Books: The Cheapest Vacation You Can Buy

16160797From Goodreads: A brilliant debut mystery in a classic vein: Detective Cormoran Strike investigates a supermodel’s suicide.

After losing his leg to a land mine in Afghanistan, Cormoran Strike is barely scraping by as a private investigator. Strike is down to one client, and creditors are calling. He has also just broken up with his longtime girlfriend and is living in his office.

Then John Bristow walks through his door with an amazing story: His sister, thelegendary supermodel Lula Landry, known to her friends as the Cuckoo, famously fell to her death a few months earlier. The police ruled it a suicide, but John refuses to believe that. The case plunges Strike into the world of multimillionaire beauties, rock-star boyfriends, and desperate designers, and it introduces him to every variety of pleasure, enticement, seduction, and delusion known to man.

You may think you know detectives, but you’ve never met one quite like Strike. You may think you know about the wealthy and famous, but you’ve never seen them under an investigation like this.

Introducing Cormoran Strike, this is the acclaimed first crime novel by J.K. Rowling, writing under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith.


As I was reading this novel, I couldn’t help but think of Who Framed Roger Rabbit.  In my mind, Cormoran Strike is Eddie Valiant (i.e. Bob Hoskins), living in his office, drinking his life away, and not doing very much of anything.  But here’s the thing: I didn’t like Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and I didn’t care for The Cuckoo’s Calling much, either.  For one thing, the novel is extremely long (500 pages long), and not much happened to keep my interest.

Strike has no money and no place to live, so he’s staying at his office. He hires a temp secretary who really likes the job and decides stays a while, even though she might not get paid much (this is a side story that, in my mind, really had nothing to do with anything). A model throws herself from her balcony, and her brother hires Strike to investigate. What ensues is an investigation that is long, long, long, without much of anything happening. Strike interviews many people—some who are suspects, and some who aren’t—but no one seems to know what really happened, and the police want to close the case. Yep. That’s about it.

I just wasn’t interested throughout much of the novel, which is a shame because I absolutely adored the Harry Potter Series.  However, this adult fiction novel just didn’t do anything for me.  I didn’t care about any of the characters, especially the model who died; her hang-ups and “whoa is me” attitude about being adopted actually put a very bad taste in my mouth, mainly because I’m adopted and I’m so tired of people making adoption out to be such a terrible thing.  It’s not, yet books and movies continue to depict it as a crushing “event” that will ruin the child’s psyche and make him/her dysfunctional in the world, and I have to disagree.  Adoption doesn’t do that.  Bad parenting does, as is evidenced by her crazy adoptive parents.  Where was the screening process here?

But, I will hold my rant.  All in all, this novel just wasn’t all that interesting.  But neither was Who Framed Roger Rabbit… so, different strokes for different folks.  I’m thinking that if you enjoyed that movie, you may like this novel; it’s just not for me. Two stars.

2 stars

I borrowed this novel from the library.

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93261From Goodreads: The chief part of the stories, however, turned upon the favorite specter of Sleepy Hollow, the Headless Horseman, who had been heard several times of late, patrolling the country; and, it was said, tethered his horse nightly among the graves in the churchyard. The story was immediately matched by a thrice marvelous adventure of Brom Bones, who made light of the Galloping Hessian as an arrant jockey. He affirmed that on returning one night from the neighboring village of Sing Sing, he had been overtaken by this midnight trooper; that he had offered to race with him for a bowl of punch, and should have won it too, for Daredevil beat the goblin horse all hollow, but just as they came to the church bridge, the Hessian bolted, and vanished in a flash of fire. All these tales, told in that drowsy undertone with which men talk in the dark, the countenances of the listeners only now and then receiving a casual gleam from the glare of a pipe, sank deep in the mind of Ichabod…


If you read the above “synopsis,” you’ll see the basic writing style of Washington Irving.  For his time period, the early 1800s, his writing was easy to understand and was highly interesting, especially as he’s discussing a ghost story.  However, it’s not so easy to follow and understand in today’s time period, and the writing itself is somewhat dry and, for me, boresome, especially with the huge array of novels that now grace the world, allowing readers to be even more so picky with their reads.

