Source: First to Read Program

Book Review – Blood and Salt (Blood and Salt #1) by Kim Liggett

Posted September 24, 2015 by Bonnie in Book Reviews, Read in 2015, YA / 4 Comments

I received this book free from First to Read Program in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review – Blood and Salt (Blood and Salt #1) by Kim LiggettBlood and Salt by Kim Liggett
Series: Blood and Salt #1
Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons on September 22nd 2015
Pages: 352
Genres: Horror, Romance
Format: eARC
Source: First to Read Program
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one-star

Romeo and Juliet meets Children of the Corn in this one-of-a-kind romantic horror

“When you fall in love, you will carve out your heart and throw it into the deepest ocean. You will be all in—blood and salt.”

These are the last words Ash Larkin hears before her mother returns to the spiritual commune she escaped long ago. But when Ash follows her to Quivira, Kansas, something sinister and ancient waits among the rustling cornstalks of this village lost to time.

Ash is plagued by memories of her ancestor, Katia, which harken back to the town’s history of unrequited love and murder, alchemy and immortality. Charming traditions soon give way to a string of gruesome deaths, and Ash feels drawn to Dane, a forbidden boy with secrets of his own.

As the community prepares for a ceremony five hundred years in the making, Ash must fight not only to save her mother, but herself—and discover the truth about Quivira before it’s too late. Before she’s all in—blood and salt.

Blood and Salt was easily my most anticipated YA horror of the year. Alas, I’m slowly losing faith that I’ll ever find something that is worthwhile. This isn’t to say that there isn’t enjoyment to be found, I’m just clearly not the targeted reader. Considering horror is one of my favorite genres you would think there wouldn’t be a difference but the way the YA versions always seem to be written just doesn’t do it for me. I was leery about this one from the get go, because honestly? Romeo and Juliet meets Children of the Corn?

There’s something I find thoroughly compelling about cults. How did they begin? How were people allured into this following? I read another cult-ish YA novel earlier this year that did a superb job at illustrating it all and at the same time leaving you completely unsettled; reading about cults should leave you feeling like that. Alas, the cult in Blood and Salt lacked the unsettling feeling, but rather had so many plot holes in the logistics of it all that I was more or less just confused.

Ashlyn and her twin brother Rhys have been raised by their mother who grew up in a cult in the middle of the corn fields in Kansas. The cult centers around the belief that their ancestor, Katia, has been waiting for centuries to be reunited with her lover who was murdered. The only thing she is waiting for are appropriate “vessels” for her and her lovers’ souls to be able to use to finally be together. The rest of the followers believe that once this happens, Katia will share her immortality with them. When Ashlyn and Rhys find their mother has disappeared one day, they think that she was meant to be Katia’s vessel, and they set off to the corn fields of Kansas to save her. Immortality, a hint of alchemy, and cannibalistic corn (or cornnibalism as Dani so eloquently put it) could have been a most excellent story but I felt that too many aspects of this story were left tragically unexplained.

From the very start, this book requires quite a bit of suspension of disbelief. Ash and Rhys have both grown up in the modern day, but Ash is always seeing this random dead girl that hangs from a rope by her ankles and who coincidentally seems to look exactly like her. There’s little to no explanation for this, but her mother knows and occasionally gives her a new tattoo that is meant to protect her. When Ashlyn receives the voicemail from her mother saying that she’s gone to “walk the corn” one final time, the twins set out to Kansas immediately, driving the twenty hours straight to get there. Ash’s immediate acceptance of this cult and their belief systems was a bit far fetched and upon their arrival begins having visions of Katia that only succeed in confusing the story even more. There’s also her immediate attraction (by his scent, no less) to an individual that she’s immediately told she can’t be with, that he’s of mixed bloodlines and that sort of thing just isn’t allowed. So naturally she’s obsessed with him. Because apparently he smells that good.

Of course he’s gorgeous too.

‘…he was the kind of beautiful that made me think I might still be hallucinating.’

