Category: Dani’s Reviews

Book Review – A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra

Posted February 17, 2015 by Dani in Dani's Reviews / 1 Comment

I received this book free from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review – A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony MarraA Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra
Published by Hogarth on May 7th 2013
Pages: 416
Genres: Historical Fiction, Russian
Format: Paperback
Source: Blogging for Books
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New York Times Notable Book of the Year * Washington PostTop Ten Book of the Year

In a small rural village in Chechnya, eight-year-old Havaa watches from the woods as Russian soldiers abduct her father in the middle of the night and then set fire to her home. When their lifelong neighbor Akhmed finds Havaa hiding in the forest with a strange blue suitcase, he makes a decision that will forever change their lives. He will seek refuge at the abandoned hospital where the sole remaining doctor, Sonja Rabina, treats the wounded.

For Sonja, the arrival of Akhmed and Havaa is an unwelcome surprise. Weary and overburdened, she has no desire to take on additional risk and responsibility. But over the course of five extraordinary days, Sonja’s world will shift on its axis and reveal the intricate pattern of connections that weaves together the pasts of these three unlikely companions and unexpectedly decides their fate. A story of the transcendent power of love in wartime, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is a work of sweeping breadth, profound compassion, and lasting significance.

Now with Extra Libris material, including a reader’s guide and bonus content from the author.

“Each night he told her a new chapter, and so many nights had gone by, so many chapters had been told, that they referred to it as chapters rather than a story, because stories had endings and theirs had none.”

Before reading A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, I knew very little about Chechnya. Hell, I probably couldn’t even point to it on a map (if you’re curious, it’s here). I will admit, I was intimidated to read a book with a subject and a people so far removed from my wheelhouse. Fear not! There are snip-its of history woven in that provide enough detail to not feel like a noob, but not so much that it is like reading a text book.

I found strong similarities in theme and message to other books that deal with wars on ethnicity or identity (like Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, Night by Elie Wiesel, and The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper). More than that, I discovered a profound connection to the characters simply as a human being who has experienced uncertainty and sorrow, joy and love.

“In the shoebox the identity cards were layered eight deep. She held a card to the light and set it back down. ‘He’s one of these,’ she said.”

Despite its moments of violence and terror, the core of A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is about normal people trying to survive while their world disintegrates. It’s about a woman who can’t stop thinking about the last thing she said to her sister who has gone missing in the chaos of war. It’s about a father who obsesses over the mistakes he made with his son, and will do anything to make them right. And it’s about a man, who risks his freedom and his life, to save a little orphan girl.

“He had always tried to treat Havaa as a child and she always went along with it, as though childhood and innocence were fantastical creatures that had died long ago, resurrected only in games of make believe.”

Some of my favorite moments in this all-too-heavy book are the brief glimpses of humor and happiness – a little girl trying to teach a one-armed man to juggle, a man sharing his only food with stray dogs that roam his neighborhood, and discussions about how turtles evolved.

While A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is artfully crafted, I’m not certain I would recommend it to anyone. It is gut wrenching, heart breaking and emotionally exhausting. Should you choose to read this book, be sure you have something fluffy lined up for afterwards.

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Book Review – Isla and the Happily Ever After (Anna and the French Kiss #3) by Stephanie Perkins

Posted February 12, 2015 by Dani in Dani's Reviews / 1 Comment

Book Review – Isla and the Happily Ever After (Anna and the French Kiss #3) by Stephanie PerkinsIsla and the Happily Ever After Series: Anna and the French Kiss #3
on August 14th 2014
Pages: 352
Format: Hardcover
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Love ignites in the City That Never Sleeps, but can it last?

Hopeless romantic Isla has had a crush on introspective cartoonist Josh since their first year at the School of America in Paris. And after a chance encounter in Manhattan over the summer, romance might be closer than Isla imagined. But as they begin their senior year back in France, Isla and Josh are forced to confront the challenges every young couple must face, including family drama, uncertainty about their college futures, and the very real possibility of being apart.

