Saturday, December 28, 2013

Best of 2013

I know I've been pretty bad with keeping up this blog (what else is new), but I wanted to stop by to let all of you who continue to subscribe/read this know that I'm still here. I have kind of slipped with my reading a bit, but thank God for audiobooks.

I'd like to try to review a few books in the coming days and weeks, so stay tuned for those. In the meantime, here are my top picks from this year.

I realized right after I wrote this entire post that this is this coming Tuesday's Top Ten Tuesday topic, so I'll link to it then as well. Sorry I'm ahead of the game on this one!

1. The Kiki Strike series by Kirsten Miller. I was lucky enough to be chosen as a blogger to review The Darkness Dwellers, the third in the series, and the publisher was kind enough to send me the first two so I could read them all and catch up. I was a bit cowed by the amount of pages I had to read before the release date, but I needn't have worried; I flew through these. I hope there will be a fourth at some point.

2. See You at Harry's by Jo Knowles. I'm ashamed to say this is my first book I've read by Knowles, who I've met and is the sweetest person ever. This one got a rare 5-star review from me on GoodReads. It was that good. I listened to the audio, which was kindly sent to me by Candlewick Press, and which I immediately added to my library's audio collection. Heartbreaking but lovely, Kate Rudd's performance is spectacular and I'm so glad she won an Odyssey Award last year for The Fault in Our Stars (which I haven't listened to). This one is a winner.

Being Henry David
3. Being Henry David by Cal Armistead. After requesting this through NetGalley, I was surprised and then felt stupid when I realized I had actually worked with the author at B&N years ago, and knew her daughter from the store as well. This was especially fun for me to read because of this, and because a good portion of the novel takes place in Concord, Massachusetts, which is the next town over from where I work. Cal was kind enough to make a visit to my library for a talk and signing. Thanks, Cal!

Where'd You Go, Bernadette

4.  Where'd You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple. I read this because it won an Alex Award, and boy am I glad I did. What a fun book! It's written in documents, emails, and first-person narration from Bernadette's teen daughter, Bea. I recommend this one to a lot of people. You should read it!

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe 

5. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz. This got another 5-star review from me. Just a wonderful, quiet story that made me feel good. It deserved every single award it received.

The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom (The League of Princes, #1)

6. The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy. This book is probably the funniest book I've read all year. Love the fairy tale spoofs and the humor of this. The sequel was just as good. I can't wait for the third installment!

Skulduggery Pleasant (Skulduggery Pleasant, #1)

7. The Skulduggery Pleasant series by Derek Landy. Am I ever glad I decided to  listen to these audiobooks. Great humor and action, and great world-building with great characters. These are probably some of the best audiobooks I've had the pleasure of listening to. I'm currently listening to #3, and I hope I'll be able to find the rest of the series on audio somewhere (they were originally published in the U.K. and aren't as widely available in the states).

 The Whale Rider

8. The Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera. A beautiful little gem of a novel. This is a great crossover book too; it has both teen and adult appeal.

Carter Finally Gets It (Carter Finally Gets It, #1)

9. Carter Finally Gets It by Brent Crawford. I'm not sure this would have been so fantastic if I hadn't listened to Nick Podehl's narration, but I absolutely loved this. Extremely funny and entirely entertaining.

Ready Player One 

10. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. The only reason this is on the list is Wil Wheaton. His narration really made this for me. I tried to read it when it came out, but I just couldn't get past the sheer amount of '80s-ness and the absolute cynicism of the narrator. I was able to get through all of the exposition (there was a lot) with Wheaton telling me the story. And when it got going, boy did it get going.

I know the year isn't quite over, but I doubt the few books I'll be able to get in before January 1st will top these. I'll let you  know if I'm wrong, though.

Which books were your favorites from this year?

Monday, October 7, 2013

Book review: "Will in Scarlet" by Matthew Cody

Will in ScarletTitle: Will in Scarlet
Author: Matthew Cody
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2013

Will Shackley has grown up in a life of privilege, the son of a lord and sole heir to his father's household and keep. He spends his free time causing mischief, but must grow up quickly when he is forced to flee the only life he knows for one of uncertainty, danger, and revenge. Luckily, he is captured by a band of outlaws known as the Merry Men, who hope to gain a ransom for the young lad on such a fine horse.

Will, who renames himself Will Scarlet after a childhood nickname, manages to extend his life long enough to convince Much (a girl disguised as a boy), John Little the giant, and Rob, the band's drunk, to join him on a raid of his former home with the promise of a treasure. Of course, things don't go according to neither Will's nor the Merry Men's plan, and life gets even more interesting.

You really have to go into this book not expecting a straight-up Robin Hood retelling. This is much more of an origin story, before Robin was heroic and confident, before Will Scarlet was part of the Merry Men, before the Sheriff of Nottingham was the low and dastardly man we know. It really gives us a different way of looking at the characters, and as an adventure story it's very good, though a bit slow in the beginning. If some of the part about Will in his childhood home (also a castle) were trimmed a bit, I think it would be easier to get into. Yet once the action started I flew through it. 

I'm hoping there will be a follow up, since I'd like to hear more about these characters and their history. Plus, we haven't gotten to Friar Tuck just yet, and Maid Marian only has a not-even-really-passing mention. I would recommend this to anyone who likes a good medieval adventure tale with swords and trickery and good-hearted thieves. Knowing the Robin Hood tale is a plus, but if you're a huge fan just keep an open mind and stick with it because it won't be what you expect.

Disclosure: I received this e-galley from Edelweiss as a librarian reviewer. NetGalley rejected my request, boo.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Book review: "If I Ever Get Out of Here" by Eric Gansworth

TitleIf I Ever Get Out of Here
Author: Eric Gansworth
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books, 2013

If I Ever Get Out of Here opens right before Lewis Blake begins seventh grade. He is used to being one of the only Indian kids in his class at school, but he is tired of the loneliness; despite his attempts to fit in, he still struggles to be noticed and accepted. Then he meets a new kid from the air force base, George, and things start to change a bit.

George is Lewis's new connection to the white world, though he knows he can't invite his new friend to his home (his mother forbids it, as they live in poverty), and that he still has to deal with all kinds of prejudices at school and in town. Set in the late 1970s in upstate New York, Lewis tells his story about life growing up on the Tuscarora Reservation, going to a mostly white school, and trying to balance out two worlds in a place where loyalties are expected on one side or another. This is a book about friendship and acceptance of self and culture, especially when faced with extremely difficult and unfair situations.

