May 31, 2012

Review | The Catastrophic History of You & Me by Jess Rothenberg

The Catastrophic History of You & Me by Jess Rothenberg
Series: N/A
Genre: YA - Contemporary/Paranormal
Publication: 02.12.2012 by Penguin Young Readers Group
Format: Hardcover
Source: Bought

Synopsis: Dying of a broken heart is just the beginning.... Welcome to forever.

Brie's life ends at sixteen: Her boyfriend tells her he doesn't love her, and the news breaks her heart—literally.

But now that she's D&G (dead and gone), Brie is about to discover that love is way more complicated than she ever imagined. Back in Half Moon Bay, her family has begun to unravel. Her best friend has been keeping a secret about Jacob, the boy she loved and lost—and the truth behind his shattering betrayal. And then there's Patrick, Brie's mysterious new guide and resident Lost Soul . . . who just might hold the key to her forever after.

With Patrick's help, Brie will have to pass through the five stages of grief before she's ready to move on. But how do you begin again, when your heart is still in pieces?

Thoughts: Two confessions: 1. I wouldn't have picked this book out because I find the cover...sort of weird. I don't know what it is about it, but I don't like it too much. 2. The only reason I did read this was because it was the monthly pick for my book club and I accidentally voted on it. I was confusing it with The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight. I know. But the long names got confused in my head and there you have it. So even though it wouldn't have been one I would've picked out on my own, I was pleasantly surprised with the sweet, emotional story caught in between these pages that has definitely become one of my favorites of the year.

What I liked:

• Bree: She gets her heart broken and dies. Which teenage girl has not been so hurt by a boy that they felt they would die of sadness? I'm sure there are few out there who couldn't relate to Bree's heartbreak. I could definitely relate to her from the start. Not only that, but her actions throughout the novel and reactions to certain things she finds out, are totally understandable. And yes, a bit immature, but she is only sixteen and the way she reacts is completely normal for a girl her age. Bree is filled with anger, sadness, angst, depression, but she can still makes us laugh with her not-so-witty comebacks and sometimes peculiar actions. She was frustrating at times, but likable nonetheless.

• Patrick: Swoon. 'Nuff said. No really, I adored him. He was a bit different than most boys we come across. He was sarcastic, yet sweet. He was caring and funny and so adorable. I loved him. And anyways, I'm a sucker for guys that are described to look like this.

• Hamloaf: He is the best dog ever. Really, I loved him too!

• The secondary characters all played an important role in Bree's life and were all developed well. They were each unique and I totally was able to feel how much Bree cared for each one. I really loved her best friends and her brother too :)

• Enough with the character talk already. The book was divided into five parts, the five steps of accepting you are D&G: Denial, anger, bargaining, sadness and finally, acceptance. These parts explained what Bree was going through and Bree acted pretty much according to each one. Within each part, the book was also divided into chapters, each one named after a title of a song, which was pretty cool.

• The story is developed well and at no point did I find it dull. I anticipating the next page and flew through the book faster than I expected. While there were a few parts that seemed to stretch out a bit, they weren't bad and added a whole lot more to the story, I thought. I definitely enjoyed the authors writing and am glad I actually picked this up.

What I didn't like:

• The conclusion felt a bit rushed and wrapped up to neatly for how quickly it happened. I almost wish it would have been stretched out a bit farther (instead of the other parts that I felt didn't need to be stretched.) I wanted a bit more detail in how Bree and Patrick resolve the problem they are going through. I wanted to know more.

• Bree died because her boyfriend told her he didn't love her, but we never get a real glimpse of their love. We get a two flashbacks where we get to see them together, but I didn't feel the love. I know that Bree thinks she loved him, but I couldn't see why. I just wished there would've been at least one scene where I could've been like, "Oh, okay. That's why she loved him so much." But it wasn't really there.

Overall: Despite the tiny additions I wish would have been added to the book, I thoroughly enjoy The Catastrophic History of You and Me. It is a sweet contemporary and paranormal book that others will definitely enjoy. There are plenty of emotions packed in these pages, but the humor added in, give it a lighthearted feel that captivated me. I definitely recommend this to others and look forward to reading Rothenberg's next book.

