Tag Archive | fiction

Review : Glimmer

Glimmer by JPhoebe Kitanidis
Pages : 352
Genre : YA, Paranormal
Stand Alone
My Rating :

What it’s about :

A girl and a boy wake up together in bed. Both are confused and lost; neither of them know who they are, where they are or why they are there. They remember how to talk, walk and use objects, but they have lost any memory that could give them information about their personal life.

After some suspicion on both parts, they decide to work together to solve the mystery that is their lives. Soon they discover that Summer Falls is no usual town, and that their memory loss might be only one of many mysteries…

My Thoughts :

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I cracked open Glimmer; fantasy, paranormal, science-fiction, aliens? Or what? I was kind of in a “meh, whatever” mood and Glimmer looked intriguing enough to pull me out of that bored state of mind. I am happy to report that it did, and with great success!

From the start, the story is intriguing. We do not know the main characters’ names (we learn later that they are Elyse and Marshall), and both are terrified and suspicious of each other. I often complain about dual narratives, but in this case, I felt it worked well enough : it gives us a better insight into each of their story than a third person narration would have. You can see how they react to each other, and though their voices are similar, their personalities are different enough.

Elyse and Marshall quickly bond over their peculiar situation (maybe a tad too quicly?) and as a team, they start to investigate. And then things become even more interesting : not only the two of them have lost any memory related to their identities, but the town where they find themselves is weird. Elyse sees some people where Marshall sees no one – until these people connect to Marshall and blue sparks fly. Summer Falls’ residents are also all a bit too cheery and distracted – so much so that, despite their condition, Elyse and Marshall almost feel like they are the only normal people left.

The beauty of Glimmer is that it mixes a little of everything; paranormal, magic, the town’s strange history, heatnaps, creepy characters, and a mystery that keeps you reading past your bed time. Elyse and Marshall’s quest for truth gets even more interesting when they have to face who they were before losing their memories, their qualities and, most importantly, their faults. And while they both have a complicate family situation, I have to say that Elyse’s broke my heart a little.

In the end, I really enjoyed Glimmer. Though I found the ending a little too rushed and filled with too much information, it had a strong conclusion that answered all important questions. I am also thrilled that Glimmer is a stand alone novel! I read enough series as it is. But I do hope I get to read more stories coming from Kitanidis’ fabulous imagination.

Review : If You Follow Me

If You Follow Me by Malena Watrous
Pages : 354
Genre : Fiction
Stand Alone
My Rating :

What it’s about :

Still grieving her father following his suicide, Marina hopes teaching English in Japan will be the change of scenery she and her girlfriend Carolyn need. However, the culture shock is bigger than she expected, and Marina soon finds out that you can’t really escape your past, no matter how hard you wish you could.

My Thoughts :

My impression of If You Follow Me was that it had a very quiet pace, yet contained so much on an emotional level. Some parts had me smiling and almost laughing, while other parts made my heart break. Marina’s journey through grief and integration to a new culture had no boring moment, while being written very realistically. The characters had depth and the culture was explained with great respect (by which I mean, a culture carefully described to foreigners without relying on common stereotypes).

An interesting aspect of the book was Marina’s relationship with Carolyn. While their relationship is part of the story, it isn’t the only focus (or even the main one) of the book. Even more interestingly, I appreciated the author’s effort not to label the two girls. They both had some interest for men, too, Carolyn having dated many (but not exclusively girls) before, and Marina having been only with guys. To have their sexuality not clearly defined, and not being the only defining characteristic of their lives, was extremely refreshing.

I loved discovering Japan through Marina’s eyes. It feels like Asia will never cease to surprise me; no matter how many books, mangas, magazines or stories I read, there is always more to discover about it. If You Follow Me was no exception. Marina discovered great differences through important things like her work or smaller things like the garbage, and I was fascinated by it all. I felt like I was there, trapped in this strange country, learning the rules of life all over again.

I really loved If You Follow Me, and after I finished reading it, I found myself thinking about it quite often. Watrous created strong images with her quiet narration, and because of her talent, I felt like I both met interesting characters and visited another land for the time I read.

Review : Across the Universe

Across the Universe by Beth Revis
Pages : 416
Genre : YA, Science-Fiction, Dystopia
Series : Across the Universe, book 1
My Rating :

What it’s about :

The plan for Amy’s family was simple; cryo-sleep aboard the Godspeed ship, to wake up on another planet a few centuries later. Only, something goes wrong, and Amy wakes up alone, too soon.

Before long, Amy discovers something bad is going on Godspeed : other sleepers get murdered and the ship’s ruler, Eldest, isn’t friendly towards the new girl. As she tries to uncover the truth and protect her family, Amy has to decide whether she can trust Elder, next in line to rule the ship.

