Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child book coverI've had this book a while and finally got around to picking it up. And I have to admit after reading it that I think it would work better as a produced play than a script (I was thinking that myself, but a friend of mine read the book and felt meh about it, but then saw the play and said it was awesome), but I still enjoyed the story.

Harry Potter's son Albus befriends Scorpius Malfoy on their first Hogwarts train ride. They're both socially awkward but their friendship is the real thing, and a few years later, Scorpius agrees to help Albus on a quest Albus believes will right the wrong Harry did in surviving Voldemort when he killed Cedric Diggory. The two manage to steal a time-turner and chaos ensues, basically. Because 14-year-olds don't always make the best, fully-informed choices (though to be fair, they felt a little younger to me than 14). While they're off wreaking havoc throughout the last 25 years, Harry, Hermione, and the others are trying to stop them and dealing with an additional threat.

Eventually, they all meet up in a way I didn't expect, and disaster is averted.

This is a must for HP fans, of course, even though it may not give you the fix you expect. It's never the same with sequels that change generations because you're just not as invested in the characters as you were before. But it's still a worthwhile tale.

Review: Pride by Ibi Zoboi

Pride book coverI read this sharp Pride and Prejudice remix quickly because it really sucked me in.

Zuri lives with her parents and her four sisters in their Bushwick (Brooklyn) apartment. The girls have to share one bedroom but Zuri is proud of her Haitian-Dominican family and her entire hood, as she calls it. When a very rich black family (the Darcys) moves into the renovated mansion across the street from her building, the whole neighborhood watches with fascination, especially when they spot the two teen boys, who are both rather fine. Every girl on the block is suddenly very interested in getting to know them. Everyone except Zuri, that is, because she resents the changes their coming represents. Her older sister Janae takes up with the older boy, Ainsley, while Zuri festers with dislike for the younger one, Darius. Darius doesn’t seem to like her much, either, and they clash a lot. After Darius tells Ainsley something at a party, Ainsley suddenly drops Janae, which makes Zuri hate them both even more. Zuri starts hanging out with a guy from her hood named Warren, thinking he’s the real deal next to phony Darius. But Darius has some info on Warren that Zuri needs to hear, even if it takes some time for her to get the news.

As with any remix, it’s fun to spot the plot points and compare them to the original. But Zuri herself is such a strong character that this book doesn’t need a classic to prop it up—it definitely stands on its own as a story. Zuri’s got a great voice, authentic (I’m assuming) and intelligent. She’s a strong personality and even though there were many times I thought she was being a bit harsh and judgmental herself, it totally fit her character. And Darius is a good variation on Darcy, being rather complex and imperfect.

Overall, this is a great book I highly recommend, whether you are an Austen fan or not.

Review: Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara

Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line book coverI rarely review books here that aren’t YA, but I enjoyed this one and think some of you might, as well. This is a rare suspense novel set in India (at least it’s rare to me—when I think of suspense, it’s almost always with white characters).

Jai is a nine-year-old Hindu boy in what I think is a slum in a fictional Indian city. He has two good friends, Pari, who’s a girl and smarter than him (though he’d be loathe to admit it), and Faiz, a Muslim boy. Jai is a little obsessed with crime shows and thinks he’d make a great detective. So when a classmate of his goes missing, he takes it upon himself to find out what happened, enlisting Pari and Faiz as his assistants. He feels this is necessary, since the police came, bribed the missing boy’s mom for her one valuable item, a gold chain given to her by her employer, and left promising to do exactly nothing. Bringing the police in is a source of tension for the entire slum, because they are always threatening to raze it, which would obviously make a huge number of people homeless. The three kids start investigating, but before they make much progress, another boy goes missing. Then a girl. As things escalate, so does their investigation, at least until it seems positively impossible.

