A Boy Called Christmas(Christmas #1) by Matt Haig

Book Description:

Published: November 16, 2015

Format: Audio

You are about to read the true story of Father Christmas.
It is a story that proves that nothing is impossible.
If you are one of those people who believe that some things are impossible, you should put this book down right away. It is most certainly not for you.
Because this book is FULL of impossible things.

Are you still reading?

Good.

Then let us begin . . .

A Boy Called Christmas is a tale of adventure, snow, kidnapping, elves, more snow, and an eleven-year-old boy called Nikolas, who isn’t afraid to believe in magic.

Review –

Eleven-year-old Nikolas—nicknamed “Christmas”, because he was born on Christmas Day,—has received only one toy in his life: a doll carved out of a turnip. But he’s happy with his turnip doll, because it came from his parents, who love him.

But his mother has died, and his father, Joel is an impoverished woodcutter. Desperate for money, Joel joins a group of men on a quest to prove the existence of elves, leaving Nikolas with his ill-tempered aunt, Carlotta. Nikolas runs away to find his father, but trudging months through the woods, he faces starvation, freezing, and hopelessness. Then he comes across a reindeer with an arrow stuck in his leg. Nikolas helps him and names him Blitzen, and they continue their journey to the elf village together. Unfortunately, once located, the elves do not offer a warm welcome but instead lock Nikolas in the tower. It’s there that Nikolas discovers, with the help of a drimwick, or hope spell, that he’s become more than just the simple boy he used to be. 

In many ways it’s a coming of age story for Nikolas who has had a hard life and learns who he truly is and what the value of family and love really mean. It’s a story of unlikely friendships between a poor boy, a mouse, a reindeer named Blitzen and a village of downtrodden elves who are struggling to find their Christmas Spirit. But perhaps most importantly it’s a story about the unexpected and impossibility of life and the true meaning of Christmas and the Christmas Spirit. It’s heart warming and a fantastic read.

One feature I particularly loved about this book was the cameos made by well known Christmas figures (i.e. the reindeer etc) and the way we get little glimpses at how today’s much loved traditions came to be what they are. For example, How Father Christmas’ name came to be, where the idea for presents delivered by Santa came from and where the suit itself came from. This feature of the book actually made me take a step back and reevaluate everything I took for granted about Christmas and question it’s origins and it’s made this Christmas in turn all that much more special.

This book came into my possession over two years ago and I don’t know why I let it sit on the shelf for so long. I had the audio and narrator did a fantastic job, but I hear that the book has excellent illustrations and that it would make a great read-aloud.

 

 

 

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

Book Description:

Published: November 8, 2016

Format: Audio/OverDrive

Long before she was the terror of Wonderland—the infamous Queen of Hearts—she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love.

Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next queen.

Then Cath meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the king and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into an intense, secret courtship. Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

In her first stand-alone teen novel, the New York Times-bestselling author dazzles us with a prequel to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Review –

Heartless is a prequel to Lewis Carroll’s 1863 classic Alice in Wonderland, being the history of one of the most recognizable characters in fiction; The Queen of Hearts. Set in the kingdom of Hearts, a world of talking animals, animate furniture and occasional bouts of unpredictable magic, the story follows Lady Catherine Pinkerton, the seventeen year old daughter of the Marquess of Rockturtle Cove.

Cath begins the book as sweet, naïve and rather overly sheltered, not to mention very much under her parent’s’ thumb (one reason for my lady’s initial exasperation), however seeing her change, grow and evolve through circumstances is truly a pleasure. Meyer seems to have a gift for character depiction since this is a book where even the minor players turn out to be more than they appear, and as for Catherine rarely have I seen an author write character development in such a pure sense, i.e. taking a character from one place at the start of the book, and showing how they journey to a very different place at the end of it.

I liked how the King of Hearts, despite being cast almost immediately in the role of an unwanted potential husband is neither sadistic nor lecherous. He is simply good natured, foolish, ineffective and not overly endowed in the brain department. While this makes him of course completely out of the question as a match for Catherine, it also makes her position a more unique one than a lot of characters facing forced marriages in modern fiction, since it’s one thing to wish to avoid a vile suitor at all costs, quite another to have to reject an innocent but dim-witted one.

The  character I did feel slightly short-changed by was Jest, the court joker and very obvious love interest. Dashing, clever, accomplished at everything from magic tricks to music and of course hopelessly smitten with Catherine (he even has golden eyes). While Meyer does undoubtedly reveal enough hidden truths about Jest to make him play an interesting part in the plot, I did feel that he was a bit too idealised. 

