Monday, December 5, 2016

What Light

What Light
Jay Asher
Razorbill, 2016
Audience: All Teens
Source: E-Galley

From Goodreads:
Sierra's family runs a Christmas tree farm in Oregon—it's a bucolic setting for a girl to grow up in, except that every year, they pack up and move to California to set up their Christmas tree lot for the season. So Sierra lives two lives: her life in Oregon and her life at Christmas. And leaving one always means missing the other. 

Until this particular Christmas, when Sierra meets Caleb, and one life eclipses the other.

By reputation, Caleb is not your perfect guy: years ago, he made an enormous mistake and has been paying for it ever since. But Sierra sees beyond Caleb's past and becomes determined to help him find forgiveness and, maybe, redemption. As disapproval, misconceptions, and suspicions swirl around them, Caleb and Sierra discover the one thing that transcends all else: true love.

What Light is a love story that's moving and life-affirming and completely unforgettable.


What Light was a cute, romantic teen story. Reluctant readers that are fans of romance will like this one, as it’s a quick read. I’d also put it on my clean reads list.

I was surprised at the open relationship Sierra had with her parents. They were always discussing everything that was going on with her, and she was always telling them what she was thinking and feeling. I would have never done that with my parents at that age! It was refreshing, as most teen books completely ignore parents unless they are the catalyst for the drama (even though it didn’t reflect my own experience.) Sierra was a cool main character, and I especially liked that she did what she wanted to do, not what her friends or family wanted her to do. Furthermore, she didn’t feel guilty or worry about her decisions. I wish I would have been more like that when I was younger. Overall, I liked it.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Winter Storms

Winter Storms
Elin Hilderbrand
Little, Brown and Company, 2016
Source: E-Galley, Library
Audience: Adults, Older Teens

From Goodreads:
Some of the stormy weather of the past few seasons seems to have finally lifted for the Quinns. After a year apart, and an ill-fated affair with the Winter Street Inn's old Santa Claus, Mitzi has returned to rule the roost; Patrick is about to be released from prison; Kevin has a successful new business and is finally ready to tie the knot with Isabelle; and best of all, there's hopeful news about Bart, who has been captured by enemy forces in Afghanistan. 

That doesn't mean there aren't a few dark clouds on the horizon. Kelley has recently survived a health scare; Jennifer can't quite shake her addiction to the drugs she used as a crutch while Patrick was in jail; and Ava still can't decide between the two lovers that she's been juggling with limited success. However, if there's one holiday that brings the Quinn family together to give thanks for the good times, it's Christmas. And this year promises to be a celebration unlike any other as the Quinns prepare to host Kevin and Isabelle's wedding at the inn. But as the special day approaches, a historic once-in-a-century blizzard bears down on Nantucket, threatening to keep the Quinns away from the place--and the people--they love most. Before the snow clears, the Quinns will have to survive enough upheavals to send anyone running for the spiked eggnog, in this touching novel that proves that when the holidays roll around, you can always go home again. 


I think older teens will find this adult book trilogy fascinating - and everyone needs to make sure they start at the beginning. I accidentally read the second book first, and boy was that a mistake.

I absolutely loved the Quinn family’s soapy story, and I don’t think that it should be over. While a majority of the storylines from the first book were wrapped up, I felt like there could definitely be more books exploring Ava’s new life and explaining more about what happened with Bart. Maybe there could be a spinoff series?

This wasn’t my favorite book in the trilogy, perhaps because I knew it was ending. But also, a majority of the book did not take place at Christmas or even in winter, and that just wasn’t the same. And it was just cheesy when Elin Hilderbrand had one of her characters give away one of her own books as a shower gift. I didn’t like it.

In spite of the negatives, I enjoyed Winter Storms and read it in less than a day. I wish I had more books to look forward to, but instead, it looks like I’ll have to go back and read the first two books.

Monday, November 28, 2016

The Nightingale

The Nightingale
Kristin Hannah
St. Martin’s Press, 2015
Source: Library
Audience: Adults, Older Teens

From Goodreads:
Despite their differences, sisters Vianne and Isabelle have always been close. Younger, bolder Isabelle lives in Paris while Vianne is content with life in the French countryside with her husband Antoine and their daughter. But when the Second World War strikes, Antoine is sent off to fight and Vianne finds herself isolated so Isabelle is sent by their father to help her. 

As the war progresses, the sisters' relationship and strength are tested. With life changing in unbelievably horrific ways, Vianne and Isabelle will find themselves facing frightening situations and responding in ways they never thought possible as bravery and resistance take different forms in each of their actions.


I thought this book would be an overrated, cheesy story filled with plot points that other people have written about in dozens of other stories. I was pleasantly surprised to find a creative and original story that I absolutely could not put down. The juxtaposition of the sisters was interesting, but their storyline got even better at the end of the book when you realized how similar they were - they just went about things in different ways. The best part of The Nightingale was guessing who was the nightingale. Often, I was convinced it was one sister, just to change my mind in the next chapter. Overall, it was fantastic and everyone should read it.

Monday, November 21, 2016

History Is All You Left Me

History Is All You Left Me
Adam Silvera
Soho Teen, 2017
Source: E-Galley
Audience: Older Teens

From Goodreads:
OCD-afflicted Griffin has just lost his first love, Theo, in a drowning accident. In an attempt to hold onto every piece of the past, he forges a friendship with Theo's last boyfriend, Jackson. When Jackson begins to exhibit signs of guilt, Griffin suspects he's hiding something, and will stop at nothing to get to the truth about Theo's death. But as the grieving pair grows closer, readers will question Griffin's own version of the truth both in terms of what he's willing to hide and what true love means.

