Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Review: All These Things That I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin

Goodreads Summary
In 2083, chocolate and coffee are illegal, paper is hard to find, water is carefully rationed, and New York City is rife with crime and poverty. And yet, for Anya Balanchine, the sixteen-year-old daughter of the city's most notorious (and dead) crime boss, life is fairly routine. It consists of going to school, taking care of her siblings and her dying grandmother, trying to avoid falling in love with the new assistant D.A.'s son, and avoiding her loser ex-boyfriend. That is until her ex is accidently poisoned by the chocolate her family manufactures and the police think she's to blame. Suddenly, Anya finds herself thrust unwillingly into the spotlight--at school, in the news, and most importantly, within her mafia family.

My Thoughts
This was an interesting one. I loved Anya right away. She's tough and doesn't take crap from anyone as you'd expect a mob daughter to act but at the same time there is a vulnerability to her. Her family situation is precarious and she's all too aware of it. She's the glue that is holding her family together and the it's obvious that the stress is weighing on her but she copes the best she can.

Set in 2083, All These Things I've Done paints an interesting picture of the future. One where water usage is heavily regulated and coffee and chocolate are illegal drugs. The government is still intact but things aren't looking good. Crime is rampant and everything is in decline but Anya just plugs along, trying to keep her family together and deal with the stigma of how she is and what her family does. When everything hits the fan is when Anya reluctantly embraces who she is and her legacy.

Though the book could stand on its own, I'm very much looking forward to the rest of the series. I'm excited to see Anya take on her rightful role and see where that takes her.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Review: The Traitor's Wife by Kathleen Kent

The Traitor's Wife. Kathleen Kent
Goodreads Summary

In the harsh wilderness of colonial Massachusetts, Martha Allen works as a servant in her cousin's household, taking charge and locking wills with everyone. Thomas Carrier labors for the family and is known both for his immense strength and size and mysterious past. The two begin a courtship that suits their independent natures, with Thomas slowly revealing the story of his part in the English Civil War. But in the rugged new world they inhabit, danger is ever present, whether it be from the assassins sent from London to kill the executioner of Charles I or the wolves-in many forms-who hunt for blood. A love story and a tale of courage, The Traitor's Wife confirms Kathleen Kent's ability to craft powerful stories of family from colonial history.

My Thoughts

Just before I started to read this, I'd been working on documenting my family's ancestry. It's a project I've worked on off and on for quite sometime. I'd just been going through my colonial ancestors the day before I picked this up so the subject matter drew me in immediately. I love history. My husband doesn't believe that because he tends to focus on the wars, impersonal details and technical advances part of history and I don't like that stuff. I prefer people. I love to learn about how people lived in the past. I love hearing their personal stories, how they survived, what they did and why they did it.

I was fascinated to learn that this story is based on real people. Martha Allen was a real person who was one of the nineteen women who were named as witches during the Salem witch trials and hanged as a result. This story doesn't cover that though. You'll have to read The Heretic's Daughter to read up on that part of her life. This story is set several years before and follows her meeting and courtship with Thomas Carrier, a Welshman with a dubious past.

I really enjoyed their romance. Sure, it was a little slow going but hey, they were Puritans. What do you expect? I thought they were very sweet and I loved that Martha wasn't afraid to speak her mind (though that probably didn't help her in the end). She's a woman after my own heart. I don't like to take other people's crap either. So, I related to her despite our 400 year old time difference.

I really enjoyed reading about this time in history. I think the last book I read in Colonial America was The Scarlet Letter. I think this one was much more engaging and easier to read.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Review: Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin

Goodreads Summary

Welcome to Elsewhere. It is warm, with a breeze, and the beaches are marvelous. It’s quiet and peaceful. You can’t get sick or any older. Curious to see new paintings by Picasso? Swing by one of Elsewhere’s museums. Need to talk to someone about your problems? Stop by Marilyn Monroe’s psychiatric practice.      Elsewhere is where fifteen-year-old Liz Hall ends up, after she has died. It is a place so like Earth, yet completely different. Here Liz will age backward from the day of her death until she becomes a baby again and returns to Earth. But Liz wants to turn sixteen, not fourteen again. She wants to get her driver’s license. She wants to graduate from high school and go to college. And now that she’s dead, Liz is being forced to live a life she doesn’t want with a grandmother she has only just met. And it is not going well. How can Liz let go of the only life she has ever known and embrace a new one? Is it possible that a life lived in reverse is no different from a life lived forward? This moving, often funny book about grief, death, and loss will stay with the reader long after the last page is turned.

