Monday, February 24, 2014

Better off Friends by Elizabeth Ulberg

Better off Friends

Elizabeth Ulberg asks a very important question in her new novel Better Off Friends, can platonic friends be just friends?  Another question I want to say this answers is, Can someone is has been friend-zoned be unfriend-zoned?  Growing up everyone has at least one friend that everyone else thinks is their significant other.  Sometimes those friendships blossom into being BFFs and other times those friendships blossom into true romance.  Every time, though, both participants are leery of complicating their supper awesome friendship.  I had a best friend like this, we talked for hours on the phone, made fun of people relentlessly, and it would get so bad most people didn’t want to hang out with the two who finish each other’s sentences and are ready to back each other up.  The problem was that I put him in the friend zone (hush now, I was 16, I didn’t know better), and that guy was totally my match, it’s okay though because I have another best friend, and well I have been dating him for close to 8 years and have loved every minute of it (well, maybe every other minute ;-)).  What I am trying to say is that this story is very relatable. 

Macallan and Levi have been friends since 7th grade, when Levi moved into town.  The novel progresses from the first time they met until possibly end of junior year of high school.  At the end of each episode/chapter both Macallan and Levi have a snippet of conversion regarding both of their reactions to what was just retold to the audience; this is very much like watching the actors’ commentary version of a movie.    Their mistakes are very normal, their drama is very believable, and the ending is very heartwarming.  To describe this silly, loving, and dramatic adventure, one would have to agree it’s a cute read; however, I do not feel fully invested in the characters or the story.  I liked both characters, but not a part of me was like “Levi’s my book boyfriend” or “Macallan and I could really be friends.”  There was just something lacking in that.  Other than that, this is a cute romance novel that is ready to ask and answer questions about friendship, love, and growing up.

Friday, February 21, 2014

One Plue One by Jojo Moyes

One Plus One: A Novel



This is the story of a family who didn’t fit in.  A little girl who was a bit geeky and liked maths more than makeup.  And a boy who liked makeup and didn’t fit into any tribes.  And this is what happens to families who don’t fit in—they end up broken and skint and sad.  No happy ending here, folks.”

 

Jojo Moyes has done it again, in her latest novel One Plus One.  After reading and having a sob-fest with Me Before You, I was looking forward to the next release of a Moyes novel.  Thankfully this novel is a lot less sad, saved me a bunch of money on Kleenex and Ben and Jerry’s.  Set in England, the lives of Jessica Thomas and Ed Nicholls are about to collide.  Jessica is working two jobs to support her daughter Tanzie and her husband’s son Nicky, and barely making ends meet since her husband left two years ago.  She, along with her friend, clean houses of those with vacation homes in her town, and this is where she meets Ed, one of the vacation home owners.  Tanzie is a bright student, who is exceptionally amazing at math.  With the help of one of her teachers, Tanzie has a chance to enter a prestigious academy with most of the tuition paid for, except Jess must find a few thousand pounds to pay the rest.  Enter the opportunity Jess and Tanzie have been looking for, in order to find a way to pay for St. Anne’s Tanzie will be entered in a Math Olympiad.  Now Jess must drive illegally up to Scotland for the tournament.   

Ed is living the dream.  He is working on software development with his best friend, their company now have shareholders, and even though his wife divorced him and took half of what he had earned, Ed gets to light a fire with his old college crush.  That small affair gets him into trouble; you see Ed may have given the woman some information on a new product his company will be launching, a product that will benefit stockholders.  Ed has just committed “insider trading” and apparently he had no clue that he could get in trouble for this (I find this the most ridiculous thing of all in this novel.  I feel like software engineers have bit of logic in their brain, and Ed is 33… so what is his excuse for not knowing that he was committing insider trading?  I was really annoyed with this point).  Ed has been suspended from work, and has been advised to lay low, so he decides to stay in his vacation home.  Ed has also been avoiding going to see his ailing father, because he doesn’t want to disappoint him.  After clashing a couple of times with Jess, he finds her pulled over on the side of the road with her two children and the family dog because she had no insurance and registration.  After some painful begging from Tanzie, Ed somehow agrees (he does this so that he has a legitimate excuse to not go see his father right away) to take the family to Scotland on the way to see his father.