I'm guessing that because this is a book about a boy on an Indian reservation who is one of the few non-white people in his class, it's inevitable that it will get comparisons to Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. But that, I think, is selling both works short. Gansworth's novel focuses on racism, injustice, and a semi-forbidden friendship, all wrapped up together with music (mostly Wings, The Beatles, and Queen). Alexie's is not presented as historical fiction and has more humor and tragedy than Gansworth's work. If I Ever Get Out of Here is more middle-school-friendly in terms of language and content, though it is still a bit hard to read emotionally speaking.

As I was reading this, I kept thinking how important it is to see how others are treated because of heritage or class. It might not be as blatant in our country as it was 30 or 40 years ago, but it still exists and it's important to see it through the target's eyes. It's also important if the reader has been a target him- or herself to see someone else in their same situation and how they handle it.

Lewis also has to deal with a pretty brutal bully, and coupled with the way the adults treat him because he is from the reservation, the situation turns from one of physical assault to that of abject hostility from every corner, especially school teachers and administration. The amount of strength and gumption Lewis has just astounds me, to be so brave and demand justice even when it seems so utterly hopeless.

I hope If I Ever Get Out of Here is widely read, though I'm not sure younger readers will stick with it long enough to finish. I hope I'm wrong about that, because there's a lot in here, and it might just have been me having trouble getting through it because of how sad it made me. Still, I'm really glad I read it and bought it for my library. We'll see if I can get a few kids to pick it up!

Disclosure: I received an e-galley from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a review.


Friday, August 23, 2013

I finally try out

Recently, there has been a huge surge in audiobook use. This is largely because of the easy access to the medium via smartphones and MP3 players and other devices (hooray technology!), and as a result, productions are getting better and better. For me, this is excellent news; I have been a long-time lover of audiobooks, ever since I would make the 6-hour drive to and from Ithaca during my college years. Back then my best (and really one of my only) audiobook friends was Bill Bryson, who is a wonderful narrator of his own works, but now I've expanded my use even more.

With a 40-minute commute to and from work, I don't know what I would do without my stories, and on my long training runs for my first half marathon (coming up in October), books help the time and the miles pass quickly. This is why I was excited to have the opportunity to try for free, after someone from their team reached out to me.
Audible is a subscription service available through that is expressly for audiobooks. You sign up for one of their plans, the most basic of which starts at $14.95/month, and in return you get one credit per month to spend on any audiobook available. One credit is usually equal to one audiobook, so basically you are paying the member fee for one book per month, plus you get member discounts on every other book. You can purchase however many books per month you want this way. I know that sometimes they have member sales and free titles for members, but as I only used the service for the free trial period, I haven't seen what those sales look like myself.

Audible has some other great perks that come with your membership. You can exchange any audiobook you buy, whether you pay for it in credits or with your credit card, for any other book if you don't like it, no questions asked (as a side note, this service disappears if you cancel your membership). There is also this mystical thing called Whispersync, which is super cool if you have a Kindle. Basically, if you are reading a Kindle book and are listening to the same audiobook, you can sync the two up so that if you put one version down, the other device will bring you right where you left off. Crazy new technology, I tell ya.

Once I bought my books using the credits I was given during my free trial, I just had to click "Download" to put them on my Mac and they automatically went to iTunes. I did have some trouble figuring out how to get them onto my iPod, since they didn't automatically sync with it, but after asking Twitter I figured it out (thanks Kimberly!). Turns out all I had to do was click and drag the files from iTunes to my iPod while the latter was connected to my computer. My first choice was Dad Is Fat by Jim Gaffigan, which was very funny and worth listening to on audio.

I loved my experience with Audible, and their selection is huge. If I wasn't a librarian and didn't get all my audiobooks for free through my library and Overdrive, I would definitely consider becoming a member. As it stands, though, I am able to get most of the books I want without having to pay for them, and my budget doesn't have enough wiggle room right now to pay for a service like this. Maybe one day!

I would like to say, though, that canceling was extremely easy and no-hassle. The best part is, I get to keep the audiobooks I bought with my credit even after cancellation—they are still available on my account when I sign in. And if I decide one day to rejoin, I can use that same account. It's all attached to your Amazon account, so if you already have one of those, you don't even need to give a separate credit card.

Interested? You can try it out for free for one month! Just click here. You'll get one credit to use, no obligations. If you decide to keep it, it will charge your credit card after one month and give you another credit. If not, it's easy to cancel.

I know I sound like a long commercial, but I really did like the service, and I love audiobooks. I think it's wonderful that this medium has gained so much popularity, and as a result, more people are reading.

Disclaimer: sponsored this post by providing me with credits to try their service. This in no way affected my review, and any opinions expressed here are my own.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Top Ten Things That Make Blogging Easier/Better

Another Tuesday, another Top Ten list. This week's topic: things that make blogging easier/better! Since I'm not the best blogger in the world, I might not make it to ten, but at least now I have access to a bunch of other ideas. Maybe I will stop slacking so much. Though you will see both of my choices from the original post over at The Broke and the Bookish, natch.

1. My nook. I love having an e-reader, not only for all the beautiful space it saves me, but for making it so easy to cart around over 100 books with me at all times. Too bad it feeds a nasty book-buying addiction, but hey, sacrifices. The good news: I don't spend money on e-books unless they are less than $3, $5 if it's a book I really want. I also like those Free Fridays B&N likes to do. As a result, I will never ever read all my e-books.

2. NetGalley and Edelweiss. Yes, these two sites are a Godsend for people who do not like paying for books and who don't like physical ARCs and galleys taking up valuable apartment space. Obviously, since I love and use my nook, this was the next step. The best part is, these are all books that haven't even been released yet. Win-win if I've ever heard one. Side note: I only just figured out how to get e-ARCs on Edelweiss (I KNOW) and I have to say, the selection is pretty awesome. Bonus points for me being a librarian and using "collection development" as a reason for reading ARCs, thus saving me from the pressure of feeling like I have to review every one. Because I definitely won't.

3. Blogger. Because there is no way I would be able to create a website from scratch and update it nearly as regularly (stop laughing) as I do now.

4. Goodreads. Ah, old reliable. How else would I have met all my online reading friends? It keeps all my books in order and organized, and I never would have even thought to start a blog if Jamie hadn't suggested we start a joint one on the College Students group three years ago.

