as Southern hospitality.
Not only does School of Charm follow Chip’s growth, readers also follow the growth of her fellow classmates at Miss Vernie’s School of Charm. One of the best lessons illustrated by this debut from Lisa Ann Scott is the importance of who you are versus what you look like. All three girls face judgement and unequal treatment because of their physical appearance. There’s a fantastic scene in the novel when all three girls are working in Miss Vernie’s pond and end up with mud facials. As they stand together, peering at their reflections in the pond, Chip notes that, when covered with mud, all the girls look essentially the same. On the outside, they have physical differences, but at their core, they’re essentially the same and are all deserving of respect and fair treatment.
Violet White comes from old money, but that money has run out, along with her artistic, free spirit parents, who have left Violet and her brother living penniless in the faded family estate. When Violet decides to take on a renter for the guest house behind the estate, she doesn't expect it to be filled so quickly, nor by someone as magnetic and mysterious as River West, the new face in Echo . In spite of the odd and terrible events that seem to follow in River's wake, Violet finds herself pulled to this boy with his lazy charm and unreliable stories. But River isn't what he seems... or perhaps he's exactly what he seems. The devil takes on many forms and, in Echo, he just may be a teenaged boy with a crooked smile. A gorgeous setting and lush writing coupled with the horror and a mystery that spans decades makes Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea impossible to put down, even when the suspense of what might be lurking on the next page grips the reader with fear.
Oh my goodness, I adore this book. Beautifully written with dangerously flawed (and sometimes ridiculously terrifying) characters, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea kept me mesmerized from the very first pages until the thrilling, heart-pounding conclusion. And finding out that there's another book has left me so excited and distracted that I'm having a hard time writing a coherent review.
I spent most of the book just waiting to see what card Tucholke would deal readers next. Like Violet, we readers are simply along for the ride, watching with horror as things spiral further and further out of control in the sleepy town of Echo. The setting, crumbling mansions and the ghosts of an opulent past populated the spoiled, reckless wealthy, is both striking and lends itself perfectly to the story, with its mystery and dark family secrets. If you haven't read this debut yet, make time - you won't regret it.
Fans of contemporary YA fiction are seriously missing out if they haven't read any of Leila Sales' novels. This Song Will Save Your Life is the third book I've read from Sales, who is quickly becoming one of my go-to authors for smart, heartfelt realistic fiction and witty, engaging main characters.
This Song Will Save Your Life follows Elise Dembowski, a passionate girl who flings herself wholeheartedly into life and pursues her diverse interests with a reckless abandon. Well, at least she did, until she realized that being passionate and interesting just made her an easier target - for judgement, for laughter, for bullying. Elise decides to blend by embracing anything and everything that's "in" in an effort to discourage the teasing and bullying, but, much to her disappointment, she finds even this carefully planned effort to escape loneliness isn't enough. And then, unexpectedly, everything changes. One night Elise stumbles across a secret party, where she meets people who don't know that she's the unpopular, constantly mocked Elise Dembowski. Instead, she's an interesting girl with good taste in music and a natural skill for DJing. Elise loses - and finds - herself during her clandestine nights at the secret warehouse parties, but the double life she's carefully cultivated can't last forever.
Though it's alluded to in the novel's description, I really didn't realize how much of This Song Will Save Your Life would focus on bullying and suicide, nor did I realize how much it would affect me. This book reminded me how powerful a bully can be and how senseless bullying is. I was ridiculously angry at the kids in the book that picked on Elise over the years for absolutely no reason. Not that there is ever a situation that warrants bullying, but Elise, with her passion and interesting hobbies, is awesome! And I couldn't understand how her peers couldn't see how awesome she is.
When Elise finally gives up on winning the approval of her peers, I cheered for her. It was difficult to see her try to win over people who so clearly didn't appreciate what she had to offer (friendship with an interesting, unique person!) and see the resulting low self-esteem take hold and inevitable, self-questioning of what was wrong with her (rather than what was wrong with them). I think that this aspect of the book really shone: Elise taking charge of her life, in spite of the haters, and reaffirming what she believed in and cared about, to hell with all of them!
There is a small amount of romance in This Song Will Save Your Life, but it's definitely not the focus of the story. The romance elements seemed to be included to illustrate Elise's growth and the changes in her self-worth. The true romance in this book is between Elise, the music, and the sense of pride it allows her.
