Category - Review

Recently Loved: A Study in Charlotte and The Girl From Everywhere

charlotteA Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro

A thing you will learn about me is I am a sucker for modern retellings. I love seeing how a writer can take a well known story and turn it into something new.

A Study in Charlotte is about the great-great-great grandchildren of Holmes and Watson, Charlotte and Jamie. They both go to a boarding school in Connecticut and try to solve a murder that Charlotte is framed for. It’s a “what if Sherlock and Dr. Watson were real and had descendants a lot like them.” This modern Holmes and Watson duo have the same basic roles, but they get to be their own characters as they play detective.

The mystery has twists and turns and nods to the original Holmes stories, but what I like most about the story is that Charlotte Holmes is a little more human than some other portrayals of a Holmes character. She’s a brilliant girl, but still just a girl.  Jamie Watson is captivated by her, but there is nuance to their relationship that is revealed as the story progresses.

Within the context of the mystery and their friendship, Cavallaro also manages to tackle addiction and rape culture. With Holmes being a teenage girl, those two issues were explored in a way much differently than they could be with Holmes being a male adult. We only see Charlotte through Jamie’s eyes, but there is still a complexity to her he discovers as he gets to know her better. He learns about what she is dealing with and makes some assumptions and mistakes along the way but ultimately their relationship deepens. Charlotte isn’t this cold, unfeeling genius.  She is a person.

As much as I enjoyed the mystery, the friendship between Jamie and Charlotte is what makes this book. While it appears instant, it takes Jamie time to start to understand Charlotte. Sometimes the relationship between Holmes and Watson is portrayed as one-sided, but in Cavallaro’s story there are two people who care for one another.

tgfeThe Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig

This year has gifted us with a few YA time travel books, but this is perhaps my favorite. I adore unique approaches to time travel, because sometimes the topic gets a little stale. It’s difficult to make work because there is always the “couldn’t one little thing completely change the course of time?” question. The rules need to be clear and consistent and Heilig manages to do that without burdening the reader with a time travel how-to guide.

At the surface this book is about time traveling pirates which is kickass on its own. In order to time travel they need a map created at that particular time and place. The main character, Nix, is a crew member of her father’s ship as he tries to find a way to return to his love and Nix’s mother to save her from dying.

Oh how I love so much about this book!

  • Nix and her father, Slate, have a complicated relationship that partially stems from his struggle with bipolar disorder. (You can read an interview with Heilig about this and her own struggle with the illness.) Those with mental illness aren’t always the heroes or the villains. They are humans with good qualities as well as flaws and the depiction of Slate shows this.
  • The entire crew is lovely but oh the charming Kashmir. The witty dialogue between Nix and him is wonderful.
  • History!!! Hawaii written by someone actually from there!!! Real issues the islands faced are incorporated into this fictional story with such care.

Most of all I loved Nix. She makes some horrible decisions, but by the end I care for her so deeply. At the root of this story is a girl trying to figure out her life, which is of course easy to relate to even without having a pirate captain as a father.

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Into the Dim by Janet B. Taylor

dimInto the Dim by Janet B. Taylor
Release Date: March 1, 2016
Publisher: HMH Books
Format: ebook
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, SciFi, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Romance
RatingsEnjoyable Page Turner

The Basics
Hope’s mother is dead. Or at least that’s what she thought when her mom was assumed dead at a disaster scene where she was supposed to be giving a lecture.  But when Hope’s aunt that she barely knows invites her to Scotland, she is told her mother is actually a time traveller and alive, just stranded in the past. Hope is needed as part of a team to go back in time to save her mother.

My Thoughts
A good way to get me to read a book is set it in Scotland. I went into this only knowing that Scotland and time travel were somehow involved. There was less Scotland than I would have liked, but despite being picky about time travel stories, I still found myself enjoying the book.

The story starts out slowly since a lot of set up is necessary. The reader gets a glimpse of Hope’s life and then learns about time travel along with her. There are some of the usual cliches. There’s the big secret of time travel Hope’s mom kept from her to protect her. She has been prepared her whole life for time traveling without knowing it (and her photographic memory helps.) She meets a mysterious boy she instantly falls for and she also doesn’t realize how beautiful she is. So smart and beautiful girl finds out family secret and meets a mysterious boy before she’s off on an adventure. A typical fantasy setup.

Thankfully the book expands a bit from there. Once the rescue mission gets going, the pace really picks up. I started to like the cast of characters more and needed to know what happened next. There are some unique aspects to how time travel works so it doesn’t feel entirely trite. The dire nature of the situation kept me engrossed in the book until I was finished.

Through all of the twists and turns, some of the character development got a little lost. Plenty of fun, witty dialogue and tough spots that reveal pieces of each character. However, this book really only provides an introduction to the time traveling crew so I didn’t feel truly attached to any characters. It was mostly the winding plot that kept me reading.

It wasn’t until the very end that things seemed to dig a little deeper. That of course is because there is going to be a second book. A lot happens in the last few chapters that leaves loose ends for a continuation. It wasn’t until everything was ending that I started to feel more for the characters. Hope and her friends started to feel more real and the romance became less hollow. Book two has the potential to be a much stronger novel.