5. The library. Remember how I was talking about not paying for books and saving space? Yeah, the library is awesome because I can take out e-books for my nook, physical books, audiobooks, and whatever other kinds of media I want really, for free. It helps that I'm a librarian, of course, and have all the know-how to find and get what I want. Side note: Ask your librarian if you want something and can't find it. They can most likely get it for you even if it's not in your library system.

6. Audiobooks. I get audiobooks from the library, thought I'd totally use Audible if I didn't have the library. Again, free. I love audiobooks. I love to listen to them during my 40-minute commute, while I run, and sometimes when I'm cooking. They are awesome and I get so much more reading done by listening than by actually sitting down to read, though I do a lot of that too. Side note: Did you know you can probably download e-audiobooks from your library's website?

7. Memes. Really, just Top Ten Tuesday. Because it gives me an excuse to post something without actually thinking about what I've read recently.

8. Bloglovin'. At the demise of Google Reader, I felt a little lost. But then I found Bloglovin', which changed my blogging world. It is SO MUCH EASIER to keep up with the blogs I follow, and I love it. (This is your cue to go click the button at the top of my page to follow me.)

9. Twitter. Because how else am I going to keep in touch with the reading world? Or really, the world at large for that matter. Yay Twitter!

That's really it for me at the moment. I know this kind of turned into an advertisement for libraries, but whatever, they are the best. Obviously no bias here. (Get your library card today!)

What things are on your top ten list? Head over to The Broke and the Bookish to share!

Monday, August 19, 2013

My review of audiobook "Three Times Lucky" by Sheila Turnage is on The Broke and the Bookish

Title: Three Times Lucky
Author: Sheila Turnage
Publisher: Penguin Audio, 2012 (print available from Dial)
Narrator: Michal Friedman 

I really liked listening to this audiobook, the print version of which nabbed a Newbery Honor this year. Mo LoBeau, rising sixth grader and our narrator, finds herself and her small NC town of Tupelo Landing in the middle of a murder mystery that ends up being years in the making.

To see my full review, visit The Broke and the Bookish here.

Hint: I liked it! And the audio was really great.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Book review: "The Madness Underneath" by Maureen Johnson

Title: The Madness Underneath
Author: Maureen Johnson
Publisher: Putnam, 2013

**Spoilers for The Name of the Star ahead! You've been warned.** 

After having been nearly killed by Alexander Newman, ghostly Jack the Ripper copycat and psychopathic ghost, Rory is getting therapy for the trauma. Unfortunately, she can't tell her therapist what really happened. Luckily, the Shades are able to pull some strings and get her sent back to Wexford, since they need her--her entire body is a terminus, and she's the only one left. Thus begins the second journey Rory takes into the ghostly world of London.

I really liked this book until the end. After the beginning in Bristol and Rory's clearly pending failure of all her courses, she goes on to more investigations with the Shades. About halfway through, maybe a little more, we are also introduced to a new set of characters who may or may not be trustworthy. We'll definitely be seeing more of them in the next book, however.

What bothered me about this book was not all the time spent on Rory's recovery, which some people didn't like, but how I felt like we were going in one direction and it just kind of... fizzled out. The first murder in the beginning hooked me, and I thought we'd be on that for a little while, but we just weren't. At book's end, I couldn't really piece together what the main plot was, so many different things were going on. There also wasn't a whole lot of ghost action.

And then we get to the ending. To avoid spoilers, I won't say more than I am completely disappointed with it and am not sure I want to bother reading the next book because of it. I probably will anyway, but still. I really have no idea how Johnson is going to make it work in the next book, but I'm guessing she has a plan, so I suppose we'll find out. I honestly can't see how I'll enjoy whatever resolution she'll come up with, however.

My expectations were high after having read The Name of the Star, but unfortunately they were not met by The Madness Underneath. I'm hoping the next book will redeem this one, but I'm having a hard time seeing how.

Disclosure: I took this book out from the library.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Top Books Set in Hawaii

I'm finally taking part in another Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, where I am also a contributor. It's been a while, and I'm pretty sure I've done a similar list of books set in Hawaii for The Broke and the Bookish, but whatever! It's really the only type of book I seek out. Without further ado, here are my top ten picks of books set in Hawaii, in no particular order.

1. Distant Echoes by Colleen Coble. This is the most recent of my Hawaii books, read just a couple weeks ago. Well-rounded characters and a thrilling mystery make for a great read.
2. Mai Tai One On by Jill Marie Landis. I loved this first book in the Tiki Goddess mysteries. These mysteries are funny and set on the beautiful island of Kauai. Plus it has a hilarious group of characters, including the Hula Maidens, a slightly elderly and very mouthy group of hula dancers. The mystery aspect just adds to the fun, even though some people die.

3. Shark Dialogues by Kiana Davenport. This is the real deal stuff, if you want to learn about the less than idyllic side of paradise. This novel is a look at the most recent history of Hawaii told over seven generations of women. It's a hefty book, but well worth reading.
4. Unfamiliar Fishes by Sarah Vowell. Narrative nonfiction at its best. This is about Hawaii's history, going back to Kamehameha I, up to its current state (pun intended). I learned so much about Hawaiian history and culture from this book, and Vowell's wry humor won me over right away.

5. The Aloha Quilt by Jennifer Chiaverini. I found this audiobook at my library and checked it out on a whim. I'm really glad I did. From my perspective, I thought Chiaverini did a great job with showing the tensions between native Hawaiians and the United States, but in a gentle story of healing for one of the Elm Creek quilters spending a few months with a friend on the island of Maui. I learned a lot about the Hawaiian style of quilting too, not that I know anything about regular quilting. I now want to check out the rest of the series, mostly because Christina Moore did such a wonderful job narrating.

6. Calvin Coconut series by Graham Salisbury. Salisbury, as someone who grew up in Hawaii, knows how to express the contemporary Hawaiian culture and the vernacular speech. This series is a great way for kids and adults to see what living on the islands is about, how everyday things are different from the mainland, and the differences and similarities between growing up in Hawaii and wherever the reader is from.

7. The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings. This book was good, but I'm actually going to go ahead and say this is one instance where the movie is better. George Clooney was more likable as the character in the movie, since we didn't hear his inner monologue as we did in the book, and really, he is kind of a jerk. But the movie is lovely, and the visuals are stunning.

