five windows

Despite being way behind on my reviewing, I absolutely had to write about this one. I finished The Host late last night (in fact, I stayed up late just to finish it), and since then, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about Wanderer, Melanie, and the other characters.

In The Host, earth has been invaded by a species of aliens who cannot live on their own, and must take over host bodies to live. They’ve already colonized other worlds, but earth has some of the best hosts–humans. Humans feel emotions and experience things like no other species that Wanderer, who has lived on more worlds than any other “soul” she knows, has been.

On earth, Wanderer is given the body of Melanie Stryder, a young woman who was part of the fading human resistance. This is expected to be a difficult body to inhabit, but Wanderer is shocked at Melanie’s strength. Most hosts just fade away, erased from their own minds, as the alien soul who is attached to their brains takes over. Melanie refuses to go away, though, over a period of long months over which it is believed that any other host would be subdued.

Why? Well, Melanie’s strong, of course, to have survived human for so long, but much of it is love, longing, and a promise she can’t break. Jared, the man she loves, and Jamie, her younger brother, were Melanie’s only company for a long time, and she loves them both too dearly to let an alien take possession of her without a fight. Melanie promised that she would come back to them, and so she will. She fills Wanderer’s thoughts with her love, especially for Jared, until Wanderer, too, is consumed with the desire to return to these people she has never met. It changes Wanderer, but will that change be her destruction or her salvation? And what of Melanie, who refuses to stop existing? And of Jared–the man they both now love.

I’m a fan of Stephenie Meyer‘s Twilight series, so, while my enjoyment of those books doesn’t quite reach the obsessive levels I’ve seen in some readers, I had some high expectations for this book. When I first started reading, I thought, this is good, this is interesting, but I wasn’t blown away. By the time the first 100 pages had passed (this is a really long book, over 600 pages), I was completely drawn into the story, completely involved and invested in the outcome, unable to put the book down even for things like, well, sleep. I don’t know exactly when it happened, but this book captured me and had me reading late into the night.

The Host is a wonderfully original, imaginative, and well-written novel that is different from Stephenie Meyer’s previous novels, and shows what a range this talented author has. While aimed towards adults, teenagers will love this book as well. I know I did. I cared so much about all of the characters, and what would happen to them all. Melanie and Wanderer inhabit the same body, a body with room for one mind, so there really is seemingly no hope for things to turn out well for both of them, but I couldn’t help but wish for it. I couldn’t decide who I wanted to win, if it came down to that! Conflicting emotions are felt by the reader of this book just as strongly as by the many wonderfully-drawn and believable characters.

By the time I finished, I’d laughed and cried and held my breath and felt a full range of emotions–appropriate, as the range of human emotions is one of the things Wanderer struggles to deal with as she comes to earth. This book actually reminded me a bit of the Animorphs series, but far more grown-up, in content and just in attitude–the world of The Host is light years away from black-and-white, and the Animorphs series, being aimed towards children, is relatively simple. Nothing here is black-and-white, just as nothing in the real world is as clear as we might hope sometimes.

Several people had recommended I read this book, but for some reason I’d never gotten around to it until this week. And I so wish I had picked it up sooner! I’m now on the second in the series.

When Mary Faber’s parents and sister all die one after the other, she is left with no one and nothing, and so falls into the life of a street urchin in London near the turn of the century (1800 or so). She grows tired of it all, though, of the death and danger and starvation, and when the leader of her little gang of orphans dies, Mary dresses in his clothes, adopts the name “Jack,” and sets off to make her own way in the world.

Dressed as a boy, she is able to get work on a ship, as a ship’s boy, and is clever enough to keep up the Deception, because she enjoys life at sea and the companionship of the other boys and some of the older sailors, and, really, could a street urchin say no to three square meals and a place to sleep at night?

And so begins the life of Bloody Jack, ship’s boy, adventurer, semi-reluctant pirate hunter, and world traveller.

Bloody Jack is, I believe, L.A. Meyer‘s first novel, and the first in this series, which currently stands at five books with another on the way this fall. It is quite a captivating tale! There’s adventure and romance and interesting history and so much wonderfulness! I enjoyed the characters, the story itself, everything, really. I loved Jacky’s very distinctive voice, and Jacky herself was just so fantastic and bold and entertaining. L.A. Meyer is a talented author, and I expect to be devouring this entire series within a very short period of time. It’d be shorter if I didn’t keep getting distracted by things like studying for exams (which start May 5 and which explain my lack of recent posting). Anyway, I can’t recommend this book enough, so go and get a copy today!