May 29, 2012

\\ Blog Tour \\ Review | The Light Tamer by Devyn Dawson

Title: The Light Tamer by Devyn Dawson
Series: Book 1
Genre: YA - Paranormal
Publication: 04.10.2012 by CreateSpace
Source: These Paper Worlds
Format: eBook
Rating: ★

Synopsis: Jessie's moved from New York to North Carolina one week after school lets out for summer break. Being a teen in a retirement area, is one more thing to add to her 'this sucks' list. It's bad enough to have to move, but even worse her alcoholic father left them as he went on a quest to be an artist in Greece.
Things begin to look up when she is reintroduced to Caleb, the dorky boy that saved her life one summer at the beach. Caleb is no longer scrawny and nerdy, he is now tall, dark and handsome. Caleb is a Light Tamer. Now, Jessie and Caleb must learn how to control the light...before they lose each other forever.
Jessie and Amber become fast friends. Amber is a no frills girl, her snarky comments and sassy attitude will raise a few eyebrows and have you laughing out loud. Amber is rough around the edges, a light tamer with only two years left to find the one she is bound to. Her father's surfing accident left her dad paralyzed and her brother dead.
This paranormal romance will keep you on the edge of your seat with humor, romance, and determination. Fall head over heels for Caleb and Jessie

Thoughts: When I agreed to read The Light Tamer for review, I was taking yet another chance at a new indie author. The reviews were great on Goodreads, but I found that I didn't like The Light Tamer and whilst I was able to finish it, I was left pretty disappointed.

There were a few problems I had with the book. First of all, I had a hard time liking Jessie, the protagonist. She is a teenager, but her thoughts, dialogue and actions were pretty immature and quite unrealistic. I didn't care for her because there was no real way for me to connect with her. I also did not find Caleb swoon-worthy, although he was pretty sweet at times. Their interactions were okay, but sort of predictable and not very interesting, even though he could read her mind. I found the secondary characters a bit...annoying. Jessie's grandma acted like a teenager, their friend Amber is a little punk with an attitude, but sort of mehh, and everyone else isn't really too important.

What drew me to this book was the concept. The idea of light tamers and their abilities is pretty neat, but the way the it was executed and explained in the book was rushed and sort of fell flat. Jessie's reactions to everything was unrealistic, and when the Shadows (the villains) were introduced in the plot, I knew where the story was going and wanted to quickly finish the book. The conclusion bothered me quite a bit, because it felt rushed but was also solved ridiculously simple. There was plenty of build up for what was going to happen and then, not much exciting or surprising did actually happen.

There were several flaws in the grammar and spelling, as well as in the e-version of the book itself. The font was really mixed up and looked like this half the time, but then would change back in the middle of sentences or paragraphs. It annoyed me, but I would have been able to look past it if I had enjoyed the book more.

Overall: I think The Light Tamer has a lot of potential and can definitely be fixed up. I did read an e-ARC of the book so the author might have edited the book some, but I have to sadly say though that at this time and the way it is, I did not like it. Perhaps others might enjoy it more and I do recommend you giving it a shot if it sounds like something you might enjoy, but it was not for me.

May 24, 2012

Review | The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey

Title: The Flight of Gemma Hardy
Series: N/A
Author: Margot Livesey
Genre: Adult Fiction - Historical/Retelling
Publication: 01.24.2012 by HarperCollins Publishers
Pages: 447
Source: TLC Book Tours
Rating: ★★★★½

Summary: Fate has not been kind to Gemma Hardy. Orphaned by the age of ten, neglected by a bitter and cruel aunt, sent to a boarding school where she is both servant and student, young Gemma seems destined for a life of hardship and loneliness. Yet her bright spirit burns strong. Fiercely intelligent, singularly determined, Gemma overcomes each challenge and setback, growing stronger and more certain of her path. Now an independent young woman with dreams of the future, she accepts a position as an au pair on the remote and beautiful Orkney Islands.

But Gemma's biggest trial is about to begin . . . a journey of passion and betrayal, secrets and lies, redemption and discovery that will lead her to a life she's never dreamed.

