Beyond: A Ghost Story by Graham McNamee

Beyond is not your typical ghost story. Instead of a ghost haunting a thing or location, this time the ghost is haunting a girl. And trying to end her life in the process.

It took me a little while to get into the story. The beginning felt like a lot of explanation and not much of the creepiness a ghost story usually has. However, once the ball got rolling and the book started to deal with the ghost, why Jane was being haunted, and what caused the boy haunting her to die, I was hooked. The stories of Jane and her ghost are weaved together wonderfully, telling a little bit of the ghost’s story, but not enough to figure it out.

There’s a nice mix of suspense, romance, and action. There wasn’t a dull moment, and with every page I was wondering what was going to happen next. The fact that Jane doesn’t always trust herself with what she’s seeing or feeling makes you wonder if what she sees is true, or if it’s her head playing tricks on her. It only made the suspense better.

Overall, Beyond is a good ghost story that won’t have you feeling absolutely freaked out, but you’ll jump when you hear any unexplained noises.

The Time Keeper by Mitch Albom

I’ve only read one of Albom’s books, The Five People You Meet in Heaven, but I loved it. He has a way of getting a message across without becoming too preachy. The Time Keeper is no different.

Dor is an amazing character. He’s brilliant in life, discovering the patters that mark the passage of the day. But it comes at a cost. As he falls deeper into tracking the progress of the as yet unnamed time, he loses track of what he really needs to pay attention to. His family. He sees them, yes, but he loses those little tiny moments you appreciate later in life, more than any big gesture that may happen. Because he has taken his knowledge of time, and it has spread, unwillingly, he is taken and made to live in solitude, listening to people bemoan the passage of time.

Sarah is a teen girl, ridiculed for things in her life, lowering her self esteem to a point where she wants no more time in her life. She can’t see the future waiting for her; she can’t see how these problems are something she can overcome and in the end make her life so much better than she thinks it can be. She doesn’t see that the teen years give way to the twenties, the thirties, the forties and beyond, giving her so many years to experience the love she desperately wants.

Victor is a man who wants more time. He’s not ready to give up his time on Earth, to give into his age and let the natural order of the world take over. He only looks towards the future, forgetting he needs to live in the present and appreciate what he has when he has it. He can’t see the amazing life he has had and appreciate the time he has been given.

The almost choppy style of the writing fits really well. Albom doesn’t spend too much time one each person’s story before jumping to the next, tying them together, showing how so many stories can carry on at the same time.

In the end, I was left tearing up, and thinking about how well I manage my own time, giving it to the people and things that matter most in life, and making moments that I’ll remember later on in life. The Time Keeper is yet another amazing Mitch Albom novel that everyone should read. It makes you think and leaves your heart feeling happy.

Insurgent by Veronica Roth

I wasn’t a huge fan of Divergent. I didn’t like Tris’ moral character, I didn’t swoon for Four, and I certainly didn’t buy their relationship. The only thing I really liked was how well Roth can write action.

Insurgent didn’t really change my feelings toward the series all that much.

I will still say Roth can write action. There’s hardly a moment of rest, and the few moments the characters do get are filled with the tension of waiting for the next big scene. It was fast-paced and amazing. I could picture everything in my head as I read, and the fight scenes were complex, but written in a way that makes it easy to picture.

Unfortunately, I still don’t really like Tris. Where in Divergent I thought she lost all sense of a moral center, in Insurgent she become reckless and stupid, under the guise of being brave and strong. Being brave does not mean tossing yourself into situations because you can. Brave is knowing when, how, and why to fight and when, how, and why to stand down. Tossing your life around because you can is not being brave or strong. I really, really hope Roth can finally make Tris the character she needs to be in the last book, but to be honest; I’m not holding my breath at this point.

The relationship between Tris and Tobias (Four) feels strained. There’s too much hidden, too many lies and little betrayals to have it feel like a good relationship. There’s only so many times a couple can ignore the problems with their relationship by making out before it blows up in their faces and can’t be repaired.

The action is the only thing that kept me reading this book. Knowing me, I will read the last book, simply because I’ve made it this far and I want to know how it ends. The twist at the end does have me interested, but unless the characters can manage to salvage themselves in the third book, this isn’t going to be a stand out series for me.

Frozen by Mary Casanova

I really, really enjoyed Frozen. More than I thought I would. It tells Sadie’s coming of age story extremely well, and even though the mystery wasn’t really much of a mystery for me, I still found myself reading as quickly as I could, wanting to know the next chapter of the story.

Sadie Rose has been the unofficial daughter of the Worthingtons for 11 years, after the death of her mother and nearly freezing to death herself. She’s been mute since then, finding other ways to communicate. When she stumbles across pictures of her mother, something starts to change. She finds her voice, and learns that words can make her powerful.

