Persephone, by Kaitlin Bevis

Persephone is a young adult fantasy based on the Greek myth of Persephone. The reader doesn’t need to know any Greek mythology before reading the book; everything that needs to be explained is taken care of throughout the narrative. With some knowledge of the myths, you’ll notice little references that aren’t pointed out explicitly – for example, Persephone (in this novel) often snacks on pomegranate seeds, and her mother, Demeter, owns a flower shop. In addition, the book takes place in present-day Athens, Georgia.

I really enjoyed it and read it pretty quickly. I love stories that are modern versions or retellings of myths, and this was a good one. The plot was only semi-wrapped up; it leads directly into the second book in the Daughters of Zeus series, Daughter of the Earth and Sky. I haven’t decided if I’m going to continue the series, though. I would have preferred the book as a stand-alone novel, because at present, there are five books and I’m not sure that I’ll devote the time to reading them.

I will say, because this is a huge pet peeve of mine, that there was one sentence in the book that made me cringe, reread it to make sure I’d read it properly, and cringe again. The sentence in question is a quote from Hades: “Her soul returned to her body, and she’s alive enough to where I can’t reach her.”

The author has a Masters Degree in English, according to Goodreads, so I’m not sure why she allowed that “alive enough to where” to slip in there. What’s wrong with the word “that”? A much less clunky (and much more specific, precise) way to say it is “She’s alive enough that I can’t reach her.” The whole “to where” thing just drives me up the wall.

The book didn’t grip me enough to convince me to keep reading the series, but for me, that’s not unusual. I’ve also only read the first book of the Jackaby, Red Queen, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and The Wrath and the Dawn series. That, and the previously mentioned “to where” phrasing (it just REALLY bothers me!) led me to only rate this book 3 stars. It was a good, solid book.

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The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

I’ve been excited to read this book for a while now, based solely on the cover design. I had no idea what it was about. In the end, I gave it two stars, which based on my rating scale, means it was not for me, but you might like it. It was a quick read.

I think the main reason I didn’t give the book a higher rating is because I really didn’t enjoy any of the characters. They were all, with maybe the exception of Bea, selfish and self-centered. That’s not to say that selfish, terrible people can’t be well-written and enjoyable, but these just weren’t. None of them had anything special going on, or any really defining characteristics. (And this is just a personal pet peeve of mine, but OMG, the bland, boring character names made it impossible to remember who was who. Jack, Paul, Walker, Walter [yes, really], Nora, Louisa, Maggie, Melody… even when I was three-quarters of the way through the book, I had to keep reminding myself who each person was.

The plot itself was fine, but it felt like a lot of fuss over nothing. So Leo blew the money. Oh no! Now Melody’s kids might have to go to a state school. Jack was irresponsible with the money he does have, and now he and Walter (Walker? I don’t remember which one he was married to) might lose their summer house.

Seriously, these were the MAJOR PROBLEMS that the family faced. And then those problems were solved in about two sentences when Bea offered to share her money with her siblings, and they both immediately accepted. Problems solved!

Jack is an addict, which is an actual problem and could have really been explored more, but it wasn’t. He got Stephanie pregnant then disappeared, but it was cool because she makes tons of money and really prefers to be a single mom anyway, so NBD. Like, that would be an actual major problem for the majority of people in the US, but nah, it’s played out and wrapped up in a couple of pages, and life goes on!

There was nothing wrong with the writing. It was a quick read and I only considered abandoning it once or twice, but decided to stick it out because overall it had good reviews.

We Were Liars

As soon as I finished this book, I thought, “Well, now I have to reread it!”

It blew me away. The big twist, the thing you didn’t see coming… I never saw that coming, but as soon as I discovered that the Liars were dead, so many events came rushing back to me, and made so much sense. The boys freaking out when Cadence wanted to jump off the cliff. Cadence’s mom panicking because she left the island “alone.” Will mentioning that Cuddledown was haunted. It all makes so much sense now.

