Tag Archives: romance

Review The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey

When her widower father drowns at sea, Gemma Hardy is taken from her native Iceland to Scotland to live with her kind uncle and his family. But the death of her doting guardian leaves Gemma under the care of her resentful aunt, and it soon becomes clear that she is nothing more than an unwelcome guest at Yew House. When she receives a scholarship to a private school, ten-year-old Gemma believes she’s found the perfect solution and eagerly sets out again to a new home. However, at Claypoole she finds herself treated as an unpaid servant.
To Gemma’s delight, the school goes bankrupt, and she takes a job as an au pair on the Orkney Islands. The remote Blackbird Hall belongs to Mr. Sinclair, a London businessman; his eight-year-old niece is Gemma’s charge. Even before their first meeting, Gemma is, like everyone on the island, intrigued by Mr. Sinclair. Rich (by Gemma’s standards), single, flying in from London when he pleases, Hugh Sinclair fills the house with life. An unlikely couple, the two are drawn to each other, but Gemma’s biggest trial is about to begin: a journey of passion and betrayal, redemption and discovery, that will lead her to a life of which she’s never dreamed.
 
Set in Scotland and Iceland in the 1950s and ’60s, The Flight of Gemma Hardy–a captivating homage to Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre–is a sweeping saga that resurrects the timeless themes of the original but is destined to become a classic all its own.
 
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Harper Collins
Release Date: January 24, 2012
Page Count: 447
Source: My copy.
Rating: 4/5

It’s been a while since I’ve read a book so beautifully crafted as The Forgotten Garden or any of Kate Furnivall’s books. I know The Flight of Gemma Hardy isn’t exactly historical fiction, but it sure reads like one. Which is definitely not a bad thing.

I haven’t read Jane Eyre, so I don’t have a lot to go on when comparing this retelling. But I can tell you that its rawness and turmoil shines through Gemma’s young eyes, and it’s beautiful. It’s ugly. It’s ugly and it’s beautiful, like life so often is. But this is not a normal life. Young Gemma is treated horribly not only by her schoolmates and her teachers but by her own family. She’s never really been given a chance. And everyone seems to think that she thinks she is better than everyone else she’s around but that’s the thing… she is better. After being orphaned—even when she has family who is perfectly capable of taking care of her—worked to the bone, and never been given a chance, she refuses to stoop to their level of darkness and evil. Anyone would be damaged by this kind of treatment at such a young age but Gemma thrives and stays true to the good person she is, the good person her beloved uncle brought her up to be. I admired her. I’m not going to say that she didn’t frustrate me at times—she reminded me of The Language of Flowers’s Victoria Jones—but I believed in her. She was truly a good person. And sadly, a character like that has been hard to come by in literature lately.

The Flight of Gemma Hardy is one of those books you want to take your time with. Though I read it in a day, it’s not one of those books you just read. You have to take your time absorbing its elements and eventually it will swallow you whole. I read the first two hundred pages without looking up. It’s just written that beautifully. You can’t look away.

Despite this, I thought the romance (or romances) could have been better. I didn’t think there was much development to be found in Gemma and Hugh’s relationship and there was practically no build up. I liked him, but I felt that the author wanted us to fall head over heels for him but with the way he was portrayed I thought he was just a normal guy. I’m a romantic at heart—I pretty much need at least a little romance in every story I read—but I would have been happy without it here. Gemma was intriguing enough on her own.

Furthermore, I thought the ending was a bit off. It didn’t feel rushed but I felt like other relationships (friendships especially) could have been wrapped up better. Actually, I didn’t feel like some of them were wrapped up at all.

These are forgivable elements though, as the novel as a whole was so wonderfully crafted. Livesey has definitely worked some magic here. And, though it doesn’t matter to some people, the cover of this book is freaking PERFECT.

A new favorite, for sure.


