Two YA fiction Books I’ve Finished

So, after Ender’s Game, I wanted something light and breezy. These two books were a nice break from heavy topics and were just what I needed. I had seen the first two movies in the To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before series. So wanted to give it a try. Now, normally I don’t read romance novels as they seem to be so formulaic and boring. I finished To all the Boys I’ve Loved Before first so I’ll talk about that one and move to The False Prince.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

Genre – Romance, YA, Growing-up

Series – First book in the To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before trilogy

Rating – PG-13 for innuendo and language

Synopsis –

The three Song girls were supposed to stay together forever. Yet, when Margot the oldest Song girl leaves for college in Scotland, Laura Jean feels devastated. After losing their mom at a young age, the three sisters – Margot, Lara Jean, and Kitty form a close bond. So, after Margot’s move Lara Jean decides to try her best to fill Margot’s shoes. Unfortunately, someone sends out her secret love letters that she has kept hidden in a box for years. This causes her life at school to tilt on its axis. What will she do?

My Thoughts –

I enjoyed the movie and thought it was cute. I have seen this book pop up on several blogs and was curious just closely the movie followed it. In between work I wolfed the book down in four days. There were parts of the book that I truly liked better then the movie – All the baking, Kitty, Margot’s relationship with her sisters, their dad.

To be honest, I feel a lot like Lara Jean at times. She is a homebody who is close to her sisters and does well at school. I loved how the author incorporated cooking throughout the book. Lara Jean made some amazing sounding cookies and cupcakes. Made me hungry just reading it. However she could be naive and very dreamy at times. She reminded me a bit of Anne from Anne from Green Gables. Where she has these high expectations of having a boyfriend, only to find it isn’t quite what she expected.

Kitty was hilarious and totally the baby of the family. I loved how supportive their dad was and wanting to be apart of their lives. So many YA books showcase poor parenting, and nice to see a strong dad character. I didn’t really care for Josh, he seemed nice, but more for Margot then Lara Jean. Peter was a bit of a toss up. There were times when I really liked him and how he treated Kitty kindly, but other times Peter was very insecure which bothered me.

Favorite Quote – “I’m a betrayer of the worse kind, because I’m betraying my own sister, and there’s no greater betrayal then that.”

Content – Lara Jean mentions at one point how she and Margot were waiting to do it, until they were older or married. However there is talk at school at her school about who is having sex with who. No descriptions though. Lara Jean asks Margot some questions about it later on. Lara Jean kisses Peter in a hot tub. As well as mild language used throughout, with three occasions of strong language.

The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen

Genre – Fantasy, YA, Coming of Age

Rating – PG – for mild sword duel violence

Synopsis –

In the land of Carthya, civil war is about to erupt after the king, queen, and princes death. So one of the regents comes up with a plan to stick a false prince upon the throne. He collects four orphans to train and teach how to be royalty. The only problem, Sage has no wish to be a prince. He is a poor orphan who loves his freedom. Conner meanwhile has plan to break Sage and the others down to do his will. If they don’t become the prince, he will kill them. Sage must make a choice to either obey Conner and save his life, but lose the freedom he holds so dear or disobey and lose his life.

My Thoughts –

Honestly, it was an interesting premise, however it was a bit slow and predictable. I love fantasy and wanted to give this one a chance. It did pick up a bit toward the end and resolved well. I kinda saw the surprise at the end coming though.

At the start Sage got on my nerves for his resistance of authority, but later I came to understand where he was coming from. He did grow on me. I liked Rohen, Imogen, and Mott. Mott being my favorite. He was the only one who saw through Sage’s facade and showed some kindness to the boys. I had difficulty figuring out where Conner stood whether he was evil or just a flawed character. I was impressed at how Imogen was able to pretend to be mute.

Really, the one complaint I have with the author, was how she told us everything as opposed to showing us. I mean we had to tell us all the details of just how Jaron survived. I wished she could have done it more subtly. Wasn’t bad, pretty decent, but not the best either.

Content – one character is shot with an arrow and dies, several sword fights, Sage gets sliced by sword, and beaten by Conner with a whip.

Conclusion –

I’ve been trying to keep my reading up although at times, it feels like I’m forcing myself to keep going. Thankfully, these two books were light and breezy enough, they were just what I needed!! I liked both in different ways and glad I gave them go.

Up Next – I’ll be trying I, Robot by Isaac Asimov, although honestly, not super excited for this. 🙂 Then I’ll finish the TAtBILB series with Always and Forever.

Over to you guys, what have you been reading recently? Have you read either of these books? Hope your spring is going well!