Positives and Negatives
+ Second part of the book is fast paced, great setup for book two
– Characters felt a little shallow, took a little to become its own story

In Summary
Once the pace picks up, Into the Dim becomes a fun read that keeps you guessing. Some of the twists are predictable, while others sneak up on you. I didn’t start to feel invested in any characters until the story was ending which has me interested in reading the second book. The story didn’t blow me away and some of the aspects of the romance and time travel are typical, but I still found the story entertaining.

Note: An advanced copy of this book was provided free by the publisher for review consideration. This in no way influenced my opinion.

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Review: Remembrance by Meg Cabot

remembrancecoverRemembrance by Meg Cabot
Release Date: February 2, 2016
Publisher: William Morrow
Format: Paperback
Genres: Supernatural, Paranormal, Romance, Adult Fiction

 

The Mediator is a series I devoured as a teen. It’s about a teenage girl, Susannah ‘Suze’ Simon, who can see ghosts and helps them pass onto the afterlife, which is often messy and requires some humor. As luck would have it, one of the ghosts she encounters is an attractive boy who haunts her house/bedroom and stuff happens. You can probably guess what “stuff” might entail, but it gets complicated as ghost-human relationships do. The series is also full of mysteries and ass kicking and drama and a side of ridiculousness.

Meg Cabot surprised fans by announcing a seventh installment of the series years after it ended. Except with Remembrance the series passes from YA to Adult Fiction and many fans who have also grown into adults get to see Suze as an adult.

There won’t be any spoilers for this book in the review, but since it’s the seventh book in a series there will be spoilers for the original series. So proceed with caution if you haven’t read the original series and want to.

Continue reading

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The Young Elites and The Rose Society by Marie Lu

I know, I know, I’ve been slacking. I have been reading and I have been listening to a lot of great music. But life got busy and didn’t leave a lot of time for blog posts. But HERE I AM, ready to tell you why you need to start The Young Elites series immediately. I read the first book when it came out and had been dying for the follow up. It lived up to the hype I created in my head.

  • It’s dark, in the best way. Okay, not everyone likes dark books. I like dark books more than I should. Maybe I’m destined to be a villain. My potential villainous tendencies aside, this series’s darkness is appealing for a few reasons. For starters it isn’t “shock value dark” (i.e. most premium channel shows). Every twisted, sinister detail has a purpose. The darkness also grows and simmers. You’re reading about a girl’s descent into ~evil~. It’s fascinating. The first book starts it out, and then everything explodes in the second.
  • No sophomore slump. The first book was great. It took me a little time to decide I loved it, but in the end it grew into a favorite. It’s hard to live up to the first beloved book in a series, but Marie Lu manages a deliciously dark second book that delivers what the first book promised.
  • Not your typical “people gain powers” book. You’ve likely read or watched a story before where something happens that gives a bunch of people superpowers. Some use them for evil. Some for good. This series takes that idea and twists it into something new. The lines between good and evil are excellently blurred. And the powers? The main character’s power is unique and beautifully described. A lot of the powers are what you’ve seen in superhero media, but Lu makes them so much more interesting.
  • Not a whitewashed fantasy. With wonderful characters. People really like to make up reasons why it’s okay that the likes of LOTR and whatnot has all these white characters. There are excuses why dragons can exist but PoC can’t in a FANTASY. Thankfully these books don’t fall into that category. The world of the young elites isn’t ours, but it’s as diverse as ours. Despite all the supernatural, unordinary things going on, it feels realistic because the characters are complex and human. And honestly sometimes when I read books, the images of characters in my head look very similar to other books I’ve read. There’s definitely a lineup of similarly looking white male MCs in my head from various books. (Maybe my imagination isn’t that great?) Lu however describes her characters well and creates a distinct cast that I adore.
  • Everything else. This would be an endless list if I continued with all the reasons I loved this series. There’s action. Romance and vengeance. Twists and turns. Most of the time you’re unsure of who to even root for. And while it’s marketed as young adult, it feels more about young adults than for them. It’s definitely on the more mature side which means some boundaries are pushed. IT’S REALLY GOOD, OKAY???

You might read this and be horrified and in that case GOOD. It did it’s job. I’m horrified, too, but I love it. Also, a secret: Game of Thrones bored me. People have drawn comparisons between GoT and this series. Those people are wrong. I get there are some similarities, but I was never bored reading either of these two books.

In conclusion, this series might end up being my favorite fantasy ever. I’ll wait for the next (and final?) book to make a definite judgment though. *starts twitching because there isn’t even a release date yet*

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Serpentine by Cindy Pon

Release Date: September 8, 2015

This book is set in the Kingdom of Xia and based on Chinese mythology. It follows Skybright, a teenage handmaid, who discovers she can shapeshift into a snake demon.

What I liked:

  • The Mythology: I loved the Chinese folklore details in this. It’s not something I read about often and Pon works in multiple myths along with the rich history.
  • Female Friendship: Skybright’s mistress is also her dearest friend. I love how much they care for each other and also the exploration of growing pains in friendship.
  • The Details: Pon draws you into this historical setting with beautiful descriptions of the clothes, food, and everything else. I was hungry a few times reading this and wishing I had some of their beautiful outfits.
  • Romance: What’s nice about the romance is it doesn’t overpower the story. The story is ultimately about Skybright’s challenges with what she has discovered about herself. But there are two different romances in this that are sweet and important in their own individual ways.

Serpentine is relatively short but Pon manages to provide enough character development and a satisfying plot. I enjoyed reading a fantasy different than many I have read recently.

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