Review The Edumacation of Jay Baker by Jay Clark

A few “sexy” bullet points about Jay: 
– He is in love with a cheerleader named Cameo “Appearance” Parnell 
– He is forever losing “Love-15” to tennis-playing goddess Caroline Richardson 
– He rocks a touche array of pop-culture references, jokes, and puns 
– His family-life cookie is about to crumble. 

Live vicariously through Jay as he faces off against his mortal enemy, gets awkward around his dream girl(s), loses his marbles in a Bermudian love triangle, watches his parents’ relationship implode, and, finally, learns to get real and be himself(ish).

Genre: YA Fiction
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Release Date: January 31, 2012
Page Count: 272
Source: My copy.
Rating: 3/5

I really liked this book. I liked Jay and his quirks, and loved (most) all of the supporting characters. He suffered from some serious teenage boy syndrome during his rival with Mike and the bad choices he made where Cameo was concerned, but he made up for it in character so that was okay.

I had a real hard time connecting with Cameo, who is mostly responsible for the loss of rating. I know the author tried to portray her as a mistake-prone girl with good intentions, but I just wasn’t buying it. She wasn’t sincere to me.

Caroline, however, I loved. I was able to picture her perfectly and could definitely see myself being friends with her. I know that the author’s fiancee is named Caroline (and he is Jay), so one can only hope that she is like Caroline in the novel, because she is really down to earth. I do wish that we could have experienced the development in their relationship though, rather than “it’s one month later and we’re dating”.

Ms. Lambert was probably my favorite character though. Funnier than even Jay, I thought she was witty and very intelligent. Anyone who has a teacher like this, who cares about their students as much as she did, is really lucky.

I knew going into the novel that its main plot point was a love triangle (which I usually stay away from at all costs) but it wasn’t overdone so it turned out okay. Plus, it was told from a boy’s perspective which is not as common, so I was interested to see how that would play out.

Wholly, The Edumacation of Jay Baker is a humorous, witty contemporary that does deal with some real issues (divorce, etc.), but is not a tearjerker or anything like that. I would recommend it for a pretty light read.


Review The Coincidence of Callie and Kayden by Jessica Sorensen

There are those who don’t get luck handed to them on a shiny platter, who end up in the wrong place at the wrong time, who don’t get saved.

Luck was not on Callie’s side the day of her twelfth birthday when everything was stolen from her. After it’s all over, she locks up her feelings and vows never to tell anyone what happened. Six years later her painful past consumes her life and most days it’s a struggle just to breathe.

For as long as Kayden can remember, suffering in silence was the only way to survive life. As long as he did what he was told, everything was okay. One night, after making a terrible mistake, it seems like his life might be over. Luck was on his side, though, when Callie coincidentally is in the right place at the right time and saves him.

Now he can’t stop thinking about the girl he saw at school, but never really knew. When he ends up at the same college as Callie, he does everything he can to try to get to know her. But Callie is reserved and closed off. The more he tries to be part of her life, the more he realizes Callie might need to be saved.

Genre: New Adult
Publisher: Independent
Release Date: December 13, 2012
Page Count: 296
Source: My copy.
Rating: 2/5

Can I just say how much I hate fucking cliffhangers? Because, really, there’s a cliffhanger, and there’s a Cassandra Clare cliffhanger, and then there’s this cliffhanger. And the first two I can deal with, but there’s something very immature and noncommittal about ending a novel in the middle of the story. And that’s exactly what the author did here. She did not finish the story. And, series or not, that is unacceptable.

Two stars seems harsh for this book, especially since I liked the characters and the story they had to offer me, but two stars is for “it was okay”, and, with the amateur writing, the book turned out just okay for me.

I thought this novel could use an editor. Between the constant knitting of eyebrows and the lack of originality (see “knight in shining armor” or “think with your head and not with your dick” – so cliche), I thought the language could use some work.