Featuring cameos from fan-favorites Anna, Étienne, Lola, and Cricket, this sweet and sexy story of true love—set against the stunning backdrops of New York City, Paris, and Barcelona—is a swoonworthy conclusion to Stephanie Perkins’s beloved series.

Anna and the French Kiss series

Anna and the French Kiss (Anna and the French Kiss #1) by Stephanie Perkins{Review}
Lola and the Boy Next Door (Anna and the French Kiss #2) by Stephanie Perkins {Review}

“Anticipation – of something – hovers in the air.”

First Anna, then Lola, now say hello to Isla. We briefly meet Isla in the first book as a fellow kind soul to Anna in a time of need. Since I was late to the series (and had the spoiler of book three’s title), I paid careful attention for mentions of Isla. Thankfully, Stephanie Perkins gave Isla her very own book and it was spectacular. The above quote completely sums up my feelings of this book. It was already pretty evident from my other reviews that I was probably going to be a total fangirl about book 3. And yeah, I totally am. I was so excited and it never faded during the length of the story.

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“Something is happening between us. Is it friendship? It doesn’t feel like friendship, but it’s possible I’m projecting my own desires. And I’m ashamed for even thinking about him like this after what happened last week. Because I’m not thinking. I’m hoping. People aren’t supposed to be able to change, but…I’ve never bought that.” 

Isla and Josh (who also makes an appearance in book one) meet in New York City one night after Isla’s just had her wisdom teeth removed. Little does Josh know that Isla has been crushing, HARD, on him for years at their boarding school in Paris. It is total “meet cute” with Isla hopped up on pain killers, a walk home in a rainstorm, and then nothing for weeks. The pair meet again when school starts back up and they begin a torturous friendship – even though to everyone else it’s clear they are madly in love.

“I want to weep with joy. He like me, but he thought he couldn’t like me. It’s difficult to wrap my mind around this idea. I suspected his attraction, but the full truth of the situation is unbelievable. How is it possible that my crush – my three-year-long crush – has a crush on me? This doesn’t happen in real life.”  

Isla is certainly the most real and honest of the three books in this series. I found myself holding my breath, laughing and crying with Isla. It was borderline reliving awful, angsty teenage years pining for the boy in calculus – hypothetically, of course.

“I stare at my hands. I am hard on myself. But isn’t it better to be honest about these things before someone else can use them against you? Before someone else can break your heart? Isn’t it better to break it yourself? I thought honesty made people strong.” 

It would be very easy to chalk this book up as two little rich kids who fall in and out of love. But like Perkins’ other works, and even more so in this one, it captures so delicately and wonderfully the unsteady waters of a young woman’s heart and mind. Isla finds herself heartbroken and “drowning in a river of [her] own making.” The isolation to which Isla sentences herself is wholly authentic. Again, I found myself with another character in Perkins’ work that I could not only sympathize with, but empathize with. Isla is a best friend, a sister, me. Isla and the Happily Ever After is beautiful, captivating, and the most perfect ending to a fantastic series.

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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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Book Review – Elevated by Elana Johnson

Posted November 22, 2014 by Dani in Dani's Reviews / 0 Comments

Book Review – Elevated by Elana JohnsonElevated on February 14th 2014
Pages: 290
Format: eBook


The last person seventeen-year-old Eleanor Livingston wants to see on the elevator—let alone get stuck with—is her ex-boyfriend Travis, the guy she's been avoiding for five months.

Plagued with the belief that when she speaks the truth, bad things happen, Elly hasn’t told Trav anything. Not why she broke up with him and cut off all contact. Not what happened the day her father returned from his deployment to Afghanistan. And certainly not that she misses him and still thinks about him everyday.

But with nowhere to hide and Travis so close it hurts, Elly’s worried she won’t be able to contain her secrets for long. She’s terrified of finally revealing the truth, because she can’t bear to watch a tragedy befall the boy she still loves.

“I’d told Travis ‘always and forever’ once, And look at us now. Caged in this elevator, Secrets thick as cement, Silence suffocating us both.”

