Thursday, March 26, 2015

Review: Vanishing Girls

Vanishing Girls
By Lauren Oliver
Release date: March 10, 2015

New York Times bestselling author Lauren Oliver delivers a gripping story about two sisters inexorably altered by a terrible accident.

Dara and Nick used to be inseparable, but that was before the accident that left Dara's beautiful face scarred and the two sisters totally estranged. When Dara vanishes on her birthday, Nick thinks Dara is just playing around. But another girl, nine-year-old Madeline Snow, has vanished, too, and Nick becomes increasingly convinced that the two disappearances are linked. Now Nick has to find her sister, before it's too late.

In this edgy and compelling novel, Lauren Oliver creates a world of intrigue, loss, and suspicion as two sisters search to find themselves, and each other.

My review:

Vanishing Girls looks at the relationships in one broken family. Nick is worried about her sister Dara who is becoming increasingly wild since their father moved out.  The close bond she shared with Dara began to fray as Dara became more beautiful and popular and started dating Parker, Nick's best friend. Nick also has feelings for Parker that she feels guilty about. After the accident, things only get worse. Dara can't stand Nick and no matter how much Nick tries to reach out, it doesn't work. Then Dara disappears and Nick wonders if maybe something bad happened to her.

The story goes back and forth in the past as well as the present "after the accident". When I started reading this book, I had a hard time liking Dara. She was a party girl and seemed to be kind of spoiled and petulant. The sisters are very different which lead to some complications in their relationship with each other. Nick came across as more caring but also kind of bossy in a big sister way before the accident. After the accident, Nick struggles a lot with guilt. She takes a job under duress at a local theme park where she reluctantly reconnects with Parker and makes some new friends. There she seems to bloom a little until her sister disappears. Then she starts trying to figure out what happened to Madeline Snow.

This is not a suspense novel though the missing Madeline Snow adds a little bit of intrigue to the plot. It is more about mending damaged relationships and forgiveness. There is also a shocking twist that I did not see coming. Maybe I just wasn't reading carefully enough but the author took me by surprise. It made me rethink how I felt about the book.

Overall I liked Vanishing Girls. The writing reminded me a little of Before I Fall, Lauren Oliver's debut novel which I loved after the disappointment of the Delirium trilogy. I liked that the book focused so much on sisters and less on romance though there is some there. I think readers who like darker contemporary novels will enjoy this the most though some may find the twist to be a gimmick. 

Note: I received an ARC for review purposes courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday (149)

"Waiting on" Wednesday is a weekly meme to discuss upcoming books we can't wait to get our hands on. Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week, I'm waiting on:

After You by Jojo Moyes
Release date: September 29, 2015

There isn't an official description of the book yet but it is a sequel to Me Before You, which I loved. 

Sophomore Year is Greek to Me by Meredith Zeitlin
Release date: April 21, 2015

A laugh-out-loud high school adventure set in Greece, perfect for fans of Meg Cabot 
High school sophomore Zona Lowell has lived in New York City her whole life, and plans to follow in the footsteps of her renowned-journalist father. But when he announces they’re moving to Athens for six months so he can work on an important new story, she's devastated— he must have an ulterior motive. See, when Zona's mother married an American, her huge Greek family cut off contact. But Zona never knew her mom, and now she’s supposed to uproot her entire life and meet possibly hostile relatives on their turf? Thanks... but no thanks. 
In the vein of Anna and the French Kiss, Zona navigates a series of hilarious escapades, eye-opening revelations, and unexpected reunions in a foreign country—all while documenting the trip through one-of-a-kind commentary.

I think this sounds like such a fun story. I like the setting and I think it would be a great book to pick up when I want something light and humorous. Plus I enjoy travel fiction :)

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Top Ten Books From My Childhood/Teen Years I'd Love to Revisit

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. There is a new subject each week and this week's topic is Top Ten Books From My Childhood/Teen Years I'd Love to Revisit.

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

I first read this book as a teenager. I admit that I picked it up after seeing the film version of Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel and swooning over Gilbert Blythe :) I also thought it was hilariously funny so I'd love the chance to revisit Avonlea.

Christy by Catherine Marshall

This is another gem that I picked up because of the TV series. When Christy was televised in the 90s, the book was reissued and I found it at my local Christian bookstore. I loved Christy (though I was disappointed about who she picked to marry) and I also loved Catherine Marshall's other novel, Julie. I even did a report on the author in English class. I was planning to be an English teacher at the time so of course Christy resonated with me even more.

The Other Side of Dark by Joan Lowery Nixon

This suspense novel really appealed to me as a young teen. I found it in the middle school library and I liked that it involved high schoolers and even had a touch of romance. I admit that I reread the book many times even though I knew who the killer was.

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

I remember finding this at a school book fair and wanting to read it. I think I'd appreciate it much more now then I did when I was a kid.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

I read this for a class but I'd like to revisit it now that I'm older and because Go Set a Watchman is being published this summer.

