Monday, June 26, 2017

The Girl Who Could See by Kara Swanson

Title: The Girl Who Could See
Author: Kara Swanson
Published by: CreateSpace (2017)

My Rating: ★★★★★

Summary from Goodreads:

All her life Fern has been told she is blind to reality—but what if she is the only one who can truly see?

Fern Johnson is crazy. At least, that’s what the doctors have claimed since her childhood. Now nineteen, and one step away from a psych ward, Fern struggles to survive in bustling Los Angeles. Desperate to appear “normal,” she represses the young man flickering at the edge of her awareness—a blond warrior only she can see. 

Tristan was Fern’s childhood imaginary hero, saving her from monsters under her bed and outside her walls. As she grew up and his secret world continued to bleed into hers, however, it only caused catastrophe. But, when the city is rocked by the unexplainable, Fern is forced to consider the possibility that this young man isn’t a hallucination after all—and that the creature who decimated his world may be coming for hers.

My Review:

Shorter review than usual today-- I said all that I wanted to say in less words than normal! Planning to publish a longer review at some point, but for now this will do. :)

I LOVED THIS BOOK. So much. It was so clever, concise, tied together, and full of beautiful Christian themes. I loved it to pieces. Suspense, tension, amazing characters, a little of the paranormal, mysterious, sweet, tangible…. Fern was so realistic and lovable. Tristan was amazing of course. Elinore’s tie in was beautiful. I loved the essence and the heart beat behind the book. It was concise and unpredictable, yet structured and solid. Highly recommended to any and all.

The Charming Life of Izzy Malone by Jenny Lundquist

Title: The Charming Life of Izzy Malone
Author: Jenny Lundquist
Published by: Simon & Schuster/ Aladdin M!X (2016) 

My Rating:

Summary from Goodreads:

Izzy Malone isn’t your typical middle schooler. She wears camouflage combat boots, the stars are her only friends, and after a month she’s set a new record for the most trips to her principal’s office.

But Izzy’s life isn’t so charming these days. The kids at school think she’s a mouthy misfit, her musical prodigy sister gets all the attention at home, and no one takes Izzy’s determination to compete in her small town’s Great Pumpkin Race seriously. 

When Izzy’s antics land her in hot water, her parents enroll her in Mrs. Whippie’s Earn Your Charm School. At first Izzy thinks it sounds stupid—her manners are just fine, thanks—but Mrs. Whippie’s first assignment proves intriguing. Tucked inside a letter is a shiny charm bracelet and instructions telling her she will “Earn Her Charm” by performing a series of tasks. For each task Izzy completes, she’ll receive a charm to place on her bracelet. “Complete them all,” the letter says, “and you will have earned a prize unlike any other.”

Soon Izzy’s adding charms to her bracelet. But when a task goes seriously awry and threatens to derail her mother’s budding political career, Izzy has her hands full proving she’s not an emerging juvenile delinquent. Add in some middle school mean girls, a giant pumpkin that could be the answer to all her problems, and discovering she might have a crush on the boy she accidentally punched in the face, and Izzy may just pull it all together and Earn Her Charm. And she’s about to find out the best kind of friends are just like stars: Bright and beautiful, appearing just when you need them, to shine a little bit of light on a dark night.

My Review:

The Charming Life of Izzy Malone was an awesome read, one that appeals to all ages and all people. It was easy to relate to and love quirky Izzy, who can’t seem to stay out of trouble, even though you know she has a sweet and genuine heart. Each friend is introduced in their own spotlight, first Violet, then Daisy, and finally Sophia. The way these characters eased their way into the storyline (and into your heart) was so beautiful and I absolutely fell in love with them and the friendships they formed.

I thought the twists were clever—though not shocking, to me at least—and the storyline was spectucular in its structure. Everything keeps going perfectly wrong for Izzy, yet it didn’t seem cliche at all. It was realistically painted and remarkably written.

