Sunday, December 22, 2013

Bunch of Mini Reviews 6: You Guessed It, More Library Books

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 originally wanted to read this series because I had heard the male main character in book two was a baseball player. Why? Because my boyfriend is also a ball player and I find that there aren't nearly enough baseball playing characters in books these days. Then, 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)
When I came across Echols' Stargazer series one night while poking around NetGalley, I got really excited. The first reason was because I read some of her YA books when I was younger and loved them (particularly the Boy Next Door series). The other reason was because this series was all about characters who work in PR. I love reading about people in PR. I think it's because it's something I'd like to do but I don't think I am actually cut out to be a publicist. I don't have the right personality. So, after finding the series, I requested book two and went to my library the next day to pick up the first book. I read the majority of this book on a recent train ride into Toronto and I was hooked. I was so into it that I actually wished the ride was longer and was afraid I'd miss my stop on my way home. So. Good.
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)
The Gift is a book I’ve been meaning to read for awhile. It was released in 2008 and it’s always been on my radar because I love Ahern but I just never got around to picking it up. I was at the library a few weeks ago and they had their Christmas books all out on display (one of my favourite things) and there, sitting on the shelf, was The Gift. I couldn’t leave without it so I took it home with me. This is a novel that really makes you think. It makes you consider the true meaning of Christmas and of life. It’s heavy but it’s good.
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.

1 comment:

  1. I need to read the rest of the books in Katie McGarry's series! So many books, so little time! *sigh*


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