Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Red Queen (series) and 1,000 Pieces of You

Hey folks - back again with another "Two for Tuesday." This week I'm taking a gander at two YA novels that frankly, were awful. There's just no nice way to say this. I love YA - intriguing and well-written YA. Alas, I can't say that about either of these series (I understand 1,000 Pieces of You is a series - I'm baffled?????).

But just because they aren't my cup of tea doesn't mean you might not find them enjoyable, so here we go:

The Red Queen (series) by Victoria Aveyard

Novel Premise - The Red Queen:  

This is a world divided by blood – red or silver.

The Reds are commoners, ruled by a Silver elite in possession of god-like superpowers. And to Mare Barrow, a seventeen-year-old Red girl from the poverty-stricken Stilts, it seems like nothing will ever change.

That is, until she finds herself working in the Silver Palace. Here, surrounded by the people she hates the most, Mare discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy the balance of power.

Fearful of Mare’s potential, the Silvers hide her in plain view, declaring her a long-lost Silver princess, now engaged to a Silver prince. Despite knowing that one misstep would mean her death, Mare works silently to help the Red Guard, a militant resistance group, and bring down the Silver regime.

But this is a world of betrayal and lies, and Mare has entered a dangerous dance – Reds against Silvers, prince against prince, and Mare against her own heart.

Aveyard, Victoria. "Red Queen Series" https://www.victoriaaveyard.com/red-queen-series

My thoughts: So basically this is the premise of only the first novel...and it'll stop there for me. I tried to read the second novel and simply did not care. Redundant battle scenes that took far too long to play out over and over and over...you get the point. The characterization is simply dull. Mare starts as a hero and falls faster than Katniss Everdeen in book three. Just. No.

1,000 Pieces of You by Claudia Gray

Novel Premise: 

Marguerite Caine’s physicist parents are known for their groundbreaking achievements. Their most astonishing invention, called the Firebird, allows users to jump into multiple universes—and promises to revolutionize science forever. But then Marguerite’s father is murdered, and the killer—her parent’s handsome, enigmaticassistant Paul— escapes into another dimension before the law can touch him.
Marguerite refuses to let the man who destroyed her family go free. So she races after Paul through different universes, always leaping into another version of herself. To accomplish her goal, she must learn how each world works, and confront the many people she has the capacity to become. But she also meets alternate versions of the people she knows — including Paul, whose life entangles with hers in increasingly familiar ways. Before long she begins to question Paul’s guilt—as well as her own heart. And soon she discovers the truth behind her father’s death is far more sinister than she expected.

My thoughts: I DNFed this book, so maybe my "review" is unfair. But it's predictable in an annoying way - I knew who was the "bad guy" and the secret about her father by the end of chapter one. The science involved is questionable, and the science fiction aspect of it falls flat. There's a magical piece of metal shaped like a phoenix that can allow a character to jump dimensions and time, but no one knows how it works, it just does. Another nope. Nope. Nope. YA love triangle - check. Annoying and whiny "heroine" - check. Writing that talks down to teens - check. No bueno all around, and it's a shame because her website is full of promise! I will tell you all - my students didn't like this book either. It was a Battle of the Books finalist and ALL of them gave this novel a thumbs down! ๐Ÿ‘Ž ๐Ÿ‘Ž ๐Ÿ‘Ž

However - I will say that both books have amazing artwork on their covers - a positive in a sea of bleh! 

Sorry today's reviews didn't bring better news. I still say happy reading folks!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Luck, Love and Lemon Pie AND Wink, Poppy, Midnight - Two for Tuesday

It's been a while since I reviewed a novel because school at the end of the year is an impossibly busy moving machine. I kept up with reading, just not with writing. Going to try and catch up this summer with a few books I've placed back on the shelves with a new approach: Two for Tuesday

Luck, Love, and Lemon Pie by Amy Reichert 

When Milwaukee-area wife and mother MJ Boudreaux notices her husband Chris seems more interested in the casino than her, she’s more bothered that she isn’t upset than by her husband’s absence. She picks up poker as a way for them to spend more time together—and reignite their marital flame.

Although the game doesn’t give her the quality time with Chris that she’d hoped, MJ finds she has a knack for it. Increasingly unhappy at home, she turns to the felt top of the poker table for comfort. Intoxicated with newfound freedom, MJ begins spending more time at the gambling tables and less with her family, finally carving out for herself a place outside her role of wife and mother.