My Thoughts :

The first thing I thought about when starting to write this review was “Should I really tag it as dystopia?” Because in truth, Across the Universe is more science-fiction than anything else. Even the romance, which the cover hints at strongly, takes a backseat to the mystery, the ship and the characters’ own personal issues. As for the dystopian aspect, it’s a part of the plot that is not clearly revealed from the beginning, but I did feel the hints were big enough that this is not a spoiler in any way. So, yes; Across the Universe is a slightly dystopian futuristic novel with an intriguing premise.

I’m not sure why the book sat so long on my shelf. When I finally decided to read it, I got hooked to the story instantly. While the narration itself didn’t particularly stand out, I was curious about Amy’s situation. Being put to sleep sure didn’t look like fun! However, I was disappointed by the dual narration. Nothing against Elder, but his voice wasn’t particularly different from Amy’s. I think I would have preferred to discover the ship and the future only though Amy’s eyes.

I also had a few problems with the technological side of the worldbuilding. Maybe it’s because I’m currently reading Physics of the Futurebut I couldn’t accept that the technology used on the ship wasn’t more advanced, more sophisticated. Parts of it were; but some parts of it were too easy, too similar to the technology we already use. Sadly, there was no explanation in the worldbuilding to justify that.

I do wish the characters were more dimensional, too, and less stereotyped. As a villain, Eldest had very little depth, but this is something that could be said of other secondary characters, too.This being said, I do think the strong point of the novel was the story itself. Even though it felt predictable and I could tell, mostly, who did what and what would happen, the pace and the twists kept me reading.

I also loved that, while Amy and Elder had a certain attraction for each other, the novel wasn’t about the romance itself. It was something happening on the side, and that never truly developed into something more. To be honest, I wouldn’t even be surprised if the author introduced another love interest for Amy, since her interest for Elder seemed to be more about curiosity, loneliness and friendship.

Across the Universe sure differentiated itself from all the dystopian stories coming out these days. I’m looking forward to reading book two, A Million Suns, which is already waiting on my shelf.

Series Reading Order :

  1. Across the Universe
  2. A Million Suns
  3. Shades of Earth (coming 2013)

Review : The Summer of Skinny Dipping

The Summer of Skinny Dipping by Amanda Howells
Pages : 295
Genre : YA, Fiction
Stand Alone
My Rating : 

What it’s about :

Mia couldn’t be more excited to be spending her summer in the Hamptons with her family; she loves the beach and the sea, and she has always been close to her cousin Corinne. She envisions a summer of fun, secrets and laughs… until she gets there and realize her cousin has changed since the last time she saw her. Stuck with Corinne, her sister and her friend, whose snobby attitude makes her more self-conscious than ever, Mia tries to accept that her summer won’t be as she had hoped.

Then she meets Simon, their summer neighbor. Though she’s at first unsure of him, their walks under the moon allow her to trust him, and their friendship quickly turns into something more…

My Thoughts :

It’s been said by many readers that The Summer of Skinny Dipping is no fluffy read. I can now confirm this; despite its summery cover and premise, this book isn’t one I would qualify as a fun beach read – nor is it really a romance, despite “falling in love” being a very important part of it. It will definitely bring summer to you; I could feel the sand and smell the sea through the pages and it did make me wish I was there. However, there is a lot more depth to Mia’s coming-of-age story, and while the book can easily be read in a day, it’s definitely not one to get you up when you feel down.

As the main character, Mia was an interesting one and one that I could relate to – not as I am in the present, but as I was when I was her age. My first thought was that she was naive, but I really prefer the word innocent to describe her. She is at that point in her life where her perception of the world is facing reality, and the last threads of her innocence are slowly broken. Through the events of that summer, she learns that things are not always as they seem, and that the people she envy might not be as perfect as they look.

Though her outlook on life still has this innocence, Mia is also an over-thinker. She questions everything and imagines the different outcomes, and that’s why I can’t consider her naive. She definitely perceives that something is going on with her family, but she never knows what until she is told. When you read a novel that is narrated by the main character, you are asked to believe their version of the story; in this case, it was interesting when Mia realized that she didn’t know her family that well, because the stories she had fabricated about them – and narrated repetitively as truths – do not match the reality.

The narration felt very intimate and quiet, giving the book a very slow pace. Until the end, the story had very few surprising turns. Mia’s romance with Simon develops at a nice pace (no insta-love!) and I could appreciate that they were friends first. I was surprised by how well Simon’s character was described from Mia’s point of view. I felt the author had a very clear view of him and allowed him to be an individual, rather than just a pretext for romance.

