Tag Archives: family issues

Review: Penitence by Jennifer Laurens

18 Nov

Series: Heavenly, book #2

Published: April 29th 2010 by Grove Creek Publishing

Details: Paperback, 322 pages

My Rating: 5/5

My Summary:

While Heavenly was great this sequel was hands-down amazing!! A must read! Not one boring moment, what with Zoe seeing both good and bad spirits and trying to choose between two equally amazing guys. Involves the first love triangle I read in a while that actually feels real! Loved it from start to finish. Be aware though of abrupt ending. Last book called Absolution.

A few chapters in:

This is the sequel to Heavenly, which ended in such a way that it is nearly impossible not to want to continue this series straight away. I enjoyed Heavenly, for the good writing and characterisation, but was a bit frustrated with all the questions hanging in the air. Hopefully, now I will get some answers!

Before writing anything else, please be aware of that if you haven’t read Heavenly this post will contain some serious spoilers!

In the last pages of Heavenly we followed Zoe in paradise as she reunited with Matthias. She felt overjoyed to finally be able to share his world, but also sad of course, for leaving her family behind. Conflicting emotions to say the least.

This is why I threw myself over Penitence, anticipating a great read about Zoe’s discovery of the world of Matthias. But I was mistaken. Right at the beginning, Zoe’s body starts claiming her back. The doctors at the hospital are attempting to revive her, and as they are succeeding, she has no choice but to return to mortality, thus leaving Matthias behind.

Hence, this book really starts off in a hospital bed. Zoe is, much to her family’s delight, slowly recovering from the terrible car accident that almost took her life. Once again, she’s torn by conflicting emotions, happy to be reunited once again with her beloved family, yet achingly sad to be separated from Matthias. Speaking of which, where is he? Ever since she left paradise he is nowhere to be seen, and she fears that she may never see him again.

Yep folks, this is as far as I’ve got, but I have to say it’s promising. I’m starting to grow really attached to Zoe’s family, what a lovely bunch of people! And I’m looking forward to see what will happen next, because at the moment, I have no clue!

After finishing the book:

I know that after reading Heavenly, I was slightly disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, it was a great read. But it lacked that extra something that makes a book amazing.

Well folks, Penitence more than well made up for that. WOW! That’s all I have to say. This is what I call AMAZING. Unputdownable! I kept reading into the wee hours of the night, always thinking – just another chapter then I’m done. Yeah right! Somehow it was magically 3 o’clock by the time I went to bed, and I had to work the next day!

So after all this preamble, why was it amazing? I’ll try to assemble my thoughts, always proving more difficult when I’ve read a WOW-book. I wonder why that is?

First, let’s start with the obvious. Laurens proved in Heavenly that she writes great effortless prose with wonderfully fleshed-out characters. What I loved in Heavenly was that like in real life, people aren’t perfect. Everyone comes with good and bad traits, and in the end it’s the choices we make that define us. This continues in Penitence, as all the characters expand into real people with backgrounds, motives and choices to make, including secondary characters such as Krissy and Chase. Consequently, I loved reading about them all!

Secondly, the unpredictability. I thought I knew where this was heading. Boy was I wrong! And boy did I like being wrong! I love it when I have no clue, and it feels as if I’m on the same rollercoaster ride of emotions as the heroine, not knowing what to expect from one minute to the next. Wonderful!!

Thirdly, the love triangle. This phenomenon seems to be implemented in every other young adult series these days, but they usually feel fabricated, as if it’s thrown in there just to create some emotional drama. We know pretty much right from the start who the heroine will pick.

Now, that was not the case here. I had no clue. After finishing it, I still have no clue. I won’t reveal who the other boy is who is viewing for Zoe’s attention in Penitence, but he is something else. Most importantly, he presents a possibility for Zoe to experience love on earth, which is precisely what Matthias can never offer her. And he’s gorgeous, a turned-around Casanova who wears his heart on his sleeve. Oh my, I melted!

