Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Blink and Caution by Tim Wynne-Jones

Amazon Description: Boy, did Blink get off on the wrong floor. All he wanted was to steal some breakfast for his empty belly, but instead he stumbled upon a fake kidnapping and a cell phone dropped by an "abducted" CEO, giving Blink a link to his perfect blonde daughter. Now Blink is on the run, but it s OK as long as he s smart enough to stay in the game and keep Captain Panic locked in his hold. Enter a girl named Caution. As in "Caution: Toxic." As in "Caution: Watch Your Step." She s also on the run, from a skeezy drug-dealer boyfriend and from a nightmare in her past that won t let her go. When she spies Blink at the train station, Caution can see he s an easy mark. But there s something about this naïve, skinny street punk, whom she only wanted to rob, that tugs at her heart, a heart she thought deserved not to feel. Charged with suspense and intrigue, this taut novel trails two deeply compelling characters as they forge a blackmail scheme that is foolhardy at best, disastrous at worst - along with a fated, tender partnership that will offer them each a rare chance for redemption.

My Review: You know those books that seem to have such a great premise? They just seem really promising and cool...and then you read it and they're really blah? This was this book for me. The cover immediately popped out at me and the synopsis made it seem really cool, so I was quite eager to read it. I admit, the usage of the "you" tense during Blink's POV threw me off a little bit I got used to it pretty quickly and eagerly continued on with the story. And at first, it was alright. It was setting up to be interesting—we saw a crime happen early on, we met a drug dealer, we had a sense of approaching danger...

And then it all kind of just died. The book just fell very flat. The crime aspect spiraled into something completely bizarre and honestly? It made no sense how the two teenagers got tangled up in it. Realistically, they would never have gotten as far as they did without being tracked down immediately. The whole crime aspect felt weird too, it didn't have any feeling of suspense or danger...there wasn't even any real reason the kids got entwined in it! There was literally no reason at all for them to get involved and yet they did for some morally-ambiguous reasons which also felt really fake (because how could anyone their age really think their plan would work and they'd make major bank that way?). Basically, the blackmail crime plot was simply a device to bring the two characters together and force them onto a road trip together so they would have to be near each other and they would have to get to know each other. Honestly, that felt lazy to me. I'd have actually preferred if the whole crime/blackmail aspect had been cut out completely and Blink and Caution met each other on the streets and worked together just to survive, possibly to stay safe from Caution's dangerous ex-boyfriend (which, by the way, was a plot that was completely left by the wayside about halfway through the book). 

I just couldn't get over the unrealistic aspect of the book and the ridiculous plot. The characters felt a bit two-dimensional (I mean, really, why was Blink on the streets? Yes, his situation sucked, but he totally had a safe place to go the whole time...and yet, instead of utilizing it, he decided that being homeless was the better option?! What? It made a little more sense for why Caution was on the streets but it still felt too dramatic and fake to me) but the story might have worked way better had the book focused more on them trying to survive on the streets, evade Caution's ex-boyfriend, and really relying on each other and getting to know each other. As it was...the book had an unrealistic plot (which, about 2/3rds of the way in, stopped being suspenseful once you realized what was actually going on...and it wasn't even that big of a deal; let's just say the bad guys, or their "plot", didn't feel scary to me for even one second) and the characters magically found all the right clues just because they were smart and read some newspapers and stole a Blackberry. Which, oddly enough, the police decided not to trace until like 48 hours later, despite the fact that the owner of the Blackberry had clearly been kidnapped in a video released to the public. 

Sorry, this review is meaner than it should be; the book wasn't awful, it just felt...empty. Like it had so much potential but wasted it on a ridiculous action/thriller plot when it could have been focusing more on character development and growth. Not really too happy I wasted my time with this one. 

Cover: Alright, the cover's pretty freaking awesome. I'll give it that. It immediately catches your eye and it just looks so shocking and cool.  

Overall Grade: C-

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Goodreads Description: On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne's fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick's clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn't doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife's head, but passages from Amy's diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media--as well as Amy's fiercely doting parents--the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he's definitely bitter--but is he really a killer? As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn't do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?

My Review: I almost feel like it's useless to review this book because what can I say that hasn't been said already? Everyone who reads books has heard of Gone Girl, knows the basic premise of Gone Girl, has heard the unending praise for Gone Girl. This review feels pointless because...everyone already knows! But I'll go ahead and do it anyway, even though it's been a few months since I read this book. 