My Thoughts 

I'll admit, this cover pulled me in first. It's pretty. Elsewhere is a sweet story about life after life. I thought it was a new and interesting take on the afterlife. Liz Hall has a hard time adapting to life in Elsewhere and accepting the fact that she has died. Even harder is accepting the idea that she will continue to age there but in reverse. As a teenager, that's a huge setback. I remember thinking that I would NEVER turn 16, it was just taking sooooo long. Now, I think I would kill to be 16 again but that's besides the point. 

As she slowly begins to adapt to her new life, Liz is able to find happiness with her new friends and with the grandmother she'd never met in life. She also finds fulfillment in her work with dogs. The dogs in the book are just so cute.  Eventually, she finds peace and acceptance of her situation. 

The book is an easy and quick read. (I finished it in under a day) It mixes light-hearted moments with more serious ones. I did have quite a few questions regarding the world of Elsewhere that weren't covered but considering it's audience as a YA book, I could let that slide. I found it entertaining and enjoyable.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Review: Cold Kiss by Amy Garvey

Cold Kiss
When her boyfriend, Danny, is killed in a car accident, Wren can’t imagine living without him. Wild with grief, she uses the untamed powers she’s inherited to bring him back. But the Danny who returns is just a shell of the boy she once loved.

Wren has spent four months keeping Danny hidden, while her life slowly unravels around her. Then Gabriel DeMarnes transfers to her school and somehow, inexplicably, he can sense her secret. Wren finds herself drawn to Gabriel, who is so much more alive than the ghost of the boy she loved. But Wren can’t turn her back on Danny or the choice she made for him—and she realizes she must find a way to make things right, even if it means breaking her own heart.

Amy Garvey’s transcendent teen debut is perfect for fans of Shiver and Beautiful Creatures. Wren’s unforgettable voice and story will stay with readers long after the last page is turned.
-Synopsis from Goodreads

So Wren is a witch who knows nothing about being a witch because her mother won't talk to her about it. All of the women have the power but it's swept under the rug and no one talks about it. It's clear that Wren has never seen Practical Magic because when her boyfriend dies, she figures it's ok to bring him back from the dead. Listen up people, this always ends badly.

I did feel for Wren. I understand she was heart-broken and desperate to see her boyfriend Danny again. I get it. I've had people close to me die and I know what that feels like. But, honestly, what did she expect to happen afterwards? He can't go home, she can't take him to her house, he can't be seen by anyone. So what are you going to do?

My Boyfriend's BackIt was a sweet little story about lost love and all that but mostly I felt like I was watching a cheesy 80's/90's movie. Oh wait, that's been done. I don't know. Maybe I just don't get the appeal of the zombie boyfriend. Aren't zombies supposed be, like, gross?

I also felt that the new love interest was just a little bland. The whole thing happens too quick and it feels a little strained. Of course, he's trying to help her with her undead previous boyfriend so I imagine that will put a little strain on the relationship. I just think if you're so in love with someone that you're willing to bring them back from the dead, you probably won't be quick to lock lips with the new boy just because he has a pulse.

So, overall, it was alright. It was entertaining but I wasn't head over heels for it.

*Disclaimer- I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Review: Juliet by Anne Fortier

Goodreads Summary
Twenty-five-year-old Julie Jacobs is heartbroken over the death of her beloved Aunt Rose. But the shock goes even deeper when she learns that the woman who has been like a mother to her has left her entire estate to Julie’s twin sister. The only thing Julie receives is a key—one carried by her mother on the day she herself died—to a safety-deposit box in Siena, Italy.
This key sends Julie on a journey that will change her life forever—a journey into the troubled past of her ancestor Giulietta Tolomei. In 1340, still reeling from the slaughter of her parents, Giulietta was smuggled into Siena, where she met a young man named Romeo. Their ill-fated love turned medieval Siena upside-down and went on to inspire generations of poets and artists, the story reaching its pinnacle in Shakespeare’s famous tragedy.
But six centuries have a way of catching up to the present, and Julie gradually begins to discover that here, in this ancient city, the past and present are hard to tell apart. The deeper she delves into the history of Romeo and Giulietta, and the closer she gets to the treasure they allegedly left behind, the greater the danger surrounding her—superstitions, ancient hostilities, and personal vendettas. As Julie crosses paths with the descendants of the families involved in the unforgettable blood feud, she begins to fear that the notorious curse—“A plague on both your houses!”—is still at work, and that she is destined to be its next target. Only someone like Romeo, it seems, could save her from this dreaded fate, but his story ended long ago. Or did it?
From Anne Fortier comes a sweeping, beautifully written novel of intrigue and identity, of love and legacy, as a young woman discovers that her own fate is irrevocably tied—for better or worse—to literature’s greatest star-crossed lovers.