Matthias is still perfectly divine and glorious. I know I complained about that perfection in Heavenly, and called for some flaws to make him interesting. Well, the love triangle solved that problem as it brought out the jealousy in him,  which strangely enough made him that much more intriguing!

Consequently, I felt as torn as Zoe was. All though, to be honest, I think I may be leaning more towards the human boy. Their growing relationship in Penitence is the core of this book. It felt grounded and real, starting very slowly as Zoe is struggling with trust issues. After all, this boy wasn’t the nicest character in Heavenly. But I believed in their chemistry and devoured every moment they had together, more so than between Zoe and Matthias in Heavenly.

The bottom line:

Finally, I loved all the subplots, the evil Albert, the black spirits, Brady and Britt, Chase and Krissy and of course Zoe’s family in the background. All of this combined made an action-packed yet emotional drama. There was not one boring moment, hence the page-turner effect!

My only minor criticism is the abrupt ending, that felt as if the writer just dropped the pen mid-page. But given the wonderful ride until that page, I cannot but give this book anything less than 5 stars. I’m now eagerly waiting to read the final book in this series, Absolution!

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Review: Heavenly by Jennifer Laurens

11 Nov

Series: Heavenly, Book #1

Published: August 15th 2009 by Grove Creek Publishing

Details: Paperback, 296 pages

My Rating: 4/5

My Summary:

About Zoe whose life changes the day she meets the guardian angel of her autistic sister. This is a story about a family in shambles, interwoven with an epic love story. Great read, with a surprising end that will make you want to read the sequel Penitence right away.

A few chapters in:

I’ve been wanting to read this book for a long time. It has received great praise throughout the blogosphere, and the core of the story is paranormal romance. Needless to say, I’m intrigued!

Now only a few chapters in, and I’m already feeling the magnetic pull. I have a feeling this is one of those “read-in-one-sitting” books.

This is the story about 18-year old Zoe. She has a sister, Abria, who is a 5-year-old girl with autism. This is not easy to live with, and has put a strain on the whole family.  They all deal with the burden differently. Zoe’s brother is loosing himself in a haze of weed clouds and Zoe hides her stress in alcohol, parties and boys. Even though I’m only a few chapters in, it’s painful to watch this poor family going downhill, slowly loosing control of their lives and burdened with guilt for not being able to take care of their daughter/sister.

Things are about to change though, and it happens the day Zoe is out frantically searching for Abria, who has, as usual, sprinted off in one of her escape attempts. Suddenly a boy appears with Abria in his hand. Eyeing him suspiciously, Zoe takes Abria from him, thanking him for finding her. Not long after, he appears again, bringing back Abria from another attempted run-away, making Zoe start to seriously question the strangeness of it all.

And this is as far as I’ve got, but like I said, it’s pulling me in as I’m writing this. Now gotta go back to reading!

After finishing the book:

Ok, so just finished it. I admit I didn’t read it one sitting like I expected to, but close enough. So what did I think?

Well after having read an endless stream of glowing reviews, my bar was set exceptionally high. I was expecting nothing less than a mind-blowing rollercoaster WOW-sort of book. Was it all that?

No, it wasn’t. Yet, it was a great read, and a great start to a series. I’m jumping on the sequel as we speak, which is always a good sign.

As for the plot, as hinted earlier, this is the story about Zoe and her family, all dealing with the autistic Abria in various ways. Pretty early on in the book, Zoe meets Matthias, the guardian  angel of Abria, and immediately finds herself drawn to him.

From there you would think an epic love story is about to be formed. And yes, there is romance, but I would say the core of this book is Zoe’s family and the issues they are trying to work through. During large sections of the book, Matthias is completely absent, and instead we are dealing with Zoe’s and her brother’s addictions, an indirect result of their parents never-ending focus on Abria.

