Not My Kind of Nest: Nest by Esther Ehrlich

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Nest

By: Esther Ehrlich

Released: September 9th, 2014 by Wendy Lamb Books

Length: 336 Pages

Genre: Middle Grade

Rating: Two Stars

Acquired: via publisher

What lengths would you go to make your life stay the same? How would you feel if the person you love most in the world stops smiling?

For eleven year old Naomi “Chirp” Orenstein, her mother is everything to her. When her dancer mother gets a devastating diagnosis that stops her from dancing and smiling, Chirp doesn’t know what to do. Soon after, her mother spirals into a depression. Nest tells Chirp’s sometimes heartbreaking journey as she trudges through life during this time with adventure, escape, and self-discovery. It isn’t all bad, but it isn’t all good, either.

This novel deals with some very adult issues at the heart of this middle grade novel. The character may be a middle schooler, may behave like one, but the situations are anything but. I had a slight problem with that. I usually don’t read middle grade novels, so I am not sure if this is an usual occurrence. But, may did it take an adult turn. Too adult, I would say. It made me very uncomfortable reading it. As it is a spoiler, I am not at liberty to reveal it, but it made me dislike the book. I loved Chirp. She developed a nice relationship with the boy next. They had a cute conversation towards the end of the novel that I loved.  However, this was not enough to give this novel a better rating. What took place towards the later middle/end was too heavy for me. Not heavy for me as an adult, but heavy as me reading a middle grade novel. It isn’t something that I personally believe should take place for this age group. I don’t think they can handle it, grasp it, and it takes away from the rest of the novel because of that.

It was a big shocker for me. If this was a Young Adult novel, I don’t think the event, if you can call it that, that occurred, would have taken me so off guard, but since this is for a younger audience it did. I don’t think it needed to happen to get the author’s point across. Yes, what happened completely at the end was a great character development exercise, but could have been reached without what took place because of it.

Although I did not find this novel extremely heartwarming, I definitely can see where a reader can. This is, at its core, a middle grade novel, but too much of it is adult for me. But, if there wasn’t that one thing, this would have been a great debut for me. Like I mention before, the characters were great. The plot, for the majority of it, was pretty decent. It evoked the right emotions. It showed how powerful friendships could be. It was poignant, honest, and positive.

I am torn on recommending this book. There were some great positives about this book. But, the negatives were so negative. I really feel strongly about what took place that makes it too inappropriate for its age group. I can’t seem to get past that. But, at the end, it was uplifting. There was a positive message. I would say, look at the back. Think about it. It’s heavy. It’s mostly about mental illness; and, the affects it has on our loved ones. If that’s hard for you, I’d say pass. It gets emotional, just so you know.

Happy reading!

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Dreams Do Come True?: John Dreamer by Elise Celine Book Review

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John Dreamer

By: Elise Celine

Released: February, 2014 by Authorbuzz

Length: 203 Pages

Genre: YA Fantasy

Rating: Five Stars

Acquired: via netgalley

 

Seven chairs, seven strangers, one strange white room.  What ensues, is only in your dreams.

John Dreamer is simply about living out what you desire most; but not in the way you think. The first dream , one of the more intense dreams, is a brutal battle. One of the “strangers” is mistreated during the battle, and the weakest stranger protects her. It turns out it’s his dream, to be strong and tough. He succeeds, both there and in life afterwards, becoming an award winning scientist. He is the first to leave.  As the novel continues, more dreams are fulfilled, deeper secrets are revealed and connections are made.

My favorite dream sequence comes from the tough guy Ray. His was the most powerful and gut wrenching. It really hits you.  As each dream had, it had a great message in the end. Celine really leaves you with a good sense of the character, what they were after, and what they got. And better yet, what you can learn from them. Learn from them you certainly do.  Even with the characters that aren’t there for very long, there is great character development because of how well the dream sequence is written. You really see what the character is all about. At the end of each successful dream, you get a follow-up of each character, which is nice. You see how this really helped them.

Of course, there is a love story between the main character Andy and John Dreamer. At first I was weary of their romance because of a comment Andy makes. It’s a little nauseating. It’s about falling in love so fast. However, I quickly changed opinions. The love story became believable pretty fast. The twist at the end was great, too.

I really liked this book.  This is going to be a series. I will definitely continue reading this series. I hope you’ll give it a chance.