I really liked the characters and the flow of the story.  Ed is completely a normal human being (meaning I can find him anywhere in the world, as opposed to Edward Cullen and such), he makes mistakes, but he can definitely have a girl swooning.  Jess is loyal, determined, and probably one of the best fiction parents I have yet to come across.  Nicky breaks my heart, I just want to give him a hug and then do his make-up and break the Fishers’ face for him.  Tanzie was adorable.  The whole book was real, lovely, and at times heart wrenching. It definitely captured the essence of what it takes to be a family, and to be utterly fulfilled.

 

Thank You Edelweiss.  4 out of 5 stars!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

While Beauty Slept by Elizabeth Blackwell

While Beauty Slept

“Ha! It would be a fine trick indeed to fell a royal daughter with a needle, then see her revived by a single kiss.  If such magic exists, I have yet to witness it.  The horror of what really happened has been lost, and no wonder.  The truth is hardly a story for children… Does anyone believe that a woman can survive a sleeping death and emerge unscathed?  How we tried to heal her, those who loved her most.  But some damage is too deep to reach.”

While Beauty Slept by Elizabeth Blackwell is a reinvented story of Sleeping Beauty.  Instead of following Rose (Sleeping Beauty) or Millicent (Maleficent), this story follows a young girl that came up from a poor upbringing to eventually become a lady in waiting for the Queen, Rose’s mom.  Elise’s mother once worked in the castle, but because her maidenhood was sullied and she became pregnant out of wedlock, Mayren had to leave the comfortable job in the castle.  Her journey takes her and her daughter (Elise) into the country, living on a farm of her new husband, who has been harsh on the little “bastard” of Mayren.  Elise doesn’t really mind the life she has, because she doesn’t know better.  One day Elise becomes terribly ill, after losing consciousness for days, Elise wakes up to a house that has been contaminated by the Pox.   After 4 of her brothers die, along with her mother, Elise runs away in search of her mother’s sister in the city, in order to get a job in the castle, per her mother’s last wishes. 

Elise, at 14, becomes a chambermaid; however, she catches the eyes of Millicent (the King’s aunt, aka the bad witch in this story) and of Queen Lenore because she is sweet, does her job, and she is very discreet.  The story takes place over a span of 60 years.  There is more realism in the story, than fairytale.  It was all quite believable for the most part.  The interactions of the characters were good (unless they were throwing curses at each other, and even then it was good), the narrator was not someone I wanted to throttle, and the love triangle made sense, was tastefully done, and at the end of the day readers got to have their cake and eat it too.  I loved Marcus, and it devastated me what happened between he and Elise; I hated Dorian for what he did to Petra, but I loved him the most at the end… sigh.  The ending was very interesting, and I really could not have predicted it to end the way it did. 


Thank You Edelweiss.  3.5 stars out of 5.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Burn (Pure #3) by Julianna Baggott

Burn (Pure, #3)

“Here, on the cliff, he sees the end: He’s lying on the ground amid the ash and dust of his homeland and his chest is ripped open.  The truth lifts from his body like a long white unfurling ribbon, flecked with his blood.
How will it happen?  When?
He only knows that it’s not far off.”

Burn by Julianna Baggot is the third and final installment in the Pure Trilogy.  Following Patridge, El Capitan/ Helmud, Pressia, Bradwell, and Lyda, the conclusion of this story is anything but spectacular.  As rich of a story as we have had thus far for this trilogy, I feel that the end was too rushed or something was missing.  Pressia, Bradwell, and El Capitan need to make it to the Dome and Patridge.  Bradwell is dealing with being healed, and not dying on his own terms; Pressia is dealing with Bradwell not speaking to her; and El Capitan is dealing with having told Pressia his true feelings. 

Lyda and Patridge are inside the Dome.  Patridge has just committed patricide (I like the alliteration with his name and the act!) and now he must run the whole Dome, but what he doesn’t realize is that everyone has their own agenda inside the Dome.  Lyda is being kept away from the public eye and Patridge until PR decides to tell the public.  While she is being kept at a house, Lyda becomes increasingly depressed, especially once Patridge sets the truth free and chaos ensues within the Dome.  Now Patridge must marry Iralene to help the public keep their mind off their guilt, and Lyda has agreed that this is the best move.