Followed shortly by:

‘I’d never felt such a strong physical attraction to anyone.
Even if it was just for a fleeting moment, he seemed to make all my problems disappear. I wanted to bottle that feeling and carry it around in my pocket. The thought of kidnapping him crossed my mind.’

I really should have called it a day.

It only continued.

‘He coaxed the bottle away from me and took a deep swig. […]
I snatched it back and took another drink, not because I wanted more, but because his lips had just touched the bottle.’

‘Firelight was kind to just about everyone, but what it did to Dane’s face was… criminal.’

‘For a moment, I wondered if I’d imagined our kiss last night, but he glanced down at my lips like he owned them.’

While all this is going on, she’s practically forgotten all about her prior concerns for her mother, the memory flashes continue to complicate everything, and she continues to fall deeply in love within the span of about 3 days. The out of nowhere plot development for her brothers side of the story didn’t help anything either. Given the fact that this is the first in a series, I would have hoped for a bit more character development and definitely more relationship development, but the lack of both left this one a most befuddling read for me. The ending lacked real resolution, just ending with the intent to bring readers back for the next installment but unfortunately the first installment didn’t hook me enough to be invested in seeking out the sequel.

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Book Review – The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins

Posted September 10, 2015 by Bonnie in Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2015 / 1 Comment

I received this book free from First to Read Program in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review – The Library at Mount Char by Scott HawkinsThe Library at Mount Char on June 16th 2015
Pages: 400
Format: Hardcover
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three-stars

Neil Gaiman meets Joe Hill in this astonishingly original, terrifying, and darkly funny contemporary fantasy.

Carolyn’s not so different from the other human beings around her. She’s sure of it. She likes guacamole and cigarettes and steak. She knows how to use a phone. She even remembers what clothes are for.

After all, she was a normal American herself, once.

That was a long time ago, of course—before the time she calls “adoption day,” when she and a dozen other children found themselves being raised by a man they learned to call Father.

Father could do strange things. He could call light from darkness. Sometimes he raised the dead. And when he was disobeyed, the consequences were terrible.

In the years since Father took her in, Carolyn hasn’t gotten out much. Instead, she and her adopted siblings have been raised according to Father’s ancient Pelapi customs. They’ve studied the books in his library and learned some of the secrets behind his equally ancient power. Sometimes, they’ve wondered if their cruel tutor might secretly be God.

Now, Father is missing. And if God truly is dead, the only thing that matters is who will inherit his library—and with it, power over all of creation.

As Carolyn gathers the tools she needs for the battle to come, fierce competitors for this prize align against her.

But Carolyn can win. She’s sure of it. What she doesn’t realize is that her victory may come at an unacceptable price—because in becoming God, she’s forgotten a great deal about being human.

The Library at Mount Char is a most difficult book to explain. We’re introduced to various children who are all raised by Father, a sort of God-like figure in their eyes, but not their actual father. He assigns each child a different subject, referred to as their catalog, to devote their life to studying. Their topics of study aren’t normal though, nothing as basic as English or Math. Instead they are topics such as the study of animals and being able to communicate with them (so much so that the individual became quite animalistic himself), another to the study of healing (however her abilities extend to being able to raise the dead), and another that is able to foretell the future (with the help of her ghost children whom she was required by Father to strangle in their cribs when they were 9 months of age). And that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

Oh, speaking of icebergs, there’s an actual iceberg in the story. He’s got legs. His name is Q-33 North. There’s also a sea tortoise named Diver Eye that is also a minister. And let’s not forget Nobununga who was Emperor of the Forests. He’s a tiger.

Yeah. Me either.

So when Father goes missing, everyone is at a loss as to what to do because he’s always been there to guide them in life. What follows is possibly the most unusual story I’ve ever read. But unusual, bizarre, peculiar, even outlandish — all words that still don’t even come close to describing just how weird this book really is. I’ve got to give the author kudos for an extremely inventive and creative story though even though I still can’t figure out whether I actually liked it or not.

