Book Review: Landline by Rainbow Rowell

Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble. That it’s been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply — but that almost seems besides the point now.

Maybe that was always besides the point.

Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her — Neal is always a little upset with Georgie — but she doesn’t expect to him to pack up the kids and go home without her.

When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything.

That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts . . .

Is that what she’s supposed to do?

Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened?

3.5 cupcakes

“You meet someone, and you fall in love, and you hope that that person is the one — and then at some point, you have to put down your chips. You just have to make a commitment and hope that you’re right.”

Rainbow Rowell has the gift of being able to write beautiful yet honest depictions of love’s many stages. Landline is a bit of a departure from her previous works in that it takes a less idealistic view of love and integrates a touch of magical realism into the story, however it manages to find its way into your heart all the same.

Landline is about how much can change between your twenties and your forties. The choices you make and the things that you’re passionate about now may not be enough to sustain your happiness in the future, and sometimes it’s hard to remember how work went from being something that you enjoyed to something that you have to do. Landline also shows how easy it is to become complacent in your relationships, reminding us not to take the people we love for granted and to work harder to keep the spark alive.

Despite the fact that I’m twenty years old and the only relationship I’m in is with my Netflix account, I found it incredibly easy to sympathize with Georgie. She’s very goal-oriented, and her tight focus on work often takes her away from her home responsibilities – a large source of tension in her household. Georgie’s selfishness, especially when it came to her relationship with her best friend Seth, made her hard to like at times, but her narrative voice was compelling enough that I could overlook that.

Through the use of a “magic phone” and flashbacks, the past and present are weaved together to remind Georgie (and readers) about just how much she truly loves her husband. Readers get to experience their relationship from the beginning (from when they first met to where they are now, with all the bumps between), so I was pleasantly surprised to find myself completely rooting for Neal and Georgie to stay together by the end of the book.

My main complaint about Landline is that the plot was rather slow. With Eleanor & Park, Fangirl, and Attachments, I had a rather hard time accomplishing anything as I didn’t want to put them down; Landline, however, was rather easy to walk away from, and just as easy to get back into after I picked it back up. There were also several plot points that I wish had been explored further. Mostly, though, the open ending left me questioning the strength of Georgie and Neal’s relationship, and whether or not they could truly last.

Overall, I enjoyed reading Landline. While it may not be my favourite of Rainbow Rowell’s works, I’ll still check out whatever beautifully written book she comes out with next.

Book Review: The Infinite Moment of Us by Lauren Myracle

For as long as she can remember, Wren Gray’s goal has been to please her parents. But as high school graduation nears, so does an uncomfortable realization: Pleasing her parents once overlapped with pleasing herself, but now… not so much. Wren needs to honor her own desires, but how can she if she doesn’t even know what they are?

Charlie Parker, on the other hand, is painfully aware of his heart’s desire. A gentle boy with a troubled past, Charlie has loved Wren since the day he first saw her. But a girl like Wren would never fall for a guy like Charlie—at least not the sort of guy Charlie believes himself to be.

And yet certain things are written in the stars. And in the summer after high school, Wren and Charlie’s souls will collide. But souls are complicated, as are the bodies that house them…

Sexy, romantic, and oh-so-true to life, this is an unforgettable look at first love from one of young adult fiction’s greatest writers.

“Sometimes the things we hide – aren’t they the parts of us that matter most?”

The Infinite Moment of Us certainly had a strong beginning. We’re introduced to Wren and Charlie, whose home lives couldn’t be more different: Charlie is a foster child who struggles to belong in his current family. Wren is the Perfect Child who gets good grades and follows the path that her parents have set for her – whether that includes not dating throughout high school or attending a college of their choice – but recently her parents’ desires have not been lining up with her own aspirations. These problems are so easy to relate to, so I was really excited to see how Myracle would resolve them… but, unfortunately, they were lost by the wayside once the romance came into the picture.

When it comes to contemporary romance novels, I expect to feel something, even if I don’t end up completely invested in the couple. Given their back-stories and vastly different home lives, I was interested to see how Wren and Charlie’s relationship dynamic would play out; after all, opposites attract and all that. Unfortunately, the romance left me incredibly bored – a bad sign when it takes up ~90% of the plot.

