Faithful- Alice Hoffman

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Alice Hoffman (2016)

Growing up on Long Island, Shelby Richmond is an ordinary girl until one night an extraordinary tragedy changes her fate. Her best friend’s future is destroyed in an accident, while Shelby walks away with the burden of guilt.

What happens when a life is turned inside out? When love is something so distant it may as well be a star in the sky? Faithful is the story of a survivor, filled with emotion—from dark suffering to true happiness—a moving portrait of a young woman finding her way in the modern world. A fan of Chinese food, dogs, bookstores, and men she should stay away from, Shelby has to fight her way back to her own future. In New York City she finds a circle of lost and found souls—including an angel who’s been watching over her ever since that fateful icy night.

Here is a character you will fall in love with, so believable and real and endearing, that she captures both the ache of loneliness and the joy of finding yourself at last. For anyone who’s ever been a hurt teenager, for every mother of a daughter who has lost her way, Faithful is a roadmap.

(via Goodreads)

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What I Liked

  • Maravelle’s twin sons Dorian and Teddy, specifically Dorian.
    • I thought he was so sweet, and truthfully, they seemed like the most believably developed characters in the story. What I mean by that is, a number of years are covered throughout the book, and in terms of personal development, the twins seem the most believable.
  • All the dogs!
    • I love a good dog rescue, especially when they deserve a good home.
  • Shelby’s mom
    • She was a really great mom. She did everything she possibly could for her daughter, at great personal sacrifice.
  • The Long Island references
    • Everyone likes reading about places they recognize, right?
  • James
    • Some people are just given a bad hand. He is one of the most likable characters after Shelby’s mom.

What I Disliked

  • Surprisingly, the writing style!
    • I have heard so many amazing things about Alice Hoffman, and IDK if it was the hype or what but her writing seemed a bit childish. She repeated things a few times, and I had a hard time getting into the story for a while
  • Slow pacing, at the beginning
    • Again, I had a hard time getting into the story at first. A few years ago, I would have actually ended up DNFing this because of that fact but I wanted to like Alice Hoffman so much that I pushed through, and I am actually really happy I did.
  • Shelby
    • Blasphemy! You can’t dislike the main character! Oh but you can, and still enjoy the story I might add! I cannot begin to fathom what it must feel like to have to live with survivor’s guilt, but at times I felt like Shelby was inconsistent in her personal development. I mean she had a lot of good in her life post-accident, and yet, in the company of people who CLEARLY cared about her, she still demanded that she was a “nothing” and had “no one.” I think that bothered me the most because it reminds me of myself, and I don’t like to think about that…
  • Ben
    • SPOILER: I would have been content with him completely moving on, and an ending with him in a happy marriage. I don’t think it was necessary to have him come groveling back to Shelby, especially after everything. He deserved to find his happiness with someone who appreciated him.
  • So much focus on being bald
    • Two of my coworkers were actually discussing this book the other day (before I had the chance to open it) and the one said that she was reading it with her friend, but her friend stopped because of how much negative focus was on the fact that Shelby was bald. My coworker’s friend was bald all through high school and college (due to chemo treatments) and she didn’t think that Hoffman was very sensitive to the fact that hair can especially be a huge trigger for some people. Naturally, after hearing my two coworkers discuss this, I was very much aware of every single time it was mentioned, and it did feel somewhat insensitive.

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Final Thoughts

I was a little confused at first about the fate of Helene. Shelby, when she talked about her, made it seem like Helene had actually died in the car accident. However, throughout the book people are visiting her, and think that she has healing powers.. I guess that the accident ultimately left her brain dead, and her parents paid (for over ten years) to have an oxygen machine in her childhood bedroom? That part was I think the most confusing but once I kind of came around to the idea that she was on life support, and that maybe her parents just never took her off it, that it made a little more sense.

I know that is a lot of dislike, especially considering that it took a while to get into, but I did enjoy this book. Once it finally got moving, it was a fast paced, and you do end up liking the majority of the characters. I probably would recommend it to other people, though it does give me pause about picking up Rules of Magic (by Alice Hoffman), which I have been looking forward to since last November…

 

What did you guys think of this Alice Hoffman book? Do you like her writing style? Let’s chat in the comments!

 

 

on deck book On Deck:

Alternate Side by Anna Quindlen (eARC)

 adult book

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Warcross- Marie Lu

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Marie Lu (2017)

For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. Needing to make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.

Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire.

(via Goodreads)

 

I want to start off by saying that it pains me to see that I have not done one of these (book talks/reviews) in almost a month! A lot of that has to do with me trying to figure out how I want to present these from now on, but that is for another time and place- for now, I will continue with what I have been doing so far.