History Is All You Left Me is a fantastic book... but the description didn’t fit the story. The book on its own should get four stars - but the book based on the description would only get two or three. The part that I have a problem with is “When Jackson begins to exhibit signs of guilt, Griffin suspects he’s hiding something, and will stop at nothing to get to the truth about Theo’s death.”

I never got that from Griffin’s behavior. From what I read, everything that Griffin did stemmed from his grief and OCD. I thought that Griffin’s extreme actions were his way of working through the tragedy. The description made the book sound mysterious - like maybe Griffin thought Jackson killed Theo. Therefore, I thought that plot line would be a major part of the story.

It wasn’t.

All of that aside, the book was great. Silvera described Griffin’s feelings with amazing detail. He was on an emotional rollercoaster, with wonderful highs and devastating lows. His attempts to even out his feelings caused unexpected events that kept me interested in his story. Often, I wondered why people in my life had made choice similar to the ones that Griffin made, and now I understand better. Silvera’s story definitely promoted empathy and understanding.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Pax

Pax
Sara Pennypacker
Balzer + Bray, 2016
Source: Library
Audience: Everyone

From Goodreads:
Pax was only a kit when his family was killed, and “his boy” Peter rescued him from abandonment and certain death. Now the war front approaches, and when Peter’s father enlists, Peter has to move in with his grandpa. Far worse than being forced to leave home is the fact that Pax can’t go. Peter listens to his stern father—as he usually does—and throws Pax’s favorite toy soldier into the woods. When the fox runs to retrieve it, Peter and his dad get back in the car and leave him there—alone. But before Peter makes it through even one night under his grandfather’s roof, regret and duty spur him to action; he packs for a trek to get his best friend back and sneaks into the night. This is the story of Peter, Pax, and their independent struggles to return to one another against all odds. Told from the alternating viewpoints of Peter and Pax.

Usually, I’m not a big animal-book reader. I don’t know why, because I like animals well enough. I’m sure kids will absolutely love Pax - especially the animal fans. It’s well-written and the ending was interesting, but I’m not sure how I felt about it myself. One thing that I noticed was the time in which the story was set... I couldn’t quite figure out when it was supposed to be set. It bothered me so much that I looked up an interview with the author. I learned that she wanted it to be timeless, so that’s why there were no specifics, and why I was so confused. Pretty smart on her end to do that! If it wins awards, it’ll last forever.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Blood Red, Snow White

Blood Red, Snow White
Marcus Sedgwick
Orion Children’s Books, 2007
Source: E-Galley
Audience: All Teens

From Goodreads:
It is 1917, and the world is tearing itself to pieces in a dreadful war, but far to the east of the trenches, another battle is breaking out - the Russian Revolution has just begun... 

Blood Red, Snow White captures the mood of this huge moment in history through the adventure of one man who was in the middle of it all; Arthur Ransome, a young British journalist who had first run away to Russia to collect fairy tales. 

Told as three linked novellas, part one captures the days of revolution but retells the story as Russian Fairy Tale, with typical humour and unashamed brutality. Part two is a spy story, set over the course of one evening, as Ransome faces up to his biggest challenge, and part three is a love story, full of tragedy and hope, as every good Russian love story should be. 


I absolutely LOVED part one. I flew through it and loved the fairy tale/historical lens. It was just magical and Rasputin creeps me out and I find his story so interesting!

Part two, however, got really political and hard to follow. I didn’t like it at all. I couldn’t tell who was on which side and it was such a big change from part one! I think I got whiplash.

By part three, I was slightly more interested, but I disliked the main character so much, I didn’t care whether or not he was happy (and I was still confused about which side he was on.)

Overall, it was just ok - but I really wish it had all been like part one. I understand that Blood Red, Snow White was a strong piece of well-written literature. However, that wasn’t really what I was looking for. I wanted an entertaining, fairy tale retold. (Although I did appreciate a lot of the historical fiction facts, and the author’s note at the end.)

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) (Revised)

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) (Revised)
Adam LongDaniel SingerJess BorgesonJess Winfield
Applause Theater & Cinema Book Publishers, 2011
Source: A friend
Audience: Older Teens, Adults

From Goodreads:
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Reduced Shakespeare Company's classic farce, two of its original writer/performers (Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield) have thoroughly revised the show to bring it up to date for 21st-century audiences, incorporating some of the funniest material from the numerous amateur and professional productions that have been performed around the world. The cultural touchstone that is The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) was born when three inspired, charismatic comics, having honed their pass-the-hat act at Renaissance fairs, premiered their preposterous masterwork at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 1987. It quickly became a worldwide phenomenon, earning the title of London's second-longest-running comedy after a decade at the Criterion Theatre. The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) is one of the world's most frequently produced plays, and has been translated into several dozen languages. Featured are all 37 of Shakespeare's plays, meant to be performed in 97 minutes, by three actors. Fast paced, witty, and physical, it's full of laughter for Shakespeare lovers and haters alike.

I’m not a huge Shakespeare fan, but I knew enough about his work to appreciate The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged) (Revised). Reading about all of the plays in such a short book was great fun, and I think my favorite part was when they compared the plays with kings and fighting to sports. (I also laughed out loud when one of the characters mistakenly called “Horatio” Fellatio. Oops.) Overall, I would like to see the play acted out and I would recommend this to people that appreciate both Shakespeare and pop culture humor.