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All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevin

9 Apr

All These Things I’ve Done

author : gabrielle zevin

Pages : [hardcover] 354

memorable quote I did learn something about insanity while I was down there. People go crazy, not because they are crazy, but because it’s the best available option at the time.

summary :

In 2083, chocolate and coffee are illegal, paper is hard to find, water is carefully rationed, and New York City is rife with crime and poverty. And yet, for Anya Balanchine, the sixteen-year-old daughter of the city’s most notorious (and dead) crime boss, life is fairly routine. It consists of going to school, taking care of her siblings and her dying grandmother, trying to avoid falling in love with the new assistant D.A.’s son, and avoiding her loser ex-boyfriend. That is until her ex is accidently poisoned by the chocolate her family manufactures and the police think she’s to blame. Suddenly, Anya finds herself thrust unwillingly into the spotlight–at school, in the news, and most importantly, within her mafia family.

Engrossing and suspenseful, All These Things I’ve Done is an utterly unique, unputdownable read that blends both the familiar and the fantastic.

review:

I love Gabrielle Zevin and I’ve been waiting so long to start this new series. It finally came out as an ebook for a good deal so of course I had to get it to try it out. I was a little unsure about the concept of the novel, not the least because to me it seems incredibly unbelievable. Chocolate could not ever be banned. Can you imagine the revolts that would happen? A revolution I would totally take part in because chocolate is way too good to let it go forever!

My opinion of this book oscillated a few times throughout the novel. Most of the writing was disappointing, verging to extremely corny in some moments. For example, at one point in the book Win calls Annie “lass” for no particular reason (and this repeats a few other times throughout the book) when he’s not Scottish, which to me would be the only justification for it. Maybe a Scottish grandfather, seeing as they’re in America. His reasoning for it was something like saying it felt like the word fit her. No, it just ended up sounding condescending and like a bad attempt to get a cute pet name for her.

Then there would be surprisingly badass plot points that would pick up my interest again and kept me reading the entire novel. I’m not sure if that’s enough to keep me through the whole series; if anything, I’ll borrow the next book from a library, not purchase it myself. Or I’ll find someone who’s already read it to tell me all about it.

While there are a few loose ends I’m curious about, I’m not invested enough in the novel or characters to recommend this to anyone. Now I’m realizing why I waited so long to try out this series.

3/5 stars

Vesper by Jeff Sampson

26 Mar

Vesper

author : jeff sampson

pages : [hardcover] 288

memorable quote My idea of a fun night was diving into a massive pile of To Be Read pile of books stacked near my dresser… I was the girl who loved everything geeky.

summary :

Emily Webb is a geek. And she’s happy that way. Content hiding under hoodies and curling up to watch old horror flicks, she’s never been the kind of girl who sneaks out for midnight parties. And she’s definitely not the kind of girl who starts fights or flirts with other girls’ boyfriends. Until one night Emily finds herself doing exactly that . . . the same night one of her classmates—also named Emily—is found mysteriously murdered.

The thing is, Emily doesn’t know why she’s doing any of this. By day, she’s the same old boring Emily, but by night, she turns into a thrill seeker. With every nightfall, Emily gets wilder until it’s no longer just her personality that changes. Her body can do things it never could before: Emily is now strong, fast, and utterly fearless. And soon Emily realizes that she’s not just coming out of her shell . . . there’s something much bigger going on. Is she bewitched by the soul of the other, murdered Emily? Or is Emily Webb becoming something else entirely—something not human?

As Emily hunts for answers, she finds out that she’s not the only one this is happening to—some of her classmates are changing as well. Who is turning these teens into monsters—and how many people will they kill to get what they want?

review :

I’ve had this ebook on my TBR shelf for a long while after winning it in a contest–not because I was always putting it off, but because there are always other books for me to read. Well, I finally got around to reading Vesper–not realizing that it was the beginning of what I think is a series, possibly a trilogy–and didn’t enjoy this novel enough to consider reading further into these books.