I LOVED the way Austin and Izzy were done, which, that is, they weren’t done, because they don’t end up dating in the book. Instead the message sent is waiting is OK, which I thought was fantastic and a nice breath of fresh air, separate and different from the immature love stories clotting the pages of most middle-grade novels.

Throughout the book, I sensed that the author was a Christian, and I was very happy to find she was; I saw the threads of her values and beliefs make their way throughout the pages of this book, nothing direct or straightforward, but quiet and subtle. Way to go, Jenny Lundquist!

Wholeheartedly a great, sweet, charming read!!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Enjoy the Poodle Skirt by Kate Willis

Title: Enjoy the Poodle Skirt
Author: Kate Willis
Published: 2014

My Rating: ★★★★★

Summary from Goodreads:
Rule one: Keep your hands clean.
Rule two: Careful with the food trays.
Rule three: Visit the soda fountain as often as you like, but don’t make yourself sick.
Rule four: Enjoy the poodle skirt.

Canary is excited to spend a whole week helping her newlywed aunt and uncle run a 50’s diner along with her older siblings Rose and Michael. Even the rules for working there are fun!

But when a routine cleanup presents a mysterious, hand-drawn map, her vacation gets even more exciting than a banana split with hot fudge sauce. And that’s saying a lot!

My Review:

What a sweet book! I loved every word of it. It was so creatively done! Though I think it definitely could have gone on longer, I also thought it wasn’t a bad length by any stretch. I read it in one sitting, and was swept away by the absolute sweetness. Though intended for middle-grade readers, I could easily see younger (and older!) readers just inhaling this as well. What’s there not to like? The 1950’s theme, the lovable—but realistic—characters, the lighthearted mystery, the subtle Christian tie-in in the end...

Genuinely written and creatively told, Enjoy the Poodle Skirt is a darling read for anyone and everyone. Kate Willis’s tangible writing style bled through every passage and I was immediately drawn in. (Also the names were awesome—Canary especially!)  Despite its shortness, she still managed to develop the characters and the setting incredibly well—preparing the scene for the lighthearted mystery which, while not heavy or too suspenseful, added a fun tone to the story. Overall, it was short, sweet, and full of fun and ice cream! 

Highly recommended!! I loved every word <3

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Lost Girl of Astor Street by Stephanie Morrill

Title: The Lost Girl of Astor Street
Author: Stephanie Morrill
Published by: Blink (2017)

My Rating: ★☆

Summary from Goodreads:

Lydia has vanished.

Lydia, who’s never broken any rules, except falling in love with the wrong boy. Lydia, who’s been Piper’s best friend since they were children. Lydia, who never even said good-bye.

Convinced the police are looking in all the wrong places, eighteen-year-old Piper Sail begins her own investigation in an attempt to solve the mystery of Lydia’s disappearance. With the reluctant help of a handsome young detective, Piper goes searching for answers in the dark underbelly of 1924 Chicago, determined to find Lydia at any cost.

When Piper discovers those answers might stem from the corruption strangling the city—and quite possibly lead back to the doors of her affluent neighborhood—she must decide how deep she’s willing to dig, how much she should reveal, and if she’s willing to risk her life of privilege for the sake of the truth.

My Review

I’ve had a while to think about this book and have spent a lot of time trying to discern whether or not I liked it. On one hand, it was incredibly compelling, strongly plotlined, had amazing characters and an unique storyworld…but on the other hand…UMM,  (spoiler- highlight to read::) the whole synopsis is about her finding her missing friend…it would be great if she actually found her!!

Basically…the synopsis was incredibly misleading, which led to, ultimately, my disappointment in the book. It was a fantastic book, but it was set up with the wrong expectations. To me, this is one of the worst things you can do to a book: destroy its beauty by misleading the reader to think it’s a different type of beautiful. The reader misses out on its beauty and leaves feeling disappointed.