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Early Review – The Wrath and the Dawn (The Wrath and the Dawn #1) by Renee Ahdieh

Posted May 8, 2015 by Bonnie in Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2015, YA / 3 Comments

I received this book free from First to Read Program in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Early Review – The Wrath and the Dawn (The Wrath and the Dawn #1) by Renee AhdiehThe Wrath and the Dawn Series: The Wrath and the Dawn #1
on May 12th 2015
Pages: 416
Format: eARC
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four-half-stars

A sweeping and lush tale of romance and adventure

Every dawn brings horror to a different family in a land ruled by a killer. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, takes a new bride each night only to have her executed at sunrise. So it is a suspicious surprise when sixteen-year-old Shahrzad volunteers to marry Khalid. But she does so with a clever plan to stay alive and exact revenge on the Caliph for the murder of her best friend and countless other girls. Shazi’s wit and will, indeed, get her through to the dawn that no others have seen, but with a catch…she’s falling in love with the very boy who killed her dearest friend.

She discovers that the murderous boy-king is not all that he seems and neither are the deaths of so many girls. Shazi is determined to uncover the reason for the murders and to break the cycle once and for all.

Inspired by A Thousand and One Nights, this sumptuous and epically told love story heralds the arrival of an exciting new voice in YA.

‘It did not matter that this world was far from as simple as she might have thought.
And it absolutely did not matter that her heart was… mis-behaving.
She had come to the palace with a clear purpose.
The Caliph of Horasan had to die.’

Shahrzad, sixteen years old, has been battling with her grief since her best friend was murdered by her husband, Khalid Ibn al-Rashid, Caliph of Khorasan. For reasons unknown, he takes a bride each night only to have her killed in the morning. When Shahrzad actually volunteers to marry him, her family and childhood sweetheart, Tariq, are devastated. To everyone’s surprise, she survives the dawn and begins to put her plan into action: to find the weakness of the Caliph of Khorasan that will help her to avenge her murdered best friend. She begins to realize though that his only weakness is Shahrzad herself.

Reading has been a bit of a struggle for me lately and I tentatively started this one not expecting to be able to stick with it. I also had some serious doubts that it would end up being something that lived up to the hype for me, especially after recently reading another super-hyped story that ended up being a major disappointment for me. Imagine my surprise when I couldn’t stop flipping the pages, couldn’t stop wondering what was going to happen next, and couldn’t keep the ridiculous grin off my face watching all the emotions unfold. Oh man, the feels. They got me. For the most part, the story is told from the point of view of Shahrzad, however, we’re also given scenes through the eyes of Khalid and Tariq. All three points of view intertwine to form a most enthralling tale.

“As silver-tongued as a viper.” He laughed. “Tell me, my lady, do you ever miss a moment to strike?”
Shahrzad smiled, and it was brilliant and biting, all at once. “I fear that would be unwise, my lord. Especially in a den of snakes.”

I loved Shahrzad. She was wonderfully snarky and witty and courageous and bold. The addition in her story to being a prowess at the bow and arrow only sealed the deal to my love of her. I had my doubts at first that the story could pull off credibly Shahrzad falling in love with Khalid. I mean come on, she married her best friends murderer with the intent to kill him herself. How possibly could that be turned around legitimately? Well, I’m happy to say that it was done extremely well and I was completely sold. The passion between those two… that’s where that perma-grin I mentioned comes into play.

‘Her lips were hers one moment. And then they were his. The taste of him on her tongue was like sunwarmed honey. Like cool water sliding down her parched throat. Like the promise of all her tomorrows in a single sigh. When she wound her fingers in his hair to draw her body against his, he stilled for breath, and she knew, as he knew, that they were lost.
Lost forever.
In this kiss.
This kiss that would change everything.’

