Kristy’s Great Idea by Ann M. Martin
The Baby-Sitters Club #1
Kristy and her best friends form a baby-sitting club to make some money and help out the parents in their neighborhood.
The Baby-sitters Club. I’m proud to say it was totally my idea, even though the four of us worked it out together. “Us” is Mary Anne Spier, Claudia Kishi, Stacey McGill, and me — Kristy Thomas.
My local public library recently got a bunch of BSC ebooks, and when I saw them, I just had to borrow a few. What better way to relive my childhood? I think the strangest thing about it was that I distinctly remember thinking that the 7th-grader BSC members were so old and mature, and now, reading the same book, that seems so laughable. Oh, third-grade me… you were so funny.
What I liked: Oh, goodness… the fashion descriptions will probably start getting to me if I re-read more of the series, but at this point, they’re just rather hilarious. I remember having my own pair of dangly skeleton earrings, just like Claudia! It’s clean, light-hearted fun, though it also deals with some pre-teen/teen issues (parents divorcing/remarrying, independence and responsibilities, arguments w/ friends, etc) without being too in-your-face about it.
What I didn’t like: The writing isn’t particularly fabulous. There were a few parts where I would have liked to go at some of the adverbs with a red pen, and some of the dialogue was laughably unrealistic. I remember now how much I HATED the intentional spelling errors in the journal entries (especially Claudia’s). The rest of my complaints (such as the predictability of the plot) I can chalk up to the fact that these really are intended for a young audience.
Pub: Apr 1, 2014
Clarissa fends off the unwanted, increasingly frightening attentions of a work colleague.
Sometimes I read books that make me feel let down, not necessarily through any fault of their own, but simply because I’d had higher expectations. So when this book was compared to Before I Go To Sleep, I had expected to be hanging on the edge of my seat, guessing until the last page, and though this definitely was a thriller, it lacked the mystery and suspense I was expecting.
What I liked: I feel strange saying I liked parts of this book, because really, this book was horrifying, mostly due to the very real nature of abuse, obsession, and stalking that the main character dealt with. BUT it did make me think, and I like books that make me think.
What I didn’t like: The point-of-view alternates between Clarissa writing in 1st person POV and the narrator describing her life in 3rd person POV, which I found highly distracting. Also, because Clarissa’s journal only described her encounters with Rafe (her stalker), it was a bit ‘spoiler-y’ to start a new scene knowing, oh, he’s going to show up again in this scene.
Heads up: disturbing subject matter, violence, descriptive sexual content (including a rape)
NEW THIS WEEK…
Feather Bound by Sarah Raughley
When Deanna’s friend Hyde (who has been assumed dead for nine years) shows up at his father’s funeral, Deanna gets pulled into a world of secrets and betrayals of the rich and powerful, and must fight to keep her own secret safe.
At precisely seven in the morning, my oldest sister, Ericka, arrived at our Brooklyn shack and was horrified to find our dad sprawled out on the couch, basting in a sea of beer cans.
When I first read the premise for this story, the part about ‘human swans’ confused me, so I’ll tell you flat out: some humans are also swans. They discover this during puberty when they grow a robe of feathers out their back, feathers which show themselves when their “fight or flight” mechanisms kick in, but most the time are hidden from the world beneath skin. Swans are considered second-class citizens, and their feathers hold important powers. There, now doesn’t that pique your interest?
What I liked: The premise is brilliant. It’s based on traditional fairy tale The Swan Maiden, and the adaptation to the modern world is fascinatingly done, even integrating swans into the world’s history, economy, and social classes. It looks, feels, acts like the modern world, with the difference being the addition of swans. The characters were complex and relate-able, and their relationships were realistic. Deanna and her sisters remind me a bit of the March sisters from Little Women — each unique, each with her own struggles, but each fiercely devoted to one another.
What I didn’t like: Some really awful stuff happens to pretty much all the characters. At times it was hard to read simply because of the horribleness of what was happening. Then again, it really wouldn’t be the same story without these elements. Also, the father figure is quite useless.
Heads up: violence, sexual content/rape, language, human trafficking
The Heiresses by Sara Shepard
Pub: May 20, 2014
A group of cousins — the wealthy heiresses of a diamond company — uncovers family secrets which cause the death of one of them.