SPOILERS!! (highlight to read)
It was a great book. But it was a huge letdown. The entire synopsis revolves around Lydia. There’s so much hype on Lydia, that when Mariano tells Piper Lydia is dead, I didn’t even blink an eye. I did not believe it. Not out of denial or love for characters; I simply just did not think it was possible with the type of story it was presented to be. I suspected Lydia would show up at the end. It’s what all the readers are rooting for!
Now this is not me saying “You killed my favorite character!! WHY!!”  That isn’t what’s going on here. This is me saying You promised me a story about a heroic rescue of Piper’s best friend, so obviously I’m not going to believe it when said friend is “killed”. That’s not what you told me the story was about!

I wanted to read about the power of friendship saving a friend. Not a friend fighting justice in the name of her dead best friend. If that’s the deal, then just tell me from page one. Don’t trick me and mislead me to believe I’m getting something I’m not.

Just my scatterbrained, weird opinions…

Giving it four stars because it was a quality book.

The Choosing by Rachelle Dekker

Title: The Choosing
Author: Rachelle Dekker
Published by: Tyndale House Publishers (2015)

My Rating: ★★★★☆

Summary from Goodreads:

“Not to be Chosen would yield a cruel fate of my own making.”

Like all citizens since the Ruining, Carrington Hale knows the importance of this day. But she never expected the moment she’d spent a lifetime preparing for—her Choosing ceremony—would end in disaster. Ripped from her family, she’ll spend her days serving as a Lint, the lowest level of society. She knows it’s her duty to follow the true way of the Authority. 

But as Carrington begins this nightmare, rumors of rebellion rattle her beliefs. The whispers contradict everything she’s been told; yet they resonate deep within. 

Then Carrington is offered an unprecedented chance at the life she’s always dreamed of, but she can’t shake the feeling that it may be an illusion. With a killer targeting Lints and corruption threatening the highest levels of the Authority, Carrington must uncover the truth before it destroys her.

My Review
Ah, a breath of fresh air—it’s been forever since I read a good Christian dystopian, and this one fit the bill. It was clean and sweet and written beautifully, with solid characters and a strong plotline. 

However, having said these things, I also am confused as to how I feel about this book. First of all, Isaac Knight? I HATED HIM WITH PASSION. I DESPISED HIM. He played such a crucial role in the plot, too, that I had a good time hating him. 

Going off this: the Christian themes. Alright, so when I started reading this book and got into Isaac Knight’s first sections, my thought process became: okay, so either this is going to be a complete heresy against Christianity, or it’s going to turn around and blow my mind.
Unfortunately, it did neither. While I assert that the Christian themes were strong, they will still be unnoticeable to anyone not looking for them. I wish there had been a stronger message! I’m still not sure who Aaron’s supposed to be, I’m still not sure what the basic message or takeaway is, and I’m still not sure what Isaac Knight is supposed to represent.

Having said this, I read a review that suggested the idea that this is an interpretation of the Old Testament times—with the church that turned away and the prophets that called them back. I wish this theory fit better, because then it would most definitely blow my mind. But a lot still doesn’t match up. I don’t know. Maybe it’ll be more clear when I finish the trilogy.

Okay, done with that tangent. The setting was real and alive, and unique, too. Nothing absolutely spectacular but let’s just say it’s a lot better than its fellow YA dystopian books. It was very descriptive and full of life. The characters were real, full of emotion and tangibility, and it was easy to get to know them, care for them, relate to them, want to keep reading about them (all except Isaac Knight of course). Carrington was such a great lead for this; you don’t find a lot of strong characters like her in this genre and that was fantastic. Larkin was a little harder to get to know, and Remko, I feel, didn’t get his launch till the end, but once he did launch I loved his character. Aaron is confusing, but he has potential. 

The romance. OKAY. **Spoiler Alert!!!** I’m very, very pleased with Rachelle Dekker because there’s no love triangle and the love between her and Remko is legit and real and heading to marriage--I’m incredibly pleased because I started the second book, and her and Remko are MARRIED. And have a KID. Almost NO YA authors will do that. Why would you when you can drag out their love story into a three-book series full of drawn-out scenes and pointless suspense detailing in equal quantity both how unsure they are of one another and how much they want to be together? Dekker let the romance be apart of the story, but didn’t let it take over. And that I LOVED.

