Michelle’s Review: Jane by April Lindner

Michelle’s Review: Jane by April LindnerJane by April Lindner
Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers on 2010-10-11
Genres: Classics, Love & Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 384
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Forced to drop out of an esteemed East Coast college after the sudden death of her parents, Jane Moore takes a nanny job at Thornfield Park, the estate of Nico Rathburn, a world-famous rock star on the brink of a huge comeback. Practical and independent, Jane reluctantly becomes entranced by her magnetic and brooding employer and finds herself in the midst of a forbidden romance. But there's a mystery at Thornfield, and Jane's much-envied relationship with Nico is soon tested by an agonizing secret from his past. Torn between her feelings for Nico and his fateful secret, Jane must decide: Does being true to herself mean giving up on true love?An irresistible romance interwoven with a darkly engrossing mystery, this contemporary retelling of the beloved classic Jane Eyre promises to enchant a new generation of readers.

Bottom Line Up Front: I was missing the ghost story element of this that was present for Jane Eyre, and it felt like a hollow retelling to me.

That sounds really harsh, I know. But as with any time that I don’t particularly enjoy a book, I understand that in the end of the day it was just not my cup of tea. It might be yours.

I found that while I really enjoyed the original, there was just something missing from this retelling. I couldn’t get over the grossness of the relationship between Jane and Nico. He’s just so much older than she is and didn’t feel old for her age either. Perhaps the original benefits from the historical lens where perhaps the age difference matters less.

The twist of Nico being a rock star I think worked. It gave him certain liberties that were needed for the retelling.

But when asked about this book, I think the most I can say is: what if Mr. Rochester was a rock star? The book was missing important elements from the original and made few other changes to make it stand out as its own story.

If you want to read about rock stars, perhaps this is a fair choice for you. If you want to read a haunting story, perhaps the original is better.

pj - michelle

Christina’s Review: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Christina’s Review: The Fault in Our Stars by John GreenThe Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Published by Penguin on 2012-01-10
Genres: Death & Dying, Love & Romance, Self-Esteem & Self-Reliance, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 336
Format: eBook
Now a Major Motion PictureTODAY Book Club pickTIME Magazine’s #1 Fiction Book of 2012

May’s book club pick was The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. This book is a popular book many have already read, and I know many have enjoyed. Please do not hate me or take this the wrong way when I say I am glad I am through this book and do not intend to read it again…

Recently on our Playing Jokers Facebook page, we posted the article: 16 Books to Read and Love Forever. This book was on the list… do you agree with it belonging here? I guess I should get into my review and thoughts before I answer this…

The Fault in Our Stars follows a teenage girl, Hazel, on her journey with cancer. Her parents push her to go out of the house and hang out with her friends more, so she does. While in her weekly cancer support group, she meets the handsome Augustus and the story really begins… Hazel and Augustus begin a friendship that turns into a romance of the ages. There is humor and tears intertwined with life lessons, experiences, inspirations and difficult times. The reader will be brought through a roller-coaster of emotions as they fall for Hazel and Augustus and wish for them a happily ever after.

For me, the story told is not truly about Hazel. Hazel may be the person whose life experiences are followed and who the reader sees through the eyes of. However, the story is more about Augustus. Augustus has his own hardships he has had to endure, particularly with losing his leg to cancer. He, like Hazel, grows through the book. The Fault in Our Stars reads as a definite YA, coming of age and understanding, book.

Now for the grit…

This book was hard for me to read. It was a book club pick and I wanted to contribute to the discussion, so I picked it up on a Friday night and read through it, finishing it by Saturday afternoon. I just had to get through it and did not want to linger on it. I had a feeling that would be the case going into it… as I got a couple of chapters in this initial thought was confirmed… I just was not ready to handle it. The Fault in Our Stars caused me to relive experiences I did not want to remember. I do not want to remember those hard times a loved one experienced but rather the beautiful memories I had shared with them before… I will not go further here on my personal experiences…

The Fault in Our Stars was revealing of the monster cancer is. It does not matter where you are in your life… 6…50…90 years old. Cancer is destructive and does not care about time or the person it eats. It does not care about love and the people around. Cancer is an evil in this world I would give anything for to cure it and give life back to those it stole from.