At first I was surprised that the family played such a forefront in this book, all their frustrations, faults, love and affection for each other displayed on the pages. It felt like having a front row into a real family’s most private sphere. I read somewhere that Laurens had personal experience with an autistic child, and that you can tell. I doubt anyone without the experience would have been able to portray the complexity of emotions you would feel towards an autistic child. This book really gives you a window into how that would feel like, and it’s heart-breaking to watch.

Zoe is barely keeping her head above water when she meets Matthias, and he changes her in many ways, basically making her a better person. Which shows, in her actions towards her family, and her changing relationship with her best friend Britt.

Matthias himself is as divine as angels go, and sorry for saying this but a teeny-weeny boring. Radiating warmth, reassurance, calmness, beauty and absolutely perfect. No wonder Zoe falls in love with him. As for me, I’m hoping for at least one flaw, as to make him a bit more interesting.

As the story moves on, there appears to be some heavenly rules to follow. But here we are kept in the dark, as Matthias consistently evades any of those important questions. That frustrated me a bit. I wanted at least a few answers, and I don’t like it when too much is hanging in the air. And what about Chase? I still haven’t figured out the role he will play. I assume and hope he will show up in the sequel.

The end. Well that really threw me. You’ll understand when you get there. And is it only me, but I had a tiny lingering feeling that Matthias’s intentions may not have been all that good towards the end. If you’ve read it you might know what I’m talking about? Or am I just imagining this, because after all he is an angel! Unable to have anything but good intentions, right? Yet, it was all a bit too convenient, wasn’t it?

The bottom line:

To cut it short,  the ending definitely left me confused, hence why I’m now throwing myself over Penitence!

Review: The Truth about Forever by Sarah Dessen

23 Oct

Series: No, stand-alone

Published:  April 6th 2006 by Puffin

Details: Paperback, 374 pages

My Rating: 4.5/5

My Summary:

Beautiful and heart-felt story about Macy who after her father’s death shuts down emotionally. Problem is, everyone else thinks she is fine. This goes on until she crosses paths with the chaotic but warm Wish catering crew and learns to live again. I laughed, I cried, my heart felt with Wes and Macy. In short, a wonderfully told story. And yes, I am now officially a Sarah Dessen fan!

A few chapters in:

I’ve been reading quite a few young-adult novels these last couple of months, and consequently I’ve  also come across Sarah Dessen. It’s impossible not to, as she is somewhat of a legend in the young-adult literary market. She has published a number of feel good novels, usually coming of age stories about teen-age girls with various issues. In doing so, she’s created a little following of admirers, raving about her books just about everywhere in the blogosphere. So after reading the 111th five-star review of a Sarah Dessen book, I made my decision. This is it. I’m going to read at least one Sarah Dessen book, just to see what all the fuss is about.

Once that decision was made I only had to pick one of her books. Which didn’t turn out to be so easy. Every Sarah Dessen-fan has a favourite novel – and those favourite titles vary about as much as the collection itself. After reading a couple of reviews and checking the goodreads overall reviewer-grade I finally settled for this one (currently grade 4.29 which is promising).

I am now 100 pages in and I am liking it so far. The writing style reminds me slightly of Simone Elkeles in how easy it flows, detailed but not too detailed, and with a great pace. The characters are likeable and easy to relate too. I got caught in the story almost immediately and am already finding it hard to put it away.

The main character is Macy Queen, also known as the girl who saw her dad die of an heart-attack. Even though one and a half-year has passed, she has not recovered. The problem is, everyone else thinks she has. Instead of fully grieving she put the cap on, and went on about life as if she was handling it fine, not wanting to trouble anyone. Appearance got important, as that was the only thing she could really control in order to convince everyone she was fine. She met her boyfriend Jason, who was as concerned with perfectionism and appearance as her. And all was well, on the surface at least.

Until summer comes and Jason heads off for a summer camp, leaving Macy alone to take care of his dead-boring library job. One day Macy crosses paths with the Wish catering crew at one of her mother’s open house events. They are a mix of craziness, chaos and warmth – all of which Macy has been avoiding ever since her father’s death. But she is tired of living a life devoid of emotions, and decides to take the leap and get to know these people better.