Emily and Philip met at a performance of the Broadway show Aurora, and they’ve been best friends, and completely obsessed with the show, ever since. With loans from Emily’s grandmother, they’ve gone secretly to New York every Saturday since, to see the show, with its glorious story and music and Marlena Ortiz, the star of the show. Real life, when compared with the world of the theatre they inhabit every Saturday, is dull and consists almost entirely of obsessing over Broadway shows, reminiscing about past performances of Aurora, and looking forward to their Saturday in the city.

Emily and Philip are, therefore, devastated when they hear a new rumor: that Aurora is about to close. They’ve got to find out the truth! Another Broadway mystery that they, along with every other Aurora fan, would like to clear up? The identity of Aurora’s writer(s)! Nobody knows who wrote the show, or why.

In My Life: The Musical, Emily and Philip deal with problems in their families, figuring out their friendship and their own identities, and, of course, the possibility that their favorite show may close. It’s a hilarious, heartfelt novel about friendship, theatre, and, well, life, that is as wonderful as is to be expected from the fabulous Maryrose Wood. I laughed out loud when reading this smart, funny book that everyone will be able to relate to, whether or not you’re a Broadway fan, because we have all cared that much, irrationally, about something, be it a musical or a band or a book or a television show, and, as silly as we feel sometimes, it’s a pretty awesome feeling, too! I’m not sure this book will quite inspire JK-Rowling-type fandom, and, as many authors whose books are hailed as the “next Harry Potter,” no one can ever match that phenomenon–but it is a really fantastic and highly enjoyable book that I can’t recommend enough, especially to theatre fans!

Princess Ben is a departure from Catherine Gilbert Murdock‘s previous books, Dairy Queen and its sequel The Off Season, and it is quite a wonderful book! In this book, the author proves herself to be versatile as well as extraordinarily talented.

Princess Benevolence of Montagne is no ordinary princess. She has lived her life free of the constraints of things such as court etiquette, residing outside the castle proper with her parents who let her run wild, playing outdoors with girls from the village, and devouring fairy tales and her mother’s cooking.

Ben’s life is happy and uneventful, for the most part, until one fateful, dreadful day. Both Ben’s mother and the king have been killed, by assassins from the rival kingdom of Drachensbett, it is believed, and her father has vanished on the icy slopes of Ancienne, the mysterious and impassable peak that rises over the valley that is the kingdom of Montagne.

This tragedy leaves Ben under the control of Queen Sophia, at least until Ben reaches her majority and can properly take her place as ruler of Montagne. Sophia moves Ben into the castle and controls her every movement, not even letting her eat properly, in an attempt to turn the princess’s rather rotund figure into a more slender one. Ben is forced to learn embroidery, horsemanship, music, dance–all sorts of things at which she fails miserable. However, when she is locked in the castle’s highest tower, Ben does attempt to master one new skill: magic. She finds a secret passageway to a secret room at the top of the tower, a room which provides the tools she needs to become a sorceress of sorts. Perhaps those legends of wizards back when Montagne first came to be had a basis in fact, and Ben, as a descendant of theirs, is taking the tradition back up again in secret.

With her complete lack of grace or skill with a needle, but with a secret magical education, can Princess Ben free herself and save her kingdom from destruction or defeat?

I quite enjoyed this captivating new fairy tale, with its little references to the tales we know and love that made me grin. See if you can spot them! Ben is a wonderful princess, one who needs no prince to rescue her. I loved her even more because she didn’t care about her weight, and realized how many things in the world are more important than appearance. My pet peeve, though? When book characters claim not to care about weight and then lose some weight all the same. Sadly, Princess Ben does not escape this. That is a minor flaw, though, and overall I really loved this book. There is romance (although that is a bit hurried for my taste), adventure, magic, and an independent heroine who takes charge of her own life. Ben really grows as a character, and that was an aspect of the book that I really enjoyed. Princess Ben is written in a style that really fits the story–a bit old-fashioned and fantastical, as well as witty and intelligent. Catherine Murdock really has a way with words, and Ben’s distinct voice makes this story even more of a pleasure to read. Ben is not the only complex, interesting character, though; there were many characters I enjoyed, and the relationships between them were well-done as well. In short, Princess Ben is an extraordinarily well-written novel with all of the elements that make for an enchanting story I couldn’t put down!

Violet by Design is Melissa Walker‘s second book about small-town-girl-turned-supermodel Violet Greenfield, and it’s just as great as Violet on the Runway. In this book, Violet has decided to return to the modeling business and she’s off to work the Sao Paolo runways. That’s right–Brazil! Violet is on her way to becoming an international star.

Of course, there was a reason she left it behind before. Modeling certainly has its ups and downs. Sure, she gets to travel to exotic places–but she also gets called “la gordita” (little fat girl) for not being afraid to gain five pounds and be normal-girl-skinny instead of anorexic-looking.  She’s in the tabloids, and anything she says can and will be used against her. Is the life of an international supermodel really worth leaving all of her friends and family at home behind to deal with so much pressure and superficiality?

