October 7, 2014

Review: Rain Reign

This book has won my heart.

Title: ‘Rain Reign’
Author: Ann M. Martin
Pages: 240
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Available: NOW at your local library or bookstore
Source: Netgalley

Summary (from Goodreads):

Rose Howard has OCD, Asperger’s syndrome, and an obsession with homonyms (even her name is a homonym). She gave her dog Rain a name with two homonyms (Reign, Rein), which, according to Rose’s rules of homonyms, is very special. Rain was a lost dog Rose’s father brought home. Rose and Rain are practically inseparable. And they are often home alone, as Rose’s father spends most evenings at a bar, and doesn’t have much patience for his special-needs daughter.

Just as a storm hits town, Rain goes missing. Rose’s father shouldn’t have let Rain out. Now Rose has to find her dog, even if it means leaving her routines and safe places to search. Rose will find Rain, but so will Rain’s original owners.

Hearts will break and spirits will soar for this powerful story, brilliantly told from Rose’s point of view.

My Thoughts:

This book gave me so many feels—I love Rose. And I love Rain. These two together make for a strong story that will stay with readers long after the book is done.

First, let me say that Martin is a genius in this story. She brings to life Rose, a high-functioning Asperger’s child in first person. I cannot imagine the research and constant concentration to pull this off so flawlessly. And it is flawless.

I could tell very quickly that Rose was Asperger’s; I’ve taught teens with Asperger’s. The classroom interaction between teacher and Rose, classmates and Rose…spot on.

Now, let me first deal with the plot. This is not a story about an Asperger’s child. This is the story about a girl and her dog. The special bond these two have. The challenges of growing up without a mom. A father who is frustrated with himself. And an uncle who loves his niece.

The above elements are all of the things that made me love this book. The pacing of the novel will keep readers engaged. There is a nice balance between Rose and Rain, her life at school, her life at home. All elements that young readers can connect with in their own way.

The bond between Rose and Rain is unmistakable. They count on one another. There is a natural camaraderie, and for those who own dogs and treat them as family, you know what I mean. Martin’s interaction with these two on the page is natural, and it makes me want to hug the book.

Then there is the challenge of growing up without a mom. Readers are unclear of what has happened to Rose’s mom; all we know is that she left. The absence of the mom figure is felt on just about every page—and this contributes to the love I have for Rose as a character. This is not something she dwells on. She simply visits her mom’s box of memories when she feels like she needs to, and that is that. But as a mom myself, I felt as if Rose really needed her mom there, to hug her, to help keep her safe.

Rose’s father is not a center point in this novel, but his presence is enough to make him worthy of a few notes. First, he is not a bad man. He is a man who is lost without his wife. He is trying to raise a daughter on his own. And not just any daughter; one whose mind works differently. Readers will experience his frustration throughout the novel, but most especially when Rain goes missing. A part of me wondered, “Did he do it on purpose?”

Oh the uncle—I loved him. He is just what Rose needs in her life. He reminds me of the purpose of grandparents: to give parents a break. He understands Rose in ways that no one else does. He is patient toward her. He helps her with her homonym list, something that fascinates her. Throughout the reading, I knew if he was on the page, Rose was okay. It was when Rose was left alone or with her dad that I grew afraid for her.

And then there is the storm. A hurricane of epic proportions is not the center of the story, but it is a catalyst for Rose. It is the reason Rain is lost; the reason Rose learns the truth of how she came to own Rain; it is the element that will help her make a brave decision.

One other thing I loved about this book: Rose is fascinated by homonyms (mentioned above), and when there is one on the page, readers will know because the homonyms are placed in parentheses. At first I thought this would be distracting to readers, but then I realized it allows readers to have a window into how Rose’s mind works…while learning about homonyms themselves.

Do I recommend this book?

Absolutely!!! There is not a reader that I do not think should read this book. This needs to be read by everyone. I foresee this being on summer reading lists for next school year.

Have you read a realistic fiction novel lately that you just loved? Share below; let’s talk books.
Happy Reading!

-      The Hodgenator

Review: Salt & Storm

It’s October! And I like to call this month my month of witchy, spooktascular reads.

So, it is only fitting that my first review for this month is a witchy tale.

Title: ‘Salt & Storm
Author: Kendall Kulper
Pages: 416
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Available: NOW at your local library or bookstore
Source: Netgalley

Summary (from Goodreads):

You don't know what you must give up to become a witch.

Avery Roe wants only to claim her birthright as the witch of Prince Island and to make the charms that have kept the island's sailors safe at sea for generations, but instead she is held prisoner by her mother in a magic-free life of proper manners and respectability.

Avery thinks escape is just a matter of time, but when she has a harrowing nightmare, she can see what it means: She will be killed. She will be murdered. And she's never been wrong before.

Desperate to change her future, Avery finds a surprising ally in Tane—a tattooed harpoon boy with magic of his own, who moves her in ways she never expected. But as time runs out to unlock her magic and save herself, Avery discovers that becoming a witch requires unimaginable sacrifice.

Avery walks the knife's edge between choice and destiny in Kendall Kulper's sweeping debut: the story of one girl's fight to survive the rising storm of first love and family secrets.

My Thoughts:

I really enjoyed this book. I was not expecting to be drawn into the story as quickly as I was, but once I started, I did not want to put this down.

Our heroine is Avery, a young woman who wants just one thing in life: to be the Prince Island witch. But her mother has other plans for her, plans that involve Avery marrying a wealthy young man and being a good wife; plans that involve nothing to do with witchcraft.

