Monday, May 30, 2016

A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray

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Publication date: 2014
Publisher: HarperTeen
Pages: 357
My rating: 3 stars
Ages: 16+
Series: Firebird

When Marguerite's father is killed, Marguerite is determined to avenge his death, even if that means chasing his killer across dimensions. With her parents' invention, the Firebird, Marguerite and Theo jump into different versions of themselves, trying to find the killer. But there is something much bigger going on than just her father's murder, something that could change the world--and all its versions.

When I started reading this book, I thought it was a time travel book, so it was a little hard to get my mind around the dimensions (what would probably most commonly be called "parallel worlds"). However, it was kind of like a time travel book, in a way; each world had advanced at a different pace. I found myself wanting to see where Marguerite would go next.

However, though jumping through several dimensions, Marguerite as a character seemed pretty one dimensional. She seemed a little incapable of taking care of herself or understanding any danger. The settings made up for this, as did Paul and Theo. I was also concerned about the lack of moral responsibility that should have been a larger part of the story. Marguerite and Co. are jumping into other people's bodies and are using them for their own devices. There is a moral ambiguity about whether or not they are themselves, and it does cross their minds, but I just feel that it should have been larger. There are several parts where the bodies are being violated, in varying degrees and meanings of the word.

This book is the beginning of a series (which I didn't know until just now), but though there are a few dangling ends, it could be read as a stand alone.

There is a non graphic sex scene and some mild language.

*I do not receive compensation from Amazon.

Friday, May 27, 2016

somethingtofoodabout by Questlove

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Publication date: 2016
Publisher: Clarkson Potter
Pages: 239
My rating: 4 stars
Ages: 16+

Questlove (from The Roots) takes his love of good food across America as he talks with some of the best and most innovative chefs about their methods, creativity, and art. From New York to Seattle, this is a journey of passion and food.

I don't consider myself a "foodie." I like good food and I like cooking, but I'm not innovative or particularly passionate about it. So when I first started reading this book, one of my first thoughts was "These people are insane." But the more I got into the book, I realized how fun it was to read.

One reason for this is that Questlove is a fun, intelligent person. The other reason is that when people talk about things they are passionate about, it's interesting--no matter my personal feelings on the matter. Each chef had a unique approach to their restaurant, to food, and to their motivation behind what they do.

There's one chef who has basically set up a laboratory, using a lot more science than any other chef to create innovative meals that shock and surprise the diners. Then another chef who changes his menu every three months, never returning to a previous menu. And one more chef who is trying to make good quality food at fast food prices so that everyone can enjoy it, not just the upper crust.

The pictures are interesting and Questlove's footnotes alternate between funny and educational.

There is some language.

*I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Monday, May 23, 2016

When We Collided by Emery Lord

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Publication date: 2016
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Pages: 337
My rating:  3 stars
Ages: 16+

Vivi loves Verona Cove, the small town in California where she and her mom are spending the summer. Meeting Jonah just makes it better and gives her a purpose--she is going to make that boy smile. Jonah is trying to keep his head and his family above water, so Vivi is a more than welcome distraction. However, there are battles both of them are fighting and those battles could get in the way.

In any other story, Vivi would be the typical manic pixie dream girl; however, Lord takes the "manic" and takes it deeper. This is what makes Lord's novels so good--they come across like typical teen romances, but instead deal with difficult topics that everyone will have to deal with sometime in their life.

I applaud Lord for her honest portrayal of mental illness, without any guile or stigma attached. The way that the characters accepted each other's darkness was refreshing to read, and a hope for a more accepting world in the future.

I was surprised at the amount of language and sexual situations, as it was a departure from Lord's other two novels, which had little of both. Because of the nature of the story and Vivi's character, it was somewhat necessary, though there were a lot of f-words.

*I do not receive compensation from Amazon.

Monday, May 16, 2016

The Forbidden Orchid by Sharon Biggs Waller

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Publication date: 2016
Publisher: Viking
Pages: 378
My rating: 4 stars
Ages: 14+

Elodie's father spends his time traveling the world to find new and interesting plants, coming home just once a year. But when more than a year goes by without hearing from him and Elodie's family is threatened with the workhouse, Elodie is determined to help them; even if it means that traveling across the world and ruining her reputation.