One of the things I loved the most about the book was the authentic feel of a culture far removed from my every day life. Anappara has lots of details about living in the slum, because it’s all told through the perspective of someone who knows nothing but that (even if he thinks otherwise). There’s even a glossary in the back for all the Indian terms used for things like foods and slang, even though you can generally tell from the context what things are (I mean, not necessarily exactly, but you get the gist). But this really added to the flavor of the book. In general, Jai's voice is very colloquial, with statements like, “I like headstands a lot more than the huff-puff exercises…” so it makes complete sense that he’d be throwing in Indian terms.

Jai is a very annoying little brother to his twelve-year-old sister, even though he thinks she’s the annoying one. It’s interesting to see his perspective in this and everything else, because the reader can see clearly how wrong he is about things, which is often funny. For example, he’s trying to be the boss of his friends, and be the official detective:

“How come you get to be the detective?” Pari asks.

“That’s very true,” Faiz says. “Why can’t you be my assistant?”

“Arrey, what do you know about being a detective? You don’t even watch Police Patrol.”

“I know about Sherlock and Watson,” Pari says. “You two haven’t even heard of them.”

“What-son?” Faiz asks. “Is that also a Bengali name?”

I really enjoyed this book and recommend it for anyone looking for a different kind of suspense novel that also touches on social issues in India.

Review: Wonder Woman: Tempest Tossed by Laurie Halse Anderson and Leila del Duca

Wonder Woman: Tempest Tossed book coverI was a little surprised to see a graphic novel by Laurie Halse Anderson, but of course I had to check it out. I'm not a superhero fan in general, but I sometimes make an exception for Wonder Woman. I'm glad I did this time. It was illustrated by an artist I wasn't familiar with, Leila del Duca, but she impressed me with her sharp style.

In this one, Diana is sixteen when the barrier protecting the island of Themyscira is compromised and she goes beyond it to help victims of a shipwreck. But she gets stuck outside and can't get back in. So she ends up in a refugee camp, where her language skills (apparently Amazons can speak every language) are super useful. Fortunately, she makes it out of the camp to New York, where she lands with a Polish immigrant and her teenage granddaughter, who Diana befriends.   

The story overall is one about social justice, which isn't a surprise from Anderson. I won't give away what the issues that it deals with are, but it's a good story. My favorite light moment is when Diana is introduced to traditional polka dancing and loves it, and her friend is mortified. Diana is definitely a fish out of water in America, which makes for both some funny scenes, but also an interesting and incisive perspective on society.

This book is a must-read for all you fans of Wonder Woman or Anderson. Also anyone who cares about social justice will likely enjoy it.

Bookshelves

It feels like there really is not much of interest going on right now. The thing I’m most excited about is the bookshelves in my bonus room that are finally ready for use. Here’s a picture of them before the top was finished (the railing is because there are stairs leading into the room):

Bookshelves with closet

And here is a picture of the top, finished except for a final sanding and painting:

Bookshelves with top compartment

I’ve started loading the shelves, but it’s a real struggle to decide what goes where, between the shelves downstairs, the shelves in the office, and the new shelves. It’s a nice problem to have, though.

In other news, I have finished my thesis except for formatting. I had a few minor edits from my advisor, and I’ve done them, but the thesis requires specific formatting and I’m working on that. I’ll get it to her in a few days, and then it will be officially done, except for printing and submission to the college library. I’m not exactly sure how that’s to be done remotely, but I’ll find out.

I ran Finding Frances through a promotion that went out to 75,000 people, and at least one person bought it. Maybe just one, but still. I’m still struggling to get enough reviews to try for a BookBub deal (supposedly having 20 gives you a much better chance, and I currently have 16).

Review: Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard

Pretty Little Liars book coverI know this book came out a while ago (2006) and is a TV show now, but I picked it up based on a recommendation for my suspense/thriller class for my MFA. I’d obviously heard of it, but never read it.

