Review: The Wishing Thread by Lisa Van Allen

The Wishing Thread

The Wishing Thread by Lisa Van Allen
Read: September 17, 2013
Advance reading copy.

Many thanks to Net-Galley and Random House Publishing (Ballantine) for providing me with this advance reading copy!

Goodreads Book Blurb: The Van Ripper women have been the talk of Tarrytown, New York, for centuries. Some say they’re angels; some say they’re crooks. In their tumbledown “Stitchery,” not far from the stomping grounds of the legendary Headless Horseman, the Van Ripper sisters—Aubrey, Bitty, and Meggie—are said to knit people’s most ardent wishes into beautiful scarves and mittens, granting them health, success, or even a blossoming romance. But for the magic to work, sacrifices must be made—and no one knows that better than the Van Rippers.
When the Stitchery matriarch, Mariah, dies, she leaves the yarn shop to her three nieces. Aubrey, shy and reliable, has dedicated her life to weaving spells for the community, though her sisters have long stayed away. Bitty, pragmatic and persistent, has always been skeptical of magic and wants her children to have a normal, nonmagical life. Meggie, restless and free-spirited, follows her own set of rules. Now, after Mariah’s death forces a reunion, the sisters must reassess the state of their lives even as they decide the fate of the Stitchery. But their relationships with one another—and their beliefs in magic—are put to the test. Will the threads hold?

My Opinion: I really enjoyed this book, as evident by the fact that I read it in its 400 page entirety in one day. It reminded me a lot of Sarah Addison Allen, and I actually thought the two authors might be related.

This book is a delightful romp through Tarrytown, New York steeped in magical realism and knitting. We follow three sisters and are immersed in their relationships with each other and those around them. I really loved how multi-faceted the sisters were, and their relationships reminded me a bit of the sisters in Practical Magic. (The movie. I haven’t read the book yet)

One thing about the characters is that because we spent so much time learning about the different characters, I didn’t feel particularly drawn to any one of the sisters. Another thing plot-wise was that I didn’t find myself caring much about the town council plot line. I wanted to know more about The Stitchery and the sisters.

The prose was well written, but light. I think this really helped the story, since it is such a light and warm story. Pretentious or purple prose would have ruined it beyond repair.

Bottom Line: I feel bad because I read this book long enough ago that I don’t remember everything I loved about it. But I remember that I liked it a lot.

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Review: When Stars Die by Amber Skye Forbes

When Stars Die

When Stars Die by Amber Skye Forbes
Read: September 7 – September 9, 2013
Advance reading copy.

Many thanks to Amber Skye Forbes, whom I follow on Tumblr. She provided this review copy in exchange for an honest review. I don’t normally review Amazon-only books, but I did this time, as Amber is something of a friend.

Publication Date: October 22, 2013
Price: $3.99
Format: Amazon e-book

Goodreads Book Blurb:  “Yet, even when stars die, they leave a lasting impact through their light, their diamond brilliance as they scatter their material to form new stars. When people die, they leave the same impact with the footprints they leave on people’s hearts. Even the ones who feel insignificant go out, leaving behind dust that can nourish the world anew.”

Amelia Gareth’s brother is a witch and the only way to save her family from the taint in his blood is to become a professed nun at Cathedral Reims. However, in order to become professed, she must endure trials that all nuns must face.

Surviving these trials is not easy, especially for Amelia, who is being stalked by shadowy beings only she can see. They’re searching for people they can physically touch, because only those they can touch can see them. Amelia soon learns why she is being stalked when she accidentally harms her best friend with fire during the third trial. Fire is a witch’s signature. The shadows are after witches.

Amelia must decide what to do: should she continue on her path to profession knowing there is no redemption, or should she give up on her dream and turn away from Cathedral Reims in order to stop the shadows who plan to destroy everything she loves?

My Opinion: Ok, I really agonized over writing this review. Amber is, as I mentioned, something of a friend. We were following each others’ personal Tumblrs long before she was working on releasing When Stars Die. I read the book, and then I was confronted with a very serious concern. How do you tell a friend that you didn’t like their book?

I offered not to publish the review, but Amber, being an awesome person and very reasonable author, recognized that not all of her reviews would be positive and encouraged me to go ahead. And then I got really sick and in a bit of a blog slump, so I am only NOW writing the review. I am SO sorry it took so long, but here we go.

There wasn’t much that I liked about When Stars Die, unfortunately. I really wanted to like the book, but there were just too many things that rubbed me the wrong way, as a reader.

The few things I did like? The setting was every well flushed out. The world had a very interesting premise, if it was a little religiously heavy-handed for my tastes. Amber’s prose, I found, tended to be a little on the purple side. But there were a few phrases that just shimmered and made me think that with more polish and more writing, the prose could be taken from where it is, which for me was a bit of a hot mess, to something elevated.

And now, the things I didn’t like.

Amelia was not a likeable character for me, at all. Her motives change partway through the book. First she wants to stay at Cathedral Reims for her little brother, but then she wants to stay for herself all of a sudden. It would be an OK shift if it didn’t happen in the span of a page or two.

The other big issue for me was that the style and even some of the phrasing was very modern, yet the book is set in the 1800’s. In that time, they wouldn’t have known what happens to stars when they supernova, or that most of the stars in the night sky are actually dead. They wouldn’t be using matches, which weren’t invented until the mid 1800’s in reality, not to mention when they became used widely.