I noticed, too, that during the scenes that take place in present day, you never actually notice anyone but Cadence interacting with Mirren, Johnny, or Gat. At the time, it didn’t seem weird at all. Now, it makes perfect sense. I think that in too many stories like this, it’s very obvious. I think that the author handled it extremely well, and I want to reread the book now. I think it’ll be a very different experience.

One complaint that I see often is that the adult characters were rich, spoiled, spiteful people. That’s true. But the fact is, people like that exist. Just because they’re bad, does that mean we shouldn’t write about them? Of course not. Not every character should be likable. I think the beauty of We Were Liars lies in the fact that the teenagers saw this greed in their parents, and fought to change it. And in the end, it worked – sort of. The sisters are together, getting along and focusing on family, rather than belongings. The grandfather, the mean, manipulative family patriarch, has been knocked down a few pegs; he still has money, but he can’t use it to manipulate his family any more. I think it’s a hopeful ending.

Luckiest Girl Alive

I’m surprised by how much I enjoyed this book.

First, let me admit that when I downloaded it from the library, I thought it was The Coldest Girl in Coldtown. I know, I know. The covers aren’t thatsimilar, but they were similar enough to mix me up. Once I realized that it wasn’t what I thought it was, I looked it up, and upon seeing that the author writes for Cosmopolitan, I was a bit dubious. Very judgmental, I know. But my point is that I went into it not expecting to like the book, and by the end, I had completely changed my opinion.

So, this book does not start off well. The first chapter is a mess, and the main character, Ani, is difficult to like. I read many descriptions of her as an anti-hero, and I suppose that’s true. Still, I was impressed by her aggressiveness, her willingness to be a complete bitch in order to get what she wants. I guess it doesn’t say good things about me, but yeah, I was impressed. I have a tendency to be a pushover, and Ani clearly isn’t. I liked that about her.

Once I was into the book, I was totally into it. I think I read it in two days, and both of those nights, I stayed up way too late reading. I totally did not see the twists coming. I assumed Ani was going to be sexually assaulted, because that was the direction things seemed to be heading in. Honestly, though, so much of the book talked about her guilt and the thing she did… my guess was that she killed her rapist or something.

I was blown away by the school shooting. Didn’t see it coming at all. I tend to pigeonhole books, I think, and I guess in my mind, I thought, “this is a book about rape.” So obviously that’s the big plot, and that’s the focus of the book. I didn’t expect a whole ‘nother huge conflict. I feel odd about that, because I feel like, I don’t know, does there come a point where you’ve just got too many conflicts going on? At the same time, though, it didn’t seem to hurt the story. In fact, I thought that the shooting part was exceptionally well-written.

I also believe that Knoll did a great job of portraying Ani’s emotions after the shooting. The way she freaked out upon being touched, was jumpy when hearing loud noises… and the fact that all of these things were still an issue even once Ani was grown really stood out to me. One of my favorite scenes was the one when Ani and Andrew hid under the desk in the classroom at Bradley. Her sort-of flashback to hiding behind a table during the shooting was so well-written and natural, and again, something I didn’t see coming.

Some things I didn’t like/wondered about:

1. When she went by TifAni FaNelli, does the weird capitalization change the pronunciation? Is she just called Tiffany? Or are we supposed to read it as “Tiff-AHNI”? I ask because in my opinion, capitalization should mean something and have purpose. Also, when Ani talked to Dean and told him to call her Ani, he said “Like the end…” which I assume meant “the end of TifAni.” Maybe I’m just dumb.

2. In keeping with the “maybe I’m just dumb” theme… I actually had to look up who “the five” were when I finished the book. In retrospect, I should’ve picked up on it, but I don’t think the author really made that clear.

3. The ending… oh, the ending. I keep up with where I am, percentage-wise, as I read. The e-book version that I had included reading guides and a bunch of other supplemental stuff at the end. So when the book ended for me at 94%, it completely caught me off guard. It felt like the author had to rush to finish, and just threw the ending together. I want to know exactly what happened at the wedding. As Nell said, it was going to be a “shit show” – but we got to see none of it.

4. So many characters that didn’t matter. So many names to keep up with, then realize that you don’t have to keep up with them at all.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. There are some major, important themes here, and I think Knoll handled them well.