My Thoughts 
The blurb on the book compared Juliet to a romantic Davinci Code and they weren't that far off. Julie Jacobs runs off to Siena, Italy after her aunt dies and leaves her a message letting her know that her inheritance is in a box in the Italian city and that her real name is actually Giulietta Tolomei. 

Once in Italy, Julie/Giulietta discovers that her family is embroiled in an old family feud and that she is a direct ancestor of the inspiration for Shakespeare's Juliet. Her mother has left her a box filled with writings and books as a treasure map of sorts and it's up to Julie/Giulietta to interpret the meanings all while being followed by mysterious men in tracksuits and on motorcycles. 

In between Julie's modern day chapters are chapters dedicated to retelling the story of the real Giulietta Tolomei and her Romeo Marescotti. Those chapters were especially beautiful and heartbreaking. 

Overall, I really enjoyed the book and both stories within it. There was a good mixture of romance, suspense, and mystery throughout.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Review: The Winters in Bloom by Lisa Tucker

The Winters in Bloom: A Novel

Kyra and David Winter are happier than they ever thought they could be. They have a comfortable home, stable careers, and a young son, Michael, whom they love more than anything. Yet because of their complicated histories, Kyra and David have always feared that the life they created was destined to be disrupted. And on one perfectly average summer day, it is: Michael disappears from his own backyard.

The only question is whose past has finally caught up with them: David feels sure that Michael was taken by his troubled ex-wife, while Kyra believes the kidnapper must be someone from her estranged family, someone she betrayed years ago.

As the Winters embark on a journey of time and memory to find Michael, they will be forced to admit these suspicions, revealing secrets about themselves they’ve always kept hidden. But they will also have a chance to discover that it’s not too late to have the family they’ve dreamed of; that even if the world is full of risks, as long as they have hope, the future can bloom.

Lyrical, wise, and witty, The Winters in Bloom is Lisa Tucker’s most optimistic work to date. This enchanting, life-affirming story will charm listeners and leave them full of wonder at the stubborn strength of the human heart.- Summary from Goodreads

My Thoughts
When I started this book it just seemed like a run of the mill kidnapping story where the overprotective parents turn their back for one second and the kid goes missing. As we get further into the story, the main characters back-stories begin to be peeled back layer by layer. David has an ex-wife who may or may not be responsible for their own sons death and Kyra has an estranged sister who wants to punish her for something we don't learn about until the last few chapters.

It's not until the back-stories come into play that the story really pulled me in. These characters are tragic and seem just relentlessly unhappy all the time which made them had to connect to. I have down days but I'm generally a happy person, David and Kyra are not.

So while I found the story to be interesting, I wasn't completely engrossed in it nor was I really invested in these characters lives. I've been very busy in real life as I read this so my distraction may have contributed to my lack of investment.

*Disclaimer- I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Review: Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Before I Fall
Goodreads Summary
What if you had only one day to live? What would you do? Who would you kiss? And how far would you go to save your own life?

Samantha Kingston has it all: the world's most crush-worthy boyfriend, three amazing best friends, and first pick of everything at Thomas Jefferson High—from the best table in the cafeteria to the choicest parking spot. Friday, February 12, should be just another day in her charmed life.Instead, it turns out to be her last.

Then she gets a second chance. Seven chances, in fact. Reliving her last day during one miraculous week, she will untangle the mystery surrounding her death—and discover the true value of everything she is in danger of losing. 

My Thoughts

I've heard quite a few great things about this book and I loved Oliver's Delirium but it took me some time to pick this one up. I'm so glad I finally did.

At first, I thought the hype was unwarranted. The first few chapters just felt like we were dealing with some snotty popular girls who were fairly unlikeable. As Sam starts to replay the last day of her life, everything changed. Oliver does a great job of showing the gradual changes that Sam makes as she begins to connect the dots from her behavior to the behavior and feelings of others. As she strives to change her way of thinking and her behavior, I fell more in love with her.

Her growth was slow enough to be frustrating but I felt that was fairly accurate with her being a spoiled teenage girl because, hey, they are a stubborn bunch. The portrayal of high school was scarily accurate. I'd never really been bullied and I sure wasn't popular but I still felt as though I'd been transported back 10 years to high school. Oliver writes beautifully, the words just flow like water down a stream and makes it so easy to get caught up in the story.

If you are one of the, what, 3 people who haven't read this book. Go do it now. Seriously.

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