Adding the above two notes to the general unpolished state of the prose, and I had a hard time finishing the book.

Bottom Line: A really great book in theory, but lacking the polish and execution to take it to the necessary level.

NetGalley Review: Dead Letter Office by Kira Snyder

Dead Letter OfficeDead Letter Office by Kira Snyder
Read: August 18 – August 20, 2013
NetGalley Selection

Many thanks to Coliloquy for sending me a review copy of this book via NetGalley!

Published: January 11, 2012
ISBN: 9781937804022
Price: $4.99 USD
Format: E-book

Goodreads Book Blurb: When Celia’s father is killed in Afghanistan, she moves with her mother to New Orleans, the city where her father grew up. Struggling to adjust and haunted by troubling dreams, Celia finds comfort in new friends like Tilly, a practicing witch, and Donovan, the son of police detective. On Halloween, bizarre supernatural occurrences rock the city. Celia meets the mysterious Luc and finds a letter, over a hundred years old, addressed to her.

The paranormal repercussions continue when Celia learns that Luc is the restless spirit of a young man murdered in 1854, only able to assume solid form at night. And then, to her shock, Celia finds that the letter, which describes the suspected murder of a man in 1870, contains uncanny parallels to the present-day death of Abel Sims, a homeless veteran.

With help from Luc, Tilly, and Donovan, Celia races to solve the murder—and the mystery of the letter—using both magical and forensic clues.

This is an Active Fiction title
“Active fiction” is a new type of e-reading experience that allows the reader and the author to interact with each other and the text in new and different ways.

My Opinion: What really piqued my interest about this book was the “active fiction” label. What is this so-called “active fiction”? It sounded really interesting and cutting-edge. Yeah. “Active fiction”? Choose your own adventure. I have nothing against choose your own adventure books, I used to love them as a kid. But it is not a new concept, and I felt really cheated. Not to mention that the way I chose, there were only (I think) three choices to make. So the whole “active fiction” thing fell really flat for me.

The rest of the book was alright, but not stellar. Case in point: I never felt like I wanted to go back and see what I was “missing” with the choices I didn’t make while choosing my adventure. I didn’t read all the choices, as my copy was running out of time.

I am not a fan of love triangles, and Dead Letter Office has one. There were other stereotypes. The father killed in Afghanistan was kind of pointless, from a reader standpoint. The popular girl versus the weird witch was very cliché. While none of it was exceptionally badly written, it was still there, and that was bad enough.

I read this book a while ago, and nothing really stuck with me to today when I am writing the review.

Bottom Line: A mediocre middle-grade choose your own adventure book riddled with cliché.

Review: Every Day by David Levithan

Every DayEvery Day by David Levithan
Read: January 1 – January 2, 2013
Format: E-book (library book), 219 pages
ISBN: 978-0-307-97563-8

Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf (Random House), 2012

Personal read.

Book Blurb: A has no friends. No parents. No family. No possessions. No home, even. Because every day, A wakes up in the body of a different person. Every morning, a different bed. A different room. A different house. A different life. A is able to access each person’s memory, enough to be able to get through the day without parents, friends, and teachers realizing this is not their child, not their friend, not their student. Because it isn’t. It’s A. Inhabiting each person’s body. Seeing the world through their eyes. Thinking with their brain. Speaking with their voice.

It’s a lonely existence–until, one day, it isn’t. A meets a girl named Rhiannon. And, in an instant, A falls for her, after a perfect day together. But when night falls, it’s over. Because A can never be the same person twice. But yet, A can’t stop thinking about her. She becomes A’s reason for existing. So each day, in different bodies–of all shapes, sizes, backgrounds, walks of life–A tries to get back to her. And convince her of their love. But can their love transcend such an obstacle?

My Opinion: Every Day by David Levithan was nominated for the book club I am a part of, but it didn’t get enough votes to win. It looked interesting, so I decided to read it on my own.

It is a quick read, with a very light story. I feel like there isn’t actually much story to go with. It is two teenagers falling in love. Some would argue that that in itself is a story, but for me, it wasn’t quite enough. Thankfully, David Levithan does a decent job of writing so the book doesn’t get stagnant. I was quite pleased with that. I was disappointed that we didn’t learn more about A. But, at the same time it kind of worked because if there was too much about A, it might have gotten cheesy.

I think the biggest problem for me was A as a character. A is so sure of who they are, yet they have never lived a day truly as themselves. People live their whole lives as themselves, and don’t know who they are… so I found that aspect of A’s personality to be a little unbelievable. Especially since teenagers, by nature, are creatures of indecision and drama.

Every Day does have some really amazing messages, though. A doesn’t identify as male or female, as A can wake up as either. A has even been a male-gendered female. It really sheds light on a common occurrence among today’s youth, which will hopefully promote acceptance of people who are transgendered. The other awesome thing that the book shares with its readers is that love is love, regardless of who is feeling it. The book features gay and lesbian couples multiple times, and it is no big deal. I hope that one day we will have a world like the one in this book…

Every Day is also unafraid to look at some of the darker sides of being a teen. There is a small bit about teen depression, A inhabits the body of a girl who is mean just for the sake of it… For these things, I am grateful to David Levithan. It is not often that an author will explore all aspects of being a teen in today’s world.

Bottom Line: A quick read covering a range of human emotions, focusing mostly on love. Not without flaws, but definitely worth a read if you are a fan of young adult romance.

(Cover image and book blurb courtesy of Goodreads)