Honestly, I feel like there was a potentially awesome concept, but one that I didn’t see until possibly the last ten pages of the book. The rest dragged on to a conclusion that would have been thrilling if I’d been excited for it. Instead, throughout most of the book, I was confused. Emily was haunted by her alter ego who wants to dress revealingly and party every night, for some reason. It was kind of a terrifying concept to me, because what would you do if every night you became a different person and had to deal with those consequences in the morning? I feel like that could have been more fully explored. Again, her parents seem to be mostly absent in this, and completely mindless of her breaking the rules every night. We really only consistently see her best friend reacting to Emily’s changes . . . and even then she has a different response each night, and not in an evolving/maturing way, either, only in a sporadic mess.

I gave this book one star for the interesting conclusion and the chance that future books could be much more intriguing and action-packed, though I don’t have enough time to invest more in this series on the chance that it could thrive. Another star because there was just enough intrigue to keep me going through the book. But I didn’t find the characters very interesting–Emily, when she was supposedly ‘geeky’, simply seemed like a ‘geeky’ stereotype, and then the stereotype of a party girl when her alter ego came out–nor were they particularly memorable. I’d suggest giving this book a pass.

2/5 stars

Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson

13 Mar

Since You’ve Been Gone

author : morgan matson

pages : [hardcover] 449

memorable quote I somehow knew that the particulars didn’t matter. She was my heart, she was half of me, and nothing, certainly not a few measly hundred miles, was ever going to change that.

favorite character : frank

summary :

The Pre-Sloane Emily didn’t go to parties, she barely talked to guys, she didn’t do anything crazy. Enter Sloane, social tornado and the best kind of best friend—the one who yanks you out of your shell.

But right before what should have been an epic summer, Sloane just… disappears. No note. No calls. No texts. No Sloane. There’s just a random to-do list. On it, thirteen Sloane-selected-definitely-bizarre-tasks that Emily would never try… unless they could lead back to her best friend.

Apple Picking at Night? Okay, easy enough.

Dance until Dawn? Sure. Why not?

Kiss a Stranger? Um…

Getting through Sloane’s list would mean a lot of firsts. But Emily has this whole unexpected summer ahead of her, and the help of Frank Porter (totally unexpected) to check things off. Who knows what she’ll find?

Go Skinny Dipping? Wait … what?

review :

I was really looking forward to this novel not only because I’ve heard great things about it but also because I had the privilege to meet Morgan Matson at BookCon last May! She was so sweet and inviting that I knew I had to give her work a try. While I really did enjoy reading this novel and will definitely pick up more of her work, to me this was more of a feel-good read than an all=time favorite.

Since You’ve Been Gone is filled with many convenient coincidences which make the novel quirky and interesting. Honestly, if I only had one friend and she abandoned me spontaneously, not only would I be too depressed by that but I know I’d end up spending that summer alone because people who’ve known me my entire life but never paid any attention to me wouldn’t spontaneously become my best friends. And I know that’s because I’m a shy person and don’t go outside of my element. But Emily’s whole characterization is based around her shyness and unwillingness to go outside of herself more than she absolutely has to, or unless there’s an extrovert like Sloane around to draw her out of her shell. Honestly, most of the time Emily didn’t seem shy to me at all, just a little awkward and very afraid of horses.

The romance was sweet. At first I didn’t think I was going to like it at all but in the end it really grew on me. I think it was well-done, and wasn’t pushed to the forefront of the story which was really refreshing to see in a YA contemporary novel. The bulk of the story was about Sloan and Emily, like it should have been, and it was great to read about their friendship–even though if someone pulled a Sloan and up and left on me I’m not sure I’d take it as well as Emily did.

If you like YA books that are summer-y, full of fun adventures, and are a quick read, this is definitely a book for you. It’s a good story with some heart thrown into it and this will definitely keep your interest while you read it. While it might not be the best book you’ve read, it’s a good book to reach for when you’re feeling low, are on vacation, or need a break between emotionally draining novels.

