Sherlock Holmes-ish & Late Night Chats

AKA, mini-reviews of Jackaby and On the Fence.

Jackaby by William Ritter

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What I expected: a book inspired by Sherlock Holmes. What I didn’t expect: paranormal. Apparently I didn’t read the synopsis very closely. I spent the first bit of this book adjusting to the paranormal creatures that existed in this world, and once I was able to accept that, I was able to enjoy it for the most part. The narrator, Abigail, is discovering everything about this world along with the the reader, and is a good sidekick for Jackaby, like Watson is for Sherlock. Jackaby was eccentric, as expected from the book’s description, and I enjoyed him.

However, I felt there could have been further character development for Abigail, Jackaby, and Charlie, the latter being one of the more prominent secondary characters and potential love interest for Abigail. She is quickly attracted to him, which was fine for me, but I didn’t get enough interaction between the two of them to properly ship them. And Charlie seemed like a nice guy, so I wish I could have gotten to know him better. Hopefully in the next book there will be a little more of him.

The story moves pretty quickly, which I can appreciate, but the pacing and tone almost felt more young YA or maybe even middle grade. I didn’t have a real problem with this. but it was confusing since I never got a good feel for the characters’ ages, but Abigail can’t be younger than 18 (and she feels more like early 20’s), and Jackaby feels he could be any age between 22 and 35ish.

Overall, this was a fun and quick read for me, and I’m definitely interested in reading more. However, I would have liked an additional 50ish pages to flesh everything out a little more, especially the characters.

Rating: 4 stars

Content Advisory: Pretty clean. Some violence, no sexual content, and I don’t recall any language.

On the Fence by Kasie West

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After enjoying The Distance Between Us, I immediately put On the Fence on hold at my library, ready to enjoy more by this author who is quickly becoming a go-to for me. Out of all of West’s books I’ve read so far (which is everything she’s published except The Fill-In Boyfriend), this one is easily my favorite. I enjoyed Charlie’s relationship with her brothers, her late-night chats with Braden, and her time at work. I also really liked that this book takes place in the same town as The Distance Between Us and we get some cameos from those characters!

I think in comparison with the romances in Kasie West’s other books, this was the romance that felt the most natural. I did like Addie and Trevor, though much better in Pivot Point than in Split Second; Lyla’s romance in Split Second came out of left field for me (I don’t even remember her dude’s name); and Cayman and Xander were cute but it did feel unrealistic for me, or at least I should say it felt unrealistic that it would last. Of course, I do have a deep love for the best-friend-turned-romance trope, and if you do too, I think you’ll enjoy this one as well.

I don’t have any real complaints about the story, it just didn’t blow me away to a 5 star level. I thoroughly enjoyed it from beginning to end, and was surprised in the end by the twist of Charlie learning more about her mom.

Rating: 4 or 4.5 stars (I’m indecisive, I know)

Content advisory: Clean – no violence, only a little kissing, and I don’t recall any language.

Have you read Jackaby or On The Fence? What are your thoughts?

Mini Reviews: The Contemporary Edition

I have been reading a lot more YA contemporary lately, and wanted to share my thoughts on my four most recent contemporary reads.

The Distance Between Us by Kasie West

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I know this will mean nothing to most of you who read through your books much faster than I do, but I read this book in two days. It was just a fun, quick, easy read. It didn’t change my life and I had a couple minor issues with it, but overall I just really enjoyed getting to know Caymen and Xander and watching them interact. It was definitely worth the $1.99 I spent on it!

Rating: 4 stars

Content Advisory: Pretty clean. I don’t recall any language; some kissing.

The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand

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Believe it or not, this is probably actually the first really heavy issue book I’ve read, at least in the YA contemporary genre. I was hooked right away with Alexis’ voice as she wrote in a journal provided to her by her therapist, bemoaning the idea of writing out her feelings and comparing it to bleeding out with leeches. But the book definitely gets heavy, with Alexis constantly wishing she could go back and change the night she found out her brother killed himself, trying to deal with her mom and others in her life, and worrying that she is seeing the ghost of her brother. The ending was very emotionally satisfying, and I’m very glad I read this book to gain more insight about the aftermath of a suicide.

Rating: 4 stars (If I gave quarter stars it would be 4.25. I know that sounds ridiculous but it’s just not quite to 4.5, but almost!)

Content Advisory: Moderate language; some kissing.