I have to say, going into this book, I had a lot of expectations. Not only did I know that it is a favorite among the book blogging community in general, but when I picked it up for the first time, it reminded me very much of Ready Player One. I loved that book (Ready Player One) so I was skeptical about whether Marie Lu could do something similar, and still make it her own (while also holding my attention). I didn’t intend to like Ready Player One to start with, so I was unsure how to feel when approaching this one.

Starting out, Warcross and Ready Player One had a lot of similarities. They both starred a “hard on their luck” kid with virtually no family, living in the ghetto of their respective worlds. They both lived in a world where a virtual reality game dominated daily life, so much so that reality and game blended into a new kind of normal. They both use run down, outdated equipment to access this game but are super smart/skilled in this game but have no real means of showing off on the grand scale. It took me about a quarter of the way through Warcross to finally start feeling like this was it’s own story. And when that happened, the story itself really took off.

Characters: I am really intrigued by Zero. I kinda knew for a while who it would end up being (at least I had my guesses), but I am completely at a loss for words as to his motive. I get the whole good vs. evil idea, but (without giving too much away) why does Zero stay hidden/anonymous? If I were him, I would have gone about my plan a way different way, perhaps a bit more direct? I don’t want to give away too much so I will leave it at that, but I would really love to chat with you guys about what you think of Zero and his motives.

I am also extremely curious about Emika’s mother. For the beginning half of the book, I was under the impression that she was dead (maybe I missed some context clues or something) but when it was revealed that she simply just left the family, it automatically makes me think that she will have a bigger role sometime later on in the series. I cannot possibly see a way in which they mention that she is still alive and just you know, around, and not reach out to Emika in some way. I mean it’s classic, the struggle between an estranged mother and daughter. Adds a bit of drama that has nothing to do with the game.

As for Hideo, I am really disappointed with how Marie Lu had this character develop through the book. I was completely on board the whole story, until the very end. To me, while I can see the reasoning and what may lead to his ending, I still don’t think it fits what we have already established for this character. I don’t think the ending fits his development arc. But that is just a personal opinion. I am interested to see how he continues to struggle in the next installment of the series.

Finally, there is a character at the very end who is in custody and being interrogated by authorities. I will refrain from giving away that character’s identity, but I am extremely curious what happens to them. The last thing said about them was that they were being interrogated, nothing more. So I am curious to see if they come up again in the next book, and what exactly their part is in the rest of the series.

But what about Emika? Well, she’s your typical main character! I didn’t hate her, but I didn’t exactly love her either. I can relate to the fact that she was super private and didn’t exactly know how to participate on a team, but she wasn’t really my favorite character, though I do love the parts with her and Hideo.

Setting: I wasn’t super impressed by the concept of the game, especially when I already have Ernest Cline’s virtual world fresh in my mind. To me, his world was much more believable as the virtual world we just might see in the near future, as opposed to Marie Lu’s. I felt like I didn’t know much about the actual game of Warcross before the championship games, and even then, I didn’t really understand the whole concept behind it. I am hoping that more of that world gets hashed out and brought to light in the next book in the series.

All in all, I didn’t hate this book, but I definitely did not LOVE it like I wanted to. I could definitely seeing wanting to own the whole series at some point. It did keep me interested throughout, and generally, is an interesting story , not to mention the cover art on Warcross is just beautiful. I don’t think it will be in my top books of the year, but it is way too early to tell.

 

What did you guys think of Warcross (I know most of you have read it)? Lets chat in the comments :]

 

 

on deck book On Deck: 

The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore  childrens book

Aggravated Momentum by Didi Oviatt (eARC)  adult book

The Leaving- Tara Altebrando

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Tara Altebrando (2016)

Six were taken. Eleven years later, five come back–with no idea of where they’ve been.

Eleven years ago, six kindergarteners went missing without a trace. After all that time, the people left behind moved on, or tried to.

Until today. Today five of those kids return. They’re sixteen, and they are . . . fine. Scarlett comes home and finds a mom she barely recognizes, and doesn’t really recognize the person she’s supposed to be, either. But she thinks she remembers Lucas. Lucas remembers Scarlett, too, except they’re entirely unable to recall where they’ve been or what happened to them. Neither of them remember the sixth victim, Max. He doesn’t come back. Everyone wants answers. Most of all Max’s sister Avery, who needs to find her brother–dead or alive–and isn’t buying this whole memory-loss story.

(via Goodreads)

I actually almost didn’t want to write a post for this book. It had been on my physical TBR shelf for over 2 months because I had picked it up at the library in passing. The description sounded great, but other, much more anticipated books fell into my lap and I read those first. I finally put my foot down and decided that I had to read this one before I started yet another new one. Ironically, about halfway through reading this, I was approached to read and review an ARC. It had a deadline though, so yet again, The Leaving got placed on the side. With all the drama surrounding this book, I still am not sure how I feel about it.

