Monthly Archives: November 2013

Review: Just One Year

just one year cover

Title: Just One Year

Author: Gayle Forman

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary

Source: Library

Reviewer: Emily Bedwell

Summary via Goodreads:

When he opens his eyes, Willem doesn’t know where in the world he is—Prague or Dubrovnik or back in Amsterdam. All he knows is that he is once again alone, and that he needs to find a girl named Lulu. They shared one magical day in Paris, and something about that day—that girl—makes Willem wonder if they aren’t fated to be together. He travels all over the world, from Mexico to India, hoping to reconnect with her. But as months go by and Lulu remains elusive, Willem starts to question if the hand of fate is as strong as he’d thought. . .

My Review:

Author Gayle Forman has created powerful characters and stories with If I Stay, Where She Went and Just One Day. Because I enjoyed all those books, I really wanted to love Just One Year. In fact, I was so excited when this book came out that I looked everywhere for it on vacation, to no avail. That said, I’m not disappointed that I didn’t find it. I liked this book fine, but didn’t find Willem’s story nearly as exciting as Allyson/Lulu’s story last year. After 24 hours in Paris with the girl of his dreams, Willem goes to get breakfast, gets attacked and never makes it back to her. He spends the next year wandering the world, never quite finding his place and hoping to figure out who she was and where she is now. Along the way, he finds himself in a Bollywood movie, being distracted by a few other girls, understudying for a real Shakespeare company, playing a lead role, and, eventually discovering a little more about who he is and his place in the world in the process.

Just One Year has the same strong characters and writing as Forman’s other books, but somehow just lacked the pizazz of Forman’s other works. Maybe it was because we didn’t really get a chance to know Willem in Just One Day, but I found it harder to keep interested in this story.

My Rating:

3/5 Bookmarks. Still a good book, but not my favorite.

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Filed under Emily's Reviews, Fiction, Young Adult

Review: The Girl You Left Behind

the girl you left behind coer

Title: The Girl You Left Behind

Author: JoJo Moyes

Genre: Adult Fiction/Historical Fiction

Source: Library

Reviewer: Emily Bedwell

Summary via Goodreads:

In 1916, French artist Edouard Lefevre leaves his wife Sophie to fight at the Front. When her town falls into German hands, his portrait of Sophie stirs the heart of the local Kommandant and causes her to risk everything – her family, reputation and life – in the hope of seeing her true love one last time.

Nearly a century later and Sophie’s portrait is given to Liv by her young husband shortly before his sudden death. Its beauty speaks of their short life together, but when the painting’s dark and passion-torn history is revealed, Liv discovers that the first spark of love she has felt since she lost him is threatened…

My Review:

I first read JoJo Moyes over the summer when someone at the library introduced me to her via Me Before You. I loved that book and had high expectations for The Girl You Left Behind. The two books, in reality, couldn’t be more different, but they are both beautiful in their own ways.

The Girl You Left Behind takes place in two different timelines; the early 1900s and the early 2000s. The girl in question is both a real person Sophie LeFevre, and a painting made of her that endures past the first war, second war and into the 21st century. Their stories are woven together as both Sophie and her painting continue to impact the world.

Masterfully told, The Girl You Left Behind is part historical fiction and part adult contemporary. The historical part of the book is wrought with the pain and sorrow and struggle of a woman trying to survive to see her husband again through a dark war. Sophie is weak and strong at the same time and willing to do whatever it takes to keep her family alive. The dark moments of the German occupation are written to evoke the fear of the time period.

When the book transitions to the contemporary world, it feels a little like the rug has been pulled out from under you. While it is also well written, it didn’t keep my attention quite as much. While I enjoyed learning what happened to the painting, and, in turn, Sophie, I would have enjoyed the story just as much without the modern elements.

My Rating:

3.5/5 bookmarks. Well written and executed, but I didn’t need the parallel stories to feel like it was completed.

