Book Review: Hourglass by Myra McEntire

Hourglass by Myra McEntire Goodreads|Purchasing
Release Date: June 14, 2011
Publisher: Egmont USA
Rating: ★★★☆☆/3.5

Goodreads description: One hour to rewrite the past . . .

For seventeen-year-old Emerson Cole, life is about seeing what isn’t there: swooning Southern Belles; soldiers long forgotten; a haunting jazz trio that vanishes in an instant. Plagued by phantoms since her parents’ death, she just wants the apparitions to stop so she can be normal. She’s tried everything, but the visions keep coming back.

So when her well-meaning brother brings in a consultant from a secretive organization called the Hourglass, Emerson’s willing to try one last cure. But meeting Michael Weaver may not only change her future, it may change her past.

Who is this dark, mysterious, sympathetic guy, barely older than Emerson herself, who seems to believe every crazy word she says? Why does an electric charge seem to run through the room whenever he’s around? And why is he so insistent that he needs her help to prevent a death that never should have happened?

A gorgeous cover, apparitions and dark, mysterious guys? Preventing a death? Sounds pretty exciting!

Emerson is seventeen and lives with her brother and his wife. She’s been through a lot, and almost everyone she isn’t close to thinks she is crazy. Most of the time, she agrees with them because she sees and talks to people that nobody else can see. After a few failed experts and years on medication, her brother hires someone new to help her with her issues. Enter the gorgeous Michael. He doesn’t think she is crazy at all. In fact,  he knows all about what she can do and tells her more about it.

Instead of ghosts, the people she sees are rips in time and she’s not the only one that experiences them. Hourglass, the organization he works for, is made up of people with interesting abilities. Not only can he help her, he needs her help as well. Michael introduces Emerson to new people and she learns about things that are really difficult to believe, even with all that she’s been though.

Immediately, Emerson and Michael have crackling chemistry. The tension and banter are exciting. Michael is so charming and genuine. I was always excited to see what would happen next between them and how one would react to what the other did. I also really enjoyed Emerson’s other relationships in the book. Her bond with her brother Thomas and his wife, Dru was sweet. And Lily, her best friend, was awesome and really supportive of Emerson.

I really liked this book but I’ll admit I did have a few problems with Emerson herself though. Anyone that says a pair of black converse makes them feel “ballsy” will probably annoy me. A few times, I found her too braggy. I get it, you’re smart, pretty and tough, but this is YA and most book characters are somewhat outstanding. I understand being confident but it felt like she was pushing it in my opinion. It seems like every other review I’ve read has really enjoyed her, so it is probably a personal issue. I still cared about what happened to her and got emotionally involved in the story, though.

The story is exciting and even with the issues I had with Emerson, I was hooked. I couldn’t wait to see how it would end and it was the opposite of predictable.  I’m really interested to see what happens in the rest of the series!

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Review: Prom and Prejudice by Elizabeth Eulberg


Prom and Prejudice book coverProm and Prejudice by Elizabeth Eulberg
Goodreads|Purchasing
Release Date:January 1st 2011
Publisher:Point
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Goodreads description: After winter break, the girls at the very prestigious Longbourn Academy become obsessed with the prom. Lizzie Bennet, who attends Longbourn on a scholarship, isn’t interested in designer dresses and expensive shoes, but her best friend, Jane, might be — especially now that Charles Bingley is back from a semester in London.

Lizzie is happy about her friend’s burgeoning romance but less than impressed by Charles’s friend, Will Darcy, who’s snobby and pretentious. Darcy doesn’t seem to like Lizzie either, but she assumes it’s because her family doesn’t have money. Clearly, Will Darcy is a pompous jerk — so why does Lizzie find herself drawn to him anyway?

Will Lizzie’s pride and Will’s prejudice keep them apart? Or are they a prom couple in the making? Whatever the result, Elizabeth Eulberg, author of The Lonely Hearts Club, has concocted a very funny, completely stylish delight for any season — prom or otherwise.

This book was a fun and light read, and it only took me a few hours to finish. As a long time lover of Pride and Prejudice, I was interested to see it put in terms of prom and high school.