Nothing was right about this book's ending.  I felt so bad for Pressia at the end, and frankly I lost all respect for Patridge halfway through.  I don’t believe that the character of the past two books would have decided the fate that he picked for himself.  I think some readers will find the ending to not be to their liking.  I did like the ride for the most part; usually the scenes with El Capitan can be entertaining and surprisingly redeeming.  Lyda had been annoying me since The Mothers’ episode in the last book.  There are plenty of secrets, declarations, and action packed into this last book.  I couldn’t put it down, even if the ending was disagreeable to me.


Thank You Netgalley.  3.5 stars out of 5.

The Glass Casket by McCormick Templeman

The Glass Casket

"Tom Jumped when he felt a hand on his shoulder, but he turned to find it was only his brother. "Over there," Jude said, pointing to a journal that lay open on the table, a pen set neatly beside it. Leaning down, Tom brushed the dusting of snow form its pages to find tow words scratched below: It's starting."

The Glass Casket was good, I didn't love it, but it was entertaining, rich in description, and full of dark secrets. I am not use to YA being dark, but this story does have a dash of a classic gothic story. There are also little hints to some fairy tales we all know and love. 

Rowan Rose, Tom Parstle, and Jude Parstle know that the King's soldiers passed on through to set up camp outside of town, and they know those soldiers never made it back alive. Rowan is in for a surprise as a long lost relative resurfaces, Tom finds love instantly with this stranger, and Jude is out hunting a beast that no one can prepare for. These three lives are interwoven and secrets from the past will bind the town's fate from the beast that is ripping each town member apart, one by one. 

3.5 stars. Thank you Edelweiss.

The Tyrant's Daughter by J.C. Carleson

The Tyrant's Daughter

The Tyrant’s Daughter by J.C. Carleson is the story of 15-year-old Laila, who has been torn from her home country by CIA operatives.  Where Laila is from is never disclosed; however, it is hinted that it is in the Middle East.  Laila believes she is from a royal family and her father has been assassinated; however, the reality is much darker than she could have ever imagined.  As she begins to assimilate to her new environment and new school, Laila begins to become suspicious of who she is and of what her mother is doing with rebels from her home country and the CIA walking in for information every chance they get.   Not knowing what to believe Laila begins to research her country, her father, and the acts of violence committed by those that she has loved and thought to be good people. 

I really liked this concept.  I believe it is important for outsiders to understand what the Middle East looks like to someone coming from there.  We, as Americans, can sometimes judge too harshly and too quickly about other countries’ customs and traditions.  Also, as an educator I find that children of this generation have a very small amount of knowledge about the Middle East and the wars that our country has fought over there.  It’s important for YA novels to give light to circumstances or issues of the real world, especially if they are engaging to the audience.  As part of World Literature, students need to broaden their horizon with literature from other countries.  One particular unit deals with the Middle East, and I find that this would be a great supplemental resource for avid readers and even students who are not avid readers but are interested in how children from the Middle East view their own world and us, as well. 


4 out of 5 stars.  Thank You Edelweiss.    

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Pieces of Me by Amber Kizer


Pieces of Me
 
“Donation? Money to the hospital? To make me well? Didn’t the doctor call Nurse Brady an organ-donor coordinator? What did he do? I needed organs? Procurement? He is a Professional Cure Doctor? TO cure me? Or no… Think, Jessica. Think.
NO! I screamed, leaping at my body, trying to force myself back inside. To open my eyes. To talk. To live. Donation? I wasn’t meant to be served up. I AM HERE. YOU CAN’T JUST TAKE MY PIECES!
You can’t make me.”
Pieces of Me
by Amber Kizer is the story of Jessica Chai, a quiet shy high-schooler. Jessica is about to have a bad day in school. She is never really noticed and she likes it that way, until the cheer squad corners her at school. There is a competition going on, the school that donates the most inches of hair to this organization wins a trophy. The purpose is to help those that have lost their hair due to cancer, and Jessica has the longest and shiniest hair in the whole school. Through bullying her, the cheer squad is able to cut off her hair; in exchange they invite Jessica to a popular party. Really upset with what occurred at school, Jessica runs home. There she finds her overbearing mother and after a quick shopping trip Jessica feels like a new person, full of possibilities and she plans to seize the day at the party… what she doesn't realize is that she will never make it to the party.