This could have easily been insta-love, but instead, it was a beautiful, slow and steady build up of honest emotion. It was a lovely thing to witness and I couldn’t tear my eyes away. Khalid even won me over at the same time. His pain and grief over what he felt he had to do, was his own personal suffering and it showed. I loved his own path to self-realization and how he became more confident in his roles and the decisions he had to make rather than sitting back and accepting his lot in life. I can’t wait to see how that continues in the next installment.

I had massive love for this book but there were a few aspects that could have made this better for me. First, I wanted to know more about Shahrzad’s family, especially her father, and there seems no doubt we’ll find out more in The Rose and the Dagger. The magical aspects of the novel were incredibly interesting and while I wished there was more of it, I appreciated the subtlety of it all. Second, Tariq’s character was a major low point and I disliked his point of view sections even if I can understand how necessary they were to see things from that aspect, to learn what all was being set in motion. Tariq is Shahrzad’s childhood sweetheart and while I get the whole “do whatever it takes to protect her” he got a bit manic about it, especially once he started realizing she was changing her mind about Khalid. He jumped to the conclusion that something was being done to her to make her change her typically immutable mind, which I get, but could have ultimately done without. Essentially I just wanted more kissy scenes. All the kissy scenes and all the swoons, please.

The Wrath and the Dawn is a wistful re-imagining of Arabian Nights with a forbidden romance that will leave you completely enchanted. I’m both eager and dreading the concluding story, The Rose and the Dagger, and desperately wishing for a satisfying ending that won’t leave my heart in tatters.

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Book Review – An Ember in the Ashes (An Ember in the Ashes #1) by Sabaa Tahir

Posted April 28, 2015 by Bonnie in Book Reviews, Read in 2015, YA / 4 Comments

I received this book free from First to Read Program in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review – An Ember in the Ashes (An Ember in the Ashes #1) by Sabaa TahirAn Ember in the Ashes Series: An Ember in the Ashes #1
on April 28th 2015
Pages: 464
Format: eARC
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two-stars

In the Martial Empire, is it the soldier or the slave who’s truly free?

Laia is a Scholar living under the brutal rule of the Martial Empire. When her brother is arrested for treason, Laia goes undercover as a slave at the empire’s greatest military academy in exchange for assistance from other Scholars who claim that they will help to save her brother from execution. At the academy, Laia meets Elias, the academy’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias is considering deserting the military, but before he can, he’s ordered to participate in the Trials, a ruthless contest to choose the next Martial emperor. It is not long before the far-reaching arm of Trials snatches not just Elias but Laia as well; and soon the two will find that their destinies are more intertwined than either could have imagined and that their choices will change the future of the empire itself.

Baaaaa. Baaaaa. Look at me. Aren’t I cute?

An Ember in the Ashes was one of my most anticipated of the year. I knew very little about it going in, only that it’s a fantasy inspired by ancient Rome (Gladiator, anyone?) and there was already extensive praise from many bloggers. I’m sad to say that I not only found this extremely tedious but shockingly uninteresting based on the seemingly exciting subject matter.

‘You will burn, for you are an ember in the ashes. That is your destiny.’

In this world, the Martials rule the Empire and have done so for the last 500 years since they defeated the Scholars. Laia and her brother live with their grandparents after both their mother and father were killed for being a part of the Scholar Resistance. When her brother becomes privy to secrets the Martials would prefer to keep safe, they send Masks, elite soldiers, to capture him. Laia manages to escape but the guilt she bears for running instead of trying to save her brother eats her alive. When she seeks out the Resistance in order to ask for their help in saving her brother, she finds herself agreeing to become a slave, in exchange for their help, and signed up for a job that no one has survived: spying on the terrifying Commandant of Blackcliff Military Academy.

Elias is a soldier in training at Blackcliff Military Academy but has dreams of one day escaping from the vows he made and from his mother, the Commandant. Just when he thinks his plans are secure and he’ll be able to consider himself free, he is named an Aspirant, a candidate for the throne if he can beat out the three other competitors in the Trials. He has no desire to rule, however, refusing to compete is a death sentence. When Elias and Laia meet, even though they should be enemies, they both recognize that they share a common goal to one day become truly free.