So for those who have not read this book: I felt it was a good book to read and understand the power and effects cancer can have. However, if you are familiar with cancer and its effects, this can be a hard book to read. For me, it was and I was not ready for it. Instead of making me attach myself to the love story taking place, I was caught up on the side effects of cancer told. So to answer the question I asked above if I believe this book should be included in Huffington Post’s article on “16 Books to Read and Love Forever” – no, I do not feel this book should be included. It is hard to like a book that brings back sad memories of loved ones, rather than the happy, beautiful, loving times you spent with them. I have returned this book to the library and will not revisit it again after book club.

I really hope I do not offend anyone… these opinions are my own. I just wanted to share because, sometimes, it helps.

pj - christina

Michelle’s Review: For the Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund

Michelle’s Review: For the Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana PeterfreundFor Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund
Published by Harper Collins on 2012-06-12
Genres: Family, General, Love & Romance, Visionary & Metaphysical, Young Adult
Pages: 448
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Fans of Divergent will love Diana Peterfreund’s take on Jane Austen’s Persuasion set in a post-apocalyptic world. In the dystopian future of For Darkness Shows the Stars, a genetic experiment has devastated humanity. In the aftermath, a new class system placed anti-technology Luddites in absolute power over vast estates—and any survivors living there. Elliot North is a dutiful Luddite and a dutiful daughter who runs her father’s estate. When the boy she loved, Kai, a servant, asked her to run away with him four years ago, she refused, although it broke her heart. Now Kai is back. And while Elliot longs for a second chance with her first love, she knows it could mean betraying everything she’s been raised to believe is right. For Darkness Shows the Stars is a breathtaking YA romance about opening your mind to the future and your heart to the one person you know can break it.

I have found my way back to reading by getting sucked into a series. But instead of just reading each book in the series back to back directly, I thought I would add a book or two in between, the lemon to refresh my palette so to speak. For the Darkness Shows the Stars was intended to be that fresh lemon and it ended up being more than that to me.

I understand now why everyone was loving this book and its companion. It’s a retelling that was very refreshing because while it kept a lot of the details that are important from the original (I presume, because I’ve never read Persuassion) it was enough removed to feel entirely original.

A disaster to human kind occurs after the majority of people began to recode their DNA and basically become bionic humans. It backfired, creating the Reduced, those humans who maintain a little of their humanity but are basically little evolved from livestock. The Luddites had resisted the appeal of science and were therefore spared from the Reduction. Now, in a post-apocalyptic world where the Luddites are the ruling class and the Reduced the serfs, there are a new group of people emerging from the Reduced, seemingly no different than the Luddites.

I could go on about this premise because it was so entirely fascinating to me. It was exciting to read and learn more about it. It wasn’t overly complicated and allowed the story to grow. The story itself is one of complicated love, but it is not too overwrought. The epistolary nature of the book really helped build the story and reveal enough to keep the suspension there. Without those parts, I doubt I would have enjoyed the book half as much.

I would definitely recommend this book to others. It was a nice escape and was the perfect refreshing sorbet.

pj - michelle

Michelle’s Review: The Walled City by Ryan Graudin

I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Michelle’s Review: The Walled City by Ryan GraudinThe Walled City by Ryan Graudin
Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers on 2014-11-04
Genres: Action & Adventure, Asia, Drugs, Alcohol, Substance Abuse, Family, General, Love & Romance, People & Places, Siblings, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 448
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
730. That's how many days I've been trapped.18. That's how many days I have left to find a way out.DAI, trying to escape a haunting past, traffics drugs for the most ruthless kingpin in the Walled City. But in order to find the key to his freedom, he needs help from someone with the power to be invisible....JIN hides under the radar, afraid the wild street gangs will discover her biggest secret: Jin passes as a boy to stay safe. Still, every chance she gets, she searches for her lost sister....MEI YEE has been trapped in a brothel for the past two years, dreaming of getting out while watching the girls who try fail one by one. She's about to give up, when one day she sees an unexpected face at her window.....In this innovative and adrenaline-fueled novel, they all come together in a desperate attempt to escape a lawless labyrinth before the clock runs out.

Writing this review a couple of months after finishing it, I still remember my overarching feeling towards this book: Wow. That’s messed up.

I don’t mean the book itself, the writing or really my enjoyment of it. The world is describes is what is messed up. It is dark and dangerous with elements that shocked me considering that this was being marketed as a young adult book.

There are drugs and the use of drugs for coercion. There are sex slaves, kidnapping, and torture. There are broken families and broken individuals. The scenes that those things occur in were very shocking to me, and even given my poor memory of books after finishing them, I can still remember my reaction to the book.