That's pretty much all I have right now. These aren't all the books I've read set in Hawaii, but I didn't bother putting ones on here that I didn't really like. Plus I know I have a lot of ground to cover! If anyone can think of others they've loved set in Hawaii let me know! I'm all for adding good books to my TBR list.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Book review: "Since You Asked..." by Maurene Goo

Title: Since You Asked...
Author: Maureen Goo
Publisher: Scholastic, 2013

First off, love this cover. Except for maybe the color pink in the model's sunglasses, it seems pretty much perfect. This was a funny debut, and I would certainly check out Goo's next book, but I did have some issues.

Holly Kim is just starting her sophomore year. She has three best friends who are also her only friends, and she has a job on the school newspaper team as copy editor. However, things change real fast for Holly when she accidentally submits a joke column in the first newspaper issue of the year instead of the real one, and she somehow finds herself with a new job as columnist. This comes with mixed results, since she was kind of offensive and snarky in the joke column, so she gains some haters as well as, surprising to her, fans. Either way, Holly ends up snarking her way through 10th grade with her monthly column, and finds herself and her worldview changing a bit along the way.

I was actually surprised at how little this book has to do with Holly's column. At the beginning of each month, we are treated to her entries, so we as readers know exactly what the school is reading. However, from the description of the book I expected that to be the focus. It was not. Much of the book is about Holly trying to balance her American identity and her Korean heritage, made especially difficult by her strict parents (especially her mother) and her desire to have a "normal" American life. I actually got tired of reading how Korean her family is, as she seemingly takes every possible opportunity to mention it. As I kept reading, I did realize this is integral to the book and to Holly's identity, but sometimes it seemed too much.

The humor is good, and there are some clever lines and dialogue that I enjoyed. Again, at some points it seemed too much, but I was never put off by it.

One of my biggest problems is with the ending, if only because there are so many loose ends that aren't resolved. Because of this, I'm fully expecting there to be a sequel, since so much is left to uncertainty, and Holly obviously has some more growing to do, especially with some new obstacles thrown in her way at the end of the school year. If there isn't a sequel, I'll be disappointed.

Disclosure: I received this e-galley via NetGalley.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Audiobook review: "Of Poseidon" by Anna Banks

Title: Of Poseidon
Author: Anna Banks
Publisher: AudioGO!, 2013 (print available from
Narrator: Rebecca Gibel 

I really enjoyed listening to this audiobook, and I'm grateful to AudioSync for making it available for free for one week!

Emma, after meeting a strange boy named Galen and his twin sister Rayna, witnesses something horrific in the ocean in Florida. When she gets back home to New Jersey, all she wants is to forget what happened, but knows nothing will be the same for her again. Imagine her surprise when she sees Galen on the first day of school—and he's in all of her classes. Soon it becomes clear that Emma has a secret, though she doesn't even know what it is. And this secret may be the key to saving Galen's people.

Galen is Syrena, or as humans refer to them, a merman, and a Royal, no less. He knows Emma is Syrena too, and to make matters even more complicated, it looks as if she might have the gift of Poseidon, a gift that can save the Syrena race. But Galen must fight his growing attraction to her, since she must mate with his older brother to keep the peace between the two kingdoms of Syrena. Like I said, complicated.

There were a lot of things I liked about Of Poseidon and the world Banks has created. The Syrena culture is well thought out, and we learn about it as Emma does. I also liked the mystery surrounding Emma's parentage, since she grew up believing herself and her parents to be human. The romance didn't seem overdone to me, either. It's not love at first sight, though both Galen and Emma find themselves attracted to each other despite their best efforts. I was also pleased with the secondary characters, most notably Rayna, Toraf, and Rachel, who were fun to read about/listen to and added a lot of humor to the story.

The real kicker was the twist at the end. I kind of saw it coming, but not too far ahead of time, and the cliffhanger ending isn't too cliffhanger-y, if that makes se
nse. We know there is a second book, and we know the many questions and loose ends that will be addressed, but our MCs are not in any immediate danger or anything.

I thought Rebecca Gibel did a great job with the narration. She has a pleasant voice, I could distinguish each character easily, and she put the appropriate amount of emotion into the dialogue and Emma's inner monologue. I never felt it was over- or underacted. I would certainly listen to another book narrated by her.

I hope I can find a copy of Of Triton on audio soon, as I would love to continue listening to this story.

Disclosure: I got a copy of this audiobook through the free SYNC downloads this summer. Find this week's selections here!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Book review: "Aloha Rose" by Lisa Cox Carter

Title: Aloha Rose
Author: Lisa Cox Carter
Publisher: Abingdon Press, due out November 2013

One of the latest books in the Quilts of Love series from Abingdon Press, we travel to the Big Island, all because of a quilt.

After finally finding her birth family thanks to them recognizing the photograph of a quilt she was found in when she was a baby, Laney flies to the Big Island of Hawaii to meet them, hoping to find a place she can call her forever home. What she doesn't expect is the news that her birth mother is dead, nor the attraction she feels for Kai, adopted into the family after a turbulent childhood of his own. Laney looks for family and acceptance, all while trying to ignore her growing feelings for Kai, who is doing his best to ignore his own feelings for Laney.

This was not the best written book I've ever read, for sure, but if you like the Love Inspired series from Harlequin, this would be a good series to try. It's Christian fiction so there is a lot of that, which I like, but I know not everyone does.

The romance was a bit unbelievable for me; it felt like they fell for each other way too fast, and I would have liked less of the internal monologue of sappiness from both main characters.

Toward the end we got a few nice twists and some action, which were much needed, so all in all it wasn't too bad. I wish there had been a bit more action or exploration of the island, or more development earlier in the book in Laney's relationships with the other newfound members of her family. I don't think I'll be reading other books in this series, but that's just because they're not really my thing.

This book would be completely appropriate for teen readers, considering there is minimal physical romance, just emotional.

Recommended to fans of Christian fiction, romance, and the Love Inspired series from Harlequin.

Disclaimer: I got a copy of this e-galley via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Book review: "The Sea of Tranquility" by Katja Millay

Title: The Sea of Tranquility
Author: Katja Millay
Publisher: Atria Books, 2013

Nastya starts school in a new school district, one far away enough that she doesn't think anyone will recognize her as that girl. We don't learn right away what happened to her, but we know it was traumatizing enough that she has decided to stop speaking. But when she finds Josh's garage one night when she gets lost while running (a way for her to achieve complete exhaustion and some form of relief), she knows her life has changed forever.

