Recent Posts

Monday, May 12, 2014

Review: The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher by Dana Alison Levy

Perfect for fans of The Penderwicks and James Patterson’s Middle School series, this seriously funny, anything-but-typical modern family adventure features two dads, four adopted boys, and a variety of pets.

Meet the Fletchers. Their year will be filled with new schools, old friends, a grouchy neighbor, hungry
skunks, leaking ice rinks, school plays, wet cats, and scary tales told in the dark!

There’s Sam, age twelve, who’s mostly interested in soccer, food, and his phone; Jax, age ten, who’s psyched for fourth grade and thinks the new neighbor stinks, and not just because of the skunk; Eli, age ten (but younger than Jax), who’s thrilled to be starting this year at the Pinnacle School, where everyone’s the smart kid; and Frog (not his real name), age six, who wants everyone in kindergarten to save a seat for his invisible cheetah. Also Dad and Papa. The Family Fletcher is fun to know.

This is the story about four adoptive brothers, Eli, Jax, Sam and Frog (gosh I love that nickname) and their misadventures throughout the school year. As the blurb suggests, there’s plenty going on in this story with skunks and grouchy neighbors and plenty of animals, but there are also lessons that are learned. The boys’ struggles are those that many children encounter -- changing friendships, discovering new talents, adjusting to new schools, and learning to accept their mistakes. The Fletcher family handles these challenges with grace and, always, with lots of love. There are plenty of laugh out loud and feel good moments that will bring a smile to your face. 

I did feel that the beginning was a bit slow because a lot of backstory is introduced, but after the 3rd or fourth chapter, I really began to settle into the story. I found myself eager to see how the boys would resolve their problems. In the end, I find this to be a fabulous debut, and I’m looking forward to sharing it with my kids.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Review: The Wicked We Have Done

Evalyn Ibarra never expected to be an accused killer and experimental prison test subject. A year ago, she was a normal college student. Now she’s been sentenced to a month in the compass room—an advanced prison obstacle course designed by the government to execute justice.

If she survives, the world will know she’s innocent.

Locked up with nine notorious and potentially psychotic criminals, Evalyn must fight the prison and dismantle her past to stay alive. But the system prized for accuracy appears to be killing at random.

She doesn’t plan on making friends.

She doesn’t plan on falling in love, either.

Sarah Harian's debut The Wicked We Have Done has that "I couldn't put it down" mojo that I crave when searching for books. From the first line I knew that I was going to be sucked into it, and I was right. Evalyn's character comes screaming out of the page - tough and smart with just enough compassion for others that you know she's someone to root for. Evalyn also has a certain vulnerability that I found compelling. By feeding us little pieces of her past, Harian reveals Evalyn's true character, the one she doesn't let the other criminals see. I thought that Evalyn's guilt was all wrapped up in one element of her story, but it turned out there was a lot more to it than what I thought I knew. In the end, I found myself questioning, what if I were Evalyn, how would I have reacted? My lingering thoughts about Evalyn's true moral compass raises questions that sit in that gray area between right and wrong; it's given me a lot to contemplate.

Others have pointed to the similarity between this book and The Hunger Games, and while the similarity is definitely there, I felt like this book set a very different tone than THG, a tone that is more specifically new adult. The characters are raw and crass, their dialogue snappy and intelligent. And there is definitely a sexiness to this story that THG barely touches on.  I think that readers will enjoy the steamy romance. I know I did. 

Harian also doesn't hold back on the gruesome. Some have said that it has a horror story vibe to it, and while I can see that, I honestly never felt frightened of what was to come next. (I think after being raised on Stephen King novels, I've made myself immune to book fright?) In any case, the little drops of blood seen on the front cover are quite accurate; it's not a story for the squeamish.

There are some quibbles that I have with regards to the editing of the book which I think go beyond what one would normally expect for an ARC.  I hope that the editors smooth out these areas before publication, and I also hope that readers will realize these issues don’t sit solely on the author’s shoulders. This is what you get when publishers try to squeeze out books in a hurry in order to compete with the self-pub market. That said, I give the story (minus the editing) 5 stars - it was quick paced, with great characters, dialogue that made me all jelly, and prose that I thought was just fantastic at times.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Review: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

A beautiful and distinguished family.

A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.

Lies upon lies.

True love.
The truth.
We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart. 

Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

I finished this a few days ago and had to give myself time to wrap my mind around it. Overall, I enjoyed the story and would recommend it, but I had some issues that prevent it from hitting 5 stars, which is where I really wanted to see it go. See, this book is marketed as a psychological thriller, but by the end I felt like it was trying to be something different-- a contemporary/literary with the theme of friendship and family that wanted you to have all the feels. I'm just not sure these two genres mesh together very well. Throughout the book there's the mystery of what happened to Cadence, what has she forgotten, and how the Liars are involved. I was constantly guessing which one of them has wronged her. I can't really say more without giving the ending away, but I think that by creating characters with this silent "whodunit" hanging over their heads, it became difficult to get emotionally attached to them. And by the end, (and wow! it was a great ending) I really wanted to be emotionally attached. Only, I wasn't.

The other issue I had was the pacing. For three quarters of the book, things moved soooo slowly. Very little seems to happen, the main character never seems to be in any danger (isn't that typically necessary for a thriller?) and the "clues" that the author gave were far too subtle to make any guesses as to what was going on. Everything seemed so random, and I had no idea what had happened to her (I usually like to make guesses with mysteries/thrillers; that's the fun of it). Then, suddenly, the pacing changed. Cadence remembers something, and then some more somethings, and then before I knew what was happening, I'm being TOLD everything that she had forgotten. And it's pretty devastating, but... there was no suspense, no driving force that was making her remember, no "wow" event that triggered the remembering. The book had shifted from being a thriller to being a contemporary, and I felt somehow...cheated? 

Like I said, overall I enjoyed the story. E. Lockhart's smooth prose is easy to sink into. The scenery makes you feel like you've been transported. And the characters were memorable, just not very emotional. Then, there's the ending; I'll probably still be thinking about it in a few months. Just wish that the thriller aspect had melded a bit better with the contemporary aspects of the story. Or maybe I wish that I hadn't read the blurb at all before I started it. Sometimes marketing can backfire, I guess, and in E. Lockhart's case... sorry, I cannot lie.  She could sell this book off her name alone.  :)



Related Posts with Thumbnails