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
Goodreads
two-stars
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
Goodreads
three-half-stars
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

Ellen’s Review: The Maze Runner by James Dashner


Ellen’s Review: The Maze Runner by James DashnerThe Maze Runner by James Dashner
Published by Random House Children's Books on 2009-10-06
Genres: Boys & Men, Friendship, Social Issues, Visionary & Metaphysical, Young Adult
Pages: 400
Format: eBook
Goodreads
four-stars
Read the first book in the #1 New York Times bestselling Maze Runner series, perfect for fans of The Hunger Games and Divergent. The Maze Runner is now a major motion picture featuring the star of MTV's Teen Wolf, Dylan O’Brien; Kaya Scodelario; Aml Ameen; Will Poulter; and Thomas Brodie-Sangster and the second book, The Scorch Trials, is soon to be a movie, hitting theaters September 18, 2015! Also look for James Dashner’s newest novels, The Eye of Minds and The Rule of Thoughts, the first two books in the Mortality Doctrine series.   If you ain’t scared, you ain’t human.   When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his name. He’s surrounded by strangers—boys whose memories are also gone.   Nice to meet ya, shank. Welcome to the Glade.   Outside the towering stone walls that surround the Glade is a limitless, ever-changing maze. It’s the only way out—and no one’s ever made it through alive.   Everything is going to change.   Then a girl arrives. The first girl ever. And the message she delivers is terrifying.   Remember. Survive. Run. Praise for the Maze Runner series:

In simplest terms, a maze is a puzzle.  There might be obstacles along the way, but every maze has an entry point and an exit.  Imagine being sixteen and waking up in the center of monstrous man-made maze.  Not only do you have no idea where you are, but you also have no idea who you are.

The Maze Runner by James Dashner follows the life of Thomas, a teenager who finds himself trapped with other teenage boys in a maze.  Thomas learns that several of the oldest boys have lived within the maze for two years.  They made a home in the Glade, the center of the puzzle, and have built a society run by the laws of order.  Gladers, as they call themselves, work a variety of jobs to maintain this order.  The Runners run each day through the maze to search for an exit and map their findings; the Med-jacks provide medical care; the Cooks prepare food; the Slicers slaughter livestock; and others work in typical farming occupations.

The boys do not live in a normal maze.  Every day the structure changes; the walls move.  Thomas learns quickly after arriving about the Creators, the people who built the maze and observe the boys’ actions.  Gladers hate the Creators.  They provide supplies each week, but also unleash the deadly Grievers, a mechanical, weaponized creature that hunts and attacks Gladers.

After Thomas’s arrival, life as the Gladers know it begins to change.  No one remembers anything before the Glade, but several boys who survived hallucinogenic Griever attacks recognize Thomas.  The Glade also provides a strange sense of comfort and familiarity to Thomas, which was not a sensation the other boys felt upon arrival.  The day after Thomas arrives, the Glade receives its first female inhabitant who carries an unnerving message.  The Gladers soon find themselves forced to solve the puzzle or risk being killed by Grievers.

The Maze Runner reminded me of a cross between Ender’s Game and Lord of the Flies, both books that I also recommend.  I found it interesting how such an innocent game was turned into a fearful habitat.  This is not a new concept – the Triwizard Maze in Harry Potter is another example – but the main difference is that the characters have built a society within their nightmare.

The maze becomes a symbol for all the Gladers.  It represents life and death, identity, bravery, freedom, and manipulation.

