Review: Untold by Sarah Rees Brennan

The Details

Publisher:  Simon & Schuster UK
Published: August 29th, 2013
Genres:  YA, romance, paranormal, Gothic,
My Rating: 3 Stars

15801763 GoodReads Review 

It’s time to choose sides…. 

On the surface, Sorry-in-the-Vale is a sleepy English town. But Kami Glass knows the truth. Sorry-in-the-Vale is full of magic. In the old days, the Lynburn family ruled with fear, terrifying the people into submission in order to kill for blood and power. Now the Lynburns are back, and Rob Lynburn is gathering sorcerers so that the town can return to the old ways.

But Rob and his followers aren’t the only sorcerers in town. A decision must be made: pay the blood sacrifice, or fight. For Kami, this means more than just choosing between good and evil. With her link to Jared Lynburn severed, she’s now free to love anyone she chooses. But who should that be?

A darkly humorous take on Gothic romance, Sarah Rees Brennan’s Lynburn Legacy weaves together the tale of a heroine desperate to protect those she loves, two boys hoping to be saved, and the magical forces that will shape their destiny.

My Review

Just as a note this is the second book in a series so this review may contain spoilers of the first book. You can read my review of that book here

This book starts out with a great action scene with scarecrows come to life and fire and a battle. It’s great.

However, this book really reads like the middle book in a series. It feels like it’s building up to something that’s going to happen in the next book. I liked the first book more than this one because I felt like more happened in the first book. This book does dwell on what happened at the end of the last book with Kami and Jared and their link. They spend a lot of time avoiding each other because they think the other one is angry at the other one about the link. It’s a classic case of “communication used for drama” which I find annoying.

This book does develop the rest of the characters which is something I felt was missing from the first book. We learn more about Angela and Rusty’s life. We learn a lot of Rusty and his life and backstory. We also learn about Holly. These characters feel much less flat in the second book than the first.

There is a lot of coming up with a plan, and very little acting on the plan. A lot of build up for very little result, this is an issue that I find a lot of in second books. It feels like a bridge instead of a complete story.

Kami is an interesting and fun character. She’s a great narrator, and I enjoy reading her interpretation of the story unfolding around her. She has a distinct way of talking, that can be a little hard to follow, especially if you are unfamiliar with British colloquialisms but once you get used to it, her way of talking becomes easy to understand and follow.

I am interested in finishing these series. I want to know what happens in the battle with the Lynburns. I find Sarah Ress Brennan to be a very interesting writer and I’m attached to the characters.

So far I am recommending this series as a different and witty view of a gothic novel. It’s a different way of looking at magic and small towns. Kami is a great strong character. I will be reading the third book of this series soon (I got a couple ARCS and a book club books to read first). I will be writing a review of that book when I finish it.

Have you read the Lynburn Legacy novels? What did you think?

Until next time Internet,

Deanna

Review: The Beginning of After by Jennifer Castle

The Details

Publisher:  Harper for Teens
Published:  September 6, 2011
Genres:  YA, contemporary, Romance, Realistic fiction
My Rating: 4.25 Starts

 

10429005GoodRead Blurb

Anyone who’s had something truly crappy happen to them will tell you: It’s all about Before and After. What I’m talking about here is the ka-pow, shake-you-to-your-core-and-turn-your-bones-to-plastic kind of crappy.

Sixteen-year-old Laurel’s world changes instantly when her parents and brother are killed in a terrible car accident. Behind the wheel is the father of her bad-boy neighbor, David Kaufman, whose mother is also killed. In the aftermath of the tragedy, Laurel navigates a new reality in which she and her best friend grow apart, boys may or may not be approaching her out of pity, overpowering memories lurk everywhere, and Mr. Kaufman is comatose but still very much alive. Through it all, there is David, who swoops in and out of Laurel’s life and to whom she finds herself attracted against her better judgment. She will forever be connected to him by their mutual loss—a connection that will change them both in unexpected ways.

Jennifer Castle’s debut novel is a heart-wrenching, surprisingly witty testament to how drastically life can change in the span of a single moment.