On a late April morning, as rain smeared the windowpanes, washed the dirt off the sidewalks, and slowed traffic on every block in New York City, twenty-seven-year-old Corinne Saybrook stood barefoot in a dressing room, talking on her cell phone in clipped, precise Turkish.
Full review coming June 2 as part of the TLC Book Tours!
Overall: Mystery, secrets, and sooooo much drama
Thin Ice by Nick Wilkshire
Expected Pub: Oct 6, 2014
When a pro skater’s body is found in Ottawa’s Rideau Canal, Jack Smith must find the murderer among the growing list of suspects who had motive to harm him.
Jack Smith sat on his balcony in the warm morning air, sipping his coffee and trying to ignore the little voice telling him to head down to the corner store for a pack of cigarettes.
Full review coming in October!
Overall: A good mystery for folks that love a mystery, but follows the tropes too closely for my tastes.
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
A twenty-something with a quiet life becomes a caregiver for a wealthy quadriplegic man who hates how small his life has gotten since being injured in a motorcycle accident.
There are 158 footsteps between the bus stop and home, but it can stretch to 180 if you aren’t in a hurry, like maybe if you’re wearing platform shoes.
I’ve had the ARC for this book sitting on my shelf for months, but have trouble talking myself into reading books that I know are going to be sad. When our book club suggested it, though, I jumped right at the opportunity, glad to have someone “force” me to read this book that I’d heard so many good things about.
What I liked: Unlike most books that deal with end-of-life issues, disabilities, and depression, in this one, the author inserts a certain amount of humor that keeps the book away from the cliff-edge of despair. Although I did have my qualms about the main character, at least her point of view was interesting to read, and kept the book more lighthearted, despite the heavy subject matter.
I also thought it was really interesting to step into the world of people with disabilities and learn — through the narrator’s eyes — just what it means to have a disability, and how society really treats them as somewhat less-than-human, even in today’s world.
What I didn’t like: I have no idea where in England this story was supposed to have taken place, but the main character doesn’t know how to use a computer? The man she’s caring for has never used computerized dictation devices? Maybe ten or fifteen years ago, but it made the story seem out-of-date.
But my biggest issue of the book was the ending. It left such a bad taste in my mouth, and sent a contradictory, even hypocritical message.
So Will hates how everyone’s been making decisions for him, how he isn’t able to live his life as he wants to? So what does he do — then proceed to make all sorts of decisions for Lou, berate her for wanting to live a quiet life close to family (which what’s wrong with that? what’s wrong with WANTING to work in a cafe, if that’s what she enjoys?), and convince her, basically, that life isn’t worth living if it isn’t big, exciting, full of world-travels and money. And she buys into it — yay, he saved her! Um… what?
I love sad endings. This one wasn’t sad; it was just frustrating. I felt like any sort of potential character growth was reversed — Will did what he wanted to regardless of anyone else, just as he always did, and Lou was content to let someone else tell her what she should be doing with her life.
Had Will died when he got pneumonia, there would have been the opportunity for a message about how life is precious, how even when we think we’re in control, that we’re not, and to life each day as our last. It would have been sad, but then Will’s gift to Lou could have been seen as a true gift, rather than a “consolation prize.”
Heads up: Sexual content (including a rape), some minor language
Coraline by Neil Gaiman
When a little girl goes exploring behind a locked door in her home, she ends up in an alternate world with a button-eyed “other mother” who wants to keep her there.
CORALINE DISCOVERED THE DOOR a little while after they moved into the house.
After reading Gaiman’s Stardust, I figured I’d better have a go at his other popular book-to-movie — one which I haven’t seen before, basically because in the puppet stop-animation that’s used, even the non-creepy characters look kind of creepy:
What I liked: Well, it was definitely creepy and imaginative. I liked Coraline’s character — she was clever, determined, and smart.
What I didn’t like: Parts of it seemed to move slowly, and other parts were a little too simplistic. Although it was definitely creepy, I never felt like she was in any real danger; she seemed to have the situation pretty well under control and seemed to take it all in stride, which probably isn’t a particularly realistic reaction.
Heads up: Some major creepiness
Pub: March 2014
Small-town teens Heather & Dodge participate in an elaborate game of daring feats to win $67,000.