On top of all of that, she’s got the typical teenage girl worries about her future, her romantic prospects, her friends, staying true to herself, and, like any recent high school graduate, balancing new with old. What’s a girl to do?

Yes, this is a book about modeling. But, as with Melissa Walker’s debut novel, it’s about so much more than that! It’s about life and friends and family and romance and knowing who you are and blindly feeling your way through an uncertain future the way we all do at some point.

As you can probably guess, I was pretty disgusted with the way already-super-skinny  Violet was always being pressured to lose five pounds, but that doesn’t detract from this book because Melissa Walker knows what she’s talking about when she writes about the fashion industry, and I do believe this is true-to-life. It’s not the book that horrifies me; it’s the truth of it, of the fashion industry, of that horrible negative body image that so many girls get from it. It’s relatively minor here–five pounds. But many girls are dozens or hundreds of pounds above the “ideal” weight in the fashion industry, and there’s nothing wrong with those girls. There is, however, something wrong with the fashion industry.

PSA over for the moment. Violet by Design  is an honest, funny, thoughtful, and intelligent book about one girl’s struggle to figure out who she is and stay true to herself despite the temptations to be someone else (like international superstardom and money and free stuff and exotic travel in this case, but there can be so many things that threaten us in that way).  I love Melissa Walker’s characters, and she is quite a talented writer. I can’t wait for the third book in the series, Violet in Private.

Before I read this book, I already knew that Deb Caletti was amazing, but The Fortunes of Indigo Skye showed me just how brilliant and talented this author really is!

Indigo Skye is a waitress, and she loves her job. She loves forming personal relationships with the people who come regularly to Carrera’s (a group known as the Irregulars). She loves when she manages every table and order perfectly, like it was a dance someone choreographed. She loves her boyfriend, Trevor, and her family (her mom, her little sister, Bex, and her twin brother, Severin).  She’s about to graduate from high school, and she lives in a suburb of Seattle, Washington. Her life is great, and she’s happy just the way it is.

And then, it changes. A new guy comes into Carrera’s, a guy who seems to have a lot of money. He rides a Vespa, and becomes known as Vespa Guy. He orders “just coffee,” and becomes something of a mystery to the Irregulars, who like to speculate on who he is. One day, Indigo sees a package of cigarettes in his jacket pocket, which really sets her off. She yells at him about killing himself, then talks to him about his life. Not that remarkable, really–except then, he leaves an envelope for her at the diner. It’s a mystery that she’s sure will be disappointing when she finally opens the envelope.

Disappointing? Think again: he’s left her a two-and-a-half million dollar tip.

That seems great at first, but money changes people. Indigo has been warned of it, but she doesn’t believe she will be changed by her sudden fortune. She was fortunate enough already. Once she gets over the shock, having that money is pretty great–or is it?

This book is seriously amazing. Deb Caletti is such a fantastic writer, and her characters! They’re just so real and awesome. All I can do with regard to this book is gush! The characters, and the relationships between them, are just so marvelous and honest and real and fascinating. The story, too, is very interesting, but there’s a lot more to this book than a rags-to-riches or money-doesn’t-buy-happiness story. There are real, big, fundamental truths here about life and humanity and love and family and so much more. All I can say is, read this book!

Looks is Madeleine George’s debut novel, and wow, is it impressive. It’s a gorgeously written story about two girls, Aimee and Meghan. Meghan is very, very fat–but also very invisible. No one sees her (with the exception of a pack of boys who enjoy tormenting her). Aimee is very, very, painfully thin. While Meghan eats for comfort, Aimee feels much better when she doesn’t let food even touch her.

Aimee is a gifted poet, and the book itself is somehow poetic. Not only does Aimee see Meghan, but she also writes a poem about her. Unlike everyone else, Aimee looks at rather than through Meghan. Meghan sees Aimee, too, but that’s not surprising; Meghan sees everything and everyone. She’s very, very observant. People spill their secrets in front of her; it’s like she’s not even real. Meghan knows everything there is to know about everyone in her school, and what a cast of characters it is!

Meghan feels some sort of connection with Aimee that she doesn’t feel with other people, despite not even speaking to her. Like maybe, even though they are on the outside so different, she and Aimee are the same on the inside.

Looks is an eloquent, touching, intelligent, and (at times painfully) honest novel that will certainly captivate readers. Aimee and Meghan are certainly real characters, but the beauty of the writing is what really stood out to me while reading this book. Madeleine George is an incredibly talented and brilliant writer; her book is truly breathtaking. It is smart and observant and lyrical and just so many wonderful things I can’t possibly describe it well enough. Looks comes out in June, but I suggest you go ahead and preorder your copy now; you won’t want to miss this.

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