To start, I’m still not entirely sure why their relationship happened. One day, Wren and Charlie are virtual strangers, aside from the fact that they go to the same school; the next day, after prolonged eye contact, they’re falling deeply into instalove. Any characterization that had occurred up to that point was thrown away, leaving “madly in love” (complete with cheesy dialogue, jealousy/insecurity, and petty arguments) as their only personality traits.

I did, however, enjoy the sex positive message that Myracle conveyed. Sex was portrayed in a frank and open way, encompassing the wonder and awkwardness of first love.

Overall, The Infinite Moment of Us did not live up to my expectations. If the story lines involving Charlie’s tentative relationship with his foster parents and Wren’s desire to break free from her parents’ expectations received a more central focus, I probably would have enjoyed it a lot more.

Book Review: Perfect Fifths by Megan McCafferty

Old flames are reignited in the fifth and final book in the New York Times bestselling Jessica Darling series.

Captivated readers have followed Jessica through every step and misstep: from her life as a tormented, tart-tongued teenager to her years as a college grad stumbling toward adulthood. Now a young professional in her mid-twenties, Jess is off to a Caribbean wedding. As she rushes to her gate at the airport, she literally runs into her former boyfriend, Marcus Flutie. It’s the first time she’s seen him since she reluctantly turned down his marriage proposal three years earlier–and emotions run high.

Marcus and Jessica have both changed dramatically, yet their connection feels as familiar as ever. Is their reunion just a fluke or has fate orchestrated this collision of their lives once again?

Told partly from Marcus’s point of view, Perfect Fifths finally lets readers inside the mind of the one person who’s both troubled and titillated Jessica Darling for years. Expect nothing less than the satisfying conclusion fans have been waiting for, one perfect in its imperfection…

My Rating: 2 cupcakes

In a departure from the style of the previous books, Perfect Fifths is not told in the format of one of Jessica’s journals; instead, readers are given a glimpse into both Marcus and Jessica’s heads through an omniscient narrator. This change in narration took away the air of mystery that made Marcus such an intriguing character and replaced it with an immature, less enlightened individual than I had envisioned. It also distanced me from Jessica’s character, which is a shame given how much I love her snarky, authentic thoughts.

In my review for Fourth Comings, I mentioned how nice it was to see that Marcus and Jessica were talking, even if her journal served as the basis for that communication. The conversations that took place in Perfect Fifths, while pretentious at times, provided evidence of their connection that had been missing from previous installments. It also showed just how much Marcus and Jessica had grown and matured – and, at the same time, just how similar they were to their high school counterparts.

Jessica’s realization about her feelings for Marcus seemed very contrived. From the Barry Manilow duet to the strange dreams, it just didn’t seem real. Worse than that, though, the introduction of Sunny Dae served as a plot device to get Marcus and Jessica back together, as opposed to the fleshed-out, sympathetic character that she was intended to be.

Overall, I was fairly disappointed with Perfect Fifths. If I’m ever going to reread this series, I think I’ll just stick with books one and two.

Book Review: These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner

It’s a night like any other on board the Icarus. Then, catastrophe strikes: the massive luxury spaceliner is yanked out of hyperspace and plummets into the nearest planet. Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen survive. And they seem to be alone.

Lilac is the daughter of the richest man in the universe. Tarver comes from nothing, a young war hero who learned long ago that girls like Lilac are more trouble than they’re worth. But with only each other to rely on, Lilac and Tarver must work together, making a tortuous journey across the eerie, deserted terrain to seek help.

Then, against all odds, Lilac and Tarver find a strange blessing in the tragedy that has thrown them into each other’s arms. Without the hope of a future together in their own world, they begin to wonder—would they be better off staying here forever?

Everything changes when they uncover the truth behind the chilling whispers that haunt their every step. Lilac and Tarver may find a way off this planet. But they won’t be the same people who landed on it.

A timeless love story, THESE BROKEN STARS sets into motion a sweeping science fiction series of companion novels. The Starbound Trilogy: Three worlds. Three love stories. One enemy.