I highly recommend all of Leila Sales' novels, This Song Will Save Your Life included. Not only is this a great story about overcoming bullying and finding yourself, music lovers will appreciate the mentions of fantastic bands and songs!
I've heard, repeatedly, that Rainbow Rowell's writing has a magical quality, so I knew I needed to read one of her novels. So, when the opportunity arose to read Fangirl, I had high expectations, but that ended up totally fine because I ended up loving this book to pieces.
If you looked next to the definition of introvert in the dictionary, you might see a picture of Fangirl's main character, Cath. In real life, Cath is quiet, solitary, and anxious when it comes to interacting with others. Which makes her first semester at university especially difficult: she's far from her dad, who she worries about constantly, her twin sister wants to branch out and begin her own, independent life, her new roommate might hate her, and her roommate's boyfriend is entirely too chatty for loner Cath. To add to the overwhelming mess of college, Cath has some very unique commitments: she's a Simon Snow fangirl. In fact, she's so committed to the Simon Snow books that she writes them... well, versions of them. Cath is well known - and widely read - in the Simon Snow world and, with the release of the final book approaching, she's under more pressure than ever to finish her version of Simon's story as well. Cath has to figure out how to balance her relationships and responsibilities, learn how to leave the safe warmth of her comfort zone, and, ultimately, embrace happiness.
For me, the most amazing aspect of Fangirl was how completely I was able to relate to the characters and actually picture the events as they happened. I think this was partially for having gone to university and having felt just as lost as Cath at the beginning, but everything that happened in the book, whether it ever actually happened to me, personally, felt achingly familiar. There is an honesty about Rowell's writing that allows for this sense of connection. Fangirl is a perfect example of a book that let's readers know they're not alone, that someone else out there in the world has experienced the same feelings and made it through the same situations.
I loved Cath's writing professor. In my experience, it isn't often that students run across professors that take such an interest in their students, who really care whether they succeed and embrace their potential, but it's those professors who make the college experience really worth it. I appreciated the professor's part in Cath's story; she was a valuable source of direction and encouragement in the sea of overwhelming newness that is the first year of college.
It was also refreshing to see Cath have such a close relationship with her family. Her father, in particular, was an interesting character. Often, in YA, the reader only sees bits of the parent(s), but I felt like I really got to know Cath's father. Cath's mother is an entirely different story, having left the family when Cath was quite young, we are only able to see flashes of her, memories and quick images as she tries to salvage a relationship with the twins after years of absence. What struck me, however, about Rowell's portrayal of Cath's parents, is that they are neither good nor bad. They are just people with flaws and quirks and twin daughters. Again, the honesty of Rowell's writing asserts itself.
Cath's college experience is like that of many young adults, so the premise of Fangirl is by no means new and shiny, but Cath - and the way she thinks and sees the world - make the premise feel new again. Cath messes up, she makes unexpected new friends, faces challenges, and falls for a boy. She must admit to her mistakes, open up to her new friends, find the strength tackle new situations, and the bravery to love a boy.
Read Fangirl, whether you already love Rowell's writing or have only heard good things about it. And be prepared to fall in love with the raw honesty you'll find within these pages.
To be honest, I expected Jeff Hart's Eat, Brains, Love to be a bit fluffy and definitely silly... Blame this assumption on the cover. Because, while there is a certain goriness to concept of the cover, it really didn't give me reason to assume that the book was really deal with the typical gory zombies. I will happily admit that I was completely wrong in my assumptions about Eat, Brains, Love: it's funny, it's romantic, and it's gory in the very best ways.
Eat, Brains, Love is told from two different perspectives: Jake, the recently undead, and Cass, the psychic government operative who hunts the undead. Jake's on the run with Amanda Blake, his super popular classmate, who just happened to turn zombie during the same lunch period as he did. After eating half of their friends and peers in a zombie haze, Amanda and Jake revert back to the normal, clear-headed selves with no other option but to flee. Enter Cass, who works for a secret government team that cleans up situation like the one just created by Jake and Amanda. The team tracks down and takes out the zombies, but not before altering the memories of the humans involved so they overlook that zombies exist at all. Cass has been doing this job for years and she's proud of it - she keeps people safe and gets rid of monsters - but, with Jake, Cass finds herself doubting everything she's always believed. Cass's psychic abilities allow her inside Jake's head and she's surprised by what she finds there. Sure, he's a zombie and he's killed a growing number of people, but he's also just a guy. A guy that Cass can't help but like and who, at least most of the time, doesn't seem like a zombie at all. While Cass struggles with her connection to Jake, he and Amanda are struggling with the unexpected turn their lives have taken, the guilt from having massacred their friends, and the hunger that sometimes fades, but always returns.