Waller does it again. This novel explores the world of the 1860s, including the Opium Wars, plant hunting, and the introduction of Darwin's theory of evolution. Waller obviously does her research, but her novels don't feel like a regurgitation of facts disguised as a novel.

Elodie's journey is full and interesting. The characters are complicated and have depth, even the ones we only meet once. The story drew me in so much that I finished the book in two days. I think that I like about Waller's books is that they are set in a part of history that I know about, but introduce things within it that I didn't know. I didn't know anything about plant hunting or how dangerous it was, or the positive reaction from religious men to Darwin's book. Then there are the main characters, who want a different world than the one they are used to and do something about it. Maybe they aren't the action heroes we've come to expect strong female characters to be, but they are the women who stood up for what they wanted.

No language, but some sexual instances.

*I do not receive compensation from Amazon.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Until We Meet Again by Renee Collins

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Publication date: 2015
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Pages: 318
My rating: 3 stars
Ages: 14+

Spending the summer in Upper Crust Massachusetts isn't really Cassandra's idea of a good time--and she's determined to show it. Everything changes when she meets a mysterious boy on the private beach of her family's rented home. Lawrence is caught between what his father wants, what his uncle suggests, and what he wants to do. Lawrence and Cassandra are exactly what the other needs. But with 100 years between them, how can they ever become anything more?

Who doesn't like a good time travel story? This isn't quite your typical one, as Cass and Lawrence can only meet in a certain place, but that makes it even more interesting. In a way, this is similar to the movie Somewhere in Time, but without the stupid ending. (Personal opinion.) With a mix of mystery and romance, this story would probably appeal to a wide audience.

The POV switches between Cass and Lawrence, but not in a way that is annoying or contrived. The ending is bittersweet. The prologue I still don't understand, but to tell you the truth, I forgot about it until just this moment. The repercussions of meddling with history is addressed, though not in any horrible way, at least not for the reader. We are to assume that it affects Cass a lot. The characters were interesting and it was nice to have a main character with a relatively good relationship with her family (but she is a teenager, so there is some friction).

Very light language and some innuendo.

*I receive no compensation from Amazon.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

How to Weep in Public: Feeble Offerings on Depression From One Who Knows by Jacqueline Novak

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Publication date: 2016
Publisher: Three Rivers Press
Pages: 242
My rating: 2.5 stars
Ages: 18+

Defying the normal parameters of self help, Novak instead teaches "depressos" how to be successful at being depressed.

This book is satire embellished with self deprecation, blue, observational, and dark comedy. So, almost a little bit of everything. Some of these types of humor aren't easy to understand in print, so part of my fear is that some confused teen might pick up this book and think to take it serious. Also, I personally don't find some of the humor funny.

However, it was interesting look at depression by someone who has dealt with it. It was an honest attempt at breaking the stigma of mental illness. Novak held nothing back.

As mentioned, there is quite a bit of "blue humor," including language and sexual talk. That, along with the satire and topic, is why I have put the age up so high.

*I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Dead Upon a Time by Elizabeth Paulson

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Publication date: 2015
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Pages: 211
My rating: 3.5 stars
Ages: 12+

When her Nan goes missing, orphan and local outcast Kate Hood is determined to find her. Her only clues are the frightening weavings of children in terrible situations. Her only companion is Jack, the other outcast from their village. Is Kate just walking into a trap? And what do her visions mean?

I think we all know by now that I love me some fairy tale retellings, and this one was pretty interesting, using characters that we are familiar with in a different way. However, the title is a little bit of a misnomer. I was expecting something really dark, but it wasn't at all. In fact, I don't think that *spoiler* there is a death at all in the book . . .

When I wasn't reading it, I couldn't wait to get back to reading it, but when I finished I felt a little unsatisfied. There was so much left hanging. What happened to Kate's parents? What about the queen and her daughters? It was too short and I feel like maybe to get it done, the author cut things that weren't necessarily important to the story, but there were things left in that made me wonder. The other option is that there is going to be another book that explores some of those things. I guess I'll have to see.

No language or sexual situations.

*I do not receive compensation from Amazon.