My Rating: 5 cupcakes

When I saw that These Broken Stars was being described as “the Titanic in space,” I was expecting a love story set on an uncrashable spaceship. While I can certainly see the parallels – star-crossed lovers on board the Icarus, which is unexpectedly pulled out of hyperspace – These Broken Stars was so much more than that.

These Broken Stars is very much a character-driven story. Readers are immediately introduced to the two leads who couldn’t be more different: Tarver, the young war hero, and Lilac, the spoiled daughter of the richest man in the galaxy. Both of these characters are flawed but likeable, though it did take me a little bit longer to warm to Lilac, and I really enjoyed reading their inner monologues through the dual POVs we were given. Over the course of the story, circumstances cause both of these characters to grow and change, though I was most impressed with Lilac’s character development: as she learns to survive on an unknown planet, she transforms from an entitled society girl to a caring, considerate young lady that I grew to adore.

Of course, as the synopsis suggests, there is an element of star-crossed romance that is present in the story. Thankfully, it wasn’t insta-love; instead, Tarver and Lilac’s relationship slowly progresses from reluctant allies to a tentative friendship to a swoon-worthy romance.

At its core, though, These Broken Stars is about survival against all odds. While this may not make for a lot of action, mysterious “whispers” and unexpected twists kept me reading until the early morning. And all of these strange happenings culminated in a breathtaking conclusion that left me eagerly awaiting the sequel.

Overall, I really enjoyed These Broken Stars. This beautifully written, character driven story was unputdownable, and I can’t wait to see where the story goes next.

Guest Post: Ghosts by Brina Courtney

Hi everyone! I’m really excited to welcome Brina Courtney, the author of Reveal, to the blog for a guest post about one of my favourite topics: ghosts.

—–

Why have ghosts become this scary object we’re supposed to fear? I’ve never been afraid of ghosts, I’ve just always felt that they’re spirits who have unresolved business. I had never thought they wanted to hurt us until I started to watch scary movies. Then I, and I deduce you, became fearful of these translucent beings.

So here is what I have to say about that, don’t fear ghosts. Think about all the wonderful people who have died, I really don’t believe they’d be haunting you in such a horrible way. Ghosts have been turned into these gruesome monsters, by television and movies when really I think they’ve been misinterpreted.  But Hollywood is what it is and we can’t deny the American public seems to like watching people be chased by bloodied figures flying down the hall in the dark chasing the victim to their untimely death. We like the gore and the spooky feeling it gives us. Why? I really can’t tell ya. But how many times have you hidden under the covers because of a ghost story?

I think our biggest mistake is we consider demons and ghosts the same entity, but really they’re totally different. Demons are evil spirits or fallen angels and trust me, those are people I would be afraid of. Get your blankets friends, and keep the lights on if you have a demon attached to you!

But for now, light a candle and welcome the ghosts into our world.

——

About the Book:

Title: Reveal (Cryptid Tales, #1)
Author: Brina Courtney
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance

You think seeing ghosts is weird? Tell me something I don’t know.

Shay Tafford’s childhood has been fatherless, filled instead with memories of speaking to the
dead. She is forced to hide her unique ability from those living around her. That’s why it’s been comforting to have Jeremy, a child ghost, as her confidante. But recently he’s been absent, perhaps lost as her father is. When Shay meets Hugh, the guy she’s had a crush on for weeks, and finds he can speak to ghosts too, she’s just starting to find a normalcy in her life.

But as Hugh reveals the truth to Shay, about who she really is and about what it is she can do, he erases all chances she had at a normal existence. Turns out talking to ghosts is just scratching the surface of her genetically engineered gifts. Shay learns she may be part of an age old prophecy that could save the entire race of cryptids. But can she?

Quotes

“So here I am with a dead girl in my car, in a super creepy forest, stalking a potentially dead father…yeah, not one of my brightest moments.”

“She sighs, “Shay you can’t live your life in fear. If you do there’s just no point in living.”

“He turns and leaves, heading towards the math building and though I hate to see him leave, I do love to watch him walk away.”

