Review: The One Thing

Book Title: The One Thing

Book Author: Marci Lyn Curtis

Book Rating: ☆☆☆☆ (4 out of 5 stars)

Published: September 8, 2015

Synopsis: “Maggie Sanders might be blind, but she won’t invite anyone to her pity party. Ever since losing her sight six months ago, Maggie’s rebellious streak has taken on a life of its own, culminating with an elaborate school prank. Maggie called it genius. The judge called it illegal.

Now Maggie has a probation officer. But she isn’t interested in rehabilitation, not when she’s still mourning the loss of her professional-soccer dreams, and furious at her so-called friends, who lost interest in her as soon as she could no longer lead the team to victory.

Then Maggie’s whole world is turned upside down. Somehow, incredibly, she can see again. But only one person: Ben, a precocious ten-year-old unlike anyone she’s ever met. Ben’s life isn’t easy, but he doesn’t see limits, only possibilities. After awhile, Maggie starts to realize that losing her sight doesn’t have to mean losing everything she dreamed of. Even if what she’s currently dreaming of is Mason Milton, the infuriatingly attractive lead singer of Maggie’s new favorite band, who just happens to be Ben’s brother.

But when she learns the real reason she can see Ben, Maggie must find the courage to face a once-unimaginable future… before she loses everything she has grown to love.”

I am really surprised that this book isn’t receiving more attention…it was pretty great! As the synopsis states, Maggie has recently gone blind, but she hasn’t taken the time to properly process and deal with her loss.  Instead, she cuts off all of her old friends, and completely closes herself off from the possibility of moving on with her life. That is until she meets young Ben Milton…a person she can actually see…and she learns her disability doesn’t have to prevent her from living again.

For a book dealing with such a heavy subject, this story was hilarious.  I absolutely adored Maggie and all of her little quips. I thought that the reason Maggie could see Ben was way too obvious, so I never really considered it as a possibility, but it ended up not taking too much away from the story.  Other than that, the romance was sweet, but I particularly enjoyed seeing Maggie’s relationships with her friends and family begin to repair over the course of the book.  The author took us through the process of Maggie dealing with and healing from the tremendous loss of her vision in a way that was very believable.

Please read this book, I don’t think you will be disappointed!

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book through Netgalley.


Review: The Truth About Forever

Book Title: The Truth About Forever

Book Author: Sarah Dessen

Book Rating: ☆☆☆☆ (4 out of 5 stars)

Published: May 11, 2004

Synopsis: “A long, hot summer…That’s what Macy has to look forward to while her boyfriend, Jason, is away at Brain Camp. Days will be spent at a boring job in the library, evenings will be filled with vocabulary drills for the SATs, and spare time will be passed with her mother, the two of them sharing a silent grief at the traumatic loss of Macy’s father.

But sometimes, unexpected things can happen—things such as the catering job at Wish, with its fun-loving, chaotic crew. Or her sister’s project of renovating the neglected beach house, awakening long-buried memories. Things such as meeting Wes, a boy with a past, a taste for Truth-telling, and an amazing artistic talent, the kind of boy who could turn any girl’s world upside down. As Macy ventures out of her shell, she begins to question her sheltered life.”

This book isn’t exactly new, and I don’t know how much I can add by writing another review, so I will keep this brief.  I do want to mention that what I have noticed about most of the negative reviews about this book are the words “too slow” or “boring”.  This book does take a few chapters to get really interesting, but once it got good…it was really good.  Even if this book doesn’t immediately hook you in, don’t give up on it!  By the end, I promise you will love Macy as much as I did.

I feel that the synopsis doesn’t really do this book justice.  It makes it sound like just another young adult romance (which I guess it technically is), but it is about so much more.  It is about learning to deal with an overwhelming loss, moving forward, and finding yourself again.  The completely swoon worthy boy is really just an added bonus. 🙂

Review: Stars (Wendy Darling #1)

Book Title: Stars (Wendy Darling #1)

Book Author: Colleen Oakes

Book Rating: ☆☆☆ (3 out of 5 stars)

Published: October 12, 2015

Synopsis: “Wendy Darling has a perfectly agreeable life with her parents and brothers in wealthy London, as well as a budding romance with Booth, the neighborhood bookseller’s son. But while their parents are at a ball, the charmingly beautiful Peter Pan comes to the Darling children’s nursery and—dazzled by this flying boy with god-like powers—they follow him out of the window and straight on to morning, to Neverland, a intoxicating island of feral freedom.

As time passes in Neverland, Wendy realizes that this Lost Boy’s paradise of turquoise seas, mermaids, and pirates holds terrible secrets rooted in blood and greed. As Peter’s grasp on her heart tightens, she struggles to remember where she came from—and begins to suspect that this island of dreams, and the boy who desires her—have the potential to transform into an everlasting nightmare.

This is actually the second Peter Pan retelling that I have read this year, the first of which was Neverland by Shari Arnold. This retelling was much less modern, and more closely resembled the classic fairy tale that we all know.  I have read and enjoyed the first two installments of Colleen Oakes’s other fairy tale series, based on the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland, so I was very eager to read her spin on Peter Pan.