I guessed the ending very early in the book, and I’m still not sure whether it’s a good thing or not. Predictability can be either, really; if we compare to movies, you can enjoy thrillers that are surprising and twisted, but prefer romantic comedies to end with the predictable happily ever after. In this case, I don’t know; I think the ending would have hit me more strongly if I hadn’t seen it coming, but knowing it created a tension that was almost unbearable.

The Summer of Skinny Dipping surprised me in a positive way. While I wish the pacing would have hold my attention a little better, its story is powerful and its narration is full of heart. I also think it offers interesting possibilities for discussions about self-worth, happiness and identity.

Review : Endless Summer

Endless Summer by Jennifer Echols
Pages : 587
Genre : YA, Romance
Stand Alone
My Rating :

What it’s about :

Ever since she was a kid, Lori has been friends with the boys next door, three brothers who share her passion for wakeboarding. As far as she can remember, she also has always been in love with Sean.

This summer Lori will turns sixteen, and she has decided the time has come for her and Sean to be together. And if updating her wardrobe and adding a little makeup isn’t enough to get noticed, Lori has another plan : pretend to be in love with Adam, the youngest of the three boys, to get Sean a little jealous. Surely this plan can’t go wrong… right?

My Thoughts :

Endless Summer is a volume grouping The Boys Next Door, previously published in 2007, and Endless Summer, its sequel. My summary describes mostly what happens in the first half, although the second book follows a very similar path.

I will be upfront and say that yes, I found Lori’s plan a little silly. Even her narration is at times so naive that I sometimes just wanted to sigh, roll my eyes and close the book.

Fortunately Lori is, despite her young age, a fun character to follow. I loved that she had a passion for wakeboarding, and that she refused to purposefully fail at it just to get a guy’s attention! Even though she did try to change who she was to please him, she didn’t completely erase her personality. I also appreciated her brother and father, who were reasonably protective of her.

The romance also was totally adorable. It was clear very early on that Lori’s plan had some flaws. It was also obvious enough how and why her plans would or wouldn’t fail. Still, the author managed to make the story fun, cute and charming and I didn’t get bored. The Boys Next Door was perfect as a light, adorable romance and I could see why the fans asked for more.

Sadly, I do think the story should have ended there. While the second part of the book had a few nice moments, the games between Lori and the boys felt over-the-top silly, and it totally killed the romance for me. It started to feel more like an insane, negative relationship. Plus, why the dual narration? It wasn’t necessary to have someone other than Lori’s point of view, not at all. I really didn’t enjoy it much, to be honest.

Overall, Endless Summer was a cute summer romance with a strong beginning. It reads easily and makes you wish it was summer already. And it definitely had me watching some wakeboarding videos on youtube!

Review : Forget-Her-Nots

Forget-Her-Nots by Amy Brecount White
Pages : 384
Genre : YA, fiction
Stand alone
My Rating :

What it’s about :

Laurel is still grieving her mother when she notices there’s something unique about her; flowers make her feel things, things that other people don’t seem to notice. By offering them to the right person, she can also influence their life.

Investigating the source of her power, Laurel discovers she might have inherited her abilities from her family. And as her power grows stronger, Laurel struggles to control it and protect it from some greedy friends…

My Thoughts :

I had few expectations for this novel; I had heard little about it prior to reading it, so I wasn’t sure what the consensus was. I’m glad I did, as it turned out to be a very pleasant novel which stood out from most paranormal YA novels I usually read. I even made a list to explain this :

Things paranormal YA novels usually have, that you won’t find in Forget-Her-Nots :

  • Constant Life or Death situations
  • Teen aiming to save the world from doom with newly found superpower
  • Hot and Steamy romance that leaves place to nothing else

So for me, these are all points in favor of the book. Though I have loved books that used this formula, I do find a lot of them tired and always enjoy being taken out of this comfort zone to explore new ideas. Thumbs up to Forget-Her-Nots for stepping out of the mold on these parts. It’s refreshing to have a story that is not all doom and gloom, even though Laurel was going through some difficult things in her life.

This being said, a few things didn’t work as good for me. Laurel felt a little young to me so I had a more difficult time to connect with her. Her grief was, surprisingly, the thing I related to the most, even though I haven’t lived a loss such as hers. The pace was also uneven, sometimes too slow. I don’t believe you have to put your characters in life or death situations to create suspense and hook your reader, but you need to have a general sense of direction. At some point, I wasn’t sure where this was going or what the plot was, and the story lost my interest a little.

In the end, I was pleased with Laurel’s story even though it won’t be a favorite of mine. There was a fun cast of characters, a cute romance that didn’t took over the story and an interesting idea. I love the last few chapters and the conclusion though, and learning about the flowers was fun. I had heard of the language of flowers before but not with as much details. It sure made me want to find out more!