After a string of great wins, MJ finds herself in Vegas, attracting the attention of a certain magnetic poker star. But when she’s forced to choose between her family and her new exciting lifestyle, the stakes may be higher than she thought and MJ will have to play her hand carefully…or risk losing it all.

"Luck Love and Lemon Pie." Amy Reichert. Web. 31 May 2017. http://www.amyereichert.com/luck-love-and-lemon-pie

My Thoughts:  I liked this book, but I didn't love it. I read it because I loved the first novel I read by her, The Coincidence of Coconut Cake, and couldn't' wait to read her sophomore debut. It fell a bit short for me. I didn't like the characters as much, really at all. And the way she wrote about a dysfunctional marriage was slightly inept to me. A lot of research holes in this with her children and the college application process and sports teams - and a lot of extremely selfish adults. I use the word "parent" loosely. The story was fine, but the way the plot proceeds and the deceit and lies and egocentric behavior between husband and wife just didn't feel realistic. Or maybe it is and I just can't get on board with it. I couldn't stand either of them, or their friends. It is absolutely ludicrous to believe a wife shouldn't be upset when her husband is meeting another woman for coffee - that he didn't tell her about - because she just needs a friend. So said wife throws herself into poker to save her marriage. Nope. Sorry Amy - this one wasn't for me. Only ☕☕  this time - but I'm not done with this author. She has just enough cheek and writing pith for me to give her third novel a go - The Simplicity of Cider.

Wink, Poppy, Midnight by April Tuckholke

Every story needs a hero.
Every story needs a villain.
Every story needs a secret.
Wink is the odd, mysterious neighbor girl, wild red hair and freckles. Poppy is the blond bully and the beautiful, manipulative high school queen. Midnight is the sweet, uncertain boy caught between them. Wink. Poppy. Midnight. Two girls. One boy. Three voices that burst onto the page in short, sharp, bewitching chapters, and spiral swiftly and inexorably toward something terrible and tremendous.

What really happened?
Someone knows.
Someone is lying.

Tucholke, April. Wink, Poppy, Midnight. Web. 31 May 2017. http://www.apriltucholke.com/books

My Thoughts: I really liked this book. The characters are well-drawn and diverse. There's magic, but no "wands" - the magic lives inside those trying to be themselves. I think Tucholke creates a dynamic team of obvious high school cliches and breaks them down into humans, into unique individuals seeking only themselves; and what the reader finds is it's NOT the stereotype they are portrayed to be. I enjoyed the realness of this book - the desire to show that everyone, EVERYONE, is wearing a mask and we all just want to put it down for awhile...it's so heavy. ☕☕☕☕  from me - it would have been five, but the book ended too soon. I wanted to know more.

Monday, April 17, 2017

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

 A Great and Terrible Beauty is book one in the Gemma Doyle trilogy. Gemma Doyle, who loses her mother under mysterious circumstances at the young age of sixteen, is shipped off to boarding school by a well-intentioned, but arrogant grandmother. Her father spirals down after the loss of his wife, and Gemma is left to fend for herself amid teenage girls...and we all know the terrors of teenage girls. But as she attempts to learn this new world she's been pushed into, Gemma starts to uncover secrets about herself and her family that she was never meant to know. She stumbles upon supernatural reasons for her mothers death and the powers that she possess as well. She is coerced into facing her fate, whether she wants to or not - the temptation is simply too strong.

Set at the Spence Academy in London during the 1800s, Bray weaves a believable and timely tale of loss, friendship, and mystery. The book carries a Gothic feel with old castles, claustrophobic spaces, ghosts and spirits, and women in distress, but it misses a truly dark feel for me. Overall I'm not sure I'll be reading books two or three of this set, which is a disappointment because I loved Libba Bray's The Diviners set in the 1920s.

This series - a solid ☕☕☕  to start, but that's all.

However, if this sounds like something you'd like to read, visit her Gemma Doyle Website at https://www.randomhouse.com/teens/gemmadoyle/books/great.html

Truthfully, I think the story would make an amazing television series, it just didn't read off the page as well as I wanted it to. Maybe we'll get lucky and a producer will bite? Apparently "in 2006 the book was optioned by Icon in order to be made into a film. In July 2009, Libba Bray announced on her livejournal that after the option reached the deadline, there was still no script in the making and the director backed out to take over another project. For the time being, there is no movie of any of the books planned" ("A Great and Terrible Beauty (film)").