This is a novella that follows Ichabod as he learns the story of the Headless Horseman.  It’s an intriguing idea, and I’m sure many of us have heard of it, if not read it—my high school English teacher made me read this in 11th grade and I was a bit lost—but in my opinion, it’s anticlimactic.  Irving sets up this ghost story to lure readers in, and then ends on a bland note, one that made me feel like sitting here and rereading the story wasn’t really worth my time at all.  Likewise, I felt like there was little to no character development, something I’ve come quite accustomed to in my novels, and I felt like Irving was more so telling and not showing.  Again, this worked very well in 1820, but I find it does nothing for me as a 21st century reader.

However, in the last few decades there have been new renditions of this novella that switch up the ending and that take the reader along for a wild ride, such as the novel, Severed, by Dax Varley, and these stories are much more my speed.

Overall, I think that Irving’s short story/novella has the right idea, but just doesn’t captivate today’s audience much anymore.  Two stars.

I own a copy of this novella handed down to me from my parents.

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18310303From Goodreads: This is not a story of forgiveness…

The mystery of their best friend’s murder drives four girls to destroy the Gregory family. Emily Thorne would be proud.

Everyone at Hawthorne Lake Country Club saw Willa Ames-Rowan climb into a boat with James Gregory, the Club’s heir apparent. And everyone at Hawthorne Lake Country Club watched him return.


They all know he killed her. But none of them will say a word. The Gregory family is very, very good at making problems go away.

Enter the W.A.R.— the war to avenge Willa Ames-Rowan. Four girls. Four very different motives for justice and revenge, and only one rule: destroy the Gregory family at any cost.


This is one of those stories where the synopsis drew me in and I was very interested in reading the novel, but then found I couldn’t stand any of the characters based on their actions and attitudes, and so I didn’t really end up enjoying it much at all.  I mean, I feel like this might be a great novel for those who enjoy Pretty Little Liars, but I personally just don’t enjoy novels where I can’t connect with any of the characters.

Rich beyond their means and flaunting their wealth and ability, the Gregory boys are quite despicable.  Drinking, popping pills, fondling women—and no one tries to stop them, so when James kills Willa, no one bats an eye. No one, except Willa’s three friends and Rose, the daughter of one of the Gregory’s club employees.  These four girls eventually band together to try to bring down the Gregory’s, but as their inner monologues unfold and we see events through their points of view, it becomes apparent that these young vigilante girls are just as bad as the Gregory’s themselves.  Truthfully, I didn’t like any of the characters and their general lack of self-respect, and while I did enjoy the twist at the end concerning the murder, I felt like it wasn’t enough to really change my mind about this novel on the whole.  It’s just not really my style.  Two stars.

2 stars

Soho Teen has been extremely gracious in allowing me to read this novel, via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.

516GSS5DDBLFrom Goodreads: Welcome to Bluford High. This widely acclaimed teen series set in an urban high school features engaging, accessible writing and appealing, contemporary storylines.

Roylin Bailey is living a nightmare–and it’s all his fault. It started when the new student, Korie Archer, arrived in his history class. She was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen, and unlike most people at Bluford High, she seemed to like him. But when Roylin tried to impress her, he made a terrible mistake. Now one of his friends is gone, and someone is out to destroy him. Caught in a tightening web of lies and threats, Roylin is desperate for a way out.


I picked this up because a student asked me if s/he could use it for a project, so I read through it to see what the reading level was prior to giving her the go ahead.  I think this will be an interesting read for a lower MG reader, but it’s a little too low level for a high school project, in my opinion, which is what I ended up relaying to my student.  But, the themes and overall ideas presented in this novella are good ones, so I suggested that if it’s something my student was interested in, that s/he should go ahead and read it just for fun.

Now, in terms of the story itself, I can’t help but think the main character lacks common sense (of course, I’m an adult looking in, so…). Roylin wasn’t my favorite character in the world–he’s rude, obsessive, and greedy.  Likewise, the writing didn’t pull me in, but again, this is for lower MG. My main issue with the dialogue was that it jumped between every day language and proper language which, in my opinion, reduced the overall validity of the story.  Sometimes contractions were used, and other times they were missing, and as a teacher and reviewer, this lack of fluidity irked me to no end.  But again, I don’t think MG readers are necessarily going to be picking up on this as much as the they will on the overall themes and plot, regardless of its holes. So, while it was just a tad too juvenile for me, I believe this novel will spur younger readers on to find out what really happened to the elderly man living next door to Roylin. I, personally, can only give it two stars, though.