  • Life and Death: Runners risk their lives each day to map a way out of the maze.  Gladers fear the maze, and their number one rule is never to enter the maze if you are not a Runner.  The worst punishment a Glader can receive is banishment.  When banished, you are forced to survive outside of the protective Glade walls against Grievers.  Banishment is a death sentence.  No one survives being trapped in the maze after dark.
  • Courage: Entering the maze is a choice.  The Glade, with its moving walls, protects the Gladers each night from Grievers.  When their daily routine changes, the Gladers must find it in themselves to face their fears and fight back.  The maze is fear, but it is also courage.  When Gladers enter the maze, they become a symbol of bravery and hope for each other.
  • Identity:  Solving the maze represents the simplest of questions: why.  Why were they sent there?  Why are they being watched?  Why can’t they remember their lives, parents, and childhood?  The maze has become their identity, and solving it is the only way they believe they can regain all of their memories.
  • Freedom and Manipulation: The maze is manipulated by the Creators, who can control and set new variables.  The Gladers know that they are not in control of their environment, and the maze is a constant reminder of this.  To battle manipulation, the maze becomes a sign of freedom.  If it can be solved, everyone can return to their families and live the lives of their own choosing.  Freedom of choice does not fully exist within the maze, but it represents the freedom beyond its walls.

The Maze Runner is a quick read and recommended for anyone interested in science fiction, dystopias, and puzzles.  I enjoyed the book and plan on reading the rest of the series.  My only complaint is that I believe the ending happened too quickly.  Dashner builds up to an exciting finish, but the events become so confusing and are left unexplained.  I hope that the second installment, The Scorch Trials, will answer my remaining questions.

Christina also reviewed “The Maze Runner” by James Dashner. See her review here.

Ellen

Christina’s Review: The Maze Runner by James Dashner


Christina’s Review: The Maze Runner by James DashnerThe Maze Runner by James Dashner
Published by Random House Children's Books on 2009-10-06
Genres: Boys & Men, Friendship, Social Issues, Visionary & Metaphysical, Young Adult
Pages: 400
Format: eBook
Goodreads
four-half-stars
Read the first book in the #1 New York Times bestselling Maze Runner series, perfect for fans of The Hunger Games and Divergent. The Maze Runner is now a major motion picture featuring the star of MTV's Teen Wolf, Dylan O’Brien; Kaya Scodelario; Aml Ameen; Will Poulter; and Thomas Brodie-Sangster and the second book, The Scorch Trials, is soon to be a movie, hitting theaters September 18, 2015! Also look for James Dashner’s newest novels, The Eye of Minds and The Rule of Thoughts, the first two books in the Mortality Doctrine series.   If you ain’t scared, you ain’t human.   When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his name. He’s surrounded by strangers—boys whose memories are also gone.   Nice to meet ya, shank. Welcome to the Glade.   Outside the towering stone walls that surround the Glade is a limitless, ever-changing maze. It’s the only way out—and no one’s ever made it through alive.   Everything is going to change.   Then a girl arrives. The first girl ever. And the message she delivers is terrifying.   Remember. Survive. Run. Praise for the Maze Runner series:

The Maze Runner was our book club read for March. I was not too excited to read the book (not my genre) but I was shockingly surprised and so glad I read it because I LOVED it.

The author did a brilliant job keeping readers engaged from the start. Reading chapter one I was instantly hooked and my brain was working to piece together everything and try to figure out what was going on. It was a mysterious adventure, and I felt as though I was finding answers and making the discoveries with the characters.

The story follows a teenage boy, Thomas, who is brought up in the box to the Glade. The other boys in the Glade, like Thomas, have no memory of their past. They live in this home-environment they created and have assigned jobs and rules to make life run efficiently and keep order. Thomas sets his eyes on the “Runners” – a group of the fittest guys who are quick at decision making as they run the maze outside of the Glade every day searching for answers and a way out. There are some catches: the Maze changes every night; the door to the Glade shuts every day at the same time; and outside of these doors at night the Grievers come out… nobody outside of the great doors during the night have ever survived the Grievers. What is this place? Why are these boys all here? Why can they not remember their past? Are they in prison?

And then, everything changes…

Something about the book made me think of past reads and movies I have seen, including: The Shining, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and The Village. This book was a serious page-turner. My thoughts and questions aligned with Thomas’… there were so many mysteries, I could not wait to get the answers and solve them.