Anna

Review for A Curious Incident

A Curious Incident: A Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mystery by [Vicki Delany]

A Curious Incident by Vicki Delany

Genre – Cozy Mystery, Contemporary

Series – The 6th book in the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mysteries series

Rating – PG for mentions of marital affairs & murder

Synopsis –

Gemma Doyle and her friend Jayne Wilson work together to run a bookshop and tearoom in a quaint New England town. During their busiest season, 11 year old Lauren comes in asking if Gemma could solve the case of her missing cat. Upon finding the lost cat, she wins the Lauren’s trust. A few days later, Lauren, comes in with a trickier task – proving her mom innocence in a murder investigation. Lauren’s mom, Sheila, is an avid gardener. Recently someone vandalized her garden. People assume she took out her frustration by killing her gardener rival Anna Wentworth. Will Gemma be able to get to the bottom of the case?

My Thoughts –

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I’m slowly getting my reading groove back!! Whewhoo!! So, I’ve read all the book in this series so far. They are typically sweet and offer a nice reprieve from whatever I’m reading at the moment. Plus who doesn’t love a Sherlock Holmes themed bookshop?? That being said, this one felt a little lacking. The last one, There’s a Murder Afoot was set in London was well done. It shook things up and focused more on Gemma’s family. While here we were back to the same old routine.

I do have to say that I like these characters… for the most part. 😉 Gemma is likeable although at times a bit frustrating. Jayne is sweet and a good friend. I did like that the author added Lauren into the mix. She seemed to fit in. Ryan is the faithful police detective/boyfriend. I like Gemma and Ryan together and kinda hoping they tie the knot soon. While Uncle Arthur still elusive as ever. I liked that Jayne is now friends with Andy. Although I’m not sure how many books are supposed to be in the series?

The mystery as a whole was kind bland. The author has settled into a formulaic plot, someone outside Gemma’s circle killed, she sneaks onto site, does her own investigation, meets suspects, almost hurt, & then she solves the case. Gemma being able to leave her store anytime she wants also feels a little contrived at times. I actually guessed who the murderer was before Gemma. Yea, for me!! Doesn’t happen a lot. I guess, I just wanted something a little different. Don’t get me wrong, there were a few parts that had me guessing. Just this particular one not my cup of tea. 😉

Was it my favorite in the series? No

Will I keep reading the series? Probably, I mean the whole surprise at end will definitely disrupt the usual routine. And I kinda want to see how the author uses it.

Violence – Pretty sparse. Overall, the author keeps it clean. We find out that Anna was killed by being hit by a rock, but happens off the page. Gemma trips in woods falls and bumps her head. Someone attempts to poison Gemma, but instead poisons Jayne.

Language – None

Innuendo – The main suspect’s marriage is on the rocks. She flirts with her friend’s gardener. At the end, she pulls her act together and her and her husband try to save their marriage. There are a few other affairs mentioned that get kinda tangled. The author keeps the details off the page so we know what’s going on, but not in detail. Also, there are rumors of affairs that turn out to be unfounded.

Conclusion –

I love bookstores in general, so finding a fun cozy mystery series set in a bookshop was a nice find. Plus, I read just about anything related to Sherlock Holmes. 😉 Overall, I like this series. Certain ones I like better then others, but it’s nice that the author keeps it relatively clean. Reading this book, has made me want to visit the New England area! It sounds so picturesque.

Up next – I’ll be finishing up Hood. I kinda put it on the back burner while I finished The Count of Monte Cristo.

How about you? Do you like cozy mysteries? What’s your favorite?

Anna

Review for The Jerusalem Assassin

The Jerusalem Assassin by Joel Rosenberg

Genre – Political Thriller, Christian Fiction, Suspense

Series – 3rd book in the Marcus Ryker Series

Rating – PG-13 for Suspense and violence

Synopsis –

Marcus Ryker is looking forward to some rest and recuperation after having just returned from a dangerous mission. After working many years in the Secret Service he is transferred to secretly work of the CIA. As he is learning the ropes, an unknown organization begins killing key members of the U.S. government. Marcus begins to suspect something big is a foot. Meanwhile the President is organizing a peace summit between Israel, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, and the United States. Will Marcus be able to figure out who is behind the assassinations before it is too late?

My Thoughts –

I have been reading Joel Rosenberg’s books for years! So when I heard he was coming out with the next book in this series, I was thrilled. Rosenberg usually writes about 1 book a year. So my mom and I are always trying to remember what had occurred in the previous book. It had been such a long time since I had read The Persian Gamble that I had forgotten just about everything. For the most part Rosenberg does a great job juggling the political aspects with suspense and action.