I think because I went to a small high school with a smaller class gap, I wasn’t sure what to make of how class differences are handled in the wealthy atmosphere of their school. I’m not sure how realistic it was, but it made me feel lucky about my high school! And I’ve never been around really rich people and especially not large amounts of them, but do people really ask where people summer? Does that really happen? I’ve seen it on television some but I have no idea if people really talk like that, especially high schoolers. Even if they’re rich it seems weird to me, but it could be very realistic and I’m just completely clueless.

Lizzie deals with a lot of jerks that treated her badly for no real reason, just because she’s on scholarship. It would have to suck being a complete outsider like that in any situation. I liked her friendship with Jane (her roommate, not sister, in the book), it was sweet. Lizzie is spunky and stands up for herself, but all her bad experiences create a slight bitterness. I liked her, but she was a bit harsh in her judgments. I know that’s part of the point, but in my opinion, she sometimes went too far. I was glad to see her learn from her mistakes and realize that you aren’t required to keep first impressions, even if it is hard to shed them sometimes!

Darcy is a rude high school boy who thinks he’s better than Lizzie-or does he? Obviously there’s some misunderstanding when they meet. His change from “prejudice” to Lizzie-fan is kind of abrupt. Darcy is sweet, almost too sweet. I enjoyed him and his loyalty, but I would have liked to know more about him. He sticks up for himself and people he cares about, but I just would’ve liked more. More development, more interaction: MORE. Collins is acceptably condescending, Caroline is fittingly hateful, Bingley is delightful as always and Jane is the only thing she could ever be: sweet.

If you’re looking for a quick, fun read and don’t plan on judging it too harshly, definitely pick this up! If you love Pride and Prejudice, look at it as loosely based and don’t expect an exact retelling, try being open-minded and enjoy the fast-paced, enjoyable read.

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Review: The Sky is Everywhere

The Sky is Everywhere Cover
The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
Goodreads|Purchasing
Release Date: March 9th 2010
Publisher: Dial
Rating: ★★★☆

Goodreads description:Seventeen-year-old Lennie Walker, bookworm and band geek, plays second clarinet and spends her time tucked safely and happily in the shadow of her fiery older sister, Bailey. But when Bailey dies abruptly, Lennie is catapulted to center stage of her own life—and, despite her nonexistent history with boys, suddenly finds herself struggling to balance two. Toby was Bailey’s boyfriend; his grief mirrors Lennie’s own. Joe is the new boy in town, a transplant from Paris whose nearly magical grin is matched only by his musical talent. For Lennie, they’re the sun and the moon; one boy takes her out of her sorrow, the other comforts her in it. But just like their celestial counterparts, they can’t collide without the whole wide world exploding.

This remarkable debut is perfect for fans of Sarah Dessen, Deb Caletti, and Francesca Lia Block. Just as much a celebration of love as it is a portrait of loss, Lennie’s struggle to sort her own melody out of the noise around her is always honest, often hilarious, and ultimately unforgettable.

As the summary describes, Lennie’s sister (Bailey) has just died. Lennie and Bailey were close and Bailey’s death was sudden and shocking. Lennie lives with her grandma (Gram) and her uncle (Uncle Big) is a huge part of their life. She never knew her father and her mother took off when the sisters were young, leaving them with their grandmother. After Bailey’s death, the family has to find away to go on without her.

Disinterested in school, friends, and life in general without her sister; Lennie withdraws from life, pushing away her family and best friend Sarah and loses all interest in clarinet. Bailey’s boyfriend Toby is always around. They both want to talk about her, share her, are resistant to let her go at all, which creates a bond between them. They both have a lot of love left over and don’t know how to handle it with no obvious place to put it.

Lennie goes back to school to discover a gorgeous new kid by the name of Joe. Talented and gorgeous, he instantly shows interest in Lennie. He pushes her to play music with passion and to live again. And eventually it helps and she starts to play and take an interest in life again.

The whole book follows Lennie as she copes with the heartbreaking loss of one of the most important people in her life. She doesn’t want to move on, she wants to keep Bailey as close as she can. Sprinkled throughout the book are poems and memories about Bailey written by Lennie, she writes them on anything she finds: gum wrappers, walls, takeaway cups and other random canvases. She writes thoughts, feelings and anecdotes to help with coping and leaves them all over town. In order to move on, she has to make changes. In the process, she learns about herself, her family, and many new things about the sister she thought she knew so well.