2 stars

I borrowed this novel from the school library.

17397760From Goodreads: THE GIRL WHO WOULD BE QUEEN

Nerissa Marin hides among teens in her human form, waiting for the day she can claim her birthright—the undersea kingdom stolen from her the day her father was murdered. Blending in is her best weapon—until her father’s betrayer confronts Nerissa and challenges her to a battle to the death on Nerissa’s upcoming birthday—the day she comes of age.

Amid danger and the heartbreak of her missing mother, falling for a human boy is the last thing Nerissa should do. But Lo Seavon breaches her defenses and somehow becomes the only person she can count on to help her desperate search for her mother, a prisoner of Nerissa’s mortal enemy. Is Lo the linchpin that might win Nerissa back her crown? Or will this mortal boy become the weakness that destroys her?


Unfortunately, this novel didn’t grab me or really keep my attention as I would have liked.  Nerissa Marin’s character drove me a bit batty as she’s extremely spoiled and condescending, and I have found that if I don’t like the main character in my novel, I generally don’t care for the book overall.  Such is the case with this one.  While the premise was there for Waterfell, and the idea behind these water people was quite enchanting, the story itself was much too slow for the likes of me, especially as it revolved around Nerissa and her insta-feelings for Lo.  Not enough happened for me to really become interested in this novel, and I’m sad to say I can only give it two stars.

2 starsHarlequin Teen has been extremely gracious in allowing me to read an ARC of this novel, via Netgalley, prior to its release on November 1, 2013

9860895From Goodreads: They say crime doesn’t pay…but it can sure be funny Join Jim Newell as he takes you through an anthology of criminal caper short stories where the perfect crime goes horribly awry. In this book you’ll find everything from pampered cats to fat ladies singing, a woman on the run by way of bus to a woman fleeing it all by plane and go from cigar shoppers to bed hoppers. Just remember to leave your chicken outside (rest assured, the reason why is explained in this book), and you’ll be sure to enjoy these hilarious entries.


This is a novella full of short stories that deal with crime, the main focus being robberies. They’re well written stories, and many are a bit funny, though as with any anthology, the reader isn’t going to love every single entry. My favorite of the stories were “Never Use a Chicken!” because it was just so absurd.  Other than that, however, the stories somewhat blend together in my mind because I read them all in one sitting and they’re mostly about the same thing: a robber being taken advantage by another robber.

It’s always hard to review an anthology of short stories because I tend to like some stories more than others, and I felt like a lot of these stories were very similar, too similar even, so I suggest not reading the entire anthology in one sitting so as not to confuse yourself with the different entries.  Overall, some of it was an okay read, and some I liked, but I would have liked it more, I think, had the stories been more spread out, dealing with different topics.  Three stars.

3 starsI received this novella from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

41899From Goodreads: A copy of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them resides on almost every wizarding household in the country. Now, for a limited period only, Muggles too have the chance to discover where the Quintaped lives, what the Puffskein eats, and why it is best not to leave milk out for a Knarl.

Proceeds from the sale of this book will go to improving and saving the lives of children around the world, which means that the dollars and Galleons you exchange for it will do magic beyond the powers of any wizard. If you feel that this is insufficient reason to part with your money, I can only hope most sincerely that passing wizards feel more charitable if they ever see you being attacked by a Manticore.

-Albus Dumbledore


I think this is a good read for the hardcore fan, and it boggles my mind that Rowling can be this detailed about her world. It’s phenomenal, really, and I must give her kudos for extending her amazing Harry Potter series as far as writing the textbooks as well!  Brilliant! And there are so many interesting beasts in this world… Unfortunately for me, this text also reads very much like a textbook, which is the point, of course, but doesn’t really interest me.  I liked how there are little notes here and there written by Harry, Ron, and Hermione, and I liked learning about the animals and the questions behind whether certain beasts were really beasts, but overall, it was a bit boring, in my opinion.  However, it has sparked my interest in re-reading the wonderful Harry Potter novels, and watching the movies all over again…

Here’s my question, though.  I’m hard-pressed to understand how a movie will be made out this textbook.  I picked up this little novella when I heard the news the Rowling was making another movie, but I just don’t see how it will be a movie as opposed to showing visuals of the encyclopedia like book.  Thoughts?