The final conclusion is a very apt end to the story, employing prophecy, destiny and character revelations. If you know the story of the Queen of Hearts then you know that this story will not end well, BUT you keeping hoping …

Despite its at times slow pace and its rather too obvious Joker I did very much enjoy Heartless. Take a large serving of Lewis Carroll, add a table-spoon of Jane Austin, season with a bit of Gaiman like twisted fairy tales and a likable, if rather sheltered protagonist and you have something sweet, fluffy and delicious on the outside, but with a dark, and troubled centre within.

Loved it!

 

The Thousandth Floor (the Thousandth Floor #1) by Katharine McGee

Book Description:

Published: August 30, 2016

Format: Audio/OverDrive

NEW YORK CITY AS YOU’VE NEVER SEEN IT BEFORE.

A thousand-story tower stretching into the sky. A glittering vision of the future where anything is possible—if you want it enough.

WELCOME TO MANHATTAN, 2118.

A hundred years in the future, New York is a city of innovation and dreams. Everyone there wants something…and everyone has something to lose.

LEDA COLE’s flawless exterior belies a secret addiction—to a drug she never should have tried and a boy she never should have touched.

ERIS DODD-RADSON’s beautiful, carefree life falls to pieces when a heartbreaking betrayal tears her family apart.

RYLIN MYERS’s job on one of the highest floors sweeps her into a world—and a romance—she never imagined…but will this new life cost Rylin her old one?

WATT BAKRADI is a tech genius with a secret: he knows everything about everyone. But when he’s hired to spy for an upper-floor girl, he finds himself caught up in a complicated web of lies.

And living above everyone else on the thousandth floor is AVERY FULLER, the girl genetically designed to be perfect. The girl who seems to have it all—yet is tormented by the one thing she can never have.

Amid breathtaking advancement and high-tech luxury, five teenagers struggle to find their place at the top of the world. But when you’re this high up, there’s nowhere to go but down….

Review –

This is a book that I found to be a fast read/listen. It’s not a deep thinking piece of literature, more like fast food instead of a steak dinner.The five main characters are teenagers, seventeen and eighteen years old. Three are rich and live on higher floors (the higher the floor the wealthier the family) and two on lower floors. I can’t remember what floor Watt lived on but Rylin lived on thirty-two and had to scrimp  for grocers and being behind on the rent.

Each in their own way has a good life and we see that having money doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re happy. Avery is secretly in love with her step-brother, Rylin loves Cord (who lives on a floor in the nine hundreds) but has stolen drugs from him to help pay for rent and get her sleazy boyfriend out of jail, Watt is a techno genius with a forbidden computer in his head and wants Avery,Eris finds out her father is not her father and she and her mother have to move down to the one hundred and third floor and live a completely different life and becomes friends  with a girl across the hall, and Leda is a drug addict who wants Atlas, Avery’s step-brother and knows everyone’s secrets. Some one dies by falling from the top floor, but who and why I will not tell  you. It’s too much fun reading or listening to find out all the details.

Some reviewers have likened the book to the Gossip Girl series, I wouldn’t know because I never watched it and I have read that the book has been picked up by Hollywood to become a movie and if done right, it should be fantastic.

Five stars and I love the cover.

Dare Me by Megan Abbott

Book Description:

Published:July 31,2012

Addy Hanlon has always been Beth Cassidy’s best friend and trusted lieutenant. Beth calls the shots and Addy carries them out, a long-established order of things that has brought them to the pinnacle of their high-school careers. Now they’re seniors who rule the intensely competitive cheer squad, feared and followed by the other girls — until the young new coach arrives.

Cool and commanding, an emissary from the adult world just beyond their reach, Coach Colette French draws Addy and the other cheerleaders into her life. Only Beth, unsettled by the new regime, remains outside Coach’s golden circle, waging a subtle but vicious campaign to regain her position as “top girl” — both with the team and with Addy herself.

Then a suicide focuses a police investigation on Coach and her squad. After the first wave of shock and grief, Addy tries to uncover the truth behind the death — and learns that the boundary between loyalty and love can be dangerous terrain.

The raw passions of girlhood are brought to life in this taut, unflinching exploration of friendship, ambition, and power. Award-winning novelist Megan Abbott, writing with what Tom Perrotta has hailed as “total authority and an almost desperate intensity,” provides a harrowing glimpse into the dark heart of the all-American girl.

Review –

Dare Me is the sixth  book by an American author Megan Abbott, and is centered on American cheerleading,( not just the pom-pom shaking kind) and an ambiguous death that takes place in the first few pages. The book explores themes of friendship, obsession and power. This is expressed through not only the events of the novel, but also the relationship between the protagonist, Addy Hanlon, and her best friend, Beth Cassidy.

While they might also have tans and wear glitter, those items are used as war paint: “You may have the bodies of young girls,” says a character at one point near the novel’s end, “but you have the hearts of warriors.” The girls in this book are not at all “sugar and spice and everything nice”, not by a long shot.

