Review and Bridge: These Broken Stars

These Broken Stars
These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It took me a while to get to this book even though I had heard buzz about it for almost a year. I also have a hard time ignoring a striking cover and this one is gorgeous.

Tarver and Lilac’s story is somewhat cliche: the poor little rich girl gets stranded with the self-made war hero. Tarver does the expected survival skills smorgasboard and Lilac has the appropriate “girlie” reactions as her expected inner strength and adaptability develop. While the dialogue is appropriately filled with snarky banter, there were a few times it felt stilted. It smooths out as the story progresses and even though readers might expect to have a hard time connecting with archetypes they’ve seen a hundred times before, the connection between Tarver and Lilac seems genuine in the end. Kaufman and Spooner did a good job keeping the story moving when there are only two speaking characters for the majority of the action. In the end, readers will be invested in both the characters’ relationship and the outcome of their situation.

Just when it seems trite, the setting and premise of the book quickly kick it out of the cliche category. Reminiscent of Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan or Across the Universe by Beth Revis, this space opera does not disappoint. The existence of space colonization and cross-galaxy travel make for rich world-building. The idea of terra-forming strange planets to make them habitable opens up so many possibilities for this series. That’s one of the things I like most about the first two books. Different worlds with different climates and different assimilation struggles make for an endless store of possible spinoffs.

I was disappointed that the second book, This Shattered World, seemed to be about a completely different set of characters. But as the story progressed, realized that the story arcs crossed paths and it’s made me highly anticipate the third book in the Starbound trilogy. The plot of the second book was more original and puts a twist on the surprise element from the first book. I’m interested to see how the authors bring everything to a close with the third book, Their Fractured Light.

Overall a good choice for sci-fi and romance fans.

BRIDGE BOOKS: This book could easily be paired with some more traditional titles to address the archetypes and plot schema used.
Romeo and Juliet – William Shakespeare
Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy

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18 May 2015

Mon Reading Button PB to YAIt’s Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journeys. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It’s also a great chance to see what others are reading right now…who knows, you might discover that next “must read” book!
The lovelies at teachmentortexts.com thought this would be a fun meme to start up with a kidlit focus: anyone reading and reviewing books in children’s literature. It can be picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels – you name it in the world of kidlit and it’s in! I love being a part of this meme and hope you do, too! I encourage everyone participating to go and visit the other kidlit book bloggers that link up and to comment on as many posts as you can. We love talking books and believe in sharing and discussing what we’re reading. We hope you join us! Read more here: http://www.teachmentortexts.com/#ixzz2R9UNmFll
In the last week I’ve finished
 
This week, I’m reading, planning on reading and listening to

Review: Scarlett Undercover

Scarlett Undercover
Scarlett Undercover by Jennifer Latham

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I’m torn with my rating. Basically, I gave it two stars because there were too many times during my reading when I thought Oh, C’mon! Really? The really crappy thing is that the book has a female Muslim main character and introduces several characters of color. I had such high hopes, but the diversity and the atypical mythology were not enough to overcome the issues with the writing and the plot.

I was really confused at the beginning of the book. I thought maybe I was reading a second or third book in a series because Scarlett, as narrator, seems to be working on the assumption that readers know about her history as a private detecive. Farther into the story, missing pieces are provided about Scarlett’s age and how she is running this “business”, but I wanted that information earlier.

Perhaps Latham is going for a bit of a “film noir” feel, providing the backstory in catchy asides as the initial action develops, but it didn’t come fast enough to feel organic. The other bit that fits the “film noir” piece are the truly cringe-worthy metaphors and similes Scarlett uses during narration. A grungy, middle-aged man with a cigar in his mouth MIGHT be able to get away with “her comment was as blunt as a billy club” but a barely 18 year-old black Muslim girl? No. It was not believable that this type of girl would speak or think that way. Another unbelievable element is Scarlett’s client: a nine year-old girl (Gemma) who find Scarlett’s business card in her private school bathroom. Gemma comes to Scarlett’s office alone to retain her services, and while the wad of cash she pulls out of her backpack for Scarlett’s fee rings true to how a nine year-old would attempt to pay, I kept wondering How the hell did she get there all by herself?