This book was a great science fiction read… typically, not my style with the mechanics and apocalyptic style. However, I very much enjoyed the book Lexicon, and this book reminded of the read and kept my attention. I highly recommend it, even for the reader not so into sci-fi. The author’s writing style and mysterious nature of everything kept me hooked. I give the book a 4.5 out of 5 stars (although closer to the 5 star side than 4). I cannot wait to read the second book of the series, hopefully soon.

Now, onto the movie… I was so into the book I finished it in less than two days. We went out to rent the movie and watched it immediately after. Boy oh boy was I disappointed after finishing such a great read. I had so many images in my head and could not wait to see how they would portray them in the movie. I did not mind at all how they portrayed the maze, the Glade, the Gladers, the Greavers, or even the actors… all that was fine. It was the details they left out or just totally changed. There were too many liberties taken and caused the story and whole mystery and suspense to change for me. I wish I could vent a little more on the details missing, but I am afraid that would ruin the book for others who have not read it. Feel free to email me: playingjokersblog@gmail.com to chat more.

Back to the book, again, I highly recommend it. I have a feeling it will be a great read for our book club with so many questions and probably different interpretations that developed. Enjoy and let me know what you think!

pj - christina

Michelle’s Review: September Girls by Bennett Madison


Michelle’s Review: September Girls by Bennett MadisonSeptember Girls by Bennett Madison
Published by HarperCollins on 2013-05-21
Genres: Adaptations, Dating & Sex, Fairy Tales & Folklore, General, Legends, Myths, Fables, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 352
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Goodreads
two-stars
In September Girls, Sam is spending the summer in a beach town filled with beautiful blond girls who all seem inexplicably attracted to him. But that’s not the only reason why he thinks the Girls are strange. They only wear flats because heels make their feet bleed. They never go swimming in the water. And they all want something from him. Sam finds himself in an unexpected summer romance when he falls for one of the Girls, DeeDee. But as they get closer, she pulls away without explanation. Sam knows that if he is going to win her back, he’ll have to learn the Girls’ secret. Bennett Madison, author of The Blonde of the Joke, brings a mix of lyrical writing, psychologically complex characters, and sardonic humor to this YA coming-of-age novel about first love…and mermaids.

How I came to own and read this book: I went to a local author event, where there was a panel of four authors. Bennett Madison was one of the authors. I was interested in all the authors’ works so I bought one copy of each of their books. I got them personally signed. They then sat on my shelf for almost two years for no good reason. I have finally started reading them, with varying levels of enjoyment.

What I thought before I started: I had thought the premise sounded interesting during the author event, but then when I went on Goodreads and saw some of the reviews of other friends and readers, I was shocked. Many did not enjoy the book at all, not finishing it, critiquing it harshly for being misogynistic, too crude, etc. I was dismayed that I had already bought the book and had it signed because after those reviews, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to read it. However, I decided to go into with as much of an open mind as I could given that I had already read other reviews.

What I thought after I finished: It has been so cold that it was nice to escape to the beach. I could really picture the beach, the weather, the sense of summer. It was fantastic.

I was at first very shocked by the presence and sheer quantity of curse words in the book, but decided that it was authentic given the point of view. However, I would say that while authenticity creates an original voice in a book, perhaps the cursing could have been less dramatic. While it is completely common for others to curse as much as Sam, the main character did, it’s not really that fun to read.

While I understand people’s thoughts on the misogyny or the cursing in this book, neither bothered me. I didn’t quite agree with the former and the latter felt realistic to me. Now whether it was necessary or appropriate for a book that was pitched as young adult is another question, one I don’t have an answer to myself.

The main character is a young adult, but I don’t think it’s a young adult book in the way that others are. It is perhaps better suited for ‘new adult’ or whatever.

