Monday, November 18, 2013

Review: "The Lucy Variations"

The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr
3 out of 5 stars

I had a hard time rating this book. There were some things that I really loved about it and then some parts I was just not happy with. So let's start with the basic plot and go from there. Lucy is sixteen years old and a gifted classical pianist. Or she was, until something happened to make her walk away from it all. Now it's been eight long months and she's beginning to wonder if she made a mistake. But can she come back to that world? Her domineering grandfather says no. But her younger brother's new piano teacher says absolutely. So who should she listen to? And more importantly, what does she actually want?

Lucy is a pretty typical girl in a lot of ways but then she's not at the same time. She's become accustomed to all the perks of being a child prodigy and when she throws that all away, she has to get used to being a normal teenager again. She is much more mature than her classmates and considers herself an adult in a lot of cases, namely with her relationships with actual adults. And this was one of the parts of the book that I didn't like and will get into after the spoiler owl.

Lucy's younger brother, Gus(tav), has inherited the family talent and is now expected to take Lucy's place in all the competitions and performances. Gus is sweet and kind and a typical younger brother who wants his big sister's approval but doesn't want to seem too eager for it. When his new piano teacher, Will, starts to take an interest in Lucy as well, he gets a little jealous. This brother/sister dynamic was an interesting part of the book and I think it was done well. Same with Lucy and her parents and can see the importance the family puts on being "talented" and what a burden that can be on everyone involved. But you also see the love and pride, if you look deep enough (in the grandfather's case).

Now lets talk about the music, because like the circus itself in The Night Circus, the piano and music become almost another character in this story. I know I've said this before, but I love classical music. My dad made me listen to it as a teenager and it just stuck, I guess. It's a total cliche to say, but Mozart is my favorite. It just seems to take you to another world when you listen to music stripped of words and dubbing and all those fancy music things people do now lol. It's funny how a piano, one instrument, can make you cry with its beauty. And that's what I love about this book, that it shows that love. I can overlook all the other stuff just for that.

(One of the pieces mentioned in the book, 
highly recommend listening to all the movements I-V)

Okay, here's the big thing that I had a problem with: Lucy's relationships with adult males ie: Will and her English teacher. Both were youngish and good looking and showed a special interest in Lucy. Now, I would NOT have a problem if that's where Zarr wanted her story to go. I'd be okay with that. But she never fully committed to it. She hinted at it and said yes, this could possibly happen. But there was no resolution, no conflict to make it warranted. It just felt cheap. 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

TILT: Fall Necessities

It's finally, finally getting cold for good here in Texas and I am so happy. Maybe now it will feel like Thanksgiving and Christmas are right around the corner (eep!). So I've been all about the fall goodies lately. What things do you love in the fall? These are my main essentials for a perfect fall afternoon.

A big stack of books comes first, of course. I had excellent luck at the library last week and I've already read 3 of these! (Review of The Last Present went up yesterday) I have a couple of books on hold for me again too that I need to pick up this weekend. There's just something about having a bunch of different genres and styles of books to browse thru all afternoon.

Hot cocoa or your hot beverage of choice. It's still comfortable enough to have the window open a crack, so you can use your coziest blanket and sip on your salted caramel hot cocoa yum. I actually really like the cheap Swiss Miss cocoas especially if you add in some chocolate kisses or a candy cane stirrer. :)

I like to have some background noise on when I read. On Sundays it is usually a football game, which is fine. But lately I've been really into classical music again. (Partly because of The Lucy Variations which I'll be reviewing soon.) The only classical I have on my phone right now is Yundi Li's Vienna Recitals, so I've been listening to playlists on 8Tracks a lot.

And finally, I must have a comfy reading chair or spot with my kitty cat & a cozy blanket --(chair pic by babyjidesign on Flickr, blanket pattern can be found at The Purl Bee) I'm kind of a blanket hoarder lol. I just can't help myself, if it's super soft fleece or a nubby afghan or a cotton quilt that always stays cool but keeps you warm, I need it! And where there's a blanket, there's a Binky Cat.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Review: "The Last Present: Willow Falls #4"

The Last Present by Wendy Mass
4 out of 5 stars

I was so excited when my library had the newest and last Willow Falls book last week. (I got a great stack of books that day!) I love this series so much and this was a perfect finale for it. But just a word of warning, like the others, you will definitely want to read them consecutively and pretty close together. Otherwise, you will have no idea what's going on and will constantly ask yourself, "what happened to them last year? who are they again?" etc...So this review will automatically have spoilers for the first three books, there's just no way around it. If you haven't read them yet, stop here and go get them! Then come back and tell me what you think. :)

The book starts out with the strange & unusual Angelina D'Angelo, ten years ago. She is putting a sort of protection spell over baby Grace (from the end of the last book we know something bad has happened to her) just like she does all the babies in town. This is why none of the kids get seriously sick or injured. She's kind of the town godmother. Unfortunately, Angelina is interrupted by Grace's big brother, Connor, and doesn't finish the blessing. Angelina is thwarted each time she tries to fix her mistake in the next 9 years. Which brings us up to the present and Grace's 10th birthday, when she falls into a mysterious coma. Angelina asks Amanda & Leo to help her make things right and we finally learn why they haven't been able to speak to each other for a year (although I still can't remember when they started this). It was so nice to see the focus back on these two, I really liked them the best.