What Everyone Thinks They Know: The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu Book Review

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The Truth About Alice

By: Jennifer Mathieu

Released: June 3rd, 2014 by Roaring Brook Press

Length: 199 pages

Genre: YA Realistic Fiction– bullying

Rating: Four Stars

Acquired: via netgalley

 

Alice Franklin was one of the popular girls. She wore pencil skirts and fitted tops. She was pretty without trying very hard. She was wanted. That’s what got her in trouble. It started at a party, where it always starts. Alice “has sex with two boys in one night” according to one of the recipients who texts his best friend. That slut. If it was just sex, she’d be a slut. But, weeks later the boy with the loud keyboard dies while sexting Alice in a car crash. Now, not only is she a slut, she is a slut who kills the superstar quarterback because she can’t keep it in her pants. How could she! The Truth About  Alice isn’t her story, but the story of four people who think they know the truth; only one is right.

Alice doesn’t get to defend herself in this unique take on he said/ she said. Told in alternating voices of the girl who threw the party, Alice’s then best friend, the best friend of said dead guy, and a guy who wasn’t there but may know something, this novel gives us a look at what bullying is really like. Each voice is different. The party thrower focuses more on herself rather than Alice. The best friend throws Alice completely under the bus because she doesn’t want to be a loner like she was at her old school again. The best friend of dead guy is just idiotic, and the shy, wasn’t even there guy, is the only great character; also, with the only narrative that has Alice speak albeit briefly and in little sentences.

You might not believe me, but I loved this book. Really loved this book. I thought Mathieu did an excellent job writing about High School bullying; and, how hurtful rumors can be. Alice is not the only person who has been slut shamed, whether or not the rumor was true. She went from looking pretty, being herself, to wearing pants and a hoodie zipped up, hiding her head. This isn’t a rare thing, unfortunately; and, Mathieu captured it masterfully. The reader is taken through the whole journey of the development of the rumor to discovering the truth. It’s a heart breaking story, with only a small happy ending.

Although I am well out of High School, and the politics of it, I can see this book as still being relevant. Kids are still cruel. People are being bullied all the time. I think this is a perfect novel to be taught in schools.  See, kids, this is what happens. Do you want to be such and such? Do you see what he/she is doing to Alice? Having Alice not speak in this novel, although it sounds like it wouldn’t work nor be beneficial in teaching a lesson, it does the opposite. Here’s how: you meet Kurt. Kurt is not popular, a total nerd, and the only one who befriends Alice. Yes, he had a crush on her, but his narrative becomes so much more. It brings reality to all the other nonsense you read from the other three people.

At first, I was apprehensive when I found out Alice never gets a chance to defend herself against these rumors, but as I continued reading, I understood why. If you choose to read this book (please do!) you’ll get it, too. Sometimes, these rumors have nothing to do with the victim. They just happen to be with the target. You need to understand the person who is the bully. It completely works. You don’t feel sorry for these people, I sure didn’t, but you get it. You understand where rumors start, develop, and take off full force. This approach is certainly a risk, it may not work in fiction all the time, but Mathieu did it well.

I highly recommend this book. I read it in one sitting; it’s that good. You just want to find out the truth. You know one of them knows, but which one. You will be surprised at who and why. There are three good plot twists that I enjoyed. Little zingers I didn’t see coming. The end was also very good. I loved it. I hope you read it. It’s a book not to be missed, in my opinion. Plus, if you know someone in High School, or are in High School yourself, this will be a great novel for you, I promise!

These Princesses Sure Can Dance: The Girls at The Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine Book Review

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The Girls at the Kingfisher Club

By: Genevieve Valentine

Released: June 3rd, 2014 by Atria Books

Length: 288 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction- Roaring Twenties / Fairy Tale retelling- Twelve Princesses Dancing

Rating: Four Stars

Acquired: via netgalley

 

It’s the era of Prohibition. The flappers are a dancing. The men are sneaking in their booze. In Manhattan, twelve sisters stay holed up in their house upstairs. Never to see their father, only when they are individually called upon to be married off.  Dying to get out of their house, the “general” eldest sister Jo, concocts a plan to drag them out dancing every night. Nothing but worn shoes and out of style dresses.  It’s the only thing that keeps them sane. But, their father has other plans for his daughters. Plans of marriage that doesn’t fit with their dancing lives. 

The Girls at the Kingfisher Club is the marvelous retelling of the well-known fairy tale “The Twelve Princesses Dancing”. What makes this novel special, and sets it apart from other retellings, is the era– the glitz, the glamour, and the sneakiness of all of it. Women were just starting to fight for their rights. It’s the perfect time for deception and the freedom these twelve girls/women are seeking. There is no better era, I believe.

 I absolutely adored this novel. I loved the characters, all twelve of the girls. Jo, the eldest, was my favorite. She grew the most out of all of them.  She had the most to lose and the least to gain. I also liked the second set of twins, Lily and Rose. I liked them because one of them was a lesbian. Why do I like that so much? Because think of how bold that is. o develop a lesbian character set in that era? It worked. It pushed the limits, yes. But, it wasn’t too much, too little, or too uncomfortable. It was perfect. It made sense one of them would be. I just liked it. I liked the character, herself, too. How daring she was. She wears pants! That’s a big deal and step.