"A Great and Terrible Beauty (film)." The Libba Bray Wiki. Web. 17 Apr. 2017.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Britt-Marie was Here by Fredrik Backman

Britt-Marie was Here is the best-selling novel by author Fredrik Backman. He also penned A Man Called Ove (another book I'd highly recommend!).

This my second novel by this author and he has now placed himself on a short list of authors that I must read everything they write (Louise Penny and Ruta Sepetys are also on this list). His writing style digs at the heart of the reader moving one from laughter to tears and back again, sometimes in a single chapter; even a single sentence. 

Britt-Marie is a possible divorcee. She's found herself in the position of a wife no longer needed in a town no longer worthy of her. After her husband's affair (Kent - a character you hate, then like, the hate, then sort of like...it's a conundrum really how Backman runs the gambit of emotions for this man) and his then subsequent heart-attack...karma? of which Britt-Marie learns about from "the other woman," she finds herself in need of change. A trip to the unemployment office to find a job for the first time in many years begins for her a new life; one she would have never imagined. Her list of daily chores that she must do (especially if she wrote her list in pen) and her love for Faxin window cleaner and balconies make Britt-Marie a character you love despite her quirks. It's her insertion of personality into the misfit tiny town of Borg as a cleaning lady and the tiny changes that resonate at the heart of who she is that make you question why we try to change people? Can't we find what is good in them and let them be? 

This novel reminds the reader not to take others for granted, to understand that within our circumstances there is room to consider others' circumstances, and it's never too late to begin again.

A full ☕☕☕☕☕ from me and looking forward to reading more of this author's work.

Fredrik Backman is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Man Called Ove, My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, Britt-Marie Was Here, Beartown, as well as a novella, And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer. His books are published in more than thirty-five countries. He lives in Stockholm, Sweden, with his wife and two children.

For more about him and his novels, visit his page with Simon and Schuster:

Sunday, April 2, 2017

The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy E. Reichert

The Coincidence of Coconut Cake is the sweetest novel by Amy E. Reichert. I devoured it, every tasty word. Yes - lots of food play here. Because Coconut Cake tells the story of young Luella and her dream to have a top-notch restaurant serving fine French food and pastries. And she does. But, she also has a fiance named Devlin (if his name sounds close to devil for you, that's not a Coincidence) who doesn't quite support her dream kitchen. After a sordid turn of events involving the fiance, a coconut cake, and a restaurant review, Luella's finds that making her dreams come true isn't as easy as it seems. Yet...worth it. 

I really enjoyed reading this novel, so much so I immediately downloaded her other book, Luck, Love, and Lemon Pie, and pre-ordered The Simplicity of Cider (to be released 5-16-2017!). 

From Amy's website: (http://www.amyereichert.com/)

You’ve Got Mail meets How to Eat a Cupcake in this delightful novel about a talented chef and the food critic who brings down her restaurant—whose chance meeting turns into a delectable romance of mistaken identities.
In downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Lou works tirelessly to build her beloved yet struggling French restaurant, Luella’s, into a success. She cheerfully balances her demanding business and even more demanding fiancรฉ…until the morning she discovers him in the buff—with an intern.

Witty yet gruff British transplant Al is keeping himself employed and entertained by writing scathing reviews of local restaurants in the Milwaukee newspaper under a pseudonym. When an anonymous tip sends him to Luella’s, little does he know he’s arrived on the worst day of the chef’s life. The review practically writes itself: underdone fish, scorched sauce, distracted service—he unleashes his worst.

The day that Al’s mean-spirited review of Luella’s runs, the two cross paths in a pub: Lou drowning her sorrows, and Al celebrating his latest publication. As they chat, Al playfully challenges Lou to show him the best of Milwaukee and she’s game—but only if they never discuss work, which Al readily agrees to. As they explore the city’s local delicacies and their mutual attraction, Lou’s restaurant faces closure, while Al’s column gains popularity. It’s only a matter of time before the two fall in love…but when the truth comes out, can Lou overlook the past to chase her future?
Set in the lovely, quirky heart of Wisconsin, The Coincidence of Coconut Cake is a charming love story of misunderstandings, mistaken identity, and the power of food to bring two people together.

I happily give this fun, flirty read a solid ☕☕☕☕  and I look forward to more work from this author.