Saturday, October 29, 2011

Where You Are (Between the Lines, #2)Where You Are by Tammara Webber

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

School Pride has wrapped up, nothing left for the cast to do but some promotional events and interviews, and of course, the premiere. So Emma Pierce, soon to be star, has been back home, trying her hardest to live that "normal" life that seems so appealing and yet elusive. At the urging of her bff Emily, she's even dating a regular boy, albet somewhat unenthusiastically, and trying to put the emotional uproar of the past few months behind her. And then she meets Graham Douglas again ...

This sequel to Between the Lines picks up where that one ended, the morning after Emma and Graham's chance encounter at the coffee shop. As they come to recognize and acknowledge the depth and intensity of their feelings for each other, they have to deal with the obstacles of a long distance relationship, their own somewhat reticent natures and history, and, more dramatically, the attention and nefarious intentions of Brooke and Reid, who aren't finished with them yet. Brooke's plan to nab Graham for herself, with the assistance of Reid, who she enlists in her scheme with the promise that he can pick up the pieces of Emma when she prevails, is the main story line, and it is one that will keep you reading, biting your nails, and cursing that bitchy, brittle and broken Brooke, well beyond the time you promised you'd turn out the lights, stop reading and try to get some sleep before work in the am. Good luck with that, my friend, it won't be easy!

This one is told in four shifting POV's - Emma, Graham, Brooke and Reid. This is a relief, after the opacity of Graham's thought processes in BTL. It retains the closeness we feel to Emma and Graham, and continues to hold out the tantalizing possiblity that there's more to Reid than he lets on. Brooke's point of view, while revealing the world of hurt she's coming from, doesn't (for me at least) make her a whole lot more sympathetic or relatable. Maybe the subtitle of this should be "Hoping for Brooke's Comeuppance," because I spent a good part of the book wishing for that! But, back to POV's. While the first book felt to me like it was Emma's story, this one feels like it's Graham's turn. We come to understand the basis for his hands-off, non-possessive attitude (whether we like it or not, or feel like yelling "Use your powers, Superman!," as he hurtles ever closer to the ground). And learning his history and spending more time with Cara and his family is really enjoyable, too.

The story of this one is fun, despite the almost overwhelming tension created by the machinations of the two antagonists, but again for me, there's an elusive something beyond the plot, characters and setting that makes these books special. Tammara's writing is seductive and immersive - you're reading along in the regular way, and suddenly realize that you've been drawn into her world so deeply that hours have passed, you're hungry, and that bathroom break you've been postponing is long overdue, and still you don't want to stop! It's a kind of dreamy but vivid style that I wish I were astute enough to analyze, but prefer to just enjoy.

There are three teaser chapters for the next book, Good For You, included, and they promise a different direction, focusing on Reid this time, as he meets someone different than the actresses and society girls he usually hangs with. The promise of sparks between them makes me look forward to this one, as much as I anticipated Where You Are.

So, just to be perfectly clear, I loved this book, the characters, the story, the writing and look forward to enjoy Tammara's exploration of this lovingly and richly imagined foursome. Could there be someone who can heal Brooke's hurts? Or is she so bereft of the capacity for real love that she'll have to just make her own way in the world, without the tender touch of Tammara's obvious affection for her little cast? Time will tell, but I, for one, would love to read about it!

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Saturday, October 22, 2011


My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Casey is just a regular teenage girl except for a couple of minor issues: her unmanageably curly hair, her equally untameable mega-crush on school football hero Nate, and oh yeah, that pesky problem of uncontolled time travelling at the most inconvenient possible times.

This is a cute, fun and fresh feeling read, and while I could agree with Nate that Casey is far more fascinating in the past, where her spunky self-reliance, quick wits and gumption come to the fore, she's pretty much a charmer whatever time zone she's in. She does have a lot to be mopey about back here in the real world, what with Nate breaking her heart, her parent's divorce and her little brother's unfortunate reaction to it, and her friend Lindsay's feeling left out of Casey's temporal traumas. The historical elements have an authentically gritty feel to them, and the way the plot moves between the two periods is clever and skillfully handled.

The opening chapter has a bit of a middle grade feel to it, but it quickly becomes more and more sophisticated and complex, narratively and emotionally, as the story builds. Casey's story really drew me in, and the twists of the plot and Casey and Nate's relationship were fun to experinece and worry about. This is a sweetly satisfying story, with loveable characters, a clever plot and lots of witty, wry and winsome writing! There's a couple cute twists, and it's fun to see some seemingly disparate plot elements coalesce and resolve.

The author asked me to read this, and give an honest review, and I'm so glad she did, as this was a good read I prob wouldn't have found on my own. She also has a really cool blog at which I heartily commend to your attention. She's a generous spirited supporter of good YA, and I'm delighted to have made her (virtual) acquaintance!