That’s as far as I’ve got but I’m liking it..a lot!

After finishing the book:

Ok, so I’m officially a Sarah Dessen fan. I loved it.

The funny thing is, not much happens in terms of plot. What I described earlier was basically it. Macy shuts down after her father’s death, then meets this new group of people, among them the artistic good-looking Wes, and starts living again.

Yet, it was such a great read. The characters are all so alive and well-rounded I found myself caring for them pretty much straight away.

What I also loved was the relationship between Wes and Macy. In so many YA books I’ve read lately, the romance happens out of thin air, basically one look is exchanged and then boom they are in love. In this book however it’s well founded and it feels real. They get to know each other first, they open up, become friends and first after a while does it become romantic. That’s the way it should be.

It also deals with grief – how we all grieve differently and how it’s important to accept that. And it deals with fears of letting people in – of getting hurt, but how rewarding it can be if you dare to be yourself and let people in. Macy shuts off because she is afraid that other people can’t handle it if she shows them her true self. It turns out others can handle it just fine.

The Bottom Line:

Essentially, this book touches on a lot of truths in life that we are all aware of but that sometimes seems so hard to put in practice. Things such as really talk to people you care about – even if it seems hard.

In short, it’s such a lovely book – sad, funny and hopeful. It made me want to go hugging everyone I care about and tell them how I really feel. Life is too short not to do otherwise.

Also, it made me want to go straight out and get my hands on another Sarah Dessen book, because wow she really is something!

Review: Gone by Lisa McMann

5 Aug

Series: Dream Catcher, book #3

Published: February 9th 2010 by Simon Pulse

Details: Hardcover, 214 pages

My rating: 3.5/5

My summary:

The wake series is a great series, which I’m recommending everyone to read. The last installment however doesn’t quite live up to the standard of the two previous books. That being said, I still enjoyed it, and loved getting to know more about Janies options. As a whole though, the book left me wanting more, thus the lower grade.

See my full review here:

Synopsis:

Janie thought she knew what her future held. And she thought she’d made her peace with it. But she can’t handle dragging Cabel down with her.

She knows he will stay with her, despite what she sees in his dreams. He’s amazing. And she’s a train wreck. Janie sees only one way to give him the life he deserves: She has to disappear. And it’s going to kill them both.

Then a stranger enters her life — and everything unravels. The future Janie once faced now has an ominous twist, and her choices are more dire than she’d ever thought possible. She alone must decide between the lesser of two evils. And time is running out….

My thoughts:

I read this, worrying about why people generally didn’t like this final installment of the Wake series as much as the first two books. And I get it now, why people didn’t like it as much. That being said, I still enjoyed the book. It’s only when comparing it to the first two books that I find myself slightly disappointed.

In this book there is no assignment. Instead, the plot revolves around Janie trying to make a decision on how to live her life. In Fade, she got an insight to one of her options, explained by Mrs Stubin. In Gone, she learns about her father, and thus learns more about the other option. All of this is interesting, and I loved getting to know more about Janie’s parents and their past. I completely understood the pondering Janie was going through.

So why was it disappointing then?

I think I just expected more, especially seeing as this is the final installment. I wanted more information, more resolvement. I would have loved more interaction between Janie and her father, Mrs Stubin and even her mother. But mostly, I would have loved Cabel to be more part of the plot. I understand that Janie needed some time alone to sort things through. But we never really get an insight into what Cabel is thinking. If compared to the last two books, he’s not part of this one much at all. And frankly, I missed him. The relationship between these two, their interactions and conversations in the previous two books is what made this series so good. At least that’s how I feel.

The ending. Well, without saying too much, it is OK, and sort of fitting to the story, and most importantly it ended on a positive note. However,  I still felt slightly dissatisfied. There were some unresolved issues left behind. I wish there was another book in the series to take care of those. I would have loved to know more of what happened next.