The Unlikely Hero of Room 13 B by Teresa Toten

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I impulsively borrowed this from the library because I knew it focused on characters with OCD, and there are secondary characters in my WIP with OCD. This was a very interesting read for me; there were many things I liked but many I wasn’t crazy about as well. First, despite the fact that he struggles with OCD at a level I doubt I will ever understand, Adam is the most realistic character in this book, aside from maybe his stepmother and neighbor. His dad, therapist, Father Rick, Ben, and the other OCD kids felt real sometimes, and Sweetie and Adam’s mom NEVER felt real. (Sweetie is for real the strangest 5 year old ever. I don’t think a single kid on the planet talks like that.) Sometimes the characters and the dialogue took me out of the book (Adam and some of the kids constantly say stuff like, “That’s superior!” and other things I have just never heard anyone ever say).

Yet the book is quirky and full of humor, and I really did feel empathy for Adam. I enjoyed Robyn too and enjoyed their friendship-turned-relationship. And also yet again, this book was often awkward and hard to read, which I think was part of the point, because these characters are struggling with very real issues and disorders and it does hurt, but the added layer of Adam’s mom’s craziness was sometimes too much for me to bear. The ending was very unsatisfying as there is very little finality, but I know that doesn’t bother everyone, and it doesn’t always bother me, but I didn’t feel I got the full arc from Adam that I wanted, though we do see it going in that direction.

Rating: 3 or 3.5 stars (I really can’t decide.)

Content advisory: Moderate language; some kissing.

The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord

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I saved my favorite of the bunch for last. I mean, where do I even begin?! I ADORED Max. I loved him so much at first I couldn’t properly ship him and Paige because I didn’t think Paige deserved him. But when she starts to come around and really understand her feelings towards him, I felt for her and definitely got all aboard their ship! The last chapter was such perfection that I can’t even. I LOVED all the nerdy banter and just about everything really. The friendships were so spot-on!

My only complaint about the book really is at Max’s birthday party when they played Spin the Bottle and I was like, really?, but even the characters knew it was juvenile, and it was what gave Paige the push she needed to confront her feelings.

So seriously, READ THIS. I have never loved a YA contemporary to this degree.

[Side note: I’m terrified of Open Road Summer because the characters don’t sound as likable and this book was so perfect for me, but I think I’ll definitely be keeping my eyes open for future Emery Lord books.]

Rating: 5 stars!!! (I borrowed this from the library and then immediately ordered the hardcover from Amazon because I LOVED IT THAT MUCH.)

Content advisory: Sporadic and mostly mild swearing (though I believe there was one f word).

Have you read any of these? What are your thoughts?

Review: Pivot Point

Pivot Point is a contemporary veiled with a paranormal vibe, but not of the werewolf or vampire variety, but of the special abilities variety. Addie’s ability is to see into possible futures when faced with a choice. This is her biggest choice yet: to live with her mom or to live with her dad when they decide to get a divorce. Warning: there is mild, vague almost-spoiler below… it’s hard to discuss my feelings on the story without a vague mention of the ending…

pivot-pointWhen I started reading Pivot Point and came to realize it was more contemporary than sci-fi, I didn’t think I would end up liking it as much as I did. However, the interesting and yet totally believable technology of the Compound, Addie’s personality, and her interactions with Trevor all drew me into the story. And though I knew ahead of time this was the concept, I still found it really neat basically the whole book is two different stories, and only  one of them will actually play out. Elements from both stories also show up in the other story in unexpected ways.

It seemed really obvious to me early on which life was the superior one, but then something happens towards the end of the Search that forces Addie to question what to do in order to both keep a promise and to help the person she cares about most. Though I wanted to believe she could somehow solve the problem differently than she chose to, her solution was creative and probably the best choice she could make under the circumstances.

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I could really relate to Addie’s character. She always does the right thing, she isn’t impressed by people just because they’re popular, and she loves to read. That was what made it hard to watch her seem to change in one of the possible paths, but after it was all said and done everything made much more sense. The fact that she had a best friend who was so different from her I could also relate to, because I too have been known to stay loyal to old friends who are completely different from me.

I also found the overall writing style enjoyable as well as the story, and even though the story felt fairly complete on its own, it did make me want to check out the sequel when it comes out.

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Content Advisory: Some mild language and violence, and a non-graphic mention of sexual assault.

Have you read Pivot Point? What were your thoughts?