The book opens with the disappearance of Ali, who’s friends with Emily, Hanna, Spencer, and Aria, during the summer between their seventh and eighth grade years. Three years later, the four remaining girls have grown far apart, each having their own circle of friends. But they also each hold some secret that Ali also knew, and they still worry that the secret will get out somehow. But they’re all especially nervous when they start getting creepy text messages and emails from someone who appears to know all their secrets—current and past—the same way that Ali did. It doesn’t help that the person sending the messages is signing them —A.

There’s of course more going on than these mysterious messages. Emily has lost interest in swimming (the thing everyone in her family does) and her boyfriend, and has found a surprising interest in a girl who’s just moved to town, Maya. Hanna wants to be perfect but keeps getting herself in trouble through not-the-best choices. Spencer has a huge crush on her sister’s boyfriend and Aria has a crush on her new high school English teacher—and neither appears to be unrequited.

Although the book was interesting, I had a little trouble connecting to these ostensibly perfect, beautiful girls. But this is a novel you read for the secrets, really. Still, I have to admit that the book felt incomplete to me. There isn’t really a resolution to the main question, and you’re obviously supposed to read the following books to get that answer. This annoyed me.

But if you like long series, suspense, and tales of high school girls—and haven’t read this already—you might enjoy finding a new series (17 books!) to read.

Review: When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

When Dimple Met Rishi book coverThis is a light romance with two second-generation Indian-Americans dealing with being part of two cultures.

Dimple Shah considers herself a feminist and basically hates everything girly. This is a problem because her mom wants her be girly, so they’re often at odds. Dimple hates all the stupid rules that society (both American and Indian societies, really) expects women to follow. She’s a little judgmental about other people who do follow the rules. She convinces her parents to let her attend Insomnia Con, a six-week program where recent high school graduates (I think) develop an app and compete for money and the chance to get it supported by a well-known female tech giant who Dimple idolizes. What Dimple doesn’t know is that her mom has an ulterior motive in letting her go.

Rishi Patel is really kind of a dork. Maybe a romantic would be a nicer word, but I think dork fits. In the beginning, he completely buys into his parents wishes for and expectations of him, going along with everything—and with enthusiasm. He loves the idea of getting to meet Dimple at Insomnia Con and believes they are probably soul mates since their parents set them up. Of course, he also thinks that she knows the score, too, which she does not.

The first time Rishi sees Dimple, he makes a joke about her being his future wife. She has no idea who he is and throws her iced coffee in his face. Given the situation, it was a tiny overreaction, but not over-the-top. Then it turns out they’re going to be partners for the entire six weeks, so they’re going to have to get used to each other. While they do that, they get to know each other and become friends. Dimple learns that even though Rishi is on his way to MIT in the fall to study computer science, his real passion (and talent) is comics. Rishi has to work on convincing her that just because their parents set them up doesn’t mean they shouldn’t date. They don’t have to get married right away, after all.

There are admittedly some things about the book that are unrealistic and which kind of bugged me. One is that programs like Insomnia Con would fill up right after opening for enrollment, and there’s no way Dimple and Rishi would get in so late. And the thing is called Insomnia Con for a reason—because people have to spend all their time—including that which they should be spending sleeping—in order to be competitive. Dimple would know this and would not spend so much time lallygagging around and socializing. I know this wouldn’t be interesting to readers (well, maybe to me), but I wanted to at least hear about the sixteen+ hours she was putting into it every day.

But technicalities aside, this is a cute story that a lot of people should appreciate. It’s an easy read—chapters and scenes are very short and switch back and forth between Dimple’s and Rishi’s points of view. It paints a realistic picture of second-generation Indian-American teenagers and how they have to deal with living in multiple worlds, which I always find interesting to read about, and many others should, too.

Review: We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

We Are Okay book coverThis is another very quiet book from LaCour that punches you right in the heart, much like Hold Still. I’ve read some of her other books and enjoyed them (I’ve given each of them 5 stars on Goodreads, which I rarely do), so I expected to like this one. I did— it got another 5-star rating.