 

My Review

This book was not as depressing as I thought it was going to be when I started reading it, don’t get me wrong, it’s sad, but I was expecting it to be sadder. In the first couple chapters, the destruction of Laurel’s life takes place, her whole family dies in a car accident in what could be a drunk driving accident but no one is really sure what happened. Laurel goes through what I found to be a very authentic grieving process. She does things that don’t make much sense, she fosters some kittens, she pushes all of her friends away, she tries to not be the girl with the dead family, but in her small town, she was never going to be able to escape that. This book follows Laurel for about a year, the beginning of this new part of her life where everything is different, and she had to relearn her whole life.

I’ve talked a little bit about survivor’s guilt and how it’s this terrible thing that makes you do the weirdest stuff, things that you would never do in a time before this huge event happened. You’re trying to elevate this pain that you feel because you feel such terrible guilt about what happened even though it was in no way your fault. Laurel’s whole character is created in a way that I understood and related to. Her journey through this grief is well thought out and feels real.

I loved the difference between how Laurel and David, who also lost part of his family, deal with the loss. Laurel is trying so hard to pretend everything is normal, and David knows it’s not and it never will be.

Laurel wanting to not be the girl with the dead family, wanting to spend more time at her job where no one knows her, is incredibly relatable. The whole story hit home with me on multiple levels.

There is an underlying sub-plot of romance, which I don’t really think is completely necessary but didn’t take away from the overall story. I think that part of the story feel right at the point where it comes into the story.

I think this book is a good one if you are looking for something a little bit deeper but is still a fairly quick read. This book is very character driven– the plot revolves very tightly around what is happening emotionally to Laurel. I enjoyed that because of the process that Laurel goes through to deal with her grief.

Have you read this book? Or know a book that is like it to recommend? I’d love to hear about!

 

Until next time Internet,

Deanna

 

 

Bumped series-Dystopian Pregnancy

 

I love Megan McCafferty. I loved her Jessica Darling series something serious. She is such a great writer. The premise of these two books is weird, but they are extremely well written.

 

 

 

These books are about a time in the not too distant future, like 2100-ish maybe sooner, where women are affected by a virus that destroys the reproductive system and makes it impossible for women over 19 to have children; so teenagers do. Men are also affected by the virus, but their role in the book is much less a part of the story.

Parts of these books remind me a little of The Handmaid’s Tale. The girls that have the babies don’t get to keep them. They are paid surrogates that take drugs so that they don’t become attached to their pregnancies. There is a weird fame that comes with being able to produce children. Girls as young at 11 or 12 are essentially told to “go pro” to have children for couples in their 20’s and 30’s who want children. There is a whole culture around it. These girls are put on this very high pedestal because they have to “save humans” by having these children.

The two narrators are twins that were separated at birth: Melody who was raised in the world where girls become very famous for creating children and Harmony who grew up in “Goodside” a culture that I equate with Amish-style living.

In Harmony’s world, the Bible is a big thing. They arrange marriage around 13 and are expected to follow the rules of their culture without question. They have children and raise those children themselves.  She was raised by a woman who has raised 47 other children.

In Melody’s world, she was raised in “Otherside” her parents run seminars about how the world needs these girls to produce babies and the culture around the teen pregnancies are saving the world.

Something I found interesting about this story, is that unlike many dystopian stories where were hear about the outside world where everything is different, we get to see it. Many times the main character is completely unfamiliar with the world outside their society, they only know about it and escape into it blindly. In this story is told in dual narrative, Harmony is from outside of society. She in escaping into the world that Melody lives. We, as readers, are not discovering the “outside”  we are learning about it from someone from there. We are also learning about the main society through the eyes of someone who doesn’t know how it works.

I liked the dual narratives. The differences between the girls and their motives. I think that there is a fuller story told this way. We get to see the positives and negatives of both the worlds. Both girls are not completely convinced that they are living the best way. They understand that there has to be a better way to fix the situation that is happening in the world. There has to be a better way to fix the population than making teenagers famous for having babies. There has to be a better way than arranged marriage.

There is a vocabulary that is interesting throughout this book. Melody’s half more than Harmony’s. I greatly enjoyed that, because it forces the reader to become a part of this world to read it. You need to understand the fame game and what bumping is and how their world works. You need to immerse yourself in it to continue the book.

Harmony’s narrative in the first book helps the reader to discover this foreign world as she does.  Harmony’s motives are finding her twin sister and family. Throughout both books, it is very clear that all Harmony wants is a family. She wants her sister; she wants to meet her birth parents.