About the Author

5295520Brina Courtney is a young adult author obsessed with chocolate, crime shows, and fantasy movies. She’s spent the last few years as an elementary teacher and a high school cheering coach. She lives in a small town in Pennsylvania with her husband and two very loud, small dogs.

Connect with Brina: Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter

Book Review: The Distance Between Us by Kasie West

Seventeen-year-old Caymen Meyers studies the rich like her own personal science experiment, and after years of observation she’s pretty sure they’re only good for one thing—spending money on useless stuff, like the porcelain dolls in her mother’s shop.

So when Xander Spence walks into the store to pick up a doll for his grandmother, it only takes one glance for Caymen to figure out he’s oozing rich. Despite his charming ways and that he’s one of the first people who actually gets her, she’s smart enough to know his interest won’t last. Because if there’s one thing she’s learned from her mother’s warnings, it’s that the rich have a short attention span. But Xander keeps coming around, despite her best efforts to scare him off. And much to her dismay, she’s beginning to enjoy his company.

She knows her mom can’t find out—she wouldn’t approve. She’d much rather Caymen hang out with the local rocker who hasn’t been raised by money. But just when Xander’s attention and loyalty are about to convince Caymen that being rich isn’t a character flaw, she finds out that money is a much bigger part of their relationship than she’d ever realized. And that Xander’s not the only one she should’ve been worried about.

My Rating: 4.5 cupcakes

This is what a contemporary romance should look like. The Distance Between Us contains ridiculously adorable, yet not unrealistic, romance that warmed my heart and put a huge smile on my face.

From the first chapter, I knew that I would love the main character, Caymen. Caymen is sarcastic at every turn, and doesn’t hesitate to answer your stupid questions with a witty one-liner. Her sarcastic quips never failed to make me laugh, and more than once I envied the way her mind worked to produce these excellent lines.

Caymen’s relationship with Xander is one of the most adorable things I’ve read in some time. They complement each other perfectly. Their banter is heartwarming and clever, and their relationship is realistic and slow to build. Xander himself is definitely a candidate for my favourite book boyfriend: he’s sweet, caring, and willing to apologize when he’s in the wrong. It was really nice to see how spending time with Xander managed to strip away some of Caymen’s prejudices against the rich and privileged, especially since this change was gradual.

While The Distance Between Us primarily focuses on cultivating the relationship between Caymen and Xander, West also gives us a look at other important relationships. Caymen and her best friend Skye, Caymen and her mother, Xander and his family, Skye and her boyfriend – all of these are well-developed, authentic, and interesting.

My only complaint is that the ending felt quite rushed, and left me with a lot of unanswered questions. The one I’m most curious about, though, is the origin of Caymen’s name, which could have made for a really interesting story.

Overall, The Distance Between Us was a thoroughly enjoyable read. I definitely recommend it if you’re looking for completely adorable romance that will leave you smiling for hours after you’ve finished reading.

Book Review: For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund

It’s been several generations since a genetic experiment gone wrong caused the Reduction, decimating humanity and giving rise to a Luddite nobility who outlawed most technology.

Elliot North has always known her place in this world. Four years ago Elliot refused to run away with her childhood sweetheart, the servant Kai, choosing duty to her family’s estate over love. Since then the world has changed: a new class of Post-Reductionists is jumpstarting the wheel of progress, and Elliot’s estate is foundering, forcing her to rent land to the mysterious Cloud Fleet, a group of shipbuilders that includes renowned explorer Captain Malakai Wentforth–an almost unrecognizable Kai. And while Elliot wonders if this could be their second chance, Kai seems determined to show Elliot exactly what she gave up when she let him go.

But Elliot soon discovers her old friend carries a secret–one that could change their society . . . or bring it to its knees. And again, she’s faced with a choice: cling to what she’s been raised to believe, or cast her lot with the only boy she’s ever loved, even if she’s lost him forever.

Inspired by Jane Austen’s Persuasion, For Darkness Shows the Stars is a breathtaking romance about opening your mind to the future and your heart to the one person you know can break it.