The three different narrators were fun to me, and once I became immersed in the book I was able to more easily tell them apart (especially given that their situations and environments were completely different). I remember being most confused about the status of the Walled City in the first half. What was it? Why was it there? What time is this story taking place in? Obviously all of that becomes clearer by the end and particularly by the note that explains that this type of urban environment is based on reality. But I think I would have benefited from knowing that bit in the beginning or at least a little earlier.

I will agree with other reviewers about the note of the happily ever after not quite matching what the rest of the book was like. I wanted the characters to be happy and I was left in suspense over certain events in the plot, but to have everything tied up like that in the end was almost more jarring than the corruption and evils by that point.

I would definitely recommend this book for those looking for a darker read in a dystopian environment that could actually exist.

pj - michelle

Michelle’s Review: Wonder Show by Hannah Barnaby

Michelle’s Review: Wonder Show by Hannah BarnabyWonder Show by Hannah Rodgers Barnaby
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on 2012
Genres: 20th Century, Action & Adventure, Circus, Family, General, Girls & Women, Historical, JUVENILE FICTION, Love & Romance, Orphans & Foster Homes, Performing Arts, United States, Young Adult
Pages: 274
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, step inside Mosco’s Traveling Wonder Show, a menagerie of human curiosities and misfits guaranteed to astound and amaze! But perhaps the strangest act of Mosco’s display is Portia Remini, a normal among the freaks, on the run from McGreavy’s Home for Wayward Girls, where Mister watches and waits. He said he would always find Portia, that she could never leave. Free at last, Portia begins a new life on the bally, seeking answers about her father’s disappearance. Will she find him before Mister finds her? It’s a story for the ages, and like everyone who enters the Wonder Show, Portia will never be the same.

I was in the mood for a fantasical circus story when I picked up Wonder Show. I wasn’t disappointed.

Wonder Show has the kind of cover that definitely attracted me to it. Add to it the fun synopsis, and it is definitely a book that screams to be read when you’re looking for some quirky storytelling. I was feeling nostalgic over reading The Night Circus…it’s not terribly similar but I would recommend it for those looking for something at least a little related.

In short, it is a very artfully written story with the kind of aesthetic that would be matched well with some Edward Gorey drawings (my favorite!). It’s a story that you can easily read in one sitting. At the same time, I think it’s appropriate for all audiences, even perhaps some younger middle grade ones. It’s dark without being overwhelmingly dark. It’s a Tim Burton-esque story if that makes sense (and if I can be allowed to make yet another reference).

I’m not doing a very good job in writing this review (I haven’t been the best at putting my thoughts into written words lately, particularly in review-form). But I promise I loved it and this has earned its spot on my bookshelf.

pj - michelle

Michelle’s Review: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Michelle’s Review: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie PerkinsAnna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
Published by Usborne Publishing on 2014-01-01
Genres: Love & Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 380
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Anna has everything figured out - she was about to start senior year with her best friend, she had a great weekend job, and her huge work crush looked as if it might finally be going somewhere... Until her dad decides to send her 4383 miles away to Paris. On her own.

But despite not speaking a word of French, Anna finds herself making new friends, including Etienne, the smart, beautiful boy from the floor above. But he’s taken – and Anna might be too. Will a year of romantic near-missed end with the French kiss she’s been waiting for?

During many blogger events, both online and in person, it became abundantly clear to me that the fans of this series are many and passionate. In fact, if the bloggers online hadn’t been as polite and nice during the 2014 Book Blogger Love-a-thon, I would have felt completely on the outside for not having read this book.

I was introduced to this book by attending a local author event that just so happened to feature Stephanie Perkins as well as three other authors. I was drawn to the event by one of those other three, but the crowd had completely taken me aback. As it turned out during the autograph session, the line for Stephanie was insane, snaking through the shelves of the independent bookstore. Isla and the Happily Ever After had not yet been released (or I believe the set release date set) and still the fans of this series could barely contain themselves! I grabbed the paperback version of Anna and got it signed.

I say all this because it is not a book that I would have picked up without all the hype. I have become a lot more educated on my own taste in books. I know what books have a higher chance of hitting a home run for me than others. Typically, contemporary (young adult) romance is not one of those. But I have been surprised before and am always up to expanding my bookish horizons.