There isn’t much I can critique about this book. The plot flowed nicely; the characters, although plenty, were developed nicely; and, the setting seemed historically accurate. I can picture Zelda Fitzgerald reading this book today and loving it. Valentine was able to reanimate the roaring twenties and bring back that life that was once alive.  I can’t recommend this book enough. This was truly a joy to read.  I hope you pick this book up. You won’t regret it.

What a Dying Breath Can Do: The Collector of Dying Breaths: A novel of Suspense (Reincarnationists #6) by M.J. Rose Book Review

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The Collector of Dying Breaths: A novel of Suspense (Reincarnationists #6)

By: M.J. Rose

Released: April 8th, 2014 by Atria Books

Length: 384 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction- 16th Century France/Italy Catherine de Medici

Rating: 3 Stars

Acquired: via netgalley

 

Past: 1500’s Rene le Florentin is chosen as Catherine de Medici’s perfumer at just the right time- he is about to be killed for a crime he didn’t commit. She rescues him, sending him to France with her as she becomes a Princess then a Queen. Through the years, their relationship develops and it’s not just perfumes he creates for her and her girls–her spies. In the meantime, he is experimenting on his own, trying to finish what he started with his mentor, how to reincarnate a body with a dying breath.

Present: In France, mythologist Jac E’toile of the famous E’toile perfumery just lost her brother, her only family to mysterious circumstances.No one knows how he got so sick so suddenly. He was fine weeks, maybe even days before. Then Jac gets a call to meet with a woman who Robbie was working on something with– the collection of dying breaths owned by Rene le Florentin. Jac is taken on a strange journey as she works to solve the formula and discover the truth about her brother’s death. All while having flashbacks of Rene le Florentin. 

Before I go into critiquing this novel, let me first state that I liked the book. I didn’t love it, no. It took me a bit to get into it. But, I liked it. Rene le Florentin was a great character. His life was very interesting; I would read another book about his life in an instant. He held my attention. His relationship with Catherine de Medici was both nefarious and familial. I liked the chemistry they had together. They had a clear connection that translated well on the page. The historical aspect of the novel were fascinating. Learning about how Queen Catherine conducted herself was shocking and made me keep reading. The idea of reincarnation and the dying breaths was also intriguing. My problems with the book started in the present.

How can I put this lightly? The present was dull. Yes, many things happened. There was action all the time. There was a character who belonged in a mental institution in my opinion; and, I would never say that lightly. She was truly scary and psychotic. If you read some of the things she did, you would agree. With all the action and everything, it was still dull. Why? Because Jac was a terrible protagonist. She was boring, two dimensional if that. She whined a lot. And, didn’t bring much to the table. I often wanted to skip her parts, but I liked when she would have visions of Rene as she had these reincarnation abilities; she could lock into her past lives. That sounds exciting, right? But, she hates it so much that she completely down plays it. It becomes something so negative. And she tries to stop them from happening all the time.

She made me want more Rene. He was exciting. There were many graphic sex scenes in his time period. Oh my were they graphic. He loved sex. Loved loved loved sex. He was a former monk. Imagine how different the story would be if he stayed one! If the book was all about Rene and his discoveries, the book would get a much higher rating. But, since Jac took precedence in the novel, I can only say I liked it. Would I recommend it? Yes. Just for Rene. Maybe for Jac a little bit because things really do get crazy. Really crazy really slow then really fast. I wanted to love this book. I was so looking forward to it. But, unfortunately it fell a little flat. It wasn’t necessarily the writing. I enjoyed Rose’s writing style. It was more her characters.

If you are looking for a historical, slightly paranormal, mystery with the present thrown in, this is it. The mystery is there. The historical fiction factor is great. It’s entertaining and what you expect. Or, more what you normally want out of historical fiction novels. You can overlook the Present part. Read it, but read it lightly. It’s the 1500’s that’s really got the juice.

 

Laudanum and Arsenic: The Devil in the Corner by Patricia Elliott Book Review

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The Devil in the Corner

By: Patricia Elliott

Released: March, 2014 by Hachette’s Children’s Books

Length: 400 Pages

Genre: Young Adult– Gothic/ Historical Fiction

Rating: 3 and a half Stars

Acquired: via netgalley

 After a terrible run as a governess, poor, orphaned Maud Greenwood can’t keep the nightmares away without some Laudanum at night. When she moves in with her cousin by marriage, Miss Juliana Greenwood,  her need begins to take over. Then, there is issues with her cousin; all is not what it seems. She is needy, persistent, and sees her as an unpaid nurse rather than family and a companion. Suddenly, as an event shakes the town, the “Devil” begins to take over. Part love story, part Victorian Gothic story, The Devil in the Corner is engaging and enthralling. Has the Devil really come?