Josh has no clue why the new girl chooses his garage to visit night after night, and he tries to get her to leave, but it's not working. He's used to being alone, to losing everyone close to him, and he's not about to start getting close to someone now. But this girl just won't quit. Soon they're pushed together not only by her compulsion to be with him in his garage, but by an unlikely mutual friend. And slowly, Nastya starts opening up.

This is a book about incredible loss, grief, love, and healing. Nastya's life was shattered two years before the book opens, but we have no idea what happened; we only know she was brutally attacked and left for dead. Josh's story is more quick in being revealed, but it's pretty heartbreaking. These teens have been through more in their short lives than many adults have, so it's no wonder they gravitate toward each other. I loved how Millay paced the reveal of Nastya's past; I thought she did it perfectly, slowly giving us clues until Nastya finds the courage to narrate it to us, or say it aloud. The romance was slow burning too, one that develops over time, and with some outside help.

I honestly wasn't impressed with the writing when I started reading this, with certain phrases and similes seeming forced and insincere, but that dissipates as the book progresses. And personally, I found the ending incredibly poignant and delightfully unexpected.

I ended up liking this one, if not for the prose, than for the character development and the story. Toward the end it turns into a bit of a thriller, and the compulsion to know what happened to Nastya kept me turning the pages. I'd recommend this one to a fan of YA who likes drama, a little mystery, and romance, especially if they tend to read books with darker themes. A light-hearted romance this is not.

Disclosure: I received an e-galley of this book via NetGalley.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Book review: "In Too Deep" by Coert Voorhees

Title: In Too Deep
Author: Coert Voorhees
Publisher: Disney Book Group; July 9, 2013

This is a good old-fashioned treasure-hunting adventure. Well, maybe not exactly old-fashioned. Annie is an expert scuba diver, seeing as how her mother owns a dive shop in Los Angeles, and she is way into the historical treasures that have been lost over the centuries, thanks to her history teacher and treasure loving father. These two things lead Annie to an adventure she never dreamed she could be a part of. During a spring break trip to Mexico, her teacher who also happens to be a part-time treasure hunter enlists her help in finding the Golden Jaguar, a mythical golden statue that was said to have been lost centuries ago and was purportedly hidden by Cortes. Annie eventually finds herself on a secret treasure hunt with her super huge (and super rich) crush, Josh, son of an Oscar-winning actress—and trying to stay one step ahead of dangerous men who want the jaguar even more than they do.

While I was reading this book, I eventually came to the conclusion that I felt like I was reading a book version of a Disney original movie. It had that playfulness I associate with those cheesy movies, and the dialogue was pretty similar as well, though it might have been a bit funnier and wittier. I found myself chuckling a few times at some of the things Annie or her friends say.

If you like traveling through literature, this is a nice choice to take a quick vacation. They hit Mexico, Hawaii, and go up and down the coast of California, all while looking for clues to this treasure. I could have used more description of setting, but I'm greedy like that when it comes to Hawaii. Side note: I am kind of upset that they went to Molokai and there is only a passing reference to the fact that the island was a leper colony for years. Voorhees had the opportunity to talk about real history and decided to forgo it for "history" that is most likely largely fabricated.

This is pretty fast-paced with a cute little romance, helped along by enormous amounts of money. Annie is not rich herself, but her friends are all either in show business or related to someone in show business. Funds eventually become unlimited, leaving plenty of room for the action to progress without a financial hitch. Not exactly believable in most circumstances, but after all we're reading about treasure hunters and what I guess you could call pirates, so I'm already fine with suspending my disbelief.

If you want a cute, action-adventure rom-com, especially one set in sunny and exotic locales, give this one a shot.

Disclosure: I got this e-book via NetGalley.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Author visit at my library

Hi everyone! For those of you who have read Cal Armistead's debut novel, Being Henry David, and if you live in the Boston area, you might be interested to know she will be visiting my library this coming Tuesday. I'd love for you to join us for her presentation and Q&A. Here are the details:

Gleason Public Library, Carlisle, MA
Tuesday, April 30, 7 p.m.

Come meet local author and former Carlisle resident Cal Armistead, whose first novel, Being Henry David, was just published in March. She'll talk about her background and how she came to get her work published, her writing process, and her inspiration for writing Being Henry David. Then there will be a Q&A session, followed by a signing. Copies of Being Henry David will be available for purchase.

Set mostly in Concord, Massachusetts, Being Henry David follows a 17-year-old boy who can’t remember who he is, why he’s waking up alone at Penn Station in NYC, or why his only possession is a beat-up paperback copy of Henry David Thoreau’s Walden. Taking the author’s name as his own and shortening it to Hank, he sets off to find his identity and starts the best place he can think of: Walden Pond. This is Cal Armistead’s first novel.
If anyone is interested in reading a short review I wrote, you can see it here. Otherwise, feel free to ask me any questions!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

A note on what happened in Boston and Watertown

Poster found on Facebook. I thought it pretty much summed it up.
This has been quite a week, especially for those of us in the Boston area. First the bombings at the marathon, followed by a few days of processing and trying to heal, then the day of terror yesterday. I live in Watertown, about 1-2 miles from where everything happened yesterday, and I just wanted to extend my thanks to the police and officials who worked so hard to ensure our city is safe. I commend them for not only capturing the suspect, but capturing him alive. I thank God that no one else had to die to come to this, the best outcome we could hope for.

Yesterday was a very scary day. It all started at just before 3 a.m., when we got a reverse 911 call warning us of an incident in progress and telling us to stay in our homes. We immediately started following the news, huddling underneath our comforter on the floor, away from the windows. It continued into the day. We were all in lock down, afraid to leave our houses for fear of accidentally running into a terrorist described as armed and extremely dangerous. I would get spooked by normal things, like a car driving by (seriously, why are you driving around Watertown, go home), people walking around, or a gust of wind that sounded like it could be a far-off explosion. At one point someone was bouncing a basketball next door, and I got very worried. I made my husband check to see if our basement door was locked, apparently twice. We were all on edge. I couldn't even concentrate to read to get my mind off things until late into the afternoon, when I read maybe 20 pages in a Virgin River book.