I know that I always complain about books that have too many character POVs because it gets confusing to me, but in this case I may have liked a few extra ones, especially considering how many characters were involved in the story. I mean six kids were taken, and we are only given the POVs of two of them (plus the missing boy’s sister). I liked the flow of the story, the twists in the development of what happened. And I am fairly content with the conclusion, for the most part. So why am I having such a hard time writing about it?

I know that the writing style of this particular author was different than what I am used to. It was almost a verse-type of writing, with a lot of spacing, slash marks (to represent “clicks”) and other random markings. I have never read any of her other books, so I was not expecting it. I suppose that could have confused my overall feelings about the book, acting as a distraction from the story rather than adding to it. Look, I know that a lot of people enjoy that little extra. They find it interesting and might feel like it really adds another element to the story, but I think that for me, it would have been better without them.

Regardless of the little interruptions throughout the process of actually completing The Leaving, I found the story to be unique and interesting. I liked that it was different from other abductions, and that the kids really helped to figure out exactly what happened, because lets face it, a lot of times when kids are involved, their opinions and ideas often get pushed to the side and/or ignored. I think that those facts helped compensate for the other distractions, to the point where I can say I did actually enjoy this book. I may even look into other books by this author in the future.

 

Sorry for the shortish post this time, like I said, I almost didn’t even write one! What are your thoughts? Have you read The Leaving? Have you read other books by Tara Altebrando? Lets chat in the comments!

 

 

on deck book On Deck:

All’s Faire in Middle School by Victoria Jamieson  graphic novel icon

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern adult book

Warcross by Marie Lu YA-ICON

When Dimple Met Rishi- Sandhya Menon

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Sandhya Menon (2017)

Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?

Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.

The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.

(via Goodreads)

This book was just absolutely sweet. I know I have seen it on multiple blogs lately, and I can now say I fully understand why. It was light and very rom-com-y but in the most perfect way. Dimple was such a strong female character, I think I would have liked to explore a bit more of her passion (coding) in order to really sell home how serious this camp was for her, and why she makes the decisions that she does. I feel like the author spent a lot of time focused on Rishi’s passion and his struggle though so at least we had it on that end. 

I wanted to see more of the competition, you know, the whole reason they met in this neutral place? I just wanted more details, more interaction with the program- and I don’t mean in the form of a seamlessly pointless “talent” show. I don’t know if it is just me but I cannot see the connection between a mid project talent show and a coding camp. And it was a camp, was it not? Weren’t they going to take classes on coding or something? To better their skills? That part of the story I really wish was flushed out a bit more than it was. Coding is such an important “interest” to teens right now, and if they had that little extra information, I think it really would have put this book a bit more over the edge than just another contemporary novel.

I found the whole dynamic between Dimple and Rishi, and the “Aberzombies” to be authentic, and truthfully, something that doesn’t get talked about or highlighted too often though. At the risk of getting political, I will say that in today’s current society, it certainly appears that being rich gets you what you want and/or feel you deserve. That is such a negative message to show young people, and yet, it is important in the same light because as of right now (and I assume over the entire course of time) it is often the case. 

I loved the different perspective I got from this book too. It was refreshing to have a very cliche story line, told from a completely different light. I find Indian traditions in terms of how they interact with their families (namely, their parents) to be fascinating, and it really added texture to this story. Actually the whole time I was reading this, I was thinking about that movie The Big Sick (if you haven’t seen it, you absolutely should, it’s great). While the story line was not all that similar, it is one of the few times I have viewed an Indian family interaction (actually, looking it up shows that the character Kumail’s family is Pakistani), and Dimple kind of reminded me Kumail, how she was against her family’s traditional views and wanted to break free of the mold. Rishi on the other hand fully embraces his culture and his family’s wishes, to an extent. 

All in all, it was a light, quick and easy read, perfect for this time of year. With my boyfriend gone for the month, it was nice to lose myself in someone else’s romance for a little while. 

on deck bookOn Deck:

The Leaving by Tara Altebrando

YA-ICON

The War That Saved My Life- Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

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Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (2015)

Nine-year-old Ada has never left her one-room apartment. Her mother is too humiliated by Ada’s twisted foot to let her outside. So when her little brother Jamie is shipped out of London to escape the war, Ada doesn’t waste a minute—she sneaks out to join him.
 
So begins a new adventure of Ada, and for Susan Smith, the woman who is forced to take the two kids in. As Ada teaches herself to ride a pony, learns to read, and watches for German spies, she begins to trust Susan—and Susan begins to love Ada and Jamie. But in the end, will their bond be enough to hold them together through wartime? Or will Ada and her brother fall back into the cruel hands of their mother?
 
This masterful work of historical fiction is equal parts adventure and a moving tale of family and identity—a classic in the making.

(via Goodreads)

I really loved this book. I am generally a fan of historical fiction (especially when it is a children’s author- I feel like those books are often done so well), and I needed a redemption for Manhattan Beach. Bradley certainly did not disappoint.