Laying brain dead in the hospital, hooked up to machines, Jessica is having an out of body experience. She realizes that she is dying, and that her parents are going to donate her organs. Jessica does not want to give her organs away.

I thought this would be a revenge story, like the ghost of the donated body haunts those that received her organs. Instead it is a story about how 4 lives had been tied together, on a collision course to discover where their miracle came from, from whom that miracle came from. Jessica watches on as these four lives collide and live on with her help. Love, life, friendship, and hope are few of the themes touch on in this novel. I liked how well each piece fit, and the characters were great. I did feel like the insta-love between the characters that met online was a little intense, other than that it flowed well.
4 out of 5 stars. Thank you Edelweiss.

 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Queen of Hearts by Colleen Oakes


Queen of Hearts
 
“The blond-haired, blue-eyed girl raised her head again, a look of desperation marring her radiant face.  “Please!” she screamed.

Dinah should be merciful.
She would be merciful.
She had made a promise.
She wasn’t like him.
She paused, eyeing the crowd.
“OFF WITH HER HEAD!” she screamed.” 

 

Queen of Hearts is the first book in The Crown series, a compiling series about the Red Queen we all know and loath.  But what if this queen was merely a misunderstood child, who never had the proper love and care?  In tradition with authors like Gregory Maguire, Colleen Oakes has decided to give the readers the villain’s side of the story. 

 

Dinah, is the daughter of the King of Wonderland, along with her brother Charlie, the mad-hatter, they are the only children of the King.  That is, until the King announces he has a love child, which unmistakably looks like Alice (I don’t think she is actually Alice, but this does explain Dinah’s hate for her.)  Constantly worrying about pleasing her father and being accepted by him, Dinah cannot fathom why he would love his bastard more than his other children.  It is safe to say that Dinah is none too happy about this development, and so close to her coronation. 

 

Given a clue, Dinah knows there is something going on, something her father is not saying and she plans to unravel that truth.  Unfortunately Dinah doesn’t understand that her father has no limits to his punishments, and pretty soon Dinah and her secret crush will lose more than just pieces of their body.  Because the wonderful world of Wonderland is not as nice as we would have thought, danger lurks in the most unpredictable places. 

 

I liked Dinah, and the connection Oakes gives her to the Mad Hatter.  In my opinion this remake has been done well, thus far.  As the rest of the books in this series begin to be released, then we will know if the story remains true to the Wonderland of our youth.  Filled with drama, action, clandestine meetings, and unrequited love this story is sure to be enjoyable for almost anyone, especially since it’s less than 250 pages.

 

Thank You Netgalley. 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Landry Park by Bethany Hagen

Landry Park (Landry Park, #1)

"Two hundred years ago, America found itself at a crossroads.  With sickness and famine came economic turmoil, and with economic turmoil came the looming threat from across the Pacific-China and her allies.  The rich and the poor temporarily forgot their fight with each other and united to defend themselves.  They failed...
In the coming years, Jacob Landry emerged as the voice of reason and stability, promising a new way of life whereby the wealthy could protect their own and gently spur the underclass into productivity....After two years of destructive and bitter warfare, the Uprisen were victorious.  The boundaries of race and gender and religion fell away as class became the most important delineator in society."

This is a story of deceit, power, and war.  Every society has to ask themselves, who will be the first to fall, most especially with nuclear power at hand.  Jacob Landry took nuclear power and created an "efficient" resource for power; however, he turned to the lower classes to be the one to handle this new resource.  Not only did he segregate the haves and have nots, he also began to weed out those that will not survive to be fit.  He placed a group of people to die, because their lives made the wealthy and elite people's life easier.  Jacob Landry is the vision of one future possibility.