I had to line it all out again because even just that snippet has me dumbfounded that it managed to be so dull. First and foremost in a fantasy world for me is the focus on world-building. The previously mentioned Roman inspiration is apparent and fairly detailed, but while this is also meant to be a fantasy that’s where the world-building got real choppy. There were fantasy creatures that we’re told were beings in stories the characters learned when they were children and they basically came out of nowhere with no explanation. Some fed off Laia’s sadness but the fact that she was able to see them was apparently rare but it was never mentioned again. It just wasn’t logical to me.

Next up in my list of letdowns, the characters. The chapters alternate between Elias and Laia’s points of view and these are the most inexplicably dull characters, ever. Absolutely nothing they did was ever any interest to me. The fact that Laia was constantly being abused throughout the entirety of the book should have at least drawn a modicum of sympathy from me but for some reason there was none. Their obligatory romance also completely lacked any sort of passion which made me care even less for the duo if that was even possible. There is also somewhat of a love triangle (with a dude with red hair and freckles — in Rome? Yeah, think on that one for a sec.) and I didn’t like him any better. There was literally nothing I enjoyed about this one, honestly. The only reason it’s not getting one star is because it wasn’t horrible it just wasn’t compelling at all. I found myself reading the last 7% of the story, one of the main characters is facing certain death (although let’s face it, something miraculous always happens to save the day so I wasn’t too concerned), bombs are going off, the crowd is in chaos… *yawn* Hey, I need to organize my filing cabinet. No exaggeration. It took me a full two days to finish the last 10%. I really should have just quit but there’s always that inkling of hope where you think something amazing is going to happen at the end to turn it all around. View Spoiler »

No, what we do get for the majority of this unreasonably long book is a lot of violence and bloodshed, primarily towards the female slave who is always either cowering in fear from threats, being whipped, fighting off rape, etc. I understand that this is all possibly meant to show how a slave lived in ancient times but there’s violence and then there’s gratuitous. I felt that line was crossed often. There were few redeemable females in the whole of this book. The Commander was sadistic and whipped her slaves for being a few minutes late with tea and even had another of her slave’s EYEBALL ripped out when they were only five years old. She’s a real peach. I loved the concept of Helene, the sole female Mask in her class, but instead of remaining that badass, empowered female she morphed overnight into this simpering fool when she falls for Elias. The jealous aspect was something I really could have done without. I did enjoy the scenes with Cook in it (another slave) and Izzi was tenacious despite the threat of violence as well so there’s that at least.

The plot moved at a snail’s pace. Much of the story is spent with Elias undergoing the trials and Laia trying to survive while still attempting to figure out how to save her brother. The ending is one I pretty much saw coming but still managed to feel so very staged and engineered and just blah. Nothing was really resolved despite my understanding that this was meant to be a standalone. I’ve heard differing opinions on this though. Apparently, it could be a series if the publisher opts to pick up other installments? But based on that ending it wasn’t close to being resolved. I can’t say I’m interested enough in picking up any future installments even if they do happen.

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Early Review – The Fair Fight: A Novel by Anna Freeman

Posted April 11, 2015 by Bonnie in Adult, Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2015 / 1 Comment

I received this book free from First to Read Program in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Early Review – The Fair Fight: A Novel by Anna FreemanThe Fair Fight: A Novel on April 14th 2015
Pages: 480
Format: eARC
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two-half-stars

The Crimson Petal and the White meets Fight Club: A page-turning novel set in the world of female pugilists and their patrons in late eighteenth-century England.
Moving from a filthy brothel to a fine manor house, from the world of street fighters to the world of champions, The Fair Fight is a vivid, propulsive historical novel announcing the arrival of a dynamic new talent.