This is one of my first experiences with New Adult and I thought that went alright. I fully expected it to read like a YA book but it didn’t – it fully encompassed the elements of a new adult’s life. So that was good. Like I said, I liked the characters and thought their connection was believable. I thought Kayden could be a little bit over the top at times, and despised Callie for expecting Kayden to do something about his life while she was on a downward spiral herself, but these were forgivable instances. Most of the time, I really liked them as human beings and felt for their circumstances and the pain they went through.

All in all, I thought the story flowed well and the writing needed work. I hated the ending (or lack thereof) and am kind of on the fence about reading the sequel. Like I said, it was okay.


Review Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist by David Levithan & Rachel Cohn

It all starts when Nick asks Norah to be his girlfriend for five minutes. He only needs five minutes to avoid his ex-girlfriend, who’s just walked in to his band’s show. With a new guy. And then, with one kiss, Nick and Norah are off on an adventure set against the backdrop of New York City;and smack in the middle of all the joy, anxiety, confusion, and excitement of a first date.

This he said/she said romance told by YA stars Rachel Cohn and David Levithan is a sexy, funny roller coaster of a story about one date over one very long night, with two teenagers, both recovering from broken hearts, who are just trying to figure out who they want to be;and where the next great band is playing.

Told in alternating chapters, teeming with music references, humor, angst, and endearing side characters, this is a love story you’ll wish were your very own. Working together for the first time, Rachel Cohn and David Levithan have combined forces to create a book that is sure to grab readers of all ages and never let them go.

Genre: YA Fiction
Publisher: Random House Children’s Books
Release Date: August 26, 2008
Page Count: 208
Source: My copy.
Rating: 4/5

Having seen Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist The Movie, and loving it (except the emphasis on Norah’s non-orgasms, that was weird [and I’m glad there was only a single mention of it in the book]) I really wanted to read this book. I also liked Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares (mostly), which made me want to get my hands on this book even more. And I really did enjoy it. Even more than I did Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares.

I could see how the overuse of the word “fuck” or any variation of it could make readers want to shy away from this novel (especially being teen fiction and all), but I thought it was appropriate. My views on swearing and sex in teen fiction is this: teens swear. A lot. And sex is part of their lives as much if not more so (with the pressures that go with teen life) than adults. And I don’t think the adults writing the teen fiction should censor these novels to a point where the elements of these teens’ lives are not present. And so, the passionate swearing in this novel worked for me. I think both characters were really passionate in their lives and it made sense for them to express themselves with such passion. But I’ll tell you right now, if the word “fuck” bothers you, you’re not going to want to read this book.

I thought, at times, that Nick was a bit sensitive for a teenage boy, but he had just broken up with his girlfriend so it wasn’t totally unwarranted. But I absolutely loved Norah. She was strong, yet aware of her weaknesses and the mistakes that she made. She had loving parents, which was refreshing – I realize not all teens have that perfection in their lives where parents are concerned, but the reality is that some do, and it was nice to see that. I think Nick and Norah had amazing chemistry – especially in that one scene, whew! – and I enjoyed seeing their relationship develop. Somehow the authors did not enter insta-love territory, despite the fact that the entire novel is the course of one night, they kept it classy – these teens were actually interested in getting to know one another. I loved the backdrop of the music scene – it all felt very genuine. The novel was really short, but not too short to develop the characters. I thought the whole thing was executed brilliantly.


Review Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore

Nimira is a music-hall performer forced to dance for pennies to an audience of leering drunks. When wealthy sorcerer Hollin Parry hires her to do a special act – singing accompaniment to an exquisite piano-playing automaton, Nimira believes it is the start of a new life. In Parry’s world, however, buried secrets stir. 
Unsettling below-stairs rumours abound about ghosts, a mad woman roaming the halls, and of Parry’s involvement in a gang of ruthless sorcerers who torture fairies for sport. When Nimira discovers the spirit of a dashing young fairy gentleman is trapped inside the automaton’s stiff limbs, waiting for someone to break the curse and set him free, the two fall in love. But it is a love set against a dreadful race against time to save the entire fairy realm, which is in mortal peril.

