5 stars · fiction

The Tulip Eaters by Antoinette van Heugten

The Tulip Eaters

author : antoinette van heugtan

pages : [hardcover[ 368

favorite characters : anneke & nora

summary ;

In a riveting exploration of the power the past wields over the present, critically acclaimed author Antoinette van Heugten writes the story of a woman whose child’s life hangs in the balance, forcing her to confront the roots of her family’s troubled history in the dark days of World War II…

It’s the stuff of nightmares: Nora de Jong returns home from work one ordinary day to find her mother has been murdered. Her infant daughter is missing. And the only clue is the body of an unknown man on the living-room floor, clutching a Luger in his cold, dead hand.

Frantic to find Rose, Nora puts aside her grief and frustration to start her own search. But the contents of a locked metal box she finds in her parents’ attic leave her with as many questions as answers—and suggest the killer was not a stranger. Saving her daughter means delving deeper into her family’s darkest history, leading Nora half a world away to Amsterdam, where her own unsettled past and memories of painful heartbreak rush back to haunt her.

As Nora feverishly pieces together the truth from an old family diary, she’s drawn back to a city under Nazi occupation, where her mother’s alliances may have long ago sealed her own–and Rose’s—fate.

review :

I’ve always been fascinated with the World War II era and just in the summary of The Tulip Eaters I could see there were going to be aspects included that I haven’t heard or read much about. The Nazi occupation of Amsterdam, the impact that this has had on the people there, was one story that I’d never considered researching further. Combining those aspects of history with modern incidents, this novel seeks to embrace and explain mysteries from both time periods.

I liked not knowing some answers until the end of the book because I found myself second-guessing my assumptions a lot and this helped me realize that this book is very unpredictable. The main, modern focus of the plot can get a little muddled because there are so many different people involved in it, some of whom are mentioned and never brought back into the story again. Nora sometimes makes leaps that I know, logically, would most likely never be made by people, even someone as desperate as her. Even though in reading the story I knew when she was right and wrong because I had more facts than she did, I also knew that she would never had that same level of confidence.

One other part of the book that distracted me somewhat was the prose. Sometimes when the characters were speaking the dialogue was written in a way I knew no one would naturally say.

Of course the plotline was interesting enough to grip me so that I didn’t consider these aspects constantly. I liked the suspense built over time and the dangerous situations Nora placed herself in because she wanted to get her daughter safely back home. I liked the air of mystery around the crime and the historical significance of it. This makes me what to read more by this author to see what else she might come up with!

I’d recommend this book to fans of history, crime novels, and suspense.

5/5 stars

4 stars · fiction · romance · young adult

The Spell Book of Listen Taylor by Jaclyn Moriarty

The Spell Book of Listen Taylor

Author: Jaclyn Moriarty

Pages [hardcover]: 479

Opening Lines: After midnight, the apartment waited, still in the moonlight and the heat. A moth touched its wing to the front porch light, and the apartment cleared its throat sharply.

Memorable Quote: When she got back from taking Cassie to school Fancy knew that she ought to be working on her wilderness romance. She had promised thirty thousand words to her editor by tomorrow, and she had only written eleven. Specifically:
His rhinoceros smelled like a poppadom: sweaty, salty, strange and strong.
Her editor would cut that line.

Favorite Characters: The Canadian next door & Cassie

Summary:

The Zing family lives in a world of misguided spell books, singular poetry, and state-of-the-art surveillance equipment. They use these things to protect the Zing Family Secret one so huge it draws the family to the garden shed for meetings every Friday night.

Into their world comes socially isolated middle grader Listen Taylor, whose father is dating a Zing. Enter Cath Murphy, a young teacher at the elementary school that Cassie Zing attends, suffering from a broken heart. How will the worlds of these two young woman connect? Only the reader can know!

Review:

This book definitely caught me by surprise. I picked it up randomly, expecting to enjoy it because I’ve read a few other books by Jaclyn Moriarty and loved them; they each had their own writing style and unique way of drawing me into the story. The Spell Book of Listen Taylor was no different in that respect. It was told through a variety of characters who all had their own specific quirks and personalities that came through in the text.

I’d like to get what I disliked about the book out of the way so I can get to the good things. First off, I have no idea why this novel is marketed as a young adult book. I read somewhere that it was originally published as adult fiction, but that changed somewhere along the way. But most of the main characters-and this book follows many different characters-are adults, around 30. Only one is YA aged-Listen is 12. So much of the writing centers around ‘adult’ subjects-affairs, marriage, commitment-that doesn’t apply to someone my own age, though that doesn’t mean it’s automatically not interesting. Even though I haven’t exactly experienced these things, I could still get into the book and want the best for the characters.

