Welcome to yAdult Review, a space where two girls review novels from across the genres, from YA and MG, to fantasy and sci-fi, to historical fiction and mystery, with a sprinkling of non-fiction too. We hope you enjoy your stay here as much as we enjoy ours.

Author Archives: tina

keeperEverything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
Release Date: June 26, 2014
Publisher: Penguin Press
Source: Library
Rating: starstarstarstarblank_star
Buy It: Amazon | IndieBound

Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.

So begins this exquisite novel about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee, and her parents are determined that she will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue. But when Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together is destroyed, tumbling them into chaos.

A profoundly moving story of family, secrets, and longing, Everything I Never Told You is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive family portrait, uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another. – Goodreads

Review:
Oh hey, guys. Remember me? I read books sometimes and then review them here? Should I reintroduce myself? Hi, I’m Tina and I’m a bad book blogger. (Hi, Tina.)

I’m not sure what made me pick up the book. The summary was intriguing. Death, secrets, a family that doesn’t talk. Unreliable narrators abound. And it sucked me right in. I read half of it in a day. This is the story of the Lee family, and I do mean the entire family, as the narrative will weave in an out of different viewpoints while remaining in the third person POV. Lydia is dead at the beginning of the book, and we very slowly start learning the history of this family and being discovering all their secrets. It’s the 1970s, and women are newly liberated, so to speak, becoming doctors and scientists, but Marilyn Lee is a housewife. It’s a life she never saw for herself, and she struggles, but she makes do by pouring all her effort into showing Lydia she can have a different kind of life. Marilyn does this at the expense of her other children, especially Hannah. James Lee is the son of immigrants, and while he’s young all he wants is to fit in, but when he’s older, he seems to seek out similarity. There aren’t too many Asians in small-town Ohio in the 70s, and people frequently refer to James and his children as “Oriental” or “the Orientals.” Racism abounds in this novel, and even Marilyn had a pretty gross reaction when she first met James. (Oh, a Chinaman. He doesn’t speak like I thought he would. “So solly.” It was awful.) Marilyn’s mother disowns her for marrying James. James’ parents are dead. And these two are not great parents themselves. Pouring everything into one child at the detriment of the others. Hannah’s point of view is particularly sad, like when she goes to reach for her mother’s hand and Marilyn pulls it back, or when Hannah tentatively lays her head on Nath’s shoulder, because whenever she tries to get close, they move away. James is hard to like when thinking about his son, who, at seven years old, is obsessed with space and rockets. James can’t help but be annoyed by this, even hitting him once for it, and makes backhanded comments all the time. These people are kind of awful. They’re hard to like, but easy to empathize with, if you feel you can get past their selfishness.

Lydia is dead and the family is unraveling. James is locking himself in his office at the university, Marilyn is convinced that someone kidnapped Lydia and killed her, Nath is angry, Hannah is silent. They are all coming to terms with Lydia’s death, and they are all realizing that they did not really know her.

This book is about love, suffocating as it might be, loss, loneliness, and anger. Everyone is so angry, and everyone just tamps it down. They don’t ever talk about anything. They keep everything to themselves until it boils over and they self-destruct. More than Lydia’s death, this is a book about discovery. Every character goes through a major character revamp throughout the course of the novel, and I love how Ng gives us little glimpses into the future. This is a great one.


keeperSong of Summer by Laura Lee Anderson
Release Date: July 7, 2015
Publisher: Bloomsbury Spark
Source: Digital Copy
Rating: starstarstarstarblank_star
Buy It: Amazon

The thirteen qualities of Robin’s Perfect Man range from the mildly important “Handsome” to the all-important “Great taste in music.” After all, Westfield’s best high school folk musician can’t go out with some shmuck who only listens to top 40 crap. When hot Carter Paulson walks in the door of Robin’s diner, it looks like the list may have come to life. It’s not until the end of the meal that she realizes he’s profoundly deaf.

Carter isn’t looking for a girlfriend. Especially not a hearing one. Not that he has anything against hearing girls, they just don’t speak the same language. But when the cute waitress at Grape Country Dairy makes an effort to talk with him, he takes her out on his yellow Ducati motorcycle.

Told in first person alternating perspectives, language, music, and culture go along for the ride as Carter and Robin find their song. – Goodreads

Review:
I read this book in about 8 hours. Very quick, very simple, very easy to read. Robin is a musician and a singer. She plays for her church and sings in the choir. Music is her life. After high school, she wants to tour and play her guitar in coffee shops around the United States. Carter is different. He has the look of a model, is from New York City, and is deaf. Robin and Carter have a serendipitous meeting at the diner where Robin waitresses, and the rest is history. Except things aren’t so simple. These two fall in love quickly. Robin learns some American Sign Language and learns to speak Carter’s language. There is some strong insta-love, but as I get older, I accept that more because teenagers just feel everything so massively. For them, everything is huge. Whether or not it’s actually love will prove itself in the end, but for now, for the six weeks this story covers, it’s okay. It’s love.