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Review: House of Ivy and Sorrow

house of ivy and sorrow cover

Title: House of Ivy & Sorrow

Author: Natalie Whipple

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary

Source: ARC

Reviewer: Emily Bedwell

Summary via Goodreads:

Josephine Hemlock has spent the last 10 years hiding from the Curse that killed her mother. But when a mysterious man arrives at her ivy-covered, magic-fortified home, it’s clear her mother’s killer has finally come to destroy the rest of the Hemlock bloodline. Before Jo can even think about fighting back, she must figure out who she’s fighting in the first place. The more truth Jo uncovers, the deeper she falls into witchcraft darker than she ever imagined. Trapped and running out of time, she begins to wonder if the very Curse that killed her mother is the only way to save everyone she loves.

Review:

Yes, this is only the second book Natalie Whipple has published, but man, I love her as an author. Her characters are beautiful, believable and just plain fun to read. In interviews, Whipple has said that this story is special to her for many reasons, most notably the strong family bonds of her main characters. Josephine Hemlock is one of my absolute favorite characters. She’s spunky, smart and decidedly not perfect.

One of my favorite parts of this book is how Jo just knows who she is – a witch from a family of witches. There is none of the angst and drama of trying to figure out who she is; instead the drama from this story comes from Jo trying to reconcile her life, keep her friends safe, and enjoy the attention and affection of the cutest boy in school.

House of Ivy and Sorrow is a fast-paced, energetic read. Each plot twist is carefully constructed and thought out. Jo finds herself facing the darkest moments of her life as a sinister force tries to not only destroy her family, but also to destroy everyone she holds dear. If her friends find out what she really is, will they stand by her or go running? The fundamental theme behind the magic of this book is that magic requires sacrifice; the bigger the need, the bigger the sacrifice. In scene after beautiful scene, Whipple creates Jo to be a force of good in the world, but always someone who knows that what she can do comes at a price – to her and to those she loves.

Final Thoughts:

House of Ivy and Sorrow is not just fun to read; it takes place in a fantastic world that stays with you long after you turn the final page.

My Rating:

5/5 Bookmarks!

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Filed under Emily's Reviews, Fiction, Young Adult

Review of Sing for the Dead

Sing for the Dead (London Undead, #2)

Title: Sing for the Dead

Author: P.J. Schnyder

Series: London Undead #2

Genre: Paranormal Romance (Adult)

Format: eARC

Reviewer: Kristen Rinaldo

Synopsis:

London is crawling with zombies and nobody knows why. Werewolves and other were-creatures help the human police keep the zombies and stupid zombie hunting humans under control.

Kayden is a were-leopard living in zombie infested London.  Though a loner by nature, he is allied with the London werewolf pack and aids in patrols. Sorcha is the child of a Baen-sidhe and a mortal, cursed to carry the battle rage of her berserker father. She is a half-fae warrior sent by the Court of Light to investigate the danger that the zombies may pose to the fae.

Some of the zombies are moving in coordinated attacks, the likes of which have not been observed before. Sorcha agrees to temporarily team up with the were-creatures, specifically Kayden, to investigate the reason for the new zombie behavior.

Review:

This is book two of the London Undead series. I am the kind of girl who does not like to start reading a book in the middle of a series, so I began with the first story, Bite Me. This was a good investment of my time and money because it gave me a fuller understanding of the setting and I got to read the story of Seth and Maisie, who are great characters.

That being said, this story can easily stand alone.  The author incorporates enough back story so that reading the first book is not necessary, but it is highly suggested because it is well written and enjoyable.

Sorcha’s internal struggle is compelling.  She has berserker tendencies and is ashamed of her lust for violence:

“And that was her shame, wasn’t it? Violence sang through her blood – the mortal part of her heritage surging to the fore at the mere memory of the earlier fight. More.  She needed more.”

With the help of Kayden, who is not ashamed of his own violent tendencies, Sorcha can start to come to terms with who she is.

Schnyder’s writing style is engaging.  Characters each have a unique voice. As the point of view alternates between Kayden and Sorcha the voices are distinct. The descriptions of London and the parks in which some of the action takes place are very well done:

“The trees in Kensington Gardens were bare skeletons this deep into the winter in London—sleeping, but restless, tugging at her heart. Would the trees be too sickened to bring forth new life after the roots had bathed in blood?”