Another thing is that it is long, and needlessly so. Sure, I liked reading all the little things that added together to make an incredible book, but the journey seemed to take longer than necessary. I’ve read books of this length before, and they’re usually packed with action. While I enjoyed the flashbacks, back stories, side plots, and tiny things that connected the characters, something seemed off about it. Perhaps less would be more, even though I ended up liking the excess.

Yes, I did like The Spell Book of Listen Taylor. At some points it was so ridiculously funny I wanted to burst out laughing, even when I was in a public place, where such a thing would be incredibly awkward. This is one of the most twisty, anything-goes, hilarious books I’ve read in a while. It’s not perfect, but I’m alright with that.

The characters were fantastic, from little Cassie to Mrs. Zing. They all had their flaws, some prominently displayed, some hidden. All needed to work out their own problems, and find their own happiness. I keep flipping the pages so I could figure out what would happen next with Listen’s spell book, and what exactly the Zing Family Secret was. I loved coming along for the ride, and I can’t wait to read more by Jaclyn Moriarty. I give The Spell Book of Listen Taylor 4/5 stars.

3 stars · Fantasy · fiction · romance · young adult

Impossible by Nancy Werlin

Impossible

Author: Nancy Werlin

Pages [hardcover]: 384

First Thoughts: The edition I picked up didn’t have much of a summary on it, so I bought it out of intuition alone. Hopefully it will turn out to be as good as I’m thinking it will be. If not, at least it will look pretty sitting on my shelf until I give it away.

Memorable Quote: “We formed the Fellowship of the Ring when we should’ve all just gone on medication.”

Favorite Characters: Zach & Lucy

Summary:

Lucy Scarborough is only 17, but she carries the burden of a curse that has already struck down several women in her family. Each of her afflicted ancestors failed at completing three seemingly impossible tasks, and each succumbed to madness at the birth of her first child. Facing this tragic fate, Lucy braces herself for a losing battle. Mercifully, she has allies in her struggle: intensely sympathetic foster parents and her loyal childhood friend Zach.

Review:

I’m not sure what to think of this novel. After I finished it, I was left content, sure that a good story had just been laid out and neatly wrapped up with interesting characters interspersed throughout the plot. There were touching moments, creepy parts, and times when I couldn’t wait for the puzzle to be solved. But there were also long spaces of time where I wished for something . . . more to happen. It isn’t that Impossible wasn’t good. It just didn’t live up to my expectations.

I’ve run into books like this before. When I was reading it, the writing wasn’t horrible, and it was definitely interesting. But I could easily be torn away from the book by the simplest things. When I read something, I want to hate distractions, and detest whoever makes me get up and do something other than sit there and read on. That’s what bothered me most about this text. It seemed like something I’d use to fill my time when I’d have nothing else to read.

One thing that I noticed was that everything that was really important-such as research into the curse-was rushed into a few paragraphs, while Lucy’s feelings, which were often repeated many times, took up several pages. I liked being able to see inside her character, especially when it wasn’t a first-person book, but there wasn’t enough substance to back it up.

I give Impossible 3/5 stars. It was an okay read that I may or may not give another go. Maybe I didn’t like it so much because I just finished a few amazing books. For now it just didn’t do anything for me.

5 stars · Fantasy · fiction · romance · young adult

Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George

Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow

Author: Jessica Day George

Pages [hardcover]: 336

Opening Lines: Long ago and far away in the land of ice and snow, there came a time when it seemed that winter would never end. The months when summer should have given the land respite were cold and damp, and the winter months were snow filled and colder still.

Favorite Characters: Rollo & Hans Peter

Summary:

Blessed—or cursed—with an ability to understand animals, the Lass (as she’s known to her family) has always been an oddball. And when an isbjorn (polar bear) seeks her out, and promises that her family will become rich if only the Lass will accompany him to his castle, she doesn’t hesitate. But the bear is not what he seems, nor is his castle, which is made of ice and inhabited by a silent staff of servents. Only a grueling journey on the backs of the four winds will reveal the truth: the bear is really a prince who’s been enchanted by a troll queen, and the Lass must come up with a way to free him before he’s forced to marry a troll princess.