Anyhow, I’m very intrigued to see where the story goes in the next few books. I’d love to hear opinions on the Christian aspects portrayed-or-not-portrayed in the Choosing if you have any thoughts. 4.5 stars.

Series Review: The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt by Stephanie Morrill

Wow, it's been a while since I posted! I haven't been able to find anything good to read, and since I haven't been able to read much, I've gotten out of the habit of reviewing when I do read :/

Anyway, here's a review of a series I read a while back. It covers three books of the series-- Me, Just Different, Out with the In Crowd, and So Over It.


Title: The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt 
Author: Stephanie Morrill
Published by: Fleming H. Revell Company

My Rating: ★★★★☆


While reading this series I neglected to review out each one as I finished, and now having finished, all three books have meshed together in my mind and it would be nearly impossible to try to distuinguish them again for the point of three separate reviews. So instead I have decided to review all three in one review of the whole series. * MINOR SPOILERS.* 

Book One. It drew me in, so it gets points for that, if for nothing else. The opener was inciting and the characters immediately intriguing. I really liked the way the series started on Skylar’s life change, rather before; it gave it a slightly different feel than other Christian YA I’ve read. I liked the way Skylar was ready to change. Though at times it felt drawn-out, for the most part it was concise.

Book Two. Book two was probably the most boring of the three. Nothing really happens that couldn’t have been condensed between books 2 and 3, much like almost every other trilogy ever. So that was a downside. Yes, she goes to Hawaii and has a life change. Yes, Owen is born. But those two events don’t need their entirely own book. And the extra drama around Eli/Connor was unnecessary, too. 

Book Three. Also as typical with trilogies, it was the best in the series. For the first time, I actually really liked Skylar and Connor (more on this below). I really liked Abbie and Owen and Jodi and all the others. They became my real friends. Eli is finally told off and Skylar finally gets the memo she should avoid her other friends and that Connor is indeed the one for her. After page after annoying page of annoying Skylar, it felt very refreshing to see her finally see things. Is the delay in these situations true to real life? Absolutely. Is it always the best course of action to draw out upon when writing a book series? No.

Book summaries over, here we go.

Characters. I loved Skylar, but she also drove me absolutely crazy. I loved her, but I also couldn’t stand her. Consequently, I read this book in breaks. I couldn't do too much at one time, haha. Like I’ve mentioned, I finally really liked Skylar in book three, but before that she was just so annoying. Her relationship with Connor was the main part that irked me. She was so blind, but the problem isn’t with that as much as it is with the fact we were given example upon example upon example upon example of her blindness. It drove me crazy! The seventieth time she ditched Connor I was ready to throw the book across the room. We get the point!

And I also disliked the fact she couldn’t seem to grasp the idea that she had to stop hanging out with the bad influences. She spoke as if seeing them was absolutely inevitable, but how small of a town do they live in that she’s seriously running into them at every corner? Ditch them and move on—they’re bad infleunces! Do you not get it, Skylar!? You’re trying to turn your life around, yet you can’t let go of all former influences. Can you still be a light to them? Yes—once you’re distant and stable enough! UGHH. Now Jodi eventually ended up being great, but that wasn’t until the last few chapters. And don’t even get me started on Eli. UGH. Though really I hated Skylar’s actions toward him more than Eli himself, who I thought was kinda wimpy and pathetic when it came down to it.

Abbie I adored! I absolutely loved her. When the book started I hardly expected her to be developed much, as siblings usually aren’t, but she surprised me by being one of the most developed characters in the series. I loved her heart. Similarly Skylar’s parents were fantastic and real, too. 

Connor was … Connor. Sometimes I hated him, sometimes I didn’t. I was mad at Skylar because they’re so obviously meant to be together. Girl, when you find a loyal, honest, Christian guy who loves you, you can’t just ditch him. Yes, it possible he’s not the one, but when you find a guy like that you gotta give him at least a few chances. I felt sometimes the author was trying too hard to make him fictional-crush material—but other than that he was great; not too goody-two-shoes-perfectly-righteous-Christian guy, but not a “bad boy” either. 