Born in a brothel, Ruth doesn’t expect much for herself beyond abuse. While her sister’s beauty affords a certain degree of comfort, Ruth’s harsh looks set her on a path of drudgery. That is until she meets pugilist patron George Dryer and discovers her true calling—fighting bare knuckles in the prize rings of Bristol.

Manor-born Charlotte has a different cross to bear. Scarred by smallpox, stifled by her social and romantic options, and trapped in twisted power games with her wastrel brother, she is desperate for an escape.

After a disastrous, life-changing fight sidelines Ruth, the two women meet, and it alters the perspectives of both of them. When Charlotte presents Ruth with an extraordinary proposition, Ruth pushes dainty Charlotte to enter the ring herself and learn the power of her own strength.

A gripping, page-turning story about people struggling to transcend the circumstances into which they were born and fighting for their own places in society, The Fair Fight is a raucous, intoxicating tale of courage, reinvention, and fighting one’s way to the top.

“I’d like to say that my beginnings were humble, but they weren’t beginnings, because I never really left them but for a short while.”

The Fair Fight is told from three separate points of view that details the way of life for three very different individuals in diverse social classes in 18th century Bristol. We’re first given Ruth’s tale which starts this book off with a bang. Born in a brothel, Ruth never had any aspirations of ever rising her station until one day she’s seen fighting her sister and she’s suddenly being trained and thrust into a boxing ring. She becomes near unstoppable and becomes known everywhere as Miss Matchet from The Hatchet. Ruth was quite a compelling and gutsy woman with a gripping story told in lower-class slang and I would have gladly read this book told entirely from her point of view. In fact, I think I actually would have preferred it.

Next, we shift down a few gears and are taken inside the walls of an English boarding school where we are introduced to roommates and friends, George and Perry. Their tale was extremely long and sordid and went on for so long that I quickly lost interest after Ruth’s fascinating tale. We’re then given the story of Perry’s sister, Charlotte. Her story is one chock full of torment at the hands of her brother. After surviving the pox yet being left dreadfully scarred, her scars becomes the sole focus of Perry’s cruelty. It was a vast change from the Perry we see through the “rose-colored” eyes of George. The multiple storylines left things quite convoluted and excessively long and drawn out and none of them quite compared to the fascinating parts of the story centered around Ruth.

When a book is being called the “female Fight Club“, well, those are some mighty big boots to fill. Also, it’s a bit misleading since in all actuality very little of this story truly focused on female pugilists (I felt more focus actually ended up being given to the male fighters when it was all said and done). The majority of the story is comprised of nothing more than Victorian drama and of the way of life in the 18th century. It wasn’t that it was all terribly uninteresting because there were aspects that I did enjoy, the problem was that everything was all so long and drawn out. I understand the need to set the scene, explain everyone’s back-story, but it was so overdone that it threw off the pacing, caused me to get a bit lost in the detail and detracted from my ultimate enjoyment of the story itself. The writing was brilliant at times and I got definite Sarah Waters vibes but while there were parts of this that I thoroughly enjoyed, there were much more that I didn’t.

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Early Review – Funny Girl by Nick Hornby

Posted January 31, 2015 by Dani in Dani's Reviews / 2 Comments

I received this book free from First to Read Program in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Early Review – Funny Girl by Nick HornbyFunny Girl on February 3rd 2015
Pages: 464
Format: eARC
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From the bestselling author of High Fidelity, About a Boy, and A Long Way Down comes a highly anticipated new novel.

Set in 1960's London, Funny Girl is a lively account of the adventures of the intrepid young Sophie Straw as she navigates her transformation from provincial ingénue to television starlet amid a constellation of delightful characters. Insightful and humorous, Nick Hornby's latest does what he does best: endears us to a cast of characters who are funny if flawed, and forces us to examine ourselves in the process.

Barbara, a newly crowned beauty queen, leaves her hometown of Blackpool for London, where she hopes to become the next Lucille Ball. She rebrands herself as Sophie Straw – only to be cast as “Barbara from Blackpool” on a new BBC sitcom. Her new show is met with wide appeal for being the first comedy to shed light on more realistic wedded bliss.