I have issues with it, of course. Carter doesn’t seem to have any interests. He’s just The Deaf Kid, into Robin and his yellow Ducati motorcycle. He’s got a great family, but I’m not sure what Carter does on his own time. Robin is into music. It’s her whole world. And that’s it. I don’t know if either of them like to read, or what movies they like, or what they do with their friends. There wasn’t a lot of character development, but I don’t think that was the point. A six week span of time isn’t really enough for a big personality change. Robin has to do some growing up, and I was really very mad at her for how she treated Carter at the end.

This book has a very open-ended conclusion, which will be frustrating for a lot of people, but I liked it. These are kids. One is from rural New York and the other is from the big city. They were always going to be separated. They were never going to visit over spring break, or Skype all the time. They have their own lives, their own dreams, and they deserve to live them out. I think there are two kinds of relationships: ones that are meant to last, and ones that are meant to teach you something. This relationship was meant to teach. Carter learned that “hearing” people aren’t all bad and that he is capable of opening up to and loving one of them. Robin learned that she is not always right and to be more open-minded. And that’s okay. That’s good. These are good kids. They’ll survive, and they’ll remember this relationship forever.


keeperEvery Breath by Ellie Marney
Release Date: October 14, 2014
Publisher: Tundra Books
Source: Digital Copy
Rating: starstarstarstarblank_star
Buy It: Amazon | IndieBound

When James Mycroft drags Rachel Watts off on a night mission to the Melbourne Zoo, the last thing she expects to find is the mutilated body of Homeless Dave, one of Mycroft’s numerous eccentric friends. But Mycroft’s passion for forensics leads him to realize that something about the scene isn’t right–and he wants Watts to help him investigate the murder.

While Watts battles her attraction to bad-boy Mycroft, he’s busy getting himself expelled and clashing with the police, becoming murder suspect number one. When Watts and Mycroft unknowingly reveal too much to the cold-blooded killer, they find themselves in the lion’s den–literally. A trip to the zoo will never have quite the same meaning to Rachel Watts again… – Goodreads

Review:
I love Sherlock Holmes. I love the classic stories by Arthur Conan Doyle, I love the continuations by Laurie R. King, I love the movies with RDJ. I do not love the BBC show, but you can’t win them all, right? This isn’t really about Sherlock, but the characters’ names, Mycroft and Watts, are close enough to make jokes about. Mycroft is also obsessed with forensics, so that adds to it, though the original Mycroft (Sherlock’s brother) was more of a spymaster. Watts is also way more reluctant to get involved with mysteries than John Watson was, but I’ll forgive her for that. So Rachel Watts is a country girl displaced in Melbourne after her family’s farm is foreclosed. She is desperate to be back and hasn’t, or won’t, adjust to city life completely. James Mycroft is an orphan living with his aunt, a frenetic city boy through and through. They are solidly friends, though Watts’ internal narration sometimes gets caught up watching Mycroft toss his curls around. You sort of know that something is probably going to happen between them eventually, but the “battling her attraction” bit is sort of overblown in the summary. You don’t get that impression at all from reading. You get drawn into the mystery instead.

Mycroft has a slew of random “friends” across Melbourne. Watts even calls them his “irregulars.” One of them is Homeless Dave, who Mycroft and Watts visit once a week, bringing dinner and tea. When they arrive one night, Dave is dead, his throat slashed, and his beloved mutt, Poodle, missing. And they’re off to the races, though this is when you really see that Mycroft has issues. So he’s brilliant, but he is also so broken that no one can fix him, not even Watts, not even if she tried. And you as the reader get to watch them break apart and come back together, and it’s just…something else, you know? A slow burn background romance that still manages to be huge.

This is one of those that’s hard to review because the mystery is so intertwined and I won’t give anything away, but I just loved it. The romance was so on point, and damn can Marney write a kissing scene! Watts and Mycroft are meant to be, and all the Sherlock jokes and arguments and fraught feelings are just so perfect. I loved it, even though I had to look up Australian slang every couple of paragraphs. I read this in a day. So worth it.


keeperThe Start of Me and You by Emery Lord
Release Date: March 31, 2015
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Source: Library
Rating: starstarstarstarstar
Buy It: Amazon | IndieBound