She starts to fight against the confines she’s been held in for 11 years. She wants to think and be her own person, not held back by who her mother was, who the Worthingtons want her to be. She wants to find out where she comes from, and use that to decide who she wants to be. It makes for a compelling story about finding your own power and knowing who you are.

The relationship I loved most in this novel was the one between Sadie Rose, Aasta and Hans. Aasta and Hans give Sadie the loving relationship she needs and wants, and they give her the care the Worthingtons don’t. Their interactions always gave me a smile.

Frozen is a novel different than what I’ve been reading lately. It’s 1920’s setting gives it an interesting backdrop that really works with the underlying mystery. It’s a good read and definitely one I’ll be recommending to people.

Painter of Silence by Georgina Harding

Painter of Silence had me intrigued from the first moment I read the description. I just knew it was going to be a book that slowly made my heart ache and twist, but it would be done so beautifully, I’d have no choice but to keep reading, knowing there may not be that perfect, happy ending.

The descriptions in this book are gorgeous. Harding paints the world in such a way that I could picture everything, down to the smallest detail. Usually books that are written that wonderfully fail to have a good plot to go with it, but Painter of Silence is not one of those books. It doesn’t have a life altering plot twist, or a love triangle for the ages. But it does have a story to tell, and between all the lovely words and phrases, Harding tells it.

Augustin can’t hear the world around him, and can only understand the world from how he sees it, can only communicate using pictures to show what he wants to say. He needs to find his childhood friend, Safta, and tell her something important. This is how he ends up on the stairs of the hospital, near death. The story weaves beautifully between the past and the present, showing how vastly different the worlds of Augustin and Safta are, even while being in the same location at times.

There’s the world before the war, when Augustin and Safta were friends, she being the only one who could communicate with him, at times. And then there’s the time leading up to the war, when her heart is broken by a family friend, and then her family being fractured and split apart because of the war. And there’s the after, when Augustin shows up at the hospital and he and Safta reconnect. Time passing in this novel flows effortlessly and it’s just another piece of this fantastically painted novel.

Painter of Silence is not a light read. I had to focus in on every word in order to get the full story. But it is so worth it to read these words. Harding has written an amazing work of contemporary fiction and it needs to be read.

Inbetween by Tara A. Fuller

Inbetween is a cute, lighthearted read that I would have enjoyed a little more if there had been some mystery or suspense to keep me hanging on. As it stands, I didn’t really feel like I had to keep reading or else I wouldn’t be able to sleep, not knowing what was about to happen.

Emma was a likable character, but she felt a little flat. She never had that huge, brave, self-sacrificing moment where she becomes something more than just a girl. She wasn’t a deplorable girl, she just wasn’t exciting. I would have liked to see a little bit more from her; taking a stand, having a way to fight for herself.

Finn is a sweet guy, but he fell into the same trap Emma did. He did fight for what he wanted a little bit more, but he still wasn’t overly exciting or heroic. He doesn’t find a way to fight for what he wants, and even though he gets what he wants in the end, it felt a little anticlimactic to me.

The secondary characters are what made this novel for me, despite my wishy-washy feeling about the main characters. Easton, Anaya, and Cash could all make for extremely interesting stories and people. They have potential to become really great characters and stories in the upcoming novel.

The plot never lags, but it’s not overly exciting, either. It’s a simple read without being easy, if that makes sense. I had to pay attention as I read, but didn’t mind if a distraction came up. I could easily just right back into the novel wherever I left off.

Overall, Inbetween is a sweet, simple read for someone looking for a book to simply enjoy. You don’t have to think and try and be one step ahead of the action. It’s a good way to get lost for a couple hours in a sweet teen romance.

The Thing About the Truth by Lauren Barnholdt

I’ve read two of Lauren Barnholdt’s books and the thing I really liked about them was the characters seem so real. They’re teens who act a little melodramatic, feel emotions just a little too much, and don’t usually stop to think about how things will affect the future. Barnholdt writes real teens in her fictional books.

The Thing about the Truth is no different. Kelsey and Isaac are no different from her other characters in that they are perfectly written teens. They jump to conclusions and act impulsively, but they’re still sweet and wonderful.

I’m quite a bit like Kelsey; I’m usually deep into a novel wherever I go. She’s a little shy, thinks a lot about her future at college, and just wants to find a couple friends to fit with. She thinks with her heart before her head and it gets her into trouble.

Isaac is a nice guy who doesn’t always think and that’s what gets him into trouble. He’s supposed to be this perfect senator’s son, and under the pressure of looking good, he buckles and does imperfect things, getting him kicked out of private school and sent to public. Isaac may not always meet his father’s standards, but he’s not a bad guy. He’s sweet and attentive and it’s easy to see how much he cares for Kelsey.