3/5 stars

The Bloody Chamber & Other Stories by Angela Carter

22 Feb

The Bloody Chamber & Other Stories

author : angela carter

pages : 126

memorable quote:

She herself is a haunted house. She does not possess herself; her ancestors sometimes come and peer out of the windows of her eyes and that is very frightening

summary :

From familiar fairy tales and legends – Red Riding Hood, Bluebeard, Puss-in-Boots, Beauty and the Beast, vampires, werewolves – Angela Carter has created an absorbing collection of dark, sensual, fantastic stories.

review :

I had to read this collection of fairy tales for an independent study I’m doing. While they weren’t my favorite retellings, I think that these stories are not only well-written but also thought provoking. They’re tales that will leave you to think. You won’t just ponder the connection to and differences from the original story and Carter’s version. You’ll also think through your own interpretation of the endings, as well as the symbolism that crops up in each story.

Though this collection was short, it’s sure to stand out. The stories are bloody. Many of them aren’t happy. But that seems to be a trend, not only in modern retellings but in the original stories themselves! All of us like to hear a good story with a happily ever after but things don’t always work out that way. Carter doesn’t seem foreign to that concept, though she does put her own spin on the idea of a ‘realistic’, unhappy ending. There’s no tragedy simply for the sake of it. It’s impressive, the way she weaves her words together and makes even the smallest of instances in her stories seem to have the biggest share of the impact.

I’d recommend this collection to anyone with an avid interest in fairy tales. While there are other retellings that I’ll pick up to read over and over again, I’m not sure that this collection will be among them even though it is very well-done. I think that it’s worth at least one read and many will like it even more than I did.

3/5 stars

Things We Know by Heart by Jessi Kirby

16 Feb

Things We Know by Heart

author : jessi kirby

pages : [hardcover] 304

publication date : april 21, 2015

summary :

When Quinn Sullivan meets the recipient of her boyfriend’s donated heart, the two form an unexpected connection.

After Quinn loses her boyfriend, Trent, in an accident their junior year, she reaches out to the recipients of his donated organs in hopes of picking up the pieces of her now-unrecognizable life. She hears back from some of them, but the person who received Trent’s heart has remained silent. The essence of a person, she has always believed, is in the heart. If she finds Trent’s, then maybe she can have peace once and for all.

Risking everything in order to finally lay her memories to rest, Quinn goes outside the system to track down nineteen-year-old Colton Thomas—a guy whose life has been forever changed by this priceless gift. But what starts as an accidental run-in quickly develops into more, sparking an undeniable attraction. She doesn’t want to give in to it—especially since he has no idea how they’re connected—but their time together has made Quinn feel alive again. No matter how hard she’s falling for Colton, each beat of his heart reminds her of all she’s lost…and all that remains at stake.

review :

I’m not sure of how I feel about this book, to be honest. There were some parts of it that I truly loved and wanted more of. I wanted to learn more about Quinn’s relationship with her family, particularly her father and her sister because they seemed like interesting characters who could have been used much more than they were. I wanted more than the focus on her and Colton, mostly because I knew that relationship would eventually blow up because of all of the secrets that Quinn was keeping from Colton.

Of course, some portions of the story were predictable, and I really didn’t mind that. I just wish that some of it could have been handled differently. Not necessarily by changing the plot points or anything serious like that. Really, I just feel like most of it was too rushed, and even though I did get emotional at a few points, if it’d been slowed down I feel like I would have been much more of a mess. Not that I want to be emotionally damaged by a book, you know, but sometimes you can really appreciate something that tangles up your emotions and spits you back out again in the end.

I think that’s another thing that was off for me, too–the ending. I wanted to know what was going to happen next because I feel like some of that could have been more interesting than some of the buildup to that conclusion. I can’t say much without spoiling anything, but I know that there were still problems and issues that could have been explained or fleshed out that weren’t given the chance to come to the heart of the novel . . . see what I did there?

I feel like this book is interesting and it certainly kept me reading, even though it isn’t a favorite. I don’t know if I’ll recommend it to my friends, but I know there are people out there who’ll love it more than I did. Maybe with all of their heart. Last heart joke, I swear.