Gone Girl is, in short, amazing. I'll keep this review simple and to-the-point because there are thousands and thousands of other reviews out there that can probably express the genius that this book is more eloquently than I can...but this book truly is genius. It deserves every bit of praise and attention is has gotten. 


Not only was the plot razor sharp and cutting, but it kicked a few misogynistic tropes and stereotypes to the curb (I won't say how, for the five people left in the world who haven't read this book) and its cynical-yet-truthful observations about relationships, about husbands and wives, about men and women...hit surprisingly close to home for a book whose plot is pretty far-fetched. The "Cool Girl" rant alone makes this book worth reading (because, when you think about it, how true is it? It's something so many of us have thought about but have never quite vocalized) but luckily, the rest of the book is amazing so it's all worth reading for. 


That's the genius of the book: it plays on images and perceptions. You think Amy is one thing. You think Nick is one thing. You think the book is one thing—but oh, wait! Nothing is as it seems! The evil, twisted one has a strangely honest, sympathetic side. The sympathetic, innocent one has a strangely dark, disturbed side. But who is who? Which is which? Or are they both a mix of all of it? Most people know the plot by now, the book having reached maximum fame, but when people first read the book—back when it was relatively unknown, or just picking up speed—the surprise twist really was a surprise twist. More like a surprise punch in the face, really. I'm pretty good about guessing twists in the books, but this one yanked the rug right out from under my feet. It made me question truth and lie, fiction and nonfiction in a way I haven't done since I read The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien. 


Aside from the plot and complex, intricate characters, another huge selling factor for this book is the writing style. Having now read all of Gillian Flynn's books, I can honestly say that I consider her works to be modern classics. She really has the potential to become one of the Greats in modern-day writing (joining the ranks of people like Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, and what have you). Her writing style is beautiful. She knows how to twist words and phrase things in ways that you've never seen before and it's deep and dark, but it never gets too flowery or sappy. She keeps her writing jolt-ish, disrupts her flow every now and then with short, brief phrases or words, which I loved because it made her writing feel more like someone's thoughts. Basically...her writing is electric on the page. It's short and to-the-point and yet it's also unique and fantastic. 


I guess that's all I can say! This is one of those read-until-five-a.m. type of books, those can't-put-it-down type of books. It's addicting and it's electrifying. And I know that some people hated the ending—but I LOVED the ending. I thought it was so...satisfying because it didn't have closure. She didn't wrap her story up in a pretty bow, she didn't make us feel good at the end, she made us feel horrified and numb...and that was amazing. Because it emulated real life: sometimes we don't get the ending we want or deserve. It gave me shivers.


Cover: It's not much but it seems iconic to me now, so I like it. 


Overall Grade: A+

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

Goodreads Description: "A foundling, an old book of dark fairy tales, a secret garden, an aristocratic family, a love denied, and a mystery. The Forgotten Garden is a captivating, atmospheric and compulsively readable story of the past, secrets, family and memory from the international best-selling author Kate Morton. 

Cassandra is lost, alone and grieving. Her much loved grandmother, Nell, has just died and Cassandra, her life already shaken by a tragic accident ten years ago, feels like she has lost everything dear to her. But an unexpected and mysterious bequest from Nell turns Cassandra's life upside down and ends up challenging everything she thought she knew about herself and her family. 

Inheriting a book of dark and intriguing fairytales written by Eliza Makepeace - the Victorian authoress who disappeared mysteriously in the early twentieth century - Cassandra takes her courage in both hands to follow in the footsteps of Nell on a quest to find out the truth about their history, their family and their past; little knowing that in the process, she will also discover a new life for herself."

My Review: This book took me a while to read---longer than it normally takes to read a book---because the beginning was a bit slow (though, to be fair, I also started it during the school semester...and when college is in full swing, I can barely afford to read a page per day, if even that). However, once I got into the book, I thoroughly enjoyed it and finished it very quickly, even staying up late some nights when I really should have been studying for finals to finish it (I did well on my finals, if it's any excuse!). 

The book is quite straightforward, despite several different narratives and plots (which eventually tie together, of course) and doesn't require much thought---only a keen sense of curiosity. I would never have called it a mystery novel---more like a historical and contemporary drama---but yeah, at heart, it's basically a mystery novel which tries to solve the basic question: Who was Nell and what circumstances led her to being abandoned alone on a ship with only a book of fairy tales in tow? 