Watching the news coverage, I recognized the stores I pass on a daily basis, the Armenian shops and bakeries where I buy food, streets that are just around the corner from my church. It was surreal.

And when they finally ended it, when it was all over, I was so happy to see the celebrating citizens on Mt. Auburn Street. I wanted to go join them, but at that point I was too exhausted and was happy to just spend the evening at home with my husband and our friends who lived in the apartment downstairs. It was a long day, but it ended in relief, celebration, and knowing that we were being protected by a dedicated and excellent police force.

So thank you, Massachusetts police, thank you Watertown police especially. Thank you to God. Thank you to everyone who worked to make sure we are once again safe in this city we love.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Book review: "Nantucket Blue" by Leila Howland

Title: Nantucket Blue
Author: Leila Howland
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion; May 7, 2013

Cricket is looking forward to summer vacation, especially after her best friend Jules Clayton asks if she wants to spend the summer with her and her family on the island of Nantucket. She can't wait to spend the summer lying on the beach and working on becoming the girlfriend of Jay Logan, the guy she's had a crush on since 8th grade. But when Jules and her family must deal with a devastating loss, Cricket is left to figure out her own way to spend the summer on the island—while trying to figure out why Jules won't talk to her anymore. Things just get even more complicated when she begins to see Jules's younger brother in a different light.

For the most part I enjoyed this summery read, but it's not my favorite for a number of reasons. One of the first things I noticed (though this was a smaller thing) was how looks-obsessed Cricket is. There is a lot of body image stuff, and she even complains at one point how a boy can be larger and use it as a personality trait while girls have to feel insecure about their non-existent cellulite. I took issue with this, mostly because I didn't appreciate her dismissal of boys and body image. Boys have body issues too, and to say they can use it as a personality trait makes it seem like no boys are self-conscious of their bodies. There were other instances where Cricket is pretty critical of bodies in general, like with Liz (who doesn't care at all by the way, which I loved) who is apparently more full figured. But anyway, that was a minor thing that just bothered me. And to be fair, I can't really remember all the details, so I might be off base; let me know if you think so.

Another issue I had was with the characters. I didn't really feel like I understood why all of a sudden Jules was such a terrible person to Cricket, who granted pushed herself way too far into the Clayton family. Possible spoiler, but not really: Okay, Jules did lose her mother, but from what Cricket describes the way she reacts seems too far off base for me to get why she completely severs their friendship and becomes such a mean person. I couldn't suspend my disbelief considering how inseparable they were prior to Jules' mom's death.

Cricket isn't my favorite person either, mostly because she can't seem to make a good decision until the very end of the book. I kept yelling at her in my head to NOT DO THAT while I was reading, but alas she couldn't hear me. I never really felt like I connected with the characters or understood the reasons behind their actions, and if I did I didn't really care. Zack was the most likable main character, as he seemed like a real person and more fully developed, though Liz is thoroughly enjoyable as a secondary character (new friend from England, works at the same hotel Cricket ends up working at).

Despite these flaws, there were some things I liked about the novel. My favorite element was the use of the book of Emily Dickinson poetry that Cricket's mom used as a diary when she spent a summer on the island, a book that Cricket ends up with because she has the same summer reading her mom did when she was in high school. Cricket tries to help her mother get out of her depression caused by her divorce from Cricket's father, trying to find clues in the diary to lure her out to Nantucket to meet someone and start dating again. I do like a little mother-daughter understanding/bonding.

The setting was also wonderful. I've only been to Nantucket once, but it made me want to go back for a vacation and just enjoy what the place has to offer. I can't wait for beach weather.

Even though there are certainly elements that turned me off from the book, Nantucket Blue has enough redeeming qualities to make it a decent summer read, provided you like drama and romance. I would recommend it for the lovely setting and the bit of mystery surrounding Cricket's mom's diary, but that's just me.

Disclosure: I got a e-book for review via NetGalley.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Book review: "Things I Can't Forget" by Miranda Kenneally

Title: Things I Can't Forget
Author: Miranda Kenneally
Publisher: Sourcebooks, 2013

In this third novel by Miranda Kenneally, she continues to write about teens in the Tennessee community of Hundred Oaks High, though this time it's summer and Cumberland Creek camp is the setting. Kate Kelly is a good girl who has always followed what she was told God wants for her life, until her best friend gets pregnant and needs her help with getting an abortion. Consumed with guilt, she heads off to her Christian camp where she is a counselor for the summer, hoping to find some sort of peace but not counting on it. What she does find is an unexpected friendship with classmate Parker and a very unexpected romance with an old friend. But she'll need to learn to forgive herself and let go of the past if she's going to be able to move forward.

Known for her teen romances that fuse sports with faith and personal struggles, Kenneally moves away from the sports aspect in this book and focuses on the rest. Kate used to play soccer, but her athleticism was almost completely taken away from her after tearing her ACL before the beginning of this book. She has to figure out what to do with herself and redefine herself without soccer, and without her best friend in her life.

There are a lot of great things about this book. I think it fills a niche in the YA market—a book examining belief while at the same time dealing with real issues. I feel like usually when I read books that talk about Christianity or religion, they are either super Christian with a clear message, only slightly touch on faith, or end up with the main character really not sure what they believe anymore. This is a refreshing take, for me, because it does deal with faith and religion, but also with issues like sex that confuse many young people if it clashes with what they've been taught. What I loved was how Kate looks at what she personally believes despite what others try to tell her, whether the "others" are the people at her church or her friends. In the end, she begins her journey toward figuring out her religious and moral beliefs. I could directly identify with her struggles, as I remember going through that myself, and I don't think you need to be a Christian in order to understand or relate.

There are a lot of subplots sprinkled throughout the novel, but they all tie in to what Kate is going through. Everything that happens to her contributes to her evolving worldview and makes her into a stronger person. I was also glad to see how much her father supports her in pretty much everything; at first it seems like he might be a bit controlling, but it becomes clear that Kate is wrong about what her dad wants for her. He just wants her to be happy, and I love that.

Though this isn't the best-written novel out there, it definitely has a place in today's culture. I would highly recommend this to teens who are dealing with this confusion, or anyone who enjoys teen romance with some depth. I'm looking forward to Kenneally's next book, Racing Savannah, out in December.

