Guest Review: Texas Gothic by Rosemary Clement-Moore

This review is brought to you by my amazing sister, Kelli. You can find her on her blog and on Goodreads.

Summary: Amy Goodnight knows that the world isn't as simple as it seems—she grew up surrounded by household spells and benevolent ghosts. But she also understands that "normal" doesn't mix with magic, and she's worked hard to build a wall between the two worlds. Not only to protect any hope of ever having a normal life.

Ranch-sitting for her aunt in Texas should be exactly that. Good old ordinary, uneventful hard work. Only, Amy and her sister, Phin, aren't alone. There's someone in the house with them—and it's not the living, breathing, amazingly hot cowboy from the ranch next door.

It's a ghost, and it's more powerful than the Goodnights and all their protective spells combined. It wants something from Amy, and none of her carefully built defenses can hold it back.

This is the summer when the wall between Amy's worlds is going to come crashing down.

Review: Rosemary Clement Moore writes the wittiest interactions between characters.  This book might be worth a read simply for the scene with the cow.  Hilarious.  Add in the quirky supernatural family, a sweet romance, a mystery, and a ghost, and this is probably my favorite of her books to date.



Rickshaw Girl by Mitali Perkins and Jamie Hogan

Summary: In her Bangladesh village, ten-year-old Naima excels at painting designs called alpanas, but to help her impoverished family financially she would have to be a boy--or disguise herself as one.

Review: As I'm preparing to move to Bangladesh in a few months, one of the things I'm doing is reading books about it. I'm reading books for older people, like A Golden Age, but I'm also reading as many children's books about Bangladesh as possible, because a) I can read children's books faster and b) there just aren't that many books about Bangladesh out there.

Rickshaw Girl was good. Written at about a 2nd grade reading level, it tells a story of Naima, who is crazy frustrated by gender restrictions. She desperately wants to help her family earn money, but she can't because (in her village at least) girls and women don't work or earn money. Despite how predictable her story is, I was happy to see her find a role model by the end, who helps her overcome gender roles in her community by giving her a chance.

I could feel the love Naima and her family have for each other, and my heart broke with Naima when, in the process of trying to help her family financially, she accidentally makes it worse.

Overall, I feel like this book helped me gain a perspective for what life is like in rural Bangladesh. I think it would be a great story to share with kids (and grown-ups) who want to learn about and understand other cultures.

Goodreads Shelves: be-proactive, bechdel-test, my-kind-of-woman, thought-provoking



The Here and Now by Ann Brashares

Summary: An unforgettable epic romantic thriller about a girl from the future who might be able to save the world . . . if she lets go of the one thing she’s found to hold on to.

Follow the rules. Remember what happened. Never fall in love.

This is the story of seventeen-year-old Prenna James, who immigrated to New York when she was twelve. Except Prenna didn’t come from a different country. She came from a different time—a future where a mosquito-borne illness has mutated into a pandemic, killing millions and leaving the world in ruins.

Prenna and the others who escaped to the present day must follow a strict set of rules: never reveal where they’re from, never interfere with history, and never, ever be intimate with anyone outside their community. Prenna does as she’s told, believing she can help prevent the plague that will one day ravage the earth.

But everything changes when Prenna falls for Ethan Jarves.

Review: Ok, I'm of two minds about this one. One the one hand, I liked it. It was a quick read, and I liked Prenna and Ethan's relationship (for the most part). For the first half or so, I kept comparing it to Pivot Point and Split Second, in that it was a story about a community of outsiders who had to blend in to the Normal World while keeping secrets about their identities. And I liked The Here and Now's discipline better, and its Big Brother-ish vibe.

In the second half of the book, though, things fell apart a little bit. For starters, all of a sudden Prenna and Ethan are In Love?? After avoiding him for two years and doing her best to maintain emotional distance, now all of a sudden they flip a switch and they're soulmates? I'm a little skeptical that a teenage boy would put so much energy into pining over a girl who is a self-confessed "expert liar" and never tells him anything about herself.

Speaking of which, for a girl who's had Being Undercover drilled into her continuously for the past four years, she does NOT think on her feet. (Or at all, really. But I'm ok with a person being Book Smart and not Street Smart. Common sense, after all, usually isn't.)

Also, really? The security that's kept over them is based on lies and fear, sure. But they put together a group of people to migrate to the past based on finding people who were passionate about going back and preventing the plague... and then are surprised when those people try to change the past? Maybe you should have started with stupider people, is all I'm saying.