Unfortunately, this is the ending to the series, and I heard that McMann is not planning to write anything more in the Dream Catchers series. So this is it.

So would I recommend it?

Yes, because overall, it is great series. Original, great writing and with a wonderful love story. I’m glad I read it and I will definitely recommend it to others. Just make sure to lower your expectations somewhat for the last installment, as it is not as great as the first two.

Review: Fade by Lisa McMann

5 Aug

Series: Dream Catcher, book #2

Published: February 10th 2009 by Simon Pulse

Details: Hardcover, 248 pages

My rating: 4.5/5

My Summary:

Loved reading more about Janie and Cabel, such a wonderful couple! The assignment they are on this time is creepy, and Janie learns more about her abilities. Overall, great fast-paced read that I could not put down! I only wished each book was longer. Last book is called Gone.

My Full Review:

In this sequel we continue to follow the wonderful couple Janie and Cabel, and watch as their relationship deepens.  In the prequel Wake, Janie learns (to some extent) how to control her dream catcher abilities, and realizes how she can use them to help the police solving cases. Mostly positive stuff in other words.

In Fade, the inevitable negative side of her abilities sneaks up on her, and soon it feels as if her abilities are a curse rather than a gift. Every time she gets caught in a dream, it takes an incredible toll on her body, especially on her sight. She senses all of this, but doesn’t fully realize what she’s dealing with until it’s confirmed in a notebook written by the departed Mrs Stubin.

While reading the notebook she understands that she has two choices in regards to how she wants to live her life. And one of those choices does not include Cabel. It’s heart-breaking to watch Janie realizing the consequences of her dream catcher abilities, and I really felt with her along the way.

Meanwhile, they are on a new undercover mission for the captain. This time, teachers at their school are suspected of molesting students, but proof is needed. Janie is assigned the role of the bait in order to provide proof, an assignment proving to be quite dangerous.

In fact, I was a bit surprised that the whole undercover operation seemed to rest on Janie’s small shoulders alone. Not to mention the danger that the captain put Janie in. That did not seem like a believable scenario to me, like something that could ever happen in real life, rather it felt like a convenient plot devise in order to provide suspense.

That being said, it worked. I raced through the pages to find out what was going to happen. I swooned whenever Cabel was worried – which happened a lot, and my heart ached when Janie found out the horrible truths of her dream catcher abilities/curse.

So all in all, I’m loving this series, and can’t recommend it enough- and I’ve already thrown myself over the last installment Gone!

Review: Wake by Lisa McMann

5 Aug

Series: Dream Catcher, book #1

Published: March 4th 2008 by Simon Pulse

Details: Hardcover, 210 pages

My rating: 4.5/5

My summary:

A trilogy. About a girl who involuntarily slips into other people’s dreams whenever they fall asleep in her proximity. She meets Cabel, a troubled boy in her neighbourhood and they fall in love. It’s a short book, but still amazing – I read it in one sitting. Wonderful love story! Look forward to sequel Fade.

My review:

I loved this little book. I’ve read reviewers complaining about McManns choppy writing style but I thought it was refreshing. It was a straight-to-the-point type of writing. No rambling or endless passages of descriptions, just the core of the story written down in short sentences. And to me, the story flowed beautifully that way.

Janie, the protagonist is a dream catcher. Involuntarily so. Whenever someone in her proximity dreams, she gets sucked into that dream, whether she wants it or not. She doesn’t know how to control it.

One day, while driving on a street in her neighborhood she gets sucked into a particularly bad dream, and she soon learns that the owner of that dream is Cabel, a boy in her neighborhood. Cabel is a troubled boy, who’s got a pretty bad-boy reputation at school involving drugs and alcohol.

On a bus trip with school they end up sitting together, and this is where Cabel learns about Janie’s dream catcher ability as she suffers through the trip getting sucked into everyone’s dreams as her class mates take turns falling asleep on the bus.