We first meeting the Darling family in early 1900’s London.  Wendy is a sixteen year girl with a blossoming romance with the local bookseller’s son, Booth.  When Wendy’s father learns of this romance, he forbids her from seeing her love ever again.  Utterly heartbroken, Wendy is easily lured one night from her bedroom to Neverland by the mysterious, flying Peter Pan, with her younger brothers (John and Michael) in tow.  While at first Neverland seems like a magical, wonderful place, it later becomes very clear that there are some very evil things lying just under the surface.  The truth about Neverland was slowly revealed (maybe a bit too slowly?), and Wendy becomes desperate to save herself and her young brothers from its horrors.

The story kept me engaged, and the descriptive writing was beautiful, however, the dialog left a lot to be desired.  I thought more than once that the conversations seemed very awkward and strange.  Overall, I think the best way to summarize this book would be to imagine the original Peter Pan story, add a dash of Lord of the Flies, with a generous helping of angsty YA romance.  And while this book didn’t completely live up to my expectations, I will definitely be reading the next installment in the series…Oakes has set the series up to take a very interesting turn.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book through Netgalley.

Review: The Lost Garden

Book Title: The Lost Garden

Book Author: Katharine Swartz

Book Rating: ☆☆☆☆ (4 out of 5 stars)

Published: June 27, 2015

Synopsis: “Marin Ellis is in search of a new start after her father and his second wife die in a car accident, and at thirty-seven she is made guardian of her fifteen-year-old half-sister Rebecca. They leave Hampshire for the picturesque village of Goswell on the Cumbrian coast, and settle into Bower House on the edge of the village church property. When a door to a walled garden captures Rebecca’s interest, Marin becomes determined to open it and discover what is hidden beneath the bramble inside. She enlists the help of local gardener Joss Fowler, and together the three of them begin to uncover the garden’s secrets.

In 1919, nineteen-year-old Eleanor Sanderson, daughter of Goswell’s vicar, is grieving the loss of her beloved brother Walter, who was killed just days before the Armistice was signed. Eleanor retreats into herself and her father starts to notice how unhappy she is. As spring arrives, he decides to hire someone to make a garden for Eleanor, and draw her out of – or at least distract her from – her grief and sorrow. Jack Taylor is in his early twenties, a Yorkshire man who has been doing odd jobs in the village, and when Eleanor’s father hires him to work on the vicarage gardens, a surprising – and unsuitable – friendship unfolds.”

This novel centers around two different pairs of sisters, residing on the same property nearly a century apart from one another: Marin and Rebecca in the present day, and Eleanor and Katharine in the early 1900’s.  Their stories are told from the alternating perspectives of Marin and Eleanor, and the narrative floats seamlessly from one timeline to the next. Both pairs of sisters have just experienced the loss of a dear family member and turn their attentions to the walled garden located on the property as a way to process their grief.

This wasn’t a very quick read, but rather a story that unfolds itself slowly, and is more driven by the characters than by any particular drama or action.  The depth of the characters and the exquisite writing will be more than enough to keep you attention, however.  While there were elements of romance, I really appreciated that those relationships often took a backseat to the bonds between the sisters.  I also loved the depictions of this small, English town in which the women resided.

The best way I can think to describe this book would be as The Secret Garden for an older audience, and if you enjoy novels with a past and present story line, I would highly recommend this book.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book through Netgalley.

Review: The Heart Goes Last

Book Title: The Heart Goes Last

Book Author: Margaret Atwood

Book Rating: ☆☆☆ (3 out of 5 stars)

Expected Publication: September 29, 2015

Synopsis: “Living in their car, surviving on tips, Charmaine and Stan are in a desperate state. So, when they see an advertisement for Consilience, a ‘social experiment’ offering stable jobs and a home of their own, they sign up immediately. All they have to do in return for suburban paradise is give up their freedom every second month – swapping their home for a prison cell. At first, all is well. But then, unknown to each other, Stan and Charmaine develop passionate obsessions with their ‘Alternates,’ the couple that occupy their house when they are in prison. Soon the pressures of conformity, mistrust, guilt and sexual desire begin to take over.

I’m a little unclear on the details, but from what I understand, this book began as several short stories by Atwood that have been re-edited and are going to be published together in one volume in September.  I have not read any of the short stories, so I cannot comment on those, but this comprehensive volume was an overall enjoyable read.  I’m a little embarrassed to admit that this is my first time reading anything by Margaret Atwood.  The Handmaid’s Tale has been on my “To be Read” list for ages now, but I just haven’t gotten around to it.

After a catastrophic financial collapse leaves a significant percentage of Americans without jobs, Charmaine and Stan are forced to leave their home and live in their car. They get by with the small income that Charmaine makes from her bartending job, but with crime at an all time high they are never really safe.  With nowhere to go and no better prospects, the young married couple is stuck in a seemingly never ending cycle of “just getting by”.  But when the pair hears of Consilience, a safe and comfortable place to live and work, it seems like an opportunity that they cannot pass up.  Never mind the fact that they have to voluntarily report to prison every other month while they live in this otherwise idyllic community. The two quickly sign up to join the community, and you may be able to guess, it really is too good to be true.

As much as I love a good dystopian, I have been steering away from the genre lately.  What can be done that hasn’t been done before?  I didn’t feel that The Heart Goes Last was ground-breaking or anything, but it did feel very unique.  My biggest problem with this book were Charmaine and Stan.  They were both so deeply unlikable, and I really couldn’t ever get past that.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book through Netgalley.