Two stars.

2 stars

I was given a copy of this novella by a student.

18188279From Goodreads: Colin Mochrie, a man known worldwide for working without a script, has penned a collection of stories destined to make its own mark in the literary community. Borrowing from a well-known improve game, Mochrie takes the first and last lines from familiar classics and reimagines everything in between. With the same engaging humour he exhibits on stage, television, and film, he takes the reader in bizarre and hilarious new directions, using the original writer’s words as a launch and landing point. Imagine A Tale of Two Cities in which Wile E. Coyote gets his revenge on the Road Runner, Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat with zombies, or The Night Before Christmas with a time travelling twist. Imagine Sherlock Holmes devising a foolproof method for eliciting laughter and then taking the stage at a Victorian comedy club in Old London.

This inspired collection is comical, quirky, and clever classic Mochrie.


I loved Colin Mochrie in “Whose Line is it Anyway!” That was such a great show, and I had high hopes for this novel because of it. I’m not really a classics fan myself, so I was looking forward to this wild spin that Mochrie puts on them. However, these tales didn’t really do anything for me. I didn’t find them funny, as I’d hoped to, and in the end, the entire compilation really just felt like a group of random short stories by one author. My favorite of all the tales was “Casey at the Bar” because it’s a poem, it was relatively short, and it had a funnier twist than the original did, (I thought the original to be quite good, too), but even so, it didn’t leaving me roaring with laughter like I’d hoped. I think that might be the downfall of a hilarious person writing a novel… because I expect it to be the same as their slapstick humor in real life, and in this case, it just wasn’t that way for me. Two stars.

2 stars

Diversion Books has been extremely gracious in allowing me to read this novel via Netgalley.

18372527From Goodreads: Adam Upton and Thomas “Lee” Harvey are plotting the next big school massacre at their New Hampshire high school. Nicole Janicek, who knew Adam in elementary school, tries to reconnect with the damaged teen at the start of their senior year. But will Nicole’s attempt to befriend the would-be killer disrupt the plot and turn Adam’s life around before the clock strikes 12:14?


This didactic novel touches on a very sensitive subject, but the message falls a little bit short for me on a personal level. From the character interactions and language that seems forced and unreal, to the attempt of the main character to “save” a young man based on a dream, I had some issues with the text.

Perhaps my biggest issue with this plot line is the fact that most of what the MC does throughout this novel goes against all the mandates and attempts to prevent mass shootings at schools, but it doesn’t stop there. Yes, Nicole has a dream that Adam Upton is going to shoot up her school, and she isn’t sure that she believes it to be true; it’s a dream after all. Trying to get to know him is a plus, and in this aspect, she’s doing the right thing. My issue then rises when she’s sure Adam’s planning the attack. Instead of going to the police (who would take an accusation like this serious, regardless of what the Nicole and her friend Candace think–the police don’t laugh this kind of thing off), she continually tries to make Adam change… but she only has about two weeks to do so. Therefore, it isn’t very likely. To top this, the Nicole tells the guidance counselor enough about what’s happening that the counselor has a very good inkling of the threat. She does nothing. Candace says something to both the guidance counselor and the principal, but neither do anything to question her fears, rather writing it off to fear of the unlikely, even when the evidence and threat is staring them in the face. The main character’s mother knows about the dream, and she knows of the extremely high risk that a shooting may indeed occur after certain events happen, but even she doesn’t do anything or say anything either, even though she, Candace, and the Nicole know that a certain event in the novel was in fact a very real test run. Yet, no one does anything.