It's not a book that requires much thought nor does it provide any groundbreaking writing, emotions, or ideas---but it does give some delicious entertainment with a slightly dark twist at times. It definitely keeps you reading. Family drama (mostly issues between mothers and daughters...this was definitely a generational novel, in the sense where it showed how multiple generations of women managed to screw up or damage their children somehow), small village secrets, a creepy Gothic manor with an even weirder rich family inside that no one is too fond of, orphans spirited away to different lives, young girls running off to find new lives... It was very dramatic and, yes, sometimes stereotypically so---I managed to figure it a few of the "twists" fairly early on---but that's not to say I guessed everything or that the novel ever became supremely boring. It was still entertaining throughout. 

One thing that did make me pause was the weird similarities between this book and The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. The Thirteenth Tale was published first but that doesn't matter, because I'm not claiming that Kate Morton copied her. After all, these books have themes which are quite common in stories. One only needs to recall Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier to remember that these themes and tropes are nothing new. And yet...both The Forgotten Garden and The Thirteenth Tale had a strange amount of similarities: tales about young women searching the life of elder women who wrote stories and told tales; strange and unlikable rich families somewhere in the far corners of remote England; old mansions, family secrets, repairmen coming to fix up broken down homes, pairs of twins and young girls, incest (and the very same type of incest, which is weird), mysterious gardens...and even people named Adeline in both books.

Again---not saying Kate Morton copied, since this type of book seems to be her forte. But the similarities were enough that I got a sense of deja vu while reading The Forgotten Garden. There was also an amazing little wink to the The Secret Garden fans in the book that made me literally squeak when I read it. I had JUST been thinking, Wow, some aspects of this book are quite similar to The Secret Garden, when...! Oh, but I won't spoil that bit of fun. 

Basically, if you want an entertaining and slightly longer read to lose yourself in at night or during long flights or something, this is a great one to pick up. Nothing so heartbreaking you'll spend hours weeping, nothing so complex your brain will hurt, but also nothing so fluffy that you won't spare it a second thought after it's done. 

Cover: It's kind of the typical Here's a mysterious/cute cottage in the woods type of cover that's so typical of adult books (kind of like how Here's a random pretty girl in a ball gown is so typical of YA books). Nice, but nothing special.

My Review: B+

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

Goodreads Description: "A BIG NOVEL ABOUT A SMALL TOWN ...

When Barry Fairbrother dies in his early forties, the town of Pagford is left in shock.

Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty façade is a town at war.

Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils ... Pagford is not what it first seems.

And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations?"

My Review: THIS IS NOT HARRY POTTER. This is the first thing I absolutely must stress. I know a lot of people disliked this book because they were expecting something enchanting, fun, adventurous from the author of our beloved Harry Potter series---and that's definitely not what they got. If you walk into this book expecting anything...especially anything Harry Potter-ish...then you will be sorely disappointed. However, if you read this book with an open mind and a penchant for good story-telling...I think you'll be quite pleasantly surprised. 

The thing is, it's a bit hard to review this book, in terms of plot. There isn't much of a plot and yet there are many small plots that intersect and tie into each other in various ways. I will say that the book seems boring at first: Rowling sets up a small town and introduces a multitude of characters---most of them unlikable, a few of them despicable, and only a small handful seemingly sympathetic---who immediately confuse you because there's so many of them and you don't understand how they all connect and why you even care about them.

Ah, but here's the thing---you're not supposed to care about them. If the Harry Potter series showed me that J.K. Rowling is a wizard (pardon my pun) story-teller, then The Casual Vacancy showed me that she's a masterful writer who can definitely go beyond the genre she's famous for and is brilliant at writing human nature. The people in this book are not largely likable or sympathetic---they're just real. Their personalities, their families, their struggles, their thoughts...are just so real. No one is a cliche stereotype, no one is a trope. Teenage boys and girls, middle-aged men and women, elderly people... Mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, friends, crushes, in-laws, bullies... Every type of person and relationship is in this book and some of them ring so true of reality that it's amazing. Even the characters I loathed, I could still see how utterly human they were---because I know people like them! And some of the characters in the book, while different from me, would have thoughts or ideas that were similar to my own! 