We Are Okay is about Marin, who has just finished her first semester of college in New York. She’s from California and her best friend, Mabel, is coming to visit her. This best friendship has been deeply complicated by the fact that Marin has been completely ignoring all Mabel’s texts since right before her school started. This is a dual timeline story, being told in the present (December) and in the timeline starting in the previous May, so the past unfolds slowly. We know pretty early the basics of what happened: Marin’s guardian and only family, Gramps, died in August and she immediately left California. But it turns out to be more complicated than that.

Mabel is pissed at Marin, but she also understands that Marin went through something really traumatic. The majority of the book’s present timeline is Marin trying to come out of her shell and really reach out to Mabel, but it’s not easy. The past timeline tells the story of their romance and how much Mabel means to Marin, as well as Marin’s life with Gramps. It wasn’t a joyful life, as he never seemed to get over the accidental death of Marin’s mom (when she was three), or his own wife’s death. But life with Mabel was joyful, which is why it hurt her so much when Marin completely pulled away. Now, Mabel wants Marin to go back to California with her. Marin has no family left—and no place to stay—and Mabel’s parents want to fill that void. Yet Marin can’t imagine going.

As I mentioned above, this is a quiet book. It’s not heavy on plot—there are no car chases, for sure—but the character development is amazing. Both Marin and Mabel get uncovered a little bit at a time and so artfully, just enough at the right moments. The emotion of the book is delicately handled and you really feel Marin’s pain and sense of being lost. The other characters in the book are also very well-drawn—Gramps, Mabel’s parents. Even the groundskeeper, taxi driver, waitress, and pottery store owner seem to really come alive on the few pages they occupy.

Quiet doesn’t mean slow, but it does mean that it might take a little to really suck you in. I started reading it last weekend and it took me several days to get about 1/3 into the book, but then last night I started reading and didn’t finish until I’d hit the last page. If you liked Hold Still, you will definitely like this one. And if you haven’t read that but enjoy seeing overpowering and disorienting grief overcome, you will also like this one.

Review: Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina

Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass book coverThe title of this book pretty much tells you what it’s about: bullying. But it’s about more than that, too, and it didn’t feel like an issue book to me.

Tenth grader Piddy (short for Piedad) Sanchez keeps a low-profile wherever she is. She’s just started out at a new high school in Queens, having moved with her mom from their old apartment in another part of the same borough. She’s befriended (sort of but not really) by an irritating girl named Darlene, who tells her that Yaqui is after her. Piddy doesn’t know why, but she eventually figures out it’s because Yaqui’s boyfriend leered and catcalled Piddy. Somehow this is her fault (…) and she deserves to be beaten up, according to Yaqui and her gang.

Piddy really just wants to be left alone to do well enough in her classes, work her Saturday job at the hair salon where her mom’s best friend, Lila, works, and occasionally visit her best friend, Mitzi, who has moved out of Queens. She also wants to learn about her absentee father and has an odd friendship with one of the boys from her old building. But things with Mitzi get awkward as Mitzi has made new friends at her new school and Piddy feels left behind. She also learns some things about her father that complicate her relationship with her mom. Then, Yaqui won’t let this thing go, and it haunts Piddy. All of this makes her start acting out a little, against everyone, including her mom and her friends. When Yaqui’s threat finally comes to a head, Piddy reacts understandably, basically going off track because she feels like she has no allies. She struggles with figuring out who she is as a result of this—does she want to try to be tough to fight back, or just be herself—whoever that is, exactly?

In the end, the school finds out about the bullying and they come to a very realistic solution that isn’t really fair to Piddy, but works. She also sorts things out with Mitzi and the subplot with Joey also resolves realistically.

Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass is a sympathetic portrait of a girl with a fairly complicated life. She successfully navigates this rough chapter of her life and the book has a very positive ending.