These books are weird, to be sure. Parts of them can be very unrealistic it’s not dystopian in a way that The Hunger Games are dystopian or even The Handmaid’s Tale. The world seems to take celebrity status and turns it in an unexpected way. The focus isn’t on people who can act or sing but fertile teenagers. Honestly, it doesn’t seem super far fetched because of the celebrity culture we live in, who is popular and what is popular changes so quickly. We now get excited for famous people who are having babies. We feel invested in their story somehow. I mean, April the Giraffe? I know I was a little bit too invested in that. I got three separate breaking news alert emails and a breaking news alert on my phone when she was in labor and after her son was born. I did not subscribe to any kind of special giraffe alerts, this was the actual news alerting me CNN and two local news channels.

I think it would be easy to see a crisis and try to fix it in a way that very quickly turns very problematic, like the Bumped stories. There is an interesting aspect of this story that is what you believe verse what is expected. Melody and Harmony are so different because of how they were raised and have very different motives in both stories, but there is this connection between them that is so much more than just being twins. Throughout this story, the two girls know each other for a little more eight months.

I have mixed feelings about these books, they are well-written and interesting, but the storylines are odd. It takes a bit to get acclimated to the world. I think they open an interesting discussion. I am all about books that start discussions.

I would love to know if you have read these books? What did you think if you have?

Until next time Internet,

Deanna

 

 

 

 

Review- The Sun is Also A Star

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The Details:

Publisher: Delacorte Press
Published: November 1, 2016
Genres: Romance, Young Adult
My Rating: 5 Stars

Goodreads Blurb:

Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.

Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.

The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?

My Review:

I loved this book.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a sucker for YA romance, even the love at first sight kind that’s a little bit unrealistic, but even though this book falls into that love at first sight kind of story, it’s just so well done that it feels like it could totally happen. I think there is something about being 16 or 17 and believing that you’ve just met the love of your life at a record store that feels real. Anything is possible when you’re a teenager.

The book has a switching POV which works in this book. It doesn’t just jump between the two main characters but does flashbacks and jumps to side characters to explain their motives in respect to Daniel and Natasha. Each section has it’s own voice and style. It’s truly a work of art in that way. It’s just beautiful written.

This is the story of immigrants, Daniel is a first generation Korea-American, and Natasha is the daughter of illegal immigrants. I found the narratives sounding how these facts impacts their lives is amazing and interesting. I am, as I have mentioned before, a white woman from NH and most my family have been in the United States for at least three generations (some since the early 1600’s not the Pilgrims, but close to the Pilgrims). So I don’t have a family story like either of these characters, so I found it so interesting to learn and get a look at how heritage and being the first generation in a new country shapes people.

The book takes place in New York City, which, in my opinion, is on of the few places a book like this can take place. There is no other place in the United States like New York; there are so many different people and life stories happening there.

Daniel’s struggle between being the good son and wanting to be a creative, a poet in his case, feels universal. That pressure to do and be better than our parents is a universal struggle, but that pressure can be amplified incredibly as a child of immigrants. He doesn’t want what his parents want for him and finding this girl, this girl who may be leaving the country in half a day if everything doesn’t go exactly right on this day feels like she can change everything about the direction of his life.

Natasha’s life has been a struggle her whole life. It’s been a struggle to fit in in this new country, to be both Jamaican and American. She is struggling on the day that she meets Daniel to keep her family in their house. She’s doing everything her parents, who have for the most part given up, should be fighting for and she knows it. She feels the weight sitting on her shoulders and she does the best she can.

I think this is an important book, especially for readers who are outside the demographics in the book, it’s slice of what other people, people we see every day but never interact with, are going through.

I read this book in days, and it only took me two days because I started it on a Thursday and had to go to sleep so I could work the next morning. It was a fast paced excellently written important book that happens to center around two teenagers falling in love.

I highly suggest picking this one up if you haven’t yet.

Until next time Internet,

Deanna

Vanishing Girls – Lauren Oliver

The Details:

Publisher: Haper Collins
Published: March 10th, 2015
Genres: Mystery, Young Adult, Contemporary
My Rating: 3.5 Stars

Goodreads Blurb:

Dara and Nick used to be inseparable, but that was before the accident that left Dara’s beautiful face scarred and the two sisters totally estranged. When Dara vanishes on her birthday, Nick thinks Dara is just playing around. But another girl, nine-year-old Madeline Snow, has vanished, too, and Nick becomes increasingly convinced that the two disappearances are linked. Now Nick has to find her sister before it’s too late.

