Monday, September 15, 2014

Reviews: Isla and the Happily Ever After / Open Road Summer

Seeing as how I’m feeling super lazy and unmotivated, you’re getting two short reviews rather than one full length one. I’m going to forego including the book summaries (like I said, lazy), but the hyperlinked titles below will take you to the Goodreads summaries, if you’re interested.

Isla and the Happily Ever After,” by Stephanie Perkins:

Here’s the story. I really love “Anna and the French Kiss” and I mostly love “Lola and the Boy Next Door.” But this one . . . it’s not that I didn’t like it. I DID. But it didn’t leave me feeling as giddy at the end as the other two did, which kinda lowered it in my estimation by comparison. But here are the two things I really like about the book: 1) Isla has a totally platonic friendship with a boy. None of that we’ve always been friends, but I’m secretly pining over you biz. 2) I like that Isla and Josh get together fairly early in the book. This gave the book time to develop their relationship in a way YAs don’t often get to. Here, we get to see how their relationship evolves after the “I love yous.”

Rating: 3.5 / 5

Open Road Summer,” by Emery Lord:

This one was fun. I appreciated that Reagan was tough without being an A-hole. I also liked that she started making changes in her life before Matt comes into the picture; it made me believe that she was doing it for herself rather than for a boy. Another thing in the book’s favor was that although Matt and Reagan’s romance is a big part, a substantial part is also about Reagan and Dee’s friendship. They felt like real best friends rather than the superficial treatment friendship usually gets in YA. Also, I don’t know why, but I totally imagined the characters looking like specific celebrities. This basically never happens to me. But the whole book I imagined Reagan as looking like Lucy Hale, Matt as Scotty McCreery, and Dee as Taylor Swift.

Rating: 4 / 5 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Review: Moonraker’s Bride

“Moonraker’s Bride,” by Madeleine Brent. The Goodreads summary:
Born in a Mission in China, Lucy Waring finds herself with fifteen small children to feed and care for. The way she tackles this task leads to her being thrown into the grim prison of Chengfu, where she meets Nicholas Sabine - a man about to die.

He asks her a cryptic riddle, the mystery of which echoes through all that befalls her in the months that follow...

She is brought to England and tries to make a new life with the Gresham family, but she is constantly in disgrace and is soon involved in the bitter feud between the Greshams and a neighbouring family.

There is danger, romance and heartache for Lucy as strange events build to a point where she begins to doubt her own senses.

How could she see a man, long dead, walking in the misty darkness of the valley? And who carried her, unconscious, into the labyrinth of Chiselhurst Caves and left her to die?

It is not until she returns to China that Lucy finds, amid high adventure, the answer to all that has baffled her.
Here’s the thing: this book was more of an adventure/suspense book with a little romance thrown in, but I kept wanting it to be romance with a little adventure/suspense. Basically, I wanted there to be more kissing. But that wasn’t really the point of the story. So I don’t know if I’m allowed to be a little annoyed at this book or not, since it was my own expectations that left me feeling vaguely unsatisfied, not the book itself.

Which is not to say that I didn’t enjoy the book. I did. In fact, I stayed up way too late reading it. But the thing is, from the moment we’re introduced to Nick in the Chengfu prison, I was a goner. That boy was beyond super appealing. I wouldn’t mind going to jail like Lucy if he was going to be in the cell next to mine. But then, [spoiler] since Lucy thinks he's dead, we don’t get to see him again until the end of the book, which kind of totally ruined my hopes for there being lots of scenes between him and Lucy. And to make matters worse, when he finally does make an appearance again, he’s too busy being a tool to be as appealing as he was in the beginning of the book (he does that dumb “I’m going to be a jerk so you don’t know that I love you” thing). Nick does manage to redeem himself by the end, for the most part, but that doesn’t quite negate the facts that 1) there wasn’t enough kissing, and 2) Nick didn’t quite live up to the swoony potential he showed in the beginning.[end spoiler]

Maybe I should mention Lucy now, seeing as how she’s the main character and everything. While I really loved how capable and smart and strong Lucy is, I couldn’t help but feel like she came off as a little flat as a character. She’s just so stoic and calm and reluctant to rock the boat, that it seemed like the author had to tell you what she was feeling because otherwise you wouldn’t be sure she actually had feelings. But still. You’ve got to admire a girl who can singlehandedly keep an orphanage from starving.

Overall, a book that had its issues but that was still a pretty good read. I think this review came off sounding more negative than I actually feel, so if you come across this book, give it a shot.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

Monday, September 1, 2014

Review: Playing Beatie Bow

Review: “Playing Beatie Bow,” by Ruth Park. The summary:
Abigail Kirk was an ordinary enough fourteen-year-old girl, except that she could not understand the adults around her. Why had her father gone off with someone much younger than her mother? And why, now that he wanted to come back, was her mother agreeable. What did love mean?

It was while she was angry and resentful about the whole thing that she began to watch children playing a game called Beatie Bow. She had never seen the game before, nor the odd child who always seemed to be watching but never taking part. When Abigail tried to speak to her, the child ran off into a part of the city called The Rocks. Abigail followed, and suddenly found herself in The Rocks of another time. Only the strange girl remained the same. And she proved to be Beatie Bow, a child of a century earlier.

Abigail was taken in by the Bows, amid whispered comments about "the gift," as though there was something she was supposed to do. She didn't want to stay until she met a marvelous boy named Judah. And then for the first time she began to grasp the meaning of love. But why was she in the past, and would she ever again see her own time?

Abigail's story takes place in modern Sydney, Australia, and the Australia of a hundred years ago. The book was named the best children's book of the year in Australia in 1981.
A friend lent me this book, originally written in 1980, and she might have told me something about it, but if so I don’t remember. So basically I was going into this book with zero expectations. All I knew from the cover summary was that it takes place in Australia and involves time travel.

Two things became clear pretty much immediately. First, that this is a younger YA. Abby, the main character is 14, and the story generally feels geared to younger teens. The second thing that quickly became clear was that Abby was going to annoy me, mostly likely because she reminded me too much of what I was like at that age—snarky and selfish with a bad attitude. But I guess as much as Abby frequently got on my nerves, I appreciated how honest her feelings were and how vividly they were written. There were multiple times when I thought, “Yep, I’ve definitely felt that exact same way before.” So I think if I had read this book in my early teens I would’ve connected a lot more to Abby than I do now with my 10+ years of hindsight about how self-centered I was as a teenager.

As for characters I did like, Beatie totally stole the show for me. She’s actually not in the book all that often, but when she is she’s just so dang spunky and feisty that I didn’t doubt for a second that even though she’s only 10 or 11, she’d eventually manage to pull herself out of poverty.

Plot-wise, I’m not entirely sure what was going on. Or rather, why it was going on. So, yes, Abby travels back in time to Victorian Australia, but it’s never actually clear what purpose her time travel serves. She’s told that it’s so she can make sure “the Gift” (magic powers that are hereditary in Beatie’s family) survives to the next generation, but why the Gift needs to survive is never explained. As far as I could tell, the Gift never actually accomplishes anything useful. It doesn’t save the world or change the course of history or anything remarkable. So why Abby needed to save it, I don’t know. Which made the whole point of the plot pretty vague to me.

Overall, a decent book, but one I think I would’ve connected with way more if I had read it 15 years ago.

Rating: 3 / 5
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