I'm pretty squeamish when it comes to gratuitous gore, but I really liked Hart's incorporation of blood and guts in Eat, Brains, Love. It was gross, but also funny, which I found smart and, oddly enough, charming. Remember that scene in Disney's Lady and the Tramp where the two lovebirds are sharing a plate of spaghetti, when they find they're both working their way up opposite ends of a spaghetti strand? Well, that happens in Eat, Brains, Love... with intestines. And I thought it was hilarious! That's the kind of gore you'll find in this book. It's a zombie book, so it's totally appropriate, and it's not over the top.
I loved that Cass and Jake were the two telling the story rather than Amanda... or maybe I'm just biased because, in the context of the strange love triangle that was developing, I favor Cass. Like me, you might wonder how Hart will pull off a zombie-hunter falling in love with a zombie, but Hart's zombies are unique in that, until they're hungry, they're pretty much normal kids. Kids that heal ridiculously fast and often have leftover blood and gore staining their clothes from the last meal, but kids nonetheless.
Eat, Brains, Love is nonstop action and, while the ending does offer some resolution, it also left me wanting more and very thankful that there is already a sequel in the works. I wholeheartedly agree with the assertion that fans of Warm Bodies will love Eat, Brains, Love, but I also think that this book has the potential to win over readers who aren't as zombie-friendly with it's wit and charm.
Tessa Gratton's The Lost Sun is a beautifully written and imagined introduction to The United States of Asgard series. This tale of two teens with interwoven destinies unfolds with an insistent pull from Gratton's steady hand and, before the reader realizes what's happened, they're completely under the spell of this alternate universe and the characters they've come to love.
The Lost Sun follows Soren, a born with the gift, or curse, of berserking in this blood, and Astrid, a gifted prophetess like her mother before her. The country is thrown in chaos when the Sun God, Baldur, goes missing. When Astrid tells Soren that she's believes she knows where to find Baldur, they set out on a cross-country road trip to save him. However, what begins as a simple recovery mission turns into something much more complex than either anticipated. Along the way, they discover truths about themselves, form bonds and relationships that can never be broken, and, ultimately, embrace destinies that will define the courses if their lives.
The alternate world in Gratton's novel incorporates many of the key players in Norse mythology. Though I know very little about Norse mythology, I recognized all of the borrowed characters and Gratton clearly defined the personalities and dominions of each so I never felt that I was missing any important details. In comparison to Roman and Greek mythology, there is a wildness and obvious danger to Norse mythological figures. I really, really loved what this brought to the otherwise contemporary setting in the novel. Having this mix of contemporary and aged, or, perhaps, ageless in the case of gods and goddesses, created a world that was both nostalgically familiar and entirely new.
While I have heard complaints of an insta-romance in The Lost Sun, I have to say that I completely disagree with this claim. From the start, Soren has strong feelings toward Astrid, but he never once falls into being some type of lovesick, sappy character. Soren and Astrid's journeys are tied together and they both carry gifts from the gods, as a berserker and a prophetess, so they have a bond forged of unique understanding that adds a deeper layer to the relationship.
I didn't expect to have the added pull of a roadtrip to contribute to the charm and magic of this novel, but that's exactly what I found. There's just something about a roadtrip that bonds characters (and readers to those characters) that simply can't be forged any by any other method. I am so thankful that The Lost Sun is the first in a series because I am entirely too attached to the four main characters in this novel; I'm just not ready to let them go.
Read The Lost Sun. Whether you loved, liked, disliked, or never read Gratton's first books is irrelevant: The Lost Sun will enchant you and leave you wanting more.
Teri Brown's Born of Illusion transports readers to 1920s New York into a world of magic, lies, secrets, and the paranormal.