That was what made this book so good. With a larger plot about class warfare and the stigma that comes with those born and bred in poverty, J.K. Rowling spun a web of characters so flawed and real and human that it wasn't until the end---when you realized everyone had had a role to play in leading to the conclusion, no matter how small or large of a role---that you realized this book was incredible. It showed the complexities of a small town community, of close minds and old prejudices and stereotypes, and how the smallest of actions and relationships can lead to the most curious of connections and consequences.

Is it a book I'd read again? Probably not. Maybe in a few years, to remind myself what good writing really is. Is it a book I enjoyed? Not really; there wasn't much to make you smile. There was quite a lot of disturbing stuff in it, actually, in subtle ways. But it did surprise me with how good it was, and how simply she managed to make it happen, so yeah, I'd say that anyone who enjoys good characterization and details about small town life and its even smaller people would like this book. 

Cover: I know there are multiple covers. The American cover tends to be that bright red and yellow cartoonish cover, yet my library had this cover. I like this cover better, actually, it subtly hints to the small town debacle you're about to get yourself into quite well.

Overall Grade: A+

Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

Goodreads Description: "When a white servant girl violates the order of plantation society, she unleashes a tragedy that exposes the worst and best in the people she has come to call her family. Orphaned while onboard ship from Ireland, seven-year-old Lavinia arrives on the steps of a tobacco plantation where she is to live and work with the slaves of the kitchen house. Under the care of Belle, the master's illegitimate daughter, Lavinia becomes deeply bonded to her adopted family, though she is set apart from them by her white skin. 

Eventually, Lavinia is accepted into the world of the big house, where the master is absent and the mistress battles opium addiction. Lavinia finds herself perilously straddling two very different worlds. When she is forced to make a choice, loyalties are brought into question, dangerous truths are laid bare, and lives are put at risk."

My Review: I initially was very hesitant to begin this book. The premise seemed interesting---if a bit vague---but I was afraid the book would fall quickly into White Savior territory. You know, like The Help. No matter how "good" the protagonist is, it rubs me the wrong way when we see a white person as the main character in a novel about slavery and the Civil Rights Movement era...simply because there are SO many important stories you could tell featuring a black main character. Why on Earth resort to white, especially when people of color rarely get the chance to be main characters? 

But then I thought, Fine, why not. Irish slaves did exist---though they were obviously FAR fewer in number than African slaves---so their stories deserve to be told as well. Let's give it a try. 

What I liked throughout the whole book was that it was engaging and it definitely showed several emotional journeys. It started off a bit slow but picked up pace as it went on and I began to really feel for Lavinia and understand her attachment to, and love for, the slaves in the kitchen house. The book took us from Lavinia's childhood on the plantation through the years till when she was a mother to a young child herself and along with seeing Lavinia's growth and journey, we witnessed several other characters age, marry, have children, and generally go through different life stages. I really liked this because it cemented that as real people to care for. They didn't just exist in the here and now of a book---they had whole lives. 

What I didn't like was how melodramatic it became. It almost veered into soap opera territory at some times. I'm not saying slaves' lives were easy; they weren't, they were horrifically cruel and filled with unimaginable hardships. But Kathleen Grissom added almost every traumatic event one can imagine---slavery, murder, rape, incest, abuse, alcoholism, drug addiction, lynching, even houses burning down---in the book and it added an air of unrealistic-ness because it was just one bad thing after another in a very dramatic fashion and you weren't sure what the point was, except to make the characters' lives miserable. The book could have done without a few of the traumatic events; if she'd just focused on a few and made some interesting points about them or had them affect her characters in unique ways, that might have been better. 

A lot of people complained that the characters in the book were too trope-y and based on stereotypes. I disagree. Sure, it seemed a bit unrealistic that every character was neatly grouped into either The Good Guys or The Bad Guys but you know what? I managed to ignore all that simply because of the emotion and heart Kathleen Grissom managed to put into her characters. The book was well-written, not the most amazing writing ever, but she really managed to create characters full of simple emotion that tugged at your heart. 

All in all, I liked it. I never felt that Lavinia's character became White Savior-ish (I would have put the book down if she had) and the book was an emotional, kind of sappy read. Not full of particularly brilliant social commentary, not full of any deep themes or discussion---just a book that was really all about the power of family and love in the face of incredible hardship. And sometimes, that's nice to read about. 