Besides the world of modern cheerleading there is a mystery subplot and again I am confused as to what genre to place this book. It reads like YA, but it mentions, wild keg parties, binge drinking at a house with an authority figure present, bullying, and make all of them seem like an everyday occurrence.

While I enjoyed reading this book I would not recommend it to any one under seventeen.

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The Fever by Megan Abbott

Book Description:

Published: June 17, 2014

The panic unleashed by a mysterious contagion threatens the bonds of family and community in a seemingly idyllic suburban community.

The Nash family is close-knit. Tom is a popular teacher, father of two teens: Eli, a hockey star and girl magnet, and his sister Deenie, a diligent student. Their seeming stability, however, is thrown into chaos when Deenie’s best friend is struck by a terrifying, unexplained seizure in class. Rumors of a hazardous outbreak spread through the family, school and community.

As hysteria and contagion swell, a series of tightly held secrets emerges, threatening to unravel friendships, families and the town’s fragile idea of security.

A chilling story about guilt, family secrets and the lethal power of desire, The Fever affirms Megan Abbot’s reputation as “one of the most exciting and original voices of her generation” (Laura Lippman).

Review –

I’m assuming this is a YA book (I need to do more checking) but the language and some discussions between characters seem inappropriate for young teen readers. That being said, I, not a young teen, loved this book and it was the first time I had read or as in this case listened to anything by Megan Abbott.

It looks like the author is a writer of contemporary thrillers but I don’t know if that is how I would classify this book. It’s exciting, puzzling, fast paced and deals with the complicated friendships of adolescent girls.

I couldn’t stop listening once I started and was totally hooked and bought into the premise that a horrific epidemic was causing the girls to fall sick and become debilitated. to find out the true cause you’ll have to read it yourself.

I loved it and will definitely be looking for more of her books.

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Fear You (Broken Love #2) by B.B. Reid

Book Description:

Published: May 11, 2015

What happens when she’s had enough?

Lake Monroe has given in to her childhood tormentor too many times. She knows it, he knows it, and even their enemies know it. When he returned after being found guilty of a crime he didn’t commit—a crime he thought she set him up for, he returned darker than ever, demanding her body and her submission. To survive him, she knew she had to give in to fear once more or suffer the deadly consequences…

But Lake experienced what it was like to submit to the dark and demanding boy who invaded her dreams. Now she’ll experience what it’s like to fight him.

What happens when he wants more?

Keiran Masters has a past that is both shocking and dark. Once enslaved, he now has demons he can’t escape—demons that have followed him for ten years, demons he blames his beautiful obsession for. He promised to make her pay. He promised to make her break…

But after Keiran had conquered her body and tasted her submission, he found a new addiction instead—one he has no intention of giving up.

As secrets unfold,
Identities are revealed,
Danger closes in,
And they both discover what it really means to fear…

Review –

This book is so hot that it is combustible. I rated it five stars *****.

When the book begins Keiran is incarcerated for murdering two high school students by burning them alive. Only, he didn’t do it.  Lake turned him in, again, and when she did, she honestly believed he was guilty.  By selling him soul to a person worse than the devil, he gets out and he and Lake go at it again, hating each other and loving each other. There is so much sexual tension and actual sex taking place that at times it’s hard to stay focused. (I did my best) We learn so much about Keiran’s past and about what really happened to Lake’s parents and numerous other pieces of the puzzle fall into place. This is an edge of the seat book and I can’t wait til Fall of this year for Fear Us to come out. Even though Keiran is so dark and damaged he is one of my all time favorite male book characters.

Adult

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Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick

Book Description

August 13, 2013
In addition to the P-38, there are four gifts, one for each of my friends. I want to say good-bye to them properly. I want to give them each something to remember me by. To let them know I really cared about them and I’m sorry I couldn’t be more than I was–that I couldn’t stick around–and that what’s going to happen today isn’t their fault.

 
Today is Leonard Peacock’s birthday. It is also the day he will kill his former best friend, and then himself, with his grandfather’s P-38 pistol.
Maybe one day he’ll believe that being different is okay, important even.
But not today.