In this edgy and compelling novel, Lauren Oliver creates a world of intrigue, loss, and suspicion as two sisters search to find themselves, and each other.

My Review:

I love the way Lauren Oliver writes, but this one wasn’t exactly my favorite. I wasn’t disappointed, per say, but Vanishing Girls didn’t grab me the way that Before I Fall or Panic did.

Oliver has a very gripping and eloquent writing style that I just love. She’s able to put so much into a single sentence, building with metaphor and dimension. This book contains amazing writing and a deep thought provoking story, I just think there was a piece missing.

Dara and Nick as sisters, close in both age and as friends. For a large amount of the story, it appears that they had a fight about a boy; the neighbor boy, (which is one of my least favorite tropes of all time) but it isn’t something that is a huge part of the story. It’s not the main focus of the story, the bigger part is the sisters repairing their relationship after a car accident several months before the story begins.

The story is broken up in Looking for Alaska style “Before” and “After” sections, but the sections are not in order. The book doesn’t start in March and end in September, it mainly takes place over 10 days in July and has flashbacks and journal entries of the earlier times sprinkled in. I really liked that it pulled the mystery forward and didn’t lay everything out right away.

There are several unfolding mysteries taking place during the ten days that the book takes place over. A missing 9-year-old girl, Maddie Snow, is one of them. I remember when this book was getting close to release and there was a Tumblr about Maddie and a twitter and a facebook group. It was a really cool internet marketing campaign that I think Oliver and her team should get huge kudos for. It’s why I bought the book the week it came out (not that I wouldn’t have bought it eventually). Maddie’s disappearance is tangled into the story of Dara and Nick extremely well. The two stories intersecting at different points layering the narrative. There are breaks in the narrative where there are discussion board posts and news articles about the investigation that work to shape both stories.

I think what lacked in this story is a connection to the characters. As a person, I tend to connect more with the “outsider” type character, which Oliver rarely has in her stories. She tends to write about the “in crowd” the pretty popular people that many authors (or at least those I read) don’t. She has been very successful in that and I love her books for the way she shows that just because someone has all the friends in the world and living the life I wanted to live when I was 16 or 17 doesn’t mean that everything was perfect. I didn’t have that connection with Nick or Dara. Reflecting on the book I don’t think I was really supposed to, but missing that emotional part left something out for me.

I felt that the twist toward the end of the book didn’t have to “shock” quality that it should have had. Maybe I just read too much of this kind of book, but I don’t think it twisted enough if that makes sense. It was interesting, but it didn’t have the bang that it could have.

All and all, I liked the book, it was a fun read, it just didn’t exactly produce what I was hoping for from a Lauren Oliver book. If I hadn’t read one of her books before, it might have gotten a solid 4 stars, but knowing what Oliver is capable of with her stories, this one missed the mark a little.

 

Until next time Internet,

Deanna

Calendar Girls: February 2017

I stumbled into a pretty cool thing today, and I was asked if I would like to participate in it and I said “yes please.” So here we are with my February 2017 post as part of the Calendar Girls.

Calendar Girls is a brand new monthly blog event inspired by Neil Sedaka’s 1961 song Calendar Girl. Just like in the song, we decided to use a specific theme for each month and choose a book based on these themes! The event is meant to incite discussions with other bloggers about books we’ve read and loved, is meant to help bloggers meet other bloggers, and also for bloggers and readers to find out about blogs which they normally may not have come across!

This event is hosted by Flavia the Bibliophile and Melanie Noell Bernard. Both of these links go to the launch posts for this event if you would like to learn more.

Now without further rambling, my choice:

BEST YA ROMANCE EVER

in my opinion

 

As I look over at my bookshelf that is in desperate need of a makeover, I see several shelves full of YA romance novels.  Sarah Dessen, John Green, Rainbow Rowell, Stephine Perkins– I would not call myself an expert but the subject, but I have been known to reading a lot of them. This was not an easy decision to make.