Cover: It's...alright. I'm not sure I like how the cover is sectioned off into almost-blurry photos (perhaps it would have been better with just one photo? Like of the plantation mansion? The blue photo takes up way too much space and doesn't show much) but the color theme does jump out at you a bit. The orange was a good choice. 

Overall Grade: B+

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Merciless by Danielle Vega

Goodreads Description: "Forgive us, Father, for we have sinned.

Brooklyn Stevens sits in a pool of her own blood, tied up and gagged. No one outside of these dank basement walls knows she’s here. No one can hear her scream.

 
Sofia Flores knows she shouldn’t have gotten involved. When she befriended Riley, Grace, and Alexis on her first day at school, she admired them, with their perfect hair and their good-girl ways. They said they wanted to save Brooklyn. They wanted to help her. Sofia didn’t realize they believed Brooklyn was possessed.
 
Now, Riley and the girls are performing an exorcism on Brooklyn—but their idea of an exorcism is closer to torture than salvation. All Sofia wants is to get out of this house. But there is no way out. Sofia can’t go against the other girls . . . unless she wants to be next. . . .
 
In this chilling debut, Danielle Vega delivers blood-curdling suspense and terror on every page. By the shockingly twisted end, readers will be faced with the most haunting question of all: Is there evil in all of us?"

My Review: This book is one roller coaster of Crazy Freaky Thrills. It reads very much like an action movie. The majority of the book takes place in one night---leading into the next morning---and it actually leaps into the action quite quickly, which surprised me. 

I will admit: the characters themselves are not that great. They're interesting enough but they're not very well fleshed out. Their back stories are not explained very well (or at all, in some cases). Sofia is kind of an empty main character; you don't really feel much for her, she's that bland. I guess you kind of just have to step into her shoes and imagine yourself in that situation. She's not unique or interesting. She's Everyperson, a fact that annoyed me but perhaps made it easier to step into her shoes. Riley and the girls are way more interesting---especially when things get downright nasty---but again, their motivations and back stories and how they got to this point is never really explained. At the end I realized that this is the first book in a series, but I get the funny feeling that Riley and the girls' motivations won't be explained even in the next book because of...reasons. (Spoiler-y reasons.) 

But the flat, two-dimensional characters don't even matter that much because HOLY mother of pearl, the horror and action aspect gets gruesome and intense. There's some really disgusting extreme violence, some very freaky scenes where body parts are cut off (or bitten off), and generally a lot of madness. People trying to perform exorcisms, mental deterioration, physical fights, torture, emotional abuse, self-harm, addiction to drugs... All of these topics are covered and they're covered at breakneck speed which makes the book seem even more frantic and thrilling. The escalation of the violence and madness and the quick deterioration of these girls' mental states makes this book all the more scary because it starts to feel like a never-ending nightmare. 

Reading it is like taking an icy plunge because pretty early on in the book you see some extreme violence and then you realize, Dear God, I have like MORE than half the book left to go---how much more violence and torture could there be left?! Lots, my friends. The answer is lots. This book takes the idea of the bitchy teenage mean girl and puts it on steroids. Imagine combining Mean Girls with Heathers with American Psycho and you get this dirty cocktail filled with a lot of blood and a little glitter. 

The ending is definitely a plot twist that makes your jaw drop. I admit---I guessed half of the plot-twist ending. But the plot-twist that the book ends on with the last few sentences...that one came completely out of left field and I'm not sure how I feel about it. On one hand, it kind of feels forced and random with absolutely no build-up...but on the other hand, it's a concept I've never seen done in YA so far (at least this way) and it makes me excited to read the next book in the series. So all in all, Danielle Vega could have done a better job fleshing her characters out and perhaps building up to the motivations and plot a little more---but I'll forgive her because the book was a short and gruesome ride that definitely kept me frantically flipping the pages. 

Cover: GORGEOUS. I love it. It popped out from the shelf right away. To clarify: it is a hardback but there is no slip cover. It's simply a hardback with the title and the symbol and author's name stamped on it in gold. So I found that really cool. (Slip covers can be so annoying to deal with.) And then the shocking hot pink color is really nice. I'm not a huge fan of pink being overused on YA book covers because it can make them seem juvenile but the effect here was cool because the hot pink + the pentagram immediately sent a message: This is a girly book that's going to get seriously dark. Be prepared. 