Disclosure: I got this e-book via NetGalley.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Book review: "Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe" by Benjamin Alire S´aenz

Title: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
Author: Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2012

Aristotle is a loner. He tends to be quiet and keeps to himself. He doesn't really have any friends, until he meets Dante. Dante is everything Ari is not. He's open, talkative, and sees the beauty all around him. He's not afraid to talk about things that may be uncomfortable for others, like Ari. Despite their differences, they're friends. Best friends. But friendship isn't always cut and dry, and life isn't always simple.

This is a story that focuses on friendship, growing up, and what it means to be an adult, to be a man instead of a boy. Sáenz's prose is short and to the point, but it cuts to the heart of a matter even when Ari, our narrator, isn't sure what he thinks. That, for me, is one of the most endearing things in this entire book. Ari's unsureness, and his quietness. He speaks only when he knows exactly what he wants to say, and is completely honest and open to the reader in all things, even if he won't say them out loud.

This isn't the kind of story where plot is central. Very few major events take place. This is a book driven by character, and it's hard not to like the characters we come to know. Of course there is Ari, who I just love, and Dante, the dreamer. But there are also their parents. Dante's father is an outgoing, intelligent, likable man who believes the best about everyone, and his mother is quiet but firm, an observer. Ari's father is silent more than quiet, a survivor of the Vietnam War who has his own demons to contend with. Ari's relationship with his father really grows through the course of the book; they are very much alike in that they keep things to themselves, but as the book progresses we see them open up to each other. Ari gets along well with his mother, who urges him to talk to her about his life, yet keeps secrets that are too painful for her to bear about family history. The more I think about it, the more I'm realizing another major theme in this book is silence and its effects.

Of course, I can't review this book without mentioning Dante's openness about his realization that he's gay, and that he is strongly attracted to Ari. This of course confuses Ari, who can't bring himself to believe he might share those feelings. The novel goes on to explore the nature of love, and what it means for each character. Because as Ari says, people can love in different ways. Their relationship is handled delicately and without too much real conflict, but it seems so realistic, and that's another reason that sets it apart for me. I think the tone Sáenz struck is rare and beautiful.

What really truly makes this book memorable for me, though, is the triumph, hope, and joy I felt after finishing. It takes a lot for a book to do that to me, but this one accomplished that. Truly it was a wonderful read, and I'm thinking the Printz committee this year really knew what they were doing since I've liked both the books I've read that won this year. I'd also like to point out that this book was the winner of both the Stonewall Award and the Pura Belpre Award.

Disclosure: I got a copy of this book from the library.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Book review: "The Magic Thief" by Sarah Prineas

Title: The Magic Thief
Author: Sarah Prineas
Publisher: HarperTrophy (an imprint of HarperCollins), 2008

This is a fun fantasy for younger readers, around middle grade and possibly a bit younger, as well as of course anyone else who likes MG fantasy. It's the story of Connwaer, a gutter thief who lives in the Twilight (a rough part of the city of Wellmet). He tries to steal a wizard's locus magicalicus, which is basically like a wand but in the form of a stone, and that's where the adventure starts. He ends up the wizard's apprentice, sort of by accident, and ends up trying to save the city from losing all of its magic, as well as its lifeblood.

I really enjoyed this first book in the series. Conn is a great character, tricky and thieving when he needs to be, but loyal and truthful down to his core. Nevery, the wizard, is a grump, but a grump with a heart of gold. And the secondary characters are just as enjoyable.

The story is fun, too, though this first adventure is really just a gateway into the rest of Conn's apprenticeship in my opinion. Here, characters are established, Conn's ability is revealed, and an open ending leaves the return of villains an almost certainty.

I look forward to the next books in the series. I'd recommend this to fans of the Bartimaeus trilogy by Jonathan Stroud and Megan Whelan Turner's books.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Book review: 2013 Printz Award Winner "In Darkness" by Nick Lake

Title: In Darkness
Author: Nick Lake
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's, 2012 

In this powerful story, we learn how circumstances can shape who a person becomes. This is the story of a teenage gang member stuck under the rubble after the Haiti earthquake in 2010 told in tandem with the story of Toussaint L'Ouvreture, the man that freed Haiti's slaves. Shorty, a 15-year-old gangster in the most dangerous part of Haiti, finds himself trapped beneath tons of rubble after the earthquake of 2010, with nothing but darkness and death surrounding him. He begins to tell us, who he calls the "voices in the darkness," his history. We also read, through third-person narration, the story of the slave Toussaint, who led his people to freedom and their own government.

It is clear why this was the winner of the 2013 Printz Award. The story is compelling, both of them together; Shorty has grown up in terrible poverty, surrounded by gang violence and political unrest. He has seen family members, friends, and neighbors killed, to the point where it is almost normal. And so, he falls in with the gang of his neighborhood, because he believes that way he will get his abducted sister back and get his revenge.

Meanwhile, we're learning how Toussaint was successful in some things, but not in others. It's history, so it's not a spoiler, but we are living the revolution along with him. What really made this fictionalized history stand out was Toussaint's spirit connection with Shorty and the Haiti of 2010. In visions, he sees Haiti through Shorty's eyes, and knows what he dreams is possible, though perhaps not as peaceful as he hopes.

The writing is superb, though it helps if you know a little bit of French or Creole. There is a lot of vernacular throughout Shorty's sections, and you can see what most of it means in the context of how it's used, but it makes for a more challenging reading experience.

What really got me with this title is the characters. It was hard to read about how violent they all are, and the evil acts they all do, but I have to say Lake wrote them in such a way that I understood why they became what they did, and still see their humanity. I could see why Shorty fell in with the Route 9 gangsters. There was one scene I couldn't stop thinking about where Biggie talks to his mother on the phone, and I cried.

If you're up for the challenge of the dark content and the difficult language, this is a book not to be missed.

Disclosure: I got this book from the library.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Book review: "Going Vintage" by Lindsey Leavitt

Title: Going Vintage
Author: Lindsey Leavitt
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's Books, will be out March 26, 2013

When Mallory finds out her boyfriend Jeremy has an online girlfriend, named BubbleYum no less, she is humiliated, shocked, and hurt. When the situation starts to snowball out of control and she is a target of abuse  on Friendspace (the fictional equivalent of Facebook), Mallory decides to completely swear off technology, especially after finding a list her grandmother wrote in 1962 at the beginning of her own junior year of high school: become the secretary of the pep club (for Mallory this means starting one first), sew a homecoming dress (after learning to sew), find a steady (not necessarily for herself—swearing off boys), host a soiree, and do something dangerous. But accomplishing everything on the list, along with her other responsibilities, without any technology that was available in 1962 is no easy task as it turns out. She enlists help from her sister, and accidentally gets the help of Jeremy's hipster cousin, but it's her connection with her grandmother that proves to be the most difficult to make.