The novel follows Anna, the daughter of a renowned medium and the rumored illegitimate daughter of the great Harry Houdini. Anna and her mother have spent their lives living show to show and evading the law, which they've been on the wrong side of a time or two. Finally, Anna's life has taken a turn for the better and she and her mother seem to be standing on solid ground as their new show gains success and popularity. Together, they transfix their audience; Anna performing magical illusion and her mother showcasing her psychic abilities. Of course, the audience doesn't know that, in truth, Anna's mother is no more psychic than they are, though she is gifted actress. In fact, it's Anna that possesses psychic abilities. She can sense feelings, foretell the future, and talk to the dead. However, the stable existence Anna yearns for is still just out of reach as she begins having horrifying visions of her mother in peril and her own safety is threatened.
For me, one of the most compelling aspects of Born of Illusion was Anna's relationship with her mother. Their relationship is a complicated one... Sometimes it feels as if their roles of mother and daughter have reversed, other times they appear to be nothing more than competitors. It was interesting to see how Anna reacted to her mother's often immature and petty actions that seemed motivated by jealousy and her fear of her daughter besting her. Still, as soon as Anna (and the reader) thinks her mother's motivations are clear, she seems protective and motherly, as if she only has Anna's best interests in mind.
It's clear that much of Anna's independence is born from necessity. Her mother, no matter her motivations, could never be called reliable. This independence serves her character and the book well. Anna is a capable and strong character, but not without weaknesses. She has a tendency to run from her things that overwhelm her and sometimes has irrational reactions to deep emotion, but she isn't afraid to own up to her shortcomings and she always gathers the strength to do what needs to be done.
The novel features a bit of a love triangle, but it's always clear who's truly in Anna's heart. Still, I liked that she considered both love interests. In some ways, Anna has lived a very adventuresome life (after all, she did travel with a circus troupe for some time), but, in what one may consider the "normal" life of a teenaged girl, she's a bit inexperienced. The two boys, who are very, very different from one another, show Anna different sides of New York... and of herself. Also, I liked that fact that Anna is the one who makes a misguided mistake and has to apologize, not the boy involved int he situation. It often feels like the situation is always reversed and it was good to see something different.
I'll definitely be reading the next book featuring Anna, Born of Deception, which is due out sometime in 2014. I don't know anything about it except the fact that it features Rasputin, but that's enough!
There is almost too much to say about Deanna Raybourn's newest novel, A Spear of Summer Grass. I've enjoyed her writing before, in her Lady Julia Gray mystery novels, but, as much as I loved those novel and recommend them to fellow readers regularly, this novel has stolen my heart.
The novel, set in the 1920s, begins in Paris, but quickly relocates to Africa. Delilah Drummond is no stranger to scandal: her mother has married many times, Delilah herself has been married three, and her latest marriage has once again exposed her to gossip and speculation. In an attempt to avoid the negative effects of this most recent scandal, Delilah leaves Paris for a season in Africa. Africa is not the place Delilah dreamed of as a child, but in many ways it's more... and it has a drama all it's own. In the middle of this foreign landscape, Delilah discovers beauty, danger, love, and, most of important of all, her place in the world.
For many, Delilah may, at least at first, be one of those unlikeable characters. For me, I loved her from the start. She's quite frank and unapologetic about her life and actions. Her peers often find her loose of morals and standards, but that's not at all the reality of the situation. In many ways, I suppose Delilah could be considered a woman before her time. To be truthful, I'm unsure of exactly how female independence and sexuality was viewed in 1920s Europe, but the novel left me with the distinct impression that Delilah was not the norm. She takes lovers (but is never unfaithful during her marriages), stands up for what she believes, and is entirely capable (and willing) to do "a man's work."
I especially loved her character's history. She, like all the characters in the novel, are complex and layered. All of her actions and beliefs are rooted in something in her history, which one can assume is true of all characters, but Raybourn is especially skilled at weaving a character's tale in a believable, elegant fashion. Little by little, I felt that I came to know and understand Delilah, and, while I feel that A Spear of Summer Grass had a satisfying conclusion, I loathed leaving her behind.
I can't say I've ever read a novel that was set in Africa, but, after the descriptions of the landscapes, wildlife, and culture, I've come to love it a bit. Setting the novel here, in the 1900s, also opened up the perfect opportunity for Raybourn to incorporate themes and questions regarding colonialism and women's rights. These are two themes that I have a particular interest in when it comes to literature and I felt that Raybourn did a fantastic job of considering these subjects without being at all overbearing, instead settling for thought provoking and engaging.