And this is where I now say that I liked it. It was cute and fun. However, it did not leave me gasping for more, or moving me to go pick up Lola and the Boy Next Door or Isla. I appreciate this book for what it is; a well-written and quirky romance told in first person in a fun setting. I brought this book with me on vacation, and had I had more time to read on that particular vacation it would have made the perfect poolside read.

I won’t go into the plot. You either already know it or can read the professional one created. In many ways, there was no suspense for me. The title, the buzz, the synopsis all give away any type of surprise that there might be. For some, it didn’t matter because the build-up was enough for them. For me, it made the book just a three-star read for me. Regardless, I can foresee myself recommending this book to those that are looking for something in particular. It has such a proven reputation and if you’re looking for a nice, simple romance, then this would definitely be like finding your favorite movie in an old cinema.

pj - michelle

Michelle’s Review: Solstice by P.J. Hoover

Michelle’s Review: Solstice by P.J. HooverSolstice by P.J. Hoover
Published by Macmillan on 2013-06-18
Genres: Dystopian, Fantasy & Magic, Greek & Roman, Legends, Myths, Fables, Love & Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 381
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Piper’s world is dying. Each day brings hotter temperatures and heat bubbles which threaten to destroy the Earth. Amid this Global Heating Crisis, Piper lives under the oppressive rule of her mother, who suffocates her even more than the weather does. Everything changes on her eighteenth birthday, when her mother is called away on a mysterious errand and Piper seizes her first opportunity for freedom. Piper discovers a universe she never knew existed—a sphere of gods and monsters—and realizes that her world is not the only one in crisis. While gods battle for control of the Underworld, Piper’s life spirals out of control as she struggles to find the answer to the secret that has been kept from her since birth—her very identity…. An imaginative melding of mythology and dystopia, Solstice is the first YA novel by talented newcomer P. J. Hoover.

I’m very conflicted over Solstice. It was like it was two different books to me, one that I didn’t like and the other that I was more interested in. All together, it wasn’t quite my cup of tea.

It was the first half that didn’t make the cut for me. Earth is grappling with the effects of global warming. More and more people are losing their lives every day as the temperatures rise to more than dangerous levels and new storms become stronger. The description of that world entices me into the story. But unfortunately the execution was a little lackluster.

Piper is in high school with a very over-protective mother. She lives in a little oasis of a greenhouse while the outside world has to be misted with cooling gel and and watches the temperature rise and obeys the subsequent warnings. I grew weary of the amount I was told that Piper’s mother was over-protective. Now, by the middle to the end part of the book, I completely understand just how protective she was. But in the beginning, it became a little eye-roll worthy.

By page 56, there was a love triangle, which I really wasn’t a fan of either. Again, by the end, it comes into clearer focus why that has come to be. However, I imagine that for a reader more inclined to not finish a book than me, it would make a persuasive argument to put the book down before you get to the redeeming part.

The end of the book left me much more happy, but also wishing that the entire book had been that way. The big reveal was fun and I really enjoyed the ending. It’s just very unfortunate that the rest of the book wasn’t that way for me.

pj - michelle

Michelle’s Review: The One by Kiera Cass

Michelle’s Review: The One by Kiera CassThe One by Kiera Cass
Published by HarperCollins on 2014-05-06
Genres: Dystopian, Girls & Women, Love & Romance, Royalty, Young Adult
Pages: 336
Format: eBook
The highly anticipated third book in Kiera Cass's #1 New York Times bestselling Selection series, The One will captivate readers who love dystopian YA fiction and fairy tales. The One is perfect for the fans who have followed America's whirlwind romance since it began—and a swoon-worthy read for teens who have devoured Veronica Roth's Divergent, Ally Condie's Matched, or Lauren Oliver's Delirium.The Selection changed America Singer's life in ways she never could have imagined. Since she entered the competition to become the next princess of Illéa, America has struggled with her feelings for her first love, Aspen—and her growing attraction to Prince Maxon. Now she's made her choice . . . and she's prepared to fight for the future she wants.Find out who America will choose in The One, the enchanting, beautifully romantic third book in the Selection series!

I spent the time after finishing this book lying awake writing a blog post in my mind about it. Now that it is the morning after, my emotions have stabilized, but my thoughts have remained the same. I would say that I really enjoyed this book, but I think in some ways it was the suspense fooling me a little. I did like it, but I’m not sure if it was a truly magical experience for me.