I didn’t agree or like a few of the things Lennie did while grieving, but I think she really made progress and grew by the end of the book. I liked that the story showed her going through the motions and stalled. I liked that it showed her mistakes. I really liked that it addressed the give and take of grief and attempting to balance pain with moving on.

I liked this book, it was enjoyable if not a little frustrating to read. I won’t say why for spoiler reasons, but sometimes Lennie was just too much for me, I understood her sadness but I didn’t connect very well with her. I will say that she was funny and her snark was enjoyable. I probably wouldn’t read it again, but I would be glad to read other books by the author. Even though I didn’t “fall” for this book, I would definitely encourage anyone to give it a shot to see how they might feel about it!

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Review: Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour

Epic Detour Cover

Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson

Goodreads|Purchasing

Release Date:May 4th 2010

Publisher:Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing

Rating: ★★★★☆

Goodreads description:Amy Curry thinks her life sucks. Her mom decides to move from California to Connecticut to start anew—just in time for Amy’s senior year. Her dad recently died in a car accident. So Amy embarks on a road trip to escape from it all, driving cross-country from the home she’s always known toward her new life. Joining Amy on the road trip is Roger, the son of Amy’s mother’s old friend. Amy hasn’t seen him in years, and she is less than thrilled to be driving across the country with a guy she barely knows. So she’s surprised to find that she is developing a crush on him. At the same time, she’s coming to terms with her father’s death and how to put her own life back together after the accident. Told in traditional narrative as well as scraps from the road—diner napkins, motel receipts, postcards—this is the story of one girl’s journey to find herself.

The summer before her senior year, Amy is trying to cope with her father’s death. For a month, her mom has lived across the country in Connecticut and Amy has lived alone in her childhood home. She went to school, was in the school musical, and fed herself-if only barely. Her mom has planned for her to make the trip to Connecticut from California with Roger, the son of a family friend. Amy is not excited about spending that much time in the car or taking a trip with a guy she barely knows.

Surprised to discover that college student Roger is very friendly and attractive, Amy finds a friend in him. Instead of following the strict itinerary Amy’s mom gave them, they decide to make an adventure out of the road trip. With a scrapbook, an iPod full of music and an adventurous attitude, the pair sets off.

The road trip themed scrapbook is a gift from her mom, and the pictures of it in the book are so much fun. Amy writes down information on states they visit, like the motto and size and her own opinion. Also included are receipts, photos and mementos, along fun playlists Roger creates for them with great illustrations. I loved this aspect of the book, it was really fun to look at all the different stuff they accumulated and the playlists were really great to look at-plus it was fun to see some of my favorite bands on them!

On the trip, they get to know each other and become friends, and you can feel the chemistry growing. Amy’s dealing with the loss of her father and Roger has his own issues. They share details about their lives and make memories together. I think both of them grow on the trip, but Amy seems to come to terms with how she’s been reacting to the accident and how she’s dealt with her family after it.

I really liked Amy and Roger. Amy was sweet and strong. I felt like her feelings of loss and guilt were realistic. Amy’s pain how she reacted to it was believable. I liked seeing her progress as she figured out how to talk about things she was feeling. Roger was also fun, even if I would’ve liked to know more about him.

Some of the resolution felt a little rushed, but the story and characters were fun. The details of the places they stopped were enjoyable. I liked the hopeful ending. This story deals with some heavy issues, but manages to stay upbeat and enjoyable. I think it’s worth giving a shot!

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Review: The Help

The Help bookcover
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Goodreads|Purchasing
Release Date: February 10th 2009
Publisher: Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Goodreads description: Three ordinary women are about to take one extraordinary step.

Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.

Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.

Minny, Aibileen’s best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody’s business, but she can’t mind her tongue, so she’s lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.

Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.

In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women—mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends—view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don’t.