Review: SHOUT by Laurie Halse Anderson

SHOUT book coverIf you know anything about this book, you know it’s important. Anderson has already written one important novel about sexual assault—Speak—but this is her far more personal memoir, written both to explain how she came to write Speak and simply tell her story. In SHOUT, she writes in verse, which made me wonder how I could possibly read it. Although I know this is weird, any time I see poetry, I get all anxious and can’t pay any attention to what I’m reading. So I had concerns. But then I found out there was an audiobook version—read by Anderson herself—so I checked that out and started listening. It didn’t sound like poetry; instead, it sounded just like someone telling a story, which made it completely accessible to me.

The first part of the book is really about her growing up. She didn’t have an easy childhood, but it wasn’t all about the rape she experienced just before starting ninth grade. She also had struggles with her parents, who had struggles themselves. She spent her senior year on an exchange program in Denmark, so much of the section is about that. She finishes off with her years just after finishing college. The second part is where the story really comes alive. Here, Anderson talks more about misogyny and sexual assault and the impact they have on everyone. She also addresses ideas for what we can do about it. She talks about the many speeches she’s given at schools around the country and how she isn’t always received with appreciation by faculty and administrators. Because, after all, “those of kinds of things don’t happen here.” Nevermind that “here” is by definition part of everywhere, which is exactly where it happens.

I highly recommend this book for everyone. It could be life-changing.

Review: The Hanging Girl by Eileen Cook

The Hanging Girl book coverI’ve been reading a lot more YA suspense lately, partially because there’s more of it coming out, and partially because I’m interested in trying my hand at it at some point.

Eighteen-year-old Skye Thorn is a fake psychic, something we learn immediately. She is good at reading people, which helps her pull off the trick. She does tarot readings for a little extra cash, even though what she really needs is some Serious Cash. So she gets involved in a kidnapping plot to get some of the money she desperately needs. Unsurprisingly, things don’t go exactly to plan and leave Skye a nervous wreck and having to improvise a bit. Although the main twist is a little predictable, how it came to be is not (at least, I didn’t think so).

Skye a slightly unreliable narrator. I mean, we know she lies and she isn’t totally open with readers in the beginning. This makes it an interesting book where the suspense keeps on going. There are several twists in the story, one relatively close to the beginning and a couple near the end. But what really makes it work is the characters. Skye is engaging and pretty unusual for a YA main character, I think. Her best friend, Drew, is very sympathetic and supporting, though she’s a little oblivious about what Skye’s life is like. The other major secondary character I’m not going to name because it would give too much away, but the character is also complex and intriguing. We get a few chapters from this character’s point of view, as well, which adds to the story. There are several other good characters that are very real. Her mom in particular is interesting, and also a source of embarrassment for Skye. And the tarot and psychic aspects of the book are fun even if you don’t buy into it at all.

If you’re looking for a YA thriller with an unusual and unreliable narrator, give this one a try. Note that the paperback version has a different title: One Lie Too Many. (I think this might be a British version, though this is what comes up in the Amazon search.)

Reading Challenges (2020)

Pride book coverNormally I’d post something about my writing, but there isn’t much to report so I thought I’d announce to the world my commitment to a couple of additional reading challenges for 2020 (I always do the Goodreads one—last year and this I committed to 110). One I started a while back (King County Library System’s 10 to Try), but the other (Book Riot's Read Harder Challenge) I just started.

For the 10 to Try, here are the categories and the books I’ve either already read or plan to read for it:

  1. Retelling of a fairytale or myth - Geekerella by Ashley Poston
  2. Teaches you a new skill - TED Talks by Chris Anderson
  3. About a journey - The Obelisk Gate by N. K. Jemisin
  4. With a friend - not sure yet
  5. About a person you’d like to meet - Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom by Catherine Clinton (I’m aware she’s dead)
  6. About nature - Chaos: Making a New Science by James Gleick
  7. About music or a musician - Bedsit Disco Queen: How I Grew Up and Tried to Be a Pop Star by Tracy Thorn
  8. About current events - The Poisoned City: Flint's Water and the American Urban Tragedy by Anna Clark
  9. Recommended by KCLS staff - On Writing by Stephen King
  10. By an author whose gender is different from yours - Fables: The Dark Ages (Vol. 12) by Bill Willingham

