Thursday, March 20, 2014

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

If you have read my previous reviews, or at least looked at my list of reviewed books, you know I like Lauren Oliver. Her Delirium series was what got me really back in to reading and was the first series I have binge read in a long time. I enjoy her writing style. I find her characters really well developed and easy to relate to, even when they are set in a future society I have no experience with. I also like that the heroine is not the gorgeous blonde every guy drools over, it is the average girl (so far brunette), the one that most of us were in our teens. And, I like that she doesn't feel the need to cram a bunch of salacious sex in to her books--as I reader I often find such things distracting and even annoying, I am no campaigner for purity or anything, I just hate seeing it used in hopes of making the book more likable, her books don't need it!

This book has been on my NOOK for awhile. I just kept getting caught up in other things. I am so glad I finally made time for it.

The quickest and best way I think I can describe this story is to call it a cross between 2 movies--Groundhog Day and Heathers. Tempted to say Mean Girls instead of Heathers, because nobody is offing their friends...but Mean Girls just wasn't as cool as Heathers!

Sam is a High School Senior. She is part of the popular crowd, has a popular boyfriend, and the life we all thought we wanted when we were that age. You don't have to read too far in to the book to reach the part where Sam dies, so it is a good thing that her death is just the beginning of the story. Dying is what kicks her in to a week-long reliving of her last day alive. The choices she made and their consequences. The people she affected whether she realized it at the time or not. Who and what she thought was important--and then what was actually important. Can she change her fate? Change the fates of those around her? Is that really what is meant to happen? Or is she just reliving the day until she finally can be at peace with dying?

I spent so much of my time while reading this book thinking about my teenage days. Remembering the things I thought were so important, and the moments I thought were earth-shattering. Over and over I wanted to talk to Sam, to tell her how wrong she was about certain things! To a certain extent, I was that popular girl, but I was also partially so many other characters in this book. When you are a teenager, you think all of those things have to be separate. You can't be popular and unique. You can't be weird and also well liked. And so on. Sam learns in this one week what it took me decades to figure out--that all of us have all of these components in there somewhere, that we don't have to pigeonhole ourselves, and so many other things. I will say that it didn't end the way I expected--I won't elaborate on that--but, despite thinking the whole time that I would be mad if it ended this way, it totally fit when it did.

Read it! YOU MUST!

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

One of the best things about working at a bookstore is that you have access to Advanced Reader Copies sent by publishers. This book appeared at my store just a few days after I had read about it online, and I snatched it up the minute I saw it...this was after a squeal of joy of course! I am a big fan of Oz, which makes me embarrassed to admit that I have yet to read the original books. Wicked by Gregory Maguire is one of my all-time favorite books, so another book that take the backdrop of Oz and the events we are familiar with, and gives them a new twist, really appealed to me.

One thing I wish I would have known when I began reading is that this is not a stand-alone book. It is The first book in a series which is also planned to include 2 other books and 3 novellas (published as ebooks). The first novella, No Place Like Oz, was released back in November and is a prequel. I have this on my NOOK and am a few pages in. For a novella, it is actually pretty long at 196 pages.

Back to Dorothy Must Die...

The book is set in the present, and the basic plot is that another girl from Kansas--Amy Gumm--is whisked away by a tornado and finds herself in Oz. She begins to find, however, that this is not the Oz she is familiar with from the movie. In the years since that time in Oz things have changed dramatically for the worse. Dorothy has returned, and the small taste of magic she's had has turned her into what can only be likened to a drug addict after they first try their chosen vice. She will do whatever it takes to have more and more of it, and the wake she is leaving behind is growing. Meanwhile, her friends from her first visit--the Tinman, the Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion--have become twisted versions of their former selves, and live to ensure the success of the girl they hold dear. In hopes of restoring Oz to the land it once was, a group of Wicked Witches and others have banded together to do what must be done. Will Amy join them? What will happen if she does?

I struggled a little when I first began reading this book. Yes, Amy's life in Kansas makes you want to root for her, but she also came across to me as a bit weak and caught up in feeling sorry for herself. I found this annoying. Now that I have finished the book, I know that she was presented in this light intentionally and that it sets the stage for her growth as a character and a person. So, keep that in mind. I also think I would have read this book with a slightly different frame of mind had I known it was just part of the story. I had some moments where I wondered how the story could ever be properly told with the number of pages left. All that being said, I really did like the book, just not as much as I expected to, but I think that will change once I am able to read the rest of the story and see the story to its conclusion. Amy becomes less annoying as the story progresses, and it is nice to see her begin to find herself. Her character spends some time focused on the young men she comes in contact with and I found it out of place--considering the dangerous situation she finds herself in--until I remembered what is was like to be a teenage girl, and how much attention I paid to the teenage boys around me despite just about anything that might have been going on in my life! I liked most of the supporting characters, and the plot really is a great one. I found myself unable to stop reading and am glad about that! The story is very well developed and the author has done a great job of setting the scene of an Oz that is falling apart.

The Fairy Tale Detectives (Sisters Grimm series #1) by Michael Buckley

Yes, I read children's books. I could justify this by saying that I work with children's books--which I do--but, I also just really enjoy some of them! Some of them are really well written with great story-lines, they are just usually shorter, and tamer...and that can be a good thing!

This was one of those books.

I had been eyeing this series for quite some time. The covers are really unique, and the titles all catch your attention. I watch the TV series Once Upon a Time, and reading the description of this book made me wonder if they got the general idea for the show from these books. Both feature a town where fairy tale characters live a seemingly normal existence. In this series, however, the 2 main characters are little girls--Sabrina and Daphne Grimm--who have been orphaned and are sent to live with the grandmother they had been told was dead. Their grandma lives in the town of Ferryport Landing in New York. Once there the girls begin to realize their grandma is a little unusual, as is the house, and the other people they meet. The story unfolds from there.

Michael Buckley does a really good job of combining adventure with whimsy to keep things driving forward yet light and fun. Even the "bad guys" in the story are given likable qualities and/or back-story that keeps them from falling entirely into the category of villains, and I liked that. The sisters are good strong characters, not relegated to being frilly and girly like some others feel required to depict little girls.

Overall, just a great fun story, set in a wonderful and well-developed world. I look forward to reading the remaining 8 books in the series!