Thoughts: I've never read Jane Eyre and I was planning on reading it before I started The Flight of Gemma Hardy, but one thing led to another and I was short on time and it is. I read this one first and I had no way of comparing one to the other. The Flight of Gemma Hardy is a retelling of the classic Jane Eyre, set in 1960's Scotland, and whilst I had no idea what to expect really, I found the story rather fascinating and not at all what I expected.

What I liked:

• The characters: We meet Gemma as a young girl, rejected by her family and sent to a school where she must work to earn her keep. She lives a sad childhood, but learns from the world around her. She becomes tough and determined to achieve her goals, and this makes her a likable character. She grows a lot throughout the book and the author was able to create a girl who I only wanted to see happy and was able to really understand throughout the novel.

There are a lot of secondary characters as well, most which are important to the story and add a lot to Gemma's life. Livesey was able to develop them all enough that they each played an important role in changing Gemma as she grew throughout the book

• The writing: While I do not know how much is from the original novel, the writing was beautiful and vivid. Livesey captivated me with her descriptive writing, development of characters and amazing storytelling. I was able to enjoy this book wholeheartedly and while it took me a few sittings to finish the book, I enjoyed the writing thoroughly.

• The setting: The book takes place in Scotland, and partly in Iceland. I haven't been to either country but Livesey's descriptions of each were so amazingly done that I felt I could see them clearly. Livesey spent plenty of time describing the lands, streets, and homes. There was a lot of detail for the reader to enjoy.

• The romance: I am not sure how the original story goes, obviously, but I couldn't help but wait for something romantic to happen to Gemma. She lived such a sad life that I wanted her to find someone to fall in love with and be happy with. When she finally meets Mr. Sinclair, the anticipation of something to happen between them was killing me. While their romantic meetings were very simple, there was something very sweet about their interactions and time spent together. After each scene were they shared some dialogue, no matter how insignificant it was, I found myself sighing, hoping for more.

• The plot: Again, there is no way for me to compare this to the original, but I loved this story. While it is a simple tale of a young girl growing up and overcoming the obstacles that life has thrown at her, it is such an intricate story that was instantly immersed in and ended up adoring.

What I didn't like:

• The love: I mentioned above that I enjoyed the romance that was shared between Gemma and Mr. Sinclair, but I had a difficult time understanding why she loved him. What was it about him that really made her feel the way she did?

• The length: Most classics are a bit long, detailed, and sometimes, boring. While I don't feel that Gemma was boring or too detailed, some scenes seemed a little more prolonged than they needed to be.

• The ending: I wanted a few more pages. A little more explanation. Something to make me think that everyone was going to live happily ever after, after all. I think she did. But I want to be positive she does. I wonder how the original one ended?

Overall: The Flight of Gemma Hardy is definitely an enjoyable read for someone who hasn't read Jane Eyre, like myself, and who enjoys historical fiction. While there were only a couple of things that I feel could've been added, I found this to be a nicely written book that I am really glad I picked it. I might feel differently about the book once I read the classic and have something to compare to, but I am sure that fans of Jane Eyre will also find this a good read and definitely recommend it to everyone who enjoys classics and their retellings.

About the author: Margot Livesey grew up in a boys' private school in the Scottish Highlands where her father taught, and her mother, Eva, was the school nurse. After taking a B.A. in English and philosophy at the University of York in England she spent most of her twenties working in shops and restaurants and learning to write. Her first book, a collection of stories called Learning By Heart, was published by Penguin Canada in 1986. Margot is currently a distinguished writer in residence at Emerson College. She lives with her husband, a painter, in Cambridge, MA, and goes back to London and Scotland whenever she can.
Buy the book: Amazon

May 21, 2012

Review | The King's Rose by Alisa M. Libby

Title: The King's Rose
Series: N/A
Author: Alisa M. Libby
Genre: YA - Historical Fiction
Publication: 03.19.2009 by Dutton Children's Books
Pages: 320
Source: Bought
Rating: ★★★★

Summary: Appointed to the queen’s household at the age of fourteen, Catherine Howard is not long at court before she catches the eye of King Henry VIII. The king is as enchanted with Catherine as he is disappointed with his newest wife — the German princess Anne of Cleves. Less than a year from her arrival at court, Catherine becomes the fifth wife of the overwhelmingly powerful, if aging, King of England.