I thought back to books that centered around teenage love that stuck with me, and I landed on Gayle Forman’s Just One Day and Just One Year

These are the love stories of Willem and Allyson. They meet by chance while Allyson– a girl who has done nothing spontaneous in her life– is on a school trip to England. Allyson’s best friend convinces her to skip the scheduled trip to see Hamlet and to go see a Shakespeare in the park style performance because a cute boy asked them to. Allyson thinks they will never see each other again, but her friend convinces her to go on a trip to Paris on their last day in Europe and on the train they see Willem. Allyson and Willem spend an amazing day together, and when Allyson wakes up the next morning in a weird apartment they broke into, Willem is gone.

We are then taken on a journey of the next year of Allyson’s life as she tries her damnedest to find out what happened to Willem.

The sequel is Willem’s story as he searches for LuLu, which is what he calls Allyson.

This is a story that brings two people from very different background, socially, financially, emotionally, and all the other sorts of ways people can be different and having them fill in each other’s holes. At first, I was a little “get over it, it was one night” when reading Allyson’s story but the more I thought about it– and after reading the second book where Willem essentially has the same gut reaction to Allyson as she does to him– the story grew for me.

When I was thinking about which story to chose, the first thing that popped into my head was the ending of both of these books. There is something about them that has stuck with me years after reading them. I have gotten that with all of the Gayle Forman books I have read, but these two, Allyson and Willem have that perfect combination of could be real and fairytale adventure that makes their love story a great one.

And that is my choice for best YA romance. Do you have one? Let me know! I would love to hear what you think.

Until next time Internet,

Deanna

 

Ever the Hunted by Erin Sunnerill

The Details:
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Published: December 27, 2016
Genre: Fantasy/ Adventure, Young Adult
My Rating: My rating 2.5 stars

Blurb from Goodreads: 

Seventeen-year-old Britta Flannery is at ease only in the woods with her dagger and bow. She spends her days tracking criminals alongside her father, the legendary bounty hunter for the King of Malam—that is until her father is murdered. Now outcast and alone and having no rights to her father’s land or inheritance, she seeks refuge where she feels most safe: the Ever Woods. When Britta is caught poaching by the royal guard, instead of facing the noose she is offered a deal: her freedom in exchange for her father’s killer.

However, it’s not so simple.

The alleged killer is none other than Cohen McKay, her father’s former apprentice. The only friend she’s ever known. The boy she once loved who broke her heart. She must go on a dangerous quest in a world of warring kingdoms, mad kings, and dark magic to find the real killer. But Britta wields more power than she knows. And soon she will learn what has always made her different will make her a daunting and dangerous force

My Review:

Usually, I like this kind of book, and I think that there are definitely people who will love it, I just wasn’t feeling it.

I found the dialogue stiff in spots, and the world wasn’t as developed as I was hoping. There was no difference between the kingdoms, in my opinion, the only thing that separated them was whether or not some of the people who lived there had magic and apparently one of the kingdom wears brighter colors.

I liked the idea of a girl searching for her father’s murder, but she isn’t searching for him on her own, she’s being forced to by the King. I think it could have been a much better story if Britta went off looking for the murderer on her own (but that’s my editor brain trying to fix things).

I think that the main character suffers a little bit from “special snowflake” syndrome, bordering on Mary Sue territory, but all of her “skills” are explained for the most part except for one that’s a huge spoiler. Britta is supposed to be an expert tracker, trained by her father, a bounty hunter, but on of the guards escorting her picks up what she’s doing within a chapter or so. So I didn’t see how she could be such a renown tracker. She also keeps talking about how wonderful the love interest smells, but they were –literally– traveling for weeks without bathing, and it’s a universally accepted fact that people who are sweating and don’t bathe for weeks smell gross. He does not smell good Britta.

I felt that there were parts of the story that went too fast and parts that were dragged. There are parts where there isn’t a page break but the characters are in a completely different place in the next paragraph, and we’re just supposed to understand that when a character says “let’s go” that the have moved a significant distance.

I found parts very predictable, sometimes I think if find things too predictable because I watch a lot of crime shows and try to figure out what happened before the narrative, so what I think is predictable may not be as predictable as I think it is.

All in all, I do think there is an audience for this book, and I’m sure there are many people who will love it, it just wasn’t for me.

Until next time Internet

Deanna