“She didn’t want to be a queen at all. She just wanted to go on television and make people laugh.”

Readers of classic Nick Hornby novels, like High Fidelity and About a Boy, will likely have high expectations when approaching this book, as I did. Funny Girl has several very hard acts to follow and with the precedent of such charming, complex characters, this novel simply did not measure up. Barbara/Sophie has the same funny yet flawed characterization common among Hornby’s creations, but instead of coming off as relatable or interesting, she’s more brash and seems to desperately seek attention – like the annoying girl you try to avoid at a party.

Funny Girl has in no way deterred me from (eagerly) getting my hands on Hornby’s next book. I am still hopeful to find a glimmer of those all-too-human characters I fell in love with a decade ago that propelled Hornby on my list of favorite authors.

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Early Review – Just One Year (Just One Day #2) by Gayle Forman

Posted August 22, 2013 by Bonnie in Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2013, YA / 4 Comments

I received this book free from First to Read Program in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Early Review – Just One Year (Just One Day #2) by Gayle FormanJust One Year by Gayle Forman
Series: Just One Day #2
Published by Dutton Children's on October 10th 2013
Pages: 336
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Travel
Format: eARC
Source: First to Read Program
Amazon
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Also by this author: Just One Day, Just One Night

three-stars

The heartrending conclusion—from Willem’s POV—to the romantic duet of novels that began with Allyson’s story in Just One Day

After spending an amazing day and night together in Paris, Just One Year is Willem’s story, picking up where Just One Day ended. His story of their year of quiet longing and near misses is a perfect counterpoint to Allyson’s own as Willem undergoes a transformative journey, questioning his path, finding love, and ultimately, redefining himself.

 

Just One Day series
Just One Day (Just One Day, #1)

‘It was like she gave me her whole self, and somehow as a result, I gave her more of myself than I ever realized there was to give. But then she was gone. And only after I’d been filled up by her, by that day, did I understand how empty I really was.’

Finally. We have Willem’s story. Just One Day left readers contemplating what possibly could have gone wrong, why he never came back to Allyson and if they were ever going to be able to find each other again. Just One Year possesses the same melancholy feel as its predecessor with Willem stumbling around in an apparent daze, unable to trust the stability of his feelings for Allyson because after all… they only knew each other for a single day.

‘…it’s Lulu I miss, and I know it must be displaced, my loneliness a heat-seeking missile, her the heat. Only I can’t seem to find a new source of heat.’

This is a tough one for me to figure out how I feel about. Willem was a tough nut to crack and I went through the majority of the book not feeling any sort of compassion towards him, no pity for his plight, when I think that would have been the regular response. He gave up his search for her very early on and considering we already know what Allyson went through physically and emotionally makes me sad for her. Willem was convinced to start looking for her again by friends and as much as he kept saying he was still looking for her that whole time, it wasn’t an active search. It felt like he was simply sitting back and waiting for something to happen, for her to find him.

‘The truth and its opposite are flip sides of the same coin.’

Willem’s story became less about their romance and more about him discovering things about himself and becoming a better person because he met her. This is actually what I had originally hoped for her in Just One Day; for Allyson to recognize the incredibly transformed person she had become (and she did) but that even though it resulted from her meeting Willem that she didn’t need him to continue to be as such. Willem found the independence and strength their meeting imbued and used it in a positive manner and while I’m glad at least one of them did this, I never quite liked Willem enough in order to root for him. I never saw what appealed to Allyson and I never understood quite why they transformed each others lives in the first place.

While I’m glad to have the closure of Willem’s side of the story, I still can’t help but feel the ending would have benefited from… more. I needed to see Willem and Allyson’s transformations being applied since we as readers were only afforded a quick glance before reaching the final page.

Just One Year is a tale of transformation, of finding happiness, of finding love and finding yourself.

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