Having worked in the educational system for a long time, this is not a factual representation of what would happen in this day and age based on my experiences in the classroom. The fact that no adult steps up with the information they have also paints a sort of picture for those teens reading it that promotes the undertone that adults won’t do the right thing, and therefore, teens should attempt to take on the burden of preventing an atrocity such as a school shooting all on their own. This is not a message they should be taking away from this. The message should be to tell someone, and if that person doesn’t listen, then tell another, and another until something is done. Again, a threat against school children is not taken lightly, and whether or not one has physical evidence won’t stop authorities from doing a probe to assess the potential threat.

Likewise, there is an instance in the novel when fighting seems glorified, and Nicole and her mother thank Candace for standing up for Nicole.  My issue here is that it’s done through fist fighting.  And, while a one day suspension does ensue, there is nothing else that shows readers that physical violence is not the answer.  Instead, Candace is allowed to eat a celebratory dinner at Nicole’s the same day as her suspension, and to be quite honest, a day off of school isn’t really going to teach anyone anything.  But, that’s a whole other can of worms.  Although perhaps unintentional, as a reader of YA fiction, and a teacher of young adults, I’m again afraid of the message potential readers might take away from this novel.

The beginning of the novel was a little jarring for me as I read because of Nicole’s dream, which I wasn’t expecting. I guess I was expecting a more realistic reason behind why Nicole begins to suspect Adam, but regardless, it works to get the point across and puts Nicole on the right path for prevention. Unfortunately, I do believe she goes about it the wrong way. There is no harm in befriending anyone, and the didactic nature of the story concerning friendships and reaching out to everyone, stopping hate and bullying, is a great one; I have no issue there. It is instead what happens once Nicole’s suspicions are confirmed, which happens much sooner than she admits to herself.

Nicole also seems extremely older than she is supposed to be in the novel. At 17, she is overly mature, and while I’ve met many teens that are mature for their age, it’s the way the characters, especially Nicole, talk in the story that made it less than believable. There is a lack of contractions within the dialogue, and regardless of maturity, everyone uses contractions in their speech, so the dialogue itself was a bit jarring on many an occasion.

I read much of this story mentally yelling at the characters as they all seem to make bad decision after bad decision, but regardless, this novel still made me cry throughout much of the ending, so have a box of tissues ready. Even though I don’t agree with many of the character choices and actions in the novel, and many of them are unrealistic, this novel is still powerful. I love the end message about people reaching out and being able to change, but I do think there should be more of a stress on telling others when we suspect others of committing crimes. The last thing I want is a reader walking away from this novel thinking the only way to handle something like this is through attempted friendship and keeping quiet in hopes their new friend might change their mind about murdering a flock of innocent children. Two stars.

2 starsJohn Cullen has been extremely gracious in allowing me to read this novel, via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.

17638282From Goodreads: One pint-sized girl. Ten supersized crises. And it’s high noon.

They call her “Twigs,” because she’ll never hit five feet tall. Although she was born early, and a stiff breeze could knock her over, Twigs has a mighty spirit. She needs it, as life throws a whole bucket of rotten luck at her: Dad’s an absentee drunk; Mom’s obsessed with her new deaf boyfriend (and Twigs can’t tell what they’re saying to each other). Little sister Marlee is trying to date her way through the entire high school; Twigs’ true love may be a long-distance loser after a single week away at college, and suddenly, older brother Matt is missing in Iraq. It all comes together when a couple of thugs in a drugstore aisle lash out, and Twigs must fight to save the life of the father who denied her.


This is certainly not an uplifting book.  Going in I knew that Twigs was going to be dealing with some difficult situations, but her life keeps going from bad to worse, and I came out of the novel a bit depressed.

Personally, I didn’t really connect with any of the characters, let alone like many of them. Twigs is a tiny girl, size 4’9.  I’m 5’1, so we’re close in height and I understood a lot of the angst that she felt about her size and how people referred to her size all the time.  The fact that she also has a baby face and is mistaken to be a child on multiple occasions is also something I experienced a lot at her age, though I never lashed out as Twigs does because it didn’t bother me as much as it bothers her, so I didn’t understand that part, I guess.  I feel like, in retrospect, that was her way of coping with everything else that was going on in her life, fighting back about her size since she couldn’t fight back against anything else, but even so, it’s not something I could personally connect with. I’ve also never lived through the hellish nightmare she does, so I think that may be why I don’t connect on the same level about the height issue, etc.