This is a fun, upbeat addition to teen literature. Mallory is a very likable person, and very funny, even if she is sometimes squashed by others (i.e. Jeremy). I was amazed at how well she handled the whole Friendspace fiasco, especially after she started receiving threatening text messages from strangers who apparently are all Team Jeremy. She never lets anything bother her to the point of despair, bouncing back from everything that is thrown from her. I loved her determination to stick to the rules she gives herself, with of course the help from her sister Ginnie. She really tries to get into the period, which by the way readers will also start to get a feel for from all the information Leavitt gives us through the story.

There are so many subplots to the story, mostly dealing with Mallory's relationships with others (her mother, sister, grandmother, dad, and Oliver, who happens to be Jeremy's cousin), and yet it all flowed together so smoothly. I rooted for her every step of the way. Her "going vintage" is a journey of self-discovery, making her realize her own self-worth yet also seeing that she is not always the reason for another person's actions or emotions. She can be so very clueless, but it's part of what I liked about her. (Cluelessness also seems to run in the family, as her parents were pretty good at that too.)

If you're looking for a pick-me-up, look no further than Going Vintage by Lindsey Leavitt. Light and fun with some depth and great characters, it's got everything going for it.

Disclosure: I received an e-galley of this book for review via NetGalley.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Audiobook review: "See You At Harry's" by Jo Knowles

Title: See You At Harry's
Author: Jo Knowles
Publisher: Candlewick on Brilliance Audio, 2012 (print available from Candlewick)
Narrator: Kate Rudd

Twelve-year-old Fern feels invisible most of the time. Her parents run a restaurant, her older sister Sarah is taking a gap year before going to college, and her older brother Holden is absorbed in his own problems as a freshman who is figuring out his own life. Three-year-old Charlie, the baby of the family, is the only one who seems to notice Fern, though it's not always a welcome attention. In fact, Fern is usually the one who ends up watching Charlie when her parents and siblings are too busy to take notice, to her great annoyance.

But soon a terrible tragedy turns everything upside down, and Fern has no idea what to do or how to deal with it all. Guilt, mixed in with denial and intense grief, invade her life and her family's. Together, they must find a way to heal in a world that will never be the same for them.

This is an excellent audiobook, and an excellent story. Jo Knowles based a lot of it on her personal experience of growing up in a family-run restaurant, and also having an older brother who is gay. It all feels very genuine, especially when tragedy strikes and the family is thrown into the depths of grief and sorrow. It feels very personal and intimate, and tells the heart-wrenching and ultimately hopeful journey through all that, plus all the other crap that can happen in middle and high school. Fern and Holden have to deal with some incredibly nasty bullies, both peers and adults.

I listened to the audio, and Kate Rudd does an excellent job in her narration. She IS Fern. Her acting skills are never too much, yet we hear all of the emotions, the tiny catches of breath and yells, everything. I didn't want to shut my car off after reaching each destination because I wanted to hear what happened next. Another cool thing the producers did was layer Rudd's voice on words and phrases that people speak together, which is something I've never heard before.

There are so many pieces to this story, and I'm amazed at how well Knowles is able to give us all the information we need, show the subtleties in each character, craft the developing relationships, show us how Fern is growing up, illustrate how not one of these people is anywhere near perfect yet leading us to care for them, and to do it all with such beauty. I'm hoping this will win at least a Newbury honor. This is my first book I've read by Knowles, but it won't be my last.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this audiobook from the publisher. This in no way influenced my reaction to the book or my review.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Book Review: "Splintered" by A.G. Howard

Title: Splintered
Author: A.G. Howard
Publisher: Amulet Books, 2013

Alyssa Gardner is descended from a long line of madness, beginning with her great-great-great grandmother, Alice Liddell. Her grandmother Alicia drew Wonderland characters all over her walls when she was a teen and believed she could fly, jumping to her death shortly after giving birth to Alyssa's mother, Alison. Alison, residing in a psych ward, talks to flowers and bugs, and refuses to eat anything unless it's served in a teacup. Alyssa knows it's only a matter of time before she ends up in a straitjacket herself. After all, she too can hear the flowers and the insects...

But all this madness turns out to be for a reason. Alice, it turns out, really did fall down the rabbit hole, but the events of the story are a bit different than Lewis Carroll's version. When Alyssa discovers she might be able to fix her family and its curse, she is thrown into Wonderland along with her best friend Jeb and discovers allies in the netherworld, chiefly Morpheus, surprisingly sexy and seductive Caterpillar of Wonderland fame. Soon Alyssa discovers she can't be sure who she trusts; will she be able to save her mother and herself before it's too late, or will she be trapped in Wonderland forever?

This is a wonderfully grotesque and twisted view of Wonderland, and I give A.G. Howard serious credit for her world building. Wonderland is full of deformed creatures, often a mishmash of animals and mythical beings that resemble something you'd find in a nightmare. It's chaotic and morbid, mad and strange, and it was everything (and more) I really wanted Tim Burton's Wonderland to be in his disappointing film.

I did have problems with some aspects, however. The story was choppy in the beginning, with things happening very quickly; it was all a little too rapid to be quite believable to me. And at first I thought Jeb's inclusion in the adventure was purely so Alyssa could be in the center a love triangle with him and Morpheus. Luckily, it smoothed out a bit toward the middle. There are some surprising and fantastic twists that I didn't see coming, which more than redeemed the beginning bits for me.

I actually found myself enjoying the love triangle, something that usually bugs me. (The passion got a bit heavy-handed and cloying for my tastes, but I'm certain I'm going to be in the minority when it comes to that.) It was clear that each man represented a different part of Alyssa's self; light and dark, order and chaos. I found myself unsure of who to "root" for, so to speak, both of them are so much a part of who Alyssa is and could be. And that was really at the center of this novel: Alyssa's discovery of her self, and choosing which path to take.

If you're a fan of the original, this is worth the read, especially if you're into a darker and more twisted telling. Some surprising and welcome twists make this truly an original re-imagining of a classic tale.

Disclosure: I received an e-galley from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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