I absolutely loved the concept, and have seen some non-YA versions of the novel-in-verse that blew my mind with how beautiful they were – check out Late Wife by Claudia Emerson. Elana Johnson’s use of language and structure were interesting at times and always highly accessible. My biggest issue with this book was the main character, Eleanor. Thus begins my mini-rant.

Can we stop with the young women who are completely crippled after a break-up? Like to the point they now need medical attention? I remember being young and dumb and wholly devastated, but developing a fear of riding the elevator simply because you used to ride that same elevator with your ex – that’s not ok. Let’s give our younger selves and our sistahs a little more credit than that. I am tired with the frequency with which I see hollow shells of girls and women – even in books that I unapologetically love, like Twilight. We can be strong and resilient, and damn it, awesome without men. Dust yourself off and ride the hell out of that elevator (or just use the stairs, seriously).

Eleanor faces some very real issues (that I won’t spoil in case you decide I’m batty and you still want to read). I found them mostly convenient and used for dramatic effect to the point it was ridiculous, rather than called for by the narrative or well established through the frequent flashbacks/forwards. Books like these legitimize the popular notion that YA is pithy and somehow removed from being qualified as “literature” – and that makes me upset for the genre. If you’re looking for a novel in verse, I would highly recommend some Ellen Hopkins, or Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse. Want something about how miserable and complicated love can be? Check out Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin, or High Fidelity by Nick Hornby.


Book Review – Texts from Jane Eyre: And Other Conversations with Your Favorite Literary Characters by Mallory Ortberg

Posted November 21, 2014 by Dani in Dani's Reviews / 1 Comment

Book Review – Texts from Jane Eyre: And Other Conversations with Your Favorite Literary Characters by Mallory OrtbergTexts from Jane Eyre: And Other Conversations with Your Favorite Literary Characters on November 4th 2014
Pages: 240
Format: Hardcover
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Hilariously imagined text conversations—the passive aggressive, the clever, and the strange—from classic and modern literary figures, from Scarlett O’Hara to Jessica Wakefield.

Mallory Ortberg, the co-creator of the cult-favorite website The Toast, presents this whimsical collection of hysterical text conversations from your favorite literary characters. Everyone knows that if Scarlett O’Hara had an unlimited text-and-data plan, she’d constantly try to tempt Ashley away from Melanie with suggestive messages. If Mr. Rochester could text Jane Eyre, his ardent missives would obviously be in all-caps. And Daisy Buchanan would not only text while driving, she’d text you to pick her up after she totaled her car. Based on the popular web-feature, Texts from Jane Eyre is a witty, irreverent mashup that brings the characters from your favorite books into the twenty-first century.

PLATO: okay Glaucon so
i want you to picture a cave full of prisoners
who have been in the cave their whole lives
and they’re all shackled up in a line facing the back wall

GLAUCON: my god
what a nightmare
those poor people

ok no

Texts from Jane Eyre is a compilation of Mallory Ortberg’s regular contribution to Ortberg reimagines famous literary characters’ conversations via text, from classic figures like Medea and Don Quixote, to more contemporary ones like Harry Potter and Katniss Everdeen. Ortberg’s writing is witty and smart, yet remarkably still holds true to the original works the texts reference.


KING LEAR: okay who wants a kingdom

me I do

how much do you love me

oh my god
how much DON’T I love you is a better question
i love you like i love eyes
or outer space
or standing up
or even this question
ahhhh that’s so much haha

After Emily Dickinson, some of my favorites in this collection were King Lear and Hamlet. As a Shakespeare buff, these made me bust up laughing. Ortberg strips the story down to the nitty-gritty in a way that is like nothing I have ever read – think No Fear Shakespeare but ruthlessly bitchy. She is the snarky classmate I never had, blatantly calling Hamlet a little shit, and Plato and William Blake psychopathic monsters (which they totally are).