Finally, there are the truly incredible coincidences that pile up from page one. The “villain” happens to have body markings that match a pattern on a mysterious flask that belonged to Scarlett’s father. Scarlett’s love interest happens to have a tattoo of the same markings. Love Interest’s dad just happens to show up (they thought he was dead) and seems to be involved in this secret plot. Scarlett’s dad’s murder from years past seems to be connected to this completely random case brought to her by Gemma. Adults seem to wilt and follow Scarlett’s orders despite basic common sense: the whole scene with Delilah recanting her earlier safety admonitions to Scarlett rings false.

Having said all that, I would DEFINITELY recommend it to readers of color who are looking for themselves as narrators. The black, famale Muslim perspective is unique and the theology/mythology surrounding King Solomon provides a nice change from the white Anglo-Saxon, Christian female heroine. Overall, I was really rooting for this book, but in the end there is just too much coincidence and contrivance to overcome.

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Review: One for the Murphys

One for the Murphys
One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The sobbing. It was not The Ugly Cry but fairly consistent tears for the last 30 pages or so. Hunt does an incredible job with Carley’s toughened sensitivity. There are so many times I wanted to shake her and then immediately pull her into a hug. Carley’s story of ending up in a foster home is one of neglect rather than blatant abuse. The realistically tragic part about it is that Carley, like so many kids, doesn’t realize she deserves more. She even assumes the Murphys are mocking her or trying to pull one over on her because their love and affection seems so unnatural to Carley. As Carley comes to terms with her mother’s actions and her situation, she begins to see other families’ dysfunctions and compromises. She learns the value of honesty and sharing oneself with others as a means to connection and hope.

Julie Murphy is a silent, immovable force of acceptance in this book. It’s not just the love that she gives Carley that is so important but the message she transmits with her words and actions (over and over again) that Carley IS ok. That being Carley is ok in and of itself and that there’s nothing she needs to do to earn or deserve the acceptance or love of those who are important to her. Julie’s own history provides this wisdom, and her determination to make a difference for Carley and launch her into believing in her own LIFE is bittersweet. She knows it must be done and knows that the right outcome could be even harder than the path that brought Carley into the Murphys lives.

An easy read with memorable characters, a poignant ending, and a fantastic message, One for the Murphys has something for everyone.

SIMILAR TITLES: See You at Harry’s by Jo Knowles, Pictures of Hollis Woods by Patricia Reilly Giff, A Corner of the Universe by Ann M. Martin

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Review: The Disappearance of Emily H.

The Disappearance of Emily H.
The Disappearance of Emily H. by Barrie Summy

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book starts off with an interesting premise – a girl who can “read” other people’s memories. Originally, I thought it would be like A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd complete with gypsy lifestyle and character searching for the answer to her gift. The story quickly takes a darker turn as Raine learns that she’s living in the house of a missing girl. As a fan of fantasy, I prefer magical realism over strict realistic fiction. Raine’s memory ability is unique in the way it manifests for her with the added bonus of being an integral part of the story without taking over the focus of the narrative.

Summy does a good job of making Raine a character with depth but who doesn’t seem too mature or wise for her age. Too many times, authors give unearned and unrealistic sagacity to 13 year-old characters. Raine’s solution to her bullying problem is still a middle school solution and her decisions to keep things from the adults in her life ring true.

The most intriguing thing about the story is its eerily realistic situation. Jennifer and the Mean Girls terrorize Raine and her friend until they become shadows of themselves. Raine and Shirlee make some ill-advised decisions in trying to deal with the bullies. Michael is a creepily dangerous guy who is flying under the town’s radar. And, thankfully, the mild romantic element of the book doesn’t take over the plot. Raine is trying to decide if she’s interested in romance as many 8th graders do.

Overall, a great story and one I would recommend to anyone looking for a light mystery.

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