From Booklist

It’s Leonard’s eighteenth birthday and, big surprise, nobody remembered. This birthday, however, is going to count—because Leonard plans to shoot cruel bully (and former best friend) Asher Beal after school. First, though, there is the small matter of gift giving, in which Leonard deliversfour presents to the four people who made his “worthless” life a little better: a noir film–loving neighbor, a violin prodigy classmate, asuperhot teen evangelist, and his favorite teacher. The single-day time frame provides a good deal of claustrophobic tension, as readers will hope against hope that one of these four people will be able to deflect Leonard from his mission. But this is far from a thriller; Quick is most interested in Leonard’s psychology, which is simultaneously clear and splintered, and his voice, which is filled with brash humor, self-loathing, and bucket loads of refreshingly messy contradictions, many communicated through Leonard’s footnotes to his own story. It may sound bleak, but it is, in fact, quite brave, and Leonard’s interspersed fictional notes to himself from 2032 add a unique flavor of hope. Grades 8-11. –Daniel Kraus

Review –
The first thing about this book that I noticed is the abundance of bad language but after I got past that I had a very depressing story to look forward to. This poor kid is turning 18 and his mother (who is unbelievably bad) doesn’t remember, doesn’t even live with him any more. Then his name!  How can anyone with the name of LEONARD PEACOCK be taken seriously? It is a very very depressing story and could have used better resolution at the end but it made me cry and I liked it when all was said and done.
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The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LaBan

Book Description

January 8, 2013 
Perfect for fans of Thirteen Reasons Why and Looking for Alaska, Jennifer Weiner, #1 New York Times bestselling author, calls Elizabeth LaBan’s The Tragedy Paper “a beguiling and beautifully written tale of first love and heartbreak.”It follows the story of Tim Macbeth, a seventeen-year-old albino and a recent transfer to the prestigious Irving School, where the motto is “Enter here to be and find a friend.” A friend is the last thing Tim expects or wants—he just hopes to get through his senior year unnoticed. Yet, despite his efforts to blend into the background, he finds himself falling for the quintessential “It” girl, VanessaSheller, girlfriend of Irving’s most popular boy. To Tim’s surprise, Vanessa is into him, too, but she can kiss her social status goodbye if anyone ever finds out. Tim and Vanessa begin a clandestine romance, but looming over them is the Tragedy Paper, Irving’s version of a senior year thesis, assigned by the school’s least forgiving teacher.Jumping between viewpoints of the love-struck Tim and Duncan, a current senior about to uncover the truth of Tim and Vanessa, The Tragedy Paper is a compelling tale of forbidden love and the lengths people will go to keep their secrets.

Review –
This was recommended to me by my Assistant Professor daughter who specializes in children’s and young adult literature as a “Wintery Themed Book” and I was hooked from the first few pages. It’s a poignant story told in two points of view, a current student, who happens to be an albino, and a former student that had the same room in a private school, the year before. The story includes forbidden romance, a tragic accident, friendships and relationships and I rated it five stars *****. Truly perfect to read on a cold wintery day with a cup of hot chocolate.
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The Neighbor by Dean Koontz

Book Description

 June 3, 2014
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLEREvery city has its wonders and mysteries. For the Pomerantz family, the most disturbing mystery at the moment is the identity and the intentions of their new neighbor, in this eBook original short story—a prequel to The City, the gripping and moving new novel by Dean Koontz.

The year is 1967. Malcolm Pomerantz is twelve, geeky and socially awkward, while his seriously bright sister, Amalia, is spirited and beautiful. Each is the other’s best friend, united by a boundless interest in the world beyond their dysfunctional parents’ unhappy home. But even the troubled Pomerantz household will seem to be a haven compared to the house next door, after an enigmatic and very secretive new neighbor takes up residence in the darkest hours of the night.

Review –
This was a good scary ghost story which will tie into The City  that came out earlier this month. It’s very short and a fast read, so if you’re a fan of Dean Koontz and plan to read The City, be sure to read The Neighbor  first so you’ll have a bit of background information.
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Arnco by Ben Muse

Product Description:

Published: March 29, 2014

Jake Brigham, a wildly successful first time author is drowning in the undertow of his newfound success. After years of “winning,” he realizes he has only lost–a beloved mother, a marriage, even his ability to create. Eventually, he leaves the demands of New York and returns to a place once close to his heart: Arnco, a dying Georgia mill village. He rebuilds his life, and his passion returns, for words, and for a childhood friend.

Allie Tanner, a widowed, single mother, has been fighting demons since the day she was born. Her entire life has been a struggle– with an alcoholic father, her own health problems, the death of her husband, and the constant worry that she may never be able to protect the one thing that means the most: her daughter Grace.
Jake ignites the spark of hope within her, and she within him. And each for very different reasons. When circumstances from their past collide with their present, will their hopes survive? Will tragedy cause a horrific breakdown or an inspirational destiny?

 

Review –

This was a wonderful book and would make a perfect movie on the Lifetime Movies Network or the “Women’s Channel” as my husband calls it. The story held my interest for the first few pages and the more I read the harder I found I couldn’t put it down.

There is a saying that “you can never go home again” but that’s just what Jake Brigham does and he finds a childhood friend, Allie Tanner, whose life has been anything but a bed of roses and together they bring to each other what is needed and I won’t tell you the ending but it’s good. 

In the story there are family dynamics,childhood friends,marriage,divorce,love found,love lost romance,humor and tears.

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