LORD BYRON: uuuuuuuughhh
nothing’s any good

what’s the matter

do you realize i’m never going to be able to have sex with the rain

i didn’t know you wanted to have sex with the rain

of course i want to have sex with the rain
how can you even say that
i feel like you don’t even know me

Beware! I suspect this book is only hilarious if you have a working knowledge of the classic and modern tales Ortberg pulls from. While I knew the bulk of the stories, the last time I read a few was more than a decade ago; some of the more recent books I have never read, like Sweet Valley High or The Babysitter’s Club. I didn’t read or reread anything, because yikes, but I did hit the highlights on the internet for more LOLs – and it was totally worth it.

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Book Review – Lola and the Boy Next Door (Anna and the French Kiss #2) by Stephanie Perkins

Posted November 15, 2014 by Dani in Dani's Reviews / 0 Comments

Book Review – Lola and the Boy Next Door (Anna and the French Kiss #2) by Stephanie PerkinsLola and the Boy Next Door Series: Anna and the French Kiss #2
on September 29th 2011
Pages: 384
Format: Hardcover
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In this companion novel to Anna and the French Kiss, two teens discover that true love may be closer than they think

Budding designer Lola Nolan doesn't believe in fashion . . . she believes in costume. The more expressive the outfit - more sparkly, more fun, more wild - the better. But even though Lola's style is outrageous, she's a devoted daughter and friend with some big plans for the future. And everything is pretty perfect (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the dreaded Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, return to the neighborhood.

When Cricket - a gifted inventor - steps out from his twin sister's shadow and back into Lola's life, she must finally reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door.

Anna and the French Kiss series

Anna and the French Kiss (Anna and the French Kiss #1) by Stephanie Perkins {PurchaseReview}

The one. It stops my heart. I thought Max was the one, but… there’s that other one. The first one.”

Dolores Nolan, aka “Lola”, is in quite a pickle. She is madly in love with Max, an older guy in a band. Max never wants to hang around Lola’s friends and only tolerates Sunday brunch with her dads Andy and Nathan. Simply, Max is a bad guy, but Lola is too blinded to realize he has little regard for her feelings. Enter Cricket – the first love who got away – and Lola’s new next-door neighbor. Lola’s feelings come rushing back, causing her to question every interaction when her heart already knows the answer.

In this book, Perkins tackles much more adult and complex issues than in her previous work, especially around the idea of family. Lola’s family dynamic strays from the “normal” nuclear family. Her dads adopt Lola from her teenage/junkie/homeless parents at birth. Lola’s mother happens to be one of her dad’s sisters, and she only appears in need of rescue.

“We take each other in. My mind spins as it tries to connect the Cricket of the present with the Cricket of the past. He’s grown up and grown into his body, but it’s still him. The same boy I fell in love with in the ninth grade. My feelings had been building since our childhood, but that year, the year he turned sixteen, was the year everything changed.” 

Perkins has a gift for making her characters fall in love at the right pace. Lola has to work on her relationships and struggles with decisions about to whom her heart really belongs. Oh, Lola. I know this girl. I have been this girl. While there is no instant gratification in her works, the extra strain tugs on heart strings, makes her characters seem more human, and the payoff is so worth it. I read a lot of girly love stories, but I connected with this book more than I have with any other because of its realism. Or rather realism AND a happy ending.

My least favorite part of Lola and the Boy Next Door is that it was marketed as “Anna and the French Kiss #2” – which is certainly is not. While my beloved Anna and Étienne do make appearances as supporting characters, I was expecting more of their wonderful love story with her at film school, him at Berkeley. This is a completely trivial complaint, but the only one I have for this book. Instead of my usual list of recommendations, I am going to stick to one that I haven’t even read yet. If you liked Anna and Lola, you must read Isla and the Happily Ever After.

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Book Review – Anna and the French Kiss (Anna and the French Kiss #1) by Stephanie Perkins

Posted November 8, 2014 by Dani in Dani's Reviews / 2 Comments

Book Review – Anna and the French Kiss (Anna and the French Kiss #1) by Stephanie PerkinsAnna and the French Kiss Series: Anna and the French Kiss #1
on December 2nd 2010
Pages: 372
Format: Hardcover
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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. Clair. Smart, charming, beautiful, Étienne has it all...including a serious girlfriend.

But in the City of Light, wishes have a way of coming true. Will a year of romantic near-misses end with their long-awaited French kiss?