Poor Ada is shamed into never leaving a dingy, disgusting one room apartment in London, kept there by her mother “Mam.” We learn that it is because Ada was born with what is known as a “clubfoot,” that her mother keeps her locked up. It is so hard not to root for Ada through this whole book. She is actually extremely smart, and capable of many things, which she never would have learned had she not made a break for it when her brother was sent out of the city at the beginning of the war.

I loved the dynamics between the adults in this book. How some looked at Ada and thought the worst of her like Mam did, but also how some were able to see Ada as she really was, not just for her bad foot. I felt like that was an accurate way of portraying adults in that sort of situation.

I really loved Susan. I think that despite her heartache for her “friend” Becky, she made the most of the situation, and ended up coming out of it with way more than she anticipated. She was a good mother-figure to these two (Jamie and Ada), especially considering the living situations that they had previously grown up in. I liked that Ada (and Jamie) were free to do as they pleased, but still maintained some order with rules like baths before bed, dinner together, etc. I liked that Susan read them books, and taught Ada how to do things. She believed that Ada was just as smart and capable as everyone else, and was an advocate for her (Ada) being treated equally from day one.

These three characters leaned heavily on each other. They had bad days, and they had good ones, like a typical family. I especially liked that Susan just handled Ada’s meltdowns, rather than yell at her, or get angry herself about what was going on. “You didn’t want us” was a reoccurring phrase throughout the kids’ stay with Susan, but you could see when things started to change, and even though they continued to reiterate Susan’s original words, by the end, everyone knew they were no longer true, and hadn’t been for a long time.

The ending was slightly devastating, especially for Ada and Jamie. However, the book ended with me wanting more time with these characters. I needed to know more, regardless of the fact that it did tie up rather nicely.

I think this book easily runs along-side powerhouses like Number the Stars and Fever 1793. There is something about war that just draws you into a story, and that may be the case for some people with this book, but I honestly think that it was solid on it’s own.

 

As with any book I post about, I try to find some perplexing questions from study guides/book discussions to share with those who may have already read, or plan to read this book. Today, these few questions I got from Brightly’s Book Club.

  1. Freedom is a major theme in this book. Look at page 86 where Miss Smith and Ada talk about the meaning of freedom. Why is freedom important in this story? What does freedom mean to you?
  2. Describe Miss Smith. How does she empower both Ada and Jamie in different ways? How do Ada and Jamie help her?
  3. Why was Butter so important to Ada? How did Butter help her learn persistence and confidence? Do you have a pet or a hobby that makes you feel like Ada feels when she rides Butter?
  4. How did you feel at the end of the story? Which characters do you have empathy for? Who changed the most from the beginning to the end of this story?
  5. The title of the book seems like a paradox since we often associate war with loss of life. Discuss how this war saved Ada’s life.

 

I really liked the question about Butter. To be honest, reading through the book I kind of had Butter as a background idea in the story, something that just kinda happened to keep the story moving, with little relevance to the actual plot. Now considering that question, Butter means a bit more than I originally gave him credit for.

On the website, they also ask about what women’s roles were during wartime, which obviously is an important thing to ask but rather minor to my personal interest in the story.

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Regardless, this was one of the better books I’ve read so far this year, especially lately. I also noticed that I have read a bunch of war related books this year (more so than normal). Tell me what you think in the comments! Have you read it? Do you plan to? Have you read any other books by Bradley?

I am super excited to start this YA novel. It is actually because of all of you, and your love for this series/book that I decided to pick it up over one I already had in the wings. I look forward to talking about this book with you guys in the near future!

 

on deck bookOn Deck: 

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

YA-ICON

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

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(John Green, 2017)

 

Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.

Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.

(via John Green Books)

 

I honestly hate when the synops is misleading. If you are in the bookish community, you have already yourself read, or at least read a dozen reviews of John Green’s new book. And truthfully, having just finished the book myself, I am surprised by the mostly positive feedback. I commend Green for writing a character’s point of view like no other I have ever read personally, or heard about in other books. He really dives into the “spiraling” thoughts of this teenage girl, which to be perfectly honest, made me uncomfortable at times. I read a review somewhat recently (before finishing the book myself), that warned those who suffer from OCD and/or anxiety that this book MAY be a trigger. More warnings like those should be posted in connection with this book though. That being said, the majority of this story does NOT revolve around the case that is presented in the description. In fact, it is very much a completely minor part of the story.

Correct me if I am wrong but it seems like the tone, and the whole atmosphere of this book, in comparison to his others, is different. Granted, I have only read the Fault in Our Stars and Looking for Alaska, both quite a bit of time ago. But at least for me, the whole tone felt a bit off, as if it may have been influenced or co-written by someone else.

(Do not read any further if you do not wish to spoil any part of the book)  Continue reading