Now I have to say that overall this series was one of my favorites. Most of his previous books take place in Israel or the Middle East like his J. B. Collins series which got a little repetitive. So I appreciated having this series focus more on Russia. It felt fresh and different. The Kremlin Conspiracy was probably my favorite of the three books in the Marcus Ryker series. It felt like something out of a Jason Bourne movie.

This newest installment was a wee bit of a let down. Not to say that it was bad, but it defiantly felt slower and more politically based then character based. Most of the book takes place in closed door meetings with either our bad guys or good guys. So not really any character development. Marcus has stayed the same throughout much of this series. I kept hoping that we would see a change in him or find out more about his past. I also wanted to see more of Peter Hwang or Oleg Kraskin, but these characters kinda got sidelined.

Oleg Kraskin is one of my favorite characters in this series. We got to know him so well during the previous two books and I was looking forward to seeing how he did, now that he was in America. There was one great scene between Marcus and Oleg that made me really happy. We get to hear Marcus be a little more open about his faith and ask Oleg about what his beliefs were.

Despite being labeled as Christian fiction, there is not much Christian content in this series. Honestly, it did not bug me too much as Marcus himself is kinda a quiet person. In The Jerusalem Assassin, we do see Marcus praying or reading his Bible.

I do want to mention that so many of the Middle Eastern characters have similar names. At first I struggled telling who was who. It got better later on. The end fell nicely together and I liked how Rosenberg paced the end.

Language – Two different uses of mild language.

Violence –

Honestly, compared to some of his other books, I felt that the violence was toned down a bit. There are several shootouts. One takes place at a church and a character dies. Several people are wounded and end up in the hospital. A character kills one of the intruders and incapacitates another. Later on we have a character who has surgery to place a bomb inside her. She is a suicide bomber and willingly goes to her dead. In the bombing she kills 23 people and injures many more. A couple mentions of blood and body parts exploding in the air. Lastly, we have another character who has a similar surgery to implant a bomb in his chest. Several characters are killed.

Innuendo – Really only a mention of a character liking another character. That it.

Conclusion –

I always love a good political or action thriller, so it was nice to step back into Rosenberg’s series. Although I cannot say it was my favorite, I had a hard time putting it down. My mom and I had to take turns, which was tough especially for the action sequences. Rosenberg gives us an interesting look at what could happen if there was peace in Israel. Overall an enjoyable read, but would highly recommend reading these books in order. 😉

So over to you guys! What books have you been reading? Read any of Rosenberg’s books? Have a favorite?

Anna

Review for Orbiting Jupiter

Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt

Genre – YA fiction, Contemporary

Series – There are a few characters from some of his previous book, but it is Stand-alone.

Rating – PG – mild language and mild innuendo

Synopsis –

Jack’s parents have decided to foster a boy named Joseph, who has a messy past. He has been to prison, hurt a teacher, and has a daughter. Joseph has gone through things that no 14 year old should go through. Yet, the Hurd’s still want to foster him. Will Joseph and Jack get along? Will the Hurd’s be able to help Joseph?

My Thoughts –

First, I want to mention that, yeah, a 14 year old had a daughter. This all happened in the past so we only get bits and pieces of what happened. I don’t support what Joseph did in any way, but the author does a great job dealing with this topic.

It is a short book only about 200 p. So a easy read. Honestly, it was a breathe of fresh air compared to Atlas Shrugged. Middle-grade fiction can pack a lot in a tiny package. I read this in 2 days. Well, the first chapter on like Tuesday, then read the rest on Wednesday.

I loved this one!! Schmidt does a great job writing from a 12 year old’s perspective!! I had previously listened to 2 other books by this author: Wednesday Wars and Okay for Now. Both were amazing! They take place back in the late 60s. He makes his characters believable which I love. He also sprinkles bits of humor throughout.

The characters were so well done! I love it when authors show parents in a positive light. In Orbiting Jupiter, the parents are so supportive of Jack and Joseph. They want to make a difference in Joseph’s life, and give him something he never had: a loving home. Also Mr. D’Ulney was such a great teacher. He found something Joseph was good at and decided to water that talent. Coach Swieteck is from Okay for Now. It was so neat to see him in this book, although it is a small appearance.

It took me a while to like Joseph as a character. Schmidt only had Joseph talk a handful of times. Most of what we find out about Joseph is from Jack’s perspective. It made me so happy that Joseph loved Jupiter and wanted to be apart of her life!

I would not say this is a Christian book, but there was one scene where the family went to church on Christmas. We hear how Jesus was born. A character asks how can God allow bad things to happen. We see the difference in Joseph’s life after meeting Jack and his family. First, sin entered the world though humans, not though God. Also, God and use hard times and the sinful choices we make for good. If we give our life to him, we can be transformed. While this wasn’t in the book per se, but I think it still applies.