Angelina explains that, thanks to the curse from their great-great-grandfathers (first book), once they speak to each other again, they will have the ability to travel back in time. She wants them to use this ability (gift/talent?) to go back to Grace's previous birthdays and fix certain things...specifically, things that Angelina had enchanted to protect Grace which Connor somehow messed up each time. Since they are so used to Angelina's crazy ways by now, Amanda & Leo agree and with the help of their friends, start planning how to get Grace better. Of course, things don't always go as planned. And when Angelina is involved, they definitely don't. Amanda & Leo have problems from the beginning (or the past?) and a certain ornery character keeps appearing, causing trouble for the kids. We also get to see some of Angelina's past and finally see why she does things a certain way and how she became so important and powerful in & for Willow Falls.

I loved how all the kids worked together and became closer in this book. We got to see everyone from the previous books, even the parents, and see how their lives had changed. The ending brought everything together and made me tear up a little bit. The only problem I had with this book was how they all got "coupled up" by the end. Each of the 3 main girls now had a boyfriend. I just wish Mass had focused more on the friendship aspect and not turned it into a "happily ever after".

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Sequels I Need Now!!

I actually already have a list going of sequels or series I don't want to forget about when I have some extra money again, so this week's Top 10 Broke & Bookish topic should be pretty easy!

First, let's start with 5 series that are already out and I have either just read the first book or need to get caught up on the series:

1. Dog Blood by David Moody --I just read the first book in the Hater series last week and I really enjoyed it. It's an intriguing world and I can't wait to see how it continues. Also, the cover is so striking it just makes you want to look again.

2. The Chaos: Numbers #2 by Rachel Ward --another that I just read last week, but I didn't realize this was a trilogy until I started it. Very intrigued.

3. Scarlet (and Cress): Lunar Chronicles #2 by Marissa Meyer --I actually have this one on hold for at the library right now! I need to go get it and hopefully by the time I finish it, they'll have #3 too lol.

4. Last Breath: Morganville Vampires #11 & Up! by Rachel Caine --I am so behind on this series! The last book of the series comes out TODAY and it's getting harder to follow her on Twitter without getting spoilers lol. I really love this series and I actually have this book, so I need to get on it!

5. Lover at Last: Black Dagger Brotherhood #11 by JR Ward --I really really want to get this one soon. Yum.

And 5 books that are continuing their series in the future that I can't wait for:

1. The Fiery Heart: Bloodlines #4 by Richelle Mead --ack I am so ready for this next book!

2. The Boy Most Likely To: My Life Next Door #2 by Huntley Fitzpatrick --I just found out there was going to be a sequel to this the other day and I squee'd, I was that excited lol.

3. The Long Way Home: Family Tree #2 by Ann M Martin --this actually just came out last week and I'm pretty excited about it. The first book was very good and it's nice to read some more serious non-BSC stories by her.

4. Unwholly & UnsouledUnwind #2 by Neal Shusterman --I have the 2nd one at home right now from the library. I think I will do a reread of the first though because it's been a while and maybe by then, the library will have #3 too (just like Cress lol).

5. Isla & The Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins --I am waiting patiently for this one because I know Stephanie is having some problems lately and I want her to be happy with her life and her work.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Review: "If Only We"

If Only We by Jessica Sankiewicz
3.5 out of 5 stars

I requested this eBook ARC from the author because it sounded really interesting. She's not paying me for this review or anything like that. ;) Okay, let me just say this first-I really enjoyed the story overall. I think it was an excellent first book and I'm totally jealous because I've already given up on NaNoWriMo lol.

Adrienne is at odds with her family and closest friends and she's pretty sure it all goes back to her actions on the day of her high school graduation. When she gets a chance to go back and fix her mistakes, will she be able to or will she just be doomed to repeat herself over and over? I love a good time-traveling book and this was definitely a good one. Adrienne is a likable character and I connected with her story. It's hard trying to make people happy when it conflicts with what would make *you* happy. This book has its serious moments and it made me tear up but it also had some fun, light-hearted passages.

There were some great secondary characters too. Stepsister Kaitlin was sweet but a little underdeveloped to me. I couldn't figure out her age until about halfway thru the book and I wanted her to have a little more personality. I would have loved to hear more of her story. Lindsay, Adrienne's BFF and cousin, was the perfect amount of outspoken sassiness and caring individual. And then there's Chevy, the boy. Excuse me..THE Boy. :) I liked Chevy, he was totally swoon worthy. He was equal parts serious brooding boy and fun-loving karaoke dude.

There was really only one big thing I didn't like about the story. Adrienne is being pushed into becoming a nurse by her mom, following in her footsteps. I get that. But I don't get the big push to find a new career immediately after she decides to not go the nursing route. She starts looking for careers online and when Lindsay suggests she start sewing and make a business out of that, Adrienne jumps on it and just assumes that it's all going to work out. Why couldn't she just go to college and do her basics and decide in a year or two what she wants to focus on? That's what most people do. It just didn't ring true to me.

Also, a small thing, but the writing seemed a little forced at times and some of the conversations didn't sound natural. "I intended to do so but, for some reason, I was possessed to keep it." That just doesn't sound like an 18 year old boy to me. But honestly, I think that will just become better with practice and more books. And I really hope there are more books to come. :)