I had a feeling this book would end the way it did, and I also had a feeling about what the huge incident was that got between them, but I still really enjoyed reading about the before and after. The Thing About the Truth is a speedy, but wonderful summer read that will leave you smiling, happy, and looking for that sweet romance.

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

I was a little worried when I started this book because I had high hopes for it and I was worried it wouldn’t live up to them. The religious aspect of this book had me a little worried, too. All of my concerns were unfounded, though, and I loved this book.

Some people might be a little bothered by Elisa’s personality and I can see why. However, she was born a princess. She never really had to do things for herself; people were always there to do them for her. She didn’t know how to be brave because she never had a reason to be brave. As the novel goes along, she gains confidence in herself and finds the courage to do what must be done, even in the face of danger. She starts thinking and planning and behaving less like a princess and more like a warrior. I’m incredibly excited to see how Carson continues this in the next book.

In regards to the religious aspect of the book, I felt it was handled amazingly. Elisa was chosen by God to do some service for the world. She doesn’t know anything about what she might have to do, or why she was chosen. She considers it more a burden than a gift, simply because it puts so much pressure on her and she doesn’t have a clue what to do about it. Even as she learns more about what being chosen means, she still feels this pressure. People expect her to do something, but no one knows what or when or how, and yet she’s expected to do this miraculous thing.

Each country thinks they are doing the right thing, the thing God wants, and yet none realize that it says in their books that they do not know God’s real will. They are all doing things in the name of God, interpreting the written word in a way that benefits them. This was done in a way that was subtle and not preachy, and it really gets a lesson across. This may have been my favorite thing about how Carson wrote this novel.

The Girl of Fire and Thorns was a fantastic novel that drew me in right away. It’s fast paced, and has enough romance and action to keep everyone intrigued. It’s definitely worth a read and I can’t wait to get my hands on the next part of this series.

Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson

I remember watching the Peter Pan movie was a kid and being completely fascinated with Neverland, Peter, and Wendy. There was something so sweet about their story; I fell in love right then. So when I heard about a story telling the before of Peter Pan, I was intrigued. I waited anxiously for this book to be released so I could dig in and fall in love.

Not one point of this book disappointed me. I knew it wasn’t going to end perfectly for the characters, simply because I knew the rest of the story. Tiger Lily only knows how to be her, and when someone arrives to her village that starts to say a person has to be a certain way in order to be right, she starts to question herself. She’s a girl, but doesn’t act like one. She doesn’t know how to take care of a home or sew. She knows how to hunt and swim and fit the expectations of being a boy. She doesn’t know what it means to love and when love is right in front of her, life falls apart and she loses herself.

Peter needs Tiger Lily to be everything he is, but just a little less so. He loves that she’s honest and can keep up with him, but it’s not until he meets Wendy that he realizes he wants Tiger Lily to be supportive of him as well, and that’s something she doesn’t know how to do. It hurt my heart as I read because as much as these two loved each other, it just wasn’t quite right and that was going to be their downfall. Even though they loved each other, they needed something different from each other. Unfortunately, they couldn’t change who they were to fit what they needed.

Tiger Lily is heartbreaking in how perfect it is. Even though the ending can be seen before even starting the book, I still spent the entire novel wishing it could end differently. The ending gave me peace, all the while breaking my heart so much I cried a little bit. This is definitely a book people need to read. It’s so achingly wonderful; I didn’t want to put it down.

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

I have been on the fence for over a year about reading A Discovery of Witches. It sounded interesting, but people were so divided on how much or how little they liked it. People either loved it or hated it and that made me worry a little bit. Usually, if a book is that polarizing, I tend to agree with the group that doesn’t like the book at all. But I finally decided to sit down and read and I’m now kicking myself for waiting so long.

A Discovery of Witches has a bit of everything. There’s a romance with a vampire, there’s science and history, there’s mystery and magic, there’s heroic knights; you think of something, and I’d be willing to bet it’s somewhere in this book. Somehow Harkness manages to fit all of this into one book without making it seem heavy and overdone. The beginning of the novel felt a little heavy and slow, and there was quite a bit of info dumping and description, but getting past that is so worth it.

The story is set up with the discovery of a manuscript important to so many different groups, but that only sets up the fight that is the rest of the novel. The manuscript opens Pandora’s Box, in a way, and the rest of the novel is Diana and Matthew fighting forces that are bigger than themselves. They must overcome everything set in front of them and work together to try and find the secrets the world has hidden away with time. Harkness has told this story beautifully. I actually slowed my reading pace down so I could drink in every word on the page, not wanting to miss a thing.

A Discovery of Witches is a fantastic, beautiful novel that drew me in and hasn’t let go. The world of witches, vampires and daemons has me enchanted and I’ll definitely be reading what’s to come in Diana’s story.