“The whole school is as intimidating as it is impressive. It should be reserved for students with personal bodyguards and Shetland ponies, not someone who buys the majority of her wardrobe at Target.”

Meet Anna Oliphant. She’s your average teenager about to start her last year of high school in Atlanta, Georgia. But thanks to her recently wealthy, author and “total dick” father, she will spend her senior year in a boarding school…in Paris. Anna almost instantly falls in lust with Étienne St. Clair. (You don’t even have to read the book to know that only a boy who is stupidly hot is named Étienne St. Clair.) And as the book continues, lust turns to love and sometimes hate – both for Anna and the reader.

“St. Clair flops down beside me, breathing heavily. He’s lying so close that his hair tickles the side of my face. Our arms are almost touching. Almost. I try to exhale, but I no longer know how to breathe. And then I remember I’m not wearing a bra. And now I’m paranoid.”

Anna is immediately likable. She’s got the “fish out of water” thing down like a pro. The only French she knows is “oui” and now she finds herself living in the City of Lights – too afraid to order food in the cafeteria or leave her dormitory. Anna is awkward in her interactions, especially with Étienne. He leaves her dumbfounded and tongue-tied. What sets Anna apart from her other YA leading lady rivals is her inner monologue. She’s downright hilarious. Rarely do books make me laugh out loud. Sure, they will warrant an internal chuckle or a smile, but Anna and the French Kiss had me giggling, chuckling, roaring with laughter.

“’Hello’ and ‘please.’ I’ve learned all the polite words first, in hopes that the French will forgive me for butchering the remainder of their beautiful language.”

This book is full of cliché stock characters. You have the amazing and instantaneous gal pal next door who (of course) saves Anna from her first meltdown, plus gal-pal’s best friend who has a tough exterior but a heart of ooey-gooey gold. There is the hunky Brit that all the American girls love, including Anna and the aforementioned gal pal. Throw in a dash of innocuously evil French teacher, the “bro” BFF of Brit-boy, the “bitch for no reason” nemesis, and the gang is all there. Guess what? I totally love it! Usually I would hate such predictable characterization, but this book gave me everything I wanted: moderately angsty teens with light and fluffy problems, and ultimately, a happy ending.

Did it change my life? Nope. This book is the literary equivalent of a funfetti cupcake with extra sprinkles. And sometimes, the world just needs more sprinkles. I’m very excited to jump right into Lola and the Boy Next Door for more laughs and cutesy teenage love, and can’t wait for the library to deliver Isla and the Happily Ever After. If you’re looking for more boarding school fun, check out Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld. If you’re after another lovable outsider, grab The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot. Lastly, for the best of both worlds plus a little paranormal action, you must read Fallen by Lauren Kate.

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Duo Review – The Fever by Megan Abbott

Posted November 7, 2014 by Bonnie in Adult, Book Reviews, Dani's Reviews, Duo Review, Read in 2014 / 3 Comments

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

Duo Review – The Fever by Megan AbbottThe Fever on June 17th 2014
Pages: 303
Format: Hardcover
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

The panic unleashed by a mysterious contagion threatens the bonds of family and community in a seemingly idyllic suburban community.

The Nash family is close-knit. Tom is a popular teacher, father of two teens: Eli, a hockey star and girl magnet, and his sister Deenie, a diligent student. Their seeming stability, however, is thrown into chaos when Deenie's best friend is struck by a terrifying, unexplained seizure in class. Rumors of a hazardous outbreak spread through the family, school and community.

As hysteria and contagion swell, a series of tightly held secrets emerges, threatening to unravel friendships, families and the town's fragile idea of security.

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‘You spend a long time waiting for life to start–the past year or two filled with all these firsts, everything new and terrifying and significant–and then it does start and you realize it isn’t what you’d expected, or asked for.’