The writing wasn’t anything incredible. It was a lot of dialogue and little description, so it was solely the characters and nothing else pulling me through the story. I still don’t know what Jodi or Connor or Eli looks like, but I know what they're like. That sort of thing. Some of the emotion at times was a little unreal or not deep enough, but for the most part it was good.

Soooo…yeah. It was a little stereotypical, a typical girl-finds-Jesus-and-her-life-changes type series, but it was pretty unique. Not cheesy for the most part, and simply a journey of following Christ. 4.0 stars.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Blog Tour: Only Children Chase Sawdust by Willowy Whisper

Blog Tour time!!

More info!!!

Willowy's Blog:

My Review:

Title: Only Children Chase Sawdust
Author: Willowy Whisper
Published by: Amazon Kindle (2017)

My Rating: ★★★☆☆

This was quite a read, and certainly unlike anything else I’ve read before. Willowy Whisper’s tangible writing style bled through every word as always, while still retaining a fresh feel. The storyline was captivating, and descriptive writing pulled me right into the action. I was enthralled by the characters and the plot alike.

It was a very cute story in a lot of ways, yet in a lot of ways, it was as far from “cute” as you can get—I don’t exactly think of violent massacres as cute—but still, the romance and the ending tied together in a sweet way, tying into the title of course. 

Annie and her struggle are so delicate, so raw, so real. She was easily my favorite character. I liked the way the preacher’s subplot found its way in. I hated Obadiah Clark with passion.

I thought the thematic elements, at their heart, were good for the most part. For a while, I wasn’t sure exactly what point the author was trying to make when Jacob is off trying to save souls at the expense of losing his relationship with his wife—whether he was ridiculous or if he was spot-on. (In the end it was determined that he was spot-on.)

Unfortunately…to be honest, I would have to say that I am a little disappointed. I understand the story concept and I love the heart behind it…a missionary to the Indians…I absolutely love the heart behind it, don’t get me wrong. However, the way it was delivered was, to my dismay, very cringeworthy. 

First of all, I wish we could have spent more time with Akando and understood him, loved him, before witnessing his sudden conversion to Christianity. Same with the rest of the clan. And Obadiah’s deathbed…don’t even get me started.

I love my God. I love spreading His words. It’s my passion and my desire in life. But I’m also a firm believer in the fact that you don’t need a gospel presentation in a book for it to be Christian and to be powerful. I actually think the opposite: except for few exceptions, for the most part, a book laced with conversion stories and salvation is going to drive the unbeliever away. Especially in the case of a short book like this; there simply isn’t enough time in 100 pages to truly develop that, to make it feel real. That said, with the 100 pages the author was ‘given’, so to speak, she did a good job with; it just felt way too rushed. As realistic or as probable as some of these experiences may be, there were too rushed and as a result just seemed really cheesy to me. Due to this, I was disappointed. Willowy’s other books are so beautifully subtle in their Christian themes, creating powerful stories, and I was let down that this one wasn’t as much.

I also disliked the portrayal that it was necessary for him to leave Annie in order to do this. I think some people will read that as Christianity means you let down those closest to you for the sake of souls, which is a glaring misconception. I don’t think that was the author’s intent in any way—I think she meant to instead demonstrate the power of our faith—but I was dismayed at the prospect that it had the potential to come off that way.

Yet, besides this, there was still a lot I liked, and while I cringed my way through the ending, I still appreciated the heart behind it and I did love the characters. The book as a whole, with its whole Indian-murder thing and romance tied in, was unique and different, as a typical Willowy novel is. Her style is so clearly apparent from page one it’d be imposible to deny, from the writing to the murder-mystery-feel to the intriguing romance, that she penned this book. And don’t get me wrong: aside from some negatives, it was not a bad book. Not her best work, but not necessarily a bad read, either. 3.5 stars.