SHOUT book coverFor the Read Harder Challenge (which is, in fact, much harder), here are my planned (and one already read) books:

  1. A YA nonfiction book - The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime That Changed Their Lives by Dashka Slater
  2. A retelling of a classic of the canon, fairytale, or myth by an author of color - Pride by Ibi Zoboi
  3. A mystery where the victim(s) is not a woman - Fake ID by Lamar Giles
  4. A graphic memoir - Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me by Ellen Forney
  5. A book about a natural disaster - Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala
  6. A play by an author of color and/or queer author - How I Learned to Drive by Paula Vogel
  7. A historical fiction novel not set in WWII - The Horse Goddess by Morgan Llywelyn
  8. An audiobook of poetry - SHOUT by Laurie Halse Anderson
  9. The LAST book in a series - The Stone Sky by N. K. Jemisin
  10. A book that takes place in a rural setting - Real Queer America: LGBT Stories from Red States by Samantha Allen
  11. A debut novel by a queer author - Texts from Jane Eyre by Daniel Mallory Ortberg
  12. A memoir by someone from a religious tradition (or lack of religious tradition) that is not your own - Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots by Deborah Feldman
  13. A food book about a cuisine you’ve never tried before - Buttermilk Graffiti: A Chef’s Journey to Discover America’s New Melting-Pot Cuisine by Edward LeeThe 57 Bus book cover
  14. A romance starring a single parent - Wrong to Need You by Alisha Rai
  15. A book about climate change - Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver
  16. A doorstopper (over 500 pages) published after 1950, written by a woman - Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
  17. A sci-fi/fantasy novella (under 120 pages) - “Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang
  18. A picture book with a human main character from a marginalized community - The Big Bed by Bunmi Laditan and Tom Knight
  19. A book by or about a refugee - How Dare the Sun Rise: Memoirs of a War Child by Sandra Uwiringiyimana and Abigail Pesta
  20. A middle grade book that doesn’t take place in the U.S. or the UK - The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani
  21. A book with a main character or protagonist with a disability (fiction or non) - Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert
  22. A horror book published by an indie press - We Sold Our Souls by Grady Hendrix
  23. An edition of a literary magazine (digital or physical) - not sure yet (I have several to choose from)
  24. A book in any genre by a Native, First Nations, or Indigenous author - #NotYourPrincess: Voices of Native American Women edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale

Whew. I’ll let you know at the end of the year how I do.

Review: When We Collided by Emery Lord

When We Collided book coverWhen We Collided was at the top of my stack of mental health-related books, so I picked it up this week. Fortunately, it isn’t an issue book—it’s a good story with two main characters in very different situations who “collide” and their lives are forever changed, as the title implies.

Vivi is aptly-named—she’s a vivacious and boisterous girl with a fairly unconventional artist mom who allows her a lot of freedom, which she takes full advantage of. The two of them have temporarily moved to a small coastal California town. We know that there’s something going on with Vivi because every day she throws a pill into the ocean rather than take it, and it’s pretty clear that it’s related to her mental health. And as the book moves along, it becomes clearer what her mental illness might be. When the book opens, she is already in love with the town, has a job at a pottery shop, has made friends with some of the older locals, and is ready to meet someone her own age.

Enter Jonah, a seventeen-year-old who’s been forced to become prematurely adult due to the death of his father, the breakdown of his mom, and the existence of three younger siblings (plus two older). He meets Vivi when he takes his youngest sister, Leah, to the pottery shop, and Vivi befriends Leah and basically inserts herself into their lives. Jonah’s father ran an Italian restaurant with another guy, and Jonah has inherited his father’s interest in and talent for cooking. So Vivi’s first visit to their house is an opportunity for him to show off his cooking skills (though he cooks every meal every day, so this isn’t out of the ordinary). He and his older siblings take turns taking care of their family, while Jonah also covers shifts at the restaurant.