Review:

I. Loved. This. Book.

I picked it  up at the library because nothing else caught my eye and I’ve read another book by Jessica Day George, Princess of the Midnight Ball. I enjoyed that, so I figured this would be okay enough to tide me over for a while.

I started it yesterday, and could not put it down until it was finished. I loved how it was told with echoes of old fairy tales with a breath of modern tones intertwined. It worked wonderfully for me, and I couldn’t get enough of it! Starting it, I thought I’d be annoyed that the narrator doesn’t have a name-she’s referred to only as ‘the lass’ or ‘pika’-but that only helped the story in the long run.

I could see parts of stories I remember reading long ago retold in this novel, and I liked seeing them through a new light, and with this brave heroine leading the way. One aspect of the book I really enjoyed was that it wasn’t a princess needing to be rescued here, but a prince. She could have easily left him to his fate and returned to her family.

This book surprised me in the best way. The twists and turns it took fit together and kept me on the edge of my seat. I’ll definitely have to read more by this author. This is a book I’ll be thinking about for a long time! I give Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow 5/5 stars.

5 stars · fiction · romance · young adult

Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen

Along for the Ride

Author: Sarah Dessen

Pages [hardcover]: 383

Memorable Quote: It was so weird, because usually I was totally nervous talking to guys. But Eli was different. He made me want to say more, not less. Which was maybe not a good thing.

Favorite Characters: Maggie & Auden

Summary:

It’s been so long since Auden slept at night. Ever since her parents’ divorce—or since the fighting started. Now she has the chance to spend a carefree summer with her dad and his new family in the charming beach town where they live.

A job in a clothes boutique introduces Auden to the world of girls: their talk, their friendship, their crushes. She missed out on all that, too busy being the perfect daughter to her demanding mother. Then she meets Eli, an intriguing loner and a fellow insomniac who becomes her guide to the nocturnal world of the town. Together they embark on parallel quests: for Auden, to experience the carefree teenage life she’s been denied; for Eli, to come to terms with the guilt he feels for the death of a friend.

In her signature pitch-perfect style, Sarah Dessen explores the hearts of two lonely people learning to connect.

Review:

I love all of Sarah Dessen’s books, and this is one of the few that I haven’t read yet. Along for the Ride is as sweet, funny, romantic, and fun as every other novel written by this author.

I really liked how Auden wasn’t the only one who needed her life to change for the better. Eli is still attempting to pick up the pieces of his life, and one summer of sleepless nights with Auden could help him heal. They both rely on each other evenly.

This book didn’t put as much emphasis on the minor characters as others by Sarah Dessen have. Instead, the plot circles around Auden, focusing on the miniscule changes in her life. I like how the reader can see each step of her transformation, even when that step is backwards.

I really enjoyed Along for the Ride and already have another Sarah Dessen book lined up on my to be read pile. I recommend this for any previous fans of her work or anyone looking for a light, fun summer read or romance. I give it 5/5 stars.

5 stars · Fantasy · fiction · romance · series · young adult

Magic Study by Maria V. Snyder

 


Magic Study

Author: Maria V. Snyder

Pages [hardcover]: 392

Book 2 in the Study series!
Book 1: Poison Study

Memorable Quote: Bad dreams are ghosts of our fears and worries, haunting us while we sleep.

Favorite Characters: Valek, Ari, & Janco

First Thoughts: I LOVED the first book, Poison Study and couldn’t wait to get my hands on this second installment! Hopefully I’ll continue to love this series.

Summary:

You know your life is bad when you miss your days as a poison taster…

With her greatest enemy dead, and on her way to be reunited with the family she’d been stolen from long ago, Yelena should be pleased. But though she has gained her freedom, she can’t help feeling isolated in Sitia. Her Ixian background has changed her in many ways—and her newfound friends and relatives don’t think it’s for the better….

Despite the turmoil, she’s eager to start her magic training—especially as she’s been given one year to harness her power or be put to death. But her plans take a radical turn when she becomes involved with a plot to reclaim Ixia’s throne for a lost prince—and gets entangled in powerful rivalries with her fellow magicians.

If that wasn’t bad enough, it appears her brother would love to see her dead. Luckily, Yelena has some old friends to help her with all her new enemies….

Review:

 I love this book, as well as the first Study book, Poison Study. The characters are unique and memorable, the main character is strong-headed and unstoppable, and who doesn’t like a good book that involves magic?