The Devil in the Corner is a compelling story told by two narrators, Maud, and John Shawcross, her love interest who is a local artist set to restore the Doom painting in the local Church. Their love story often gets in the way of what really is happening; the relationship between Maud and Juliana, Maud’s Laudanum addiction, the visions she sees and imagines, the rumors and accusations brought forth against her. Although John offered a different perspective, full of love and want for Maud, his story was one that could be expendable in this 400 page novel. It was what happened to Maud that was the most interesting.

In this novel, there is an underlining theme of good and bad; with the “Devil” appearing later on. The painting John has to restore is of the Judgment which later becomes one of the central themes in the novel. In the begin, Maud keeps thinking she sees shadows and that someone is following her, thus assigning this to the Devil. She also believes she has heavily sinned, as she tries to tell John who does not believe in any religion. He believes in Darwinism. Which also becomes a conversation piece, however brief.Then an event happens that shakes the town and its beliefs. I won’t say what happens because, spoilers, but it’s big.

I liked how Elliott approached the idea of divinity and good and evil. The symbolism was strong. The way she used the Devil throughout her novel was really good. She didn’t throw it in the reader’s face. She approached it slowly, then sped things up at a nice, progressive pace. The plot twist was great. I enjoyed it immensely. It was unexpected, new, and kept me engaged. The chapters were often short, and left me wanting more. I rather breezed through this relatively long book that did not feel like 400 pages long. I really lost myself in the characters and plot. Juliana was the right amount of bad and needy. Maud was the right amount of scarred.

I would definitely recommend this book. It was an enjoyable read that I didn’t put down often. The Gothic aspect was very well written. The only issue I had was the love story which can be easily bypassed. It’s not that it’s cheesy, it’s just that it should take third chair to all the action that Maud sees. I hope you give this book a look over. Don’t be thrown by the pages, it’s shorter than it seems.

 

 

Maybe isn’t Always Positive: The Opposite of Maybe by Maddie Dawson Book Review

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The Opposite of Maybe

By: Maddie Dawson

Released: April 8th, 2014 by Broadway Books

Length: 400 Pages

Genre: Women’s Literature

Rating: Four Stars

Acquired: via Netgalley

 

This is what happens when you settle: your boyfriend of over fifteen years decides to move the both of you across country to start up a museum full of teacups with a guy he met most, leaving behind your 88 year old grandmother- you sprain your foot, have a mini-break down and stay with her, then find out your pregnant after you both decided from day one to never have kids. Throw in a hot gardener/housekeeper and you have a novel about second choices and chances worth the reader’s while.

After fifteen years together, and no ring in sight, Rosie and Jonathon have lived a life together that perfectly suited them–until he gets a call to help start a teacup museum in California that prompts an impromptu proposal at a diner. But, when they wedding plans go sour, and Jonathon has to cancel, Rosie begins to awaken from her fifteen years of comfortable slumber. From there, after a fight and calling off the move, Jonathon continues his journey to California without her as she moves back in with her eighty-eight year old, accident prone Grandmother who has conveniently forgotten to tell her about the handsome, younger new help she has hired.

Tony is also at a difficult stage in is life. He just found out his wife and mother to his child is a lesbian; and, is now living with his best friend’s wife. The new lover won’t allow Tony to see his son very often, forcing him to sneak around to see him and hide in his car.

It is Tony who first suggests forty-four year old “I can’t get pregnant, I’m too old” Rosie is pregnant. She said that line a couple of times. But, surprise, she gets pregnant anyway! As Jonathon was always anti-kids, Tony becomes the one really there for her. Could he be more…

I read this book in one afternoon it was that good. I just couldn’t put it down. Every chance I got that day, my nose was in that book. All the characters were great. Jonathon was approximately boring and self-centered. Rosie’s grandmother Soapie was fantastic. She had wit, brains, and attitude. I loved her; and wished, at times, she was my Grandmother. Tony had a scene that melted my heart. I cried, I really really did. I read his speech twice and cried. It was realistic, meaningful, and not forced at all. He was possibly my favorite character. Rosie was great, too. I liked how she grew on her own. Once she got rid of Jonathon, she became a better person.

This was just an overall great book. There aren’t many bad things, if any, to say about the book. I loved them all. Rosie had snark that I loved. The characters were developed well. The plot moved along nicely. I would recommend this book as a nice afternoon beach read. You will get sucked in almost immediately. I know I did. It is one of those books you get a lot out of, but don’t need to put much energy into. It really is a great, quick fun read. I hope you give it a chance.

Happy reading!

 

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