Vivi’s and Jonah’s connection is immediate and believable. They each need something from somebody because they’re both sort of falling apart. Vivi’s mental illness is ramping up while Jonah is feeling the weight of taking care of his siblings more and more every day. Both of them are very compelling characters with great character arcs. The book paints a very realistic picture of the experience of bipolar disorder, both from Vivi’s perspective and from Jonah’s, which I thought was valuable.

I recommend this for anyone who likes to see realistic teen characters go through a lot, but come out even stronger.

Review: Geekerella (Once Upon a Con #1) by Ashley Poston

GeekerellaThe idea of this book is really fun, if you’re into any kind of geeky fandom. And it’s all wrapped up as a retelling of Cinderella, which is cool.

Elle, short for Danielle, lives with her stepmom and two stepsisters, all of whom are mean to her, as you’d expect. She works at a vegan food truck called The Magic Pumpkin. And she’s a huge fan of a show called Starfield (something she shared with her dad before he died), which was first filmed some time in the past and is going to be remade now. Elle is very serious about the show and even runs a blog about it. She’s working on going to the next con in Atlanta, the one her father started. She wants to enter the cosplay contest in her dad’s old Carmindor costume. Elle’s horrified when pretty-boy Darien is cast in the reboot’s lead role, Prince Carmindor. No way can he do the role justice, because he can’t possibly know enough about the show. She rants about it—and Darien—on her blog.

Unbeknownst to Elle, Darien is a fan of the show, even though he has to pretend like he isn’t because it doesn’t fit his image. His father—and manager—is constantly breathing down his neck to keep the perfect image.

The two of them start texting, each having no idea who the other is, when Darien finds Elle’s dad’s old number—which Elle picks up because she inherited her dad’s phone—and tries to get out of doing a signing at the con. They find they have a lot in common regarding Starfield, and ultimately get as close as two people can over texts.

These are all good things, and enjoyable enough, but I did have a little trouble with the book. I felt like too many things relied on coincidences, unlikely behavior, or on situations that were easily fixable. Even the black moment, when it looks like their possible relationship is over, comes about because of something kind of unlikely—but more importantly, it was easily fixable with one more text, which for some reason was never sent.

So although I did enjoy reading the book, I didn’t find the story entirely credible. Still, if you are into any sort of fandom, this may well resonate with you, as it has for a lot of people (it has 4 stars on Goodreads with almost 40,000 reviews and 4.5 stars on Amazon with a few hundred reviews).

Review: The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas

The Cheerleaders book coverI’ve been reading more suspense and thrillers lately, partially because I’m interested in turning one of my books into a suspense so I need to study up, and partially (of course) because I enjoy reading them. This was my first Kara Thomas book, but she apparently has some others, so I will be checking those out.

The book’s main character is Monica, whose sister was the last of her school’s five cheerleaders to die five years earlier. The first two were killed in a strange car accident that seemed to have no cause. The second two were murdered, with the murderer being killed by police (Monica’s stepfather) the next day. The final one was Monica’s sister, Jen, who killed herself—presumably out of despair over the other deaths.

Early on in the book, Monica stumbles across her sister’s old phone, stashed in the bottom drawer of her stepfather’s desk. There are also yearly anonymous letters saying

Connect the dots. Find the truth.

Monica doesn’t know what to think, but she has the guts to contact the number of the last call on Jen’s phone, which took place the morning she killed herself. And this kicks off Monica’s search for the truth. She figures out who the phone number belongs to and learns some critical information from him. She makes a new friend in the process of investigating and the two of them undertake some risky tasks.

The book also offers Jen’s point of view in some chapters (Monica has many more). This provides the reader with a little extra information, but it isn’t until the very end that we see how it all ties together (or doesn’t).

This is an engaging book with a few twists that surprised me. I won’t say it’s perfect—there were a couple of connections Monica made that I thought were a stretch, but not enough to keep me from wanting to know what happened. So if you enjoy YA thrillers, you should check this one out.