It’s been a year since it happened—when Paige Hancock’s first boyfriend died in an accident. After shutting out the world for two years, Paige is finally ready for a second chance at high school . . . and she has a plan. First: Get her old crush, Ryan Chase, to date her—the perfect way to convince everyone she’s back to normal. Next: Join a club—simple, it’s high school after all. But when Ryan’s sweet, nerdy cousin, Max, moves to town and recruits Paige for the Quiz Bowl team (of all things!) her perfect plan is thrown for a serious loop. Will Paige be able to face her fears and finally open herself up to the life she was meant to live? – Goodreads

Review:
There was once a time in my life that I avoided this kind of YA like the plague. I don’t even remember what happened to change that, but I’m glad it did. This book, though. I read it because it deals with loss, and I regretted reading it for the same reason. Loss and grief and guilt took over my life a little over 18 months ago, and though I think I’m myself again, or as much of myself as I can be now, the grief still sits there under my skin, waiting to boil over and consume me. Paige knew Aaron for a very short time, and she’s been grieving for only a little over a year, but everything she says still rings true. “The Look,” how people look at her and see Aaron, how when you’re at the beginning you don’t think you’ll ever feel anything other than this uncontrollable sadness ever again, even the fear that comes with the realization that you are still here. You really do have to give yourself permission to become a person again, to enjoy life and other people again. The big differences were what made this book so enjoyable though: Paige is still a teenager, she has so much left to accomplish, and she still approaches things with a teenager-like innocence. I wrote off Ryan Chase almost immediately, reading between the lines of not only the summary but the narrative itself. The only problem I have with YA now is that I’m impatient for them to just figure it all out, like I can somehow project my 30+ years of knowledge of boys onto them. Don’t be so shy! Don’t you understand that your “weird encounter” was meaningful? He’s just not that into you! Alas, as with in-the-flesh teenagers, you have to let them make their own mistakes.

I rooted for Max from the start. I’m always wary of popular boys in books, and even more so when they’ve just gotten out of a long-term relationship. Besides, who doesn’t want a guy who can argue the finer points of Jane Austen with you? That can’t just be me, can it? I got kind of mad at Paige for how she saw him. What’s wrong with a kid who builds model airplanes during recess? I think maybe part of it was getting that early glimpse of Max’s mom and wondering what it must have been like for her to have a son who had such a hard time with his peers. As a parent, you don’t want your child to go through any kind of pain, especially if you can’t stop it or explain it away. Has becoming a parent ruined me for YA? I really hope not. But really, I spent a lot of the time wondering where I can get my own Max Watson, or how I can raise my own son to be a Max Watson.

I’m having a hard time articulating my feelings about this book. I have been through what Paige has been through, not an accident, but a death all the same, and it changed me and my life. And yet, at the same time, it didn’t change me. Paige and I are the same at our centers, though a storm rages around us. What I appreciated most about this book was the clear (and very true) portrayal of grief, and how Paige’s friends rallied around her. I swooned when Max called her “a Jane,” and when the big reveal happened at the end, I sobbed. Like truly sobbed. This book is so not me, but it ended up being exactly what I was looking for.


keeperThrone of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
Release Date: August 7, 2012
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Source: Library
Rating: DNF
Buy It: Amazon | IndieBound

After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin.

Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king’s council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she’ll serve the kingdom for three years and then be granted her freedom. Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilirating. But she’s bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her… but it’s the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.

Then one of the other contestants turns up dead… quickly followed by another. Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined. – Goodreads

Review:
Oh, YA fantasy, you never fail to NOT SURPRISE ME AT ALL. This was recommended to me awhile ago and I couldn’t get into it at the time (burn burnout is LEGIT), but it’s been so long that I figured I’d try again. And I enjoyed it. But I also rolled my eyes the whole time. So the thing with YA, as I’m sure all of you know, is you often have to suspend your disbelief a little. Or a lot. Enough to accept that the most feared assassin in the land is 18 years old and obsessed with fashion. The standard YA protag has dozens of boys after her and some impossible qualities and weird interests. This book is sort of what I imagine is under the definition of “impossible YA.” Celaena is impossible. She’s a character that could not possibly exist, but the world she’s in makes it possible for her to. She’s also apparently Special (some kind of fairy was my guess), and she’s also the Person Who Can Save The World. Well, of course she is. It wouldn’t be fantasy without a one-dimensional Big Bad, an evil force, or something of that nature, going up against an Assassin with a Heart of Gold. Around the three-quarter mark, I lost interest a bit, but that has more to do with me than this book; it happens a lot. But around three-quarters is when the action might have started picking up, and it just…didn’t.