THE WATER WAS SO COLD IT TOOK HEATHER’S BREATH away as she fought past the kids crowding the beach and standing in the shallows, waving towels and homemade signs, cheering and calling up to the remaining jumpers.
Lauren Oliver’s novels have been a bit hit-or-miss for me — I loved Liesel & Po, and I liked Before I Fall and Delirium, but the final books of the Delirium series didn’t hold up for me. I’d hoped that since Panic was a stand-alone, it’d be more like Before I Fall, and in a lot of ways it was, but there were some things that held me back from loving it as much as I wanted to.
What I liked: The premise of a high-stakes small-town dare contest sounded really neat, and for the most part, it was. The author really captured the atmosphere of a dead-end small town, and although I’m not always a huge fan of realistic, contemporary fiction — wow — there are some really intense scenes as the players are narrowed down and the stakes get higher.
What I didn’t like: There was so much of the setup that I just couldn’t buy into. Every single student is bullied into throwing a dollar into the pot for each school day? Events are announced publicly (one was painted on a water tower, for goodness sake) and yet somehow ALL of the adults in the town are completely clueless about what’s going on or too dumb to show up until after the fact? (Keeping in mind that this has been going on for YEARS.) NO ONE in the town thinks that these kids might be communicating the info via email or texts? And the parents? Where are ALL of these kids parents and why don’t they care that their kids are playing Russian Roulette and starting houses on fire? I just can’t buy into it.
My other major issue was with the climax, or — more accurately — the lack thereof.
(Warning: vague spoiler-y stuff ahead)
Everything’s been building and tensions are mounting and everyone’s scheming about how they’re going to win the final challenge — which is basically a game of chicken (in which at least two of the competitors had to borrow someone else’s car) — and things are in place to have some real serious stuff happen… and then it doesn’t. Or, it kind of does, but not really as bad as it could have been. And then someone wins not by being clever or cunning or smart, but by sheer dumb luck. The end. And, presumably, life goes on until the next year when another batch of idiots tries it again. Huge letdown.
Heads up: Lots of underage drinking, some smoking and drug use, sexual references, and teens doing dangerously idiotic things
Detective Hercule Poirot works to solve a murder which has taken place in a snowbound train.
It was five o’clock on a winter’s morning in Syria. Alongside the platform at Aleppo stood the train grandly designated in railway guides as the Taurus Express.
It was actually sheer coincidence that I post this the day after posting my review of The Boundless — another mystery on a train novel. I’m sure I’ve read this one or seen the movie or discussed its ending with someone at some point, though when it came right down to it, that didn’t lessen my enjoyment of it, because there was still the manner of why the man was murdered and how.
What I liked: Most of all, I love the plot twist here, the jigsaw puzzle that doesn’t quite line up and how the detective goes about extracting information from the suspects. His logic is impeccable, and it’s one of those mysteries where you look back and realize that the pieces were there all along, just waiting to be put together.
What I didn’t like: It isn’t a light read, and I seriously considered pulling out a piece of scratch paper to try to keep track of all the people and clues because there were so many and because the characters are all strangers to Poirot, we know very little about them and their personalities, so it was difficult to keep them straight.
Heads up: violence, including violence towards a child
NEW this week…
The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel
4 of 5 stars
On the greatest train ever built, teenaged Will teams up with a traveling circus to save the train from bandits.
Something shifts inside Will, like a door opening. Maybe it was meeting the circus girl, maybe it was the view of all these new mountains like a gateway to a new and dangerous world — but he feels like his whole life is about to be upended.
Fans of the Airborne series will absolutely adore The Boundless. Will’s got the strength and courage of Matt Cruse, and Maren is similar to Kate de Vries in her spunk and devil-may-care sense of independence. And, just like in Airborne, the heroes are working together on a fantastic piece of transportation — this time, the world’s longest, biggest train, that spans over seven miles long and contains over 900 cars. The picture of the train itself is awesome and fabulous, and the world outside the train is just as exciting and unknown, with great beasts and mythical dangers lurking at every turn of the track.
Some may argue that this story follows a plot a bit too similar to Airborne, and, in fact, it did seem to take me a bit to get into the story simply because of that. At one point, I wondered why the author didn’t just have Matt fly himself over to America, have Kate join the circus, and plop them both on a transcontinental train.
Overall: A fun alternate history adventure in the same vein as Airborne