Speed of Life by Carol Weston (book review)

Brief Summary

Was thirteen the worst possible age to lose your mother? Maybe. Then again, there was no good age.

Speed of Life tells the story of Sophia Wolfe’s fourteenth year. Sophia lives with her dad in New York City, and her typical growing pains are complicated and colored by her mom’s sudden death the previous year.

Image result for speed of life carol westonIt seems like people — her friends, teachers, maybe even her dad — are beginning to expect Sophia to have healed from the pain of loss, but she hasn’t. In fact, she can’t imagine what it would be like to “get over” her mother’s death, or even wanting to do so.

Yet the speed of life slows for no one, and Sophia discovers that really living means being in the moment, whether time seems to be racing by or to be frozen. On top of this, she has to deal with issues like kissing boys, changing schools, and the fact that her dad may be ready to start dating again.

Speed of Life is a bittersweet story of loss, love, and growing up that will appeal to fans of thoughtful realistic fiction with an introspective and likeable female main character.

Thoughts

I enjoyed this book for the most part. I liked the characters and could sympathize with their feelings and struggles. I found the writing to be quite excellent, and the treatment of the subject sensitive and insightful.

Ratings

  • Plot: A- (Made sense; progressed logically; not overly predictable)
  • Characters: A- (Mostly dynamic, complex, and believable)
  • Realism: B (Overall believable characters and events)
  • Cover art: A (Cute and eye-catching)
  • Pace: B+ (Seemed slow at times, but mostly good)
  • Style & Tone: A- (Fit the character’s age and personality)
  • Overall: A-

Details

  • Title: Speed of Life
  • Author: Carol Weston
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky (April 4, 2017)
  • Length: 329 pages

More Info

Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard [Review]

Pretty Little Liars by [Shepard, Sara]Details:
Title: Pretty little liars
Series: Pretty little liars, bk 1
Author: Sara Shepard
Published: HarperCollins, 2006
Blurb:
[From the author’s website, saracshepard.com]

“I’M STILL HERE, BITCHES. AND I KNOW EVERYTHING. —A

Everyone has something to hide—especially high school juniors Spencer Hastings, Aria Montgomery, Emily Fields, and Hanna Marin.
Spencer covets her sister’s boyfriend. Aria’s fantasizing about her English teacher. Emily’s crushing on the new girl at school. Hanna uses some ugly tricks to stay beautiful.
But they’ve all kept an even bigger secret since their friend Alison vanished. How do I know? Because I know everything about the bad girls they were, the naughty girls they are, and all the dirty secrets they’ve kept. And guess what? I’m telling.”

Review:
I was completely prejudiced against this book before I started reading it. I thought it was a trashy novel, a waste of time, vacuous, vapid, stupid, trivial, and probably a bad influence. After reading it, my prejudices were both challenged and confirmed, and I discovered something else. While the book was all the things listed above, it was also at least one other thing. Fun.

Sure, the characters are all horrible examples of people — or perhaps good examples of horrible people — but as messed up, amoral, and unlikeable as they are, they are also fascinating and human. Also, I was relieved to see at least one character exhibit signs of emotional maturity by the end of the book, which shows that the characters can learn and grow. The thing that really redeemed the story in my eyes, though, and helped to explain the series’ continuing popularity (not to mention adaptation into a tv show), was the writing.

Critically the writing is not especially good; but then neither is James Patterson’s in my opinion, yet that does nothing to dampen his enormous popularity. Like JP, Shepard writes well because her writing suits her purpose well, which is to tell an entertaining story. The language is simply a bare-bones structure designed to give the story a place to exist and to move the action along, and as such it works very well. I was not distracted by glaring errors or by bad composition. In effect, the writing was good.

It took a while for my opinion about this book to change. At a quarter of the way through I noted that my impressions were largely negative, mostly because I disliked the characters as people. Even at the end of the book, the thing I find most troubling is that there is very little to admire in any of the characters – the same problem I have with adult literature of the same type (Gone Girl, for example). However, I also noted that the story was quite evocative of a certain type of tween/teen girl experience. Although my own experience was vastly different from anything in the book, the story still brought up old memories and feelings from middle school and high school, which I wondered at and appreciated.

Verdict
Yes, it’s trashy, and yes, it’s stupid, and yes, it showcases the worst of teenage girl behavior. But it’s also fun and entertaining and escapist. I don’t see any problem with indulging in reading something like this from time to time. After all, just because you read National Geographic, The Wall Street Journal, and the NEJM, doesn’t mean you can’t sneak a peek at the National Enquirer or Vogue once in awhile. So here’s the breakdown of my ratings:

Intellectual value: F
Entertainment value: A
Characters: C+
Plot: B
Writing: A
Overall: B

For more info:
Author website: saracshepard.com
Series info: wikipedia.org/wiki/Pretty_Little_Liars_(book_series)
Amazon page: Pretty Little Liars

Originally published by me on http://yablrb.blogspot.com/

Review of “The Vampire Gift Book 1: Wards of Night” by E. M. Knight

cover imageOverview

Title: The Vampire Gift: Wards of Night
Series: Vampire Gift, bk 1.
Author: E. M. Night
Published: Edwards Publishing (April 20, 2016)
Format: Kindle ebook
Length: 408 pages
Age: 13 +

Summary

One minute Eleira is preparing for an ordinary night of studying in the library at Stanford, the next she is waking up a prisoner of three beautiful vampire brothers and their powerful mother, the vampire queen.

She quickly learns that (a) vampires are real and (b) the vampires need her for her blood (but not in the way you think). Also, the vampires live in “The Haven,” a place of perpetual night removed from the outside world.

As she struggles to come to grips with this strange new reality, and with her growing attraction to one vampire in particular, one thing becomes clear: her life on “the Outside” is over, and there’s no going back.

My thoughts

I’m not really a devoted fan of vampire stories, although I do admit I enjoy them occasionally. However, I did not choose this book on the basis of its vampire storyline. I chose it because it was available to read for free with Amazon Prime, and because the cover looked interesting. Being aware that titles available to read for free are generally not award winner quality, I adjusted my expectations accordingly. In the end I have mixed impression of this book. I think that young paranormal romance aficionados would enjoy it, but that those who have read widely in the genre will find it lacking. Those with no interest in vampire / teen girl interactions should probably steer clear.

On the positive side:

  • The writing is overall consistent and free of errors.
  • The cast of characters is sufficiently varied, yet appropriately confined for the scope of the book (there aren’t dozens of characters to keep track of).
  • The pace is quick and even – good for keeping the reader’s attention.
  • The writing does a good job of “showing” and not “telling.” If there is exposition, it is generally delivered through some device like a flashback or conversation.

On the negative side:

  • The writing feels juvenile or amatuerish at times.
  • The dialog can seem clunky and awkward, with occasionally cringe-worthy badness.
  • The characters are somewhat two dimensional.
    The female lead has no agency for 99 percent of the story.

This is, of course, book one of a series, and the ending seemed promising. I think the author has a lot of potential, and I would definitely explore more of her/his works in the future.

My Rating

Overall: C
Story: C
Characters: C
Originality: C+
Cover art: A-
 
Final verdict: If you love teen vampire-action-romance, go for it. Otherwise, give this one a pass.

 
Originally published on http://yablrb.blogspot.com/ by me.