Set in the midst of the Civil Rights movement, Aibileen works for a well-to-do Leefolt family with status but not wealth, basically raising their child, Mae Mobley. She cooks, she cleans, she hears most of the town’s gossip and scandal through her employer, Elizabeth’s bridge club. Elizabeth is best friend to Hilly, president of the Junior League. She also hears and witnesses Hilly’s racism, in the form of an initiative for families to install a separate bathroom outside the house for “the help.”

Aibileen’s friend Minny is a sassy maid with troubles keeping her opinions to herself and a knack for finding herself in trouble. She finds herself out of work and unable to find a job because of Hilly’s lies. The helpless and clueless Celia Foote is uninformed and hires Minny, luckily for both.

Skeeter has dreams of writing and Hilly’s racist agenda doesn’t sit right with her. She takes a stand and decides to stop being a follower. At risk to herself and the maids involved, she writes a book describing the real lives of black maids and the families they work for, filled with juicy and true details. Aibileen and Minny, along with the other maids Skeeter interviews, risk so much to tell their story. They take a stand and do something that’s difficult and potentially dangerous just to show the world how “the help” is treated.

I love that Skeeter turns against everything she knows and really stands up for what she believes in. It would be easy for her to conform and just get married and have a maid raise kids for her, to do what her mom and society expects of her. However, she’s strong and sticks to her convictions, even when her closest friendships and her reputation is on the line. Writing the book was tense for everyone involved, and I loved that she bonded with Aibileen and some of the other maids.

I love that the book gives you a look into each lady’s life, I really enjoyed all three narrators. I loved reading about Aibileen and Mae Mobley, their bond broke my heart. And seeing into Minny’s home life along with all she dealt with at work is incredible. I loved seeing Skeeter take steps away from her friends and learn more about the world outside of Jackson. I love that Aibileen, Minny, and Skeeter were strong women who didn’t give up and didn’t take the easy way out. I love the worry and excitement they all felt while writing and waiting for news about the book, and I felt it with them.

The story was touching, but it read a little slow for me. I know some people have had issues with the voice of the maids since the author is white, but she talks about that in the book’s afterword and she obviously cares a lot about the subject if she took the time to write it. I really liked the story, but I still felt some sort of disconnect with it. I did enjoy it and would recommend it, but I didn’t love it.

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review: Anna and The French Kiss

Anna and The French Kissby Stephanie Perkins
Goodreads|Purchasing
Release Date:December 2nd 2010
Publisher: Dutton
Rating: ★★★★☆

Goodreads description: Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris—until she meets Étienne St. Claire: perfect, Parisian (and English and American, which makes for a swoon-worthy accent), and utterly irresistible. The only problem is that he’s taken, and Anna might be, too, if anything comes of her almost-relationship back home.

As winter melts into spring, will a year of romantic near-misses end with the French kiss Anna—and readers—have long awaited?

Okay, get ready for gushing! In fact, I think it deserves 4.5 stars! This book is adorable. I started reading it on my iPhone when I couldn’t get to sleep, then read it off and on the next day while I packed up my apartment. I probably took a lot more breaks than I should have just so I could read more about Anna! I read most of it in one day, then saved the rest for the next day and savored it. I loved it.

Anna is a high school senior, sent to a boarding school for Americans in France by her famous author father. Anna starts a new school in a new country, without knowing a soul or any French. Understandably, she’s not very happy to leave her family, her best friend Bridgette, or her crush. However, on her first night there her dorm neighbor, Meredith, befriends her and she meets the attractive and accented Etienne St. Clair. Even though she misses home, with the help of new friends and the charming St. Clair, she begins to enjoy Paris.

I love how realistic this book is! Anna is lovely–she is clever and adorable, but she didn’t seem too amazing. She is girl-next-door without being boring or flashy. Her feelings are so genuine, I felt so much of the story with her. She’s a strong character and I loved seeing how she stuck up for her friends and ventured out in Paris alone. Plus, she owns up to mistakes she makes, which is always admirable. She’s probably one of my favorite teen girl characters now! Her friend and crush Etienne St. Clair is such a realistic depiction of a teenage boy, I loved him. He is sweet, enthusiastic and witty. He isn’t perfect, but he’s so enjoyable. Being earnest about wishes and liking history are just two of the many things I found endearing about him!  It didn’t take long for me to develop a crush on him right with Anna. Even secondary characters are believable, with typical friend group squabbles and a couple that is always making out and arguing.

