Sunday, December 28, 2014

Trial by Fire by Josephine Angelini

Book Summary
This world is trying to kill Lily Proctor. Her life-threatening allergies keep her from enjoying experiences that others in her hometown of Salem take for granted, which is why she is determined to enjoy her first high school party with her best friend and longtime crush, Tristan. But after a humiliating incident in front of half her graduating class, Lily wishes she could just disappear.
Suddenly, Lily is in a different Salem—one overrun with horrifying creatures and ruled by powerful women called Crucibles. Strongest and cruelest of them all is Lillian . . . Lily's other self in this alternate universe.
What makes Lily weak at home is what makes her extraordinary in New Salem. In this confusing world, Lily is torn between responsibilities she can't hope to shoulder alone and a love she never expected.

Flo's Review
The Book Nerds love us some Josephine Angelini! She is super adorable and super sweet and we loved the Starcrossed series! So we were very excited to get our hands on Trial By Fire at BEA this year. (Especially Jacque, who had flight issues and literally walked into the hall and straight to this line.) We decided to wait to review it until around its publication date. 

It's a very cool concept. Lily Proctor is a teenager in Salem, Massachusetts. She had a Very Bad Day and the next thing you know -- voila! She is in alternate universe. And the crazy thing is, a version of herself exists in this universe! In fact, it is she who pulled Lily here. And not only Lily -- her mother, sister, and best friend also exist in this alternate universe. Craziness!

But for some reason, I had a bit of a hard time getting through it. I think that while this alternate universe is a a really cool concept that I like, it also took a lot of exposition to set it up. I mean, there was action and things happened, but it really was a lot of Rowan just explaining things to Lily. And I understand why, because by the end I really did feel like I had a strong sense of the world -- like I was there. I am looking forward to how this plays out for Lily and Rowan. And even more so -- I am super curious to know more about Lillian. I think that's another thing I was missing. We learn at the beginning (and later as well) that she feels like she did what she had to do -- but why?! I really wanted to get into her head, and I really hope we get to do that in the next book.

Jacque's Review:

I have to agree with Flo that the concept is great.   Witches are the rulers of the cities in the new universe.  They can convert heat into energy to power the cities, grow food, heal the sick, etc.  Josephine did a remarkable job of incorporating the history of the Salem Witch Trials into this very unique story.  As much as I wanted to love this book, it was a slow read for me.

A good story, in my opinion, is built around the relationships between the characters.  For a large portion of this book there were trust issues, so the relationships were slow to develop.  Also, Lily had a lot to learn about witchcraft and how things worked in the new world.  This required a lot of detailed explanation which at times was lengthy and confusing.

On a positive note, I did find the ending to be very exciting.  If the sequel picks up where this book left off, we should have a continuous progression to the story without all of the history lessons.  I also hope there will be more to the romance to help keep the pages turning.  If both of those things happen, I think it was well worth persevering through Trial By Fire.  This series has a lot of potential and I look forward to seeing what will happen next.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

A Little Something Different by Sandy Hall

Book Summary
The creative writing teacher, the delivery guy, the local Starbucks baristas, his best friend, her roommate, and the squirrel in the park all have one thing in common—they believe that Gabe and Lea should get together. Lea and Gabe are in the same creative writing class. They get the same pop culture references, order the same Chinese food, and hang out in the same places. Unfortunately, Lea is reserved, Gabe has issues, and despite their initial mutual crush, it looks like they are never going to work things out.  But somehow even when nothing is going on, something is happening between them, and everyone can see it. Their creative writing teacher pushes them together. The baristas at Starbucks watch their relationship like a TV show. Their bus driver tells his wife about them. The waitress at the diner automatically seats them together. Even the squirrel who lives on the college green believes in their relationship. Surely Gabe and Lea will figure out that they are meant to be together....

Flo's Review
Adorable! This was the perfect read for a Lazy Sunday in bed. I was absolutely intrigued when I read the premise for this book, and I thought the execution was very well done. By hearing the other characters' viewpoints, we didn't just get to learn more about Gabe and Lea -- we also learned about those characters. I think the teacher and Lea's roommate were my favorite, but I really enjoyed the classmate Victor, Gabe's two friends and brother, and the Starbucks barista. Could have done without the squirrel, I think. I understand the need for the bench viewpoint. 