I have no respect for anyone in Twigs’ family, least of all her mother who sleeps around all the time, neglects Twigs (but not the other children), and keeps secrets.  Every time she came into a scene, my stomach recoiled because she’s an all around terrible person, and I don’t care if she tells Twigs how much she loves her in the end, or not.  Words can’t undo all the damage she’s done to Twigs’ psyche, and I have no love for her.

Twigs’ father is another lowlife.  Drunk or not, you don’t run out on your kid because of something that isn’t her fault, that she never had any control over.  It takes a while, but once readers get to the point where Twigs’ mother finally reveals the reason dad left in the first place, well, it’s stupid, especially as he blames Twigs and it’s not her fault in the least.  I’m sure, as you read, you realize that the dad Twigs has been idolizing has been extremely two-faced, and there is no excuse for his reactions towards Twigs, although everyone seems to think there is, which really irked me as I read.

Marlee wasn’t my favorite for sisters, either, but on the plus side, I didn’t note her trying to date the entire high school.  There seems to be only one man in her life, and the relationship seems quite strong, so I was confused as to what the synopsis was originally talking about here.  Maybe I missed something early on in the novel.  Perhaps?

Basically, Twigs has to deal with some terrible things in her life, and nothing has been easy for her.  Watching her go through crisis after crisis was difficult, and I’m glad she’s strong, but she also needs a break.  Thankfully, that seems to come in the form of crazy Helen and Coop, a boy from college, but not enough time was spent on either of those characters for my liking.  I don’t mind a true to life story, but I also need some more uplifting pieces along the way to keep my sanity.

While some of the events in the novel didn’t seem real to me, I’ve never been in any of the situations that Twigs finds herself in, so I’m not able to make a judgment call on them. This novel doesn’t have much in it in terms of happiness, though, and it created a gloomy mood for me as I read.  I have to pick up something a little lighter with a happy ending, I think, to counteract it.  Two stars.

2 starsF+W/Adams Media has been extremely gracious in allowing me to read an ARC of this novel, via Netgalley, prior to its official release on September 18, 2013.

17347389From Goodreads: Now that the ley lines around Cabeswater have been woken, nothing for Ronan, Gansey, Blue, and Adam will be the same. Ronan, for one, is falling more and more deeply into his dreams, and his dreams are intruding more and more into waking life. Meanwhile, some very sinister people are looking for some of the same pieces of the Cabeswater puzzle that Gansey is after.


Unfortunately, this series apparently just isn’t for me.  While I didn’t particularly enjoy the first novel, I was hoping the story would grow on me in the second, especially because so many of my friends really adore these books.  But, it just isn’t meant for me, which happens.

I had a very hard time following the plot line of this story, similar to my personal issues with the first novel, as it turns out.  The novel jumps around too much for my taste, as well, and it was so hard for me to keep track of the characters and all the paranormal aspects. The characters are interesting, but there are a lot, more than I can handle, apparently, though I find that a bit weird because I generally don’t have any issues following characters all over the place.  But, in the end, that doesn’t really mean anything.  Some books just aren’t meant for some people.

Basically, I’ve come to the conclusion that those who loved the first book will thoroughly enjoy the second novel, as it’s the same writing style, jumping around from character to character and delving into the paranormal, with a slice of romance.  If you didn’t necessarily enjoy the first novel, then this second might be a little difficult for you to read, but in the end, I think it all comes down to reader preferences, and while this series doesn’t seem to be for me, don’t write it off until you try it.  Two stars.

2 stars

Scholastic has been very gracious in allowing me to read an ARC of this novel, via Netgalley, prior to its release on September 17, 2013.

13617804From Goodreads: Dane Washington is one suspension away from expulsion. In a high school full of “haves,” being a “have not” makes Dane feel like life is hurtling toward one big dead end. Billy D. spends his high school days in Special Ed and he’s not exactly a “have” himself. The biggest thing Billy’s missing? His dad. Billy is sure the riddles his father left in an atlas are really clues to finding him again and through a bizarre turn of events, he talks Dane into joining him on the search.

A bully and a boy with Down syndrome makes for an unlikely friendship, but together, they work through the clues, leading to unmarked towns and secrets of the past. But they’re all dead ends. Until the final clue . . . and a secret Billy shouldn’t have been keeping.