Avery feels that this is not her destiny. It is her duty as a Roe to continue the family line and to be the next Roe witch, to take over from her grandmother.

Avery spends the novel trying to pry herself away from her mother and back into the house she knows, the woman who will teach her the witchy ways, her grandmother. But there is a curse on Avery, thanks to dear old mom, that keeps her from where her heart wants to be.

This is the heart of the novel’s conflict—a parent’s dream for a child that the child rejects. While this conflict is enough to propel readers into the action, this is not all the author has in store.

We are also introduced to Tane, a young man who is looking for the people responsible for the death of his loved ones. His chance meeting with Avery is a game-changer for her…and for him. They both agree to help one another achieve the unachievable.

I felt the pacing of the story was right on target. The story had a nice flow to it, keeping me engaged as a reader, wanting to see where the author would take the story next.

I especially enjoyed the style of writing. There is a storm in the novel, and while this storm was happening on the page, I could not only visualize it but also hear the sounds that surrounded the characters. I absolutely loved this—it allowed me to experience the story even deeper. This is the main reason I enjoyed the book so much. I was not just reading words on a page; I was a part of the storytelling.

I enjoyed Avery as a character, and I think teen readers will connect with her too. She knows what she wants, but she is frustrated because there are outside forces keeping her from the thing she wants most. This is definitely something teen readers can relate to, and something that will see a bit of themselves in Avery.

Then there is Tane, who is Avery’s love interest. While his role is a typical one in all novels, he really got under my skin. I think it was his determination to make sure Avery achieves her goals, no matter the cost. He brings enough to the page to give readers swoon-worthy moments, but he does not steal the spotlight from the novel’s true star.

Avery’s mom is a red herring of a character—I was not sure if I could trust what she said. But it becomes clear by novel’s end whether or not her intentions are pure. What frustrated me about the mom character was that she was hell-bent on her daughter not performing witchcraft and yet she herself was performing it to keep her daughter right where she could see her. In this way, Avery’s mom fulfills another element that teen readers can connect with, something they have probably had experience with at some point in their own lives.

Do I recommend this book?

This is not a book geared toward a specific reader—all readers can enjoy this book, but most especially those who enjoy a good witchy tale. This is a great read for this month, so make sure to add it to your TBR pile.

What’s your favorite witchy read? I have so many—share below and let’s talk books.
Happy Reading!

-      The Hodgenator

September 28, 2014

Review: The Vault of Dreamers

The cover and the summary pulled me into wanting to read this. I mean, who doesn’t want to read a book with a close-up of an eyeball for a cover?!

Title: ‘The Vault of Dreamers’
Author: Caragh M. O’Brien
Pages: 432
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Available: NOW at your local library or bookstore
Source: Netgalley

Summary (from Goodreads):

From the author of the Birthmarked trilogy comes a fast-paced, psychologically thrilling novel about what happens when your dreams are not your own.

The Forge School is the most prestigious arts school in the country. The secret to its success:  every moment of the students' lives is televised as part of the insanely popular Forge Show, and the students' schedule includes twelve hours of induced sleep meant to enhance creativity. But when first year student Rosie Sinclair skips her sleeping pill, she discovers there is something off about Forge. In fact, she suspects that there are sinister things going on deep below the reaches of the cameras in the school. What's worse is, she starts to notice that the edges of her consciousness do not feel quite right. And soon, she unearths the ghastly secret that the Forge School is hiding—and what it truly means to dream there.

My Thoughts:

The title of this novel ties back to the plot nicely. This is not always the case in many books I read, but I thought the author did a nice job with it. Especially with that cover.

The summary from Goodreads says this is a fast-paced novel, and I would disagree. For me, the pacing did not start to pick up until my Kindle said 56%. Up until I hit this part of the story, I would read a little here, a little there (over the course of four days). But when I hit that 56% mark, I took my Kindle to my hammock and stayed until the story’s end.

Now that I have that out of the way, let me say this about the plot: it was interesting. I found the concept of a reality TV show for high school students to be interesting, but what I did not by was the “secrets” the school was keeping. I mean, it is reality TV. Wasn’t any viewer suspicious that they only filmed students twelve hours a day? Didn’t any of the viewers secretly want to know what happened when the cameras were turned off? This is the part of the story I struggled through because it just felt wrong.

I get that there was a secret to protect, but there are cameras everywhere. Am I to believe as a reader that it took Rosie putting cameras up all over the school to film for herself for her to learn something was off? Not buying it. And I still don’t.

With that said, it was not the story but Rosie that kept me in this story. On Goodreads I rated this a 3.5 because I liked it, but I didn’t love it. If I had not enjoyed Rosie as a character so much, I would have rated this book a 2. That’s how much I really liked her.

I felt for her—she was in a bad situation. A girl coming from nothing all of a sudden having an opportunity of a life time, but with strings attached. Welcome to life darling, where all elements have “strings” attached to them. But Rosie was willing to jump through all the hoops if it meant a better future of opportunity for her. This is why I enjoyed her character—her commitment to her own future.

And that’s all I can really share without spoiling key elements—and there are quite a few. But you read it and tell me if you buy the “cameras are off twelve hours a day” element of the story.

Do I recommend this book?

For a specific reader. The book has an interesting concept of a story, but the length is too long for what is revealed. An avid reader will tear right through the page; a slow reader may walk away. But I think the story itself will appeal to a wide-range of readers, regardless of genre preference.

Happy Reading!

-      The Hodgenator