This edition of library books mini reviews features two books I read ages ago and have since read the next book in the series as well as a holiday book. It's a diverse post with something for everyone!
Dare You To - Katie McGarry (synopsis)
I read the first book in the series (I have to go in order!), Pushing the Limits, and was sucked in. I wanted to love the second as much as I loved the first but I didn't quite have all the feels like I had before.
I can't quite put my finger on why I didn't love Dare You To as much as the first. I wonder if my issue was with how supremely messed up Beth was. Her home life is brutal. I can't even imagine how awful it'd be to live her life. Or Ryan's life, for that matter. His family is picture perfect on the outside but there are some serious issues there, behind closed doors. His father was a hard character to like and get a read on. I like that the story was realistic, portraying all kinds of lifestyles (sadly, kids like Beth exist) but I had to wonder: how real is too real? The characters in this series are seriously screwed up. Drugs and abuse feature prominently and I, at 26, found it hard to read. That being said, I was a really sheltered teen. I'm a small town girl and I was so naive when I was young. Would I have fully understood this book if I had read it at 16? Doubtful. (I thought the same thing in my review of Sarah Dessen's Dreamland.) This isn't a "teens are too young to read about tough subjects" kind of rant. Trust me, teens should read whatever they want. They can handle it, though they might not get it. I just wonder if maybe some of the tough subjects are taking things too far and aren't explained well enough. Both Beth and Echo, from Pushing the Limits, are so completely faithful to their moms even though each mother is destroying their daughter. I don't think either book showed the girls really getting the help they needed since they were both too closed off. Nitpicky? Maybe. But it was something that stuck with me that I just couldn't shake.
In a way, I like that McGarry held back some information - why Ryan's brother isn't around, what's in Beth's mom's apartment, etc. - but it drove me a little crazy waiting to find out what these "big secrets" were.
I really did like getting to know Beth more. In Pushing the Limits she was such a standoffish character that I wondered how on earth I would enjoy her story. Even though I had issues, I did like reading about her. It was heartbreaking to read about her life and watch as her uncle, Ryan, and Lacy tried to get through to her.
Dare You To is a tough read but it's a good one. I really liked reading about Ryan and Beth's relationship and seeing her realize she can rely on people to help her. I'd still recommend that people read book two before three (Crash Into You which I loved - full review here) because it will help you understand how Beth and Isaiah's relationship ends up.
Star Crossed - Jennifer Echols (synopsis)
I liked that the story didn't focus too much on the romance. It was just part of the larger work/personal storyline. There was also a surprisingly dark part of the overall story. I think that also helped this book from being too fluffy or romance heavy. I already knew I was completely invested in the story and the characters but I realized to what extent when I had to walk through an almost empty parking lot at midnight and I was worried the bad guy from the book was going to come after me!
The sneak peek into the lives of the stars was entertaining. Wendy and Daniel's clients, Lorelei and Colton respectively, seemed like your typical twenty one year old stars and they were crazy without being too over the top. As a reader we got to experience some of the glitz and glamour of Vegas and that was fun.
Finally, a final note about the romance between Daniel and Wendy. I knew it was going to happen but it was not at all predictable. Echols threw in enough twists to keep me on my toes. Also, a word of caution for those who don't like sex in their books, this book is steamy! Whew! There aren't many of those scenes (3 or 4 at most) but they're explicit enough that some people might not like it. And your teenage daughter who has read Echols' other works should not be reading it! :)
I loved reading Star Crossed and I cannot wait to dive into book two, Playing Dirty. It will feature Wendy's friend and colleague, Sarah. I'm interested to see how that one works out!
Update: I wrote this well before I read Playing Dirty and you can read my full review of book two here.
The Gift - Cecelia Ahern (synopsis)
Like a lot of Ahern’s work, there is a magical element to this story. When businessman Lou meets homeless man Gabriel, or Gabe as his friends call him, we know that there’s something more going on – even if Lou doesn’t.
I also liked how Ahern told the story. The book opens with a teenage boy throwing a turkey through the window of a family home and then we move to the police station (since, obviously, tossing frozen fowl into houses is frowned upon). This is when we realize that there’s going to be more to this story than just a turkey, two police officers, and a business man. Sergeant Raphael O’Reilly is essentially narrating the story for us as well Turkey Boy. Every few chapters the story goes back to the holding cell, O’Reilly, and Turkey Boy and we get more insight into what really happened that day. This may sound like it could be frustrating but it all worked together really well.
I desperately wanted Lou to figure out how badly he was screwing up his life. We could see it, his family could see it, mysterious homeless man Gabe could see it…but he couldn’t. And, of course, if you can’t see your problem you aren’t going to fix it. I hoped for a different ending but deep down I knew I wouldn’t get it. And that was ok because then this story wouldn’t have had the impact that it did.The Gift isn’t your typical Christmas book. It’s not really full of holiday cheer but it does make you think about how you spend your time, especially around the holidays. Are you rushing around like Lou trying to get a million things done at once? Or are you pausing to enjoy the season with your family and friends. Cecelia Ahern’s novel makes you think twice about what you’re doing with your life and I really liked that.