The Fever centers around the Nash family: 16-year-old Deenie, her 18-year-old brother Eli and their divorced dad, Tom, who is a science teacher at the two siblings high school. On a seemingly ordinary day, Deenie’s friend Lise falls from her school desk convulsing from a seizure. Their friend Gabby suffers a similar incident shortly after and the hysteria swells further when another girl at their high school succumbs to this strange sickness. The reasons range between environmental concerns to a recent vaccine all the girls received but the doctor’s all fail to provide any solution to the problem.

“It has to do with all of them. All of them. Don’t you see? It’s just begun.”

Dare Me made me an instant Abbott fan, primarily due to her most impressive skill of being able to accurately portray teenagers without cutting any corners or lessening the intensity and her skills are on display once again in The Fever. Abbott provides various points of view, separate from the teenagers, including that of  Tom who presents the ‘parental’ point of view of the story and allows us a glimpse firsthand the paranoia consuming the town because of these incidents. I found the mystery to be riveting and baffling (yet scarily plausible) but was ultimately left displeased by the perfunctory and almost ambiguous ending. That is until I found out that this story of hysteria in a small town is actually based on a real-life incident in Le Roy, New York. After reading up on a New York Times article detailing this event, Abbott’s story doesn’t stray far from the truth. (If you don’t want to be spoiled, I wouldn’t read up on Le Roy until you’ve finished The Fever.) Knowing that this story is based on truth, only makes it more fearful than it was originally.

Megan Abbott is a truly unique writer, portraying female adolescence in a way that we can all (frighteningly) understand. I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.

Bonnie’s Rating:

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“We put them at risk just by having them. And the hazards never stop.”

The plot grabs you at the very beginning with a huge shocking “ka-pow” of an introduction. A mysterious illness is ravaging through all the girls of a small town high school. The story continues to be shrouded by false paths and deception. With all of the build-up, the resolution demands to be shocking and in your face. Instead, it could be summed up in three words: Girls are batshit.

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“Maybe you bring the darkness inside you. Maybe [she] has it inside her now.”

Fever is full of gorgeous writing that accurately captures so much of a teenage girl’s thoughts and emotions in her relationships and everyday life. Megan Abbott very convincingly describes small-town paranoia and mob mentality during chaos. I was ultimately concerned with my perception that the moral of the story was slut-shaming gone viral, literally. While this book left me feeling unsatisfied, I’m not put off from reading her other works – that’s how beautiful the writing is alone.

For great reads on pandemics, check out Blindness by José Saramago or The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton. Want to more of all the joy of snarky teenage girls, look for Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard (for the ultimate Mean Girls) or The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares (for the best friend forever experience).

Dani’s Rating:

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Book Review – The Good Girl by Mary Kubica

Posted October 25, 2014 by Dani in Dani's Reviews / 1 Comment

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

Book Review – The Good Girl by Mary KubicaThe Good Girl by Mary Kubica
Published by Harlequin MIRA on July 29th 2014
Pages: 355
Genres: Mystery, Thriller
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
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"I've been following her for the past few days. I know where she buys her groceries, where she has her dry cleaning done, where she works. I don't know the color of her eyes or what they look like when she's scared. But I will." 

Born to a prominent Chicago judge and his stifled socialite wife, Mia Dennett moves against the grain as a young inner-city art teacher. One night, Mia enters a bar to meet her on-again, off-again boyfriend. But when he doesn't show, she unwisely leaves with an enigmatic stranger. With his smooth moves and modest wit, at first Colin Thatcher seems like a safe one-night stand. But following Colin home will turn out to be the worst mistake of Mia's life.

Colin's job was to abduct Mia as part of a wild extortion plot and deliver her to his employers. But the plan takes an unexpected turn when Colin suddenly decides to hide Mia in a secluded cabin in rural Minnesota, evading the police and his deadly superiors. Mia's mother, Eve, and detective Gabe Hoffman will stop at nothing to find them, but no one could have predicted the emotional entanglements that eventually cause this family's world to shatter.

An addictively suspenseful and tautly written thriller, The Good Girl is a propulsive debut that reveals how even in the perfect family, nothing is as it seems….

“I’ve been following her for the last few days. I know where she buys her groceries, where she has her dry cleaning done, where she works. I’ve never spoken to her. I wouldn’t recognize the sound of her voice. I don’t know the color of her eyes or what they look like when she’s scared. But I will.”