Of course, I must touch on the romance within A Spear of Summer Grass. I've always admired Raybourn's deft hand when it comes to romance and the relationship in this novel is no exception. Raybourn takes two extremely flawed characters and fits their broken edges together in a beautiful, redeeming sort of way. The romance between Ryder and Delilah is, without at doubt, one of my all-time favorite romances.
I cannot recommend A Spear of Summer Grass enough. You'll not be able to leave these characters behind, nor the gorgeous African setting.
Antigoddess is unlike anything I've read before. A fresh, creative, and engaging take on mythological gods and goddesses in the modern world, this third novel from Kendare Blake is sure to both wow current fans and earn her many more.
It's normal and completely expected to see novels and films that feature mythology, gods, and goddesses set in places and time periods that fit the stories and legends on which they are assumed to have taken place. Blake departs from this expected and well-established pattern, instead putting the gods and goddesses of myth into the modern world. A world in which they clearly do not fit in and where their meddling and use of humans garners very different reactions than during the historical periods in which they flourished. In one passage, Hera wreaks destruction on Chicago. The attack is speculated to be terrorist related; there isn't even the smallest mention of the wrath of a goddess as a potential cause of leveled buildings and multiple deaths.
I've always had an interest in mythology, but, at the same time, gods and goddesses have always seemed rather one-dimensional. They were motivated by simple desires and their personalities were very straight forward. They didn't have the complexity of, for example, human heroes featured in their stories. In Antigoddess, Blake gives these characters more malleable shapes and complex personalities, in a way, humanizing them. They are still very much set apart from humans, having living countless years and experiencing the invincibility of eternal life, but Blake creates a situation in which they are brought down from the throne of godliness. Suddenly, these timeless beings are forced to face the possibility of an end... of death. Death not only humanizes them, it makes them feel small... vulnerable... emotional... accountable. Through this unique premise, Blake's novel says something very important about the nature of humanity.
Even a reader who knows very little about mythology will enjoy and be able to understand the importance of the gods and goddesses featured in Antigoddess. Blake weaves a significant amount of detail, leading the reader to bits of information and background deatil without becoming overwhelming or falling into the habit of dropping large amounts of overwhelming information on the reader.
I highly recommend this first installment in The Goddess War series. With Antigoddess, Blake sets the scene for the series to reach epic proportions and I can't wait to see where she takes readers next.
When people ask me why I loved Wild Awake, I have a difficult time putting my reasons into words. This book is very different than any other contemporary YA book I've read, in a good, but indescribable way. For me, the most notable aspect of Hilary T. Smith's debut was how incredibly real it felt... so real, that, during the most intense passages when Kiri is in the depths of a mental breakdown, I had to take a deep breath, calm myself and steady my shaking hands.
Wild Awake tells the story of Kiri, a budding classical pianist who also plays keyboard in the band she belongs to with her best friend, Lukas. Years prior, Kiri's sister, Sukey, the black sheep of the family and Kiri's hero, died in an accident. Kiri knows little about the event, only remembering her sister through girlhood memories, because Sukey is a taboo subject in the eyes of Kiri's parents and older brother. When Kiri's parents leave her home alone while on vacation, she thinks she'll accomplish all sorts of things in her time alone: she'll take her relationship with Lukas from friends to more than friends, she'll perfect the piece she must learn on piano, and she'll rock Battle of the Bands with Lukas. Things take an unexpected turn, however, when Kiri receives a call from a man claiming to be a one-time neighbor of Sukey... a man who says he has her "stuff." Though Kiri tries to write off the call, she's drawn to the things her sister has left behind. In no time at all, she's discovered that there's more to Sukey's story than anyone admits... and more to her own as well.
I've attempted to find other books to compare Wild Awake to to better explain the tone and style of the novel, but the only acceptable comparison I came up with was the film Juno. Still, Juno is different in that it has laugh-out-loud moments. Wild Awake has a humor of sorts, but I never laughed aloud... But, as I read, I did picture scenes from the novel in the same sort of style as Diablo Cody's film. It tells the same sort of truths.