This is the story of an unlikely relationship that blooms from a bargain.  Dane is a hothead loner from the wrong side of the tracks that hates the world. Billy has down syndrome and just wants to find his father and learn to protect himself. Together, through clues left in an atlas, they begin to decipher the mystery that is Billy’s world, and they end up on some wild adventures, some of which seemed a little far-fetched to me, but then again, I was never the adventurous rebellious type, so I have limited experience when it comes to the run ins these two find themselves in. Honestly, this is a very intriguing story, but I never really connected with either of the characters.

I have to admit I was very intrigued by Billy’s cunning, though. I liked that very much and I feel that Lange works to dispel a lot of stereotypical thoughts through his character, which is great. I also liked the mystery surrounding the atlas, though the final revelation was somewhat disheartening. Of course, novels with their happy endings aren’t the norm in real life, as it were, and I feel like Lange is actually presenting a very real look at life in presenting the truth about Billy’s father.  It’s a little jarring, but one that many readers will probably figure out relatively quickly based on the foreshadowing, but it’s not real for the reader until the final blowout and Billy’s admittance.

Overall, this is a coming of age story, though, in the end, nothing is really resolved, leaving readers with just a small glimmer of hope. I was also left with some questions concerning legalities within the novel, but overall it was a good, clean read. Three stars.

3 stars

Bloomsbury USA Children’s Books has been extremely gracious in allowing me to read an ARC of this novel, via Netgalley, prior to its release on September 3, 2013.

17182421From Goodreads: Jacob was time out of sync, time more perfect than it had been. He was life the way it was supposed to be all those years ago. That’s what all the Returned were.

Harold and Lucille Hargrave’s lives have been both joyful and sorrowful in the decades since their only son, Jacob, died tragically at his eighth birthday party in 1966. In their old age they’ve settled comfortably into life without him, their wounds tempered through the grace of time … Until one day Jacob mysteriously appears on their doorstep—flesh and blood, their sweet, precocious child, still eight years old.

All over the world people’s loved ones are returning from beyond. No one knows how or why this is happening, whether it’s a miracle or a sign of the end. Not even Harold and Lucille can agree on whether the boy is real or a wondrous imitation, but one thing they know for sure: he’s their son. As chaos erupts around the globe, the newly reunited Hargrave family finds itself at the center of a community on the brink of collapse, forced to navigate a mysterious new reality and a conflict that threatens to unravel the very meaning of what it is to be human.


I really wanted to like this novel, but it’s rather depressing and, truth be told, I never really made a connection with the characters.  This is a very finely written piece, don’t get me wrong, but my questions were never answered. Why the returned come, what their purpose is, where they go when they disappear… I just don’t know, and that was the main reason I picked up this novel; I wanted to know.

Instead, this novel focuses on the appearance of the dead (not zombies, mind you), and how the world decides to react to such an anomaly.  However, no one has answers, so it’s more or less the blind leading the blind, with some embracing the dead, some detesting it, and others ready to lock them up forever.  Like I said, it’s a very depressing tale. We learn how the government decides to handle it, which isn’t very well, more like the Japanese Internment Camps than anything else, and we get to know characters… only to watch them traverse terrible atrocities and, ultimately, die.  But why they emerged from the earth again, and what their purpose was aside from driving the story, well, I don’t know.

What I did enjoy about the novel, though, was that the chapters break up to follow certain characters, even though it’s told in third person, and we meet new returned and hear their brief stories.  But again, it is all very tragic, and truthfully, I felt somewhat awful upon finishing it; angry with humanity.  But maybe that was the purpose?  People can turn evil, which is shown in this novel in very real sense, and while there are some good people interspersed, I really came out of this with a depressed soul and a feeling of disillusionment with humankind.

Overall, it’s very well written, but such a depressing tale isn’t really my speed. I guess I was hoping for mystery and danger, a sense of horror or something, but that’s not what this novel is about, and it just wasn’t for me. Two stars.

2 stars

Harlequin has been extremely gracious in allowing me to read an ARC of this novel, via Netgalley, prior to its release on August 27, 2013.

et cetera
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