Another thing that is realistic about this book is the dialog. So much dialog in the YA genre doesn’t feel real, with characters saying things that just don’t sound like teenagers. However, everything from the flirty back-and-forth to the heated arguments is realistic, which made the story easier to be involved in. The emotions of the book are true and made me remember a lot about high school times.

The story has highs and lows, but the highs are incredibly sweet, and even some of the lows are sweet, too. There are typical high school jealousies, spats, breakups, hookups, and plenty of misunderstandings and miscommunication. It also includes some delicious descriptions of French cuisine! If you like cute, flirty interaction with believable characters, then this is definitely a book for you.

Also:: The author has a twitter, which is fun and a nifty website.  She has two companion books scheduled to come out and I’ll be excited to read both Lola and the Boy Next Door (to be released September 29, 2011) and Isla and the Happily Ever After (expected out in late 2012)!

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Review: April and Oliver

April and Oliverby Tess Callahan and Abby Craden
Goodreads|Purchasing
Release Date: June 3rd 2009
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Rating: ★★★★☆

Goodreads description: Best friends since childhood, the sexual tension between April and Oliver has always been palpable. Years after being completely inseparable, they become strangers, but the wildly different paths of their lives cross once again with the sudden death of April’s brother. Oliver, the responsible, newly engaged law student finds himself drawn more than ever to the reckless, mystifying April – and cracks begin to appear in his carefully constructed life. Even as Oliver attempts to “save” his childhood friend from her grief, her menacing boyfriend and herself, it soon becomes apparent that Oliver has some secrets of his own–secrets he hasn’t shared with anyone, even his fiance. But April knows, and her reappearance in his life derails him. Is it really April’s life that is unraveling, or is it his own? The answer awaits at the end of a downward spiral…towards salvation.

This book was definitely a challenging read, but I’m so glad I read it. It’s intense and heavy–certainly not a light read. Sometimes while I was reading it, I didn’t like it. Sometimes I didn’t even want to like it. However, when I finished it there was no way I could say I didn’t like it. Somehow, I really enjoyed it. This book probably isn’t for everyone, and it deals with some dark themes. Please be ready for that if you decide to read it.

The main characters April and Oliver grew up as close friends, just on the verge of more. The story begins with April’s brother dying and Oliver and April talking at the funeral after years of no contact. Oliver is moving back after years of being away and his fiance is with him. Immediately there’s a wall of conflict between them. Throughout the story they cope with the death and many other family hardships, and try to figure out how to be around each other again. A lot of the time, it isn’t easy for them.

Sometimes these characters made decisions that I really hated and didn’t agree with at all. They were difficult and combative, and sometimes it was pretty ugly. But life is ugly sometimes, isn’t it? Their problems seemed realistic and their confusion and mistakes did, too. Even when they did horrible things, they still held some likability (although I’ve read reviews by readers that didn’t like any of the characters). April isn’t the type of character I usually enjoy at all, but I was surprised to discover that I actually did like her. She is a dichotomy of strong and weak, and while she is surrounded by tragedy and made mistakes, I ended up liking her a lot. She made some really unfortunate choices and she suffered for them, but I do believed she grew and changed by the end of the book. I liked Oliver a lot, too. He was clearly confused by what his family and the world expected of him versus what he wanted. He had to make tough decisions about what he wanted from life. He also made some really stupid decisions, but I think in the end he grew a lot, too. Their chemistry is complicated, intense and sometimes downright uncomfortable. They clash and argue and get pretty harsh with each other. But I still found myself pulling for them.

There were a few things I really wanted to see happen in this book that didn’t. I wanted to see more resolution, but I liked the end anyway. Again, this isn’t a story tied up in a neatly packaged, which is so realistic because honestly, when has life ever been neatly packaged?

Overall, I thought the story was good and the characters were easy to connect to. It wasn’t always easy to read and it wasn’t exactly a fun read, I can see why some people would not like it at all. However, something about the story felt right to me, so I am really glad I read it!

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