Rating:

4 out of 5 bookmarks. This is an original take on zombies, which was refreshing.  I recommend this book for anyone who is not too bothered by zombies.  This really is more of a horror romance novel, which is just fine with me.  I only wish it was a little longer so that I could spend more time with the characters and their world, though the current length does not make the story seem rushed or incomplete. I hope the author will set a full length novel in this world but I will happily buy another novella length work in this series.

 

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Filed under Adult, Fiction, Kristen's Review, Paranormal romance, Review

Review: Mercy Thompson: Moon Called, Volume 1

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Title: Mercy Thompson: Moon Called, Volume 1 (Mercedes Thompson Graphic Novels #1: part 1 of 2)

Author: Written by Patricia Briggs & David Lawrence, Artwork & collection cover by Amelia Woo

Genre: Urban Fantasy Graphic Novel (Rated T+, suggested for teens and up)

ISBN: 9781606902035

Reviewer: Kristen Rinaldo

Summary:

Mercy Thompson likes to spend her days working on cars at her shop in the Tri-City area of Washington.  Mercy is a walker and can shapeshift into a coyote. When Mac, a 16-year old werewolf on the run, appears asking for a job, Mercy pities him and decides to help. Strange men attempt to kidnap Mac and she is forced to take actions that involves Adam, the local pack’s Alpha.  Soon after, Adam is attacked and his daughter is kidnapped leading Mercy to become involved in werewolf business.

Favorite quote:

“In this house we eat out cookie dough like civilized women- with a spoon.”

Review:

I am not a frequent reader of graphic novels but I like Patricia Briggs so I decided to give this one a try.  While this is not as good as the book from which it is adapted, it is entertaining, gets the main story across and the artwork is generally appealing.

Artwork:

I realize that it is not likely that an artist’s interpretation of a character will match what he or she looks like in my head.  That being said, I thought that some of the male characters, particularly Adam, were strange looking and not nearly as attractive as they were described in the novels.   This will not be the vision of Adam that is in my head when I read about him in the future.

The drawings of the wolves and coyote were awkward. I imagine that the coyote should be slimmer and smaller than the wolves but it was hard to see the difference between the two species and they almost looked like the same type of animal. In some scenes the manner in which the animals were positioned and interacted with their surroundings was unnatural.  There was one scene where Mercy, as a coyote, was jumping over a fence and the position of her legs looked more like she was flying in a standing position rather than leaping.

On a positive note, the characters’ faces are expressive, adding to their personalities and enhancing the story. Nudity is tastefully done.  It is present in the sense that when a person shape-shifts their clothes do not shift with them, but it is not graphic or distracting.

While I am a novice graphic novel reader I was able to follow the setup of the panels once I realized how they were meant to be read.  The panels do not always follow a straight left to right reading pattern, which is not a problem once you realize the flow. The fact that it took some getting used to is not the fault of the graphic novel , as it was due to my personal inexperience.

Story:

The story is easy to follow and the basic plot elements come through clearly. The interplay between text and visual meshed well and enhanced one another.

In this adaptation the reader gets a glimpse of Mercy’s personality. There is a sense that she has an independent streak and a snarky sense of humor.  Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the other characters. However, this is only the beginning of the story and this is an introduction to the people in Mercy’s world.  Mercy, being the main character, is rightfully the most fully developed.

There is a “Bonus Chapter” at the end of the book that tells Mac’s story of the night of the dance when everything changed for him.  The story is very short, not terribly deep and the artwork is not good at all. It is nice to have a little more information about how Mac came to be in his predicament, but the artwork was a big turnoff.

Rating:

3 out 5 bookmarks.  The story was clear and hit the main plot points and the visual element interplayed well with the text, but the artwork was at times awkward and most of the characters felt flat.

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Filed under Adult, Graphic Novel, Kristen's Review, Review, Urban Fantasy