And the plot itself... confused me. I could follow it on its (fairly predictable) way, but a few plot holes bothered me, and I think a couple of things that don't have satisfactory explanations are camouflaged by time-travel paradoxes.

I felt like Brashares was trying to put a lot into the emotional impact of the book, which was fine, as far as it went. I liked her descriptions of Feelings; they worked ok. But without a solid narrative to hold them up, I just wasn't as invested in the feelings of the characters.

Goodreads Shelves: bechdel-test, fluffy, is-this-a-kissing-book, my-kind-of-woman, pretentious



Guest Review: Reboot by Amy Tintera

This review is brought to you by my amazing sister, Kelli. You can find her on her blog and on Goodreads.

Summary: Five years ago, Wren Connolly was shot three times in the chest. After 178 minutes she came back as a Reboot: stronger, faster, able to heal, and less emotional. The longer Reboots are dead, the less human they are when they return. Wren 178 is the deadliest Reboot in the Republic of Texas. Now seventeen years old, she serves as a soldier for HARC (Human Advancement and Repopulation Corporation).

Wren’s favorite part of the job is training new Reboots, but her latest newbie is the worst she’s ever seen. As a 22, Callum Reyes is practically human. His reflexes are too slow, he’s always asking questions, and his ever-present smile is freaking her out. Yet there’s something about him she can’t ignore. When Callum refuses to follow an order, Wren is given one last chance to get him in line—or she’ll have to eliminate him. Wren has never disobeyed before and knows if she does, she’ll be eliminated, too. But she has also never felt as alive as she does around Callum.

The perfect soldier is done taking orders.

Review: I wanted to love this book.  You read the summary; how could this book not kick A?  I'm still not entirely sure how, but the fact is that it failed to deliver.  She took an amazing concept and just phoned it in.  It's well-written, but pretty superficial.  I can accept that it's YA, so she chose to not go as in-depth as something written for an older audience, but it still read as top-level.  It wasn't totally egregious, though, until she managed to cram about 200 pages worth of material into the last 50 pages.  When I realized how close I was to the end, I assumed it had to have a cliff-hanger because there was no way to resolve the issue.  Wrong.  She resolved it by telling the story like I read my kids their fifth bed-time story.  Having said that, at least it wasn't a waste of time.  Still worth a read, but I wouldn't move it to the top of the pile.



The House Girl by Tara Conklin

Summary: Virginia, 1852. Seventeen-year-old Josephine Bell decides to run from the failing tobacco farm where she is a slave and nurse to her ailing mistress, the aspiring artist Lu Anne Bell. New York City, 2004. Lina Sparrow, an ambitious first-year associate in an elite law firm, is given a difficult, highly sensitive assignment that could make her career: she must find the “perfect plaintiff” to lead a historic class-action lawsuit worth trillions of dollars in reparations for descendants of American slaves.

It is through her father, the renowned artist Oscar Sparrow, that Lina discovers Josephine Bell and a controversy roiling the art world: are the iconic paintings long ascribed to Lu Anne Bell really the work of her house slave, Josephine? A descendant of Josephine’s would be the perfect face for the reparations lawsuit—if Lina can find one. While following the runaway girl’s faint trail through old letters and plantation records, Lina finds herself questioning her own family history and the secrets that her father has never revealed: How did Lina’s mother die? And why will he never speak about her?

Moving between antebellum Virginia and modern-day New York, this searing, suspenseful and heartbreaking tale of art and history, love and secrets, explores what it means to repair a wrong and asks whether truth is sometimes more important than justice.

Review: So... I dunno. I'm kind of "meh" on it. It took me about three weeks to really get into this book (or if it didn't take three weeks, it certainly felt like three weeks), which says to me that I just... I dunno, didn't care? About the characters? Question mark?

Josephine's story took a long time. Like, all of her narration is pretty much made up of one day. So while her story was interesting, it was pretty slow going.

And Lina... Ugh, I was pretty apathetic about Lina. In her defense, so is she. But still. She's young and still trying to figure herself out. But at the same time, as a person, I didn't find her terribly interesting.

The writing, though. Maybe it was a little over-descriptive, but it was also beautiful. So even though it was a cumbersome read at times, it was enjoyably cumbersome.

Goodreads Shelves: bechdel-test, fluffy, my-kind-of-woman, nook-book, pretentious

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