Caught up in a dazzling whirl of elaborate celebrations, rich gowns and royal jewels, young Catherine is dizzied by the absolute power that the king wields over his subjects. But does becoming the king’s wife make her safe above all others, or put her in more danger? Catherine must navigate the conspiracies, the silent enemies, the king’s unpredictable rages, as well as contend with the ghosts of King Henry’s former wives: the abandoned Catherine of Aragon, the tragic Jane Seymour, and her own cousin, the beheaded Anne Boleyn. The more Catherine learns about court, the more she can see the circles of danger constricting around her, the threats ever more dire..

Thoughts: I originally gave The King's Rose a three star rating, but when I was writing up this review, I realized that I liked this book a lot more. Historical fiction is one of my favorite genre's, especially reading about the Tudor court. When I first heard of The King's Rose, I wanted to read it because it was based on Catherine Howard, Henry VIII's fifth wife, who wasn't really known much.

What I liked:

• The book was written with a lot of detail, but kept simple enough that it didn't become dull the way some adult historical fiction books can be. The author kept me engaged with each page and I wanted to learn more at the end of each chapter. I ended up finishing this book fairly quickly because I was so intrigued by Catherine's story.

• Catherine Howard is a character we can sympathize with. She is used by her family to gain a higher status and is married to Henry by the age of fourteen. Even though she cares for him, we know she is in love with someone else. I felt sorry for her, especially because she is so troubled with her conflicting emotions.

• Being such a young character, she is naive in her role as queen. The author does an amazing job in creating such a realistic character for us to learn about, who really only focuses on keeping Henry happy and hopefully, producing an heir. Catherine is kept unaware of the political conflict and other important matters, and I feel that this is likely the most believable situation the author could have written for her.

• The appearance of Anne Boleyn in several parts of the book was quite surprising. Catherine was Anne's cousin and her biggest fear is to end up like her. Anne's memory haunts her throughout the book and it was an interesting addition that I wasn't expecting.

• The secondary characters are all well-written and not very likable. Catherine is just being used by her family/"friends" and this is made quite obvious to the readers. Catherine, a naive fourteen year old, can't quite see this and hopes that they want what is best for her.

• The ending was obvious, but still a bit heartbreaking and emotional. It was stretched out a bit more than I thought it would be, and the entire time I was hoping Henry would change his mind. It was a bit suspenseful, but if you are aware of the history, it was not at all surprising.

What I didn't like:

• While Catherine didn't whine a lot, she did seem a little self absorbed at times. All she really thought about was her dresses and what to plan next. These were, of course, distractions from her real troubles, but they got a tiny bit annoying. Some of her decisions were also very stupid and I have no idea why she thought she would get away with them.

• This was YA historical fiction, but I still expected a lot more detail to it the way most historical fiction is written. This sort of threw me off a little, but it wasn't bad. I kind of just hoped for a little more than was provided for some of the scenes.

• The length of the books is quite short and I wanted more. More detail would have made the book longer, but some might have found this a little dull, especially teens. I wanted more though.

Overall: I think The King's Rose a great addition to YA fiction because it is a topic that has not be written about as much. I recommend this to YA readers who enjoy historical fiction and/or learning about the Tudor court. It a fascinating, quick and simple read about the lesser known fifth wife of Henry VIII and her short time as queen.

Watch the trailer:

About the author: "I grew up in Natick, Massachusetts and attended public school. I've always wanted to be a writer, ever since I was a kid and wrote with crayons on construction paper. I had other career aspirations—trumpet player, archaeologist, unicorn—that didn't quite pan out, so I'm glad I stuck with writing.
I went to Emerson College in Boston, and majored in writing with a focus on fiction. I was thrilled to finally have the opportunity to take writing classes. I wrote a lot of bitter love sonnets and short stories with no plot, gradually realizing how much I had to learn."
Buy the book: Amazon