My Rating:  4 cupcakes

I’m ashamed to admit that I have never read Persuasion. As a result, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from For Darkness Shows the Stars, but I was very pleasantly surprised that my lack of knowledge surrounding its predecessor didn’t hinder my reading experience by any means. Instead, it finally caused me to put a Jane Austen book onto my reading list, which is no small feat!

As a biology student, I found myself fascinated by the world that Peterfrend created. In this world, scientific advancements have gone much too far in unlocking one’s true genetic potential. Experiments were carried out on young children in an attempt to engineer the perfect human who was stronger, faster, and better in every way. Of course, as in reality, these advancements do not come without consequences… and that’s where the story starts to get interesting. If we can determine whether or not a child has a disability and use gene therapy to treat certain illnesses, who’s to say that we won’t eventually be able to engineer a human? It wasn’t difficult to imagine this world as a possible future for mankind, adding a dose of scary realism to the story.

One of my favourite parts of For Darkness Shows the Stars was, surprisingly, the relationship between Eliot and Kai as told through their childhood letters. Their relationship has always been one with an imbalance of power, and it was interesting to see how that dynamic impacted their already forbidden friendship. Through these letters, we see how Kai’s knowledge and experiences challenge the information that Eliot has always blindly accepted and how that shapes her future actions.

Eliot North was a very admirable heroine. After I got over the initial shock that Eliot was, in fact, female, I found myself fascinated by her quiet determination. She knew which battles were worth fighting, even if they required tremendous sacrifices, and she also knew when to walk away. While I sometimes wished she wasn’t quite so passive, I can’t imagine that I would have acted any differently given the burdens, responsibilities, and secrets that Eliot shoulders throughout the course of the story.

Overall, For Darkness Shows the Stars is more than a romance story: it’s rife with heavy themes such as class conflict, the dangers of genetic modification, and acceptance. Most of all, though, it shows the importance of hope, and how even the smallest actions can impact someone’s life in dramatic ways.

Waiting On Wednesday (January 15)

wow

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly book meme hosted by Breaking the Spine, which spotlights upcoming releases that are eagerly anticipated.

This week, I’m waiting on On The Fence by Kasie West.

She’s a tomboy. He’s the boy next door…

Charlie Reynolds can outrun, outscore, and outwit every boy she knows. But when it comes to being a girl, Charlie doesn’t know the first thing about anything. So when she starts working at a chichi boutique to pay off a speeding ticket, she finds herself in a strange new world. To cope with the stress of her new reality, Charlie takes to spending nights chatting with her neighbor Braden through the fence between their yards. As she grows to depend on their nightly Fence Chats, she realizes she’s got a bigger problem than speeding tickets-she’s falling for Braden. She knows what it means to go for the win, but if spilling her secret means losing him for good, the stakes just got too high.

Fun, original, and endearing, On the Fence is a romantic comedy about finding yourself and finding love where you least expect.

I just read The Distance Between Us and it was everything I wanted in a contemporary novel. It put Kasie West on my auto-buy list for whenever she writes a cute contemporary romance and this definitely fits the bill, so I’m so excited for it!

Which books are you waiting on? Leave me a link or a list to your Waiting on Wednesday post below. 3

Book Review: Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler

“Don’t worry, Anna. I’ll tell her, okay? Just let me think about the best way to do it.”
“Okay.”
“Promise me? Promise you won’t say anything?”
“Don’t worry.” I laughed. “It’s our secret, right?”

According to Anna’s best friend, Frankie, twenty days in Zanzibar Bay is the perfect opportunity to have a summer fling, and if they meet one boy every day, there’s a pretty good chance Anna will find her first summer romance. Anna lightheartedly agrees to the game, but there’s something she hasn’t told Frankie–she’s already had her romance, and it was with Frankie’s older brother, Matt, just before his tragic death one year ago.

TWENTY BOY SUMMER explores what it truly means to love someone, what it means to grieve, and ultimately, how to make the most of every beautiful moment life has to offer.

My Rating:  2 cupcakes

After seeing all of the glowing recommendations about this book, I knew that I had to give it a read. I was expecting something like The Sky is Everywhere based on the summary, but unfortunately what I read was neither as touching nor as poignant as I had hoped.