This book focuses on Yelena honing her magic skills and understanding her limitations as well as discovering new talents. She’s as independent and free spirited as ever, choosing to take her own path when the one set before her isn’t what she had in mind. Though at times her decisions seem rash and irresponsible, she prevails over her obstacles and learns from her mistakes. She places everyone’s safety above her own, which I find admirable.

Yelena is such a great character, and I loved getting to know her even better in Magic Study. Setting out to find her family, she reacts naturally, with equal parts fear and excitement. And though everything could have gone cornily happily ever after, Maria V. Snyder throws plot twist after twist at the reader, leading me to jump to conclusions-and be proved wrong every time. I love the little guessing game, and read quickly because I wanted to know what was going to happen next.

Though the book concerned much moving around from place to place and discussing what to do next, it never lagged. Rather, it served to enhance the action aspects of the novel and give me a break before the next round of fighting.

Magic Study is an awesome book, though if you don’t read Poison Study first, you won’t know what’s happening! I give it 5/5 stars-the Study series continues to impress me!

fiction · young adult

Lucy Unstrung by Carole Lazar

Lucy Unstrung

Author: Carole Lazar

Pages [paperback]: 235

Available now!

Where I got it: Won in a contest on Goodreads.com

Opening Lines: When my mom finally walks in the door at nine-fifteen, she acts like nothing’s wrong at all. “Where have you been?” I ask. “Dad and I have been worried sick. And now Grandma’s upset too.”

Favorite Characters: Lucy & Ray

Summary:

Teens who get pregnant and raise their babies are often in the news. But what about those children who are growing up with parents scarcely half a generation older than themselves?

In this wise and funny first novel by Carole Lazar, Lucy is a sensible, perhaps even rigid, thirteen year old who is convinced that Grandma, God, and the Catholic Church are on her side. She tries hard to make her twenty-eight-year-old mother see the error of her ways. It’s not that her mother is wild – in their household even a fancy coffee causes a scene – but she has had to put off her own teenage years and she’s chaffing at the restraints on her life. Lucy is faced with the loss of her family, her home, her school, and even her best friend. As she struggles to preserve what she can from her past life, she finds that while Grandma, God, and her church are still there for her, there are problems she has to solve for herself.

Review:

 This book was slow at the beginning, but after the first thirty pages or so, I really started to like Lucy, and wanted to know what was going to happen to her. It’s true-most stories are about the teens who get pregnant, not about what happens to their babies. This story definitely didn’t take the turn that I thought it would, but I still enjoyed it.

The characters in the book were well-defined enough, yet sometimes left a little to be desired. They did things that didn’t fit in with how they were first made out to be, personalities didn’t stay consistent. It was a little annoying, but only a minor concern.

The ending was a bit messy and didn’t wrap anything up. I don’t think there are any books following this one and most of the questions that came to mind during the story were left unanswered. I’ve enjoyed open-ended endings before, so it wasn’t that aspect that turned me off. It seemed abrupt and unnatural. A few pages more might have made it better.

Lucy Unstrung is narrated by a funny, opinionated teenage girl. I would have liked it more if the ending was a little different. I give it 2.5/5 stars.

fiction · free verse · young adult

Glimpse by Carol Lynch Williams

Glimpse

Author: Carol Lynch Williams

Pages [hardcover]: 496

Where I got it: Read free online with Pulse It

Available Now!

Favorite Character: Lizzie

Summary:

Twelve year old girl Hope’s life is turned upside down when her older sister Lizzie becomes an elective mute and is institutionalized after trying to kill herself. Ever since their dad died Hope and Lizzie have relied on each other from a young age. Their mother is a reluctant and unreliable parent at best, who turns tricks to support the family. Throughout the course of this lyrical and heartbreaking narrative readers and Hope discover shocking truths and it’s up to Hope to bring the truth to light to save her sister.

Review:

I usually don’t like free verse novels. Okay, I’ve never really liked one until I read Glimpse. This book is packed full of emotional scenes and heartbreaking moments. Hope is such an innocent main character, contrasting with her mother and the secrets surrounding her.

Hope has no idea why Lizzie tried to kill herself. Could she have done something to cause it? Lizzie is stuck at the hospital and it’s up to Hope to find Lizzie’s diary, figure out what was wrong, and help her sister pull her life back together.

I loved how the story was set up and how the emotions involved were emphasized. I definitely recommend this book, even if it really isn’t your thing to read a free verse book. I didn’t think I’d even finish it, and I ended up loving it! I give Glimpse 5/5 stars.