Genre: YA Fantasy
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Release Date: February 1, 2010
Page Count: 225
Source: My copy.
Rating: 2/5

I did not like this book. I rolled my eyes a lot. Fantastically, the second half was better than the first, but there was still eye-rolling. And that ending!

Page 63, and hello insta-love. Our protagonist has fallen for an automaton. Which is not that far fetched, I guess, considering he is alive, but, up to that point, barely anything has passed between them! They have had like, one conversation, that involved them communicating their names to each other. Which is hardly grounds for true love. I mean, I could even understand the insta-love, the story being set in Jane Austen days (I’m guessing, there were carriages?) but I just expected more from Nimira. She didn’t appear to be one of those girls. She exuded strength, even in the very beginning when times were tough for her, and I expected more character from her. And I could totally see her falling in love with Erris when he is no longer an automaton (well not really an automaton) – I mean the guy is hot. And charming. And a prince. – but not before.

The characters are memorable (even the bad ones), I have to give the author that. The world building was even good – I pictured the story’s setting very easily, especially as the characters moved place to place. And though nothing particularly wonderful stands out about the writing, the story did flow well. But the romance was so, so cheesy.

And that ending! It was terrible. It was one of those endings that tried to be mysterious in leaving the reader to think about it and come to their own conclusions about where the characters end up? But it didn’t work. The most pertinent question that you want the answer to never gets resolved. And as far as I know, there is not a sequel. So if you’re like me, and you can’t stand insta-lovey books that leave you with more questions than answers, I wouldn’t recommend this book.


Review Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares by David Levithan & Rachel Cohn

“I’ve left some clues for you.
If you want them, turn the page.
If you don’t, put the book back on the shelf, please.”

So begins the latest whirlwind romance from the bestselling authors ofNick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Lily has left a red notebook full of challenges on a favorite bookstore shelf, waiting for just the right guy to come along and accept its dares. But is Dash that right guy? Or are Dash and Lily only destined to trade dares, dreams, and desires in the notebook they pass back and forth at locations across New York? Could their in-person selves possibly connect as well as their notebook versions? Or will they be a comic mismatch of disastrous proportions?

Rachel Cohn and David Levithan have written a love story that will have readers perusing bookstore shelves, looking and longing for a love (and a red notebook) of their own.

Genre: YA Fiction
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Release Date: December 26, 2010
Page Count: 260
Source: My copy.
Rating: 3/5

The simple truth is, I loved this book until That Thing Happened. I thought Dash was an intelligent, unique, rooted boy who I could very easily relate to and I thought Lily was quite charming. I think Levithan and Cohn make a sensational team and frankly, I cannot count on two hands how many times this book made me laugh out loud. Really, laugh.

But the book was a bit pretentious. The reason I say it like that is because I read a review in which the reader rated it lowly because of its pretentious nature and I didn’t really believe it. But now I understand. The story goes from Dash wanting to meet Lily to Lily making a fool of herself to Dash thinking they shouldn’t have met, not because of what Lily did but because they just… shouldn’t? Why? And I don’t know if I’m just being naive or if I just wanted them to work so badly or what, but I feel like I don’t understand his reasoning. I mean, I understand that the girl in his head probably doesn’t exist and if she does, Lily is most likely not that girl, but if he realizes that the girl in his head doesn’t exist, then what is wrong with Lily, if her fault is not her actions. This is where the book felt pretentious to me. I felt like that there was an inner meaning to the whole girl (or boy) in our heads, but I don’t think that inner meaning really shined through in this novel. It was never really achieved.