Madeline has always been a Landry, and has always had everything in the world.  This is not the story of her debut into a world of wealth and splendor, this is a story of her debut into reality.  She will finally see what her society is really like, what the Rootless are like, and who the monsters behind everything really are.  With the help of her friends, and of new acquaintances Madeline will grow into to the woman that could never abandon Landry Park, but she will also grow into the woman that cannot imagine running it as well.  Such a lush, posh, gritty, and intense novel, it will have you guessing until the very end... even if you did not really know their was a mystery afoot. 

3.5 stars out of 5!  Thanks Edelweiss.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Alienated by Melissa Landers


Alienated (Alienated, #1)
 

"You're not afraid of the L'eihrs, are you?"
"No!"  Cara scoffed, wiping her clammy palms on the front of her skirt.  "Of course not."
Okay, maybe a little.  She'd been as fascinated as everyone else when the aliens made contact two years ago, but their secretive nature made her stomach feel heavy, like she'd eaten a dozen Taco Bell double-decker burritos in one sitting.  And as much as she wanted to travel, leaving Earth wasn't what she'd had in mind.

Cara Sweeney has been selected, amongst other top students around the world, to host an alien foreign exchange student.  In a world where aliens have discovered Earth, but have remained at arms length, the people of Earth cannot seem to agree if these aliens really do come in peace.  Behind this act of coming together, of sharing lifestyles, also lies a secret.  What really is the purpose of the aliens' visit to Earth, and of them opening their world for Earth kids?

Cara is nervous, but she also sees this as an opportunity to a scholarship of a lifetime, along with the experience.  Aelyx is on a mission, he cannot wait to get off this forsaken planet, but while he is here he will play his part well.  What they were not expecting was to find a friend in each other, and maybe even an ally.  After some severe rioting and acts of violence Cara realizes that she's alone, and her family and her are all that Aelyx has right now.  With feelings surfacing, friends turning their backs, and a hidden agenda at play Cara and Aelyx must do what they can to save the Earth, and possibly life as Cara and her friends have known it.

I really like Aelyx, he wasn't some horn-dog... well for the most part.  Cara and he had a great back and forth that I found funny and at times entertaining.  The climax is completely guessable, but okay; however, the solution to the problem makes the next book's plot a little predictable already.  It is still worth a shot to investigate the next installment.  I want to know more about Aelyx's home town, it's time for Cara to experience a little of what he did back on Earth. 

3 out of 5 stars.  Thanks NetGalley.

Such Sweet Sorrow by Jenny Trout

Such Sweet Sorrow

The premise of this book scared me.  Imagine being told that someone took Hamlet and Romeo & Juliet and created an alternative story... what would you honestly think.  My first reaction was to be nervous, it was going to be a train wreck or possibly very unique.  I was both surprised and also disappointed. 

Such Sweet Sorrow takes place a couple of days after Juliet sought the sweet relief of her love's dagger.  Romeo is alive, after the poison he purchased ended up being of weaker constitution than originally advertised.  Devastated that his love, Juliet, is now in hell (Catholic belief of suicide damning the soul to hell) Romeo (with the help of Friar Lawrence) goes in search of a witch.  The witch tells Romeo that if he wants to save his Juliet he must go North to were there is a throne with a murdered king; enter Hamlet. 

Hamlet's father has just been murdered.  The day he meets Romeo, is the same night his uncle and mother are wedded.  Hamlet's father's ghost has issued Hamlet with the responsibility of taking care of the veil between the world of the living and of the dead.  As the story progresses Norse Mythology begins to make an appearance (Hamlet is from Nordic ancestors).  Together Romeo and Hamlet enter the world of the dead, battle ancient creatures, meet gods, and try to rescue the damsel. 

Overall I enjoyed Hamlet, he was hilarious, and so were Romeo and Juliet.  The story and the intertwining of the two plays, along with Nordic Mythology was done pretty okay.  My problem was the ending.  What happened to Romeo at the end?  For those who read this book, you might agree that the ending was a bit fuzzy.  Romeo is charged to be at Hamlet's service, so what ever happened to him when Hamlet died? 

3 out of 5 stars.  Thanks Netgalley