The romance in Wild Awake felt different than anything else I've ever read as well. Again, real. The boy Kiri eventually falls for is far from perfect. To me, it didn't even feel like Smith romanticized anything. The romance, like the entire novel, just was. Kiri's experience like something that could happen to me, my best friend, or any other girl.
I feel like I've completely failed at explaining how worthwhile of a read Wild Awake is, but, like I mentioned before, it's a book that truly defies simple explanations... which I suppose could quite possibly be reason enough to read it.
There are times when I finish a book and I can't help but think to myself: why did you take so long to read this!? That's exactly what I was thinking when I finished Katie McGarry's Pushing the Limits. This book has a compelling premise and a seriously swoon-inducing romance between two flawed and very different individuals who somehow seem absolutely perfect together.
Pushing the Limits alternates between Echo and Noah's point-of-view, which works perfectly for this premise and these characters. Since both have their own set of complicated problems and difficult pasts, it felt important that both characters had an opportunity to share their POV regarding both the issues they're currently facing and the growing feelings between them. I was pleasantly surprised that I didn't end up preferring one narrator over the other; they complimented each other well and I found myself excited to hear the other's take on situations and conversations.
It's been quite some time since I've read a novel that focused on romance. I was feeling a bit burnt out and uninspired by those that I'd been reading; I wanted a romance with depth but all I felt like I was really getting was fluff and bad matches. Pushing the Limits reawakened by love of romance. Echo and Noah - and their story - made me want to fall in love again. McGarry's story evoked the excitement of first real, deep, complicated love that we all inevitably feel... and as horrible and distracting as it can be when you're going through it (as Echo and Noah clearly illustrate), there is something epic and wonderful about it as well!
I highly recommend this first Pushing the Limits book from McGarry. The second book, Dare You To, has just released and I'm super excited to see if McGarry achieves the same level of emotion with her sophomore offering as with her first.
I watched this miniseries after it popped up on my Netflix recommendations around the same time I was compiling a list of read-alikes for fans of Downton Abbey, which ended up including Edith Wharton's novel by the same title. Someone, I hadn't ever heard of The Buccaneers before - in either novel or miniseries form - but I'm now very curious about Edith Wharton and her writing.
The 4-part series, set in the 1870s, follows the stories of four well-off American girls. For the most part, all four girls are well off and, during this time, wealth bought status, but not necessarily respect (especially from those born into positions of status). Nan, arguably the main character of the series, is the youngest of the girls and under the care of her new governess, Miss Testvalley, who her mother has hired to achieve the manners and class required of the family's new social status. Miss Testvalley convinces the St George's that a season in England is just the thing to raise Nan's prospects and lure in a marriageable match.
In no time, all four girls have found husbands. The girls assume that now they're set to experience happy lives full of leisure and love, but live is never simple and marriage doesn't necessarily equal happiness... and money, which brought their supposed happy endings in reach, might just end up being the cause of their unhappiness.
When I started watching The Buccaneers I had no idea how scandalous it would be. Those who have watched or read P&P are familiar with the fact that marriages were often made for reasons distinctly unrelated to love, but it's the love matches that are the focus of the stories and the part that we readers and viewers remember. The Buccaneers, in contrast, is bursting with these unhappy matches and stories, but they're, at least at the beginning, completely unexpected. The girls are so full of hope and romanticized ideals that you can't help but believe they'll all get their happily ever afters. And their is true love and happiness, but there are horrible things that happen to. Affairs, illegitimate children, STDs, rape, longing, hate, forgiveness...
There is so much drama and emotion in this 5 hour series. I watched it over a period of 5 days, but I thought about it constantly and even now find myself reflecting on the events of the story, the characters, and the themes. When I first started part one of the series, I wasn't sure I'd like it, but, by the end, I was enthralled and completely blown away.
Of course, now I'd really like to read the novel and other works by Edith Wharton. I've found a couple short story collections of her work, so I might start there. I've also done some reading and it turns out that Wharton never finished The Buccaneers, she died before it was finished and it was later completed by Marion Mainwaring. I'm not sure how Wharton would have finished the novel, but, in my opinion, Mainwaring's conclusion was perfect. The novel ends on a hopeful, even happy, note, which soothed my heart after the roller coaster of emotion I'd experienced during my viewing.
Favorite Character: Nan (Played by Carla Gugino) (though I also really loved Conchita and Lizzy!)
Crush: Guy Thwaite (Played by Greg Wise)