My main complaints are not related to either of the above points. I just wanted to understand what was going on. Who were The Girls? What was the curse? What happened to Kristle? What happened to DeeDee? I read it all, and perhaps there were explanations within some of the more poetic pieces, but I couldn’t grasp at it myself. Which is unfortunate because I did want to like it more.

pj - michelle

Christina’s Review: Silhouette of a Sparrow by Molly Beth Griffin


Christina’s Review: Silhouette of a Sparrow by Molly Beth GriffinSilhouette of a Sparrow by Molly Beth Griffin
Published by Milkweed Editions on 2012
Genres: 20th Century, Family, Girls & Women, Historical, Homosexuality, Parents, Social Issues, United States, Young Adult
Pages: 189
Format: Hardcover
Goodreads
two-stars
Silhouette of a Sparrow is an excellent example of an historical, coming-of-age lesbian young adult novel. Written with a deft hand, based in the true history of its setting, and with characterizations that will ring true to any teenager, it is a worthy and enjoyable read for anyone. --Lambda LiteraryWINNER OF THE MILKWEED PRIZE FOR CHILDREN'S LITERATUREWINNER OF THE 2013 PATERSON PRIZE FOR BOOKS FOR YOUNG READERSALA RAINBOW LIST RECOMMENDED BOOKAMELIA BLOOMER PROJECT LIST RECOMMENDED BOOKLAMBDA LITERARY AWARD FINALISTMINNESOTA BOOK AWARD FINALISTFOREWARD REVIEWS BOOK OF THE YEAR HONORABLE MENTIONIn the summer of 1926, sixteen-year-old Garnet Richardson is sent to a lake resort to escape the polio epidemic in the city. She dreams of indulging in ornithology and a visit to an amusement park-a summer of fun before she returns to a last year of high school, marriage, and middle-class homemaking. But in the country, Garnet finds herself under supervision of oppressive guardians, her father's wealthy cousin and the matron's stuck-up daughter. Only a job in a hat shop, an intense, secret relationship with a beautiful flapper, and a deep faith in her own heart can save her from the suffocation of traditional femininity in this coming-of-age story about a search for both wildness and security in an era full of unrest. It is the tale of a young woman's discovery of the science of risk and the art of rebellion, and, of course, the power of unexpected love.

Silhouette of a Sparrow was one of the earlier books selected for our book club to read by a group member. It was a fast-read and contained some mature content (even though it is noted for winning the “Milkweed Prize for Children’s Literature.”)

The book is about a girl, Garnet, who is away from home during the summer of 1926. While away, she picks up a job and meets a girl from a different side of the tracks than herself. Garnet has the opportunity to explore who she is and what other opportunities and adventures are out there for her during this coming-of-age period in her life.

This book allowed for a great group discussion with multiple opinions and directions for conversation to go between the mature subjects and metaphorical references carried on throughout. My main critique: It felt like the author was trying too hard at times to get her message across between the environmentalism and “coming-of-age” experiences. The book felt over-dramatized at times, with numerous “disasters” occurring back-to-back for a book that I thought was intended to be more relatable for younger generations.

However, after discussing this book with my book club, I saw more behind the story I did not appreciate before. For example, the significance behind the bird-cutting hobby of Garnet and how she spread her wings in the end…

It was not a favorite on my list, but others ranked in highly and felt that connection the author intended. It is a light, quick read… probably great for a summer-time pool-side book.

pj - christina

Christina’s Review: Mister Death’s Blue-Eyed Girls by Mary Downing Hahn


Christina’s Review: Mister Death’s Blue-Eyed Girls by Mary Downing HahnMister Death's Blue-Eyed Girls by Mary Downing Hahn
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on 2012
Genres: Adolescence, Death & Dying, Girls & Women, Law & Crime, Mysteries & Detective Stories, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 330
Format: Paperback
Goodreads
two-half-stars
Based on an actual crime in 1955, this YA novel is at once a mystery and a coming-of-age story. The brutal murder of two teenage girls on the last day of Nora Cunningham's junior year in high school throws Nora into turmoil. Her certainties—friendships, religion, her prudence, her resolve to find a boyfriend taller than she is—are shaken or cast off altogether. Most people in Elmgrove, Maryland, share the comforting conviction that Buddy Novak, who had every reason to want his ex-girlfriend dead, is responsible for the killings. Nora agrees at first, then begins to doubt Buddy's guilt, and finally comes to believe him innocent—the lone dissenting voice in Elmgrove. Told from several different perspectives, including that of the murderer, Mister Death's Blue-Eyed Girls is a suspenseful page-turner with a powerful human drama at its core.