The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare

This book and Johnny Tremain are the novels I credit with helping me to realize how much I love historical fiction. This time period and the witch hunts were fascinating to me so even though it was assigned reading, it didn't feel like a chore.

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

I loved this book but I think my younger sister read it first. Usually I read books and passed them on to her!

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder

I loved the TV show and the novel though I haven't read all of the books in the series. I remember my teacher had a really cool display with Little House dolls in our classroom in elementary school.

A Home for Jessie by Christine Pullein-Thompson

This was one of my sister's books but I read it and loved it too. We both wanted a dog so desperately and I think reading about dogs was our way of educating ourselves and proving to our parents that we could take care of one!  

The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder

This was a classroom assignment and I was fascinated by the inclusion of Egyptian myth into the story. I had read Joan Lowery Nixon's The House on Hackman's Hill so I was really into Egyptian mythology already.

The Little Gymnast by Sheila Haigh

I read this book so many times that I can still remember things so vividly like Anda's birthday at her Gran's house when she first saw a gymnast on TV and decided she wanted to be one too. I secretly wanted to be a gymnast so it is no surprise that I loved this book so much :)

Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary

I loved stories of Ramona and I even got a cool nickname from it for my sister (Reneta the Pest) which she didn't really appreciate as much. I actually did reread this last year when my mom was sick. My sister and I took turns reading it to her in the hospital. We also read Charlotte's Web (my mom's favorite) and Amelia Bedelia. 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

It's Monday, What Are You Reading (208)

It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a fun weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey where we share what we've read and reviewed over the past week and what we plan to read next.

I'm glad that spring is finally here...well, it sort of is anyway. It is officially spring though we did have some snow on Friday. Thankfully it didn't stick around and hopefully it will warm up again soon. I look forward to packing away my sweaters and my winter coat!

I feel like I haven't been reading as much lately. My reading pace is starting to slow down. Of course I've also been watching more TV now that some of my shows are back from hiatus. Last week's episode of The Flash was pretty big so I'm looking forward to seeing where things go this week. I also watched Arrow and Once Upon a Time and Jane the Virgin which is now on hiatus for a few weeks. Plus I finally got some TV series on hold at the library, namely Outlander and Game of Thrones Season Four. I've watched the first two episodes of Game of Thrones and the "Purple Wedding" lived up to expectations. It looks like Season 5 will be pretty interesting and possibly deviate from the book.

I don't want you to think I've been a couch potato though. :) I did finally work out again earlier this week after more than a month of not exercising. I hope to continue that trend especially now that warmer weather is around the corner. 

Books reviewed:

The Storyspinner by Becky Wallace
The Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoski

Books read:

Maid of Deception by Jennifer McGowan

I liked this sequel to Maid of Secrets. Beatrice wasn't my favorite character in the first book (she was pretty mean to Meg) but I really felt bad for her in this one and seeing things from her perspective made me like her more.

A Heart Revealed by Josi S. Kilpack

I really liked this story. It is an unlikely kind of romance where you start out not liking the heroine (she really is pretty vain and mean) but then her character changes due to her difficult circumstances (hair loss, her family and society shun her, she lives in poor conditions) so you start to like her more and more. The love story comes later on too as the heroine has a lot of growing to do (and so does the hero).

Scarlett Undercover by Jennifer Latham

I thought this was an entertaining mystery. Scarlett is headstrong, smart, cocky, and fun as a teen detective. She does get herself in danger sometimes but she is very capable. The Goodreads description suggests this for fans of Veronica Mars and although I've only seen a few episodes of the show I can see the similar personalities.

Currently reading:

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

I was struggling with this one after initially being drawn in to the story but now it is starting to get good again. I like the parts that are in Elias's perspective much more than Laia's. I will say it is a very violent and dark book. 

What I plan to read next:

I've sort of already started reading this on my Kindle but I need to finish An Ember in the Ashes soon since my review is due this week. This is our March selection in my afternoon book group so I need to read it by the end of the month. I like the story so far. I find it fascinating to learn about Robert Louis Stevenson. 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Review: The Winner's Crime

The Winner's Crime
By Marie Rutkoski
Published: March 3, 2015

Note: I did my best to write this review in a "nonspoilery" way for readers who haven't read The Winner's Curse though there are some minor spoilers (where the characters are geographically at the start of the book for example). 

My review:

The Winner's Crime is a sequel to The Winner's Curse, one of my favorite debuts from last year. I thought it was just as good as the first book though the romance necessarily takes a backseat to other matters.

At the end of the first book, Kestrel made a deal to keep Arin safe and stop the Valorian army from destroying his people and the land. Now she is living at the palace, trapped as a pawn of the Valorian Emperor and playing a very dangerous game to survive. Arin meanwhile is in Herran but he can't keep his mind off of Kestrel. When their paths cross, Kestrel has to convince the emperor and his court that there is nothing between her and Arin, something that Arin's presence makes very difficult. The Herrani minister also asks her to spy for him which increases the stakes. One one hand she has to show that she supports her people and on the other she is desperate to save the Herrani.