3/5 stars

The Jewel by Amy Ewing

24 Nov

 

The Jewel

author : amy ewing

pages : [hardcover] 358

favorite character : raven

memorable quote : “Hope is a precious thing, isn’t it,” she says. “And yet, we don’t really appreciate it until it’s gone.”

summary :

he Jewel means wealth. The Jewel means beauty. The Jewel means royalty. But for girls like Violet, the Jewel means servitude. Not just any kind of servitude. Violet, born and raised in the Marsh, has been trained as a surrogate for the royalty—because in the Jewel the only thing more important than opulence is offspring.

Purchased at the surrogacy auction by the Duchess of the Lake and greeted with a slap to the face, Violet (now known only as #197) quickly learns of the brutal truths that lie beneath the Jewel’s glittering facade: the cruelty, backstabbing, and hidden violence that have become the royal way of life.

Violet must accept the ugly realities of her existence… and try to stay alive. But then a forbidden romance erupts between Violet and a handsome gentleman hired as a companion to the Duchess’s petulant niece. Though his presence makes life in the Jewel a bit brighter, the consequences of their illicit relationship will cost them both more than they bargained for.

review :

I really enjoyed the first half of this novel and was entertained but disappointed with the second half. Amy Ewing creates an interesting environment in The Jewel, where it appears that the entire world is a city  surrounded by the sea and separated into different layers that denote a person’s class. At the heart of the city is the Jewel, where all of the rich people live and where Violet is trapped as a surrogate years after they discover she has the magical abilities that are necessary for surrogates to have. She was put up for auction, stripped of her name, and told to forget about her past.

I did enjoy reading about Violet, for the most part. She struggled to remember her family and wants nothing more than to return to them. She hates the system, obviously, but isn’t trying to take it down so much as she’s hoping she can slip through it and return to the life which was stolen from her. I liked her little rebellions, even when they weren’t the smartest choices. It showed that Violet was still in there, even though potential escape seemed hopeless.

As soon as the love interest was introduced (surprisingly late into the book), she turned into someone I didn’t like. While I understand that both she and the interest have had limited, restrictive lives, so perhaps that’s why there was so much immediate attraction . . . He becomes all that Violet can think about. She’s no longer worrying about her family or herself; she’s only dreaming about his eyes and risking everything in silly ways. She could have still had the romance without being so ridiculous about it, which was frustrating to me and ended up making me severely dislike the latter half of the book.

Some of the twists were very predictable but I’m still interested in seeing what happens with this series next. While I won’t be purchasing the next book, I will be reading it and hoping that these books will redeem themselves. Even though plots of this type have become overdone, I can see the areas where Ewing has the chance to prove herself as an author and really hope that she’ll be able to pull it off.

3.5/5 stars

 

Pity the Bathtub its Forced Embrace of the Human Form by Matthea Harvey

3 Nov

 

Pity the Bathtub its Forced Embrace of the Human Form

author : matthea harvey

pages : [paperback] 80

summary :

Comic, elegaic, and always formally intricate, using political allegory and painterly landscape, philosophic story and dramatic monologue, these poems describe a moment when something marvelous and unforeseen alters the course of a single day, a year, or an entire life.

review :

This is a somewhat difficult book of poetry to go though simply because of the stylistic approach Harvey takes. Most of her poems have sentences that blend into each other, as the word that completes a previous sentence is used to begin a new sentence. Reading the poems can leave the meaning a little disjointed if you lose your place; reading them aloud sometimes doesn’t help because you don’t know where to stop to catch a breath. But Harvey’s fantastical ideas still shine through in this collection, so I ended up enjoying it.

I like how Harvey can take one completely unrealistic idea and roll with it, turning it into an entire poem. She never states her idea for the reader outright, skirting around the unconventional thought like it’s a normal aspect of our lives and waiting for us to figure out what’s different in the world of these characters. She creates different figures and stories within her poetry, which I really enjoyed.

I think that a lot of people will like these poems, if they take the time to sit with them for a while. This is poetry that you can’t read quickly; it demands to be held at arm’s length and read a few times until you understand the general meaning. Then it needs to be analyzed even further. While this isn’t a bad thing, it means that Harvey’s collection may be overlooked as people search for poetry that is an easier (and faster) read.

3/5 stars

 

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