I borrowed this book from Michelle because the book’s description sounded intriguing to me. The story is based off of real-life events that took place in 1955 around Washington, DC involving the author. In Mister Death’s Blue-Eyed Girls, the original events are fictionalized and moved to just outside of Baltimore, Maryland to a quiet suburban neighborhood. The story followed the last day of Junior year for Nora and her group of friends, and how their lives were changed forever.

This story is about accepting death and follows that “coming-of-age” and understanding of life story-line. The author chose to tell the story primarily through Nora’s perspective, but also through the eyes of other characters involved, including Buddy and “Mister Death” himself. The character differentials were hard to get through at first… I could tell the author tried to make their voices sound different, but they felt forced and I did not identify well with any of the other characters except Nora as the main character.

As the summer progressed following the murders and search for the killer, or waiting on the conviction of the guy it had to be, Nora began to question her religious views: Is God real? Why would he let this happen? Why did he take the lives of two young girls? How would things change from here?

Getting towards the end of the read, there was no real climax. The end of the story just happened, and it was not until the “Afterword” that I really grasped why that was. The story was based on events that occurred during the author’s life when she lost two friends to an unknown killer. I believe the book was more therapeutic for the author and meant for her primarily to get out those emotions and the events that haunted her past and present. I did not feel closure in the story, and I did not really identify with the characters or events. In fact, I really just wanted to get through the book and to the end to find out what would happen.

It was a fairly quick read… short sentences, straight-forward content. The book was meant to be a coming-of-age type of read, but I did not get that. To me, it was a story based on real events and meant to be more of a closure for the author than a tale for the reader.

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
Goodreads
four-half-stars
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: Salt and Storm by Kendall Kulper


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: Salt and Storm by Kendall KulperSalt & Storm by Kendall Kulper
Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers on 2014-09-23
Genres: 19th Century, Family, Fantasy & Magic, Girls & Women, Historical, Multigenerational, United States, Young Adult
Pages: 416
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
Goodreads
four-stars
A sweeping historical romance about a witch who foresees her own murder--and the one boy who can help change her future.Sixteen-year-old Avery Roe wants only to take her rightful place as the witch of Prince Island, making the charms that keep the island's whalers safe at sea, but her mother has forced her into a magic-free world of proper manners and respectability. When Avery dreams she's to be murdered, she knows time is running out to unlock her magic and save herself.Avery finds an unexpected ally in a tattooed harpoon boy named Tane--a sailor with magic of his own, who moves Avery in ways she never expected. Becoming a witch might stop her murder and save her island from ruin, but Avery discovers her magic requires a sacrifice she never prepared for.

Sea witches is not something that I have had much experience in reading about. But Salt & Storm presents a magic structure that was intriguing and had me interested through most of the book. Each of the Roe witches has their own specialty, something that makes me turn into a little kid, imagining what my own specialty would be. (Don’t ask, I haven’t decided yet.)

If I’m remembering correctly, this book to me had a lot of opportunities to become cliche but avoided most of them. The setting was unique, being both historical and paranormal, on an island somewhere in the northeastern U.S. In some regards, I almost wished for more setting of the world beyond, but it matched the type of isolation Avery was feeling on the island.

The author’s note was perhaps the most interesting to me, which sounds strange, but it really helped tie things together for me. The book had its flaws, and it wasn’t a perfect read for me, but it was definitely an enjoyable one.

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
Goodreads
four-stars
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