And Lily. I really liked her, but what she did, how she acted in that one instance that served as a first impression, was unforgivable. Not only was it out of character, but it was as if she had completely given up on herself, not to mention Dash. And she just declined from there. I had gained so much respect for her and her morals, I was completely floored by her. And its in instances like this where my opinion conflicts with that of the entire book population. Sometimes, I don’t feel that a story needs conflict. For me, it would have been okay to tell Lily and Dash’s story without forcing for Lily to do something stupid to delay the whole thing. I think it would have been okay for them to stay true to themselves instead of make the mistakes that they made. And everyone makes mistakes – I understand that – but personally, I can’t stand in books when one person becomes two different people. And because Lily was That Person, I don’t feel that she really was right for Dash, and therefore disagreed with the rest of the book.

Apart from that, I absolutely loved Dash and all of his friends. Especially Boomer. He was one of the most kindhearted characters I have come in contact with in a long time. I think the book had strong world building – I could really picture New York from where I sat – and I really enjoyed the premise of the story. I thought it was executed well, like I said, until That Thing Happened that really propelled the story in the wrong way for me. But in a way, Dash’s character drove it home for me. Despite my disagreements with the story as a whole, I really enjoyed falling into his chapters and getting to know him as a person. He was very interesting.

I would recommend this book for solid writing, to readers who are looking for a light read, and who may be a bit more forgiving of humans than I am.


Review Every Day by David Levithan

In his New York Times bestselling novel, David Levithan introduces readers to what Entertainment Weekly calls a “wise, wildly unique” love story about A, a teen who wakes up every morning in a different body, living a different life.

Every day a different body. Every day a different life. Every day in love with the same girl. 

There’s never any warning about where it will be or who it will be. A has made peace with that, even established guidelines by which to live: Never get too attached. Avoid being noticed. Do not interfere.

It’s all fine until the morning that A wakes up in the body of Justin and meets Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon. From that moment, the rules by which A has been living no longer apply. Because finally A has found someone he wants to be with—day in, day out, day after day.

With his new novel, David Levithan, bestselling co-author of Will Grayson, Will Grayson, and Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, has pushed himself to new creative heights. He has written a captivating story that will fascinate readers as they begin to comprehend the complexities of life and love in A’s world, as A and Rhiannon seek to discover if you can truly love someone who is destined to change every day.

Genre: YA Fiction
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Release Date: August 28, 2012
Page Count: 336
Source: My copy.
Rating: 3/5

This book was just okay for me. I’m unable to point out anything that I particularly loved about the book, but wholly, besides a few gripes I have with it, it was a good book.

What stands out to me the most though, was how unrelatable A was. Not being able to pinpoint A’s gender was very frustrating. Had A been a girl with raging hormones, or a laid back teenage boy that just wanted to hang out with his friends, I could relate to A’s emotions. Yet A was in limbo. A’s actions portrayed A as a girl, with how quickly A fell in love with Rhiannon (and yes, this book suffers from insta-love – on A’s part, not on Rhiannnon’s), yet I got the sense that, deeply, A was a boy. This confliction was not only confusing but frustrating, as I said, and I desperately wanted to know which side of A I should hold on to.

I also think A’s expectations of Rhiannon were unrealistic. A expected Rhiannon to accept their situation without question – love conquers all etc. – without really thinking of her feelings. I’m a big believer in true love and destiny and all that, but I just wasn’t buying it. I couldn’t see their relationship ever working.

I had no quarrels with the way Levithan told this story. He certainly can write a sentence. Though I thought the world building could have been better, I have noticed lately that authors in YA contemps are focusing more on their characters than their worlding, so I won’t fault him for that. I can forgive a less-than-perfect storyline. I cannot forgive bad characters.

I thought the ending was very rushed, and totally incomplete. So incomplete that, I think there is enough of an adventure left in A that there could be a sequel. That there should be a sequel. I have no idea if there is a possibility of a sequel, but I think I would definitely read it to find out what happens.

Overall, it was an okay read. I read Will Grayson, Will Grayson, a book Levithan co-authored with John Green, and I know the man can write. I also admire him. I know he has taken a stand on homosexuality in YA literature and I think the YA community needs more advocates like him. Despite my issues with this one book, I would definitely read more of his work.