Meet Mia/Chloe. Mia was kidnapped by a stalker with the intent to extort money from her very wealthy and prominent father. Chloe is the girl who returns to her family while Mia remains trapped by her own subconscious after the horror she faced.

The Good Girl relies heavily on cliché; It has a pretty, little rich girl who loathes her wealth and status, a kidnapper with a conscience, a dickish detective with a heart of gold, and totally aloof, distant parents that Mia detests with little foundation. I never grew to care for Mia – not when she was cold and crying in her captor’s lair, and not after a shell of her former self had been returned to her family. I never disliked or feared her kidnapper, but I took larger issue with him sprouting a conscience after abducting someone.

“But there’s the gun. She sees it. And in that moment, things change. There’s a moment of recognition. Of her mind registering the gun, of her figuring out what the fuck is about to happen. Her mouth parts and out comes a word: ‘Oh.’”

“Oh” precisely sums up my reaction to this book. It didn’t get scary psychologically and the suspense built within one chapter would quickly diminish with the frequent chapter breaks that not only change point-of-view narrators, but also had temporal shifts before and after the kidnapping. The result was jarring and confusing, not mysterious.

I think the largest problem this book had was me as a reader. I just recently finished two awesomely creepy books about missing women: Gone Girl and The Collector. On the heels of those 4-star works, this novel didn’t stand up. It was conventional and predictable, even in the midst of its “major” shocker (which I won’t spoil for you).

If you’re looking for a genuine thriller about a kidnapper, check out the oldie but goodie Along Came a Spider by James Patterson. Want something about a rich girls who you don’t hate, go for Gossip Girl by Cecily von Ziegesar.

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Audiobook Review – Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Posted October 18, 2014 by Dani in Dani's Reviews / 0 Comments

Audiobook Review – Fangirl by Rainbow RowellFangirl on September 10th 2013
Length: 12 hours and 48 minutes
Format: Audiobook
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository


A coming-of-age tale of fan fiction, family and first love.

Cath is a Simon Snow fan.

Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan...

But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.

Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words... And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this?

Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?

And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

“’No,’ Cath said, ‘Seriously. Look at you. You’ve got your shit together, you’re not scared of anything. I’m scared of everything. And I’m crazy. Like maybe you think I’m a little crazy, but I only ever let people see the tip of my crazy iceberg. Underneath this veneer of slightly crazy and socially inept, I’m a complete disaster.’”

I always know that I have loved a book when I don’t want to leave its universe. Rainbow Rowell has a gift for making her characters so real, but with Fangirl it was a new experience. Not only did the characters seem relatable, I wanted so desperately to be in the story right along with them. I wanted to befriend Cather when she was feeling lonely, or struggling with a new short story to write, or being downright crazy. I wanted to learn to be a cool girl from Reagan, and smack Wren when she was being awful. And Levi, *sigh*.

“To really be a nerd, she’d decided, you had to prefer fictional worlds to the real one.”

The most frustrating part of Fangirl is that both the Simon Snow series and Carry On, Simon fan fiction used throughout DOESN’T EXIST. The fictional series is a coming of age tale in magical universe with wizards and vampires and quests to save…who knows what – like a perfect love child of Harry Potter and Vampire Academy. It’s a serious problem that I can’t read these books, because they sound like they were written exactly for me. I have to know what happens with Simon and Baz. I want to read the faux-published series, and I MUST read the fan fic by MagiCath.

“Happily ever after, or even just together ever after, is not cheesy,” Wren said. “It’s the noblest, like, the most courageous thing two people can shoot for.”

This is my third Rainbow Rowell novel in as many months. It’s pretty safe to say she’s becoming one of my favorite contemporary authors. She reminds me just how much I can enjoy books that don’t happen in far off places, with regular folks, and that give me “all the feels”. If you are looking for some chick lit with substance and an ooey-gooey center, you have found it. Already exhausted Rowell’s four novels? I highly recommend checking out Sophie Kinsella or Emily Giffin.

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