Year of Yes

I really enjoyed this book. A lot.

But Shonda Rhimes uses this weird sentence construction all the time. That thing where a person starts a sentence with a question when it really shouldn’t be a question.

Let me give you some examples from Shonda herself.

“My mother? Looks incredible.”
“And that yes? Turned out to be something much more terrifying.”

I could keep going. I really could. I counted as I read, and she did it 69 times. But you get the idea.

She also says the kind of things that drive me crazy:

“Am I kidding me?”
“I give good story.”
“I had to drink about it.”

I don’t know why it drives me crazy, but it does.

But despite all of that, I really liked this book. Rhimes is a wildly successful woman who shares the same insecurities and worries as everybody else. Her decision to say yes to everything that scared her was terrifying for her, but she did it anyway, because she wanted to grow.

I love that she was open about her weight, and her nervousness during interviews. I love that she admitted to using “Athlete Talk.” I love that she wasn’t satisfied where she was – even after “owning Thursday nights” – and she did what she needed to do to improve herself and her life, because she wanted to.

And if I can ignore that writing style that reads like nails on a chalkboard to me, because I just can’t stop reading? Then it’s a good book.

Everything You Want Me to Be

I finished this book a few days ago, but it has stuck with me ever since. It’s been a while since I’ve read something that I’ve enjoyed this much!

I loved the fact that the story was told from three different points of view. Hattie is dead, but throughout the book we’re given the story in her words, seeing it in through her eyes. It’s an interesting technique that makes it easier to forgive Hattie’s transgressions, because we know what’s going to happen to her.

Hattie is easy to relate to; she’s a high schooler with big dreams to move to New York. She’s naive and convinced that Peter, her English teacher, will leave his wife for her. While it’s hard to sympathize with someone who tries to split a family apart, hearing Hattie’s story in her own words helps the reader understand that she’s misguided, naive, and doesn’t understand the possible ramifications of her actions.

Peter, on the other hand, knows exactly what he’s getting into. He falls in love with Hattie before he realizes who she is; they “meet” online and don’t reveal their real names. However, as soon as he discovers that she’s he’s student, he tries to end the relationship. It’s harder than he expects, for numerous reasons.

A third of the story is told by Del, the local sheriff and Hattie’s fathers good friend. Del knew Hattie her whole life, and feels a personal responsibility for solving a crime that has very few suspects and very little evidence.

I enjoyed the references to literature throughout the book, and liked that the author incorporated the Macbeth curse. The author did a good job of letting us get to know some minor characters – Portia, Hattie’s overly-dramatic best friend; Winifred, Peter’s neighbor who murdered her husband – without letting them take over the story.

Up until the moment the murderer was revealed, I was in the dark. Maybe that just proves my lack of detective skills, but I loved the suspense up until the very last second.

I received an advanced reader’s copy of this cook from Netgalley, and enjoyed every bit of it.

The Woman Upstairs

I hovered between two stars and three stars for a minute before I rated this book. To me, three stars is a decent book; two means I didn’t really like it.

I did like this one, in a lot of ways. I feel like the story itself is decent – haven’t we all had those relationships that are so all-encompassing that we can’t stop thinking about them? And especially unreciprocated ones. I can so relate to that, but I feel like it was executed somewhat poorly.

I like that the main character was a teacher. I don’t come across many books with teachers as the focus, especially ones where the relationship began at school. I really liked the fact that Nora had such deep feelings for Sirena and Skandar, even though she was never quite sure how much the two of them reciprocated her feelings.

However, I didn’t like the pages and pages detailing Nora’s feelings in such a melodramatic way. I get it – feelings and emotions ARE dramatic – but this felt overdone. I don’t know if it’s just because of the narrator, or if this is the author’s normal style. Either way, it just wasn’t for me.

I was also a little disappointed in the fact that the big problem that the book led up to – Sirena using a video of Nora as part of her art, without warning her – was only revealed at the very end. We spent the entire book hearing about Nora being angry only to have to wait until the last couple of chapters to learn why. I’d have preferred to find out earlier, then read more on Nora’s life afterwards.

Solid story, good writing, just not one of my favorites.