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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Beatle Meets DestinyBeatle Meets Destiny by Gabrielle Williams

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A lot of people really liked this book, there are 65 reviews, and 242 ratings on Goodreads at this point, and you should read one of those raves if you think you might want to try it. As for me, I had more mixed feelings. It is well written, there were some phrases that were so clever and wry that I laughed in that funny literary appreciation-y way that you get sometimes. I guess my problems were with the two MC's. They seemed kind of mean to me. Not in a bullying way, more in a lacking empathy and casually thoughtless of others' feelings way. That whole story with the tapestry and how it turns out - not nice, Destiny. And Beatle. You have the Playboy logo as your fb profile pic? Srsly? I honestly thought Beatle's girlfriend Cilla was the only likeable character, but heads up - don't get too attached to her, my friend. I know you're supposed to look beyond the appeal of the characters to the literary merit and all (I did concede up front that this has that!), but that's not how I like to read or review, I need to feel a connection. I really hate to sound so negative, because there are lots of fun elements to this book, besides just the witty style - the superstitions, the twins motif, Beatle's backstory with the stroke and all, the vibe of the city of Melbourne. I just looked at the blurb again, and it says this is about "everybody doing the wrong thing." Yup, that's it. Somehow Beatle and Destiny (and many other readers) found that quirky, kooky and endearing (or did they? I didn't get what attracted those two to each other in the first place), but it left me wondering why exactly I wanted to invest my emotions in them. So, one of those books for me, kind of left me wondering what's wrong with me, everybody loved it, what did I miss (Confession? I felt that way about The Hangover, too).

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Friday, October 14, 2011

The Ghost DownstairsThe Ghost Downstairs by Molly Ringle

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

MC Lina takes a job as the live-in nurse at a small retirement home after an unfortunate incident at the big hospital where she's on staff. I could have told Lina that reading Stephen King when your job involves staying up all night is a major mistake! (My wife finally made me turn the lights out at bedtime a week after I finished "It.") Her new digs are a funny old place though. It's an elegant mansion, a former sorority house, rumored to be haunted by one of the former sisters. Lina is sceptical, and far more concerned with her feelings for Ren, the "houseboy." It's not just that he's the sole occupant anywhere near her age, he's also kind, something she needs in her life just now, and quel coincidence for a romance novel, he's also kind of hot. His aloof manner and mysterious comings and goings give her pause though. Is the attraction all one sided?

This is a really good read. It is a bit hard to review, though, because there is a big ole twist, and although it's not that hard to spot, nonetheless it's much more fun to encounter it yourself, without a nasty spoilerboots ruining all the fun. So, I'll just talk a bit about the characters and the atmosphere, which honestly to me were the richer part of the reading experience in any event.

Lina ia so charming and sweet, you are rooting for her to find something good in her life from page one. I think Molly Ringle has a major knack for creating super relatable female characters. From a guy perspective they are that elusive combination of smart, sweet, funny (without knowing it), strong but vulnerable, and of course, cute, that makes them irrestible. Lina is a lonely girl though, and we find out why as the story progresses. Her story is poignant and tender, and it's great to see her find friends among her patients (? they're not sick, just elderly, but I'm not sure what else to call them, the residents?). She seems to find the family she needs among them, and seeing her come out of her shell is a touching part of the story.

Ren is enigmatic and elusive, but not in a way that makes you think he's a jerk. On the contrary, it's clear he too has suffered, and that he and Lina are just what each other needs.

The city of Seattle is another major element of this book, and Molly conveys a beautiful sense of the city, which is very important to Lina. Here's a passage from the beginning of the book I thought was beautifully and sensitively written:

"A fresh September dawn bathed the eastern sky. Lina stumbled along the sidewalk, blinking at buildings and citizens and seagulls. Salmon-colored sunlight gleamed on the cars; roasting coffee filled the salty air with its scent; a beeping bread truck backed up into an alley."

For some reason that just put me totally into the scene, it felt poetic but also real. Which, is actually a pretty good way to describe Molly Ringle's style in general. Obvs this book has a lot of fantastical elements, but she does a good job of maintaining credibility and pulling you in so that it's all believable. Another thing I like about this book is that even the "bad guy" sees a little redemption at the end, and has motivations and a humanity that contribute to the aforementioned credibility.

After you've read a few books by an author, it's tempting to try to sort of "rank" them by quality or as "favorites." It's hard with Molly though, because each book I've read is so different. One thing they share though is a fun lyrical style, engaging, endearing characters and a heartwarming empathy for them. They all have their flaws and issues - some of them are pretty serious. And it's not just that it makes them more "real," it makes their stories deeper, more meaningful than if they were somehow less scared, scarred and worried. Haha, the more I talk about this book, the more I like it! Check it out, I bet anything you will too!