I thought The Winner's Crime really built on The Winner's Curse. There is a greater focus on what is going on in the outside world. At the same time the court is filled with political machinations and Kestrel is always acting to keep herself alive. She has enemies and doesn't know who she can trust within the palace. Even her own maids are spying on her. I think that heightens the feeling of tension and suspense in the novel.

Arin is at times frustrating. He is easily swayed and at one point really believes the worst of Kestrel. He nearly ruins her plans a number of times. If only she had been honest with him! Of course all the secrets make the plot more interesting! Arin is also looking into forming some allies against Valoria so some intriguing new characters are introduced.

There is quite a bit of violence in this book. Kestrel witnesses some torture and there of course are killings but some of that happens off screen. The emperor reminded me of President Snow from The Hunger Games. He is very ruthless and cunning. He seems to know far more than he should. Of course Kestrel's father (who reminds me of Tywin Lannister) is similarly ruthless but he does seem to love his daughter or at least he is proud of her new position at the court. 

I felt really bad for Kestrel through most of the book. She continued to seek her father's love and she tried to mend fences with her best friend Jess. She is very isolated at the palace and even her music room doesn't bring her much joy. While some honesty would have made things easier between her and Arin, she was trying to protect the people she cared about even while making some dangerous decisions. 

The Winner's Crime ends with a shocking cliffhanger and I can't wait to find out what happens next. I thought it was a fantastic book and it definitely lived up to my expectations. I'd suggest this series to readers who enjoyed historical fantasy  with political scheming, secrets and romance like Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes and The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson. If you like books with intelligent heroines, political intrigue and secrets, consider giving this series a try!

Note: I received an ARC for review purposes courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday (148)

"Waiting on" Wednesday is a weekly meme to discuss upcoming books we can't wait to get our hands on. Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week, I'm waiting on:

Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella
Release date: June 9, 2015

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Shopaholic series comes a terrific blend of comedy, romance, and psychological recovery in a contemporary YA novel sure to inspire and entertain.
An anxiety disorder disrupts fourteen-year-old Audrey’s daily life. She has been making slow but steady progress with Dr. Sarah, but when Audrey meets Linus, her brother’s gaming teammate, she is energized. She connects with him. Audrey can talk through her fears with Linus in a way she’s never been able to do with anyone before. As their friendship deepens and her recovery gains momentum, a sweet romantic connection develops, one that helps not just Audrey but also her entire family.

I've been reading Sophie Kinsella's humorous books for adults for years now and I've enjoyed most of them so I am hopeful about her YA debut though it doesn't sound like the other books she has written. Then again, her usual formula wouldn't work as well for a teen protagonist! I also like that Linus sounds a little nerdy and that the book tackles the subject of anxiety disorders for teens.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Top Ten Books on My Spring TBR List

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. There is a new subject each week and this week's topic is Top Ten Books on My Spring TBR List.

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

I love fairy tale retellings so I am looking forward to this version of Beauty and the Beast. I've heard that this is classified as "New Adult" as opposed to YA fiction so I hope that I'll be able to decide if I should put it in the library's teen fiction collection or with our fiction for adults.

Inside the O'Briens by Lisa Genova

I recently read and loved Still Alice and this story sounds like it deals with some similar questions involving a hereditary disease (Huntington's Disease in this case).

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

This is a YA debut that I am particularly excited about since it is a retelling of A Thousand and One Nights.

Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed

This debut is the story of a young Pakistani American teen who falls in love and is then taken to Pakistan where her parents plan to force her into an arranged marriage.

The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan

I want to read this romantic comedy because it is loosely based on the romance of Prince William and Kate Middleton (if you couldn't guess by the cover).

P.S., I Still Love You by Jenny Han

I really liked To All the Boys I've Loved Before so I am eager to read this sequel and hope it won't disappoint!

Things We Know By Heart by Jessi Kirby

I am a fan of Jessi Kirby's books and this one sounds like it will be an emotional story. A young teen is grieving the death of her boyfriend and trying to get in touch with the boy who received his heart.

The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler

This is a contemporary romance with a "Little Mermaid" vibe to it. I like that the protagonist is from Trinidad too.

Letters to the Lost by Iona Grey

I love historical fiction set in WWII. In this novel, a young woman in modern times escapes a dangerous relationship and ends up in an abandoned house where she receives a letter written between an American bomber pilot and a British woman in 1942. She becomes determined to find out what happened to them.

Beach Town by Mary Kay Andrews

I love Mary Kay Andrews! Her books always remind me of summer. While I probably won't be near a beach this summer, I think this will be a fun book to welcome my favorite season :)