Overall the plot is super simple. Joseph moving in and his stay with the Hurd’s, but it works so well!! Not gonna lie, the ending surprised me. It brought tears to my eyes. At first, I was mad at the author, but once I read the end, it was worth it.

Language – Mild language, really only used maybe 4 times. Also there is a brief conversation about freezing your balls off. (Boys talking about falling in a river) only a few sentences. A couple mentions of Jack hearing words he is not allowed to say.

Violence – We find out gradually that Joseph’s dad abused him. During a conversation Joseph had, he talked about how his face was bruised. That is about it. Not detailed, but just enough to know it happened. The author showed things, instead of telling them. Also, there is a fight at school which leads to a couple characters with bruises and a bloody nose.

Two characters fall into a river. Its a rather tense moment. Jack says he say a dog drown in the river once. Joseph has a scar the runs from his side all the way down to his knee. Also there’s a car accident with a few character’s deaths.

Innuendo – Very tastefully done. Once kiss mentioned. We find out in the first sentence that Joseph has a daughter. Joseph went to Madeline’s house over a summer when her parents were not home. A little bit of talk about falling in love.

Conclusion –

While there are a few content issues, I really enjoyed it!! I probably wouldn’t give this to a middle schooler, despite the fact, that that is the target range. There were many positives elements that made up for the content issues. Overall, I think Orbiting Jupiter was well worth the read! In fact I read bits of it twice! Just goes to show you how much I liked it. 😉 Bring some Kleenex as its a tearjerker.

Have you read any book by Gary D. Schmidt? What are your favorites? Do you like Orbiting Jupiter?

Review for Wildwood

Wildwood by Colin Meloy

Genre – Middle-grade fiction, Fantasy

Series – 1st in the Wildwood Chronicles

Rating – PG for mild peril

Synopsis –

Prue loves her baby brother, Mac, and she will do anything to keep him safe. One day while visiting a park, crows swoop in and steal Mac right out of Prue’s hands. She decides to follow the crows into the Impassable Wilderness to look for him. Prue’s classmate, Curtis, follows her into the woods. As they traverse the forest, they meet many creatures along the way who inform them of the perilous political situation that the South woods are in. As the evil Dowager Governess amasses an army, will Prue be able to save her brother before it is too late?

My Thoughts

This book had been on my TBR list for quit some time, and I am just now getting around to it. I came into it knowing nothing about it except that it was reminiscent of Narnia.

It started out with so much potential with a likeable heroine trying to save her brother from an evil queen. I thought Prue was a relatable character. She did what was right in the face of danger. I also liked Curtis, the quiet friend who sort of tags along for the ride. I would say Curtis had better developmental arc as he had some hard lessons to learn.

It felt like the author was trying to tell 2 stories in 1 book. The first half the book explains the political issues that the Wildwood is experiencing. We see the what goes on in the South wood while Curtis’s adventure shows us what the queen is truly like. Then the story shifts gears and we meet two more different groups of people: the Mystics and the Bandits. The book is long for a middle-grade novel. It clocks in at 544 pages. I feel like the author could have cut the book in half and told the first half just by itself, maybe go a bit more into what the South Wood is like.

I cruised through the first chunk of the book, but then about 30% in I hit a snag and slowed down. Personally, I had to force myself to sit down and finish it. Normally I love these two genres so I don’t know if I’d enjoy having an actual copy to read or maybe this just wasn’t my cup of tea.

One quibble I do have to mention is about the Mystics. They are a very New-age type of group who mediate and speak to the trees. A few of their poses sound similar to yoga. A character offers some advice to another character explaining that we have no control over what happens to us. Something about this just sounded off to me. Several characters mention there being no god. I come from a Christian worldview so I struggled with some of the themes that the author put in there.

Language – Fairly clean, I think only 2 or 3 uses of mild language.

Innuendo – Again, not much there. A character gives another character a kiss on the cheek before a battle.

Violence – The Bandits and the Dowager Governess are at war. So there are several skirmishes mentioned. A couple mentions of dead bodies. A character makes a choice and is taken prisoner. He is put into a suspended cage. A couple times where character shoot at other people/animals. A bird is shot through the chest and dies. During one battle a character is shoot in the shoulder and it mentions his wound bleeding. Another character is shot in the chest and falls down (doesn’t die). Most of this was not very detailed.

Conclusion –

An interesting read that at times did remind me of Narnia. I did like the characters as they all had flaws and issues they were working through. The author did a decent job creating a believable fantasy world, but there were a few issues that I had with it. Glad that I finished it! Now I can move on to something different.

Have you read this book? Did you enjoy it? How’s your April going?

Anna contemporary