So. I had misgivings about all the tropes in this one, but I still liked it. I liked Celaena because she wasn’t some mousy, timid, doesn’t-know-she’s-beautiful type. She’s vain, mouthy, arrogant, and very very proud of her abilities and status. She has a softer side and a lot of pain and regret, so she’s a somewhat well-rounded character. I also liked Chaol, for reasons mostly unknown, or maybe I just liked him more than I liked Dorian. Hell, I liked Kaltain more than I liked Dorian. Dorian has his own issues, but he’s still about as deep as a mud puddle. I liked the writing and the pacing, even though the book is a little long (and I hear they just get looooonger). I also would have liked to see a little of Celaena actually assassinating people instead of just telling us all about how she used to assassinate people, but this book is not about that, it’s about this weird love triangle, and supposedly it’s about the quest to become Champion, even though we all know right off the bat that Celaena is going to win. In all, I found this one to be pretty standard, typical YA fantasy, which is probably why it’s so popular. The standard formula works and appeals to lots of people. I just wish Celaena could take some pointers from Ismae or Sybella.

I just found this to be SO BORING. It took me almost two months to read and I had to force myself to do it. I got stuck at the three-quarter mark and just couldn’t force myself to finish. I eventually had to quit. I read something like 4 or 5 books in between putting this down and picking it back up. I love fantasy, but I didn’t love this.


keeperThe Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall by Katie Alender
Release Date: August 25, 2015
Publisher: Point
Source: Library
Rating: starstarstarstarblank_star
Buy It: Amazon | IndieBound

In this asylum, your mind plays tricks on you all the time…

Delia’s new house isn’t just a house. Long ago, it was the Piven Institute for the Care and Correction of Troubled Females—an insane asylum nicknamed “Hysteria Hall.” However, many of the inmates were not insane, just defiant and strong willed. Kind of like Delia herself.

But the house still wants to keep “troubled” girls locked away. So, in the most horrifying way, Delia gets trapped.

And that’s when she learns that the house is also haunted.

Ghost girls wander the halls in their old-fashioned nightgowns. A handsome ghost boy named Theo roams the grounds. Delia finds that all the spirits are unsettled and full of dark secrets. The house, as well, harbors shocking truths within its walls—truths that only Delia can uncover, and that may set her free.

But she’ll need to act quickly, before the house’s power overtakes everything she loves.

From master of suspense Katie Alender comes a riveting tale of twisted memories and betrayals, and the meaning of madness. – Goodreads

Review:
So we begin this book knowing that Delia, the main character and narrator, is no longer among the living. She inherits a creepy house from her great aunt, and it is almost immediately apparent that the place is haunted. And with a nickname like Hysteria Hall, why wouldn’t it be? Hysteria was a common word used for women in Freud’s time, and a lot of the time, women diagnosed as “hysterical” were just women with too many opinions, as Delia’s mother says (she holds a degree in women’s studies and is pretty awesome). The circumstances of Delia’s death are awful, and watching her parents and sister react to it is even worse. It’s heartbreaking and wrenching; grief is a terrible, destructive thing. Alender did a great job of capturing that fact.

Delia has a hard time letting go. She is angry and she is scared and she won’t be told that she can’t go home again. The other ghosts–Florence and Eliza and Theo–keep trying to tell her that the past is best left there, but she won’t listen. She lets her rage consume her. She can’t let go. Things start to happen, things that are inexplicable even to a ghost. Delia is warned that things are not always as they seem.

I read this in a day. I loved it. I admit, I am a sucker for a ghost story, and this was a perfect one. Alender really weaves a great tale here, and there are twists and turns throughout. Totally worth reading (but maybe not if you’re looking for some Christmas cheer…)


TINA: I set my Goodreads goal at only 6 books this year (a huge departure from when I used to read 75 or more…) since children and reading aren’t generally something that goes hand in hand. And yet, I managed to go way over my goal, meaning I overshot by about 15 books. This was partially due to the required reading in my literacy class, but also due to me just needing to read. Books are my happy place, and it was just

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necessary for me to get back there. And with that, here’s my list!

  • The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
  • A History of Glitter and Blood by Hannah Moskowitz
  • The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle
  • Missing May by Cynthia Rylant
  • Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan
  • Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai

 

ASHLEY: I am the opposite of Tina (in so many ways) but mostly the fact I set my Goodreads goal to be one more than the amount I read last year. I have little going in my life and am constantly reading (NO REGRETS!) As of writing this I have read 306 books out of my goal of 272. Out of those 306, I have chosen 13 books that were my top of the top. About 4% of what I’ve read, which is interesting because this means I’ve become a little more picky in my reading. Out of those 13, 11 are by women (YAY LADIES!). Out of those 12, 10 came out this year. One came out in a previous and one comes out next year! Here is my list in no particular order.Devoted_cover image

  • If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo
  • The Fill in Boyfriend by Kasie West
  • The Start of Me and You  by Emery Lord
  • None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio
  • I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios
  • Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway
  • Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
  • Kissing in America by Margo Robb
  • Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway
  • George by Alex Gino
  • Devoted by Jennifer Mathieu
  • Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy
  • What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler