Plus One by Elizabeth Fama- a 3/5 Star Review

Sol is a Smudge, part of the Night sector of the population that had been divided into half. She is a lowly factory worker struggling to juggle school, work, her brother’s abandonment, and being the sole caretaker for her dying grandfather. After finding out that her brother, Ciele, has gotten married and is expecting a baby soon with his new wife, she sets on a mission to make sure that her grandfather can hold his great-granddaughter before he dies. Even if it is just once, she would sacrifice everything for this one dying wish. She knows the consequences, a long jail sentence and probably miss out on her grandfather’s death, but she is bullheaded and fiercely loyal. This mission takes far longer than expected and goes way off course, but it is a journey filled with revealing secrets and unexpected friendships.

I am really torn on how to feel about this book. On the one hand, the idea of the population being separated by Day and Night and the Night people’s brains being affected by it felt very similar to Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies. Especially when two doctors are the ones who let the secret out to the protagonist who then uses it to their advantage later. But on the other hand, it is a different concept than the popular dystopian concept that this was forced because the world is in destruction and one population must save themselves from the other population who is ruining the world. Yet, it is in response to a flu epidemic that threatened to wipe out society. However, after the epidemic seemed to resolve, no action was taken to try to combine the two populations again.

Another thing that I am torn about with this book is that I felt that the romance was sweet at times yet forced at other times. I liked that she and D’Arcy (although I mentally kept calling him Mr. Darcy) had met each other in the past over a shared interest without realizing it until later. But I did not like how frequently Sol tried to sacrifice herself for him, often behind his back, as it came across as more of a dramatic need to be tragic rather than smart. It did not really feel like they worked together throughout the book but that he was a forced sidekick so that there could be an element of romance. Their love story just did not ever feel cohesive.

Another issue I had was the amount of kidnapping that happened. It was not just one baby that got kidnapped, but two babies and a dying elderly person. There were too many things that were far too convenient to make the action sequences seem like tangible concepts. The scene that annoyed me the most was when she had to carry a baby, zipped up under her hoodie, on a hot and bumpy subway that did not cry or make any noises at all. Then she got off the subway and took off and there was not any mention of the infant. What hoodie is designed to mask a live baby simply by zipping up?

Aside from these negatives of the book, it was not so terrible that I could not finish. Actually, I wanted to finish the book. It was an adventure when I was not stumbling through the literary obstacles. I must also admit that the cover of the book is lovely and perfectly fits this novel.

The narrator, Julia Whelan, did well in the sense that Sol’s “voice” would have had that pessimistic angst that seems to be a part of the stereotypical teenage character. However, the main woe-is-me voice got on my nerves after awhile. Conversely, the parts where she had to speak French and even sing made the book more interesting.

I would recommend this book for readers who are really interested in technology as that was a major factor. I would also recommend this book for readers who may be fluent in or familiar with French as that was also a large part of the book.

I would not recommend this book for those who may be offended by foul language, sexually suggestive scenarios, betrayal, kidnapping, bullying, gang activity, and death.

Please note: I was able to download an audiobook copy of this file for free through Audiofile magazine’s Sync’s weekly (this was one of Week 7’s book options) free summer audiobook program via using the Overdrive app (the link is here).

Clockwork Prince (The Infernal Devices #2) by Cassandra Clare-a 5/5 Star Review!

The adventure continues for Tessa Gray, Will Herondale, and James Carstairs.  As they chase after more clues to find out who Tessa really is and why The Magister so desperately wants her.  New twists and turns for these three, and the other characters introduced in Clockwork Angel, make for a spell-binding adventure.

NEW OBSESSION ALERT! I am officially obsessed with Will Herondale.  Also, I am officially obsessed with this The Infernal Devices series.  I loved Clockwork Angel (see review here) cannot wait to get my hands on Clockwork Princess.  Every time that I think there is finally a time to breathe and regain composure throughout the book, I am catapulted into another spinning plot twist.  The depth of not only the plot but each character (and there are quite a few) is immense.  I have not read a book in a long time that has forced me to react outwardly.  The world that Cassandra Clare creates is entirely consuming and it became difficult to separate myself from the book and reality.  I want to be part of Tessa, Jem, and (most especially) Will’s world.  It is gripping, encompassing, and unpredictable.  I root for these characters, I hope for these characters, and I grieve with these characters.  I have found this series to be riveting and invigorating!

Although I have only read 2 of the 3 books in this series, I highly recommend the series to those who love action, betrayal, romance, and fantasy.  I think it is appropriate for readers over the age of 16 and I recommend it for those seeking adventure.

On the other hand, I would not recommend this book for those who do not appreciate betrayal, violence, manipulation, demons, magic, love triangles, unrequited love, or drug addiction.  Furthermore, I would not recommend this book for readers who have not read Clockwork Angel yet, as it would be very confusing.

Lastly, I listened to this book on AudioCD.  It was read by Heather Lind and Ed Westwick. More than half was definitely read by Heather Lind, who was fantastic and gave a unique voice to each of the many characters.  Additionally, I also really enjoyed listening to Ed Westwick read the parts when it was in Will’s perspective.  His deep, sultry voice, made Will’s character even more alluring.

His Semi-Charmed Life (Camp Firefly Falls #11) by Lisa Hughey-a 5/5 Star Review!

Diego Ramos has started from the bottom and rose to the top by one thing alone: hard work.  Inspired by an argument he had when he was a camp counselor with a summer camper has set his life on a path of success.  Now he is set to merge his company with a huge and successful company that will make him a billionaire; his dream.  The only hurdle left before the merge is a company retreat at a familiar place: Camp Firefly Falls.

Penny is finally back, many years later, at Camp Firefly Falls.  A place that holds many great summer memories-and a bad one.  However, even the bad memory of an interaction with a camp counselor years ago was good in that it gave her advantaged childhood some perspective.  Not everyone has food to eat.  Now she is determined to get her thesis, urban gardens for corporate offices that donate the food that grows to charity, into reality.  She is set to pitch the idea at a corporate retreat at Camp Firefly Falls.  This could be the opportunity to get her idea off of the ground.  Little does she know that history is going to be waiting for her when she gets there, in more ways than one.

I have been fortunate to have had access to other books by Lisa Hughey in the past (see reviews Here and Also here ).  Those books were differently themed in that those previous books had plots about special agents and intense action.  That being said, I enjoyed the difference! It really speaks to Lisa Hughey’s talent and skill to be able to write so strongly in multiple genres.  This book flowed just as well as the previous books and the characters developed just as strongly.  I found this book very difficult to put down and the pace is very quick.

Although this was the 11th book in the series, it can easily be read as a standalone.  I am very interested in the characters that were mentioned in the book, particularly those in the Billionaire Breakfast Club, and I hope to be able to go back and read the other books in the series to find out their stories.  I would recommend this book for readers who enjoy steamy romance, car repair, underdogs,  farming, the attraction of opposites, and who enjoy reading about summer camp life.  Although I myself have never been to summer camp, I was still able to enjoy the setting.

For those who may be triggered or offended: there are several graphic sexual scenes, explicit foul language, and infidelity.

Please note:  an electronic copy of this book was generously provided by the publisher (Red Adept Publishing) via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Clockwork Angel (The Infernal Devices #1) by Cassandra Clare- a 5/5 Star Review!

Tessa is in London desperately searching for her brother Nate but the only thing she keeps finding is growing strength in her superpower as a shape-changer.  She did not even know she had this power until she was kidnapped right off of the boat in London from New York.  She is rescued by Will and finds herself immersed in the world of Shadowhunters who are often battling Downworlders.  She struggles to trust anyone in this new world but this journey not only teaches her what her powers are, but who she is entirely.

I will fully admit, fantasy was not a genre that I thought I would like.  That is until I read Enchantment recently (see review here: Enchantment by Orson Scott Card- a 4/5 Star Review! ).  Thanks to the book club that I recently joined, I got to check that out.  When the genre this month was Urban Fantasy and Clockwork Angel was selected, I was hesitant to say the least.  However, just like with the last few books that have been selected in the Book Club, my low expectations were exceeded.  Despite the length of the book, it was very fast-paced and I had a hard time having to put the book down each time.  I knew I was going to love Will from the beginning with his wit and charm.  I did not expect the depth his character brought nor that I would be so pleased that he wasn’t “rescued” by his emotional trauma just by one kiss.  I love when that happens in Disney movies but it would not have been appropriate for it to have happened in this gothic action plot.  I appreciate that Cassandra Clare treated their potential romance by requiring understanding and patience.  Furthermore, I also appreciated that the author made each of these characters distinct yet worked diligently at binding them together.  Furthermore, I listened to about half of this on AudioCD read by Jennifer Ehle who I highly recommend as an audiobook reader.  She was able to give unique voices and accents to each character yet have a different voice for when she is not reading dialogue.

There were victories, tragedies, heroes, betrayers, villains, unexpected twists, clever inventions, shape-shifting, disease, several sources of unrequited love, and there was a cat! The dialogue was deep at times and witty at others.  I found myself taking notes of lines from the book that struck a chord with me.  Some examples are:

“It’s all right to love someone who doesn’t love you back, as long as they’re worth you loving them.  As long as they deserve it”.

“It is as great a thing to love as it is to be loved.  Love is not something that can be wasted”.

 “Whatever you are physically…male or female, strong or weak, ill or healthy—all those things matter less than what your heart contains.  If you have the soul of a warrior, you are a warrior.  All those other things, they are the glass that contains the lamp, but you are the light inside”.

I love it when an author references other works of literature.  Additionally, I also simply adore when a romance starts from a mutual appreciation of reading.  This just adds to the many reasons why I love this book, she starts each chapter with a few lines of a poem.  Later on in her acknowledgements she states that she used poems that would have mostly been around in the time that this book was set.  I also enjoyed the references to A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.  After I finished this book, I quickly added it to the top of my TBR pile.  It is invigorating to read a book that inspires you to read books they slyly suggest.

I would recommend this book to readers who enjoy steampunk, historical fiction, fantasy, fast-paced action, unrequited love, complicated families, feminism, hints of romance, and those who love references to other books within a book (as I just mentioned).

On the other hand, I would not recommend this book to those who do not enjoy violence, murder, foul language (although I only noticed two curse words in the book), or demons.

 

The Lost Letter by Jillian Cantor-a 5/5 Star Review!

Kristoff has found a home, finally. Having been abandoned as a young child, finding his way as an adult has proved difficult. He finds refuge as an apprentice in the home of well-known stamp engraver, Frederick Faber. Frederick and his family, a wife and two daughters, are Jewish and living in Austria. However, as winter begins to invade, so do the Nazis, tearing Kristoff’s new family apart.

In another time and place, (California, 1989 to be precise) another family is tearing at the seams. Kate is struggling at work because her co-worker is her soon to be ex-husband. He filed the papers, she just needs to sign them. She is also juggling that with her father, Ted, a formerly avid stamp collector who has Alzheimer’s. She meets Benjamin, a philatelist, to get her father’s stamp collection appraised and one stamp in particular sends them on an adventure.

Although the plot jumped between the two stories, I thought it was done seamlessly. There were some chapters, however, where I wish it had not jumped because I was too eager to find out what happens next in one setting. It had several twists and turns, as well as several times where my heart ached for the characters. Although romance stories from World War II have been done quite often, this one stands out as unique. It brings elements of stamp engraving as well as collecting that I have yet to read elsewhere. Furthermore, the romance is a subtle build that is often cast aside in the urgency of the war period timeframe. The characters are not begging for attention nor are they overdramatic in responses. This is true for the stories in both time periods.

I do recommend this book for those who enjoy historical fiction, a bit of adventure, and romance. I read through it quickly as I found it to be gripping at times and heart-wrenching at other times.

For those who may be offended: there was kidnapping, guns, and sexually suggestive scenarios.

Please note: an electronic copy of this book was generously provided for free from Penguin’s First To Read program in exchange for an honest review.

Christmas Bliss by A.S. Fenichel-a 4/5 Star Review!

John is a very serious Earl of Compton, who tirelessly spends his days arguing in the House of Lords.   Women seem to only be after his status and fortune rather than his intelligence and determination.  Until he meets Emma.

Emma is on the run from her abusive uncle, Drake, who is hell-bent on taking away her much younger brother Oliver’s inheritance.  Protective of her young brother, she runs away with him while he is sleeping yet only makes it across the street to the Earl of Compton’s residence before she is struggling to carry her brother’s sleeping body.  That short distance is enough to change both of their entire lives.

Where I live, we have been fortunate to have a fairly warm winter.  Then we hit a cold snap around the same time that I had just finished Foolish Bride, also by A. S. Fenichel.  I loved Foolish Bride and was aching to read another one of A.S. Fenichel’s books.  It so happened that I came across Christmas Bliss and, despite it being mid-March, it was a fun book to curl up with on a cold night.  The holiday is only briefly mentioned a time or two and I found myself wishing there was more of the holiday spirit.

The story is brief in length yet deep in complexity.  Both John and Emma have spent their days fighting others.  John arguing in the House of Lords and Emma fighting her uncle to protect her brother.  Both John and Emma had missed out on seasons in the ton and even each other.  They were practically strangers to each other despite living across the street.

Very quickly, John and Emma are taken with one another yet hesitant to go all in.  John proposes a solution to Emma’s situation of protecting her brother and his inheritance from her greedy uncle: marriage.  What I enjoyed most was the focus on the trepidation before deciding to go forward with the engagement.  It helped the brief romance because both of their doubts were explained thoroughly.

Little Oliver was my favorite character.  He was enthusiastic, well-mannered, and optimistic for one who has endured so much in his youth.  I liked that the villain was very present rather than a concept that loomed around.  I also liked how selfless John became when it came to Emma and Oliver.

I would recommend this book for readers who enjoy romance and brief engagements.  However, I would not recommend this book for readers uncomfortable with graphic violence.  I do not recall reading any foul language.  The romantic interactions are not sexually explicit, in my opinion.

Uglies (The Uglies #1) by Scott Westerfeld- a 5/5 Star Review!

Tally Youngblood is Ugly and the worst part is that her best friend, Peris, just turned Pretty. Therefore, they have to cut off all communication and Peris has to start a new life among the Pretties. It is a fun transition as the newly minted Pretties party nonstop while the Uglies sit in purgatory waiting their turn. She decides one night to sneak out and surprise Peris by dropping in to say hi, even though the consequences may be severe.

But Peris is completely different, not just physically. The disappointing trek back to Uglytown has her crossing paths with Shay, a fellow Ugly sneaking to see her friends who had just transitioned. The two of them form a friendship that has them both testing their beliefs and their newfound friendship.

I was surprised to find that I really enjoyed this book! I was introduced to it by the Young Adult Book Club that I joined recently and was able to pick it up at my local library. It was easy to breeze through and once the setup is described in detail, then the action really picks up. I have already recommended this book to a 13 year old that I babysit as I think it is geared more towards his age group. Also because the use of hoverboards made for an exciting adventure. Despite not being in that age group anymore, I still found myself connecting with these characters. I remember being swayed by new friends when I had other plans in place. I remember the naïveté of that age where you believe that adults can be trusted and the world is a certain way for a good reason. I also remember the sharp pain that comes when your crush is crushing on someone else, or the pull when your friend’s crush is crushing on you.

Another point that I really liked about this book is how Tally’s potential and anger builds slowly. She initially did not want to be part of the “Smoke” but was forced to be in order to be allowed to turn into a Pretty. The experience leaves her so jaded and rightfully so!

I would recommend this book for those in the early teens or older who can understand a bit better.

I would not recommend this book for those who may be offended by malicious acts, manipulation, espionage, plastic surgery, rule-breaking, and murder. I did not notice anything sexual in nature nor any foul language or graphic violence.

Please note: This book does end on a cliffhanger!