I wasn’t really a fan of any of the characters. Anna’s relationship with Matt was sweet to read, but the all-encompassing feelings she had for him seemed to be her defining feature when she was alone. She was far too passive and I quickly became annoyed with her willingness to go along with anything that Frankie suggested. Frankie, on the other hand, came across as shallow, self-absorbed and cruel. While I understood that her rebelliousness was a response to her brother’s death, I didn’t truly feel any sympathy towards her until the end – and even then, I couldn’t quite excuse the way that she treated both Anna and her parents. As for Sam, he had a lot of potential to be a strong, likeable character, but instead he was a strange mix of sweet and caring and detached.

While many of the scenes felt like fillers that I skimmed over, the writing itself was quite beautiful and poetic. There were many standout lines that I wish I could have highlighted, such as: I really don’t even know you, and yet, in my life, you are forever entangled; to my history, inextricably bound. As an added bonus, the cover is not only beautiful; it’s actually related to the plot.

Overall, Twenty Boy Summer was nowhere near what I expected. If the characters were given as much attention as the countless descriptions of the beach, this might have been a more enjoyable read.

Book Review: Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

1


No one knows why Juliette’s touch is fatal, but The Reestablishment has plans for her. Plans to use her as a weapon. But Juliette has plans of her own. After a lifetime without freedom, she’s finally discovering a strength to fight back for the very first time—and to find a future with the one boy she thought she’d lost forever.

 

My Rating:  2 cupcakes

 

At first, Mafi’s writing style is quite interesting: beautifully written prose filled with metaphors and vivid imagery, and the interesting decision to use strikethroughs to simulate the writing in Juliette’s journal. However, after combining that with grammatically awkward numbering and repetition of the same words over and over and over, it becomes somewhat painful to read. There were even some metaphors that made such little sense that they completely disrupted the flow of the story and left me staring at them saying, “um, what?”

“He shifts and my eyes shatter into thousands of pieces that ricochet around the room, capturing a million snapshots, a million moments in time.”

“I hate the lackadaisical ennui of a sun too preoccupied with itself to notice the infinite hours we spend in its presence.”

“So many people had to lose their homes and their children and their last 5 dollars in the bank for promises promises promises so many promises to save them from themselves.”

“Warner thinks Adam is a cardboard cutout of vanilla regurgitations.”

“Hate looks like everybody else until it smiles. Until it spins around and lies with lips and teeth carved into semblance of something too passive to punch.”

I could probably keep up a steady stream of quotes for quite a while since there are about ten of these on each page, but I think I’ve made my point. There’s certainly nothing wrong with flowery prose if used sparingly, but it becomes distracting and tedious when employed in excess.

Once you get used to Mafi’s writing style, the story itself is decent. I wouldn’t classify it as a dystopia though; sure, something went wrong and there’s limited food and problems with the seasons that the Reestablishment is trying to fix, but that seems to take the backseat to the romantic aspects of the plot. And, oh, was there romance. Within the first seventy pages, Juliette is in love with Adam – but don’t worry, it’s not instalove because they’ve had feelings for each other since childhood, even though they had never spoken two words to each other until now. Isn’t that convenient? Needless to say, I never really bought the history between them, and found myself rolling my eyes every time they confessed their love for one another or started making out at the most inopportune times.

Of all of the characters, Warner was the only one with depth; he was simultaneously repulsive and compelling, making him a rather intriguing villain. Adam and Juliette were both really bland and fit nicely into their cookie-cutter roles of “hero” and “damsel in distress.” It wasn’t until the last ~80 pages that Juliette finally did something useful, but by then I had been exposed to enough of her naivety and self-loathing that it was too late to change my opinion.

The ending of Shatter Me was by far my favourite part of the story (and no, it’s not only because it was finally over). The action started to pick up, and we were treated to an institution that was very similar to Charles Xavier’s School For Gifted Youngsters. While it kind of came out of nowhere, it was a nice change from the incessant romance that passed as a plot.

Overall, Shatter Me was a disappointing read. If the sequel is written in the same vein as the ending, I’ll consider giving it a try.