The interview at the end of the book revealed that the story was cut down from 23 viewpoints to 14, and I think that was the right decision. Twenty-three would have gotten to be too much jumping around, I think. I always have a soft spot for the obviously infatuated by slightly awkward boys in books, so I thought Gabe was just adorable. The moments between he and Lea were just so cringe-worthy and cute at the same time, and I like that Victor and some of the others acknowledged this fact. I liked both their friends and the camaraderie they shared. 

This book gets 4 adorable stars from me!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd

A Snicker of Magic

The librarian at my son's school selected A Snicker of Magic for their fourth and fifth grade book club.  Both the parent and child had to read the book.  We then attended a discussion with other students, parents, and teachers.  I thought it was a great opportunity for my son, so I signed us up.

The book had a nice message, but it was a very slow read.  There were a couple of main characters, Felicity and Jonah,  who traveled around town and met several additional characters.  Jonah shared magical ice cream with the people they met, which caused them to remember stories from their past.  This led to the introduction of even more characters.  It was difficult for an adult to keep track of all of the characters and next to impossible for my nine year old son. 

Felicity Pickle comes from a wandering family.  Her mother is constantly moveing her two daughters from one town to the next.  The girls never have a chance to develop friendships or get used to a school.  One day, they arrive in Midnight Gulch.  The town used to be filled with magic, but the magic left a long time ago.  It is believed that two local musicians known as the Weatherly brothers took part in a duel years ago.  The person who lost the duel was destined to have a wandering spirit and could not return to Midnight Gulch.  Without the Weatherly's music the town lost its magic.  There is still a "snicker of magic" left, but not enough to entice anyone to stay in this mountain town.  It becomes Felicity's mission to solve the riddle and restore the magic to Midnight Gulch.   

The book never really captured either of our attention.  We probably would have stopped reading altogether if it weren't for the book club.  The only portion that Preston seemed to enjoy was the reenactment of the duel at the end of the book.  He also enjoyed the unusual words Felicity invented, such as spindiddly.  The words were fun to say and added some originality to the story.  I just wish there was more to the plot and the pace was a lot faster.  

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Choose Your Own Autobiography by Neil Patrick Harris

Book Summary
Tired of memoirs that only tell you what really happened?
Sick of deeply personal accounts written in the first person? Seeking an exciting, interactive read that puts the “u” back in “aUtobiography”? Then look no further than Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography! In this revolutionary, Joycean experiment in light celebrity narrative, actor/personality/carbon-based life-form Neil Patrick Harris lets you, the reader, live his life. You will be born in New Mexico. You will get your big break at an acting camp. You will get into a bizarre confrontation outside a nightclub with actor Scott Caan. Even better, at each critical juncture of your life, you will choose how to proceed. You will decide whether to try out for Doogie Howser, M.D. You will decide whether to spend years struggling with your sexuality. You will decide what kind of caviar you want to eat on board Elton John’s yacht.
Choose correctly and you’ll find fame, fortune, and true love. Choose incorrectly and you’ll find misery, heartbreak, and a hideous death by piranhas. All this, plus magic tricks, cocktail recipes, embarrassing pictures from your time as a child actor, and even a closing song. Yes, if you buy one book this year, congratulations on being above the American average, but make that book Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography!

Flo's Review
So I've been in that phase for the past week or so where none of the book's I'm reading is really holding my attention. My solution to this is to put each book aside and start a new one -- so I am now currently on page 100ish of about four books. Oy! But this one was different. I picked it up on a Lazy Saturday -- and I couldn't put it down! I ended up reading all night long, and even though I was tired, I kept staying up so I could read each possible scenario.

I loved the Choose Your Own Adventure books as a kid, and that's what this book is. I enjoyed doing the thing where I would make one choice and read it, but then come back and go to the other choice and read that. Then I'd decide which path I liked better and take that one. It's Choose Your Own Adventure reading strategy, you could say. 

Format aside, Neil Patrick Harris is of course hilarious, and I was laughing out loud many times while reading this. At the same time, his story is very honest and emotional at times, and I came to really respect the struggles he went through and how he went through them. His love for his parents, brother, partner, and children is deep and really sweet to see. 

I definitely recommend this one! Because of the format you can read as much or as little as you want. So if you want a quick read, it can be that. If you have more time and want to really dive in, you can do that, too. But either way, I don't think you'll regret it.