I won’t reveal more, as it’s best if you discover that yourself. Let me just say that all though short this was a wonderful little story, involving one of the most believable literary couple I’ve met in a while, Janie and Cabel. They are so beautiful together it is absolutely heart-breaking. Both of them have had a rough start in their lives, living with practically non-caring parents. And to top it off, Janie has this weird little ability she’s trying to learn to control so that it won’t take over her life.

Very intriguing start to a series, and I can’t wait to get my hands on the sequel Fade!

Also, if you’re like me, and really like the character Cabel, then you may be interested in reading Cabel’s point of view. Lisa McMann has written a couple of pages describing his thoughts of the first encounters with Janie, including the bus trip. Short but great read!

Check out Cabel’s side of the story

Review: Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles

5 Aug

Series: Perfect Chemistry, book #1

Published: January 1st 2008 by Walker Books for Young Readers

Details: Paperback, 360 pages

My rating: 5/5

My summary:

A story about two teenagers, she rich from north side of town and he a gang member from the south side of town, who are reluctantly paired up in chemistry class, then end up falling in love. All though there are no paranormal elements here, this is a wonderful read.  I was practically glued to the pages, reading it in one sitting. The love story blew me away!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My Full Review:

Synopsis:

When Brittany Ellis walks into chemistry class on the first day of senior year, she has no clue that her carefully created “perfect” life is about to unravel before her eyes. She’s forced to be lab partners with Alex Fuentes, a gang member from the other side of town, and he is about to threaten everything she’s worked so hard for—her flawless reputation, her relationship with her boyfriend, and the secret that her home life is anything but perfect. Alex is a bad boy and he knows it. So when he makes a bet with his friends to lure Brittany into his life, he thinks nothing of it. But soon Alex realizes Brittany is a real person with real problems, and suddenly the bet he made in arrogance turns into something much more.
In a passionate story about looking beneath the surface, Simone Elkeles breaks through the stereotypes and barriers that threaten to keep Brittany and Alex apart.

My thoughts:

Simply put, amazing book. I knew from all the rave reviews that this was a WOW-sort of book, and I had high expectations. Amazingly, it still exceeded those expectations. I was blown away!

Simon Elkeles has created a wonderful story that will get under your skin and stay with you for a while. I don’t know how she did it. The story is not that original, far from actually. In fact,  when I first read the summary, it felt sort of cliché. Cheerleader gets teamed up with bad boy in chemistry class and finds out that well, they have a lot of chemistry going on. And the book cover doesn’t really help. Let me just say, it’s not the sort of book I would want to be caught reading on the subway.

So what then makes it so special?

It is essentially the writing, and the character development.  You can literally feel the two main characters falling in love as they get to know each other better. It’s so real you feel and breath with them, you feel the pain of each obstacle as if it were your own and the joy when they start understanding each other.

The book is told in alternating POV’s which is great, as you get an insight in both characters thoughts, thus realising what they are both struggling with, and the perception they have of each other, and how that changes over time. Alternating POV’s is not always great, and I often find that authors don’t distinguish the voices enough. They end up blurring into each other, making the story somewhat confusing for the reader. For instance, I felt this problem with Shiver.

In Perfect Chemistry however, the voices of Alex and Brittany are so clearly different that not once did I stop and wonder who was who. One aspect which helped, and also made the story telling more authentic, was the Spanish phrases thrown in here and there into the POV of Alex. I loved that. It made him feel even more real. Brittany felt very real as well, and I completely bought the troubles she had, despite being rich, beautiful and the most popular girl in school.

All in all, this is a great book about a great love story where you really root for the main characters, I think I dare say as much as I rooted for Bella and Edward in Twilight. There is a sequel called Rules of Attraction, which follows Alex’s little brother Carlos in quest for happiness in his life. Apparently, this includes a great love story too. Needless to say, I am very eager to get my hands on this book!