Overall Grade: A-

Past Perfect by Leila Sales

Goodreads Description: "All Chelsea wants to do this summer is hang out with her best friend, hone her talents as an ice cream connoisseur, and finally get over Ezra, the boy who broke her heart. But when Chelsea shows up for her summer job at Essex Historical Colonial Village (yes, really), it turns out Ezra’s working there too. Which makes moving on and forgetting Ezra a lot more complicated…even when Chelsea starts falling for someone new. 

Maybe Chelsea should have known better than to think that a historical reenactment village could help her escape her past. But with Ezra all too present, and her new crush seeming all too off limits, all Chelsea knows is that she’s got a lot to figure out about love. Because those who don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it…"

My Review: Don't read this book for the romance. I'm not kidding. Don't do it. The romance is not particularly cute or inspired. When you meet the new guy who Chelsea's going to fall for, it's obvious in about .03 seconds that he's going to be the new love interest. And he's a nice fellow, he actually has a bit of an interesting back story regarding his own family and struggles, but all in all he's just a Boring Average Nice Guy. I don't really know what he sees in Chelsea and I don't know what she sees in him. They like each other, but why? You never really know. They just think each other is cute and they flirt and then they're in love. Very nondescript and not very special or exciting. 

Read this book for everything else. The plot is actually quite quirky. You don't often see reenactment villages in YA books. As a history nerd, I kind of secretly really loved that aspect. I also love New England with every fiber of my being, so the setting of the book made it even better (even though she never really described anything New England-y about the setting...but the Colonial village kind of clues you in). So the concept of two different reenactment villages having an all-out battle was pretty fun. I always love if when teenagers team up in battles---or fake battles---in books and this book was no different. Waging war? Sneaking around and pulling pranks? Fun! Of course...the amount of actual pranks they pulled wasn't that many. More of the book focused on Chelsea moping around about Ezra and then liking the new guy. So yeah, I wish the book had focused more on the War. 

The cast of secondary characters was really fun, in my opinion. I wish the whole book had focused on them more. Tawny Nelson, Fiona, Nat, even toady Brian (Chelsea's thoughts about him constantly made me laugh; I like a little bit of snark in my heroines). Her parents, especially her dad, stood out as well. I really liked that her dad was kind of obnoxious and crazy and she didn't get along too well with him---but they both still loved each other. It was a departure from the typical extremes we get: either the a-hole jerk dad who hates the kid...or the loving, TV sitcom-y dad who's way too understanding and perfect. Chelsea's dad got on her nerves a lot and was overbearing and she disappointed him a lot...but deep down you knew she loved him and he her. I liked that a lot. I guess I can relate! Not all of us have The Perfect Dad but that doesn't mean our dads are all huge jerks who we hate. Her mom was a bit more lackluster, she didn't play as much of a role. 

I guess what made me not like the book so much was the hyperfocus on the romance---which was pretty plain, as I already stated---and Chelsea herself. Don't get me wrong, she was kind of sassy and I liked that a lot. Like I said, I like female characters who have a bit of bite to them. But Chelsea seemed kind of...over-dramatic and whiny. Like, listen: I understand that you loved Ezra. I really do. But you went out with him for five months when you were sixteen. Get over it. He wasn't a great character anyway (he was clueless and self-centered). Even at the end, when she had her magical epiphany (which also bothered me), she was still like, "No. Ezra was perfect. The only not perfect thing about him was that we fell apart. I don't hate the guy. He's still a good guy." NO, HE'S NOT. He's a creep. So yeah, did not like. Also did not like how Chelsea spent basically the whole book complaining and moaning and groaning about Ezra, her dad, and her life---which was annoying because she's a middle-class girl with nice parents, a summer job, and a good best friend, so why is she so angsty?!---and then all of a sudden at the end she had this strange revelation that totally changed her views on everything. Except the revelation was way too sudden to feel realistic. 

Overall, I liked the originality of the War and reenactment plot, the setting, and most of the side characters. That was the stuff that made the book funny and fun. But the romance and angsty aspect kind of made the book confusing and a bit of a boring downer. So I'd say the book was about average, an entertaining YA read that could have been better. 

Cover: Gotta admit that it's really cute! It's actually stood out to me multiple times at the bookstore and library, I just never got the chance to pick it up till much later. But I really like the color scheme and the simplicity of the girl smiling with the flower in her hair. It's cheerful and cute. 

Overall Grade: B-