So really, this is between a 3 star (I liked it) and a four star (I really liked it): a 3.5.

I’ve been very honest in my reviews for The Selection and The Elite about how I believe these books (I think) were only ever meant to be fun and enjoyable reads. Light, kind of shallow, and still suspenseful.

I could, in fact, quote from my review of The Elite and have it completely apply to my feelings about The One:

I kept reading this book to see if America would make a decision. And each chapter added a new revelation about either the history of Illea or some new event that made me want to immediately know the outcome. I was increasingly frustrated by America’s indecisiveness and lack of a spine…it seemed like any decision was open to be immediately changed by a single event. I am still not sure I really understand the presence of the dystopian elements. The rebel attacks, the increasing tension between the castes…I kept feeling like either more attention needs to be paid to that side of things or just leave it. The series is at its core a romance story. While that plot seems less ‘important’ than a government struggle, time and again the focus is brought back to the romance. The dystopian parts of the story are definitely political at their core, or so I felt.

The things that differed with The One:

  • The dystopian elements were hashed out more, but still almost superfluous to the main plot. In some ways, it felt like it was just there to explain the type of society that would have The Selection. I wish that there had been more depth to that part of the story if it was going to be there.
  • America actually makes decisions! Though, no one could ever exactly call her ‘decisive’. ‘Impulsive’ definitely. Though perhaps as she moves out of her teenage years, she’d mature into more of a decisive woman.

All that said, I still enjoyed the story. I stayed up late to finish it and was either shouting at America or giggling throughout it. I did grow increasingly frustrated this time around with the characters’ immaturity but I think that’s more because this is -perhaps- a younger, young adult. I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone who does not have a tolerance or enjoy young adult, but for those looking for a fun summer read, this fits that billet!

pj - michelle

Christina’s Review: Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Christina’s Review: Delirium by Lauren OliverDelirium by Lauren Oliver
Published by HarperCollins on 2012-02-06
Genres: Dystopian, Emotions & Feelings, General, Love & Romance, Science Fiction, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 480
Format: eBook
Before scientists found the cure, people thought love was a good thing. They didnt understand that once love - the deliria - blooms in your blood, there is no escaping its hold. Things are different now. Scientists are able to eradicate love and the government demands that all citizens recieve the cure upon turning eightteen. Lena Holoway has always looked forward to the day when she will be cured. A life without love is a life without pain: safe, measured, predicable and happy. But with ninety- five days left until her treatment, Lena does the unthinkable: she falls in love.

Delirium was another book club book selected for June’s read based off popular vote. This book sounded more interesting than I thought it was. As I first started reading the book, I loved how it started. The book read quick and sparked my interest from the first few chapters. However, as I continued through Delirium, the book began to read tediously. It felt like the same content being repeated with little progression. The theme became old and the book felt longer than the start. This book is definitely meant for the young adult audience, however, I felt the basic concept behind the book was one that was tiresomely overdone.

The book sets place in a world where love is a disease that has a cure. Readings are designed to illuminate the terrible side effects this “disease” can have on individuals. People fear love and look forward to the disease, just like the main character of Delirium, Lena. Lena was counting down the days until she was cured from this disease, that was until she met a boy that captivated her emotions… The story goes on following through the encounters Lena has with this boy as she gets closer to receiving the cure. She has a best friend brought into the mix, whom she fights on and off with and carries on with. These two characters are relatable for many teenagers going through high school and preparing for college. As the book continues, Lena is faced with the struggle of what is real and what individuals are brainwashed to think is real. The question persists throughout the book, “What will Lena do when the time comes for her to receive her cure?”

My problem with the book was that it read like every other teenage heart-throb book. The subject is getting old… will love conquer all? One of the members of our book club mentioned she felt the characters were hard to connect with in the book… that their personality didn’t really shine through. After thinking about that, I agreed with what she said. The characters weren’t predictable in the sense that you really got to know them. They were predictable because they followed the persona of other characters in the same genre of books. This teenage first love fate is starting to get old and is not realistic… Delirium read like other books and movies of similar topic. I was hoping for something new, but this book did not finish meeting my expectations it started to produce.

Overall, I did not HATE this book. I give it three starts out of five because it was still written well. While the subject is old, unrealistic, and over-played, the author’s style is unique and well-composed. This would make a good beach or casual read if one had time to spare.

pj - christina